Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Starman Plays Martian Memorandum - Part Four

In which all of our unmotivated petty thievery pays off and gives us the tools we need to rob Big Dick's Casino. We then save the day by reflecting on the nature of evil and indulging in even more conversations that don't really go anywhere.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Five #37 - A Review

Another time. Another place. Another Earth. It is an Earth where Superman has yet to become a tyrant and a pregnant Lois Lane is still quite alive. It's an Earth where Bataman's secret identity remains secret. It is an Earth where The Justice League remain allies in battle and fast friends, capable of celebrating a birthday together. Alas, there's no rest for the wicked and a coordinated attack by their fiercest foes requires a swift end to the Justice League's good time...



At this point there is very little left in the tale to tell and the ending of this issue seems to be leading into the start of the original Injustice game.  With little action and no suspense, this issue gives us a spirited little character story focusing on The Justice League in happier times. Your enjoyment of this issue may come down to one simple question - do you smile a little at the thought of Jim Gordon and Rene Montoya arguing over proper meat placement on a grill?

If the answer is yes, then you will find this comic quite amusing. If, however, you wish to quibble over Jim Gordon being invited to a Justice League gathering at Wayne Manor, Batman and Superman enjoying a beer together or the very idea of Batman hosting a barbecue with horseplay by the pool... well, I'm sure there's a more dour comic out there you can enjoy. The rest of us will enjoy Brian Buccellato's scripts, Xermanico's artwork and Rex Lokus' color art without you. This is a good, fun comic, plain and simple.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Starman Plays Martian Memorandum - Part Three

In which, having gotten our ass to Mars, we pick up the trail of the missing Alexis Alexander. This requires us committing several acts of petty theft, picking up random junk from storage closets in factories we have no reason to explore and pestering the high priestess of a cult for no reason other than we saw her on TV.


Detective Comics #939 - A Review

Before the battle with The Colony began, Tim Drake had made a fateful decision regarding his future as a vigilante and his collegiate career. It was a decision he had hoped to discuss with Batman in private but circumstances did not allow it. Now, with The Colony sending an army of drones into Gotham City, Tim Drake will have to make another big decision to save the city and his team.


Detective Comics continues to be the best of the new wave of Batman comics. While the focus of this issue is on Red Robin, James Tynion IV takes care to give every moment of the ensemble cast a moment to shine. Indeed, this may be the best issue yet for Clayface as far as character moments go.

The artwork maintains the same high level of quality. Eddy Barrows is one of the best artists working in the field today and every page of this book looks fantastic. It is the work of inker Eber Ferreira and colorist Adriano Lucas that truly make this book memorable, however, with subtle alterations crafting wonderful faded asides like the one above of Stephanie Brown.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Flash #5 - A Review

Thanks to the Speed Force storm stirred up by the criminal gang known as The Black Circle, STAR Labs scientist Meena Dhawan has become The Fastest Woman Alive! She's also become Barry Allen's new girlfriend, what with the two having become quite close as they taught the next generation of speedsters. This teaching - along with her newfound ability to sense the presence of the Speed Force in others - will lead Meena to an unwilling pupil named Wally West, just as the new villain dubbed Godspeed shows himself again.



Joshua Williamson's script for this issue is a real treat, shifting the focus from Barry Allen and giving some much needed development to both Meena and Wally. The artwork proves equally strong, with a uniform look throughout despite two inkers working on this issue. Felipe Watanabe's action scenes look amazing and Ivan Plascencia's colors are well-applied as always.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Titans #2 - A Review

The Titans have had their memories of their past together restored. Unfortunately, in Omen's efforts to restore their minds, she discovered - and accidentally awoke - another person trapped in a false-life. And that person is The Flash's old enemy - the mad mage Abra Kadabra!


Dan Abnett's script for this episode is thrilling enough, pitting the Titans against Kadabra's puppet versions of their Teen Titans equivalents. However, the characterization is still uncharacteristically shallow for Abnett's work. Only Wally, Roy and Donna are given any sort of character moment. And even then, Donna and Roy's moments are limited to their apparently remembering their love for one another.


The artwork is similarly mixed. Brett Booth draws a great action sequence but the characters' poses frequently seemed forced when they aren't meant to be in motion. Despite this, everything still looks good. Norm Rapmund does a fine job on the inks for the issue, finding the perfect balance between merely outlining the pencils and enhancing them. And the color art by Andrew Dalhouse and Carrie Sirachan perfectly finishes the final art.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #11 - A Review

Evil never sleeps. Well, metaphorically. Most super-villains do require some degree of sleep, even though there's supposed to be no rest for the wicked! But there is one villain whose whole gimmick is attacking heroes while they sleep. He is Nightmare and he has it in mind to drive Squirrel Girl nuts!

