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FILM REVIEW: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

(New Line Cinema, 2014)

Finally… After three long and tidious years, the trilogy of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) comes to a close with excitement, adventure, and successful completeness. I, as many, have been a Tolkien fan for most of my life. I can clearly remember as a middle schooler longing for the chance to see the Lord of the rings on the big screen. After tonight’s viewing of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, I can proudly state that Peter Jackson successfully etched The Hobbit into cinematic history.

This continuation of the tale of Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf cohorts places them at the beginning of the end. After successfully finding their way into the Lonely Mountain in the second Hobbit film, the dwarves and Bilbo have pushed the great dragon to his breaking point. Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, wants revenge for having been disturbed as he slept beneath his plunder.  He pledges to strike doom on the people of Lake Town because of the interferences caused by the dwarves. Smaug is fierce, destructive, and believes that he has no competition in all of Middle Earth. Luckily, for the people of Lake Town, their champion archer, Bard (Luke Evans) takes on the great beast with what might possibly be the luckiest shot in the history of Middle Earth. I should definitely check the Silmarillion for that one. Continue reading

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Review: Space Dandy

Anime director Shinichiro Watanabe is probably best known to Western audiences for his work on the series Cowboy Bebop, but in the years since Bebop he’s also been directorially responsible for the shows Samurai Champloo, Kids and the Slope, and most recently Space Dandy.

All of these shows are linked by a common theme: in each, a group of troubled individuals find themselves drawn together into an unlikely alliance, and–as a team–achieve a fuller, more real sense of themselves than they ever could have reached on their own. We saw this process occur against a hipster, futuristic-noir background in Cowboy Bebop, as a pseudo-historical hip-hop/samurai mashup in Samurai Champloo, through the soap operatic realism of Kids on the Slope and, in Space Dandy…well, Space Dandy is a different beast altogether.

Let me preface my review of Space Dandy by saying that, while I enjoyed the show, it’s beyond “not for everyone.” It’s not that Space Dandy is an acquired taste, but rather a taste than one will either “get” or reject immediately, and either response seems perfectly reasonable. Space Dandy is, as the opening segment tells us, a dandy in space. And that sums up the show nicely. Dandy is a well-coiffed male airhead with a sweet pompadour, a Luau-themed spacecraft (the Aloha-Oe), and an obsession with “Boobies” (an intergalactic, Hooters-esque theme restaurant) and females in general. Continue reading

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Review: Hit 1955

(Boom! Studios, 2014)

Written by Bryce Carlson
Illustrated by Vanessa R. Del Rey
Colors by Archie Van Buren
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
I’ve gotten past the idea that the awesome cover art that peeks over the dividers on comic store shelves matches the art inside.  My younger self was burned more than once on the deal.  With Hit 1955 I was pleasantly surprised.  The awesome cover art only opened into pages and pages of similarly awesome interior art.

Bryce Carlson (Fanboys vs. Zombies, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) has revived the 50’s crime novel with this trade from Boom! Studios.  Carlson has written a comic that reeks of noir, from the stench of stale cigarette smoke to last night’s spilled whiskey.

Detective Harvey Slater is a man’s man.  He one tough-nosed son of a bitch. Drinks and smokes, does all the things that we in the 21st century know is a really unhealthy way to live, and doesn’t care a whit about it.  Harvey is about neck high in trouble, with a dump truck full just above with a load.  He is a member of a shady group of cops who provide an essential service to the city of Los Angeles; they kill those men who are a problem to the city.  Mobsters, pimps, hustlers, anyone who may bring down the property value has a price on their head that’s been put there by Slater’s boss, Captain Blair.  But like all good detective stories, we slowly learn that Blair has more than just the interests of the city in mind, and it comes down to Slater to figure it out.   Continue reading

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Review: Spider-Man and the X-men #1

(Marvel Comics, 2015)

Writer – Elliot Kalan
Artist – Marco Failla
Colors – Ian Herring

Spider-Man and the X-Men have been teaming up since before there was a series called Marvel Team-Up; so Spidey seems a logical choice to take over for the late Wolverine as benefactor of the eponymously titled series. However, that long and storied history is not evident in this first issue; in fact the X-Men of those early team-up days are downright hostile toward our friendly neighborhood web slinger when he shows up hand-picked for the job by Logan himself. The hostile attitudes of the older X-Men are just a warm up for the vehement animosity Spidey finds waiting for him with his inherited class of young mutant students.

