Batman & Harley Quinn

BATMAN and HARLEY QUINN a refreshing update and nostalgic nod with a heavy dose of adult.

Batman and Harley had me at the title and I was even more excited when I noticed Kevin Conroy lending his voice once again to the Batman. What I wasn’t aware of is that not only did this look and sound like the animation I loved as a kid, with the super-long Batmobile and the super-flat Batwing… it sure wasn’t geared for the kid I was but for the adult I now am.

The things Nightwing does for Gotham

No, I don’t read about these things before I watch them, I like to be surprised and then write about it from a fresh perspective, so with the opening scene I realized this ain’t my weekday evening/Saturday morning batman. At first reaction I was all “WTF is this shizz, TIMM??” But I remembered that the previous movie with Timm’s style in it – Justice League: Gods and Monsters – had a healthy dose of adult themes plus robotic “nudity”, so…  I then stepped back and just accepted it for what it is. Not unlike what Genndy Tartakovsky did with the final season of Samurai Jack it looked as if Bruce Timm and Co. brought the nostalgia with all those staples from the series plus the bonus of being aged to the audience that it raised from adolescence.

Bird is the word.

I’m not really sure what to compare this to aside from what I’ve already mentioned but I feel it needs to be stressed that this isn’t for kids. So don’t expect to spend a weekend bingeing on the original series with your kiddos to have a smooth transition into this, it’s chock full of language and sexual innuendos and all sorts of adultsy stuff. But if you do spend that weekend bingeing on the series and the kids finally fall asleep it would be a nice late night cuddle and watch for the more conservative of us Xer’s.

  There are touching moments lending to mortality and humanity in general that I found flowed smoothly with the storyline and as ever when Poison Ivy is concerned there’s an eco-friendly albeit psychopathic message to be found ~ save the Planet at the cost of the people!

Fans looking for strong female characters may rejoice since all the good punches were thrown by the gals, so expect to see Bats and Nightwing get more than a little trounced most of the time – being highly trained martial artists with years of brawling experience – while Harley and Ivy steal the show.

Overall I enjoyed it. This was quite refreshing with its gags and pacing and overall tone. Seeing Bruce Timm’s artistic style back in animation again with the characters we love is one thing but giving them the kind of story and personality you always knew they had but could only hope to see made this one animated movie I’m glad to add to my collection.

I hope you put on some popcorn and give it a watch noting all the things I wanted to put into this blog post but for the sake of spoiler-whiners refrained.

Enjoy!

-VagueRant

Advertisements

Madhouse’s ::Redline:: High-octane Entertainment!

Movie Poster

It’s only just recently that I’ve even heard of this film and that was by some accident I can’t even remember. That totally knocks my fandom down to just below “avid”.

When I watched it I wasn’t sure why I was so out of the loop. Oh and it was amazing!

 After reading that Madhouse produced it I knew the animation was going to be interesting. Madhouse always manages to hyper-stylize their animations to a sometimes nauseating degree but always manage to pull it off with a story that keeps you watching. Redline wasn’t the exception and I found it enjoyable all the same. Oh, and it may come as no surprise that Redline isn’t for kids.

Alien child with parent.

The best way I can describe the movie would be to compare it to that of Episode I having been directed by Wachowski’s, i.e. Speed Racer and animated to boot.

Typical Redline fans.

  Redline appealed to the senses that mattered. The music fit the scenes, the scenes were interesting enough to cover up some weak parts of the story, the story was a typical lucky-reckless-underdog-beats-all-odds-gets-girl type love story. A little cliché. Sounds dull but they add a few sub-stories for an overall grasp of the Universe not to mention they do throw in a little nudity, if you’re into that sort of thing animated. It’s really only when the characters finally make it to the Redline races that all hell breaks loose and we’re able to kick back and enjoy it.

The racers that we want to succeed in this film are human while the other racers are alien. There are several eccentric humanoid characters like the violent Batman/Robin knockoffs (which I found pretty funny) and the undefeated Redline champion who modifies his body for direct interfacing with his car. Craziness!

The Action, the Suspense!

