Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 2: Lobo Hunt

Published: December 14th, 2010
Written by: Rob Liefeld, Justin Jordan
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Art Thibert, various

DC Comics, 266 Pages

Review:

I guess this came out in a time where I wasn’t paying close attention to new comics. Because I would’ve been on board for Rob Liefeld’s take on Deathstroke, especially since his most famous creation, Dead Pool, was done as a sort of parody of the character.

But, man. Having read this now, I kind of wish I never knew about it.

I hate to be harsh but the writing was a disjointed mess that was all over the f’n place. Plus, this collection doesn’t finish Liefeld’s story! It ends on a cliffhanger where Deathstroke and Hawkman are about to fight a horde of evil hawk dudes and then you turn the page and it’s a totally different story.

I mean, what the fuck, DC? Was the Hawkman story a crossover? Where’s the rest of that story? You just jump right past it and into another arc done by a completely different creative team. And frankly, the second half of this book should have just been a volume three, as it is drastically different than the Liefeld stuff that’s left incomplete.

This collection is garbage. It’s poorly organized, its a total clusterfuck narratively and tonally due to the creative team change midway through.

Honestly, this is only worth checking out if you are a Liefeld die hard. And even then, you’ll still be disappointed.

Although, I should mention that I thought it was neat that Liefeld utilized Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. characters, as they’ve pretty much faded away into oblivion since Lee sold them to DC.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: the Deathstroke collection before this one and then the other New 52 stuff after it.

Comic Review: Cerebus, Book 2: High Society (Issues #26-51)

Published: May, 1981 – May, 1983
Written by: Dave Sim
Art by: Dave Sim

Aardvark-Vanaheim, 532 Pages

Review:

The High Society story arc actually ends at issue 50 but I tacked 51 onto this, as it serves as a one-issue bridge between High Society and the first part of Church & State. And it felt more natural to tack it into this big string of issues, as opposed to reading it at the front of Church & State.

Having just come off of reading the first twenty-five issues of Cerebus, I wasn’t sure what to expect from High Society. I’ve read a few issues from this large arc in the past but never have I read it in its entirety or in order, for that matter.

This really takes Cerebus to the next level and I understand that Dave Sim probably grew tired of the series just being a parody of ’70s sword and sorcery comics, as well as Howard the Duck, in some regard, but I personally loved those earlier issues.

But this is more mature, looks at life a bit deeper and Sim starts to ask bigger questions and reveal deeper things about himself.

High Society steps out of the formula of not having a formula. It fine tunes things and thus, gives us a more interesting, more cohesive and more meaningful tale to digest.

I really dug this story, its tone and I’ve got to say, I don’t really disagree with Sim’s commentary on politics and high society. This is a good critique on that stuff and even though it’s done with caricatures and in a somewhat fantastical way, it’s all very real.

The high points of the book for me channel back to the earlier stories though. My favorite bits are where Jaka returns and Cerebus is faced with his love for her while trying to maintain the status he’s achieved since they were last together. Has he changed for the better? Has he changed for the worse? How can his life be different but his love for her is still the same? Has his relationship with Astoria created a love triangle? How does Astoria really see Cerebus? And why the hell can’t Cerebus be nicer to the Elf?

High Society still delves into parody though. The Roach is used pretty heavily in this and we even get to see him take on a new form that is a parody of Marvel Comics’ Moon Knight.

This was a fine followup to Sim’s early Cerebus work and frankly, it’s made me excited to get into the next big epic, Church & State. Plus, Sim’s art really is more detailed and alluring here. This is a fantastic comic to look at and drink in. High Society is a great example of how powerful just black, white and grey can be in the comic book medium.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Cerebus story arcs, especially the earlier stuff.

Film Review: Hands of Steel (1986)

Also known as: Vendetta dal futuro (original Italian title), Atomic Cyborg (France), El destructor (Mexico), Hands of Stone (Netherlands), Arms of Steel (Norway), L’enfonceur (Canadian French title), Cyborg (Slovenia), Fists of Steel (UK), Destroyer (Spain)
Release Date: March 26th, 1986 (France)
Directed by: Sergio Martino
Written by: Sergio Martino, Sauro Scavolini, Elisa Livia Briganti, John Crowther
Music by: Claudio Simonetti
Cast: Daniel Greene, Janet Argen, John Saxon

National Cinematografica, Dania Film, Medusa Distribuzione, 94 Minutes

Review:

“When I get through with you, you’ll have to wipe your ass with your nose” – Raul Morales

This film had more international titles than it had extras!

