Thursday, September 25, 2008

Captain America: The Chosen

Originally titled Captain America: The End, David Morrell’s decidely different take on Cap proves incisive and entertaining if terribly decompressed.

The story is less about our title character than it is Marine Corporal James Newman. Newman is a soldier active in the fighting of Iraq, and he finds himself in a war situation that’s way over his head. But the sudden appearance of Captain America inspires him to single handedly pull his comrades out of enemy fire while cutting his way through their ranks. He proves successful, only to have Cap suddenly disappear.

We are then left with the mystery of the phantom Captain America as Newman, now a hero among his comrades, finds himself and his unit trapped in a cave-in. The phantom Cap again appears to him and we begin to gain answers as to just what’s going on.

The Chosen goes far afield from the typical huge explosion, high action final battles of most of Marvel’s The End series. This book is more of a character piece. A study of what a hero like Captain America would feel like in a real world, and how people feel about him in the same. It proves fascinating at times as Morrell studies his characters far more deeply than one might usually expect. Cap dies a truly heroic death in The Chosen but his legacy proves far larger than it did even in the regular Marvel Universe.

In his first comic work, David Morrell (the creator of Rambo in his nover First Blood) brings more to his comic work than many writers could ever hope to have. Nonetheless the series can feel a little padded at times with big, albeit pretty panels from Mitch Breitweiser and a story that could easily have filled a book half the size otherwise. I know if I would have purchased this issue by issue at four bucks a pop I would have been annoyed. But as a package the story proves both intriguing and engrossing if short.

This book gets a high recommendation for any fan of Morrell, Cap, or the American spirit in general. I'll give it a solid 8.5 out of 10, well high enough for me to recommend to everyone. But you may want to wait for the trade paperback out in the next few months.

(Quick Note: Heroes Season 3 Episode 1 review will be coming up soon. Illness has slowed it a bit, but I will get it posted.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Heroes Going Postal

Three webisodes off the official Heroes site. One last look at the online content before the big debut in less than an hour.

Chapter One

Mailman Echo DeMille comes in to contact with two agents of the Company, one normal and one a constrictor, basically a human boa (complete with no hair). They try to abduct him and it ends badly, as Echo uses his sonic projection powers to blow out the eardrums of the human agent. Echo seems well played and an interesting character, even in the brief three minutes of the video.

Chapter Two

we meet Gina, Echo’s girlfriend, in this chapter, as Echo returns home. He runs afoul of the constrictor again, but Echo uses his powers to make short work of the Company man.

Chapter Three

Echo sends Gina away as a knock comes at the front door... (Which involves quite a lot of knocking.) Two more agents come to “talk”. Echo once again attacks with his powers, but...

Weeks later we see Echo in a Company facility, on Level 5, where a certain Mrs. Petrelli comes to pay him a visit in his cell.

All in all the webisodes are short and to the point, but they accomplish what they need to do. They introduce a new player in to the Heroes storyline, one obviously planned to play a role in the new season.

The Going Postal comic strip sadly proves more useful in giving us insight in to the character of Echo, but even so both serve to expand the Heroes-verse quite well.

Heroes the Graphic Novels Part the Third

All right here is the final set of Heroes graphic novels as I finish my reviews on them. These are all new to me, as I was a good several months behind on these myself.

Issue 80: Moonlight Serenade, again drawn by Jason Badower, takes us even farther back in to the life of Linda Tavara as she murders her first victim.

Issues 81-82: Chuck Kim and Peter Steigerwald bring the story of super-sighted Donna Dunlap as she runs afoul of the Company and makes an agreement with the mysterious Evs Dropper to bring them down.

Issue 83: Donna’s story continues as she goes undercover in the company, only to see a vision of her future from Isaac Mendez. Nice continuing saga we have going here.

Issues 84-85: Agent Thompson’s point of view of the events of issue 83 and slightly before. In issue 85, The events of 83 and 84 bring Donna doubt in her mission, but she finds a way to continue onward.

