Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review: Fun with Reid Fleming




Reid Fleming: The World's Toughest Milkman was my initial foray into the world of alternative and underground comic books. David Boswell's characters, originally presented in Heartbreak Comics, were collected in a single issue in the early eighties. Reid Fleming resonated with me for some reason ... I guess back in those days I liked the ol' ultraviolence, since I did read Wolverine, and the sarcasm and parody helped things along quite well. Fun with Reid Fleming reprints all of Reid's adventures (at least all the ones I know about). 

The story is simple: Reid's a milkman, and he doesn't care too much about his job. He's a veritable Everyman for anyone who's been stuck in the boring drudgery of the modern rat race. Reid gives free rein to our Everyman and all of our inclinations to not take any shit from the people who confront us. Change your milk order at the last minute and Reid will piss in your flower garden. Insult his unique hairstyle, and he will chase your car down on foot and put a lit cigarette in your gas tank.  And woe and be tide you if you are Reid's boss. His supervisor, Mr. Crabbe, gets the brunt of Reid's anger. Crabbe's already got a lot against him, being mistaken for a twin of the Frankenstein Monster. Somehow, kindly milk company owner Mr. Clock puts up with Reid's shenanigans, though he's also not afraid to butt both Reid and Crabbe's heads together when necessary. 

Reid Fleming lives his own hedonistic way, and the highlight of his daily life is watching his favorite TV show, The Dangers of Ivan, about a spy who doesn't even let death stop him. The existential story often parallels Reid's own life. 

The only woman in Reid's life, besides irate customers that is, is Lena, an actress who is both drawn and repulsed by the dairy delivery technician. Fellow milkman Cooper is Reid's only friend, though he's often napping his way through most of Reid's exploits. 

Fun with Reid Fleming reprints Reid Fleming: The World's Toughest Milkman, and the four-issue Rogues to Riches storyline. David Boswell's intricate pen-and-ink work is a beauty to behold, with some of the finest cross-hatching you will see ... and never overblown like an Image Comic.

This Eclipse Books volume is definitely a book worth looking out for on Amazon or eBay, and is usually relatively inexpensive (under $10 USD). It's a small little world, but it's funny and engrossing and shows you that super-heroes were once not not the only things in comic books.




AVAILABLE ON AMAZON FOR THE KINDLE

THE COMIC BOOK QUIZ BOOK
Volume 4
By Rich Meyer


Here we go again with another foray into comic book trivia! This time around, there are 500 questions (and answers) about the X-Men, Batman, Spider-Man, Harvey Comics (including Casper and Richie Rich), the Justice League of America, the Fantastic Four, the Mighty Crusaders, the Tick, DC Comics' legendary Showcase Presents, and Dell Publishing's Four Color Comics series. 


US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009DRDBI4
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009DRDBI4
CA: http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B009DRDBI4
DE: http://www.amazon.de/dp/B009DRDBI4

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Out of the Dollar Box: 1984's Iceman limited series



I thought I'd try something a little different and look at a comic book limited series that you can probably find in your Local Comic Shop's (LCS) dollar box, or slush pile, or whatever they might call it. The first Iceman limited series was published in 1984.

This was from the period where Iceman was a member of the Defenders, or rather the New Defenders, since only Valkyrie and Gargoyle were around from the original non-team.

This story starts as a mundane little tale with Bobby Drake (Iceman) returning to his parents' house for his father's retirement party. Naturally, his parents aren't all that keen on him using his powers or being a super-hero, preferring he take the quiet life of an accountant.

The story progresses with Bobby instantly falling in love with the new girl next door, who is not what she seems. Iceman ends up back in 1940, where he meets his own parents, and battles a near-cosmic entity known as Oblivion, a being way out of Iceman's weight class.

J.M. DeMatteis (of Justice League/Justice League International fame) handled the script while Alan Kupperberg and Mike Gustovich did the interior artwork. Mike Zeck and John Beatty provided the covers. So creatively, this is a well-made eighties story. Nothing out of the ordinary really, but a good, fun comic book with a lot of action, some angst and a touch of humor. This isn't Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, so dispel those illusions. It's a nice afternoon's diversion.

