Archive for September, 2016

madrox-david-e1430104854661.jpgFor those who have never heard of Jaime Madrox (much like myself before reading this) he is the Multiple man. A mutant capable of creating an almost limitless number of copies of duplicates of himself. Sounds like an awesome power doesn’t it? Well it comes with a catch. He can’t control it. It simply happens when his body receives some kind of reasonable impact. It can be as simple as hitting a wall or being punched.  It also doesn’t help that each of these duplicates contain different segments of Jamie’s personality, which generally leads to chaos and arguments ensuing as he fights with himself (literally) to get jobs done.
After the semi- disbandment of X-Factor (the sister group to ‘the X-Men’), around the time of the events of ‘House of M’, Jamie Madrox decides  to start up a private detective business in the aptly named ‘Mutant Town’ (a place of refuge for some of the few remaining mutants after Scarlett Witch’s wish). He along with his former X-Factor teammates ‘Wolfsbane’ and ‘Strong Guy’  take on all manner of cases, nothing’s too big and nothings too small, as long as it pays the bills.
This is where the 5 issue mini-series begins. The story requires no real previous understanding of who the characters are and works as a great starting point into this more gritty side of marvel.  The story feels fresh and even if some parts are quite predictable, is consistently readable and different enough from the usual ‘superhero’ fare that it stands out magnificently.
The story is narrated by Jaimie and feels just how it aims to, like an old noir thriller from the 1950’s. yes it’s set in a modern environment but it harks back and pays homage to the genre brilliantly. It has the same story beats, the same thought-provoking narration, the same downtrodden detective and even has a femme fatale.  What more could you ask for.
All of the characters are brilliantly fleshed out and feel as three-dimensional as two dimensional characters can.  All have their weaknesses and it is these that build them. The largest of these is Jamie’s fear of what life is all about as he no longer knows where he belongs.  He has the ability to go down as many routes as he likes simultaneously (which he regularly does) and has the ability to know anything his duplicates learn.   It’s a fascinating character study and brings up some interesting questions about life.
The art throughout the 5 issues is fantastic although I can see why it may not be to everyone’s tastes. It is a rough and gritty style that for me echoes the tone of the amazing story written by the fantastic Peter David.
I cannot praise this mini-series enough. It’s both a brilliant starting point to the world of X-Factor, while also being a clever standalone story that feels constantly fresh and interesting. So if you feel like trying something a little different than the usual superhero fluff of recent years, give this a go and I hope you’ll find a deep, character driven detective story which stands above the crowd with some amazing writing and some fantastic art.
-It is included in the ‘X-Factor complete collection: volume 1’ as well as the first 12 issues of X-Factor investigations-

