Thursday, October 31, 2013

What do you Read or Watch to get you into Halloween Spirit?

I have this tradition that on certain holidays I re-read certain books or comics or re-watch certain episodes or movies. On Halloween, I usually re-read Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree or re-read a creepy comic.

You can see how the Joker now wears his
face like a mask because it no longer completely
aligns with his face. 
Yesterday, DC appropriately released Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family. This is one of the creepiest comic book arcs I have read in a while (with the exception of Swamp Thing 23.1: Arcane). Scott Snyder's (the current writer of Batman) version of the Joker has become both psychologically and physically frightening. This physical aspect of the Joker has drastically changed in the New 52 because at the beginning of the DC reboot the Joker had his face (voluntarily) cut off and now he wears his face like a mask. This face/mask concept becomes a strong and frightening image in the Death of the Family storyline that shakes Batman to his core values and changes the Bat-Family forever. I highly recommend this collected edition, especially because the first printing of this graphic novel has a special edition acetate jacket that when lifted reveals Joker's mutilated face!
(For me this is one of the creepiest moments in the Death of the Family story when the Joker tells Gordon (while the Joker is killing Gordon's policemen) that at night he hides underneath Gordon's bed listening to him.  The Joker truly is the monster under the bed.) 

For me, Scott Snyder and Ray Bradbury get me into the Halloween spirit. What do you re-read or re-watch to get into the Halloween Spirit? What reminds you of the child-like joy of Halloween or what scares you into the Halloween spirit?

Let us know what gets you into the Halloween spirit in the comment section below.

From Saga to Sandman: Weekly Comic Review - 10/30/13

This week was another great week for comics. Of all the great comics that came out, I was able to read and review four of them: Aquaman Annual #1, Damian: Son of Batman #1, Saga #15, and Sandman Overture #1.

Aquaman Annual #1 (DC) Writer: John Ostrander, Artists: Geraldo Borges & Netho Diaz

Aquaman's early days with The Others
While this is the first Aquaman annual of the New 52, it is not the first story (nor will it be the last) centered around Aquaman's former superhero team: The Others. For those new to the New 52 Aquaman, The Others was a team that Aquaman was on before he became a member of the Justice League. The Others is the creation of Geoff Johns. Each member has a amulet from ancient Atlantis that gives them a specific power (from teleportation, to survival, to powerful tridents). After the initial story that involved The Others, John Ostrander has periodically written stories that focus on this team (See Aquaman #20). This annual succeeds in deepening the characters that make up this team. It reveals what some members fear the most and what each member desires. It is refreshing to read a new team that Aquaman is a part of because since these characters are new and relatively unknown, it can be hard to predict how they are exactly going to react in certain situation (this story hinges on this aspect). I especially enjoyed how Ostrander is deepening the new character, a Native American girl who has a connection to her ancestral spirits. While Ostrander's dialogue is not mind-blowing, it was entertaining as a fan of Aquaman to see his mythos broadened.

I give this comic a 7.5 out of 10. 
I recommend it for fans of Aquaman, but it is not essential for following the current story arc. 

Damian: Son of the Batman (DC) Writer: Andy Kubert, Artist: Andy Kubert

(*If you didn't read Batman Inc. #8 or any other Batman comics from a couple months ago the following could be possible spoilers pertaining to the character Damian*)

Awkward body moments:
Huge biceps with agape mouth. 
No one is sure how to define this comic because Damian recently was killed in Batman Inc. #8 and the fallout was felt throughout the Bat Family books. Since the "Elseworlds" imprint no longer exists in the New 52, this comic remains somewhat a mystery since Damian here is alive and well. It takes place in the future and Andy Kubert says that is has a connection to Grant Morrison's famous Batman #666 and Batman Inc. #5 issues which picture Damian as the future bearer of the cowl (click here and here for summaries). This issue shows Batman's death and how Damian reacts to it. While I love Damian both as Robin and as Morrison's evil future Batman, it felt like Andy Kubert was not able to fully capture the essence of the character and why so many fans loved him. Kubert honestly writes Damian as a one-dimensional jerk. While the character was rather cocky and rude in the beginning of Morrison's run, Damian had evolved into a complex character that the reader was able to understand. Here he is the pompous Robin from the beginning of Morrison's run and nothing more (Kubert actually wrote him to be more rude then Morrison had ever written him, which was honestly unsettling for me to read). 
A bloodied Robin is the best Robin

