Friday, July 28, 2006

Weekly comic reviews, The Colbert Report, and a sketch

Another small week of comics for me. We had Civil War: Frontline and Wizard Magazine so only one review to do.

Civil War: Frontline #4 (SPOILERS) -- Well I'm getting more used to the format of this book and it's a little less of a shock when you're thrown from one story to the next now. The art was solid and the raid on the "unregistered combatants" came across very well (you really got a sense of just how much firepower Iron Man and SHIELD were coming in with and using the old "Shock and Awe" approach to disorient these wannabe heroes). Storywise you're still left jumping around. Each story is interesting on its own but don't really seem to flow together sometimes (again, I blame the format of the book for this). Iron Man continues to come across as a ... not so nice guy, and now it's hinted that he (and/or SHIELD) is monitoring reporters (so much for freedom of the press). And the hint that they purposely got the hero from the last issue killed (by moving the tanker into place) is a bad thought. The "sleeper agent" of Namor puts a little twist on things. My only gripe with the book is the Green Goblin's appearance. Last we saw him he was being released by SHIELD to do some work for them. In this issue he goes after Ben Eurich for the stories he wrote about him. Well either this is part of SHIELD's plan (to go after Eurich for some reason) or Osborn was pretty quick in evading whatever monitoring SHIELD must have put on him before releasing him. Otherwise I can't see how SHIELD would release him only to have him take off to settle some personal issues instead of doing what they had wanted him to do (which would reveal to the world that he somehow "escaped" from SHIELD custody... kinda hurts them when they're trying to muster public support).

And as for the Colbert Report, I love this show but I try to refrain from getting political here (I'll leave that to those who know more about it than I do). I only bring it up because Joe Quesada made an appearance last night. Well, in between kissing Colbert's butt he actually did a decent job of selling Civil War. And Colbert actually seemed to show comics some respect. I was actually impressed when he made a joke Quesada being upset about him talking to that woman from "DC" (she was from Washington DC, not DC comics). I just wonder how many non-comic fans either tuned out or rolled their eyes at a comic book guy trying to discuss the significance of comic books (something a lot of people relate to the Archie and Jugghead format of kiddy humour). As for Eleanor Holmes Norton (the delegate from Washington that he interviewed) she really didn't come across too well. Her attack on Colbert for not pronouncing the 't' in his name made me wonder. But enough of the politics.

Last but not least, the sketch. I had been thinking about posting a few sketches from time to time so here goes. This one probably isn't a good one to start with as the pencil lines are still noticeable and make it messy looking and the big guy's proportions are really wrong (holy long legs Batman!) but oh well, c'est la vie. The sketch is part of my brainstorming for chapter 2 of my online comic, Divine Leap (link to the right). A chapter which I've decided not to do (the book will be ending when I finally get around to finishing issue 7 of chapter 1).

Quick update: Joe Quesada discusses his Colbert Report experience and shows off his "Rampaging Colbert" art here:
Newsarama -- New Joe Fridays: Week 7

Friday, July 21, 2006

Weekly comic reviews -- SPOILERS

So this week I picked up 4 books, She-Hulk #9, Civil War #3, Elephantmen #1, and the Planet Hulk: Gladiator Guide (or whatever it's called). Plus, I'll touch on season 2 of 24 which I finished last night (yeah, still a ways to go before I'm caught up).

Civil War #3 MAJOR SPOILERS -- Ok, look what I did, I clearly showed that I'd be spoiling parts of the story. So why can't Marvel do the same? Now I'm not talking about saying it in a Newsarama article because that would be my own fault for reading that article. Or releasing the covers to the next issue in that same article (as again, that was my own fault) but to put the big reveal of Thor right on the cover was just plain stupid (although giving him the "secret" codename of thunderstrike or whatever it was didn't really help either). But I guess we all knew he was coming back eventually. Oh, and as for Newsarama, some people haven't got to read this issue yet so them putting the pictures of Thor on their frontpage is also stupid. I'd like to be able to read the other comic news without having that sort of stuff ruined for me. Having said that, we finally have Thor back but what exactly is going on (why he doesn't have the Odin-force, why he's working for SHIELD, etc) still isn't known. Oh yeah, I guess I should have said he's on the pro-registration side. :) I'm still into the story but it's hard to see heroes that I liked coming up on the pro-registration side. And it's really hard to see some of the heroes acting like they are (such as Reed Richards seemingly being a little less than caring when it comes to his brother-in-law the Human Torch being in a coma). And with other writers doing the regular books for those characters it's hard to keep them consistent (after all, Reed has to remain the likeable hero in his own book but has to come off as being the "bad guy" in Civil War). But wait a minute, does he really need to? I kinda wonder that. But anyways, despite how much this storyline rubs me the wrong way I still can't wait to see what happens next. And the art continues to be great. Oh, one more downside, Matt Murdoch is in jail yet someone going by the code name Daredevil is having lunch with civilian looking Herc, Cap, and Goliath. It's interesting how he's in a civilian disguise so you still don't know who it is (unless you read the Director's Cut of Civil War #1) but on a quick glance, with the brown hair you might actually think it is Matt. And now that I know who it is I can understand why he's been integrated into the heroes without question. Anywho, that "review" (or was it just a rant) was too long so let's move along. In the end, still interested in this story ... and the art continues to be great.

