Well, that's an unexpected turn of events...not to mention, further proof that The Wormy Guy might have gotten dropped on his head one too many times in his youth.
Monday, December 31, 2012
Friday, December 28, 2012
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Deathmatch has the interesting (and relatively overused) concept of pitting characters against one another in a winner-take-all fight, gladiator-style. We are currently seeing this from Marvel in the form of Avengers Arena, though my embargo on Marvel titles has prevented me from actually reading it. The main challenge that I can see here is getting the reader to care about the characters, especially in this instance where Paul Jenkins, the writer, has established detailed backstories for every combatant, but they are completely new to us. Sure, there are the archetypes, you can see the Superman character, the Thor character, even a patriotic character, though he looks a tad more armored up than I have ever seen Captain America. Beyond the archetypes, these are all new characters, so Jenkins faces an uphill battle in terms of getting us to not only care about his take on an established plot device, but also care about a brand new set of characters that we have never met. Being that this is a winner take all event (presumably) I am sure that Boom Studios (the publisher) would like us to have a rooting interest in a character or two as well to keep us coming back for more.
Cover A is by industry legend Whilce Portacio. While the pose is dynamic, albeit a little silly (who really holds a gun like that?) it is a cover that is not only devoid of any semblance of relevance to the story contained in the interior, it’s also a bit misleading. The premise of the book is that these characters fight to the death in a controlled environment while the other heroes and villains watch them on giant screens. This cover makes it look like the patriotic guy has just murdered someone in cold blood in front of a live audience. This may be foreshadowing to a later instance, but I have a feeling someone gave Whilce a quick rundown of the major plot-points and a couple character drawings and said “go to town”. That may also explain the total lack of background. The coloring is decent and does a good job of separating the foreground, middleground and background, but I have trouble getting over the deceptive nature of the narrative qualities in the cover itself.
3/10- It’s a decent overall illustration but the lack of background combined with the misleading nature of any narrative in the cover is a shame. I expect more from my superstar artists.
I trust Paul Jenkins. I have read his Marvel work from back in the day (Inhumans, Sentry) mainly for Jae Lee’s art, but those were incredible miniseries in all aspects. I came into this expecting a good story at least, regardless of the obvious challenges that lie ahead. What I got instead, from the first page, was a great story, with interesting characters. Jenkins does an incredible job of weaving character’s backstories in with the action of the main story, getting me to care about the characters and feel genuinely uneasy upon the conclusion of the second match. The best part is that this is not just a pair them up and let them fight book. There is a certain amount of story going on behind the scenes that contributes to the mystery of who is behind setting these people up and why that is just as intriguing as the characters themselves. I would like to see how he continues this as the “main” character of this issue, Dragonfly, was the winner of the first match. Whether Jenkins continues to follow his story or not is going to determine how successful this turns out to be. It would be difficult, in my opinion, to jump from character to character without one, across the board, main character that we can identify with, and in a series that is supposedly seeing 31 characters die, that would be hard to do.
8/10- I am cautiously optimistic that in the hands of Jenkins this will turn out great, but there are a lot of roadblocks to navigate before I proclaim this a sure-fire hit, regardless of how well this one issue was written.
Carlos Magno exudes a kind of Carlos D’Anda quality in his art that I really enjoy. The fact that it is so detailed while being so clean just makes for an incredible reading experience. The storytelling is decent and is in no way distracting. The backgrounds and characters are both wonderfully rendered. Hell, he even does a great job on the characters that are not entirely human. I am generally someone that prefers a more cartoony/animated feel to my comic art (seriously, if I wanted to look at photographs I would look at photographs) but this art is both realistic with just enough of a European flair to it to make it stand out. Honestly, I think I would have rather seen the art in just black and white as opposed to color as some of the smaller details are lost in the coloring. This is not the colorist’s fault as Michael Garland does a good job himself, but more of a personal preference thing.
9/10- The art is great, probably my favorite part of the book. Coming in cold without seeing any of the interior art, I wasn’t expecting much but was more than pleasantly surprised.
Overall: 8/10- This is well worth the $1 for the first issue and if it keeps up the pace and quality in subsequent issues it will be well worth the $3.99 that it is sure to go up to.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Monday, December 24, 2012
Friday, December 21, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012
My main concern with picking up The Hollows by Chris Ryall and Sam Kieth is that I would like it too much and would therefore be roped into another $4 comic every month. Let’s see how all worked out.
The cover is interesting, even though it is a little plain. The artwork is very cool, showing a nice sketchiness as well as some well placed shadows and color. The three characters on the cover do look a little out of place though, as if they were all pasted on there together. It could be that the girl and the little pink creature do not have the same monotone sepia look to them that makes this seem a bit strange, but I’m not sure. The logo is interesting and just easy enough to read where all of the extra noise around the letters looks like a decent design as opposed to a mess. The fact that the W seems to be resting on the guy’s head is unfortunate but not overly distracting unless you are looking at it with a critical eye.
The overall design on the cover does a decent job of moving your eye to the upper right quadrant where the guy’s face is. Luckily Keith uses a good page design here as the face definitely has nothing specific about it that draws your attention to it on its own. Hell, his giant belt has more contrast than his face does.
3/10 – Lineup covers don’t really do it for me, regardless of how nice the illustration looks. So far, my $4 is safe.
I like post-apocalyptic stories. Really, I do. I enjoy seeing what writers and artists envision for the future and how the scarred landscape can become a character unto itself. This seems to be another post-apocalyptic story; however we are not really given any info as to when it takes place. In fact we are not given much info at all. We know that it takes place in
and that society now lives in cities that are built onto man-made giant trees
in order to keep them from the toxic gases that are on the ground below. And if those gases don’t get you, the soul
sucking zombies will. They live down
below as well. Being that the cities are
all on the sides of the trees (think those big platform-like mushrooms you see
on the sides of trees) people apparently get around via jetpack, except for our
“hero” Craig, who has crafted himself a pair of wings.
