Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Greatest Movie Poster You've Never Seen

It speaks for itself.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just When Community Couldn't Get Anymore Awesome...

Someone goes and does this:

This is probably the best thing ever and not just because it further solidifies my 'Abed and Annie are destined to be together' theory.

Go check out more of Kinjamin's awesomeness (including the Batman Heroes version of the same picture) over at his Deviant Art page. And after that, go check out some episodes on NBC so they know not to cancel it this season.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Bill December 8, 2011

The Bill:

Did you like how, after a full month of nothing but new comic reviews, I ended up skipping a week last week? If nothing else, I'm trying to keep y'all on your toes. Just when you think I'm gonna zig, I dig and shatter your perceptions...

Of online comic reviews...

on a small blogger site.



Whatever. Let's get this show on the road, shall we?

Old-School At Its Best:
The Defenders
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Terry Dodson

I want to know where this Matt Fraction was during Fear Itself.

Where Fear Itself felt over extended, limp, and half-baked, The Defenders is just the opposite. It's a fresh take on a old property, told in a manner that's satisfying to the buyer of a single issue, but still (potentially) satisfying in a trade. In a scant twenty pages, Fraction does in one issue what it takes Bendis to do in three. And it's honestly pretty amazing.

The story is pretty basic: A crazy new threat pops up and it comes to Dr. Strange to put a stop to it all. You know, standard stuff. From there, it's a refreshingly brisk, and active, tour of the world as Strange assembles his team around him. You can tell that Fraction is having a blast with all these characters and has no shortage of ideas.

The only odd stand-out, from a character perspective, is Fraction's take on the Silver Surfer. I don't know if it's a fall out from the Galactus Seed story line over the The Mighty Thor, or something that Greg Pak did in his mini-series, but the Surfer seemed very.... fluid. Literally. Something happened and now the Surfer is apparently made up of a sentient pool of liquid in the shape of a man. Is this a new thing? Can someone shed some light on this for me?

Weirdness aside, I very much enjoyed this issue. In this of four dollar comics, it's very nice (and sadly rare) to read an issue that's worth the money. The Defenders is certainly worth it, and I hope it's a trend that continues on into the future.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Argument Against Digital Comics

Straight up: The digital comics movement scares me.

Not "scares me" in a I-think-I'm-going-to-die kind of way, but rather in a I-don't-know-if-the-comics-industry-can-survive-it kind of way. After years of being told that the industry is on the brink, I think I'm finally believing the hype.

Let's take a step back and start from the beginning. As I'm sure anyone who reads anything about comics online knows, there's been a big push from the major publishers to deliver their books digitally the same day they become available in print (otherwise known as 'day and date'). This idea, rightfully so, terrifies retailers who can only see customers leaving their shops and heading straight for their computer screens. To belay these fears, the big two have kept their prices online the same as in the store under the guise of not wanting to hurt their retail partners. Then, last week, Dark Horse jumped into the online game and nearly capsized the boat.

In their initial announcement of going 'day and date', Dark Horse declared that their new books would be offered for a dollar cheaper online than in the stores. The retailers were furious and within a few days pressured Dark Horse to amend their announcement to say that the books would be the same price at both points of retail.

Finally, a few days ago, Brian Woods (of DMZ and Demo fame) took to his blog to write a well thought out response to these retailers. His argument basically amounted to: 'the whole industry is hurting for cash, no one's making money, the fanbase is drying up, and something drastic has to be done'.

To Woods, an online component to retail only strengthens comics as an industry and will serve to get more people interested in my favorite hobby. Retailers ought to be happy that there's being made an effort to engage a new fan base that will eventually mean more profits for all. Except that, if we look at other entertainment mediums, it won't.

Here's where my cynical nature takes over.

Simply put: I don't trust these big publishers. For all the nice words they have for retailers and their attempts to 'make things right', I just don't buy it. When I look at the basic economics of the situation, it doesn't make any sense for the big publishers to try to work with physical retail partners.

