Monday, October 26, 2015

Comic Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #1


More space action! More Guardians! More...Ben Grimm?

After a brief text prologue that informs us that "the entire galaxy is a mess" we learn things have changed for the Guardians of the Galaxy. Peter Quill has now taken over from his father as ruler of Spartax and finds himself dealing with unwanted attentions and taxation of trade route debates. The team now has new members Ben Grimm and Kitty Pryde (taking Quill's position as Star-Lord) and after barely surviving a fight with the Chitauri come into possession of a mysterious artifact who needs experts. A trip to Spartax seems the best solution but as the usual shock ending reveals the Guardians are in their usual trouble.

With Marvel now relaunching their entire Universe with new number ones, I took a chance on this and Invincible Iron Man and so far they have been fun but this one has the edge. Credit goes to Brian Michael Bendis, who brought together the last version of the Guardians and now is handling the new team. Thankfully he retains the humor and fun while crafting a thrilling sci-fi tale. The addition of the Thing and Kitty is also excellent, even if it is still Rocket who steals the show.

Complementing the story is the artwork by Valerio Schiti. Schiti captures the flavor and characters well, setting them up with a sure hand. Plus the opening spread showing the Guardians is a jam packed joy to look at. Schiti also accentuates the humor of this issue. Just check out Quill's attempt to avoid an amorous alien and try not to laugh at the facial expressions.

If you love humor, science fiction and action than this might be what you're looking for. Enjoy and have fun with the new Guardians of the Galaxy! Until next time folks.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

'John Carter, Warlord of Mars' #12 Sneak Peek


With issue 12 of John Carter, Warlord of Mars hitting next week, Bleeding Cool has posted a look at the first few pages, both in early black and white and the finished color version. It's an interesting look at the evolution of a comic and I think fans will enjoy it so head over to http://www.bleedingcool.com/2015/10/24/a-look-inside-john-carter-warlord-of-mars-12/ and check it out. UPDATE: Comic Book Resources has posted a look at the completed pages so head over to http://www.comicbookresources.com/comic-previews/john-carter-warlord-of-mars-12-dynamite-entertainment-2015 to check them out.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Comic Review: Shattered Empire #3


Still catching up so here's my take on the third issue of Star Wars: Shattered Empire.

This issue has our heroes off on two missions. The first finds Sergeant Kes Dameron helping lead an assault on an Imperial Security site with Han Solo and Chewbacca that leads to the discovery of the Emperor's last order, Operation Cinder. Meanwhile Kes's wife Shara Bey and Princess Leia find themselves trapped on Naboo as the Empire launches the order. It's up to them, along with Queen Sosha, to fight off the Imperial ships before the planet itself is destroyed.

Like the first two issues, Greg Rucka and company are knocking these out of the park, presenting a story that is pure Star Wars. The team is presenting a good balancing act, setting up things for The Force Awakens while harkening back to the original trilogy and even beyond. There is enough action and moments that stick out. Among them: the opening battle; Chewie knocking skulls; Leia's reaction to the Naboo hangar and the discovery of her burgeoning Force powers; the air battle and much more that I don't want to spoil it.

Helping is the tremendous artwork by Marco Checchetto and Angel Unzueta that catches the reader's eye and manages to accommodate the story being told. The battles look great, the characters are vivid and real and the color and light is handled brilliantly. I know that sounds like gushing but with work this good you have to.

I'll get a review of this week's final issue up soon. For now go out and get this series if you haven't. Next time another Marvel space comic review. Until then folks have fun.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

'The Force Awakens' The Final Trailer is Here!




It's here and December 18 can't get here fast enough. What I love about it is that it gives us enough of a glimpse without telling us anything about the movie yet isn't confusing if that makes sense, Plus seeing Han and Leia return, the creepy bit where Kylo Ren is communing with the helmet and the scope of it...just watch and leave any comments below.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Opinion Time: 'Tarzan' and the Negative View


Sorry it's taken this long to comment but I needed to put my thoughts together and take a step back to think about this.

For those just tuning in, last week the Hollywood Reporter posted a story that said in effect that David Yates' upcoming Tarzan was turning into a disaster, with a budget near $180 million, poor to middling test audience results, questions about star Alexander Skarsgard's appeal and the fact that Yates is now busy shooting the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, leaving Tarzan in limbo as the director is reportedly only looking at the film on weekends. All of this and the fact that distributor Warner Bros. is coming off a string of flops (including Jupiter Ascending and Pan) and the head of the studio is more invested in making sure that Batman V. Superman and their planned DC Universe film franchise goes off without a hitch, leaving other projects in the dust.

For fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs this was deja vu all over again. Just replace Tarzan with John Carter, Warners for Disney, Skarsgard for Taylor Kitsch and that 180 mil for 250 (even though latter it was discovered it was 306) and it's the same story. Heck even the same Reporter writer, Kim Masters, wrote both pieces (does Masters have some sort of dislike for Burroughs and feels the need to write pieces basically trashing movies based on ERB's work?). Even both studios' obsession with their comic book properties at the expense of everything else is present.

But the question is this: How much of this is true and if it is is there a way to change gears and fix this before Tarzan becomes another John Carter? Well let's look at some of the bits from this article and see:

--The Budget. Before this article came out the budget for the film wasn't reported but some sites reported at best a $90-120 million budget, pretty conservative for a blockbuster these days. There is no reason given for the increase outside of vague references to costly visual effects so for all we know the budget is still around the $90-120 million range or if it has gone up it could be due to other factors. Is this cause for alarm? Well it can be since it would mean that Tarzan at best would have to clear $360-400 million at the box office and that's not counting how much more it would need to make to clear the marketing and distribution costs.

--Poor test screenings. Again we don't know how the test screenings really went or for that matter who made up the audience for these films. In fact just because a film receives a negative test screening doesn't mean the film is a complete loss. In fact some films have the reverse, receiving glowing marks at test screenings and then flop when they come out (as some might remember John Carter's test scores were reportedly pretty high and the film still failed). If Yates and Warners are looking at the results they may be trying to fix the film and make it right. In some cases these fixes can save a movie and produce a hit. So let's put that the side for now.

--Skarsgard's box office appeal. This is a major hurdle that even before the film started production some-including ERB fans-were questioning. True neither Skarsgard nor co-star Margot Robbie have opened a film on their own but what's notably absent in the Masters article is any mention that Tarzan boasts Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz, both talented actors and whose presence would help generate interest from movie goers. Also let's compare Tarzan's lead pair to John Carter: Skarsgard has film credibility thanks to well received indie films like Melancholia and The Diary of a Teenage Girl as well as pop culture status thanks to his role on True Blood, a show that put him on talk shows, magazine covers and fan conventions such as Comic-Con. Robbie meanwhile has had leading roles opposite leading men like Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Will Smith (Focus) that has raised awareness, not to mention that after Tarzan she will be playing Harley Quinn in DC's Suicide Squad, so neither of them are complete unknowns. Compare that to Kitsch, who at best was coming off a highly acclaimed but low watched TV series and Lynn Collins, who prior to Carter at best was appearing in supporting roles in little seen indie films and TV guest spots.

--The director issue. OK this is a big one. If Yates is tied up with Fantastic Beasts and Tarzan needs major work that leaves the latter in a state of limbo since Warners has made it clear that FB has to go now and is one of their sacred tent pole films, leaving word that the studio may even delay Tarzan to allow more time for Yates to work on it. On the surface it sounds like issues with the studio, not the director and Yates has proven his worth with the box office and critical success of the last four Harry Potter films. The article also mentions that directors have in the past started new projects while finishing up previous ones, the most notable being Steven Spielberg starting Schindler's List while in the post-production phase on Jurassic Park. If Yates could balance both then this becomes a non-issue. If anything at least it isn't Andrew "They Fear Me" Stanton and his Pixar Method Madness causing issues for the film and the budget.

--The DC Factor. Or maybe it's the fact that the last reason isn't as worrying as this one. The Reporter article makes it clear that Warner Bros chief Kevin Tsujihara is more invested in making sure Ben Affleck battling Henry Cavill is THE blockbuster of 2016 and everything else doesn't matter. Of course this is a big deal for Warner Bros. They own DC and have for decades struggled-outside of Batman-to bring those characters to the big screen and they are determined to make it work, even if the last DC film (Man of Steel) failed to live up to their own predictions and split audiences. It's the proverbial "putting all your eggs in one basket" approach that studio chiefs seem to have and are blind to the fact that other films need as much attention (or in this case that trusting your most valued properties to Zack Snyder doesn't help). It would be a shame if Tarzan had to be sacrificed just to make way for Aquaman the Motion Picture. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

