Comic Review: Marvel Premiere Featuring Man-Wolf

Published: December, 1978 – February, 1979
Written by: David Anthony Kraft
Art by: George Perez, Frank Giacoia, Ricardo Villamonte

Marvel Comics, 38 Pages

Review:

I’ve been picking up old issues of Marvel Premiere lately. Mainly, because this anthology series predates the era where I first started reading comics and because Marvel’s ’70s fantasy stuff is pretty rad.

This Man-Wolf story was released over two issues, starting in the month I was born. Also, the Man-Wolf character is pretty damn cool when used in the right sort of story. This is definitely one of those stories, as this is where he becomes the super powerful Stargod.

The thing that really sold this for me though, was the George Perez art. His style has always resonated with me and his art was one of the factors that really got me into comics. When I first started drawing, I mimicked Perez a lot.

I think the thing that makes this a pretty cool story though, is the fantasy setting. Man-Wolf ends up in a weird place and becomes a god to a crew of barbarian type heroes. When you see him unleash his raw power, it’s absolutely ridiculous.

On the other hand, he was almost too powerful for this story and when the big showdown with the baddies happens, it felt a bit lazy in how easy it was for him to basically just turn into a friggin’ magic bomb. But I’m not complaining because the badassness of it is stronger than how convenient it was. Plus, it works for the narrative, as this was more about Man-Wolf becoming Stargod than fighting generic fantasy villains.

This was a really cool story to pick up. I think it would have been better though, if it was spread out over four issues and gave us a bit more depth and character development for Man-Wolf’s allies.

But comics are supposed to be fun escapism and that’s exactly what this is.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Man-Wolf stories from the era, most notably the issues that feature him in another Marvel anthology series, Creatures On the Loose.

Film Review: The Wolverine (2013)

Also known as: Wolverine 2 (working title), Wolverine: Inmortal (Spanish language title), Wolverine: Samurai (Japan)
Release Date: July 16th, 2013 (London premiere)
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Based on: Wolverine by Chris Claremont, Frank Miller
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Brian Tee, Patrick Stewart (cameo), Ian McKellan (cameo)

Marvel Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 126 Minutes, 138 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“Your grandfather called me a ronin, a samurai without a master. He said I was destined to live forever, with no reason to live.” – Logan

The Wolverine did a pretty good job of making up for the mostly terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie. Also, it was the film I wanted instead of Origins because when I first heard that they planned on a solo Wolverine film, I immediately hoped that they would tap into his Japan stories. I just had to wait a few more years for that, I guess.

Everything about this film is really good, except two things.

The first, is that it was drawn out a bit too much. I felt like it could have been whittled down by twenty minutes or so and had a much better flow to it.

The second, is the villains. I loved the story but the baddies were weak as hell and really uninteresting.

Viper has never been a character that’s been a big deal in the comics and I’ve never really cared about her. In this, she just never felt like a real threat. She spits acid but in a film where the hero is Wolverine, who heeled from a nuclear bomb blast in the first five minutes. So now I’m supposed to worry about him getting acid spit in his face?

The other villain is a more well-known character from the comics, the Silver Samurai. However, he isn’t really the Silver Samurai here, he’s just an old dying Japanese billionaire wearing a mecha suit. Sure, the suit is adamantium but whatever. Tear that shit open like a tin can and squash the dude’s head like a grape. And again, he’s just not the real Silver Samurai.

Getting back to Viper, she stuck out like a sore, disfigured thumb. The reason why is because her acting was abominable. Everyone else in this film gave great performances. I don’t think it’s her lack of experience in acting that’s the issue, it’s just that her poor performance is greatly contrasted by how good everyone else is in this. She would blend in to a lesser film but every scene that she is in here, is bogged down by her performance. It really hindered key moments in the film.

Getting to the positives, there are more of those.

The story is great and I do love how it develops and evolves. It could have used better pacing but once you get to Japan, things really pick up and there is just a bit in the middle that could have been edited down because I didn’t need as much attention given to the romance story as this film felt it needed.

All of the action sequences are executed superbly, most of the CGI is pretty good and Hugh Jackman proved that he is perfect as this character, even if hardcore fans still complain that he’s too tall.

I also really enjoyed Rila Fukushima’s Yukio. She kind of made a good sidekick in the movie and I wish she had carried over into Logan, even though it was set well into the future.

James Mangold did a fine job resurrecting this franchise. This was a good first outing for him with the character, which only helped to make his Logan pretty close to a comic book movie masterpiece.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other films starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Comic Review: Scrimshaw

Published: October 5th, 2016 – August 2nd, 2018
Written by: Eric Borden
Art by: Dave Mims, Spike O’Laochdha

Alterna Comics, 158 Pages

Review:

Scrimshaw was one of the more recent Alterna Comics titles that I really wanted to delve into. I loved the covers I was seeing, as well as the art style.

