Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Barnes and Noble Update - Pre-Order Received!

Wednesday - One of the three pending pre-orders from my original orders with B&N arrived.  One high-priced omnibus (MSRP $99.99) for a major deal ($13.99).  The best deal yet and savings climb to 69.7%!  Now we're talking.  Two left with ship dates in mid-May and late-June.  *fingers crossed*

Two of the books were delayed and I had to re-confirm them to stay on track. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Spectacular Spider-Man: Here There Be Monsters Review

The Spectacular Spider-Man: Here There Be Monsters
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
112 pages
ISBN 9780785113331

Contributors: Paul Jenkins, Damion Scott, Paolo Rivera, and Rob Campanella

Reprints: The Spectacular Spider-Man (2003) #11-14

Synopsis: Curt Connors is still recovering from the tragic loss of his wife to cancer.  He's trying to take care of his son, but still battling guilt over not being able to save her life.  It's difficult enough for a one-armed man to function in society, but this man has a monster just waiting to be get out.

Connors' attempt to land a research grant goes horribly awry and the grant winner is the victim of a mysterious explosion.  Spider-Man finds Connors at the scene and attempts to help him deal with his demons.  Will human nature prevail or will the monsters rule?

Pros: Jenkins' crafts a decent psychological thriller, Rivera is a great new painter

Cons: Scott's art is overly stylized and somewhat inconsistent, Rivera's art couldn't save a weak story, Jenkins' should have upped the ante in terms of danger (the Lizard is a bloodthirsty killer after all)

Mike Tells It Straight: Jenkins tackles another Spider-Man staple villain and triumphs.  He adds a psychological twist to the Lizard bringing more depth to the character.  A good story and the art mostly keeps pace.  The final story was somewhat touching, but very obvious.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

The Spectacular Spider-Man: Countdown Review

The Spectacular Spider-Man: Countdown
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
120 pages
ISBN 9780785113133

Contributors: Paul Jenkins, Humberto Ramos, and Wayne Faucher

Reprints: The Spectacular Spider-Man (2003) #6-10

Synopsis: Otto Octavius has been busy and his newly improved arms are stronger than ever.  He's spent many long hours welding and tightening screws, all the while fuming over his greatest failure in life -- constant defeat by the unworthy wall-crawler!

Confronting Spider-Man and defeating him easily with his new arms Doctor Octopus offers a choice -- death or willingly unmasking in public.  Spider-Man refuses and manages to escape, but the Doctor kidnaps the Palestinian ambassador on his visit to New York during a critical time in the Middle East peace talks.  Now Spider-Man must weigh the peace of an entire section of the world over the safety of his loved ones. 

Pros: Jenkins takes a deeper look at Octopus' origin and motivations, Ramos' art is very unique and expressive

Cons: Ramos' art is highly stylized and not very realistic (anime-ish)

Mike Tells It Straight: Hot on the heels of the Spider-Man 2 movie came a slew of Doctor Octopus centric storylines.  We get more origin details and a new leather-clad look for the character.  While the story by Jenkins and Ramos is well done it doesn't break any new ground for either main character.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fantastic Four Hardcover Review

Fantastic Four
Marvel Comics
144 pages
ISBN 9780785120292

Contributors: J. Michael Straczynski, Mike McKone, Andy Lanning, and Paul Mounts

Reprints: Fantastic Four #527-532

Synopsis: Recent events have seen the Fantastic Four lose all of their patents and corporate income to the US government.  It's been a struggle to stay financially afloat for the entire family, save one member.  Ben Grimm discovers his financial fortune is still intact and very sizeable.  He gets a taste of the good life for a change.

In the meantime Reed is brought on a secret government project to investigate repeat phenomena of the cosmic rays which originally transformed four ordinary humans into the fantastic.  They plan to send up a score of servicemen and women with hopes of the same purposeful transformation.  The question of why each member of the team was affected differently by exposure to the same cosmic rays is answered with amazing results.

While Reed is away Sue gets a visit from New York child services to investigate the safety of their two children.  When Blastaar or some other cosmic menace appears every week how can they possibly be in a safe environment?  Sue must face down the scariest foe yet -- bureaucracy!

Pros: Straczynski's take on the FF is spot on, McKone's art is lushly detailed, great colors by Mounts, story is initially fascinating, great real-world situation as child services investigates the safety of the Richards' children's surroundings

Cons: After initial setup the story quickly falls apart becoming too cosmic in scope (even for an FF tale)

Mike Tells It Straight: Great art and characterization, but story is too far-fetched and all the pieces don't quite fit together in the end.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Avengers: First to Last Premiere Hardcover Review

Avengers: First to Last
Marvel Comics
248 pages
ISBN 97807485136521

Contributors: Peter David, Ariel Olivetti, Art Adams, Dwayne McDuffie, Michael Avon Oeming, Macon Blair, Jorge Lucas, Sergio Aragones, Kevin Maguire, and Juan Doe (seriously?)

