Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Comic Haul

I've been into the comics again.

Captain America #1-12: I'll freely admit that I started reading the series after the 'Death of Captain America' thing happened, mostly to satisfy my curiosity about how Brubaker was handling the character leading up to, and during, the media brouhaha surrounding #25. After the first issue, though, I was entirely hooked by the intelligent storytelling, a refreshing take on an old character, and the truly compelling and stylish artwork of Steve Epting and Michael Lark. I'm almost done the "Winter Soldier" storyline as I write this and my brain is just buzzing with what these guys have cooked up. I'm really looking forward to where this is all going.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #49: Not especially happy with where this title is going, of late. The departure of Pascual Ferry is still being felt (damn you, Orson Scott Card and your Ultimate Iron Man II) and, despite enjoying some of the relationship bits that Carey is giving us (the break-up of Reed and Sue being the primary conflict in that area) I'm not really digging this whole Red Ghost story very much. Seems a bit like filler. Killing time before hitting the big 5-0, perhaps. This book is officially on probation. If it doesn't improve soon, I think I'll need to drop it.

The Maze Agency #1: I've always meant to pick some of these up because, like everybody else, I've loved Adam Hughes since his days on Justice League and I've always heard good things about his collaboration with Mike Barr on this series. Overall, I wasn't disappointed, but I also wasn't blown away by this opening tale. I would have liked to see Barr give us a cliffhanger ending to the first issue and bring us back in #2 for the resolution, but the real reason I showed up in the first place was to see some early Hughes work, so I'm not going to be too picky. Admittedly, it was pretty neat to see some of his early layouts pre-JL just to see how he has developed as an artist over the years.

Nothing too deep but a fun read, nonetheless. I'll definitely raid the back issue bins for more Maze Agency in the future.

The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #12: A nice little spotlight on Timber Wolf, but it's pretty clear from the last few issues of this series that nobody is quite sure what to do with this book or these characters. I think the change in direction between seasons 1 and 2 of the TV series has left the creative teams of the monthly in a bit of a lurch but, in all fairness, LOSHIT31C is not suffering as badly as some of DC's other kid-oriented books. I haven't read the latest issue yet, but I plan on hanging around for a few more before making my final decision on whether or not to keep up with this one.

Superman/Batman #37: Hey, I've said it before. Not all of the books I read are new, yo? Anyway, I picked this one up because of the writing talents of Alan Burnett who has made me very happy in the past with his work on the Batman animated series and its various spin-off films. The art of Dustin Nguyen is nothing to sneeze at either, being a fan of his stuff from back in the Wildcats 3.0 days, but in all honesty I grabbed it for Burnett, what can I say?

I may as well have grabbed it for Nguyen, though, seeing as he seems to have brought his A game to the book while Burnett just kind of spins his wheels for a couple dozen pages and leaves you with little to want to come back for. He may have been taking the advantage of the opportunity to decompress his writing since he doesn't have to wrap everything up in 22 minutes, but I'm just not sure there's enough in this issue to bring me back for #38. Maybe if I catch it in a bargain bin I'll take a chance on it and see. Until then, I'm sad to say I'll probably leave it in a holding pattern.

Hmmm, now that I've brought it up, I should go and dig out my old Casey/Nguyen Wildcats books. It's been a while since I've looked at those.

Wetworks #12: I'll grab just about anything off the shelf with J.M. DeMatteis' name on it so it's no mystery why I picked up Wetworks starting with #10, but after a couple of issues I was seriously considering dropping the book like a hot potato. The whole Mother One dies and is resurrected story had me so lost in a tangle of familiar themes but in a completely alien environment and wrapped in an impenetrable backstory with confusing layouts and characters I didn't know (not to mention covers for the three issues that have nothing to do with the interiors). DC has saved me the trouble of questioning myself in regards to continuing or not since they cancelled the series as of issue #15 (a move I'm not at all surprised by) but I will give credit to the creative team for putting together a decent little vignette of a story with #12.

I was pleasantly surprised as this was something I could follow despite my ignorance regarding who these characters were and what their place in the larger scheme of things is. This was an issue that would have kept me going for a few more months to see where J.M. was planning to take the series but, alas, the book is no more. Oh well, at least I'll have three more issues to peruse with no more obligation to buy and features J.M. teaming up once again with Keith Giffen.

How bad can it be?

That's all for now, folks. More, as usual, when the time comes.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I mean, really, what else is there to say?


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"The Doomsday Machine" - Behind the Scenes

I don't have a lot to say about this video other than the fact that it's kind of cool that the original writer of the classic Star Trek episode decided he would give some background on how he became involved with the show and give some commentary on the new remastered version of the episode done by CBS Digital.