Advertisements

daredevil_end_of_days_cover_2013

Daredevil is one of those heroes that pretty much passed me by as I was growing up. He didn’t have the immediate draw of heroes like Spiderman and Wolverine – not much seemed to happen, and the stories didn’t feature as much in the way of sheer spectacle as the other comics around. I didn’t exactly avoid reading his comics, I just didn’t go out of my way to read them – I guess the appeal of a blind superhero whose main power is to see was just kinda lost on me.
Then, in 2003, the Daredevil movie was released, and I started to think he might not be quite as boring as I first thought. After watching and enjoying the film, I decided to pick up the book Daredevil: Guardian Devil, by Kevin Smith. The story felt familiar, but much darker than the likes of Spiderman and X-Men. I absolutely loved it.
The years passed, and I decided it was time to revisit the character and see what was happening. By that point Brian Michael Bendis had already started his classic Daredevil run, and it was fantastic. Everything worked, from the characters, to the art, to the story. The series that brought Marvel comics into the real world, and still one of the most realistic of their franchises, for me it was almost faultless, and called to mind the darker human conflicts that echo throughout comics like Batman.  It also helped that some of the art was by David Mack, one of the finest artists in comics, whose work is so beautifully haunting it lingers in the mind.
I was sad to see the end of Bendis’ run, even though Daredevil was being left in the capable hands of Ed Brubaker and later, Mark Waid. Although still consistently good, nothing ever quite matched the perfection that Bendis brought to the title, and I hoped he would come back. These hopes were answered in 2012.
Daredevil: End of Days is an eight part mini-series written by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack. With art by Daredevil veteran Klaus Jansen, and ink by Bill Sienkiewicz, it’s the perfect combination of everything that’s made Daredevil great over the years.
So, let’s get the major spoiler-filled elephant out of the room right now. On page four of issue one, Daredevil is killed. Yep that’s right. Set in the near future, this book focuses on reporter Ben Ulrich’s (one of Daredevil’s true friends) investigation and report on who Daredevil was and why he was killed. It sets up the story fantastically well, and is incredibly brutal. In Ulrich, Bendis and Mack have created the perfect guide to lead us on a fascinating journey into the dark, gritty world these characters inhabit, and into the soul of ‘the man without fear’
Throughout the story we see cameos from countless other Marvel heroes, who all seem far more grounded then in their own books. The characterisation throughout is stunning, and ranks up there with the best of the best in fiction. This is especially evident in the fact that we find out far more about the depths of Daredevil’s character and mind then we’ve ever previously seen, despite the fact that he isn’t really in this book much in person. In a way, you could even compare the series to the phenomenal cinematic masterpiece that is Orsen Welles’ Citizen Kane, with both featuring a mystery set up by the dying protagonist, which leads the other characters on their journey through the world.
Such an amazing story deserves great art to back it up, and here you can’t fault it.  Each panel could be a painting in a gallery. It feels so fresh in its haunting beauty, yet so familiar. That said, the art may be an acquired taste, being much grittier in palette and a lot more scratchy in pen style than the everyday bright, bold Marvel art comic fans may be used to.
As you can probably tell, Daredevil: End of Days is my favourite Marvel comic, and I expect it will be for some time. It has a gripping story, great characters and faultless art, and it’s a 100% must-read for any fan of Daredevil. I’d even go as far to say it’s a must-read for anyone who likes a thinking-man’s story that isn’t all about action and massive set-pieces. For me, it’s the perfect end to the best interpretation of Daredevil there has ever been.

love_03

Created by Federico Bertolucci  and Frederic Brremaud, the series ‘Love’ aims to tell emotional tales with no dialogue or narration. Instead they aim to convey the story and its raw emotional power through some carefully crafted artwork and a very simple (yet highly relatable) idea.

Each of the stories are standalone and do not require the reader to have read the previous book in the series ‘Der Tiger’. This one if you do not understand German is ‘The Fox’ and follows the journey of a fox during an extreme environmental event. To explain any more of the story would take away some of the power that the story has, so I will leave it there in terms of description. What I will say is that the book progresses at a fast rate and is constantly gripping. It may not be the longest of books, but I’d argue that it is of perfect length. Any longer and the story would have dragged a little. Any shorter and the stories development would be sacrificed.

Without text it is even more of a necessity than usual that the artwork is great. Luckily we are in luck as this is easily one of the most beautiful books I’ve read (if you can consider following pictures as reading that is). It could easily be looked at as an art book as each panel pops with stunning detail. The character designs are realistic and their faces convey true emotion without drawing the reader out with them talking to one another. The main character ‘the fox’ it beautifully realised and makes for the perfect guide through this story. With the book being as it is, the story never gets bogged down with un-necessary side characters or events happening in different places. This allows the artwork to shine even more as we are never wondering where we are or what’s happening.

I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Yes this book is in German (although an English translation should be hitting stores later this year) but it doesn’t really matter. The only text is a little section at the start and the title. The fact that the rest of the story is entirely visual allows for it to be universally understood.  It really is one of those cases where less is definitely more. The creators know exactly what they are doing and have realised that they are working in a very visual medium. They are accepting the whole ‘show don’t tell’ ideology that accompanies a lot of art and for this they should be truly commended.

This is truly unlike almost every other graphic novel I have ever read. There are other ‘textless’ stories that I have had the joy to experience but most take a slightly more jovial tone. Here we have a deceptively deep story that is lined with powerful emotion. The fact that the story is set around a fox does not affect the power in the slightest, it anything it enhances it.

Throughout this review I’ve wondered if the term ‘reading’ is appropriate for how you experience this book. Should it be viewing? This is one of the things I find utterly fascinating with books like this. You can argue that you read a piece of art as you are ultimately ‘reading’ into what the artist wants you to find. But at the same time you are viewing it as there is no text.

