Jason Aaron Is Awesome

GhostRiderOmnibusJasonAaron Jason Aaron’s one of those comic writers whose career has interestingly intersected with my career as a writer about comics. When I first started at Wizard one of my buddies and an editor at the magazine was huge on his Vertigo series The Other Side. I didn’t read that one, but I did check out the Ripclaw one-shot he did as part of Top Cow’s Pilot Season not too long after that and the first few books in his Scalped series.

The first of his works that really captivated me, though was Ghost Rider. But it wasn’t until my second attempt at reading it. As I’ve written, I love the down-and-dirty, grindhouse-y tone of that book and the wild places he took it. I assumed for a while that that was pretty much his wheelhouse, but as I’ve learned recently from branching out into X-Men: Schism, Wolverine & The X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Thanos Rising, Incredible Hulk, Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine and Thor: God Of Thunder, this guy has more tricks up his sleeve than all the magicians in Vegas. Continue reading Jason Aaron Is Awesome

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Iron Man & X-Men

This week’s TCT is a fun little double whammy thanks to YouTuber CraigLeeThomas. As you can see it starts off with an Iron Man spot followed by an X-Men one. I found this particular video because I couldn’t remember if there were actual X-Men toy commercials back in the 90s. I figured there must have been more than that first one I wrote about a while back, especially considering the cartoon was so popular and that Toy Biz line seemed like it was around forever, but couldn’t remember any specifics.

So, we kick off with that Iron Man commercial and, while I don’t remember seeing it, I definitely had all of those toys. Those were the glorious days you could get four figures for a $20, so I added a lot to my collection especially while visiting my grandma in Cleveland. I loved the snap on armors with all the different accessories, but also how the bad guys in this line each had a cool action feature. Oh, plus, MODOK toy, right?

Then you’ve got the X-Men commercial which featured that huge, rad Sentinel toy. I didn’t have him, but I’m sure I wanted it if and when I saw it. Gotta love all those destruction points for a variety of play options. As far as the action figures go, that was definitely my first Wolverine toy and I might have gotten Rogue later on down the line, but IĀ gravitated towardsĀ other versions of Gambit, Beast and Cyclops.

Finally, while I find the commercial’s conceit that Rogue would be so easily captured and need saving is problematic, it’s kind of adorable hearing that boy do a Southern accent.

Friday Fisticuffs: X-Men Origins Wolverine (2009)

I was not excited about watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Like with many comic book movies that came out between 2005 and 2009, I was pretty burned out on them by the time they debuted thanks to working at Wizard. In the research department, we’d struggle to find headshots of actors that most people hadn’t heard of, usually for free or low cost. Not an easy task, especially when they wanted to run different ones each issue. The reason I wasn’t rushing out to see the flick is because I didn’t hear good things. People seemed to generally dislike the movie. After putting off X-Men 3 and not liking that flick, I figured my days of watching X-Men movies were over for a bit.

Then folks started liking First Class (which I still haven’t seen) and I’ve gotten over most of my image-finding issues by now, so I not only added the movie to our queue, but bumped it up to the top. The missus wanted to check it out, so it took a bit for both of us to find time to sit down and watch it, but once we did, I actually liked it.

I’ve got questions about how everything fits together. Is the girl who turns into diamonds in this movie supposed to be the same as Emma Frost in First Class? Why did they bother including Cyclops? Exactly how many powers did Gambit have? Who are all these characters Wolverine’s fighting alongside? But even with questions like that, I still had fun with the flick. There’s a good deal of action, fun use of powers and an intriguing enough story, though one that would be just as at home in a Jean Claude Van Damme movie as anything else. I especially liked the early scenes with Agent Zero and Deadpool, those were pretty well put together and made me wish the movie was just about those guys running around kicking ass.

Even with my limited X-Men knowledge, I still couldn’t turn off that part of my brain that wonders who’s who, how they fit in to the grander universe and how the movie version differs from the comic version. It’s annoying. I wish I could just flip a switch and not spend so much time trying to figure out which mutant Dominic Monaghan or what role John Wraith played in the comics. To be fair, my wife was wondering about these things as well, so it wasn’t like I was the only one. I had to keep telling her I had no idea what was going on, which I kind of enjoyed.