Issues 86-87: Mark Sable, Alitha Martinez, and Micah Gunnel take us away from Donna’s story to tell the story of normal Penny Logan, an unattractive Company employee who happens to be the daughter of a hero with skin-shaping powers. Her mom plays with her love life and we find out just how shallow Anderson really is.

Issues 88-90: Oliver Grigsby and Jason Badower give us a tale of Sabine Hazel and her partner, the duplicating Julien Dumont, as Sabine learns that everything she thought about Julien was wrong and she sets out on a quest to free both of them from the Company once and for all. Very good stuff. One of the few good things about the disappearance on television of Heroes for so long is the improved quality that has came to the weekly graphic novels.

Issues 93-95: We get an insight in to some of the Company support team members as Thompson and Dunlap lead them in to a fight with a plant controlling hero. We meet Fallon, a man in love with both Eden and Candice, and with an immense hatred for one Gabriel Gray. Great Gaydos art on this one as well. His ruthlessness goes on display in chapter 3 (where Micah Gunnell takes over the art) as he ruthlessly executes two heroes in a South American rainforest. Great character, hopefully we will see him on the show.

Issue 96: Tie in to the Going Postal webisodes. More commentary on this after I watch those!

Issues 97-98: Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration introduces us to Daphne Milbrook, the speedster who will be one of the “Villains” of season 3. She’s hired to break in to a Yamagato Industries’ safe, a mission that will bring her in to contact with Hiro...

Issue 99: Things get heated in Hindsight at the Company as Donna Dunlap’s secret mission is discovered after it ended 14 chapters earlier. Communication breakdowns, accusations are made, and suddenly everyone is at everyone else’s throats.

Issue 100: Thompson frees Donna in Foresight and the quest to discover the identity of Evs Dropper closes in...

Issue 101: Jason Badower arrives back on art duties for Into the Wild part one, as Sabine learns Evs’ secret identity. I will avoid spoiling it here, but it is a doozy.

Issue 102: The story continues as we cover the true duel identity of one Evs Dropper and their history, even as the Company closes in...

Issue 103: Double-sized goodness as Into the Wild concludes and prepares us for season three. Things go to hell, a lot of people die, and the comics storyline of the last few months comes to a very bloody end.

Next Heroes preview coming up soon: The Webisodes!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Heroes the Graphic Novels Part 2

My apologies for people expecting this yesterday. My dumb self forgot to bring all the old Heroes novels with me to work the last couple nights which meant I had to do this in my normal sleep time.

Issue 52: The introduction of a certain flying boy, featuring beautiful Tom Grummett art shot straight from his pencils.

Issue 53: The Rogue ad debuts... how much does Nissan pay for these? Joe Kelly returns to Haiti to tell a story of the dying Haitian.

Issue 55: We get an entertaining “manga-cized version of Hiro and Kensei’s quest for the scroll, complete with cute furry Hiro. Another amazing piece of Grummett work.

Issue 58: Another tale of a soon-to-be erased future. These are probably the most annoying Heroes features. This one is doubly aggravating as it doesn’t feature any characters from the show.

Issue 60-61: Kensei appears as Adam Monroe in this flashback to the Revolutionary War. As the leader of a group of British soldiers (naturally), Monroe comes in to contact with another Hero by the name of Evan. Evan is a one man army (possessing powers similar to Madrox) and over several months they battle one another again and again, until Monroe is overcome. Monroe eventually comes to a decision important to him and his plot for the next several hundred years. And we have more gorgeous Grummett art on both chapters.

Issue 62: Michael Gaydos returns to give us the tale of West’s abduction. An important though somewhat bland flashback.

Issue 63-64: Another two parter revealing Elle’s secret history with Claire. Nothing spectacular again, but it is an important piece of back story as well as Elle’s first comic appearance.

Issue 66: First post-season two story. We visit with Adam Monroe, locked in a coffin, and receive an intriguing look both at the future character and at the hardships of immortality. Awesome art from Peter Steigerwald, a man known more as a colorist.

Issue 67: Another chapter in the internet-based mystery of Richard Drucker. I haven’t followed the Heroes Evolutions story close enough to know more of the clues to this, but good Gaydos art on this one.