Be it reading, viewing or both, this is an amazing book and one that I feel everyone should give a chance. It’s different from so many different angles and for this many may feel hesitant to giving it a shot, but I urge everyone to do so. This is easily one of the most emotionally charged books I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Give it a try and see what you think.

misty-comic-01

First printed in 1978, Misty was yet another creation from the comic great Pat Mills (who also co-created such pivotal comics such as ‘Action’ and ‘2000ad’), which tried to introduce something new and different to the world of ‘girls’ comics.
At the time the world of girls comics consisted of the rather formulaic adolescent tales of publications like ‘Tammy’, ‘Mandy’ and ‘Bunty’. All told pretty much the same stories that had been told for years previous. Most of which were about romance and adolescence (which apparently were the only things that girls wanted to read).  Then along came Mills with the idea of introducing an anthology comic which would treat girls more like adults and which would give them something different, something  edgier to read. That something was horror. Up until this point horror comics like those pumped out by E.C comics during the 1950’s, were aimed primarily at the male end of the reading spectrum. They provided those who read them with thrills and horrors that were both frightening and witty while generally trying to make some kind of moral point. Mills took this idea and just translated it to a more female audience, introducing more stories with females in the lead and providing situations that girls may relate more to.
Misty was born February 4th 1978 and would mark the first and arguably only time that horror comics were released, aimed directly at a female audience.  Each issue was to provide an anthology of horror from a wide variety of writers and artists with each story being standalone from the last.
Like an awful lot of British publications of the time, artwork was mainly commissioned out to artists in Europe, many of whom would never be truly be credited with their work. It’s kind of sad in a way that the art was just taken for granted. It wasn’t like today where most stories name the artists next to the writer. It was very rare to see an artist’s name in anything other than maybe a signature at the bottom of a front cover. As with lots of anthologies, the art does vary from story to story, issue to issue. This has always been evident in all forms of art and here is no exception. What really stood out for me was some of the covers which really did help create the atmosphere of what you could expect inside the pages of each issue.  This is especially true of the annuals which would generally feature beautiful paintings depicting the character of ‘Misty’. (there have been many rumours over the years of who this character was visually based on but to this day no one knows for certain.)
The stories themselves are a mixture of reasonably straight horror and comedic horror, and again highly varying in quality. Although some of the stories may not be great, a fair few were truly great such as ‘the sentinels’ which one could argue delves more into science fiction then horror.   On the whole though each issue felt fresh and different from all the other publications at the time.
Now, for a comic as different as this, it had a pretty good run with over 100 issues and numerous annuals being released before its inevitable cancellation in 1984.  It’s a great shame as although being quite niche, it provided that brightness in the wall of blandness when it comes to girls comics.
I must stress that I didn’t read them when they came out as I wasn’t even born. I am also a Male which may also tell you these stories aren’t limited to that of who it was aimed at.
The company that owns the rights to Misty, ‘Eggmont’ just don’t know what they are holding onto. For a time they also held the rights to 2000ad, which fortunately was sold and is as strong as ever. Misty on the other hand wasn’t as lucky. Many fans and even its creator Pat Mills has tried to get some of the stories re-released or a compilation released but to no avail.
It looks as though Misty is destined to remain one of the great comics that have faded for sight. It marked a great change in girl’s comics and for that it should be commended. It’s just a shame that we may never see this little gem released again as long as ‘Eggmont’ holds the rights.
So this Halloween, take a moment to think about Misty and if you’re lucky enough to still own any of the comics; turn out the light, burn up a candle and savour some of the horror that made Misty great.