Upon using his wings to fly (on his way to the store to pick up some diapers, which is a nice way to ground the story in reality a little at least) he runs into one of the trees while checking out a group of people being devoured by the zombies. I realize that he was probably distracted by the carnage below, but you’re telling me he didn’t see the giant man-made tree that is large enough to build multiple cities upon?
Okay, ridiculous plot device aside, we are then introduced to the people that live inside the trees. I assume this “the hollows” that the title references, but nothing is ever explained about how those people can live inside the trees at ground level without getting sick. Even Craig makes reference to it but nothing is explained. I assume that it will be explained eventually though (at least I hope). At the end of the comic, Craig just jumps off a building and flies away, presumably back to his life. There is no reference made to jet propulsion or even that the wings are powered by anything more than Craig flapping his arms. I find the logic to be pretty hard to believe then that a full grown man could flap his arms enough to lift himself off the ground.
2/10 – Nothing was really explained here. Nothing at all. I have no idea where this comic will go from here as there is no real conflict outlined, and honestly nothing to keep me interested. This issue is titled “Chapter One” which makes me think that maybe it should have been put out as a collection instead of serialized. My $4 is so very safe and snug right now.
While I am not a huge collector of everything Sam Kieth, I know who he is and I have seen some of his more mainstream work in the past. I was therefore a little excited to see what he does here when he is let loose from the restrictions of “corporate comics”. What we get is incredibly loose and free-flowing. This works great in certain areas, while in others it feels almost like a sketchbook. This can be ok, but often it feels unfinished or just plain glossed over. I do like the fact that Kieth did everything art-wise here, pencils, whatever inks there are and the colors. Looking at the output it’s absolutely necessary for that to happen though as I would be completely lost if I was a colorist brought in on this from the outside.
It's amazing how we can go from pages like these that look completely mailed in...
To this, that is a beautiful illustration.
This is also an incredibly creepy page (at least the top panel, then it devolves as we move further down).
4/10 – While the art is good, it looks too much like I’m just looking at a Sam Kieth sketchbook with these characters as opposed to a comic.
Overall: 3/10 – This is not what I expected, but thankfully I will not have to worry about an additional comic coming to my pull list.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
A few months ago I wrote about the sad state of Red Sox baseball and what it means to have a child that is a Red Sox fan in this age of uncertainty. Time has passed, some wounds have healed, some have been scraped away (so long Bobby V, you will not be missed) and like Star Wars in the 70’s, there is a new hope. The best part about the offseason is that there always feels like you have a chance, even if you know that your team is short on quality pitching, or you are missing that big bat in the middle of your lineup, at least you have the same record as every other team in the league. Your flaws have yet to be exposed and you are still “perfect”.
While no one is actively playing the game of baseball during this time period, there is still all of the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing, the “hot stove” time if you will. This is when deals are made, when fans find their allegiance tested or renewed depending on the action, or in some cases inaction, of their favorite team. Sure, you can have a bad season; oftentimes that is just confirming what you already felt about your team. During hot stove time though, that hope blows up like a balloon and with a little prick it can be all gone.
Today’s little prick: Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees.
Okay, I can’t really blame the Yankees too much for this, it’s a great idea to go out and bolster their infield and their lineup with Red Sox hero Kevin Youkilis. They had to get someone to fill in for A-Rod during the first half of the season, and Youk, who will probably only be able to play half a season anyway, is a great choice. I would be lying if I said that I was okay with it though. I am obviously not old enough to have seen Babe Ruth pull the same switcheroo, and I wasn’t as invested in Johnny Damon as I am in Youk. Is this how that felt?
Look back at the last decade or so. Who do you look at as the most important Red Sox during that time? Youk is probably pretty high on your list right? To see him unceremoniously shipped away at the behest of Bobby Valentine was as downright disrespectful to us as fans as it was to Youk himself. Was he the “chicken and beer” snitch? Maybe. Even so, he was making an issue out of something that involved underperforming players doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. It is hard for me to believe that, as hot-headed as he is; he really created a division in the clubhouse that would not have been solved by a twenty win month.
While I didn’t like it when it happened, I understood it. Sometimes you have to make room for the younger kid to step up (Middlebrooks at third base), and there was just no room on the roster for Youk as all the positions he played were manned by long term investments both emotionally (Ortiz at DH) and monetarily (Gonzalez at first base). This made for an awesome scene when they shipped Gonzalez out of town in their summer fire sale and got back James Freaking Loney in return (who is no longer with the club). Loney for the win!
Seriously, was there no other offer on the table? Was Youkilis compelled to go to a team that he battled and bled against for years because he had no other viable options? I get it, $12 million for one year is hard to pass up but if there is another offer on the table with even a fraction of that money and he can still keep his dignity, don’t you think he would do it? The guy is married to Tom Brady’s sister; if he needed money couldn’t he just hit up his brother-in-law?
This is just a tragedy. To have a hero to the club, hell to the city, go to your chief rival is just sickening. All of the accolades that he received when he returned to Fenway last year as a member of the White Sox will be gone now. The memory of what he has done for the team during his tenure in
will always remain, but it will be impossible to cheer his success when he is
hitting behind Jeter, Texeira and Cano and not Ellsbury, Pedroia and
Youk, I wish you the best of luck, but I also wish you the longest slump in baseball history.
I don’t know when it happened, but I’ve become anti-Christmas. I’m fairly certain it was around the same time that I became defeated by reality and humanity. Christmas, to me, has become another one of those stupid holidays (Valentine’s Day, I’m looking at you) where people go out and spend all of their hard-earned money from the year prior. They don’t spend it on useful things, or on the debt that they’ve accrued. No. It’s usually on shit. And our society encourages this.
Do you want to stimulate the economy? Cancel Black Friday and call it Pay Your Bills Friday. Hell, make a decree: this year no one gets presents. You’re all going to be responsible adults and pay off what you already owe instead of adding to that mountain. And no, this doesn’t mean that we love our children or our spouses or our family less. That’s just stupid. My love is not quantified by the amount of money that I spend. Instead, get together. Enjoy each other’s company. Eat lots of good, homemade food. Craft something. Make something by hand. That speaks far more to love than easily spending sixty bucks on an xbox game.