Writer, Elliott Kalan gets the dynamic between Spider-Man and the X-Men all wrong from the very beginning; there is no chemistry here, the relationship seems to be devoid of the years of shared history. For this book to succeed that paradigm has to be corrected; the character interaction in this issue is just too antagonistic for Spidey’s one liners and generally humorous demeanor to work in any authentic sense. The unfriendly vibe makes much more sense with the students; here it works just fine calling to mind a John Hughes sort of quality as the group of misfit students face off against the new teacher. It’s a trope that works no matter who the characters are as long as the classroom is the setting. Continue reading

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1

(Marvel Comics, 2015)

Writer – Brian Michael Mendis
Artist – Frank Cho
Colors – Jason Keith

Let me begin this review with an apology; I am sorry if I offend, annoy or otherwise displease anyone with my gushing admiration of this book and its stellar creative team. With that out of the way, let the love fest begin, this issue has it all, huge action, intelligent humor, razor sharp wit and some of the most eye popping pages ever created by artiste extraordinaire, Frank Cho. I know this is the pinnacle of fanboyism but, hey this is why I love comic books so much. Bendis and Cho really knock this one out of the park; they take all the elements that made this summer’s GotG movie so much fun with the addition of setting the story firmly in current continuity.

The issue opens with a clever page composition featuring Star Lord bursting with kinetic energy as he quite literally leaps across the page where the rest of his teammates are depicted rather dramatically in a column of equally sized panels; Gamora gazes icily into the distance, Drax peers stoically from the page, Captain Marvel appears poised, ready for anything, Venom hangs inverted his head enters from the top of the panel and finally Groot and Rocket share a panel playing up their vastly differing statures. The page acts as an introduction, though none is needed, and sets a break-neck pace that never slows until the final panel of the issue. Continue reading

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Review: Chaos! Holiday Special 2014

(Chaos! Comics, 2015)

Evil Ernie: X-Mas Special
Written by Steven Seeley
Art by Juanan Ramierez

 

The Chosen in: Slicing Sammy The Snowman
Written by Michael Moreci
Art by Rod Rodolfo

Let The Blood Flow
Written by Steve Seeley
Art by Carlos Reno
Colors by Rhovel Yumel
Letters by Marchall Dillon

The Chaos Holiday Special 2014 takes three classic Christmas stories/songs, and gives them a chaotic twist (pun intended). The first of the three stories is Evil “Ernie: X-Mas Special.” This story is modeled after the children’s story “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moor. And just like it’s inspiration,  “Evil Ernie: X-Mas Special” takes place the night before Christmas – and that is where the similarities end. Rather than following a family asleep, waiting for Santa Clause, this story takes place at the North Pole as Santa mentally prepares himself for his big day.  And since this is a Chaos story, the Santa we all know and love isn’t at all what we are used to. You see, Santa isn’t fat but built. Mrs. Clause isn’t old, but a sexy red head who can “…think of a few thing to help you [Santa] sleep.”  As the title informs, Evil Ernie shows up and the fight that follows isn’t what you would think of at all.  And the elves that come to help – well never-mind, I can’t give all the fun away. But take my word for it, its great!  Continue reading

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Review: Krampus Vol. 1

(Image Comics, 2015)

Krampus! Volume 1
Written by Brian Joines
Illustrated by Dean Kotz
Colors by Ron Riley
Letters by Charles Pritchett

If you think about it. The idea of Santa Claus is pretty creepy.   An old guy who breaks into your house and leaves things for your kids without you knowing who he is or what his criminal background is.  As if that weren’t bad enough some disturbed parents in the Alpine regions of Europe decided that their children, while mostly good for the month of December, did not have enough to worry about the rest of the year.  No gift from Santa was not sufficient penalty to keep them in line.  So they invented the Krampus.