But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And it turns out what Doreen Green doesn't know can't hurt her. What does she know? Computer science! And she's going to use it to save the day and educate all you lucky readers!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a delightful book on every level. And this one-shot story is a perfect introduction for those who have yet to give this series a shot. Ryan North's script is a hoot, playing upon the literal nature of Nightmare's powers to great effect. The artwork by fill-in artist Jacob Chabot proves close enough to Erica Henderson's style that it took some work to find the one panel Henderson did draw for this issue. And the color art of Rico Renzi leaves every panel popping on the page. Simply put, this is one of my favorite comics right now. And this issue is a prime example why it is one of my favorite comics right now.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Lucifer #9 - A Review

The duel for ruler-ship of Hell is nigh! And Lucifer has accepted the invitation to watch his former lover and current Queen of Hell Mazikeen fight his son by the death goddess Izanmi-No-Mikoto. Yet there is more to the duel than meets the eye and more than even Lucifer could have predicted occurring at the same time in Heaven...


This series continues to be an exciting and surprising continuation of the saga first started by Neil Gaiman and continued by Mike Carey. In a relatively scant number of issues, Holly Black has utilized one of the richest mythologies in modern literature to excellent effect and made her own mark upon it. And the artwork by Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela is some of the finest to come out of Vertigo Comics in recent memory.

Batgirl #2 - A Review

Continuing her travels around Asia, Barbara Gordon travels to Singapore following the advice of a vigilante called The Fruitbat. It is here that Barbara elects to train as an MMA fighter while searching for the origins of the criminal gangs that seemed to be after her old friend Kai. She also begins to consider the possibility of a romance with Kai, who seems to be having similar thoughts about her.


I don't know if the creative team on Batgirl is intentionally trying to evoke the feeling of a Shojo Manga.  All I know is that they're succeeding, whether that was their intention or not. And the book is fantastic as a result!

Ironically, by taking Barbara Gordon outside of her usual environment, Hope Larson has cut to the core of the character in a way no writer on this series has managed since Gail Simone's run. Larson's take on Barbara is a genius detective akin to Sherlock Holmes and we get a few neat sequences of Barbara accessing her "memory banks" in order to recall specific clues. At the same time, this Barbara is also somewhat socially awkward but in the manner of someone who prefers computers and forensics to small talk rather than the cliche shy, stammering geek girl.


I was somewhat concerned about Rafael Albuquerque being the artist on this series, being familiar with his work on American Vampire. Albuquerque's style, however, proves surprisingly well-suited to Larson's scripts and the action of the issue. Dave McCaig's color art is also praiseworthy, lending a bright, kinetic aura to Albuquerque's inks and pencils that completes the Shojo aesthetic.

Clean Room #11 - A Review

Astrid Mueller is still in seclusion as a sinister Evangelic group makes a power play to take over her organization. At the same time, The Entities Astrid has devoted her life to fighting are preparing to go to war over the torture of one of their own. Only reporter Chloe Pierce has a chance of stopping that battle, thanks to a secret of her own. But could it be too late for her to turn the tide?
It's growing increasingly difficult for me to summarize each individual issue of this series in a way that makes sense to the uninitiated. Such is the complexity of the universe Gail Simone has crafted in a surprisingly short time. Her tales are matched in complexity by the vividly detailed artwork of Jon Davis-Hunt and the vibrant colors of Quinton Winter. I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you are any kind of horror fan, you need to be reading Clean Room.

Starman Plays Martian Memorandum - Part Two

In which we question a former actress turned trophy wife and a B-movie producer with the nose of a bloodhound. (The rest of his face doesn't look too good either.) And then we conjure a ladder by waving a gun around just before we tackle a death-trap filled jungle.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Five #36 - A Review

Zasaz has turned up dead in his cell - a mystery that further convinces Hal Jordan that Sinestro is hiding something within The Regime's new super-prison. Meanwhile, Deathstroke encounters some unexpected resistance in his mission to steal a Motherbox from STAR Labs. It seems The Regime has recruited Metamorpho as a secret security guard and he's more than willing to give the world's greatest mercenary a beating.


I want to like this issue of Injustice more than I did but it suffered from a serious case of deja vu. Sinestro's playing dumb with Hal regarding the constant security breaches around Zasaz has become a running gag.  The problem is that Sinestro playing dumb seems horribly out of character for the former Green Lantern whose biggest crime was arrogance.