Retail: you are the number one culprit here. Playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving? Putting up Christmas decorations in October? Having Christmas sales signs up pre-Halloween? Just leave the shit up all year. You might as well. It’s become a pestilence. But I can only complain so much, because it apparently works; those Black Friday sales where stores open up at midnight, if not earlier. The numbers don’t lie. And that makes me sad. In a way, maybe it’s a good thing when people cram themselves up against the doors at Wal*Mart and the first ten get trampled in the oncoming rush. Thinning the herd, right? Darwinism at work. Since disease doesn’t take people out nearly as much as it did our ancestors, nature’s found a new way. Life finds a way. – Dr. Ian Malcolm. Yes, it’s a tragedy. And it’s probably a really terrible way to go: trampled by voracious soccer moms bare-knuckle boxing each other for the last Tickle Me Altar Boytm on the shelves. But, maybe it’s Fate’s way of saying “You shouldn’t procreate”. Maybe, in 50 years time, the last of the Black Friday shoppers will be kept in a cage as an endangered species, or be stuffed on exhibit like the Tasmanian Tiger, for us all to learn from the mistakes of the past.
The big question I’m leading to with this rant is: Is it worth it? Is it worth the loss of sleep, the clear physical danger, the material possession, just to save money on some shit that you didn’t need in the first place? Logic does not seem to prevail in a world fascinated with reality tv stars only famous because they had a sex tape leak. (Is “leak” really the best word to use in reference to a sex tape? Gross) Think about it. (not the sex tape thing, the previous paragraphs) I implore you before the next holiday seasons rolls around (in June).
And just one statement on Christmas Carols. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite is the essential Christmas music, in my opinion. If you don’t know it, or haven’t heard it in a while, find it. I’m sure you can find it all for free online. Do yourself the favor.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Friday, December 14, 2012
Thursday, December 13, 2012
It’s amazing to me that Mega Man has been around for nearly two years. In this era of limited series and the “quick hook” on comics that aren’t performing to the high standards of yesteryear, it’s nice to see a comic that lasts. Frankly, this book has a lot to offer in general. My son and I have been reading it since issue one, and it has consistently been one of the better books on my pull list. The ideas are fresh and the characterization is pretty spot on to what you would expect for the most part.
I have to admit, this cover really doesn’t do anything for me. It is a very general illustration, one that you might find on the first issue of the series. While the story doesn’t really lend itself to a narrative cover (more on that in a moment), you’ve got to give me something. While the art is technically good, and the coloring is excellent, it doesn’t really pull me in or provide anything outstanding for me to get excited about.
4/10 – A good illustration with excellent coloring makes for a ho-hum cover when it lacks dynamism or even the slight element of story.
First of all, each issue of Mega Man comes with a “previously in” page that usually provides a decent recap to get you geared up for the current issue. This one gives you a recap of the previous nineteen issues though, so it really doesn’t help in terms of clarifying anything for the reader.
The whole premise of the story is that Mega Man gets time shifted to various points in his timeline, past and future. It is meant to obviously be confusing for the blue bomber, but it also incredibly confusing for the reader as well. The idea is that we jump around as Mega Man does, but by doing that, and crafting a story where practically every page is in a different time period, I found myself as lost and confused as our titular character. I understand the reason for doing it, it gave us a glimpse of things to come in the book in a more interesting way than simply telling us. This is kind of the Destiny’s diaries trick that the Claremont-era X-Men were mired in, just a lot more straightforward. Unfortunately, by taking away that air of mystery and prophecy that we saw in those old X-Men comics, it looked like writer Ian Flynn just went down a checklist of future story ideas he had and took a snippet from each. Unfortunately he didn’t linger on any enough to make too much of an impact in terms of piquing my interest for any individual storyline right away. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Flynn to implement those story ideas into the book itself, but I am not “chomping at the bit” for any storyline in particular.
5/10 – Flynn tried something different and it didn’t really work out too well. There is no harm in trying it, but I think the issue is that he tried to fit too much into a 22 page comic.
Let’s get this out of the way first; I dislike the Manga style. I understand that it is basically a “house style” when it comes to Mega Man, and he would not be the same drawn in a more Western style, but I do not find it as aesthetically pleasing as most do.
That being said, I knew what I was getting into when I started reading the book, and it is a style that is incredibly kid friendly so that works out well for its target audience. The backgrounds are in abundance on many pages (however the overuse of speed lines can be a little grating) and the artwork is incredibly clean. This helps the colorist (Matt Herms) to really embellish with the color, doing a great job of painting as opposed to just filling in color. On a book that is so cartoony, this is a great touch.
The artwork by Ryan Jampole (pencils) and Gary Martin (inks) does suffer a bit because of the nature of the story itself. If there wasn’t so much going on, and the necessity to have each scene completed on a page, it would probably make things clearer. Unfortunately the amount of things going on on each page, coupled with the fact that the lettering is larger than a standard comic book, makes for a jumbled mess on some pages.
This actually looks like a cool premise, but in the bottom right panel, why does it look like they are cheering Mega Man when he is obviously sitting right next to Dr. Light?
This is an epidemic in this book. The text balloons are rarely, if ever, contained to the panel they go to. It isn't a terrible thing, but can add to the jumbled and sometimes confusing nature that this comic falls prey to.
5/10 – The artwork is clean and the coloring is excellent, but the art suffers from a script that tries to pack in too much.
Overall: 4/10 – This is probably the worst issue of the series, so not really a good jumping on point for new readers. That being said, it is still better than many of the other comics that are currently out there, especially if you have kids.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Possibly the worst drawing of Clooney ever, I apologize.
