If you wouldn't do that to your friend while he was with his significant other, than you are not a real friend.
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.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Friday, November 16, 2012
Thursday, November 15, 2012
I, like most other people that enjoy video games (look at the sales numbers, it’s true), love Borderlands. I am not a FPS guy for the most part. Tried Call of Duty, couldn’t get into it. Haven’t even touched Halo yet. Borderlands though? Loved it. I picked up the original in a bargain bin for probably $20 and couldn’t stop playing it. The visuals were incredible, the story had just enough to move things along without being intrusive and getting in the way of the real fun; shooting bad guys and picking up loot. Borderlands 2 was just as good if not better. Hell, I’m only part of the way into it and I can already see a better story with great characters and humor that you rarely find in videogames.
When you take a videogame that I think so highly of, and then tell me that there is going to be a comic book created using the setting and characters, that is the point that I push all my chips to the center of the table. I was “all in” for a Borderlands comic book, especially since the Mass Effect comics by Dark Horse were so well done. IDW does a pretty decent job with licensed content as well (Transformers and Ghostbusters are two that come to mind as some of the best licensed comics of recent memory) so I was very optimistic about this endeavor going into it.
And then I saw the cover. It is just plain boring. A stoic shot of the title character? Okay, I guess that works thematically because the book centers on Roland, but there is a distinct lack of dynamism in the image itself. He is just standing there, holding a smoking gun, that’s it. Hell, you can’t even see anything below his mid-thigh. The bounty hunters from the first game (which I assume this “origins” series will be exploring in detail) are touted as some bad-ass individuals. You’re telling me that you couldn’t come up with an image of him killing a Skag, or something a little more than just “generic shot of title character”?
One of the things that I enjoy the most about the video game series is the art and graphics. They are equal parts realistic but with a cartoony edge because of the particular cell-shading technique used. Instead of using that technique, Augustin Padilla just draws it how someone from 1994 would and Esther Sanz colors it with just a wave of her muddy brush.
2/10 - This could have been done better, and has been done better in the games themselves. The logo is nice and clear, but that was obviously created by the video game guys too (why didn’t they just let them handle the book?).
The story itself was written by Mikey Neumann, the creative director for the games. This is great that they were able to get someone on board that had a hand in the creation of the games, and obviously Neumann knows more of the backstory of these characters than just some random writer off the street. The story itself, however, is very generic. I realize that Roland, as kick-ass as he may be as a playable character in the game, is relatively generic himself. He is basically a rogue soldier, something that we have seen many times before. Why does he go rogue though? Well that is something that this comic is going to explain. I realize that they only had one issue to do this, and they really do pack a bit into the allotted pages, but there could have been so much more done with this storyline than the basic “Roland got set up by a higher up in the organization, his team was killed and he was left for dead”. Yawn. Give me more conspiracy theory, give me more backhanded deals, give me something different than I have seen time and time again.
If you are going to do a basic plot like this, you have to give something extra, something to make it your own. The Lord of the Rings, you may have heard of it, is basically just a quest story where instead of searching for the macguffin, they are trying to dispose of it, but Tolkien made it his own by expounding on the relationships, the dynamic in the group and by raising the stakes of failure to astronomical levels. I realize that we are dealing with a twenty-four page comic book here and not a three novel epic, but this can be done on a smaller scale too. Make me care about Roland and his team so that when they are killed it resonates with me. Don’t just assume that I care about Roland because he was my character during my first playthrough of the original game (he was).
There are certain beats in the dialogue that do not make a whole lot of sense either. The character Scraps on Roland’s team seemed to be starting a fight with Roland, and then five pages later (in the same scene, mind you) he is defending Roland, ready to tear his teammate’s head off for questioning their leader. I wonder how this was not caught by the writer on his read-through, or at the very least by the editor.
2/10 – Overall the dialogue feels about as wooden and lifeless as the rest of the plot. There is so much potential and to have it go unrealized is a shame.
If you like the art of the games themselves, you will probably be highly disappointed by the art of the comic book. The art feels as generic as the story which is sad considering how the art of game was so much different than pretty much anything on the market at the time. The art of the game was bright, vibrant and detailed while the art here just looks like a something out of early 90s Extreme studios. I’m not saying the art is terrible in and of itself, but when you are expecting something that looks at least similar to the video game and you get something else entirely, it can be quite disappointing.
The art itself can be hard to understand at times too, especially on the page where apparently everyone dies. However we do not see them really die, and the camera angle flips so at first I thought that it was just a firefight with both sides receiving casualties instead of the massacre that it apparently turns out to be.
