This week was also a pretty fantastic week for single issue comics. Marvel Now is really heating up, and I'm genuinely shocked to discover my enjoyment of this soft-relaunch much more than DC's New 52. Again, Matt might differ on this matter, but we all know he's usually wrong about everything. However, this big issue this week was definitely Scott Snyder's Batman. His Leatherface Joker is freaking me out, and it's proof positive that Greg Capullo was the perfect artist for Snyder's Bat-Horror book.
The Amazing Spider-Man: This is not my Spidey. But neither was the Sam Raimi trilogy. There are moments that skim the essence of my Spider-Man, like when Andrew Garfield (in costume) is mocking the pathetic attempts of a car thief, but for the most part this feels like some guy's idea of what Spider-Man is rather than a genuine adaptation. And that's a real bummer. I like Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey, but her relationship with Peter is just awkward mumblings and that doesn't achieve squishy feeling of teenage romance; it's just passable WB melodrama. And this whole "Untold Story" origin is a complete fake-out. There are hints at a tragedy behind the death of the Parkers, but The Amazing Spider-Man refuses to pull away from the simple spider bite origin. This reboot is just a retread.
Casino Royale: Wow. After plodding through Marc Webb's pedantic Spider-Man redux, Casino Royale really does feel like the genuine resurrection of what had become a rather tired and boring franchise. But that's always been the beauty of the James Bond films. Just when you're done with Roger Moore's outer space light show you get Timothy Dalton's D.A.R.E Avenger, and just when you're fed up of invisible cars and ice castles, you get the Post 9/11 terrorist smasher Daniel Craig. Director Martin Campbell gives the fanboy all the traits you come to expect from the series but filtered through a wiz bang contemporary lens. Casino Royale gives you plenty of action sequences to fetishize (the opening parkour chase through Madagascar is a series highlight) as well as giving Bond an emotional center not explored since the ill-fated On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Discover here just why Bond ploughs his way through numerous sexual conquest - he's not just a slut, he's a shattered romantic!
Quantum of Solace: People seem to love to hate Quantum of Solace, but I'll defend this choppy, brisk actioner till I'm blue in the face. Yes. It's not Casino Royale Part II. But that's just fine. Quantum is James Bond's revengefest. It's what I wanted out of Diamonds Are Forever, the film following the execution of Mrs. Bond by that dastardly arch-nemesis Blofeld. Sure, Marc Foster's camera apes far too much from Paul Greengrass's Bourne films but the chaotic action plays much better on the small screen and they're are moments of Bond rage here that really knocked this fan on his butt. Daniel Craig bleeding out a goon on the balconies of Haiti - that's some painfully sad and angry violence. Bond is a beast in Quantum. Not just the rougeish brute, but a full on monster of revenge. The film is not interested in complex, backtracking narrative. Yes, we get a taste of an omnipotent soceity of villians but the film knows better (or at least doesn't have time) to dwell on the goofy puppet masters. This is blood boiling A to B action and it benefits from the short run time.
Skyfall: So, yep. This one's still my favorite of the Craig flicks. I love the previous two entries, but Skyfall hits all the right nerves. You've gotten a battered and broken James Bond, stepping out of a stupor of drink & sex to help Judi Dench's magnificent M battle the sins of her past i.e. Javier Bardem's blonde joker...yeah, I acknowledge some striking similarities (both characteristically and structurally) to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight but I don't let that detract from another wonderfully broken villain performance. I mean, Silva, Anton Chigurh, Felix. No one is doing creepy scary quite like this man. And the Sam Mendes/Roger Deakins combo, there has never been a prettier Bond film.
All-New X-Men #1: After pretty much abandoning his long standing run on the The Avengers (and The New Avengers, The Mighty Avengers, The Dark Avengers, The Secret Avengers, and Avengers Assemble) comic writer superstar Brian Michael Bendis turns his free flowing pen on Marvel's X-Men. Will this be another case of a strong start/weak finish (granted, we've still got Bendis' Avengers Ultron War wrap-up waiting for us in 2013, see your loose ends tied up there). But I'm not going to start crapping on this book one issue in - what am I? The Internet!?! I seriously dig the high concept of the original X-Team traveling to the modern day to witness the horrors of their future. All New X-Men promises a lot of mutant melodrama, especially for this once die hard X-Factor fan. Teen Jean Grey & Cyclops throwing down with fur ball Wolverine? Yeah, this could be a whole lotta fun.
X-Men Legacy #1: Um, I don't know what the hell was going on in this book. It has something to do with Charles Xavier's crazy ass son Legion, and the mental prison he's got in his brain going kablooey. Frankly, I found Simon Spurrier's dialog nearly impossible to decipher and I'm not sure if that's due to bad writing or simply a result of my utter ignorance of this character. Either way, I will not be picking up the second issue. The first true strike out of the Marvel Now line.
