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Wednesday, May 4, 2011 12:44 PM
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Art (Not), Books (Not), Business (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Dinosaurs (Not), Green Lantern (Not), James Bond (Not), Kaiju (Not), Links (Not), Mashups (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Nintendo (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), Superman (Not), Tattoos (Not), The Hobbit (Not), Tolkien (Not), TV (Not), Twitter (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not), Wii (Not), X-Files (Not)
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Thursday, December 23, 2010 12:22 PM
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Art (Not), Books (Not), Celebrities (Not), Christmas (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Fashion (Not), Gadgets (Not), Holiday (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Phones (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Robots (Not), Shirts (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Web comics (Not), X-Files (Not)
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Friday, September 10, 2010 11:13 AM
(Last updated on Saturday, September 11, 2010 08:39 AM)
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

  • To paraphrase Cinematical's description, Passion Play is a movie about a down-on-his-luck trumpet player (Mickey Rourke) who seeks redemption from an angel (Megan Fox) who's being paraded around like a circus freak by a local gangster named Happy Shannon (Bill Murray). Woah. Interesting story and an interesting cast. Click through to top it off with an interesting clip.
Tagged (?): Art (Not), Battlestar Galactica (Not), Caprica (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Dr. Strange (Not), Food (Not), Fringe (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Mashups (Not), Masters of the Universe (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Pixar (Not), Recyclotron (Not), ST:TNG (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not), Tron (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), X-Files (Not)
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Thursday, October 15, 2009 05:21 PM
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Animals (Not), Art (Not), Celebrities (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Cosplay (Not), Costumes (Not), Dollhouse (Not), George R.R. Martin (Not), Ghostbusters (Not), Homosexuality (Not), Law (Not), Links (Not), Mario (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Puppets (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Robots (Not), Science (Not), Shirts (Not), Song of Ice and Fire (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), Technology (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), Twitter (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not), Web comics (Not), Wonderland (Not), X-Files (Not)
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009 12:35 PM
On the Viewer - The X-Files: I Want to Believe
 by Fëanor

Wow, was this disappointing. I mean, I didn't expect all that much from a long-overdue sequel to a mediocre original film, itself a follow-up to a TV series whose best days were long over by the time it finally came to its embarrassing end in one of the worst episodes of a TV show I've ever seen. Plus, the reviews had been mediocre at best. But as a long-suffering X-Files fan, I had to see it anyway. Especially since the subtitle was one of my favorite phrases from the series.

The film opens with Scully now working as a regular old medical doctor, and no longer a weird-corpse-dissecting doctor. She's approached at work by Xzibit, who oddly is not there to tell her that her ride is about to be pimped, but to ask her if she can put him in contact with Mulder, because the FBI needs his help. Turns out Xzibit (whose name in the film is the perhaps even more unlikely Mosley Drummy) and his partner, Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet), are looking for a missing FBI agent and the only lead they've had so far is from a psychic named Father Joe, who's also a convicted child abuser. But the lead wasn't particularly helpful, and now they're stumped again. They're hoping that Mulder, whom they know is familiar with psychics and things of that nature, will have some kind of insight. To entice him into coming back, the FBI is willing to pardon him for past crimes.

So Scully drives out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, which is where Mulder hangs out now, and tries to talk him into going back. He's against the idea pretty strongly - there's no love lost between him and the FBI - but Scully is pretty persuasive, and then he looks at a picture of his sister (it always comes back to his sister, doesn't it?) and finally gives in. But of course he insists that Scully come with him. They're getting the band back together!

(From this point on, spoilers abound. Beware!)

Once they get to the FBI, Dakota flirts with Mulder a bit, and Mulder is of course more than ready to believe in Father Joe's psychic powers. But Scully is sickened by Father Joe's past indulgences with choir boys and wants no part of him. Even Dakota and Drummy, who believed in Joe enough to call in a bunch of agents to follow-up on his visions, and to bring Mulder in to help further, suddenly make an about-face and decide they don't believe in him, either, apparently just to give Mulder lots of people to disagree with. It doesn't make a lot of sense, especially since Father Joe's vision is the only thing that's given them any results on the case. Plus, he wept blood! He's gotta get some points for that.

Late that night/next morning, we see Scully in bed, unable to sleep. Suddenly, Mulder's head rises up from behind her, and we realize he's in bed with her! There's even a rather risque little exchange between them that makes it clear they've been together for some time and are comfortable with each other. I wasn't sure until that moment what the exact nature of their relationship was; I had kind of assumed Mulder was living in this house by himself, but no, apparently the two of them are a real couple now.

Anyway, after this slightly disturbing sequence, Mulder and the gang discover the FBI agent wasn't the only woman abducted. Father Joe has another vision (of a woman's face behind dirty glass) that leads them out into the snow, but their search is proving fruitless. Everybody wants to give up - on the search, and on Father Joe. Except Mulder, of course! He keeps the search going, and makes the obvious assumption that the dirty glass is ice (c'mon, who didn't know he was talking about ice as soon as he mentioned dirty glass?). And in fact they soon find a bunch of body parts frozen under the ice. Scully, despite the fact that she's the one who talked Mulder into doing this in the first place, is now frustrated with him for being so passionate about finding the abducted women. Father Joe tells her, "Don't give up." It doesn't seem like a particularly unlikely or strange thing for him to say to her, given the circumstances, but this line will be treated as incredibly important and meaningful later on in the film.

