Trade Post: Wimpy Kid, Shade, Mind MGMT & Robocop Vs. Terminator!

trade-pile-wimpy-shade-mind-mgmt-robo-v-terminatorWhenever possible, I like to theme my reading or at least the posts I write here on the blog, but sometimes I just wind up reading a lot of disparate trades that have nothing to do with each other. That’s the case with this mix of books I pulled from my To Read boxes and the library. Let’s get into it! Continue reading Trade Post: Wimpy Kid, Shade, Mind MGMT & Robocop Vs. Terminator!

Ex Libris Trade Post: Sin City Booze, Broads & Bullets

sin city booze, broads and bullets Sin City was the first trade paperback I went into my comic book shop and purchased. I’d picked up trades with gift certificates to book stores like Barnes & Noble or our local book store Thackery’s. One week, though, my comic load was super light, I saw that stark red, black and white cover with Marv are beaten up and decided to give it a shot. I want to says I’d read Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns by that point and had read plenty about him and Sin City in Wizard so it seemed like a good purchase.

I remember being quite taken with the kinetic black and white pages therein along with the hyper-everything, violence, language, characters, actions, cars, driving, etc. I realize in hindsight that Sin City comics — I went on to get all seven trades — were my main entryway into the world of hardboiled crime fiction. I realize now that some of those characters and comics would seem ridiculous outside the pages of Sin City, but I still think they fit perfectly when surrounded by Miller’s perfectly suited pencils and inks.

Anyway, with the second film on the way, I decided to dig into my trade collection once again and pull out a few lesser known Sin City offerings starting with the short story and one-shot collection Booze, Broads and Bullets. I should note here that I have the normal sized trades put out by Dark Horse in the 90s, not the digest versions that appeared around the time of the first film. I’m not a huge fan of that smaller format, especially when it comes to an artist like Miller whose pages deserve to be put on as big of a screen as possible.

This book works as a kind of sampler for all things Sin City. It’s got tough guys Marv and Dwight, deadly little Miho and verbose killers Klump and Shlubb. More than that, though, these tales give the reader a feel for the terrible kind of place Basin City really is, the kind of place where you can be driving along, meet a beautiful woman, hook up with her in the tar pits and wind up getting murdered because she’s an assassin and has mistake you for her mark. It also sets up the way Miller builds these stories in a way that just throws the reader in. There were times where I wasn’t sure if I was reading a well known character or a new one. Dwight’s a hard one to keep tabs on thanks not only to Miller’s less-than-clear style (which perfectly first this series) but also that pesky surgery of his.

Because of all this, I realized while reading through this collection that it’s actually a great place to start for new Sin City readers. Along with everything I mentioned above, it also teaches the reader to keep their eyes peeled for recurring characters. Instead of telling the reader when a story takes place, Miller uses characters as a kind of timeline. Is Marv in this story? Then it must take place before (most of) the first volume which was later named The Hard Goodbye. I haven’t really dug into it yet, but I believe there are even Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-like moments where we’re seeing the same scene in different stories from different angles based on which characters we’re following that time around, which is something found in the larger narrative as well.

Batman Trade Post: Year One & All-Star Batman And Robin

batman year one Batman: Year One (DC)
Written by Frank Miller, drawn by Dave Mazzucchelli
Collects Batman #404-407

It’s amazing when you think about not only how many different approaches Batman can handle, but also how many seminal stories are attached to the character. Whenever you get or got into comics, these stories are tent poles that changed the game. You either read them as they happen or feel their influence later on down the line.

When I came to Batman around the time of Knightfall, I was experiencing the latter. That would have been around 1992, six years after Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and five after the “Year One” story was published in Batman. To say those were wildly influential stories for the character would still be an understatement. I’m far from an expert, but it seems like Frank Miller was continuing many of the elements developed in the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams era, but I can’t say that for certain because of my limited experience. Anyway, this was a more serious take on Batman.

But like I said, that take on the character was very much the norm when I started reading those comics and, even though it was held up on the same level as Dark Knight Returns, I must admit that I’d only read it once before last week when I thought it would be a good idea to read Miller’s Batbooks in chronological order (as far as the character goes, not real time). I was going to start with Year One, then check out All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder and then end with DKR and maybe Dark Knight Strikes Again if I could easily get my hands on it. There was a big hitch in that plan, but I’ll get to that later. The point is that I hadn’t read Year One in a long time, but really enjoyed the experience this time around.