I was pretty happy with it overall but I did have a few issues with it too.

To start, I enjoyed the story but it was a bit hard to follow sometimes. I felt the general narrative was clear but some of the details felt vague and I didn’t understand a lot of the decisions and character motivations as well as I should have.

Also, I really love the art style. However, around issues two and three, some of it felt muddled and hard to see. I’m not sure if that may have been a printing issue though. I work in graphic design and printing, so I tried to see it objectively and don’t want to take points away from Dave Mims cool art.

The main issue with it, was that a lot of the ink lines are thin and then with the use of a lot of gradients, the lines seemed to get lost in darker panels. It was just hard on the eyes when I was trying to make out detail. But from issues four through six, this was not a problem.

I love that this story is almost like a classic swashbuckling tale but set in an apocalyptic future. It’s like Pirates of the Caribbean meets Waterworld but not in a terrible sucky way. And the tone feels more like a Mad Max film and a post-apocalyptic anime.

I do like the characters but I think there needs to be some time to flesh them out better in the future. A lot of characters are introduced in short time, so no one really gets the attention they deserve. This could be a great team book, but we need to know what it is we love about these characters.

I certainly do look forward to future Scrimshaw releases and I want to give the series time to breathe and develop. It’s a much larger story than the typical Alterna release, so this does require more world building than something like Mother Russia or Trespasser.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Alterna releases over the last few years.

Film Review: The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)

Release Date: December 14th, 1974 (Japan)
Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Written by: Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: John Barry
Cast: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize, Clifton James, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn

Eon Productions, United Artists, 125 Minutes

Review:

“A duel between titans. My golden gun against your Walther PPK. Each of us with a 50-50 chance.” – Francisco Scaramanga

This is the last of the pre-Daniel Craig era James Bond pictures for me to review. And well, I saved one of my favorites for last.

Why do I love this one so much? Well, it has the legendary Christopher Lee as the villain and also features Hervé Villechaize and Britt Ekland, who was one of those early crushes I had as a young kid discovering movies. But I also love the story and the locations in this film. Plus, we even get to see Sheriff J.W. Pepper one more time but sadly for the last time.

As grandiose as James Bond movies are, and this one still lives up to that, the actual threat is smaller, more intimate and very personal. Essentially, James is lured into a duel: one on one, man to man, for all the marbles if those marbles are your own mortality. And there really was no one greater than Christopher Lee to play the role of Francisco Scaramanga, the anti-Bond with his iron sights aimed at Britain’s greatest spy.

Scaramanga was also assisted by Nick Nack, played by the tiny Frenchman Hervé Villechaize, who is most famous for his role on Fantasy Island. Nick Nack was a sinister little shit and amusing in every scene he was in. In the end, his fate is pretty hilarious.

The film spends a lot of time in Asia but primarily features Thailand, which is just a beautiful country. The sights are nice, the action is great and seeing Sheriff Pepper stumble through an exotic land was entertaining.

I loved the opening of this film and it’s one of my favorite in the series, as it sees a hired hitman trying to kill Scaramanga in his maze. The maze was cool and it would return in the climax of the film for the duel between Bond and Scaramanga. I liked the very ’70s style of it and it was inventive and clever and something we hadn’t seen in a Bond film up to this point.

I’d hate to say that Lee really steals the show here but this is very much his movie more than it is Roger Moore’s. Moore is still fantastic in all the ways that make him great but in this film, Lee really proved that he was a major player and should be given more roles of this caliber. At this point, he was typecast as just a horror actor but this showcased his talents at a higher, more mainstream level. He would eventually get other major mainstream roles again but not until the early ’00s, thirty years later, with the roles of Count Dooku in the Stars Wars prequels and Saruman in The Lords of the Rings trilogy. But I doubt Lee would complain, as he loved his horror career and still worked on over 200 pictures.

The Man With the Golden Gun is just a fun, exciting film and it kind of grounds James Bond after the voodoo shenanigans of Live and Let Die. It’s simple, effective and just a good movie.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Roger Moore James Bond movies.

Comic Review: Detective Comics: Deface the Face

Published: September 12th, 2018 – November 28th, 2018
Written by: James Robinson
Art by: Stephen Segovia, Carmine Di Giandomenico

DC Comics, 144 Pages

Review:

Collecting Detective Comics issues 988 through 993, Deface the Face is the second to last story arc before the monumental 1000th issue.

The story focuses on Two-Face, one of my all-time favorite villains. It also gives us a pair of Fireflies because having just one wasn’t enough and if they’re working for Two-Face, they need to come in a pair.

This starts with Batman investigating fire related crimes but it doesn’t take long for him to figure out that it’s related to Two-Face. However, this leads to Two-Face working together with Batman to take down Kobra.

