Friday, May 18, 2012

AvX: Versus #2 Review

Now this is more like it. Avengers vs X-Men: Versus came off to a slow and disappointing start, but AvX: VS #2 hit all the right notes, literally and figuratively. The fight card itself promises a lot of hurt! Cap vs. Gambit! Spidey vs. Colossus! It's a two-fisted comic in the mighty Marvel manner!

The Cap vs Gambit fight was the highlight of the issue for me, thanks to Steve McNiven handling both the story and art. McNiven not only provides one of the better-drawn fights in the series so far, but also a much-needed decisive victory (as in someone gets to walk away AND leave his opponent unconscious on the dirty floor)! Ever wonder if Gambit's mutant powers work on Cap's shield? Or if Cap's reflexes can match the spry Cajun? This is where you find out.

The second fight, between Colossus and Spider-Man, has its own charms. Kieron Gillen writes a fast-paced and explosive fight scene between a guy with the speed and reflexes of a spider and an unstoppable mass of metal, and it makes for very exciting reading. But the surprise for me here is Salvador Larroca, who ditches his photo-referenced style for something more fitting of a four-color funnybook.. It's the Larroca I haven't seen in a while, that clean, dynamic comic-y style that made me love him in X-Treme X-Men,  that gives justice to a fight this heavy-hitting. Fun to read, fun to look at, zero calories. Just the way I like it.

You promised punching, you better deliver punching, and AvX: VS #2 delivers just that. Let's just hope the fights down the road are more decisive, yeah? Stalemates aren't the stuff epic comics are made of. Still, more of this please. This gets a 4 out of 5.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Jollibee's First Marvel Comic Appearance is Crazy and Amazing

Never thought I’d live to see the day when I could say “Jollibee’s first appearance in a Marvel comic was in...”

But here we are, one Jolli Spaghetti and regular Coke later, and we’ve got Avengers: Menace of the Mole Man #1, an 8-page comic made by Marvel specially for Jollibee as a Kiddie Meal giveaway, in celebration of Marvel’s The Avengers movie. Aside from the fact that Jollibee (the mascot itself!) makes his first appearance in a real Marvel comic, I’d like to let out the kid (or patriot) in me for a moment to say that this comic book is crazy amazing.

It starts off with Mole Man deciding out of the blue to target my hometown, Manila, Philippines, in one of his world domination schemes with an earthquake inducer...which just happens to land in front of a Jollibee store!

The people of Manila are scared, as I would have been too if a supervillain ever came here. But then, something amazing happens: the Jollibee store manager calmly walks up to Mole Man and asks him who he was and what the hell he’s doing there.

It’s insane. Ralph Macchio, the veteran comic book persona tasked to write this story, either gives a lot of credit to Jollibee store managers, or he knows something about them that we Filipinos can only dare imagine, because after Mole Man explains to us his back story, and why he does what he does, the manager brushes off the king of the Moloids and basically tells the man that he ain’t listening to any more of his shit.

Twelve-pound balls of steel.

Of course, the Avengers catch wind of what’s happening in Manila, and they’re sending in a team to help. Who do they send? Spider-Woman? Iron Fist? Nope...they send in Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow (who just happen to be the cast of Marvel’s The Avengers). In case you didn’t catch that...they’re sending in the biggest guns of the Marvel Manila...just to stop Mole Man. I don’t know who should be more honored, Mole Man or Manila!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how much I love the dialogue. The book reads like those cheesy old Marvel cartoons from the sixties, and Macchio does his best to sell this stuff to the kids who are obviously the target market for this comic.

So the Avengers arrive, and the requisite superhero fight scene begins! I gotta say, the art is surprisingly high-quality for a free comic book, and it’s obvious that Jollibee pulled all the stops to give kids the genuine Marvel experience. Of course, the kids won’t care who drew this, but a long-time comic fan like me definitely noticed that a lot of big names are attached to this, like veteran inker/ artist Scott Koblish and colorist Veronica Gandini. They even got legendary artist Ron Lim (who penciled The Infinity Gauntlet, for goodness sakes!) to draw the cover!

Koblish draws the final battle with a pizazz you don’t see much in the main comic universe anymore, that no-holds-barred approach to superheroes being super AND heroic, and in no time, the monsters are defeated, and Manila even gets to see Thor bring the hammer down!

Hey, remember that Jollibee store manager who don't take no crap from no Mole Men? After the fight, when the Avengers are about to take Mole Man into custody, Mr. Manager pleads with Cap to have mercy on poor guy, and what happens next is another first in this already trail-blazing comic:

The man, who before all this was probably busy swiping his keycard when a cashier yells, "Sir, pa-void!" and making sure nobody burned the french fries, is now an honorary Avenger, joining the ranks of luminaries such as Jarvis and Captain Marvel in the annals of Avengers lore. Even the Triumph Division can't touch that!

This is amazing. I'm not kidding. I am seriously geeking out at all this. I now demand an in-universe issue where Jose is sent to the US for a courtesy call at the Avengers Mansion and have him bitch-slap Dr. Doom for talking too much about himself.

I know, I basically gave a 600-word essay for an 8-page comic, but the fact that this book exists is just exciting and unprecedented. It's like all those years of eating nothing but Jolli Spaghetti from Jollibee gave me fever dreams about a comic book where the Avengers saved Manila. Except it's not a dream. It's real, it IS a comic book, and you can get one while supplies last when you order a Jolli Kiddie Meal from any Jollibee store.

So what did we learn today? One, the Avengers has got the Philippines' back. Two, we can be the target of US-based supervillains and we might want to prepare for it. And three, Jollibee store managers are some of the toughest, most fearless yet most merciful sonovaguns on the archipelago, and definitely someone I could vote for president.

And I know Jollibee did jack squat in the comic but he's my homie and that's just how he rolls. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dark Shadows Movie Review

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp return for another bizarre collaboration, this time with Dark Shadows, the movie based on the '70s TV show of the same name. I went and watched it out of morbid curiosity, having never even heard of the source series, with only the Depp and Burton angle to keep me interested. Surely there's something more I can scratch from the surface?

Dark Shadows is the story of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a wealthy playboy from the 1700s, who loved and spurned a lot of women in his lifetime. Unfortunately, one of those spurn-ees is the witch Angelique Bouchard (played devilishly well by Eva Green), who curses him to live as a vampire and locks him in a box for all eternity. He is accidentally freed in the 1970s, and reunites with his dysfunctional descendants. Now it's up to him to protect his new-found family at all costs from Angelique, who lusts after him after all these years!

Visually, Dark Shadows is stylish and sexy, bringing to life the funky and carefree 70s to a tee. The costumes, sets and soundtrack are deliciously retro, and serves to underline how out of place Barnabas is in the flower power era. Burton's attention to detail is mesmerizing, and you're never pulled away from the story, especially with Depp at the center of it all.

Depp is the draw here, obviously, and he doesn't disappoint. His fish-out-of-water turn as Barnabas Collins is funny, oftentimes creepy, but ultimately noble. Depp tries his best to steer his Barnabas Collins into somewhere new and exciting, but I can't help but hear a little Jack Sparrow coming through every now and then. Still, it's a hoot to watch him bring Barnabas to (un)life, and seeing everybody else play off of him. That's what separates Depp from the rest of the rabble, the focus he gives to the characters he inhabits...a focus that Dark Shadows, unfortunately, lacks.

Ultimately, Dark Shadows suffers from not really being sure of what it wants to do. The tone shifts from comedic to frightening to dramatic, the emotional weight of each scene as fleeting and ethereal as the era it's set in. The Collins family is all but forgettable, the saving grace being Michelle Pfeiffer's turn as matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (whose world-weary yet sharp personality really resonated with me). Nothing really digs their hooks deep enough in you, except maybe for Barnabas' love-hate relationship with his nemesis Angelique, whose obsession with the man she turned into a vampire leads to some funny and sexy moments, some of the few moments in the film I actually liked.

It's strange, because you'd expect at least a little bit more quirkiness from Burton, but the film never fully embraces its fantastic, supernatural roots, always skirting the topic while Depp does his thing. And it's only during the last climactic minutes that Burton decides to go full Burton, filling the screen with all the supernatural elements the film desperately needed, and the audience is left to digest all of this, too much too late.

Bottom line, Dark Shadows is a movie for the hardcore Johnny Depp fans, who'll find lots to like in Johnny alone. Anybody else looking for something more are sadly left in the dark.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

5 Strangest Facts About Thanos

When that purple man smiled in the after-credits of Marvel's The Avengers movie, everybody knew they were in for a treat. Thanos is coming! Consort of Death herself! Master of the Infinity Gauntlet! The Mad Titan!

