Saturday, July 27, 2013

Weekly Pull List 7-24-13

Justice League Dark 22 - Part 3 of Trinity War. The Phantom Stranger shows up while the Justice Leagues are analyzing Dr. Light's body and tells them of Wonder Woman's plan to find the Justice League Dark. They go to New York to find Wonder Woman and have a quick standoff. The Question shows Superman an article that reveals that Dr. Psycho is the one behind Dr. Light's death leading him to escape in a rage. A scuffle nearly ensues before Zatana whisks away Diana and the JLD as Constantine lures Shazam away for his own schemes. The book ends with a nice little voice over moment of the mysterious man who has kidnapped Madame Xanadu and is explaining that the "knights" are moving into place nicely and reveals he has a mole in the Justice League! Gasp!! Interesting next step in the story. Another mole? pretty contrived and not very exciting. This series so far has been great books with very underwhelming endings and contrived twists. The story is decent, but seems to be lacking something. Something like a good reason for existing. Not great, but interested to see where it's headed. Especially after the next book. 3 out of 5.

Constantine 5 - This book as well as the character is one I really had little interest in. A few months ago I watched the movie and realized I kinda like the occult story. I picked this one up as it's a tie-in to the Trinity War and takes place after Constantine and Shazam take off. They arrive at a bar apparently frequents and John tricks Shazam into changing back to Billy and manages to take the magical power from him to fight off the demon who is apparently chasing them. The story is rather obnoxious and out there, but it's written in a way that I don't care about that. It's an excellent, quick read and I'm looking forward to picking up another issue or two. The art is rather brilliant. It has a fantastic balance of realism and stylistic imagery that works perfectly to evoke the demonic, surreal story. This book is an excellent surprise in that I wasn't expecting it to be great and it still blew me away. 4 out of 5.

Lastly, I picked up The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun 5. This is apparently the last issue of this mini series. I thought it was six, not five. This issue brings together all of General Hume's horsemen and their journeys to a place where a disease has been infecting the town. They destroy all the demons when the widow Hume shows up and recruits/guilts them into joining her. The survivors start heading toward the group when they shoot them all down as they are villains. This series is great. It answers the question I didn't know I was asking about how the men got wrapped up with Missy Hume after banishing the general. I can't wait to go back and read the main series to see how this one helps enhance it. Brian Churilla's artwork homages Brian Hurtt's work on The Sixth Gun while making it a little darker and more oriented to the villainous story. Great book and great series! 4.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Weekly Pull List 7-17-13

Justice League of America 6 - Part 2 of the Trinity War. The fighting in Kahndaq continues until Superman tells them to stop and turns himself in. ONce in custody Superman is visited by Batman and Wonder Woman. A discussion of science vs. mythology ensues and is followed by Diana going to talk to Hephaestus and then when science and mythology fail, she goes to find the Justice League Dark to see if magic would work better. The last page introduces us to the Question for the first time in the New 52 I believe. I am excited to see what happens with the Question as he's a pretty awesome detective character. Great moments are when Vibe totally takes out the Flash with a crazy sweet audio blast, and finding the Question. They do touch more on Superman being brainwashed which is a good thing. Solid issue, good writing, fun art, exciting set up. 3.5 out of 5.

Sonic Universe 54. In the penultimate issue of the Worlds Collide crossover. This issue is mostly a fight between Sonic and Mega Man and Metal Sonic and Bass. Great action sequences including a montage of them teaming up and using all of Mega Man's new weapons from the series. Pretty awesome. 4 out of 5.

Thor God of Thunder 10. Part Four of the Godbomb arc. Gorr has completed the godbomb and revels in his imminent victory when his wife calls him her god. With his vision of gods, Gorr doesn't like this and kills her. His son realizes this and decides to help the Thors earn their escape and regain their hammers (or axe in the case of young Thor). With weapons in tow they attack Gorr who is working on activating the godbomb. Again a very nice issue. It's a little weird when the other gods refer to them as a Thor, but mostly it's just a very fun ride with beautiful art and ends with the bomb going off in a glorious cliffhanger. Again, it you like Thor at all you should be picking up this book. At the very least in Trade. While I thoroughly enjoy what Jason Aaron is doing with this book, I am ready for the Gorr story to be done, which it is next issue according to the letters page. This just gets me even more excited for the coming issues. Another shout out to Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina for the amazing pencils and extraordinarily beautiful colors respectively. 3.5 out of 5

Finally, and I mean that in every sense of the word, we get to Scarlet 7. In this issue we see Scarlet set up a rally as a distraction so she can break into the mayor's office and try to blackmail/threaten him into firing all of the cops who are corrupt in the city. This issue isn't great. It's a transition between parts of the story. Very much filler, but it makes for an interesting story. This series always leaves you wanting more which is due to Bendis being an epic writer. Maleev as usual brings out the story in a beautiful way with his gritty, rough art. The only real problem with this book is that the creators are so busy that this one takes too long between issues. While the book is always good, this one was not worth the long wait, unless the next few issues come out quickly. 3 out of 5.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Weekly Pull List 7-10-13

We're back with my weekly pull list. It's later than normal since I started working nights at one of my jobs so my schedule's been off. Got a very nice variety this week so here we go.