Analysis of all the body parts found under the ice finally leads the gang to their first suspect: an organ transporter named Janke Dacyshyn. Thing is, the guy is married to Franz Tomczeszyn, who just happens to have been one of the altar boys Father Joe abused. The other agents take this as proof that Joe's "visions" were nothing of the kind, and that if anything he's probably involved with the abductions somehow. Mulder still believes in him, though.

The FBI raids Dacyshyn's office and Mulder and Dakota end up chasing Dacyshyn across town into a half-constructed building where Dacyshyn shoves Dakota down an elevator shaft, killing her. Then he gets away. Ouch!

Meanwhile, Scully has her own issues at work; she's obsessed with saving her young patient, despite the fact that he has a disease that most experts agree is untreatable. There is a new experimental treatment for it, but it might not work, and it's extremely painful. The hospital is a religious hospital, and the head of the hospital, a priest named Father Ybarra, wants to give up on the kid and send him to another facility where he can die in peace. The kid's name, btw, is Christian. Symbolic much?

Scully is torn as to what to do, and haunted by Father Joe's words to her, so she goes to his apartment alone to talk to him, perhaps hoping for some hint from him as to what to do. It's an unsettling scene, as he gets a bit sleazy with her (complimenting her on her appearance, and insisting she sit down in his bedroom - possibly even on his bed, I can't remember), they get into a big argument, he reveals he castrated himself years ago, quotes the Bible to her, and then falls over in a seizure. Turns out he's got lung cancer and is on his last legs.

Despite the fact that everybody else has apparently given up on the case, and despite the fact that Scully gives Mulder a tough ultimatum about it - give up on the case or I leave you, because I can't be with you if you're going to get sucked into "the darkness" again - he goes on. But he does so in his own reckless, dumbass fashion, and ends up getting himself captured by the bad guys. Dacyshyn sees Mulder following him in Scully's car and forces him off the road. Mulder is able to climb out of the wrecked car, but instead of going for help, he stumbles toward the bad guys' hideout armed only with a tire iron he found in Dacyshyn's abandoned truck. He is easily subdued and sedated, and then Dacyshyn drags him out to the woodshed to be decapitated.

Meanwhile, we've finally found out what's really been going on: Tomczeszyn is dying of lung cancer, so Dacyshyn has been searching for a body to transplant his lover's head onto. Apparently he's bi, as he's been selecting pretty much exclusively female bodies. This reminds me quite a bit of the plot of the terrible B horror movie, and MST3K victim, The Brain That Wouldn't Die. And as in that film, there's a psychic connection between the head and someone else. Although in this case the someone else is not a monster in the closet, but Father Joe. In fact, Father Joe's psychic connection with his former choir boy is so intense that they both have the same disease, and die at the same moment.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. As Mulder is getting captured, Scully is randomly stumbling upon information about the transplanting techniques the bad guys are using, and figures out what's been going on. But she's unable to contact Mulder because he lost his cell phone in the car crash. Freaking out, Scully calls Xzibit, but the X man apparently has no time to help the guy who's doing his job for him (when she calls him, he's just moving boxes around instead of out trying to find his partner's killer - pretty lame), so she has to go over his head to Skinner. (Yep, they really are getting the band back together!) Skinner and Scully find the car wreck, then go driving around trying to find some trace of Mulder. They drive past some mailboxes and Scully asks Skinner to back up. Somehow she noticed - in the dark of night as they were driving by at a not inconsiderable rate of speed - that one of the mailboxes bears the same number as the verse of the Bible that Father Joe quoted to her earlier. She opens the mailbox, flicks through the mail, and finds an envelope with the address to the bad guys' hideout on it (although sadly it is not labeled "Bad Guys' Hideout" on the envelope). They head there, and Scully is just in time to knock out Dacyshyn before he chops Mulder's head off. They've also arrived just in time to stop the doctors from chopping the kidnapped agent's head off. Tomczeszyn's head is already sitting off to the side ready to be transplanted, however, so when they disconnect it, he dies. They learn later that Father Joe died at the same moment. Mulder sees this as absolute proof of the psychic connection and wants to bring it to the FBI so he can get Father Joe exonerated (Father Joe is officially being considered an accomplice to the kidnappings and killings). Scully does the equivalent of rolling her eyes at him - and so did I. He really is so irritating when he gets all earnest and crusading like that. I mean, how is that "proof" of anything, that two guys died at the same moment? He's so delusional.