And I'm sure a lot of folks have scoured the 'Net for his info and history, and they probably found what they were looking for. But are you sure you know everything about Thanos?

To help you with that, I've compiled five of the strangest facts about Thanos, from the strange to the creepy to the downright hilarious. Are you ready to learn a little bit more about our big purple dude? Then read on!

Thanos is NOT a Skrull!

It's one of the popular misconceptions about Thanos. Skrulls have wrinkly chins. Thanos has a wrinkly chin. Therefore, Thanos is a Skrull! All those Logic classes in college weren't for naught!

While I do agree that the resemblance is uncanny, it's strange to know that he isn't actually a Skrull! The misconception probably stemmed when Alex Ross proposed the theory in his Earth X miniseries, where his mother Sui-San was secretly a Skrull all along (instead of an Eternal Titan). But in actuality, Thanos was merely born with an ugly Deviant gene, which is the reason why he's got that face only a mother could love.

Thanos owned a helicopter!

While other evil conquerors cruise around in battleships and planet-sized fortresses, Thanos in his early years chose to keep it simple. In Spidey Super-Stories #39, when Thanos fought Spider-Man and Patsy Walker/Hellcat over possession of the Cosmic Cube, the Mad Titan pestered the heroes while in a helicopter with his name emblazoned on the tail.

And this is why I love comics.

Thanos seduced Galactus!

If there's one thing Thanos loves other than genocide, it's power. And in Thanos #3, the titular villain decided to get it from one who has it in spades: Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. It started out simply enough...Thanos setting the mood, lulling Galactus into a false sense of security, and then BAM! Thanos got a little too hands-on for comfort. And Galactus' next few words will stay with me to the end of my days:

Talk about a date gone bad.

Thanos was once a Galactus!

Continuing his weird relationship with Galactus...did you know that during 2002's Infinity Abyss mini-series, Thanos once created a clone of himself using his own DNA and patterned after a certain Devourer of Worlds?

The clone was called Omega, and he was one of the Thanosi, powerful doppelgangers created by Thanos for use as allies/bodyguards in his everyday conquering. Omega here was obviously patterned after Galactus, with all the power that entails. Unfortunately, like all the other Thanosi, Omega was bred to think like Thanos (i.e., loving nothing else but the end of all life in the universe). Couple that with near-limitless power and you've got a recipe for a cosmic-level disaster so horrible, Thanos himself thought it was the worst idea ever.

Thanos was defeated by...Squirrel Girl?!

Not exactly Thanos' greatest moment. In 2005's GLX-Mas Special #1, Thanos went toe-to-toe with the cutesy, squirrel-empowered Squirrel Girl while empowered by the life-force of the entire planet...

...and Thanos lost.

Crazy, isn't it? To add salt to this festering wound of indignities, Uatu the Watcher came and straight-up confirmed that it was indeed Thanos ("...and not a robot, clone or simulacrum!"), in case anyone had any doubt that a D-lister got a clean win against the being who once killed half the population of the universe.


There you have it! Five off-the-wall facts about the next big Avengers villain in Marvel's The Avengers sequel! I hope you learned a lot about our Mad Titan, I know I did! And I'm still trying to scrub it from my brain! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Dark Lich's Linkblog: Avenger-y Edition!

Marvel's The Avengers is, in my humble opinion, freakin' awesome. And a lot of people are feeling the same way! The 'Net is abuzz with news about this cinematic juggernaut, and here are just some of the mind-blowing news that's out there right now!

-Just a day before its US release and Marvel's The Avengers has already earned $260.5M in overseas markets, breaking international opening week records left and right. And most of the US hasn't even seen it yet!

-In the Philippines alone, it's made P281M (about $6.6M) in just five days. FIVE DAYS!

-To celebrate, Scarlett Johansson got her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

-But to be honest, Mark Ruffalo, who played the Hulk, should be celebrating too. He practically stole the show from RDJ, in my opinion! Check out what he has to say about playing Hulk and how fun it is.

-In quirkier (and in some ways, sadder) news, there's news of an additional after-credits scene (right after all the rolling credits) for The Avengers that's apparently only available in the US release. A screencap of the scene is making the rounds, and it's glorious. A price to pay for getting to see the movie early, I guess. :(

-If you're a Marvel: Avengers Alliance player (like me), and can't get enough of The Avengers (like me!), you're in luck, because the movie costumes are now available as alternate costumes/skins in the game! Jawesome!

Enjoy the links! As for me, I just gotta watch it a second time!

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