Okay, here's the deal. Most of my stories have a little grain of truth in them, or come from somewhere, they aren't just total fabrications. This one was no different. Back when I wrote this story, my youngest brother, Brandon, was working at a coffee hut in Auburn while going to the Community College there. He was a tough kid, played football and track in high school and soccer in college. Plus he was the youngest of three brothers so he obviously took a beating. The one thing that could beat him was a patch of ice outside the coffee hut apparently. He slipped, fell and knocked himself out. I found it to be funny and kind of ironic that the football player that got hit in the head everyday was taken out by a patch of ice. I decided to craft a storyline around that idea and pair it up with the batch of strips I had already written about the personal soundtrack machine, and voila, a comic is born.
PS - Neither he, nor I, have ever had our heads examined by George Clooney.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Kid Rock successfully carved a niche for himself in the rap-rock-country genre. He has solidified his hold on that by removing most of the “rap” elements from his music and focusing on the much more marketable country-rock combination, which for him is basically southern rock with more talk about
Detroit than Alabama.
The album Rebel Soul is one that leans very heavily on that southern rock influence and really only strays from it once, the terrible “Cucci Galore”. Other than that track, it is a decent album that takes all of the elements of Kid Rock’s softer side, going all the way back to his duet with Sheryl Crow, “Picture” back in the early 2000s, and puts it together on one album.
It is not often that an artist reinvents themselves as thoroughly as Kid Rock has done in a fifteen year time span. Sure, when music drastically shifts with the passing of each decade you will see many artists try and adapt with the times (I’m a KISS fan, I’ve seen every phase play out, trust me). The thing is, that is still inherently rock music. Sure, you went from hair metal to grunge in the 90’s, but it was still rock. But to go from a rap rocker in the late 1990s (when that was still okay, thanks Fred Durst) to a country star in such a short time period is remarkable. Sure, he has kept some elements alive in the transition, the band is the same, the messages are similar (that’s just the nature of music) but the fact that he was willing and able to tone down his approach and cater it to a vastly different audience is what has allowed Kid Rock to not only survive the relative implosion of rap-rock, but thrive because of it.
Those of us that have grown with Kid Rock, that didn’t mind his first three releases that catered more to the rap-rock crowd because we were stupid kids and didn’t know better, now know that we can take a break with a little Kid Rock, that we can play it at a backyard barbecue while we make a tower of empty PBR cans. Kid Rock has turned from something that parents would tell their children to turn down into something that parents would tell their children to turn up in very order. He deserves to be commended for his ability to adapt and change with the times.
While this disc will not blow anyone away in terms of the music itself, and honestly can get a little formulaic at times (how often do I have to hear about how much Kid Rock loves Detroit, seriously, I get it) it is a release that will probably appeal to Kid Rock’s devoted fans (except for the ones that like the rap-rock stuff, there is not much of a place for that as Kid Rock gets older). It will undoubtedly garner the attention of the country radio station listeners as well, who will turn his concerts into less Eminem and more Toby Keith.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Friday, December 7, 2012
Thursday, December 6, 2012
I missed out on The Strange Talent of Luther Strode when it came out fourteen months ago. The name sounded familiar to me though (I must have seen an ad for the original series and filed it in the back of my mind) so, on a slow comic week, I figured I might as well give it a shot. While it is not absolutely essential to read the first series before you read this one (in my estimation) you may want to go pick it up to see how we got to this point.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is our good friend Luther. While I would generally find a cover that is such a close up of one character to be boring, the little intricacies that Tradd Moore puts into the artwork, as well as the overall design of the cover itself makes this a really powerful image. I am always a fan of covers that get creative with the logo and obligatory publisher’s info box, whether it is in terms of placement or design. This cover puts the logo along the bottom and makes it larger than normal title logos, obscuring nearly the entire bottom half of the cover, which is fine considering that there is not much in the way of interest below the halfway point anyway. It also moves the publisher’s info box in the top right corner, tucking it away where it can still be seen but is out of the way of anything pertinent.
The artwork itself is very detailed around Strode’s face, making that the obvious focal point. The hair could have just been flat and lifeless, an afterthought, but actually turns into an intricate part of the design as it pulls your attention from Strode’s face to the logo and creates a link between the two. Usually someone would focus on the eyes in a cover that features such a close up of the face, but here it actually works that the eyes are slightly obscured by his mask and hair. The fact that they are so far up on the page creates a level of unease while also illustrating the bulk and power that resides in the title character. That’s an old Jack Kirby trick, and it works perfectly here.
The coloring (I’m assuming by interior colorist Felipe Sobriero but please correct me if I’m wrong) is married perfectly to the lineart. It’s almost like the two artists are of one mind because just as the lineart goes slightly out of focus the further away from Strode’s face that we get, so does the coloring. It’s a masterful job of creating a piece of art between two people.
9/10 - Great job creating not only a quality piece of art, but also a mood, and even a narrative. We now know, even without having read the previous series, that Luther Strode is one intimidating, badass guy.
There are two ways you can read this book. You can come into it familiar with the character of Luther Strode, his background and his motivations (or at least as much as was divulged in the first miniseries) in which case this will just seem like a continuation of that book for the most part. You can also come into it as I did, completely ignorant to any history or backstory of the character, and it reads like a mystery. At this point, with just the initial issue in my hands, it is not bad. I am interested in who or what Luther Strode is and how he got to where he is as a character. What is his motivation? Why does he seem to be impervious to physical attacks? What’s with the mask? All valid questions that may or may not have been answered in the first miniseries. The problem is, if they have already been answered, and they are not expanded upon or at least touched upon in this miniseries, the whole thing will be for naught. I have a feeling that Justin Jordan will address that by the end of the miniseries (to some degree at least) but I have seen much more prominent names in the industry come up far short before.
