Posts Tagged ‘reviews


What I’m Watching/Reading: Limitless

Generally speaking, if I get really excited for a movie that was based on a book, I want to read the book first. I realize this puts me at odds with many people, but I’m the sort who always prefers to err on the side of the original author. In this case, the author is Alan Glynn, who wrote the 2002 novel The Dark Fields, upon which Leslie Dixon based her screenplay for Limitless. The Dark Fields was then re-published under the Limitless name, but having both read the book and watched the film, I can tell you, they’re two very different creatures. The good news is that I liked them both.

I didn’t know there was a novel when I went to see the movie, but I liked the movie enough to seek out the book. Even though I saw the movie first, I’ll talk about the book first.

The Dark Fields/Limitless is the story of Eddie Spinola, a copywriter who stumbles into a new drug that opens up the full potential of his mind. With near-perfect recall and much higher cognitive functions than ever before, he begins to chart a new course for his life, including an invasion of the world of high finance and running afoul of a Russian loan shark. But when the drug creates a dependency, he finds himself in danger not only for his fortune, but his life.

This is a terribly dark book, one with an incredible premise and a nice block of characters. Reading along as Eddie’s mental faculties are raised and lowered and raised again makes the experience of reading the novel somewhat like what I imagine it’d be like to read Flowers For Algernon on a roller-coaster. Glynn masterfully paints the picture of a man who is completely losing control of his life. We can feel it as one thing or another slips away from him, things that even his mythical doses of MDT-48 can’t save him from, and by the end of the book there’s really only one place it can go.

Which makes a very interesting contrast to the movie. Because although the set-up is identical, the ending is completely different.

Limitless (the film) is the story of Eddie Morra, a struggling novelist who stumbles into a new drug that opens up the full potential of his mind. With near-perfect recall and much higher cognitive functions than ever before, he begins to chart a new course for his life, including an invasion of the world of high finance and running afoul of a Russian loan shark. But when the drug creates a dependency, he finds himself in danger not only for his fortune, but his life.

Familiar, no? But screenwriter Leslie Dixon throws in some differences in the first half of the film — a girlfriend who doesn’t exist in the novel being the main one. (She also abandons some other characters, such as the daughter of Eddie’s boss who exists in a bizarre subplot that, in the book, really goes nowhere.) After that first half, though, she takes Eddie Morra’s life in a totally different direction than Eddie Spinola. This Eddie still finds himself losing control over his actions, but he also manages to hold on to a few grains of hope that Eddie Spinola loses somewhere along the line.

Frankly, if you look at Limitless the movie as an adaptation of The Dark Fields, it doesn’t really work. It drifts not only from the plot, but also from the spirit of the story in a totally irreconcilable way, where the screenwriter drew not on anything the original author gave her, but created things from whole cloth to tell a different story.

To my amazement, though, I liked them both.

Usually, I get very upset when an adaptation strays this far from the source material. In this case, though, while The Dark Fields made a very strong novel, I don’t think the climax would have been thrilling or exciting enough to make for a satisfying motion picture. Dixon created from whole cloth, to be certain, but she created something that made for a much more entertaining cinematic experience than I think the original story would have been.

This is almost a revelation to me, friends. Both the book and the film have the same basic concept, the same idea, the same elevator pitch… but the execution in the two different media almost had to be different, because I don’t think either would have worked in the other media. I’m going to have to actually step back and look at other books and movies that I didn’t think made the transition well, maybe give them another chance. Because while I still think the original author’s intentions should be paramount… well… if he’s okay with the change, I should be too.

EDIT: Of course, as soon as I finish writing this, I think of two other films with different endings that I think worked. First was The Mist. Yes, I know Stephen King purists (my girlfriend included) may be pissed at me for saying this, but I thought the ending of the film was a brilliant twist that really cut you to the core… and from what I understand, King himself agrees with me. The other is Watchmen. Curiously enough, many people criticized that film for being too faithful to the source material, to the point of dragging, but the one big change in the story, the one that comes to the end, is actually the rare case where I think the movie ending makes more sense than the original graphic novel. (It has to do with assigning blame, which is all I can say without delving into spoiler territory.) Of course, this is a case where the original writer, Alan Moore, famously did not approve of the changes, so this may be inapplicable to this discussion.