This page is all kinds of confusing. Which would make a little sense if it was an actual battle and not just a slaughter.
First you have the stiff, generic shot of the main character, then you have a plot device written plainly for everyone to see. Is this a matter of bad writing or the writer having to condense ideas to fit the page requirements?
Who tailors suits to get wider when they hit the forearms? This is why you never see Popeye in anything but short sleeve shirts, because this makes no sense.
I do like the design of the rhinoceros-looking creatures, though I am not sure whether Padilla designed those or someone else. Regardless, he pulls off the stampede scene well by filling the page with the creatures, heightening the fear of being crushed by those massive creatures.
This is a cool panel, even if it does feel a bit Lion King-ish with the whole being led into a stampede plotline.
2/10 – This could have been so much better if they had just gone with a different style that mimicked the game more. Other than that I am not too high on Padilla’s art and storytelling ability anyway.
Overall: 2/10 – The groundwork was there for this to be an incredible supplement to some of the best games of this console generation. I blame the one-issue format for some of the writing issues, having to try and condense Roland’s origin instead of giving it a little more leg room to get us interested, but ultimately the whole thing misses its mark. It did make me want to go and play the game though, so good job with that.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
I am sure that I am forgetting some memorable body part insurance policies. Let me know what your favorite one is. And seriously, who gets to do those assessments and what community college course do I have to take to get that job?
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
I had officially given up on Aerosmith a few years back. Yes, I still loved the old music (especially the 70s era stuff that I grew up on once my parents got a working record player) but I didn’t expect much, nor did I get excited when the various rumors of a new tour, or new album came around. I saw the band right after the release of Honkin’ on Bobo (when they were on tour with KISS) and they greatly underwhelmed, to the point where they were soundly booed by the entire crowd when they left the stage. At that point, I realized that Aerosmith, as I knew it, was probably dead. I therefore didn’t put much credence in the rumblings of a “new album” and a “return to form” for the band. I was therefore not too disheartened when the release date was pushed back from sometime in August (if I can remember correctly) to the first week in November. I would still purchase it, but I was not nearly as excited for it as I was for KISS’s Monster or Soundgarden’s King Animal (out today!).
What I got when I started listening to the album definitely sounded like a late 70s to mid 80s era Aerosmith. I could easily see the first part of this album (up to the song “Street Jesus”) fitting in right after Pump or Permanent Vacation. It definitely has a grittier, bluesier vibe than their contemporary albums, even the ballads in that section seem like standard Aerosmith ballads. Nine Lives in the late 90s tried to get that vibe but failed (in my opinion) because it just felt too clean, like they were trying to merge Toys in the Attic’s rawness with the production value of Get a Grip. Long story short, it was a good effort but did not entirely work. Music From Another Dimension has a similar feel to it, yet it has definitely done a better job of trying to reconnect to that sound that made Aerosmith one of the biggest bands in the world back in the 70s.
What this album does more than anything is show the power and cohesion of the musicians themselves. Joe, Brad, Tom and Joey are as tight a band as they have ever been and the best part about this album is hearing a group of accomplished musicians tear it up again. Steven has lost a half step in his vocals, and cannot wail quite the way he used to, but he also doesn’t try as much as in the past. This is way more evident in his live performances than the studio recordings (much the same as Paul Stanley from KISS, or any aging rocker I assume) and he does give it a go here, especially on some of the ballads. The band shows that it can handle all kinds of music, from blues to ballads to country (a duet with Carrie Underwood that is not terrible, and probably one of the better overall songs on the disc) without a problem. Joe Perry doesn’t have as many of the blistering guitar solos here that I have come to expect, and actually want to hear, from him. He does a great job leading the band through the songs and Brad on the rhythm guitar as well as the rhythm section of Tom and Joey round out a solid band that shows they can still rock when given the opportunity.
A quick side note about the “deluxe edition” with the three extra tracks and DVD: unless you really want to see the DVD, save your money and buy the regular edition of Songs From Another Dimension. The extra disc with the bonus songs is definitely not worth the price but if you want to see the DVD, by all means throw down the extra $10.
Here is the problem though, Aerosmith, in their current incarnation, are no dummies. They know what made them popular in the 70s, and they also know what contributed to their resurgence in popularity in the 90s. If you have been paying attention to the band for the last twenty years at least, you will know that I mean their ballads. Each record of theirs has had a relatively slower song (“Dream On” from their self-titled debut, “You See Me Crying” from Toys in the Attic), but it wasn’t until they got back together in the mid 80s that they really started to make the ballad a focal point of every Aerosmith record. For every rocker like “Eat the Rich” on Get a Grip you also get “Crazy”, “Cryin’”, “Amazing”, and even “Living on the Edge” to a certain degree. Aerosmith knows that if they want to get on the radio, and subsequently increase their album sales, they need to appeal to more than just the old rockers and metalheads that grew up listening to Rocks in their parent’s basement. While I expected ballads on this record, the amount on there are too many for my taste, especially given the publicity leading up to the record that this was the album that they had wanted to make since Done With Mirrors in the early 80s.
