Archive for March, 2004

Formerly Known As The Justice League

March 22, 2004 | Trades

Formerly Known As The Justice League Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, Joe Rubenstein DC Comics $19.95/$12.95 US (Paperback) ***** (out of five) In 1987, DC Comics let a bunch of nuts play with the company’s greatest band of super-heroes, The Justice League, and the results were hilarious. They took the concept of comic book team titles and turned them on their ear with a look at the JL as a club, made up of individuals who all had their own quirks and foibles. Batman was too serious. Green Lantern was an obnoxious lout. The Martian Manhunter was addicted to Oreo cookies. It was a riot. The writing team of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis had a great five-year run making light of the adventures of the world’s greatest heroes. But then they left. That was 1992. And no mainstream title has dared to go down the silly path since. But thankfully DC has gotten the writers, along with original JL artistic team of Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubenstein, and many members of the 1987 cast of characters, back together for Formerly Known As The Justice League. The story, which sees the group reunite to form a strip-mall super-hero business, is another goofy romp through the DC universe with wisecracking heroes, sardonic robots and some surprise guests. This title is the answer to the prayers of those looking to get away from the grim, gritty — and (let’s face it) depressing —place that many comic titles have gone over the past few years. And the good news is the sequel, I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League, is arriving at your local comic book shop this summer.

The Flash: Crossfire

March 22, 2004 | Trades

The Flash: Crossfire Geoff Johns, Scott Kolins, Doug Hazlewood DC Comics $27.95/$17.95 US (Paperback) ***** (out of five) Comic book writer extraordinaire Geoff Johns (JSA, Teen Titans) is a master of pacing and nowhere is this more clear than in The Flash: Crossfire. This book, the third collection of Johns’ run on the title, mixes action with great dialogue and is very easy to pick up and read without any previous knowledge of the characters or plotlines. But those who have read the series, or even just the previous two trade paperbacks, are rewarded with the culmination of a dozen beautifully woven threads that Johns has been slowly sewing over a couple of years. Crossfire see The Flash, the fastest man on earth, caught between the twin threats of The Thinker, an evil computer virus run amok, and the Rogues, a group of super-powered crooks who all have a mad hate-on for the Scarlet Speedster. Watching Flash try to stop The Thinker on one end and the Rogues on the other, while trying to look out for his loved ones and save his hometown is awesome comic book entertainment. Scott Kolins art style is the perfect accompaniment to Johns’ storytelling. Kolins conveys a sense of the speed that The Flash works in better than any artist who has drawn the character in years. The Flash is often one of the most underrated comic books on the rack and hopefully trades like Crossfire will draw some attention to an excellent title.