Since it’s based in a fictitious interstellar setting we’re slightly, visually graced with an odd assortment of creatures and cultures watching the live coverage of the races like so many avid NASCAR fans. But this is nothing like NASCAR. I actually enjoyed it.

That’s really all I have to say. Inspired, no?

-VR

Invincible… rabbit trails… Invincible!

Amid a world filled with tired themes and worn-out plot-lines

Invincible Vol.#8

it’s difficult to judge accurately a book that, for all appearances, looks like every other book out there. Ryan Ottley, illustrator for Image comic’s Invincible, summed it up nicely within the first couple sentences of the foreword published in the 8th trade volume of Invincible:

When Invincible first hit the stands in early 2002, I remember picking it up off the shelves at my local comic shop, and then setting it right back down. I said to myself “BAH, who needs ANOTHER super-hero book anyway?!?” And I passed on it.

Back when Invincible came out I was still a big Wolverine fan. Don’t ask me why but there is a significant appeal to a short, moody, hairy Canadian berserker bad-ass with metal (or bone) claws coming out of his fists… if you’re an angry teenager. My Wolverine obsession only began diminishing by the time the second movie came out.

Around that time Image comics didn’t have anything that truly interested me and if they did I couldn’t find it anywhere, i.e. BRASS Sure, they cornered the supernatural market with books like Witchblade and The Darkness and even Spawn had managed to eventually tie into that whole magical/supernatural genre and I wasn’t interested at all. The art in Savage Dragon looked drawn by an eleven year old and even after a decade it hadn’t made much progress in the way of story. Nor was I interested in seeing superhero archetypes in homosexual relationships/situations either. I knew what I wanted to know about all those books and it seemed likely that Image just couldn’t cater to my needs.

So when I saw Invincible No.1 sitting on the shelf it initially drew my attention but only slightly and very similar to Ottley’s reaction in the quote above; I thumbed through the book and, looking back, remember thinking, Well… let’s see how long this title lasts and maybe I’ll give it a try.

Yes, that’s a horrible way to think.

I know. *sigh*

Especially about a comic book!

I said I know! Sheesh!

Since then I’ve humbly come to learn the error of my ways. And my practice – when I can afford them and am so far behind in the storyline – is to buy the trades.

But back then I was single and didn’t mind dropping so much on Marvel’s MC2 books like Spider-Girl and The Buzz and enjoying Deadpool/Agent-X – among many others – that it just didn’t seem right for me to start another potential flop superhero book from Image. Plus my closet space was slowly being taken up by several, large long-boxes.

My experience with ill-fated books goes a little something like this, though only slightly varied by titles and circumstances….

There’s a book called Iron Wings of which Image published only two issues

Wizard dude
Kaa-meh!.... Haaaa-meh!....

around a decade ago. The artwork was fantastic; the story was leading into something epic and I looked for more but there was none. Maybe Jay Juch was too lazy to keep it going a few more issues; maybe the higher-ups just didn’t want to take a risk on something even Wizard seemed less enthralled by – since I don’t ever recall reading about it within their pages. I don’t know what happened to it. At one point I did email the author when I found his address in the back of an issue, asking him if there are more books in the works only for him to say he had “moved on to other projects”. I sure haven’t seen anything, whatever they were (to be). Image has a lot of comics that just… vanish… after a couple of issues if Half Price book stores haven’t proved that much to me over the years. It happened with many books, titles and publishers not solely with Image but that was the image I had of Image, I’m sad to say.

Invincible….

I’ve just finished trade volume 9. I’m a fan.

This is a really well-written book. Even the villains grow on you.

It’s groundbreaking.

Yeah, I know that’s a major thing to say but it’s a comic book and when I read a book that has this much violence it’s only natural to expect all the characters to be d-bags or the main character to be a whiny, reluctant loser and that’s not the case at all.

The main character – Mark Grayson aka Invincible – isn’t written with a cocky attitude. His powers haven’t gone to his head. He makes mistakes but works through them and his supporting characters really do lend him support. The teenage drama he faces is relatable and the super-heroics, although not on the sMarkGrayson-Invinciblecale of other more seasoned super-type books, have built up with every issue obviously destined for some unknown outcome.