Maybe what I said before, that Aerosmith as I knew it was dead, holds true. Maybe they are no longer the band that threw a couple ballads out there to keep the girls happy, but were essentially a blues-rock band from
Boston. Maybe they are now a ballad-based band that
throws a couple rockers (such as “Luv XXX” and “Legendary Child” on this album)
in order to keep the older fans coming back.
You be the judge, and if nothing else go plug in your parent’s record
player and relive the glory days.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Ahhh, the start of a new storyline. It makes me feel a little warm and mushy on the inside. This marks the first storyline that was fully developed outside of the walls of the Kubert School. I believe I did this after graduation when I still thought that I had an outside chance at getting it published (through syndication or other methods). I will relay the inspiration for this particular story as we get further along so as not to spoil any of the actual story itself.
Friday, November 9, 2012
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Megatron is a jerk. If you are a Transformers fan and have gleaned nothing else from the series, you have to at least acknowledge that Megatron is a royal douche. It is no more apparent than in this Transformers series from IDW. Regeneration One picks up where the old Marvel series left off. It was kind of a blast from the past as well because I remember that old series and even had an issue or two. I was not a huge Transformers fan back then (my flag planted firmly in the He-Man/Thundercats camp) but with Goose’s intense affection for all things transforming robots, I have started to get into it a little more as of late.
While Regeneration One picks up where the old series left off many years ago, it has catapulted the action twenty years into the future. This is a future where Megatron, in all his grand douchieness has laid waste to the planet. What is presented to us as the reader is a postapocalyptic future that is controlled by a maniacal metal dictator. What is also apparent, aside from the fact that Megatron is a jerk, is that he really has a hard-on for Optimus Prime. It is revealed that everything that Megatron has done, from the utter destruction of the world, to the creation of zombie robots (the rolling dead?) was to get the attention of his most hated rival, Optimus Prime. Issue 85 has been billed as the issue where this long-standing hate fueled relationship comes to a dramatic conclusion. Of course, this is comic books, so who knows how “final” the conclusion really is, but it makes for a good book nonetheless.
On the left: The Cover; on the right: The interior image.
The cover is not only a representation of the story, it is nearly a complete recreation of an interior panel. Luckily for the readers, it is not just a copy of the panel blown up a little bit to fit a cover. It is reworked and recolored to heighten the mood and make it pop. The yellow uplighting really helps to make this pop on the shelf and does a great job of separating itself from the interior image and making it work as a dynamic image all its own.
Optimus Prime’s pose is dynamic, but it could have been pushed to be more so. Everything is very vertical on the page. Prime himself is not only completely centered on the cover, but he is also straight up and down. Tipping him just a bit on the diagonal would definitely up the dynamism. Another issue is Megatron’s arm in the foreground. Not only is it the exacts same color as Prime’s leg, it also follows the path of Prime’s leg, making it a little hard to differentiate between the two. If Prime had been tipped a bit, as was previously mentioned, this may have taken care of that problem while still keeping the triangular design that Wildman was going for in place.
6/10-A good cover that just needed a bit more to make it a great one. This is one of the biggest moments in the history of the property (so to speak) and it should have been a little less stiff than it was presented here.
The big draw of this book was that IDW was able to get Simon Furman to write it. For those that do not know, Simon Furman was the writer on the Marvel Transformers comics that ended in 1991 at issue 80 (as well as the majority of the Marvel UK Transformers comics). He is basically picking up where he left off and his familiarity and fondness for the characters shows through here. The story itself wraps up a lot of plotlines that have obviously been dangling since 1991. Even with all of that, it sets the stage for the next issue. To be perfectly honest I thought that this was going to be the final issue in the series and that they would just go ahead with the other two Transformers series from here. I was a bit surprised when I got to the end of the book and not only did it not contain a big “The End” but it actually set up a new story arc involving Grimlock.
I did not regularly follow the comic in the late 80s (I had just started reading, give me a break) so I am not sure whether all of the characters naturally developed into what they are now, but I can tell you one thing, I do not like the Spike Witwicky, 90’s X-Force reject. The long hair and headband motif does not scream “Survivor” as much as it screams “Youngblood”. All he was missing was shoulder pads and boot pockets.