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Who am I? What am I? Where am I? Was everything before just a dream? Why?
These questions uttered by the legendary Pokemon Mewtwo in a semi psychic monologue within the opening moments of the film set a tone unlike that of most children’s films of the time. A tone that is pretty adult in thought and in questioning. A Pokemon questioning it’s own mortality is something not seen within the show as Mewtwo is the first to speak or at least express itself in the same language as humans. It’s quite a deep subject which is only emphasised when we see him floating in a laboratory like some test subject. He was created to be the strongest, but the big word here is ‘Created’, can he still have a normal mortality if he is genetically engineered and created in a test tube? With todays technology we can see how far it has come in genetics and how it is possible to birth life in a lab, but it wasn’t as known back when the film came out in 1998. We had had successes in the field with plants and the first cloned animal ‘Dolly the sheep’ but an entirely lab created organism that grows and questions its own being is something that was still quite new and worrying to many. Many authors over the years had tackled the subject of artificial life and the possibility of machines gaining sentient awareness but these ideas were not often put into the forefront of a kids film. Children may not notice the intricacies of such philosophical ideas but viewing the film as an adult I am impressed with the depth in which the writers go to with the subject. Questions such as who we are and why we are here have been some of the biggest mysteries of the universe and ones that philosophers and the like have searched for since mankind began, so presenting it in this fantastically conceived way at the younger audience is a remarkable feat and one that almost succeeds flawlessly.
Looking past the philosophical ideologies of the film, we are presented with a tale of power and the will to find ones place in this world. Pokemon trainers from around the world are summoned (including our heroes Ash, Misty and Brock) to a special tournament unknown to them, run by the power crazed and mentally complex Mewtwo as he tries to find out why he was created and if he is truly the strongest Pokemon in existence. Along the way our intrepid trio (quarto if we include fan favourite Pikachu) struggle to understand what they are to do and how they are to ultimately stop such a powerful being. The tournament style story is reminiscent of the seventies martial arts masterpiece ‘Enter the Dragon’ in which martial artists are summoned to an island to prove who is the strongest. Although different in style, the deep underlying tone is very similar which is impressive.
With such deep and powerful ideas its only natural for the makers of the movie to put in some comic relief in the form of the bumbling Team Rocket who in my opinion are one of the only flaws of the film. Seeing them failing in their task of stealing Pokemon detracts from the rich story and characters that are presented to us and especially from Mewtwo’s innermost ideals. I understand why team Rocket are here and I understand at it’s heart the film is aimed at children, but with such an adult premise I find them hard to like.
As the film progresses some of the ideas become much deeper and the way it handles death is remarkably powerful. Rarely in a children’s film have I found myself so emotionally involved with the characters where I truly worry about their wellbeing. It again could be the fact it is a children’s film and that I didn’t expect such deepness in such subject matters but it really did blow me away. The last children / family  film I remember that made me feel this way was 1991’s ‘My Girl’ which truly aimed to show children that death is as natural as life no matter how sad it may make us feel. The addition or the questioning of mortality is so well handled and so rich in content that the film raises itself above what one may imagine when going into it.
There is one big flaw within the final act which takes the film down a level for me and that is one which I entirely understand why it was done. For me it detracts slightly from the ideas pushed upon to audience up to that point and it becomes hard to warrant it from a story point of view. It is during this moment that the tone shifts to a slightly lighter tone. It’s not that this moment (which is obvious when you’ve seen the film) wrecks what we have seen before as it does initially feature one of the films most powerful moments, its just that if the creators had truly had the guts to go with it and stick with their decision it would have been near perfect.

pika
As a kid I remember seeing the film on the opening weekend (and collecting the limited edition Pokemon cards you were given with your ticket). I loved it then as a much grander representation of the characters that I had grown to love through the TV show and the games. As an adult I see the film in a different way. I still get that sense of joy of seeing the characters I enjoyed back then but I also see the depth and complexities hidden within the script. Its a remarkable film in how it handles some of the deepest questions in life and death while staying fun for children and fans of the franchise.
Pokemon the first movie is an absolute must see and it really holds up as well today as it did back then. The richness of the film is something that has been lost in all of the movies that have followed but this really stands heads and tails above its followers. It is a masterpiece of animation and is probably the best thing the Pokemon franchise has pumped out since the original games.
I have little more to say other than to give the film a chance and to open your mind to some of the films questions. You never know, you may walk away knowing a little more about yourself and your own mortality

