Saturday, 27 April 2013

It's not quite Fantastic Four week!!! There's a little Massive too!!!

By absolute luck of the draw (God bless my girlfriend needing a filling, and that her dentist is five minutes away from the comic shop) I was able to pick up this week's new comic book on the day of release, despite the fact life still forced me to have to wait til the weekend to read them (such as Iron Man 3, which I've already written about ). That said, it was still nice little haul I picked; Fantastic Four #7, FF #6 and The Massive #11, and given how good prior installments of these books had been, I thought that this might be a nice week comic wise to finish of what has been, for the most part, a nice month.

So with that, I dove into Fantastic Four #7 which saw Matt Fraction and Matt Bagley follow on their previous issue story at the beginning of the universe by sending the Richards family to the end of the universe to prevent what had happened in the last issue from coming to pass (it's a whole time-travel thing, don't ask).
To be fair, this issue isn't that bad but that is all it is. I don't know if I'm judging the series too harshly in comparison to what came before (the run by Jonathan Hickman) but so far during this run, I've gotten the feeling that the story isn't being unleashed to its full potential. Of course, this issue is a nice issue which wraps up the 2 issue arc brought out for this month, with both art and story abundant with good quality. However, with the exception of a couple of good moments (like Johnny getting confused about time-travel) I just found that my heart wasn't into this book, which is a bit of a let down and somewhat worrying given how long I've been reading the title. And so, I finished this book and moved on to the next.

And what followed was Matt Fraction and Michael Allred's latest installment of the Fantastic Four's sister book, FF #6. This issue focused on new creation Darla Deering and the recent attacks against her by none other than the Yancy Street gang, who (apparently) have taken offence to her taking over from the Thing (going so far as to where a Thing-like battlesuit), while the rest of the foundation begin to look into Medusa's disappearance and abduction of Bentley (the Wizard clone).
Always wondered how the Baxter Building was laid out.
Now, this book is a very different kettle of fish. Again, while not following in the same vein as the last volume, this book appears to have found its own voice and style which is much bigger and louder than its big sister book. Matt Fraction brings a number a fun plots, both big and small and infuses so much humour into each of them with equal measure. He also brings many of the characters into their own, especially Darla and Scott, who are both cementing themselves as my favourite characters, but also Dragon Man and Ahura (who might be the best addition to the cast, time will tell).
And then there is the art, which continues to grow into some of my favourite art around as Allred infuses the essence of Kirby in pretty much every panel, from the cut-away view of the whole Baxter Building to the cartoon like action panels the line up the issues cliffhanger, the Allred's are a perfect team for this book with their offbeat art and it continues to improve and make fall in love with it with each released issue. All I can say is I'm glad that they'll be two issues next month, so I can have twice the enjoyment.

And finally, there was the Massive #11 by Brian Wood and Declan Shalvey, which continued the story of the crew of the Kapital seeking out it's missing sister ship, which here continued to focus on the discontent of the crew as Mary takes the helicopter out to find the Massive which ends up in her becoming stranded on an island surrounded by millions of hungry sharks.
I've heard of Jumping the Shark but this is ridiculous,
Now the Massive continues to be a mixed bag for me. After nearly a year of publication, the primary mission of 'finding the Massive' continues to play second fiddle to various other stories, such as gaining resources and, in the case of this arc, dealing with Mutiny and lack of manpower. However, despite the books peaks and troughs in overall enjoyment, I do continue to be engrossed in the world Brian Wood is building and this issue is certainly one of those peaks. Following the aftermath of the last issue, where half the crew left, it's interesting to see many of those who stayed deal with it in the first half of this issue. It was also interesting to see Callum's recently revealed illness to become a main factor, with Mary encouraging Lars to step up should the worst happen.
I think what makes this issue one of the better issues is the art. I love Declan Shalvey's work. It was fantastic when he was on Thunderbolts and it broke my heart when he left the book, so it's nice to see his stuff again, which continues to have the same aesthetic as some of the other artists on this book, while showing his own flair, especially in the cast's features. Also, the man can certainly draw an impressively creepy school of sharks. This book continues to teeter on the knife edge for me, sometimes I'm into it, sometimes I'm not. I wonder if maybe I'm reading it wrong, like watching a documentary while expecting a Michael Bay style action movie. Despite that I'll still be back next month for the next issue and see which way the wind blows then.

