Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 5

Published: September 9th, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Rod Whigham
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 235 Pages

Review:

This was such a fun read and I powered through it pretty damn quickly for a trade paperback of its size.

This volume is also a transitional period for the G.I. Joe franchise. This is the bridge between the first generation of toys to the second. This starts with the characters and vehicles you know from the first season of the TV show but it slowly introduces characters and vehicles from the second season. This also ends with the story that sees the creation of Serpentor, the short lived Cobra leader that wrestled power away from Cobra Commander.

Other first appearances here, just to name a few from memory, are Scrap Iron, Dr. Mindbender, Airtight, Alpine, Quick Kick, Beachhead, Bazooka and Zarana.

The stories here are all pretty good. This continues to go the route of being a bigger interconnected saga than just having episodic tales, which is how I prefer the G.I. Joe comic series.

There are two big highlights to this volume, one is the aforementioned creation of Serpentor, the other is the first real team-up of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. They finally discover who killed their master and go to Cobra Island to seek revenge.

Volume 5 also has a lot of Dreadnok stuff and as I’ve said in earlier reviews, they are my favorite group in the G.I. Joe universe. And since Zarana shows up, at the end, we also get our first new member of the group since their debut some time before this. That only means that Monkey Wrench and Thrasher aren’t too far behind.

There was also a lot of good stuff regarding the “Fred” character in this. He becomes even more important later on. We also got to see more of Billy training with Storm Shadow.

This was a solid volume of classic G.I. Joe tales. Larry Hama was on his A game with these stories and Rod Whigham was killing it on the art side.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Video Game Review: Alien vs. Predator (PS3)

I was really excited when this came out because I love both Alien and Predator franchises and especially love when they come together. Well, maybe not in the movies but I always liked the Alien vs. Predator comics, as well as the video games before this one. That old Atari Jaguar game was great for the time.

This boasts good graphics, solid maps and the ability to play as a Predator, an alien or a human space marine. There are three different story routes and a lot of cool game play options.

One thing puts a real damper on this game for me though and that’s the overly complicated controls. I typically play as a Predator because why wouldn’t I? Predators are the friggin’ best and I can turn invisible and violently rip enemies to shreds with my knife gauntlet or blast them into smithereens with my shoulder cannon.

But that’s the problem. Predators can do too many awesome things that keeping track of it all, in the heat of battle, is sometimes difficult. Playing as an Alien xenomorph or a human isn’t that much easier either. Running around as a xenomorph can be very disorienting.

I think that this game was a good step in the right direction for what this needed to be but maybe it needed more refinement. And the learning curve to get the controls down is tough. One certainly can’t be ready to be thrown to the wolves after the weak and brief tutorial mission.

This is a lot of fun once you do get the hang of it though but it seems to lack in replayability.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Alien vs. Predator games and similar sci-fi/horror first person shooters.

Film Review: Return of the 18 Bronzemen (1976)

Also known as: Yong zheng da po shi ba tong ren (original Chinese title), The 18 Bronzemen Part 2, 18 Bronzemen II
Release Date: August 14th, 1976 (Taiwan)
Directed by: Joseph Kuo
Written by: Chien Chin, Ting Hung Kuo, Han Meng
Music by: Fu Liang Chou
Cast: Lingfeng Shangguan, Peng Tien

Karlot, Kuo Hwa Motion Pictures Co., Taiwan Li Cheng Film Company, 93 Minutes

Review:

I don’t know if the dubbed version of this that I watched missed a lot of things in its translation but the film was hard to follow from a narrative standpoint.

The main character is a prince. He decides to go through the trials in the temple where all the Bronzemen from the first film are. There is some sort of conflict and the prince isn’t supposed to become a supreme warrior under the monks that control the Bronzemen but he hides his identity and trains to be the biggest badass in China anyway.

There were a few decent fights early in the film but the first half of this picture was really slow and incredibly boring. The action bits helped to break that up but it was a real drag to get through.

However, at about the midway point, things really pick up. The back half of this movie is much better. Things shift into high gear and our prince hero goes through each room and corridor, fighting Bronzemen and trying to survive their other trials.

The physicality in this movie is great, the fighting is above average and the choreography was nice.

Unfortunately, it is bogged down by being too incoherent and for the first half being literal Ambien.

If you do have the urge to watch this, you probably just want to start at about 45 minutes in. I hate saying that but I can’t recommend the first half. The second half is a different film where everything you want in a ’70s kung fu movie is all crammed into half of the normal running time.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Its predecessor, The 18 Bronzemen, as well as other mystical Hong Kong martial arts films of the era.