I'm not a huge fan of this remastered Trek that they're peddling right now, but some of the new work being done is very nice and I can understand the impulse to want to go back and fix some things up. That being said, I love my old Trek, analog control panels and all. Every last ridiculous nut and bolt of it.

Anyway, here's writer Norman Spinrad...



Saturday, April 12, 2008

My Favourite Videos #6 (With the Video Finally Fixed)

It's been a while since I posted one of these, but I've been trying to get into the two most recent U2 albums for the last couple of days (I've been trying for years, if you must know) and while talking to my brother about it he reminded me of this video which I love dearly for various reasons.

Possibly the last great video from U2, "Stuck in a Moment" features football, John Madden, in-jokes galore, great direction, and Brendan Fehr as the ill-fated kicker aptly named, Paul Hewson (Bono's secret identity for those of you who don't know).

After a failed kick, losing the game to the opposing team, Hewson is doomed to relive the tragic defeat over and over again (by the way, the video is buggy in my browser so if you have problems, you'renot the only one).

There's also an international version of the video directed by Kevin Godley (who has a few U2 videos to his credit) which is almost as good, but doesn't have that extra little 'oomf' that pushes the US version to the Faves list. Here's a peak at it:

One thing I like about both videos is the fact that in the first, Bono seems more like himself in the early '90s, sporting the Fly duds and sunglasses and full of pathos. The second video seems to be reminiscient of a pre-"Achtung baby!" Bono, just arriving in Berlin with his suede coat, shoulder length hair and looking earnest. Considering the faux Bono that has been milling about for the last few years, it does my heart good to get a glimpse of an old friend, however briefly.

Until next time!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

From the Back Issue Bin

For whatever reason, I decided to read Avatar's first licensed Stargate SG1: P.O.W. comic book series tonight and thought I would post some reactions to it.

I remember being really excited when I first heard about this title. Stargate SG1 was, at the time, my favourite sci-fi show on TV and being a fan of The X-Files comic and the original Buffy comics (published by TOPPS and Dark Horse, respectively) I figured this would be one more 'expanded universe' that I would get to play in. Once the issues came out, though, I never bothered tpo pick them up. I don't know if it was finances, or an overall dislike of the art style (it could have been both, really) but I left them on the rack and didn't pick up my first Stargate issues until "Fall of Rome", where the addition of Roman gods to the mix was too tempting to resist.

Anyway, enough history.

The series itself ran three issues and was written by James Anthony Kuhoric and illustrated by Renato Guedes with colours by Nimbus Studios. Story-wise, the plot is pretty simple. Jack O'Neill jumps through the gate chasing one of the series baddies who used to be an ally and friend to him (also something of a surrogate son). Everyone wants to go through and recover him but the Goa'uld have left behind a device that jeopardizes Stargate Command. There is also the added threat of the Goa'uld getting information about the SGC through torturing O'Neill with a device that will drag the desired info out of his mind.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of this plot, which feels hackneyed and contrived, but I was still willing to go along for the ride if it was paced well and the characters were true to their TV counterparts. This was something Kuhoric did not do. I'm not sure how much of the bad pacing should be credited to Guedes, but the dialogue was stiff and often felt like it was cut and pasted from moments in the show. The jokes that O'Neill spouts are trite and there was just nothing organic about the way any of these people behaved.

I wouldn't often dare to say this (in the likelihoodthat someone actually called me on it) but I could have dialogued this better than Kuhoric. Given some time (and deep imersion in the subject matter) I may even have been able to come up with a better storyline, too, but for arguments sake, I'm going to stick with just the dialogue.

The artwork by Guedes was something else, too. The strange painterly look is likely the fault of Nimbus (based on the look of Guedes's pencils as well as his straight pencil & ink work seen in the convention specials that Avatar produced) but his characters are still extremely stiff and his overall storytelling ability is limited in these three issues. I ran into several jump cuts that kill the flow of things and panels that make me shudder with their lack of imagination all serve to kill this story before it ever really gets off the ground. I think I probably made it three or four pages in before I knew this was going to be a bad trip, so I'll give him credit for the opening action sequence. Once they get into the SGC, though, wooo...

On a side note, Kuhoric did his best to weave the story of the feature film into the narrative (for which I give him props) but it ended up coming off kind of stilted and felt more like he was trying to kill pages off with what has come before rather than coming up with some original story to fill those in.

I gotta say, I did not like this mini-series, despite (or possibly because of) having an appreciation for the source material and wanting this to be good. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone except maybe the most die-hard fan who wouldn't be totally turned off by it in the end. If I was wanting to make a good impression on a new reader, or someone looking for a proper Stargate fix, I think I would probably throw them one of the later minis, just to be safe.



Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Young Indy - The Adventure Continues...Sort Of

What's a week without some Indy news, eh? I just caught this article on regarding the third season that wasn't for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. As a fan of the show, I find it fascinating, but for more general Indy fans it's likely just a curiosity since they probably don't view the shows as canon, anyway.

The geek in me loves the new timeline, though.


Reported Cult Activity

Just got back from seeing The Cult in town. It was a powerful set with a mix of some of their new tunes mixed with classics from previous albums. Jen enjoyed the show up to the point where she couldn't breathe from the smoke and was practically deaf from the noise. We left the show about a half-hour early, though, so we didn't get to see the end or the encore.

Jen says that she saw "Fire Woman" and "Sweet Soul Sister" performed live and that's all she really cared about. That and she bought a purple Cult bunny-hug/hoodie.

I might post a show review later.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Exorcising The Heretic

I picked up Exorcist: The Beginning today which, I think, officially completes my Exorcist collection. I have the 25th Anniversary edition of The Exorcist as well as The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen, I have Legion, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist and now, The Beginning (I also include Blatty's non-Exorcist film, The Ninth Configuration, in that list because of its continuation of thematic elements introduced in the first Friedkin directed film).

Even though I consider Dominion to be the Blatty approved prequel, I wanted The Beginning almost for academic reasons. The fact that they were both born of the same idea, share many cast and crew members, but are completely different films, is something that intrigues me. I also wanted to hear Renny Harlin talk about the making of his version in the audio commentary, so it was one of those things I always knew I'd pick up someday, and that day just happened to be today. I think Renny's version is worth $5.99.

Astute readers will probably notice that I did not include The Exorcist II: The Heretic in the list above. To be honest, I do not consider this to be a part of the series and have no desire to ever see it, even though I've heard that seeing James Earl Jones in a giant locust suit is worth the rental (see this review if you need something to back that decision up). I try to stick to the Blatty approved material and The Heretic was only approved insofar as Warner Bros. asked him for a sequel, he said he wasn't interested, they asked how much it would cost to do one themselves, he gave them a ridiculous number and they said SURE!

I wasn't even prepared to accept Dominion as canon until Blatty saw a screening of the film and thought it was pretty darned good, giving Schrader and his little film that wouldn't die the Exorcist thumbs up.

So, if anyone has any reasons why they think I should be giving The Heretic a try I'd love to hear them. Until then, however, I'll consider my Exorcist collection complete.



Thursday, April 03, 2008

Stephen King's Multiverse

In the foreword for The Gunslinger, Stephen King talks about writing an epic. He said that he, like so many others of his time, was completely smitten with Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and knew that he wanted to create something like it, but different enough that it would be his and not just a copy. To quote the text he says:

...although I read the books in 1966 and 1967, I held off writing. I responded to the sweep of Tolkien's imagination...but I wanted to write my own kind of story, and had I started then, I would have written his. That, as the late tricky Dick Nixon was fond of saying, would have been wrong. Thanks to Mr. Tolkien, the twentieth century had all the elves and wizards it needed.

After re-reading the book, and exploring some of the other works of King (I know, I said I wouldn't, so sue me) I realized that, despite trying his best to not write a Tolkien-esque story with halflings and dwarves, he was, in fact, doing something very similar to another popular fantasy writer of the time, Michael Moorcock.

Moorcock is well known for creating his famous Multiverse and all the myriad characters who inhabit it. From Elric of Melniboné to Jerry Cornelius, Moorcock's characters have weaved in and out of each others stories for the last 40 years, with some characters even sharing a common aspect of a single entity, The Eternal Champion. From the Wikipedia entry:

The Eternal Champion, a Hero who exists in all dimensions, times and worlds, is the one who's chosen by fate to fight for the Balance; however, he often doesn't know of his rôle, or, even worse, he struggles against it, never to succeed.

All the incarnations of the Eternal Champion are facets of each other, and the Champion may also be aided by a companion, who, like himself, exists in various incarnations. Likewise the Champion is often associated with one romantic association that is possibly an aspect of an eternal figure. Other characters in the various books have occassionally crossed over from one universe to another, although it is unclear what their status in the multiverse may be.

From what I've gleaned about The Dark Tower series is that King has created a very similar fictional construct, one in which he is able to explore all sorts of possibilities, including bringing in characters from other books (like Randall Flagg who debuted in The Stand but also appears in The Eyes of the Dragon and The Dark Tower series).

Anyway, I know I'm not the first one to see this, and it's not huge news or anything, but it's the first time I'm thinking of Kings work as a larger piece of interconnecting fiction. As a huge fan of Moorcock and his Multiverse, this appeals to me a great deal.

