Posts tagged ‘Horror’
Robert Kirkman has established his narrative credibility with The Walking Dead series. It is aptly named, because the book is essentially a very, very long walk through the lives of the survivors of a zombie plague. It has no clear end in sight (other than death), no five-issue story arcs, no predictable characters or cyphers, no spandex, and no color. And even if borrowed heavily from the classic film 28 Days Later in its first issue, any cribbing disappeared quickly and left no lasting effects. The book has been recognized as a masterpiece by no less than The New York Times, and if you haven’t read it yet, this is the perfect time: The first 50 issues were recently compiled in a doorstop-heavy single volume. That may sound intimidating, but I guarantee you’ll read it fast. And want more. But The Walking Dead is so “un-comic-book” that you might be wondering if Kirkman can do anything more conventional.
Well, he has written for some of Marvel’s more off-kilter titles (Marvel Zombies, Ultimate X-Men) and even some straightforward stuff on Captain America. He’s also got his own “family of heroes” title, “Invincible,” which has gotten good reviews but it never really worked for me. I haven’t had the time or money to check out “The Astounding Wolf-Man” and “Capes,” which a lot of folks rave about. (Note: Kirkman recently announced that Wolf-Man will end with #25, so I expect there will be a big bound volume available soon.) But I did see the first Trade Paperback of Haunt on the shelf at Victory Comics in Falls Church and figured I’d give it a try.
The series is part Firestorm, part espionage, and part gore-filled monster flick. The writing is solid, exciting, taut and completely unpredictable. It’s as good as Kirkman’s work on The Walking Dead, but also very difficult to compare. Haunt is more conventional, in that the first Trade is a clear story arc (“The Origin!”), and it’s got more traditional characters as well. But Kirkman handles it expertly–so that it is as fresh as anything else you’ll read.
As for the art, I’ve never liked Todd MacFarlane more. MacFarlane is best known for his Spider-Man work, but unless he was drawing Carnage or Venom, he never really worked for me on that book–his stuff is a lot like John Romita, Jr., but it’s a little too . . . Creepy. His Spawn project was pretty good, but the story never got me. Here, he’s a perfect match. Å possessed secret agent, “Haunt” is a lanky, fluid character with large eyes and claws. In short, he looks like Spider-Man. And the story is in constant motion, just like MacFarlane’s “posed” style. Every frame is a poster. It’s that good. And the pages are well-arranged, laid out with clear vision.
This book gets an A+ from me. You need to buy it. Now.
1. MOVIES. I love to report, but there’s not a lot this week. I can tell you that the Nightmare remake is like eating fine lobster, only the claw meat has been replaced with rice cakes. Not a scary moment in it. But there a few great movies out now–which will be easy to get into after May 7 (a.k.a. Iron Man Day). Go see “A Prophet” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” Good stuff. Check out my movie page for my ongoing rankings.
2. GET JASON! Why is Jason Aaron the only Wolverine writer you need to know about? Because of the 2008 “Get Mystique” story (in trade); the amazing and incredible run he had on Wolverine: Weapon X; and, soon, his Wolverine-goes-to-hell story arc that will kick off a new Wolverine title (to replace the existing one, which is really about Dark Wolverine). Nobody has ever (and I mean EVER) made the character as interesting or complex as Mr. Aaron. And lots of folks have tried.
3. CAN D.C. RETURN TO GREAT-TOON-NESS? I’ve often said that D.C.’s animation efforts are far superior to Marvel’s, on the whole, while Marvel’s live-action adaptations tend to leave D.C. in the dust. Compare, for example, Batman: Brave and the Bold, Justice League (and it’s “Unlimited” version), Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: TAS, and Teen Titans Go! to Wolverine and the X-Men, Spectacular Spider-Man, or every awful Fantastic Four cartoon. Just about the only toons Marvel got right, other than their DVD releases, in the past 20 years were the first X-Men and X-Men Evolutions. Well, Marvel’s animation studios are kicking into high gear, as I
reported last week, so, not to be outdone, D.C. has announced that this year they’ll be reviving the 1998 “Young Justice” series. Yeah, it sucked back then, but maybe they can do it right now? It’s kind of like a version of Teen Titans, only a little tweaked. This version of the junior Justice League will have Superboy, Robin, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, Artemis and Aqualad. Now, if they could just bring back that great Superboy and the Legion series from a few years ago . . .
