Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte

Published: August 28th, 2019
Written by: Michel Fiffe
Art by: Michel Fiffe
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 107 Pages

Review:

I remember when this book was coming out, people online were trashing the art. I thought that some of the people behind the comments just didn’t know who Michel Fiffe was and hadn’t seen his work elsewhere but honestly, I can’t say that the criticisms were wrong.

You see, this is a G.I. Joe comic book. It is a licensed property that IDW Publishing pays a lot of money for in order to create content for the Hasbro owned toy brand in the comic book medium. This is the most important factor in why my criticism of this miniseries is about to turn really f’n harsh.

To put it bluntly, Fiffe’s art style isn’t for everyone and that’s the real problem. It’s like IDW got an indie artist with a unique style and thought that this would somehow sell G.I. Joe comics. Well, G.I. Joe comics haven’t sold well in years, so I’m not sure what made IDW think that bringing in an artist with a non-traditional style would somehow appeal to more people than the few they’re actually selling these G.I. Joe books to.

If you are paying a lot of money for the rights to publish a brand you don’t own, don’t you want that brand to make you the most money as possible in order to get a return on your licensing fees, as well as making a boatload of profit? If the answer is “no”, then why the fuck are you a business? If the answer is “yes”, then why the fuck wouldn’t you put out a product tailored to appeal to the largest audience possible?

Furthermore, do you understand the G.I. Joe brand that you are paying all this money for? I’d say “no”, as your helping to kill it off permanently between this miniseries, Paul Allor’s current series and all that Aubrey Sitterson crap from two years ago. Hell, even the regular series that Larry Hama is still working on feels like it’s an afterthought and aimless, pointless schlock that’s so far removed from the spirit of the series, it can’t find its way back. But I don’t blame Hama, the dude’s been writing G.I. Joe for almost forty years.

Point being, this absolutely does not look the way a G.I. Joe comic book should look. Do you even know who the audience for this franchise is? Do you care? Or is everything you do a tax write-off since your company has been losing its ass for a few years now.

But none of this is to knock on Michel Fiffe’s personal art style. It’s just not the right style for a brand that is beloved by adults, many former veterans, that want their Joes to be badass and always look badass.

I should probably also mention that the story here felt rushed and wasn’t very coherent. This probably needed more than three issues to tell its story or it needed to be a smaller story without so many characters shoehorned into it.

I’m pretty sure IDW is mostly dead, at this point. Well, except for the money Marvel’s throwing them to keep them afloat and printing their D-level titles.

But if anyone from Hasbro is out there, what the fuck, guys? I want this brand to be as great as it once was and it has a rich enough mythos and backlog of stories and superb characters to always have something to say. I just wish the people that owned G.I. Joe gave a shit about it as much as the fans that still exist do.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other post-Chuck Dixon/Mike Costa era G.I. Joe comics put out by IDW i.e. the shitty ones.

Film Review: River of Death (1989)

Also known as: Alistair MacLean’s River of Death (Germany)
Release Date: May 15th, 1989 (Cannes)
Directed by: Steve Carver
Written by: Andrew Deutsch, Edward Simpson
Based on: River of Death by Alistair MacLean
Music by: Sasha Matson
Cast: Michael Dudikoff, Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasence, Herbert Lom, L. Q. Jones

Breton Film Productions, Cannon International, Pathe Communications, 107 Minutes

Review:

I’m a pretty avid fan of the movies that Michael Dudikoff made for Cannon Films. So I figured that this would be a hidden gem because of that. Plus, it had an interesting premise that saw Dudikoff go to the Amazon to hunt for treasure and Nazis. Honestly, it sounded like a Cannon Films version of an Indiana Jones movie.

I should have been weary though, as Cannon already attempted such a thing with those two Allan Quatermain pictures from the mid-’80s. Neither of them were terrible but they weren’t awesome either.

Maybe Dudikoff is just at his best when Steve James is by his side and he’s either fighting ninjas or guys in weird costumes that hide in the bayou? Whatever the case, this movie is a total fucking dud.

What’s even more sad about the whole thing is that this also featured Robert Vaughn and Donald Pleasence. Two great character actors with solid chops and really long resumes.

Honestly, though, this movie is pretty damn boring for a film that’s premise promised some pretty cool things. While it has action, none of it is very memorable and we’ve seen much better efforts by Cannon Films four dozen times over by the time this rolled around in ’89.

It’s poorly acted, the script is bird cage liner and the direction and fight choreography don’t measure up to the reasonable low standards of Cannon.

