Comic Review: Tinseltown

Published: April 19th, 2018 – January 10th, 2019
Written by: David Lucarelli
Art by: Henry Ponciano, HdE

Alterna Comics, 118 Pages

Review:

I’ve gotten way behind on comics and my Alterna stack has been piling up, as a few different series have come to an end over the last few months. I’ve been waiting to read this one since I got the first issue, almost a year ago, but I was waiting to get the entire story so that I could binge read it.

Tinseltown is one of the best books I’ve read from Alterna but the company produces so many good indie comics that this really is head and shoulders above a lot of the other stuff on the shelves.

The story is about a young woman living in Hollywood who has aspirations of becoming a cop in an era where women weren’t really accepted on the police force. She starts out as a security guard for a film studio but soon finds herself caught up in a noir-style mystery.

If you like cop stories, historical fiction, the golden age of Hollywood or film-noir, then there is certainly something here for you to enjoy. If you love all of those things, than this comic book is a real treat.

David Lucarelli wrote a very good story and the art by Henry Onciano did a fine job of capturing the style and tones of the era.

This was a fun read with a lot of energy and heart. I’m not sure if there is a future miniseries in the works or not but I liked this enough that I hope this isn’t the last we see of this character and her journey.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent stuff from Alterna Comics.

Comic Review: Kobra/Veszélyes őrjárat (Unofficial Hungarian Bootleg)

Published: 1986
Based on: Cobra by Sylvester Stallone and Paula Gosling, The Detached Mission by Yevgeni Mesyatsev

Filmsikerek Kepregeny Valtozata, 32 Pages

Review:

I don’t know Hungarian but I read through this as best as I could. I do have a Hungarian uncle and I asked if he’d translate this for me, as I thought scanning it in and redoing the lettering in English would allow me to share this with the English speaking world but my uncle when asked just said, “I’m not reading your damn comics for you!”

Anyway, this is an ashcan sized bootleg comic book from Hungary that is an unofficial adaptation of the Sylvester Stallone film Cobra. On the flip side there is a second comic book story, which is an adaptation of a Soviet military movie called The Detached Mission (in it’s English translation). I’ve never seen that film but I am a massive fan of Stallone’s Cobra, so I had to pick this up when I came across it, digging deep for obscure foreign movie adaptations in the comic book medium.

The Cobra half of this comic is 20 pages while The Detached Mission is just 12.

While this isn’t full of top notch art, the likenesses of the actors is pretty good. I mean, Stallone looks like Stallone. Brigitte Nielsen looks about the same and Brian Thompson, the Night Slasher, is pretty on point.

The only real problem with the comic is that it adapts the entire movie in 20 pages, which means that it speeds along pretty damn fast and this creates an issue with panel to panel transitions. The gist of what’s happening and the key points of the story are still conveyed but I can’t really speak on the writing, as I can’t interpret it.

This is high energy, full of testosterone and just a fun book to thumb through for hardcore fans of Cobra.

On the flip side, I gave The Detatched Mission story a read but without having seen the movie and due to the language barrier, I’m not sure how closely it is adapted. Still, it was also action packed and badass.

Tracking this down wasn’t easy and I did pay a fine penny for this but I have absolutely no buyer’s remorse. I love Cobra and Cannon Films, as well as obscure comics, so this is certainly my cup of tea.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other foreign comic book bootlegs of ’80s action movies.

Comic Review: Batman: Knightfall, Book I

Published: 1993-1994
Written by: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant
Art by: various

DC Comics, 634 Pages

Review:

I’ve put off reading the Batman: Knightfall saga for so long because of two reasons. It’s spread out over three massive books and each of those books is pretty pricey. However, Comixology now has the first book available for free to Unlimited subscribers and they just had a big sale on the other two books. So I was able to get this whole thing for about $8.

So now that I have this series in my possession, I can start reading all 2000-plus pages of it. Yes, it’s a real monster – big enough to rival the mass of Bane on the cover.

Over the years, I’ve acquired a few of the issues within this massive saga but it started to come out as I was going into high school and I moved to a much smaller town where I couldn’t buy comics. So I never really got to read it, even though I’ve come to know the story fairly well.

The story, mostly penned by Doug Moench and Chuck Dixon, is quite good. There are a lot of layers to this massive story, as there should be due to how much material it has between its covers. However, some things do feel a bit rushed, as there isn’t much build worked in to the major plot developments.