Robert Kirkman has essentially re-created the sandwich in comic form. I’m not talking PB&J here but a real sandwich, something like what you would order at Subway only to realize after the second or third bite that it is the most awesome sandwich you’ve ever eaten and you’re a freaking genius.

Now I will admit it took me a while to adjust to all the nauseatingly bright colors within the book and the repetitious panels seemed a bit lazy at first but for certain scenes the simplicity fits perfectly. At first the art was a little hard to take in but that’s when I began to focus on the story, using the artwork solely for reference. Before I knew it I was five trades in and I’ve been sucked in nearly five trades more. I can’t say whether the art has improved much or not but at this point I really couldn’t care any less.

I’m way behind other readers and fans of Invincible and I’m fine with that. Unlike other books I’ve read that are just as addictive I don’t mind waiting. I’ve even managed to score some really cheap trades off Amazon so that has been really nice – more bang for my buck.

Yeah, says you! Everyone’s a critic. 🙂

-VR

Mark Waid and Boom!

Now I’ve always liked Mark Waid. The dude is a talented engine of creativity that hasn’t stopped writing amazing stories regularly – or regularly enough – for two decades. That’s twenty (20) years folks, some of the best talent in comics today can’t even remember that far back! His team-up with Alex Ross on Kingdom Come is an absolute must-have for any comic collector although I know him best from his run on RUSE published by the ill-fated CrossGen comics – now a MARVEL book thanks to Disney.

I loved CrossGen. Let’s take a moment to remember it shall we?

Flying fist in your face.
There is no santa? NOOOOO!!!

Alright so enough praise for Mark Waid; let’s talk about his inconceivable Irredeemable! If this book isn’t a good read then I’m not reading good things. It definitely has its roots in a sub-plot of Kingdom Come but takes it to a devastating degree. I haven’t read the individual comics because I’ve been on a trade kick as of late but as the trades are keeping me on the edge of my seat I can only imagine what it’s like to get them one book at a time!

Think of what would happen if the most powerful superhero in the world went all ape-spit on everyone because something in his head just finally tilted and snapped – like the caption I have in the picture – and started destroying cities and continents. Not stopping there he decides to take out certain heroes too and all the while the people he had promised to protect live in fear that he will turn on them. Well… this book outlines all those things as well as a history of events that would make one question the ideals of all super heroes. Thank goodness it’s just a story!

Backfire
No more Tacos for you...

And that’s one of the reasons I started reading Incorruptible; it isn’t the same story although the setting is in the same world and has a nice dessert feel to the big meal that is Irredeemable. Completely the opposite of the other book I’ve now named twice, Incorruptible is about a super-powered asshole villain that decides to go “good”  when the Plutonian – hero-turned-oppressor – goes berserk. Instead of looting he decides to walk the straight ant narrow and begins working with a Police liaison while keeping up the bad-guy status. Kinda like what the last scene of the 2008 film  The Dark Knight implies.

It sounds a little lame when I put it that way maybe, but it’s Mark Waid dammit! The dude is King Midas of comics!!

Potter’s Field is a great read for anyone that appreciates a good noir-style mystery without super-peoples. The brains at Boom! really knew what they were doing by showcasing previews of books like this and The Unknown in the back of their trades. They got me hooked and helped push me a little closer to my Waid appreciation, allowing for this blog post. I know, right? The Unknown is a noir-style supernatural story published in two different trades (The Unknown and, Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh) that I’m aware of. Definitely a great addition to my collection although a bit of a let-down, but I’ll let you down by not expounding. The real tragedy of the Unknown books is that of the illustrator Minck Oosterveer which is something I’ve alluded to in another post.

Anyway that’s all I wanted to say. It’s taken me a while to say it but it’s said and I’ll not repeat myself. Soon enough I’ll write about other books I’ve found – like  Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Very good stuff!

Until then…

-VR

Catching up… a little.