Fantastic Four #1: This, on the other hand, could be quite fun. I'm not going to pretend that I know much about the Fantastic Four. I've only occasionally read the book; usually when a writer or artist I enjoy jumps on board. In this case, I dig both. Matt Fraction has delivered plenty of good reads in the Marvel Universe (see the current Hawkeye, and the now defunct Immortal Iron Fist) and it looks like he's got some cosmic fun in store for the super hero family. Which is nice cuz I've always thought of the FF as a space team but it rarely seems like they spend their times amongst the stars (or dimensions). And Mark Bagley's art seems to suit the good cheer of this book. Lots of smiley faces to go with the heroics.
Thor - God of Thunder #1: Hmmmm, writer Jason Aaron seems like he's got a big show in store for Thor fans. Jumping from past, present, and future Thors, the mighty son of Odin takes on the God Killer. Don't know what that is yet, but it sure seems like an epic adversary. Like Fantastic Four, I'm not too familar with this character but I appreciate the grande narrative being unraveled. Hopefully he can bring it to a satisfying conclusion. And artist Eric Ribic pulls off some real Frank Frazetta-like paintings for each an every panel. Truly impressive art.
Batman #14: Batman #14: The Death of the Family story drips with blood and dread as the Joker targets the friends of Batman. No one is safe, not even poor hammer faced Alfred. I'm definitely not as intrigued by the story as I was The Court of Owls, but I appreciate Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo's firm grasp on the horror genre for this incarnation of the Caped Crusader. This is just the beginning, and I'm looking forward to the depths the leatherfaced Joker is going to plunge poor Bruce Wayne...not to mention his bevy of sidekicks.
Archer & Armstrong #4: This has quickly become my favorite book coming out of the Valiant relaunch (huh, that's a popular word this week). Which is funny, cuz I never had any interest in the original book. It's goofy as all hell, but just as fun as Archer & Armstrong go toe-to-toe with Hitler Monks & evil cultists. It's certainly not for everyone, and I could see serious stick-up-the-tuchus types finding plenty to rile their nerve. But man, if you find tiny mustaches on your Holy Warriors than you'll be rolling with laughter as all the right bad guys get punched.
Bloodshot #5: After a couple of really fun issues, Bloodshot 5 dips a little in the enthusiasm area. Maybe its cuz the last issue ended with Bloodshot all Commando'd up, machine guns ready to blaze but suddenly we're dipping back to the past for some exposition. He eventually hits Project Rising Spirit with a little help from his nanite buddies but I was hoping this issue would rocket from the start. Still, this is much, much better than I was originally anticipating from this series and I'm even ranking this above X-O Manowar at this point.
The Creep #3: Still waiting for the shit to hit the fan. Four issues in (don't forget #0) to this five issue mini series and we don't really have any big revelations into what the hell is going on with these suicide kids. Ox is a fascinating character but I need this narrative to build a little quicker, and I'm afraid this book is going to rush its conclusion for its final issue.
Saga #7: I don't know. Maybe I've been infected by Matt's review, or maybe it's just been too damn long since the last issue, but I was just not feeling this issue. Marko & Alana encounter his magical parents and no one is too happy with the introductions. I'm enjoying this sci-fi Romeo & Juliette but right now I'm less interested in the parents point-of-view and more interested in Prince Robot's hunt for the young lovers, and The Will's quest for revenge. Plus, I could never see a giant alien scrotum again and it would be too soon.
Where Is Jake Ellis? #1: I enjoyed the original mini-series but I wasn't in love with it. And this is a promising start to this weirdo sci-fi spy comic. We now have a better idea of who & what Jake Ellis is, but we still don't know how he got into the miserable shape he's currently occupying. Like all #1s, we get a lot more questions with very little answers. Holding judgement if I'm one of the converted or not, but I'll keep on chugging with this latest series.
Steel Dawn: Who doesn't love Road House? Or Point Break? Or even Red Dawn? But this is none of those. A cheesy, post-apocalyptic cheapie that has more in common with Roger Corman knock-offs than those other Swayze'd 80s gems. You've got some good side characters in Anthony Zerbe, Brion James, and Arnold Vosloo but they're not enough help brand this a Swayze classic. I mean, you at least need a good Sam Elliot to mentor his way through the ass kickery. Sharp objects and bath tubs do not a good time make.
The Campaign: I have a weakness for Will Ferrell. It's mostly a result of The Other Guys and this year's Casa Di Me Padre. So now I rent films I probably shouldn't. Like The Campaign. Ferrell is funny enough as the sexually demented politician duking it out with Zach Galifianakis' repressed, mentally handicapped doof. There are a couple jokes that land. A baby gets punched. But it's nowhere near as quotable as the two Ferrell flicks mentioned previously and it certainly won't capture the pop culture zeitgeist like the ultra bizarro Anchorman. A time killer. That's as good as it gets.