I think the ultimate problem is that we're close enough to the ending now there's little room for the sudden surprises that have made this series a delight. So while it's nice to see Metamorpho, the fight between him and Deathstroke falls a little flat since the action of the battle isn't clear. Mike S. Miller illustrates it well enough but there's no explanation for some of that happens. A little more narration might have smoothed things over.  In the end, this comic is merely acceptable rather than excellent - still worth reading, but a disappointment compared to what we're used to seeing on this series.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Starman Plays Martian Memorandum - Part One

In which we're hired by the richest man in the world to find something that was stolen from him but he can't tell us what it is. Oh! And his possibly kidnapped daughter too, if time permits. We set about doing this by seducing his secretary, annoying a number of people in cheap prosthetic makeup  and blackmailing a stripper with a drug problem.

Yeah. Tex isn't the hero he once was...



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Aquaman #5 - A Review

Thanks to the actions of an Atlantean terrorist group, the United States and Atlantis stand on the brink of war! Only Aquaman stands a chance of ordering his armies to stand down. Unfortunately, Mera's efforts to free him from prison have only aggravated the situation and now a military strike force is out to kill them both...

The action in this issue is quite good and the artwork is excellent throughout. This doesn't stop the issue from seeming like filler but it is solid, enjoyable superhero action. As in most Dan Abnett stories, the best moments are the brief character scenes where we get to see the supporting cast shine. Too bad these moments are all too brief.

All-New Wolverine #11 - A Review

Laura, Gabby and Old Man Logan are settling into their new digs fairly well, despite having to deal with the most unlucky burglars ever. Unfortunately, SHIELD is concerned about a recent vision by their pet precog Ulysses - one which has predicted Logan killing Gabby in the immediate future!


Tom Taylor weathers the forced tie-in to Civil War II as best he can.  Unfortunately, not even the cutest Gabby scenes can mask the stupidity of the mini-series base concept or the contrivances this issue's plot requires. There is no circumstance in which sending a SHIELD SWAT team to take down a PTSD-suffering Logan makes a lick of sense. It makes even less sense that Captain America would allow that team to accompany him, even if his plan were to try and talk everyone into going along with what the secret spy organization wants. The action scenes are decent enough if you can get past the fact that everyone is fighting for the sake of the issue needing an action sequence.

Ig Guara's artwork continues to be uneven, despite only having one inker to work with this month. There is very little consistency to the characters appearances, with Wolverine herself shifting between looking like a middle-aged woman or like a adolescent girl depending on the panel. The final art looks very strained, thanks to Wong's thin inks and Michael Garlands muted colors.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Starman Plays The Secret Of Monkey Island - Part Six

In which we get a head in navigation before venturing into the bowels of Hell to save our beloved Elaine, destroy LeChuck and save the Caribbean for decent unwashed murder hobos to ply their trade of larceny and rapine. Complete with all the alternate endings and alternate credits.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey #1 - A Review

Someone has taken over the identity of Oracle - the alias Barbara used as an information broker during the time she was paralyzed. Thankfully she and Black Canary have a lead. Unfortunately, that lead is on the hit-list of a new masked marauder called The Huntress, who is out to kill all the Mafioso involved in the death of her family. Can this trio of vigilante vixens find common ground before their mutual enemies expose their identities or kill them off?

While the Rebirth incarnations of these heroines are a far cry from the versions who once headlined Gail Simone's Birds of Prey, it's clear that Shawna and Julie Benson had the classic series in mind while writing this opening arc. Huntress is a loose cannon, who perfectly pushes the buttons of the more order-minded Batgirl. This, in turn, forces the usually passionate Black Canary to play peace-keeper between the two. It's a fascinating balancing act and hearkens back to the interaction of the characters before they became fast-friends as well as partners in crime-fighting in the original series.

I'm still uncertain about artwork, however. Generally I like Claire Roe's style, but there's something about her design for Batgirl that just looks off - possibly the over-large eye-holes that do little to hide her face. Additionally, some of the posing of the characters seems awkward and forced at times. Still, the general dark aesthetic suits the story well and the colors by Allen Passalaqua are well-chosen.

Green Arrow #5 - A Review

With the good name of Oliver Queen, his family fortune and Black Canary held hostage, Green Arrow has no choice but to storm the secret fortress of the criminal syndicate known as The Ninth Circle. Thankfully, Green Arrow has an unexpected ally on his side. Yet when push comes to shove and it looks like everything may be lost, how much will Green Arrow sacrifice in the name of justice?