Let's start with Thor: The Dark World Preview 2. There's light spoilers in this so skip to the next review if you don't want minor plot points ruined. This issue was much less of a repeat of scenes we've seen in the movies and branches out better and actually sets up the movie. It's not great and the use of the tesseract to repair the bifrost is glossed over. I wish we had time to explore the other worlds more and see more of the repercussions of the bifrost being destroyed, but I imagine that's what the movie will be. 3 out of 5.

Superman Unchained 2 comes next. We start off in a fantastic sequence where Superman is saving the world's tallest skyscraper as it's falling down. Real interesting story as Snyder does. The appearance of the new "Superman" as he amps up to fight the actual Superman is badass. We also see a new version of Lex in a version of his armor and has an experiment go wrong which drives him a little nuts. Very few complaints about this book apart from the art. Now it does look beautiful, but the characters all look pretty similar, especially the scene with Superman and Batman talking. It's distracting and weird. Still a great book and I'm excited to see where it goes. 4 out of 5.

Mega Man 27. Part ten of Worlds Collide follows Mega Man and Sonic invade the Wily Egg base. Again, I'll review the whole series in a month or so when it's done. 4 out of 5.

Justice League 22. Part one of Trinity War. We see a lady visit Madam Xanadu to see the future. She flips over her tarot cards with the heroes' pictures and they use that as a narrative function to show what's happening with the other characters. I was totally on board until they had Superman attack someone unprovoked, thus starting the battle in Khandaq. I'm sure it will be explained away in the coming issues, but it irked me a lot. Overall a solid kickoff to the story and I hope it continues going that way. 3.5 out of 5.

Helheim 5. Still a really neat book. If you like vikings or mysterious magic you need to find this book.  In this issue we see Rikard fighting his way through many undead monsters to one of the warring witches. It's brutal violence at its most beautiful and it looks fantastic as usual. Excited for more! 4 out of 5.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Magic In Movies

A little movie called Now You See Me came out in theaters not to long ago. I was super excited for this movie as soon as I saw the first trailer for it. After watching it, and mostly enjoying it (The movie did what I was hoping for, but the surprise twist was pretty deflating.) I began to think about magic in movies. I imagined there were hundreds out there that I hadn't seen and when I checked out Wikipedia I was astonished at how small the list was. I won't list them all here, but as expected I hadn't seen most of them. Only four in fact. Two that came out this year (Now You See Me and Oz the Great and Powerful.) and two that came out in 2006 (The Prestige and The Illusionist.) The phenomenon that is stage magic and sleight of hand works as a great plot point in all of these films. The directors allow the audience to see only what they want them to and this visual sleight of hand leads to a very intriguing movie experience while we try to figure out how it happened before they reveal it.

So why isn't it more present? I mean sure, with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and the aforementioned Now You See Me and Oz the Great and Powerful we've had three so far this year. Critically speaking the highest scoring of the three on Rotten Tomatoes is Oz with a 59%, but Burt Wonderstone is the one of the three which didn't double their money in box office sales and I suspect that's more of a lack of clear vision in what the movie was supposed to be. But why didn't these films get a better reception? 

Let's take a bit from Christopher Nolan's The Prestige:

The three parts of a magic trick:
The Pledge - We see something normal. (A Rabbit, beautiful assistant)
The Turn - The magician does something extraordinary to it. (Makes it disappear, saws it in half)
The Prestige - To make it truly amazing you have to bring it back. 

So let's see fi this formula works on the movies themselves. 

Now You See Me starts with four essentially street magicians who are confronted by a mysterious figure. In an interesting turn of events they are then seen a year later on a massive stage where they apparently perform a heist. And finally as their finale goes off with almost no hitch we get a reveal that is incredibly cliched. Clearly the parts of a magic trick are not going to line up perfectly with the three acts of a movie, but on a broad scale they are quite related. A typical, super basic story structure is: A normal day, when something strange happens and the main character must overcome some obstacle to return things to normal. Conceptually parallel to the three parts of a magic trick. The main reason we don't see films like these more often is that in order for it to be a masterpiece, it has to have these three pieces put together perfectly so that no part falls flat. The Prestige of the film needs to be stellar in order for it to work. 