Let's break down some numbers. Say, for arguments sake, that an average comic costs the consumer 4 dollars. Of that 4, let's say half goes to the retailer and Diamond with the rest going to the publisher. Of that half, so two bucks, carve out another dollar for production fees (printing, packaging, quality control, etc.) and royalties. Finally that last dollar is spent covering the 'above the line' costs of the writer and artists, with anything left over spilling over into profit. So that means, in real rough numbers, the profit for any book is probably pennies on the dollar (assuming that it meets the sales threshold to break even). To say that's a shitty return is putting it lightly.

So let's check out the numbers by going digital with the same cover price. So without having to go through a retailer or a physical distributor, a book sold for 4 bucks nets 4 dollars coming back to the publisher. We'll say that the the production costs, royalties, and 'above the line' costs remain the same, which means the publisher ends up with around 2 dollars profit per each book sold. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out, even with these rough numbers, that digital is far more profitable for the publisher than anything else. The question becomes: What about the collateral damage to the industry?

As an example to what I'm implying, let's look at the home video market. For years, when a movie came out for home consumption, you had two choices if you wanted to watch it: you could either go rent it from a video store or pony up the dough to buy your own copy. Then Netflix happened; rocking the boat first with their convenient 'rent by mail' model, and later with their 'instant streaming video'. As a consumer, it's awesome because I can get almost anything I want without leaving the comfort of my couch. But while that kind of convenience is awesome for me, it's death to the video retailer. In recent years, it's meant the decline of both video rental stores and DVD sales which has lead to decreased profits that are only now climbing up the chain to bite the distributors.

Worried yet?

Maybe we should look at the music industry, that (eventually) went full bore into the digital market place only to see their profits decline and record stores drop like flies. Or the magazine industry that's seen sales/profits plummet as their content becomes cheap and convenient online (not to mention the disappearing ad revenue) while the idea of a newsstand has wilted. The list goes on and on, but I'll stop before I sound like too much of a curmudgeon. You get the point.

Making things conveniently available online seems like a great idea for everyone, but ultimately just ends up hurting the overall industry.

The way I see it, the comics industry is standing on the same digital precipice that all those other industries stood on years ago and needs to be careful to not make the same mistakes. While the physical distribution model isn't perfect, and certainly isn't as immediately profitable, it does more to sustain the industry than a pure digital model could. The implicit costs of changing things need to be weighed just as much as the explicit costs because once you start going down the road of cheap and convenient, it's damn near impossible change course.

In the end, I hope everything will work out; that this, as with most proclamations of the 'Death of Comics', will fade in time. For whatever reason though, I have this nagging suspicion that it won't and I am, for the first time, very scared about the future of the comics industry.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mondays are for M.O.D.O.R.D.

That's Mental Organism Designed Only for Roller Derby, of course. The greatest creation to ever come out of a drunken A.I.M. technology jam session. Well, second greatest, if you count this guy.

Those A.I.M. guys really know how to have fun. It's only a matter of time until they splinter off to form A.I.F.T. (Advanced Ideas in Fun Times!)...

From the disturbed, but awesome minds of Jed MacKay and Sheldon Vella in X-Men: To Serve and Protect #4, the greatest issue of an X-Men anthology that you've never heard of.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Punisher's Aging Problem

As I was driving to work today, I was stuck behind a Chevy S10 with a walker bungied to the bed. Just above it, stuck to the rear window of the cab, was a sticker that read: Proud Vietnam Vet. The juxtaposition of these things lead me to one thought: The Punisher's getting old. Like, really old.

As a point of reference, consider the miniseries Punisher: Born.

In this gripping, but dark-as-all-get-out pre-origin story, we see Frank dealing with the dark days of the Vietnam War during his third tour in 1971. A quick extrapolation of dates puts Frank between 20 and 25 years old during this period. Tack on thirty years to get him to present day, and suddenly Frank becomes a very angry middle-aged man.

So ol' Frank finds himself in a unique position in the Marvel Universe. For most heroes, the sliding and compressed timeline isn't so much of an issue. Changing small details like locations (See Iron Man going from the jungles of Asia to the deserts of the Middle East) or motivations (See the Fantastic Four going from a race against the Communists to an unbridled sense of adventure) aren't a huge deal because the core tenants of the origin still remain. For The Punisher though, it's different, he's intrinsically tied to the Vietnam War.