She-Hulk #9: She-Hulk is now married to John Jameson (they eloped to Vegas and got "Elvis" to do the ceremony) and of course J. Jonah Jameson ain't happy that his son married not only a superhero but one that is also a lawyer in the firm that sued him (on behalf of Spidey). And Pug finds "evidence" that this love affair is courtesy of Starfox's influence. This book started off well but about half way through they shift artists to Sal Buscema (and I preferred his art over the first half's artist... that one had She-Hulk looking just plain fat). So the second half had a nice classic feel to it but yet again, it takes the reader out of the story to have this shift in art. The second part then becomes a silly story about She-Hulk having a dinner with her new in-laws. JJJ snaps and gets one of his left over spider-slayers out to attack She-Hulk. A quick tussle and everyone is happy in the end. This seemed like such a waste. There's more She-Hulk story to go to yet we have half this issue being wasted on this "filler" (yet again it felt like that stuff they through in Annuals to bulk them up). So I wasn't really overwhelmed by this issue.

Elephantmen #1: So as you may recall (or most likely not), I've only been able to pick up one issue of the original Hip Flask stories so far so I was a little worried that I'd be lost. But I guess I was fortunate as this issue serves to re-introduce you to some of the back story. You don't get the full thing but you get a sense of most of it and having read the first issue I could fill in a few of the gaps already. Actually, having the two stories in this issue actually helped. You have Ebony flashing back to life before he was "rescued" from the company that made him as well as having the human response to these "Unhumans" being integrated into society from the perspective of the little girl in the Ebony story and "Joe" in the other story (and since you have to flip the book over to read the other story you aren't abruptly thrown from story to story, it actually helps the reader refocus to know that he/she has to flip the book over and basically read it as another comic). The downside to all this? Well, if you've read the original stuff then this doesn't really seem to be anything new. But given how much time occurs between issues of the original stuff readers are probably happy to see anything. And the art was enjoyable. I'm looking forward to picking up more of this book.

As for the Hulk Guidebook I mentioned, I haven't read it. I started to but it's not presented in comic form. It's written as though inhabitants of the planet are writing a guide so you have some pictures but it's mostly just writing. Full pages on the star system they are in and each planet in the system. I had complained a while back that you were thrown into this world without the background and here we get the full details. I wonder if it's too much detail now but they have to be commended for doing their homework on this. They have stuff that just couldn't be presented in comic form (like going through the powers of the various gladiators) and having it written from a different perspective makes it a little bit more interesting than just reading one of the Marvel handbooks. But it's still going to be tougher read than your standard comic. So it's not for everyone, just the Hulk fanatics who want a bit more of a backstory.

Last but not least, season 2 of 24. I now see a bit more why people started to hate Jack's daughter. Season 1 I felt for her but in this one my patience was stretched a little thin with her. It's interesting how you know that Jack will save the day somehow but other than that, all bets are off. I keep thinking about how Joss Whedon talked about the death in Serenity and how it was necessary to give the viewers that sense that anything could happen (including killing off the main characters) and that's what this show has. You get a sense of urgency because you just don't know who's going to go bye bye whether it be by death, going to the bad side, or a combination of the two. Although it makes it tough to see a character you care about go down it makes you care more about them. Now I just have to find season 3 for cheap. :)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Weekly comic reviews for July 12, 2006

Yeah, I'm putting Wednesday's date in the title because that's the day that the comics come out. I still know what day it is. :) Only one book for me this week, Civil War: Frontline #3. I've decided that I'm going to shorten the reviews and the easiest way to do this is not have so much recap. So here goes:

