Books Of Oa: New 52 Green Lantern Sinestro & Green Lantern Corps Fearsome

Green Lantern Volume 1: Sinestro (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Doug Mahnke with Mike Choi
Collects Green Lantern #1-6

When I first heard about the New 52, the first two franchises I wondered about were Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern stuff and Grant Morrison’s Batman books. Not only were they two of the most popular series’ at the time, but they were also pretty longform works by some of the top talents in the biz. How would this reboot change them? Well, apparently they didn’t, not really. While this certainly offered a good deal of confusion to readers trying to figure out the differences between the two sets of continuity, it’s actually not such a big deal to a more casual trade reader like myself.

I should note that I don’t have and haven’t read the War of the Green Lantern story that, I believe, ended with the old universe, but from what I’ve read online and seen in this book, the connections are very strong, possibly the strongest between continuities as I didn’t find myself wondering about changed details or anything like that while reading this book which finds Sinestro back in the Green Lantern duds and Hal Jordan on the outs. So, while I don’t know the details behind these story (not continuity) based changes, I caught on pretty quickly and was along for the ride.

All of which brings me to the actual story which involves Sinestro creating a ring that he can control for Hal to use in order to help remove the Sinestro Corps from his home planet of Korugar. They head there, lose some power and allow the people to help them break free and win their own freedom. Meanwhile, Hal is also dealing with his relationship with Carol Ferris and the Guardians decide to create  the Third Army (after the Manhunters and the Green Lanterns). This is clearly the big overarching Green Lantern franchise story being built toward, but unlike some of the preWOTGL stories, these storiesdon’t feel like they’re only there to service the larger story and do a lot to both get new readers involved in what’s going on and also give plenty of service to long time fans (something that Johns has built his career on).

You know what makes all of the above even better? Doug Mahnke’s artwork. That guy was born to draw a book featuring not only a plethora of aliens but also all the constructs the imagination can create. I’ve been a fan of his since I first saw him on Man of Steel and on through the rest of his career. He is perfect on this book. As such, when you get to the last issue in the collection, it’s a pretty gigantic difference, one that doesn’t do anyone any favors. I’ve liked Mike Choi’s art on a lot of books, but it looks really sleight and faint here, which sometimes happens if pencils get colored without inking (no idea if that’s actually what happened here, but that’s what it reminds me of). Between that and the almost pastel coloring choices, you couldn’t genetically engineer an issue that looks more out of place after reading five issues featuring Mahnke’s dark, bold, bombastic pencils. Still, I’m a big fan of this trade because, if nothing else, it’s a return to form for Johns and the GL concepts I fell in love with post-Rebirth.

Green Lantern Corps Volume 1: Fearsome (DC)
Written by Peter Tomasi, drawn by Fenando Pasarin, Geraldo Borges & Claude St. Aubin
Collects Green Lantern Corps #1-7

The problem I had with the first issue of the new GLC when I read it months ago was that it felt like a rehash of stuff I’d already read. You’ve got Lanterns Guy Gardner and John Stewart realizing that they don’t have much of a place on Earth and moving to Oa, something Guy did in the previous GLC series with Kyle Rayner. You’ve also got a mysterious, seemingly Lantern-based force killing GLs in Sector Houses. It wasn’t the most thrilling thing to an old hat GL fan like myself, but then I remembered that these books are as much for people like me as new readers, if not more so the latter.

So, I tried reading this book with that in mind and I think it helped. It doesn’t reach that balance nearly as well as the Green Lantern volume, but this collection still offered an interesting and intense adventure that really looked like the GLs wouldn’t make their way out of (as much as you can expect something like that from a Big Two team book). Not only that, but we get introduced to a group of old warhorse GLs called Mean Machine and a guest appearance by Martian Manhunter of Stormwatch connecting this story more to the New 52 than the other.

The story also did something pretty interesting that explained an old trait of GLC members. Back in the day, they used to be able to reach into a pocket dimension, grab their lanterns and recharge. It’s something that’s been missing since the Kyle Rayner days and, honestly, I hadn’t thought about it in a while, so this was kind of a fun geek service thing. On the other hand, I can only imagine what it was like for new readers who have no idea what any of this refers to thought about it.

