crazy colored glasses

Monday, May 23, 2011

Goodbye Macho Man

As a child of the 80's I had many sports heroes. Don Mattingly, Magic Johnson (who I still think is the greatest basketball player of all-time) and Danny White (hey, don't laugh, he was the under-rated QB on my favorite squad) were my favorite traditional athletes. There was one athlete that stood above the competition. He seemed larger than life, and even though his sport was wrestling, he always captured my imagination.

This past Friday, Randy "Macho Man" Savage passed away. I was shocked and saddened by the news. Both my oldest brother and youngest sister contacted me to tell me the news, and to make sure I was okay after hearing the news. It was a little weird to get these calls and emails, but after thinking it over some more I could understand why. Savage was a huge part of my youth. I loved him, my family knew that, and now he was gone.

I knew wrestling was fake, but Savage's combination of power and athleticism were rarely matched. Was he the greatest wrestler of all-time, no, that honor I believe goes to Bret Hart. But no one, in any era ever put on a show like the Macho Man. My brother put it best on Friday when he said "He was the type of wrestler I'd always pay money to see". He was right. You knew that any show headlined by the Macho Man was bound to be great one.

If you ever have a doubt, of the power, charisma and athleticism of Randy Savage, watch Wrestlemania's III and IV. WM III has the classic Steamboat vs. Savage match. Quite possibly the greatest match in professional wrestling history. While Savage (as a popular heel) lost the match to Steamboat, they both put on an amazing show. A brilliant combination of ground and aerial tactics. Savage though, really came into his own in WM IV. This was the event that featured the tournament for the vacant WWE World title. Savage fought 4 matches (Butch Reed, Greg Valentine, One Man Gang and Ted DiBiase), each different than the last in showcasing how unique and gifted an athlete he truly was. The night ended with him starting the first of multiple WWE world championship runs.

I saw both of those WM's on closed circuit at MSG with my oldest brother. We went to MSG a lot in those days, and we always left talking about the amazing show the Macho Man had put on. Yes, Hogan was always more popular, but you always knew how Hogan's matches would end. With Macho Man, it was always the best show of the night, win or lose. A show I'm happy to have lived through. My thoughts and prayers go out to Randy's family.


My wife is awesome...

Last week we had a long discussion about Flashpoint #1. Talking about everything from pacing, new and different characters, and Andy Kubert's (Lee-inspired) pencils... a little while later, we turned topics to Scott Joplin's Entertainer... yeah, she kicks ass. There's no one like her.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Mighty Thor

After going to the midnight opening of Thor, I was all set to review the film for you loyal Dubbs readers. Then I decided that I had to take a step back. Most people know very little about Thor, so before I review, I'll give you a little history lesson.

Thor was created for Marvel comics back in 1962 by the trifecta of Stan Lee, Larry Leiber and Jack Kirby. He was based on the Norse thunder god of the same name. Thor was a young, handsome and cocky god who was set to take over for Odin (think the Norse version of Zeus) as King of Asgard as Odin fell into the Odinsleep (a sometimes decades long slumber the all-father needs to stay all-powerful). While getting ready to hand over the reigns, Odin realizes his arrogant son must be humbled. He then banishes Thor to Earth, powerless, and in a frail human form to learn humility. Thor (in the human form of Donald Blake) learns he can access his powers in time of need, and uses them selflessly to defend the humans on Earth. Along the way he falls in love with Jane Foster, joins the Avengers, chooses Earth over Asgard, and learns how evil his half-brother Loki (the Norse god of Mischief) truly is.

This movie captures just about all of the nearly 50 year journey of the title capture perfectly, and all in about 2 hours.

The film starts on Earth with Jane and her research partners following a unique storm front. This front leads them into direct contact with a powerless and stranded Thor. The story of how exactly he got there is then explained in a flashback to the amazing setpiece that is Asgard. Here we see a royal celebration that is cut short due to an attack by the banished Frost Giants. This leads to Thor's confrontation with the giants (in the most action-packed sequence of the film) and eventual banishment by Odin. Once on Earth Thor has many hilarious fish our of water scenes, while he bonds with the humans and tries to recover both his hammer, and his godhood.

