August 14, 2012

Time will get you killed

In Time - The trailer is engaging. Both lead actors are pretty enough (especially grooving to Amanda Seyrfried with the dark hair), personable enough, and have some good work on their resumes. The concept of our life being measured by a time clock kept on our person - where time becomes the world currency - is even interesting enough.

If only this movie didn't stink like fish. The premise doesn't work. There are more holes in this plot than in a fishing net. The actors are palatable enough - JTimberlake, Seyfried, Cilian Murphy - but there just isn't much for them to work with here as the entire premise of time as currency doesn't hold up very long under the actual machinations required to keep it going.

It's a pretty enough movie, but it just doesn't work.

Good trailer, though.

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever - Interesting that this second sequel to the main Fables comic series came along fairly soon after Jack of Fables faded into the sunset. So far - after two collections - I'm enjoying the Cinderella series far more. Of course, Jack of Fables was pretty entertaining for the first few volumes, too. That series, though, had a larger story arc - the librarian sisters rounding up the Fables.

These two volumes don't have any similar large arc going between them, just the engaging character of Cinderella, secret super-spy and public frivolous socialite. The Cinderella character is a knowing mixture of James Bond/super-spy cliches - both cliches taken part of and cliches knowingly mocked. Luckily, the super spy genre is one pretty rife for mockery, particularly with the added entertainment of gender reversal.

This volume centers around Cinderella's ongoing battle with her evil equal, the nefarious Dorthy Gale, who came through the portal from the Homelands and found herself hired out by a series of communist and evil empires, developing into Cinderella's deadly mirror behind the now-fallen Iron Curtain. The first few issues of this volume find Cindy hunting Gale down, being captured, and finding a way to escape and better evil number. It's fairly standard spy stuff, but luckily Willingham's writing keeps things entertaining enough.

Sadly the final issue is simply a reprint of a Fables tale of Cindy's diplomatic mission to the cloud kingdom, something that was vitally important to the battle against the Homelands. It's a tale told well enough, but it's certainly one that anyone who's read to this point would have already seen.

Locke & Key - Clockwork - This volume is both everything I wanted and the most frustrating volume of the outstanding Locke and Key series yet.

It's everything I wanted because this volume is very little of the current storyline involving the Locke children and their continuing explorations of Keyhouse. Instead the Locke children find the time key and travel in time (able only to observe but not to interact) to two eras - the American Revolution, when the black door was first opened and the first evil, black things came through, inadvertently leading to the creation of the keys; and the 1970's, when the Locke kids' father and his friends fashioned themselves into the Keepers of the Keys, using the keys to the fullest and accidentally - through hubris, of course, is there anything more predictable than hubris going wrong - brought through the evil being that attached itself to Dodge, leading to the horrors of the current series.

The volume is horribly frustrating, however, because throughout the course of this volume the level of terror, the acts of horror, the tension is raised to such a level that it's tough to have to wait for the final volume of the series.

There's great stuff happening here. It's one that has to be read from the beginning.

Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection - I'm not getting the new Batgirl. I don't understand the direction that the New 52 DC is choosing to take, returning Barbara Gordon to the yellow boots, relegating Oracle and Stephanie Brown into the dustbin of history, and rewriting The Killing Joke, one of the seminal moments of the modern DC universe. Yeah, I get the nostalgia thing that there are people who want Babs back in the boots, but I miss Oracle and Stephanie Brown.

Interestingly, the story also treads a lot of ground that we've seen before. We've seen Barbara Gordon go through all the healing and recovery - emotional and physical - that she does here, only here the healing is needed just to return her to the pre-shooting status quo where the healing she had to do to become Oracle actually lead to something new and different.

This is a lesser Batgirl.

Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth - another New 52 stinker...dumb, hyper-violent, poor redesigns of the characters involved - particularly Harley Quinn (who dies at the end of this volume, by the way)

Justice League: Origin - Somebody please tell Jim Lee that he isn't being paid by the line, would you?

This is the central title of the New 52 in which all of the members of the Justice League (Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Cyborg) are new to each other and to the world of superheroing, Batman being the most experienced of the group but still being awfully green around the edges, being so stupid as to reveal his secret identity to Green Lantern after about two pages of battle.

I understand that starting a fictional universe over means that you're going to have characters meeting each other for the first time again, but that doesn't mean all of the characters have to revert to being one-dimensional morons (see: WW's angry Amazon schtick, Superman's instant capture and equally simple freeing, Flash's constant avoidance of cameras, Batman's willingness to take off his cowl). Oddly, Cyborg's easily the most competent hero here in spite of the fact that he only got his powers/suit a few pages before.

I'm hoping there's something good in the New 52, but this isn't it.

Batwoman: Hydrology - Thankfully Batwoman is still around and pretty much in the same place that she was before the New 52 came along to redeem my comic reading.