And so, that's this week done. I have to say it wasn't quite as impressive as I hoped. Maybe after last week my standards were a little high, but that doesn't mean that I had a bad week, just have to curtail my expectations. Either that or I'm gonna have to be more brutal in what I allow myself to pick up month by month.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Saw Iron Man 3 last night

So, last night me, my friend and his son went off to see Iron Man 3, the third film in the franchise and the first marvel film to come out after the Avengers. There was a concern between us as to whether this film could keep up, quality wise, after the greatness that was the Avengers or whether a film with Iron Man on his own just would seem a bit boring. Thankfully, this wasn't the case as by the time it ended we all agreed that it was excellent, though whether it was better than the original Iron Man was a different question.

There will most likely be spoilers, so if anyone's reading this who hasn't watched Iron Man 3, I would suggest going to the cinema to watch it and then coming back to read this.

Back? Good. Or if you haven't left you have been warned.

So, the film's plot breaks down like this. After the Avengers, Tony Stark (once again played to perfection by Robert Downey Jr) looks to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress; unable to sleep, having panic attacks, etc, and has pretty much locked himself away building Iron Man suits. However, Stark wakes up from his isolation when Happy Hogan (Jon Favereau) is injured in a bomb. It seems that, of late, a megalomaniac called 'The Mandarin' (Ben Kingsley) has declared war on the US. So Stark (in all his wisdom), upset over Hogan's injuries, threatens the Mandarin, resulting in the destruction of his home and all his suits (except for his most recent, problem-ridden prototype). It then becomes a race for the truth when Stark looks into the bombings and finds that they could be the result of Think Tank AIM and it's boss Aldrich Killian (played Guy Pearce).

In truth, I think the reason the film doesn't seem as good as Iron Man 1 is simply in the tone of its execution. Gone is the ACDC, with the film opening with narration by RDJ's Stark which made me think I'd walked into a re-showing of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. In fact that would make sense what with Director Shane Black having done both films and with much of the buddy-cop aspect shown between Stark and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). This, though, wasn't all I wasn't comfortable with as there were some other issues that took away from the film. One of which is a re-occuring gag that Stark's remaining suit doesn't work properly, which begins as both humourous and also relevant to the story, but soon becomes a little tedious. Also, I didn't like the credits which felt like they were ripped off of some bad eighties tv show. Also, the giant bunny was just creepy.

Of course, just because of these few problems doesn't change what made this film good. It's like Christmas dinner in that no one like brussel sprouts on their own, but included in the meal, then the meal is still fantastic. I think what makes Iron Man 3 good is A. the cameos from comics, which are abundant. From Roxxon Oil and the return of Yinsen in a flashback, to the inclusion of AIM and Coldblood, this is a film that wanted to give the comic lovers value for money. Also, the surprise twist surrounding the Mandarin was inspiring and actually made sense if you look at the rest of the franchise. Then there was the final fight scene which was a geeks wet dream with an Army of Armors (which was SO cool) coming to the rescue (and Stark seemingly using each one) followed by a superhuman Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) coming to the rescue and finishing of the bad guy (which was even cooler).

For me, this film is not as good as the original, but then how can it be? The first Iron Man had so much charm of setting the standard, which is a hard thing to surpass. But Iron Man 3 doesn't fall short by much and is not only a fantastic film but a great end to the trilogy (assuming that Marvel make no more) which is capped off nicely with a short post-credit scene which doesn't focus on anything else in Marvel's universe but itself.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

It's Daredevil week!!!

