Inside Pulse » SmarK Rants A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Thu, 23 Oct 2014 01:30:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » SmarK Rants Scott Reviews The New 52: Week 9 Mon, 07 Nov 2011 15:00:56 +0000 Scott Reviews The New 52:  Week 9


Action Comics #3

The awesome run of DC’s flagship comic continues, and I’m going to be sad to see this version of Superman going away in a few issues.   Clark Kent is a bedraggled reporter, ambushing big business tycoons on behalf of the little guy, and it feels like such a fresh take on the character.  We also get some backstory on the history of Krypton here, as a flashback-within-a-flashback reveals that it was destroyed by a mysterious planet-killing creature, who is now on Earth.  And possessing John Corben, who is obsessed with getting Lois Lane back for himself with the help of a suit of armor.  The glee that young Superman does his job with, even to the point of showing disregard for a truck that nearly gets totalled as a result of him trying to stop it from hitting an innocent, feels like the Golden Age Superman.  Older and wiser Superman might have just whisked away the kid before he got hit, but young and stupid Superman just goes for the dramatic destruction instead.  Never mind the goofy armoured Jim Lee version, give me this one.



Animal Man #3

This is a pretty weird series thus far, and now it’s getting more heavily into the horror aspect.  Buddy and Maxine are still trapped in The Red, and learn that the Animal Man powers actually came from the animal dimension, rather than aliens as previously thought.  We also discover that Maxine is the chosen one of sorts, kind of like the Neo of the creepy super-powered animal set.  Unfortunately there’s also creepy super-powered animals terrorizing the Baker family, and this stuff might just creep you the hell out if you’re the squeamish type.  This is a seriously atmospheric and horrific comic at times, totally unlike anything else you’re going to find in a mainstream DC comic today outside of Vertigo.  The dude with his face folding in on itself will probably give you nightmares for a few days, at least.




Batwing #3

This has been a pretty underrated series thus far, although it hasn’t fallen into the “blow away surprise” category, more of a competently executed comic book with a character that I don’t really have much personal investment in.  The building backstory, with the Zawimbe brothers murdering an entire army division as children, is interesting stuff, and leaves you wondering if there’s more to David than Batman’s gifted toys.  This issue is mostly a big fight between Batwing and Massacre while Thunder Fall is dying, and that gives this one more of a filler feel than it probably should have.  The Watchmen-style story about Massacre hunting down retired superheroes and beautiful artwork are enough to keep me coming back, but hopefully Judd Winnick doesn’t burn out before the character gets established enough to carry things without the Bat-connection.




Detective Comics #3

I’m starting to wonder why we need so damn many Batman titles at this point, especially since Detective feels so inessential.  As most people guessed, the mutilated Jim Gordon from the cliffhanger of issue #2 wasn’t actually Gordon.  Batman actually does some detective work in Detective Comics and discovers the rather underwhelming secret of The Dollmaker, leading to the dumbest cliffhanger I’ve seen in a while.  I’m not finding it actively offensive or anything, but the guy who sews together other people isn’t exactly a thrilling storyline for me.  You have to figure that they’ll keep throwing talent at what is another flagship title for the company, and the artwork here is certainly easy on the eyes.  But I’m going to give this another couple of issues to get a lot better, because Scott Snyder’s Batman is currently knocking it out of the park and I really only need 2 Batman titles at most.



Justice League International #3

People busted on the first couple of issues, but Dan Jurgens is finding a groove with these characters now and it’s nice light entertainment.  Given the thin characterizations of the first issue, it’s nice to see Jurgens doing the old “divide the team to deal with multiple enemies” storytelling technique, and that gives us a chance to meet n’ greet everyone for a couple of scenes.  Booster Gold seems to be on a more straightforwardly heroic arc here, rather than the backdoor heroism that was his last solo title (RIP), but that’s to be expected from the guy who created him.  Hopefully a moment like Batman giving him props for his leadership won’t get flushed away by future writers.  This book feels like a throwback to the 80s JLA title, which earns a lot of fondness from me.  It’s not reinventing the wheel, but that’s not what the intention is anyway.  It’s comic book comfort food, basically, with my favourite characters (why not just throw Wally West in here, too?) and one of my favourite writers.



Speaking of my favourite writers, Keith Giffen continues his fun and goofy tribute to Jack Kirby with a book that came out of nowhere and became one of my most anticipated.  Kevin Kho continues having a really bad week, getting cyber-stalked by supercomputer Brother Eye, and ends up in prison as a terrorist for reasons that are only known to Eye.  As it turns out, he was needed to deal with a budding supervillain who basically runs the prison from his cell, but Maxwell Lord’s Checkmate group gets involved and a giant brawl erupts.  Much like JLI, this isn’t attempting to do anything above its own level, and it’s a heck of a fun book as a result.  Plus kudos to whoever has to come up with new titles that spell “OMAC” every month.

So everything was basically pretty good this week, but Action Comics #3 is the clear champion as usual.×120.jpg

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Scott Reviews The New 52: Week 8 Fri, 28 Oct 2011 14:00:57 +0000 Scott Reviews The New 52: Week 8

So we’re at the end of month #2, with nothing I was dying to read, but a lot of decent comics this week.



Green Lantern: The New Guardians #2

I’m kind of intrigued by this one, even if nothing really happened again.  Kyle got chosen by the entire rainbow of rings last issue (aside from the orange one) and the former holders are not terribly pleased at losing their source of power.  After the requisite battle scene, Kyle decides to retreat to Oa and see if the Guardians know what’s going on.  I kind of wish they’d make more effort to explain the goofy mythology behind the Rainbow Corps for people who haven’t read everything Geoff Johns has ever written (at one point, a Blue Lantern shows up and Kyle’s green ring gets supercharged, and he goes “Oh, of course”.  WHAT?  It’s not often I say this, but I wish they’d dumb it down a little bit because I wasn’t paying that much attention to all the Green Lantern stuff during Blackest Night.  That being said, I like Kyle Rayner, I like Ganthet, and the new rainbow corps members are enough of a blank slate that I can probably learn about them too, so I’m sticking with it.  For the moment.




Aquaman #2

Speaking of Geoff Johns and his comic book empire, I give this issue my highest compliment:  It was over too soon.  Just a good fun superhero book with man-eating monsters coming from the depths, and the authorities calling in Aquaman and Aquawoman (“Her name is Mera.”) to deal with it.  And then just as things get exciting, it’s over.  Damn you, decompressed storytelling.  Lots of good dialogue in this one, with Aquaman talking about his childhood to build some backstory, clarifying his powers for a dumbass deputy, and beating up the vicious monsters who have apparently sucked the ocean dry of sea life.  I love the clean art style of Ivan Reis here, keeping it very accessible.  Johns doesn’t do anything wacky here, and the result is an easy read and one of my favourite surprises of the reboot thus far.  Thumbs up!




Superman #2

I find it kind of depressing that Supes is supposed to be their flagship character, but he only has two books and one of them isn’t very good.  This was definitely better than the first issue, although I still hate the new costume.  It’s a clever conceit, as Superman gets attacked by an alien creature who is only invisible to him but is easily seen by everyone else.  However, much like the first issue, there’s a lot of internal dialogue telling us things that we could probably figure out from the story itself.  Luckily this can be read either as a standalone story or a part of a larger arc, so you’re not needing any backstory.  In fact, they recap #1 with a couple of sentences (“Superman fought a big fire creature” pretty much sums it up) and you’re off.  They’ve already announced Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen as the new creative team in a few issues, so this is all just treading water until that starts anyway.  That pairing should be awesome, this is just kind of there.  I’ll hang in because it’s Superman, I guess, and you know they’re never gonna let the mothership stray too far.