Here we get Kate Kane continuing as Batwoman in from the same pre-New 52 place that she was, having jettisoned her father's help because Dad's lie about the death of Kate's sister years before. Kate finds herself training her younger sister (or cousin or something - Flamebird, you know) which leads nicely into Mister Bones's involvement in ther series, blackmailing Batwoman into working for him as a distant operative of the Department of Extranormal Operations - instead of teaming up with Batman after his offer for her to join him in Batman International.

The story is well told with Batwoman hunting down a watery Banshee thing and trying to recover Gotham children that the banshee has taken, but the main draw here is the artwork which is unlike that on any other comic being published today. Batwoman is one of the most gorgeous comics out there, and I'm hoping that the series can make it through the recent artistic shifts.

Captain America Corps - stinky...multiple Captain Americas stolen from time streams and multiverses and crashing universes and other crap...and underwhelming villains and meh...

Fables: Inherit the Wind (vol 17) - For those of you who've been following along with Fables for the past 100+ issues (and you're a fool if you haven't been), we've lately seen our characters chased from Fabletown in the Big Apple by the threat of Mr Dark then chased from the Farm to Haven back in the Homelands. With the threat of Mr Dark ended in volume 16, the Fables can return to the Farm, but there were a lot of unresolved and disparate plotlines left hanging out there.

This volume then tracks through a number of those plotlines in seemingly disparate directions, switching back and forth among the stories every few pages. This, then, is the weakness of this volume. There isn't one story to follow; there are four:

  • Bufkin's revolution-spreading through the Land of Oz
  • the competition among Bigby's cubs to become the new North Wind
  • Nurse Spratt's growing skills toward defense of Mr Dark's castle in NYC
  • Fables returning to the Farm from Haven
  • various shorter, anthology tales from guest artists - including a Christmas issue exploring Rose Red's responsibilities as a herald of Hope
It's not that these various storylines aren't engaging; they're told with the same high quality tight arcs and great artwork that we've come to be used to with Fables. It's just that there's so much to follow along through the collection, and there's very little resolution here. I'm sure this is a needed volume and one that will pay off in the long run, but that makes for a weaker-feeling collection this time. Various conclusions are coming - in Oz, in NYC, in the North Wind's castle - and I'm going to continue to follow the series through. Willingham has a long-term plan that he's looking toward, and I'm very much willing to follow him to just about anywhere at this point.

Ultimate Spider-Man: Fallout - So, the Ultimate Universe's Spider-Man is dead. Now we need six issues of 'fallout'.

Actually, the artists and writers here do a great job of showing what an important person Peter Parker was to the Ultimate world. We see how the super-hero community saw Spider-Man as their best, as their future, as someone for whom they felt responsibility to train and raise and protect...and they failed here. They let down Peter, his family and friends, and themselves.

Peter Parker - in the Ultimate world maybe even more so than in Marvel-616 - was the linchpin of the world, connecting to the Ultimates  (being trained by them and watched over by Samuel L Jackson), the X-Men (dating Kitty Pryde and rooming with Iceman), and the Fantastic Four (being best friends with Johnny Storm).

Miles Morales is going to have some pretty big shoes to fill.

Spider-Man Season One - One of the problems with the major comic characters - Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, most especially - is that they can never die. Their stories can never end. It was something explored well in Neil Gaiman's Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusdaer. Without ending, the beginning of the story recedes further into the distance, becoming far, far less relevant.

This volume is a retelling of Spider-Man's origin - Uncle Ben, responsibility and power, wrestler, radioactive spider bite, J Jonah, Daily Bugle, Vulture. There's nothing new or revolutionary here. Instead of resetting the world, recreating the hero from scratch, Marvel's just updating things and making the origin a little more current, a little more up to date.

There's no revelations here, just simple and nice storytelling.

Dream Team - Caught an excerpt from this in the vet's office a month or two back. The excerpt was entertaining enough that I went for the full deal.

It's a good read, full of glimpses into the massive egos and expenses involved in the creation of the Olympic basketball team of 1992. The team was lead by two very different North Poles in Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and - to a much less vocal extent - Larry Bird. McCallum takes us on a tour of the ground work that lead to the acceptance of professional American athletes in the Olympic basketball tournament, then on the selection of players for the team, and finally through the team's total dominance of the Olympic qualifying tournament and the medal competition itself.

Along the way we see some brutal snubs - most strongly against Isiah Thomas - and admirable respect for the American sporting pride. Plus we get a couple of recaps of some outstanding beatdowns of the international teams, on which, thankfully, McCallum doesn't dwell. There's little need for recapping these games in which the average margin of victory was more than thirty points and the closest games were nearly twenty point wins. We do get some detail - of  Jordan and Pippen's brutal evisceration of Toni Kukoc, of a Michael vs Magic captained scrimmage, or Bird's struggles with his back, Drexler's hurt for not being in the first round of selections, Laettner's junior status on the team, David Robinson's emotional strength and discomfort with the locker room vulgarity, even on the positive repercussions of the international teams seeing the best that the basketball world had to offer.

It's a good read that could only be told by an author who was granted impressive access by the players and coaches willing to look back on the greatest basketball team of all time.

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