Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Night Fights: French Kicking In The USA

It's the start of a new contest in Spacebooger's Friday Night Fight theme called G7-Fight Music. This time, instead of one panel of pain, each fight has a musical theme linking to a song or some lyrics. So, tonight, to "kick" (ha ha) things off, I thought I'd stick to an old favourite - Batroc Ze Leapair!

And tonight's wonderful nine-panel page of pugilistic pounding involves the foot-fighting Frenchmen attacking the living symbol of US of A, Captain America. Which links us to this week's song:

French Kickin' Kissin' In The USA, by Debbie Harry (of course!)

Paris is calling, indeed. Kiss the floor, Batroc!

(these lovely panels are taken from Tales Of Suspense #85 (1967) by Stan "the Man" Lee and Jack "the King" Kirby)


Most TPBs are pretty enjoyable, with eye-popping art and engaging storylines. But, of course, there's always some that are somewhat below average. This Millennium TPB, the collection of the eight-issue crossover miniseries that ran across DC's books in 1988, falls in the latter camp. It's not atrocious or offensive but it's still not very good.

The story by Steve Engelhart basically covers just two areas. The first involves a member of the Guardians of the Universe (an Oan) and a Zamaron (the female version of the Oans) coming to Earth and changing 10 (actually 7 in the end) selected humans - The Chosen - to become superpowered immortals. Meanwhile, the Manhunters, the original group of galactic policemen created by the Guardians before the Green Lantern Corps, decide to stop the Guardian and Zamaron from creating these Chosen. And that’s about it.

It is the latter idea that's the most intriguing because, unknown to the reader, the Manhunters have placed a number of sleeper agents - some androids, some willing humans, some mind-controlled beings - close to the various heroes of the DC Universe. These were sometimes already established characters in the heroes’ books and, when activated, were retconned into Manhunters to try to stop the heroes helping out. It's sort of like Marvel's recent Secret War series but with Manhunter agents rather than Skrulls. Unfortunately most of this action goes on in the other crossover books and is only hinted at in this central Millennium limited series. In fact, a lot of action is mentioned in this TPB but never really gets shown, occurring instead in other comics.

Instead, the focus in this book is the creation of the Chosen - via a load of mumbo-jumbo by Engelhart - which, in the end, produces a group of supposedly high-powered immortals to protect Earth. These New Guardians never made much of an impact and have since disappeared from the DC Universe (well, almost - a couple are members of the Global Guardians).

The artwork's also somewhat average. Joe Staton provided layouts over which Ian Gibson inked and it does certainly look like Gibson's other work, only looser and sketchier. I must admit, I never cared much for Gibson's 200AD work on stories like the Ballad of Halo Jones - it's just not my cup of tea. And I don't really have much knowledge of Staton's work. Overall, I guess the art manages to tell the (lacklustre) story but it's just not that good. Similarly with the colouring.

So, overall a bland collection that suffers from the lot of the problems that come with a company-wide crossover – i.e. a somewhat incomplete story. The art is weak as well and, with no additional material (annotations, introduction or sketches) in the book, this amounts to something of a turkey. And it seems the spin-off of this series – the New Guardians – was just as bad as well.

Grade: Fair

Friday, May 22, 2009

Star Trek

After reading many good reviews about Star Trek, such as those by the Acrobatic Flea and Frank, and seeing that Rotten Tomatoes is giving it such a good score, I thought I'd best go and see this latest Star Trek movie. And, last night, I finally saw it.

It was... good. But not brilliant.

Certainly it was an enjoyable and fun film and superior to many others out there. Though, I must admit, I thought Watchmen was better. But it was flawed. And not just in the science, though for a Star Trek film that was quite good. Other blogs - such as those by Snell and Siskoid - have indicated the various problems and their concerns with this film. I won't echo too much what they've said but will just list my top three what-where-why 'problems':

1. What was Nero doing for 25 years? He went through the black hole ahead of Spock Prime so he probably wasn't even sure Spock was coming through afterwards. And, after waiting a few hours, a few days or a few weeks, you'd think he'd assume Spock wasn't coming and therefore head off (perhaps to warn the Romulans or attack Vulcan). Wouldn't his crew be getting hungry? The only reason I can see for heading back 25 years before Spock arrived was so that he could affect Kirk's birth.

2. Where the hell was Starfleet? When Earth was being attacked by Nero, why didn't lots of ships come and take out Nero's weirdly-shaped mining ship? The Enterprise was supposed to go and meet up with the rest of the fleet but what the heck were they doing that was so important that they'd leave Earth to be destroyed?

3. Why did Kirk and the other cadets get high-ranking positions on the Enterprise? I can understand them running the ship during most of the movie (mainly due to a lack of higher-ranking officers) but why once the dust had settled? One or two might get positions on the ship but all of them? And Kirk gets to be captain?

Okay, I guess the last one isn’t that great a problem and was done because they wanted to get everyone settled into their roles on the Enterprise ready for the next movie. It still seemed a bit forced. Surely there was a better way of doing it, like fast forwarding a couple of years maybe?