 

Film Review: Hondo (1953)

Also known as: They Called Him Hondo
Release Date: November 24th, 1953 (Houston premiere)
Directed by: John Farrow, John Ford (uncredited, final scenes only)
Written by: James Edward Grant
Based on: Hondo by Louis L’Amour
Music by: Hugo W. Friedhofer, Emil Newman
Cast: John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Ward Bond, Michael Pate, James Arness, Leo Gordon

Batjac Productions, Wayne-Fellows Productions, Warner Bros., 84 Minutes

Review:

“Everybody gets dead. It was his turn.” – Hondo Lane

I haven’t watched a John Wayne movie in quite a while. Since I was working on a post about Louis L’Amour’s books, I felt like I should go back and revisit the film adaptation of Hondo, as it is my favorite L’Amour book and it stars the Duke himself, John Wayne.

I love that this movie starts out kind of small and confined but then ends with such a big, epic battle.

Now even though most of the film does take place in wide expanses of Old West wilderness, it was still a small picture for the first two-thirds. A lot of the scenes were on the ranch and in the tight quarters of the ranch home. Other scenes, while outdoors, were usually in smaller secluded places like the creek where the boy likes to fish. I don’t know if this was intentional or budgetary but when the film gets to its climax, the expanse of the open desert and the final battle feel even bigger than it normally would.

And man, I love the final battle in this movie between the white people leaving the Apache land and the angry Apache trying to make their escape impossible. The story also serves to setup the oncoming battle that wiped out the Apache warriors soon after this film. But not without Wayne tipping his hat to the Apache and their way of life.

But that’s what I love about this movie and Louis L’Amour stories in general. Even though they are seen through the eyes of mostly white men in the Old West, there is still a respect for other cultures underneath the chaos and conflict. I feel that John Wayne felt the same way and that’s why he works so well as the protagonist in a L’Amour film adaptation. Well, John Wayne was also the king of westerns but I like how he fits within L’Amour’s literary style.

Hondo isn’t as remembered as some of John Wayne’s other westerns but it is one of his best, even if I think it’s way too short and could’ve been fleshed out a bit more.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: ChisumTrue Grit and The War Wagon.

Comic Review: Mother Russia

Published: November 18th, 2015
Written by: Jeff McComsey
Art by: Jeff McComsey

Alterna Comics, 121 Pages

Review:

I’ve grown pretty tired of zombies in entertainment. I stopped keeping up with The Walking Dead comics and I even read some of the Fubar stuff from Alterna but I feel like the genre has been done to death.

Mother Russia surprised me though. Full disclosure, I wasn’t too keen on Fubar, which was also put out by Alterna but this story seemed to have more meaning and was just more enjoyable.

The main character, referred to as “Mother Russia” is a Soviet military sniper. The story starts with her saving a baby from being eaten by a hoard of the undead. She picks them off from a tower, drops down to get the child out of danger but then quickly finds herself overwhelmed, where she is rescued by an old German soldier just before she shoots the baby in an effort to give it a less painful death.

We get to see two people, who were formerly enemies, come together in an effort to survive and to protect the small child. There’s also a cool dog in this that helps keep the good people safe.

I loved the tone of this story and it was really accented by the art, which was simple black and white with grey highlights. The lack of color and the contrast of the ink work helped give character to the cold, bleak and hopeless environment. Everything came together in a beautiful way visually and tonally.

This was an action packed, quick read but it conveyed a lot of emotion and really hit its mark.

Solid short story, fantastic art and just an all around good read.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Fubar comics from Alterna.

Comic Review: Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 4

Published: July 1st, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Mark Bright, Bob Camp, Larry Hama, Frank Springer, Rod Whigham
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 235 Pages

Review:

The collection before this one, as well as the back half of the one before that, got more into longer epic stories that carried over from issue to issue. This collection gets back to being more episodic like the earliest volumes. I prefer my G.I. Joe stories to be larger and having multiple issue arcs but this string of issues is a good balance between the two, as some plot threads continue to be sewn into the larger tapestry.

This collection also introduces us to Lady Jaye, Flint and the Cobra twins: Tomax and Xamot. It also starts the Billy storyline, which I don’t want to spoil but he’s a little kid with ties to Cobra Commander and is initially used by Cobra agents to try and assassinate the Commander.

Most importantly, we get the debut of my favorite member of G.I. Joe, Hector “Shipwreck” Delgado. Now he was my favorite character in the TV series. I just need to see how he stacks up in the classic comics, as I haven’t read these stories since the ’80s and I never got to read the complete saga. It’s also worth noting that Barbecue first appears in the same issue as Shipwreck.

While this does have a more episodic format, the last few issues collected here sort of string together and get back towards giving us a more long-term story.

I felt that Larry Hama and this series really hits its peak with the issues in the collection before this one. However, this continues to build off of those really well. The comic book G.I. Joe universe keeps getting larger, the stakes keep getting higher and this doesn’t feel safe unlike the cartoon.

