Monday, September 12, 2016

A look at Structures, an architecture series by Blocktech

I came across these at the DG a few days ago. Blocktech is one of the numerous LEGO-ish off-brands. They largely produce sets that revolve around fireman and law enforcement themes, as well as subject matter LEGO won't touch, such as military. These arhitecture-themed sets are a new foray for them, to my knowledge. They also had a Big Ben set, but I figured I'd try these out for now and grab that one later if these stack up pretty well. Obviously, these are not going to be as good as the official LEGO Architecture sets; they're smaller, far less expensive, and they simply don't have the range of pieces or level of quality control that LEGO does. (Which is one of the main reasons they're so much cheaper, of course.) All that said, it doesn't mean these are automatically crap, and for $5 each, it's well worth giving them a shot to see if they're worthwhile builds when taken on their own merits.

Here's the completed Empire State Building. (Banana Man [as well as Marshmallow Man] shown for scale.) It looks pretty good, honestly. It's actually quite similar to the LEGO Architecture ESB. Very similar, in fact. There are a couple of pieces that are present in the LEGO version that are lacking in the Blocktech one, but it appears as if those may be the only differences. Mind you, I'm not implying anything here; it's just an observation. There are only so many ways to render a box-shaped building with square plastic bricks, after all. Moving on...

This is the completed Eiffel Tower. Frankly, it's a bit of a mess. Several aspects of the build seem to be poorly thought out, and the entire thing lacks stability. The central tower tends to topple if you breathe near it, look at it too hard, or think about it. (Yep, there it goes again!) See those "arms" that drape down the sides? They don't even attach to the central tower! Designs like this would never fly in a genuine LEGO set. The LEGO version is a good bit more expensive, but it lacks these issues. So, if you want a brick-built model of the Eiffel tower, it's definitely worth it to splurge for the LEGO version.

It's also worth noting that these sets lack the name plates, as well as the booklets that detail the history of the buildings. In general, the pieces don't snap together perfectly like genuine LEGO pieces, but I didn't have any big issues. There were a few times I had to exert more force than usual to get two pieces to snap together, but nothing I didn't expect for this price. I recommend the Empire State Building, but you should definitely skip the Eiffel Tower. I reiterate: it's a mess. I'm inclined to pick up Big Ben based on my experience with these sets, particularly since it looks far more similar to the Empire State Building than the Eiffel Tower as far as design and stability are concerned. I'll be sure to let you all know how that goes if I do! In the meantime, check your Dollar General stores for these, or check out the official site if you're interested in the LEGO Architecture sets. Until next time...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rant Review: Batman- The Killing Joke animated movie

Virtually everyone has been clamoring for an animated adaptation of the classic Alan Moore/Brian Bolland tale Batman: The Killing Joke for years now, ideally with the iconic voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and the Joker. At long last, it has come to pass. The Killing Joke has been well-acquainted with controversy since its publication due to its content, and Bruce Timm, Brian Azzarello, Sam Liu & company have not shied away from it here. Indeed, the prologue they've added to the story includes a scene that doubles down on the controversy; more on that in the spoiler section later in this review. (Don't worry if you're avoiding spoilers, you'll have plenty of warning.) All of this results in DC's first animated movie to be stamped with an R rating.

Brushing all the controversy aside and judging the movie on its own merits, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The art style used differs from the source story, as Bolland's exquisitely detailed art is obviously too complex and labor-intensive to realistically be used in an animated film, but there are little details here and there that are evocative of his work. Despite its different look, the movie's visuals have the same sort of feel. The animation is often not as smooth as one would hope, however. This is an issue common among the newer DC animated movies, but one can't help being disappointed to see it here. Surely such a hotly anticipated project, a surefire hit, warranted a budget increase to deliver higher quality animation than we normally see with these releases? Alas, it is what it is, and while the animation is not as good as hoped, it still is far from bad, and it gets the job done.

Kevin Conroy simply IS Batman at this point, and it's always wonderful to have him back in the role. Even mediocre efforts such as Public Enemies are buoyed by his presence, so having him work with such well-written material is a pure pleasure. Tara Strong is quite good as Batgirl, as usual, having similarly made that role her own over the years. Veteran actor Ray Wise is a disappointment as Commisioner Gordon, however. His flat delivery of most of his lines mars the few key scenes Gordon has, and one of the story's most powerful moments is deflated due to the lackluster performance. Wise is a good actor, so this could simply be due to miscasting.

Mark Hamill has long been celebrated for his various performances as the Joker, and rightly so. His incredible performance in last year's Arkham Knight video game was his magnum opus, and while I can't say his performance in The Killing Joke surpasses that, it is definitely on the same level. His performance of the "Go Loony" song alone is worth the price of admission. Honestly, that is one of the most surreal parts of the original story, and everyone has been wondering how they would pull it off. While Hamill  croons it out beautifully, everyone involved deserves much appreciation for putting that scene together.

Now we're about to dive into the story, and this will involve some spoilers. Highlight the following paragraphs with your mouse to read, or skip down below if you'd rather avoid spoilers.

