October 31, 2014

The Pull List: 22 October 2014

I always get mildly annoyed when one of the big two publishers - and it's usually Marvel - relaunches and renumbers a comic book every time it has a significant change in creative team or direction. In some cases, as with Daredevil, they don't even need those excuses: they just relaunch and renumber anyway. There used to be something nice about reading issue eight hundred and something of Detective Comics. It demonstrated a legacy and a rich history that Detective Comics issue twelve doesn't really express.

As a result I'm always happy when a book gets a fresh look, team and direction, yet keeps the current numbering. Next month DC do it with Wonder Woman #36, but this month they're doing it with Batgirl and now Catwoman #35. New creative team, a new narrative direction, but still the same comic and lead characters.

Catwoman #35 by writer Genevieve Valentine, artist Garry Brown (The Massive) and colourist Lee Loughridge, sees Selina Kyle assume control of one of Gotham City's most powerful crime syndicates and start to rebuild the city - both its physical infrastructure and criminal underworld - in the wake of Batman Eternal. Basically it's The Godfather, with Catwoman instead of Al Pacino and with both Batman and Black Mask lurking around in the background.

It's a very smooth transition to the new status quo, told with clarity and maturity, and thankfully without the fairly overt skeezy sexuality that has plagued this book since it relaunched in 2011. Garry Brown is a great artist; I've loved his work on The Massive and I'm very happy to see him applying his extensive talent here. Altogether it's an impressive package and, alongside Gotham Academy and the reworked Batgirl, is doing a great job of diversifying and energising DC's massive line of Batman-centric comics. (4/5)

DC Comics. Written by Genevieve Valentine. Art by Garry Brown.

Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batman Eternal, Deathstroke, The Flash, He-Man, Infinity Man and the Forever People, The Multiversity, Predator, Revival, She-Hulk and The Wicked + the Divine.

October 30, 2014

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

At her 25th anniversary high school reunion separated mother-of-two Peggy Sue Bodell is momentarily overwhelmed and passes out on the stage. When she wakes, she finds herself transported to the Spring of 1960 and her final year of high school. Given the opportunity to re-live her adolescence, will Peggy Sue make all new choices or simply make the same mistakes again?

Peggy Sue Got Married is an odd fish of a movie. It came out a year after Back to the Future, a film with a fairly similar premise that was tighter, better paced and much, much funnier. At the same time, Peggy Sue is a distinctive enough film to really avoid comparisons upon a closer inspection. It travels a similar path, sure, but it stops at different points along the road and reaches a vastly different conclusion.

Most striking of all is the film's tone, which isn't really out-and-out comedic, but instead works as a sort of strange elevated fantasy with regular comedic moments. In some places it almost felt vaguely like a David Lynch film, and certainly not the work of its actual director Francis Ford Coppola. Certainly this is the creepiest comedy I've seen in a long time, and that creepiness does feel relatively intentional.

October 29, 2014

The Pull List: 15 October 2014

I'm in love with Wild's End, Dan Abnett and I.N.J Culbard's six-part miniseries from Boom Studios. It's basically The Wind in the Willows crossed with The War of the Worlds, as a small 1920s village of charming anthropomorphic animals are besieged by alien killing machines. As far as pitches go, that wins the year for me: I don't think I've heard anything funnier or more immediately attractive. It has me scratching my head. Why has nobody thought of this before?

What is impressing me the most, now that we're up to the 2nd issue, is that Abnett isn't just writing a superficial pastiche. These are interesting and well-rounded characters. They're based in archetype and tradition sure, but they've got agency and distinctive personalities. I already have my favourite characters, and I'm already invested enough in their lives that it's dramatic seeing any of them die. I'm only two issues into the series but I already want to read more adventures about the inhabitants of Crowchurch.

Culbard, who is also collaborating with Abnett on Dark Horse's Dark Ages, provides very attractive and clean artwork. It's elegant and simple, and matches the tone of the piece and the period setting extremely well. Culbard and Abnett make a great team. Hopefully there's more from them to come. (5/5)

Boom Studios. Written by Dan Abnett. Art by I.N.J Culbard.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman and Robin, Batman Eternal, Batwoman, Daredevil, Doctor Who, The Last Broadcast, Lumberjanes, Ms Marvel and Prometheus.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

The things we'll watch when they're free on an aeroplane. Michael Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction is a bizarre and bloated monstrosity of a film, confusing to sit through and vaguely repellent at the same time. This hasn't stopped it from grossing more than a billion dollars worldwide in cinemas, which means that either I don't know what I'm talking about or audiences really like watching giant robots punch each other regardless of the film's actual quality.

