Books Of Oa: Green Lantern – Emerald Dawn II

green lantern emerald dawn 2 Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II (DC)
Written by Keith Giffen & Gerard Jones, drawn by M.D. Bright
Collects Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II #1-6

When I was a kid, DC went through a lot of changes when it came to their big time superheroes. Superman died, Batman got broken and Hal Jordan went nuts. So, I became very used to the idea of change when it comes to my superheroes. I also developed allegiances to the newer, younger, cooler characters like Kyle Rayner, especially when I heard about the old guard complaining so hard about that old guy Hal getting kicked to the curb.

Aside from a few random comics I acquired over the years, Emerald Dawn II, a 1991 miniseries became my first real introduction to Hal Jordan. This series is the sequel to 1989’s Emerald Dawn and takes place directly after that. See, the series that launched in 1990 was all about current, grey-templed Hal, so these series’ about the rookie space cop were a bit more appealing to me. I scored these particular comics while visiting Carol & John’s in Cleveland while visiting my grandma who was always a big supporter of my geekery. However, looking around in my library’s system for other GL comics reminded me of this story’s existence. A few clicks later and I had requested the trade.

So here’s the deal, not long after getting the GL ring and joining the Corps, Hal Jordan needed training so the Guardians sent one of their most accomplished officers, Sinestro, to do just that. Making matters more difficult is the fact that Hal just got sentenced to jail for drunk driving and is spending his days in prison. While hanging out with Sinestro, it soon becomes very apparent that the large-headed, pink-hued GL is actually a pretty big despot on his home planet of Korugar. This is the first time Sinestro’s expulsion from the Corps is expanded upon. There are also references to Invasion and appearances from Guy Gardner as a social worker, which is a wrinkle of his character I wasn’t familiar with.

I had a pretty good time reading this story from a time when DC was excited about explaining these Silver Age characters in ways that make more sense while expanding on their histories. This is just a few years after Crisis On Infinite Earths still. A lot of people, including my pal Ben Morse, feel that Hal is just too much of a hot shot jerk to like, but I thought he came off as much more human and likable in this series. Things might get a little After School Special at the very end, but overall, I dug this Year One-ish story. Not only did Emerald Dawn II make me want to get my hands on the original series, but also dig out my recently completed collection of Guy Gardner comics written by Gerard Jones as well as the Guy Gardner Reborn miniseries which I also haven’t read yet.

We Want (90s) Action: The Big Hit (1998) & The Replacement Killers (1998)

the big hit One of my favorite aspects of Netflix is checking in every few weeks to see which movies have been added to the Instant side of things. A lot of times, the newer releases to pop up are actually discs that I got from the service less than a month prior, but for the most part, there’s usually a few things I stumble across that I’m pretty excited about. Recently, The Big Hit made its way on there and I got stoked because I remembered liking that movie around when it came out to the point where I grabbed a copy on tape, though I’m not sure where or when.

Here’s the funny thing though, I don’t know if I ever actually watched the movie when I owned it because the last 20 minutes or so of the film were a complete mystery to me. That actually made it kind of fun, but there was a lot of inadvertent content already making me have a great time. I’ll get to that in a few.

The film, directed by Kirk Wong (Crime Story), stars Mark Wahlberg as Melvin, one of the nicest guys on Earth, a real people pleaser who also happens to be an incredibly acrobatic hit man. He works with a group of killers made up of Lou Diamond Phillips’ Cisco and Antonio Sabato Jr.’s Vince, though he only shows up in the beginning and end of the movie. Cisco gets Melvin in on a side job that happens to be a kidnapping. Turns out the girl they snatch (China Chow) is actually the god daughter of their boss. Meanwhile, Melvin’s dealing with a visit from his girlfriend’s (Christina Applegate) parents played by the amazing Elliott Gould and the incredibly annoying Lainie Kazan while also trying to keep the kidnapee hidden. All this culminates in a pretty epic battle between Cisco and Melvin that’s worth the price of admission. 