Civil War: Frontline #3 -- Recap: Female reporter interviews some not even C-level costumed heroes who expect to be teaming up with Cap any day now. Two "heroes" fight it out over registration and pro-registration guy gets killed accidentally. She-Hulk tries to talk Speedball into taking the deal and registering. And Reed Richards shows his math which supports the pro-registration side. Writing wise, the book was pretty good. Speedball gets some respect from me for sticking to his beliefs. Although I can accept She-Hulk wanting him to register, I think she should have been a little more forceful about protecting him. And with the anti-registration guy killing the pro-registration guy, this book actually seemed to lean more towards boosting the pro-side and I was worried at the start of this series that it would focus more on the anti-registration side. So it was good. The art actually seemed better in this issue than the last. It actually came out pretty good. The downside, different writers for each storyline in the book which I find distracting when I'm reading a comic. And overall, I still don't like how there are multiple stories presented in a disjoint fashion ongoing in each issue. For me, the Speedball stuff should be somewhere else and this book should keep its focus on the reporters' stories. Then it could flow better. And that last few pages of artsy stuff (mirroring a world war story with the death of the pro-registration hero from the beginning), not my cup of tea. So in the end, it's gotten better since the last issue but I'm still not enjoying it as much as I could be.

On a side note, my own comic work (*cough* Divine Leap *cough* link is on the right *cough*) has been hampered with my growing interest in 24. I started watching a couple episodes this season when I saw Sean Astin appearing (I always seem to like his work) and even though it seemed like a great show I had a hard time following what was going on. So I finally decided I needed to get caught up. I got the first two seasons on DVD and have watched only the first but wow, I really should have watched this show from the start (although it's also good to be able to watch the shows on my schedule and not have 2 or 3 week gaps in between episodes). It's so intense and you really never know what's going to happen. You really get a sense that nobody (other than Jack Bauer of course) is safe on the show and it makes it all the more interesting that way.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Manflab is in!!!

After seeing a recent news article on which talks to the author of "The Average American", manflab is in. Guys with a little extra weight are actually being seen as sexy now (they list Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, and Jack Black as examples). They say this may actually be the "century of the Average American". I'm glad I learned this before I went through with my registration at the local recreation complex. I can forget about trying to get in better shape and focus on my other issues.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The World Cup

I tried to get in to watching the World Cup, I really did. Everyone seemed so excited and so many people I talk to were so into it that I just had to give it another try. But in the end, I just can't stand it. The theatrics, the diving, the crying, the grabbing of jerseys, the headbutting, FIFA's lack of balls, and the politics of it all made me wish that no team won because I just couldn't find a team that I actually thought deserved it. One of the commentators for yesterday's match said "Can you blame *** for taking a dive and playing up the dramatics in such and important game?" to which I replied "YES!" (But I'd like to point out that during post-game analysis of earlier games a few of the commentators did discuss the need to add video replay and post game rulings by FIFA to deal with some of the above issues) If the Canadian team had been in there and performing in such a manner I'd be embarrassed.

So for the next World Cup I think I'll stick to watching the WWE, at least they're more upfront about it and they're probably better actors.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Weekly comics review

A somewhat big week for me with the Hulk, the Great and Secret Show, the Thing, and Ares. Spoilers to a minimum on all counts (especially Ares because I know Carl hasn't read that yet).

Hulk: On the one hand, I'm loving the Hulk right now. Great storyline, great artwork, and a bit of a push by Marvel to make him mean something again rather than be the punching bag of every character in the Marvel universe. This issue was slightly different. Even though it moves the main Planet Hulk storyline along a bit and provides some differentiation between some of the new characters that have been introduced in this storyline, this issue seems more like the older days of one issue stories that show just who the monster really is. And it focusses more on Miek, one of the Hulk's followers and for once, Miek shows some real strength and determination (but I won't spoil it just in case). It was a good story over all but yet again, I don't feel that Pak has the flow down right. Some parts seem rushed, like he's trying to cram too much into the single issue, and things get lost along the way. I usually end up flipping back a page or two to see if I missed something that explains how we jumped to this point. And the setting will jump from one place to another with no real mention of it or any of the usual artistic indicators (like providing a distant shot of the new setting the reader is being moved to). I'm still loving it but I think it could use a touch on the editting side to improve the overall flow of it.