Because bold statements seem popular…

Ok, so I’ve read a ton of novels – both graphic and not – over the last few months and haven’t really kept up with blogging about them, sorry. My fan/reader base is comprised solely of stragglers and those that follow this blog either out of plain curiosity, kindness or a need to point and laugh – it’s all the same really. Reality doesn’t give much in the way of drive. *sigh*
But that aside I’ll try to throw some titles out there.

Fist of flaming fury!
Not as serious as it seems.

Recently I finished Godland Vol.1 – by Image comics. It reads like Stan at first; I think they’re paying homage to the classics because it is visually like Jack. I enjoyed this book. It really gave me that classic-yet-campy feeling like The Venture Brothers.

 Godland is decently written though horribly edited. Not as bad as some Marvel titles I’ve recently read (currently reading [suffering through] the Onslaught collection – ugh!).  The Artwork is definitely Kirby-esque, especially the women – wide and squat but still attractive. I don’t think this book would work any other way, honestly.

If you know anything about me by now it’s that I love Sci-Fi. I especially love Cosmic adventures. Godland has that but not as “epic” as I would like. Yeah, yeah,  planet earth needs saving… whatever. The Villains aren’t really what I would expect a cosmic-powered hero to fight but they do offer him a challenge: the challenge of memory! Read it and you’ll see what I mean.

The most recent cheap find I’ve really enjoyed was Soulwind Vol.1 – again from Image. I like the format of the book so far – thin and easy to hold – but heard/read that there is a “collected” version like the BONE collection. Not a big fan of books that are as bulky as a dictionary. I yawn just thinking about it.

Since I mentioned BONE in the Soulwind paragraph I’ll compare: It’s similar.
Yeah, deep.
How is it similar? First off the obvious would be the B&W format. Second being the somewhat cartoon-style creatures, expressions and silent moments – narration solely by the voices in your head interpreting the images you see.

Soulwind

I have no problem with a lack of color if the art is decent and the story is slightly interesting – I’m easy; what makes this book work for me, aside from a great, compelling story, is the artwork. Different story segments have different art-styles by the same artist (note the picture). It could be a portfolio in the guise of a story for all we know and I would assume all comics are like that to some extent. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I got my money’s worth. Even if some of the shadows didn’t make sense in a panel or two I understood what the artist was trying to convey and accept that.

Nope, I’m not hip to the new books coming out. I have, however discovered within the last year a publisher called Kickstart Comics when I stumbled upon them in the magazine section of the-store-that-shall-not-be-named when I need to get my Tiger Beat fix. Thumbed through them right there and liked what I saw.
Bought a couple too!
Got them home and read them in a flash.
I didn’t feel like they changed my life any but they were decent and entertaining enough. Likely geared toward teenage audiences, I’m assuming.
Kickstart publishes digest-sized graphic novels – being self-contained story’s – so far.
Some of the titles I picked up read a little… rushed. Heavy Water could have been a little longer but Endangered, maybe even Ward 6 were a bit choppy on the editing. That’s why Editors make the big bucks!

There are several other books I need to list but this is a good start for now. At some point I need to write about how amazing both FABLES and Unwritten are (no, not the song damn you!) and maybe even dive into my new-found obsession with Mark Waid and Boom! Studios and why I believe that talented, up-and-coming artists can never be too confident on their motorcycles. But that’s all for another time.

Thanks for reading!

-VR

Novel Review – James Patterson’s Toys

Latest read: Toys by James Patterson & Neil McMahon. It took a bit longer to read than I would’ve liked – A WHOLE WEEK! Egads!

I’m kidding. Though that’s not record time considering the format, material and that I really love sci-fi.

Toys wasn’t a bad read at all. It was full of action, violence, sexuality, betrayal, gadgets and… just a little kissing. So if you get all excited over any or all these things then I highly recommend this read. Otherwise steer clear or you might end up being sucked into the genre.

