Halloween Scene: Stranger Things & The Like

stranger-things-posterHey, look, it’s nearly October and I’ve already watched a bunch of great stuff! Like the rest of the world, I fell in love with Stranger Things and even wrote a list for CBR about a dozen other movies and shows you should check out if you liked it as much as me. Regular readers won’t be surprised by how much I responded to the idea of a bunch of kids trying to stop something far beyond their natural abilities. Plus, it gave me a great reason to re-watch the likes of The Gate and Cloak & Dagger. Continue reading Halloween Scene: Stranger Things & The Like

Riverdale Trade Post: Archive Vol 1 & Archie Vs. Predator

archie-volume-1No one’s more surprised than me that I’m writing a post about not one, but two Archie books I love, but that just goes to show that I was previously being close-minded about this company AND that they’re pretty awesome right now. Continue reading Riverdale Trade Post: Archive Vol 1 & Archie Vs. Predator

Image Trade Post: Wayward & Descender

Wayward Volume 1 String TheoryBack when I started working for CBR, I covered Image Comics. It was a wild time when new creators were rolling in and producing these great creator-owned books. A lot of them have gone on to work at Marvel where I now interview them for that company’s website. I’ve since switched beats and now cover BOOM! Studios and IDW so I’ve lost touch with some of the books that everyone’s talking about and digging like Wayward and Descender. Continue reading Image Trade Post: Wayward & Descender

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Versus Aliens

green lantern versus aliensKyle Rayner was MY Green Lantern for the longest time. I came to the ongoing series when Hal Jordan went nuts and an LA dude got the most powerful weapon in the cosmos dropped in his palm in a back alley while wearing a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt. I was on board instantly and have loved that character ever since. So, when I was perusing the library’s Green Lantern offerings and saw they had a copy of the DC/Dark Horse Green Lanterns Versus Aliens crossover, it was the easiest of requests to make. Continue reading Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Versus Aliens

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Sector 2814 Volume 1

Green_Lantern_Sector_2814_vol_01 Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 1 (DC)
Written by Len Wein, drawn by Dave Gibbons
Collects Green Lantern #172-176, 178-181

As regular UM readers will know, I’m kind of in love with the idea of space cops patrolling the galaxy and keeping people safe. I’ve mostly written about Geof Johns’ run here on the site, but I actually got my start back when Hal Jordan went nuts and the young gun known as Kyle Rayner took over for him. As such, my experience with Hal Jordan before the mid 90s was slim. I resented that all the old comic readers wanted to seem him return and thought he was boring (because, like them, he was old).

But, this is a pretty interesting character, if you’re into dudes who struggle with balancing duty with their own impetuous nature. Those are the traits on display in Len Wein and Dave Gibbons’ first combined arc which started by asking whether Hal would be able to return to earth. Apparently, before this book, he was told to stay away for a full year and finally got the go-ahead to head back to see his gal Carol Ferris and, well, that’s about it. He only really seems to care about his work friends and her in this particular arc.

In addition to rekindling things with his special lady, Hal found himself tangling with the likes of future Suicide Squad member Javelin, The Shark, Demolition Team, Predator (who would later show up in my beloved Extreme Justice) and even the Guardians! What’s that you say? Yup, Ha gets bent out of shape when he’s called to go save an entire planet while Ferris Air is under attack. Apparently that’s a bad thing in his mind, but to the casual, non-10-year-old observer, it just makes perfect sense. At the end of the day, he winds up quitting the GL Corps. WHAT?! Yup, to be continued in Sector 2814 Volume 2 (which I don’t have, so we’ll see how long it takes for a review of that one).

While I don’t know if I’ll ever feel super in line with Hal Jordan’s way of thinking, I still really enjoyed this book. It felt like a solid return to some of the goofy Silver Age stuff I’ve read but never really written about because I think it’s pretty silly. Wein and Gibbons take that and put it all through a more modern prism which feels real, honest and adult. I especially found myself marveling over Gibbons’ work. He’s an artist who everyone knows from Watchmen, but I have very little experience with aside from that. Here he gets to play superhero and it looks great. It also looks super bright thanks to colors by Anthony Tollin. This might be one of the brightest, most enjoyable reading experiences of my comic book reading career. All of that earns this book a place on my shelf and an eye towards future volumes.

Team Up Trade Post: Superman, Batman, Galactus & Darkseid

superman dark knight over metropolisSuperman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern & Jerry Ordway, drawn by Art Adams, Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod & Ordway
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Action Comics #653-654, Adventures of Superman #466-467 & Superman #44

While Hal Jordan might not have been my early bread and butter as a comic reader, Superman and Batman definitely were. I love both heroes, so seeing them team-up in this interesting period (1990) where they didn’t really trust each other and definitely weren’t friends was a trip, especially because I came around later and saw them team up in JLA.

The first comic in this series is a classic that brings both heroes together. It’s written by John Byrne with art by the crazy-awesome Art Adams, but I’ve read it a handful of times and the surprise is a bit gone so I skipped it (well, I flipped through it cause, daaaaaag, it’s pretty). The rest of the book builds off of the title three part story, but kicks off two issues before that to add context. Part of that context involves seeing the origin of Hank Hall, the man who would become Cyborg Superman, one of the most important characters of my childhood!

The actual “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” story had been built up to for a while in the Superman comics because a woman who worked for Lex Luthor stole his Kryponite ring and also figured out who Superman truly was (but Lex didn’t believe her and ruined her life). She gets murdered, the ring gets stolen and winds up in Gotham where Batman gets clued into it. The work the case in and out of costume and eventually, Superman entrusts Batman with the Kryptonite ring (another iconic moment that I always heard about when I started reading a few years later, but didn’t actually read until this point).