I did enjoy the way Furman created the inner conflict in Prime. The desire to do the right thing for his soul while doing the right thing, essentially for the planet. The fact that it turned out like it did wasn’t too much of a surprise, however the realization that Megatron and Ratchet were fused based on something that happened over twenty years (our time) ago and was more relevant now than ever made me smile. It brought me back to the “good old days” of comics and the thinking that everything that happened would have ramifications that would not be felt for many issues down the road. I don’t get that feeling as much anymore unless something is heralded as an “event” but maybe it is because most mainstream comics are not good enough to hold my attention and build up that story. Oh well, a discussion for another time.
8/10-Furman killed it on this issue. The internal conflict in Optimus Prime is my personal favorite but all of the other little side stories wrapping up was icing on the cake.
Andrew Wildman is also a holdover from the original Transformers series and is a frequent collaborator with Simon Furman. He does a good job of conveying movement in the panels and pages even though he is doing so with the much blockier Generation One Transformers designs as opposed to the ones featured in Robots in Disguise or More Than Meets the Eye. I am not a huge fan of Wildman’s work drawing people, and there even seems to be something a little off about his robots, but it does grow on me toward the end. This could be due in large part to the quality work he does on the Optimus Prime-Megatron fight. Honestly the action sequences in general are well done, the storytelling suffers a bit here and there but is not enough to lose me completely.
This issue is full of big hits like this that Wildman executes wonderfully considering the size and blocky nature of the combatants.
Of course it also contains Spike in this getup.
From issue 70, over 20 years ago! And yet this moment has a huge impact on the winner of the Optimus-Megatron fight.
Not only a glimpse of things to come, but also a bit of bad storytelling. by not showing Grimlock and Scorponok in the same panel together, there is no way to know the sizes of these guys in relation to one another, which just makes this page kind of confusing.
6/10-To be tasked with, and be able to pull off, one of the biggest brawls in the storied history of this franchise is a great feat. I can even look past the terrible character design for Spike and the confusing storytelling in places because when Wildman is on in this issue, he really delivers.
Overall: 7/10-This is still the third best Transformer’s book being produced right now in my opinion (mainly because it contains humans) but what Furman and Wildman are able to do, even after a twenty three year break, in terms of continuing this story while keeping it fresh and interesting should be commended.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
As I stated in the review for the new ZZ Top album, there are a few older bands out there that do not have to keep pumping out new music in order to stay relevant. KISS is one of those bands. They still tour like they were in their twenties and continue to deliver great performances to sold-out multi-generational crowds. Any new albums are just icing on the cake. This is clearly not a money grabbing scheme (and not just because Stanley and Simmons are filthy stinking rich) because the quality is there as well. KISS could just put out Greatest Hits and Live albums for the rest of their careers and keep cashing in, but no, they are actually giving their longtime fans their money’s worth, which is commendable to a band that has worked as hard as they have.
Monster, the newest studio album from KISS is truly great icing on that cake. With the release of Sonic Boom a few years ago, KISS got back to a sound that they had not really embraced since the early 80’s and their final albums with makeup on. Their hair metal and heavier days of the 80’s and 90’s were good, don’t get me wrong, but they were not vintage KISS. Well vintage KISS returned on Sonic Boom, and it got louder on Monster. In a way, it almost felt like the last few years of KISS were direct descendants of the album Creatures of the Night and natural successors to probably the most complete albums in a long and storied discography.
This album starts off with the newest single “Hell or Hallelujah” which is also the theme song of the ACC football network this season, so I heard it quite a bit before I even picked up the album. This is a song that follows in the footsteps of Sonic Boom’s “Modern Day Delilah” in that it is the perfect opening song on an album. A great guitar riff coupled with solid vocals and musicianship, basically vintage KISS and a great calling card for the radio crowd.
The rest of the album continues on as one would expect out of any KISS album at this point. A few songs with Paul on lead vocals, a few songs with Gene on lead vocals, and even a turn for Eric and Tommy this time around. The vocals on every track sounded great, and the age hat could be heard in Paul’s live performances was obviously not a factor on the album. There is still the trademark Gene Simmons long tongue planted firmly in cheek humor that you come to expect on at least one song every KISS album (this time it was the song entitled “Eat your hear out”). While it is in no way the standout track on the album, it is still vintage KISS and well done in its own right.