I had never heard of the Krampus until about three years ago when I saw Rare Imports, a Finish film released in 2010 about something sinister inside a lonely, snow-covered mountain.  If you do a Google search on the subject, you will see some truly horrifying pictures of traditional Krampus parades in far-off countries.  The Krampus, for those who don’t know, it the yin to Santa Claus’ yang, the black to his white, the creature that comes on Christmas eve to punish bad little girls and boys in various sadistic ways. This book takes a decidedly lighter position on the Krampus.  I give you Krampus! Vol. 1from Image Comics, a collection of the first five issues of the series. Continue reading

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Review: Hulk vs. Thanos #1

(Marvel Comics, 2015)

Writer/Pencils- Jim Starlin
Inks- Andy Smith
Colors- Frank D’Armata

At this point even the casual comic book reader is familiar with the Infinity Gauntlet, at least by name; due mostly to its alluded to inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Certainly there is no other writer more closely connected to that story and perhaps even the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe than Jim Starlin. Starlin has dedicated more of his career to Thanos than any other character; beyond the various Infinity titles Starlin has penned several one shots, minis and even an original graphic novel featuring the exploits of the Mad Titan. So with that being the case I have to wonder why the big bad purple skinned villain occupies so few pages of this introductory issue allowing Pip the Troll to all but steal the show.

The idea of this story first came to light around the time Savage Hulk was launched. Marvel teased the concept of pitting these two Goliaths against one another with Starlin at the helm which would most likely mean the story would be set in the cosmic landscape of the Marvel U. Continue reading

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Review: Justice League United #7

(DC Comics, 2015)

Written by: Jeff Lemire
Pencils: Neil Edwards
Inks: Jay Leisten with Keith Champagne
Colorist: Jeromy Cox

The Infinitus Saga continues as the Justice League United fight alongside the Legion of Super-Heroes against the shape-shifter Byth to decide the fate of the young alien Ultra who could grow up to destroy the 31st century. The JLU and Legion of Super-Heroes travelled to the Moon of Ryngor in the Polaris System where Byth captured and gained control over Ultra. The innocent alien was forced to open a rift in space, unleashing a fearsome army of Wraths. Now as Byth and his allies, Black Mass, and the newly resurrected Hawkman – who is also under Byth’s influence – escaped with Ultra, the JLU and the Legion must find a way to stop Byth from taking Ultra into the rift and save the universe as the Wrath’s advance into inhabited space.

Justice League United #7 sees this time-warping intergalactic team-up between the Justice League United and the Legion of Super-Heroes really hitting its stride, as writer Jeff Lemire pulls out all the stops for this third part of The Infinitus Saga. Now the initial differences and misunderstandings between the JLU and Legion of Super-Heroes has been resolved, the battle against Byth steps up a gear as their forces unite against the shape-shifter.
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Review: Harley Quinn – Holiday Special #1

(DC Comics, 2015)

Art by: John TimmsDarwyn Cooke
Cover by: Amanda Conner
Variant cover by: Amanda Conner
Written by: Jimmy PalmiottiAmanda Conner

It’s Christmas time! And, it’s time for all of the holiday themed TV shows, movies, and comic books. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have put together a wonderful issue of Harley Quinn as she explores the wonders of Christmas in three short stories. Remember the old Looney Tune cartoons that were broken into two or three eight minute episodes? This is the format that Harley’s Holiday Special is formatted. It is an absolutely, wonderful read and one that is filled with the right amount of jeer, cheer, and destruction.

Conner brings a very interesting twist to Harley Quinn that allows her to maintain her psychotic, pyrotechnic lifestyle, yet somehow come across as a comic book character that you almost want your child to read. The artwork by John Timms and Darwyn Cooke in this Holiday Special features both colorful and exciting. The toon-ish feel holds to the rest of the Harley Quinn New 52 stories that makes this issue a true joy to read.
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REVIEW: The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw #2

(Image Comics, 2014)

Writer – Kurt Busier
Artist – Benjamin Dewey
Color Art – Jordie Bellaire
Lettering and Design – John Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft

Let’s get this out of the way first.  This is still the same book.  This is not a variant, this is not a spin-off, this is number 2 of Tooth and Claw, the next issue in the series that debuted last month.  The problem, so the press release stated, was that they messed up the trademark search.  So, easy fix, we’ve a new title.  The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw #2 dropped this week.

