Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rant Review: DC Universe Rebirth #1

DC Universe Rebirth has finally arrived, following months of heavy anticipation. When the New 52 relaunch kicked off in September of 2011, it was huge success, rocketing dozens of DC books to the top of the sales charts, and largely contributing to a surge in comic sales that has yet to subside. However, much of that sales success proved to be temporary for DC, and in doing a reboot, much was lost. The legacy characters, and the very real sense of a long and fascinating history that they brought to the table, were largely erased. One of the things that made DC's superhero universe so wonderful and unique had been taken away, and readers made their dissatisfaction known.

Now, nearly five years later, the powers that be at DC have admitted that something of value was lost with the New 52 reboot, and are intent on restoring it. We've already seen some steps taken in that direction with series such as Titans Hunt. With DC Universe Rebirth #1, all bets are off, as one of the DCU's most beloved characters returns, and the impending return of many more are teased. The value of legacy is tackled head-on in the narration, as well as characters with long-established relationships that were jettisoned with the New 52. It's clear that Rebirth is equal parts damage control and fan service, even as it sets up a future conflict that promises to be almost torturously exciting. I'm still reeling from the ending. The only way it could have been more shocking is if I had appeared on that page myself! If you've managed to avoid spoilers, do whatever is necessary to remain spoiler-free until you can read it. It's one of the most genuinely shocking revelations in comics history, and I can barely stand the wait to see what comes next! I basically had to avoid all comics-related websites and discussions for the past week, but it was completely worth it.

While Geoff Johns turns in some of the most engaging work of his career, his partners on this comic have brought their A-game, as well. Artists Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Phil Jimenez, Ivan Reis, Joe & Frank Prado, and Matt Santorelli, with colorists Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Gabe Eltaeb, and Hi-Fi, make this one of the most gorgeous comics you're likely to find on the stands. It's an eighty page comic, so a lot of hands went into creating it, but the visuals are of such a high standard that they have a consistent feel, and the transition between artists never feels jarring.

So, does DC Universe Rebirth deliver on its massive hype? By Grodd, does it ever! This is one of the most satisfying reading experiences I've had in quite a while, and I really can't remember the last time I was so excited about a comics event. If you have the slightest interest in Rebirth, or superhero comics in general, by all means, pick up a copy. Plus, it's eighty pages for $2.99, so it's quite a lot of content for your money. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on Rebirth below in the comments! As for me, that ending is about to send me diving into my back issue'll know why when you get there!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Free Comic Book Day 2016 guide

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, so here I am with this year's edition of the FCBD guide! For those of you who have never participated, it may be helpful to have a few of the details clarified. Generally, FCBD goes something like this: You enter your local comic shop-- if you're unsure where the nearest one is, you can find out right here-- and the FCBD comics are displayed on a table or shelf, usually separate from the rest of the merchandise. Some shops place a limit on how many free books you can choose, while some let you grab as many as you like; it's all up to the owners of each store. Whatever the case, make sure to buy something while you're there, because while the comics are free to customers, the stores have to pay for them. They pay much less than they do for a normal comic, but it's still money out of their pockets.

FCBD grows each year, and so does the selection of free comics. It can be a little overwhelming, particularly with all the extra traffic most shops experience during the event. It helps to have a few key comics in mind that you're interested in. Lucky thing you happened across this, eh? (Of course, keep in mind that not every comic shop will have ordered every single comic. Generally, the majority will be offered, however.)

This year, the owners of Hattiesnurg's own Southern Fried Comics graciously allowed me to come by a few days early and read through this year's comics. Thanks to their generosity, I'm able to bring you a much more thorough look at this year's FCBD offerings than ever before! Let's start by taking a look at my top picks. 

(Apologies for the lo-res photos. They're straight from the FCBD site. I'm not sure why they never have hi-res images of the comic covers.)

March: Top Shelf brings us an sample of Congressman John Lewis's autobiographical tale of his participation in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I've read the first two volumes, and it is some powerful stuff. You should definitely check this one out! 

Love and Rockets: Fantagraphics presents this sampler of the Hernandez brothers' long-running series. Beautifully illustrated, and packed with well-developed characters, this is critically-acclaimed for good reason. This is a definite grab if you're longing for something different from guys in tights punching each other. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Civil War II: Marvel's latest event kicks off here, though that's not actually why I'm recommending this one. This issue also features an Avengers story by the great Mark Waid that introduces the new version of a classic character. 