The movies of 2010… Yep, you read it right

Okay, gang. Just before the new year celebrations kicked off, I was about to do the obligatory “best movies of the year” post, only to realize I hadn’t actually seen all that many movies made in 2010. To correct this, I added a buttload of 2010 movies to my Netflix queue and moved ’em up to the front. Since then, I’ve been cycling through them relatively quickly in the hopes of putting together a more comprehensive list. Well…by the time I was done, I’d racked up 39 2010 releases… still not enough to average one a week for the year, but better than the 22 I had at the end of December. So let’s take a few minutes and talk them out.

My Favorite Movies of 2010:

1. Toy Story 3: This should be no surprise, if you know anything about me. The Toy Story films have always been remarkably powerful, character-driven masterpieces of animation, and this may have been the best of the lot. Wonderful, emotional, and uplifting. There was no other film last year I loved nearly as much.

2. Inception: Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller took an intriguing idea — traveling into the dreams of others — and blended it with all the best elements of a heist movie to create a mind-bending trip through the subconscious. It’s not an easy movie, it’s a movie that demands your attention, and in the end I don’t think there are nearly enough of those.

3. True Grit: I love a good western, and while I was initially nervous about anybody taking on Rooster Cogburn after John Wayne’s legendary performance, this movie more than set my mind at ease. Not a remake of the Wayne movie, but rather another take at filming the novel, the Cohen Brothers and Jeff Bridges made this story their own in a remarkable way. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin also turned in good performances, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld held her own against some of the greatest actors working today. She more than deserves the Oscar nomination she just got.

4. The Social Network. I, like you, have heard a lot of debate about the accuracy of the Aaron Sorkin/David Lynch take on the life of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, and I certainly am not qualified to speak about how accurate the movie was. But taken just as a pure movie and not a historical document, the film is a brilliant character study of someone who’s a narcissist with potential. There are no heroes in this film, just villains, victims, and a few people (including Zuckerberg himself) that seem to straddle the line between the two.

5. The Town. This one snuck in at the last minute — I just saw it yesterday. Ben Affleck, again proving that he can actually direct, helms this heist film based on the novel by Chuck Hogan about a bank robber who starts a relationship with a hostage who doesn’t know he’s the man who kidnapped her. This isn’t a high-action, thrill-a-minute heist like Ocean’s 11, or even the aforementioned Inception. Yes, there is action, and it’s good, but like most great films, this is much more about the characters, where they come from, and where they may wind up.

Big Surprises of 2010

This is a category for movies that may not have cracked the top 5, but were way better than I expected them to be. Here they are, in no particular order:

Batman: Under the Red Hood. Based on a kinda mediocre Batman comic book and written by the same man who wrote said mediocre comic, this tale of the return of the second, long-believed dead Robin really packed a whallop. It’s strange, the only significant change in the plot was the removal of one element that didn’t really make any difference at all. Is the dreaded “Superboy Prime Punch” the only thing that made us think the comic book was weak, while this animated film was great?

Easy A. When I saw the trailers for this Emma Stone comedy very loosely based on Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, I dismissed it as a stereotypical brainless teen comedy. Instead, I found a really smart film about high school politics, the power of perception and peer pressure, and the importance of self-acceptance. The cast was really funny and talented, and in the end, I felt like I’d spent my two hours very wisely.

Hot Tub Time Machine. Where Easy A just looked a bit typical, the trailers for this looked outright moronic. Still, I pulled it in from Netflix and was delightfully surprised. John Cusack, Craig Robertson and Rob Cordray star as three friends who get tossed back in time to re-live the greatest weekend of their lives. The film gets deeper than that, though, playing with time travel theory, the delicate balance of family and friends, and what it takes to give a few guys past their prime the spark back. The movie turned out to be part Back to the Future and part City Slickers, with a few 80s ski comedies mixed in for flavor. I couldn’t believe I loved it.

Worst Movies of 2010

This, of course, is based entirely on my own personal perceptions, so if you disagree… well, more power to you.

5. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. goes to show you how few films I saw this year, that this cracked the bottom five, because it honestly isn’t a horrible movie. It’s weak, though, very weak. Jake Gyllenhall doesn’t for a minute come off as a Persian prince, the villain’s plot is ludicrous, and the time travel mechanics are screwy. Disney struck out here.

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street. While I still think Jackie Earl Haley was a good choice to take over the Freddy Kruger role from Robert Englund, this remake of the horror classic was dull, lifeless, and often just plain stupid.