More than the tragic death of his family, It's the horror and atrocity of Vietnam that shaped Frank Castle into The Punisher. Call it a stereotype bias, but there's something infinitely more tragic about soldiers fighting in a war only to be disregarded (or worse) when they returned home than there is in a modern day soldier. It's that combination of seeing/doing horrible things with the lack of public support when he returned that makes The Punisher who he is, the death of his family is just what keeps him going.

Of course there are methods to aging slowly in the Marvel Universe. From magical formulas (I'm looking at you, Nick Fury) to the classic de-aging trick (Magneto, Xavier please stand up), there are some definitely options to help Frank still stay relevant while approaching old age. The problem is, of course, that the fans don't like to mix their vigilante justice with magical Marvel technologies, as witnessed in the massive flops that were Angel-Punisher (The less said about, the better) and Franken-Castle (which is still awesome!).

The conclusion is clear: The fans want their Punisher to remain 'realistic'. Or at least as realistic as a 60 year old man with an unlimited cache of weapons and boundless mafia-rage can be.

I'm honestly at a loss for a solution here. On the one hand, I fully enjoy the grizzled old veteran Punisher that's been presented over the past few years. On the other, I know that septuagenarian super-heroes are kind of a rough sell to the younger generation.

It's a problem that's going to need to be solved in the next decade or so, otherwise the next major transformation the Punisher will go through will involve a new hip and a walker.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Venom is a Slut Part January

Apparently Venom is going to grace the covers of all of Marvel's books this coming January ala those 'I am Captain America' variants earlier this year and the 'Deadpool' variants a few years back. As a result, I think I just found the fodder to keep this feature going well into the next decade.

Thanks for making things easy for me, Marvel! It's much appreciated!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Bill November, 17 2011

Another week, another stack o'books. Is it going to be another disappointment fest like last week? Or am I going to finally learn my lesson and start buying only the good books again? There's only one way to find out, and like hell am I going to spoil the surprise in the preamble.

Come on, let's talk comics.

Success in Symbiosis:
Venom #9
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Stefano Caselli

I can't tell you how happy this book makes me. I've said it before, but it bares repeating: This is how I want every Marvel Comic to read. Venom is face paced, full of character, and overflowing with crazy ideas; it's hands-down one of the greatest books on the shelves today.

I'll admit, that I might be a little overly gushy this week because Spider-Island took over the last three issues of this book, leaving me confused and slightly confused at the goings on. Not this month though, this month things are back to normal.

Well, mostly anyway.

You see, this issue picks up with the aftermath of the aforementioned Spider-crossover and the titular hero lost in a sea of heavy emotions. Guilt over failing relationship and unresolved issues about the recently deceased come to a head as Venom encounters a hapless, up-and-coming villain and finds a target for those pent up emotions. It doesn't end well, to say the least.

While there are some very dark things happening in this book, it's one of the most pure, old-school 'comic book' books I've read in a long while. Introducing a one off villain, pitting the internal conflict against an external foe, and an ongoing story that doesn't seem tied to a future trade collection; if that's not old-school, I don't know what is. Remender is one of those writers that seems to understand that when I read a superhero book I want action with my emotion, not just talking heads. couBENDISgh!

This book is just too good to continue. Which means, with my luck, it'll get cancelled tomorrow. I swear, with all the cancellations that Marvel has been announcing over the past week, I keep waiting for them to drop the axe on this one. So far, so good though. It seems that maybe, finally, my comic luck is turning around....

Just in case it isn't though, I'm going to buy two copies next month.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Bill November 10, 2011

Another week, another batch o' comics. But of all the ones I bought this week, there's only one that needs a thorough examining. Think you can guess which one?

Oh, you can see it, can't you... Well, whatever. Just come read my rants!

Looking Towards the Future:
Marvel Point One
Writer: Just about Everybody
Artist: Everybody else

This is it. The big Rosetta Stone of the next great Age of Marvel. The one that will set the tone for years to come. It's the big time, get-you-excited-for-the-next-few-years book that should have me swinging from the rafters delirious with excitement, but instead I find myself not-so-quietly worrying where my favorite universe is going.