The citizens of a fallen city sit around a small fire and hope for the coming of a legendary hero. Their city has crashed due to their magical fidgeting.  Now they are camped in the ruins and fighting amongst themselves, arguing about who their savior will be.  And then the Bison Tribes arrive and begin the wholesale slaughter of the “intelligent” ones.   Continue reading

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REVIEW: Dash: The Case of the Mysterious Zita Makara #1 and #2

(Northwest Press, 2014)

Writer – Dave Ebersole
Cover, Interior Art, Colors, Letters – Delia Gable
Color Flats by Josh Lester

There’s a stifling office, a lazily spinning ceiling fan, the camera angle is near said fan, its blades cutting through the shot.  A man sits at his desk, fedora tilted back on his head, a cigarette hanging from his bottom lip as he touches the buzzer on his desk, “Let her in…”

If you’ve read any detective fiction, seen a film in the last eighty years, this scene is familiar to the point of cliché. Everyone knows what “should” be in a detective story if it is to fit in the genre.  And, for the first ten pages of Dash: The Case of the Mysterious Zita Makara, you think it’s another detective story, one with all of the earmarks you’d expect from someone who obviously loves the genre.  There’s the setting.   Continue reading

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Review: Critical Hit #3 & Pirouette #2

(Black Mask Studios, 2014)

Black Mask Roundup: Of Clowns and Hunters
Critical Hit #3
Written by Matt Miner
Pencils and Inks by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer
Colors by Doug Garbark

Pirouette #2
Created and Written by Mark L. Miller
Pencils and Inks by Carlos Granda
Colors by El Comic En Linea Foundation

I blame the holidays.  They sneak up on you and hit you where it hurts the most, in your “to read” pile.  And the comics don’t stop; they keep coming week after week.  So, with apologies to the creators of these two fine books, I’m combining reviews here, hoping that I can catch up and still spread the good word about great indie books.

It’s one of the things that make it hard not to read books when I see they have that Black Mask Studios logo attached.  This company has a commitment to great storytelling and some of the finest and most original art out there. These are just good comics. Continue reading

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Review: Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1

(Marvel Comics, 2014)

Writers- Kieron Gillen & Marguerite Bennett
Artists- Phil Jimenez, Stephanie Hans, Tom Palmer & Romulo Fajardo

Angela made her Marvel debut back in issue 10 of the Age of Ultron event series, appearing more like a last minute addendum or ill-conceived afterthought than a heralded addition to one of the most celebrated cast of characters in modern history. Met with disdain by some fans and just plain disinterest by others, Marvel has done little to change many minds about this celestial wayfarer from the days of chromium covers and print runs more in line with creators’ egos than actual sales. The result of brilliant writer Neil Gaiman and upstart artist Todd McFarlane, Angela was originally part of the Spawn mythology first appearing in issue 9 of the original series then in her own three issue mini-series also written by Gaiman but, this time drawn by the vastly superior artist Greg Capullo. Continue reading

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REVIEW: Escape from New York #1

(Boom! Studios, 2014)

Writer – Christopher Sebela
Artist – Diego Barreto
Colorist – Marissa Louise
Letterer – Ed Dukeshire

I’ve a love of post-apocalyptic fiction and prose that began long before I first read about zombie’s taking over the world.  That love was born and bred of films I loved growing up, films that took the bright and shiny future and filled it with the most loathsome buggers around, and then made those guys the heroes.  Mad MaxThe Running Man (yes, that one too), and especially Escape From New York captured the imaginations of a generation of kids who grew up with Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and thought that whatever was coming was most assuredly not going to be better.  There were sequels to some of those films, some good, some…not so good, but now, under the leadership of Boom! Studios, we’re getting another sequel, this time to a classic.