If you’re reading this blog you probably already know the basic story of Year One, it’s a look at Batman’s first year in Gotham playing hero. While he’s trying to figure out the best way to run around in disguise, fight criminals without killing them and striking fear in the hearts of men, Selina Kyle is giving up her career as a whore to become a thief and Jim Gordon’s doing his best to clean up Gotham and its police force.

In fact — and I’m sure this has been said before — this book is far more Jim Gordon’s Year One (In Gotham) than it is a Batman story. Sure, Miller puts you inside Batman’s cowl as he figures out this crime fighting thing, but the far more interesting story being told here is of the morally imperfect man trying to do the right thing in his day job as a cop. He takes his lumps, gives as good as he gets and worries about raising his unborn child in such a terrible city. At the same time, he’s stepping out on his wife with Detective Sarah Essen. It’s uncomfortable reading that no matter what, but even more so if you were reading when I was and know that Gordon eventually gets with Essen.

The emotional weight of the books comes across from Miller’s subtle writing, but also from Dave Mazzucchelli’s pencils. He’s an artist that I don’t have much experience with, but I was struck by how the art felt equally loose and detailed. I’m not quite sure if that makes any sense, but I think it has something to do with the thick lines used and the warm yet muted color pallet used throughout the book.

All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder All-Star Batman And Robin, The Boy Wonder (DC)
Written by Frank Miller, drawn by Jim Lee
Collects All-Star Batman And Robin #1-9

I had a great time getting back to this seminal work and will add my name to the nearly infinitely long list of people who think it should be required reading for comic fans. It’s just such a great piece of comic book creation that it made my look at All-Star Batman And Robin, The Boy Wonder come off as skewed.

My intention was to see how Miller’s version of Batman grew from Year One to All-Star and into Dark Knight, but I found that comparing the two books did no favors for All-Star. While Year One is very subtle and nuanced, there’s no room for any of that in this other book jam packed with loudmouthed extras and sociopathic heroes. When my buddy Sean Collins reviewed the book in 2009, I had just re-read it and liked it. But this time around I flipped back to the negative side. I get that it’s parody and over the top, but I think there are too many elements of the basic Batman character left out of the proceedings that it’s not actually a Batman comic anymore. This time it felt kind of like one of those Mark Millar comics where he takes a basic superhero concept, “turns it on its ear,” adds profanity and sells a million copies. I’m not a fan of those books. Jim Lee’s artwork sure is pretty though.

I’m probably completely wrong on this because I’m also not a DKR scholar by any means, but the complete shift in tone from Year One to All-Star threw me for a loop. I think I could probably still enjoy this book on its own, separate from any other Batman, but right now, I’m going to put it aside and move on to something else.

300: Rise Of An Empire Motion Poster Reminds Us Of Trailer

IGN posted a pretty cool looking motion poster for 300: Rise Of An Empire featuring star Sullivan Stapleton as Themistokles. Follow the link to give it a look. Normally a poster like this would make for a good Bullet Point, but this reminded us that there’s a trailer for the film we haven’t shown yet. What better time than now?

The film is a sequel to Zack Snyder’s 2006 adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300. It’s said to take place simultaneously with the original film or at least during the ongoing war. Noam Murro (Smart People) signed on to direct this one which Snyder produced.

Here’s the official synopsis from Legendary and Warner Bros.:

Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, and told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster 300, this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh battlefield—on the sea—as Greek general Themistokles attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war.

300: Rise of an Empire pits Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and Artemesia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

300: Rise of an Empire also stars Eva Green, Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro. It premieres March 7th, 2014.

We Want Action: Robocop 2 (1980)

Watching Robocop 2, probably for the first time unedited and in full (I think I’ve seen it on TV, but didn’t remember many of the beats) was a ton of fun. They really don’t make movies like this anymore that mix action, satire and even slapstick together with a product that still stands up in the grand tradition of action flicks from the 80s and very early 90s.

The sequel picks up some time after the first flick leaves off, but Detroit’s in even worse shape. We’re treated to various commercials showing just how bad society is in general which are both funny and a little scary when you think of how reality TV obsessed we’ve gotten as a country. The evil megacorporation OCP continues attempts at recreating the Robocop formula (there’s a pretty great montage of the attempts) but with less human interaction. See, the big thing going on in Robo’s life is that he considers himself and Alex Murphy (the cop he was before getting killed and turned into a walking tank) one in the same and OCP doesn’t like that much. They want subservient killing machines who will only answer to them. There’s also a drug kingpin/cult leader running around spreading drugs and getting a robo body of his own later in the film. Oh, and, at one point, Robocop gets banged up pretty bad, OCP comes in to fix him and turns him into a totally PC pussy.