So what can be done to fix this? Warner Bros needs to start promotion soon, they need to stand by this film and not just dump it. They also need to realize that forcing their directors to start films when their previous ones need work isn't a good idea and that not everyone is excited for Batfleck and gloomy superheroes. Maybe the failure of Pan will wake them up and Tarzan will be ready and set to go and surprise everyone by being both a good film and a box office hit. There is always hope and despite what the naysayers, secret sources and Kim Masters thinks sometimes that helps. If you have any thoughts leave them below.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Comic Review: Shattered Empire #2


Sometime this weekend I'll share my thoughts on the whole Tarzan story that broke earlier this week. But for now here's a late review.

With the galaxy still recovering from the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the Death Star both the Empire and the Alliance are at a crossroads. However a surviving message from Palpatine might change everything as he orders Operation: Cinder, an order that convinces some Imperials that he is still alive. Meanwhile pilot Shara Bey is still in the fight when she receives her new assignment: fly Princess Leia to Naboo so she can start negotiations with the ruling queen and have another ally to the New Republic. Both arrive and before they get to comfortable discover what Operation Cinder is all about.

Like the first issue Greg Rucka knocks this one out of the park. From the opening with the message of the Emperor (delivered by a rather creepy messenger) to Shara dealing with separation from her husband and child (and yes spoiler fans it confirms a big connection to The Force Awakens) i is an excellent read that I don't want to spoil too much. Just pick it up.

Helping tell the tale is the art credited here to the team of Marco Checchetto, Angel Unzueta and Emilio Laiso. They capture the battle sequence near the beginning-complete with AT-ATs, A-Wings and other ships-with flair, recapturing the action from the movies while at the same time making sure the characters don't get lost in the shuffle. I can't think of any higher praise except it just made me want to turn the pages faster.

Maybe it's just wanting to see where the story goes but so far this has been the best of Marvel's new Star Wars comics to date. With issue 3 out this week and 4 next week I'll do my best to have reviews up for them soon. Until next time guys.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

'Tarzan' Trouble at Warners?


Well if you're wondering why we haven't seen anything yet from David Yates' Tarzan, the Hollywood Reporter may have the answer. In a new article titled "Warner Bros. Faces 'Tarzan' Trouble as Director Is Double-Booked" reported problems have emerged, including a studio nervous by both reported test screenings of Tarzan, a reported $180 million budget for the film and the recent failure of Warner's bid budget fantasy Pan. The biggest problem though is that Yates is now busy shooting the studio's Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to work on Tarzan and the passing of producer Jerry Weintraub has left the production without a supporter.

It sounds like the main takeaway is that Warner Bros. is too busy putting their money and support behind their DC Cinematic Universe, the Potter franchise and little else. If Tarzan is having problems behind the scenes they may still result in an excellent or successful motion picture or at worst another John Carter sized bomb. For more check out http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/warner-bros-faces-tarzan-trouble-831921 and leave any thoughts below.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dark Horse Brings 'Avatar' To Comics


While the wait for the sequels, James Cameron and Dark Horse Comics has announced that a new comic book series will explore Pandora, with Cameron himself promising that the storylines will explore "the past, present and future world" of Avatar. For more check out http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/dark-horse-comics-continue-james-831036 and you can also watch Cameron's short video from New York Comic-Con announcing the series below.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

'Sherlock' Christmas Special Trailer


While there is still no official date, BBC and Masterpiece PBS has released a new trailer for the upcoming Victorian-Era set special and it looks great. Especially seeing Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman spar as Holmes and Watson and the classic era approach. So put your damn hats on and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

'Dejah Thoris' Returns!


It looks like the Incomparable Princess of Helium will be getting her own comic book series again. At the New York Comic-Con Dynamite Entertainment announced a new Dejah Thoris series that will fall under the "narrative direction" of Red Sonja and Swords of Sorrow writer Gail Simone. The new series according to the plot description will find Dejah suffering"a fall from grace for the Martian princess, as she embarks on a self-imposed exile, assuming a new identity and enlisting as a rookie soldier on the farthest, deadliest borders of her Barsoomian civilization." The series will be written by writer Frank J. Barbiere (Avengers World and Solar: Man of the Atom) and is set to debut in February 2016. For more information check out http://www.comicbookresources.com/article/nycc-simone-scott-revamp-red-sonja-vampirella-dejah-thoris-for-dynamite