Let me back up a second and say that there are a lot of good things about this book. There's a cool, if kind of overly-obtuse framing sequence that involves an information heist at the Blue Area of the Moon. Here the intrepid hackers are privy to fleeting glimpses of stories yet to happen. It's clever and it works well enough, it just gets a little funky here and there.

Honestly, that's the problem with the whole piece: It's just a little funky, and not in a good way. The stories themselves are all pretty decent, but there's nothing that really ties them together that makes me feel like I need to read them all together. It reads like a preview book that would ordinarily be for free, but instead has a six dollar price tag on it. Call me a sucker for expecting a bit more from my preview books when I actually pay for them.

On top of that, everything's a tease but not a very good tease. If the stories aren't already reenforcing information that's already known, they're presenting new information in a very vague way. What I wanted was big surprises dropped every other page, and instead I got things like this:

I don't know what to make of that, but it certainly doesn't make me clamor for more. I wanted that nugget of information that would entice me to keep up on everything, but instead I get the barest of hints that leave me confused and uninterested. That's the true tragedy of this book: I just don't really care about anything that was revealed.

And don't even get me started on the big Bendis story in there. The less said about that Ultron War mess of a 'teaser' the better. The more I try to understand what's happening in that story, the less it all makes sense. Never a good sign.

As the big kickoff to the next big Age of Marvel, I'm legitimately worried. As the books have less pages, I pay more, and the stories become more obtuse, I'm more than a little concerned that this new age might fizzle before it even starts.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Bill November 3, 2011

Jeez, it seems like just yesterday I was writing one of these. Time flies when you're QCing DVDs, I guess. Regardless, it's that time again for another scintillating review session with yours truly. What's on the docket this week? Come join me after the image to find out.

Oh. And massive spoilers on this one, so be wary.

Or don't. You know, whatevs.


Making the World Right Again:
Fear Itself 7.1: Captain America
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Butch Guice

Just when you thought we were finally done with this event, here Marvel goes pulling us back in with an extended additional epilogue. Fortunately, this one is pretty darn good, with some fantastic art and some stellar writing. Oh, and that twist.

True story: Five months ago (or so) after the release of Fear Itself #3, I was having drinks with a friend of mine who just started reading comics who asked "Do you think Bucky is really dead?"

I laughed her off. I quoted the old comic lore that if there's no body, there's no true death. Hell, that's how Bucky returned in the first place. I was convinced that Buck's run-in with Skaddi (or whatever) was nothing more than some quick 'cheap heat' (as they say in the wrestling world) and just done to move Bucky off the board for a few issues. "There's no way he's dead," I told her confidently, "that 'death' was so arbitrary and forced. There was no emotion, no build up, no hype. He's totally just hurt really bad."

Then Fear Itself #4 showed up with a big plate of crow for me to eat. I still refused, holding strong to my experience as a long time comic reader.

Finally, with issue 7.1 my intuitions proved correct. A more cynical man might write this off as a mid stream change up from the higher ups at Marvel, but I'd like to think it was in the works since the beginning. Suddenly, it makes sense that Bucky's death wasn't hyped, talked about, or lingered upon. Or you know, at least is a No-Prize explanation of those things...

Either way, I'm excited. The more I think about Bucky Barnes as a character, the more I like him and can't wait to read his continuing adventures. Especially if they're apparently going to be in the vein of the classic Nomad series from the mid-90s (of which I have a complete run...). Just a man, his motorcycle, a dark past, and the open road. I'm so there, it's not even funny.

Of all the series to come out of Fear Itself, I think I just found my new favorite.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Bill October 27, 2011

Jeez, has a week gone by already? Time flies when you're swamped I guess. I apologize for the lack of updates, as things have been rocking and rolling over here (Check out my other blog for an insight) I've found myself without a whole lot of time to chat about comics. That said, nothing's gonna keep me from prattling on about at least one new book this week. Which one? Why don't you follow me after the credits and find out?

The Book I Want to Like:
Avengers Solo # 1
Writer: Jen Van Metter, Jim McCann
Artist: Roger Robinson, Clay Henry

Confession time: I have a complete run of the first volume of Solo Avengers (or Avengers Spotlight). The start of that series (the first year or so) are some of the best Hawkeye stories around, written by, surprisingly enough, Tom Defalco. The stories from that period have endeared me to Hawkeye and made me want to give all of his series chances. There are a few good ones, but most of the time they're pretty shitty.