That's all I have to say on that subject for now. I apparently have a date to read some Prince Caspian to a couple of troublemakers before bed so I'm off to do that.



Wednesday, April 02, 2008

On Reading the King

I've read my share of Stephen King books in my time (who hasn't) and seen my fill of movies based on his books and short stories. Everything from Carrie to The Mist which is sitting in my bag recently rented from the local Blockbuster, have passed these eyes, and I count reading It, Cycle of the Werewolf (which was beautifully, and I mean, beautifully illustrated by Berni Wrightson) and Pet Sematary as landmarks in my youthful experiences with horror fiction.

Still, I would never go so far as to call myself a fan. I didn't seek out the man's work, nor did I look forwrd to the next Stephen King 'joint', as it were. I never questioned the quality of his writing as I was sure that he remained a proficient author who likely had only improved in the many years since I stopped paying his books any mind. It was simply a matter of my interests waning, and possibly a smattering of literary snobbery as I may have convinced myself that popular thriller/horror novels couldn't possibly have anything to offer.

I should also qualify that my position on King hasn't changed insofar as I'm going to seek out everything of his that I haven't read and gobble it up until I can't stand it anymore. I'm still not compelled to read From a Buick 8 or Hearts in Atlantis or Dreamcatcher or The Long Mile or Rose Madder and countless others.

So, why the heck am I writing this post, you may be asking yourself?

Well, I stumbled across the first two issues of Marvel Comics' Dark Tower books and figured for a buck a piece I should see if it lives up to the impossible hype it has been receiving. I think I was a half-a-dozen pages into the first issue when I realised that this stuff was dynamite. Not only had I never seen more superb Jae Lee artwork in my life, but Peter David has never read so perfectly, either. It reminded me of when I was initially given the first volume in The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger by my long-time chum, Brad. He was a big King fan at the time and, along with Eyes of the Dragon (which I've yet to read), told me that I would be remiss if I didn't check this book out.

It seemed interesting. I mean, King doing a western was certainly a change of pace, and a fantasy western at that. Plus, the book was really short and, as anyone who knows me will attest, getting me to read anything that I'm unfamiliar with is always easier if the book is a short one. And, in all fairness, it was interesting but it came at a point when I was moving on to other stuff and I was finding King's work to be a little long-winded and over-descriptive to continue on with it.

It's kind of funny, then, how the comics rekindled my interest in The Dark Tower, which led me to get a copy of The Gunslinger, which had two interesting and well-written forewords to the text in it, which is where I first heard of King's memoir, On Writing, which I then went out and found and read in a couple of sittings.

It was pretty decent timing, too, because I had recently finished reading Nick Hornby's Songbook and I was still in the mood for something non-fiction that was written in the author's voice. I'm trying to get myself back into the habit of writing regularly again (and not just the interviews and articles but proper fiction and screenplays) and I found Hornby's essays to be somewhat motivational. Granted, I was pretty tired of his particular voice after a day or two of Songbook but I still needed something that was a conversational piece.

Enter Stephen King's On Writing.

I won't go into details or review the book or anything like that, but I will say that even though I may not have a desire to go out and read every piece of the man's fiction, this piece of non-fiction memoir/seminar/affirmation has done wonders for getting my juices flowing (not to mention being a brisk and entertaining read, to boot). Strangely enough, having someone telling you not to be a fool and just write ended up being some of the most helpful advice I've been given, of late. It sounds retarded, I know, and there were some writing techniques of his that he shared in the book that were also of great value to me, but writing is such a lonely endeavour that you just have to be reminded from time to time that it isn't all a collossal waste.

The bad side of this is that I'm now feeling like every minute I spend at work is time I could be writing something, but maybe having that obstacle also helps fuel the desire to be doing the work. Absence making the heart grow fonder and all that jazz.

Well, I'm off to go and put something down on the ol' pages.



Tuesday, April 01, 2008

...and Teaser

Okay, this blurry, choppy, bootlegged little teaser has given me goosebumps like the Indy image from a few months ago did. The pictures I have seen from the set have been lackluster and unable to really spark the imagination, but this teaser from WonderCon has me excited, now.

Apology Is Policy!


X-Files 2 Poster...

I'm equally excited and wary of this sequel that comes possibly 5 years too late to mean anything to us die-hard fans of the series, especially since it purports to not have any bearing on the alien colonization mythology that was left greatly unresolved at the end of season 9. Still, rumours say that this story may revolve, or just involve, Scully's son, William, who she gave up near the end of the series in order to give him a normal life (and for those of us who watch, William is anything but a normal baby).

Anyway, I just caught this image of the teaser poster and am cautiously giddy with excitement for July 25th.

Trust No One!