For a Cannon Films or Dudikoff completist, I guess this is worth checking out. Just don’t expect to find your new favorite film of the lot.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other Michael Dudikoff action films, as well as other action movies from Cannon.

Comic Review: Batman: White Knight Presents – Von Freeze

Published: November 20th, 2019
Written by: Sean Murphy
Art by: Klaus Janson, Matt Hollingsworth, Sean Murphy (cover)

DC Comics, 56 Pages

Review:

I had no idea that this was coming out until I saw it on the shelf at my local comic shop. I’m glad it did though, as I’ve been digging Sean Murphy’s White Knight stuff, as they are the best Batman stories written in the last few years.

This story exists in Murphy’s Batman universe, which is separate from regular continuity. I’m totally cool with Murphy’s continuity because the regular continuity has pretty much been ruined by the depressed, mid-life crisis having Tom King.

While this story doesn’t even feature much of Batman at all, it focuses on Mr. Freeze, his relationship with his father, his future wife Nora and his family’s past during their time in Nazi Germany.

I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this little side quest story in Murphy’s mythos but man, it was a damn compelling read, pretty emotional and it had me hooked immediately and kept me glued to every single page of this beefy one-shot.

Unlike Murphy’s other White Knight related books, he didn’t do the interior art. Those duties went to veteran Klaus Janson with Matt Hollingsworth on colors. This is some of my favorite art Janson has ever done. It also fits well with the now familiar visual style of Murphy’s. If Murphy ever gets so busy writing and needs someone else to handle art duties, I think Janson would be a good partner, assuming he maintains the tighter style that he employed here. And that’s not to knock his other work but this just looks like he really handled the art with great care.

Von Freeze is damn solid and worthy enough to stand next to Sean Murphy’s other Batman work.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Sean Murphy’s White Knight and Curse of the White Knight.

Film Review: Invasion U.S.A. (1952)

Release Date: December 10th, 1952
Directed by: Alfred E. Green
Written by: Robert Smith, Franz Schulz
Based on: a story by Robert Smith, Franz Spencer
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Gerald Mohr, Peggie Castle, Dan O’Herlihy, Edward G. Robinson Jr.

American Pictures, Mutual Productions of the West, Columbia Pictures, 73 Minutes

Review:

“For every atom bomb dropped on our country, we have taken three to the enemy’s heartland and we have huge stocks of atomic weapons in reserve.” – The President

I already reviewed a film called Invasion U.S.A., but that one was a far superior ’80s Chuck Norris film put out by the best action studio of all-time The Cannon Group. I think that one is really a remake in name only of this film but they have the same general premise of the United States being invaded by a foreign power.

Mostly, this is a crappy film. But in its defense, it’s actually not that boring and some of it is interesting.

I like the premise and these sort of stories are always intriguing to me, as the United States, generally, feels like a place that is safe from foreign harm. The idea of the whole country being invaded seems insane and it is but that doesn’t mean it’s not an intriguing concept. It’s just that no one has made a great film about it.

The best parts of this film aren’t the bits that show actual invasion, instead, they are the simple scenes, like the ones in the bar with patrons having conversations about communism and war. While the dialogue isn’t good and the acting and directing leave a lot to be desired, it’s interesting to hear different viewpoints from the time, expressed and discussed.

Invasion U.S.A. sort of exists as a time capsule in how it captures the sentiment of different Americans from the 1950s, post-World War II and just as communism was becoming the enemy of the day.

There were a lot of paranoia films in this decade and this one is no different. Just instead of giant atomic monsters and science run amok, this channels fear around the idea that your safe haven might not be as safe as you perceive it. That’s unsettling however you want to present it.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: the far superior sort of remake, 1985’s Invasion U.S.A., also another film with a similar plot, 1984’s Red Dawn.

Film Review: Colossus and the Headhunters (1963)

Also known as: Fury of the Headhunters (alternative title)
Release Date: January 10th, 1963 (Italy)
Directed by: Guido Malatesta
Written by: Guido Malatesta
Music by: Guido Robuschi, Gian Stellari
Cast: Kirk Morris, Laura Brown, Demeter Bitenc

RCM Produzione Cinematografica, Alta Vista, 79 Minutes

Review:

Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured a ton of sword and sandal movies, especially those from Italy. The vast majority of them featured Hercules, however. So I guess seeing one focused on Colossus was kind of refreshing. But then again, it’s not Colossus from the X-Men franchise and is instead some buff Italian dude named Maciste.

Regardless of which Colossus Italy gave us, this is a total dud of a movie.