Unfortunately, Avengers Solo is one of the shitty ones.

'Shitty' is a hard word and not the right one. Disappointing, confusing, needless complex, not fun... any of those are a bit more accurate. For me, a good Hawkeye story involves some snarky one-liners, some espionage, and some high flying action. This issue opted to give me none of that, and I think that's my problem with it.

The issue begins with Hawkeye stopping a routine mugging between a normal dude and a hi-tech armored assailant. Said assailant escapes, leaving The Hawk to figure out why the dude was being attacked in the first place. From there, it becomes a detective story as Hawkeye goes from mysterious benefactor to mysterious benefactor, getting tips and getting closer to a solution. Or something like that.

Honestly, it was around here that the story started to lose me. It's not that I can't handle a detective story, but there's only so many times you can use the same cliches before I get tired of it. It felt like it desperately wanted to be an awesome mystery, but only had two tricks to play before the writer ran out of ideas.

Suffice to say, I was not impressed.

Rounding out the issue, was a short little backup featuring my faves: The Avengers Academy. Here, Hank Pym takes a couple of the more troublesome kids out on a fieldtrip, only to have tragedy strike. It was fun, if a bit short. There's a part of me that wants to continue the series just for those backups, but at 3.99 I don't know if it's that worth it.

Yeah, I don't know about this one. I really want to keep reading and support the idea of a Hawkeye series (again), but not if it'll be written like this. Alas, I fear this'll have to be one of those that I grab out of a dollar bin in a few years.

Oh well. Better luck next time, Hawkeye!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Bill October 20, 2011

Did you hear that? That was the sound of this Marvel's big mega event coming to a close for the year. But was that an explosion of awesomeness? Or a thud of disappointment? There's only one way to find out...

Not Afraid Anymore:
Fear Itself # 7
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Stuart Immonen

The short version: That sound was most definitely a thud. The longer version: Well, it's complicated.

I really wanted to like Fear Itself. With a great setup, big ideas, a fun writer, and a fantastic artist, I felt like this crossover was going to be an instant classic. Unfortunately, it ended up a half baked story that never quite lived up to that potential.

As a whole, the series felt a bit hollow for me, very superficial. It was a story where nazi robots backed by crazed Norse Gods attacked New York, yet I never felt the panic. A story where Bucky Barnes met his demise, only to get a cursory nod of 'yup, he's dead.' Deep down, it was a story about people overcoming fear to find the true hero inside, but I never felt the struggle of their decision. It was a series in which things happened, but nothing mattered regardless of its impact on continuity.

While I'm on the subject of things that didn't work, let me just toss out there the decision to have the villains speak in nothing but foreign tongues was one of the worst decisions ever. Similar to what happened in Secret Invasion, I found myself not caring about the villains at all. I get that they were trying to make the 'Breakers' seem otherworldly, but it only succeeded in distancing me from the story. Want to make me really feel afraid of an enemy? Have him say something threatening that I can understand.

But I digress...

This final issue picked up the threads of the previous chunk of books (tie-ins and all) to showcase the big final battle between our heroes and the aforementioned 'Breakers'. The heroes got some sweet new hardware to use, but, as is the norm with this series, those effects were glossed over to get to the next pinup shot. In the end, one hero (and I'm pretty sure you can guess who if you really try) sacrifices himself to defeat the big bad in a moment that ought to be the big emotional climax of the series, but instead just feels like a thing... happening. Sigh.

To the issue's credit though, there is one moment mid way through where one of our heroes arms himself in a big way. For whatever reason, probably the implicit gravitas of what was happening, really 'hit' in a big way and is one of the best moments of the entire series. Not that there was much competition.

On the art side, Stuart Immonen was kicking ass with every issue. Regardless of what was written, Immonen delivered every moment big or small with perfection. I can't wait to see what he moves onto next.

In the scheme of things, Fear Itself wasn't the worst Marvel event in years, but it certainly wasn't one of the best either. For the emotional problems of the series, it did do a great job of moving the story forward issue to issue. I'm interested to see where things go from here and I'm holding out hope that the next event is the explosion of awesomeness I've been desperately waiting for.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Bill October 13, 2011

I think I know what I want for Christmas.