So this week my pull list was significantly reduced to just two comic books. Fortunately for me, these two comics were not only two of the best books that I have been reading, but they are both Daredevil books, with the release of Daredevil #25, the ongoing series by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, and Daredevil End of Days #7, the one-off story which brought back the great Daredevil writing team of Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack. With that in mind I thought to myself "this is going to be good week to read comics" and the only problem I'd have would be what I'd read first.

So I started with Daredevil End of Days #7, which saw Ben Urich continue to piece together what had happened to Matt Murdock leading up to his death, with his search now taking him to the Hand, which seems to have morphed into a rather sinister (and disturbingly familiar) religious sect, and ending (in this issue anyway) with a shocking reveal as to the legacy of the Daredevil.
Don't let the cover fool you, Tyhoid Mary doesn't make an appearance.
Unfortunately, as great as this series has been up until now, this issue is most definitely the weak link in chain. It's not a bad issue, it's simply quiet what with Urich returning to the books initial formula of interviewing people for information. This changes tack in the latter half of the issue where quiet introspection becomes a all out super-hero fight, but by then this issue feels a lot like filler between what has come before and the next issues (I'm assuming) grand finale. Despite the lack of story progression here, this book is still not a bad book with the artwork still consistently top-notch (That Taneka guy and the Apartment panels were rather creepy in my book) and the final page reveal totally blew me away (and makes me want to go back to see if it wasn't hinted at previously). I just think that this is one of those issues that will probably better within the whole of the story than on it's own, but seven issues in to an eight issue series I'll be back for that final issue, still convinced that this is a fantastic book despite the disappointment I had here.

So, after being slightly let down, I moved on to Daredevil #25, which finally, after months of building it up, brought the current (as opposed to End of Days future) Man without Fear face to face with (one of) the villains behind all his recent attacks and troubles. Now I've read Daredevil for years and he's always been a character who is very dark, moody and noir-esque, but never have I read him written with such flair. Mark Waid, who started writing on this book in a very light, swashbuckling tone, seems to have returned the character to his roots, while at the same time made it so completely different and, in fact, infinitely more engaging.
Someone's been raiding Murdock's old costume wardrobe!!
In this issue, Waid introduces a new villain who is, without doubt, a good contender to replace Bullseye as DD's primary nemesis and the whole issue is spent in a fight scene between the two, interspersed with flashbacks of the hero being trained by Stick. I read through this issue twice and was engrossed from cover to cover both times as this story was so tightly written and was occurring with such urgency and energy. This book is so well written, but it's put over the top by Chris Samnee and Javier Rodriguez's art which is just so vibrant but at the same time feels timeless. It looks like a callback to 60's Daredevil comics and while I've never been a fan of older art (I'm all about the present) this is by far the best art I see anywhere.
To be honest, this is the best book I read. Full Stop. The story is so fantastic that I kinda wish I had read it first now. This is a character who is being written at his best and the end of this issue is so gut-wrenchingly painful to read that I'm not sure I can wait a month before the story continues. Many comic book reviewers say this is the best book on the shelves. There are NOT lying!!! I just wish every book was THIS good!!!

And so, that's Daredevil week over, and while I'm disappointed that Daredevil End of Days fell into a (hopefully) brief lull, the characters' regular, ongoing series more than made up for that. It kinda breaks my heart knowing that I have to wait a month before I can get the next issue, but hopefully next weeks stash (The Massive, Fantastic Four and FF) can work at being half as good as Daredevil and keep me happy.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Thinking New Man of Steel trailer is awesome!!

Ok, so today a new Man of Steel trailer was released onto the world (or rather the World Wide Web) and I gotta admit, this one is definitely the best yet.