3. Clash of the Titans. Amazing, how remakes keep cropping up here at the bottom. While the original Clash was not, I admit, Citizen Kane, it was a fun romp through a specious understanding of mythology with awesome Ray Harryhausen special effects. This was a painful look at mythology based on the understanding of a writer who is probably resting his entire knowledge base on three episodes of the old Disney Hercules cartoon. Sam Worthington turned in yet another wooden, glass-eyed turn as an “action hero,” Gemma Arterton (just as she did in Prince of Persia) looks good on camera but adds nothing to the film, and Liam Neeson evidently lost a bet. And yet enough of you people saw this monstrocity for it to get a sequel. For shame. FOR. SHAME.

2. Splice. Adrien Brody stars in a sci-fi thriller about a couple of scientists trying to… hell, I don’t even know what their actual goal was, but they whipped up a hell beast that was part human and parts a lot of different animals and really deadly. It was actually really close, if I would put this at #2 or #3 on the list. What finally put this below Clash was that, although it did have Sam Worthington tromping around ancient Greece for months without ever outgrowing his buzzcut, it did NOT feature (SPOILER WARNING: DO NOT CONTINUE READING THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO BE SURPRISED WHEN YOU SEE THIS MOVIE AND/OR HAVE A MODICUM OF GOOD TASTE) Adrien Brody having sex with a half-human/half-animal clone of his wife in the middle of a barn. That was hands-down the creepiest scene in any movie in this year. In most years. Maybe ever. I want to boil my brain.

1. Jonah Hex. Now I’m going to be fair here. Objectively, this Josh Brolin/Megan Fox/John Malkovich western based on the DC Comic probably wasn’t the worst-made movie this year. But it was without a doubt the one that made me angriest. I love the Jonah Hex comic book. It’s a brilliant piece of comic literature that could have made one of the greatest, grittiest westerns of all time. Instead, we got a bastardized hybrid of the character mixed in with The Crow, The Sixth Sense, and some leftover set pieces from Wild Wild West. There may have been worse-acted, worse-written, or worse-directed films this year, but nothing had me walk out of the theater this angry. On the other hand, let’s hear it for Josh Brolin? How many people can say they were the hero of the year’s worst cowboy movie and the villain of the year’s best cowboy movie in the same year?


Okay, guys. All that’s left is the comprehensive list. Before I give it to you, though, let me just say I rather enjoyed this experiment, and I’ve still got more 2010 films left on my Netflix queue than I’ve actually seen. Maybe in a couple of months I’ll want to reevaluate this list. Maybe it’ll be totally different. Maybe I should start quantifying all years in cinema this way. Compulsive list-maker that I am, that could be a lot of fun. When I see a film, I’ll open up that year’s list and pop it in where I think it belongs. Of course, I’m not about to start going back and ranking every movie I’ve ever seen that way, that would be preposterous. I’d have to do that just with movies I see from now on. By that rationale, of course, it means Logan’s Run was the best movie of 1976, since that’s the only movie from that year I’ve seen recently. Of course, that may actually be the best movie of 1976, so why belabor the point?

I’m rambling now. Thanks for taking the time to read, guys, and who knows? Maybe I’ll do some updates in the future. I leave you with the complete list of 2010 releases I have seen, in order of preference:

  1. Toy Story 3
  2. Inception
  3. True Grit
  4. The Social Network
  5. The Town
  6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  7. Tron: Legacy
  8. Hot Tub Time Machine
  9. Iron Man 2
  10. Easy A
  11. Buried
  12. Tangled
  13. Despicable Me
  14. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
  15. Shutter Island
  16. Batman: Under the Red Hood
  17. How to Tame Your Dragon
  18. Due Date
  19. Waking Sleeping Beauty
  20. Predators
  21. Kick-Ass
  22. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
  23. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
  24. Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics
  25. The Losers
  26. Dinner For Schmucks
  27. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
  28. The Wolfman
  29. Planet Hulk
  30. Survival of the Dead
  31. Alice in Wonderland
  32. Repo Men
  33. Robin Hood
  34. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
  35. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  36. A Nightmare on Elm Street
  37. Clash of the Titans
  38. Splice
  39. Jonah Hex

Cough, wheeze, croak

Gotta love flu season, right? I took today off work due to a nice cocktail of an elevated temperature, horrible stuffy nose, incessant cough, and a voice that sounds like I’d lined my throat with broken glass. And how was your day?

After I called in sick I tried to go back to sleep, but only succeeded for about a half hour before the aforementioned coughing and wheezing made it known that I was up for the day. So I tried to be at least quasi-productive. I didn’t have any major cerebral capabilities, so rather than working on a big writing project I knocked out a lot of mini-reviews over at (we’ve changed up the format in a way that I think is cool and, more importantly, will help you guys find what you’re looking for). I also watched the last two Netflix movies I had at home to cap off my previously mentioned “watch as many 2010 movies in January as I can” experiment. I plan to report on the results of that tomorrow, for those of you who are interested.