Anyway, we still need to resolve Scully's subplot with the kid. She's still feeling some doubts about the procedure, and is still haunted by Father Joe's statement to her: "Don't give up." Mulder tells her to think why he might have said that to her at that moment. (Which annoyed me because there are all kinds of perfectly normal reasons he might have said that to her. He might have just been telling her not to give up on him, not to give up on the search for the kidnapped girl, not to give up on Mulder.) Then Mulder goes on to tell her that if she has any doubts she should call off the surgery and the two of them can leave together, and run far away from "the darkness" (even if it's likely to come and find them again). But when Scully gets to the operating room and is asked if she's ready to begin, she looks around and says, "Yes." And it's clear that she has no doubts and she's sure it's going to turn out well. After the credits, there's a quick shot of Mulder and Scully in a rowboat, with Mulder rowing them out into a beautiful blue sea from a tropical coastline. Clearly he made good on his promise.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a movie subtitled "I Want to Believe," the film is mostly about belief and faith. The first half of the film I thought was disappointing and mediocre, but no worse than an average episode of the show. In the second half, however, the film took a bit of a nosedive. The dialogue, which was pretty corny, cheesy, and unrealistic throughout, just got really awful near the end, especially in the scenes between Mulder and Scully. Mulder's earnest speeches were always the worst thing about the show, and they continue to be awful here. It would be pleasantly nostalgic if it weren't so terrible.

The characters are also ridiculous and wooden. In many cases they seem to do and say things, not because it would make sense for a human being to do or say those things in the context, but simply because that's what they need to do to move the plot forward. Drummy and Dakota are particularly bad in this regard; they're not fleshed out at all, they're just puppets who exist to provide a reason for Mulder to come back, and then to act as the skeptics to his believer. And they're not even very good at the former; why would the FBI agree to pardon Mulder so he can come back to help on some random missing persons case that happens to involve a psychic? It doesn't even make sense. If the case involved a guy who was running around eating people's livers, okay, but it's just a psychic. Cops work with psychics all the time. Why is Mulder needed?

I also found myself vaguely disturbed by the storyline. Not the decapitation and so forth; I'm talking about the child abuse and the sexuality. Father Joe has a psychic link with another man apparently because he'd previously abused him; the victim of said abuse is now gay; the victim's husband wants him to have a woman's body; a big deal is made of the fact that the film's villains are men and married to each other. It all feels a little... wrong to me somehow. I don't know much about Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz's political beliefs, or their positions on homosexuality, but I get the uneasy feeling they're trying to make some subtle and rather hateful statements in this film. Maybe I'm reading too much into things and I'm way off-base, but regardless these vague feelings of unease certainly didn't make me like the film any more.

The movie has its moments. I remained interested in the story all the way to the end. It was great to see all these characters again and learn what had happened to them. It was funny and cute to see Skinner swaddling a freezing, drugged Mulder in his coat and shushing him. And although pretty much all the rest of the characters in the movie are stereotypes or puppets, Mulder and Scully do get to develop a little bit, and Scully's subplot with her child patient, while a bit clumsily handled, is still effective at times.

But overall, it's really a pretty bad movie. In its best moments, The X-Files the TV show managed to present insane, imaginative ideas in a clever, eerie, funny, and even vaguely believable fashion. Sadly, this film fails to be imaginative, clever, eerie, funny, or believable. My hope is that the franchise will either end here, or that someone other than Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz will take it over and do something more interesting with it.
Tagged (?): Movies (Not), On the Viewer (Not), TV (Not), X-Files (Not)
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Saturday, December 27, 2008 12:01 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.

This covers new releases from the week of 12/17, plus a trade paperback poppy found for me at the library.

Back issues and old data
Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities
Poppy knows I like Eric Powell, so when she found this TPB with his name in the credits, she snapped it up for me. She's nice like that. The book, it turns out, is strange indeed. Powell wrote it and colored it, but Kyle Hotz provided the art. It opens with a news article about the killing of Billy the Kid, then introduces us to our main character as he's having a nightmarish flashback to his horrific childhood. He awakes suddenly on a train. Turns out Billy wasn't actually killed the way everyone thought. Someone else died in his stead, and he's gone underground, under an assumed name. The freakish man sitting across from Billy on the train (Fineas Sproule, who has more than the usual number of arms) reveals that he knows his traveling companion's true identity, but that he's willing to keep it a secret if Billy will help him with a certain undertaking. Billy isn't doing much else, and doesn't have much of a choice, so he agrees. Fineas introduces him to the other members of his traveling "biological curiosities" show, and reveals the outlines of the plan: they are to infiltrate the castle of one Frankenstein (yes, that one) and steal from him a legendary jewel known as the Golem's Heart. But there's more to the adventure than they're revealing to Billy, and it turns out to be more costly than any of them expected.

As one might expect from a story by Powell, this book is extremely twisted and violent, and it's full of freaks and monsters. Billy's childhood consisted of his hooker mother stuffing him in a box whenever her gentleman callers came over. This naturally left him a deeply scarred individual. Actually, he's a scumbag and a bastard. You can sort of sympathize with him in certain parts of the book, but it's pretty hard to actually like him. The freaks he takes up with are more likable, but the story is over before they get anything more than a cursory characterization; they're mostly stereotypes. The sequence in Frankenstein's castle is horrific, bloody, and disturbing, but makes for some pretty exciting reading. In the end, Billy has become a marginally better person - but only marginally.