Before going any further I just have to say that The Big Hit might be the most 90s movie of all time. The movie is super bright and overly complicated. The above description doesn’t even mention the member of their crew who decided to give up sex in favor of self love or Melvin’s other girlfriend or China Chow’s dad’s failed movie career or the subplot involving a nerdy video store clerk pestering Melvin about returning a copy of King Kong Lives. It’s not just that there are too many people in this movie, but everyone has a crazy quirk. Is this what people talk about when they mention the negative effect Quentin Tarantino’s movies had on other films? If so, it seems so far removed from the source to be almost untraceable.

And then there’s the clothes, which are all brighter than they need to be, especially when you consider the fact that you’re dealing with hitmen who probably don’t want to be so easily seen. And, boy, the soundtrack is just bonkers-90s. You’ve got your Fun Lovin’ Criminals, your Save Ferris and even some Mark Wahlberg up in there for good measure.

Speaking of Wahlberg, he’s fantastic in this movie, even if his character doesn’t actually make any sense. It’s like they built the circumstances of the character first and then tried to cram his actual thoughts and feelings into that box. “He’s a nice guy hitman, that’s hilarious!” But, it doesn’t make sense for a people-pleaser to spend his time murdering folks. Or cheating on one girlfriend with another. Still, he’s got that soft-spoken charm that’s pure Funky Bunch plus the spikey hair to go with it. Phillips also seemed to revel in the chance to play an over-the-top bad guy.

It might seem like I’m not a fan of this movie, but I really am. It’s a dumb, fun action movie with pretty people doing cool things, plus it works as a strange cultural artifact from a bygone decade that had way too much influence on me.

the replacement killers Antoine Fuqua’s The Replacement Killers is a far better movie, but it wasn’t quite as much fun. Then again, that’s not really the point to this Chow Yun-Fat/Mira Sorvino jam from the director who would go on to helm Training Day.

The gist here is that Chow Yun-Fat’s hitman character decides not to kill dirty cop Michael Rooker because he’s playing with his son, which obviously puts our hero in danger. On the run, he goes to Sorvino who makes fake passports. While there, the bad guys attack, assume they’re working together and they both have to do everything they can to survive an onslaught of bad guys with guns.

This was another film I remember renting in high school from Family Video. I only watched it the one time, but enjoyed it enough. I had an equally fun experience watching it this time. In its own way, this film is also very 90s, but in a much different way than The Big Hit. While that movie was concerned with being bright and cool, this one’s all about being dark and cool. There’s lots of leather jackets and black clothes and odd looking sunglasses and spinning around while shooting and, the worst trope of all, turning a gun sideways.

When this movie came out it was a pretty big deal for action fabs because it marked Chow Yun-Fat’s first American film. It might sound crazy in the day and age when I watched this on a streaming service right in my house, but back then it was much harder to get your hands on some of the more international films like Hard Boiled and Full Contact. This would have also most likely been the first time audiences got to see his moves on the big screen. Personally, I prefer him in these kinds of films as opposed to the more historical  ones like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Speaking of the cast, remember how big of a deal Mira Sorvino was in the 90s? It seemed like she was involved in all kinds of films from Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite to Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Heck, in that time she even played Marilyn Monroe and Daisy in a TV version of The Great Gatsby! I was under the impression that she hadn’t done much in the pasy decade, but IMDb tells me she’s keeping plenty busy.

Anyway, I’d say to give both of these movies a look, preferably as a double feature with a group of pals, a vodka watermelon, pizza and a few cases of beer. Damn, that sounds like a lot of fun.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Masters Of The Universe – The Horde

Even as a pretty huge He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe fan growing up, I somehow missed the whole Horde thing. I remember Hordak and his robots, but not so much the rest of the villains that came along with him. I scored a Grizzlor and Hordak from this time  in the past few years at a flea market, but that’s about it. It might be for the best, because, had kid-me known there was another MOTU playset out there along with a bad guy who could turn into a motorcycle (Dragstor) and a double robot with swap-out parts (Multi-Bot), I would very well might have lost my mind. It’s just funny how you think you had such a good handle on something when you were a kid, but there was this whole other part that you completely missed. I guess that won’t happen anymore these days thanks to the internet.

Halloween Scene: Night Of The Living Dead (1990)

night of the living dead 1990 poster Towards the end of last week I was looking through my Netflix Instant queue and realized that a whole bunch of movies I wanted to watch were going to leave the streaming service on July 1st. That day has come and gone and I got to watch three out of 20 films, which is just about what I expected to get done.