Iceman has been a character I liked in the past, being a fan of the original X-Men when I was growing up. There haven't been many opportunities to see him outside of team books like The Champions and The New Defenders, other than an issue of Marvel Team-Up and a Marvel Two-in-One, so this was a treat in that aspect. He was still very much the kid of the X-Men, and a veritable Peter Parker when it comes to his non-super personal life. But this story does show that he has a lot of inner strength and maturity when it counts.

The closest you'll come to this kind of characterization on Bobby Drake now is probably in the Ultimate Comics universe, as Iceman has gone through loads of changes over the intervening years. Considering a lot of the continuity before the Marvel Now era, this little series is a refreshing change of pace.


AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON FOR THE KINDLE: 


THE CARTOON TRIVIA QUIZ BOOK #1
By Rich Meyer


If you counted Daffy Duck, Woody Woodpecker, Scooby Doo and Space Ghost among your friends when you were a kid, then THE CARTOON TRIVIA QUIZ BOOK is just right for you! This quiz book e-book is filled with questions on cartoon characters and shows from the past century of animated fun! If you fondly remember the Road Runner or Birdman, you will definitely enjoy taking this trip down memory lane!


US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004H1TQ4O
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004H1TQ4O
CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B004H1TQ4O
DE: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B004H1TQ4O

Friday, May 24, 2013

Movie Review: Reptilicus (1961)



Believe me, this poster is the best thing about the film.
Thought we'd go end this week with another great bad movie. Reptilicus is one of the very few Danish monster movies that made it big. I think it's also one of the only Danish monster movies, period.

It's also two-movies for the price of one. Sort of. There is a Danish and American version of Reptilicus, sort of like there's Godzilla Raids Again and Gigantis the Fire Monster, or two decidedly different versions of Varan the Unbelievable. Poul Bong directed the original Danish movie, and then Sid Pink came in and re-dubbed and redid a lot of the scenes, changing quite a bit of it to make it more palatable to US audiences. I've seen both versions of the movie.

The basic plot is that a mining engineer in Lapland happens across a frozen segment of a giant reptile's tail. Taking it back to an aquarium in Copenhagen, a series of accidents cause the tail to thaw and regenerate into a giant, serpent-like creature, which proceeds to go on a rampage across Denmark. The creature's regenerative abilities pose a stickler of a problem, until the military finally bazookas an overdose of poison into Reptilicus' mouth.

The original version of the movie features a lot of things missing from the one readily available today: A romantic sub-plot, a song-and-dance number, and a lot of mediocre special effects. The scenes of Reptilicus flying were cut, as they were not up to the standards of even sixties' bad movie special effects. There's a particularly horrid effect in which the monster eats a farmer. The farmer is depicted by what appears to be a crayon animation on a piece of paper. No, I am not kidding - that's exactly what it looked like.



Sid Pink's version removes all that stuff, and gives the creature a corrosive, poisonous slime that he spits all over the place. The effect isn't very good, but it is better than some of the originals. It doesn't help that the monster is a marionette to begin with, with a lacking design right up there with the bird in The Giant Claw.

Sid Pink, as genre fans are probably aware, was responsible for some great b-movies, like the first 3-D movie Bwana Devil, and The Angry Red Planet. I think his best film is 1953's The Twonky, with Hans Conried. I have to get around to reviewing that one soon. He's one of those filmmakers I have to respect, as one of the even-then dying breed that could get movies done cheaply and profitably. Nowadays we only have The Asylum for those sort of things.

Surprisingly, Sid's also the man who discovered Dustin Hoffman. Go figure.

Reptilicus is available (or at least was available) as part of the M-G-M Presents Midnite Movie collection. They probably should have did a double feature of it with a movie like Journey to the 7th Planet, another Sid Pink flick that shares some cast members. It's still a fun waste of an hour and half as a solo act, especially if you're a bad monster movie fan.



Thursday, May 23, 2013

This Week on Goodreads

Well, since I can't seem to get the doohickey that automatically posts my Goodreads reviews here to work, I'm taking a post to list all the ones I've done so far this week, for the books I managed to finish reading.


Showcase Presents: Green Lantern Vol. 4Showcase Presents: Green Lantern Vol. 4 by Dennis O'Neil
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This volume of Showcase Presents Green Lantern while featuring some great artwork from Gil Kane (including one story inked by the late, great Wally Wood), Dick Dillin and Mike Sekowsky, has some of the lamest sixties' stories. This was the low period in DC Comics (well, one of them, anyway) between the Go-Go checked covers and the relevant period that started when Neal Adams took over the art on Green Lantern/Green Arrow (and Denny O'Neil was given more of a free rein with the story content) with what would have been the next issue after the last reprinted in this book.

