Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Buy Pile for July 31, 2013

This week’s Wednesday comic book haul is comprised of a healthy mix of new and old, with a predominantly Marvel selection due to the fact that A) I really dug The Wolverine this past weekend and B) I recently got my hands on the Deadpool video game, which has reignited my interest in The Merc with a Mouth in a major way.

Along with two Marvel trade paperbacks, Deadpool vs. The Marvel Universe and Vol. 3 of Mark Waid’s outstanding Daredevil run, here’s what I’ll be thumbing through tonight:

  • All-New X-Men #14 
  • Uncanny X-Men #9 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #5 
  • Daredevil #29 
  • Hawkeye #12 
  • Wolverine: In the Flesh (one-shot) 
  • Batman Annual #2 
  • Adventures of Superman #3

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Movie Review: Did Wolverine Get His Claws Back?

Following the dismal X-Men: The Last Stand and the facepalm-worthy X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it’s easy to forget that the film franchise starring Xavier’s gifted youngsters is the reason why superheroes have become summer box-office mainstays. Had Bryan Singer’s X-Men tanked in 2000, we wouldn’t have seen Spider-Man two years later, nor would Marvel Studios had the opportunity to bring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the rest of The Avengers to the silver screen. The last movie memory of Batman might have involved molded rubber nipples.

Over 13 years, we’ve seen the X-Men franchise soar (with Singer’s outstanding X2: X-Men United), plummet (Brett Rattner’s maligned third film), bump its head (X-Men Origins) and regain its footing (Matthew Vaughn’s refreshing X-Men: First Class). That spotty track record is likely why this summer’s The Wolverine arrived with far less geek fanfare than other recent superhero flicks like Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel.

The experience no doubt enhanced by the all-powerful force known as lowered expectations, I’m happy to say that The Wolverine lives up to the standard of the Singer entries in the series, and is certainly the best film that includes a computer-animated urinating bear in the first act. I wonder if that’ll be an Oscars category this year.

Loosely (and I do mean loosely) based on the iconic Wolverine mini-series by Chris Claremont and Frank MIller, The Wolverine catches us up with Logan (the always game Hugh Jackman), who is haunted by the memory of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the woman he loved and was forced to kill at the end of The Last Stand. Leaving the X-Men team and living a solitary life in the woods, Logan is found by pint-sized ass-kicker Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who beckons the cantankerous clawed Canadian to Tokyo to visit the bedside of dying businessman Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). You see, years ago in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki, Logan saved young Yashida from the infamous nuclear explosion. Yashida has a final request for Logan, which might in turn give the invincible warrior the peace he has sought for many lifetimes.

A trip to The Land of the Rising Son puts Logan in the middle of a sinister plot by the Yakuza to eliminate Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Ever the hero, Logan takes it upon himself to protect her, because he’s the best at what he does, but … well, you know the rest.

In an apologetic departure from the type of lifeless filmmaking that made X-Men Origins: Wolverine a frustrating mess, director James Mangold brings to life an excellent examination of Logan as a character, giving vulnerability and pathos to a superhero that could become boring in the wrong hands (for example, those attached to the wrists of X-Men Origins director Gavin Hood). We come for the slicing and dicing, sure. But it’s also important for us to feel the pain of a soldier who, thanks to his mutant healing ability, has outlived everyone he cares about. Between energetic fight sequences — including an exhilarating battle atop a speeding bullet train — Mangold isn’t afraid of slowing things down to explore Logan’s human side, pulled closer to the surface by a burgeoning relationship with Mariko.

If The Wolverine is missing anything, it’s compelling villains. Aside from The Silver Samurai, a character that is more or less shoehorned into the final act, we get The Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a venomous, serpentine mutant with a set of powers that seems to expand whenever the story demands it. There’s also a slew of forgettable evil businessmen and ninjas, whose sole purpose seems to be getting dispatched by Wolverine in a suitably PG-13 manner. Granted, this movie demands faceless claw fodder, but an intriguing main antagonist would have made the third act far more focused.

In the end, The Wolverine is a worthy follow-up to X-Men: First Class, and gives fans a reason to remain hopeful for next summer’s Days of Future Past. Oh, and speaking of that upcoming X-Men sequel, be sure to stick around through the credits, bub.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Over the Lines: Reflections on Comic-Con International 2013

Yet another San Diego Comic-Con is in the books, giving geeks a whole slew of new movie announcements to pontificate and argue about until the smaller-scale hysteria of NYCC hits the Big Apple in October. From huge Marvel Studios reveals to the announcement of a Batman/Superman team-up film to the surprising buzz swirling around Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla, many of us — especially those of us who attended the chaotic convention — are experiencing the kind of sensory overload that’s usually impossible to attain legally.