There is a lot about this opening arc I haven't liked. I dislike Black Canary being captured so easily and not winning free on her own. I dislike Emiko (easily the most annoying and least original of Jeff Lemire's contributions to the Green Arrow mythos, being a second-rate Damien Wayne) suddenly making an 11th Hour decision to pull a heel/face turn. And I dislike Shado being turned into an outright villain.

Yet, I realize that is the part of me that is a Green Arrow purist talking. And while I may quibble with certain aspects of the story, the greater part of what Benjamin Percy has written is good. His takes on Green Arrow and Black Canary are picture perfect. The romantic scenes between them have been enjoyable, if a bit rushed in execution. Percy also managed to do more to make Emiko a tolerable character than Lemire ever did, so full credit on that feat!


Whatever reservations I may have about have the story, I have none about the art. Juan Ferreyra is a phenomenal artist and proof positive of how effective it is when an artist handles their own inks and colors. Not to disrespect all the wonderful creative teams out there but the artwork in this issue of Green Arrow offers something wholly unique, full of energy and excitement from the base pencils to the colors chosen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Starman Plays The Secret Of Monkey Island - Part Five

In which we struggle to set foot on Monkey Island (TM), meet the last pantless unfortunate who got trapped on Monkey Island, destroy many local civil works projects (including a dam and some artwork) and steal many, many bananas - all to open a gateway to The Ghost Pirate LeChuck!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Conan The Slayer #2 - An Advanced Review/Preview

Rescued from certain death in the desert by whims of a Kozaki chieftain, Conan now finds himself serving as mentor and bodyguard to the chieftain's chosen heir. This displeases the chieftan's son, who seeks his father's position and is willing to bargain with dark powers and his tribe's enemies to claim it. Can Conan keep his new allies alive when they are blind to the treachery plotted by their own blood?






The second issue of Conan The Slayer continues the fine work lain out in the first issue.  Cullen Bunn's action-packed story is worthy of Robert E. Howard himself. And the artwork by Red Sonja artist Sergio Davila is some of the finest this series has seen in years. It is a must read for all fans of quality comics and the sword-and-sorcery genre.

Conan The Slayer #2 will be available for purachse on August 24th, 2016.    

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #2 - A Review

Banished from Gallifrey by The Doctor's Twelfth incarnation, the Time Lord President Rassilon has formed an unthinkable alliance with The Cybermen. Granted the power to travel through time, The Cybermen have begun to propagate themselves through time and space, threatening prehistoric Earth, the Sontaran Empire and even Gallifrey itself! Thankfully, The Doctor has a habit of arriving wherever and whenever he's needed... but now the universe needs four Doctors to save it!




The good news is that the artwork in the second issue of Supremacy of the Cybermen is far more consistent than it was in the first issue. The bad news is that the artwork is now consistently awful.

Ivan Rodriguez is easily the worst artist to be employed on any of the Doctor Who comics since Titan Comics took over the licence. At best, his artwork resembles off-model coloring-book pages. At worst, they resemble animation cels from The Legend of Zelda CD-i games. Colorist Nicola Righi doesn't help matters, with her bright-hued palettes being so inappropriate to what is meant to be a dark, disturbing story that it makes even those pages handled by Walter Geovanni look terrible!

The most damnable part of this remains that there is a great Doctor Who story underneath all the rushed, shoddy artwork. George Mann and Cavan Scott are two fantastic writers and it's a damn shame they couldn't be teamed with artists who could match their vision. Maybe we'll get lucky and Walter Geovanni will pencil the next issue by hmself?

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Five #35 - A Review

Lex Luthor and Batman have come up with a plan to recruit a Justice League from another dimension to help them fight The Regime. To pull it off, they'll need to steal a Motherbox from the most secure armory in the world. And to pull that off without exposing Batman will require the services of the world's greatest mercenary - Deathstroke!


I can't recall off-hand if Deathstroke has appeared in the Injustice comic or not before now. In either case, his appearance here is well handled and - much like the earlier appearances of Green Arrow and Harley Quinn - reflects the character as he was before The New 52. This is the principled mercenary Slade Wilson as written by Marv Wolfman and Brian Buccellato does a fine job capturing that voice.