Why is there this sort of standard for magic based films? Hard to say. My bet is that it is there for all films, only we tend to forgive them outside of this genre as we are not reminded of the trope. The sleight of hand the director plays in the film often throws hints at you throughout and when the reveal finally happens it changes the whole movie for the viewer. A lot of times the hints purposefully mislead you and other times they intentionally don't though they feel like they do. Since there's not really a "standard twist" (for lack of better turn) every time we see a new one and there's a twist that you aren't expecting, it falls flat. 


For example, in Now You See Me. It's a movie more about the detective investigating the heist more so than the magicians themselves. When it is revealed that he is the one who hired them all and planned this massive, worldwide scheme it changes the entire movie. Not in a good way. All of a sudden we just watched a movie where we thought we knew what the character Rhodes was after as he is investigating the team. But wait, he was behind it all? Then why was he playing along the whole time? I mean surely he could be the one behind the scheme and not have anyone know he exists and still be able to pull it off. At that point you realize that the film is not playing sleight of hand with what you can see, but what the movie is actually about. I really want to see this one again to find the moments where it makes sense in the build up that he is behind it. They might lessen the blow of feeling cheated. 

On the other hand we get the Prestige where the characters and their motivations are clearly defined and completely make sense in the world of the film. The twist may be a little underwhelming, but it doesn't ruin the motivations of anyone. It actually clarifies things quite a bit. The twist is an intelligent one rather than one made seemingly to be the most ridiculous twist possible. Which is the key in my mind.

Sure a twist should be shocking. I find them to be much more effective when they make sense in relation to the plot and have a bit of cleverness to them so they don't feel like a cop out. I think until we start seeing movies with a clever, logical twist instead of a twist for the sake of a twist we will not be having many great movies surrounding magic tricks and the like. It's unfortunate really, because there is opportunity for greatness in the genre as seen in The Prestige, The Illusionist, and allegedly Hugo. Come back later in the summer as we are doing an episode of the Cinemasters Podcast about movie pairs, which is inspired by The Prestige and The Illusionist coming out the same summer.

Have you seen Now You See Me? What did you think? Do you think we'll see more movies with magic as a focal point soon?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Weekly Pull List 7-3-2013

I finally got Sixth Gun 31! It's a good one as I mentioned before. One of the weirder arcs of the book that hints at a super awesome dark past of the Six. Super anxious. Here's a good article about it in the Washington Post.

Next up was Sonic the Hedgehog 250. Part Nine of the Worlds Collide. This book is what I didn't know I've been waiting for over the last few months. It has a splash page of Sonic and Mega Man and their team facing off against nearly every Mega Man boss. It is a fantastic page and worth the entire series so far. There's also one that shows Sonic racing through the battle taking out a bunch of robots. Super cool. As far as plot, there's a huge battle and Sonic and Mega Man decide to invade the base of the evil Drs. As they are flying up to the Wily Egg, Dr. Light gets thrown out and is plummeting to his Death!! With two of the greatest splash pages I've seen in comics this book gets a 5 out of 5.

Tying in to last week's prep for Trinity War is Trinity of Sin: Pandora 1. Finally getting to a plot that was hinted at two years ago at the onset of the New 52, TOS Pandora follows the mythological character as she gets doomed to walk the Earth forever due to her releasing the seven deadly sins on the world. We follow her over the centuries to see how she was tormented. She's about to get revenge of sorts on Wrath when she's summoned by a member of the Council who punished her to apologize for her punishment. He gives her a hint of how to stop them and says the council has been destroyed (as seen in the Shazam backups in Justice League, so I guess I'll go read those.) The book ends with a clear direction where we are going. Pandora heads off to find the box and Superman as only the purest of hearts can use it for good. Comic in itself gets a 3, but it gets an extra point for being a great, clear set up for the Trinity War. 4 out of 5.

Finally we get Green Arrow 22. Another great story from Jeff Lemire as we follow Ollie on his quest for the three dragons and Komodo to get his revenge. He invades a castle and finds Shado tied up. Upon releasing her he is attacked by Count Vertigo. The depiction of the vertigo attack is fantastic. It's as if they punched out pieces of the image and twisted them around. It's incredible. If you enjoyed Arrow then this book is a good choice. It has several trick arrows, Count Vertigo, Shado (who apparently had a kid with Robert Queen, Olivers father, and that's who's hanging out with Komodo.) Anyways, great book. Lot's of classic Green Arrow stuff. 3.5 out of 5.

What are you reading this week? What are your thoughts on Trinity War?