This book is steeped pretty heavily in the world of Superman books of this era, much of which is covered in the Man Of Steel trades (which I, of course, adore). I don’t know how easy it would be for a new reader to just jump right in and read these issues, BUT I’m guessing that the dynamic between Batman and Superman in this comic is a lot closer to what’s going on in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice than the Super Friends we later came to know and love.

darkseid vs galactus the hunger Darkseid Vs. Galactus: The Hunger (DC & Marvel)
Written & drawn by John Byrne

Of the three books in this post, Darkseid vs Galactus: The Hunger is actually the one I read as a kid. The mid 90s were actually a really great time to see characters from Marvel and DC crossover, first with the DC Vs Marvel series and then the All Access books and one-offs like this one. At the time, I knew the basics of Galactus and the Fantastic Four and probably knew a bit about Darkseid, Apokolips and the New Gods, but zero clue that these were all Jack Kirby creations coming together.

Though over-written in the grand tradition of both Kirby and Byrne, this super-fun book finds the World Devourer trying to turn Apokolips into his latest snack thanks to Silver Surfer discovering the world of awfulness and sorrow.

There’s a twist at the end of this book that blew me away as a kid and stuck with me ever since. In fact, it was the ONLY thing I remembered about this book that I first read 21 years ago. Again, it’s both reflective of Kirby’s work as well as Byrne’s writing of the mid 90s, so I’m not sure how accessible it is, but if you have even the remotest interest in Kirby’s worlds and always wondered what would happen if they collided, track this book down!

Marvel Double Feature: Avengers Age Of Ultron & Ant-Man

avengers the age of ultronRight off the bat, I’ll admit that I did not actually watch Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man as a true double feature. We probably watched the latter a month ago and just peeped the former yesterday. But, since I didn’t write about the Avengers sequel, it seemed liked a proper time.

I went into Joss Whedon’s Ultron with fairly low expectations. It seemed like a lot of the people I follow on Twitter and actually communicate with weren’t super into it. The general feeling I was picking up on seemed to be that, while it’s got all kinds of spectacle, it didn’t live up to the original.

And that was my experience as well, but then again, this is a different kind of blockbuster super hero movie. The original — which I love — seemed custom built to show that all of these series-leading, mega stars could come together, fight the bad guys and look good doing it. Meanwhile, this film seemed built with a different goal in mind: showing how said group (plus new members) can work together even when times are tough.

It’s also clearly a bigger piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe puzzle leading up to Captain America: Civil War and the Infinity War movies. To me as a viewer, the first felt like it was worked into the bigger tale while this one was more obviously built to lead to something else. This is something I’m not usually a fan of in comics and even less so in comic films and it all just boils down to a feeling I get while watching.

And yet, I still found myself enjoying this darker take on team superheroics. Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision all make interesting additions to not just the team, but the universe at large. Plus, it’s not all dark. I could watch an entire TV series about the Avengers hanging out like they did at that party. I also just adore James Spader (as I mentioned here) so watching and listening to his take on the killer robot Ultron was a treat as he’s basically Blacklist‘s Raymond Reddington but crazy and a robot.

I think that the problem with this movie as related to the first one comes down to this fact: I don’t want to rewatch it a bunch. I probably could have sat through another showing of Whedon’s first Avengers film right after the first one and even stop flipping or pop in for a few minutes every time I see it on TV. I don’t see that happening here. In other words, it’s not nearly as fun as the first one, which it clearly wasn’t supposed to be, but it’s still a bummer.

ant-man posterAnt-Man is far from a bummer, though, which is great. I admit, my feelings towards these movies have been a bit tainted by elements from beyond the movies themselves. I’m not sure how I feel about every single film moving forward painting towards this gigantic epic that will end Phase Three. I love the inter-connectivity between these films, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want them all to be about this one big thing leading forward.

And then I watched Ant-Man and it felt like a nice step away from all that intergalactic craziness to just tell the story of a few people trying their best to not make the world a worse place. I love the approach of using this intelligent thief to wear a potentially fatal suit in an attempt to stop tech from ruining the world. It’s perfectly comic book-y, but also fits in so well with this universe and Paul Rudd just kills it. I also really enjoyed watching Michael Douglas who seemed to break the rule that every old dude in a Marvel Studios movie turns out to be bad. Oh, and how fun is Michael Pena? And how bad ass is Lilly? More of both of them please! Basically, everything came together to give me a beautiful mix of heist and hero that gets a major thumbs up from this guy.

However, all respect to director Peyton Reed who did a great job, but I still wish we would have been able to see Edgar Wright’s version of this film which we reported on all the way back in the days of Wizard and ToyFare. Yes I bet it would have been an amazing movie, but it more so bums me out that a relatively slow filmmaker like Wright spent ALL that time on a movie that just didn’t happen. He’s got such an amazing vision for what he makes that I want him to make all the movies he can and this felt like a major entanglement that resulted in a great vision for Ant-Man, but not a full-on Edgar Wright movie.

And, yes, I still remain a bit nervous about Marvel tying up too many of their films to Infinity War, but then I must remind myself that Guardians Of The Galaxy did a great job of incorporating some of that into its movie and this one basically skips over all of that. Back to what I was saying above, it feels like Ant-Man is its own thing that will get incorporated into the larger goings-on of the MCU instead of the other way around. I like that and as long as that’s the way these things go, I’ll keep enjoying them.