The Thing: The final issue and I'll have more spoilers in this review so you were warned. I've been real hard on this book in the last few issues but Slott won me back with this issue. And he uses the Thing's infamous poker game to provide closure. The Thing and Alicia seem to be back together (maybe too quickly, I think he needed a few more issues to break down her current boyfriend before sending her back to ol' blue-eyes), the Thing finally gets to say that he beat the Hulk (in poker), and the final hand has the Thing facing off against "stretcho" but this time it's Flatman from the GL* (the * is there because none of the heroes like the Avengers or the Defenders want these losers to use their name). Ben was looking good with four fours (a "fantastic four of a kind" as he put it) but Flatman counters with a straight flush. All in all, an enjoyable book and a good end to a series that seemed to be going downhill. I only wish that that Andrea DiVito was able to do the interior art.

The Great and Secret Show: For once it felt like something happened after I finished reading this book yet looking back at it now, I can't think of too much (other than the Jaffe started to build his army) yet the story seems to just keep growing. I'm really enjoying this series and think it's a great translation of the original novel. The art is consistently good and fits. The face that hovers over the Jaffe is really well down (angling perfectly with Jaffe, when his head is turned 15 degrees, so is the face above him). Yep, I'm really enjoying this book.

Ares: Storywise this issue was ok but a little too happy. I can't give too much away but I was only mildly pleased with how this series came to an end. There was one issue that seems to be left dangling but we'll see when that's addressed. But overall, Oeming shows once again that he can handle the mythological superheroes. Artwise, the characters are done well but again, the backgrounds are left out (or just simple colour patterns). Perhaps this is intentional, we (as humans) can't really see where the gods are fighting or there really is no background to this place but it still bugs me a bit. I can really see why people complained about lack of backgrounds in my own webcomic. But overall it was a good mini-series although I'd much rather read more about Ares as he was at the start of the series and less so on how he ends up. The former being a different character than what I'm used to seeing from Marvel.

So that's it for this week.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Superman Returns review (MAJOR SPOILERS!!!)

I've been mulling over it for the last few days so I guess it's about time to post my review. So here goes...


I had mixed feelings going into this movie. The characters of Superman and Lois Lane have always gotten a mixed reaction from me. When Superman was less powerful and facing off against foes who were stronger than him (Doomsday for example) it made him more appealing as a hero to me. When fans demand he be stronger, smarter, faster, better looking, etc, etc. than any other hero DC usually responds by having him do something so monumental (like moving a planet or some such feat of strength) that I start to lose interest. And when I think of Lois Lane I think to Margot Kidder or Teri Hatcher and I absolutely hate her. Her treatment of Clark Kent and those around her that aren't Superman is horrible. She seems shallow and to be honest, I start to care less if Superman will save her. But she has been portrayed much stronger and more likeable in the comics. But with Bryan Singer at the helm I couldn't wait to see what he could do with a superhero movie without Fox screwing him over or Halle Berry's demands. And then I saw the trailers for it and I started to wonder if perhaps they had come up with an emotional story for the man of steel. Plus, it seemed cool to see the blue tights on the big screen once again. The fanboy in me was starting to show. My reservations about casting Routh or the costume was put on hold for possibly a great story.

Then I saw the movie. The acting: Kevin Spacey really has his moments as Luthor. He's fun at times and is hamming it up but you always seem to see a darkness in his eyes. Even the campy stuff didn't seem to detract from the character for me (his sidekicks were not up to snuff though). Bosworth was ok. Maybe it was partly due to my dislike of this portrayal of the character or maybe her part just wasn't written strongly enough but I found I couldn't care less for the character. I was more interested in seeing more of her boyfriend's story and how he's handling his wife's love returning (and the fact that it's Superman he's up against). And Marsden's performance makes me wish they had kept Cyclops as a bigger part of the Dark Phoenix saga in X-Men 3. And as for the man of steel himself, everyone says Routh was hired for his resemblence (both physically and in mannerisms) to Christopher Reeve. And since they wanted this movie to follow Superman 2 you were bound to see him and think back to Reeve's performance. I think the problem for me is that he just doesn't have Reeve's pressence down right and they probably should have focussed more on having Routh make his own way with the character. Routh doesn't quite have the physical pressence that Reeve had. When I look at Reeve in the suit he has the broad shoulders and I think of the strength Superman has. I look Routh and he's got the body of a swimmer (long and lean). Now he put on a lot of muscle and kudos for that but the body type just ain't there. And the narrow Superman emblem placed low on his chest just highlights that for me. Now I'm sounding critical and that's probably because Christopher Reeve's Superman holds such a critical place in my childhood. The casting wasn't as bad as I make it seem but these are the things that popped out at me.

