August 20, 2007

More media, more media, more media...

When we last left our heroes...

>Superman/Batman - Enemies Among Us - Love the whole Superman/Batman thing...the series rolls along like few comic series that I've read in a long time with loads of touches and tips of the cap to the old school comics (Absolute Power & With a Vengance, especially...this arc, though, stunk...random characterization throughout...weird switch of artists midway...overly saccharine ending of Batman & Superman realizing that they really are friends - in spite of the whole Infinite Crisis hullabaloo...I miss Jeph Loeb...


Superman & Batman vs Aliens & Predator - no better...in fact, even worse...the whole concept of Superman & Aliens never really worked...Batman/Predator at least did for a fair while...then things just got ridiculous...in this one, Superman & Batman bumble on a cache of Aliens & Predators, both of whom have been living deep within a volcano for centuries, evolving and hunting each other...but the American Government needs to nuke the site - at this very moment...Superman, stupidly-written boyscout that he is, has to save the two races...moronic...poor...weak artwork...here's to hoping that the concept of throwing DC in with Aliens/Predators has finally died...



JLA - Tornado's Path - it feels like the Justice League...where the last series had clearly run its course, this one feels good, old school...the Tornado's dead (again), and the JLA has to pick up the pieces...it's like we've been through this before, but it's good, familiar ground to tread...genius idea by Metzler to start with this old chestnut...and the team just falls together around the new threat that isn't quite revealed in this collection...and the opening issue with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman picking the team is absolutely perfect...then at the end of the whole trade, they've given up that control to the group that's come together by happenstance...it's so right...it feels good to have them back together again...



Civil War: X-Men Universe - collecting some bits and bobs from X-Factor and Cable & Deadpool...surprisingly entertaining, especially the Deadpool bits where his internal monologue was having some trouble...the Cable parts of the story were a bit preachy but fit with the character...I even enjoyed the X-Factor stuff...interesting characters like the little girl who can tell the future, leader who doesn't know if he should really be the leader, neat support crew...if I were a Marvel guy, this is a series that I think I'd be following 'cause so much of the rest of the X-Universe is a mess...



Digging the Super Paper Mario (henceforth SPM) for the Wii...feel free to check the trailer above (or at the link)...The Girl and I rented SPM to check it before buying it...aweseomly cool game...very neat features that are totally new to the Wii...kind of hard to explain, but you're wandering a 2d world like a normal Mario game, then by hitting the A button, your 2d Mario turns 90 degrees into the third dimension and is able to step in front of or behind what would normally be hinderances to him...it's a mix of simple Mario game - wander from left to right, find coins, stomp mushrooms and turtles, etc - and a puzzle game where you have to do certain actions in certain orders to get to the next part...loads of fun for players of all ages (my younger niece was in to visit, so I have anecdotal evidence)...the only beef I had was in the framing device - stupid story about badguy kidnapping Mario's friends...the between-level animations are impossible to skip, and the there's a whole lot of text to read, some of which seems important enough that you can't skip right through it...if you're willing to hit the buttons a bunch of times and halfway pay attention to get back to the next level, it's a wonderful game...sadly, I didn't buy it because I got halfway through it (solving the first four levels) in about twelve hours of play spread over five days...at that point, it didn't seem like a good investment to drop another $30 to own it and probably solve it in a week or so...loads of other reviewers agree, strong buy on this one...



Rant:an oral biography - new Chuck Pahlniuk means new reading for me...I've read six of his books now, and four of them (Fight Club, Diary, Haunted, and Rant) are among the finest books (IMHO) of the past couple of decades...the others - Choke & Lullaby - weren't awful, just not good...Rant is subtitled as an oral biography, which means that the entire story of Rant Casey - who we learn in the first chapter is dead - is told in bits and pieces by people who knew bits and pieces about him...the story switches through dozens of narators, each of whom reveals a little more about our subject...I got it as an audio book, and the premise worked marvelously - different voices telling bits of the story, different performers reading each voice...wonderfully well done...by the time the book gets rolling, the identities of each character seem to fade as you forget just who is telling you about Rant at the moment...in this way, Pahlniuk has written a book almost the way an impressionist would paint a picture - no one spot of paint is important, no one is the key, but the sum of the parts is near perfect...and the book's got a cool website, too...apparently Rant is to be the first in a trilogy of books about Rant Casey...if the others turn out to be this good, I'll be happy...



Ratatouille - love the Pixar films (didn't see Cars, admittedly)...in spite of the fact that they're pretty much all excellent, this one is - frighteningly to say, the best of their line so far...simple enough set-up - rat loves food, finds himself in Paris, wants to eat & cook...the movie's marvelous, and pretty much all the critics agree (averaging a 96 out of 100 on metacritic.com)...not a single missed note...near-perfect from start to finish...hilarious, touching, great ending...great acting, amazing animation from Pixar (not that it's a surprise at this point)...wonderful film - no extras after the credits, though...heads up there...



