Comic Review: Vigilante by Marv Wolfman, Vol. 1

Published: 1983-1984 (original single issues run)
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: Keith Polland, George Perez, various

DC Comics, 318 Pages

Review:

I remember seeing copies of the Vigilante on shelves and in long boxes back in the day when I used to spend every dollar of my allowance on comics. I never knew much about the character other than he always had comics with striking covers. At the time, I think I just assumed he was one of a million Punisher or Deathstroke ripoffs and never really gave him a shot. But now that I am an adult with some disposable income, I wanted to see what was beyond the great covers that always adorned this comic book series.

Seeing that Marv Wolfman created the character and wrote this series was a big selling point, as this came out when Wolfman was writing some of his best work. I’m primarily talking about his run on The New Teen Titans, which is also where Vigilante debuted – in the second annual, to be exact.

This collection starts with that first appearance and then collects the first 11 issues of the Vigilante comic.

I guess the thing that’s most cool about Vigilante is that while the hero is a gun carrying vigilante out for justice in an effort to correct a flawed system, his backstory certainly isn’t cookie cutter. While he loses his family in a similar way to Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher, it’s almost as if he is a cross between Castle and Harvey Dent. Although, he luckily avoids getting half of his face melted off with acid.

The Vigilante is Adrian Chase, an attorney that has tried to stop the mob for years but constantly sees a corrupt legal system fail, again and again. The murder of his family is the final straw. But his origin, once you get to that issue, is really weird and even has some mystical elements to it.

The Vigilante is probably the best good guy out of all the other characters that embody the “vigilante” trope. While he breaks the law, trying to uphold the law, he is often times at odds with himself and second guessing his tactics. After the first 11 issues of his series, he’s still not settled on what way is the right way or if he’s even doing what’s best for society.

There are a lot of layers and Marv Wolfman gave us a really dynamic series here. Frankly, this is vastly underappreciated and sadly, mostly forgotten.

Adrian Chase got new life in modern times as a character on the TV show Arrow but that incarnation was called Prometheus and he was a straight up villain out to make Green Arrow suffer.

If you like these type of characters, this will most assuredly be a refreshing read for you. It is not a retread of dozens of similar characters. It’s a unique take on the genre and it’s much more intelligent than most of the titles you can compare it to.

Plus, the art is strikingly beautiful and the Vigilante has a really cool costume that’s one part retro and two parts badass.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Marv Wolfman’s run on The New Teen Titans, as well as ’80s stories featuring Deathstroke.

Film Review: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

Also known as: Mortal Kombat 2 (Uruguay), Mortal Kombat: Destruction Finale (France)
Release Date: November 21st, 1997
Directed by: John R. Leonetti
Written by: Brent V. Friedman, Bryce Zabel, Lawrence Kasanoff, Joshua Wexler, John Tobias
Based on: Mortal Kombat by Midway Games
Music by: George S. Clinton, various
Cast: Robin Shou, Talisa Soto, Brian Thompson, Sandra Hess, Lynn Red Williams, Irina Pantaeva, James Remar, Ray Park, Tony Jaa (stunts)

Threshhold Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Mother! You’re alive!” – Kitana, “Too bad you… will die!” – Sindel

I think that the original Mortal Kombat movie is pretty terrible, despite having a lot of friends that have some sort of nostalgic love for it. I was a hardcore Mortal Kombat fan, as far as the games were concerned, but the movie just didn’t resonate with me. Sure, maybe it was better than the film adaptations of Double Dragon or Super Mario Bros. but that in no way makes it good, as both of those films were beyond awful.

Well, the sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation makes its extremely flawed predecessor look like The Empire Strikes Back by comparison.

I avoided this movie for most of my adult life but once it was available to stream on Hulu, recently, I thought that I’d finally give it a watch because at least I’d get a review out of it.

If I’m being honest, this was damn hard to sit through. It’s a baffling movie, littered with special effects that are absolute junk, a script so bad that canaries would commit sepukku rather than shit on it and acting so atrocious that it’s kind of depressing seeing Brian Thompson and James Remar stumbling through their scenes.

It took me four sittings to get through this movie and usually I power through even the worst motion pictures in one. This just sucked away at my soul like a starved psychic vampire and I needed to take breaks from it and recharge.