All-Star Western #2

“What do we do?”

“We kill them all.”

If this comic isn’t worth your $3.99 to watch Jonah Hex shoot the crap out of 12 men out for his head, you have no reason to ever pick up a Western comic.  Hex and Dr. Arkham continue their search for a serial killer in old Gotham, discovering a link to the organization known as the Religion of Crime.  That of course would torment Batman in the future, too.   The corrupt old white men are once again the root of all evil in the old West, and Hex has to work his way up the murder ladder to bring justice to them.  This is all, of course, completely awesome.  Plus there’s an 8 page El Diablo revival backup story.  All we need is Bat Lash and this is the greatest book ever.  If you enjoyed the previous Hex series, there’s no reason not to pick this up too.



The Flash #2

This definitely feels like a total reboot now, as Barry Allen talks about the Speed Force like it’s a new thing to him, and he’s kind of feeling out his power levels.  I’m thinking this is gonna mean that he never died and there’s no Wally West out there now.  Anyway, this is another pleasant outing from the talented Francis Manapul, as the story centers on Flash learning to “speed think” in addition to his usual speed running, so that he can now figure out all the angles and outcomes before acting on anything.  The artwork does a great job of conveying how he just plain moves fast, and I loved the little touches like the different color scheme for the flashbacks.  Artwork aside, I just don’t find the actual relationship with Manual and his army of clones to be that interesting.  This will probably be a drop soon if it doesn’t get awesome.



Teen Titans #2

More info dumped here about the new universe, as Bart “Kid Flash” Allen has only been in action for an hour according to the exposition…and yet Tim Drake was apparently Robin for a while before this.  My head hurts.  The main thread of this one sees Red Robin chasing a mysterious creature named Skitter  through the sewers, while fighting agents from NOWHERE who can teleport at will in annoying manner.  I’m not so pumped about the bevy of X-TREME new Titans to be introduced (Bunker!) but I guess they have to try new characters sometime.  Good light-hearted tone here, although the Liefeld-ish art is a bit of a turnoff for me.  This title screams out for someone like Tom Grummett.  Or the guy who did Young Justice, he was fun too.



Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #2

This feels like an extended Elseworlds series thus far, as all the previous pieces of the Firestorm universe (Ron Raymond, Martin Stein, The Hyena, Cliff Carmichael) are present and accounted for here, but shuffled around into totally new and different combinations.  I kind of wish they had just started fresh with certain elements and started with a blank slate, because I find it totally distracting after knowing for so long who and what Cliff Carmichael was and then having the character become someone totally different and unrelated.  Anyway, we discovered last issue that Firestorm Jason + Firestorm Ronnie = FURY, the big giant Firestorm killing machine.  The mysterious government agency behind everything attempts to take him out, and that goes about as well as you’d expect.  Ronnie and Jason continue their bickering while wielding all-powerful nuclear forces, and now have to fight off the Hyena agents.  I’m hanging in there out of my love of the previous incarnations of the character, but this really wouldn’t be grabbing my attention if I picked it up off the shelf cold.



Batman: The Dark Knight #2

So, um, a bunch of villains are running around like pumped up Image characters, and Batman…uh, forget it, I’m done with this one.  And what’s up with Joker’s face being fine again?  This comic SUCKS.

Big recommendations for All Star Western and Aquaman this week, the rest are very hit-or-miss.  Next week:  The #3 issues!×120.jpg

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Scott Reviews The New 52: Week 7 Fri, 21 Oct 2011 14:00:35 +0000 Another week of strange mixtures, with one hotly anticipated title and two that probably won’t get past “guilty pleasure” but still ended up on my pull list anyway because I’m a glutton for punishment sometimes.  Let’s get to it…



Justice League #2

Hopefully the rest of the series won’t go 7 weeks between issues.  I will say, this is more like what #1 should have been.  Whereas the first issue felt like a prologue, here we start getting into the meat of the team’s formation, with the standard “Wacky misunderstanding that turns into a big fight” comic book cliche to provide action without an antagonist present yet.  I still hate the new Superman outfit, and I’m starting to get confused about the chronology and continuity.  This is supposed to be five years before the current DCU, with Superman in full armor, but Action Comics is ALSO five years before, and there he’s even younger and wearing jeans and t-shirt as a costume.  Plus you have the added problem of Batman and Green Lantern not getting explicitly rebooted in their main titles, but suddenly having a different history in this title.  Oh well, that’s for the eggheads in the lab to figure out, I guess.  I liked the witty banter between Green Lantern and newly introduced Flash (“You just called me Barry, genius”) and the fact that Geoff Johns is writing Barry Allen like Wally West (“No one’s touched me.  Like, ever.”) because Wally is a much more interesting character than Barry, whatever Dan Didio may think.  I’m still not sold on Cyborg as anything more than a Teen Titan, but I love me some Jim Lee artwork and this was fun as hell, so I’m sticking with it.  There’s a lot of hatred for this one floating around, though, and I can understand it in some ways.  But stupid can be fun too, and that’s the way I’m looking at it. Damn you Geoff Johns and your interesting writing.



Supergirl #2

Well, the cover pretty much sums this one up.  Superman arrives to check out the rampaging Supergirl, and they proceed to beat the crap out of each other for 23 pages.  It seems that Kara is naturally confused and scared after being on Krypton only 3 days earlier and then waking up on Earth with superpowers.  Then meeting a guy who appears to be her baby cousin all grown up.  This one was a tad frustrating because everything could have been avoided by Supergirl stopping to talk to her cousin for more than 4 seconds at a time before launching another sound-effect laden attack on him.  I dunno, there doesn’t feel like there’s any real twist on the character beyond another Kryptonian running around the DCU.  I’m on the fence with this one and can’t recommend it until something actually HAPPENS to advance the story.




Nightwing #2

Dick Grayson continues to bore me in his new/old role as Nightwing.  This is a perfectly competent book, but I don’t feel like there’s many interesting stories to tell about Nightwing as a solo act anymore.  He’s dealing with a mysterious assassin here, and inherits a circus from the dying owner in between scoring on Bruce Wayne’s jet.  Batman is so goddamn pimp that even his AIRCRAFT makes women take their panties off for his former sidekick.  Anyway, the thread from the other Batman titles about Dick being tied to a murder gets picked up here, but I’d much rather read about it in the main Batbook.  I think this is written for teenage girls who squeal for Dick Grayson and shriek when his beautiful body gets cut up by the bad guy at the end or something, because I don’t feel like the target audience for it.  Take a pass.




Batman #2

Fan-friggin-tastic.  This might be one of my favorite issues of the relaunch thus far.  This book is so fun that I was giddy wanting to know how Bruce gets out of the predicament set up at the beginning of the issue.  Best part?  You can pick this one up and don’t need any backstory or “to be continued”.  We need more like that.  Anyway, Bruce Wayne is apparently hurtling to his doom from the tallest building in Gotham after getting stabbed by an assassin and thrown through a plate-glass window…and he’s giving history lessons on the way down!  I want to go back and read it again.  The Nightwing mystery is explained quickly and easily, and there’s an establishing shot at one point with the POV from inside a dead body.  The best part?  The second-to-last page, where Bruce gives his AWESOME monologue and ends with a badass line, and then you turn the page and there’s an even MORE awesome finale that you didn’t even expect.  This is a high-level comic book, my friends, and I wish there more like it.  A million billion stars.