I love the premise of this book (a secretly still-alive Billy the Kid helping the performers in a freak show to break into Frankenstein's castle), and it turns out to be a pretty interesting story, with good art. But it also had the potential to be much, much better than it is.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases
The Age of the Sentry #4
This issue starts out by extending the series' loving parody of the comics of the past even further back in time with a story called "The Golden-Age Sentry." In this story, the Sentry's recurring enemy, Cranio, steals a time machine and starts screwing around in the past. His meddling actually brings about the origin of Harrison Oogar, the Caveman of Wall Street. He also opens up a rift between worlds, allowing a Golden Age Sentry to cross over. So back in the present, there are now two Sentries: the one we know, and another one from an earlier age, with different slang, a different sensibility, a different secret identity, and even a different origin! While the Silver Age Sentry's origin involves science and an experimental serum, the Golden Age Sentry's involves magic (he doesn't get to tell the whole story, but it sounds a lot like the origin of DC's Captain Marvel). Which is of course the usual difference between Golden Age and Silver Age origins. Plus the Golden Age Sentry is secretly Ed Eckles (there are those double E's again - is somebody trying to tell the Sentry something?), an apple industry millionaire and playboy. This is again familiar, as Golden Age characters were almost always millionaires and playboys (although they were rarely in the apple industry... heh). Also, in a particularly knowing and hilarious sequence, we learn that the Golden Age Sentry (like the Golden Age Batman) used a gun! "No need for me to get in close when my pal Colt .45 can do the talking for me! ...I learned back in the Big One, you never know when a gun will come in handy!" Awesome. Golden Age Sentry also takes to calling Silver Age Sentry "Sentry 2," in a sly reference to the Earth One and Earth Two Supermen. Being number two kind of upsets Silver Age Sentry, as does the thing with the gun, but he deals with it. There's also a great scene where Golden Age Sentry mistakes some beatniks for criminals and starts punching them. Eventually the two Sentries pull a fun trick and send the Golden Age Sentry back to his own world. Then there's an amusing and slightly unsettling foreshadowing of things to come ("Years in the future people might be surprised that you're a real hero in this age!"). Before the conclusion, however, there's a weird moment when Cranio says he has to tell the Sentry the truth - but then he vanishes. This scene will be continued, sort of, in the next story: "All You Need Is Sentry." But before that starts, there's another of those quick frame story interludes where we see a father telling all these stories to his son. Only now the identity of the father and son is finally revealed: it's Reed Richards and Franklin Richards. At least, that sure looks like Reed, with that white streak in his hair.

The next story features a version of the Beatles called the Crick-Hits - there's even a list of goofy new versions of Beatles song titles, and a parody of the Sgt. Pepper's album cover. The story opens with the Sentry-Siren going off. "The signal is audible only to me!" says the Sentry. "Well, me and dogs. Sorry about that Fido!" Heh. Anyway, it turns out the emergency is that a subway train carrying the Crick-Hits has disappeared - a tragedy which causes the Sentry to exclaim: "Dang! Oh, sorry about my language, ma'am." The woman he's speaking to, who's standing nearby, responds, "No offense taken," but she's thinking, "Gosh! The Sentry! He's so passionate and forceful! *sigh*" Heh. Once the Sentry arrives at the subway station where the train was last seen, he teams up with a lovely blonde in a snazzy red dress named the Blonde Phantom. I'd never heard of the Blonde Phantom before, but luckily Wikipedia filled me in. I don't think the whole idea of her taking over the Avengers from a retiring Captain America is canon, however, which raises interesting questions about where this story fits in the Marvel universe. But to get back to the story: as the Sentry is talking to the Blonde Phantom, he suddenly finds himself elsewhere. In a three-panel sequence done in a completely different, more modern art style, Cranio shows the Sentry planets exploding all over the universe, and suggests that some infinitely powerful villain has caused this, and there was nothing anyone could do. Of course, the obvious inference is that he's referring to the Void. The Sentry flips out, but then finds himself back with the Blonde Phantom underground, being attacked by Moloids. Wow! Creepy stuff. They beat up the Moloids, then follow them back to where they came from, and find a guy named Tyrannus, whom they assume is another of Mole Man's henchmen, since everybody associates Moloids with the Mole Man. This Tyrannus finds very insulting. They easily knock him down and are about to beat him up when it finally comes out that the Crick-Hits are here on purpose to headline an underground concert. Then it all turns into a great big fun dance party.

Another very funny, very clever issue of this fantastic miniseries, with all kinds of fun references to, and fun-loving parodies of, Silver and Golden Age comics, and Silver and Golden Age culture. I suspect in the last issue this whole thing is going to blow apart and get really creepy and disturbing. Should be interesting!
Thumbs Up

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #20
One of my cardinal rules of comics, which I've developed after much hardship and pain, is to never buy anything written by Jeph Loeb. And this comic was written by Jeph Loeb. But it's also Buffy, and it contains a look at the Buffy animated series that could have been, so I had to break my rule.