Mike. S. Miller does an equally fantastic job on the artwork. The artwork for this series has rarely been anything worse than average but I believe Miller is probably my favorite of all the many fine artists to work on Injustice. He has a great eye for detail and always finds the perfect balance between merely outlining the original pencils and enhancing them. Talking of enhancements, the color art by J. Nanjan is impressive.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Starman Plays The Secret Of Monkey Island - Part Four

In which we use grog for purposes far safer than drinking it, take credit where credit is due, face a fearsome beastie and haggle over a well-loved sailing vessel, that we may set sail for Monkey Island (TM).

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Flash #4 - A Review

As more and more victims of The Speed Force Storm come forth, Barry Allen finds himself more and more absorbed in his role as a teacher and mentor to a new group of speedsters. But The Black Hole - the villainous group responsible for triggering the storm in the first place - are still determined to weaponize The Speed Force. And even with the assistance of his new partners, even The Flash may not be fast enough to stop them!


It seems ironic that The Flash should be so slow in building its story. Joshua Williamson's leisurely pacing results in a story where nothing much happens until the final pages. Those revelations, however, will leave readers anxiously anticipating the next issue. If nothing else, this issue proves a fascinating character study of Barry Allen, even if the action involving The Black Hole falls flat.


What Williamson's story lacks in energy, however, is more than made up for by the artwork. Neil; Googe's kinetic style is a good fit for the adventures of The Flash. And Ivan Plascencia's vivid colors perfectly enhance the original pencils.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor: Year Two #13 - A Review

A quick trip home has done little to sooth the nerves of The Doctor's current companions. Cindy is still reeling from the death of her first love and Gabby is coming to realize the emotional cost of being a time-traveling saver-of-worlds like The Doctor.

Unfortunately, their rest is cut short by unfinished business. Anubis, last of the Osirans, has grown impatient waiting for The Doctor's help in joining with the last of his people. And an old enemy may be ready to strike against them all!


The only real flaw with this series at this point is that it has become as complex in terms of continuity as the original Doctor Who show! The most recent issues - drawing off of several previous story lines - are inaccessible to new readers. It is a minor point, but one I have to consider as a critic when pondering Stan Lee's dictum that every comic should be written as if it was someone's first. A synopsis on the title page helps but the sad truth is that new readers won't get as much out of this book as those who have been reading since the first issue.

That being said, as a Doctor Who fan who has been reading since the first issue, Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor is easily the best of the monthly books Titan Comics has produced since winning the license. Writer Nick Abadzis has crafted characters and continuity as rich as any to be found on the original television series. He's perfectly captured the spirit of David Tennant's Doctor, giving him scenes where he revels in the simple pleasures around him - such as Gabby's mom telling his fortune. And he has effortlessly utilized aspects of the original show - such as the Ancient Egypt inspired Osirians from Pyramids of Mars - making them accessible to those younger Whovians unfortunate enough to have missed the Tom Baker era, even in reruns.


Abadzis' scripts are backed by some equally impressive artwork. Though this issue is light on action, things never seem dull or slow-paced. This can be attributed to the dynamic pencils, light inks and vivid colors utilized by the art team, which give this issue an energized feeling throughout.

Detective Comics #938 - A Review

Trapped inside the headquarters of the secret military black-ops group called The Colony, Batman needs a miracle. Or, at the very least, he needs back-up. Luckily Batwoman ignored his orders about not taking the team he placed in her command into the field yet...


This issue is largely one running fight sequence. And it's a damn fine sequence as these things go. Where James Tynion IV excels, however, is in the brief character moments in the midst of the fighting that further define the cast of this book. Everyone is given a chance to shine in the battle. We also get a touching flashback sequence explaining the motives of Jacob Kane, turning him into - if not a sympathetic antagonist - than at least a relatable one.


These flashbacks are also noteworthy in how well they display the skill of the art team. Not many artists are capable of varying their styles enough to create something that looks like it was created by a different artist. Yet the flashback sequences are rendered with softer inks and colors that leave it looking like it came from another art team entirely! Such is the skill of Raul Fernandez, Alvaro Martinez and Brad Anderson on this book.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor: Year Two #8 - A Review

The secret behind the space colony called The Twist has been revealed!  The Twist's human population were created by the alien Foxkin,who discovered the dead colony and cloned new human settlers before turning to hide in the underground places of The Twist. The Foxkin hierarchy wish to stay hidden, fearing that humanity will turn to violence if they discover the aliens in their midst. It is not an unjust fear but The Doctor - with the aid of rebellious Humans and Foxkin alike- will attempt to stop the oncoming race war through the power of punk rock.