For instance, Batman is broken pretty quickly in this saga. And then Azrael is given the mantle of Batman and immediately, he acts like a psycho in how he fights crime. He’s a dick to Robin, he almost lets a kid die to pursue the baddie and he retrofits the Bat-suit with claws and spiky, metal shit. I think it would have enriched the story to show Azrael slowly slip into this aggressive new Batman.

Still, that doesn’t hinder the book very much, as there are so many other characters and situations to track through this volume’s 634 pages.

I was surprised to see Azrael actually defeat Bane in this book, as it is only the first third of the saga. So I don’t really know what that means going forward and I was pretty sure that Bane’s fall would be at the end of this huge saga.

This is absolutely quintessential ’90s Batman though. And that’s really what’s so great about it. Bane is the perfect villain for this era and Azrael is a very ’90s twist on heroism. I even enjoy Azrael’s cringeworthy Bat-suit because despite its awfulness and nonsensical design, it fits the era.

Additionally, the art in every issue collected in this giant piece of work is damn good. I’ve always been a big Graham Nolan fan and his work here is some of his most memorable.

I’m glad that I finally read this. It exceeded any expectations I had for it, even if I thought the narrative was choppy in parts. But I also attribute some of that to this story being a big crossover with multiple writers.

If you haven’t read Knightfall, you probably should.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other books in the Knightfall saga, as well as pretty much any Batman story from the ’90s.

Film Review: Lady In the Lake (1946)

Release Date: December 19th, 1946 (London)
Directed by: Robert Montgomery
Written by: Steve Fisher
Based on: The Lady In the Lake by Raymond Chandler
Music by: David Snell
Cast: Robert Montgomery, Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan, Tom Tully, Leon Ames, Jayne Meadows

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Do you fall in love with all of your clients?” – Adrienne, “Only the ones in skirts.” – Marlowe

There were a lot of Philip Marlowe movies in the 1940s. This one was probably the most unique though, in that it was filmed in a first-person perspective, as we see the whole movie through the eyes of the famous private dick.

I don’t think that this is the first time that a movie was filmed entirely in first-person perspective but it’s the only film-noir that I’ve seen presented that way, at least in its entirety.

The technique was gimmicky but it helped to market the movie in a way that told the audience that they got to solve the case alongside Philip Marlowe: seeing and hearing everything the famous P.I. does.

If anything, the gimmick worked to hold your attention quite well, especially when you were being directly addressed by the beautiful Audrey Totter, as well as her personal assistant who shows up briefly. In any event, it was an interesting perspective to view a classic film-noir tale through.

Apart from that, the movie doesn’t offer up much flourish, stylistically. It’s a clean and well produced picture but it doesn’t have anything that really stands out in regards to its cinematography, lighting or overall visual aesthetic.

It is well acted, though, and the film is entertaining. There are the typical plot twists and noir tropes but I’d say that it is one of the weaker Marlowe movies of its day. It certainly isn’t on the level of Murder, My Sweet or The Big Sleep but its a fun movie for fans of Robert Montgomery and the Philip Marlowe character.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Philip Marlowe film adaptations from the 1940s: Time to Kill, The Falcon Takes Over, Murder, My Sweet, The Big Sleep, and The Brasher Doubloon.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Back In Black, Vol. 2: Supersonic

Published: September 14th, 2016
Written by: Charles Soule, Roger McKenzie
Art by: Matteo Buffagni, Vanesa R. Del Ray, Goran Sudzuka, Bill Sienkiewicz (cover)

Marvel Comics, 124 Pages

Review:

While I’ve praised Charles Soule’s run on Daredevil, this early stuff isn’t working for me.

I came into Soule’s run towards the end of it and I really liked the last few arcs. Here, though, he is bogged down by the writer before him, who made it so that no one knew Daredevil’s secret identity. It’s a weird plot device that comes up constantly in this volume and it’s pretty annoying.

This collection is made up of multiple short story arcs.

The first deals with Elektra showing up, looking for a daughter no one knew she had. Apparently, after about 50 pages, the daughter angle was a trick and the story ended up being completely pointless.

The second arc is all about Matt Murdock playing Texas Hold’em in Macao. You don’t know what his scheme is but it ends with him and Spider-Man hunting down a briefcase. It’s pretty dull and the dialogue was bad.

The third part of this scant 124 page collection is the Daredevil annual from that year, which has a short story revolving around Echo and another that pits Daredevil against the Gladiator.

