Comic Review: The New Mutants: War Children – One-Shot

Published: September 25th, 2019
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel Comics, 32 Pages

Review:

Being an old school fan of The New Mutants, this was a pretty cool one-shot that took my brain right down memory lane in the best way possible.

This re-teams the creative duo of Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, who were the guys that gave us so many New Mutants stories from their original run.

The story here fits well with their work from thirty years ago. I’m not sure where this would fit, as I don’t remember the details from issue to issue but this is in that great period between the debut of Magik and her eventual (but not permanent) death in the Inferno mega crossover event. This certainly takes place well before Rob Liefeld came in and changed the direction of the title, evolving it into X-Force.

I’m assuming that this was made because The New Mutants are being relaunched in a few weeks on the heels of Jonathan Hickman’s pretty beloved House of X and Powers of X miniseries.

And while I look forward to the new New Mutants comic series, I’d rather just have more of this. I wish that this wasn’t a one-shot and could have been expanded into a miniseries. But the quality of this would have been difficult to pull off in multiple issues on a schedule.

Sienkiewicz’s art has never really fallen off. He’s not a guy that’s been phoning it in later in his career like some of the other greats have done. This is a stunning and beautiful book to look at. Additionally, I thought that Claremont penned a good story that was a throwback to his glory days writing multiple X-comics.

I don’t want to say too much regarding the plot, as I’d rather people pick this up but it mostly revolves around Warlock and Cypher and the fear that Warlock has about losing himself to his nature and hurting his friends.

Old school New Mutants fans will probably dig the shit out of this. I did. And as I said, I just wish there was more.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the original New Mutants comic book run.

Comic Review: Hellboy, Vol. 2: Wake the Devil

Published: February 3rd, 2004
Written by: Pat Brosseau, Mike Mignola
Art by: Mike Mignola

Dark Horse, 146 Pages

Review:

I wish I would have read this closer to when I finished the previous volume but my comic book queue is massive and it got somewhat disheveled a few months back when I acquired a ton of new stuff from a friend moving.

Anyway, this is a new story, the second in the actual history of Hellboy. Still, this builds off of the first volume and even though he’s dead, Rasputin returns in spiritual form to band together his Nazi followers, who have idolized him like a religious figure since the old days.

The three main villains here are actually the same as the trio that was featured in the first Guillermo del Toro Hellboy movie.

Overall, I love Mignola’s art style and the tone of these stories. I also love Lovecraftian horror and this just hit those notes in the right way.

However, I found this less exciting than the original miniseries. I think that’s because this isn’t as much of a self contained story as it is being used to world build now that Hellboy is evolving into a regularly released comic for Dark Horse.

In the end, this is still a strong chapter in the franchise and it only makes me want to keep reading the series.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Hellboy and B.P.R.D. related comics.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Birth of the She-Devil

Published: June 12th, 2019 – September 18th, 2019
Written by: Luke Lieberman
Art by: Sergio Fernandez Davila
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 128 Pages

Review:

For those of us that wanted a Red Sonja version of Year One, this is a comic just for us. Granted, I never thought about the idea myself but when I first heard that this was coming out and it was focused on how Sonja became Sonja, I definitely wanted to add it to my pull list.

Luke Lieberman has been writing and editing Red Sonja stories for years, so it was fitting that he penned this story. And honestly, Lieberman is, hands down, one of the best Red Sonja writers of all-time despite the fact that his family owns the rights to the character. I’ve typically always enjoyed his tales and this one was no different.

The story takes us back to Sonja’s life at the end of her teen years. She’s still angry about the murder of her family and she’s not as restrained or refined in how she deals with things. But this point in her life is really where the moniker, “She-Devil with a Sword” was born.

We see her grow throughout these four issues and overall, it’s kind of cool seeing this portion of her life. She’s been an interesting and complex character for decades but this allows her to have even more depth.

I liked the art in this miniseries, as well. Sergio Fernandez Davila gave us some solid action sequences and helped bring the story to life.