Kirk Morris, birth name Adriano Bellini, was an Italian actor that played the Maciste character a few times, as well Hercules in a couple pictures. He was an Italian bodybuilder that had to be billed with an American sounding name like many Italian actors that found themselves in movies that were trying to get a big piece of the pie that was the United States film market.

Most films like this aren’t very good though. Well, some spaghetti westerns ended up as masterpieces but that genre was sort of born when the sword and sandal pictures became passé. When spaghetti westerns also died off, Italy went and split their action cheapies up between sword and sorcery Conan ripoffs, as well as Mad Max clones.

Point being, the Italians loved making cheap action flicks in the desert. Colossus and the Headhunters was no different. But it, at least, featured some coastline and was actually shot along the Adriatic Sea in the Slovenian region of then Yugoslavia.

The problem with the movie is that even if it has a plot and things happen, it still comes off as incredibly drab and it’s tough to get through without the added commentary of the MST3K cast.

I can look past the production values, the bad dubbing and the shoddy acting. I can’t, however, look beyond the fact that it’s about as energetic as watching a sloth eat a peanut butter sandwich. Colossus and the Headhunters is just a really boring film for the most part. And I think a lot of that has to do with just how generic the action is, even for its era.

I know that these sword and sandal movies had their fans back in the day but if I’m being honest, it’s the one once popular genre that I’ve never encountered a fan of. I know it’s a bygone style of film but lots of old, short-lived genres have their fan communities. I’ve just never heard anyone ever tell me that they’ve got a deep rooted love in the old school Hercules-esque flicks of yore.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: the Hercules movies that were featured on MST3K.

Video Game Review: Ikari Warriors (NES)

Playing this game now, I fucking hate it. I much prefer the arcade version but it was this port to the original Nintendo that I played the most.

I guess what I hate about it is that it is infuriatingly hard and it’s so damn repetitious that it gets pretty boring, really fast.

It also doesn’t help that I just played the much superior Iron Tank right before this, as well as playing through the arcade version of Mercs not too long ago.

This game is impossible to beat if you don’t use the infamous A, B, B, A code that lets you rise from the dead and play forever.

This round, I didn’t even want to be bothered with the A, B, B, A code, so I just threw in an infinite lives code with the Game Genie.

Still, playing this was tedious and annoying.

I don’t know why I played the crap out of this as a little kid. Maybe it just gets you in a trance and you just march forward, getting shot the fuck up, smashing in A, B, B, A and rising from the dead like a goddamned machine gun wielding phoenix to the dismay of your enemies that really got my adolescent rocks off? But, really, I don’t know. I think I was just happy with the games I got to play because it meant that I didn’t have to go outside in the hot, humid Southwest Florida summers.

Maybe I just thought I was John Rambo with a pink machine gun and murdering scumfucks was my bag?

Whatever, the game is mostly shit and that’s because the levels are waaay too fucking long. Seriously, Google a map of a Nintendo Ikari Warriors level and feel yourself shudder from the immense length of it. This game’s level maps are like the Ron Jeremy schlong of 8-bit level design.

Plus, the levels aren’t designed very well to begin with.

Ikari Warriors was still a super popular game. And I did like this circa 1987 but I was also a real idiot back then because I was like 8 years-old and literally thought I’d grow up and join G.I. Joe.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit military vertical scrollers like Jackal, Iron Tank, Commando, 1942 and all its sequels/prequels.

Video Game Review: Iron Tank (NES)

Back in about fourth grade, I bought this game without ever playing it. I thought the box art was cool and I saw it quickly featured on some television show that was talking about new games coming out.

What I love about this game is that it takes the coolest part of the Ikari Warriors Nintendo game and makes an entire game out of just that.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about driving a tank.

So think about how cool it is to drive the tank whenever you find one in Ikari Warriors. But then remember how much it sucked after you got it destroyed in like ten seconds.

Well, now imagine that you just get to play that entire game with nothing but the tank! And then envision that experience with much better graphics, more fluid gameplay and a lot less frustration as you get swarmed and overwhelmed by every soldier and vehicle that a country with actual military might could throw at you!

In a nutshell, that’s Iron Tank.

Okay, maybe I oversold it a bit but I still dig the hell out of this solid game and I still find it to be fun to play every few years when I’m cycling through my NES catalog of games.

Playing through it this time was a lot of fun and it brought me back to that place where I was at the first time I played it. For an 8-bit ’80s game, it has aged pretty well. I like this so much more than the more popular Ikari Warriors game series and really, this feels like the tank version of other military vehicle vertical scrollers like Jackal and the games from the 1942 series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit military vertical scrollers like Jackal, Ikari Warriors, Commando, 1942 and all its sequels/prequels.