Anyway, faults aside, I did enjoy it. It was certainly exhilarating. Two hours never went by so quickly! So, a directing great job by Abrams. The acting and casting were also very good. Pine played a great Kirk whilst keeping the Shatnerisms to a minimum. Quinto was okay as Spock (although I associate him too much with Sylar on Heroes). Urban as McCoy was definitely very good. And I rather liked Chekov. Character that worked the least for me was Simon Pegg's Scotty. I like Pegg but his Scotty was just too different. And his accent was all over the place. Still, even he wasn't bad - just my least favourite.

Overall, a good and exciting film and well worth going to see. It was certainly a successful reboot of the franchise whilst still remaining faithful to the old series. I'll be more than happy to see any sequels. Hopefully, in the second outing, there won't be quite so many holes in the story though.

Grade: Very Fine.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday Night Fights: Wak

Wow! It's looks like I won last week's Friday Night Fight with my picture of Batroc Ze Leapair! Fantastic. Let's see if I can keep on a roll.

So, without further ado, it's time for this week's Friday Night Fight: One Panel of Pain hosted over on And, unfortunately it's the last One Panel of Pain. :(

Anyway, tonight it's the turn of Kurt Wagner to deliver a swift and powerful uppercut to "Peter" (aka Nigel Orpington-Smythe), leader of the RCX. One of my favourite X-Men by one of my favourite artists - what more couldI ask for?

(this image is taken from Excalibur vol 1 #65 by Alan Davis (writer/penciller) and Mark Farmer (inker))

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck

I fondly remember DC's the Brave and the Bold team-up series from the late 70s and early 80s. My dad used to get cheap bundled mystery packs of DC comics and Brave and the Bold was often one of those included in the mix. The Jim Aparo art was certainly a contributing factor as to why I liked the books but so was the idea of seeing interesting and new (to me anyway) characters partnered with Batman. This TPB (unfortunately) doesn't contain those old comics but instead collects issues #1 to #6 of the new Brave and the Bold series from 2007.

With a story by Mark Waid and art by George Perez and Bob Wiacek, this has some high-profile creator credentials attached to it. Aparo may have been good (and in fact he draws the best Batman in my opinion) but Perez is even better, coming up with some insanely detailed pages full of easy-to-follow action whilst still showing busy backgrounds. And the many-hued colours are suitably bright. The book certainly looks good.

The wonderful Mark Waid crafts a well-told story about how Batman and Green Lantern come across the death of a mystery man, whose body is found both in space, in the Batcave and several other places. It turns out this man was a thief who acquired the Book of Destiny, which contains all past, present and future events. The book is supposed to have been given to the Challengers of the Unknown, four men who shape their own destiny and therefore exist outside its pages. However, the Luck Lords are out to get it so that they can reshape reality for themselves. It's up to Batman, Green Lantern and a whole host of other guest stars including Supergirl, Lobo, Blue Beetle and the Legion of Superheroes to stop them and retrieve the book.

Although an interesting tale, the story suffers from trying to contain too many heroes and cover too many locations and time periods. Also, unlike the original Brave and the Bold series, this is written for the trade and so stretches over 6 issues. A number of single or double issue stories would have been preferable to this single, slightly convoluted yarn. Still, Waid is very good at getting across the various personalities of the characters. The interactions between Batman and Green Lantern are well handled and it's good to see the animosity between these two characters has been dropped.

The TPB also includes a nice introduction by Waid and a great annotation section (also by Waid) at the back. So, together with the great Perez art, this is a decent and, more importantly, fun book full of lots of colourful DC characters that's easy and a joy to read. Highly recommended.

Grade: Very Fine.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Champions Are On Their Way

I appears that the release date for the Champions MMORPG has been set for July 14th (just 3 days after my birthday!). The HERO roleplaying system is probably my favourite RPG. Sure, it's somewhat complex and number-crunchingly heavy but I like that sort of stuff. In fact, most of the PBeMs I've played in recent years have been HERO System games.

Champions Online sort of uses the HERO rules system but obviously adapts it for MMORPG use. This Champions game looks pretty good and the idea of playing a HERO-based superhero certainly appeals - although unfortunately I don't think my lowly laptop will handle the minimum required specs for the game.

Lawful-Chaotic-Light-Dark Knight

And now for a comicbook / D&D mix-up. I give you Batman's D&D alignment chart (click on it for the bigger picture):

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday Spotlight: Neal Adams

Neal Adams - Batman, Deadman, etc artist - produced some fantastic work. You can see how Alan Davis was influenced by his clean but detailed style. More of Neal Adams art can be seen at his official site and elsewhere.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Night Fights: Ze Leapair

It's time for Spacebooger's Friday Night Fight again! And this week's One Panel of Pain stars one of my favourite Captain America villains of all time - Batroc Ze Leapair!

Now, I sort of wonder whether this panel has been put forward as a Friday Night Fights entry before because it seems an obvious choice. But I can't remember seeing it - although my memory ain't that great. Apologies if it's been used before...

Anyhow, here Batroc doesn't fight his usual Marvel Universe adversaries but instead goes toe-to-chin with the caped crusader himself - Batman. And, surprisingly he actually gets the drop on the Dark Knight! Sacre Bleu et Zut Alors!

(take from JLA/Avengers #4 by the almighty team of battlin' Kurt Busiek and pulse-poundin' George Perez. In case you didn't know)