4. AND SPEAKING OF D.C. MOVING PICTURES . . . Smallville recently introduced T.V. viewers to the DCU version of SHIELD (sort of), called Checkmate, and it’s African American director Amanda Waller. (She’s also black in the comic—unlike Nick Fury.) Rumors say that the organization will move from small to big screen, appearing in the Green Lantern movie, which is currently filming. In other D.C. movie news, there’s more talk about the Ronin adaptation. The comic was quite stylized, and it’s hard to imagine how they’ll even begin to stay true to Frank Miller’s original mystic, cryptic miniseries.
5. MARVEL STUDIOS UPDATES. And speaking of moving pictures, we’re a year away from the release date, but the leaks, rumors and buzz keep coming on next year’s Marvel tentpole. They’re saying now that Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos will appear. That’s kind of a no-brainer if they’re showing pre-frozen Cap. A much more interesting turn of events is the rumor that Joss Whedon will be getting involved as a writer or director of The Avengers. And did you hear that if they don’t start filming Ghost Rider 2 by November, the rights to the film revert to Marvel Studios? See, now that would be a good thing. Marvel Studios has done a good job by most of its characters. (But where’s the good Punisher movie? That’s where they’ve fallen down. Big time.)
6. SIEGE. My readers know I’m a huge fan of Marvel in general and Brian Michael Bendis specifically, but Siege has been pretty disappointing to me. I know it’s hard to make an “event” live up to the hype, and even harder to stretch a battle for 3 issues and keep it interesting, but I still expected more. This is the return of Steve Rogers, but there doesn’t seem to be nearly enough fanfare. This is Iron Man and Thor teaming up, in costume, against Earth’s evilest, but there isn’t really a feeling of rally. This is Ronin reclaiming his Hawkeye costume—something he’s been grumbling about for a year—yet there hasn’t been a powerful “punch” moment. I’m not saying Siege is bad, I’m just saying it’s not good enough. But having said that, the one-shots have been pretty darn good. We learned more about Loki and Cap than we have from the Thor and Captain America titles, let alone the main Siege series. It’s the rare case where the tie-ins tell you more than the main series. Even Siege: Spider-Man, which didn’t really advance any storylines, was a solid, fun, and funny read. I’m not saying don’t buy it, I’m just saying, again, that I’m disappointed.
1. BUCKY! It was predictable that any movie telling the origin of Captain America would have to include Bucky. Well, with Chris “Human Torch” Evans now on board as Cap, they’ve announced Sebastian “Hot Tub Time Machine” Stan as the future Winter Soldier. Reports say Stan has a five-picture deal, so I guess Marvel is hoping for many future episodes. As am I. Seriously, Joe Johnston: Don’t screw this up. Evans and Sebastian look to be about the same age, and Evans if a pretty lean guy, so the Cap we see on the screen will definitely be a different type of character. It’s hard to imagine how he’ll be next to Robert Downey, Jr., in the Avengers film—particularly because Downey doesn’t dumb-down his acting for anyone—but I’d be willing to accept Cap as a younger guy (physically) as long as Evans can bring us a man (and idealist) out of time. The movie begins filming in June with a July 22, 2011 release date.
2. SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN! If I had to make a list of my favorite directors, I’d have to include Sam Raimi, George Romero, David Fincher, M Night Shamalyan (recent work notwithstanding), Joss Whedon, John Carpenter, probably Spielberg (even though that’s an obvious choice) and, of course, the great Wes Craven. So I’m doing the Snoopy happy dance over the fact Wes will return to reboot and direct “Scream 4.” The Scream trilogy is a rare example of a series that for the most part maintained high quality throughout (except maybe for the third one). And best of all, it will be written by Kevin Williamson, who wrote the original. I’m not sure there are that many more horror tropes to satirize, and the fact that most recent horror films are just remakes of old ones means that there aren’t any new tropes in the game, either. Still, I’m hopeful.