This is certainly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It isn’t the worst but that’s only because I sometimes spend a lot of time searching the bottom of the dumpster in that little rusted out back corner where even garbage doesn’t dare go.

But this may be the worst film I’ve seen that actually had some sort of budget. Somehow, this cost $30 million dollars. I’m not sure where that money went as I’ve seen better special effects in an elementary school play. If New Line Cinema was so quick to throw their money down the drain in 1997, I should have asked for a check. I could’ve at least made a better looking movie for a lot less and then pocketed the rest.

Never watch this film unless you hate yourself. I heard that Gitmo used this to torture terror suspects before it was considered too inhumane. That’s when they switched to waterboarding.

Rating: 0.5/10
Pairs well with: Other mediocre but mostly crappy movies based off of fighting games: Mortal KombatStreet FighterStreet Fighter: The Legend of Chun-LiTekken and Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge.

Documentary Review: The Lost Arcade (2015)

Also known as: Arcade (working title)
Release Date: November 14th, 2015 (DOC NYC)
Directed by: Kurt Vincent
Written by: Irene Chin
Music by: Gil Talmi

26 Aries, Wheelhouse Creative, 79 Minutes

Review:

I had a high school friend that used to talk about all the great video game arcades in New York City. By the mid-’90s, he was living in Southwest Florida but his stories of these really cool and iconic places always made me want to go check them out. I never got to though, as they started shutting down, one after the other. But at least the Chinatown Fair was going strong. But then a few years ago, it had to shut its doors and I never got that authentic NYC arcade experience.

This documentary covers the ’80s and ’90s NYC arcade scene but mostly focuses on the Chinatown Fair and the love that the local gamers had for the last real bastion of coin-op gaming culture.

Several people are interviewed for this documentary and it does a great job of telling their stories and showing their love for the Chinatown Fair.

I didn’t go into this documentary expecting much, I just wanted to feel a little bit of nostalgia for old school arcade gaming and I was hoping that people’s love for this iconic spot would at least tell an interesting story.

It really hits you in the feels though, as everyone’s passion comes through the screen. I think that anyone that used to have a special place that used to make them feel great can relate to the film. Most of us have lost something from our youth that truly made us happy. This film is more about coping with that loss and trying to move past it than it is just about the great Chinatown Fair.

This is an engaging documentary. It pulls you in and makes you see things through the eyes and experiences of its subjects. That’s really what any good documentary should do and this succeeds at just that.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other video game documentaries from recent years: The King of Kong, Chasing Ghosts, The Art of the Game, Indie Game: The Movie, Free to Play, Ecstasy of Order, Special When Lit, etc.

Comic Review: Spider-Men II

Published: March 21st, 2018
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Sara Pichelli

Marvel Comics, 104 Pages

Review:

I had really enjoyed Brian Michael Bendis’ run with the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man since he debuted. I also liked the first Spider-Men event, which brought Miles and Peter Parker together for the first time. So I had pretty high hopes for this sequel series and Bendis’ swansong before leaving Marvel for DC Comics.

Sadly, this was a letdown.

Now it wasn’t terrible but it was just okay. But this should have maintained the momentum and the energy that the previous Miles Morales stories had.

Ultimately, Spider-Men II took the wind out of the sails and brought this once fun to read character back down to Earth in the most Brian Michael Bendis way possible. And I don’t say that to be trendy and trash Bendis’ work like so many others but this is a prime example of what his harsher critics can point to and say, “See, Bendis gonna Bendis!”

This tried to be clever and give fans a swerve with an alternate, darker version of Miles Morales but it fell flat. In the end, the story was a total dud, lacking in a healthy amount of action and any sort of depth or solid character development. It read more like a love letter between “evil” Miles and the Kingpin than something worthy of bringing the two most popular Spider-Men together again.

Miles Morales debuted with a hell of a bang. But for Bendis’ last story for the great character he created, Miles went out with a whimper.

But hey, Sara Pichelli’s art was absolutely top notch, beautiful and up to her great standard. So, at least I got to enjoy the overall look of this book.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Miles Morales stories by Brian Michael Bendis but they’re all better than this one.

