A longtime showbiz journalist and fan's thoughts on comic books, movies and other cool stuff.

Tag: animation

Random notes: Comic-Con, Pacific Rim, Sequart and Drive-ins

Just a few notes to pass the time while I try to find some time to read a few comics to write about here.

  • I will be attending San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday only! This will be my first trip to the Big Show in three years, I think. Very much looking forward to it! Anyone know of any particularly good new COMICS projects I should check out while I’m there? I think it’s cool that Kazuo Koike is going to be there, though I doubt I’ll be at all inclined to stand in a long line to meet him. Anyway, if you see me, say hi. I expect I will be mostly on the floor and avoiding the lines to get into panels, with one exception …
  • That exception is the reason for my visit. I will be appearing on the Sequart: Advancing Comics as Art panel, Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in room 24ABC. Sequart, in case you don’t know (and if you’re reading this blog, how come you don’t know?) published my book, Mutant Cinema: The X-Men Trilogy from Comics to Screen. They also have gotten into the movie business, with Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, and a bunch of upcoming projects. I helped out a bit with their upcoming release, Comics in Focus: Chris Claremont’s X-Men. I was interviewed for the film and provided some additional assets for the shoot. I’ll be appearing on the panel to support this film and the filmmakers, Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennart, as well as Sequart founder Julian Darius. There should be lots of good stuff going on, so if you can attend only one panel at Comic-Con (lucky you!), make it this one!
  • Pacific Rim is a really fun movie. As I mentioned, I saw it a while back and wrote about the VFX work on the film for an upcoming issue of Animation Magazine (who also will be at Comic-Con, stop by booth 1535!) and with its release now imminent, I have to say I really had a fun time with this movie. It’s crazy insane in all the right ways. And it’s an original film! Not a sequel, not a reboot, not an adaptation — not a hoax! It’s really cool and I think anyone who gives the movie a chance will be pleasantly surprised if not turned into a big fan.
  • Additional movie fun: Both Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 are also a lot of fun. I wrote extensively about MU for Animag – check out the cover story here — and it’s funny and cool and looks great, through without rising to the level of Pixar’s best. Me 2 impressed me with the quality of its animation, which looks absolutely terrific. The minions are hilarious and Steve Carell is really good as the weirdo Gru. Again, not quite as innovative as the first one, but still worth the time. 
  • I caught both those films — along with The Internship and a second viewing of Man of Steel — at the Vineland Drive-In Theater in City of Industry, Calif. This is an ideal setting for parents like myself, as 2-year-old Kaya can make all the noise in the car she wants without disturbing anyone else and then, after she falls asleep, my wife and I can enjoy a second movie for less than the price of one at the Arclight or a similar arena. The image quality is quite good, and the sound comes in over the FM radio, and it’s a better experience by far than it was when I was a kid and you had to listen through those little window-mounted mono speakers. Drive-ins are few and far between these days, so I want to call attention to this little gem because it’s a fun experience that I think many movie buffs with young families would enjoy.
That’s it for now. Later.

The New 52, Wave 2, Pt. 2: Green Trumps Red, Superboy and Deathstroke Surprise

Sorry about the long delay in New 52 reviews and other series. I had a lot of assignments come in that I had to get off my plate, which is great news for any freelancer but it means the blog gets delayed.

One story I wrote is of note to folks here, which is my article on Sam Register’s running of Warner Bros. Animation and the studio’s surge in production and success in brand building. One of the big examples is the upcoming DC Nation show, which is still hard to peg down in terms of content, but it will include some sweet-sounding animated shorts that I think fans will get a real kick out of. DC Nation is due to start airing on Cartoon Network next summer. The story ran in Variety and, if you’re a subscriber and can get past the paywall, you can read it here.

A couple other stories I’ve done for the current issue of Animation Magazine that may be of interest include my story on the making of Batman: Year One, which I think is really good; and this story on MTV Animation, including the return of Beavis and Butt-head, as well as a new toon called Good Vibes that turned out to be a nice surprise.