For the most part, I enjoyed Kubert's art, even though he is not great at drawing someone with their mouth agape (see above picture). And while I sadistically enjoyed seeing Damian as Robin kill and beat up several Batman rogues, that was the extent of my enjoyment of this comic. It was good to see and read Damian again but there must be a better characterization of the character for this to be a great comic. I have hope that Kubert in the next three issues of this miniseries will deepen Damian and his relationship with his deceased (?) Father and for this reason I will continue to get this comic to see where is will eventually go. 

I give this comic a 5 out of 10.
I recommend it if you want to see Damian again but keep your expectations low. This is not your Morrison's Batman and Robin. 

Sage #15 (Image) Writer: Brian K. Vaughan, Artist: Fiona Staples

If you have not read any Saga then you have greatly missed out on the best monthly titles being printed today. I can not do justice in summarizing this comic and just suggest that you buy the two trades that are currently out and read them as fast as possible (Vol. 1 is only $10 and Vol. 2 is only $15). The only thing I will say about the series is if I could only get one monthly comic, it would be this one. This is because it is the most capitative story I read which is coupled with beautiful art and colors. 
The Will and his companion, Lying Cat, on the
cover of issue #4. 

The story continues to follow Marko, Alana and their newborn (who is narrating the story as an adult) as they are on the run from their respective races. This issue deepens the relationship between Marko and Alana and reminds the reader why we love this underdog couple that will face any challenge put in front of them. There are also several revelations concerning the story involving The Will and his band of misfits (especially revelations on the recent Stalk apparitions). The last page leaves you with a shocker that pains the reader to know that a month stands between you and the continuation of this marvelous story. As always, Fiona Staples is not just superb on pencils but equally amazing with color. The colors jump off the page and help the reader become drawn into the story. It is always a pleasure to get to know these characters a little more each month and I cannot wait to see what happens next. 

I easily give this comic a 9.2 out of 10. 
If you are not reading this comic then you should be. There is no good argument for not reading this comic. 

Sandman Overture #1 (Vertigo) Writer: Neil Gaiman, Artist: J.H. Williams III

Williams often uses a background to act simultaneously as a border for the
page and to help tell the story. The interacting circles on this page are
beautiful and are worth the price of the comic alone.
I have a confession to make to the larger comic book community. It is one that I do not tell many people. I have never read any Sandman comics. Before you yell obscenities at me, please hear my defense. I have not read any Sandman comics because I just haven't had the time. My defense is ignorance and laziness. I have nothing against Neil Gaiman or his writing, rather when I got into comics 10 years ago as a High Schooler I had no one recommending the essentials. I now have vol. 1 and it is on the top of my reading list. For this reason though my review will be with fresh eyes, eyes that will not compare this to anything else, but merely read this comic on its on merit. 

Sandman Overture #1 is one of the most bizarre and beautiful comics I have read in the past 6 months (probably since I read Promethea Vol. 1 which is by Moore and J.H. Williams III). I love J.H. Williams art (especially his Batwoman which is equally beautiful) and every page is dripping with his unique creations and panel structure. Readers of his Batwoman will rejoice at the organic and creative panel layouts that he brings to this story and the evoking creatures that he brings to life (There is a particularly enjoyable part where you are essentially reading a comic book within a comic book. Its genius on both Gaiman and Williams parts). 
Here is a great example of Williams panel layout. Here the panels
act as both a devise to help progress the story or show action. 

The writing is really enjoyable, I am new to the franchise and hence realize that there are probably a hundred references that are subletting being made throughout the story, regardless I was still able to follow the majority of the plot. There is a some coming evil, something wrong is on the horizon and Sandman and the other Gaiman creatures are becoming aware of this approaching evil and preparing accordingly. I actual enjoyed reading this as a Sandman newbie because I had no expectations going into it. I only expected beautiful art and a bizarre story and it exceeded both of those markers. I am interested to see what this coming conflict will be and how the different characters (especially Corinthian) will play a part, and I am overjoyed that J.H. Williams will be the one bring it all to life. 