There was one story detail that still sticks in my craw. It’s a pretty big part of it, so I’ll let loose the SPOILER WARNING. At one point a small group of Lanterns gets captured by the bad guys and are being tortured for information. One of the rookies is just about to break so John Stewart frees himself just enough to snap that Lantern’s neck, killing him. It’s a super dark moment that I’m not sure if I like or not, especially having been a fan of Stewart’s for so long, but I guess it shows how much of a soldier he’s become. I was further confused by the fact that Stewart was able to cover up the murder considering he has a ring on his finger that can give a full report back to his superiors. It didn’t feel quite right on character level or a logic one, but maybe that’s the new world we’re dealing with (that’s got to be a great crutch to fall back on if you screw something up, isn’t it?).

After having read these books, I’m still in it when it comes to the Green Lantern books. I’m curious to check out the Red Lantern one and the New Guardians or whatever that other book with Kyle Rayner is is called. Plus, I have to admit, I’m curious to find out what the Guardians have up their sleeve with this whole Third Army thing. Color me interested.

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Live Blogging The Challenge Battle Of The Exes Episode 2

After seeing Wes got sent home last week, I was pretty excited to see what would go down this week and the rest of the season as this Challenge is made up mostly of rookies or people who haven’t played the game in quite a while. And, for once, my Challenge wish came true! Frank somehow got an alliance together between his season, San Diego, Vegas, Cancun and New Orleans. Not only that, his alliance actually figured out a way to game this episode’s challenge so that they all didn’t lose! I was shocked, this kind of things almost never happens. Clearly, the wheels will fall off and things will get heated when more and more teams get knocked out, but it’s fun to watch now. Anyway, hit the jump if you want to check out the live blog! Continue reading Live Blogging The Challenge Battle Of The Exes Episode 2

Quick Movie Review: Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (1965)

I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I pushed play on the Netflix Instant version of Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine. I thought it was just another iteration of the AIP surf flicks I’ve enjoyed so much this summer (like Ski Party, Pajama Party and Bikini Beach), but it also happened to combine a few other favorite genres (to varying degrees of success) with some sci-fi/robot stuff going on as well as a spy motiff. Oh, and the bad guy is none other than one of my all time favorite actors Vincent Price absolutely relishing in his role as an evil mastermind. To say the man chews scenery doesn’t quite do his performance justice, he savors that ham like a world-class steak and it really makes the movie.

The plot revolves around Price’s Dr. Goldfoot creating lady-looking robots to rob wealthy men. In a precursor to Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse and The Matrix, the robots are directly programmed for the specific men they’re going after, which is a pretty rad idea seen through the prism of mid-60s sci-fi. Anyway, a couple of guys played by Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman get wise to the plot and try to put a stop to it which leads first to a dungeon scene with cameos by some of their fellow AIP stars, including Annette Funicello, and then into a huge chase scene that includes boats on wheels and street cars.

It’s got all that, plus the trademark wit and thinly veiled sexual innuendo you should come to expect from the surf flicks and on top of all that it stars Price at his hammiest AND has some James Bondian moments (they this element is the weakest of the batch by far), which  makes this like the Voltron of weird subgenre movies for me. And you know what’s even crazier? It was going to be a musical originally, but those bits were cut out, though its unknown whether that was before or after filming started. Wouldn’t it be rad if someone uncovered a full print of this film with those scenes intact? I’d definitely give it another watch!

Toy Commercial Tuesday: 1977 Kenner Star Wars Line

Oh man, this commercial would have blown my mind if I were alive enough to be around in 77 and old enough to actually understand what was happening. I love that not only do you get to see the original Star Wars figures, but also the Death Star playset, a game and even something that looks like Play Do in that last multi-box shot thing. So cool.