Birds of Prey #2

This was an impulse pick for me, as I liked the first one well enough but didn’t feel like I was going to enjoy the characters enough to sustain the series.  But I decided to give the second issue a try, and I think my initial instincts were mostly right.  I had actually forgotten about this series, which is not surprising.  This one picks up after the exploding reporter incident that closed the first one, with Black Canary and Starling evading airport security and tracking invisible assassins (what’s with all the assassins in the New 52 thus far?), leading to a meet and greet with new friend Katana.  I dunno, I liked the true crime feel to the first issue, but this is veering into more familiar superhero comic territory and I’m not particularly fond of any of the main cast.  I’m probably gonna be done after this issue.



Red Hood #2

Good god is this book terrible.  And yet I can’t look away.  It’s like some kind of gloriously awful trainwreck, with Scott Lobdell writing painfully precious Tarantino-esque cringe-worth dialogue. In fact the whole thing seems like some sort of twisted homage to Kill Bill as written by someone who hadn’t actually seen the movie.  I mean, do we really need someone to say “You put the move in smove” in a product that people pay money to read?  Honest to god, I had no earthly idea what was even going on in this book or how exactly it related to what happened at the end of #1.  Plus now it’s 6 years after Infinite Crisis and they still haven’t decided exactly how or why Jason Todd actually came back from the dead, and even worse they have the character actually SAY as much in this comic!  And yet, I’m sure I’ll keep reading until the inevitable cancellation of this bullshit because I like Jason Todd as a character and I’m perversely curious to see if this can reach Human Centipede levels of degradation and stupidity.  Maybe Red Hood will have his mouth sewn to Arsenal’s ass next issue, who knows.



Blue Beetle #2

The fun continues from issue #1, with Jaime Reyes trying to figure out his new super-suit like The Greatest American Hero, while having conversations with it.  So much fun, and the fresh start is helpful for those like myself who skipped the previous incarnation of the series.  Plus there’s puking for comedy that’s actually funny!  Just good, light-hearted fun that I heartily approve of.

Quick thoughts on other titles that I read but didn’t care enough about to write a paragraph on:  Catwoman #2 was slightly less offensive than the first issue, featuring a woman getting tortured to death and a lot of Selina’s bra, but still nothing I’d care to read further about.  Green Lantern Corps #2 continues to feel like you walked in on the middle of a movie, and it’s too late to ask the guy next to you who the bad guys are and what the big battle is all about.  I’ll stick with JLI for my Guy Gardner fix, thanks.

The winner this week:  BATMAN #2!  Justice League was surprisingly good, too, though.  A good week all around, I’d say.×120.jpg

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Scott Reviews The New 52: Week 6 Fri, 14 Oct 2011 14:00:07 +0000 Ah, new comics Wednesday. And a whole lot of new Bat-content yet again, some of it decidedly better than others. To the Bat-store!


Batwoman #2

The first one I wanted to read this week, and probably the best one I’ll read all week.   The artwork on this series is just mind-blowingly great and is probably worth picking up the book for that alone.  I mean, just look at the double-page spread with the bat symbol forming the backdrop for a conversation between Batman and Batwoman.  JH Williams is using the artwork almost as another character, and it’s amazing stuff.  I don’t usually even notice that art in a comic unless it’s really bad, and I’m just drooling over this stuff.  The writing continues to be strong as well, with Kate Kane juggling a new relationship with Maggie Sawyer while attempting to evade X-Files-type agent Cameron Chase (is that a House reference?).  My only complaint, which is a small one, is that I was getting more and more into the story, and then it suddenly ends with a weak cliffhanger.  I WANT MORE, DAMMIT.  Big thumbs up again.


Batgirl #2

I feel bad because Batgirl is a perfectly fun and serviceable comic book thus far, but it’s just getting destroyed by the greatness of Batwoman and I’m left wondering why they’re bothering.  Still no answers forthcoming on the “miracle” that took Barbara Gordon out of the chair, although The Mirror is a good Bat-villain.  Gail Simone is trying for “light and breezy” with the running monologue from Babs, but it feels like a totally different person than the Barbara Gordon who ran for office and ended up as Oracle and grew up into a real woman over the years.  I guess I’m still not seeing the reasoning behind bringing her back yet.  It’s good enough to keep buying, but not much more so than that.



Batman & Robin #2

The nice focus on Bruce and Damian as a family continues here, with Bruce worrying about what all the violence and killing is going to do to his son’s already-fragile psyche.   And no doubt Damian is seriously messed up for a 10-year old, as his run-in with the Batcave’s resident rodents demonstrates.  The annoying decompressed storytelling of the Trade Paperback Era continues, though, with our heroes taking out a minor threat and the main villain, NoBody, only popping up for one page.  The rest is Damian training and Bruce fretting about his fathering job.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I can see how people might feel let down by the lack of plot development.  I enjoyed it well enough, but I still miss Dick as Batman in this sort of mentoring role.  Bruce Wayne is just not cut out to be a mentor.  Oh, and apparently Ace The Bat-Hound is coming back into continuity again.  Just in case you were waiting on that.



Resurrection Man #2

I’m glad that this doesn’t feel particularly like a superhero comic.  Yeah, Mitch Shelley demonstrates crazy powers like turning into water, but it feels more like something on the fringes of the DC Universe, like it should be in the Vertigo universe or something.  Decompression strikes again as not much happens plot-wise and no answers are forthcoming yet.  Mitch visits a retirement home and researches his dad, but instead meets up with a former super-villain named The Transhuman who is now suffering from dementia.  He’s also getting chased by an angel and a pair of oversexed assassins called The Body Doubles, but again no explanations are forthcoming yet.   This is feeling like something that’s going to read better in the trades, but I’m still curious enough to follow along for the answers.  They should totally make a movie out of this, though, it’s a killer “elevator concept”.



Superboy #2

So my last stop of the week is here, as I’m hoping for the good Scott Lobdell again.  The whole Superboy mythos is getting more complex by the day, as the first issue seemed like this version was grown whole in the lab, but no.  Dan Didio is now saying that in fact all the previous stuff happened, and this NOWHERE group in fact blanked out his memory and basically just made him think he was newly born.  Or something.   Why they couldn’t just reboot the character, I have no idea.  Anyway, Superboy has apparently beaten up a whole lot of people as the story opens, and I felt like I was missing something here, and soon enough he gets shipped into the field to perform some sort of capture mission against what look like giant mutated shark aliens.  I have to say, this was not the most clear-cut storytelling I’ve read this month.   I liked the VR stuff from the first issue, and there was none of that here, so this left me pretty underwhelmed.  We’ll see where it goes next month, I guess.


Bonus Review!  Grifter #1 / 2

Finally, someone mentioned to me that I might enjoy Grifter, so I picked up the first issue and indeed liked it enough to add it to the pull list. I had never really heard of the previous Wildstorm incarnation of Grifter before this, but this whole thing is structured as what appears to be a total reboot of the character anyway.  Cole Cash (a thinly veiled comics version of James “Sawyer” Ford from Lost) is a two-bit conman who suddenly starts hearing voices in his head telling him that they’re going to kill him.  This leads him to seemingly kill random people, who are of course actually aliens, but no one knows that but him.  Turns out that if you do that on a plane, it gets you labelled as a terrorist.  Rough luck there.  He’s a former black ops guy, which is the standard go-to occupation for amnesiacs, and someone stole 17 minutes of his life and left him a bit crazy.  So now he’s on the run, killing demonic cops and leading to a showdown with his military brother.  All very familiar ground, but it’s a nice breezy read with a likeable main character, so I’m into it.  His girlfriend leaving him and departing for Gotham would seem to lead to the inevitable sales-boosting crossover with Batman, but then he’s in pretty much every other comic this week anyway so you might as well just deal with it.