But this film can have as many titles as it wants, as it is a pretty badass and ridiculous flick that has a plot that’s all over the map but doesn’t suffer because its supposed to be a smorgasbord of everything that made ’80s action movies so much fun.

Let me summarize the insane premise: An evil CEO sends a cyborg to assassinate a scientist. The cyborg fails so the CEO sends his other cyborgs to take him out. The cyborg hides in a desert diner with a chick that’s horny for him. All the while he draws the ire of the tri-state arm wrestling champion that wants to prove he’s the strongest man in the desert. The evil CEO is John Saxon and he has a really big laser.

This motion picture is insanely enjoyable and one of the best Italian post-apocalyptic, “knock off everything under the sun” movies.

There’s even a scene where the good cyborg has to arm wrestler a guy that looks like Bear Hugger from Punch-Out!! The insane part about this scene is that the loser gets their hand trapped in a shackle while a diamondback rattler bites them to death.

Now this is just about everything you’d expect from an Italian Mad Max wannabe but then it’s so much more. It’s part Terminator, part RoboCop, part Over the Top and 100 percent toxic masculinity. Plus, this came out before RoboCop and Over the Top, so it’s like the writer/director Sergio Martino was psychic. I mean, he ripped off something that didn’t yet exist!

Speaking of Martino, he’s a guy that directed a lot of the top Italian schlock. You know, the type of schlock that gives schlock a good name and inspires people like myself to find endearing things within movies that the general populace could never tolerate. He’s done giallo, slashers, spaghetti westerns, other post-apocalyptic movies and pretty much something in every cool sub-genre that matters to fans of grindhouse, exploitation, horror and action films.

Hands of Steel is a hell of a ride. It has pretty good, albeit hokey effects. But considering this picture’s budget, it’s all passable and it works. In fact, the scene where the cyborg repairs his arm is pretty impressive.

While I’m sure that most people would dismiss this movie as absolute shit, the opinions and money of the regular moviegoer are why we keep getting subpar blockbusters, countless sequels, spinoffs, remakes and reboots. I’ll take Hands of Steel over some Harley Quinn dressed like a peacock movie.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Italian post-apocalyptic movies of the ’80s.

Comic Review: X-Cutioner’s Song

Published: 1992-1993
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Peter David
Art by: Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee, Greg Capullo

Marvel Comics, 336 Pages

Review:

This was one of my favorite big crossover events when I was really just getting deep into comics. This blew my middle school mind at the time and it had a lot of influence over my creative output in the comic book medium.

I was worried that revisiting this story would be a big disappointment. A lot of the stuff from this era that I reread now, usually lets me down, as my palate is more discriminatory than it was at thirteen years-old.

I’m happy to say that this was still pretty f’n solid!

In fact, I think it is slightly better than X-Tinction Agenda, which I used to place ahead of this one.

What I really liked about it, is that it features three of my absolute favorite villains: Apocalypse, Mister Sinister and Stryfe. They are all well balanced and they aren’t here to come together in an effort to finally take out the X-Men, X-Factor and X-Force (formerly the New Mutants). Each one of these baddies has their own purpose and agenda within the story and it all just comes together in a really cool way that even sees the X-Men have to turn to Apocalypse in order to stop Stryfe’s chaos.

This is the best big story to come after the epic Chris Claremont run on X-Men. But if I’m being honest and this certainly isn’t a dig at the legendary Claremont, whose work I love, X-Cutioner’s Song was really refreshing and it showed that new blood could liven things up. Granted, Peter David didn’t hang around too long, Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza also moved on to other things, but this was a weirdly perfect storm considering all the changes happening on Marvel’s X-books following Claremont’s departure and many of the top creatives leaving for the newly formed Image Comics.

The art is also top notch, but Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee and Greg Capullo are all fantastic and three of those men have become somewhat legendary in their own right.

X-Cutioner’s Song is well crafted, well balanced and it should be a primer on how to write massive crossovers featuring dozens of characters all competing for their moment.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: previous big X-Men crossover events like X-Tinction Agenda, Muir Island Saga, Inferno and Fall of the Mutants.

Film Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Also known as: Jumanji 2 (alternative title)
Release Date: December 5th, 2017 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner
Based on: Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Colin Hanks, Rhys Darby, Missi Pyle, Marin Hinkle, Marc Evan Jackson

Columbia Pictures, Seven Bucks Productions, Matt Tolmach Productions, Radar Pictures, 119 Minutes

Review:

“Why am I wearing this outfit in a jungle? Tiny, little shorts and a leather halter top. I mean, what is this?” – Ruby Roundhouse

I’ve got to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it but it delivered on what it was trying to do, which was being a funny, over the top, action-adventure movie.