Reprints: The Last Avengers Story #1-2 (of 2) and original back-up stories from Avengers Classic #1-12 (of 12)

Synopsis: Thor, Hulk, Ant Man, Wasp, and Iron Man founded The Avengers to face threats no single hero could handle alone.  Presented here are untold tales of the Avengers' early days.

Fast forward several decades and the original members of The Avengers have all died or retired.  The team lives on as a massive superheroes clubhouse with only a hint of their former glory.  Learn the fates of the original members and witness the devastating resurgence of several original enemies.  The current roster of heroes easily falls in a devastating first move by Ultron and Kang.  Only Hank Pym and the Wasp can organize a team of old timers to save the day.  How can they possibly prevail when the time-traveling Kang knows for certain this is the last Avengers story.

Pros: Beautiful hardcover, Olivetti shows a unique vision and David's Last is brutal, Oeming's watercolor art is surprisingly good and he's a real talent, Adams' covers are solid, Aragones!

Cons: First Marvel work by Olivetti and it's rough, painted art in Last is dark/hard to read with canvas lines, alternative covers (see second image) for Marvel Premiere editions suck (just like alts for Marvel Masterworks line)

Mike Tells It Straight: Hefty price tag considering the material reprinted and an odd pairing.  While the Classic back-up stories were overall enjoyable they're utterly forgettable.  Skip this edition and just stick with the original two issues of Last.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans (2010)

Clash of the Titans - 3D
Released 2010
106 mins.
Director: Louis Leterrier

Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, and Gemma Arterton

Synopsis: Discovered in a floating chest as a baby, Perseus is raised by a fisherman and wants nothing more than to sail the oceans with his adopted family.  When they stray too close to a battle between gods and men the fishing boat is claimed as collateral damage along everyone aboard except Perseus.  He washes ashore in Argos where the royal family has declared war on the gods.  Unfortunately for them the gods in this Ancient Greece have no problem appearing in broad daylight and peeling heads back.  Hades plans to unleash the Kraken and destroy Argos unless Princess Andromeda is offered up as a sacrifice.  He's got a scheme to overthrow his brother Zeus and take over Olympus.  The wrench in his plan is Perseus who is revealed to be a demi-god and son of Zeus. 

Perseus wants nothing to do with the gods, but wants to save Argos and smoking hot Andromeda.  He leads a crack team of soldiers and two smelly animal trappers on a quest before Hades lays the Krak down.  Among the group is Io an ageless smoking hot babe who gives Perseus some good advice (and hotness).  The whole demi-god thing works in Perseus' favor as he instantly has fighting skills.  First he talks to some creepy witch creeps who tell him about a snake-head lady (mildly smoking hot snake-head lady) who turns people to stone.  On the way he meets some freaky desert freaks who save his bacon from giant scorpions and fights a guy who could have been his dad.  The body count rises, but we all know how this story ends. 

Mike Tells It Straight: Go for the action and ignore the story (be prepared for Sam Worthington's accent).  We've seen the original 80s Clash and dug the low-tech B-movie charm.  This new version brings us up-to-date with all the effects we can handle, but it's still a B-movie.  Perseus' desire to accomplish his quest as a human ultimately rings hollow because of his demi-god status.  It's impossible for him to 'just be human' and Zeus ain't such a bad father anyway (especially after his gift at the end of the movie).  Clash!  Ohhh-ohh-ohh!  (to the Flash Gordon theme folks)

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Winsor McCay: Early Works III Review

Winsor McCay: Early Works III
Checker Book Publishing Group
Softcover Trade Paperback
200 pages
ISBN: 9780974166490

Reprints: Dream of the Rarebit Fiend 1907 - weekday & Saturday strips, New York editorial period 1904-1917, Little Sammy Sneeze 1904-1906, and A Pilgrim's Progress 1907.

Synopsis: The third volume (of ten) of early works by legendary artist Winsor McCay includes another round of strips and editorial works.  Most notable are the editorial images which remain iconic and used to this day to represent their period/events.  Dream of the Rarebit Fiend (DOTRF) is an especially well-liked strip centering on the strange dreams of a sleeper brought on by a rich, late-night meal of Welsh rarebit (primarily melted cheddar cheese over toast).  Every strip featured a new sleeper in a bizarre new dream sequence.

Pros: Great Saturday strips of DOTRF, editorial work is classic (many I recognized from school history textbooks)

Cons: Reproduction quality varies from page to page presumably depending on the original source, a lot of panels in the Saturday DOTRF strips

Mike Tells It Straight: Winsor McCay (born Zenas Winsor McCay) was the most prolific, advanced illustrator of his time.  The sheer volume of work he produced is amazing and the level of creativity is staggering.  Truly inspiring for any new or old artist.  While owning this series may not be very practical it's absolutely worth looking him up on the internet or your local library.

TO BUY and Recommendations: