Saturday, December 31, 2016

The last comics I purchased for 2016

Some hits and misses. Supergirl was pretty good. I got the trade for Marvel Mangaverse (I have the singles) and the better format allows for better reading. Optimus Prime and GI Joe are terrible because of the lousy art. So I am chucking off my Pull List. The Mercenary Sea, although since discontinued, is something I love. Reminds me of that late 80s comic China Sea and others. This was the second print to the first issue. Got it. Love it. Hope they bring it back.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The new Logan poster

Comics with that 80s & Stranger Things vibe
by rick olivares

Still cannot get enough over “Stranger Things” and the whole 1980s retro vibe? Then you might want to check out a pair of comic book trade paperbacks (or back issue singles if you prefer) of “Paper Girls” and “Plutona”.

“Paper Girls” is written by the brilliant Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Cliff Chiang and is colored by Matt Wilson. Vaughan is best known as the writer of such epic stories as “Y The Last Man”, “Ex-Machina”, and “Saga” to name a very few of his lauded and popular works.

The book is about four girls from the fictional Cleveland suburb of Stony Stream and who come face to face with an invasion from the future while out delivering newspapers one morning. “Paper Girls” recently won an Eisner Award for Best New Series of 2016.

“Plutona” is by the talented new wordsmith Jeff Lemire (“Essex County”, “Sweet Tooth”, and “Descender” that has been optioned for a film) and drawn by Emi Lennox with colors by Jordie Bellaire, one of the best in today’s comic book industry. The story, while contained in five issues and one trade paperback finds five kids accidentally discovering the body of the world’s greatest superhero Plutona in the woods one day. The startling discovery finds all of them making decisions that would alter their lives forever.

Both titles, published by Image Comics, have this feel of watching that seminal coming-of-age film by director Rob Reiner, “Stand By Me” that starred the late River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, where on a hike, they find the body of a missing child.

While “Paper Girls” draws from the aforementioned sources, that’s as far as it goes. The story boldly strikes out on its own and hence, an unpredictability. But there are moments when you think, “Ah, that’s from ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, or ‘Twilight Zone’ or ‘Back to the Future’”. And if you want to take it further, “The Final Countdown” because of the paradoxes. Now if you don’t know that military science-fiction film from 1980 that starred Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, and James Farentino, then I suggest you look it up.

Vaughan’s story is bizarre and like any good read, or in the story’s case, a newspaper, it’s gripping. I love how the girls make use of hockey sticks for protection, walkie-talkies, and steal the occasion smoke. Mac – is the River Phoenix version of the gang here. And I love it. Furthermore, having run newspaper routes in the neighborhood as a kid, this really takes me back.

“Plutona” is a superhero version of “Stand By Me” (that in turn owes its inspiration to horror writer Stephen King’s “The Body”) that is set in the modern world. Unlike most of the kids in “Paper Girls” the crew here doesn’t have much of a relationship but are drawn together while walking home one day. That’s the same day they find the bloody and battered body of Plutona who to the world at large doesn’t know their hero has gone missing.

Like “Stand By Me” and “The Body”, the decisions the kids make with regards to their discovery shakes their world. And how it affects all of them is shaking. More so with the ending. You might say it’s too sudden an end but it’s an end that leaves you thinking and wondering. And that’s what good stories do.

So while waiting for Season Two of “Stranger Things”, do yourself a favor and pick up some really good comics that will introduce you to the four-colored delight that has become all the rage in pop culture in the past two decades.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Archie and pals come to screen life in Riverdale

Archie and pals come to screen life in Riverdale
by rick olivares

Riverdale, the upcoming new television series from the CW that is based on the Archie comics cast of characters albeit with the modern sensibility infused in the comic book version, is generating a lot of buzz.

The Archie franchise has been high profile in the last three years beginning with the comic book series Afterlife with Archie that placed these eternal teenagers in the midst of a zombie apocalypse and the Archie reboot courtesy of top creators Mark Waid and Fiona Staples. Clearly, these aren’t the trivial stories that kids asked their parents to purchase off the racks of groceries and book stores.

And to celebrate the 75th anniversary of this long-standing pop culture franchise, there’s a live action on-going series featuring Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and the rest of the gang as they figure in a more mature, darker teen drama that’s filled with secrets, affairs, and – gasp -- murder. Clearly, this isn’t the Archie comics of our youth.

Riverdale, which will premier this coming January 26, stars a lot of newcomers with New Zealander KJ Kapa in the titular role of Archie Andrews. Kapa, who hails from New Zealand is a virtual newcomer to Hollywood as he only appeared in two films that were both shown in his home country – Shortland Street and Cul-De-Sac. “Riverdale” represents his international debut.

Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes respectively play Archie’s rivals for his affection in Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge. Reinhart played supporting roles in films like The Good Neighbor, Miss Stevens, and The Kings of Summer. Her portrayal of Betty Cooper represents her first big and much-hyped role.

The stunning Mendes is likewise a newbie and had filmmakers scrambling to land her after seeing her perform at the New York University drama conservatory.

Cole Sprouse, who portrays Archie’s best friend, Jughead Jones, despite also being a youngster, is perhaps the one with the more impressive resume having appeared in the sitcom Friends, the film Big Daddy with Adam Sandler, and the indie suspense film, The Kings of Appletown.

And speaking of resumes, the most known member of the cast is none other than 1980s star who plays Molly Ringwald plays his mother, Mary. Ringwald appeared in popular films like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Something to Live For: The Alison Gertz Story, and the television series that adapted Stephen King’s best-selling novel, The Stand.

Archie Comics’ Chief Creative Officer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who cut his eye teeth writing the television musicale, Glee, and writing for Marvel Comics, is the series writer. Aguirre-Sacasa was appointed Archie Comics’ CCO after turning the company around with Afterlife with Archie.

Riverdale is produced by Greg Berlanti who produced popular shows such as Dawson’s Creek, Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow.

With the Archie Comics revival reaching bigger audiences, Riverdale will no doubt bring in more fans if not readers to this beloved franchise.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Got my artist's edition of Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer

This completes the last missing piece of the late and great Dave Stevens' work in my collection! So happy to finally get the Artist's Edition of The Rocketeer. What a darn cool Christmas gift to myself. 

Here's more on my being a fan of the Rocketeer. Kindly click on the link.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Finally got back those Alex Ross DC treasury editions!

Woo hoo! Finally! Able to complete once more the Alex Ross treasury editions! Used to have them all and signed by Alex Ross 13 years ago. That was one of his rare signings and he was at Midtown Comics in Midtown Manhattan. Left work early to line up for the signing. I was among the first 10. 
Now unlike here, the protocol is to have two books signed then you line up again. When it was my turn, Alex asked me what I wanted him to sign. I said, "Can you write, 'Happy Birthday, Ricky?'" "It is your birthday," Alex asked and I showed him my driver's license. So now he stands up and says out loud for everyone to hear, "It's Ricky's birthday and I'm signing all his books!" Some wiseasses cried out that it was their birthday too and Alex simply went, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." 

So he signed everything. Marvels. Kingdom Come. Uncle Sam, Mythology, and all the treasury editions. 

He even greeted me on my videocam (it is on Video 8 and needs to be changed in format). 

It was a great day and an incredible thrill. The problem is, I lost everything except the signed Mythology, JLA Liberty and Justice, and a sketchbook to Ondoy (along with all the signed Jim Lee Batman Hush, Grant Morrison New X-Men, and others). For those who aren't from the Philippines, Ondoy was a typhoon that induced massive flooding. I lost my home not only to the flood but whatever was left was lost to looters. My misfortune left me utterly devastated for two months. Of course, I have since picked myself up. But my collections? That's going to take a lot of money and then some. The really old comics (I also had a complete set of Uncanny X-Men) are priceless. Ditto with my signed Alex Ross stuff.
Last January while in England, the six-pack was on sale at Mega City Comics in Camden. For 30 Pounds Sterling. For the life of me, I didn't get them because of storage problems. 
Who would have thought that by the last month of the year I'd get another shot at them? So getting a new bunch of Alex Ross treasury editions is cool. Now if I can only have them signed again. Hopefully, I can meet the Man again one day. He sure made my birthday 13 years ago!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rogue One could be the best Star Wars film

Rogue One could be the best Star Wars film
by rick olivares

I might sound like a heretic here but I’m going to say that “Rogue One” is pretty close to dislodging “The Empire Strikes Back” as my all-time favorite Star Wars film. Maybe another viewing of both will help me sort that out. But why quibble? Let’s take it farther.

The Gareth Edwards-directed film could also zoom on to the top as the year’s best. And here’s another bit of heresy. It could also dislodge “Captain America: Civil War” as my favorite film of 2016. Yep. That’s how good “Rogue One” is.

I love how “Rogue One” has that feel of a stand-alone film yet neatly falls into Star Wars continuity like a proton torpedo into the meridian trench of a Death Star.

When I say that Rogue One stands alone, I mean it doesn’t fall into the trap that “The Force Awakens” did where it blatantly rip-offs “Star Wars: A New Hope”. It’s devoid of Star Wars nostalgia and just as the title suggests, strikes out where no Star Wars film has boldly gone before.

Even if you know what’s going to happen – just like Captain America’s inevitable philosophical clash with Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War -- it’s a suicide mission with no one coming back, the manner in which the story is weaved unfolded is what makes the difference.

Thus, this is a war sci-fi film. Not like the cartoony “Starship Troopers” vein but gritty, painful, and chaotic combat that we saw with “Aliens”.

And that description is apt for this action-packed epic that provides the back story to the rebel alliance receiving the plans for the destruction of the Death Star. And almost from the beginning of the film when Galen Erso’s family faces the nefarious Orson Krennic and his black-suited Death Stormtroopers we dive bomb into the tension and danger. The scenes at Yavin 4 provide momentary respite from the carnage and the destruction.

I love how we’re treated to a different form of warfare that what has been previously featured in all the Star Wars films – close range combat on the ground. While there’s the ubiquitous space battle at the end, there’s the battle on the beaches of an atoll at Scarif that recalls the HBO series “The Pacific” and “The Thin Red Line” with a feel from “Platoon” and “Apocalypse Now”.  

And you have to appreciate that. From the deserts of Tatooine to the frozen ground of Hoth to the forests of Endor to the open plains of Naboo, the locales for ground battles is just cool. When we see the Death Troopers walking in a sweep formation towards Galen Erso’s domicile in Lah’mu.

In fact, I love the myriad of planets/locales in the film. It gives a sweeping feel to this ala the Jason Bourne and Mission Impossible films.
I love the clever use of the Death Stars’ destructive capabilities. I figure the technology of the day makes for a better depiction that is both terrible and breathtaking to behold.

More to the homages that might not be obvious, I love how the film makes use of some – to my mind – iconic images. The scene where Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso embrace on the beach as the fallout from the Death Star strike reaches them. Shades of “Deep Impact” where the characters of Tea Leoni and Maximillian Schell share a hug before the tsunami hits them.

And that leads me to the characters whose diversity works out well. While Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso reminds me of Daisy Ridley’s Rey, I like the fact that she isn’t as good as she thinks she is.

Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, the rebel intelligence officer who looks like a nice chap but who also has this mean streak in him. He is a man willing to do what it takes, even kill an innocent, just to keep secrets and the battle going. He later displays a conscience but remains unwavering in his belief that it’s the rebellion above all. I had this flashback to Mandy Patinkin’s Iñigo Montoya in the film, “The Princess Bride” who says the classic, “My name is Iñigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” And that’s the point – cavalier but deadly nonetheless.

I wish they gave Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn a little more evil-ness. He was bordering on Malcolm McDowell’s brutal Captain Van Berkow in the action-war film, “The Passage”. Good to see some Imperial Officers with backbone and bite.

Donnie Yen comes away with perhaps the most memorable character of the film next to Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO enforcer droid that is a tremendous upgrade over the whiny C-3PO and annoying R2D2. Playing the blind warrior, Chirrut Imwe, he’s like Stick in “Daredevil”. Totally bad ass with a tinge of mortality as he oft recites, “I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.” It would be nice to see more of his character although he does bite the dust in the end like everyone else.

There’s the CGI of the late Peter Cushing as the Grand Moff Tarkin and the younger Carrie Fisher and while it’s cool it does lend a touch of creepiness more so since the former passed away in 1994. While some may debate the ethics of that, I am sure that beyond doubt that the filmmakers asked permission from Cushing’s family before proceeding.

Was it seamless the use of a CGI-generated Tarkin? Close. Only because you know Cushing has passed away do you scrutinize the CGI character. It’s cool but creepy. On the other hand, there’s the beautiful and young Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia… that takes my breath away.

And the return of Darth Vader… in vicious form! No David Prowse but James Earl Jones’ voice is none worse for the wear! Delicious. Bad ass. That left me wondering if they can adapt the comics story “Vader Down” (that ran across the Marvel Comics’ “Star Wars” and “Darth Vader” this year). The Sith Lord took center stage there and showed by Jedi and those corrupted by the Dark Side are not one to be trifled with.

While there are loads of characters who don’t get enough ample screen time (I would have loved to see a little more exposition on Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera as a rebel leader), Gareth Edwards and company would have done well to look at how the Russo brothers juggled a large cast in “Captain America: Civil War”.

But that a little quibble. “Rogue One” is a solid and enjoyable film that merits repeated viewing. There’s so much to soak in from the Jerusalem-like Jedha to Scarif to Eadu that has this feel of LV-426 (you know what I mean if you are a fan of “Aliens”). There’s the battle as well that was just fun to watch. Love them Imperial Walkers.

All in all, Rogue One is the Star Wars film that “The Force Awakens” is not. And that is good. Damn good. Excellent even. As to paraphrase one of the more memorable liens from the film, “Good movies are built on hope.”