Bongo Free-For-All: Bongo's Simpsons Comics are a constant delight, and their annual FCBD issue is always reliable fun. 

Stuff of Legend: Th3rd World Studios (really) is offering this look at a series that is basically a horror-tinged version of Toy Story. It's an interesting premise, and the art is gorgeous. This is also a nice comic if you're looking for something appropriate for older kids who aren't really ready for "mature readers" material, but wouldn't be interested in comics geared toward smaller children.

The Tick: It's the Tick! What's not to love?

Valiant: Summer of 4001: Since its return a few years ago, Valiant has been doing some tremendous comics. This issue will make a decent jumping-on point for anyone interested in giving Valiant a shot. 

Bob's Burgers: Dynamite's comic does a good job capturing the feel of the wonderful animated series, which is no easy feat. Definitely pick this up if you're a fan of the show.

Avatarex: Graphic India brings us a preview of Grant Morrison's latest. Morrison is one of the greatest writers alive, and his work always bears watching. This issue also features a look at his script, giving us a peek at his creative process. 

Serenity/Hellboy/Aliens: Dark Horse serves up a trio of beloved fan properties, but the biggest draw has gotta be a Hellboy tale illustrated by the legendary Richard Corben!

Spongebob's Freestyle Funnies: United Plankton is back with another collection of square, porous lunacy. It delights, as always. This issue also includes a Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy adventure illustrated by none other than industry legend Ramona Fradon!

We Can Never Go Home/Young Terrorists: Black Mask offers up a pair of stories serving as a preview of ongoing series. Both are pretty interesting, especially Young Terrorists. This is a good pick if you want some superhero action that is slightly off the beaten path.

2000 AD: The beloved sci-fi anthology offers up a varied sampler that is sure to have something to appeal to almost everyone. There are some really interesting tales here, including the obligatory Judge Dredd, of course. Each story has some QR code interaction too, if you dig that sort of thing.

Mooncop: A Tom Gauld Sampler: Drawn & Quarterly-- possibly the best pun-based publisher name ever-- has put together a nice little sampler of work by the titular Gauld. This is a charming comic that offers something different than the usual fare.

The Phantom: Hermes Press has put together an awesome collection of vintage Phantom strips, featuring work by such industry legends as Jim Aparo!

Boom 2016 Summer Blast: A nice and varied sampler of kid-friendly content, featuring a good mix of different genres. 

DC Superhero Girls: A tie-in to the new superhero toys aimed at a young female audience, this comic features young superheroes at a school staffed by the older DCU characters. It's a charming comic, but there is one thing that elevates it to greatness: Gorilla Grodd is the school's vice principal. Just try to resist that!

Overstreet Comic Marketplace: These Overstreet FCBD issues always have some interesting historical information about the comics industry. This issue has an article devoted to Will Eisner's beloved classic The Spirit!

Captain America: The original Cap is back, and this issue leads into his new ongoing series, just in time for his new movie. Lucky thing, that. The creative team is Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz, which is the main reason this issue gets a solid recommendation. Those guys do great work. 

CBLDF Defend Comics: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been doing vital work to preserve comics as an industry and an art form for decades, and this issue gives you a peek into what they do.

Oddly Normal: This is a nice kid-friendly book from Image with an interesting premise and some colorful, energetic art. 

Here's a brief look at the rest of the free comics that will be available tomorrow. Don't consider them slighted because they didn't get singled out above; there is still some good stuff to be found here. The comics you just read about above just had a little something extra that made them stand out to me. 

Assassin's Creed (Titan Comics)- Expands on the lore of the game series.
One Punch Man (Viz)- Manga presented in the traditional right-to-left format.
Attack On Titan Anthology (Kodansha)- Sci-fi anthology. 
Spectrum (Automatic)- Sci-fi by Alan Tudyk.
Worlds of Aspen (Aspen)
Doctor Who (Titan)
Devil's Due Mix Tape (Devil's Due)
Suicide Squad (DC)- A reprint of the first New 52 issue. 
Lady Mechanika (Benitex Productions)- Steampunk adventure.
Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises (Darby Pop)- Not bad, but it's tough to capture what made Bruce great on the printed page.
Rom #0 (IDW)- The Space Knight returns! This issue serves as a teaser for the new series. Contains an ad for the Bill Mantlo Support Fund, which is nice to see.