  You mean that’s not a brand name?
Never before  have I read any books with the name of James Patterson printed across the cover as though it were the true title of the book. Lord knows there are many of them. Nor have I even seen or heard of Neil McMahon. Sorry, it’s truth. When it comes to Patterson I figured he was just a genre-machine like King, Rice or Goodkind but that doesn’t matter, does it? Since this was a thrill-ride if only in the pacing. I promise!
It was like watching those Saturday afternoon lounging-around Sci-fi thrillers you’d watch back in the day because there was nothing else better to do. Both saddened and amazed you would realize two things 1.) being that you enjoy the cheap thrills on some unknown level; a mystery that may still elude you and 2.) you wasted a perfectly good afternoon.
Toys was a simple read, no doubt but it had enough complexities that would draw in any new reader while appealing to readers a bit more familiar with Science Fiction as a whole. I’m a big fan of Cloak & Dagger, dare I say, Bond-esque leading heroes, but the main character really wasn’t as smart as he wanted you to believe.

Initially I read a synopsis for Toys in some magazine giving me an interest but the real draw was the title and the picture on the cover. Yes, I know the adage. Unfortunately it wasn’t a challenging story – having “solved” it even before I finished it – but continued because I wanted to make sure I was right;  sometimes an author will surprise you with a sudden twist here and a turn there. And there were surprises a-many but ultimately it went right back to where I knew it eventually would which is kind of sad really but sometimes it’s not about the destination but the journey.

If I were to put this overall story into another format other than novelization it would definitely be a decent film source if they do the effects right. I would love to see Peter Chung – of Aeon Flux fame – take a stab at an animated version of it. Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury is a good example of what I’m talking about.

To stress a point: Toys isn’t the greatest story ever told. But for fast pacing, a somewhat dystopian-style futuristic setting with Humans suffering for their “mistakes” – implied devastation – at the hands of genetically engineered elitists… it was still quite entertaining. If that doesn’t interest you in the slightest then you wouldn’t be sold on it anyway.

-VR

 I want it known that I make no money off anything I post here. If I like something I’ll write about it, if I don’t like something I feel less inclined to write about it. If there is something I think you few random stragglers may find of interest then I’ll post something about it. Thanks for reading!

Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting

Many years ago I read a magazine called Wizard. In said magazine they had written an article about an independent/self-published comic series called Castle Waiting written by an author/illustrator I had never heard of named Linda Medley.  The article amused me and Castle Waiting seemed like something I could be very interested in, but – for the life of me – I couldn’t find a store that had any issues in stock.

When I did – finally! – find some issues they were random at best making it difficult for me to get a true feel for the title (like Jeff Smith’s Bone I hope I don’t reference that series on my blog too much!). In case you hadn’t noticed I’m a fan of continuity and that includes starting a series, no matter the format, from the beginning. It’s just how I roll.

Castle Waiting
Yay for collected editions!

A few years ago – after some time passed and I had all but forgotten about Medley and her book – while my wife and I were shopping at the local mega-book mart I finally found the series published in a hardback, collected form by Fantagraphics! I knew I liked it from what I remembered seeing but when I thumbed through it this time there was nothing but love.

When I saw the simple-yet-detailed artistic style Medley brought to every page and panel and how well her art complimented the characters, the setting(s) and mood(s) it was then that I fell in love. Truly. The artwork reminded me of the books I’d “read” as a child, all the different illustrations for some old story within an Encyclopedia or my dad’s highly touted upon “Book of Knowledge” series.  How the little-known (to me, that is) artists would draw simple but well enough structured depictions of certain ideas and themes within the story’s; whether characters, scenery or both on the following or preceding pages within the chapters. I thought it was brilliantly simple, clean and fitting for a fantasy-based graphic story.

Now I won’t bore you with details on the story within the book. I do believe that Medley wrote Castle Waiting for a non-male audience but that doesn’t make this book less enjoyable. Truth! ;o)
I don’t waste time; yours or mine.
There are now two volumes out and I’m just a little disappointed in the second one because it just… drops off (not to mention that Medley’s name does not seem to be on the book, oddly enough!). You should at least pick up the first volume and see if the characters and the mystery behind them and their surroundings manages to pull you in. If it doesn’t suck you in no matter how much you struggle (as if)…  it’s obviously not for you; but if it does, welcome. Welcome!

Thanks for reading and I’m sure the ever elusive Linda Medley thanks you too.

-VR