The story itself takes the traditional revenge plot and adds a little mystery to it. It also adds a shit ton of brutality, but that seems strangely appropriate here. It will take some time and additional issues to determine what kind of format this story is going to follow. Is he just going to kill his way to the top? Does he have some ulterior motive in mind? As of right now it looks like he has killed just a bunch of lackeys (in this issue at least) so what is he going to do when faced with someone with a higher pay-grade? Will he still massacre with impunity or does he have a message to deliver? If these have all been answered in the previous series, let me know, but the way this story starts out, it almost seems like a continuation of the first.
8/10 - I didn’t really expect to like the comic as much as I did. It features tons of violence, which is oftentimes over the top, but gives me the impression that that is the only avenue that Luther Strode can follow to enact his vengeance. It seems to use that violence as more of a plot-point as opposed to a crutch or “shock factor” tactic.
You would think that art this cartoony would not fit with the extreme violence that the script calls for. Well first of all, you would be wrong, and second of all, have you ever read Invincible? The influence of Ryan Ottley on Invincible and Rob Guillory on Chew is clear in Tradd Moore’s art. He is a little more heavy-handed with his inks than the aforementioned influences, but you can still see where he is coming from. The storytelling is a little hard to interpret on some pages, causing a second or third look just to make sure, but all in all Moore does a great job of creating a mood without changing his style to something more realistic.
I'm a sucker for an establishing shot of a diner, i don't know why, maybe it's the checkerboard floor.
This took me a couple glances to realize that that was a manhole cover that was flung like the world's deadliest frisbee.
And here is your daily dose of gore, a heart and an exploding head. You're welcome.
I don’t really have anything nice to say about the backups. The Kate Leth one-page synopsis about the Valentine’s Day massacre is okay, nothing special. The Yale Stewart backup is not good. This is unfortunate because I love JL8, but the storytelling is really bad. I had to go over the two page story multiple times to even understand what happened. While I love his style on JL8, I don’t think it really fits here and with this subject matter either.
7/10 - The storytelling snafus are minor and do little to detract from the overall feeling that
art provides. I am definitely more of a
fan of this kind of art than I am of the more realistic art, but ultimately it
comes down to the overall impression, and Moore’s
is one of quality.
Overall: 8/10 - I highly recommend checking this book out. The first issue does a lot of initial plot-building but I have a feeling that in the hands of Jordan and Moore, it will all pan out in an awesome and bloody way.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
I love live music, and by extension I love live albums. The spontaneity coupled with the fact that you will rarely hear any of the album filler usually make for an enjoyable experience. Plus, guitar solos! That being said, a live album review is not something that I would generally do just because it is not really “new” music and if I was going to review “old” music I would just go back to the original albums that they were contained on.
However, this is Led Zeppelin that we are talking about. One of the greatest bands in the history of the genre and one of my all-time favorites. This is obviously a concert of hits, but the fact that it is a recent concert, one that had over a million people sign up for the “Zeppelin lottery” in order to get tickets, as well as the only full-concert appearance of the band (with Jason Bonham filling in for his deceased father obviously) in decades merits a bit more attention than just a random concert put on disc.
Celebration Day is just that. This is a celebration of music, great music, as no moment is wasted during the concert. Led Zeppelin has a huge catalog of hits to select from for any live endeavor that they undertake, and there will always be at least one or two songs that are left off for the sake of not playing all night long. However a two hour concert by a band that has mastered their craft is something that should be appreciated by all, regardless of the fact that your favorite song got left on the cutting room floor.
I will admit, I first put in the disc, and the opening vocals of Good Times, Bad Times, did sound like they were recorded in a tin can, but somehow everything evened out mere moments into the song, and by the time Black Dog rolled around I was fully committed to the idea that this may be one of the best live albums I have heard in quite some time. It had all of the classics of Zeppelin, but added the heaviness that the modern technology could provide.
Robert Plant has surprisingly lost very little off his voice in his later years and continues to command the stage as well as he did in his youth. Jimmy Page is still a guitar master who never ceases to amaze with how precise and just downright incredible his skill is. John Paul Jones is an expert at his craft on both the bass guitar and keyboard and readily showcases both skills for the audience during the set. While Jason Bonham is no Bonzo, he is incredibly capable at filling his father’s shoes and you can tell that he is as happy and excited to see the three titans of music that is the remaining members of Led Zeppelin on stage as we are.
Regardless of whether you are a fan of early Led Zeppelin (I-IV) or the later release like Physical Graffiti or Houses of the Holy, there is something here for everyone and it is all performed as if through a time machine. This could easily have been a concert in the late seventies/early eighties and it does a masterful job of transporting the listener to that time, for at least a few hours. It makes me a little sad that I could not see Led Zeppelin at their apex, but further brings to light the importance of seeing aging bands before they hang it up for good.
A quick side-note about the included DVD (or Blue-Ray depending on your preference), this is the complete concert and is a masterwork to behold. I would highly suggest this for anyone that wants to see the band as they are now but wants to hear the music as it was in their heyday. Seriously, put this on the big screen, crank up the surround sound and lose yourself for two hours, you’ll be glad you did.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Friday, November 30, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Transformers Prime: Rage of the Dinobots is being marketed as a four part mini-series that bridges the gap from the Fall of Cybertron videogame (a review can be found here) and the Transformers Prime television show that recently wrapped up its second season (and that Goose is madly in love with). It, like all other Transformers comics is an IDW publication and is written by Mike Johnson and Mairghread Scott, with art by Agustin Padilla.
There was only one cover available for this title, unless you count retailer incentives which is hard to do in such a small market like
Syracuse (not to mention the fact that most
retailers keep those covers and sell them for elevated prices after the
fact). The regular cover by Ken
Christiansen is the best of the bunch anyway.
The Dinobots are in the costumes and color schemes that coincide with
their video game characters, as well as a heightened level of detail that is much
more interesting than their initial, cartoon designs. Unfortunately the Dinobots mostly consist of
a red, yellow and grey color scheme, which tends to get muddled when you put a
group of them together. This lack of
separation leads to a bit of a mess, especially as it is a painted cover and
therefore devoid of lineart. The painted
quality is nice, don’t get me wrong, and Christiansen is great at what he does,
but I have to think that a holding line or two would have helped the characters
separate a bit. The overall design of
the cover is well done, and the character placement in the image is spot on in
terms of who should be where (Grimlock is the central figure, Sludge and Snarl
are the base while Slag-who is called Slug in this-is Grimlock’s right
hand. Swoop hangs over them taking up
the rear. The symbolism, whether
intentional or not, is not lost on this fan.
