Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blogging Ain't Easy, Neither Are Finals.

I know all 20 of you were happy to see me come back to blogging, and I am sure my recent 6 day absence has caused a lot of distress and traffic accidents. However, I have been busy finishing up my semester here at Hendrix College, and finals start next Wednesday.  I should be able to start blogging again in about a week, so to the few loyal readers out there, thank you, and I'll see you in a week.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Let Us Mourn the Loss of Hostess Through a Look at Comic Book History

Hostess, the well known bakery brand will be closing down operations. This was confirmed yesterday as we enjoyed Thanksgiving. While I think there will be only a temporary loss in snack cakes due to the likelihood of another company buying Hostess, others are treating this as major shift in our snack food heritage (people should probably be more concerned about the 18,000 newly unemployed). Whatever your take on the Hostess story, we can still appreciate the strange place Hostess holds in our collective nostalgia. Hostess seems to fit in pretty well with an idealized view of American childhood, and my favorite evidence of this comes straight from the pages of comics.

Hostess was a major advertiser in comics for many years. They placed ads with nearly every publisher and created story based ads featuring well known comic characters. While these page long adventures are far from masterpieces, the have a unique charm to them. Maybe it's the action, or maybe it's the way that all of life's troubles can be solved by a fruit pie; either way, these ads are a dumb and wonderful part of comic publishing history. There is even a website that has gone to the trouble of compiling all the ads they can so that we can cherish them with our $50 Twinkies.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Where Is Jake Ellis?" #1: Review

I made a quick pop by Austin Books and Comics today and picked up, among other things, "Where is Jake Ellis" #1. WIJE is the sequel to Nathan Edmondson's "Who is Jake Elis?" series and continues the Bourne-esque storyline of former CIA agent Jon Moore. Moore shares a psychic link with Ellis and together, they are trying to figure out exactly what gave them this ability and how to reconnect with each other and reality. Issue #1 sets up the search for Jake Ellis who has recently awoken from a coma. Jon is searching, but runs into trouble in the form of assassins and agencies looking for him. Both Jon and Jake try to escape to little avail. #1 is a fun start to the story, but if you want exposition, read "Who is Jake Ellis".  The Jake Ellis series is a pretty nifty take on the espionage genre. It may be exceedingly similar to the Bourne films, but the addition of something more paranormal is nifty. WIJE is far from perfect, but certainly worth a look if you want to spend an afternoon with an exciting read.

Oh, I almost forgot the art. Tonci Zonjic is the illustrator for the Jake Ellis series, and his work is phenomenal. Long action sequences complement Edmondson's dialog. Zonjic's work is incredibly cinematic and looks like well taken still from animation. I can feel the movement and the continuity between panels. Props to Zonjic.

I give "Where is Jake Ellis?" #1 a 7/10.


NPR's take on Under-Appreciated Graphic Novels

NPR recently put up their list of the unappreciated works Graphic-lit published in 2012. While the list has several books I have never heard of, hence the title of "under the radar", it also included two surprising titles, Wonder Woman and Saga. I am not sure how NPR qualifies them as under the radar, but there are some good titles mentioned in this article. Check out the NPR article by clicking here.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dedicated Balloon Artist Builds Bag End in His Living Room

Quick update for funsies. I am in Austin, TX, for Thanksgiving with the lovely Erin and her family. Other than the normal Thanksgiving routine, I plan on hitting up Austin Books and Comics as well as their discout sidekick store, that will be happening on Friday, so be ready for a post on that. Anyway, here is a video of a man making Bilbo Baggins' Bag End out of balloons, it is pretty cool. Also, this is my 100th post! Go me!


Monday, November 19, 2012

I Can't Stop Watching PBS Idea Channel

Thanks to the glory of Comics Alliance linkink I have been introduced to PBS Idea Channel. Idea Channel is a YouTube series that introduces and briefly discusses interesting topics applicable to internet society and culture. The host, Mike Rugnetta, is concise, pleasant, and wonderful at presenting each video. The most recent video discuses the universal appeal of "Adventure TIme" while suggesting that it may lie somewhere in nostalgia. Anywho, I highly recommend checking out some of the videos, I am currently making my way through the backlog on their channel.


Nerdcore Hits Hendrix: MC Lars Raps About the Internet and Poe

The signature read "Peter, you are very responsible
and beautiful, MC Lars"
While I am not the biggest nerdcore fan, I will say that when a performer comes to your college, it's worth going to. Last Wednesday, Hendrix hosted a performance by MC Lars, one of the more recognizable names in the nerdcore rap sub-genre. While there was just a small crowd, apparently he wasn't recognizable enough, I had a great time trying to catch all the pop-culture references in his hour long set. From literary raps about Edgar Allan Poe and Moby Dick, to an ode dedicated to ska music, MC Lars performed with energy and a surprisingly overly upbeat attitude. In between each song he would thank the audience, talk about some random topic, say how joyful he was and then introduce the next rap. It was one of the more unusual concerts I had been to.