I give this comic a 8.5 out of 10. 
I recommend for those that want a bizarre story and beautiful art. 

Because its Halloween I included this page from the comic. 

Do you agree? Disagree? What did you love or hate about these comics?

Let us know down below in the comments section. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Greatest Sword Fighter Who Ever Lived

Bob Anderson is the coolest person you've never heard of. A master sword fighter who coached the British fencing team for 30 years, Bob passed away in early 2012. Amazingly enough, in his lifetime he single handedly trained Robin Hood, Darth Vader, Inigo Montoya, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Aragorn. The man was movie sword fighting. There may never be someone again who so wholly owned an entire art form like he did.

And! The man answered one of the great unanswered questions in all fiction: who would win a sword fight between Darth Vader and Aragorn. The answer? Viggo Mortensen, as Aragorn, whom he described as "the best swordsman I've ever trained."

Read more at The Guardian.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sherlock is back. And I am going to lose my mind.

The Cheekbones are Back
Seasons 1 and 2 of Sherlock on BBC are probably the best argument ever for short run TV. 6 episodes all impeccably acted, written, and produced. No dragged out drama. No wasted movement. Every moment of that show has something to savor. There's no season 3 of Lost or season 8 of Friends let downs. Plus there's Benedict Cumberbatch's cheekbones which are essentially characters of their own.

Season 3 of Sherlock starts January 19, 2014 on PBS. And I. Can't. Wait. Bilbo and Khan are back!

(Star) Wars on Thomas Kinkade

Roland Deschane's mashups of Star Wars and Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light(sabers), are just fantastic.  Fantasy worlds colliding.

See lots more at his DeviatArt Gallery. The one with the Rancor is particularly great.


Trailer Park: X-Men: Days of Future Past

I tip my hat to 20th Century Fox. They know their X-Men related sins are numerous and that fans have been punishing them for it. The good-will towards the X-Universe was so strong after X-Men 2 that even though X3 was an abomination, people went. Then fans hoped that was a one time error and still went to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That was worse (Elephant Robot seems to like it but I think he's an elephant so who cares?). Fox has done well to right the ship with X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine but twice-burnt fans have largely stayed away.

Resistance is futile!
But, Fox hopes, hopefully not for much longer. They hope fans are willing to jump back on board for X-Men: Days of Future Past. So they brought back the original X-Men director, Bryan Singer. They integrated one of the classic X-Men stories rather than write a septic mess of their own (I'm looking at you, Wolverine Origins movie). They brought back Professor X ("Did we kill him in a movie already? Just kidding!")
their new film,

The first trailer for that film launched today. And the film is off to a good start. On one hand, it is nothing special…it's the normal haunting music plus beautiful people standing in beautiful people poses. We get no hints as to the film's story or tone. In that way it's a close kin to the first Man of Steel trailer. But that's a good thing. After strange detours into crap land for so long, I will take some meat and potatoes awesome looking imagery. 

And the final line of the trailer is just…perfect. It feels like Bryan Singer trying to reach through the 4th wall and say, "I got this people. Please. I need you to hope there can be a good X-Men movie again." Watch the trailer. You'll see what I mean.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Battling Boy by Paul Pope Review

Two weeks ago, Paul Pope's Battling Boy hit the shelves. By reading this comic, you know that this book is born out of Pope's love for superheroes and the medium of comics. In short, the story follows Battling Boy as he is instructed by his father (a Thor like demigod) to protect the people of Acropolis from the hordes of monsters that are terrorizing the city. Acropolis already has protectors, namely Haggard West and his daughter, which means Battling Boy is not alone in his quest to protect the people of Acropolis. The story has great characterization of both heroes and villains and all the characters in between. There are clear and familiar archetypes that Pope is playing with in both refreshing and familiar ways (i.e. "boy sent by parents to protect a foreign people" is the most obvious). It was this reconfiguration of archetypes that I found engaging and familiar, while Pope does not redefine the superhero genre or its familiar archetypes, it was a refreshing read that reminded me why I love comics and the stories they tell.

Pull my finger. Okay fine, don't.
Paul Pope's art is one of the main reasons I picked up this book. I loved his Batman: Year 100 and especially enjoy the covers he does for Catalyst Comics. His art continues to amaze me. I find myself spending more time than usual just starting and observing each panel, from the way he draws original characters and monsters to the large shots of Acropolis and his depiction of a war-torn city. His art elevates the story and its characters. Pope's art is able to show grand moments in all their glory (such as when Battling Boy and his father arrive on earth) and he is simultaneously able to show more intimate moments and the detail that is needed. In addition to this I especially enjoy that his art is able to convey action so well. There is a scene when Battling Boy is testing out some of his powers on a large monster and he does not realize until its too late just how fast and strong he can be. The action in this scene, and many others, comes across well and helps the reader to become engrossed not only in the action, but also the story.

Venom's audition reel for Nightmare Before Christmas 2
The downfall of the book is also it's hope, the book ends with a large cliff hanger that requires a sequel to resolve the story (which he is thankfully currently writing). This is a let down on one hand because I wanted a complete story, but on the other hand it means that at some time in the future there will be more of Battling Boy drawn and written by Paul Pope.

I was happy to be acquainted with Battling Boy, Haggard West, Acropolis, and the world they populate and can not wait to learn more about this amazing world in the upcoming sequels and prequels Pope has planned. I highly recommend that you go to your local comic book store and pick up this great book that will remind you why you love comics again (and its only $16!!).
I easily give Battling Boy by Paul Pope a 9 out of 10.

To see more of Paul Pope's art, see his website.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: Batman Arkham Origins (iOS)

At this point in the evolution of iOS gameplay, it's pretty clear that no one is going to "out Infinity Blade" Infinity Blade. That is to say, the Infinity Blade I, II, and III trilogy is as good as it gets in the iOS arena for swipe and tap attack games. In fact, the Infinity Blade model has been so successful, that it is now the engine du jour for all manner of tie-in iOS games for other studios, as seen in Marvel's Avenger's Initiative and both DC's Injustice: Gods Among Us and Man of Steel iOS games.

Batman: Arkham Origins is the newest game in this series and, despite what you might think from that lengthy prolegomena, it's definitely worth your time. Why? Two reasons.

I see what you did there.
First, it actually has some unique game play elements. When NeatherRelm released the predecessor to this game, Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, the game was basically Infinity Blade Lite. It brought next to nothing unique to the table. B:AO, on the other hand, has some nice unique elements that spice up the now-standard tap and swipe game style. Batman has a host of gadgets that require you to do different things to activate them. Also, each boss fight (the game revolves around Batman being hunted by most of his rogue gallery) involves critical junctures where you will have to defend yourself with timed taps, quick swipes, and the like in order to avoid serious injury.

Second, the game is free! Infinity Blade, Avengers, even Man of Steel all cost money up front. This doesn't. So play it! Is there a bit of grinding? Yes, of course. But it's not obnoxious. I read several reviews of people complaining you have to spend money to advance past the second stage. Um, no sir. Maybe be better at games. I have spent $0 and advanced to the third stage, bought a couple kick ass upgrade batsuits just by saving up money along the way, and done so in a reasonable amount of time.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Comic Book Review - 10/23/13

My pull list this week was rather short but this was compensated by just how entertaining the comics were. This week I got Aquaman #24 (DC) and Samurai Jack #1 (IDW).

Aquaman #24 (DC): Writer: Geoff Johns. Artist: Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons

This is the second to last issue of the "Death of a King" storyline, which will also be Geoff Johns end on Aquaman. I have greatly enjoyed Johns run and his characterization of Arthur Curry and his relationship to the Atlantis and specifically the throne. This issue in this regard does not disappoint. Geoff dedicates the entire issue to the history of Atlantis, how it sank and who is responsible for its demise. This history is intricately connected to Arthur and Merra and could have large ramifications for the character down the road. I have been looking forward to a history of Atlantis for a while and this satisfied all of those cravings.  My only complaint is the entire issue is a history of Atlantis and we must wait until next month to see how this information will move forward the plot and story.