By all rights, this should be a laughably silly comic. The idea of The Doctor fighting bigotry with a concert in order to stave off the worst impulses of two societies ruled by hatred and fear respectively should not work. And yet, under George Mann's pen, the idea not only works but is elevated into the sort of legendary story that defines the Doctor Who oeuvre.


The artwork for this series continues to astound. Backed by two able assistants, Mariano Laclustra's pencils have never looked better. And the color art by Carlos Cabrera gives this issue the appearance of having been painted. The final effect delivers some of the most glorious artwork ever seen in a Doctor Who comic.

Starman Plays The Secret Of Monkey Island - Part Three

In which we complete our exploration of Melee Island before going on a one-man reign of terror, dueling every unfortunate we encounter on the road. We also meet Stan, The Used Ship Salesman.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Five #34 - A Review

The Resistance has proof of Superman killing innocent civilians! Unfortunately, Superman still has some allies who believe the order he's imposing is more important than justice. And with his final plan thwarted, Batman will have to turn to his most desperate gamble yet.


The action is starting to die down as this series enters into its final issues. Thankfully, the plot here doesn't seem like pointless padding. Brian Buccellato does a fine job of keeping this story moving but there's not much he can do at this point to offer up the surprises and twists that made this series such a delight to read.

The artwork is stronger this week, but still seems a little rushed at times. Tom Derenick still has some issues with over-inking certain panels, though his pencil-work is much stronger in this chapter. And Rex Lokus continues to amaze with his color art.

Starman Plays The Secret Of Monkey Island - Part Two

In which we discover The Lost Treasure of Melee Island (TM), train with the famous Captain Smirk and explore the rest of Melee Island (TM) before meeting the woman who is destined to be the great love of our life... right before I go out of my way to demonstrate the one way you can actually die playing this game.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Giant Spider & Danny Johnson Saves The World - A Review

While I enjoyed myself greatly at this past weekend's Infinicon, I couldn't help but feel a certain degree of simultaneous ennui. Due to a personal crisis, my good friend Roy Buckingham (of Cult Film Fanatics) had to cancel all of his panels, including his Saturday night double feature of vintage science-fiction movies. Thankfully, the convention was able to find a most-excellent substitute on relatively short notice. Thus I was exposed to The Mihmiverse


Christopher R. Mihm is a triple-threat. In truth, he's probably a greater threat than that, given the many credits he is given at the end of his movies. Yet at his core he is a writer, producer and director of vintage B-movies. He has the look of a school-teacher but behind the unassuming facade is an auteur in the most classic sense - even if his area of expertise is movies that beg to be projected on a drive-in screen or viewed on The Late, Late Show.


The first film of the evening was Mihm's 2013 release The Giant Spider. As one might guess from the title, the story involves a giant spider created by excess radiation. As the titular arachnid runs rampant through 1950s suburbia, it falls to a trio of scientists and an intrepid reporter to save the day when the might of the American Military proves insufficient.


Mihm perfectly captures the aesthetic of the old giant-animal movies of yesteryear. The special effects are low-grade, yet skilfully applied. A live spider crawls across obvious models and in front of green-screens, with a puppet being used for close-ups when the spider attacks its prey.


What really sells The Giant Spider, however, is the performances of the cast, who manage to go over-the-top in just the right way. Mihm's script also proves to be a highlight, as the film has fun with the conventions of the genre. The townsfolk, for instance, are all too ready to flee at the prospect of an invasion of Russians or Aliens but laugh down any attempt to suggest a giant spider is about to spoil the big dance. And, of course, there's a scene where an alcoholic hobo sees the giant spider and immediately swears off booze forever.


If The Giant Spider is Mihm's salute to Bert I. Gordon-style creature features, then Danny Johnson Saves The World is his tribute to classic boys' adventure fiction.  Released in 2015, the movie is told by our titular hero - now a grandfather being pestered for a story by his grandchildren as he's trying to take a long winter's nap. So he tells them the story of the first time he saved the world from alien invaders, back when he was a young boy about their age.


Danny Johnson Saves The World plays out like a lost collaboration between Jim Henson and Stephen King. I admit this may seem a daft comparison on the face of it as all of Mihm's films are decidedly family friendly but I think the comparison holds up.  Like Stand By Me, Danny Johnson Saves the World is a tale told in flashback of how a boy took his first steps to becoming a man. And like It, it's about a group of children confronting an evil they should never have had to face. The fact that said evil manifests as stop-motion dinosaurs and murderous puppets is besides the point.