Overall, the story is just okay. It’s not boring but it also isn’t exciting. It just feels like filler and we end up building towards the death of Two-Face but they don’t commit to the bit and you find out that he’s still alive almost immediately.

This was just a mundane arc that didn’t do much for me. Even the action was fairly mediocre.

I hate stories like this because there just isn’t much to say about it.

I did enjoy the art but really, I’m just ready for the new creative team that’s coming in to carry Detective Comics into 2019 and the milestone 1000th issue.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent Detective Comics and Batman story arcs.

Comic Review: Mr. & Mrs. X, Vol. 1

Published: July 25th, 2018 – November 21st, 2018
Written by: Kelly Thompson
Art by: Oscar Bazaldua, Terry Dodson (covers)

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

I didn’t have much urge to read this, as all the X-Men books over the last few years have been terrible. It’s sad but one of my favorite parts of the Marvel universe has not produced anything I’ve cared about, outside of Old Man Logan, in serveral years.

Also, I’m not a big fan of Gambit or Rogue, even though they were front and center in the era where I read X-Men titles like a church lady reads that King James book.

However, a few people whose opinions I respect said that the first issue was a nice departure from the humdrum world of the modern X-Men and that the story was pretty fun. Fun?! “Fun”, they say?!

Well, their assessment was correct, as I thoroughly enjoyed the issue so much that I added this title to my pull list.

Now, five issues deep, I have reached the end of the first story arc, which is being collected into the first trade paperback. That won’t be out for several months but since I’ve read this, I’m reviewing it now, while it’s fresh in my memory.

I have always been a sucker for the cosmic side of the Marvel universe and this is two mutant honeymooners on a cosmic adventure. The sum of all the parts equaled something enjoyable.

I liked the story and I even liked the Deadpool cameo despite being really over the character. We also got to see the Starjammers in action and there was some good Shi’ar Empire stuff.

This brought me back to the place I was at when I was first reading cosmic X-Men tales.

Mr. & Mrs. X hit all the right notes for me, the art was pretty good and I even enjoyed the humor in this. I also thought that Gambit and Rogue were written better than they have been in quite some time.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: current X-Men stuff but this is better than that, as well as the recent Rogue & Gambit miniseries.

Film Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Release Date: December 10th, 2001 (London premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Based on: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Sala Baker, Peter Jackson (cameo)

New Line Cinema, WingNut Films, The Saul Zaentz Company, 178 Minutes, 208 Minutes (DVD Extended Edition), 228 Minutes (Blu-ray Extended Edition), 171 Minutes (DVD Widescreen Edition)

Review:

“[Gandalf is standing on the bridge, in front of the Balrog] You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!” – Gandalf

This was a definite treat to revisit, especially since I just revisited The Hobbit trilogy beforehand. I wanted to watch them in chronological order for the first time but having now seen this again, a film I have probably seen a dozen times already, I have an even greater appreciation for it, as it’s truly perfection.

Unlike those Hobbit movies, The Fellowship of the Ring and its two sequels, didn’t have identity issues. It has a consistent tone throughout and it knows exactly what it needs to be and how to accomplish that. This was Peter Jackson at his absolute best and this is a timeless movie and will continue to be for generations.

Being that this was the first major live action adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, makes its level of perfection something truly special and a feat that proves that the impossible can be possible. I should state, though, that the Soviets and the Finnish did their own live action adaptations before this but no one has really seen them and they weren’t done with the resources and budget that allowed this story to really live and breathe the right way.

I’ve tried to think of negatives for the sake of this review but the acting is superb, the directing and cinematography are flawless and the special effects are better than anything else that predates this film. Also, the issues that exist with The Hobbit films don’t exist with this one.

We have real human beings in prosthetics and makeup as the orcs and goblins. Also, the film isn’t afraid to rely on some other practical effects. Sure, there is CGI galore but the film doesn’t default to it and it’s why this looks better than The Hobbit films, which started coming out 11 years later.

The best thing about this film is its spirit. You immediately care about these characters, all of them, they mesh well pretty exceptionally, and none of them look stupid like most of the dwarves in The Hobbit. Gimli, the main dwarf in this story, looks like a real character and not a cartoon caricature.

Also, you care about the journey and how it is taking a toll on everyone in the party. You feel their emotions, their stress and their burden in seeing things through no matter what the cost.

The action is stupendous and the big battle at the end of the film is incredible. Also, the wizard battle between Gandalf and Saruman is incredibly badass.

Howard Shore, who scored all of these Tolkien pictures, did a much better job at creating the themes for these films than The Hobbit trilogy. The music here hits the right notes and it’s all become pretty iconic.

There is a reason why this film gave birth to Tolkien Fever in the early 2000s. Everything about it was just right and it was a real example of filmmaking and storytelling perfection.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two Lord of the Rings films, as well as The Hobbit trilogy.