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Friday, December 16, 2011

Comic Review - Baltimore: The Plague Ships

Title/Storyline
Baltimore: The Plague Ships 1-5
Publish Date/Year
2010
Creative Team
Mike Mignola & Ben Stenbeck
Publisher
Dark Horse Comics

Story
Months following a overwhelming plague that put an end to World War I, Europe is then overwhelmed by deadly wave of vampire attacks. Our protagonist, Lord Henry Baltimore, an ex-soldier and a man with a mission from God, is driven to eliminate these monsters from the face of the earth, is hunting for the one monster responsible for this chaos and responsible for the death of his family - Hiagus.

Setting sail from a French seaport littered with sunken war-torn ships, where plague victims are burned. We soon learn the reason behind Baltimore`s, a peg-legged man, obsession in hunting vampires. He divulges a painful experience that happened during the war to Vanessa, a young girl trying to escape the dreary life of a post-war French town plagued by vampires who ends up as his companion in his quest.


Lord Henry Baltimore reveals that he led a night attack on a battlefield in World War I; after his entire squad was killed by enemy fire and Lord Baltimore himself was wounded and left for dead, he awakens some hours later to see giant bat creatures feeding on his dead men. When one attempts to
feed off him, he slashes at it with his bayonet, its face forever hideously scarred and its right eye blinded - the creature in return wounds Lord Baltimore and infests his leg with such terrible gangrene that it has to be amputated - hence his famous jointed wooden leg. Unknowingly, Lord Baltimore struck a
powerful vampire - Hiagus, who is so angered by Baltimore's actions that he bestows a "plague" upon Europe. Lord Baltimore has now made it his personal mission to stop this unnatural plague by hunting down Hiagus.


After a raging storm destroys their ship, Baltimore and Vanessa managed to survive and appear on an island coastline littered with discarded submarines. They take shelter in a ruined plague ship, used to burn vampires, now covered in a mysterious fungus.

Art
Ben Stenbeck is no Mike Mignola but he is no pushover! His art has clean lines, not in the way Tintin is clean but more like a cross between Aaron Lopresti (Justice League International - New 52) & Darick Robertson (The Boys). Despite the clean lines, it didn't feel inappropriate. Still manages to evoke some scares & convey the creepy/dated feel to the series. The coloring was of course brilliantly executed to complement the artwork.

I have never been exposed to Ben Stenbeck but I like his work quite a bit and am looking forward to seeing more of his work in the next series - Baltimore: The Curse Bells !
Overall
If you love Mignola's Hellboy or BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Defence), you will love this as well! Mignola is REALLY GOOD at mixing up historical events such as WWII (Hellboy) and WWI here with supernatural elements. So his stories feel real and truly believable, so much so that you can truly immerse yourself into the story. DO NOT MISS THIS! Go read it now!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Comic Review - Heroes for Hire 1-5

Title/Storyline
Heroes for Hire (vol. 3) 1-5

Publish Date/Year
2011

Creative Team
Writers:
Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (DnA)
Art:
Brad Walker 1-3, Robert Atkins 4-5

Publisher
Marvel
This is a killer cover with Moon Knight in the spotlight! Love it!
Story
From the ashes of Shadowland, Marvel’s dangerous street loner heroes – Punisher, Moon Knight, Shroud, Elektra, Paladin, Silver Sable, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, Falcon, Misty Knight and more – have been honed into one cohesive fighting force against the underbelly of crime by the recuperating Misty Knight. She serves the role similar to DC's Oracle of Birds of Prey, where she provides critical intel, monitors & coordinates the missions from a secret location. 

In the very first mission, Falcon & Moon Knight were recruited to stop the distribution of cursed demonic weapons on the streets. How do the heroes fight a demonic force? They get help from Ghost Rider, Elektra and Silver Sable (with Paladin providing covert back-up).

Paladin begins to question how Misty obtains her intel. His curiosity brings him face-to-face with Iron Fist, Misty's ex-lover. However, as things come to a head, they discover the true villain who's manipulating Misty's network of heroes - The Puppet Master.