The book's description is a bit off as well. The only real member of GL's rogue's gallery that appears is Hector Hammond, who at the time was both big-headed and paralyzed. The Lamplighter makes one of his only appearances, and there's a guy who can control Hal Jordan's Power Ring by the force of his own will whenever Hal's actually using it. There's a couple tales that follow the stale-even-then storyline of an alien who comes to Earth/inept guy with powers, is able to beat up GL almost by accident, and then is used by a group of criminals. The Fantastic Four did this kind of tale best with the original Impossible Man and "Infant Terrible" stories, and it doesn't work all that well here.

At least this book wasn't labelled "Essential" or anything like that, so no advertising laws were broken.


The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan (Marvel Novel Series, #1)The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan by Len Wein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first Spider-Man novel isn't too bad. It captures the flavor of the seventies Spider-Man comics to a tee. You can see this story in your head, played out over two or three issues.

Unlike a lot of these sorts of initial adaptations, it doesn't spend a lot of time going over Spidey's origin; Wein and Wolfman seem to understand that if you're buying a Spider-Man novel, you already know a bit about the character.

The story is fast-paced, and even though an astute reader will know who the Master Planner is by the middle of Chapter One, you don't really care; it's not that kind of book.

It isn't the first Marvel Comics' novel, though. Just an FYI, the first one was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, back in 1967. It was the first book in the short-lived (eleven official entries) Marvel Novel Series.


Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 2Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 2 by Stan Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good volume of Marvel Essentials, with Jack Kirby just starting to hit his stride on the book. This one covers Fantastic Four #21-40, along with a couple of stories from annuals. The only downside is that the Spidey-Torch tale from the Strange Tales Annual is reprinted from the actual comic and not the original black-and-white artwork. Highlights include Dragon Man, Diablo, the Frightful Four, Daredevil, and Dr. Strange.


How to Survive an Amazon Forum Troll Attack: a Writer's GuideHow to Survive an Amazon Forum Troll Attack: a Writer's Guide by Michele Foal
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

At the risk of joining the subject matter, this is a one-joke, five-minute read. And it doesn't help that the first instance of said joke is misspelled. I can see what the author is trying to do, buy for maybe two chuckles, it falls on it's face.



Doctor Who: The BodysnatchersDoctor Who: The Bodysnatchers by Mark Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good story featuring the Eighth Doctor and his companion Sam. This one is set in the same Victorian London as The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and features a character from that story. A good afternoon read for any Whovian.



Essential Iron Man, Vol. 1Essential Iron Man, Vol. 1 by Stan Lee Don Heck, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first volume in the Essential Iron Man series naturally features Shellhead's first appearances in Marvel Comics' Tales of Suspense.

These are some fun stories, even if a lot of them are somewhat forgettable. Iron Man battles a villain called Doctor Strange, a giant caveman robot and a mess o' Commies before getting into with his soon-to-be Rogues' Gallery: Crimson Dynamo, the Melter, the Mandarin, Mr. Doll ... okay, so even then, not all of them were classics. Captain America, the Angel (and the original X-Men) and Hawkeye the Archer (when he was a bad guy) also show up in these pages.

The artwork is a sixties' dream: Don Heck, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko all take turns at the helm, with Ditko re-designing Iron Man's golden armor into the red-and-yellow suit he was most associated with for the next 25 years.

While there are, as I mentioned, a lot of stories that read like filler, is actually is an "Essential" volume for once, for both fans of the Golden Avenger and Marvel Comics in general.


She-Hulk, Vol. 1: Single Green FemaleShe-Hulk, Vol. 1: Single Green Female by Dan Slott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first trade paperback reprinting Dan Slott's She-Hulk is a good intro to both the character and the Marvel Universe, or at least the back side of it. She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters) moves out of Avengers Mansion and joins a law firm specializing in super-hero law. There are plenty of cameos by Marvel Universe denizens, including the Thing and Dr. Strange, and of course, everybody's favorite neighborhood web-slinger. This is one of the few comic book series of the past twenty years that actually seems to remember that Marvel had a history and rich background characters before the nineties.