The movie might get overly dramatic at times, but that’s part of the Wolverine game. I did like how they wound up erasing his memory so that the first three movies would make a little bit more sense and I thought it was clever how they got around the problem of having Cyclops there and even what happened to Stryker at the end. I want to believe it fits in well with the established movies, but I haven’t seen them recently enough to really judge the continuity and like I said, I haven’t seen First Class, though I am excited to. X2 is still my favorite of the bunch and sits up there pretty high on the list of my all time favorite comic book movies. Wolverine doesn’t come close to it, but it’s a fun continuation of the world set up by Bryan Singer.

Late To The Xbox Party: X-Men Origins Wolverine

A lot of people have said that the video game version of X-Men Origins Wolverine is far better than the movie. I have no idea if that’s the case or not because I haven’t seen the flick, but I think it might have raised by expectations a little higher than they should have been. This is one that I waited on at Game Stop, waiting for it to get down to a pretty cheap price. I was jazzed when it finally got down there and I started playing it a while back. It didn’t disappoint as it kicked off and I learned the various controls and eared more and more special moves. Being Wolverine and tearing through dozens of jungle mutants or high tech mercenaries is a ridiculous amount of fun in the beginning, but it wears a little thin after a while. But, what wears thinner faster has to be the boss battles that take place in the jungle levels, most of which involve a giant monster of some kind trying to smash you and you waiting for just the right moment to lunge (a great function of the game) and attack the back of his head. It was alright the first time, but man, that shiz got old QUICK and it happens over and over and over again.

I can’t speak to the story behind the game, which I’m guessing follows the movie at least to some extent as I wound up fighting Blob, Gambit and Deadpool towards the end. As usual, I ignored most of the story aspects of the game and listened to podcasts while playing the game (I love multitasking my entertainment whenever possible), but it seemed really repetitive as it bounced from jungle to inside levels where you first fight soldiers and then robots. There are some geek moments like where you fight a Sentinel, but 75% of the game felt like it was all the same stuff on a loop. I did like one of the levels towards the end where you’re chasing Gambit around a building site and have to jump around and fight all the different bad guys from the previous levels who are also trying to kill each other.

So, I enjoyed the game for the most part, but I walked away with a somewhat negative feeling for two reasons. The first is a practical one, I couldn’t beat the damn thing. The last boss you have to beat is the weird version of Deadpool from the movie who can apparently teleport, snikt swords from his forearms and shoot lasers from his eyes. You’re stuck fighting him up on a big circular loop thing. Just when you’re about to kill him, according to his health meter, he ‘ports away and does a huge blast that takes the floor right out from under you. If you can’t jump away in time–which happens because the game glitches and slows down for some damn reason–you die and have to continue from the very beginning. It’s not just frustrating, but infuriating. I tried ten times and just freaking quit. I didn’t feel too bad about it because, hell, I got the last guy, that’s close to winning right?

My second problem with the game is a little more philosophical, I guess. In the game you’re freaking Wolverine, yet there are a lot of things that get in your way and inhibit you. You can’t interact with the environment as much as you probably should be able to. Your claws don’t do nearly the amount of damage they should. Your special moves don’t do nearly enough damage. I had a similar problem with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. I don’t want to start off as a schlubby version of a superhero, I want TO BE A FREAKING SUPERHERO! I’m cool with getting more used to the powers and learning how to do more things with them, but I should have the full extent of that character’s abilities, which means my indestructible claws that can cut through anything should let me cut through anything, even if it is a soldier with body armor. I know what you’re thinking, “But then you’d just coast through the levels.” Nay, I say! Send thirty bad guys after me all guns blazing and I’d still have to do my damnedest to stay alive while they’re attacking.

So, in the end, the game’s not bad, but it’s not really much of a Wolverine game. Heck, it doesn’t even have ninjas! But, I had enough fun playing it. I actually started playing the Red Faction game for 360 which is kind of funny because in THAT game you can destroy all kinds of stuff with a freaking sledgehammer. They could have changed a few things and dropped Wolverine into that game and I’d be having a blasty blast. Makes me wish I knew how to mod a game.