I suppose I have to admit I'm in that latter category as well. I watched Bay's original Transformers with enthusiasm, and thought it was a big, brash and relatively enjoyable exercise in sci-fi mayhem and 1980s cartoon nostalgia. Its sequel Revenge of the Fallen was an unexpectedly awful film, not only incompetently told and staged but actively racist and leeringly sexist. I went and saw the third film, Dark of the Moon, hoping that I'd get something more like the first and less like the second. What I got was something a little less racist and a little more sexist, with a weirdly unbalanced narrative that back-ended most of the action into the film's final hour. With a track record of one out of three I certainly wasn't going to risk spending money on a fourth Transformers film, but when presented with the opportunity to watch it halfway through a night flight from Singapore to Melbourne? I guess I'm ultimately as addicted to giant robot fights as everybody else.

October 28, 2014

Stargate: 20 years on

20 years ago today Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's glossy sci-fi epic Stargate opened in US cinemas. It was a pretty solid hit at the time, earning almost $200 million dollars against a comparatively modest $50 million dollar budget, and it established its creatives as a prominent force in Hollywood.

It's also got a pretty weird trajectory as a franchise, since MGM never managed to release a sequel into cinemas but did somehow manage to spin it off into four television shows. One of them, Stargate SG-1, even managed to outpace The X Files to become America's longest-running science fiction TV series.

It's a weird fate for a movie, since by now it's possibly the least well-known part of the whole enterprise. Well, okay, the cartoon Stargate Infinity is probably less well-known, but you get what I mean. This movie might have come first, but it's the TV franchise that's overwhelmingly the largest part of Stargate's pop culture footprint.

The Pull List: 8 October 2014, part II

Before I had even had the chance to read issue #1 of Wytches, the new monthly comic from Scott Snyder and Jock, it had already been optioned for a feature film adaptation. Now that I have read it, I'm not surprised: this is a dark and effective new horror comic that hooks the reader in from the get-go and presents an intriguing set-up.

What this book most reminded me of was The Blair Witch Project, in that it heads out into the woods and makes them scary. It takes the idea of witches and appears to transform them into something new. It makes you afraid of trees. It's a great opening chapter, one made even better by its extra length.

I've raved at length about Scott Snyder in the past: his work on Batman in particular has been some of the best writing that character has received in years. He's telling something more adult and darker here, and it's perfectly complemented by Jock's artwork. I love Jock's stuff, and he brings his A-game to the book and gives it a nice dark, creepy, almost savage style. I'm really keen to see where this goes. (5/5)

Image. Written by Scott Snyder. Art by Jock.

Under the cut: more reviews from last week, including Annihilator, Batman, Batman Eternal, Dark Ages, Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor and FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics. Reviews of other comics published on 8 October can be found here.

October 27, 2014

Doctor Who: "The Sea of Death"

It's tea time on 11 April 1964, and that means more Doctor Who.

The TARDIS arrives on a deserted island made of glass. Susan almost paddles in a rock pool of acid; it turns out the entire surrounding ocean is highly acidic. At the centre of the island they find a mysterious pyramid. Inside a man named Arbitan defends the mind-influencing Conscience of Marinus from the invading Voord. With no one else to call upon, Arbitan blackmails the Doctor and his companions into a mission to recover the four missing keys that will operate the Conscience and defeat the Voord.

Wait a moment: the TARDIS arriving on a seemingly dead planet? An vividly transformed landscape? A mysterious building in the distance? Deadly aliens lurking around the scene? We already watched this episode a few weeks ago. It was titled "The Dead Planet" and was written by Terry Nation. He should have sued whoever wrote this plagiari- oh wait, this is by Terry Nation as well, clearly expressing a focused style of creativity where he's now essentially sold the same episode to the production team twice.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

We've reached the stage where I find it very hard to comprehend the X-Men movies any more. The first two films, directed by Bryan Singer, I enjoyed perfectly well. Then Singer jumped ship toWarner Bros' Superman Returns, and rather than wait six months for him to return Fox forged ahead with Brett Ratner's rather muddled X-Men: The Last Stand. Then Fox produced X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a prequel that appeared to contradict half of the back story of the previous three films. Then there was a reboot of sorts, with X-Men: First Class introducing younger versions of some of the characters in a film set during the 1960s. That seemed an okay idea until we suddenly got The Wolverine, set after The Last Stand and ending with a Marvel Studios-style cliffhanger ending.

X-Men: Days of Future Past doesn't actually follow on from that ending at all. We're somewhere in the future, where giant robots called Sentinels have been systematically murdering all of the world's mutants. In a last-ditch attempt to save the future, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has his mind is sent back in time to inhabit his body in the early 1970s so he can track down rogue mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and stop her from murdering Sentinel creator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).