At the same time, we are learning that Loki has been scheming the whole time so that he can be crowned King instead of Thor. Thor's asgardian mates the Warriors 3 (plus the lovely Lady Sif), uncover the plot and travel down to Earth to bring Thor back and thwart Loki. This sets up a battle on Earth between Thor and the Destroyer (sent down by Loki), where Thor defends the humans, and earns back his godhood, which gains him a return trip to Asgard where he has an ultimate showdown with his half-brother.

It seems like there is a ton going on for a 2 hour film, but Kenneth Branagh pulls it off. He brings his Shakespearean chops to the table and finds the perfect balance between the grand setpieces and costumes, as well as the simpleness of the U.S. desert. The cast is also very strong. Chris Hemsworth is a perfect embodiment of Thor. Equal parts cocky and wide-eyed humility. Tom Hiddleston's Loki is also perfectly cast. I think the movie works so well because of how smarmy and mischievous Hiddleston makes Loki. Portman, Saarsgard and Dennings are all very good as well in providing comic relief and human moments through out.

This film, like the other Marvel Studios films was ripe with hidden easter eggs for the comic faithful. The Infinity Gauntlet and Eye of Agamato were visible in the Asgards weapons room. Jeremy Renner was incredibly cool in his tiny Hawkeye cameo, and what about the post credit Cosmic Cube. All little touches a comic geek like myself loved.

I thoroughly enjoyed Thor. The acting, directing and costumes were all spot-on. My one complaint is I wish there was more action. The movie starts off with a huge action sequence which seems like a portent of things to come, but it never quite gets there. Sure there are other cool scenes (like the Shield base with the above-mentioned Hawkeye) but nothing that matches the battle with the frost giants. The final conflict, which crosses both Earth and Asgard also proves to be very anti-climactic. While Branagh has crafted a well-acted, solid, believable story of a banished god, I couldn't help but want more. With that said, there is plenty to enjoy for comic and non-comic fans alike. A solid 3 star effort that I highly recommend.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Pull List: 5/11/11

After a small week last week, back with an almost 20 book week.

Top of the Stack
1. Flashpoint #1- This book definitely lived up to it's advanced billing. Geoff Johns really is the best comic book writer alive today. Kubert's pencils look better than ever (and more thank a little Jim Lee-esque thanks to inking by Wildstorm's Sandra Hope). An alternate reality were Flash has no powers, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are ruthless dictators, Cyborg is the big hero on the planet, and Batman is actually Thomas Wayne... what???? Yep, you read right. Bruce and MArtha were killed by Joe Chill, leaving Thomas alive and wearing the Bat costume. He also serves as the narrator of the story. DC's big event has arrived and it definitely hit one out of the park in the first issue.

2. Batman Incorporated #6 - A bunch of tiny little vignettes tell the story of how grand Bruce's venture is becoming, and how powerful the villain actually is. Chris Burnham pencils were an absolute revelation. I can't remember any book by him ever, but I loved his work. Morrison continues to throw tons of new (or reimagined classics) characters into Batman's army, and it works. The title has been a little uneven lately, with Morrison almost trying to be too clever in his knowledge of the Silver Age, but this issue hits on all cylinders.

3. Black Panther #518 - Giss and Francavilla are quite possibly the best Marvel pairing not named Bendis/Maleev. The Panther has filled in admirably for Daredevil, and even has a Kingpin of his own in Vlad. Perfect blend of art and story, very similar to the tone and story that Francavilla illustrates for Scott Snyder. I almost don't want to see Matt return to Hell's Kitchen. Almost (not really).