One of those movies was Tom Savini’s 1990 remake of George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead. I realized as I was cueing the movie up that this was actually my first foray into the world of Romero’s films (even if tangentially) and very well might have been my first straight-ahead zombie film. I remember getting the movie from my beloved Family Video and taking it over to my buddy Andy’s house for an overnight movie marathon. I didn’t remember too much, but that scene where Johnnie gets tackled into the grave stone has stuck with me forever because it came out of nowhere and looked so damn real.

This time around I might have been able to see some of the movie magic involved in that particular scene, I was actually much more taken with the plot of this film. I’m not saying that the remake will ever take the place of the original in my heart, but there is a whole lot to like in this version which goes a few different places the original doesn’t. Those differences are important and, as far as I’m concerned, the only reason to do a remake. You’ve got to have something new to say or do, otherwise, what’s the point?

The set-up of this film is the same as the original in that Barbara (Patricia Tallman) and her brother Johnnie (Bill Moseley) heading way out in the middle of nowhere to put flowers on their mom’s grave. While there they encounter their first zombie. Barbara escapes and runs to a farm house where she meets fellow survivor Ben (Tony Todd), basement dwellers Harry (Tom Towles), Helen (McKee Anderson) and Sarah Cooper (Heather Mazur) and young couple Tom (William Butler) and Judy Rose (Katie Finneran).The group must not only deal with the oncoming hordes of the undead, but their differing opinions on how to stay alive.

I won’t get into all the differences between the films because, honestly, my memory isn’t solid enough to do that without watching the original right after the remake and I had Death Wish sequels to watch, so that’s not happening. Plus, since I saw this one first, the details stick in my head more than the original even though I’ve seen that one far more times. But, the main difference that makes me think this remake has its own value comes in the form of Barbara. While the original version of the character is a screaming mess throughout most of the film, this new version goes through a fantastic metamorphosis that starts where the original character began and changes her into an incredibly capable, bad ass character.

I noticed while watching this time that her evolution can be documented by the clothing changes she makes throughout the film. In the beginning she’s wearing a dress. Not long after she meets Ben, she’s putting on socks and boots. Later she pulls pants on under her dress and eventually she ditches that garment altogether and rolls with just a white tank top. With each wardrobe change, you get the feeling that she’s adapting more and more to this crazy new world she’s a part of. Some people might read this as a kind of “man-ification,” but I saw the changes are coming from a place of pure practicality, but then again, I hate gender-based labels.

So, if you’re a Romero fan who shies away from the many (MANY) remakes of his films or just someone who missed out on this 1990 offering, I’d say give it a shot. Maybe wait until the original isn’t so fresh in your mind, but try to go in with an open mind and look for the good changes within.  Plus, this being a Savini joint, it’s got some rad gore effects and actually looks really great all around. I wonder why he doesn’t direct more.

Quick Movie Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)

21 jump street Given our current situation as parents of a very active toddler and a born-early infant, my wife and I don’t find a lot of time where we’re just hanging out in an evening with enough time to watch a feature film. Well, one night a few weekends back we were in that rarified air on a Saturday night and decided to give Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 21 Jump Street a look.

The basic concept is that Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) were high school adversaries who both wound up being less-than-well-balanced police academy students who got over their past to become good friends. They also get assigned to the re-opened 21 Jump Street program which takes young-looking cops and puts them into high schools to help solve crimes (the basic plot of the Fox series of the same name, of course). Their first mission puts them in a school where a new drug is making the rounds and it’s their job to bust it up. As they get to school, though, the jocky Jenko comes to realize that his ways aren’t cool anymore while Schmidt quickly gets in with the popular kids, relishing ever minute of his newfound acceptance.

This movie won me over in the first 10 minutes or so when they quickly got past the bullying stuff and got right to these guys becoming real, good friends. It reminded me a little of Hill’s similar relationship with Michael Cera’s character in Superbad because it feels honest, especially when it hits snags as the film progresses. Beyond that, it’s just a damn funny movie. I laughed so hard throughout the entire film that my throat was a little sore afterwards.