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REVIEW: Superior Iron Man #1

(Marvel Comics, 2014)

Writer – Tom Taylor
Artist – Yildiray Cinar
Colors – Guru eFX

The inversion effects of the events taking place in Axis continue to wreak havoc upon the Marvel Universe turning heroes into villains and vice versa. Perhaps no other hero’s personality has been quite so adversely altered as Tony Stark; the once bright shining knight in high tech armor has pulled up stakes on his east coast digs and relocated to San Francisco, but that is the least of the changes that have turned Stark from hero to heel.

Tony has unleashed his perfection inducing Extremis 3.0 App on the populace of his new hometown, however, unfortunately for him Daredevil has made the exodus to the west ahead of him and DD does not like what Stark has planned for his city. With the even more arrogant and far more devious aspects of Tony’s personality coming to the forefront, profit has become his motivation over any of the altruistic ideals he had previously held in such high regard. Continue reading

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Review: Toe Tag Riot #1

(Black Mask Studios, 2014)

Toe Tag Riot #1
Written by Matt Miner
Pencils and Inks by Sean Von Gorman
Colors by John Rauch
Lettered by Sean Von Gorman

Matt Miner, king of the Kickstarter komics, extra “k” for dramatic effect, is back, and with a hunger that can only be satiated by human flesh and punk rock.  Toe Tag Riot #1, the much-anticipated first issue of Miner’s latest series, is on shelves Wednesday, and it is everything that you’d expect from Mr. Miner.

Along with longtime collaborator Sean Von Gorman, Miner drops his newest offering to the comic gods in the form of a zombie punk band, ready to chew up the competition and gnaw through the mores established by rock and roll icons.

Toe Tag Riot is not only the name of the comic but also that of the featured players in the story.  They are a band formed of various long-timers, those who stood out from other bands and couldn’t handle the b.s. that goes with working with musicians.   Continue reading

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Review: Attack on Avengers – Attack on Titan/Avengers Crossover One-Shot

(Marvel Comics, 2014)

Created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Hajime Isayama

Scenario/Breakdown: Hajime Isayama/C.B. Cebulski
Line Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
Color Artist: Dono Sanchez Almara
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos

Summary: One day in New York there comes a sudden attack from mysterious creatures known as Titans. It seems the only ones who can save the innocent public from being eaten by these ferocious beasts are Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the… Guardians of the Galaxy?! Let the ultimate battle for humanity begin!

Review: Well hey, it was a fun thought wasn’t it? Pitting the destructive Titans from the dominating series Attack on Titan against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes from Marvel comics (but mostly their Marvel Cinematic Universe movie heroes + Spider-Man). To be fair, I really shouldn’t have expected much from the story with it only being 8-pages long and Isayama having to put in as many of these characters as possible.
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Review: Spider-Woman #1

(Marvel Comics, 2014)

Writer- Dennis Hopeless
Pencils- Greg Land
Inks- Jay Leisten
Colors- Frank D’Armata

Reviewed by Shawn Warner

This was one of those books that I was really looking forward to; in spite of all the flack surrounding the ill-fated original cover by woman exploiter extraordinaire, Milo Manara there was some real excitement generated by the return of Jessica Drew to her own solo monthly series. Drew has been in and out of the Marvel Universe spotlight over the years, most recently taking center stage in the events of Secret Invasion. Her role was second only to Norman Osborne’s in its pivotal nature.After that she sort of faded back into the shadows taking her place in the supporting cast of the next few Marvel events. Continue reading

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Review: The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1

(DC Comics, 2014)

Grant Morrison- Writer
Frank Quitely- Artist

The Lemniscate, The Cassini Oval, The Devil’s Curve, The Mobius Strip, these are all names for the twisted cylinder used to represent the concept of infinity, it is also a recurring theme in what is hands down the most brilliant single issue of 2014. However, to refer to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Pax Americana as a single issue is somewhat misleading due to the fact that it reads much more like a graphic novel; thematically as well as for sheer quantity of content, this book contains not one single superfluous panel. Morrison and his longtime collaborator Quitely have crafted a work of storytelling brilliance as well as an exploration of mathematical theorem as applied to a literary endeavor.

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