Random Ramblings about Things and Whatever

Random Ramblings about Things and Whatever

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Random Comics review:Fantastic Four #271,1984

Fantastic Four 271 is a charming flashback in a couple of ways.It's an old comic which was a tribute to even older comics.Published back in the 80's,this comic features story and art by John Byrne back when he was still a loyal company man for Marvel Comics and storytelling that was typical of that time.The story is a homage to the Lee Kirby monster comics of the 50's.Basically Reed Richards is afraid he's losing his memory and tells his wife Sue a story about the time he defeated Gormuu,a giant monster from outer space.The flashback is drawn in the old Kirby Ayers style and is roughly 8-9 pages which was the standard length for those old sci-fi tales.Of course the creature is defeated in the most improbable way and we return to the present.Reed decides to return to his father's old lab in Central City California to work on a solution to his problem.The issue ends with the FF vowing to get to the bottom of mysterious forces that seem to be haunting the lab.

The storytelling is simple and direct.The panel layouts are basic and uncluttered and John Byrne was still drawing backgrounds in those days.John also does a good job of drawing different body types.Johnny doesn't look like Reed who doesn't like Wyatt.Sue, Jennifer and Alicia are distinct from each other even without the different hairstyles and fashion.One thing I appreciate is that when people are wearing civilian clothes,they actually look like clothes that real people wore.Sue even has a quasi-mullet( hey it was the 80's it was hip then )! There's not alot of crazy cross-hatching or intricate detail in the graphics.Byrne's individual style is present ,but the point of the art here is to tell the story in the most efficient way.

Byrne does a good job conveying the family feel of this series.For example,the comic begins with a surprise birthday cake for Reed and the personalities of the characters play of each other well without seeming too sit-com like.Another thing I like is how when the FF couldn't get into Reed's dad's lab,instead of breaking the door, they use their powers in an unique way to pick the lock.Another interesting thing is although this issue is pretty light-hearted,the letters page has fans expressing their feeling about a previous issue that featured Sue's miscarriage.
All in all FF 271 was a fun trip to yesteryear which in itself was a trip to yesteryear.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Random Comics Review:Excalibur #1,1988

Excalibur was an X-Men spin-off comics from the late 80's originally written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Alan Davis.Set mostly in England the team consisted of Captain Britain, Meggan, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, and the Rachel Summers Phoenix.The team believed the main X-men team to be dead and decided to fight evil in their own way.Their adventures featured many weird creatures and parallel dimensions.The original tone of the series was a lot more lighthearted than Uncanny X-Men.

This was the debut issue of the first ongoing which followed a mini-series.The Excalibur team is pretty much set up and living in Captain Britain's lighthouse.The reader gets to see the friendships between the characters and their relationships with other people that would become the supporting cast.The antagonists are the Warwovles, snarky otherworldly beings who disintegrate people and wear their skins.

Claremont's writing is clear and humorous.The script is wordy but not cumbersome.The plot moves along at a brisk pace.And the reader understand's the character's personalities and motivations without much confusion.Alan Davis's art is superb.The compositions and layout tell the story in a clear and concise manner.The reader is never confused about where the characters are or what they are doing.Davis is a master of figure drawings as well as facial expressions.His ability to draw detailed environments and objects without seeming cluttered puts other artists to shame.

This is the sort of storytelling I wish we had more these days.The main characters are established,threats are introduced,future subplots are set up and the issue ends on a cliffhanger,but read in isolation,the issue is still a satisfying read.This issue of Excalibur is a classic example of bronze age comics storytelling.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Film Review:Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Full disclosure:The day I saw the movie I almost went to see The Losers.I saw this instead because the theatre showing it is literally closer to my house than the one showing the Losers.So I saw this brilliant cinematic piece of social criticism,not because of my high film standards,but in the words of Johnny Rotton, "cause I'm a lazy bastard."Anyway...

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a fine thriller directed by Niels Arden Oplev with some subtle and not so subtle observations about male and female power dynamics and continued violence against women in modern society.There's also I believe a few wry points made about class thrown in for good measure.The main protagonist is Mikael,a disgraced journalist who's hired by a wealthy old man to investigate the 40 year disappearance of his niece.Also central to the story is the journey of a troubled young hacker named Lisbeth.Eventually Mikael and Lisbeth meet face to face and agree to work together to solve the mystery and they uncover very disturbing facts about the Vanger family in the process.