7/10 – I like it, but the central part of the cover is just a jumbled grey mess that could use some deeper shadows or holding lines.
I love that the mythos of the video game is being expanded upon as it was a captivating story to begin with. Combine that with the appeal of the Dinobots and you would have a sure hit on your hands.
I like the idea of having Grimlock be a sort of “narrator” for this as he is the leader of the group profiled in the book. The problem I have is that he is inherently an unintelligent sounding character, which is only partially used in the story itself. It is wildly inconsistent, not only from his narration to his actual speech, but also within the word balloons themselves. I am fine with changing up his speech pattern a bit to make him sound unintelligent, it would fit his character, but it has to be done across the board to be successful.
Another discrepancy I noticed was that, in the videogame that this was supposed to follow, Sludge is nowhere to be found, and is assumed to be deceased. To the best of my knowledge (and it’s been a while since I played so I apologize if I am incorrect) he never returned; so why is he here now? Sure, it’s possible that that will be explained by the end of issue four, but such a big change should probably be addressed right away. I understand that you want to have the whole Dinobot crew together for a book that focuses on them, I get it, but the fact that he was assumed dead prior to this is not addressed at all.
I also don’t like the fact that they had to change Slag’s name to Slug because a group somewhere found it to be a racially insensitive term. First of all, it’s too close to Sludge in terms of the way it sounds; second, it was created in the mid-eighties and was just recently revised. Shouldn’t things like this be grandfathered in to our public lexicon, especially since (according to dictionary.com) it is a British derogatory term for an abusive woman? That’s right, we are apparently rewriting childhood memories to avoid offending the abusers!
Sorry, got off on a bit of a tangent there.
5/10 – The writing could have done with a little more backstory and a little less “show me three pages of Grimlock fighting something. If I wanted mindless fight scenes with no real value or backstory I would have invested my time in Avengers vs. X-Men over the summer.
I have just started drawing Transformers for Goose, a lot; and I can tell you that it is no easy feat. I am drawing mine for a five year old, mind you and not for pay, so I can only imagine the kind of internal pressure that Padilla must feel to get things right. That being said, he does an admirable job with the Transformers themselves, they all look great. Where he fails to measure up is through the storytelling itself. While I am not sure if he is designing the contents of the panels himself or whether he has direction from the writers (the old Marvel vs. DC style) I am often perplexed by the page layouts. Much of it feels like bad pacing on the part of the writers but I am not 100% sure who’s fault it is.
Another thing that bothers me is the fact that a lot of the panels in the book focus too much on just lineups of characters. This gets very static and boring after awhile. While this may be passable normally, because this is a bridge between an incredibly well done videogame and an equally impressive cartoon, the flaws are magnified.
I get that we are in the midst of introducing characters here, but why not change up the panel designs a bit, especially since the color schemes on the Dinobots are all so similar.
For all the negative things I have said about Padilla's art, I love the layout of this page. It pulls your eye through in a masterful way.
Not sure why these two panels needed a full page, especially the big panel that is just the face of Ultra Magnus. Seems like a lot of wasted space to me.
This two page spread just makes no sense to me. Regardless of the differing corners on the panel borders, it doesn't do enough to tell me that that is a flashback or dream sequence, and I don't understand where they are, and what the spiky things signify.
5/10 – For a “fight book” the art is okay and the characters are incredibly well done (especially considering the increase in detail that drawing the video game characters entails), but the overall lack of storytelling ability shown by Padilla hurts the final output.
Overall: 5/10 – The premise was great but the book fails to deliver (for now at least). There is obviously still time for it to redeem itself, and hopefully Padilla becomes more comfortable with drawing the characters and can focus on good storytelling, but I rarely hold out hope for a series that starts out flat like this. Luckily it is only four issues and won’t be a huge money sink by the time it’s done.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
For those of you unfamiliar with Nonpoint, what the hell are you waiting for? The best way to experience this band is live, as their shows carry a certain electricity that is hard to rival. Because of the fact that the band is not a huge, stadium tour act, a lot of their shows can be seen in smaller venues (and by smaller I generally mean anything with less than 1500 seats). This is where I first saw the band, before I even knew they existed. They were opening for Sevendust and gave the headliner a run for their money in terms of who stole the show (Sevendust was still incredible, but I fully underestimated Nonpoint). Since that day I have been on the bandwagon and never looked back. There were a few releases recently (Vengeance and Miracle) that were okay, but didn’t have the brute force and consistency of previous albums. This is not solely my opinion either as many longtime fans of the band as well as the band itself admits to this.
Nonpoint’s newest, self-titled album gets back to what they do best though. It is an incredibly consistent heavy as shit album that fans have been looking for since To the Pain. It hits you in the mouth with a wall of sound from the opening sequence of “Lights, Camera, Action” and keeps rolling from there. The sound is similar to Nonpoint albums of the past even though half of the band has moved on to different projects and there is now an additional guitar player. This is a good thing though and the additional musician just ups the heaviness.
The vocals are still as strong as ever and are generally what set Nonpoint apart from many other similar bands. The fact that vocalist Elias Soriano can go from a soothing melody to a rage filled growl in two seconds, while still maintaining the high level of energy that it takes to be in front of an explosive group of musicians like the rest of the band, definitely helps him, and Nonpoint in general, stand out from the pack of pretenders that has threatened to envelope metal music over the last decade.
