Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 4: The Case of a Cup of Joe

Published: January 25th, 2017
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill

Oni Press, 143 Pages

Review:

This fourth and final volume of Stumptown was definitely a step up from the fairly mundane third chapter. Granted, I still wasn’t as engaged by this story as I was the first two.

The plot here is more interesting than the previous book but there doesn’t feel like there’s any real danger here for the characters, as the heavies in this are inexperienced hipsters from the coffee scene and not legitimate, dangerous criminals and brutes that have actually gotten blood on their hands.

In fact, this felt more like a comedy than a neo-noir crime drama.

Maybe Greg Rucka wanted to go out on a lighter note with this one but it lacks the gravity of the earlier stories and certainly pales in comparison to the darker, grittier and more realistic neo-noir comic book tales by Ed Brubaker.

I didn’t think this was a waste but it didn’t hit the mark and just didn’t pull me in and hold onto me like the first two volumes did.

There’s really not much else to say. This is just about a bunch of rich eccentrics and hipsters trying to acquire some magic coffee beans.

The end.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson, Vol. 1

Published: March 6th, 2014
Written by: Frank Miller, Bill Mantlo, Roger McKenzie, David Michelinie, Marv Wolfman
Art by: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson

Marvel Comics, 326 Pages

Review:

I recently got to scratch off one of my comic book bucket list items. That item was the completion of the entire Frank Miller Daredevil run. I now own all the single issues and it feels good. So to celebrate, I thought that I’d re-read through them all, as they were collected in three beefy volumes that I also own.

This first collection starts with two issues of The Spectacular Spider-Man, which featured Daredevil and had art by Frank Miller. Getting into the start of his run on Daredevil itself, the first handful of issues aren’t written by Miller but he does do the art. But once Miller fully takes over and Klaus Janson comes in to do Miller’s inks, this book really takes off in a new and exciting way, as it becomes grittier and almost has a noir vibe to it.

In this collection, we see the Bullseye character evolve more into the lunatic he actually is. We are also introduced to Elektra, as she makes her first appearance here.

Now nothing is truly wrapped up in this volume and it mainly just lays the foundation for the rest of Miller’s tenure on the title. But it sets things up nicely, really changes the landscape of the title, as long-standing love interest Black Widow moves on with her life and Daredevil is pulled into two new romantic directions.

This also establishes the real tension between Daredevil and The Kingpin.

As the first of three collections covering this run, this book is damn stellar. It’s also a great jumping on point for fans that want to read some of the best years in Daredevil’s long history.

Frankly, I’d read all of Miller’s run and then follow it up with the Ann Nocenti era.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.

Film Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

Also known as: John Wick 3 (unofficial title)
Release Date: May 9th, 2019 (Brooklyn premiere)
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Written by: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams
Based on: characters by Derek Kolstad
Music by: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, Ian McShane, Robin Lord Taylor, Jason Mantzoukas

Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, 87Eleven, Thunder Road Pictures, 131 Minutes

Review:

“John Wick, Excommunicado. In effect, 6:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.” – Operator

This is where the film series really jumped the shark for me. Granted, that happened in the finale of the picture but even taking that out, this is the weakest and worst entry in the John Wick franchise.

Let me start by saying that I really dug all the big action sequences and that the physicality of these movies is top notch. And since this is an action franchise with big, epic showdowns, the film doesn’t disappoint in that regard.

My real issue with the film is that the story and the mythos that the writers have been building up for three pictures has devolved into a big, shitty mess.

These films only really work if they follow a theory I have about them but I’ll get to that theory at the end of this review.

I mostly only really like the first movie. The second was decent and carried by its action. This third film, even with great action sequences, was just hard to get through as someone that wants to try and understand the world that these characters inhabit. It’s just become superfluous and overly complicated.

All you really need to know about the story is that an assassin’s guild with specific rules is pissed off at their top guy who has broken those rules. What we get instead is a story that is trying so hard to be larger than it needs to be. There is a guild, a side guild other entities playing a game to increase their political power among their peers and all the while, they are all trying to be so cool that they fail at it and just come off as pretentious, pompous shitheads.

It’s hard to follow what the hell is happening in these movies and when it comes to action pictures, the audience shouldn’t be required to think too hard and remember all these lame, uninteresting details.

The vocabulary of these movies is also ridiculous with words like “excommunicado” and “Adjudicator”. It’s like the writers had a thesaurus next to them and they were competing to see who could write the most pretentious ways of saying dialogue. No one talks like the people in this movie. In fact, John Wick is about the only person that sounds fucking human.

Additionally, almost all the characters other than Wick and the two guys from the Continental are deliberately crafted to be cool. But when everything is made to exude coolness, nothing is cool and everything just looks like shit and as if it is trying too hard to convince the audience it’s awesome.

The biggest example of this is the main antagonist, which is the Adjudicator, played by Asia Kate Dillon. Now while I only know Dillon from her role on Orange Is the New Black, I thought she did a good job on that show. Here, her character is made to act cool and calm to the point where she is essentially lifeless. Now there have been lifeless, emotionless, blank characters in movies before, they aren’t typically very exciting and this is no different. In fact, it makes her stick out like a sore thumb when everything else in the picture is audibly and visually boisterous. I can’t really blame her for it, as it seems to be more than likely an issue with the writing and the overall direction. Needless to say, the Adjudicator character is excruciating to watch and really puts a halt on any excitement or momentum that previous scenes have built up.