The prologue focuses on Batgirl and her working relationship with Batman. It's clear that she has some romantic feelings toward Bruce, and this culminates with the two having sex on a rooftop one night while working a case. The entire internet has exploded since this was made known, and I myself was a bit apprehensive about it. While there is a precedent in the animated Batman projects for a Bruce/Babs relationship-- see Mystery of the Batwoman-- it's never felt right. Putting the age difference aside, since it's honestly not as large a gap as many people seem to believe, Bruce is a mentor to Barbara. This position of authority he has over her lends a rather skeevy air to the whole idea of them pursuing any kind of romantic relationship. Not to mention that he's also her father's BFF, adding another layer of weirdness to the whole thing. However, as always, I resolved to wait and actually watch the movie before passing judgment on it. I'm happy to be able to say that the entire thing is handled well in the movie. Both characters immediately recognize it as a mistake, and it even leads to a scene where Bruce apologizes and behaves like an actual human for a damn minute. Barbara decides that she really doesn't need this whole thing in her life anymore, and decides to move on, returning her gear to Batman, and retiring as Batgirl. 

There's also an epilogue that shows Barbara back at home, and makes it very clear that she has begun her career as Oracle. This lends an air of hope to the movie, particularly to comic readers with some familiarity with the character. It's a nice coda that brings the story back to focusing on her, and helps a bit to mitigate her use as little more than a prop during the main story of TKJ. 

As for the main part of the story, it's exactly as readers remember, with a bit of additional dialogue and action here and there to flesh things out a bit.There are moments that are absolutely chilling, with many of the graphic novel's scenes beautifully realized. The minimal use of music is eerily effective for the most part, and the whole production is lifted by the (mostly) amazing performances. It's actually been quite a while since I've really enjoyed any of the DC animated movies-- right offhand, I think The Flashpoint Paradox was the last one-- but The Killing Joke is a return to the quality we used to get from these projects. It's one of the best animated movies carrying the DC logo, and I highly recommend watching it.

As a little aside, I can't help hoping that the movie is such a success that they'll see fit to release an alternate version with the coloring done in the style of the original version of the graphic novel, as demonstrated here. I like the realistic tones of the recolored version, which the movie emulates, but the surreal, garish colors of the original version have a macabre appeal of their own.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

DC Rebirth: Month One

As you're no doubt aware, DC's Rebirth initiative is currently well underway. Like apparently everyone else, I loved the DCU Rebirth special, and I've been sampling quite a few of the new series. And by "quite a few," I mean "all." I won't be doing full reviews for everything like I did with the New 52 relaunch, but I thought it would be fun to present an overview at the end of each month with a few thoughts about each issue. As always, discussion is welcome, whether here or via email or the social media of your choice. We'll be tackling them week by week, jotting down my thoughts after reading each week's issues. I want to preserve that sense of spontaneity, so you might find that these aren't quite as polished as my usual reviews. (Not that I ever obsess over that, given the casual tone I strive to maintain here, but you get what I'm saying.) So, let's be off!

June 1
Batman Rebirth: Incoming writer Tom King is handed the baton by outgoing writer Scott Snyder, while the incomparable Mikel Janin provides sumptuous visuals. While the story is rather choppy and uneven, it gives us Duke's formal induction as one of Batman's allies, along with a very interesting revamp of the Calendar Man. I enjoyed all the other Rebirth issues this week more, but this is still no slouch.

Green Arrow Rebirth: I must admit that I haven't read any of Benjamin Percy's run on the New 52 Green Arrow-- I read the Lemire/Sorrentino run, but was quickly driven away by the next couple of issues-- but I have heard some good things. I may need to track those down, if this is any indication. Percy and artist Otto Schmidt do a marvelous job of evoking the Ollie we know and love, even while reuniting him with Black Canary for the first time in far too long. This isn't just a nostalgia trip, either, as the conflict that is set up within these pages promises to be quite interesting. I've missed Green Arrow for most of the past decade-- the character's poor handling predates the New 52 by several years-- and it feels damn good to have him and Dinah back.

Green Lanterns Rebirth: Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz finally get the spotlight to themselves as they're partnered up to protect Earth. Incoming writer Sam Humphries, assisted by the sorely missed Geoff Johns, give us a nice solid issue that makes me hopeful that I'll once again have at least one Green Lantern series to look forward to again.

Superman Rebirth: Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, partners on the beloved Batman and Robin, are going to do similarly great things for Superman, judging by this issue. One of the highlights is a recap of pre-New 52 Superman's epic battle with Doomsday, rendered by the always excellent Doug Mahnke. This is one of the issues that is most likely to be confusing for brand new readers, but the team does a good job of explaining what's happened without getting too bogged down in details.

June 8
Aquaman Rebirth: An excellent overview of who Aquaman is and his current status quo, this issue also clearly sets up the main conflict for future issues. Dan Abnett has been doing a great job on Aquaman these past few months, and that hasn't changed.