bruce-lee_game-of-death

Made in 1972 Game of Death would be Bruce Lee’s final hurrah into the world of cinema but being only partly finished at the time of his death it would also prove to be one of the weirdest mashes of film that ranks up there with some of the best WTF moments in motion picture history.
It all started out well enough, as one would expect we had a pretty cool idea of a tower of death in which competitors would face some of the greatest martial artists in a fight to the death to the top. On paper it sounded like it could be a great showcase of the legendary skills of Bruce Lee.  Scenes were being shot and all was on schedule. With about 100 minutes of footage in the can it looked like another hit could be in their hands. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately the very worst was set to happen.  Part way through filming Lee went to work on a film of a  much grander scale ‘Enter the Dragon’ which was shooting at the same time. This would be the last complete feature he would film before his untimely death.  His death unfortunately did not deter the finishing of ‘Game of Death’. The creators decided to have a stand in (the also great Yuen Biao) for the scenes which Lee hadn’t filmed (which was a fair amount). The story dramatically changed until all that was left of Lee’s performance was a mere 11 minutes of the final section of one of the only remaining parts of the original story, the fight up the tower. These 11 minutes are as great as you’d expect but should the film have been finished in this fashion?
The film has numerous sections drawn from previous Lee film ‘Way of the Dragon’ to try and help push that this is a ‘Bruce Lee’ film and not just a cash in attempt to make the best of the worst situation possible.  These scenes stand out so incredibly badly that they only highlight the fact that what we are watching on screen is a mish mash of other films and dodgy camera tricks. From reverse shots to crudely implemented shots in different locations, we are greeted with a patchwork vision from a production which doesn’t have a clue of how to save itself.  The cut and paste nature is so evident that it detracts from some not bad martial arts that are going on in front of camera by the admittedly good Yuen Biao who is a great fighter in his own right, but unfortunately a shadow of the master he is meant to be portraying.
Part way through the film the main character supposedly gets killed, but it all turns out to be a rouse, he is merely disfigured facially and is unrecognisable as his previous self. This is quite a clever but utterly ridiculous way of hiding the fact that we are still not actually watching Bruce Lee. They even make the comment that he will no longer look like himself thus allowing Yuen Biao to not find it necessary to wear sunglasses in every other shot.  It still doesn’t help the cut and paste feel of the film which is highlighted by a conversation in a restaurant where the actors aren’t even in the same location.
It all is reminiscent of the works of a director named Godfrey Ho (who goes under many other names as well) who was doing lots of work during the 70’s and 80’s. He would film half a movie and then splice it with footage from an unreleased martial arts film that had been gathering dust. It really proved a great money making tactic and allowed him to continue working. His films were so hilariously inept that they create their own amusement. Whereas here they are desperately trying to make something more serious and it doesn’t do anything other then being cringeworthy for the most part.
What isn’t as amusing is the use of footage from Bruce Lees actual funeral (at least it is apparently from his funeral) I personally feel this is bad taste even if the filmmakers may have been doing it as a tribute to the legend.  I understand the want to include a memorial piece but doing it this way especially when they are trying to fool the audience into believing that it is still Bruce Lee that we are seeing on film is just wrong.
As this is a martial arts film in its heart, there is very little in the way of fighting. What we do get other then a terrible fight in a warehouse featuring motorbikes, isn’t that bad. Its mainly the sort of stuff you will have seen before, but its well choreographed and at least breaks up the otherwise dull and tiresome picture. When at the 1 hour 20 minute mark we actually get to see the real Bruce Lee in action, it is like a breath of fresh air. For the next 13 minutes we are treated to some of the best martial arts from his short career. It is stunning how well this climatic battle in the tower plays out. Its just a shame that until recently the other 40 mins of this battle up the tower remained unseen (the extra footage is on the dvd and blu rays unfortunately not integrated back into the film) this unseen footage entirely out-ways what was actually turned into the film. I would happily watch those 40 minutes over the actual film any day.
When all is said and done is it a good final film for the great Bruce Lee? No. Is it a good film? No. Is it worth watching? No (apart from the actual Bruce Lee fight sequence)
So you may ask what the point is in putting down all this information about a film that I personally don’t like. Well I feel that it is from a behind the scenes perspective a fascinating picture. I hadn’t seen this kind of cut and paste and doubling done to this scale before this film. Its becoming more the norm nowadays For example the famous use of CGI to complete the scenes in Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ featuring Oliver Reed. Even more recent films such as ‘Fast and the Furious 7’ which features the amazing Paul Walker in his final on screen performance. His scenes were finished using doubles, cgi and footage from the library of Paul Walker movies. This was done again as a kind of memorial and a kind of goodbye to such a great actor, but even now it isn’t seemless. On the whole though it got away with it far better then ‘Game of Death’.
Game of Death for me was kind of a turning point in cinema and experimenting with technologies and techniques that may have been used prior but never quite to the extent (there is a high probability that you may know other times these cut and paste techniques were used before but this is the first time I remember noticing it. Especially considering there is only around 13 minutes of Bruce Lee in a Bruce Lee film that is pushed as starring the man himself throughout.)
This is a film that I am glad to have seen and I would recommend it to those that may find this sort of thing interesting. I would say that anything other then that it really doesn’t hold up well and is actually a pretty sad end to a magnificent, if sadly cut short career of the master of martial arts.