3. A HELLUVA LOT MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE. Okay, I admit that I loved Transformers, and I truly think Shia La Beouf is a very talented actor. However, to my credit, I wasn’t a fan of Trans2 and I think Megan Fox is a better cardboard standee than an actress. That said, for “Transformers 3″ Michael Bay has cast John Malkovich and Frances McDormand(!) The real question isn’t how did he do that (it’s the money, stupid) but why? They won’t bring new butts into the seats. He seems to be fishing for critical acclaim (since the first two flicks were not exactly well-received), but is Bay really that pathetic?
4. THOR NEWS! Director Kenneth Branagh and members of the cast are doing more talking, now that filming has begun on the Marvel Norse epic scheduled for a 2011 release. They say the movie will take place evenly between Asgard and Midgard (Earth, to you non-Thor fans), but really they’re trying to dispel rumors that cast members are fighting even more than the characters they portray. The volume of leaks about disgruntled stars (a big one was the report that Odin (Anthony Hopkins) thinks Christopher Helmsworth (Thor) is a lightweight) is definitely troubling. Except for a few brief shining moments, I’ve always thought of Thor as Marvel’s second-most-laziest character in terms of developing a unique heroic character, largely due to the reliance on Norse mythology. I’m hopeful that Matt Fraction (who takes over the main title) and Brian Michael Bendis (who will include Thor in the new Avengers title) can rescue the character, but clearly that won’t happen soon enough to inform the film version. Too bad they didn’t go for the sexy (albeit creepy) female Loki . . .
5. EVEN MORE THOR NEWS! Incidentally, on May 1 we’ll get our first taste of Marvel’s attempt to rescue Thor from the huge quality drop post-JMS’ run on the title, when free comic book day offers a one-shot “Iron Man and Thor” book written by Fraction and illustrated by John Romita, Jr. It takes place on the moon(!). I’ve said here often that JR Jr. is my favorite Marvel artist of all time, but I have to say: His sketches for the new Avengers promos have been less than impressive—but previews of his Thor drawings for the free comic book are awesome. Anyway, I’m hopeful for the Fraction Thor book because, like JMS and Walt Simonson before him, Fraction has a proven track record of being able to reboot characters with long histories, stay true to past legend, but also make the book completely accessible to new readers. He did it twice already, with Iron Fist and Iron Man. Thor will be his first non-ferrous reboot!
6. LOTS OF AVENGERS. All of the Avengers titles will end at the end of Siege, only to be relaunched as The Avengers, Avengers Academy, and Secret Avengers. The main team has pretty much been confirmed, and the only real surprise there is that Cap will be Bucky not Steve, but Marvel recently also announced that The Beast is returning to a non-mutant team as a member of The Secret Avengers, alongside War Machine. The series writer, Ed Brubaker, is of course brilliant at turning second-stringers into A-list characters, and I can’t wait to see artist Mike Deodato—my favorite New Avengers artist—take on War Machine. I also can’t wait until they haul in Howard the Duck.
7. R.I.P. I don’t usually do death announcements, but I have to mention the passing of Archie Comics artist Henry Scarpelli on April 4. Who didn’t love Archie as a kid?
8. AND SPEAKING OF DEATH . . . Rumor is someone’s gonna die in the last Smallville ep. Rumor hasn’t been confirmed, but what has been confirmed are appearances by Hawkman, Black Canary, Cyborg, and Stargirl. This is a show that has really lost me. I watch to see other D.C. heroes, and when they’re just whining about romance (see the recent “romance in the haunted cabin” episode), I tune out. It’s too bad. There’s so much potential for greatness here, but for whatever reason D.C. won’t let them make the show more than just intermittently good.