Comic book movie preview 2004

March 22, 2004 | Trades

Movies based on comic books burn up the box offices every year. From the Batman movies of the late 80s and early 90s to the more recent X-Men, Spider-Man and Hulk flicks, these big-budget, eye-candy spectaculars make huge coin by using pre-existing characters to give Hollywood some much-needed franchises. But let us not forget that before the films come the comics. This year will see a pile of comic-book-adapted films, from Spider-Man 2 and The Punisher to Hellboy and Catwoman. Here’s a look at some recent trade paperbacks whose lead characters are coming soon to a theatre near you. Hellboy: Seed Of Destruction Mike Mignola, John Byrne Dark Horse Books $17.95 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) Hellboy is the first comic-adapted movie coming down the pike this year, hitting theatres on April 2, but the story the film is loosely based on is already over 10 years old. Dark Horse Books recently repackaged all of the Hellboy trade paperbacks with a uniform look that is very eye-catching, but the real value is in the pages. Creator-plotter-artist Mike Mignola’s original tale of a demon from hell — how he was brought to earth and went on to become a force for good — is dark, moody and thoroughly original — something fewer and fewer comic titles can claim. While it’s not until later volumes that the characters of Hellboy and his friends from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense truly get fleshed out, this first story still manages to hold you and keep you turning the pages to find out who the big bad villain is, how he’s connected to Hellboy and how the over-matched hero will survive their meeting. Catwoman: The Dark End Of The Street Ed Brubaker, Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke DC Comics $21.95/$14.95 US (Paperback) *** (out of five) The producers of the upcoming Catwoman film are going in a different direction than the comic book creation. The movie, set to star Academy Award-winner Halle Berry, doesn’t feature Selina Kyle, the Catwoman made famous by Michelle Pfeiffer in 1991’s Batman Returns, but instead creates a new Catwoman origin for the fans. Meanwhile, at DC Comics, Selina is alive and well and recently had her comic book series relaunched with a new issue No. 1 — hence a new trade paperback collecting the first few issues of the new title. Writer Ed Brubaker, along with artists Mike Allred and Toronto resident Darwyn Cooke, get Catwoman back to her gritty roots with a murder mystery wrapped up with Selina’s struggles to figure out if she’s better off without her life in a mask. The Dark End Of The Street is bit cartoonish for some tastes, but a good jumping on point for fans of the character. John Constantine: Hellblazer: Son Of Man Garth Ennis, John Higgins DC Comics $19.95/$12.99 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) A theatrical release of Hellblazer, simply named Constantine, was originally set for release this September, but just this week was pushed back until February 2005. However that decision won’t deter DC from continuing to collect stories of the occult investigator, such as this one. Son Of Man is a twisted tale by Preacher and The Punisher scribe Garth Ennis that mixes London’s organized crime world with the other things that go bump in the night. Constantine, an infamous and notorious scoundrel, is being haunted by a mistake from his past. To save his own neck years ago he trapped a demon in the body of the son of the most powerful mobster in England. Now that demon is out for revenge — and he’ll destroy the entire city to get it. Laced with blood, gore, violence and vulgarity, Son Of Man is clearly a mature readers’ book, but a funny and mildly disturbing story as only Ennis can tell it.

Y: The Last Man Vol. 3 — One Small Step

March 22, 2004 | Trades

Y: The Last Man Vol. 3 — One Small Step Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra Vertigo/DC Comics $19.95/$12.99 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) What would you do if you were the last man on earth? That’s the question facing Yorick Brown, the only human male to survive a plague that wipes out his entire gender. Yorick, along with a government agent, a scientist and his (also male) pet monkey, are travelling across America to find the answer to why he was spared, as well as to find Yorick’s long-lost girlfriend. Midway through Kansas, the trio discovers that Yorick may not be the last man alive. Two male astronauts are aboard a Russian space station, but they’re running out of air and are about to make a crash landing in a field in the heartland state. It’s a race against the clock as the trio, joined by a Russian spy, try to get to the landing zone, while female soldiers from a foreign power set their sights on acquiring the most valuable commodity on the planet: Yorick, This third volume of Y: The Last Man, by writer Brian K. Vaughan and Vancouver artist Pia Guerra, is another page-turner. The situations are gripping, the characters have depth and it is difficult not to empathize with the protagonists.

Transformers Generation One Vol. 2: War And Peace

March 22, 2004 | Trades

Transformers Generation One Vol. 2: War And Peace Brad Mick, Pat Lee Dreamwave Productions $17.95 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) Giant robots, fast cars, massive explosions: it’s hard not to like a title that features all these elements. Featuring Optimus Prime, Megatron, and dozens more of the characters many children of the 80s grew up loving, Dreamwave Productions takes us back into the world where everything is more than meets the eye with Transformers Generation One Vol. 2: War And Peace. With all due respect to the plot by relative newcomer Brad Mick, this book is all about some of the best art to grace any comic book pages in the last decade. Markham-native Pat Lee captures all the immensity and intensity of the Transformers in a way that inspires awe. The fact that Lee is an absolute fanboy totally comes off in these pages. He subtly slips in a ton of obscure characters and Easter eggs for the true followers, while making exciting, eye-catching images for all. This book clearly benefits from a terrific supporting staff, too. No book this polished can be so without one. Big props to the rest of the crew at Dreamwave for keeping these character interesting and looking so damn good after 20 years.