The entire album, if you are a fan of KISS or just rock music in general, is not to be missed. As is the case with many of the artists that are getting older, you never really know when your last chance to see them live, or their last album will be, so it’s a good idea to get those experiences when you can. If bands like KISS keep pumping out quality albums like Monster, then you won’t even feel guilty about supporting a band in the twilight of their career.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Friday, November 2, 2012
Thursday, November 1, 2012
It took all month, but I actually found a “horror” comic that was not about zombies. There were actually a few comics released on Halloween that were on the spookier side so if that is your idea of a good time, head out to your local shop and grab them before they are gone. For my final comic of the October horror binge, I picked up 30 Days of Night #11 from IDW. Steve Niles wrote it and Christopher Mitten took care of both the penciling and inking duties.
Not only does this cover have something to do with the interiors (though marginally) it is also the only cover available, on an IDW book. I know, it’s a Halloween miracle. If that wasn’t enough for you, it is a really well designed and beautiful cover. From the color palette used to the way Mitten transforms the smoke into skulls above the crispy vampire’s head, it is incredibly well executed. The colors, focusing more on a warm palette of reds/yellows/oranges for the majority, with the smoke producing the only cool colors on the cover really pops out against the browns and blacks that are more commonly associated with comic covers nowadays. Even the logo of the book is in a stark contrast to the blue and white that it is placed over the top of.
The cover illustration itself also does a great job of giving a preview of the general creepiness of the interior artwork (another bonus of having the interior artist do the covers). The lack of black holding lines on the artwork is also a great design element to this. Where other comics in the genre would go heavy on the black to raise the scare factor, Mitten does the exact opposite, opting to let the clarity of the image as well as the use of color do the talking for him, which works out phenomenally. Mitten is obviously a perfect pairing for this subject matter and proves that all the way through the issue.
9/10 - Incredibly well done and fitting for the horror genre. It’s pretty apparent to me that Mitten is enjoying himself and that shines through here more than anywhere else in the book.
I will admit that coming off a month of zombie comics, I was a bit taken aback when I saw the vampires not only speak, but also use guns. Of course then I realized that I wasn’t reading a zombie comic so it made a bit more sense. What didn’t make sense was the talk of “where’s the robot” “let’s get to the robot” and yet I never once saw a robot, or even heard it mentioned again after the first few pages. It was almost as if it was a placed plot device to get the characters in a situation where Hendrick (the bald guy with Lemmy’s facial hair) can get captured by the vampire horde. It was definitely an interesting twist that Hendrick is then transformed into a vampire by Eben (who I assume is some kind of vampire middle-management). However the method of transformation, by spitting into his eye, was a little lame. I realize the sexual connotations that biting carries with it, but I would rather see that than spitting in the eye (which carries it’s own connotations…think about it). I do find it interesting that all of the vampires carry guns though, and think that it is worthwhile to use them against other vampires no less. What is in these guns? Are these vampires more susceptible to things that would normally kill a human than those in the more traditional lore? It would appear that these vampires are pretty hearty as the fat one gets pieces of his head blown out and removed without even batting what is left of his eyelashes. That revelation just makes the sight of vampires in a Mexican standoff more comical than anything.
4/10 – All in all it was ok. There was not too much that was explained too well and there were a lot of hanging loose ends that it would have been nice to see some closure to. I have a feeling that closure will be coming next month as we got a nice big “to be concluded” teaser at the end of this issue. This seems like another book that would be better in trade than in serial form.
As I said before, Mitten is a great fit for this title and I have a feeling that the fact that his art is so Mignola-esque helped him land the gig. That is not a bad thing because it works so well in a design sense. The storytelling is not incredibly clear and the backgrounds can be fairly sparse in some areas, but the acting and the movement in the panels (especially in the vampire scenes) make up for the stoic, bland, text-heavy pages that involve just humans.
I am also a fan of Mitten’s vampires. They are not the traditional Dracula type, but seem more like a cross between a vampire and a more mobile zombie which works very well for the story. Some of the design elements that he throws into the comic though, especially in the first few pages, don’t make a whole lot of sense, but that comes back to the marginal storytelling that takes place.
While the designs are cool, what exactly are the crescent shapes supposed to be?
Some mysterious guys to hold her back (this is the first time they are seen) along with more crescent shapes that I assume are not gunshots this time.
This is apparently how vampires are created in 2012.
How impersonal, and even more gross than bloodsucking in my opinion.
Did he just hit him with a thermos? I hope he stole it off a school-kid. Maybe it's full of strawberry milk.
6/10 – There are some great parts to this and some that will leave you shaking your head.
Overall: 5/10 – An amazing cover is spoiled with some poor storytelling on the inside as well as some writing that doesn’t help the art in that regard. If you are interested in the story or the genre I would suggest picking it up in trade. Single issues will probably just leave you shaking your head.