I continue to be lucky enough for DC publicity to still be sending me all the New 52 issues, as I have had no time to even hit the comic shop for the past few weeks. I’ve had to refresh my memory on the rest of the releases from the second week of the New 52, and changed my initial opinion in a few cases.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 was a bit of a disappointment even though there’s nothing wrong with it. I love the title, but expected a little more crazy and a lot more fun. Instead, we have a fairly standard setup as Frankenstein is now working for the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive and is sent on a mission to save a town where monsters are stripping the skin off people. Also, Frankenstein’s wife went in on the mission first and has gone missing. He’s joined by a quartet of new, monster-like agents and there’s a some nice fighting scenes. The art by Alberto Ponticelli is solid, though somewhat generic for a monster-themed title, and Jeff Lemire’s script lacks the wit, characterization, or the kind of just plain weirdness that would have set this apart. I think the Wachowski Bros.’ Doc Frankenstein series of a few years back was a much more fun take on a very similar idea.

A number of reviews of Green Lantern #1 say it’s very much a continuation of the previous Green Lantern run. I don’t know because I wasn’t reading it before now. This impressed me, however, as one of the most new-reader friendly books so far. Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy, this issue finds Hal Jordan no longer a Green Lantern and living jobless and in need of cash on Earth. Meanwhile, Sinestro somehow is once again a member of the Corps and would like to change that, leading to him approaching Jordan about some kind of deal. I think you could give this comic to anyone who saw the Green Lantern movie and they’d be able to follow it no problem. It features Hal, Carol Ferris and Sinestro, all pretty much as they were in the movie and easy to identify. The art is clear and I think the story has enough interest for such folks to enjoy it and want to read more. For die-hard fans, it’s probably little different from reading Green Lantern #68.

Red Lanterns #1, on the other hand, was a colossal mess and one of my least favorite books in the New 52. I had a hard time following this one at all as none of the characters were introduced or given any kind of sympathetic characterization. I know the Red Lanterns use the power of rage, and that explains the overall nasty tone and dark imagery of the book. But without some kind of clarity to the story or a character through which to latch on to, this was just an unpleasant experience that I have no interest in revisiting.

Resurrection Man #1 feels like a book out of time, reminding me very much of something DC or Wildstorm would have put out in the 1990s. Which is not a bad thing, per se. I know this was a cult hit series from the late 1990s and the original writers, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, are back. I still felt a little lost here, that I would better understand everything going on here if I’d read the original series. Basically, the hero comes back to life each time he’s killed with a new power. Here, he comes back, boards a flight to Portland that goes wrong in a lot of ways. I liked that this had action and some nice art from Fernando Dagnino that evokes the feel of early Vertigo titles. But it still didn’t grab me. I don’t see the reason for this title, but I could be convinced. That’s a maybe on issue 2.

I was interested to see what Scott Lobdell, best known for being one of the most prolific Marvel writers of the 1990s and a longtime writer on X-Men, would do at DC. Superboy #1 is definitely on the good end of the Lobdell spectrum, which means it’s a pretty fun book, with light, breezy and fun dialog. The art by R.B. Silva and Rob Lean is not what I expected from the cover, which is by Eric Canete. It’s got a bright, open-line approach and works very well with the story. Oh, yeah, the story: Superboy is being grown in a test-tube from some kind of Kryptonian biological sample. We’ve seen that before, from the 1994 version of Superboy. I also liked that this series slips in Caitlin Fairchild from Gen 13, even though she’s only partly confirmed as being that character. This looks like it will be an entertaining book about young superheroes, which Lobdell did quite will on early Generation X. I don’t know if this will hold up and still be that interesting after 12 issues, but I did dig this first issue.

And the final book in this week’s New 52 releases is Deathstroke #1, which threw me for a loop that I liked quite a bit. This starts out kind of slowly, with the sort of story you’d expect about the character as he was introduced so many years ago in The New Teen Titans. This time, his employer saddles him with a team and Deathstroke goes along with, until he doesn’t. And that twist took me by surprise, in a good way. Writer Kyle Higgins in one fell swoop makes this the most ruthless book in the DC Universe, and he does it by keeping the character of Deathstroke intact. The art by Joe Bennett and Art Thibert is quite nice, but the thing that really works for me was that this book really took my by surprise. Obviously, they can’t pull off this kind of twist every issue, but I’m intrigued enough to try another.

Next week: Wonder Woman! Batman! Supergirl! And more! 

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