Overall, this was engaging and gave us a pretty unrestrained badass at the start of her badassness.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent Red Sonja comics from Dynamite.

Film Review: A Visit From the Incubus (2001)

Release Date: October, 2001
Directed by: Anna Biller
Written by: Anna Biller
Music by: Anna Biller
Cast: Anna Biller, Jared Sanford, Natalia Schroeder

Anna Biller Productions, 26 Minutes

Review:

I didn’t discover Anna Biller until I came across The Love Witch a few years ago. I really liked that movie in regards to its style and overall tone. Since then, I’ve become aware of an earlier film she did called Viva but it’s still in my queue to watch. In the meantime, I saw that this very early short film from her dropped on the Criterion Channel, so I wanted to check it out.

Even though this predates her only other film that I’ve seen, thus far, it’s still damn impressive for a lot of the same things that I adored in The Love Witch.

First off, Biller does a stupendous job in crafting the world she wants her films to live in. Between the costumes, the set design and the use of colors and lighting, her films look otherworldly and like real throwbacks to the motion pictures that have influenced her personal style.

Being that this was a musical horror western, it sort of marries those elements and it does so quite well. At the very least, these are fun films to look at and they are pretty lively.

Now the acting is over the top and somewhat hokey but I’m pretty sure that’s the intent. I wouldn’t call this a comedy or a parody of what it emulates or tries to channel, the acting just works well and feels organic within the overall presentation.

I also really dug the musical numbers. They kept the film energetic and jovial and built towards a good conclusion.

Overall, Anna Biller has several different creative talents. I mean, she really does everything in her films and I think that she does a fantastic job in getting her vision across. While her films might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they’re beautiful and hard to turn away from.

While looking deeper into this in an effort to write this review, I saw that Biller has three other short films that came out before this one. I hope that they are also streaming somewhere in the future.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Anna Biller films: Viva and The Love Witch.

Film Review: The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Release Date: June 24th, 1964 (London & Los Angeles premieres)
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Charles Beaumont, R. Wright Campbell
Based on: The Masque of the Red Death and Hop-Frog by Edgar Allan Poe
Music by: David Lee
Cast: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, Patrick Magee, Nigel Green, Robert Brown

American International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Somewhere in the human mind, my dear Francesca, lies the key to our existance. My ancestors tried to find it. And to open the door that separates us from our Creator.” – Prospero

While I can’t talk highly enough about all of the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations by Roger Corman and Vincent Price, I really can’t talk highly enough about The Masque of the Red Death, which is one of the best of the lot, as well as the most aesthetically pleasing.

Other than a couple quick scenes, the entirety of this picture takes place within the castle walls of the Satan worshiping Prince Prospero. He has entombed his party guests and a few villagers he spared within the structure in an effort to wait out the “Red Death” outside the castle gates.

While trying to avoid the plague, Prospero tries to influence the young girl he feels he saved from death. He shows her his secrets and opens up about his allegiance to the Devil himself. All the while, the reach of the Red Death works its way into the castle to deliver Prospero’s inevitable and unavoidable fate.

There is also a neat side story that was based on Poe’s Hop-Frog. I liked this mini story within the larger story and how it was all tied together.

I also like that this film re-teamed Price with Hazel Court and also threw in Patrick Magee, Robert Brown and Nigel Green. Now it’s not a star studded cast like what Corman delivered in The Raven, a year earlier, but it is a good ensemble of character actors and ’60s horror icons.

This is a pretty imaginative film that is visually stunning and alluring. The big climax is superb, especially for those who are a fan of Corman’s style when it’s rarely at its artistic apex.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Roger Corman/Vincent Price collaborations.

Comic Review: Cerebus, Book 4: Church & State II (Issues #81-111)

Published: December, 1985 – June, 1988
Written by: Dave Sim
Art by: Dave Sim, Gerhard

Aardvark-Vanaheim, 630 Pages

Review:

While I’ve been a fan of Cerebus, thus far, as each book continues to build off of its predecessor, this is the first chapter I’ve come to that feels like it’s taken a bit of a step back.