Winner and still champion:  Batwoman!  The rest is pretty mediocre this week, but Grifter is surprisingly fun.×120.jpg

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Scott Reviews The DC New 52: Week 5 Fri, 07 Oct 2011 15:00:02 +0000 It’s the all-important second month of the New DC relaunch, and conspicuous by its absence is Justice League #2, which doesn’t ship until the end of the month.  That’s quite a wait for the mythical new readers who are presumably hanging on the adventures of jerkass Batman and jerkass Green Lantern.

To the comic shop!

Action Comics #2

No letdown from the first one here.  Maybe even better, in fact.  Early Superman gets tortured by Lex Luthor, which acts as exposition for newer readers (although who doesn’t know his powers and backstory inside-out by now?) and then gives him a badass edge because Luthor monologues too much.  Grant Morrison has the snappy dialogue going here and the cliffhanger definitely leaves you wanting more.  I don’t know if the series is going to be permanently set five years ago, but I’m fine with it if so. Still lovin’ it, thumbs way up!


Justice League International #2

Still mostly fun, but Dan Jurgens is as cliche as ever with the broad stereotype characters like Russian Guy and Chinese Guy who don’t get along.  I thought the storyline direction was interesting, with Booster ordering a retreat when the threat of a giant robot proves too much too soon for them.  You don’t see that done very much, although there’s generally a reason for it.  The problem for me is that Booster’s solo title was such a perfect vehicle for him, and we still don’t really know if the person here is the same guy as the time-travelling secret hero or just the gloryhound.  This is your basic superhero team book with basic superheroes.  I can live with Jurgens’ writing (I’ve read Zero Hour…TWICE!) and I’m probably soft on this title because I like all the characters.  I’ll keep with it for now, but I don’t see it lasting all that long unless they punch it up somehow.


Animal Man #2

Boy, this is some weird stuff, but Buddy remains a very likeable guy.  The bleeding eyes from issue #1 have progressed into creepy tree tattoos that will lead Buddy and his creepy daughter, Maxine, into something called The Red.  This series delves a lot into domestic stuff, an area that most superhero comics tend to gloss over.  How exactly DO you handle something like your kid accidentally transmutating your neighbor’s arm?  I would definitely say it’s not for everyone, including the sketch-feeling art from Travel Foreman, but I’m continuing to enjoy where it’s going, much to my surprise.  Maxine is adorable, though, and might end up being a breakout character as the kid sidekick here.    I’m thinking this is gonna be an awesome trade paperback when they collect the whole story.


Batwing #2

The first one didn’t move me, but I picked up the second one for the hell of it, and I’ll give Judd Winick this much…he’s sucking me in.  We still don’t see very much of Batwing doing his thing, but Massacre’s showdown with the teacher, who naturally has a secret, was very intriguing stuff.  And the art is wonderful, as the photo-realistic look from Ben Oliver lends itself well to things.  This sucker is really, really violent, though, with gruesome stabbings and limbs getting hacked off.  I still don’t think the Batman name is enough to carry this thing for long, but I’ll giving it a go.


Detective Comics #2

Well luckily no one got their face hacked off in this one, and the extreme gloom of the first issue was toned down to the point where it was pretty dull stuff overall.  Bruce has a playdate with another eccentric billionaire (“Hugh Marder”?  Really?) and then taps another random piece of ass.  How many times is Batman gonna get laid in the New DC Universe?  It’s only the second month!  We get another shock ending, but not anywhere near as shocking as the first one.  Not much to hold my interest here, although I found the art much cleaner and less murky than the first issue.  Not terrible, just a decent comic.


Men of War #2

Eh, they lost me already.  Instead of sticking with the gruff war comic stuff from the first issue, they change gears and now have Rock either hallucinating or actually meeting the goddess Circe.  That’s not what I’m reading this for, and it ripped me out of the story immediately and I never got back into it.  I’ll give it one more, but I’m not sticking around for long if this is where it’s going.


O.M.A.C. #2

The first one was a fun, if mindless romp, but this one blew me away.  I LOVED it.  Great Giffen humor and light-hearted tone, and it dove right into the mechanics behind Kevin Kho turning into OMAC, as we meet Brother Eye and start setting up the various government agencies who are jockeying for control behind the scenes.  Plus there’s a giant, knockdown battle with Amazing Man.  The whole thing is very big and Kirby-esque (duh) and I just enjoyed the hell out of it.  It’s a very easy read and no backstory is needed going in.  I have no idea how they’re going to continue the witty meanings for “OMAC” in every title, though.


So once again, the winner out of the pile is ACTION COMICS, although Animal Man continues close behind.  The surprise of the week for me was OMAC, a comic that was middle-of-the-road for me last month.  I think I’ll circulate it onto the pull list and dump Men of War pretty fast if it doesn’t improve.×120.jpg

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Scott Reviews The New DC 52: Week 4 Fri, 30 Sep 2011 12:00:12 +0000 After last week’s lackluster offerings, I was surprised and delighted that there was some really high-quality stuff this time.  Especially because it was stuff I was really looking forward to.

Superman #1

OK, first we’ll go with this, even though it’s a pretty big letdown for me.  I am just not digging the Jim Lee costume redesign, I’m not digging the redefined Clark and Lois relationship.  And Clark looks like Harry Potter now.  George Perez’ script is really talky, especially with the heavy-handed “print media is not dying” message imparted by the parallel Clark Kent news story recapping the action.  Yeah, print isn’t dying, that’s why I buy most of these on Comixology and read them on my computer.  I’m sticking with Action Comics for my Superman fix, I think.

Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #1

Yeah!  Now this is what I’m wanting out of a reboot.  It takes elements that fans know and love (like the names, basic concept and costume design) and creates a whole new world in the sandbox so that new fans can jump on at the start.  Admittedly I’ve been reading since literally day one of the character and have more than a little affection for it, so I’m predisposed to enjoy this anyway.  But this was really good.  Ronnie Raymond gets de-aged back to a teenager again for a feud with brainy Jason Rusch, and that’s a dynamic that’s always gonna work.  Plus the story has some legitimate gravitas to it thanks to an intense beginning, and the setup leaves you wanting to know what happens next.  Best of all, both Jason and Ronnie fans (who have been at odds since the changeover) get their guy as Firestorm.  This one definitely stays on the pull list.

Teen Titans #1

Given that the initial cover concept made this look retarded, this was a pleasant surprise to say the least.  Tim Drake (who still was Robin in the reboot) assembles his team to fight the forces of NOWHERE (last seen in Superboy #1), and it’s all breezy and tremendously entertaining.  Kid Flash is back to being an impulsive dick again (although he’s drawn more like Wally than Bart…hmmm…) and Cassie is much more interesting on her own as Wonder Girl than as a sidekick from the previous universe.  I really like the costume redesign on Red Robin, and this now feels like a bi-weekly book when paired with Superboy.  I wasn’t even planning on picking this one up, but I’m sticking with it now.  Great fun, and I’m not sure how Lobdell could write crap like Red Hood and then something great like this.  Maybe they should just merge the two books?

Flash #1

This was fine, but I just don’t care about Barry Allen.  If the world can survive with two Firestorms, why not two Flashes?  Or make Wally into the new Quicksilver or Johnny Quick or something?  Anyway, this feels very Silver Agey, with Barry having to get out of social situations to change into the Flash (with new cool expanding costume effect) and much like Superman, he’s now single and not even dating Iris.  The previous series left me cold and I’m not really into this yet.  I’ll wait for the trade.