Ocean's Thirteen - better than the second one, still well below the fun of the first...first half of the film is boring - lugubrious, if you were more lexicographically inclined...they've eliminated all the eye candy (and horse face, too) for the boys in the audience leaving us with just the boys this time around...I mentioned to The Girl after the film that all the ring-a-ding-ding is pretty much gone...she agreed (in perhaps her greatest quick-witted comeback ever) that it had been rung...I've been fooled twice by these jokers, but this is it...I'll watch the first one again, but I'm done...the dialogue has gotten stilted - too many names and comments that mean nothing other than let us know that these are guys who know what they're doing...too many non-sequitor entries (just Brad Pitt this time, thankfully)...too many funny noses and mustaches...this isn't a must ache, it's a mistake...though there were apparently lots of Godfather references throughout...



Bourne Ultimatum - excellent action flick...like one big chase/action scene from start to finish but not to the point that there were no breaks...Bourne gets in a fight, travels to another city, breaks into an unbreakable place, fights, travels...rinse, repeat...very strong cast (Julia Stiles, Joan Allen, Matt Damon, Jason Straitharn (sp?)) giving excellent performances...Damon's an absolute beast or at least portrays one very well...best of the three film-run and a clear cut ending...serisouly, the best non-Asian action movie in a number of years...I'd recommend seeing the first two before this one, but well worth going through all three...things blow up and crash, people get kicked and killed, the government's evil but there are good people in some of the marginalized positions...excellent film...




Four starving lions which dug their way out of a Baghdad zoo have been shot dead by American soldiers, the military says.
Two of the big cats lunged for the US troops who then fired at them, one soldier said.

The lions were among hundreds of animals abandoned at the zoo.

Most of the others were stolen by looters or released in the aftermath of the US takeover of the Iraqi capital.

But the thieves left seven lions and two tigers in their cages, unfed for 10 or more days.

Sergeant Matthew Oliver said three lionesses and one male lion clawed their way out of their outdoor pen through a crumbling wall.

"Two of them charged our guys. We had to take them down," he said.

"The zoo keeper came the next day and he was pretty cut up, but I think he understood."
And that's the entire BBC story on which Pride of Baghdad is based. Some lions got out of the Baghdad zoo, and American soldiers killed them.

From such humble beginnings comes a marvelous work of fiction from Brian K Vaughn in which the four escaped lions attempt to find their way in a bombed-out Baghdad where no one is handing them food anymore. The lions consider staying at the zoo and waiting for the keepers to return, eventually leave the zoo, and soon find themselves in need of a good, freshly-killed meal. In the process they run into a larger predator defending its home as well as a column of American tanks rolling through town.

The tale is wonderfully told, seeking to reveal much more about the inhumanity of war than any sort of alergorical tale - as some reviewers had hoped for. The gorgeous artwork throughout the volume is both understated (never turning the animals into charictures) and lush (rich color washes bringing out the alternatingly hopeful and terrifying emotions of the pride), making the story even more accessible than the words alone could ever do.

By the end of this graphic novel, I was in tears. Vaughn's words and Henrichon's works of art allowed me to so thoroughly identify with the lions that I couldn't help but shed tears when we found them dying from the American gunshots.

The Girl skimmed through the book and thought that the subtlety of the story would be lost on her ninth-graders, and that's a shame, because so many of them (and adults, too) think that comic books are simply for kids. This volume, however, could very easily prove the point that at their best, graphic novels tell a wonderful story and give us stunning visuals to match them. Pride of Baghdad is one of the highlights of the last year in comic books.

Please read it...

6 comments:

achilles3 said...

OK the super huge 8 bit mario is the collest big man ever...Shaq is no match!

achilles3 said...

its hard to follow your recs from here. pisses me off...that Rant site is freakin killer. and the list grows.
you are the graphic novel prince!
I guess it's on the list too

DanEcht said...

That is such a cool game...

Joey said...

gotta love mario. not gonna lie, i was seriously considering bringing the super nentendo up to dayton with super mario world and mario all-stars. Basically, all the classic goomba jumpin action


and also, glad to see ratatooie is pretty well accepted, but jeezle, disney NEEDS to come out with a fully animated film that isn't made for immediate release to DVD or TV :(

achilles3 said...

hey chem guy-
how do you make those cool lines in between topics during the same entry???
thanks...
"powned"

PHSChemGuy said...

Lakes - The effect of Mario going all giant is used pretty sparingly, and that's a good thing because you end up just plowing through the world until you shrink back down to size. There is one cool time that I found, though, when one of the bad guys got the giant-izing mushroom and threw down back at me. Had to find a way past it (flipping into the third dimension worked). It was a nice tip of the hat from the designers.

And to make the lines, go into the code view and click < hr > (but without the spaces). It's called a hard return.

Joey - by fully animated, do you mean one that's traditionally animated, not computer animated? And the Mario franchise has been surprisingly resiliant considering it came from a pretty lame start back in Donkey Kong.