I really appreciate the relatively low key and measured tone of this film.I can totally imagine how another director might have filled the movie with an overblown musical score and "exciting" editing.Oplev lets the story unfold in a fairly naturalistic manner.I also liked how Lisbeth's emotional problems are treated as truly worrisome as opposed to being merely quirky.Also,Mikael is a grown man who acts like a grown man.He's confident in the face of adversity,but he isn't constantly cracking wise like a typical movie hero.Another commendable aspect of the film is how the investigation is portrayed,as hours of reading old documents,hours of computer research and hours of interviews.There's no scene where a supposed "snitch" just spills everything there is to know about "Mr Big".

Another thing worth mentioning is the depiction of violence in this film.The movie is based on a swedish novel by Steig Larsson and the original title of both the film and the book was "Men Who Hate Women" and I think that's probably apt.There are a few scenes where females are raped or otherwise abused (particularly Lisbeth),but never do these scenes seem gratuitous or meant to titilate.The scenes are harsh without being too explicit.I believe they are there to inform the subtext which I think is that not only do evil or corrupt men abuse women but they also feel the have the RIGHT to to abuse them.On the other hand,the film does show us that women can resist such abuse.

The only quibble I have with the film comes toward the end.I won't give it away, but I feel a character behaves contradictory to the way he'd been presented up until that point.This however was not enough to put me off the film.So,The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a tight thriller with interesting things to say about patriarchy,old money,and the evolving media landscape and of course violence.The film is brutal is some spots,but I think it also provides a sense of hope.It's definitely intriguing.Catch it before the inevitable hollywood remake comes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Random Comics review:Marvel Tales #194,1986

Alright,so this is Marvel Tales which is basically Spiderman reprint material.It doesn't say anywhere obvious on the issue but these stories go back to the 70's and 60's respectively.The first story is a reprint of Marvel Team up #60 from 1977 starring Spidey and the Wasp in the second part of a two part story.The villain here is a man named Equinox who has fluctuating fire and ice powers. In the previous issue,Equinox has apparently killed Yellowjacket,the Wasp's husband and she and Spidey have to bring him to justice with the help of Equinox's scientist mother.The story is by Chris Claremont and the art is by John Bryne,I believe this right around the time they began working together on the X-Men.As a story, this a pleasant enough romp but nothing earth shattering.Fight,chase,origin recap,big fight at the end..pretty typical for Team up comics of the time.John Bryne's art is good but not great.It's professional with clear storytelling.Flashy and dynamic enough to be interesting.The inks by Dave Hunt give it an extra layer of slickness.The most notable thing is probably the power increase given to the Wasp in this tale.If you know the modern history of Yellowjacket,an unintentional creepy moment comes at the end when YJ explains the power boost because he "secretly" gave her a modified serum.Who "secretly" gives their wife anything that's going to change her body unless he's up to no good?Think about it,Hank and Jan never had kids...was he "secretly" sterilizing her too?I'm just saying.

The back up story is a fight between Spiderman and the Human Torch by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby with inks by Steve Ditko.I 'm not sure what comic it's originally from but it's obvoiusly from the very early 60's based on the art style and the character's relationships with each other.It's a juvenile story no matter how old you are.Basically,in an effort to show off,Spidey crashes a party the Torch is at and picks a fight with Torch.That's it.Fight breaks up when the rest of the Fantastic Four show up.One fun aspect is seeing some of the campy ways Spiderman uses his webs that's rarely shown today.He creates a fake bat,parachutes,water baskets,and wings.Yes,the 60's were fun weren't they?

All in all,a solid two and a half stars out of five stars.More interesting as an artifact than as entertainment.The issue is full of ad's for candy and saturday morning cartoons,but it's from the days before comics "grew up".