Issue 68-70: The evolutions storyline continues as a new character named Matt infiltrates the Company and a plot by Hana & Drucker comes to fruition. Matt (another learner in the style of Charlie) ends up downloading Drucker & Hana in to his head in a rather convoluted storyline.

Issue 71: We meet telekinetic Abu Aswan and get an insight in to his interest in Egyptian history.

Issue 72: Kimiko returns alongside artist Jason Badower in a story by Aspen MLT’s J.T. Krul. Kimiko finds herself connected to yet another Evolutions concept, the Yamagato Fellowship.

Issue 73: War Buddies continues with part seven. Post-Viet Nam, Linderman meets another power leech named Linda Tavara.

Issue 75: Another flashback to the dawn of the country... and the question of whether or not Benjamin Franklin was a hero. Aspen MLT take over fully with this chapter.

Issue 76: Nanci Quesada takes over as editor as Aspen’s J.T. Krul and upcoming G.I.Joe artist Robert Atkins as Sanjog Iyer (the weird boy that Suresh met) continues to harass new heroes.

Issue 78: A flashback to the origins of the original Hero Killer Linda Tavara.

That finishes up the at home portion for today. 25 more chapters to come early tomorrow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Heroes the Graphic Novels

In preparation for Heroes season three come Monday, I decided to sit down and read the 103 (and counting) graphic novels over the weekend and relive some of the “hidden” moments of seasons 1 (yeah!) and 2 (meh). Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn’t read these yet!

Issue 1: Michael Turner art. Not his biggest fan, but his unique art style will be missed. And Mohinder is creepy pretty under his pencil. Otherwise not much from this one, but we are only on week one.

Issue 4: Again not much for easter eggs here, but we do get to see that Claire is inherently good. She pulls the football rapist out of the burning car that she crashed on episode four.

Issue 5: After only a brief cameo on the episode, D.L. makes his appearance for the first time here. We find out he’s not as mean a criminal as we might have thought. Oh, and the synopsis front page debuts with this one.

Issue 6: A bit of an important flashback left out of the show in this one. We get a view of Jessica’s crimes in action.

Issue 7: An unimportant issue, but the debut of one of my favorite Heroes in the comic. We get to see Matt Parkman take down a criminal post-punch.

Issue 8: This is a bit of a cop-out for me, as we use it to get the Isaac vs a giant monster painting out of the way. Heroes’ first big mistake with the graphic novels IMO.

Issue 9: We learn Eden’s name isn’t really Eden as we see her origins and the accidental death of her mother. Also the prologue may feature the first appearance of the term HRG for Noah Bennett.

Issue 11: The debut of the Nissan Versa ad. Sorry but that is one ugly vehicle, guys. An interesting insite in to Noah with this issue as he meets Eden’s father after her death.

Issue 12: The first hiatus issue features Peter in a Superman-inspired dream. Arts decent, but a rather pointless story.

Issue 13: The debut of the first multi-part story as well as the first appearance of Hana Gitelman, a major player in the comics who would only briefly appear on the show.

Issue 16: Hana goes rogue from the company in the final chapter of Wireless, a story that would have definitely benefitted from higher page counts.

Issue 17: We get a few more details on poor doomed Ted Sprague as well as his first meeting with Hana.

Issue 19: Micah finally makes his comic debut as he uses his powers to harass his bullies.

Issue 20: We get a view of Sylar in action for the second time with an emphasis on how brutal a madman he actually is.

Issue 21: A weak Hana story, but notable for being the first issue not drawn by Aspen MLT. Staz Johnson (Robin) handles this one.

Issue 22: A flashback to the rescue of Claire and the first appearance of the always excellent Michael Gaydos’ (Alias) art.

Issue 24: The second hiatus on season one gets filled with the 6-part War Buddies which starts here. More Hana doing what she needs to do to win.

Issue 25: A flashback to Viet Nam and the first meeting of Mr. Petrelli and Linderman (using nicknames). One of the first key points about the interweaving histories of the Heroes characters’ families.

Issue 28: The codenames are finally dropped in War Buddies part five.