The animated series was set during the time frame of the early part of the original television series, so in order to come up with an excuse to go back to that time, they have Buffy fall asleep and have a dream, and the dream is done up in a completely different, cartoon-like art style. The dream is very real, so Buffy is at first very confused and disturbed to find herself back in high school, with her mother still alive, Willow still just a shy young girl, and her old flame Angel still very much her new flame. But she quickly decides to just go with it, especially since things were so much simpler during this time in her life. Her adventures in the past are very reminiscent of the original TV show; Giles gives them a mission which conflicts with their high school social life, so Buffy tries to knock it out quickly so she can get to the big party, but of course her duty as a Slayer gets in the way. It's fun and amusing, if not incredibly exciting or original. I'm happy to say that Jeph Loeb doesn't do anything really horrible here, probably because he was trying to write like Joss Whedon, and thus wasn't writing like himself. I'd love to see a Buffy animated series on TV, but I guess if the only way they can use the material is to put it in a comic book, the chances of that happening are pretty slim.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Reign: New Nation #1
I assumed the previews in the back of Secret Invasion: Dark Reign (which I read last week) were made up of material excerpted from the first issues of the various new series they were advertising, which tie into Dark Reign, but apparently they were all excerpted from the various stories included in this one-shot anthology, stories which themselves are essentially previews of those new series. Very strange and confusing. The good news is, whereas I was not particularly impressed by the excerpts I read last week, I was very impressed by the full short stories that I read in this title.

First up is "Secret Warriors: Declaration," by Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman with art by Stefano Caselli and color by Daniele Rudoni. It's a surprisingly moving story that intercuts Nick Fury in the present (watching Norman Osborn taking over, and then traveling to meet and speak with his new secret commandos), and Nick Fury in the past (listening to a speech from Captain America before a big WWII battle). Cap's speech is very powerful, and of course informs what Fury says to his men in the present.

"Agents of Atlas: The Heist" is written by Jeff Parker with pencils by Carlo Pagulayan, inks by Jason Paz, and colors by Jana Schirmer. In this story, the Agents of Atlas rob Fort Knox and declare war on the United States - but it turns out it's all just so they can go undercover and figure out who the real criminals are. Cool!

"War Machine: Crossing the Line" is by Greg Pak with art by Leonardo Manco and color by Jay David Ramos. War Machine witnesses an old enemy of his do some nasty deeds, but frustratingly finds himself unable to act against the man directly. Luckily, he finds a clever, bad-ass way to take him out anyway. It's a fun story, and also a strong character portrait of Rhodes as a soldier who's perhaps living up to his superhero name a bit too well.

The next story is a straight-up comedy called "Skrull Kill Krew: Breakfast in America," and it's written by Adam Felber with pencils by Paulo Siqueira, inks by Amilton Santos & Paulo Siqueira, and color by Chris Sotomayor. The premise of this one is that there are still a lot of Skrulls hiding out on the Earth after the invasion, and it's the Skrull Kill Krew's job to clean things up and take them out. In this story, the Krew consists entirely of a guy whose arms turn into guns, and the Skrulls are all pretending to be cows. There's a lot of hilarious dialogue as gun-arm-guy tries to explain to a couple of dumb (but surprisingly knowledgeable) farmers just what's going on. It all gives off a Monty Python vibe, with the farmers discussing pointless trivia (on the order of the air speed velocity of a laden swallow) when they should be scared for their lives. It's good stuff.

Last up is "New Avengers: The Reunion - Suspicion," which sees Clint Barton (previously Hawkeye, now Ronin) and Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) - the former recently dead, the latter recently presumed dead - trying to get to know one another again. Clint wants things to go back to the way they were before, but Bobbi is having a hard time dealing with everything that's happened. Is she definitely not a Skrull? Is he definitely not? How can they really be sure? She does some weird stuff during the story, and has some weird flashes. It looks like she may have infiltrated the Skrulls on purpose, for S.H.I.E.L.D., and has come back with important information. Anyway, there's definitely more going on than she's telling. It's intriguing. But man. Poor Clint. He gets the crappy end of the stick in every one of these over-arching storylines!

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed all the stories in this book, especially considering I'd read parts of a number of them before, and disliked them! Anyway, my confidence in the Dark Reign storyline has just increased slightly.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider #30
Danny goes after the Japanese Ghost Rider (it's funny that his Caretaker looks almost exactly the same as the American one), and Johnny and friends get there too late to help. But there are apparently still two more Ghost Riders left, on top of Johnny and the two he's hanging out with now, so the five of them are going to get together and make a final stand against Danny and Zadkiel. Unfortunately for them, that fits prefectly into Zadkiel's plan; he sends an army of angels to Danny and tells him to go finish the rest of the Ghost Riders off in one fell swoop. We also get a look at what Zadkiel's been telling Danny to convince him to take this course of action. It's a little surprising Danny would fall for such obvious BS, but maybe Zadkiel is also exerting some kind of influence on his mind. Besides, as we're learning in the Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch miniseries, Danny was so desperate to have the Ghost Rider power back, he would have swallowed any line of bull necessary to justify its reacquisition. A surprising final scene reveals that we haven't seen the last of the cop who got his hand eaten, and that he has chosen to blame the Ghost Rider for his loss.

This was not my favorite issue of this series, because it's mostly just a transition issue with lots of rehashing and exposition, but it's not terrible, and it paves the way for an exciting showdown in the near future.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellblazer #250
I don't usually buy this title, but this issue was the "Hellblazer Holiday Special," with stories by a number of famous writers, so I had to get it. First up is "Happy New Fucking Year" by Dave Gibbons with art by Sean Phillips and color by Val Staples (both of Criminal fame). This is one of the best stories in the book, and sees Constantine stuck investigating a museum theft on New Year's Eve, instead of partying. The robber turns out to be a scientist who's gone mad and is trying to sacrifice a baby with an ancient scythe to gain power. Constantine is able to save the day with the application of a good old fashioned kick in the balls, and then enjoy the rest of his New Year's with a naughty nurse. Good show!