If you're the sort of person who has a shrine to Vincent Price or who prefers the creativity of Roger Corman and William Castle to Michael Bay or Brent Ratner, I think you'll love The Mihmiverse as much as I do. These are not mere movies but works of love and art. And if you're a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, the movies are good riffing fodder by design. I can tell you from personal experience that Mr. Mihm takes no offense at people laughing at his movies so long as they are enjoying themselves.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Starman Plays The Secret Of Monkey Island - Part One

In which we set about exploring Melee Island in our quest to become a mighty pirate! This entails us quizzing a bunch of drunkards and perusing a career as a circus crash test dummy.

It all makes sense in context, really!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Infinicon 2016 Schedule

I'll be presenting several panels this weekend at Infinicon 2016 in Dallas.  Here's my schedule.


FRIDAY

12:00 PM - Secret Origins - The History of American Comics - Dogwood Room

3:00 PM - The History of Manga & Anime (Abridged) - Pecan Room

8:00 PM - The Eye of Argon Live! - Maple Room


SATURDAY

6:00 PM - Secret Origins - The History of American Comics - Maple Room

8:00 PM - Off-Target Live! - Oak Ballroom


SUNDAY

11 AM - History of Cosplay - Dogwood Room

Suicide Squad - A Spoiler Free Review and Some Spoiler-Filled Discussion

Is Suicide Squad a good movie?  Yes.

Is it a perfect movie? No.

Is it an abomination that will surely end the era of the superhero movie and/or DC Comics Cinematic Universe? To the dismay of many a snooty critic and Marvel Zombie... if I may quote Will Smith, "Oh HELL no!"

The best way I can describe the movie, for those who have read the Suicide Squad comics by John Ostrander and Kim Yale that largely inspired the movie, is to compare it to The Ataris' cover of Don Henley's Boys Of Summer. They may have changed the orchestration and the lyrics a little but the spirit and message are exactly the same. 

The performances are all good. Some changes have been made that many annoy certain purists but the choices generally work to improve the story flow. It is worth noting that Viola Davis captures Amanda Waller perfectly. And however you may feel about her costuming, Margot Robbie IS Harley Quinn in all her paradoxical glory.

So yes - I'd recommend it. And be sure to stick around for the scene mid-way through the credits.

More in-depth discussion under the image. Abandon this web page lest ye be SPOILERED!


WHAT WENT WRONG?

Let's just get this out of the way, shall we?

* Rick Flag Jr. is mishandled. The character's defining characteristic in the comics has always been that he's been a good soldier who tries to live up to his dad's legacy.  Apparently that was too complicated for a flashback, so instead we find out that Amanda Waller manipulated events so that Rick would fall for June Moon and that she used his love for her to manipulate him into being the field commander for Task Force X, despite his objections to employing criminals for military missions.

* For that matter, the romance between June and Rick isn't developed very well.  I suspect that they may get the least screen time out of all of The Squad members, which is unfortunate since the main plot of the movie is focused on Enchantress.

* Katana's presence is kind of pointless and she doesn't get nearly enough to do.

* Captain Boomerang is criminally underused. And I want to see what his perfect world would look like.  (Maybe that was one of the cuts made to get the movie down to PG-13?)  Ditto Killer Croc.

* The unicorn doll. I don't know if this was added in because of Deadpool or was shot before it came out. Either way, that little gag probably should have been cut.

* The Juggalo fashion designs for Joker and Harley just look ridiculous. And not in a funny ha-ha ridiculous way.

* The soundtrack goes a little overboard in trying to provide appropriate themes. I'm honestly we surprised we didn't get Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic for Enchantress or Down Under for Boomerang.

* Enchantress' dancing while working her spells just looks goofy as all hell.

* A lot of the action-scenes are shot way too close and are way too dark. Maybe it was just the settings in my theater, but I could barely see some parts of the final fight.


Now, with that out of the way... let's look at some of the bits I think we were most worried about.



THE JOKER/HARLEY RELATIONSHIP

I've seen some critics complain that this is ambiguous but honestly, I think that's the way to go with it. Batman: The Animated Series dithered on this point as well up until Mad Love and there''s enough textual and metatextual evidence to make a case that The Joker (or at least one of his personalities) does harbor some genuine affection for Harley AND that The Joker (or one of his personalities) just sees her as one more prop to be used in his performances.

In one flashback, The Joker offers Harley to one of his business associates and Harley plays along with it. Joker winds up offing the guy but it's unclear if it's because he's insulted the man refused his gift or that said associate was even willing to entertain making time with Joker's gal for a moment. Is it romance or possessiveness? Can't it be both?  Or was it because it was Tuesday?