Issue 31: A story from a future that should now be erased. Meh. But this chapter does feature the first appearance of the always excellent Tom Grummett (New Exiles, Superboy) on a Heroes chapter.

Issue 33-34: Season 1 is over and the continuing comic feature celebrates by killing off their main player in “The Death of Hana Gitelman”. Two double length issues bring Hana in to outerspace while Ted & Parkman go to meet their fate in the season one finale. Hana dies on reentry... or does she?

Issues 35-38: The second summer multi-parter is also the first story not to be written by a show writer as Joe Kelly of Man of Action Studios (creators of Ben 10 and a lot of awesome comics) takes over. This is the rather weak origin of the Haitian, complete with bad voodoo bad guys.

Issues 39-42: Joe Casey (of Man of Action and the always excellent Gødland) brings us the tale of Betty. A large, obnoxious teenager hated by her classmates she uses her illusions first to terrify them, and then become a whole new person. Unlike the Haitian’s origins, Casey gives us a compelling back story that actually makes the one dimensional character on the show far more exciting.

Issues 43-46: The other two members of Man of Action, Steven T. Seagle (American Virgin) & Duncan Rouleau (Metal Men) give us an untold story of Claude and his partner before Noah, Haram, as they hunt down a rogue power named Fusor. Not much else to say on this one as it is again a rather flat story that doesn’t in any way tie in to the events of the show.

Issue 49-50: The buildup for season 2 is on as Mohinder begins his research in to the virus in a story by Mark Sable (Grounded) and excellent computer painter Jason Badower (who also provided the art for 33-34). Instead he encounters an electri-absorbing hero. A solid look in to Suresh’s progression between seasons.

Issue 51: In (I think) the final pre-season two chapter of the novels, we meet Maya y Alejandro. Though the characters turned out to be thoroughly pointless during the season, this is actually a well put together quick piece to introduce their storyline.

Overall a shaky but entertaining build for the show. Cool little Easter eggs and the origins of our supporting players really show that the graphic novels can do more than just serve as support. We will see more of that with the next set of comics.

On to Season Two’s related stories tomorrow and after that, I have some Webisodes to cover!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quick Arc Update

We’re still progressing slowly on issue one of Arc. Jay’s finishing up pencils and inks now, and from there I will start lettering (hopefully). We want to be able to have a finished product ready to go to various publishers in the hopes of selling the title to the likes of Boom, Shadowline, Arcana, or one of the other small press houses.

Thanks again to all those who have taken an interest in the project. I hope to be able to post more on it soon. And maybe another Evolution Comics project as well...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wrestling (F*** Sports Entertainment)

Back a few years ago I was an avid wrestling fan. I’m talking hardcore. I started watching in 2000, but quickly started to travel back through video tapes of the previous few years of WWE and WCW. The hero vs villain aspect of the shows definitely appealed to the superhero fan in me, and the characters and storylines definitely served to inspire my writing over the next few year, even through today. Mean Streets especially owes a lot to ECW from ’97 to about 2000.

I watched WWE with an almost religious fervor for the next few years, even tuning in for the B-shows like Heat and Velocity. My RAW fandom ended in late 2002, with Heat and Velocity to soon follow. I continued watching Smackdown regularly for a year or so past that, but after that my wrestling entertainment turned more to DVD collections and indy show DVDs.

Why did I stop? A lack of faith in wrestling in general, I suppose. I still followed the storylines through message boards and the like, but I stopped watching. The obsession with Shawn Michaels and Triple H on RAW and the general lack of push by WWE of Smackdown burned me out pretty quickly. Wrestling just didn’t hold interest for me when the storylines failed to end properly. When heel (bad guy) champions won cleanly week after week after week. Especially when one of those heel champions was clearly married to one of the controlling families.