One thing I did learn from this performance is that to enjoy listening to nerdcore you have to not give a shit about what anyone thinks of you for liking it. Nerdcore takes Weird Al level lyrics mixes in some originality and scheme, and puts it to a beat. I enjoyed what I heard but I found myself feeling strangely self-conscious about being there. My best guess at explaining this would be to say that this was a level of nerd I was not fully comfortable with yet. While I read comics and play Pokemon and tell just about everybody about it, branching into nerdier music is a new step. I can't say now how I feel about nerdcore music a s a whole, but I think I can leave it at this, I enjoyed what I saw last Wednesday, and the album I picked up is pretty funny(MC Lars was very happy to autograph it).


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph: Review

Disney Animation's most recent film "Wreck-It Ralph" came out a few weeks ago and as a fan of Pixar (This was modeled pretty closely to their animation style) and extended video game jokes, I was pretty happy I was able to catch it while it was still in theaters. "Wreck-It Ralph" follows the story of Ralph, a video game villain saddened by the fact that he has been punished for doing his job the past 30 years. Ralph seeks some appreciation in the arcade video game world by jumping into different games. He meets some classic and parodied characters, almost gets some games unplugged (essentially a death sentence), but ends up saving the day by being good at wrecking things. "Wreck-It Ralph" hits all the major family movie points while delivering some great videogame references and cameos. I could go deeper, but I am not much of a film critic, so instead here is a list of nouns that describe what I like in "Wreck-It Ralph".

Peter Pepper cameo
Vanellope Von Schweetz
Rancis Fluggerbutter
Sonic the Hedgehog PSA
The Fungeon
The Bad Guy Affirmation
Soooo many puns
Sour Bill
Gene, the douche.
The Animation of Movement
Diet Coke and Mentos
Zangief's Speech
Game Central Station
Clyde the Ghost
The Voice Talent
The Credit Roll

I give "Wreck-It Ralph" an 8.75/10.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Archer and Armstrong #4: Review

Oooh, this is my first Valiant review, awesome opossum. The recently reestablished and rebooted Valiant publishing company has been turning out some pretty high quality series for the past six months. "X-O Manowar", "Bloodshot", "Harbinger", and "Shadowman" are all great, but the series that takes the cake for me is "Archer & Armstrong". "Archer & Armstrong" follows the story of an immortal warrior and a former cult member/assassin as they try to prevent the recreation of the mystical device known as the Boon. The Boon is sought after by a group known as the Sect as it is said to grant immortal life even if the consequences  of immortality are severe. "Archer & Armstrong" is written by Fred Van Lente, with art by Clayton Henry and Matt Milla.

Issue #4 brings us to the conclusion of the first arc where Archer and Armstrong must deal with a completed Boon, a group of nazi monks, and Archer's sect following adopted parents. This issue concludes the initial search for the pieces of the Boon, but leaves many questions unanswered that promises many planned future arcs in the series; how did Archer become such a proficient pugilist, how exactly does the Boon work, and what are the total consequences of the Boon? Ultimately, "Archer & Armstrong" is a book about a veritable odd couple taking on all sorts of mystical threats and crazy cults. It is a lot of fun in the same way Saga is in the sense that "Archer & Armstrong" takes this big scifi concept and has fun with it without sacrificing character. I love the drunkard immortal Armstrong and his shenanigans are balanced off by his caring and his mission of preventing the Boon from coming back together. Likewise, Archer's drive and desire to be good balance of his naiveté that will lead to some good development as the story progresses. Props to Van Lente and handling the exposition well.

Additionally, the art and character design complements the story well. Armstrong stands as a large square shaped person to reflect his tough immortal persona, while Archer looks juvenile and serious to reflect his sheltered upbringing and deadly force. From the Vatican to the Himalayas  the art team jumps location well and they draw a pretty good nazi monk. "Archer & Armstrong" will be sticking around in my pull list for some time and I highly suggest taking a look at it if you are in the mood for something different than the standard hero book.

I give "Archer & Armstrong" #4 an 8.5/10


Friday, November 16, 2012

All New X-Men #1: Review

Hey, you know what we need? MORE X-MEN!!! Now that the way has been cleared for more mutants to be introduced (Thanks, AvX!) We need more mutants to increase the already huge cast of characters that can be swapped in and out of X-Men titles. One of the titles that seems hell-bent on returning to the unnecessarily large amount of mutants is "All New X-Men". I guess the goal is all in the title, there will be all new X-Men. Issue #1 was released on Wednesday as part of the Marvel Now project and was written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Marte Garcia.