4. Superman #711 - Supes encounters the always entertaining LiveWire on is walk across America. Finally, a little action takes place. Barrows pencils are very strong as usual, and I love the fact that she ended up in Supes old electric blue uni. Very cool use of an old plot thread. Here's to hoping they continue to amp up the action in this book as we near the end of the Grounded saga.

5. X-Men Legacy #248 - I loved the Age of X story line. I loved this little epilogue with individual characters getting their mind wiped of the experience, or choosing to keep their memories. Rampage's confrontation of Scott was the most emotional of the entire issue, as she simply doesn't want to forget their time together. Can an Emma ass-kicking be far behind. Also, what will happen with Legion. Do they think his wrist guard will stop him when he starts bugging out again... I doubt it.

Rest of the pull
6. Journey Into Mystery #623 - I'm loving that young Loki know has a title where he is the star. We can see his mischievous machinations unfold completely. This issue ties in closely to Fear Itself, but still finds a way to let Loki and plans shine. Excellent work by a book that I think will consistently find itself near the top of the stack.

7. Birds of Prey #12 - Simone's work has been stellar as usual, but this issue she was joined by Jesus Saiz which took quality of this book into the stratosphere. A regularly good book, became great for this issue. I hope Saiz stays on and continues his great work. The Question and Huntress' banter was great, the secondary story with Lady Blackhawk, Canary and Dove was just OK. Strong issue.

8. Flash #13 - This issue leads directly into Flashpoint #1. Kollins art no longer fits the title as seamlessly as it once did. Manapul has made the Flash his own, and any other artists work looks pedestrian (pun intended) in comparison. Zoom is a badass and out to show it. I also love Iris West, she belongs right up there for me with Lois and pre-Omit Mary Jane.

9. Daredevil Reborn #4 - I must admit I hated the 3rd issue, but loved this finale. It set Matt up at his fist flying best after getting an inspirational talk from the blind kid who took him in. As much as I didn't love the entirety of the Diggle run, I was very happy with this Reborn finale. It sets up Matt to seamlessly return to the Marvel Universe proper.

10. FF #3 - I love the gathering of the anti-Reed Richards squad, bought together at the behest of Valeria. Strong issue, but the whole kid-smarter-than-you act of Valeria is starting to get tiresome. Peter David did it better in X-Factor with Layla Miller, plus it makes her seam like a wholier than thou brat. The tone of Epting's pencils is great. You still feel like the squad is mourning for Johnny (although I still don't believe he's dead).

11. Punisher Max #13 - I don't love the direction of this arc. I simply don't see Frank being so distraught in his post-Nam life that he would allow his family to be killed to simply have another war to fight. I don't buy it, and it goes against everything this character has stood for. Oh, and Frank makes it out of the infirmary and into solitary confinement in jail. Dillon's pencils remain very good.

12. Red Robin #23 - The first part of a 7 part story starts out very nicely. Marcus To's pencils are very strong in hi return to the title. I like the Scarabs as RR foils, and love the faked attempt on Lucious Fox's life.

13. G.I. Joe #1 - This relaunched title, saw the world of Cobra turned upside down with the assassination of Cobra Comander. When the story focuses on the Cobra organization the book is strong, but isn't that what the Cobra specific book is for. The Joe's felt like an after-thought in their own title. The most bland parts of the story all involved the Joe's. Saltares pencils were stiff and unimaginitive. I want Robert Atkins back.

14. Spawn #207 - I'm digging this book right now, but fear it's only an issue or two away from falling back to crap. Hopefully that won't happen, and they can continue to keep on their monthly schedule. I like the look of the new artist, and love the way the book is reading. It's definitely building, hopefully there is a payoff.

15. Batgirl #21 - It was ice to see Dustin Nguyen back as well as a happy resolution for Wendy, but I'm sure she'll be back. Relatively flat issue from a generally strong title.

16. Spider-Man #660 - Peter and Carlie have strong moments, but the main story with the FF was a snoozer. LOVE the art.

17. New Avengers #12 - Mockingbird on deaths door. Didn't she just come back? The only good scene in the entire issue was the potential turning of Victoria Hand.