All Star Western #1

I love me some Jonah Hex, although I was disappointed that they’re abandoning the standalone format of the previous Hex series and going with the now-traditional serialized storytelling.  That being said, Hex working in 1880 Gotham City and teaming up with Dr. Arkham to hunt serial killers is a pretty brilliant conceit.  This was a really fun contrasting personality book, with Hex at his snarling worst while Arkham tries to psychoanalyze him and tame him for presentation to “proper” society.  I’d prefer Hex by himself again dispensing six gun justice, but this was pretty fun and will continue to be read by me.

Aquaman #1

I breezed through this one, which was nice given that the character has been getting a dense backstory in recent years.  Geoff Johns, who is the guy who is going make this work no matter what anyone says so you might as well accept it, actually does make it work.  Things get meta with criminals and seafood restaurant patrons riffing on him, but Arthur beats the hell out of would-be bank robbers and damn if he isn’t pretty cool here.  He does NOT talk to fish or need a glass of water to survive on land, thankyouverymuch.  Thumbs up, and I will stick with the Aquaman rescue project for a while longer.

Batman: The Dark Knight #1

Hey, it’s yet another Bat-book.  By this point in the month I’m feeling a bit inundated with Batman, and this one is just kind of settled blandly in between the greatness of Batman #1 and the weirdly offputting Detective #1.  Bruce Wayne meets a powerful Bollywood actress at a party and gets into legal arguments, and then goes off to deal with another riot at Arkham (or maybe the same one as earlier this month, who knows).  I wasn’t really feeling the cliffhanger, but the whole thing seemed kind of aimless to begin with anyway.  We’ll call this a backup in case either of the important Batbooks get injured or called to another comics company or something.  The artwork is very nice, though, and I could follow everything going on easily, so that’s always appreciated, but it’s still a distant #3 behind Batman and Batman & Robin for me.

And finally…

Green Lantern:  The New Guardians #1

Pretty slow start here.  We get crabface’s original recounted again (which made me fear he was getting rebooted), and various rings from around the galaxy get drawn to Kyle in the present day, along with the rainbow Corps members who want them back.  And that’s basically it.  As noted before, I’m kinda over the multi-colored Lantern thing right now, but I like Kyle, so I gave it a shot.  But there’s nothing here that makes me want to rush out and buy issue #2, so I’ll wait for a trade.

So to summarize, here’s what I’ll be reading on an ongoing basis, using these #1s as my criteria:  Action Comics, Batman, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Blue Beetle, Justice League, Justice League International, Superboy, Teen Titans, Firestorm, Aquaman, All Star Western, Men of War and Batman & Robin.

Now if only DC can stick to their shipping schedule, we’ll be good to go.×120.jpg

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Scott Reviews The DC New 52: Week 3 Fri, 23 Sep 2011 13:00:06 +0000 And what a mixed bag this week was.  Lots of Bat content, not much good content.

Wonder Woman #1.  Interesting, I guess, although I have nothing really invested in the character and this didn’t really clarify whether it’s a reboot or if WW is just carrying on from previous continuity.  I’m guessing the latter because they don’t make much effort to provide exposition on who characters like Apollo and Hermes actually are.  Plus there’s a LOT of surprisingly gory violence in this one.  I’ve read a lot of high praise for this, but I don’t get it. This is a one-and-done for me.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1.  Oh my.  I think Jason Todd is a pretty cool idea for a character, what with the whole evil Robin deal, but they just can’t decide what his character is and it’s really frustrating as a reader.  Last time he was being used, in Batman & Robin, he was full on crazy villain, and now he’s back to being a charming anti-hero again.  This is also a case study in confusing continuity, as Jason Todd is part of Bat-continuity and unchanged, but Starfire is now rebooted as a sex-crazed alien supermodel who thinks all humans look alike.  And Roy Harper is in there as some sort of badass, but with Green Arrow being reverted to 19 years old or so…well, my head hurts thinking about this mess.  I wanted to like it going in, but there’s just nothing interesting going on here.  Done here too, and it’ll probably be cancelled quickly.

Batman #1.  This was more like it.  I finally got a chance to read Batman & Robin #1 beforehand, and it really makes Detective Comics look like a weird aberration, unless ‘Tec and The Dark Knight are going to be the darker side of Batman or something.  Anyway, I really liked B&R #1, as they were carrying on the light-hearted Dick and Damian act, and Batman #1 featured a nice bit with Bruce and his three “sons” at the same party.  There’s some touches of Se7en and the issue ends with a cool cliffhanger.  Keep buying?  Hells yeah.  Probably gonna go back and check out Scott Snyder’s run with Dick Grayson from pre-reboot as well.

Catwoman #1.  Somehow I don’t see this one soothing the nerves of women who are bothered by DC’s recent portrayals of the fairer sex.  And speaking of sex, Catwoman has a lot of it, apparently, much of it with Batman in the angry manner while wearing costumes.  Love Judd Winnick and softcore pornography?  Then this is for you!  Not carrying on with this one.

Blue Beetle #1.  Ted Kord was one of my all-time favorite characters, so I was somewhat hesitant to get behind Jaime Reyes, but this was a really charming book, even if the character didn’t need a reboot.  I liked the added backstory to the scarab, I liked the somewhat cartoony artwork, I liked the dialogue (“Translated from Spanglish”), and I’m curious to see where the adventures of Blue Beetle take him.  It’s just a really nice jumping on point for new readers and particularly the younger readers that seem to be latching onto Reyes,  and I can’t really hold a little thing like the senseless death of my favorite character against this book.  Keep buying?  Yup.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1.  I picked this one up hoping that it was being rebooted yet again so I could jump on, but unfortunately it wasn’t and I’m not really willing to take the time to follow it.  Aside from word balloons introducing the characters, Levitz doesn’t really do much here to make it anything more than a continuation of the previous series, and that’s not my scene given that I haven’t read the Legion since the Zero Hour reboot.  One and done here, even though it was a perfectly fine comic book.

Supergirl #1.  Well this was definitely a reboot with a capital R.  Kara arrives on Earth, thinking that it’s Krypton, with a tone somewhat reminiscent of Supergirl: the Movie, which I just watched again last week for some reason.  There’s giant robots getting beat up, so that’s always good, and she doesn’t really have her powers under control yet but they’re definitely there.  How this meshes with the interpretation of Superman developing his powers slowly in Action Comics, I don’t know, but I don’t feel like they do either.  And of course Superman shows up to remind us that he’s here and his costume is still ugly.  I’m probably gonna wait for the trades here.

Nightwing #1.  This one makes me saddest, because I loved Dick as Batman and thought he got screwed over by the reboot and stuck back into a role he had outgrown.  Not as screwed over as Wally West, but still pretty screwed.  And it’s not even that great of a debut, kind of on par with the original Nightwing mini-series back in the 90s, where he goes back to the circus yet again and he’s still having moping inner dialogues and thinking about his parents’ murders.  Plus he basically lets people get killed while he’s changing costume, and that’s not cool. Wanted to like it, but it bored me.  Another one where I’ll wait for the trade.

Green Lantern Corps #1.  Guy Gardner is yet again trying to right his life on Earth, but both he and John Stewart discover that insurance companies dislike the chaos that swirls around superheroes.  So it’s back to Oa, where he’s somewhat more liked, and the Corps gets dispatched to deal with another murdering baddie.  Same as it ever was in the GL world, but I’m glad that Guy is finally carrying a title that’s selling big.  I need a break from ring-slingers for a while, though, although I might pick up the Kyle Rayner series to see what that’s about.  Keep buying? Not at this point.