Here it is for your viewing pleasure

So, this trailer starts with a lovely, sombre melody to set the story and some awesome battle shots detailing the end of Krypton and focusing on Jor-el and Lara saying goodbye to their son. From then on, it looks to essentially be an abridged version of the fiilm we'll all see in a few months, with the Man of Steel living his life as a child, then a wanderer and finally becoming Superman, during which the background score becomes more majestic and epic.
Now, some cool parts of this trailer that I liked.
  • First up, there is the Father/Son moment at around the 1.00 mark, where Clark as to "just be (Jonathan's) son again" which was such a cool moment as it gives a hint of the influence Jonathan Kent will have on Clark during this film.
  • Then at 1.23 is a shot of a woman (we'll assume to be Lois Lane) searching a frozen ruin (The Fortress of Solitude maybe) and a voiceover by her discussing the search for a mysterious saviour, intercut with Clark's early savings.
  • This is followed by a shot at 1.35 which i have to ask; Is that the Fortress of Solitude?? Well, wherever it is Superman stepping through the door looked awesome.
  • 2.09 is a shot that was lifted out of Superman Earth 1, which was the exact same thing. In fact, from what I know of this film's plot, that book is one of the big draws of inspiration.
  • From 2.12 onwards is all action which looks fantastic. Scenes of Superman being shot at along a road in Smallville (I'm guessing) and subsequently flying off, a shot of Zod (or one of his minions) taking a missile strike like it was nothing and then the little joke about what the "S" stands for just to give the impression of a little humour.
  • Finally, there's the big finale at 2.47 with a bad ass fight scene in the air. If anyone thought that this would be anything close to Superman Returns low budget action sequences then that scene will make you think different.
At the end of the day, this is end to end awesome trailer, maybe even beating Iron Man 3's recent ones hands down. I assume that as Christopher Nolan is involved, that'll be the last one because it will most likely get people drooling for more. Well, it's worked on me and I'm totally pumped to see it. Just a shame I gotta wait another few months.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

reading Action Comics #19 - The entirety of Andy Diggle's run

So, finally, after the eighteen issue run from Grant Morrison which was decidedly hit-and-miss, I've (finally) gotten round to reading Action Comics #19, an issue which breathes new life into the title with the start of the run by new creative team Andy Diggle and Tony Daniels. It's just a shame that this run both begins and ends here.
The story begins with the Man of Steel covering a civil war under his civilian garb while, simultaneously stopping the supply of killer robot weapons being supplied to the bad guys by (unbeknownst to him) one of his biggest enemies. This turns out to be a mere distraction by said villain, whose big plan was to defeat Superman from the inside out.
This panel is just a new take on classic, but I like it..
Now, the story may sound a little lame, and maybe even somewhat familiar, but that isn't what makes this such a great issue. What makes issue 19 work so well is how Andy Diggle writes Clark Kent/Superman. Diggle has written the character exactly how I imagine him to be, a lot less of the hot-headed, arrogant kid from Morrison's Action run and none of the brooding loner from the Superman series, more the calm, diplomat who lets his fists do the talking only when he has no choice. This IS Superman!!! This is no better displayed than during the scene of the big fight between Supes and the killer robots, where an internal monologue shows just how the character thinks. He's calm, he's rational, he doesn't want to fight but it doesn't mean he won't. This isn't the only characterization that makes this issue great. The writing of the villain (who I'm intentionally withholding so I don't spoil to any who haven't read it) is top notch and could quite possibly be one of the best depictions of the character that I've read. Cruel, calculating, methodical, this character is one you'll need to hate.
Now, the story isn't the only plus here, the art too is pretty good. I like Tony Daniel's stuff and here he once again brings his A game, with tonnes of big heroic panels that could only work in a Superman comic. The pencils are smooth and clean which, backed up by Batt's inks, make the book look fantastic. However, despite the fantastic art, there are flaws, most notable being a couple of panels during the fight scene, but these are minor quibbles against the brilliant depictions of the main characters.
After reading this, I'm bittersweet. A part of me is so glad that, after being less than impressed with much of the past issues of Action Comics, I've been given a book that looks, sounds, and feels like a Superman comic. However, at the same time, it's upsetting that the creative team, had already announced their departure prior to this issues release (Diggle after this issue, Daniels has another two left). Still, this was a fantastic book and I have no regrets getting it because, all is said and done I'm reading a story which is starring the Superman I've always wanted to see. I just hope he sticks around when the creative have gone.