ratchet-and-clank-movie-poster-800x532

With over 10 games in their arsenal since their first appearance in 2002 it was only a matter of time before the dynamic duo of Ratchet and Clank made it to the big screen (well across  a limited number of cinema screens) 2016 would be the year of this event and also the year that a revamped reboot / remake of the original game would hit Playstation 4’s across the world. With such a back catalogue of adventures and a wide fan base across the years, it’s a risky move reinventing two iconic gaming characters for a cinematic audience especially as the creators would be hoping to keep fans of the games happy while also not alienating people new to the franchise.  How does this film hold up? Does it succeed where many video game adaptions fail? (*shudder* street fighter: the legend of Chun li)
What they have created is basically an origins story which treads on some of the frame work of the games (albeit not quite as deeply due to the run time and lack of interaction). This allows those new to everything a brilliant way in while also kind of keeping fans of the games happy. [I’ll just say that I have played some of the games but have never been a diehard fan. I like the characters and the stories but I could never find myself fully absorbed]
For those new to the franchise, the film follows the adventures of Ratchet, a foolhardy Lombax (feline like alien) and his companion Clank, a small self aware robot who was created in an accident. The two travel across the galaxy trying to stop the universe destroying plans of the evil Chairman Drek and his robot armies.
There is nothing amazing original to the proceedings and the story is as you’d expect a film like this to be even down to the pacing. This isn’t a bad thing and it makes everything accessible to all audiences while not being to heavy or draining on the mind. Its a fun adventure and one that never outstays it’s welcome. The first half is in my opinion stronger then the second but that is only my opinion.
The visuals are surprisingly good for a film like this. I expected a cheap looking cash in but was greeted with some bright beautiful animation which could easily be up there with some of the best we’ve seen from the later game sin the franchise. It all feels crisp and clean while not being garish and distracting. The action sequences are truly stunning and at times it’s hard to not be truly engrossed. The great visuals are complimented by some truly amazing audio. The voice work is brilliant from the cast of the games (with both Ratchet and Clank being voiced by the original artists) and also features some big names such as Paul Giamatti, Sylvester Stallone and even John Goodman. Everyone performs brilliantly and cannot be faulted in their commitment to the characters on screen. The musical score is a beautiful collection of melodies that just fit the visuals perfectly; From industrial factories through to open hillsides, everywhere has it’s own feel and it’s own sound.
There are a lot of in references to the games as you’d probably expect (and even some clever references to other Playstation game franchise’s). We have a lot of the weapons arsenal that made the games stand out in the third person shooter market that, at the time was becoming quite large and samey. We also have most of the main charters from the games aiding our intrepid duo on their mission. This helps as each person has their own feel that helps distinguish them from the crowd and helps elevate the film higher.
That isn’t to say that everything is perfect. I found at times the lip syncing was a bit off which is often an issue with animation. It never detracted much but occasionally it would draw me out of the film. It also feels like there is something missing form the film, that little spark that just says the film is awesome. I can’t put my finger on it but there is definitely something.
So when all is said and done is it a good film? Yes. I really enjoyed it and would be happy to watch it again. I hope that sequels are made as the big screen does bring these characters to life in ways the games never did for me. Its a great family film even if it isn’t the most original out there. I’m happy to recommend this film to everyone even with it’s few flaws.