All New X-Men is in the direct aftermath of AvX where Cyclops, Magneto, and Emma Frost are seeking out the new mutants created after the Phoenix Force was dispersed. They do this in a less than subtle fashion by breaking into police stations and fighting SWAT teams. All the drama garners some attention from the X-Men on the Jean Grey School. Storm, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, and Beast are none too pleased that Cyclops is being rather brash in his recruitment of new mutants.  Since in the modern Marvel universe Cyclops is always wrong, the team seeks creative methods to bring Cyclops to justice. Beast travels back in time to the Marvel universe of the 60s to recruit the help of the original five X-Men. Beast presumes that since Cyclops must be wrong, (there is no other option, right?) and young Cyclops will be able to talk some sense into his future self. Oh man, look at that plot.

If I seem unimpressed, that's because I am. I think in a universe with new mutants springing up and a more divided group of mutants focusing a story on something as silly as a "Cyclops of Future Past" is pretty dumb. Why not focus on the resurgance of mutants who are sticking their middle finger up to humans and fighting for their right to exist, why over complicate the time-stream even more than it already is? I don't get it, Mr. Bendis, why should I care about this story? I will be keeping it on my list for a couple of months, but "All New X-Men" is on my short list of cuts if it doesn't deliver something better than the first issue.

On a side note, I did enjoy the art and it is clear that the art team was able to pull it together well. Seeing the Beast of the present and the Beast of the past together was interesting and seeing the 60s X-Men in modern art was nice. The two new mutants introduced in #1 seem like they have a normal amount of potential, but their powers just seem like plot devices to assist Cyclops in his crusade for mutanthood, Eva can freeze time, and Christopher can apparently bring people back to life.

The AR clips are pretty good for this issue. The cover gives a brief recap of the events through "House of M" and "AvX", and the first in book AR is background information on the Beast which was a welcomed refresher. Other than that it was pretty simple, and I generally am okay with the AR ploy by Marvel as it is fairly non-intrusive and can be informative.

I give "All New X-Men" #1 a 6/10


Arrow Episode 6: Review

Well, if I am one thing it is loyal. The CW has been airing its latest show Arrow for the past six weeks. While the quality is debatable, the ratings are coming in pretty strong for the show based on DC's Green Arrow. I am a big Green Arrow fan so I have been watching every week and as I have gotten back into the blogging habit, I figured I owed the internet a review on the most recent episode.

Episode 6 opens with a page out of Chris Nolan's Batman series. A realistic version of the Royal Flush Gang rob a bank with solid precision that seems reminiscent of the opening heist in "The Dark Knight" and the stock exchange scene in "The Dark Knight Rises". To be fair, if the makers of "Arrow" are going to borrow ideas, Nolan is a pretty good source.

The plot actually following Oliver Queen, the unnamed vigilante who looks a lot like a green archer of sorts, was pretty solid. Ollie is pushed into investigating the robbery by his muscular Alfred figure, Digg. Ollie discovers that the members of the Royal Flush Gang are actually a family that became destitute after the father was laid off by Queen Industries. Ollie feels some guilt and decides to give the family a chance to change their ways. Instead of being gracious recipients, as all poor people should be in the world of fiction, the King of the Royal Flush rejects Ollie's offer and decides to go for one last job. He gets his comeuppance and ends up getting shot by a security guard and dying. Ollie feels guilt and decides to hang out with his mom who he has been ditching lately. This final scene could be considered touching if it weren't for the fact that she appears to be fairly evil in the previous episodes. All in all the episode is a wash as we are left knowing nothing about the outcome of the rest of the family which may actually interest us more than Ollie's mom being sad.

While the plot of "Arrow" is not terrible, the dialog and most of the acting leaves a lot to be desired. The makers of the show seem to be going after the evil corporate world in some sort of pop culture response to the occupy movement and economic recession of 2008. This could lead to some over simplification of complex issues, but it does make a pretty good setting for "Arrow". In the end, I feel content with a decent live action show about Green Arrow. It could get better, but it certainly isn't the worst show to come from a comic.

Arrow airs on Wednesday at 8PM E on the CW.