And as for the story, it really follows Superman I in many respects (Luthor's desire for land... although in Superman I his plan would put California under water and in this one California is all that would be left of the US, and even his female sidekick having second thoughts). And it's a fairly decent story and doesn't seem to be one of the simple "let's use kryptonite against Superman" stories that got very repetitive. But then they did it, they gave Superman a son (yep, there's the big spoiler). Giving the main character a child is generally the death of a story (look at how many TV shows had the baby born in the last season). It's usually a sign that the writers are running out of ideas and figure they can do something around a baby (and it usually backfires badly). So I'm having trouble seeing where the story goes from here. If you ignore the child in the next movie then what was the point (and viewers will wonder what the heck happened to the kid)? If you keep going with the child as he was in this movie (not using his powers) then you're dragging the story on too long and focussing too much on the kid than on Superman. And if you integrate the kid into it then it's Superman and Superboy and that just seems so campy (Batman and Robin campy). There are many more issues I have with it (which I've shared with Jason and my brother) but this "review" is going on too long. Let's just say, I don't like that part.

So overall, I loved seeing Superman back on the big screen, I thought for the most part the acting and story were quite good, I got a kick out of just how many nods there were to the old TV shows, movies, and comics (like the photo of Superman holding the car above his head... Action Comics #1) but I just have too many reservations about the other stuff (the costume, the kid, ...). But I hope that we'll actually get to see someone for Superman to fight in the sequel. It would have been cool to actually see him throw a punch. But in the end, Superman made his return to the bigscreen and I'm a happy comic fanboy.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Ikea saga continued and concluded

First up was my trip back to Ikea. There was a sale going on (they had a big tent set up outside and everything) so even though we got there about 10 minutes before the doors open there was still a line up (the line going into the tent being the longest). But I was still the first one to the customer service desk. As I was telling the customer service person about my delivery ordeal she just started walking away. She clearly didn't care how bad the delivery was or that I paid $60 for this "service" that ended up being the start of the whole ordeal. After some searching in the back she discovers that she needs to call for someone to bring up a new set of the shelves so she can get the pieces from that. So I tell her I'm going to go pick up the 2 doors I didn't get last time and I'd be back. When I get back from getting the doors my stuff still isn't ready so she's helping other people. My stuff comes up but she doesn't notice it at first so she keeps helping others and not saying anything to me. Finally I step in after she was done with customer and before she can help anyone else, getting a few dirty looks (I know, it might have been rude but technically I was there first). After taking the shelves to the back and spending quite a few minutes back there she comes out to tell me that those shelves were scratched up so she had to order a second set. So she goes on to help other people again. I see another set show up and again, she doesn't see it. As I'm trying to get her attention to tell her another set is up she seems to keep turning her back to me. Then she actually calls for the shelving again. The stock comes from the back and is rather annoyed by this point as well and he points out the shelving. So off she goes to the back room with it and a few minutes later I'm finally given 3 new shelves. I take a quick look and of course there are minor scratches but after 45 minutes of waiting I'm fed up. So it's off to home (and at this point I'm still hoping to catch the matinee of Superman Returns... review will be forthcoming). I get home and sure enough, the shelving doesn't match. It's the same colour and it's the right size but the holes are smaller and drilled 1cm off from where they should be.

At this point I'm fed up. I call the store and give the whole scenario again. I'm patched through to another person and give the whole scenario one more time. The people on the phone are much more sympathetic and contrary to the first time I called (where they basically made it sound like my fault for even attempting to get the shelving delivered) they seemed to want to help. So a file was created for me, the shelves were put on order and I was told they would arrive in a day or so. So it was off to relax and see Superman Returns. When I got home there was a message from Ikea to call them. Turns out, they changed suppliers for these shelves very recently so they needed more details about what shelves I needed (dimensions of the original box, distance of pre-drilled holes from the shelf's end, etc). So I measured what I could (I threw out the boxes considering they were wet and stinky from the delivery ordeal) and hoped for the best (I was told that they would be sent via courier sometime before 3pm today).

Today, at about 1:30pm my shelves arrived. I got right to work putting them together and wouldn't you know, they actually fit. So I'm now the proud owner of two 80cm x 202cm book shelves complete with glass doors and of course I've put them to use by placing a few action figures like Conan, the Crow, Ash, Evil Ash, Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Roy, etc, etc amongst the DVDs and PS2 games. I've kept most of the Hulk stuff in the den but one did end up between the Buffy and Angel DVD collections.