In addition to the big name leads, the film includes plenty of great cameos — including one by original series star Johnny Depp! — and the leads were fantastic, but Dave Franco really stole the show for me personally. Nothing against his brother, but I think the younger Franco might be even more charismatic. He’s captivating, plain and simple.

As far as relating back to the original material, I wasn’t a 21 Jump Street fan when the show was on. For a long time, it was a reference I’d hear, but only vaguely understood. But I did watch at least the first season on Netflix a few years back and had fun with it. So, with some knowledge going in, I’d say that Lord and Miller used the concept of the series as a spring board for something much bigger and funnier, but without making fun of the original too much.

Trade Post: Batman The Man Who Laughs

batman the man who laughs Batman: The Man Who Laughs (DC)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Doug Mahnke & Patrick Zircher
Collects Batman: The Man Who Laughs, Detective Comics #784-786

I’ve gone a little crazy requesting trades from my local library network. It’s been a lot of fun searching for all kinds of books I may have missed over the years or haven’t read in a while. Batman: The Man Who Laughs actually combines both of these because I somehow missed Ed Brubaker’s take on the Joker in the 2005 Man Who Laughs one-shot, but did read the three issue run on Detective Comics from 2003 also included in this collection.

I remember Man Who Laughs being a pretty big deal when I started working at Wizard in 2005. The prestige format book had come out before I got there and Brubaker’s star was definitely on the rise. A few of the guys on staff were huge fans of Gotham Central, which Bru co-wrote with Greg Rucka and so there was a lot of buzz about his then-new Captain America run and his other projects including the excellent Sleeper. Because of this, Man Who Laughs was a tough book to get your hands on in the Wizard library as people were constantly asking about it. Plus, one book like this can be very difficult to find in a huge, fairly unorganized library like that.

Basically, MWL is a story about the first meeting between Batman and the Joker. It acts as a nice sister story to Batman: Year One because, up to this point, the Dark Knight has only really faced off against mobsters, criminals and street thugs, but the appearance of the Joker takes things to a whole new psychotic level. In true Joker fashion, he comes on the scene like a bomb, presents rules for a game that he has no intention of following and eventually finds out exactly what kind of adversary he has in the form of Batman. Like I said when I wrote about the Lex Luthor-centric run of Action Comics recently, this is one of those stories that helps define a hero by the villains he attracts. Plus, as I’ve said in many a Books Of Oa post, Doug Mahnke is just the best and should draw everything ever.His Joker is waaaay creepy.

After that you’ve got a three issue arc from Detective Comics that teamed a pair of Gotham’s protectors up to solve a series of murders with roots back in the post-WWII era. Green Lantern Alan Scott tried to find a serial killer back in the day who carved “Made of Wood” into his victims. When a new killer with the same MO pops up in modern times, he joins forces with Batman to figure out what’s going on. This is a pretty straightforward whodunnit with a retired Jim Gordon working the case from a different angle. This is the kind of crime solving tale Bru became known for in Gotham Central, but with the added flare of seeing a par of superheroes working the case that makes stories like this set in a shared superhero universe fun.

I got pretty nostalgic reading these issues of Detective Comics because they came out when I was in college. I would come home for a break and my mom or dad would have my pull list waiting for me. I’d spend a good deal of time organizing everything and then putting them in a desired reading order before diving in. These comics reading experiences were much further and farther between than I was used to, but they were a lot more intense because it was such an immersive, deep-dive experience. When we get into a house one of the many things I’m looking forward to is getting my comic collection all in one place so I can go back, re-read books like this and see what’s worth keeping.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: The Bots Master

Occasionally, when I was a kid I was given a certain amount of money and allowed to spend it however I wanted at the toy store. This will certainly age me, but I used to be able to take a $20 into the action figure aisle and walk out with four or more toys. My grandma would do this sometimes when I’d stay with her over the summer and one time I came away with some Bots Masters toys. I didn’t know anything about the cartoon or the fact that the robots joined up like the Constructacons. I just knew that the main character kid looked cool, the bad guy pumped blood through his protruding heart and there was a robot with a bat. If memory serves, these guys were on clearance, so I got a good deal. Anyway, I was thinking about these toys recently, did a little Googling around and figured out what they were actually called. What a super-duper 90s concept what with all the neon, 3D and radicalness.