Art
Brad Walker turns in some incredible visuals. I am not familiar with his work but from his stuff in the 1st 3 issues, I will be taking note from now onwards! He produces clean and crisp lines, channeling Steve McNiven and Mike Deodato. but with a slight cartoonish slant that makes it refreshing.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Robert Atkins' work! Not only is his art inconsistent but it is reminiscent of the really badly rushed jobs we used to see from Marvel & Image in the '90s. Please, no more Robert Atkins!

Overall
I had not read any of the former incarnations of the HFH before. I had only read a couple of the John Byrne issues of the Power Man/Iron Fist series from the '70s before they were officially called the HFH. I must say that I was pretty glad I read this series! What can I say? I am a fan of DnA! I enjoy almost everything that they do. The last one being the Guardians of the Galaxy (which unfortunately had come to a premature end)!

Well, I had only had the pleasure of reading 5 issues but I do heartily recommend it as it features characters from the Marvel Universe who altho' deserving the spotlight, do not get it as often as they should (I mean, even Satana is in there! See #2!). OK, maybe I'm biased, as I REALLY like Iron Fist (despite his lame new white costume) & Moon Knight (Bruce Wayne, eat your heart out!). Plus, I'm pretty happy to see more of Paladin as well 'cos I remember reading him in a very old issue of Marvel Team Up (1st series) years ago.

Give it a go. It was a really fun ride with a pretty good story and seeing characters who don't usually see print is loads of fun!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Review - Contagion

Movie Title
Contagion


Year
2011

Genre
Suspense, Drama


Story
The movie starts with a count-up (ie: day1, day2, etc.) with vignettes of different obviously infected characters in different parts of the world, including Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), a young Hong Kong man & a Japanese Executive, all showing symptoms of being seriously ill and then dying in some seriously realistic and horrifying manner.


What follows are other vignettes to help introduce the players, who include Dr. Cheever (Lawrence Fishburne), Dr Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotilard) before the frantic rush to identify patient zero, the source of the epidemic, contain the spread, find a cure and deal with wide-spread panic caused by a greedy and unscrupulous blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law).



When Beth returns to Minneapolis from a business engagement in Hong Kong, what was thought as jet lag takes a deadly turn. Two days later, she died at the hospital and the doctors say that they have no idea why, leaving her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) in shock and grief stricken.

Soon, others all over the world have the same mysterious symptoms: fever, hacking coughs and followed by brain hemorrhage ... and finally, death. In Minneapolis, Chicago, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, the numbers are growing rapidly: a case becomes four, sixteen, then hundreds, thousands, as the contagion sweeping all borders, fed by countless human interactions during a typical day. A global pandemic explodes.


With a virus that kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers are scrambling to unravel the mystery of the mutating biological agent. 



Deputy Director Dr. Cheever attempts to stem the growing panic, despite his personal problems, and must send a brave young Dr. Erin Mears to danger amid a rising tide of suspicion, instigated by profit hungry blogger Alan Krumwiede, of a potential vaccine and who gets it first. At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart.


Dr. Leonora Orantes of the World Health Organization is working through the network of connections that can lead her to the source (patient zero) of what they are dealing with.

Acting
The ensemble cast boast of some really heavy weight actors and they do deliver! Of course, with so many big names, you can't expect much screen time from your personal favorites but I think the managed to balance their screen time pretty well.

I have said it and am saying it again, good acting is when you don't realize they are acting. At no point in the movie was I ever distracted by such thoughts.

Overall
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie despite what may seem like a pretty boring way to spend a couple of hours. Kudos to Steven Soderbergh for his fine work. This is the first time that I had been exposed to his work. I unreservedly recommend this to anyone who likes a good yarn that also provides quite a bit of a scare as this could very well happen today.

Go watch it at least once!

Movie Review - Green Lantern





Movie Title
Green Lantern
Year
2011
Genre
Action, Comic Adaptation, Sci-Fi

Story
As with all Superhero movies, this is basically an origin story but combined with a bit of Green Lantern Lore 101 but comtemporarizing the franchise by having Parallax as the villain with a teaser lead-up to the Sinestro Corps.