Junior Braves of the Apocalypse (Oni)- Kids return from camp to find the world overrun with zombies.
Hilda (Nobrow)- Charming fun for young readers.
Grumpy Cat (Papercutz)- Starring the internet meme sensation. Actually better than you might expect.
Science Comics (First Second)- Educational and fun, with vibrant art.
Sonic Sampler (Archie)
Awake (Action Lab)- Kids will dig this. Adults will get a kick out of an ad for "Dog of Wonder" illustrated by the great Neal Adams. That made my day.
The Pink Panther (American Myhtology)- Kids these days likely won't know who the Pink Panther is, but they still can have fun with this comic.
Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (Arcana)- Movie tie-in. Kid-friendly Chtulhu.
Sanjay and Craig (Papercutz)
Dark Lily and Friends (Space Goat)
Pokemon (Perfect Square)
Dream Jumper (Graphix)- Pretty self-explanatory title.
Strawberry Shortcake (IDW)
Legend of Korra (Dark Horse)- Fans will dig this.
Camp Midnight (Image)
Comics Lab (Z2)- Good for older kids. Gorgeous art in "Legend."
Archie (Archie)- Good for older kids. A sample of the recent reboot by Mark Waid.

The lone FCBD issue I didn't have the chance to check out was Street Fighter, since Diamond didn't send that one. Thankfully, SF fans know to look for that one. (And if any reading this didn't, now you do!) Hopefully, you've found this helpful. As always, get out and support your local comic shop tomorrow, and have fun! 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Cheers is in Fallout 4!

Cheers is in Fallout 4! I'm sure this is old news to a lot of you, but I just stumbled across this in the last few days. I honestly don't know why it took me so long, as I'd been in that area dozens of times, but the entrance is somewhat hidden, what with it being below ground level and all. It's called "Prost" in the game, which is German for "Cheers." Here are some screenshots! As always, click to embiggen.

Here's the staircase that leads down to the door.

The wooden revolutionary soldier replaces the statue of Tecumseh, and the staircase leading up to Melville's has been flooded with debris.

The view from the doorway. Is that Frasier slumped over the bar?

At first I thought that was Woody serving drinks, but the skeleton is wearing a dress. Perhaps Woody is a cross dresser in the Fallout universe? Nothing wrong with that!

Norm & Cliff!

Sam and Diane, I presume.

Better view of Cliff & Norm. Note the postal uniform and hat, in case there was any doubt.

The jukebox, along with various signs.

The entrance to Sam's office.

Sam's office. Note the baseball glove and baseballs, references to Sam's former career as a relief pitcher.

The hallway leading to the pool room...

... and the pool room itself.

Pretty awesome, eh? Some of the details are a bit different, but they got it pretty damn close overall.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rant Review: Batman v Superman

After what seemed like an endless wait, it's finally here. The three biggest icons in all of superherodom team up in one epic movie, and those of us who have been waiting since our childhoods for such an event can barely contain ourselves. Can it possibly live up to the hype? Read on to find out! (Or, y'know, go see it.) I normally keep my reviews spoiler-free, and this one is as well, with one exception near the end. (You'll have plenty of warning, so don't worry.) However, there's so much to talk about that I'll be doing a spoiler-filled rundown about the movie's events and possible ramifications next week, so keep an eye out for that!

I'll say this right off the bat: critics have been savaging this movie, many of them gleefully ripping it apart in their reviews. For whatever reason, it seems that many of them had in for this movie from the beginning, and are taking some sick pleasure in hating on it now that it's finally released. But Batman v Superman wasn't made for critics. It was made for us. Many of the things that have drawn the critics' ire are some of the very things that fans of these characters will love most in the movie. It's also nonsensical to criticize the simplicity of the plot when everyone knew what it would be the moment the movie was announced: Batman and Superman fight, then realize they have a common enemy, and unite to take him down. It's a team-up movie designed to get these characters acquainted with one another and set the stage for the cohesive universe of DC Comics films, and it does that very well. This was never supposed to be an intricately-plotted thriller, and it would be foolish for anyone to go into it expecting that.

Now, let's take a look at the good and the bad of Batman v Superman!

