Avenging Spider-Man #1

What makes up a “must have” book for me? Any combination of Spider-Man, Red Hulk, Wolverine and Spider Woman works. Or anything with Joe Madureira art. Better yet, combine all of that together and you have Avenging Spider-Man #1.

I’m also giving Zeb Wells some credit, as the script was awesome, too. This new Spidey team up series has our favorite wall crawler teaming up with the Red Hulk. The New York Marathon has been stopped by an invasion of the Moloids, and its up to them to stop the subterranean little people.

This uprising is a little bit different then the other times the Moloids have attacked the surface world; they have a new leader.

There’s a great scene with the Moloids taking New York’s mayor J. Jonah Jameson below the surface to find out that Mole Man isn’t running the show any more; a large Warcraft Orc looking creature rules the literal underworld. While this is going on Rulk and Spidey are fighting a monster that Jack Kirby would approve of. The art in this book is phenomenal; Madureira is just so dynamic and uses some awesome splash panels and two page spreads very well.

Sadly, Wolverine and Spider-Man didn’t appear to much in the issue, save for the opening scene with Spidey and Rulk having to go back to New York and no one really  wanting to spend time with them. What made this book so awesome was Wells’ well placed humor, making it a fun read accompanying the explosively cartoony art. This issue was a visual masterpiece and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

And to all my techie readers out there, I actually read this on an iPod touch and I have to say that it looked really awesome, especially the zoom feature which shows how detailed the original artwork is.

Friday Fights #5: Howard The Duck vs. Donald Duck

 

This week we discuss who would win the battle of toughest waterfowl–Howard the Duck vs. Donald Duck. These two have been feuding on and off over the years; there was even a lawsuit between their respective parent companies Marvel and Disney. So what would happen if these two pants-less ducks did battle?

Neither one has a size or physical advantage over the other. Howard is known for chain-smoking cigars, so that may have some stamina issues. Over the years, we’ve learned that Donald Duck is pretty lazy so I would assume he isn’t in the best physical shape.

So do either duck have any fighting abilities? Howard is the master of the martial arts fighting style known as Quack-Fu. Donald doesn’t have any formal fighting skills, although I would assume that he did learn some combat skills over the years. He did serve in the navy during the DuckTales cartoon series. That said, Howard would have the fighting advantage.

But who would I put my money on?

Donald. He’s ruthless. I imagine–thanks to years of cartoon watching–that he would run around throwing things and punching poor Howard. Imagine a duck version of the late Bruiser Brody. WINNER: Donald Duck

Muppet Legend Jerry Nelson Passed Away

Jerry Nelson, the man who brought to life several of my favorite Muppets, has passed away. He was 78 years old. Jerry had an amazing career, first joining the Muppet World in 1965 to help Jim Henson puppet Rowlf the Dog on The Jimmy Dean Show, and up till recently still being involved in Muppet projects; he reprised the role of the Muppet News announcer in last year’s The Muppets movie and still recorded the voiceover work for the Count on Sesame Street.

Here are some of the Muppets that Jerry performed over the years:

  • Mr. Snuffleupagus
  • Emmet Otter
  • The Two-Headed Monster from Sesame Street
  • Kermit the Frog’s nephew Robin
  • The Count, who has inspired generations of people to audibly count out things
  • Gobo Fraggle
  • Camilla the Chicken

But one of the best–if not forgotten–characters that Jerry brought to life was poor Mr. Johnson, who always had the misfortune of dealing with Grover’s various career stops over the years. These still make me laugh to this day.

Uncanny X-Men #5-9

 

I read the second collected volume of the new Uncanny X-Men and it didn’t really do anything for me. It felt like it was just another X-Men adventure. Cyclops’ team is off to Tabula Rasa, some super evolved civilization from the future that has popped up in Montana, and in turn have to save its inhabitants from certain disaster.

It was like something we’ve seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation a million times over. But writer Kieron Gillen did a few things of note  in these issues. He plants some seeds for the Avengers/X-Men feud/crossover, mostly showing the tense relationship that Cyclops and Captain America have as leaders of their respective groups.