This is just another solid string of issues, the momentum is still going strong and I’m looking forward to volume 5, which is where Serpentor eventually shows up.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Also known as: Dark Sky: First Strike (fake working title), G.I. Joe (Czech Republic, Japan, Spain)
Release Date: July 27th, 2009 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett, Michael B. Gordon, Stephen Sommers
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Byung-hun, Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Said Taghmaoui, Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Karolína Kurková, Brendan Fraser, Kevin J. O’Connor, Gerald Okamura, Grégory Fitoussi

Spyglass Entertainment, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Hasbro Studios, Sommers Company, Paramount Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Technically, G.I. Joe does not exist, but if it did, it’d be comprised of the top men and women from the top military units in the world, the alpha dogs. When all else fails, we don’t.” – General Hawk

*Let me preface this by saying this review will have a massive amount of profanity. You have been motherfucking warned.

Directed by Stephen Sommers, a man that shouldn’t be allowed to touch a camera after The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing, this movie is a massive piece of shit and a huge disappointment to any fans of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, whether in cartoon or comic book form.

I don’t know where to start, as everything about this is bad but I have to point out the biggest issue with it and that’s the fact that it has no idea what G.I. Joe is, who these characters are or why any of this is awesome and really hard to fuck up. That is, unless you’re just someone that doesn’t give a flying fuck about the property your adapting and just see it as nothing more than a cash cow with a massive amount of built-in merchandise already attached to it.

Frankly, Hasbro needs to respect their own properties more and stop whoring them out to anyone willing to write stories and make movies and shows based on them. They’ve forgotten what their core brands represent and why they resonate with people. Between this film and the live action Transformers movies and that awful Jem film, Hasbro needs to get their shit together.

Anyway, they couldn’t have chosen a worse director than Stephen Sommers. Okay, they could’ve gotten Uwe Boll, but his film probably would’ve at least been fun and ridiculous for the right reasons.

What I hate the most about this is that none of the characters apart from the ninjas, are even close to who they are in the cartoon series or the comics. For fuck’s sake, Larry Hama wrote amazing comic stories that all could have translated well to screen. The cartoons even had some great epics mixed in that could have been adapted. Stephen Sommers and his staff of a half dozen writers couldn’t come up with a single scene in a two hour film’s script that represented anything close to what was great about the source material.

One of my favorite characters, the Baroness, wasn’t even close to what her character is. She is an incredible character with a great backstory and is really, the most vicious member of Cobra. Here, she is just a brainwashed American girl that can’t be the badass she should be because she’s got a hard on for Channing Tatum the whole picture and turns back into a good guy and helps defeat Cobra. What in the holy fuck?! This is the goddamned Baroness we’re talking about!

It’s not just her though, Cobra Commander was a joke, Destro was boring, Duke was lame, Ripcord was annoying and Scarlett was so terribly uncharacteristic that she should have just been named Ginger Brainy Girl.

In one of the biggest action sequences in the film, we get Duke and Ripcord running around Paris in generic Iron Man suits. Why? Those suits never existed once in any G.I. Joe continuity that I’ve ever seen and I’ve read and seen everything. This was a poor attempt at trying to piggy back off of the success of Iron Man a year earlier. But, Sommers, this isn’t a Marvel film, it’s G.I.-fucking-Joe!

Also, in the big finale, Cobra Commander tries to destroy the Joes by blowing up the ice shelf above them. What does ice do in water people? It fucking floats! So how in the hell does the ice come crashing down like boulders in the goddamned ocean? How?!

But there’s still so much more wrong with this motion picture.

Why does Snake Eyes have fucking lips?! He’s a ninja in a ninja mask. He doesn’t need rubber lips. His head looks like it was ripped from a full size sex doll.

Why does Duke have to be restrained from punching a hologram? It’s a fucking hologram!

How does Ripcord’s jet plane go from Moscow to Washington in just a few minutes? How?!

I mean, there are a lot of other stupid things in this film too but you probably get the point by now.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was an expensive movie, given to a four year-old, mentally challenged kid, that just wants to play with his G.I. Joe toys in the bathtub. I’m talking about Stephen Sommers, for the record. And while that may sound harsh, it’s not as harsh as Sommers was to this beloved franchise. Fuck this guy, he’s one of the worst directors of the last two decades.

I never wanted to see this film again but I suffered through it just to review it. The sequel to this was actually better but still far from great. Hasbro needs to stop whoring out their properties unless they can learn how to vet these filmmakers better. Seriously, Hasbro, G.I. Joe is a franchise deserving of a great motion picture. Hell, I’ll make it. I can certainly do better than this film and I know these characters because I’ve spent over 35 years with them.

Seriously, Hasbro. Call me.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: It’s sequel, as well as the crappy live action Transformers movies.