The casting: This movie has one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory. Everyone pulls their weight, and even the small supporting roles are very well-played. One standout is Holly Hunter as Senator Finch. This is a small but crucial role, and Hunter is so damn good that she makes the character one of the most memorable in the movie. She steals nearly every scene in which she appears, particularly when squaring off against Eisenberg's Luthor. Speaking of...

Eisenberg's Luthor: This has been one of the most divisive elements of the movie from the moment the casting was announced, and that hasn't changed now that people are flocking to theaters to watch the final product. Eisenberg isn't quite like any version of Luthor we've gotten before, and many people are finding that off-putting. He brings a manic energy and disposition to the character that seems as if it likely shouldn't work, but somehow it does.

Wonder Woman: One of the major draws of this movie is seeing one of the world's most enduring superheroes make her film debut, and Gal Gadot makes a tremendous impression in the role. She doesn't have a whole lot of screen time, but she is mesmerizing whenever she is onscreen. In one of the showings I went to, applause broke out whenever she appeared! It seems the rest of the world is finally learning what many comic readers have known for decades: Wonder Woman kicks fucking ass.

The visuals: This is a Zack Snyder film, so it should come as no surprise that it is visually stunning. Still, it is such a visual feast that it bears repeating: This film is visually stunning. Frame-worthy images pop up with such frequency that it's almost distracting at times.

Alfred: No slight to Michael Caine, who was excellent in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, but it's great to see the most comic-accurate version of Alfred to date in this movie. Jeremy Irons is absolutely perfectly cast, and I found myself wishing he'd had more screen time. It's worth nothing that the nearly 70 year-old Irons has aged so well that he barely looks more than a few years older than Affleck's Bruce Wayne. That's not a complaint; just an observation.

From page to screen: It's no secret that Frank Miller's seminal The Dark Knight Returns was a huge influence on this movie's depiction of Batman. Making that even more apparent are a series of shots lifted directly from the comic page and put directly into the film! Few things are more thrilling for a lover of comics.

Glimpses of the DCU: There are tons of easter eggs in this movie, ranging from blink-and-you-miss-it to whacking-you-over-the-head-with-it. All of them are a lot of fun, and I'm practically salivating over what the future holds for the cinematic DCU!

The title bout: Holy hell, the battle between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel is the stuff of legends. It's a good hour and a half before the movie gets to that point, setting the stage and moving all the players into position, and the payoff is most certainly worth it. It doesn't take place on the same scale as the climactic battles from such movies as Man of Steel or The Avengers, but it feels even more epic.

The Bad
Editing: There are some issues with the film's pacing. The editing in the first ninety minutes is often sloppy, leaping from scene to unrelated scene with such frequency that it can be rather jarring at times. With several narratives to juggle, the editing really needs to be top-notch, and it's often not up to the task. However, once the various plotlines converge, things forge ahead much more smoothly for the final hour.

Wasted characters: I'll be vague here to avoid venturing into spoiler territory, but there are a couple of characters who appear in the movie whose names will be very familiar to those acquainted with Batman and Superman comics. However, the characters are very minor and, frankly, are completely wasted in the movie. If you're familiar with the comics, you'll know who I mean when you watch it. (More on this later in the week.)

No post-credits scene: This was a bummer, especially after I sat through the credits, which seemingly listed everyone who has ever been born, while having to pee pretty badly. Not really a strike against the movie, but definitely disappointing.

Okay, remember when I said there was one spoiler near the end of this review? Here it comes, so if you haven't seen the movie yet and wish to avoid spoilers, skip ahead to the end now! Otherwise, highlight the text below to read the spoilers.

Batman kills: Pretty self-explanatory, right? Batman kills people in this movie. That's a huge misstep. Batman does not kill. Period. Even Superman has some flexibility there, but unless you're specifically adapting the original 1939 version of Batman or some Elseworlds version, Batman absolutely does not. He doesn't directly kill people with his bare hands in the movie, or anything like that, but there are scenes in which he blows up cars full of people and doesn't even give a fuck. It's not enough to ruin the movie, but it is definitely extremely bizarre to see. Even so, the movie does make it clear that this is a Batman who has lost his way, and Bruce's words and actions at the end indicate that he's realized this. It's a pretty clear indication that he will return to the more idealistic Batman that he used to be. We can only hope.