9. AND FOR THE GEEKIEST OF THE GEEKS . . . SALES NUMBERS! A lot of my readers come just for the music. I’ve had more than one person tell me, “Comic books? I’m a grown man!” But I dig ‘em. And this blog is about what I dig. But even I can say that only a few of you will care at all about this last item: On Thursday, Diamond Comic Distributors released their March sales numbers. Of course, Marvel dominates the overall market (they saturate it, after all)—40% to D.C.’s 30%–but surprisingly, only one Marvel title made the top 5 (Siege #3). Here’s the top 10 regular books:
1 BLACKEST NIGHT #8 $3.99 DC
2 SIEGE #3 $3.99 MAR
3 GREEN LANTERN #52 $2.99 DC
4 BATMAN AND ROBIN #10 $2.99 DC
5 GREEN LANTERN CORPS #46 $3.99 DC
6 NEW AVENGERS #63 $3.99 MAR
7 DARK AVENGERS #15 $3.99 MAR
8 ULTIMATE COMICS NEW ULTIMATES #1 $3.99 MAR
9 UNCANNY X-MEN #522 $3.99 MAR
10 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #623 $2.99 MAR
In the trades category, indie publishers and imprints dominated, with Kick-Ass at #1, and top-10 entries by well-deserved books like Kirkman’s “Haunt,” Ennis’ “The Boys,” and the latest installment of Buffy Season 8. If you’re not buying (or at least reading) The Boys, you’re truly missing out…
I don’t usually review movies in this space, but I’m as qualified to do so as I am to review music or comics. Which is to say, I’m a little more qualified than Ellen is to judge amateur pop stars. (I mean, I’ve been doing it since about ’05. When did she get started?) But I just saw The Crazies, and I have to write about it. I have to!
By way of disclosure: I am a huge George A. Romero fan. The first movie I ever saw that made an impact on me was Night of the Living Dead. (Okay, the second. Star Wars was the first.) I was about 8 years old, and we were on vacation in a log cabin in Maine . My dad wanted to see it, and so me, him, and my mom drove into Port Clyde to the only movie theater—a revival house—had dinner at Peter Ott’s Steakhouse, and went to the flick. I lasted until the brick hit the car window, and then I was out. Had nightmares for a week and barely a drop of blood was shed.
I can’t say the original The Crazies had anything close to that kind of impact on me, but since then I haven’t missed one of George’s films. He doesn’t direct or write as much as he used to, and I couldn’t get through Diary of the Dead (camerawork made me nauseous), but I dug all the other “The Dead” films, loved The Dark Half and Creepshow, and even found redeeming parts of Monkey Shines. So I had to see the remake of The Crazies on opening weekend.
It sounds like a million other plague/zombie movies: Town goes from creepy to insane in a matter days, just about everybody dies, there’s violence, etc. etc. All that does indeed occur. But it’s handled very well. It is genuinely frightening, and when it takes that inevitable turn from horror to action flick (as far too many horror films do these days), it actually retains its tone. It’s not like watching two different movies. Part of the way it maintains its style is by staying with one point of view. Unlike the original, the only indications we have of military involvement are a few satellite pictures and then we see whatever David, the Sheriff and main character, sees. This is where it goes right where Hills Have Eyes 2 went wrong—we the audience stay with the main player.
No, there’s nothing really new here, and the coincidence that David and his wife are both immune does seem far fetched, but this is a solidly terrifying (and realistic) movie. The last thing to mention is the role of the military. The military is portrayed as a fascistic, unsympathetic monolith, with just two exceptions: The first is a young National Guardsman briefly captured by David and his deputy, the other is a bureaucrat trying to flee the town. But this seems both realistic and proper: To those who think it portrays the military in a negative light, I say what would you have them do to stop a supervirus of this magnitude? I think the tone was just right.
So I’m giving it my highest recommendation.