In "Christmas Cards," by Jamie Delano (who was the second guy to write Constantine after Alan Moore) with art by David Lloyd, is about a pair of guys playing poker. Constantine uses his gift for reading people and situations and is able to see the weird relationship between the two men, and predict who has which cards, but even he's surprised by the good deed one of them does for the other. This one's pretty twisted and sordid, and I found myself a bit confused as to who was who. The art's very good, but the story is not my favorite.

"All I Goat for Christmas" is pretty brilliant in its own special way. It's written by Brian Azzarello with art by Rafael Grampa and colors by Marcus Penna. The poem that makes up the entire text of the comic isn't particularly well written, but the story that it tells, together with the spectacular and unique art, is quite clever and funny. Basically, Constantine is called in to help break the curse on the Chicago Cubs - but there's a pretty disgusting price that has to be paid.

Speaking of curses, next up is "The Curse of Christmas," by Peter Milligan, with art by Eddie Campbell and colors by Dominic Regan. This story has one cool idea at its heart, but the rest of it is pretty dull. Constantine is being haunted by a dead guy and finally discovers that (cool idea coming!) he was killed by a curse that someone had cleverly inserted into the Queen's Christmas speech. But there's nobody you can really sympathize with or like - even the dead guy - and it's just generally a pretty hateful story.

The last story in the book is "Snow Had Fallen" by China Mieville, with colors by Jamie Grant, breakdowns by Giuseppe Camuncoli, and finishes by Stefano Landini (no, I'm not entirely sure what breakdowns and finishes are, but I'm guessing it means Camuncoli drew up the preliminary art and Landini finished it off). This time Constantine's called in to figure out why some sick children and the priest who runs their hospital are being haunted by faceless, winged creatures, ever since an accident at a nearby plant caused some kind of ash to rain down on them. Were they poisoned by a mystical industrial accident? Actually, no. It turns out they've been given a strange kind of gift, which the priest makes use of in a very appropriate way. Cool concept, powerful resolution. I could do without Constantine's final speech, and the art is rather odd (why are they always drawing everybody's eyeballs so freakishly huge??), but otherwise this is a really good one.

I have to say, I really enjoy holiday specials like this. They seem to turn out really well most of the time.
Thumbs Up

Hulk Family: Green Genes #1
This one-shot anthology of stories about the Hulk and his crazy family was supposed to come out a few weeks back, but I didn't find it on the shelf until this past week. *shrug* The first story is "Your Lucky Day," written by Fred Van Lente, with pencils by Scott Clark, inks by Greg Adams, and colors by Ulises Areola (is that a real name??). It's set during the strange time in Hulk's life when he was a big gray guy going by the name Joe Fixit. Joe is working as muscle for a casino, the same casino where Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk happens to be having her law school reunion. Joe is still hiding his true identity from everyone, so he's not exactly happy to see Jen there. She's sure she recognizes him, but his brutish actions and constant denials finally convince her she's wrong. Meanwhile, the two of them end up getting in a fight with some passing supervillains. The main themes of the story are fate and chance. Is it fate that all these characters ended up in the same place at the same time, or pure chance? Is it fate or chance that created the Hulk and She-Hulk? What if things had happened differently? They're vaguely interesting questions, but the comic is clumsy about asking them, and doesn't really do anything very interesting with them. I know Van Lente can be a pretty decent writer, but the dialogue and narration he provides here are not very good. The art is pretty good, at least (She-Hulk is hot!), but overall it's really not a great story.

Next up is another not-great story! It's "School for Savages" by Greg Pak with pencils by Jheremy Raapack, inks by Greg Adams, and colors by Chris Sotomayor. It's a story from the youth of Skaar, son of Hulk, and features Old Sam trying to get Skaar to embrace his destiny and save the world, and Skaar trying to teach Old Sam a series of harsh lessons about the world. It's an okay idea for a story, but it's not executed all that well. Pretty good art, pretty lame writing.

The next story is called "Daughter of Hulk" and is written by Paul Tobin with art by Benton Jew and colors by Moose Baumann (seriously, these are all real names?). Yep, the Hulk has a daughter, too! At least one, in fact. The guy drops kids all over the place! Anyway, the daughter we're talking about here is a woman whose name is never mentioned. Thundra made her by combining her own genetic material with that of the Hulk. This daughter of Hulk and Thundra lives on a future Earth where a warrior tribe of women known as the Femizons (sigh) is constantly at war with the men. In this story, Thundra's daughter discovers how the men are reproducing. She could strike a final blow in the Femizons' war against men, but some part of her - maybe some part of Banner - keeps her from doing so. Disturbed by her moment of compassion, which caused her to waver from her purpose, she throws herself back into battle. I like the art here quite a lot, but the story is kind of corny. It's hard to care much about these characters, or about the stark, ridiculous world they live in.