Film Review: Thoroughbreds (2017)

Also known as: Thoroughbred (festival title)
Release Date: January 21st, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Cory Finley
Written by: Cory Finley
Music by: Erik Friedlander
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift

June Pictures, B Story, Big Indie Pictures, Focus Features, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“You cannot hesitate. The only thing worse than being incompetent, or being unkind, or being evil, is being indecisive.” – Amanda

I’ve been wanting to see this for about two years, after reading about it following its premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. It was said to be “smart”, “quirky”, “unpredictable” and a mashup between American Psycho and Heathers.

It really isn’t any of those things, unfortunately. Okay, maybe it has a small dose of Heathers mixed in but it certainly doesn’t come close to the darkness one experiences in watching American Psycho.

I also didn’t find it to be “smart”, “quirky” or “unpredictable”.

I don’t want to take a big shit on this film, as I did moderately enjoy it and bits were amusing. Plus, I thought Anya Taylor-Joy and Anton Yelchin’s performances were terrific.

I just couldn’t buy into Olivia Cooke’s Amanda with her emotionless, dead pan delivery. I get that this is what her character is supposed to be but she doesn’t truly commit to the bit. You see, even though she isn’t supposed to care about anything, she is still conveniently driven by things in a way that seems to betray her own character.

Cooke’s Amanda was the apathetic angsty teen that acts overly depressed and always talks about it, probably for attention at first but somewhere along the line has bought into her own bullshit. I’ve dealt with major depression my entire life and people who act like her are typically attention seekers, even if they are legitimately broken. But I don’t think she was intended to be portrayed that way, I feel as if the director/writer actually bought into her bullshit too. But I guess that really just makes it his own bullshit.

Amanda is not quirky. She also isn’t smart. And as far as the plot goes, it isn’t unpredictable, it is actually very predictable. From the get-go, you know there is going to be a dark twist of some sort by the end and you also know that the stepfather will die somehow. But when that twist comes, it’s not all that shocking or surprising, it just limps its way into the narrative and all the ultraviolence that should come with something that’s compared to American Psycho, happens off screen.

I’m not saying that gore was necessary for this film to work but this was tame when compared to the things that modern critics have associated it with.

The big scene where the shit hits the fan is comprised of a still longshot that lasts a few minutes, as Amanda is passed out on the couch and you hear a loud, violent commotion upstairs. It’s a trope that’s been overused by indie filmmaking darlings for decades and its mostly lost its effectiveness. Or maybe I’ve just watched too many movies over the years.

But the point is that there is nothing new here and the promised shocks and surprises limp into the plot like a rat stuck to a glue trap.

Thoroughbreds isn’t a terrible motion picture but it is an underwhelming and disappointing one. It’s only real saving grace was the performances by two of its top three stars.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Heathers and Jawbreaker.

Zubaz Are Bullshit

*The Bullshit Series started on an older blog but I wanted to bring these articles back here, as I have new installments for the series that I want to release over time. The series focuses on things that I think are bullshit… like filet mignon, Zubaz pants, the Pro Bowl and diets.

*Written in 2014.

Zubaz. God, just the name of these atrocious pants sends a tsunami-like wave of horror and nausea down my spine. Born in the late ’80s and popularized in the early ’90s, these ugly, baggy, zebra vomit covered polyester/cotton blended abominations have been in my nightmares since I first saw some idiot in my middle school walking around the cafeteria in them. They’re worse than a fucking eyesore and have been known to induce migraines and instantaneous diarrhea in those with just little-to-moderate fashion sense. There is nothing good that has ever come from these fluorescent parachute faux animal pelts.

To give a bit of history on these awful things, they were invented by the mega-successful wrestling tag team the Road Warriors a.k.a. the Legion of Doom. For those who don’t know or remember, these were the big meathead guys who ran around with mohawks and spiked football pads. While quite alpha and intimidating in their appearance, they probably shouldn’t be designing fashion for the general public. In doing so, they have created the worst fashion statement possible in an era that can only be described as the worst fashion era in the history of the world.

Go back to the late ’80s and early ’90s and check out what people were wearing. Look at the bullshit that was the most popular: Hypercolor t-shirts, Baja hoodies, Z. Cavariccis, Skidz, No Fear shirts, overalls with one strap down, Cross Colours gear, hip-hop Looney Toons shirts, Starter jackets, Mossimo shit, Stüssy shit, patterned vests over t-shirts, Blossom hats, sweaters as hip-warmers, Bugle Boy, denim button down shirts, the list goes on and on. However, if you put all that shit in a big cauldron and mix them into a big horrible fashion stew, they still wouldn’t be as bad as Zubaz.