I guess you’ve got to be in the right mood to watch and enjoy this flick (a good or drunk one, basically). If you’re looking for a serious action movie that really takes into account the loss of human life therein or examines the motives of criminals in a realistic light, this ain’t for you. A little kid not only smokes, swears, runs drugs and shoots guns but also almost murdered a policewoman (which doesn’t say much about her skill levels as a cop if you ask me). This movie is funny and ridiculous and when I was done watching it, I wanted to watch the next one, though I haven’t heard great things.

I’m not a huge fan of the Robocop franchise, not because I don’t like it (clearly I do), but because I just haven’t seen the movies enough. I’ve probably seen the first one three times (once when I was around 16, then at a Manly Movie Night two or three years back and then once again more recently, I think). I definitely think it belongs in the pantheon of action movies from that time period and I really like that they went from the ultra dark tone of the first one and had a little fun with the sequel, though I can see why purists would think it’s a little too much. To them I say, relax, have a couple beers, get a pizza, call your friends over, watch it again and stop being so serious all the time. Have fun with it.

Frank Miller Double Feature: 300 (2006) & Sin City (2005)

300I’ve decided on this, the week of my birthday, that I would spend my days sitting on my ass and writing also watching some of my favorite movies. As it happens, two of my favorite comic book movies of all time come from Frank Miller comics: 300 and Sin City. I saw 300 a few years back in the theaters with Ben and Rickey and our ladies. I walked out feeling like I wanted to punch something, but decided against it. When it came out on DVD I eventually bought it with a few others at Blockbuster, but hadn’t gotten around to watching it again until today.

Man, I still love this movie. I haven’t read the comic it’s based on yet, so I can’t comment on how accurate it is to the comic, but it does have the feel of a Miller comic in both visuals and tones. More to the point, it’s just an awesome, fun movie full of larger-than-life characters who refuse to die (well, up to a point), severe and visually interesting movies and an uplifting ending (again, kinda). Oh, and tons and tons of blood and gore as the Spartans take on all manor of enemies.

Visually, I find the movie stunning. I’m not a huge proponent of  these kinds of digital shoots, but I think director Zack Snyder did something really innovative by creating such a rich visual tone.

300 was one of those interesting movies to see coming up while working at Wizard. There had been some weirdness in the past between the magazine and Miller, but after the success of Sin City things seemed to get patched up. I was working in the research department at the time, so anytime they ran anything having to do with 300, we had to go back to the same batch of images over and over and over again. That’s one of the problems with covering things so far out in advance. Even with an utter overload of 300, I was still excited for the movie and remain excited about watching it again. I still wanted to punch something, but instead I just kept sitting on my couch.

SinCityWhen Sin City came out, I was in college. I don’t think I was more excited for any other movie that year and maybe during my whole college career. I had read a few of the trades and seen a few of Robert Rodriguez’s other movies, but the combination of the two had me crazy excited. I never expected to see a “smaller” comic like this (ie, not a superhero) on the big screen with such high production values, vision and gigantic actors. And it did not disappoint. It didn’t disappoint when I watched it together either and by now I’ve read and own every Sin City trade and have seen most of Rodriguez’s movies.

I know some people don’t like the idea of just bringing a comic book to life, but I’ve got no problem with it as long as it’s done this well. Taking real people and making them look like Miller’s drawings and still not look completely ridiculous is a feat in and of itself. Also, taking some of Miller’s more noir-ish dialogue and spitting it out in real life would sound strange and let’s be honest, not everyone’s good at it. I noticed the male characters seem to do it better than the women, but maybe it’s because it’s harder for women to sound badass.

Anyway, I like how well Rodriguez and Miller told no less than three stories in a fairly tight fashion without rushing any of them. Sure, the movie’s a bit long, but I didn’t find myself getting bored. How can you be bored with badasses like Bruce Willis, Clive Owen and Mickey Rourke all doing their badass things so well? If there’s one thing that Miller does really well, it’s creating seemingly indomitable characters who don’t take “no” or “die” for an answer unless they’ve decided it’s their time. Heck, I’m still not completely convinced that Marv is dead. Here’s hoping that Rodriguez actually gets around to making Sin City 2 and doesn’t let Miller take the reigns as The Spirit was a shit storm of epic proportions.