The winners this week?  Blue Beetle and Batman!  Supergirl and Nightwing were OK, but let’s not speak of Red Hood or Catwoman unless it’s to mock them.×120.jpg

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The SmarK DVD Rant: Remake-O-Rama II! Mon, 20 Jun 2011 00:00:01 +0000 Let’s face it, Hollywood is lazy. Why go through the trouble of coming up with an original concept when you can recycle an older movie? Heck, even I’m lazy enough to make a sequel to my own remake post! So this time around, I go for the most tenuous of DVD connections by noting that both of our contenders this time are remakes of previous movies. One of them is a much better film than the other, I’ll let you guess which one.

True Grit

The Coen brothers have had some wild successes, creatively speaking, and some tragic misfires, sometimes within the same movie (Ladykillers, I’m looking at YOU), but you know they never fail to entertain when given a chance. The original True Grit was one of the few classics I’ve never seen (never been much of a Duke fan, sorry to say) so I came into this one without any previous judgment on it. In a word, AWESOME. Although this is technically the remake of the original John Wayne movie, the Coens more specifically went directly from the 1968 novel, giving a movie that’s much more faithful to the original source material.

Back in the late 1800s, Mattie Ross is a 14-year-old girl who watches as her father is gunned down in cold blood by drifting con man Tom Chaney. Given that she’s ill-equipped to seek vengeance on her own and the law doesn’t appear to be interested in helping her, she enlists the services of crusty drunkard Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges, reinventing the classic Wayne role) and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (pronounced La-Beef, because they’re in AMERICA, dammit). The charm of the movie isn’t in the told-and-retold story of revenge, it’s the details that the Coens throw in to keep the old western yarn interesting. Mattie’s surprisingly hard-nosed negotiations with a horse-dealer are like something right out of The Big Lebowski (“Oh no…are we dealing again?”) and kind of set the playful tone that the movie adopts as it’s own. It never really veers into a full-on comedy, but there’s a definite sense of playfulness from the directors, like when Rooster’s attempts at a one-man ambush goes decidedly south. (“That did not pan out,” notes Cogburn in the typical subdued Coen humor).

Hailee Steinfeld completely steals the show from everyone as Mattie, commanding the expedition as surely as any adult would, until the story finally puts her into the damsel-in-distress role that Hollywood demands for whatever reason. What I really liked about the eventual payoff is how pathetic the big bad Tom Chaney turns out to be. After all the buildup, he’s just another sad drifter who gets overruled by his boss when the chips are down. Unfortunately, this isn’t a movie that ever reaches classic status, as the weirdly stilted language of the novel carries on here (characters speak entirely without contractions in the most glaring example) and it can get really off-putting after a while. As well, the middle portion of the movie, with LaBeouf seemingly unable to decide if he’s going or sticking around, kind of drags compared to the fun beginning and gunfighting finale. And let’s face it, The Dude is not The Duke. Still, if you enjoyed the remake of 3:10 to Yuma from a couple of years ago and you’re looking for something in a similar vein, it’s hard to go wrong here. Extras are good, although I would have liked a commentary track. The Blu-ray offers a bunch of making-of pieces covering the novelist, the costuming, set design and a bunch of other topics, as well as the DVD version of the movie on a second disc and the ubiquitous digital copy that no one cares about. Recommended.

Jackass 3.5

“Football to the groin! It works on so many levels!”

  • Homer Simpson

So this is also technically a remake, although of a much more recent movie. Jackass 3D was not exactly a triumph of cinema, but it made a shitload of money and there’s a devoted audience, so now we get the leftovers. There was apparently another movie’s worth of footage left from what made the cut in the original movie, so Jackass 3.5 acts as both a making-of feature and a giant compilation of deleted scenes. In case you’re totally new to the Jackass phenomenon (and really, is anyone unaware of the formula by this point?), a group of ex-skaters who now make millions of dollars a year but still look like homeless people engage in whatever idiotic “stunts” they can convince their insurance company to underwrite. Example: Everyone gets an enema, and then does a long jump to force themselves to poop. Repeat for 90 minutes. For this release, new stunts are intercut with interviews with the cast and crew, as they talk about what didn’t make the cut and why. Some deletions are obvious (Bam Margera trying to run into a wooden post with a pole vault never really goes anywhere, while the human bowling ball exists only as a Johnny Knoxville prank on the rest of the guys) and some stunts had enough goofy charm that they probably could have existed in a longer cut of the original movie. But it’s probably for the best they didn’t, because 90 minutes of this stuff is about the most anyone can take before it wears out its welcome. Even here, the first half of the movie is sometimes gut-bustingly hilarious in a “I can’t look, but I can’t look away” fashion (Barrel Surfing, the various adventures with treadmills, slow-motion camera injuries, and a competition to dropkick Bam in the face all come to mind).

After an hour or so, it starts to get numbing, and by the nutshot compilation that ends things, you’ve had enough for a while. I think that’s why the TV show was such an effective formula: 30 minutes was just enough time not to get sick of the Jackass crew. I’ll say that I laughed a lot here, but this was really a 40-minute deleted scene reel edited into a 90 minute movie. Not as painful as a basketball to the nuts but not as funny either. Extras include MORE deleted scenes (which really shows you that you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel), as well as an extended version of the original Jackass pilot with new cast and crew interviews. I liked this well enough, but if I wasn’t getting this sort of thing sent to me by the studio, I wouldn’t have given it a second glance on the shelf. Mildly recommended as a companion piece to Jackass 3D if you really loved that movie, but as a standalone product there’s not much to recommend. It’s basically like that Matrix Revisited DVD that came out in between the first and second movies – a glorified second disc of special features, but no substance on its own.

The winner this time: True Grit.×120.jpg

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The SmarK DVD Rant for WWE Survivor Series 2010 Wed, 16 Feb 2011 16:00:34 +0000

US title: Daniel Bryan v. Ted Dibiase

Why hasn’t someone pitched Dibiase & Husky Harris as Money Inc Version 2, I wonder? Dibiase tries a wristlock, but Bryan reverses out to an armbar and boots Dibiase down. Dibiase comes back with a suplex to the floor and pounds away on the apron, and back in for two. Bryan fires back with kicks, but Dibiase takes him down for two, and we hit the chinlock. Standing dropkick gets two. Cole’s constant flip-flopping between announcer and heel is incredibly distracting, as many have noted. Bryan comes back with the kicks, but gets caught with his head down. He tosses Dibiase and follows with a suicide dive, taking a crazy bump into the railing in the process. Back in, missile dropkick gets two. He kicks the crap out of Dibiase and a small package gets two. Dibiase catches him with a clothesline (with a 1.0 Jannetty sell) for two, however, and goes for the Dream Street. Bryan pushes out of the corner to reverse that ala Bret Hart, but Dibiase gets a spinebuster for two. They fight on top and Bryan escapes that and follows with a top rope backdrop suplex. That gets two. Labell Lock is countered by Dibiase into a catapult for two, but Bryan hangs on with another try to finish at 9:56. Dibiase seemed to be coming along great at this point, not sure why they cut his legs off. Good build here, with Bryan’s comebacks getting over huge. ***1/2

The Miz attacks Bryan on his way back to the dressing room and comes to the ring, promising to cash in on the winner of the main event tonight.