The last of the new stories is "Scorpion: Emerald Highway." Fred Van Lente again provides the words, with Diedrich O'Clark on pencils, Al Vey on inks, and Lee Loughridge on colors. This story is set immediately after the events of World War Hulk, and sees the green-haired, poisonous assassin Scorpion attacking a convoy to try to get a tissue sample from the imprisoned Bruce Banner, so she can determine whether he's really her father or not (a possibility that Amadeus Cho brought up to her during WWH). This is probably one of the better stories in the bunch; it's reasonably effective and interesting. But it's still not all that exciting.

The last thing in the book is a reprint of The Savage She-Hulk #1, featuring the origin story of She-Hulk. It's an old comic by Stan Lee, so it's not exactly a masterpiece of writing and characterization. It has the usual, clumsy, slang- and exposition-laden dialogue. Still, it's fun, and it's a great piece of comics history; I'm very glad to have read the original origin story of a classic character like She-Hulk.

Of course, what this one-shot is really all about is selling you other books. In the back are ads for She-Hulk, Skaar, Son of Hulk, Hulk: Raging Thunder (which features the origin story of Thundra's daughter), Scorpion: Poison Tomorrow, and Jeph Loeb's Hulk (the next issue of which apparently features She-Hulk and her Lady Liberators, a team which includes Thundra and a bunch of other ladies with giant breasts in tight outfits - seriously, you should see the cover graphic included here; it's ridiculous). Thing is, this book is so mediocre, all it's done is convince me not to buy any of those books (not that I needed any more convincing as far as Hulk and Skaar are concerned; I already know they suck).
Thumbs Down

The Mighty Avengers #20
The last one of these Avengers Secret Invasion tie-ins I read (The New Avengers #47) was disappointing, so I was a little leery of buying another one. But this issue is being billed as the epilogue to Secret Invasion, and features a closer look at the reaction to the death of Janet van Dyne, so I felt like I had to get it. And I was pleasantly surprised. This is a very well done, very moving comic. It's written by Brian Michael Bendis, natch, with pencils by Lee Weeks, Jim Cheung, and Carlo Pagulayan, inks by Weeks, Cheung, and Jeffrey Huet, and colors by Dean White and Jason Keith. It opens with Hank Pym flashing back to when the Avengers discovered Captain America frozen in the ice. He and Janet talk about what it would be like to wake up out of stasis like that and find yourself in a brand new world. There's also some romantic talk, and Janet says half-jokingly if Hank were frozen in a block of ice, she'd wait for him. Then we cut to Hank Pym with some other heroes, talking to a man about the funeral arrangements. Hank doesn't look good, can't deal, and has to leave. In the car, Carol Danvers tells him about all the terrible things he missed while he was away. Each big story arc is summarized by a huge full-page graphic, with Danvers' and Pyms' faces below, reacting to the telling. It's slightly comical seeing it all paraded out this way, but at the same time really powerful and even a little horrific. Of course, Pym was the man trapped in ice this time; he's the one waking up to a new world - but Janet wasn't able to wait for him after all. It's pretty agonizing, especially considering all the other crap he and Janet went through, and when he breaks down in the car with Carol, it's hard not to feel for him, especially since the scene is depicted with such realism and emotion. At the funeral, Pym stands up to speak, and quickly starts shouting in a rage, blaming Tony Stark for everything. Finally Thor steps up and defuses the situation with a pretty speech of his own, and then takes Pym out. That's not the last of the freak-outs at the funeral, though! Clint Barton sees Norman Osborn as everyone's filing out, and he just can't resist going over and being belligerent. Some pretty nasty words are exchanged. Later we see Osborn standing in Avengers Tower, holding a glass of champagne and smirking. Eee.

It's an achingly sad book, with a very dark ending, but it's all done very artfully and I enjoyed it very much.
Thumbs Up

Punisher: War Zone #2
Oh, man. This series is just brilliant. This issue starts off with a rather amusing vision of the new Elite's worst nightmare. Then Ennis takes your expectations for the story and blows them apart. When the Punisher saw someone who appeared to be Ma Gnucci at the end of the last issue, I assumed there would be some cat-and-mouse stuff as he tried to figure out if it was really her, and then eventually there would be a showdown in the last issue of the miniseries. Instead, the Punisher just immediately shoots everybody. It's brutal and brilliant and darkly hilarious. He is so hardcore. But anyway, according to Schitti, there's still yet another Ma Gnucci rolling around out there, so things get curiouser and curiouser. Meanwhile, the lesbian cop takes shit from no one, and brutally beats anybody who goes anywhere near her girlfriend. She's some character. I love the reference to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly at the end, and how it ties into the last scene at the cemetery. Ennis' dialogue is hilarious and fantastic, especially as far as the mobsters are concerned; he has wiseguy patter down pat. I never thought I'd turn around so completely on my estimation of Ennis, but I seem to have. I'll definitely have to track down his other Punisher stuff soon.
Thumbs Up