Meanwhile another promotion finally started to come together, with the terrible name of TNA Wrestling. (It stands for Total Nonstop Action, but that is obviously not what most viewers would think without seeing the show.) Their rise can be directly attributed to WWE’s mismanagement of some of their midcard to top talents. The likes of first Rhino and Christian Cage, both of which were hugely over with fans but underused by WWE, and then later the arrival of main event talents either hurt by issues with the WWE’s new drug policy or by inproper usage as well. The arrival of Kurt Angle and later Booker T brought TNA to a whole other level. Meanwhile, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and other Ring of Honor alumni electrified the TNA ring with moves unseen in WWE.

But that still didn’t draw my attention to TNA.

One of my favorite promotions of the last few years has been Shimmer Women Athletes. A talented indy female named Allison Danger teamed up with ROH talent/booker Dave Prazak teamed up to bring together a promotion that featured true women’s wrestling for the first time ever. No bikinis, no evening gowns, no mud, no T & A oriented crap. Just pure wrestling between incredibly talented women. WWE didn’t seem to notice. (They hired a trio of Shimmer talents, only to fire all but one before they debuted on television. Only Beth Phoenix survived the culling.)

It took a few months, but as TNA formed its Knockout division, they quite obviously took Shimmer as their model. With Gail Kim as their lead talent they pulled in Shimmer Athletes Cheerleader Melissa, Talia, Nikki Roxx, Shantelle Taylor, Angel Williams, ODB, Rain, and most importantly the 270+ pound monster known as Awesome Kong. Most gained new identities, but it didn’t matter. These ladies knew how to fight.

Instantly mainstream wrestling regained my interest. And through those Knockouts I began to appreciate the TNA product more and more. It has its flaws in some places, but considering Vince Russo’s hand in the show, it is a thoroughly amazing two hours of television.

Meanwhile a WWE struck again and again by violations of is wellness policy has realized that their focus on over-steroided freaks would continue to lead to negative media attention. Suddenly we had a push for younger, smaller stars. The sudden rise in the last couple months of CM PUnk, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne, and The Brian Kendrick drew me back to WWE as well.

Suddenly it feels like 1997 again. Wrestling is becoming something amazing again with a push of talent that actually can bring it week in and week out in the ring. So I’m going to be the first to call it. We are on the advent of a true wrestling renaissance. Get watching or you might just miss it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 Years Later

Seven years today.

I worked at the south grand McDonalds in Springfield, Illinois, on that day. I remember everyone being stunned as we wandered again and again to the break room to watch the devastation.

To this day, I find it hard to think about what 9-11 has done to this country. It brought us together, and in the aftermath, it tore us even farther apart.

Especially in an election year, I think it is thoroughly important for all of us to remember the aftermath of that fateful day. Remember what it was like to be one, even if it was for only a few hours.

God bless the USA.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Super-Powered Comics: Secret Six #1

Yesterday, I covered El Diablo #1 in this pretty little blog of mine. Today I focus on DC’s other big release of last week: Secret Six #1. For someone unfamiliar with this group, I highly recommend you quickly click on the links provided on this page. The new Secret Six are probably the best creation DC has given us in the past five years. I bolded that last statement on purpose. That is just how strongly I feel about this property. Trust me when I say I do not buy many DC/Marvel books, and trust me again when I say that I never by monthlies by the big two. But I am making an exception for this title, because in the able hands of Gail Simone, these five characters are easily the strongest characters in the entire DCU.

I have already been a sucker for Deadshot, as he was developed by John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and Luke McDonnell in to an incredibly deep character in the pages of his first miniseries and the late 80’s Suicide Squad (which really should have a collection by now). Christos Gage wrote another Deadshot miniseries a few years back which further fleshed him out. All seemed designed to prepare him for this book.

Gail Simone has taken Catman and given him all the depth Deadshot possessed before hand. He has made the two characters in to a strange sort of buddy team, kind of an evil Blue Beetle/Booster Gold team.

The two characters created for the team, Scandal Savage and Ragdoll are equally as deep. Scandal is a lesbian living in the shadow of an ancient evil father (sort of a twisted Talia) who is working on overcoming the death of her lover (and ex-Kesel era Superboy villain) Knockout. Ragdoll is the son of the classic JSA villain and is pretty much just bat$#!& insane.