Be warned, the contents below cover the side story-

From the excitement of the main plot, we transition into the side plot of the episode where pro-bono attorney Dinah Laurel Lance has some tedious dialog with her coworker and Tommy Merlyn, Oliver Queen's skeezy best friend. If you choose to watch the show, do yourself a favor and skip any part that does not involve the main plot, you'll live longer. Lance's law firm is low on funds and in an attempt to court the lovely attorney, Merlyn offers to throw a banquet fundraiser. At the banquet, Merlyn is saddened that some former classmate seems to have the hots for the afore mentioned attorney. In his sadness, Merlyn hangs out with Thea, Oliver's teenage-ish sister. Despite the fact that Thea is generally pretty drunk and on some sort of unnamed prescription that isn't hers, she gathers her wits about her and professes some sort of attraction to Merlyn. Merlyn declines and Thea promptly pukes her guts out, because it works well to have this drunken teenager be completely miserable. Our lovely attorney then encounters Merlyn and explains that the saintly classmate is actually a pompus ass and that Merlyn still has a shot. Go Merlyn!

Like I said, the side story is pretty awful.

I give "Arrow" episode 6 a 5/10


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thor: God of Thunder #1: Review

Marvel is rolling out the new titles and renumberings under the moniker "Marvel Now". One of the many new additions is the series "Thor: God of Thunder", the first issue was released yesterday written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Esad Ribic. Although I have not read much Thor previously, TGOT has exceed my expectations of what goes into a Thor book.

The story jumps through time following Thor at different moments in his life, all of which intertwine with the murder of gods. There appears to be, he is never shown, a being who systematically hunts and murders pantheons of gods. We are shown Thor when he first encounters such an act, when he discovers an entire pantheon murdered, and when he is presumed to be the last living god, several millennia in the future.

TGOT #1 jumps into the story well without relying too heavily on extended exposition. The reader learns about Thor in the context of the story which keeps a good pace throughout the issue. TGOT also explores Thor's long life span and what kind of toll that takes on a being continuously plagued by hardship and challenge. Aaron's writing is insightful without being blatant to the message and I applaud him on a good first issue in a new marketing ploy by Marvel.

The art of TGOT is on the realistic side with some fairly dark tones. Darkness, night, and shadows abound in this first issue and set a darker tone for this arc. Ribic's differently aged Thors all represent his age and outlook well. The young god, slaying monsters and sleeping with villagers, the modern hero that we recognize, and then the elderly Thor whose outlook is bleak as he faces an army of destruction.

TGOT's use of Marvel's now widely implemented AR system is fairly mediocre save for the clip from Ribic. He talks about the different tones he tried to implement at the different moments in Thor's life. Ribic's comments are really pretty interesting given the medium, even if it is in a short clip. I wont mention the other AR clips as they were pretty dumb and I wasn't even able to get one of them to work.

Keep it coming, Marvel. I have added "Thor: God of Thunder" to my pull list and I look forward to future issues.

I give "Thor: God of Thunder" #1 a 8/10


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Saga Chapter 7: Review

Much like Saga, I am coming back from a hiatus today, yay blogging!

Saga Chapter 7 was released today by Image comics, and I was very excited for the series to come back after a 3 month hiatus. If you are unfamiliar, Saga is the wonderful series written by Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man) and illustrated by Fiona Staples (Mystery Society). Saga is a space epic that follows two star-crossed lovers who belong to opposite sides of an ethnocentric war. Ignoring their cultural differences  they fall in love and have a child, much to the chagrin of both warring planets. Despite the hokey-ness of my synopsis, Saga is a must read for any comic of scifi enthusiast. The fantastic story is toned down by the generally sarcastic and serious nature of the characters. From the spunky spectre who assists the couple, to the depressed robot prince hoping to kill the baby, Saga takes itself seriously despite the campy feel of the setting.

Chapter 7 deals with a confrontation by Marko's parents. Through what can only be described as crazy space magic, Marko's parents were able to locate himself, Alana, and Hazel (their daughter). This plays out like most meet the parents scenario, but in space, so it instantly better. It is unclear what Marko's parents intentions are. Do they wish to harm the child or are the merely trying to contact their son. The lack of clarity and the potential for family betrayal keeps the story grounded in real emotion and human(ish) interactions. Vaughan takes the standard fear of meeting a significant other's parents and puts it into fantastic circumstances in a style that ends up being very readable, relatable, and fun.

All story points aside, I would mark Saga as a must buy just for the art. Fiona Staples does and amazing job on all the illustration and the cover. I sometimes feel like I am drooling over her style and it fits very well into the story with strong lines and vibrant colors between them, everything feels very smooth. Even when Staples has to draw a gross giant with some kind of deformed scrotum (one of the grossest descriptions I have hade to write), it really is something to behold. Even if you don't buy it, get ahold of a copy and just flip through a few pages, you wont regret it.

I give "Saga" #7 an 8.5/10