She-Hulk, Vol. 2: Superhuman LawShe-Hulk, Vol. 2: Superhuman Law by Dan Slott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second trade of Dan Slott's She-Hulk is just as good as the first, featuring Jennifer Walter's first court case with her new law firm, along with having to watch over young miscreant Southpaw and work as a magistrate for the Living Tribunal (who needs to get some pants). She manages to beat the Champion of the Universe, but old enemy Titania shows up to deal her some bad cards. A great series worth a read by any comic fan!



She-Hulk, Vol. 3: Time TrialsShe-Hulk, Vol. 3: Time Trials by Dan Slott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This volume of the She-Hulk trade paperbacks features the first five issues of the 2005 series, again written by Dan Slott. Titania's rampage has left emotional scars on Jennifer, and she now has to use a device to transform into her alter-ego. Timely Plaza is being rebuilt, but a mysterious new CEO has plans that don't necessarily coincide with everyone else's, as the first starts handling cases for super-villains as well as heroes. Another fun storyline worth reading.


Showcase Presents: DC Comics Presents: Superman Team-UpsShowcase Presents: DC Comics Presents: Superman Team-Ups by Len Wein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

DC Comics Presents was a team-up comic that ran for nearly 100 issues starting in the late eighties. This Showcase Presents volume reprints the first 26 issues.

There are some fun stories here! First of all, you've got at least six stories each featuring artwork by comic legends Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Joe Staton, and Dick Dillin. Curt Swan, Jim Starlin and Rich Buckler also provide artwork. The stories have some continuity, with considerably more continued (if somewhat tenuously) stories than your usual team-up book. Three stories are linked by Superman's battle with best friend Pete Ross, over Ross's son, fated to become a warlord for a distant planet. Superman time-travels to with the Flash and Sgt. Rock, doesn't quite help Swamp Thing against Solomon Grundy, and literally moves the planet in an adventure with Adam Strange.

This is nearly 500-pages of good, bronze age stories. Highly recommended!


The Ultimates: Against All EnemiesThe Ultimates: Against All Enemies by Alex Irvine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book reads a lot more like an issue of the Ultimates than the previous book by Michael Jan Friedman did. For the most part, the Ultimates just don't get along very well. Even Captain America is lacking in trust in this one. The Chitauri are back, working several angles to get their revenge and destroy the "virus" that is humanity.

This one was fairly well-written by Irvine, who appears to do mostly genre books and novelizations. If you are a Marvel or Ultimate Comics fan, you'll probably want to give this one a try. It more accessible for the average reader as well.


The Ultimates: Against All EnemiesThe Ultimates: Against All Enemies by Alex Irvine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book reads a lot more like an issue of the Ultimates than the previous book by Michael Jan Friedman did. For the most part, the Ultimates just don't get along very well. Even Captain America is lacking in trust in this one. The Chitauri are back, working several angles to get their revenge and destroy the "virus" that is humanity.

This one was fairly well-written by Irvine, who appears to do mostly genre books and novelizations. If you are a Marvel or Ultimate Comics fan, you'll probably want to give this one a try. It more accessible for the average reader as well.


God Speaks by His Spirit to the Coming StormGod Speaks by His Spirit to the Coming Storm by Anthony Alan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If you're big into theology, you might enjoy this book. There's a discussion (with "divine commentary") on the Book of Ezekiel, and a third of the book is devoted to a series of adages that are supported by scripture and bible teachings.

The book is more Sunday school than anything else - trying to drive home points through repetition. There are also instances of misogynism and blatant isolationism (where the interpretation of the "good book" is told as people should stay away from other cultures).

I only picked this one up as part of a review project on a website. It is interesting from some points of view, but it is also poorly formatted in a sort of an outline/Top Ten list style that while separating the points, doesn't lend well to casual reading.


Essential Marvel Two-in-One, Vol. 3Essential Marvel Two-in-One, Vol. 3 by Mark Gruenwald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good volume in the Essentials series, featuring some excellent stories from MTIO. The Project Pegasus saga is reprinted here, as is the Serpent Crown and Maelstrom storylines. Great artwork by Ron Wilson, Gene Day, John Byrne. and George Perez abounds.