Magneto and Psylocke don’t agree about anything philosophically, but there is an underlying respect. Magneto is the only one in this group that knows that Psylocke has been going out on more, um, violent and extreme missions as part of Wolverine’s secret X-Force. There’s also a bit of a weird connection between Namor and Hope Summers, and there is a lot of flirting going on. Things get awkward after poor Namor alludes to having sex with a crayfish-like alien queen and Hope seems both disgusted and jealous as a result. Super weird. I really don’t know what they were getting at and it was just uncomfortable all around.

So how would I rate this? I’ll give this a thumbs in the middle; it’s recommended only for completists or super fans of Gillen.

Spawn: The Album

It may have taken me a while to see Spawn: The Movie, but I’ve been a big fan of the film’s soundtrack for some time. Spawn: The Album features a bunch of collaborations between some of the biggest alternative metal and electronic music acts of the late 1990s–two musical genres I was really into at the time. The resulting album was a lot of fun.

The lead single teamed up Filter with the Crystal Method for a reworking of the techno duo’s “(Can You) Trip Like I Do”, which pretty much features Filter’s singer Richard Patrick contributing some vocals. There is a bit more guitar work, too. The other big single was Marilyn Manson and the Sneaker Pimps’ “Long Road Out Of Hell.” Both of these songs wound up having Spawn inspired music videos. Also, both songs have appeared on countless other movie soundtracks.

Spawn: The Album also features some team-ups filled with metal credibility. There’s a remix of Metallica’s “For Whom The Bells Toll” by DJ Spooky that’s pretty epic. Metallica’s guitarist Kirk Hammett and Orbital teamed up for the riff-heavy “Satan.” Even Slayer makes an appearance, collaborating by digital hardcore act Atari Teenage Riot for “No Remorse (I Wanna Die)” which combines Kerry King’s wicked guitars with ATR’s trademark screaming over the hardest use of the Amen break.

As a whole, the album is catchy. It’s metal enough if your into the louder musical genres, and filled with enough breaks and beats to make techno fans happy. It holds up extremely well fifteen years later.

Friday Fights #4: Mumm-Ra vs. Emperor Palpatine

I was looking at the Mumm-Ra in his cloaked mummy form action figure that my brother gave me for my birthday this year. Incidentally I think he gave me a Mumm-Ra for my birthday back in 1986, too. Anyway a light bulb went off in my head–Mumm-Ra looks a lot like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars fame!

I wonder if there was a direct influence on the Thundercats villain from the dark lord of the Sith, who debuted four years prior. Anyway, this week’s fantasy battle royal pits Mumm-Ra against Palpatine

SIZE AND STRENGTH: Mumm-Ra is usually shown as being at least 7′ tall and Superman-level strength. Palpatine, although a hunched over and much smaller, can throw things around with his telekinetic abilities. ADVANTAGE: Mumm-Ra, mostly due to stature.

WEAPONRY: Palpatine wields the standard lightsaber at a master’s level. Mumm-Ra may not wield an energy weapon, but his Sword of Plun-Darr is essentially an enchanted, evil version of He-Man’s power sword. It’s so evil that removing it from its tomb caused the destruction of Thundera. He always carries some sort of  knife, but I’m sure that Palpatine carries a blaster of some sort. ADVANTAGE: Neither.

MAGICS: Palpatine is a master of the Force allowing him to do the following:

  • Forcibly choke people.
  • Shoot electricity
  • Levitation
  • Mind control
  • Energy explosions

Mumm-Ra is no slouch either; he can:

  • Fly
  • Shoot energy blasts
  • Mind control
  • Shape/reality augmentation
  • Master sorcerer

So pretty much, we’re looking at equals. ADVANTAGE: Neither.