Kevin Smith interview (March 2004)

March 15, 2004 | Interviews

Kevin Smith’s new film, Jersey Girl, is a story of love, loss and finding out it’s the little things that make life worth living. Pretty heady stuff compared to the writer/director’s last flick, the stoner, road-trip comedy, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back. “You really can’t get as far away from Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back as Jersey Girl unless we made a Merchant Ivory picture or a bloody Christ movie,” said the always sardonic Smith, in Toronto over the weekend for a speaking engagement in front of 2,600 people at Roy Thomson Hall. Fans of the filmmaker, who was also behind such cult classics as Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma, will realize the emotional themes of Jersey Girl aren’t that much of a stretch. “(Jersey Girl) doesn’t occur to me as that different from Chasing Amy,” Smith said. “It’s really just a mixture of comedy and drama about relationships.” The new film — which primarily deals with the relationship between a workaholic, widowed father (played by Ben Affleck), and his daughter (portrayed by newcomer Raquel Castro) — is Smith’s most personal piece of work since Chasing Amy, he said. “Up until when my kid was born I was all about work — my career was the most important and best thing that ever happened to me. Then I got married and I thought ‘actually this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me’ and then we had a kid and I thought ‘no wait, this is the best thing’. Suddenly your priorities change,” Smith said. Working on a whole production centred around a child actor was a growth experience, according to Smith, who said he encountered challenges on set he’d never had to face before. “Part of my process is to be on set smoking all the time and then suddenly I had to worry about her little lungs,” he said. “I also couldn’t curse nearly as much. I suddenly found myself saying ‘fudge’ a lot on set.” But Smith said he was extremely happy with Castro’s performance. “I got out of her what I was hoping to get, which was that she didn’t come off as cloying or ‘movie-cute’ or irritatingly precocious,” he said. “She wasn’t one of these movie kids that you want to put through the fucking wall. She comes across like a real seven year old.” And as for cleaning up his typical obscenity-laced dialogue for his first PG-13 picture? “Once you remove Jay and Silent Bob from the equation, the movie becomes 80 per cent sanitized right there.” ____________________________________________________________________ The recent breakup of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, and their 2003 box-office flop Gigli, didn’t change much of Jersey Girl, Smith said. “The only editorial consideration that I had to give their relationship in the movie is a shot where they get married,” the writer/director said. “Otherwise their relationship didn’t really affect the movie because it’s not really about them — it’s about (Ben) and (child actor Raquel Castro).” Cutting the wedding scene was both a personal and logical decision, according to Smith. “When they didn’t get married in real life, I, personally don’t feel good as a filmmaker leaving this shot in the movie because its going to distract,” he said, “We are now going to have people who are now going to be lifted out of our movie for 12 seconds. “That’ll be 12 seconds where there’ll be people in the audience who read US Weekly or watch tabloid TV shows who are going to say ‘This is weird because they didn’t get married in real life — isn’t it creepy?’” The sarcastic filmmaker said he was warned about the fragility of celebrity relationships before he began shooting, but decided it was moot point. “When they first started dating people were saying ‘what if they break up?’ and I said ‘it doesn’t really matter because the movie’s not about them being together,’” Smith said. “If Ben had been dating the kid and broke up with her — then that would have been a problem for us.” ____________________________________________________________________ Kevin Smith is a very busy man, who already has his next few years worth of projects lined up. Here’s a look at what’s coming up: Green Hornet — big-budget, comic-book action movie “I’m very excited about it, Smith said. “I’ve been writing comics for years, been a comic reader for years, so this seems like the logical progression.” Fletch Won — comedic investigative journalist movie “Fletch will have to wait for a year to a year and a half while we do Green Hornet,” said Smith, who adds he is still hoping to cast actor Jason Lee as a young Fletch. Clerks Animated— uncensored cartoon movies “Clerks animated I have to get around to writing,” he said. “We’ve decided to go straight to DVD and we’re hoping to have the first one out by Christmas of ’05.”