That’s not to say that I’m not still a fan, I am. It’s just to say that this massive Church & State era of the comic was so large that it had to be broken into two massive books, the first one, which was the high point of Cerebus thus far, and this second book, which kind of falls flat after a few key moments happen that drastically shift the narrative and one’s view of the title character.

This was the book where the big rape scene happened. I’ve heard people talk about it for years but I wanted to read it for myself with full context of the rest of the series behind me and in my memory bank.

So the scene itself is pretty damn off putting and really catches you off guard, even if you are aware that the moment exists somewhere in the Cerebus story. It kind of took me out of the book for a minute even, as it gives this series a real harshness that it didn’t have before. A harshness that feels so heavy it completely wrecks the somewhat jovial tone of what the series has been up to that point.

I can’t exactly say that it is a moment that was necessary, even if it conveys Cerebus being overrun with his own political power and as a reflection of his view of women and other people in general. Sure, he threw a baby, which was also controversial in Church & State I but where one could dismiss that as edgy comedy, this dark turn for his character is on another level completely.

Point being, if you liked the character of Cerebus before this, despite his other faults, it becomes impossible to like him after this moment in the story.

But with that being said, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way for the character to find a way back from this. It’s damn hard and near impossible but it makes you ask yourself that question about whether or not there is a point of no return that someone can cross and not be worthy of redemption at a later point? But I also don’t know if that idea is something Dave Sim has in the cards for the Cerebus character.

I also don’t know how I am going to feel about the series, as a whole, reading beyond this book. It changed everything and nearly every issue after the rape issue just came across in a much darker tone because of the effects of that event.

Ultimately, Cerebus leaves his role as Pope behind and this ends, moving him into a new phase beyond what we’ve become accustomed to with High Society, Church & State I and Church & State II.

No longer is this just a parody of sword and sorcery or anthropomorphic animal comics of the ’70s. It hasn’t been that for awhile but this book really solidified how far this series has evolved from its earliest form.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Cerebus story arcs, especially the earlier stuff.

Film Review: A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987)

Release Date: September 11th, 1987
Directed by: Larry Cohen
Written by: Larry Cohen, James Dixon
Based on: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Music by: Michael Minard
Cast: Michael Moriarty, Andrew Duggan, Samuel Fuller, Evelyn Keyes, June Havoc, Ronee Blakley, Tara Reid

Larco Productions, Warner Bros., 101 Minutes

Review:

“I’m not a Nazi hunter. I’m a Nazi killer!” – Van Meer

This is really just Salem’s Lot in name only. Technically it’s not officially listed as being based off of Stephen King’s novel and that’s probably for good reason.

I like some of Larry Cohen’s movies. He’s a guy that makes schlock but some of his schlock has become iconic over the years, such as The Stuff, Black Caesar and It’s Alive. This is not Grade A Cohen schlock, however.

In fact, I’m not sure Cohen even watched the first Salem’s Lot movie or even read the book.

The story features Cohen regular Michael Moriarty, as he and his dimwitted, douchebag son travel to the town of Salem’s Lot to fix up his childhood home. However, the town and its residents are vastly different than the previous film.

Actually, the vampires are different too, as this doesn’t feature the Nosferatu-like Kurt Barlow or any vampire resembling him. These vampires are just senior citizens with plastic Halloween fangs. Also, the whole town is pretty much all vampires, except for the few human familiars that keep a few shops and the gas station running, in order to keep up appearances to outsiders passing through.

We also get an old Nazi hunter that is now a vampire hunter and there are all these strange parallels between the Nazis and vampires and it all ends with the boss vampire getting impaled by an American flag instead of a stake. I don’t know how a pissy twelve year-old could ram an entire flagpole through a vampire’s back but this film is so heavy handed that maybe it gave the kid an off screen shove.

This movie is mind-numbingly bad. It’s incompetent on every level, it isn’t remotely scary and in fact, it set vampires back fifty years in cinema.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: bottom of the barrel ’80s horror.