It might be a little unorthodox, not to mention way out of season, but I don't care; it's what I need for my comic life to be complete. So what has me all riled up and excited about comics? Well if I told you here, you wouldn't want to keep reading then would you? Come on and join me as I elucidate about my favorite comic of the week....

The Book That Goes Bump in the Night:
Legion of Monsters # 1
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Juan Doe

It's books like this that remind me why I love reading comics. Bursting with big ideas, bigger action, and great one liners, Legion of Monsters ought to be a model for how to properly execute a comic book.

I'll admit that I have a little bias here as this book involves not only some of my favorite supporting characters from the sadly missing FrankenCastle series AND one of my favorites from the greatest book of all time, NEXTWAVE! It's a match made in heaven, my kind of heaven.

The story here is pretty simple, Elsa Bloodstone is hunting a killer monster and finds herself thrust into a team up with the self-styled police force calling themselves the Legion of Monsters. If you need more than that to get you excited, you best check your pulse because you might be dead.

Handling the art chores is Juan Doe who brings nothing but energy to his work. While at times a little deformed, his characters are always vibrant, full of motion, and a joy to look at.

And if all of that didn't get you excited, guess what's coming up next issue... Motorcycles. MONSTERS ON MOTORCYCLES!! DAMMIT! I LOVE IT!

I want this to be an ongoing series. Please. I've been a good boy this year....

And now, Nazis Riding Dinosaurs

That is all.

Guy faces off against my nightmare teamup in Guy Gardner Warrior #23 via dreammakers Beau Smith and Mitch Byrd.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm Just Going to Leave This Here...

I'd be remiss in my bloggerly duties if I didn't post the new Avengers trailer (not to be confused with the New Avengers trailer, that I'm sure is more than a few years off), regardless of how prevalent it is on the interwebs.

Now, if you'll excuse me I need to go pick up the bits of my brain that are scattered around the living room.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Bill October 6, 2011

I unofficially dubbed this week my 'Jeff Parker' week as all of my books (all two of them) were written by the man.  So what's it going to be this week, the always entertaining Thunderbolts?  Or the surprisingly compelling Hulk?  There's only one way to find out...  just, you know, flick your eyes down like an inch and you'll see it.

um...  Reviews Ahoy!

Surprisingly Compelling:
Hulk #42
Writer:  Jeff Parker
Artist:  Patch Zircher

The Red Hulk shouldn't be a compelling character.

He was a giant, red joke of a character when he popped up, in a book that was only entertaining because it was so outlandish.  His motives were murky at best, his tactics nothing but shock, and his powers mildly ill-defined.  I really liked the start of his series because of all this, but it wasn't enough to sustain my interest.  In a short burst it was fun, but any more than a few months it would grow tired.

Still, with all this against 'Rulk', I couldn't help but to be drawn to the character.  There was something about the design, the over-the-top-ness, the whole package that was enticing.  Thank God Jeff Parker came on the scene to give me a reason to check out Rulk.

There's something very classic about what Parker is doing on this book.  His ability to balance action, drama, a supporting cast, and cursory nods to the wider Universal continuity is something that most writers can't do nowadays.  It is very old school in the best possible way, and I wouldn't have it any different.  This latest issue is no different.

This issue marks the beginning of a brand new story line, Hulk of Arabia.  In short, Rulk gets word that an old friend met his untimely death at the hands of some revolutionaries and leaps off in search of revenge.  Of course, there's a little bit more, but that'd be spoiling.  Suffice to say, I felt very satisfied at the end of the issue and very anxious for the next one.  

Picking up the art chores this week for Gabriel Hardman is Patch Zircher and he does a bang up job.  In fact, Zircher's pencils are a crazy match for Hardman's, giving the book a very nice, consistent feel.

In the end, this continues to be one of my most bafflingly favorite books of the month.  It's full of all the creativity, action, and pathos that I want from my books, and leaves me itching for more every month.  If you're not buying this book right now, you're going to be regretting it because this is a run that's going to go down in the history books as a classic.