Spider-Man: Noir #1
Marvel is giving both the X-Men and Spider-Man the noir treatment in two new miniseries. I already tried the first issue of X-Men: Noir and enjoyed it, so I thought I'd give this a shot, too. Actually, it had "noir" in the title, so I was probably going to buy it anyway, but whatever. This was written by David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky, with art by Carmine Di Giandomenico. I recognized Di Giandomenico as the guy who does X-Men: Magneto - Testament, and sadly I continue to mostly dislike his work. There's something almost childish about the way he draws people. They come out looking rumpled and ugly. There's also a panel or two in here where the art is so clumsy I can't even tell what's supposed to be going on. As for the story and the writing, I didn't like those all that much at first, either - but that may have actually had a lot to do with my dislike of the art. Once I got further into book, I found myself enjoying it more and more, and going back over it, it really is a pretty neat story. It opens with the cops discovering a cloaked, armed, masked vigilante crouching over the bullet-ridden body of J. Jonah Jameson. He professes innocence, but they don't believe him, so he takes off, catching one of the cops in a web before he goes. Yep, it's Spider-Man!

We immediately jump back in time three weeks to see how things got to this pass. Turns out the story is set during the Great Depression, in an incredibly corrupt New York run by crime lord Norman Osborn, who goes by the name Goblin (no one knows why). His enforcers are all ex-carnies: the Vulture was a geek, Kraven was an animal trainer. While they enjoy the fruits of their illegal labors, people are starving and in dire straits all over. Aunt May is a socialist organizer who speaks out against the corrupt government. Uncle Ben was killed for pretty much the same thing. Peter is full of rage and a desire for revenge, but is also pretty much entirely powerless. Photographer Ben Urich serves as our narrator. When he meets Peter, he's both moved and irritated by the boy's righteous naivete, and takes him to a speakeasy called the Black Cat to try to show him the harsh realities of the world - but it only gives Peter a list of enemies, and new determination to see justice done. To protect him, Urich takes him under his wing and gets him a job helping him take photos for the Bugle. But Urich isn't telling Peter everything he knows about his uncle's death.

It's quite clever the way the writers have mapped Spider-Man's story onto a noir universe. There's maybe a bit more melodrama and dark angst here than I'd like, but overall it's a great story full of great ideas and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes next. Plus, the Vulture is a far more disturbing and threatening villain in this comic than he ever has been in the regular Marvel universe.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Last Generation #2
I wasn't sure I even wanted to buy another issue of this miniseries after the ridiculousness I witnessed in the first issue, but after flipping through this book in the store, I decided it looked interesting enough to give it a try. Now that I've read it, I remain a bit conflicted, but I'm mostly converted. There's the occasional moments of melodrama here that leave a bad taste in my mouth, but there are so many cool ideas that are so well executed that I'm mostly able to ignore them.

This issue is book-ended in a really cool way. The holographic doctor from Star Trek: Voyager (they manage to work nearly every character from every series into here somehow; it's really pretty impressive) tells Data there's no cure for not being human, and at the end of the issue, Data points out there's no cure for being human, either. Powerfully done, and a very Star Trek concept. Data has a lot of great lines in the issue, actually. Anyway, there's an exciting and tense sequence wherein Riker, Geordi, and Data are waiting to transport to the home base of the resistance on Earth, unaware that they've been followed by a Klingon ship commanded by Alexander, Worf's son. Luckily the Ghost is there, too, and helps out. Plus, Alexander gets anxious and makes a critical error. Then he gets the end he so richly deserves. I always hated Alexander. Anyways, Data gets to the resistance, and Picard figures out what's caused the timeline to go all screwy - a time-traveling dude named Braxton who stopped Kirk from stopping the assassination back at Khitomer. Picard wants to restore the timeline where Klingons and humans are at peace. But Wesley stomps in, exuding pure melodrama, and says he wants no peace with the Klingons. So now we have two factions.

It's interesting stuff! The sequences with Wesley are pretty awful, but then, they always were. I'm going to stick with this series and see where it goes.
Thumbs Up

The X-Files #2
This is the end of a two-issue miniseries by TV series co-creator Frank Spotnitz. At the end of last issue, Mulder was showing the same symptoms as a guy who'd killed himself. Skinner busts into his apartment and gets him to the hospital before he can actually kick the bucket, however, and the Lone Gunmen reveal what happened to both Mulder and the poor dude from the first issue: they absorbed a naturally occurring protein with a powerful psychotropic effect: it can make you paranoiac to the extent that your mind literally takes your own life. Which is similar to an idea in a recent episode of Fringe. Anyways, Scully goes back to the guy from the company that seems to be behind all of this and tries to push him into giving away something. There are more deaths, eliminating all the witnesses who could testify - except Mulder himself. So he goes and talks to the Congressional committee that's making the decision on the company's contract. And they believe him! But Mulder and Scully still fail to get the outcome they're hoping for.

The art's pretty cool - it's a bit dark, but the color choices are interesting and the depictions of the actors are very true to life - and the story's pretty cool, too, with some intriguing ideas and fun (if not terribly surprising) twists. But the story is also pretty simplistic, and some of my least favorite things about the TV show - like the angsty melodrama - have been copied over. This wasn't a terrible miniseries, but I wish it could have been better than just okay.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Garth Ennis (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hulk (Not), Punisher (Not), Secret Invasion (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Sentry (Not), The Take (Not), TV (Not), X-Files (Not)
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