THE WINNER: The emperor, although very deadly, is super frail and vulnerable if you can land a punch on him. Don’t believe me? Darth Vader was able to tackle him at the end of Return of the Jedi, effectively rendering him useless. Mumm-Ra’s power is immense, but if he exerts himself too much he will revert back to his mummy form and is equally as vulnerable. Mumm-Ra also has body image issues; if Palpatine is able to force Mumm-Ra to see his reflection, the immortal wizard will runaway screaming. WINNERPalpatine, who will just barely survive and be beaten badly. However, Mumm-Ra will retreat back to his temple to recover and will win the rematch.

Spawn: The Movie

Did you know that this summer is the fifteenth anniversary of Spawn? Todd McFarlane’s devilish vigilante made his movie debut on August 1, 1997 and I’ve finally gotten around to seeing the movie. So what did I think?

It’s kind of hard to judge this movie. The plot is pretty straight forward; military operative Al Simmons is killed by his corrupt commander Jason Wynn and makes a deal with the devil to lead the forces of the underworld in exchange to be able to be able to see his fiancée (who happened to have had his child and married his best friend). There’s another deal that the devil made with Wynn, one that will pretty much start the apocalypse (there is a cardiac device that will trigger a series of explosions and release a plague if his heart stops) and allow the devil to rule what’s left of mankind.

Simmons’ conflict comes from his struggle with avenging his death. If he takes the advice of the demonic clown the Violator, Simmons will kill Wynn and bring on the end of the world. But if he follows Cagliostro, a former agent of the devil who was able to break free, he can save not only the world–but his former lover Wanda, his child and his best friend–from Wynn. And because deep down Simmons cares for these people, he follows the fallen angel to become an embodiment of justice. It makes sense to me.

Unfortunately, the special effects in this film were really distracting. By 1997′s standards, I guess they were groundbreaking. But watching it today, a lot of the CGI animation (like Spawn’s cape, the Violator’s demon form, and any of the scenes in hell with the devil’s legions) just reminded me too much of the Playstation games I enjoyed from that era. After doing some research about the film’s director and co-writer Mark A.Z. Dippé, it’s not surprising that the film was so visual effects heavy; he used to be an animator for Industrial Light and Magic.

The makeup and costuming effects were very well done. John Leguizamo looked utterly disgusting as the Violator’s clown form (and his one-liners were both cheesy and well played). Michael Jai White looked convincing in his Spawn makeup/armor, even though it did remind me of the Guyver. But it worked, except for one scene where Spawn was riding a motorcycle and his head was clearly painted onto a motorcycle helmet.

So why should you watch this film? Ultimately Spawn is a period piece, not in the sense that it shows off trends or what it was like to live in the 1990s.It’s a look back on what was considered cutting edge at that time. And in 1997 this film was cutting edge. Unfortunately, viewing this film in 2012, the film doesn’t hold up too well due to its over-reliance on special effects. On a positive, the movie is a fairly faithful adaptation of McFarlane’s comics, and Spawn was considered a modest box office success that started the comics movie boom of the late 90s early 00s. Without this, there wouldn’t have been Blade or X-Men which really got the comics film ball rolling. To sum it up, this is an average film that was important in the context of its era.

I Wish We Were Getting Joe Carnahan’s Daredevil

Did you know that director Joe Carnahan almost was in charge of a new Daredevil adaptation? The mastermind behind the recent A-Team movie and Smoking Aces (one of my favorite movies of the last decade or so) put together this sizzle/teaser to Fox for a reboot of the Daredevil franchise. So how did he do it?

Combining classic comic art with seventies crime/gang films like The Warriors and Serpico, this is amazing. It’s the gritty, sleazy New York that was just as much a character as it was a setting in Frank MIller’s Daredevil comics.

Unfortunately, Fox has to start filming the movie by October 10. If they do not start by then, the rights to the character revert back to Marvel. It looks that this film will be relegated to what could have been status.

After seeing this, I have to say that this is the Daredevil movie that I want to see. Or a Power Man and Iron Fist picture. It’s gritty, it’s dark but at the same time cartoonish, just like those great urban martial arts films of the seventies.

As a fan, I’m really glad that this pitch was made public. You can follow Joe on Twitter.