The Chronicles Of Conan Vol. 1: Tower Of The Elephant And Other Stories

March 1, 2004 | Trades

The Chronicles Of Conan Vol. 1: Tower Of The Elephant And Other Stories Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith Dark Horse Books $15.95 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) If The Chronicles Of Conan was a DVD it would be the deluxe, special edition. Collecting for the first time the initial eight Conan tales, originally published in 1970-71 by Marvel Comics, these tales got the new millennium upgrade — complete computerized colour remastering — and it looks gorgeous. These are stories that hold up really well over 30 years later. Conan, the same one most people identify as being portrayed in the movies by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is shown as a young man trying to make his way in the ancient world, in a mix of stories told by comic legend Roy Thomas and adapted by Thomas from the 1930s Conan tales of creator Robert E. Howard.

Wonder Woman: Gods & Mortals

March 1, 2004 | Trades

Wonder Woman: Gods & Mortals George Perez, Greg Potter, Len Wein, Bruce Patterson DC Comics $30.95/$19.99 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) Wonder Woman: Gods & Mortals falls under the category of better late than never. In 1986 DC Comics began re-launching many of its titles to give them a more modern, and less confusing, feel. Superman, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, each in turn got 40 to 50 years worth of continuity boiled down to the best elements and re-packaged, many with a new #1 issue, Wonder Woman, re-booted in 1987 by writer/artist extraordinaire George Perez, was a brilliant look at the relationship between people and their gods. Full of fantastic art and a pretty compelling storyline, this was a critical and commercial success. And finally, after 17 years, and after almost every other DC re-launch series has been collected in a trade paperback, these first seven issues of Wonder Woman are together in one volume. And more ambitiously so, DC is planning three more collections of Perez’s run on the most famous female character in comics.

The Adam Strange Archives Vol. 1

March 1, 2004 | Trades

The Adam Strange Archives Vol. 1 Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, Carmine Infantino, Bernard Sachs, Joe Giella, Murphy Anderson DC Comics $76.95/$49.99 US (Hardcover) *** (out of five) The tales of Adam Strange couldn’t be more aptly named — this is some bizarre science-fiction storytelling. Originally told from 1958 to 1961 now restored to a bright, colourful glory, this volume contains the first appearances of Strange, a human who is regularly whisked away to the far-away planet of Rann for high-flying outer space adventures. Featuring story titles such as: The Attack Of The Tentacle World and The Weapon That Swallowed Men, this is a real throwback title that has a ton of kitsch value, but might seem a little lame for modern sci-fi fans.

Nightwing: Big Guns

March 1, 2004 | Trades

Nightwing: Big Guns Chuck Dixon, Greg Land, Patrick Zircher & Mike Collins DC Comics $22.95 (softcover) It’s tough being a vigilante — or a cop. But Nightwing’s finding out it’s even tougher being both. Dick Grayson, the hero formerly known as Robin — as in Batman and … — has struck out on his own in Gotham’s neighbour city of Bludhaven. While fighting crime in this cesspool of a town at night as a masked crusader, Dick decides to get himself a day job — as a beat cop on the most corrupt police force on the Eastern seaboard. As crazies like Nightwing’s arch-nemisis Torque, a former policeman himself, who ended up with his head on backwards after he betrayed the wrong crime boss, pop out of the woodwork, our hero tries to balance his responsibilities as a rookie cop against knowing what he can accomplish when he puts on the vigilante’s mantle. Featuring artwork by the supremely talented Greg Land (Sojourn), Big Guns offers lots of bangs for your bucks, including some really interesting fight scenes and a ton of explosions, but it a little light on the characterization. While you feel sorry for the binds that Dick gets into, it’s hard to care about a character when you aren’t offered a chance to get to know him.