Sheamus v. John Morrison

Sheamus pounds away in the corner to start, but Morrison puts him down with a rana, and out to the floor for a dive. Sheamus puts him down with a clothesline (only a 0.6 Jannetty sell on that one) and back into the ring where Sheamus takes over. Short-arm clothesline gets two. And really, his arms ARE pretty short. We get a couple of chinlocks and a knee to the gut from Sheamus, and that gets two. He pounds away in the corner as the crowd is pretty bored (in other words, your typical Sheamus match), but Morrison comes back with a high cross. Sheamus rolls through and powerslams him for two, however. Sheamus goes for the Brogue Kick, but Morrison counters with the enzuigiri and both are out. They slug it out and Morrison makes the comeback with a pair of clotheslines for two, but he walks into the backbreaker and Sheamus gets two. Morrison counters the Razor’s Edge into a legsweep for two, but he misses a charge and hurts his knee. Sheamus goes to work on it with a pretty great overhead legsnap, and into a half crab. JoMo quickly makes the ropes and gets a rollup for two, but Sheamus goes right back to the knee again. Morrison fights him off and goes up, but Sheamus sets up for the Edge. Morrison escapes and gets a shining wizard…for the pin at 11:20? That was different than the usual WWE formula finish. Matt Striker notes that the lesson is “always fight back against bullies”. Note to children of the world: Do not take life advice from the WWE. ***

Meanwhile, R-Truth offers to help out John Cena in the main event.

Intercontinental title: Dolph Ziggler v. Kaval

Ziggler survives the initial flurry from Kaval and hits the Perfect necksnap for two, and a fireman’s carry for two. Kaval rolls him up for two and gets a crossbody for two, but Dolph takes him down with a chinlock and bodyscissors. Neckbreaker gets two as Cole goes completely out of his way to insult Kaval in whatever way possible. Kaval comes back with elbows and a moonsault press for two, and a spin kick gets two. Kaval goes up to finish, but Dolph tries a TOP ROPE SLEEPER, the most devastating move ever devised. Kaval luckily breaks loose and gets a backslide for two. Ziggler with a fameasser for two (called a Zig Zag by Cole) and the sleeper, but Kaval bounces out of the corner with an enzuigiri for two. They trade rollups for two after a long stretch of nothing, and Dolph gets a second rollup and holds the tights for the pin at 9:39. What a trainwreck. *1/2 Kaval cashes in his title shot, for the IC title no less, and loses. He was smart to bail on the promotion after that, because he wasn’t going anywhere given that booking.

Traditional Survivor Series Elimination match: Rey Mysterio, Big Show, Chris Masters, Kofi Kingston & MVP v. Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, Dashing Cody Rhodes, Tyler Reks & Drew McIntyre

When did Chris Masters turn babyface and why should anyone care? Good thing they haven’t run an elimination tag match on the past few shows, because otherwise this might seem boring. Rey starts with Dashing Cody, and gets caught with a springboard kick for two. Over to Del Rio, but Rey takes him into the turnbuckles and brings MVP in. Low kick gets two. Del Rio misses the enzuigiri and MVP gets two in the corner, and over to Kofi. They work the arm, but Chris Masters comes in and stinks up the babyface side. The heels beat on him in the corner and McIntyre puts him down with a short clothesline. Masters tags MVP back in for a suplex on Drew, and the Ballin’ Elbow, but Del Rio trips him up on a suplex and McIntyre gets the pin at 5:35. I just don’t get the petty booking WWE does. Masters comes in with a jackhammer on Del Rio and into the Masterlock, but Del Rio reverses to the armbar at 6:34. Oh no, what team can survive without talent like MVP and Chris Masters? Big Show comes in against Jack Swagger, and Swagger goes to the knee to put him down. This brings Del Rio back in, but Show was only faking and now the heels won’t let Del Rio tag out. Del Rio forces a tag to Drew, and then gives the most awesome smirking badmouth to Big Show I’ve ever seen. This guy is so great. Show knocks him out in response. Meanwhile, we’ve got Dashing Cody Rhodes against Kofi while Del Rio gets helped out, apparently eliminated somehow. Kofi hits Dashing Cody in the face, prompting Rhodes to leave the ring and check his face. Show knocks him out at 10:47. Reks and Swagger double-team Show in the corner and Swagger works on the leg, getting the anklelock, but Show tags Rey in to break. Rey with a high cross on Swagger for two, but he walks into a big boot for two. Rey comes back with the 619, but Swagger blocks it with the anklelock. Rey with another try, but Reks makes the blind tag, and so does Kofi. Kofi with a crossbody for two, but Reks hangs him up in the corner and stomps him. Kofi rolls him up at 15:05, however, making it 3-on-2 for the faces. Kofi backslides Swagger for two, but Swagger catches the wacky kick and finishes with the anklelock at 15:46. Show and Mysterio double-team Swagger, but McIntyre breaks it up and allows Swagger to hit a pump splash on Rey for two. Rey with a rana into the 619, and a splash off of Show’s shoulders finishes at 17:23. Drew is all alone, but a 619 and chokeslam end his night at 18:02. Very fun match, but nothing particularly memorable. ***1/4

Divas title: LayCool v. Natalya

The heels work Natalya over in the corner, but she reverses a double suplex attempt and they head to the floor. Natalya dumps McCool into the front row and tosses Layla onto her. Back in, LayCool collides and Natalya puts McCool into the Sharpshooter at 3:34 to win the title. That was pretty anticlimactic. * LayCool tries the beatdown, but Beth Phoenix returns from wherever she was and makes the save.

Smackdown World title: Kane v. Edge

Edge slugs away and gets a standing leg lariat for two, then slides out and taunts Kane with Paul Bearer’s empty wheelchair. That’s pretty mean for a supposed babyface. Back in, Edge goes to the knee, but Kane drops him on the top and boots him to the floor. Back in, Kane demands the location of Bearer…while stepping on Edge’s throat. Well that’s just defeating your own purpose. How’s the man supposed to talk if you’re choking him? He continues the interrogation, this time while holding a chinlock. Again, that’s a terrible interrogation technique. Where’s someone like Craig Pittman when you need him? Or Ranger Ross? Edge gets a high cross for two, but Kane gets a corner clothesline to kill the crowd dead again. Edge comes back with a flying body attack of some sort for two, but Kane slugs him down again for two. This, notes Michael Cole, was vintage Kane. Yes, punching a guy is apparently vintage. Edge walks into a sideslam and Kane gets two, then goes up. Edge follows, but Kane brings him down with a clothesline for two. Edge comes back with a sloppy DDT (caught in full-on crappitude by the camera, a rare directing misstep by the production crew) but Kane boots him and chokeslams him for two. Edge escapes the tombstone and gets a spear for the pin and the title at 11:52, but the ref waves it off for some reason and then declares that both shoulders were down and Kane is therefore still the champion. That is the lamest fucking finish humanly possible. 1/2*

World tag titles: Heath Slater & Justin Gabriel v. Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov

Santino engages in a martial arts battle with Gabriel to start, and Kozlov comes in and pounds on Gabriel. Gabriel comes back with a neckbreaker and Slater adds a kneedrop for two. Gabriel boots him down for two and goes to a facelock, as Nexus does some old school cutting off the ring stuff. Santino giving motivational speeches from the apron is great. Kozlov with a clothesline out of the corner, and it’s hot tag Santino. Hiptoss and headbutt get two, and it’s BONZO GONZO. Santino chases after Nexus, allowing Slater to lay him out for the pin at 5:08. Another lame finish. *1/2