Last Night’s Shows, Today: The Office, Parks & Rec Season Premieres

Earlier this week I took a few minutes and actually created a schedule of shows we want to watch this TV season. Yes, that’s lame, I know this, but I also have a bad memory and wasn’t sure when a lot of the new shows were on. For the most part, we’re well set without many new shows clashing with old faves. The only big problem area is that two returning shows that I really, really dug, Happy Endings and New Girl are on at the same exact time. Someone needs to fix that. Anyway, I realized as I have for the past few seasons that I’m most looking forward to watching existing shows over new ones.

Last night’s a great example of this as the only two shows we really watched were The Office and Parks & Rec on NBC (at 9:00 and 9:30 PM respectively). As you probably know by this point — at least I do because I’ve been writing about it all summer for Spinoff Online — this will be the very last season of the show. The series creator Greg Daniels, who went on to do Parks & Rec has come back to end it and he says they’re going to wrap things up well. The first few minutes of the series showed a lot of this, showing Kelly and Ryan’s exit from the show and FINALLY some of the documentary behind the scenes stuff (which I’ve been wondering about since the series began). After all that, we got to see Andy return from an outward bound experience that had him gain confidence and get a little further away from the Michael Scott mold he filled so clearly last season. His stuff with Nellie was really fantastic.

Overall, I really liked this episode. It definitely feels like they’ve got their feet back under them now that there’s a real focus to the show with its upcoming finale. While I liked the past few seasons, it deed feel like they maybe didn’t have the same focus as the old days, even with larger, overarching stories going on. I’m actually really excited to see how these characters end up and finally find out why they’ve been filmed for so long. I’m not mourning the end of the series, I’m anxiously awaiting the end to see how it all wraps up as I love a good ending.

Ten minutes into watching the first episode of the fifth season of Parks & Rec, I turned to my wife and said, “That part before the theme song was better than the first season put together.” When this show first premiered I was bored to tears, but after the first, shorter season, it really came into its own and has rocked my world since. It’s rare that I give a show a second chance after being disappointed by the first season, but P&R benefited from not really having anything opposite it that I wanted to watch. I’m glad for that now, because this is easily up there on my favorite shows and unlike a lot of other faves, it seems to be getting better as it ages instead of feeling stale or like a rehash.

The first ep kicked off with Leslie and Andy visiting April and Wyatt who are working in DC. Leslie, who won a seat on Pawnee’s city council at the end of last season, finds herself dealing with feelings of insignificance and disappointment which are both real and funny, a tough mix to nail. I wasn’t as involved in the second story which saw Ron taking charge of the department appreciation picnic and focusing solely on the meat portion of the BBQ. There were funny bits for sure, but I think Ron’s character works better when he’s not outwardly being a dick to so many people. It’s funny when it’s Rob Lowe’s Chris because they’re direct opposites, but less interesting when he’s so clearly in the wrong and mistreating the people who work for him. Sure, he learned his lesson, but I think we all saw where they were going about 2 minutes into that story. However, the scene with Ron driving away with the barbecue still attached to his car was worth the price of admission alone. So, all in all, a somewhat uneven episode, but I still had a ton of fun and am jazzed to see where the season goes.

Ad It Up: DC’s Invasion!

This DC house ad for their huge 1988 event Invasion (which I read and reviewed here, if you’re interested) is the kind of thing that might sound cool in a meeting, but is not the kind of ad that would draw my attention. I like the idea of mocking up a Daily Planet newspaper article about what’s going on with all these aliens, but who reads newspapers? Even in 1988 you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a comic book reader who wanted to read three columns of text on a page in the middle of a comic like this (COPS #7 in this case). I mean, what’s more interesting in the middle of the mixture of words and pictures than a butt ton of words and one of the least interesting pictures around?

Ambitious Reading List: The Strain By Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan (2009)

I’m not the biggest Guillermo del Toro fan in the world. I think he has a very distinct visual style and one hell of an imagination, but we just don’t jibe on what scares/fascinates/interests us. I also think he really missed the mark with the Hellboy films, but that’s more of a fanboy thing. Anyway, The Strain is one of those books that I only started hearing about when it finished up earlier this year. I hadn’t heard much about it, but that’s no real surprise because I don’t really read a lot of horror books or stay up on book news as much as I used to. However, when I heard the basics of the plot and saw it on sale at Barnes & Noble for $6 or $7, I snatched it right up.