Is SDCC fun and exciting? Absolutely. However, as awesome as it might be to be crammed into a convention center with 135,000 like-minded weirdos, Comic-Con in San Diego can also be one of the most frustrating experiences for a fan … and this is coming from someone that’s been to three of them in a row.

Part of that frustration — if not all of it — stems from the fact that SDCC is just too damned crowded. Getting where you want to be is an arduous task even for the most seasoned of convention-goers, and formerly mild-mannered funnybook fanatics can become downright rude in a tightly-packed swarm, especially when exclusive goods are at stake (more on that later).

In a span of five days, I’d been pushed, shoved and otherwise displaced far more often than I would have liked by those who’d neglected to pack their common courtesy in order to fit those exclusive Star Wars Angry Birds in their carry-on bag. There were innumerable kind and courteous people sprinkled throughout San Diego last week, but it’s the rude geeks that threaten to ruin a good time for everyone else.

Perhaps, though, the reason so many of us are so pushy and/or shovey at Comic-Con is the fact that full enjoyment of everything the event has to offer requires the kind of line-waiting that would make Walt Disney blush. Want that SDCC-exclusive action figure set? Well, you’d better be prepared to sleep on a sidewalk so you can wait in a line for another line that earns you a wristband that grants you access to a third queue to obtain said product if supplies last. Phew.

Oh, and forget about witnessing those aforementioned big studio announcements … Hall H is as impenetrable as Wonder Woman’s corset. In other words, don’t even think about it, fanboy.

As SDCC grows and transforms into more of an entertainment juggernaut, it’s worth asking: Is Comic-Con getting too big for its own good? This is the question that I’m mulling over as I thumb through my new stack of comics: those paper things that brought us all together in the first place.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New Teaser Poster for 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Released

It’s a simple visual, but stripping the red, white and blue from Captain America’s iconic shield is pretty damned poignant. With the first teaser poster for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel Studios is hinting at dark times ahead for the star-spangled superhero in his next solo adventure, due to hit theaters April 4, 2014. 

The House of Ideas will no doubt have plenty of Winter Soldier surprises in store next week at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Check out Marvel.com for the latest on this anticipated sequel.

The Buy Pile for July 10, 2013

San Diego’s Comic-Con International is one week away, but there was plenty of paneled pandemonium happening at comic book stores today, including the second issue of Superman Unchained, the latest installment in Scott Snyder’s Batman: Zero Year storyline and a fantastic tale in the pages of Mark Waid’s Daredevil.

Here’s the complete list of the books I’ll be reading, bagging and boarding this evening:
  • Daredevil #28
  • Savage Wolverine #6
  • Superman Unchained #2
  • Batman #22
  • Justice League #22
Although it’s only tangentially related to comic books, I’d like to take the opportunity to gush a bit about Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, which hits theaters this weekend. Yes, it’s another movie about giant robots causing property damage, but it’s hard not to look forward to witnessing del Toro running on all cylinders. I recently revisited Pan’s Labyrinth and the exceptional Hellboy II: The Golden Army, so I’m excited to see how he handles a blockbuster of this scale. Bring on the Kaiju!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Del Toro’s ‘Justice League Dark’ Could Fit into ‘Man of Steel’ Universe

Although I really don’t think Warner Bros. should even consider a Justice League Dark film until they successfully pull off a proper Justice League movie, the latest news about Guillermo del Toro’s forthcoming project project starring John Constantine and his supernatural buddies is pretty promising.

The Hellboy and Pacific Rim director told MTV that the upcoming film will likely take place in the same universe as Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, bringing DC and Warner Bros. that much closer to recreating the magic that Marvel Studios has enjoyed for the last five years.

“I think that the great thing about the Dark universe is that you have this possibility of basically creating this supernatural group, and you can play with different worlds, but I would love to see the DC Universe become as cohesive as the Marvel Universe," he told MTV. "So if there is any correlation I will honor it."

Del Toro is in the process of rewriting the outline for the as-yet-unnamed Justice League Dark film. For more info, head over to MTV.com.

The Buy Pile for July 7, 2013

Another Independence Day weekend is in the books and, hopefully, you all made it through your BBQ festivities with your fingers and your dignity intact.

In terms of comics, these are books I actually picked up on Friday, but the last three days haven’t been all that conducive to blogging. Here’s what I was reading when I wasn’t grilling, chilling, avoiding a sunburn or concocting inappropriate lyrics to popular songs around a bonfire.
  • Iron Man #12
  • Daredevil #27
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #10
  • Detective Comics #22
  • Green Lantern #22
Even though I haven’t been reading the series in its original digital form, Legends of the Dark Knight could very well be my favorite book coming out of Marvel and DC right now. Since so many mainstream titles dole out larger story arcs across multiple issues, it’s refreshing to get these self-contained Batman stories that aren’t tied to the current “New 52” continuity.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to do some shopping. Stay nerdy!