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Books Of Oa: War Of The Green Lanterns & Aftermath

January 28, 2015

green lantern war of the green lanternsGreen Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard & Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Doug Mahnke, Tyler Kirkham, Fernando Passarin, Ed Benes & Ardian Syaf
Collects Green Lantern #63-67, Green Lantern Corps #58-60 & Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #8-10

After the events of Blackest Night, the Green Lantern books had a little time to do their own thing before coming back together for the next big event, War Of The Green Lanterns. As it turned out, this also marked the end of this run in the old DC continuity as Flashpoint soon followed and everything was replaced with the New 52, though the GL books seemed to come through mostly unchanged (at least as I’ve seen in the first few volumes of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps). For reference, the volumes that lead up to War Of The Green Lanterns include GL: Brightest Day, GLC: Revolt Of The Alpha Lanterns and The Weaoponer and Emerald Warriors.

Alright, so the basics of this big event are that Krona, the being who looked back on the origins of the universe and accidentally unleashed evil is still around as a shrunken, crazy Guardian. He’s collected all of the emotional entities, trapped most of the main Lanterns in the Book of the Black, possessed the Guardians with the entities and put Parallax back in the main power battery to infect and control all existing GLs. Since they already had experience with Parallax, Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, John Stewart and Guy Gardner are able to resist long enough to ditch their rings and eventually put on new ones. Hal goes with Yellow, Kyle Blue, John Indigo and Guy Red.

From there it’s a matter of them figuring out how to master these new rings while also saving the galaxy from an army of mind-controlled Green Lanterns, including the biggest one of all, Mogo. Incredibly hard decisions have to be made, but in the end the heroes come through with a very hard-fought victory that results in one of them getting ousted from the Corps.

While the idea of yet another big GL crossover might not seem like the most interesting thing in the world, I will say that this one offered a lot that the others didn’t. For one thing, the rainbow of Lanterns is not around aside from our four main heroes. I also enjoyed how it focused mainly on the four Earth GLs working together, something that didn’t happen in the other events until the last few chapters. Also, while the universe might seem crowded with so many different and new Lanterns, this story really focuses on the GLs which is kind of nice.

war of the green lanterns aftermath War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath (DC)
Written by Tony Bedard, Peter J. Tomasi & Scott Kolins, drawn by lots and lots of folks
Collects War Of The Green Lanterns Aftermath #1-2, Green Lantern Corps #61-63 & Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #11-13

As you can imagine, the stories included in War Of The Green Lanterns: Aftermath deal with everything that happened in the wake of that story. There’s a plot to kill Sinestro who has a Green Lantern ring now, everyone hates John Stewart for taking out a major player in the Corps and the other Corps members seem to generally dislike Earthmen because they cause so much trouble. Of course, they also seem to forget that, without Earthmen like Hal and Kyle there wouldn’t be a Corps at all, but I guess small details like that are easily forgotten in the post-battle, post traumatic stress-filled Oa.

Overall, the tone of these stories is pretty down, but that makes sense from a story perspective. On the other hand, Guy gets to have a bit of fun as he goes on three one-off adventures in the final issues of Emerald Warriors, one of which teams him up with Batman. But, the sad tone actually makes sense on another level when you realize this is the very last Green Lantern Corps collection set in the old universe. As I mentioned above, the GL books made it through the change pretty unscathed, but there’s something to be said about closing out on something of a down note.

Everyone’s Right, Guardians Of The Galaxy Is Awesome

January 28, 2015

guardians of the galaxyI was a huge fan of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Guardians Of The Galaxy series which came out of the Annihilation events, though apparently I never wrote about it here on UM (though I did review a trade collecting the first issues of the original series). The mix of comedy, action and cosmic threats made for a thoroughly entertaining series that seemed perfect for the big screen, even if characters like Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax, Gamora, Mantis and Cosmo were completely unknown to a larger audience.

When the actual film version was announced, I was shocked, but excited. I got even more jazzed when Slither director James Gunn was revealed as the captain of this ship. Throw in a stellar cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin and Michael Rooker. Of course, I rarely see movies in the theaters anymore, so it took until last weekend for me to see the film which everyone loved. I almost never say this — just look at my initial review of Cabin in the Woods — but this is a movie that lived up to the hype.