The cast was pretty good.

I always like Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan, Jack Black is usually enjoyable in most things and Kevin Hart can be grating at times but he does well here, as he isn’t the focal point of the film.

Additionally, I really liked seeing Rhys Darby and Bobby Cannavale in this. I’ve loved Darby since Flight of the Conchords and Cannavale really impressed me when he joined the cast of Mr. Robot.

This is a sequel to the original Robin Williams starring Jumanji but it takes the concept and kind of modernizes it by making it a video game instead of a board game. Here, four teens are sucked into the game and they have to play out the game in a real-life simulation as their avatars, all of which are very different from their real personalities.

It’s a fun, cute movie where the teens are challenged by their situation, their avatars’ roles and having to work together to survive and free themselves from the game. It’s a good coming of age story, even if its pretty predictable and embraces some tropes and cliches.

I thought that the action was solid, the CGI effects were top notch and the environment was rich, lush and beautiful. This had a real Uncharted feel to it, which I think was the intent of the filmmakers, who went the video game route with the story and even put up an Uncharted 4 poster in one of the teen’s bedrooms.

I guess there is a sequel to this coming out in the near future. I’d probably go see it. I’m not sure what they can do to keep the concept fresh but this new take on it worked fine for this chapter in what appears to be a real franchise now.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the original Jumanji and Zathura.

Film Review: Vampirella (1996)

Release Date: September 28th, 1996
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Written by: Gary Gerani
Based on: Vampirella by Forrest J. Ackerman
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Talisa Soto, Roger Daltrey, Richard Joseph Paul, Brian Bloom, Angus Scrimm

Cinetel Films, Concorde-New Horizons, Showtime Networks, 82 Minutes, 86 Minutes (DVD cut)

Review:

“You are much stronger than I am.” – Vampirella, “At the risk of sounding egotistical, I am stronger than anyone.” – Vlad

I don’t think I even knew about this movie at the time of its release and I worked in a video store then. I was also a fan of comics, horror and movies that were made with the involvement of Roger Corman, the King of B-Movies.

Well, I didn’t expect much from this film but it was still pretty entertaining seeing Roger Daltrey of The Who get to ham it up pretty hard. He looked like he was having a good time, committing to this character and this film, regardless of the production value.

On the flip side of that, I have no issues with Talisa Soto, but I don’t think that she was the best choice to play Vampirella. But the script was bad, the dialogue was terrible, her hair was wrong and her outfit looked like dime store cosplay and didn’t really work. But I also realize that the traditional Vampirella costume is even racier and way more revealing. But it’s not the skin that’s the issue, as much as it is the poor, kind of unflattering design of the suit.

Also, Vampirella should be more curvy. Soto has a great body but it’s more athletic than curvy. Tia Carrere would have been a better fit but she was also probably more expensive in 1995, when this was made. But she looks more the part and if she had the same hair style that she did the first moment you saw her in Wayne’s World, it’s even a better fit.

But nothing would’ve really saved this picture from itself.

The plot was nonsensical and the pacing and editing were pretty bad. I just watched this movie and I don’t even remember what it was about other than an evil alien vampire (Daltrey) escapes from execution, heads to Earth, Vampirella follows and they fight. But hey, Angus Scrimm, Phantasm‘s the Tall Man, plays an elder vampire on their home planet.

Calling Vampirella a disappointment is an understatement. It’s a movie that really shouldn’t have been made. You think Corman would’ve learned after his experiment with Fantastic Four a few years earlier.

Unless you are an absolute die hard Vampirella fan, you should ignore this film. If you insist on checking it out, do so at your own risk. But it is free on YouTube, at the moment.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: Roger Corman’s unreleased adaptation of Fantastic Four, as well as the 1990 Captain America film.

Video Game Review: Kid Niki (NES)

Kid Niki is another one of those games that I used to love playing the shit out of. It’s just a fun, quick game that gets pretty damn challenging as you go deeper into it.

It’s a pretty basic side scroller with easy mechanics.

The characters are completely cartoony and look nothing like the absolutely badass box art. However, I don’t think that this would have been as fun if the game was made to look as serious and grim as the art.

All the boss battles are unique and some take a little trial and error to figure out but this game is definitely beatable after you’ve played it enough and gotten a feel for the mechanics and the patterns.

I don’t have as deep of a love for it now, as I did in the late ’80s and I can’t label it a classic, but revisiting it every couple of years is still a fun experience.

Plus, I really dig the music and the overall sound effects.

Kid Niki is well crafted and is still a great way to waste a half of an hour.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.