And if you’re waiting to hear more about Wizard World New Orleans, that’s going to be a big ol’ column at CX this Wednesday. If you’d like to see photos of the con or a couple of videos of the musical stylings of Ethan Van Sciver, you can find them on my Flickr Album.


Halloween Happenings…

October is at the halfway mark, friends, and somehow I feel like I haven’t even begun to immerse myself in the spirit of Halloween. I suppose that’s largely because I spent the first two weeks of the month in the midst of a goody, slapstick comedy. But I’m down with the macabre right now, and I’m trying to give you guys as much of it as I can — although not all of it will appear right here at Evertime Realms. So here are a few links to items of note…

First off, head to CX Pulp and check out my review of Night of the Living Trekkies. This unique zombie novel follows a zombie attack on — of all things — a Star Trek convention. It’s goofy, cross-genre fun!

Meanwhile, at The Back Issue Bin, I continue to roll out horror and Halloween-type reviews. Such as…


Halloween Party: Jennifer’s Body

While nobody is going to be putting out book-length analysis of the Great Works of Megan Fox, that doesn’t mean everything she makes is total crap. Much of it, sure, but not everything. And thus, I had no trouble passing on her magnum opus Jennifer’s Body when it hit theaters. This being the Evertime Realms Halloween Party, though, I knew that I had to subject myself to horror in all its forms, and Megan Fox’s acting certainly qualifies, so I decided to brave it.

To my shock, it actually wasn’t that bad.

Fox plays the titular Jennifer, a girl who goes mysteriously missing after a party one night, only to return to school changed. Her best friend Needy (seriously, “Needy“) is the only one who thinks there’s anything wrong with her, even when the boys at school start turning up brutally murdered.

The biggest thing this movie has going for it is that, despite the DVD cover and every piece of marketing, Fox wasn’t really the main character. Amanda Seyfried, who plays Needy, is the real protagonist of the film — a dowdy girl (well… “Hollywood” dowdy, which means “hot, but with glasses and her hair pulled back”) who somehow has maintained a friendship with the far more popular Jennifer into their teen years. Needy is not just the smart one, but as the film goes on, she increasingly becomes the tough one, the determined one, and the powerful one. In fact, by the end of the film I felt like I could have been viewing an alternate origin story for Tim Seeley’s excellent horror comic Hack/Slash. Seyfried has made some clunkers, but she’s by far a superior actress to Fox in almost every way, so placing her in the true lead role makes for a stronger film.

Fox is the villain, although the way she becomes the villain makes her a bit of a victim as well. At various parts of the film she can come across as an airheaded bimbo or a coldblooded monster, and she actually does both of those roles better than many others I’ve seen her in. In another case of inaccurate marketing, the film isn’t nearly as sexually charged as most of the marketing made it out to be. There’s plenty of teasing and torment, but the sex stuff doesn’t go past anything that could be shown on network television. The gore, on the other hand, is way beyond what you’d see on TV. Which, in a horror film, is what you want.

If you passed on this film because Megan Fox doesn’t inspire you with confidence in a film’s quality, I don’t blame you. And this is by no means a masterpiece of modern cinema. But it’s actually not bad, and if your goal is to throw together a Halloween marathon of recent monster movies or even (to a degree) girl power flicks, this one wouldn’t be bad to include.


Getting back to work…

Erin is back home again, and to get my mind off it, I’m going to get some work done. This means, in large part, catching up on reviews of recent comics, mainly for, but also for my own site, The Back Issue Bin. I’ve taken to posting more and more comic book reviews here at Evertime Realms in the last few months, and it’s occurred to me that’s kind of silly. I established a whole new blog specifically for the purpose of posting comic book reviews, so why am I duplicating my efforts here? So in addition to the old reviews brought back from internet purge obscurity, in addition to the “Somebody’s First Comic Book” pieces I’ve been posting at the BIB since the beginning of June, I’m going to now start a queue of recent comic reviews in my files, where I’ll post one each day – reviews of comics that other reviewers at CX already covered, or books that I didn’t get to read until they were no longer timely, concerns that of course won’t matter at my own site. This will include future Brightest Day reviews – except for those that are posted at Comixtreme, of course. I maintain my vow that every Brightest Day tie-in I read will be reviewed either at CX or at the BIB. And you’ll be able to follow all of them as I constantly update the Archive.