In to all of this we throw in new member Bane, the man who broke Batman, and you have a fascinating dynamic of villains-as-heroes.

Plus you have a truly insane villain who lives in a box. Seriously.

My only real complaint with this one is the same complaint I have for pretty much every DC book right now. The language and the violence both skew to a decidedly teenage and over crowd. It bothers me that a lot of their books go on newstands, unlabeled, with this kind of content in it. I really fear a repeat of the pre-Comic Code burnings if DC does not do something to label these titles.

It sounds messy, but in the hands of Gail Simone and her amazing artistic compatriot Nicola Scott, Secret Six lives up to the hype of its previous two forms. I highly recommend everyone go out and pick up a copy today!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Super-Powered Comics: El Diablo #1

One of two debut comics I picked up this last Wednesday was an interesting revival of a classic DC character. I actually learned of El Diablo through a short lived (and excellent) series in the late 80’s by Gerard Jones and the late, great Mike Parobeck. Only later did I learn of the classic western character of Lazarus Lane through various appearances in reprints, obscure appearances in other titles, and later, through a Vertigo series by Brian Azzarello and Danijel Zezelj. The second Jones/Parobeck El Diablo met his demise in the Villains United Special a few years back so the world was ripe for a new version of the character.

Enter relatively unknown writer Jai Nitz and the well known and highly talented art team of Phil Hester and Ande Parks. They have taken the classic legend of Lazarus Lane and brought it in to the modern day. The new El Diablo is a Latin gang leader and slimeball named Chato Santana. Outside of sounded like a second generation pro wrestler, Chato is an all around nasty fellow. He gets hsi just deserts for his transgressions as he is left paraplegic and imprisoned.

While the feds are trying to get him to roll over on his fellow gang members, he meets the seemingly comatose (and 170 years old) Lazarus Lane. The two end up forming a connection, and a new El Diablo is born. They escape the facility and our series gets underway.

All in all, El Diablo #1 is a solid debut for the new character. It holds a little more depth than most number ones these days and serves to introduce us to the pre-super Chato quite well. Nonetheless this book has a lot of ground to cover in the next five issues if it hopes to succeed.

I would mildly recommend picking this one up. Good creative team, interesting character... this one definitely has the potential to shine.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Super-Powered Prose: Witchblade Talons

I picked this one up at my local Half Price Books (to which I suggest anyone in the area of one immediately go check out for their awesome selection of old goodies). It came in a two book “combo” with another Witchblade novel, which I will cover sometime when I finish it.

Talons is written by John DeChancie whose name sounds familiar, but I really couldn’t remember from where. (A quick Amazon search makes me realize I remember him from a so-so Castle Falkenstein novel from years back. Not exactly the best pedigree for good super-powered fiction.)

The novel is a strange blend of the below average Witchblade TNT series from a few years back and the above average Paul Jenkins-era comic series. It works in some ways, but in others not so much.

Sara Pezzini, bearer of the Witchblade, finds herself embroiled in a mess of a story involving the Triads, the Russian mob, a hitman, an interdimensional cult, a dragon, a techno-sorceror named Merlin, and semi-regular villians/allies Ian Nottingham and Kenneth Irons. All this is slammed in to a two hundred fifty page story that sees Sarah framed for crimes she didn’t commit. It isn’t a bad story, but it falls flat on its face as too many disparate elements try to connect but never really manage it.

The witchblade itself barely plays a role in most of the story, only popping up for the big battle at the end with a surprise legendary villain. She ends up using the weapon in one of the worst thought out ideas I think I have ever seen: to (somehow) fly. I know the witchblade is impressive in its power, but that definitely isn’t anything I have ever seen it due outside this book. And let’s all be honest with yourselves, if the magical artifact grafted to your arm could make you fly, you would almost certainly use it more often.

Talons isn’t a bad book, and considering I got it and A Terrible Beauty in one collection for three and a half bucks, it was a pretty good deal. But I think ibooks, who in their day made some far better licensed super-powered fiction in their time, could have made a far better first effort than this one.

Here’s hoping Wild Cards veteran John J. Miller can give us a little more to work with for the next book.