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Red Planet On Screen



With The Martian landing at the box office this weekend, two things happened: A science fiction movie topped the box office and people went to a movie with the word (or at least a variation of it) Mars in the title. So much for what Disney and Andrew Stanton knew. In honor of that the Las Vegas Review-Journal has posted a look at how the movies has portrayed Mars, from Thomas Edison's A Trip to Mars to The War of the Worlds to past attempts to bring John Carter of Mars to life. Even how Indiana Jones would have met "Saucer Men from Mars!" For more hit http://www.reviewjournal.com/entertainment/movies/interesting-facts-about-the-red-planets-depictions-the-silver-screen

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Retro Comics: John Carter King-Size Annual #2


We continue the "king-size" adventures of John Carter as he confronts "The Headmen of Mars!"

While testing a new flagship of Tardors Mors, Carter, Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkas find themselves caught in a huge storm that knocks the ship's captain overboard. Using an equilibrimotor Carter rescues the captain but gets knocked out and disappears into the storm. Luckily for him the motor remains on and he floats to ground safely. Unfortunately for him he lands in Bantoom, home of the Kaldanes and their leader Taak, who has teamed with mad scientist Ras Thavas to launch a sneak attack on the cities of Barsoom. With help from an outcast Kaldane and a great white ape who has also gone under Thavas' knife, Carter attempts to foil their plans.

I remember this issue being a mess before and I'll admit it isn't, But it is a hodgepodge of ideas and characters lifted from latter novels like The Chessmen of Mars and The Master Mind of Mars that contradicts those stories (like Carter's discovery of Bantoom when Edgar Rice Burroughs makes it clear that Tara is the first Red person to find it) but there is still a rousing tale with enough ghoulish imagery to make it readable. An interesting note is that this annual is written by Bill Mantlo, the co-creator of Rocket Raccoon and he does a good job keeping the pace going.

The Ernie Chan artwork is also good but filled with odd choices. Ras Thavas for example is depicted basically as a Kaldane instead of the withered old man Burroughs describes but beyond that the characters are handled well and the action scenes drawn with a clear focused hand.

I guess memories can play tricks since "The Headmen of Mars" is a much better issue that I remember that fans will enjoy as long as they accept some of the ideas presented. Next time we wrap up  (I promise!) the 1970s John Carter, Warlord of Mars saga with "Amazons on Mars!"

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Retro Comics: Tarzan Le Monstre


A find at a local used book store and voila, a retro review as Tarzan heads to the Opera, New York and the zoo.

Collecting six issues from Dark Horse's 1990s Tarzan series, the first two issues titled "Le Monstre" finds Tarzan and old pal Paul D'Arnot in Paris where Paul plans to lay out his heart to his new love, Christine Daae. Unfortunately a masked man with his own fondness for Christine intervenes, abducts her and leads Tarzan into the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House. The next story arc, "The Modern Prometheus" has Tarzan in New York running into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and inventor Nikola Tesla. But when a mysterious stranger steals a book from Tesla's vault it leads to Thomas Edison and an attempt to follow in the footsteps of a former scientist's experiments with life and death. The final story, "Tooth and Nail" still finds Tarzan in New York where he's asked to help the police track down a brutal killer. Eventually with help from fellow Mangani Ko Ved track down a monster known simply as Hyde.

As you can tell these stories, all written by Lovern Kindzierski, follow the same pattern: Tarzan, a few deaths and classic monsters, in this case the Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein's Monster and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. What's sort of interesting is how this literary mashup was published years before The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would take a similar idea. However the execution here is somewhat scattershot, with the Phantom story being the weakest, the middle being pretty good and the last one OK. Nothing groundbreaking but entertaining enough.

The artwork is also just OK. Split between artists Stan Manukian and Vince Roucher, the work varies too much to stand out or compete with classic Tarzan artists like Foster, Hogarth, Manning or the great work by Thomas Yeates on Dark Horse's The Return of Tarzan series. Some of it is stunning and some it just doesn't click so art fans may want to approach with low expectations.

Looking back at this collection it's an interesting idea and might be worth exploring again at some point (especially since Tarzan Meets Dracula could be fun) but here it's just a reminder of the comic books of the 1990s. Next time another retro comic look so stay tuned.