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.

Documentary Review: In Search of Steve Ditko (2007)

Release Date: September 16th, 2007 (UK)
Directed by: Peter Boyd Maclean
Cast: Jonathan Ross (host), Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Joe Quesada, Mark Millar, John Romita Sr.

Hot Sauce, BBC, 59 Minutes

Review:

In Search of Steve Ditko was a one hour documentary special hosted by Jonathan Ross in 2007. It aired on one of the BBC channels but I’m not sure which one. I’ve had a DVD-R of it for a decade though and I figured I should revisit it, especially since Ditko passed, earlier this year.

Also, it’s on YouTube, so anyone can watch it if they want to.

The purpose of this documentary was two fold.

First, Ross wanted to do a biography piece on Ditko and interviewed a lot of other iconic creators to talk about him.

Second, Ross wanted to track down Ditko and meet him, possibly for an interview, but mostly to express his love of the man’s work.

While Ross does get to meet his hero, it happens off camera and we don’t get to see the reclusive Ditko appear. I’m fine with that even if others may be let down, as I believe in respecting the man’s privacy. And if you love Ditko, this is still a fine retrospective on his career and his influence on the comic book medium.

There are some great interviews here with Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Mark Millar, John Romita Sr. and even Stan Lee, who discusses who should get the credit for creating Spider-Man.

All in all, this was a good watch and for fans of Ditko, this is a nice, quick rundown of the importance of his work in comics.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other comic book documentaries like The Image Revolution and Chris Claremont’s X-Men.

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.

Film Review: Watchmen (2009)

Release Date: February 23rd, 2009 (London premiere)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: David Hayter, Alex Tse
Based on: Watchmen by Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore (uncredited)
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Stephen McHattie, Matt Frewer

Warner Bros. Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lawrence Gordon Productions, 162 Minutes, 186 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 215 Minutes (Ultimate Cut)

Review:

“None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me!” – Rorschach

When Watchmen first came out, I was super excited just based off of the trailer alone and having just come off the greatness that was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. However, once seeing the film, I was pretty disappointed. Because of that, I never watched it again until now, ten years later, shy of two months.

I really wanted to give this another shot but if I was going to watch it, it had to be the Ultimate Cut. I needed to see the director’s complete vision and adaptation of the comic, which I have loved since first picking it up in the early ’90s.

I don’t know if it’s because I finally watched the Ultimate Cut or because all those years ago, I saw this three hour epic at a midnight showing and grew dead tired but this was not the same experience. This was something much greater and even closer to what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ great comic was supposed to be. I’ve been hard on Zack Snyder before and while this isn’t perfection, it’s still a stupendous adaptation that hits the right notes narrative wise and tonally.

I think that one major issue I had with it initially, is that it is almost a panel to shot recreation of the comic. I thought that it should have taken a bit more creative license but seeing the complete version, I’m glad that they didn’t and my initial assessment was wrong.

It’s been so long since I saw the theatrical version, so it’s hard for me to tell what wasn’t in that one and what was added to this version but the most notable addition is the inclusion of the animated bits, which tell the story of The Black Freighter, which had its story sprinkled throughout the original comic. The movie felt like it was missing that in the original version and the way that they use it here is really cool. Also, the animation was incredible and also matched the tone of the comic quite well.

The only big difference between this and the comic is the omission of the giant kaiju monster that wrecked New York City. It’s replaced here with a more realistic threat but I felt like the kaiju thing was always really cool and I feel like it would have worked in the film. But it’s exclusion doesn’t really hurt the movie. I’m just baffled as to why it was changed when everything else is so damn close to the source material. Plus, kaiju make everything better.

I thought that the acting in the film was exceptional and as great as it is, there are two people who really stole the show: Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian. These two guys had an incredible presence when they were on the screen. This was also the first time I noticed Morgan and I’m glad to see him carve out a fine career since this picture.

Malin Åkerman and Patrick Wilson carry the bulk of the acting duties, as the story seems to feature them the most, even though it balances all these characters very well. I thought both of them put in solid performances. But I can’t really knock anyone in the movie for not carrying their weight and doing the source material justice.

This was and still is the greatest thing that Zack Snyder has ever directed. I’m not trying to knock his more recent work but I feel like he’s always trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that he had here and it just isn’t working on the same level for him.

The Ultimate Cut is very long, almost four hours. However, it moves swiftly and a lot of ground is covered in that time. As I get older, I don’t have the attention span to sit and watch long movies like this in one sitting but the length didn’t bother me here. I was glued to the screen and sucked into this universe.

I’m glad that I finally got to revisit Watchmen and that I went with the Ultimate Cut. This should be the version that everyone watches and the only one that exists.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s pretty damn unique but I guess if you needed to pair it with something, Blade Runner or The Dark Knight.

Film Review: Lords of the Deep (1989)

Release Date: June 2nd, 1989 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Mary Ann Fisher
Written by: Howard R. Cohen, Daryl Haney
Music by: Jim Berenholtz
Cast: Bradford Dillman, Priscilla Barnes, Daryl Haney, Roger Corman (uncredited)

Condorde Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 78 Minutes

Review:

For a movie that came out in 1989, this looks like something that was made in 1981. Plus, it is a cheap Roger Corman produced ripoff of 1989’s blockbuster hit, The Abyss.

While I love the Roger Corman films of the ’50s and ’60s, regardless of their flaws, this 1989 production doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. It’s pretty damn dreadful on every level and doesn’t have someone as talented as Vincent Price or Jack Nicholson to make it work.

This wet turd was featured on the latest season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the only known actor in it is Priscilla Barnes, who is still most famous as the replacement of Suzanne Somers on Three’s Company. She was also in Mallrats and The Devil’s Rejects and had a small role in Licence to Kill, the 1989 James Bond picture.

I guess one neat thing about this though, is that Roger Corman actually acts, albeit briefly and just in a few scenes as a corporate executive talking through a television monitor. But even with his voice distorted and his cold stare, he put in a more lifelike performance than the entire cast apart from Barnes, who actually wasn’t terribly bad. Maybe she directed herself.

The special effects here are deplorable and they’re way below Corman’s own standard by the time this was made. His 1980 movie Battle Beyond the Stars has better effects and that’s almost a decade older.

The alien creatures in this were so terrible that they look like some sort of papier-mâché hood ornament for a high school parade float.

Lords of the Deep is bad, really bad. And sometimes I enjoy bad but this was like getting your teeth pulled in slow motion without drugs or booze.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other very low grade ’70s and ’80s sci-fi pictures.

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.