18. Astonishing X-Men #37 - Not feeling this arc right now. Monsters in Japan seem so cliche. Pearson's pencils aren't as crisp as they normally are.

19. X-Men #11 - A throw-away vampire story with Xavier trying to make Jubilee feel better. Yawn.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Pull List: 5/4/11

It was a pretty small week for me (only 7 books) which meant I got to buy and read the next chapter of The Walking Dead (Volume 10) which was amazing. Can't wait to plow through the rest of that series. Anyway, unto the reviews.

1. Superboy #7 - This issue continues the good run by Jeff Lemire. It also references Alan Moore's Superman classic "For the Man Who Has Everything" in that Connor hallucinates after being affected by alien plat life. In the hallucination, Connor's great fears of a world devasted by him come to fruition. All which beg the question" is this really where Connor is headed. While the writing was again excellent, the art suffers as it goes back and forth between real world and hallucination. A little more balance between the two styles would have helped. BTW, I totally loved the Red Robin and Titans cameos.

2. X-Men Prelude to Schism #1 - I loved this Paul Jenkins written book. Great forewarning of what's ahead for the mutants. Roberto De la Torre's art was amazing. Easily the best art on any book this week. He out-Maleev's Alex Maleev (I'll explain later). I was definitely skeptical over Schism (I mean c'mon, another X event... these are becoming twice yearly events), but loved this issue so much I can't wait for the event to start. I must say though, IF MARVEL KILLS CYCLOPS I WILL NO LONGER BUY A MUTANT TITLE. Sorry I had to scream, but I had to get that off my chest.

3. Moon Knight #1 - Sharply written first issue. I've never been a big Moon Knight fan, but I love Bendis and Maleev together. This issue's story doesn't disappoint. Nice twist at the end where we see that Marc Spector really is batshit crazy and has made up his interaction with the Avengers throughout the issue. Great plot twist. The on disappointing aspect of the issue was the art. Maleev pencils are usually perfect. This was less than so. The work looked rushed, the line work sloppy. De La Torre's pencils on Schism were much more like classic Maleev. I mean look at how strong Maleev's work is on Scarlet (go ahead, i'll wait) and then come back to this first issue of Moon Knight. It's like a completely different artist. In my eyes it was reminiscent of Bill Seinkewicz, not typical Maleev work. I'm hoping it was a one issue blip and the work goes back to its typical excellence.

4. Fear Itself #2 - I loved everything about the first issue. Story and art were spot on. This issue was severely lacking though. Immonen's pencils were up to his usual standard or excellence. The story though fell far short. The whole issue could have been told in 4 pages. Each of "The Worthy" could have gotten their hammers and we move on. To drag it out over a whole issue felt like a lot of filler. I'd much rather spend more time on Asgard with Thor and the worrying (and completely out of character) Odin. I'm hoping for a better issue 3.

5. Avengers Academy #13 - While the superhero prom was a little slower than the Academy has been lately, I still thought it was a good issue full of a lot of smaller tender moments. Each of these kids and most of their instructors have issues to deal with, mostly emotional issues. This issue slows the action down and lets each of the characters deal with them. Sean Chen's pencils were passable, but I missed the typical strong work of Mike McKone.

6. iZombie #13 - This issue was also a little slower than a typical iZombie story. It was the start of a new arc, so hopefully it's building. Allred's art continues to impress. I love his simple style. Gwen has become one of my favorite characters in comics today.

7. Adventure Comics #526 - This book hasn't helped itself escape from the endangered list. It's simply not picking up any steam. I wish I had more Night Girl in this story and less of the Academy members.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Pull List: 4/27

Very big week, which means the reviews will be shorter.