The other thing I’m going to be working on are the edits to Opening Night of the Dead. I printed out the manuscript, put it in a binder, and spent my downtime during Annie rehearsals to work on editing the document. (I’ve discovered that I do much better work editing my own stuff in hard copy. For some reason, I just gloss over a lot of the errors on the screen.) As soon as I finish the editing, I’m going to ask a few trusted readers to look it over for their comments, and then it’s going to be time to look for a publisher for this bad boy. Wish me luck.


What I’m Reading: HATER

Some time ago one of the many podcast authors I follow (I honestly don’t remember which one) dropped a preview of David Moody’s novel Hater into their feed. I found that first taste very interesting, but never got around to finding the actual novel until last week. I just put it down a few minutes ago, and the first thing I did was check to see if the sequel was available yet.

I suppose you can qualify Hater as a horror novel, but that doesn’t really give an accurate description of the story, just as the word “Hater” doesn’t accurately describe what’s happening to the characters in the book. The story focuses on an office drone named Danny, a man weighed down by an unhappy life, kids who frustrate him, and a job he hates. As bad as his life seems, though, it gets worse when people across the country begin to suddenly snap and go into unexplained, homicidal rages against random targets. As the attacks get more and more frequent, chaos begins to spread. What is causing ordinary people to become cold-blooded killers? How long will it continue? And perhaps the most frightening question of all – who’s next?

Moody’s novel really is a great study of human nature. The real fear in this book comes not from the danger of being attacked, but from the uncertainty about who may attack next. Imagine living in a society where any random person on the street could suddenly snap and start killing anybody, from complete strangers to their closest loved ones. The collapse of society that ensues feels very real, very possible given the circumstances. For the first two-thirds of the book, we also get a very good depiction of an ordinary person’s response to this sort of chaos. The final third of the book takes a very surprising turn, and before we know what’s happening, we’ve gone from an ordinary setting in chaos to a totally changed world. The shift is quick, but Moody sells it surprisingly well.

Although the book doesn’t really share much with the zombie genre, structurally at least, it has a lot of the same feeling and tone as a great zombie book. That underlying fear is the same, that terror that something familiar would be changed forever and corrupted into something that will kill you. The best zombie stories drive that fear home, and Moody does the same thing in this book.

I was a bit surprised, as I approached the end of the novel, to begin getting that sensation that a sequel was in the offing. You know how it goes – sometimes as you get nearer to the end of the book you realize there are simply too many dangling plot threads and too many unanswered questions to resolve things in a satisfying way, which means you’re either going to be let down by the ending or you’ll realize you’re actually reading the first book in a series. This turned out to be the latter. It’s to Moody’s credit, then, that as soon as I put the novel down I logged on to his website to see if the sequel, Dog Blood, was available yet. Not only was it available (and now sitting on my Kindle) but there was a free short story on the website too, “Everything and Nothing,” that bridges the two novels. And, not surprisingly, Dog Blood is being billed as the “second book in the Hater trilogy.” So I’m not expecting a conclusion when I read that book either. But if it’s as strong as Hater is, that’s okay. Moody has sold me, and I’m definitely along for the ride.


Time for a new X-Men #1

Someone at Marvel apparently checked the calendar and realized it’s been a while since we had an X-Men #1, so we’re kicking off the new Curse of the Mutants storyline with an all-new ongoing series. (Okay, technically the story kicked off in last week’s Death of Dracula #1, but why split hairs?)

Writer Victor Gishler and Paco Medina pick up on the X-Men in San Francisco, a city where they seem to have finally found some acceptance. Their peace is shattered, though, when a terrorist sets off a suicide bomb in the middle of the city. Thing is, this isn’t an ordinary suicide bomber. It’s a vampire, and what he’s carrying around is a lot nastier than any shrapnel.

I decided to give this series a try mainly on the work of writer Victor Gishler, who’s been doing some fine work on Deadpool lately. So far, his X-Men isn’t half bad. The characters all feel like themselves, and he’s succeeded (between this book and the aforementioned Dracula one-shot) in making me believe in the Vampires as a legitimate threat to the Marvel Universe. He also manages to pull off a truly frightening situation for a former X-Man that may just turn her into a danger to the entire world.

I’m a little surprised that the book got away with Marvel’s T+ rating (the comic book equivalent of a PG-13). There’s some real gore in here, both in the bombing itself and when Wolverine encounters the vampires. The last few pages really show us how heavy the stakes are for the X-Men in particular and for the world as a whole.