Fire With Fire: So I redboxed this. Bruce Willis. Rosario Dawson. Josh Duhamel. 50 Cent. Why not? Oh, because it's totally boring and mentally draining? Right. Willis has entered that "I'll Do Anything For A Sandwich" phase of his career, so I understand his presence here. And Josh Duhamel has been given the chance to star alongside better actors, so good for him. But Rosario Dawson? You're better than this. Someone out there in Hollywoodland need to put you front and center in a quality flick, not just firefighter actioners and unstoppable train movies.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume 1: Friday night was our seventh meeting of The Ultimate Justice League of Extraordinary Book Club, and I pretty much forced Invincible into the circle of trust. Once upon a time, this was my favorite super hero comic. I read the first 38 issues, fell behind and never picked it back up. Not really sure why I fell off the Kirkman train, but I'm sooooooo glad I'm back on board. What starts off as a fun, teenage melodrama substitute for Brian Michael Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man quickly transforms into a cosmic familial nightmare reminiscent of those classically epic Greek Tragedies. Mark Grayson is the son of Omni-Man, think the Image Universe equivalent of Superman. One day while slinging burgers, he discovers that his father's extraordinary gifts have finally descended upon him. With a smile and a great slap on his back, Omni-Man accepts Mark into the family business of Earth's protection.
The first half of this volume is mostly whacky super hero hijinx. Mark Grayson's Invincible takes on inter dimensional warriors, bionic college-hating zombies, and Allen the Alien. He meets other colorful cohorts with goofy names like Rex-Spode, Atom Eve, Robot, and Monster Girl. But when this colorful comic sees red, the reader gets a strong reminder that this is no kids book. Blood, blood, blood. Invincible contains some of the most brutal punch-ups in comics, but there's some serious emotion packed behind each powerful punch. This is Robert Kirkman, after all. The man behind The Walking Dead. He knows that the characters have to earn the violence, and as much as he seems to enjoy torturing his creations he never forgets to reward the reader with just as epic heartstring manipulation. What started off as an Ultimate Spider-Man wannabe quickly surpassed the shiny, new & improved web head (and this is coming from an Ultimate Spider-Man fanboy).
Unfortunately, I don't think the group (including The Wife) fell as hard as I did for the problems of Mark Grayson. Granted there was some confusion as to how many trade paperbacks were contained in the first deluxe hardcover (the answer is 3) and some of the group did not read the entirety of the first story arc. And so much of Invincible's genius stems from the conclusion of that third trade - it's where you learn that Mark's after world of heroics really ain't that safe, and pretty much anyone associated with Invincible is gonna get devastated at one point or another. So, I might not have made a lot of converts with this book, but it was definitely the kick in the butt I needed to catch up on the book.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume 2: After the devastation of the last volume, Mark Grayson attempts to pick up the pieces of his home life and fight the good fight for Truth, Justice, and The American Way. Taking up with the Guardians of the Globe, Mark & Atom Eve try to ignore their feelings for each other while smashing their way through one of the goofiest and deadliest rogue's galleries in comics. Throughout the second volume we're treated to the birth of Mark Grayson's Lex Luthor aka Angstrom Levy. Along the way we get battles with the Reanimen (those college-hating bionic zombies), the mob boss Machine Head, and those pesky Mauler Twins ("you're the clone!" "No, you're the clone!"). Volume 2 is not quite the punch to the gut that was the first hardcover; it's mostly setting up future threats for our heroes. The Sequid Invasion, The interdimensional Flaxxan threat, Robot's shadowy shenanigans. This is just a tiny brick in the saga of Invincible. You'll never guess where all this silliness is building, but it's definitely not Happy Days.
Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2: A helluva way to end my Week in Dork. I'll go & enjoy any movie. Sure. When this whole thing started, The Wife was taking me out to the movies. We saw Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, & Breaking Dawn 1 all on the big screen. Somewhere between 3 & 4, she got fed up (or bored) with the series. When I asked her if we were gonna check out the latest (and hopefully final) Twilight flick, she said she wasn't bothered. I jokingly proclaimed, "What? You drag me to all these flicks and now you don't want to see it through!?!?" I told her we were going. And what started out kind of as a joke, quickly became a reality. Ten minutes into Breaking Dawn Part 2 I leaned over to her and said, "Yeah, this is really terrible. We can go." She said, "No." Then an hour into the film she leaned over to me and said, "Ok. This is unbearable. We can go." I said, "No. We've suffered this much, we can suffer till the end." Breaking Dawn has a lot of talented folks behind it. I'm not going to pretend that I'm the biggest Bill Condon fan on the planet, but the man made Gods and Monsters. That's a kickass flick. And cinematographer Guillermo Navarro has lensed everything from Jackie Brown to The Devil's Backbone. And composer Carter Burwell is the man who scored every single one of the Coen Brothers films. But there is only so much one can do with a turd sandwich. You can throw every brilliant mind in Hollywood as well as every dollar, but Breaking Dawn can only ever be a big steaming pile of...garbage. And frankly, it's stunning to watch with a Saturday Night crowd packed to the wall with teenage girls. Jacob whips off his shirt and the wails of pubescent ecstasy are literally painful to the ears. I don't know exactly when America went mad. But with the Twilight Saga raking in billions and Fifty Shades of Grey taking the bestseller top spot...yeah that's an all time low for pop culture. And, yep, this is easily the worst film of the year.