The best part of this album is its consistency. From the first to last song, there is no dud, no filler. This is what plagued Vengeance and Miracle, a couple really good songs and then a lot of so-so music to fill out the album. The early days of Nonpoint included albums like Development and Statement that were all quality music with no filler. Nonpoint was quickly turning into a “singles band” without giving the longtime, devoted fans anything more than fodder for a greatest hits compilation. Instead of continuing that trend, Nonpoint has gone back to their roots, making albums full of music that their fans would want to listen to. This is the perfect album to throw in your car CD player and drive to, you don’t have to worry about skipping tracks or taking it out halfway through for something else.
There are a few extras in the Best Buy exclusive package that I do need to tout. First of all, the acoustic versions of two of the songs on the disc are incredible (anyone that has heard their acoustic version of “What a Day” can attest to the fact that the band loses nothing upon its departure from plugged in instruments), while the remix of “I said it” doesn’t do much for me as it sounds a little too close to the original to be labeled anything vastly different. The bonus DVD is good, not as good as the Live and Kicking disc, as it is shorter and contains less of the band’s earlier work, but it is by no means a deterrent. Honestly, for $9.99 this is a great set to pick up for you or that metal-head in your life.
If you like metal music at all, you need to do two things. One, find the closest Nonpoint show and go there, you will not be disappointed. Two, pick up their newest album, it’s the next best thing to being down in the pit.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Friday, November 23, 2012
I've always thought this would be a good idea, something that you wear around to make music to accompany big moments in your life (think of Rocky and his climbing of the steps). Knowing my luck it would probably go about as well for me as it will for Shrimpy next week, stay tuned!
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Because of the impending Turkey Day, you get your comic review one day early! Don't thank me, thank the guy that created stuffing!
The new issues of both Robots in Disguise and More than Meets the Eye, the two newer Transformers titles from IDW came out this week. This left me with a decision to make on which one to review, but to avoid any spoilers given that More than Meets the Eye is finishing up a three-part story arc this week, we’ll go with Robots in Disguise #11.
Being a standard IDW book, there are multiple covers for the title. I chose cover “B”. This cover depicts the character Arcee fighting what looks to be generic Decepticons. Arcee is one of the only female transformers and Casey Coller does a great job of not only showing her power, but distinguishing her from the bigger, bulkier male autobots. Even without the pink color scheme and the lipstick (really? lipstick?) Arcee still has a feminine quality about her that helps her stand out. It doesn’t hurt that she is written in this series as a pretty bad-ass assassin too, which this cover just helps to distinguish. The design of the cover is very interesting too as the circular path of the flaming electro sword is cut by both Arcee’s figure and the gun that she is holding (which looks like a Rob Liefeld special out of a 1991 X-Force book). The gun does a great job of pointing to the focal point of our cover though: Arcee’s face.
Joana Lafuente, the colorist on the cover does a good job of utilizing the electro-flame sword and its path through the air as a light source. I may have made her blue eyes a bit more prominent in order to get her face to pop even more, especially since it is backlit in the orange glow of the electro sword. Regardless, this is a very solid cover that utilizes both design and color to create a quality illustration.
9/10: Not only a well done cover in terms of execution, but it is also nice to see a cover depicting a Transformer that is not necessarily one of the “major” characters.
Robots in Disguise is interesting in that it carries far more plotlines than any of the other Transformers comics being published. You could seriously branch this series off into at least one, if not two others and it would work just as well. That being said, the “previously in” page is nearly essential to make sure you remember what happened in each issue. This one is no different, especially considering the fact that last issue was a time-jumping jumble starring Optimus Prime that only hinted at parts of the main story that John Barber is telling here.
One of the interesting parts in this series is that each issue, except for the two focusing on Optimus, are generally told through the eyes of one of four Autobots: Bumblebee, Prowl, Wheeljack or Ironhide. This issue takes a break from that and uses Starscream as the “narrator” which works really well as he is not primarily “Megatron’s bitch” in this book as he is in most other Transformer’s fictions. Barber has done a good job of really fleshing out the character of Starscream, and even though it is hard to trust his true motivations knowing what we all know about him, the fact that he is more than a one note character anymore really makes this book work and provides more than just the standard good vs. bad, black and white conflict.
The most important thing with a big team book like this is properly identifying the characters, especially since many of them look similar aside from a different paint job. True, many of the people that are going to be regular followers of the books are well versed on the different characters, especially the ones that are primarily used here, but by subtly slipping the names of the characters in here and there, it assures that any new or less fanatic readers are not playing a guessing game or spending the majority of their time on Wikipedia trying to determine who is who. Barber does a decent job of this. He could go all Chris Claremont and tell you who everyone is along with their alt mode in each initial appearance of the book and that would actually not be too intrusive if he kept it to the main players, but this way he provides us the information while allowing us to avoid breaking the flow of the story. While a dossier would be nice, it is not a necessity and Barber does a great job moving the story along while interjecting new characters (to that issue). A book involving a huge cast like this is not easy but Barber handles it with ease.
Now, the meat and potatoes of the story: Barber continues his story of the three political factions on Cybertron, all hoping to gain rule through free elections. This is where Starscream the character really shines as he has always been a master schemer, and really that works best in a political setting. This issue mainly deals with the way Starscream is handling the Decepticons, led by Shockwave, and their plans to ruin his bid for leader of Cybertron. The uneasy alliance that he makes with Prowl, who in turn uses Arcee as his main weapon against the Decepticons, is sure to backfire but it also keeps the mystery on Prowl chugging along. Prowl seems almost Judge Dredd-ish in his upholding of the law and the fact that his right hand, Arcee, is basically an assassin just adds another level of intrigue to the character.
The most stunning revelation actually shouldn’t be much of one at all. It was hinted at two issues ago, but nothing was confirmed until the last page of this issue, and it’s a doozy.
The one main problem that plagues this book is just the amount of stuff going on. This does not really bother the casual reader that just picked up this issue, but two issues ago the dinobots and Ironhide were out in the wilds of Cybertron where they encountered the aerialbots, combined (seemingly against their will) into the form of Superion. This was interesting and made for a great cliffhanger. After waiting an extra month because last month was an Optimus issue, I come to find out that there are no revelations about Superion or the dinobots. Not only are we waiting for that cliffhanger to resolve itself from two issues ago, now we have a new, even bigger one at the end of this issue. Barber does a good job of weaving the web, but a little closure of some sort would have been nice after the two month wait.