Bad Comic Book Stores

Teenage Wasteland

Photo by Flickr user Elston

When I go on road trips, I usually make a point to stop by comic book stores. I like comics, and to me there is nothing more fun then scouring around for a while. Any way, on one of my vacation day road trips I stopped by a comic book store that wasn’t so hot. It wasn’t as bad as the picture, but pretty bad nonetheless.

So what did they do wrong?

  1. The most noticeable thing in any comics store is the new issue racks/walls. Some stores leave some of the previous issues behind what is the most current issue. To me this is fine; it markets the recent back issues well. Unfortunately at this store, there was just a hodge-podge of random comics. Behind the most recent issue of Deathstroke was a few back issues from the early 1990s series, and some Power Girl stuff from last summer. That didn’t make any sense.
  2. Nothing was on sale. It was like they ran this store as if it was still the nineties and you could get whatever price Wizard was listing. There is a reason why dollar bins are so popular; reducing the price of your back stock or over-orderd comics is a surefire way to get it out of your shop and generate sales. Those old Marvel Fanfares will never sell at “guide price” but for a dollar people will buy them. Or those Stormwatch and WildCATsbooks that you’ve paid off years ago.The same could be said for their selection of graphic novels/trades. If you read on Bleeding Cool or Comics Beat, you can periodically see that the publishers have mass discounts on their back stock. I know retailers would rather not have to discount anything, but they have to sometimes. Just let it go.
  3. The back issues had a really arbitrary pricing scheme. Certain things that should be cheap were expensive. Things that are rare were bargain priced. And the other two-thirds of the back issues weren’t priced at all. What the heck does that even mean? Is it cover price? Do you haggle? Do they have some sort of commodities tracker that bases it hourly on what is sold on eBay? I had no clue and as too embarrassed to act.

At the end of the day, I couldn’t deal enough with this store to actually buy something. What are some of your comic book store nightmares?

Transformers #80.5

I loved Marvel’s Transformers back in the day. Then again, I loved anything Transformers related. Anyway, you can imagine the sheer sadness of when I found out that the eightieth issue would be the end of the series in 1991. It was enough to make an almost ten-year old version weep just as much as the five-year old version did when I saw The Fox and the Hound for the first time.

Fast forward ten years later, and it was the great 1980s nostalgia boom where all of these smaller comics publishers were putting out new material based on toys. I really dug Devil’s Due because it tied into the previous continuity. Unfortunately, none of the subsequent Transformers relaunches did.

Transformers #80.5 picks up where writer Simon Furman and artist Andrew Wildman left off almost twenty years ago. They do a great job going over what had happened in the last series and set up a new direction.

It’s many years later, and Cybertron is mostly peaceful under the governance of Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots (and a bunch of Decepticons who have put aside their old grudges). Unfortunately, there is a growing separatist movement among the Transformers. This peace is short-lived; a group of Decepticons led by Soundwave destroy the Last Autobot–a symbolic act destroying the symbol of peace.

This may have been a short story, but I wound up enjoying this more than any other Transformers book I’ve read in years. Nostalgia be damned, Furman still knows how to write epic Transformers stories and Wildman’s art is still great. It looks exceptionally awesome with the modern style of coloring.

Friday Fights #3: Mockingbird vs. Black Canary

Last week there husbands did battle; let’s see how the ladies do! This week is a battle of bird inspired warriors with Mockingbird taking on Black Canary.

FIGHTING STYLE: To put it bluntly, both of these women kick ass. Mockingbird is a trained agent of SHIELD and has mastered many different fighting styles. Black Canary is the best lady brawler in the DC Universe. Mockingbird has an advantage; she’s very adept at fighting with her battle staff/batons. Advantage: Mockingbird

POWERS: Aside from some enhanced strength/reflexes from the Super Hero Serum, Mockingbird relies on her combat skills. Even though Black Canary doesn’t have any enhanced physical skills, her “canary cry” sonic scream packs a punch.