Monday, May 10, 2010

Random Comics review:Marvel Fanfare #2 1982

Marvel Fanfare was a comic published by Marvel Comics(natch) back in the 80's to experiment with distribution in the then burgeoning direct sales market.The comics were printed on thicker and glossier paper than what was common at the time and utilized more sophisticated color processing.It was also used to clean out some of their back log of fill in issues.
Ok ,there are two stories in this issue.The main feature is the second part of a story written by Chris Claremont with art by Michael Golden starring Ka-zar the jungle lord and featuring Spiderman and the Angel.I'm guessing this was originally intended to be an issue of Marvel Team-Up,but it's easy to see why it was put on the back burner.The plot in the Ka-Zar story has something to do with the evil Brainchild and his partners capturing people and changing them into inhuman creatures.Or something.Spidey and Angel have already been transformed and Ka-Zar is trying to save them as well as a female scientist who has come to the Savage Land to search for another scientist who's incidentally a creature named Sauron.Or something.
Even though there's a recap and lots of captions,this story is very confusing.It's not that there's too much going on,it's that it's not told in a clear fashion.I feel most of the blame has to go to Michael Golden.Golden is a wonderful artist,but he dropped the ball on the storytelling on this.Too many close ups with no clear delineation of where characters are in relation to each other or their immediate environment.People just all of a sudden appear in panels when it hasn't been established that they were even in the room.Marvelous figures,great coloring,but the reader is left feeling, "What?Where'd that guy come from?"If I hadn't been already familiar with most of the characters.I'd still be scratching my head.
The back up story is a Reed Richards tale by Roger McKenzie and Trevor Von Eeden.Reed has forgotten he and Sue's anniversary because he's locked in the lab trying to find a cure for the Thing's condition.We get a two page recap of the Fantastic Four's origin,then somehow Annihilus shows up and has a particularly pointless fight with Reed.Reed of course tricks him back into the negative zone.The end.The art and the script are the definition of serviceable.No zip,no flourish,just the facts ma'am.It's obvious this was produced to have a a story ready to go in case the Dreaded Deadline Doom struck.On the other hand,I least I can tell what was going on in this tale.
There are no ads in this comic,but the Bullpen Bulletin editorial page provides an interesting look down memory lane.There's an item announcing that the X-Men has won the Eagle Awards for favorite comic for the 5th year in a row.There's item hyping how great Marvel's graphic novel line is doing.There's also an announcement of the death of comics artist Wally Wood.Looking at the checklist of comics on sale that month,it's amusing to see some of things Marvel was willing to publish back then.Crazy (a Mad Magazine clone),Epic Illustrated (fantasy/science-fiction),Team America and Rom (based on toy lines) and Dennis the Menace.Dennis the Menace!
All in all Marvel Fanfare #2 was nothing groundbreaking in terms of story or art.Nothing significant as far as the histories of the characters,but a interesting look back at a time when comics production and distribution were in transition.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Well, originally I was going talk about comics but I didn't buy any comics this week,so let's talk about Mother's Day.
I anticipate tomorrow's Mother's Day as possibly being emotionally rough.My mother lives thousands of miles away and is in poor health.As the saying goes,she has good days and bad days.I speak to her maybe twice a week and I speak to my aunt who takes care of her 4-5 times a week.My mother is usually in good spirits,but I'm hoping tomorrow something doesn't set her off.I love my mother and it's devastating to hear her cry over the phone and I'm in another state.I'm going to fly down to see her the end of the month,but still...She's always been a strong woman and it's more the depression caused by her condition that gets to her more than anything else.She'd always been incredibly independent and it turned her world upside down.
Before her stroke,my mother lived outside of the country and I hadn't seen her face to face for several years.March '09 I finally went to see her.I'm glad I did.She said she wanted to talk about legal stuff concerning her affairs.We didn't do any of that.We basically hung out, watched TV, and drove around the countryside.She was happy.The only downside was when she complained about mild chest pains and not being able to get over the flu.She had a doctor's appointment,but blew it off cuz she wanted to go back to work.I came home.About a month later she had a stroke.
I thank God for my aunt for being able to step up.She's an angel and a soldier.
I also think about an old friend I used to have.We went to school together and lost touch.I ran into him and we renewed our friendship for awhile.While catching up,he confessed that he'd been estranged from his mother since his marriage.He described a particularly ugly incident between the two of them,and in the back of my mind I just couldn't imagine such a scene between me and my mother.I'll admit I'm no angel.I've done messed up stuff that I regret and can never take back,but still...my mother has always forgiven me and I've never had a ugly/angry thought directed towards her.
So anyway...if you're lucky enuff to still have your Mom with you let her know that you love her.And even if you can't afford to spent money on a fancy dinner, just spend the evening with her and crack jokes about whatever dumb shows she wants to watch.Trust me.she'll appreciate it.

This is the first song from our new album...

Hi,this is my first attempt at any sort of blog type thing and I'll be honest,I don't know what I'm doing.But I figure, why let that stop me? I thought this could be a site where I share my ideas about pop-culture and society at large, but realistically...I'll probably mostly ramble on about movies, old comics, and songs that came out more than 10 years ago.So I hope you're patient with me,please please share your ideas as well and we'll have ball.As soon as I think of something to talk about...