8/10: This is a book that combines political intrigue, action sequences, and transforming robots. Plus it has many of the more well known characters from the mythology which makes it fun for young and old fans alike.
You would think that it would be difficult to create the illusion of emotion using a robot, but that is exactly what Guido Guidi does here. The transformers in this book have more emotion than many human characters in other comic books. He does a decent job of varying the angles to aid in the storytelling as well. The relative absence of shots pulling far enough back to depict the feet of the Transformers is a little odd, but the level of precise detail required in drawing these characters could contribute to the lack of longshots. The backgrounds are pretty sparse but the group shots and action shots are very well done.
I am not wild about the colors by Priscilla Tramontano. She gets the colors right, no doubt, but it seems like she is too concerned with making sure that parts of each character “lights up” be it their eyes or somewhere on their bodies, and this becomes distracting after a few pages. It also seems like with the overwhelming amount of purple in the Decepticons that she would make the background in those scenes a little less so.
7/10: Good art suffers a tad from lack of backgrounds and a few coloring missteps. This is not a poorly drawn book and the fact that such detailed characters do not become jumbled messes proves to me that the art team has done an admirable job.
A decent transformation but seems pretty generic, almost like the old generation one toys
Overall- 8/10: Initially I enjoyed More than Meets the Eye more than this book, but with the emergence of Arcee and the intrigue behind both Starscream and Prowl, this title is quickly becoming my favorite of the Transformers books currently being produced.
Have a great Thanksgiving, to all of you that celebrate, and to those that don't, eat a turkey anyway.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
There is a very important question that you need to ask yourself before picking up the new Soundgarden album, King Animal. Does your allegiance lie with the version of Soundgarden that created Louder than Love and Ultramega ok? Are you on the other side of the fence that loves the entire Superunknown album and the more mainstream bits and pieces of Badmotorfinger and Down on the Upside? The reason that I ask this is because your alliance with one of those two camps will likely determine how receptive you are to Soundgarden’s newest offering King Animal.
King Animal is a step back in time. I have said numerous times here in other reviews that when older, established bands put out new music lately, they are trending toward recapturing their sound instead of reinventing it. Reinvention is for the young kids that may be looking for new fans. It is pretty apparent that many older bands know their fan base and want to cater to that (even in misguided attempts to connect to the wrong fan base, right Aerosmith?). Soundgarden has done the same thing, for the most part. The biggest difference here is that while KISS, or ZZ Top, or even Aerosmith to a certain degree, have all stayed together and toured, released albums, and basically carried on, business as usual, Soundgarden has been apart for the majority of fifteen years.
The breakup of Soundgarden was pretty unexpected to me at least, I was in ninth grade at the time, so of course I thought it was terrible, and with an often mocked but relatively successful solo career for frontman Chris Cornell, along with the formation of Audioslave (along with drummer Matt Cameron signing on with fellow Grunge Rock stalwart Pearl Jam), it was pretty obvious to see that a reunion was not really in the cards. Whether it was money or that they just missed each other (I wonder which it could be) that caused Soundgarden to reunite in 2010, it set into motion a series of events that has culminated in the release of a greatest hits album, live album (finally, I’ve been waiting for a live album since my days wearing braces and “husky” jeans) as well as a song for The Avengers soundtrack and finally a full album of new material.
Instead of revisiting the glory days of Superunknown though, the band has gone further back in time to recapture the early days of grunge. The days of heavy, plodding guitars mixed with occasional solos, the days of screeches and wails from your vocalist (though at this point, Cornell is nowhere near his peak) and the days of a rhythm section that keeps everything in time with rarely a flair or a flourish. This is grunge. This is probably the album that many of the old-school Soundgarden fans wanted made after Badmotorfinger, if not its predecessor Louder Than Love. It holds similar polish to the later Soundgarden releases yet still has the raw heaviness that seemed to disappear as the band’s success and popularity increased.
This is not a perfect album by any stretch of the imagination. Like many grunge albums, both those released in its heyday and subsequent releases by bands trying to recapture that time period, many of the songs sound similar to the point where it is not just a “style” as much as a crutch. This is not to say that the entire album sounds the same, but if you cut it in half, you will see the heavy, plodding of typical grunge music contained to the first half while the lighter, more Down on the Upside–ish music is relegated to the latter half. The second half of the album still holds a certain heaviness that seemed to be absent on Down on the Upside though, effectively bringing the tracks full circle to the kind of music older fans may expect out of Soundgarden. It does not make for a bad album by any means, and honestly the more I listen to it, the better it sounds, it just makes it fairly predictable. As previously stated, Cornell has lost a bit on his voice and while it is phenomenal in a smaller, quieter setting (his acoustic live album Songbook is one the best albums of the past decade at least) it comes out as more of growl here, and not the wail that we have come to expect (though he tries with limited success on many of the tracks). This is not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but unexpected and unfortunate for sure. The album is long, too (and that isn’t even counting the deluxe edition bonus of demo tracks) yet still does not include “Live to Rise”, their track from the Avengers soundtrack. This is another misstep as that would be a great way to reel in fans of that song that are not entirely familiar with the back catalogue of the band. Because of the nature of the music and the length of the album itself, it can start to drone on a bit, but much music from that era is like that so I can’t knock the band too much for at least staying true to form.
For those of you that have been waiting with baited breath since 1997 for a new album, and those that have been standing outside a Best Buy since 2010 with the hopes of getting a full album of new material out of the band before the eventual, and probably inevitable, implosion, go and get this album (hell you probably already have it). For those that want a trip back in time when no one had heard of bath salts and Hurricane Sandy and 9/11 was still just the day after 9/10, play King Animal loud, and play it proud.