THE WINNER: It comes down to Black Canary’s scream. If Mockingbird can find a way to keep her mouth shut, count it as a win for the Avenger. The other factor is very reluctant to use her power directly on people. Given this moral dilemma, it gives Mockingbird the slight advantage. WINNER: Mockingbird

Secret Invasion #6

Fun fact…I’ve been waiting a few years to finish reading Secret Invasion. Mostly because It took forever to find the sixth issue of the mini-series.

I picked up the Baltimore Comic-Con 2008 exclusive Frank Cho cover. Why? Because Spider-Woman drawn by Cho is just awesome. So let’s talk about this missing chapter from my collection. Bare in mind, that its been YEARS since I read the mini-series and I’m not going back to look up things. I’m going to live blog this reading experience. Be warned!

The book starts out with Noh-Varr (who most recently betrayed earth) promising the Skrull who thinks he is Captain Marvel that he will protect the Earth. There’s an advertisement for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles which I seem to have been the only person who enjoyed it. Sigh.

Getting back to the topic, the series is approaching the all-out slug-fest that we all love in comics. One one sand you have the Skrull legions, lead by the impostor Skrull-Spider Woman, ready to take over the planet. A cause which has oddly picked up support from mankind. And on the other, the allied front of registered and un-registered super heroes, Nick Fury’s team of Secret Warriors, Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts and Kevin Sullivan’s Army of Darkness. Well maybe the Dungeon of Doom. Either way, there was a huge army of Marvel characters and no one representing Sullivan. And in case you are wondering, Kevin Sullivan was a pro wrestler back in the day.

And it’s done. It really was a quick read. On its own, it really doesn’t stand up. But as part of the larger narrative it works. The art by Leinil Yu is phenomenal though. Secret Invasion really made me turn a corner on him with his style.

Friday Fights #2: Green Arrow vs. Hawkeye

Green Arrow vs. Hawkeye (268/365)

Photo courtesy Flickr user JD Hancock

This week we pit two super archers against each other:  Green Arrow vs. Hawkeye!

ARCHERY MASTERS: Green Arrow and Hawkeye are both considered to be the best archers in their respective universes. They’ve also mastered the art of creating wacky trick arrows, whether they’re boxing-glove or explosive arrows ADVANTAGE: Neither.

COMBAT SKILLS:  They’ve both trained in various martial arts forms. Again, their prime weapon in combat is their archery skills. Hawkeye gets the nod, as he’s trained with Captain America, who is the trainer of the stars over in the Marvel Universe. But Green Arrow has one thing that Hawkeye doesn’t–he’s cagey. Oliver wouldn’t think twice about throwing a handful of sand in Hawkeye’s face, let alone picking up a beer bottle and smacking it upside his head. ADVANTAGE: Slight to Hawkeye.

ANGER MANAGEMENT: Hawkeye may be a reformed criminal, but Green Arrow can get scary tough in a heart beat. Don’t believe me? Read Rise and Fall, where he gets pretty intense. Don’t make Ollie mad. ADVANTAGE: Slight to Green Arrow.

THE WINNER: Clint and Ollie would beat the snot out of each other, and I think they would eventually just call it a day. They really are too similar; they’re both even married to women who have bird codenames! It would end with the two of them hanging out and Green Arrow making his world famous chili for everyone!

Let’s Talk About The Man of Steel Trailer Teaser

Viewers of The Dark Knight Rises were treated to a trailer for next year’s Zack Snyder Superman film Man of Steel. It really is a teaser, as it doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the film. It does look like the film is more in line with the Christopher Nolan Batman films then the Marvel Avengers series.

Snyder has been charged with rebooting the character’s film franchise, which has been pretty dormant for about twenty-five years. Let’s face it, the less that is said about Superman Returns is the better. And that wasn’t even a bad film; it just came across as a love letter to Richard Donner’s take on the character.