All things considered, this book is surprisingly low-key. It’s the beginning of a big crossover event and the first issue of a new X-Men ongoing. It’s a good issue, but it goes pretty far outside of the usual X-Men wheelhouse. On the other hand, this is supposed to be the title that shows the X-Men reacting to the rest of the Marvel universe, so that may be just the thing.

It’s interesting that this is the third book to carry an X-Men #1 label without either of the other two being cancelled… they’ve just been renamed (to Uncanny X-Men and X-Men: Legacy, respectively). As the beginning of a new era for the characters, it may just work.

I’ve been reviewing the hell out of comics over at lately, including two more Brightest Day reviews. Rather than repeat myself here, I thought I’d just link to those over there…

And here are some other reviews of mine that have hit in the last week or two…


Recent Comics Roundup: Brightest Day with extra Green

Okay, gang, how about another roundup of recent comic book releases. I’ll give you my usual slate of Brightest Day comics, then tomorrow I’ll get into some other recent books, including a few Heroic Age comics and the big Wonder Woman #600 that all the kids are talking about. Let’s get to it.

Green Lantern Corps #49: In part two of “Revolt of the Alpha-Lanterns,” Boodikka and John Stewart undertake a mission to planet Grenda, home of the robot Lantern Stel, who has gone incommunicado. Shortly after his arrival, though, John finds himself under attack by an unexpected source, and Kyle Rayner, Ganthet, and Soranik Natu go out to rescue the rescue mission. We also get a glimpse of the fallout from Deadman’s battle with the Anti-Monitor in Brightest Day #3, as it seems to be playing into this storyline. Ever since the Alpha-Lanterns were introduced, there’s been something distinctly creepy about them, and this issue seems to be pulling the curtain back a bit on them. We’re getting to see some of what they’re really up to, and while we still may not quite know why they’re behaving this way, the fact that they are is disturbing enough. Tony Bedard does still have room for character beats, though. The recent return of Kyle’s late ex-girlfriend, Jade, is causing trouble in his current relationship with Soranik. We also really get to see what makes John Stewart tick in this issue. I’m very happy that he’s joined the cast of this book full-time, as in just two issues he’s gotten more exposure than he did in the past 25 issues of the core Green Lantern title. Ardian Syaf gets to play with a lot of redesigns this issue, and he does a fine job. He’s rapidly rising up the ranks of DC’s bests artists, and this is one of DC’s best comics.

Rating: 8/10

Green Arrow #1: Hey, look, it’s a Green Arrow #1! It must be at least two, three months since we had one of those. At the beginning of Brightest Day, the devastated Star City became the site of an enormous star-shaped forest. Oliver Queen, now unmasked and disgraced as Green Arrow due to his murder of Prometheus (in Justice League: Cry For Justice), has taken to living in the forest, where he has become far more literal a modern Robin Hood than ever before. Not surprisingly, this issue is a lot of set-up. We find out where Ollie has been and what he’s been doing  since we last saw him, and we see what’s been happening to the power structure in what’s left of Star City. At the end of the issue, we see once again just how this title seems to be keyed in to Brightest Day, with a nice little reveal. While I’m still not sold that this revamp of the character justified yet another first issue for Green Arrow, I really do like what J.T. Krul is doing with him. He’s got a very good feel for Ollie, for who he is, for what he’s doing. Diogenes Neves’ artwork is strong, and interestingly enough seems to work better in the forest than in the city. Mauro Cascioli does a flat-out fantastic cover, one that really knocks my socks off. It’s not a knockout first issue, but it’s a strong one.

Rating: 7/10

Justice League: Generation Lost #4

The four JLI members who remember Max Lord, along with the new Blue Beetle, find themselves in Russia, unwillingly drawn into a conflict between a rogue Rocket Red and an entire squad of the armored Russian warriors. The new Rocket Red, a terrorist dedicated to the restoration of the Socialist rule, finds an unexpected ally in the former Justice League, and it’s Booster Gold of all people who starts to piece together what’s going on. Like many of the characters who returned from the dead, this issue we start to see that Maxwell Lord’s powers aren’t exactly like they were before his death. I find this particular mystery very interesting, and I’ve very much enjoyed watching it play out in several of the Brightest Day-branded titles. The reluctance of this group to form a team is also a really interesting way to play things. Judd Winick’s Power Girl last week didn’t impress me much, but his collaboration with Keith Giffen has been quite strong since this book launched. I’m enjoying the story, the mystery, and seeing these characters together again, which is what you want whenever this particular band is brought back together.