Action Comics #957: Dan Jurgens is riding high writing Superman once again, and he throws so much at us in this issue that it's tough to catch your breath! Luthor having the audacity to attempt to fill the deceased New 52 Superman's cape is completely in character, and given the last couple of years' developments, one can't help believing that he might actually be sincere. Zircher's art is quite nice, and the action flows well from panel to panel. This one is a winner.

The Flash: It was great to see the bombshell DCU Rebirth followed up on, of course, but it was just a damn solid comic all around. Definitely the best Flash comic I've read since before the New 52 began.

Wonder Woman Rebirth: A slower-paced, thoughtful issue that sets up what promises to be another epic Rucka run. Sharpe's art was gorgeous, and I liked how his art kicked in with the costume switch, symbolic of the transition from New 52 to Rebirth.

Detective Comics #934: I really enjoyed this issue. I'm all for a Bat family series, and Batwoman operating as Batman's partner is awesome. I've really missed Kate the last few years. When this series' premise was announced, it seemed very odd that Tim would be among the trainees, but this issue makes it clear that he is operating at Batman and Batwoman's lieutenant in helping to train Orphan, Spoiler, and Clayface. This is a great setup with so much potential!

June 15
Batman #1: A decent issue that is packed with action, but it's only a moderate improvement over the Batman Rebirth special. Finch's art is a little better than usual, but that's not really saying much. Of all the Rebirth issues thus far, this series remains the weakest. That said, I'm still enjoying it, and given Tom King's track record, I'm hopeful that it will improve. 

Green Arrow #1: Rock solid issue, picking up right where the Rebirth special left off. Percy has indicated that he's basically riffing on The Court of Owls for this story, and that becomes abundantly clear in this issue. It's also worth mentioning that the recent Black Canary series is referred to again. Many readers, myself included, would prefer that series to be swiftly forgotten, but it doesn't look like that's happening just yet. That's not a mark against this series, just something I felt was worth mentioning.

Green Lanterns #1: Pretty good issue, setting up some very interesting conflicts for the future. I've seen many readers express concern over Humphries as the writer, as he doesn't exactly have the best track record, but so far, so good. 

Superman #1: A good issue from one of my favorite creative teams, though it did seem to end far too quickly. Gleason is a criminally underrated artist, and his skill really shines in the body language he gives young Jonathan. His poses and movements look very authentic, and that's one of the toughest things for any artist to convey, particularly when it comes to children. Though it felt a bit short, this was an issue I really enjoyed, and I have high hopes for Superman with this team at the helm.

Titans Rebirth: Abnett did a very good job reviving the classic Teen Titans within the New 52 continuity with Titans Hunt, and that continues right here, as Wally returns and the team gradually regains their memories of him. As for the art, well... let's just say that I'm not a fan of Brett Booth, and leave it at that. That said, he did a great job with the design of Wally's new costume. It's also damn nice to see Dick back in his classic black and blue Nightwing costume. I actually liked the New 52 red and black version that got so much hate, but the blue just suits him better. Of all the Rebirth series, this might be the one that I'm most interested to see where it goes. 

June 22
Wonder Woman #1: I still can hardly believe Rucka is back! As writer of one of the two or three greatest Wonder woman runs I've read, I have high hopes for this series. Liam Sharpe's art is gorgeous. Not a whole lot actually happens in this issue, but it still comes off feeling momentous. I can only imagine how good it'll be once things really start rolling!

The Flash #1: Offers a pretty good overview of Barry's life and motivations for new readers, and sets up a damn good hook to hang the rest of this story arc on. The art has an appropriately kinetic quality to it that brings the story to life in just the right way. It's damn nice to have a good Flash comic to read again!

Detective Comics #935: Damn solid issue that ramps up the stakes a good bit, with some nice character development, to boot. Barrows is doing a great job with the art. This also has what is probably the best spin on the old "hi-tech training room" standby that I've seen. This is definitely the better of the two main Batman series right now.

Action Comics #958: Jurgens & Zircher deliver an all-out brawl between Superman and what appears to be the original Doomsday. The presence of post-Forever Evil heroic-ish Lex Luthor makes this much more than a standard rematch, though. This series is shaping up to be a lot of fun!

Aquaman #1: Abnett & Walker do a good job on this issue, advancing the Atlantean Embassy plot that's been running for the last few months, even as Black Manta strikes! Aside from the brief "DC You" period of this series' previous volume, Aquaman has been a very strong book for the past five years, and it seems that will continue to be the case with Abnett at the helm.

Since there are no Rebirth issues coming out today, that brings us up to date. So far, Rebirth has been an amazing success, in stark contrast to the New 52. That saw some great sales spikes for a few months, but amid all that, there were quite a few readers being alienated by the content and quality of the comics. Rebirth seems to be accomplishing its goal of luring all those people back, along with new readers, and its sales numbers are exceeding those of the New 52! Only time will tell if this success will continue in the months to come, but things look very promising. There is an overwhelmingly positive buzz around DC that I haven't experienced in quite a long time.

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 Hattiesburg'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!