I won’t bother going into the film’s plot, because I assume you’ve all seen it, are waiting to see it or have no plans to see it. I will say that I was shocked at how little of the film was spoiled for me going in. I realized as we put the film on — yes, I watched this with my wife and 3-year-old daughter who also both loved it — that I knew very little about the actual story. Sure, I knew about the dancing, the team-up element, the adorable mid-credit sequence and the cheer-worthy post-credits sequence (from my daughter and I, at least), but as far as the actual story went? I was in the dark and that was delightful.

 A lot of people credit this film for being funny as well as action packed and that’s a dead-on assessment. Even after watching the flick three times in four days (like I said, the kid fell in love), I still found myself laughing at Groot, Drax and Rocket. But this isn’t just a fun adventure. There’s also a lot of heart. That opening scene is ROUGH, especially if you’ve lost someone close to you. And if Rocket’s drunken monolog doesn’t hit you hard, there’s something wrong with you. On top of all that, the film is packed with clever ideas. Introducing the adult version of your hero with a dance number on an alien planet? Awesome. Rocket’s plan for getting out of the prison? Genius. The way these wildly unique characters fight on their own and together? Fantastic.

I do have three complaints about the film, though, but only two of them are valid. First, I really disliked that moment in the beginning where Quill says he forgot about the alien woman. I also don’t like how Drax called Gamora a whore towards the end, which makes very little sense. I was primed to see both of these flaws because of the people I follow on Twitter, but I agree that they didn’t need to be there and could have easily been changed. The third complaint is that it took me a while to get used to the different versions of these characters, specifically Gamora. In the comics I’ve read Gamora is a ruthless warrior with little compassion. In this version she’s a lot more human which works perfectly for this story, but took me some time to get used to.

We had such a fun time watching this film that I feel compelled to buy it and add it to my collection. That hasn’t happened with a new film since…Man Of Steel I think. Going even further, this movie got me excited for what’s going on in the Marvel Studios films leading into both Avengers: Infinity War. The Guardians have to be involved right? They’ve just gotta be!

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Big Blastin’ Rocket Raccoon

January 27, 2015

I know the whole world fell in love with Guardians Of The Galaxy last year, but we only got around to seeing it this past weekend. Even with the delayed viewing, I think it’s safe to say that this movie become an instant favorite at least amongst my daughter and I (we watched it three times in four days). After giving it a look, I was reminded of a few GOTG collectibles I got sent from Hasbro back when the movie came out including this Big Blastin’ Rocket Raccoon! At first my daughter was terrified of this thing, but after watching the movie, she loves playing with it and already knows all the lines!

E-Book Triple Feature: The Devil In The Kitchen, Red Rain & Off My Rocker

January 23, 2015

the devil in the kitchen I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. Part of the reason is that I’m a slow reader, part is that I love reading comics and part is that, thanks to having a pair of kiddos, I don’t have the time or attention span to devote to the hobby as I once did. However, I have discovered that my three-year-old daughter’s bedtime is a good time to get some reading done. After I read her books, I lay next to her bed in the dark until she doses off. So, as long as I have a solid book on my phone, I’m pretty good to go.

The first of the bunch in recent memory was Marco Pierre White’s The Devil in the Kitchen. I knew absolutely nothing about White going into this book, but it looked like a British version of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, so I bit for a couple bucks (like most of my e-books, I got it on the cheap) and really enjoyed the experience.

White’s story begins as a child (as most do) and ventures on up through his development as a chef, to the leader of his own kitchen and ultimately a world-renowned figure in the world of food. He gave jobs to people like Gordon Ramsey and Curtis Stone  while creating award-winning, lavish restaurants in the 80s and beyond. While their stories are different in many ways, if you like Bourdain’s books, you’ll like this one.

Book Review Red RainRed Rain by R.L. Stine is one of the few fiction novels I’ve read all the way through on my phone. This was another discounted book that I grabbed. From the title and the cover, I assumed this was a vampire story, but was way off base. This one follows a woman who goes to a small island for her travel blog but after a devastating hurricane, seems changed to the point where she adopts a pair of creepy twin boys and brings them to live with her husband, daughter and son in New York.