Reading this felt like a complete waste of time. I’m sure that these stories were there to plant seeds for later plot developments but this feels like total filler.

Additionally, the art in the Elektra story was bad. And then in the Texas Hold’em tale, there is a scene where Spidey and Daredevil go parasailing behind a hydrofoil. Except they aren’t using parachutes. Um… you have to use a parachute, otherwise parasailing doesn’t work. Growing up in Florida, I understand the simple physics of parasailing. The human body is not a natural parachute no matter how fast the boat is going.

I wanted to read through the earlier Soule Daredevil stuff but man, this really destroyed my motivation.

Also, I hate the black Daredevil suit.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Charles Soule story arcs on Daredevil.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Return of the Sinister Six

Published: 1990
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Erik Larsen, Terry Austin, Mike Machlan

Marvel Comics, 141 Pages

Review:

This story arc took place in The Amazing Spider-Man issue numbers 334 through 339. It was a follow up to the original Sinister Six story that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave us with the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual way back in 1964.

What’s strange to me, is that it took so long for six of Spidey’s best villains to team-up again. However, with Kraven the Hunter being dead, this version of the group replaced him with Hobgoblin. But the team is still led by Doctor Octopus and also features Electro, Mysterio, the Vulture and the Sandman. However, in a bit of a twist, Sandman has gone straight and Octopus blackmails him into joining the group.

This story also features a lot of cameos from other villains and heroes but Spider-Man ultimately faces the Sinister Six on his own and at one point, he finally fights them all at once, which he didn’t do in the first story.

While the Dave Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era of The Amazing Spider-Man is heralded as one of the best of all-time, the Dave Michelinie/Erik Larsen era is also damn good and really just continues off of what Michelinie developed with McFarlane. This came out at the height of me reading Spider-Man comics. To me, this was an event bigger than any of those Infinity things and this wasn’t really even an event.

Reading this now, I almost have a deeper appreciation for it than I did as a kid in 1990. The plot is well constructed and it has a lot of layers to it. Also, there’s a few subplots that have their own interesting narratives. There’s much more here than Peter Parker’s Royal Rumble match with his rogues and it makes this a really rich tale with good character development and real depth.

Some of the plot points, like the bizarreness of Octavius’ scheme are baffling but even the questionable stuff is amusing and just makes me yearn for the early ’90s comic book storytelling style. Twenty-nine years later, I definitely see issues I didn’t as a kid but it in no way wrecks the experience that is this great arc.

Also at the time, I was a hardcore Erik Larsen fan. I first discovered his art on this title. While I always preferred McFarlane, through the eyes of an eleven year-old, Larsen was a comic art superstar. I loved how he drew Spidey and his iconic villains and I think it still looks great. While I respect Larsen and McFarlane for forming Image and coming out with their own comics, there’s that part of me that wished that they both would’ve stuck around and worked on Spider-Man books a bit longer, as I was just so in love with what they were doing at the time and wasn’t ready to let them hand it off to someone else. But then, Mark Bagley did do a fine job, as well.

All these years later, this was fun to pick up again. I was a little worried that I’d think it’d suck now but it brought me back to where I was, reading it for the first time in 1990. Sometimes picking up old comics is like opening a time capsule. With this one, I was happy to find that it was even better than I remembered it.

And now I can’t wait to revisit its sequel, The Revenge of the Sinister Six.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the sequel to this one, The Revenge of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill

Published: January 30th, 2013
Written by: Len Wein
Art by: Steve Rude, Glenn Whitmore
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 27 Pages

Review:

This installment of the Before Watchmen series only spanned a single issue. I’m fine with that though, as it’s the least interesting chapter, overall.

I don’t really care about the Dollar Bill character and I don’t think anyone else really does either. The only thing that makes this interesting is how he joined the Minutemen and the fact that those characters also make appearances here.

I wouldn’t call this story a waste of time but it was most definitely filler.

This may seem really short and sweet, as I usually have a lot more to say, even about a single issue of a comic but this was just pretty damn meh.

I don’t blame Len Wein for this not hitting any sort of mark, he’s a talented writer and always has been but this was probably thrown in his lap by DC trying to milk Watchmen for everything it’s worth.

While I’ve pretty much loved the Before Wathcmen releases I’ve read thus far, this was the first one to seem like a cheap attempt at chafing the cash cow’s teats.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.