The one moment that really broke this film for me was the finale, which saw Wick get shot and then fall off of a very tall building, smashing into fire escape railing and metal awnings on the way down. Somehow, he fucking survives this and we’re supposed to except that because he’s a badass. Unless the dude is Wolverine, he’s fucking dead. I don’t care how good he is with a gun and his fists.

But this circles me back around to my theory and that’s that these movies only really work if John Wick is a character within a video game world. It would fix a lot of the movie’s problems and it would be easier to overlook the fact that nearly everyone in these films survives brutal deaths. Maybe he’s so good and doesn’t even feel in control of his own hands, feet and weapons because he isn’t. He’s actually controlled by some twelve year-old on Xbox sitting on a couch in Amarillo, Texas. Hell, maybe some of these characters can just respawn as long as the game is still going.

As crazy as my theory may sound, it’s less crazy than Wick surviving a fall like that.

In the end, I loved the action sequences and that was really about it. Do we really need to do this for a fourth time? No… but as far as there being another movie, signs point to yes, considering he’s not dead or paralyzed.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other two John Wick movies.

TV Review: Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Original Run: January 20th, 2008 – September 29th, 2013
Created by: Vince Gilligan
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Dave Porter
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, Laura Fraser, Jesse Plemons, Steven Michael Quezada, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, Krysten Ritter, Mark Margolis, Michael Bowen, Bill Burr, Raymond Cruz, Jere Burns, John de Lancie

High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, Sony Pictures Television, AMC, 62 Episodes, 43-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I came to the Breaking Bad party pretty late but after multiple seasons of people raving about it, I ended up binging through it all just before the last season premiered.

I also almost quit the show, as the beginning of the first season drags. But once I got to the end of Season One, everything just sort of clicked and I was hooked. But even then, I thought that it would be good but that it would slowly lose steam, as all shows do and eventually, I wouldn’t care about it.

Breaking Bad did something that almost no other show has been capable of doing, though. It continued to improve and get better as it rolled on.

Just when you thought the show reached its peak, it’d throw a curveball or shock you in a way that television shows before this were never able to do. And most importantly, it either gave you satisfying resolutions to plot threads or it subverted expectations and actually gave you something better and surprising.

Frankly, I hate the “subvert their expectations” bullshit that creatives in Hollywood seem to be clinging onto because 99 percent of the time, it’s just an indicator that they’re out of ideas and their only solution is to take a big shit and go, “Ha! You fans didn’t see that coming! I’m a genius! Adore me!”

No. Breaking Bad subverts expectations and gives the viewer something better. And it didn’t just do this once or twice, it did it quite often and it was consistently really fucking good at it. More than anything, that’s what made this show so great.

Additionally, very extreme things happen on the show but it never jumps the shark or takes you out of reality. Everything feels real and plausible and it does a superb job in staying grounded and not taking a turn for the ridiculous, as many shows have done that started out really strong.

I’d have to say that the best thing about this, though, is the cast. Everyone, top to bottom, is perfection.

Almost every character in the show starts at one end of the spectrum and finds a way to make it to the opposite side. All of this happens slowly and naturally. Characters you like become ones you despise and ones you might not have liked become lovable. There are secondary characters that stay the same throughout but many of them are there to be measuring sticks, to show you how every main character evolves in their own way over five seasons.

I know that there has been a ton of hype about this show for years but it is one of the few that lived up to it and actually, in my opinion, exceeded it. Breaking Bad is as close to a perfect show that you can get for a crime drama with neo-western and neo-noir flavors.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other modern crime dramas but this is the best of the lot.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 3: The Case of the King of Clubs

Published: April 15th, 2015
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill

Oni Press, 133 Pages

Review:

I kind of dug the first two volumes of Stumptown and I’ve also been enjoying the television series, which debuted last fall. However, this third volume in the comics series felt like a real step down.

First off, I don’t like the art. The artist changed and the previous volumes felt more refined and less cartoonish. They still had a good, indie feel to them but this feels more like a typical Oni Press book where the other ones looked more polished and like crime comics put out by a bigger indie publisher like Image.

Also, I thought the story was weak as hell, pretty predictable and felt more like an advertisement for the Portland Timbers soccer team, as well as Portland soccer culture, than it did a gritty, edgy crime story. It felt less neo-noir and more ABC Afterschool Special.

This volume was a bore to get through, didn’t live up to the expectations I had based off of the two stories before this one and it just felt like everything was dialed in.

The story lacked layers, proper plot twists and was completely bogged down by slice of life shenanigans and repetitive conversations between paper thin characters.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Vids I Dig 204: Comic Tropes: ‘Akira’: Breaking Down the Themes and Influences

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: Katsuhiro Otomo is the writer and illustrator of the Akira manga as well as the director of the anime adaptation. Both were being worked on at the same time and influenced one another. This video takes a look at the cultural and artistic inspirations that influenced Otomo’s work, as well as breaking down his stated intentions. After comparing and contrasting the manga and anime, the video discusses the themes of Akira.