Trade Post: Locke & Key Vol. 1 & Wolverine Weapon X

Written by Joe Hill, drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez
Collects Locke & Key #1-6
I was still working for Wizard when Lock & Key was first announced. As the IDW contact, I was usually first in the office to know about the upcoming projects. Something by Stephen King’s kid didn’t interest me all that much, so I missed out on the book and after our initial round of coverage, I kind of forgot about it. Then, in an unexpected move, the Totally Rad Show guys reviewed the book towards the end of last year very favorably and it got me interested in checking it out again (you can see the episode, #144, here). A few months ago, Barnes and Noble had a big trade sale and Locke & Key was one of the potential books so I picked it up along with Wolverine Weapon X, making this a bit of a themed Trade Post.

It really is a great book, the TRS guys were right. It’s about a family that moves to Lovecraft, MA after the father is murdered by one of his guidance councilees. But, as it would turn out, this is no ordinary house. It’s filled with secrets, from the door that allows the youngest son to fly around as a ghost to the wraith trapped in a well, many of which are opened by keys found throughout the house.

Things stay bad for the family as it turns out their dad’s killer is still around and is being helped out by a mysterious entity, which brings terror back into their lives. Hill really weaves a hell of a story that deals with all kinds of elements, from basic family dynamics both before and after the violent act, to how each member deals with those changes and on to the more mystical aspects like the keys and doors and monsters and killers. It’s really, really well put together, with some world building that makes me want to read more and more stories set in said world, which is good because there’s already two other trades out called Head Games and Crown Of Shadows which I want to get my hands on.

I kind of touched on it above, but I want to once again commend Hill for building a story so well from the ground up. Often times with a story like this, the action is really well thought out or the mystical aspects are, but it doesn’t always fit well together. In this case, all the elements are there and it makes for a great ride that’s enhanced by Rodriguez’s animated-but-still-dark-when-it-needs-to-be art. This one’s definitely recommended to everyone and will be getting a spot on my shelf. Give it a whirl and see how it plays.

Written and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith
Collects Marvel Comics Presents #72-84
I’ve been disappointed with just about every classic X-Men story I’ve ever read, mostly because a good chunk of them are written by Chris Claremont and I find his writing overly wordy and generally boring (plus, it’s hard to get excited about stories you’ve seen retold a million times in other comics, flashbacks, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-like yarns, movies, cartoons, video games, trading cards and what have you). Weapon X wasn’t even one of the stories I had on my “must read” list, but when it turned up for only a few bucks on the B&N site, I figured I’d give it a shot.

It was alright, but not great. Part of the problem was that I read the intro by Larry Hama before reading the book. Usually, these are interesting bits with some information or examples of how the work inspired the writer, but in this case, Hama hyped the book so much (sometimes incorrectly) that I found myself comparing his intro to the actual product and mentally pointing out the incongruities like a smarmy teenager with a teacher who mispronounces a president or something.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad story. It’s actually pretty interesting and the art is fantastic. I also didn’t find myself bored, which I was worried about considering my earlier problems with classic X-books. The plot’s a pot boiler because you know Wolverine will be breaking out in the end and killing some dudes (just look at the cover), so you’re just waiting to see how and when. It’s like in the beginning of Jason X where the military guys have Jason all chained up and they’re making fun of him and throwing an old blanket over him or whatever and you’re just waiting for him to bust out and do his slice and dice routine. It’s not a matter of if, but when. In this case, however, you’re not waiting for a known monster (all we know is that he’s a dangerous soldier, going by just this story), but a man who’s been experimented on and turned into a weapon by government jackasses.

I like how the story is collected too. They turn the whole thing into one continuous story which is followed up by all the MCP Weapon X-centric covers (the anthology comic was a flip book with a cover on each side), covers from previous collections, the aforementioned Hama intro, a W-S Wolvy pin-up, a story W-S did in Wolverine #166 set during this story and the cover he did for the next issue. I like that kind of extra effort put into a collection.

So, in the end, I’m glad I read this important piece of Wolverine’s history. I like the character enough (how can you not, unless you’re violently opposed to overexposure or, well, violence?) and I like that the story passes the test of time (again, the art is RAD), but I don’t think I’ll be keeping this one on my shelf. If you’re interested in checking it out, it’s up on my Swap page!