Top of the Stack
1. Action Comics #900 - Great issue. I didn't understand all the negative press over Superman renouncing his U.S. citizenship (when did he really become a citizen). Super decided to take on a greater view as the worlds top cop instead of just enforcing "the American Way", isn't that what he already does. The story was a tad unnecessary, but it was 9 pages of an 80 page book. Damion Lindeloff's Jor-El story was amazing. Clearly the highlight of the issue for me. The lead story seemed kind of mashed together, a tie-in of too many plot threads, as the culmination of Lex's Black Ring saga leads directly to Reign of the Doomsdays. I loved Cornell's Lex story, but felt like the Doomsday portions were simply thrown in. The Lex story deserved a better ending. Pete Woods and Ryan Sook killed on this book, their art was amazing.

2. Morning Glories #9 - I love this title. Nice backstory on Jun and his mysterious twin. Great book. If you aren't buying Nick Spencer's gem, run to your local shop and pick it up. You absolutely will not be disappointed. My one wish, is that Rodin Esquejo would do some interiors. His covers are great, but Eisma's interior pencils lack the depth of the covers.

3. Secret Avengers #12.1 - I'm a bit of a Nick Spencer fan. He's writing great books for Marvel and Image (also one brilliant issue of Supergirl). This issue sees Steve's secret squad exposed, and having to deal with the ramifications. I love the new direction. The confrontation between Steve and USAgent was classic.

4. Mighty Thor #1 - Copiel's pencils are stunning. Plus it's Thor, Silver Surfer and Galactus. I'm very interested to see where Matt Fraction takes this initial storyline.

5. Green Lantern Emerald Warriors #9 - Part 6 of the War of the Green Lanterns did not disappoint. This issue saw the main characters splitting up in teams of two to each tackle what they thought was the larger problem. Great crossover. Every issue of this stroyline has been perfect.

Rest of the Pull list:
Having fallen far behind in posting this, i'm simply ranking these puppies with little to no commentary.

6. Justice Society #50 - I love this arc. Like Flash as mayor. Very interested to see where this goes.
7. Detective Comcs #876 - Not as strong as the last few issues, but still very good. I missed the inclusion of a Commissioner Gordon backup story.
8. Wonder Woman #610 - Gorgeous cover by Don Kramer. Hester crafts another great chapter in WW's journey of discovery.
9. Captain America #617 - I hate having Bucky in jail and out of costume. Story seemed fractured as it was really 3 separate shorts.
10. New Mutants #24 - Culmination of Age of X. Really enjoyed this storyline. Most original X-story in quite some time.
11. Uncanny X-Men #536 - Like the inclusion of the Breakworld and the characters Whedon created. Dodson pencils are amazing.
12. American Vampire #14 - The second part of the new storyline was a little slower than the first, but its building.
13. Flash #11 - I didn't love the seond issue of this story, it seemed like this book is inching toward Flashpoint instead of running to it.
14. Brightest Day #24 - Final part of the story left almost as many questions as we started with. Swamp Thing and Constantine in the DCU, is Hawgirl dead, is Firestorm really going to detonate, Deadman is actually a deadman... a little too anti-climactic with too many dangling plot threads for a bi-weekly story that took a year to tell.
15. Batman Inc. #5 - So much going on, it was hard to keep track. A little too much of Morrison in this issue.
16. FF #2 - Fun second issue, where we get to see more of what makes little Valeria tick, and why Doom is on the squad.
17. Amazing Spider-Man #659 - Kind of a snoozer for me. Would have been ranked lower had it not been for Camuncoli's pencils which are great (I think he'll make a big leap to stardom this year).
18. Avengers #12.1 - Did anything really happen in here to warrant a special issue?
19. X-Men #10 - Thank god this Lizard/Dark Beast story is done. Even Bachalao's usually interesting pencils missed on this arc.
20. Age of X Universe #2 - The timing of this book was off, it should have been released last week, where it could have stood on it's own instead of being overshadowed by the Age of X finale.
21. Secret Avengers #12 - I don't really care about John Steele and his adventures during WWII. Sorry. A rare Brubaker miss.