Man of Steel has to be a good; the fate of the character depends on in. His non-comics reader popularity is at an all time low; Batman, Spider-Man and the Avengers have all surpassed him. But after seeing this, I don’t know I’m excited. The whole point of a trailer–let alone a teaser–is to get the audience on board. Unfortunately, there was nothing really super about this. I’m not sure why, but this just seems kind of bland. Superman literally needed to come back with a bang and not a whimper.

Is it just me?

Avengers #27

So this is a random issue I read, thanks to getting it as a birthday gift from a co-worker. Avengers #27 is right in the middle of the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover. I really have no idea what is going on. What ensues is a really bad day for Noh-Varr (the former Marvel Boy who now calls himself the Protector).

It turns out that the Avengers were able to absorb some of the Phoenix Force through Thor’s hammer.

This was a short-lived victory, as they were betrayed by Noh-Varr, who has announced that he is bringing this energy back to his people, the alien Kree race. And by doing this, he’s sent the Avengers on a collision course with the sun.

Thinking that this will gain him brownie points back on his homeworld, Noh-Varr finds out that the Kree’s guiding force the Supreme Intelligence intends to use this weapon to protect themselves and not save Earth. Noh-Varr then takes back the Phoenix Force, making himself an enemy to all Kree. He then winds up getting beaten up by the Avengers, who take the hot potato of Phoenix energy back, informing him that he is no longer welcome on earth. By the end of the issue, Noh-Varr has wound up alienating himself with both the Kree and Earth. It must be lonely, as he literally has nowhere to go.

I wonder if this is an actual writing off of the character, or if he’s going to later appear during the conclusion to this crossover. Maybe he might turn up with the Shi’ar or even the Skrulls?

What made this book so much fun was Walter Simonson’s art. It was perfectly suited for a mini cosmic epic like this. And quite frankly, it was Simonson’s art that made the book for me. Anyway, a fun issue and I can’t wait to get the complete run in a collected volume.

Red Hood: Lost Days


Former Robin Jason Todd was pretty much known for one thing: dying. This Dick Grayson-replacement didn’t seem to resonate well with fans; they hated him to the point that the majority of fans called a 900 number in 1988 to make sure that he died at the end of the A Death In The Family storyline.

Well, maybe he wasn’t that hated. The final vote on whether he would be killed off was 5343 to 5271. But what made comic readers more upset was how he was brought back from the dead. Violating any sense of scientific (or science fiction) laws of physics, Superboy Prime’s punching his way through the cosmic walls to get back into the DC Universe proper wound up resurrecting Jason Todd. Don’t ask…if you think too much about it, you will be driven mad.

What Judd Winick attempts to do in Red Hood: Lost Days is explain what the newly reborn character has been doing since his resurrection. Jason was discovered and taken in by the League of Assassins; Ra’s al Ghul is intrigued by how he cam back from the dead while his daughter Talia wants to take care of him, as she is a connection to his beloved Batman. After he becomes enraged that Batman never avenged his death, Talia winds up bankrolling his new obsession of training to kill the Batman.

The complexities of this story all revolve around the relationships between these three characters. Talia is obsessively in love with Batman; she took Jason into her custody, as she knows that the revelation that he was alive (and pretty murderous) would destroy Batman. Unfortunately, she has wound up arming and funding Jason’s quest of killing the Batman. Things get weird romantically between Jason and Talia, with the two getting intimate. Apparently obsessing over Batman is an aphrodisiac. Unfortunately, Jason finds out that this budding romance–and all the training Talia is providing–is just meant to be a distraction to sidetrack him from his plan to murder Batman.

But as vengeful minded as Jason is, he literally can’t pull the trigger. There’s a scene where Jason is waiting for Batman to get in the Batmobile so he can detonate a trunk full of explosives. But he just can’t do it. This scene reminds me a lot of when Batman first met Jason years prior, as a kid trying to steal the tires off of the Batmobile. Jason attributes his hesitation to wanting Batman to see who killed him, but really it’s that he can’t bring himself to do it.

By the end, Winnick establishes that Jason’s death and subsequent rebirth have left him pretty emotionally unstable and sets the tone for what the character would do and did in later appearances.