Before the story begins, the audience is given a narrative to help those unfamiliar with Green Lantern to quickly get up to speed with fanboys like myself. We also learn that it was Abin Sur who had managed to imprison Parallax but now had managed to break free, and the first thing to do was to seek out Abin Sur for vengeance.

With that out of the way, we are then introduced to our hero Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) - a care-free but seemingly irresponsible Test Pilot for Ferris Aircraft and how he is chosen by the dying Green Lantern of Sector 2814 - Abin Sur (supposedly the greatest Green Lantern in the Corps until Hal came along, that is.) to replace him after having been critically wounded by Parallax.

Meanwhile, Hal receives a crash course in Ring-Slinging 101 when the ring brings him to OA where he received personal training from Tomar Re, Kilowog & Sinestro (Mark Strong). The Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians soon learn that Parallax is making its way to OA and none of the Green Lanterns can manage to stop it as it is a creature of fear, the only element Green Lanterns' light has no power against.

While back on Earth, the US Govt had retrieved Abin Sur's body and long-time Green Lantern foe, Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), had been invited by Amanda Waller (see comments in Overall section) to perform the autopsy. Unknown to all, Abin Sur's body had been infected by traces of Parallax and in turn, had infected Hector Hammond and turned him into the monstrous we see in the trailers and movie stills who serves as Parallax's herald as he makes his way to Earth to destroy Hal, Abin Sur's replacement.

It's now up to the rookie human Green Lantern to stop Parallax and prevent it from obliterating the Earth.

Acting
I had my reservations about the movie when I watched the trailers as I couldn't quite imagine how a funny Hal Jordan might work. I kept telling my friends how it's gonna tank because a funny Hal Jordan is like a funny Batman! It won't work!

Well, I am glad to be proven that my fears were unfounded. Just as long as Ryan Reynolds doesn't ham it up too much in the sequel (I think there's gonna be one judging from the post credits scene - YES, there is one, stay for it!).

I, along with almost eveybody else, was extremely impressed with Mark Strong's Sinestro! Weren't you?

While 2010's hottest guy Reynolds give the girls a reason to accompany their guys friends to this movie, Blake Lively provides all the eye-candy for the guys as the independent & fiesty Carol Ferris. There is a hint that we might see her as Star Sapphire in a sequel as her pilot handle is "Sapphire".

Overall
Of course, there are differences between the movie and comics lore, some more significant than others, but it won't distract audiences from enjoying the movie.

The juxtaposing of scenes between what's happening on Earth and the Green Lantern Corps on OA/in space is quite well done.

Gripes:
1 - The Guardians do not seem to be too wise or powerful enough to justify their roles as the Green Lantern Corps' bosses or protectors of the Universe. I mean, they let Sinestro talk to them as tho' he was the boss, and they the senile grandparents. C'mon, if I were the Guardians, I'd smack him for talking to me that way!

2 - The designs for Kilowog & Tomar Re were really ugly! I mean, they turned Kilowog into a pig or Rancor's (from Star Wars) fat & mellow cousin and Tomar Re into a fish? What!???


3 - Parallax is more of a emotional/conceptual entity (FEAR) than a physical being and would not be so easily defeated as in the movie.

Fanboys would of course recognise the name Amanda Waller, or the Wall of the Suicide Squad played by none other than Angela Bassett. So, would here appearance here be somewhat likened to Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury in the Marvel movies and perhaps lead to other DC movies like Suicide Squad or Justice League?

It's not great but it's much better than I had anticipated. Good fun summer movie. Go watch it and perhaps pick up an issue or Trade-paperback of Green Lantern!

Superman: World of New Krypton (part 1)



Title/Storyline
Superman: World of New Krypton 1-4

Publish Date/Year
2009-2010


Creative Team
James Robinson
Art:
Pete Woods


Publisher
DC

After the events of "New Krypton", the Man of Steel has been forced to embrace his past for the future of humanity. A devastating armed conflict with Earth has been avoided.

Superman has finally left Earth. He flies to New Krypton (which now orbits   opposite the Earth around the Yellow Sun) and greeted by General Zod's men (Zod is one of his oldest enemies). They tell him General Zod wants to see him now, but Superman goes to see his aunt Alura first.

Kal-El (Superman's Kryptonian name) finally accepts Alura's offer to keep him in New Krypton. She is happy with his decision, but advises him to let go of his grudge against General Zod. Superman reluctantly agrees, wanting to be with his people. Alura tells him he has to decide on being associated to a Kryptonian Guild. Superman says he'll need time and goes to see what Zod wanted.

He flies off with Alura's personal assistant Tyr-Van. Superman sees the various guilds as just glorified slaves.

Making his way to Zod's place, he is attacked by Non (a Zod loyalist). Zod said Superman would be a great asset to the Military Guild of New Krypton. Zod tells Superman to think about his offer for him to join the Military Guild.

On planet Oa (the Green Lanterns' HQ), the Guardians of the Universe remember a time when Kryptonian sought universal expansion. They deal with the fact that Superman is, but only one soldier in the Kryptonian Military Guild, not their leader.

The Guardians decide to send Hal Jordan (Earth's Green Lantern)  to observe New Krypton, and to determine whether intervention in the Green Lantern Corps is required. General Zod convinces Kal-El to join the Military Guild, and heads his own unit - the Red Shards as Commander El. 

Superman leads his team on a mission to stop a group of wild animals that are stampeding towards a Sunstone (Kryptonian fuel) plant. Superman shows how his team could carry out the mission without killing the animals. Zod notes Superman's strategy has demonstrated his weakness, but could not disagree with the results of the mission.

Upon Superman's return to the city, he learns that the Labor Guild Kryptonian took hostages in the capital, among them, his aunt Alura. They are demanding new laws and union representation. 

Superman tries to stop Zod from executing the Labor Guild prisoners. Superman says he can stop the emergency by peaceful means and ZOD agrees. Before Superman faces them, he lets an Archer red-sun energy-rifle shoot him, removing his powers for 30 minutes. Tam-Or, Labor Guild leader, is keeping the provisional government captive among them is Superman's aunt Alura.

Tam-Or said that because the Earth's yellow sun gives them the same powers as Superman's, there was no need for rest or food, and the Labor Guild has worked continuously since coming to New Krypton. They want time to relax and see their families.  Finally, they also want representation in the new Science Council. Alura agreed to consider their requests if the Labor Guild agrees to end the hostage situation. Superman resolves the situation peacefully before General Zod's deadline. 

A new planet suddenly appearing in any space would require a inspection of the Green Lantern Corps. When planet New Krypton (formerly Kandor City) appears in the space Sector 2814, it means it gets a visit from Sector 2814's Green Lanterns - Hal Jordan and John Stewart, with Daxamite (super-powered denizens of Daxam) Sodam Yat along for good measure. 

But what starts as a good-will mission turns into a manhunt for some of the most deranged and dangerous criminals who escaped from the Phantom Zone (Kryptonian Prison) and ultimately leads to terrible conflicts between the GL Corps and Zod's Military Guild!
 Art
Pete Woods delivers some really nice images. He employs clean lines with very little shadows into his style.
His work reminds me of people like Frank Cho and Terry Dodson. Yeah, it may seem a little too clean and even cartoony or like a coloring book, but it is refreshing to see this kind of "clean" art once in a while.

Of course, Gary Frank (I love him) provides some really good covers for the series.

Overall
James Robinson is a great writer (Starman fans would agree). He incorporates political diplomacy with recial/class segregation into a sci-fi/whodunnit/super-heroics story involving people in situations that readers may not expect like Superman taking orders from Gen. Zod!!

This is a good read and despite not being a big Superman fan, I found myself itching to read the next issue impatiently. Plus, the good art from Pete Woods really help make the entire package a really good read. Get it as this story paves the way for a truly new chapter in the DC Universe for the Superman mythos and Krypton, whom everyone (incl. non fans) know had exploded long ago along with all/most of the Kryptonians.