Zubaz were designed by big meathead guys with no fashion sense for other big meathead guys with no fashion sense, all in an effort to give them fashion sense while still feeling alpha badass and cool. Well, from a fashion stance they failed… miserably.

That doesn’t mean that dude brahs all over didn’t rush out and buy these things like they were a guaranteed golden ticket to alpha eliteness. These horrible pants were hugely successful as far as sales go but then, so is Nickleback. Despite looking like a Tiger Force G.I. Joe toy, gym rats and middle school boys had to have them and couldn’t get enough.

In fact, Zubaz started producing pants in every sports team color combination available. When that wasn’t enough, they evolved from zebra and tiger stripes to even more atrocious designs. Within a few short years, males and even females were walking around with puffy pants that looked like magic eye posters (another horrible ’90s cultural turd).

Luckily, Zubaz died out not too long after they peaked and were washed away like other fashion disasters from that era. All was fine with the world and I was sure that I’d never have to see them again. Then some sort of weird resurgence happened. Sports teams started resurrecting them and had Zubaz nights. Even my beloved Chicago Cubs had a night last season celebrating these horrible fucking pants. The Cubs even gave them away! What the fuck is wrong with the world?

I’d like to state that I feel like the resurrection of Zubaz in sports is a curse to those who buy into it. In 2008, independent baseball team the St. Paul Saints wore Zubaz during a game. They were shutout by the Sioux City Explorers. The Russian curling team wore Zubaz in the 2014 Winter Olympics. They finished 7th out of 10 with a record of 3-6. This year the Detroit Tigers were dominating the American League, then they wore not just Zubaz pants but Zubaz jackets. They are now in 5th place overall in the AL and 2nd in their division behind the Kansas City Royals. Going back to last year’s Cubs team, they weren’t great when they celebrated Zubaz night but they were improving. As soon as they gave Zubaz away at Wrigley Field, the Cubs plummeted for the remainder of the season. The proof is in the pudding and sports teams should steer clear of the Zubaz Curse.

I hope that this Zubaz resurgence stays small and quickly fades away. I don’t need my favorite athletes looking like cougars wearing leopard print hoochie dresses out on the prowl for young meat. Essentially, that is what Zubaz are. They don’t make a man look tough and badass, they make him look like a sloppy man cougar who doesn’t understand fashion expiration dates. Besides that, no one has ever said, “Damn, that motherfucker looks sexy in his Zubaz.” And no one ever will.

Comic Review: Justice League Odyssey: Ghost Sector

Published: September 26th, 2018 – January 30th, 2019
Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Stjepan Sejic, Phil Briones, Jeromy Cox, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Ivan Plascencia

DC Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

I was a bit saddened when Green Lanterns ended its run a few months back, as I was really digging Jessica Cruz’s story arc over the duration of 50-plus issues. But luckily for me, she joined this team, which is actually a really cool mash up of characters that currently don’t have much else going on.

This teams up Cruz with Cyborg, Starfire and Azrael. It also brings in Darkseid, who has a hand in the events that transpire. Is he a protagonist or an antagonist? You do find out by the end of this five issue story but it all plays out really well and this has been one of the more engaging comic books currently being published.

This story doesn’t have a definitive conclusion but it helps to build up this series and it looks to be promising something bigger on the horizon. It does have a nice cliffhanger reveal which opens the door for a more serious threat than what was first apparent.

I like this mix of characters, they have a good dynamic and I will continue to keep reading this, assuming it doesn’t go off the rails at some point.

The art is solid, even if it does have different people working on it issue to issue. It needs to find a consistent art team but at least the styles have meshed well thus far.

I love cosmic stories, which is why I have been a big Green Lantern fan since the beginning of the Geoff Johns era. This continues that tradition well, even if Cruz is the only Lantern here. But seeing her removed from the Corps and working with a new group of allies is also pretty intriguing and it is something that her character needed if she is going to evolve into something more than just another human Lantern.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics cosmic stuff like the recently ended Green Lanterns series.