This was an interesting story that never quite grabbed me. For some reason I was never able to zero in on what these kids look like which was a major barrier given plot points I don’t want to spoil. I also had a really hard time sympathizing with the mother character. The father becomes the punching bag, but while he’s getting dumped on, it felt like I was supposed to wonder more about the wife, but instead, I found her far too easy to write off and ignore. Because of that, I also found her to be a wildly annoying character to the point where I almost stopped reading.

But, I did wind up enjoying the end of the book which finally revealed what the kids were up to. I liked how all that played out, so while I didn’t necessarily enjoy all of this book, it ended in a way that I appreciated which is nice because I used to read Fear Street and Goosebumps books constantly as a kid. I don’t say this often, but after I was done, I felt like Red Rain would have made a better movie than a book.

off my rockerOff My Rocker: One Man’s Tasty, Twisted, Star-Studded Quest for Everlasting Music by Kenny Weissberg was another random purchase for a few bucks (the equivalent of the going through the Barnes & Noble discount table). I knew nothing about Weissberg or his deal, but when I read that he was a DJ, music writer and concert promoter, I was easily sold.

Right off the bat, this book reminded me of three others I’ve read since starting this blog. It’s got a little of The Real Animal House mixed with Sonic Boom and some of George Hamilton’s autobiography Don’t Mind If I Do in that it’s one man’s (mostly) fond remembrance of an important time in music, told from the inside. Like Hamilton, he used his confidence and skills to move from one part of life to another, often taking chances and risks that paid off.

To get into a bit more detail, Weissberg grew up a huge music fan on the East Coast and eventually wound up becoming one of the biggest freeform DJs in Colorado. Talking about music lead to interviewing musicians on the air and a career in concert and record reviews in print. When that work dried up, he fronted a band before moving to California to promote concerts, a gig that lasted him 20-something years. Along the way he met a variety of music professionals who he doesn’t mind writing about. Weissberg tells his stories with a good nature that brings you into the tales instead of feeling like you’re on the outside and also lets you in on previously unknown details without ever getting mean.

In addition to enjoying stories about people who make their own way in life, no matter how improbably, I also appreciated how Weissberg took this thing he loved and turned it into a series of careers that lasted several decades. That’s something I hope I can say down the line, though I just realized I’ve been doing what I do for about 10, so I guess I’m doing alright.

Batman Beyond Trade Post: Batgirl Beyond

January 21, 2015

batman beyond batgirl beyond Batman Beyond: Batgirl Beyond (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, Scott Peterson & Hilary J. Bader, drawn by Adam Archer, Annie Wu, Norm Breyfogle, Rob Leigh, Peter Nguyen, Craig Rousseau & Craig Yeung
Collects Batman Beyond #1-2, Batman Beyond Unlimited #14-18 and online at Batman Beyond Chapters 19-29

In two previous posts, I wrote about how much I enjoyed Adam Beechen’s run on Batman Beyond. I think he did a great job of continuing the adventures of a character I wasn’t super familiar with while also tying it in to the existing Batman comic book mythos. At the same time, he crafted a series of stories large and small that kept me intrigued and turning pages. However, as I mentioned in my last post, I was a bit concerned about how it would end. The previous volume had a huge threat in Gotham that Batman stopped, but not long after the series got a reboot, so I wasn’t sure how it would end. And, even after reading this last chapter of Beechen’s run, I’m a little up in the air on that subject.

The first half of this book is by Beechen and does pick up on the previous elements while always moving forward and adding new elements even up to the very end. I love the reintroduction of the Metal Men (possibly my favorite book featuring these beloved, but not particularly well handled Silver Age characters) and the potential for those characters in this new world. There were also satisfying conclusions and continuations of storylines that all felt right and complete.

And then there’s the other half of the book, which focuses on a new Batgirl running around Gotham who interacts with Barbara Gordon. This is actually a really cool story featuring some awesome art by Wu which looks like Phil Noto-meets-Freddie Williams II. My only problem is that there’s a lot of set-up for things that just don’t happen as the series ended. I’m sure these ran along with the ongoing chapters of the Beechen stuff, but it feels like a strange way to end the collection. Actually, there’s another story by Hilary Bader that looks like one of the Batman Beyond tie-in comics from when the cartoon was airing. This was a fun little story that got Bruce back in the Batsuit which is fun, but after all the craziness of the first story, it felt a little too light.