IN HONOR OF BEING JEWISH ON CHRISTMAS DAY . . . I present my take on the year in film.
So, in 2009 I saw 31 new movies. Doesn’t seem like nearly enough. I’ve got a movie page where I list all of them, in order, but I figured a post would be cool, too. [Caveat: I haven't seen Avatar yet. I'm not stupid enough to drag my ass to that movie during opening week.]
Everyone’s gonna talk about how good Up in the Air and Blind Side were, and they were very good, but my absolute favorite movie this year was Sam Raimi’s, Drag Me To Hell. It’s actually kind of a remake of a foreign film that I can’t recall the name of. I think it was Italian. It was almost an identical plot, except at the end I think the train actually hits the guy or something. I can’t remember. And it’s not important.
Sam Raimi made one of the scariest films of his career, and easily the most frightening film of the year. It didn’t rely on a lot of digital effects or cheap startling moments–it was genuinely terrifying, from the images to the concept. (Old ladies are always scary.)
One of the coolest things about the movie is the way it managed to make conventional horror gimmicks (The bad guy’s in the back seat! Don’t open your mouth!) unpredictable.
I can’t wait to see it again when it comes out on DVD.
The surprise for me this year was (500) Days of Summer. As you can guess from the list of all the movies I’ve seen over the past few years, I’m not a romantic comedy kinda guy. But this film captivated me from beginning to end, with it’s unusual, brilliant take on a tired genre. It was touching, funny, adorable . . . And it’ll get you laid, too. Can’t ask for more than that.
The breakout crew of the year belongs to District 9. A bunch of never-heard-of-you actors and a first-time writer/director made an exciting and visually amazing sci fi film for $30 million. In comparison, Avatar cost $500 million. And was that film really that much better than D9? I’m not trying to hate on James Cameron, I’m just saying that a great film doesn’t have to cost more money than it would take to bail out an entire state’s worth of distressed mortgagees.
D9 was shocking, violent, scary, and wholly unpredictable. Awesome.
Another film worth mentioning are Zombieland, which was as refreshing as 28 Days Later in its vision of this tired genre. Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson deserve kudos for their work here.
I also want to say that despite it’s terrible title and technical problems that a seasoned director like Werner Herzog should have been able to avoid, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was a hell of a lot better than it should have been.
Oh, and you should all go see Hurt Locker. Amazing, powerful war film.
The best kid film of the year? Hands down, Where the Wild Things Are. Unlike PixarDisneyAndTheRest, this movie neither talked down to kids nor expected them to behave like toy-hungry, simplistic morons. Instead, it told a narrative that a young mind could understand on an emotional level, if not a literal one. So few movies avoid the heartstrings and instead try to reach the soul. This is one of those rare movies.
Plus, every scene was like a painting. And on top of all that: It got my kids into Arcade Fire. So there.
Finally, Wolverine didn’t suck, but it wasn’t a classic. The same was true of Watchmen and G.I. Joe. A good but not great year for superhero movies–unlike the renaissance of 2008, which brought us two classics (The Dark Knight and Iron Man), one better-than-the-first-one sequel (Hellboy II), and a pretty good relaunch (The Incredible Hulk). But it was a short breather: 2010 promises Iron Man 2, Jonah Hex, Justice League and Planet Hulk animated DVDs, Scott Pilgrim, possibly Sin City 2, Flash Gordon (iffy), Y The Last Man, Kick Ass, and possibly Red Sonja and Nick Fury movies. Whew.
Iron Man 2 trailer (featuring Gary Shandling)
To sum up:
For the best comics of 2000-2001, and full bios of all contributors, go here!
For 2002-2003, click here!
For 2004, check this out!
Looking for the best of 2005? Click here!
And for 2006, this is your spot.
2007 was a great year, and your shopping list is here, along with some 2008s.
Which bring us to today . . .
THE BEST COMICS OF THE DECADE: Part Seven: The books that help us ring in the next decade.
Daniel Way and Paco Medina.