If you, like me, weren’t familiar with the book, it’s about a vampire virus working its way through New York City. Our hero is Eph, a doctor with the CDC who leads a team of scientists whose main mission is to find and contain contagious diseases. He and his partner Nora get brought in when a plane lands at JFK and, after being on the runway a few minutes, winds up completely dead, both power and occupancy wise. From there, it’s very slowly revealed to Eph what’s going on and we meet Satrakian, a man whose known vampires since his days in a concentration camp, a just-out-of-jail Latino kid named Gus, Fet the exterminator as well as Eph’s ex wife Kelly, their son Zach and some other folks.

Overall, I liked this book. It was revelatory as far as horror goes, though it definitely had some interesting ideas and tried to keep things scientific for the most part, treating them like an actual virus and drawing apt comparisons to existing organisms, which I appreciate. I dug the characters and thought they were mostly handled well and especially liked how the action scenes were written. I found them clear and exhilarating without being too confusing, which can happen when there’s TOO much action detail.

But I also thought it was too long, focused on some random characters it didn’t need to and felt less like a book and more like a movie. The first two complaints can be easily combined, I think there’s a version of this book with 50 fewer pages that’s a lot tighter and doesn’t waste so much time getting into the plane (we get it, it’s creepy, get in there already!) or with characters who ultimately don’t matter (far too many people at the airport turn out to have no real agency in the book). Also, not for nothing, but it takes around 100 pages for anyone to really start talking about vampires IN A BOOK ABOUT VAMPIRES. We’re all on the train, you don’t have to keep laying down track.

The last complaint is a bit more difficult to explain. There’s a complaint by some when it comes to comic books that some miniseries’ or series’ are just reformatted screenplays that couldn’t sell in Hollywood. It’s the kind of thing I didn’t quite understand at first — a cool idea is a cool idea, it should work regardless of the medium — but it’s something I’ve developed an ability to spot in the Supreme Court definition of pornography kind of way (I know it when I see it). Very soon after starting this book I got the distinct feeling that it would either work better as a movie or that del Toro’s screenwriting style overwhelmed Hogan’s (I’ve never read one of his books, so I can’t really judge either way). There were so many scenes that felt like quick jump cuts to something else for the sole purpose of showing you a piece of information. It’s not a big deal a few times but when it’s an all-the-time thing it can get a little tiring. Also, showing a quick scene in a movie works because it lasts as long as you wind up making it last after editing, but it takes me as long to read a page as it does no matter what, so something that’s supposed to be a quick piece for you can take me longer and I start wondering what the point of all these vignettes really is. If you can explain something in a quick line in a later paragraph instead of giving it its own chapter, do that.

I will admit that some of the problems I had in the reading of this book stem from my personal experience. I haven’t really read a horror book since The Exorcist and that was not only a long time ago, but a very different type of horror. The only vampire books I’ve ever read were the first two Anne Rice ones and The Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike. The majority of my horror experience being with films, I’ve developed a very quick, “let’s do this” attitude when it comes to horror. It’s basically a formula. Character A enters situation 2, it can end in one of four ways, let’s see how it goes. When I’m watching this, I can do other things or be as invested as I want to be, but when I’m reading them, I get a lot more impatient because I’m working through the formula and trying to figure it out at a slower pace than I can watching something. It’s also a case where something in one medium can be enjoyable with far less effort than in another, but that’s just the difference between movies and books.

Even with those complaints, however, I enjoyed the experience of reading this book. The editor in my was chopping out entire characters, chapters and paragraphs while reading which was annoying, but it was intense enough at the end and hit the right spots in the formula to get me interested enough in the other two books. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for them at B&N next time we go.

A quick Ambitious Reading List update: I’m not sure if I’m up for the challenge of reading Devil In The White City at the moment. I’m going to give it another shot soon, but will see. After that I’ve just got Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up, Aimee Bender’s book and Please Kill Me, which I will close things out with. I’ve had a great time with this little reading project and even though it’s taken me more than a season to get through all the books, I’ve already got my next stack mostly lined up.