So, while I thought Beechen’s stuff did put a solid bow on the end of the series, these others just felt a little out of place thematically. I think when/if I add these trades to my collection (I got all of these books from the library), I’ll probably read these last couple of stories earlier because they don’t make for a great finale.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Beetlejuice’s Creepy Cruiser

January 20, 2015

While looking around for last week’s Toy Commercial Tuesday offering which featured a variety of Beetlejuice toys, I came across this one for the Creepy Cruise as well. Next to the Vanishing Vault, this car has got to be her favorite piece of Beetlejuice merchandise from Kenner.

I don’t know if there’s anything about this car specifically that she loves, but she does enjoy having such a large car to push around. It’s currently sitting in my office next to previous TCT entry the praying mantis bug car from Ghostbusters which she and I will roll across the floor filled with any variety of toys I pull out of boxes and hand to her. What’s your favorite toy car in that scale?

We Want Action Double Feature: Sabotage (2014) & Chinese Zodiac (2012)

January 15, 2015

sabotage french posterI thought about calling this post “We Want Old Man Action’ but thought it might get a lot of the wrong kinds of hits. Well, now that I’ve typed that I guess I’ll get them anyway! But, I’ve got to say, I was very impressed with both Sabotage and Chinese Zodiac which are anchored by stars the 67-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-58-year-old Jackie Chan respectively.

I don’t remember hearing much in the way of good reviews about David Ayer’s Sabotage. After having seen the film, I have a feeling that people didn’t show up because they didn’t want to watch “a Schwarzenegger film.” It’s too bad for them because, this is a tight, sometimes sinister thriller about a squad of DEA agents who tried to steal a ton of drug money, failed and start getting murdered one by one.

Plot-wise, this sounds like the kind of 80s or 90s action movies that don’t live up to the emotional heaviness inherent in their plots, but that’s not the case here. Schwarzenegger’s squad includes Sam Worthington, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos, Max Martini, Kevin Vance and Mark Schlegel all of who balance the reckless after-hours antics of these agents with the ridiculously serious and proficient way they go about their actual jobs. They each bring different levels of intensity to their characters that, when combined with a breakneck pace, intense moments of violence and cops played by Olivia Williams and Harold Perrineau, make for an incredibly engaging and intriguing film.

Much like with The Last Stand and even Escape Plan to a lesser extent, I thought Schwarzenegger did a great job of being in a film that doesn’t so much rely on him running around and getting into fist fights or blowing people away, but instead lets him do some actual acting work (while also firing the occasional weapon, of course). If that last sentence sounds like crazy-talk to you, just look at Ayer’s other films like End Of Watch, Fury and Training Day and ask if you think he’d make a silly action film.

chinese zodiac poster If you are looking for something a little bit more silly and fun, then I highly recommend Chinese Zodiac which Jackie Chan starred in and also directed. I’ve read that the movie takes some cues from Chan’s earlier films Armour Of God and Operation Condor (or Armour Of God 2: Operation Condor as it’s also known), but I still haven’t seen those all the way through and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything not being familiar with them.

In the movie, Chan plays a master thief who, along with his crew, agrees to steal back a series of Zodiac statue heads that were pillaged from China about 150 years ago. This job sends them all over the world from locales as diverse as a huge mansion to a large boat in the middle of a jungle protected by pirates.

I love the adventure aspects of this movie that felt like they borrowed well from the Indiana Jones films. I also really enjoyed the action elements. Chan handles a lot of them on his own, but his crew also proves to be more than capable fighters and entertainers at the same time. I was a little worried that he might look stiff or that he might use a fill in like Chuck Norris did in the awful The Cutter. Instead, he’s as spry as I remember him which is nice because the last newer Chan movie I watched, Gorgeous, was a big disappointment.

I’m happy to say that Chinese Zodiac reminded me of Chan’s action-comedy masterpiece Police Story and it’s follow-up. In addition to being a fun action movie, it also has an interesting message about the complexity of the world’s relationship with ancient artifacts, especially ones that were removed from one place where they were revered and taken to another place where they became equally important.

While Sabotage and Chinese Zodiac are very different movies, I liked them both very much both because they’re good in and of themselves, but they also show that these two action stars can still do their thing. To paraphrase Stan Lee in Mallrats, if they keep making these movies, I’ll keep watching them true believers!

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