RAW World title: Randy Orton v. Wade Barrett

Cena is of course the special referee, and if Orton wins, he’s fired. You know, if Vince McMahon rented the first season of Oz, he could have stolen half a dozen ideas from Beecher v. Schillinger that would have been a million times better than the crappy way this storyline ended up. They trade headlocks to start and Wade slugs away in the corner, but Orton slugs back, prompting Cena to pull him off. Gorilla Monsoon would be very upset about that. Barrett does his own beatdown, and Cena pulls him off as well. Worst. Referee. Ever. Orton pounds on Barrett and they fight on the floor, then back in where Barrett gets two. Barrett slugs Orton down for two. Big boot gets two. Barrett with a chinlock that Orton reverses into a backdrop suplex, and they slug it out. Orton comes back with the powerslam and clotheslines Barrett to the floor. Back in, the neckbreaker gets two. Barrett comes back with a clothesline and the middle rope elbow for two. The crowd is scary dead, just waiting for the match to end so they can get to the payoff. Barrett with a pumphandle slam for two, and a Bossman slam for two. Barrett takes exception to Cena’s fair counting, and the crowd totally forgets about the match and does duelling chants for the ref. Orton sets up for the RKO and chases Barrett to the floor. Barrett catches him coming back in and gets the Wasteland, but Orton gets the ropes at two. This finally prompts action from Barrett, as he shoves Cena, and walks into the RKO at 15:17. “Cena’s free!” declares Striker, before Cole corrects him and notes that Cena’s fired. That’s this angle in a nutshell: So needlessly complicated that even the ANNOUNCERS can’t keep track of the stipulations. Cena was back by the next PPV as this whole storyline went spiralling into the toilet and Orton’s meaningless title reign was mercifully ended by the Miz the next night. And they wonder why no one buys their PPVs. Orton and Barrett continue to have no chemistry together, especially thanks to Orton’s crappy babyface comebacks. **3/4

Bonus DVD Match!

RAW World title: Randy Orton v. Wade Barrett

From RAW the next night, as the Nexus lays out Orton and injures the knee, but Orton wants to proceed anyway. Barrett goes after the knee, of course, pounding it in a variety of ways, but Orton sends him into the corner. Orton comes back with the neckbreaker, but Barrett gets Wasteland for two. John Cena returns from his firing and breaks up the pin, allowing Orton to get the RKO and retain. However, this allows Miz to cash in…

RAW World title: Randy Orton v. The Miz

Miz also goes after the knee, but Orton clotheslines him out of the corner and escapes the Skull Crushing Finale. Miz hits the knee again, but walks into a powerslam. Skull Crushing Finale gives Miz the title, however. This of course gives the world DEMON GIRL, so that’s worth it.

The Pulse

The midcard portion was pretty fun and worth checking out, but the two main events just killed this show. Recommendation to avoid.×120.jpg

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The SmarK DVD Rant – Old Dogs, New Tricks Tue, 25 Jan 2011 14:00:52 +0000 The SmarK DVD Rant – Old Dogs, New Tricks

I don’t know if it’s the aging baby boomer population that’s to thank, but there seems to be a new sub-genre now: Old geezers killing people. Thankfully, the people making these movies tend to be smart enough about their craft to pick good scripts, thus avoiding any more Wild Hogs or Old Dogs or other Travolta-related disasters. Oddly enough, both of the movies I’m taking a look at this time feature retired Marines caught up in an escalating violent war, although the movies couldn’t be more different outside of that.


I was hesitant to go see this one in the theaters because I wasn’t familiar with the graphic novel and the title was so vague as to be meaningless (for those who don’t know, in the movie world it’s a CIA acronym for “Retired: Extremely Dangerous”), but it’s got Helen Mirren shooting the crap out of people, so I gave it a look on DVD. It ended up being one of those movies that I enjoyed and then enjoyed less and less the more I thought about it, so I’ve decided to stop thinking about it and hold onto the good memories of it.

Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired CIA black ops agent (like, the kind that only exists in the movies), so super-efficient and deadly at his job that he might as well just go into peoples’ dreams like Freddy Kruger and dispatch them that way. After weeks of flirting on the phone with pension agent Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker, who in Hollywood is a plain Jane who can’t get a decent boyfriend), he suddenly discovers that bad people want him dead again, which likely includes Sarah. So after dispatching a stereotypical death squad with his bare hands (and without millions of rounds firing attracting any attention from the police whatsoever…sorry, I’ll stop thinking about it again), he does the logical thing and kidnaps his new girlfriend for a road trip to hunt his would-be killers. Along the way he reassembles his former team (Mirren as last-name-less assassin Victoria, John Malkovich as paranoid Marvin Boggs, and Morgan Freeman as the Token Black Guy. Oh, and Brian Cox as a Russian named Ivan. Of course.) There’s actually kind of a disconnect with the movies around the middle part, as the first half is an intriguing look at how a retired agent reacts to being forced back into the field, filled with imaginative special effects and snappy dialogue. The second half, however, turns into a standard Hollywood action movie, complete with the world’s deadliest assassins firing thousands of rounds at each other without hitting a damn thing. Plus the plot, which actually tries to introduce a twist in terms of who The Real Villain is, kind of forgets what the movie was originally about. Really, by the end Sarah has been reduced to the usual useless damsel-in-distress instead of adding anything to the movie, and the script kind of forgets about Boggs past a certain point.

But that’s all OK, because this is enough of a fun romp that it can overcome the sillier points by being charming and entertaining through sheer force of willpower. Obviously Bruce Willis is totally believable as a bad-ass former agent, and Karl Urban chews the scenery as a hotshot field agent tracking him for reasons even he doesn’t know about. Plus Malkovich gets to say “I’ll get the pig!” and then carries a stuffed pig around with him for the next few scenes. Clearly these are people having fun with the material, and I can appreciate that. Recommended!

Harry Brown

I kind of forgot about this one, as I also got it to review a while ago and kept putting it off until RED reminded me of it. There is similar material here, as Michael Caine is also a retired badass called back into the war one more time, but this one has more to do with Gran Torino or even Taken, than Death Wish.

Caine plays Harry Brown, long retired and living in the slums of Britain because that’s all he can afford on his pension. His wife is newly dead and his one refuge from the endless drug dealers and gang wars in his section of town is a chess game with an old friend. Unfortunately, his friend is as sick of the gang activity as Harry is, and chooses to go into the gang-infested subway with a giant knife one night to settle the score. Things go very badly for him (the “fight” ends with him dead and the punks pissing on his corpse), and that’s about all that Harry can take without seeking revenge. Seeking vigilante justice in Britain is tricky, however, especially if you want to buy a gun, because you can’t. This leads to Brown having to deal with two incredibly skeevy drug dealers in order to get weapons, in a scene that’s very raw and off-putting, but also leads to a moment from Harry that shows just why he was able to survive in Northern Ireland all those years ago. It’s awesome stuff from Michael Caine, as even his descent into moral darkness (murder and arson!) leaves you cheering for him as you’re wondering how far he’ll go to get rid of the criminal element in his little world. It probably helps that the kids who run the drug trade are such repulsive little punks, and this movie pulls no punches in Harry’s treatment of them. At the very beginning of the movie, two of them are shown stealing a motorbike and shooting a young mother in the head, just for fun, while videotaping it on their phone, so this a film that makes no pretenses about the targets deserving sympathy for Brown’s cruel treatment. Even the police aren’t overly concerned about an 80-year old pensioner with emphysema possibly offing the scumbags of the street, because really why would they object?

That being said, this is a VERY British movie, with accents and slang so thick that subtitles are probably a must to follow what’s going on. It’s not enough to affect my enjoyment of it, but some of the finer points of the dialogue might get lost. That’s a minor point, as this was a movie that totally caught me by surprise and proved extremely enjoyable. It probably helps that Caine is a great actor and a likeable guy to start with, but this is well worth checking out if you’ve never heard about it before. Highly recommended!

The winner this time: Both are great in their own way, but Harry Brown is my recommendation if you have to choose one.×120.jpg

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