Rating: 7/10

Green Lantern #55: Lobo is back, and he’s on Earth to collect the bounty on Atrocitus. As the White Lantern still seems to want Atrocitus around, Hal Jordan finds himself in the odd position of defending the Red Lantern, along with Carol Ferris and Sinestro, from the last Czarnian. There’s a ton of action this issue, and Doug Mahnke does a great job of laying it out. The inks on this issue, though, are a little looser than I would like. Aside from the fight scenes, Geoff Johns also delves into the mystery of the strange being that seems determined to capture the Entities that embody the seven Corps. This has been a very strong element in this title, once that’s helped to propel the story forward since Brightest Day began. We also get a back-up story illustrated by Shawn Davis, the origin of the Red Lantern Dex-Starr. What exactly could take a cat from Earth and turn him into a brutal member of the rage-filled Red Lantern Corps? It’s a sad story, no surprise, and the last panel will break the heart of pretty much any cat-lover. Despite myself, I can’t help but hope that Johns returns to this story at some point and gives Dex-Starr the chance for a little payback.

Rating: 8/10

The Flash #3: Another Geoff Johns comic (the guy writes a lot of them, doesn’t he?) returns to the resurrected Captain Boomerang. Boomerang is back in prison, where he’s been given the “assignment” to break out before his fellow Rogues will consider accepting him back into the fold. Barry Allen, meanwhile, is being pursued by the Renegades – Rogue-based cops from the 25th century – who are accusing him of the murder of one of their own… a murder that hasn’t happened yet. This is a damn ominous issue. Not only is Captain Boomerang shaping up to be much more of a threat than he’s been in the past, but Johns briefly brushes up against just why Barry could be driven to kill Mirror Monarch. Here’s a hint. Barry has killed before. Anybody remember what it was that drove him to it the first time? Two more things to love about this issue. First, Johns has brought back the old-school “Flash Facts,” with the help of artist Scott Kolins, giving us both actual science (how a Boomerang works) and some “Secret Files”-style in-world info, in this case about Captain Boomerang himself. The other thing to love is the art of Francis Manapul. I don’t know if it’s an improvement in his style or the colors of Brian Buccellato (or a combination of the two), but his style on this book is so far ahead of his work on Legion of Super-Heroes just a few years ago that you couldn’t tell it was the same artist. It’s fantastic.

Rating: 9/10

Justice League of America #46: After a two-issue prologue, the JLA/JSA crossover “The Dark Things” begins in earnest this issue. The Starheart has taken over Green Lantern Alan Scott, and the power is spreading across the Earth, causing magic- or elemental-based heroes and villains to lose control and wreak havoc on the world. The Justice League and Justice Society spring into action to shut down the elementals, while the newly-returned Jade tries to use her altered powers to try to figure out what’s happened to her absent father and brother. James Robinson does good work balancing the two groups of characters and exploring some of the new relationships that this team is afforded – Congorilla and Jesse Quick, Nightwing and Supergirl… characters that we haven’t seen together very much, but work well together. Mark Bagley juggles a ton of characters this issue and he’s got a good feel for most of them. The young League looks great, the older JSA not as much, and that’s just a consequence of his style. He’s always done young characters very well. In the back-up story, Pow Rodrix illustrates the tale of two JLA members that don’t appear to be on the current team. Cyborg has helped develop a new technology that may prevent Red Tornado from ever having his body destroyed again, but when Red Tornado loses control, that’s a pretty big problem. The story isn’t clear as to whether Tornado’s loss of control is related to the Starheart in the main story, but I rather hope it is, as it will give the second story a bit more weight.

Rating: 7/10

Tomorrow, some comics that have nothing to do with Brightest Day.


Recent Comics Roundup: Brightest Day & Dark Tower

Today I’m going to give you guys my thoughts on a few recent comics, including three more Brightest Day issues, and the most recent comic in Marvel’s version of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Let’s start with a book that hit the week I was in Pittsburgh…

Justice League: Generation Lost #3

Continuing the story of the four Justice Leaguers who remember the truth about Maxwell Lord. As we’ve learned through Booster Gold’s little robot sidekick Skeets, though, computer intelligences also remember Maxwell Lord and all the nasty things he did — and that includes the scarab that gives power to the current Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. Jaime’s family is targeted by a group of Max’s OMACs, and he joins up Booster Gold to help hunt down the man who murdered his predecessor. It’s really nice to see Jaime having a place in this group, and what’s more, writers Keith Giffen and Judd Winick spread out and cover a lot more of the DC Universe here as well. Fire’s confrontation with her former associates in the Checkmate organization is very strong, and the return of another former JLI member at the end bodes poorly for our heroes. The tone of this book, of course, is drastically different from the old “Bwa-ha-ha” comedy of the original JLI run, but that doesn’t mean the book doesn’t work. the story is very solid and the characters feel like they’ve evolved since the old days, Booster especially. I also really love Tony Harris‘s cover, featuring Jaime and Ted Kord. It’s just a great cover, really. Three issues in, I’ve really been impressed with this maxi-series. I just hope that the writers can keep up this quality for the next 11 months.