This is a must read for any Aquaman fans or Geoff John fans. Geoff is great at world building and this issue expands the history of Atlantis and simultaneously puts its future in jeopardy.

I give it a 4.5 out 5

(P.S. Also, Aquaman has a beard again!!!! Its epic.)

Samurai Jack #1 (IDW) Writer: Jim Zub. Artist: Andy Suriano. 

For those who were fans of the Cartoon Network show "Samurai Jack" or those who have never heard of the show, this is a great place to jump in and read. The story picks up with Jack stranded in the future seeking a way to get to the past and kill the evil demon Aku. The art is in line with the show, which helps create a sense of continuity with the show. The art is also amazing because Suriano was the artist that did the original Samurai Jack character designs so the award winning art is a highlight of each page and panel. Zub shows that he is able to tell a classic Samurai Jack story: (1) Jack finds a possibility of returning to the past, (2) Jack must fight tons of warriors and robots, (3) Jack gets one (small) step closer to returning to his home. This formula, which is prevalent in the show, appears again in the comics and I found it engaging.

My only complaint is it takes a moment getting used to Jack talking more in the comics then in the show and I wish the story was a little longer. I felt that the story was a little short but I can not complain too long because the art is so amazing.

For old fans and new, I highly recommend picking up Samurai Jack #1. 

I give it a 4 out of 5 

Do you agree? Disagree? What were your favorite parts? 

Let us know down below in the comments section. 

The Sandman Cometh

A beloved story from the 80s is about to get the prequel treatment. And, hopefully, not in a Star Wars 1-3 kind of way.

I don't care if you have nightmares.
In 1989, Neil Gaiman launched the landmark series Sandman, telling the story of Dream, one of the most unique and enigmatic heroes in fiction. Also known as Morpheus, Dream is one of of 7 "endless"…the living embodiments of ideas/behavior/emotions of living things. His siblings are Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium (previously Delight), and Destruction. The original run is breathtaking, alongside such seminal work as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.

Next week, the first of a limited run of prequel stories will launch. And it should be epic. Time will tell. Until then, check out this fantastic interview Gaiman gave to Rolling Stone on why he was willing to risk going back to his Sandman story,  how tea influences his writing, and what it means to be "critic proof." (thanks for the link, @mattlumpkin!)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Trailer for The Winter Soldier Will Change Your Life

Okay maybe the first trailer for Captain America: The Winter Solider that was just released today won't change your life…but maybe it will.

I am officially, completely, and irrationally excited about the new Captain America movie for several reasons. First, it's based on Ed Brubaker's epic run on Captain America from the early 2000s. If you're looking for excellent source material, you can't do much better than this run. Second, the trailer shows Cap's costume is now based on his post-Winter Solider career when…well, if you haven't read the comics yet I don't want to spoil the movie for you. In any event, I really dig that costume and I'm glad it's featured in film. As much as I loved The Avengers, I didn't love Cap's costume in it. Just a bit too much…blue and not enough texture. Third, also from The Avengers, Chris Evans does NOT look like he's wearing a hair piece in this movie, unlike Joss Whedon's film. Never quite got why that happened.

So yeah...the trailer has me jazzed. The film looks to take what I enjoyed so much about Iron Man 3, a story deeply wrapped around the personal struggles of the protagonist), some draw dropping camera work in the action scenes, and moving the "doesn't anyone else find S.H.I.E.L.D.'s reach a little creepy?" story forward. If you haven't seen it yet, enjoy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

One Billionth of the Population...

Exactly one BILLIONTH of the population is currently in space.  Only 6 people, up there floating in the heavens above our heads.  That's... I mean, it blows my mind.  It literally BLOWS MY MIND.

Yeah, I saw Gravity this weekend.

Keep updated on the real life outer space heroes at