This is the most ridiculous book in the Marvel U. It’s silly, X-rated, and unapologetically violent. Accept no substitutes: Most other DP appearances don’t nearly measure up.
Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows
I am sick and twisted but Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows are horrible human beings. More intense than the zombie apocalypse of The Walking Dead, because the things chasing you are mean and twisted and prone to horrible acts of… well, horribleness. I know the series isn’t done yet but I can’t help but love it if for no other reason than the end of issue #5. I’m not going to spoil anything but it just made me realize Ennis was doing something more than just shock horror… well, there’s still a lot of gross stuff, but it made this horror story more human and it raised an interesting question. Might things might be better without all us people ruining things?
-Mike Raicht, author of The Stuff of Legend
Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day
Authors include: Dan Slott, Marc Guggenheim, others. Artists include Steve McNiven, Salvador Larroca, John Romita, Jr., Phil Jimenez, others.
Technically, “Brand New Day” is over–it gave way to “One More Day” and then to whatever they’re calling it now. The banner no longer appears on the Amazing Spider-Man book. But we’re still learning about what happened when Spidey made a deal with Mephisto to erase his past and start over. The best part of this series is that it eliminated three or four monthly titles and tightened the creative control over Spider-Man, gave a starting point for new readers or those (like me) who had stopped reading because it just got too damn confusing, and created a self-contained book about the most important character in the Marvel Universe. The book is still great, but I’m getting worried: They’ve announced a second monthly Spiderbook. Marvel hasn’t learned that too much of anyone is exhausting. (Although it seems like they have no shortage of folks who will buy anything with Wolverine in it.)
Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.
This book is just a bloody roller coaster ride. Its an over-adrenalized teen fantasy that is constantly slapped in the face with reality. Punches are not pulled (the torture scene in Issue 7? Ouch!). Our hero makes a mess more often than he saves the day. And each time he opens his mouth around the bad guys, I cringe – its very evident that his bark is much worse than his bite.
And yet, despite all his failings, our protagonist is still one of the more enjoyable anti-heroes around. I guess it’s hard to expect otherwise from a creative team as powerful as Mark Millar and John Romata, Jr.
If the upcoming Kick-Ass motion picture lives up to the comic books, the mainstream is going to have its mind blown wide open.
- Miguel of TheHeroBlog.com
Fin Fang Four #1
Scott Gray & Roger Langridge
Maybe it isn’t fair to call this a 2009 release, but that’s when these previously on-line stories premiered on pulp. Four stories of Fin Fang Foom, a genius monster surrounded by idiots and facing guys like Doc Samson and Wong. It’s a collection of B-characters in a collection that really seems more indie than Marvel. Probably the inspiration for the recent “Strange Tales” collection of Marvel stories by independent writers and artists. (Strange Tales is really good, too, but it’s just not THE BEST of the Decade.)
-Mysterious Comic Book Guy
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
Neil Gaiman & Andy Kubert
Teaming up with Andy Kubert again, as he did on Marvel 1602 (see: The Best of 2003), Gaiman tells a mysterious story of the Death of the Bat. A lot of folks hated these two issues, but I thought they were brilliant. A buncha baddies go to Batman’s wake and reminisce about their favorite Bat-memories . . . And how they would have killed him.
-Mysterious Comic Book Guy
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Eric Shanower and Skottie Young
Eric Shanower has been adapting Frank L. Baum’s novels—and writing his own Oz adventures—for years, in indie books. In 2008, Marvel finally wised up to Shanower’s tremendous talent in directing adapatations of the original material, and paired him up with the brilliant Skottie Young to create the most unusual, charming miniseries of the past year. Young’s illustrations are nothing short of incredible—each panel is a work of art, like a painting. And the writing is completely faithful to the novel—not the movie. The team is coming back in 2010 to take on the second Oz book. Watch for it.
And that’s it! Most (all?) of these are out in trade paperback, so you’ve got a sweet little Christmas list–for yourself or others. Spread the word: Comics aren’t just for kids anymore!