Rating: 7/10

Brightest Day #4

In the fourth chapter of the core Brightest Day series, the Hawks find an arch built from the bones of their many, many former incarnations. There’s a trap that’s been laid for them, something that’s been calling to them for a very long time. Deadman, meanwhile, finally gets a chance to rest, only to find himself throwing down with Hawk and Dove, an oasis in the New Mexico desert mysteriously dries up, and Ronnie Raymond starts to have some nasty dreams about what he did while he was a Black Lantern. There’s definite plot progression here, although some of it is incremental. The Deadman story, however, moves forward quite a bit. This, I think, is the way to best handle a book like this one. With such a large cast, coming out every other week, each issue should progress all of the stories a little bit and one of them a lot. That makes for a satisfying read, and it seems like Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have figured that out. What happens at the end of this issue is really cool — it’s one of those instances where the characters come to the sort of conclusion that the readers did two or three issues ago, and they start to act on it. One of the most interesting things about Brightest Day thus far has been the strange new powers that Deadman is exhibiting. If the cliffhanger here is any indication, next issue we may actually get an examination of how those powers work, and that’s something we’re all interested in seeing. It’s also nice to bring in the Hawk and Dove story, which hasn’t played much a part in this main title yet (they’ve been featured more prominently in Birds of Prey). Solid issue.

Rating: 7/10

Birds of Prey #2

Speaking of the Birds of Prey, Gail Simone and Ed Benes‘s return to this title has been magnificent. Black Canary and Huntress find themselves facing a strange woman called the White Canary. As they go into battle their teammates — Hawk, Dove, and Lady Blackhawk — arrive on the scene just in time to find themselves targeted… not by the villains, but by the Gotham City Police Department. While the characters feel familiar — and wonderfully familiar — the book has a different dynamic than it did in its previous incarnation. There’s a different status quo, a different feeling, and that’s all to the good. We’ve actually got the Birds here trying to escape the GCPD and protect the Penguin, and the way it comes about doesn’t feel forced and it doesn’t make anyone seem out of character. The book is exciting, the fight scenes are fantastic, and the last few pages really makes Oracle out to be the bad-ass she actually is. Forget the fact that she’s in a wheelchair, forget the fact that she doesn’t have any super powers. Barbara Gordon’s mind and skill can make her one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe, and Gail Simone gets that more than anybody else. The book doesn’t really seem to have a direct tie to Brightest Day, other than the inclusion of Hawk and Dove, but that’s no problem. You can read the title by itself or as part of the larger story, and either way, you’ve got a great comic.

Rating: 9/10

And as a little change of pace, let’s look at something that doesn’t have anything to do with Brightest Day, but is cool nonetheless…

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger-The Journey Begins #2

Despite having perhaps the most unwieldy title of any comic book published this year, this miniseries has really turned out to be strong. The first cycle of Dark Tower comics ended with the previous miniseries, The Battle of Jericho Hill. Although this miniseries has begun the adaptation of the first Dark Tower novel, we’re still filling in backstory, showing how Roland, the last gunslinger, went from the massacre at Jericho Hill to the point we find him at the beginning of Stephen King‘s masterwork. Here we see Roland’s final journey to his destroyed homeland, the introduction of a creature whose family will turn out to be very important to him later in the series, a terrible sight and a bloody battle, and some haunted happenings back home. Robin Furth, King’s longtime assistant, is doing great work developing the story. All of her additions and alterations come with King’s approval, which makes it easier to accept, but even if he wasn’t involved the things we see here work very well with the world he established. Peter David‘s script, and the artwork of Sean Phillips and Richard Isanove come together to make a really magnificent comic book. I’ve been reading the Dark Tower comics ever since Marvel began publishing them a few years ago, but it’s been some time since I was so impressed by an issue that I felt compelled to talk about it. King fans, check this out. It’s great stuff.

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