And then we have Joker's line to Harley right before she freely dives into the chemical vat. The one which sounds like a lost line from 50 Shades of Grey - "Desire leads to submission. Submission leads to power." Of course in a consensual BDSM relationship, the submissive does have all the power, but how much control did Harleen Quinzel have over her transformation into Harley Quinn?  Again, it could go either way.

To that end, Margot Robbie is a perfect Harley Quinn. She is both the bad-ass moll and the romantic who dreams of settling down somewhere that's green with The Joker as needed. Which is as it should be. They may seem contradictory to some critics but Harley's whole character is contradictory. That's part of her charm!



THE FRESH PRINCE OF GOTHAM

They did change Floyd Lawton a little bit for the sake of having Will Smith play him but the changes are largely cosmetic. Lawton's famed death wish is present (we see him insulting the guards in Belle Reve and spoiling for a fight when his cell doors are open) as is his snarky attitude. And while it's somewhat rushed, there's even a hint of the odd frienemy relationship that developed between Rick Flag and Deadshot in the original comics. For that, I can tolerate Will Smith calling The Wall "gangsta" after she shoots several of her own men.

We don't learn much of Lawton's history here, but it seems to take more from the New 52 origins where Lawton was the product of a poor family rather than a rich scion and a dark mirror of Bruce Wayne. There's also a fair bit of the character as written by Christos N. Gage in the 2005 Deadshot mini-series, where it was revealed Deadshot had an illegitimate daughter and he made an honest effort to try and clean up her neighborhood and take care of her despite his realization that he had no idea how to be a good guy OR a father.

The desire to do right by his daughter is this Deadshot's main motivation and we see some of that awkwardness in Smith's portrayal. There's a sense that he knows he's a bad man and that won't stop him from at least trying to be the dad his daughter needs.  Even if this does lead to him making a geometry lesson more complicated by trying to factor bullet weights into calculating the hypotenuse of a triangle.



FINAL THOUGHTS ON WHAT WENT RIGHT


* Despite certain members of the cast being criminally underused, there isn't really a bad performance in the whole movie.

* Viola Davis is PERFECT as The Wall.

* The scenes of the characters talking to each other are great. The movie needed more moments like that and less action scenes of the team fighting Lovecraftian beasties.

* The Flash cameo was pretty much perfect.

* As much as I hate The Joker's blinged-out teeth, I genuinely liked Jared Leto's performance as The Joker. Oddly enough, he reminded me of the Caesar Romero portrayal of The Joker, with the nightclub scene seeming like a modern update of the old Batman episodes where you would see the villains openly going out in costume to enjoy a night on the town.

* Jay Hernandez pretty much steals the movie as El Diablo.

* Overdone as they were, a lot of the music-video sequences are pretty good.

* Loved the shout outs to John Ostrander. Both of them.

* The mid-credits sequence. Perfect.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Aquaman #4 - A Review

As a show of good faith, Aquaman has allowed himself to be imprisoned in the wake of an apparent Atlantean attack on an American warship. As an increasingly impatient Mera directs the Atlantean investigation into the incident, other forces on both sides of the brewing conflict work to escalate tensions between the two nations.

While I expected good things from Aquaman #4 I wasn't expecting one of the best political metaphors in recent comics history. Abnett draws parallels between the surface world's fear of Atlantis and American xenophobia with surprising subtlety. The artwork by Philppe Briones is full of similar complexity, with an astonishing amount of detail fit into every panel. And Gabe Eltaeb's color art completes the book perfectly.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Five #33 - A Review

The race is on for both The Regime and The Insurgency. As Batgirl desperately tries to hack Cyborg's memory banks and find some proof of Superman murdering unarmed protesters, The Regime works to find Batman's team and to save the life of a poisoned Superman. And even now The Flash can't help but wonder if he's chosen the right side...


This art in this issue is uncharacteristically weak. I'm quite fond of Tom Derenick's work - both here and on Secret Six - but there are a lot of panels here that just look off, whether it be due to the proportions of the characters, some oddly chosen angles or the overly heavy inks. Every artist has their off days and this is definitely not one of Derenick's better pieces of work.


Thankfully the writing is as strong as ever. Brian Buccellato makes The Flash our point-of-view character again - not surprising his long history of writing the character and Barry Allen's status as a man in the middle in this story. And the scene in which he confronts Lex Luthor with his fears is a dramatically ironic one, given that Barry is totally unaware of Lex's own secret campaign against Superman.