Even with a few warts, this movie is great fun. It's the stuff of wet dreams for hardcore DC fans, something so many of us have wished for for years now. I know this is exactly the kind of movie I've wanted for as far back as I can remember, and it's wonderful that it finally exists, and actually lives up to its hype. Frankly, the people who have been grumbling about this movie being joyless have my pity. I had an ear-to-ear grin on my face nearly the entire time both times I watched it. It's the most fun I've had at the movies in years, and I can't wait to see it a third time!

Monday, December 21, 2015

My 2015 year in review: gaming edition!

Microsoft recently sent me a link to a really cool infographic that breaks down a bunch of my Xbox statistic from the past year. Check it out, and visit the site to generate your own! As always, you can click on the photo to embiggen it.

(Also, note my swanky-ass avatar outfit! Deathstroke the terminator with Wolverine claws? Now THAT'S a killing machine!)

A couple of things to note: the gaming time is measuring all the time the Xbox was on and connected to Xbox Live, so I did not actually spend 37% of the entire year playing games. Really. The "you've been with Xbox since 2007" box refers to when I joined Xbox Live, not when I first got an Xbox. (For the record, that was in February of 2002.)

One thing that surprised me is that I rank in the top 1% worldwide as far as my achievements. I am by no means an achievement hunter, but that rank made a lot more sense once I saw that the average Xbox owner only gained 69 achievements in the past year. It's easy to forget that a very substantial number of game console owners only play a couple of games each year. There are millions of people who buy an Xbox and only buy the new Madden or Call of Duty each year, and pick up a new Halo or GTA when they come out. Gamers who talk about their hobby on the internet tend to forget that we devote a good bit more time to gaming than most, and we don't represent the majority. Seeing these stats really drives that home. Anyway, it was cool of Microsoft to do this, and I enjoyed going over it. Let's hope they continue doing it each year!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Apparently, there's a new Star Wars movie opening today...

Hopefully the plot is based on this cover to the old Star Wars comic series. I really wanna see how Chewie & Lando's domestic partnership goes, why Zorak joins the group, and how Luke got a job as stunt double for Karl hungus in Logjammin'. The subplot where they help George and Lenny with their rabbit farm is sure to be heartwarming.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000!

Joel Hodgson, creator of the beloved MST3K, has a Kickstarter campaign to revive the show! If you love MST3K, go pledge what you can, even if it's only $10. There are some really kickass rewards if you can afford more, of course. Depending on how much is raised, we could get as many as twelve new episodes! Why are you still reading this? Go now!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Previously on this date: Dracula (1931) and The New Annotated Dracula!

I hope you've enjoyed all the classic horror goodness this past month! You can catch up on any of it you may have missed, this year or in years past, by clicking here. Today I'll be sharing a bunch of cool old posters and ads that, for one reason or another, have never been featured here before. Enjoy, and everyone have a fun and safe Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Frankenstein Friday: Boris Karloff's Frankenstein Monster through the decades

Previously on this date: The Masque of the Red Death and Blood-Curdling Bottles!

As with previous posts featuring Bela Lugosi's Dracula and Lon Chaney Jr's Wolf Man, today we'll be looking at the evolution of Karloff's Frankenstein Monster over the years.
Here is an early makeup test of the Monster that still shows up on licensed merchandise from time to time.

Here is the iconic Monster from the first Universal Frankenstein:

Bride of Frankenstein:

Son of Frankenstein:

Karloff donned the neck bolts for a charity baseball game alongside other celebrities in 1940:

Finally, he appeared as the Monster alongside Lon chaney Jr. and Peter Lorre in an episode of Route 66 in 1962:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Old Dark House

Previously on this date: Young Frankenstein and Monster Busts! (That refers to monster statues, not really big boobs. No false advertising here!)

Today I'll point you in the direction of my post about the delightful James Whale classic The Old Dark House. This is one of my favorite movies, and deserves to be held in the same esteem as all-time classics such as The Mummy and The Bride of Frankenstein. Go check it out!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Werewolf Wednesday: The Wolf Man Makeup Process

Previously on this date: Nosferatu: A Symphony of HorrorFrankenstein, and Macabre Monster Nails!

Today we'll be looking at various photos of Lon Chaney Jr. enduring the long makeup process that transformed him into the Wolf Man again and again over the years, mostly at the hands of Jack Pierce. Enjoy!