THE AVENGERS Battle the Earth-WreckerTHE AVENGERS Battle the Earth-Wrecker by Otto Binder
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

While this was the first Marvel Comics novel adaptation and was written by a sci-fi legend (and comic book) writer like Otto Binder, it certainly doesn't read like one. This tale would've been dated the day it was published. So much effort seems to have been spent making the Avengers' banter try to be natural and unforced, the rest of the novel suffers (and the banter comes off hackneyed anyway).

Instead of using Kang, the obvious choice, we get Karzz, a similarly high tech tyrant from the future with no real Elam and a predilection for being a polyglot. The mediocre painted cover also shows characters not in the story. This is definitely not worth paying an exorbitant ebay price to obtain; Otto's dead, so find the pdf file that is making the rounds of the net.

View all my Goodreads reviews


AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM FOR THE KINDLE


THE TV SHOW QUIZ BOOK: VOLUME 1
By Rich Meyer


Indulge yourself in nostalgia for the old days of holding the rabbit ears in bizarre positions to get what you wanted from that glowing eye in your living room! Bewitched, Car 54, Mr. Belvedere, Jack Benny, Ellen, Rocky Jones, Quark, WKRP, Sherlock Holmes, Roy Rogers, Donna Reed, SCTV, Dobie Gillis, Mr. Ed, the Prisoner and Patty Duke are just some of classics you'll find in this e-book quiz book!


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UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004PYDCPW
CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B004PYDCPW
DE: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B004PYDCPW


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Movie Review: Koyaanisqatsi (1982)




While I never got to see this film when it was in the theatres, Koyaanisqatsi has become one of my favorite movies. 

The film has no narrative, other than any the viewer cares to imagine it has. There's no real darkness, say  like in a sublime movie like Eraserhead; this is just movie just shows life and the world the way it is. Any story, any theme you think you see ... well, that's you. 

The film's subtitle is "Life Out of Balance", which is ostensibly what the word "koyaanisqatsi" means in the Hopi language. The movie begins with a simple cave drawing, and switches to a rocket launch. After that, we have numerous picturesque sequences of landscapes, the sea, clouds, and the like, followed soon by the inclusion of humanity and it's technology, in the form of large trucks, power plants, and cities. After that, the films goes through the myriad stages of life in modern society: Movement of vehicles and people, people at work, people enjoying a break, industry and stores, night life, the dawning of a new day...the comparison between modern society and a machine can clearly inferred by a number of contrasting images. The film processes through all these vistas, returning to a failed rocket launch, and the cave drawing from the start. 

A clip from Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

Godfrey Reggio was the director of this film, which took nearly ten years to finish, given the rather Lynchian approach taken to filming and financing. There was no real script and while some stock footage was used, most of the movie was filmed firsthand by Reggio's cinematography Ron Fricke.

The panoramas and time-lapse cinematography of this movie is at times breath-taking, even now in these days of CGI masterworks. The film is a precursor of a lot of programs on basic cable, like How It's Made and many Discovery Channel documentaries. I bet a lot of people have seen parts of this movie and not realized that they come from a greater whole; I know the Hostess Twinkie packaging line segment came on the disc that had my very first video driver on it, way back in the early nineties. The various vistas can also be disturbing: Hordes of empty blocks of apartments ready to be demolished, a street that, until you see the fire engine, looks to be in a third world country instead of New York, among others.

Some Law Vegas workers.
It is truly fascinating to watch the flow of people as they move in the city-segments; even with these pictures, it's still almost hard to get your head around the number of people involved in the day-to-day activities of a modern city ... the constant line of people on the streets, on the escalators and in the stores.

I'm sure this movie is a hit-or-miss for a lot of folks. Some will see it as pretentious, some will see it as a lot of nothing, and of course some will see it as a masterpiece. I'm of the latter category. Imagine an hour-and-a-half travelogue that makes you think. That's the lowest common denominator explanation of Koyaanisqatsi that I can come up with. The film is really a lot more than that, but any movie that actually makes an audience think rather than just bask in visuals is a good thing.



AVAILABLE FOR THE KINDLE ON AMAZON.COM

THE TRIVIA QUIZ BOOK: VOLUME 5
By Rich Meyer

And away we go with another e-book of 500 easily used questions and answers about a variety of trivial topics. This quiz book features questions on cult films, the radio program "Lum and Abner," the comic book super-hero team the Avengers, advertising slogans, Bugs Bunny, fictional detectives, big bands, board games, cult movies, and the TV show "The Twilight Zone." Family-friendly fun for everyone!

























Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Movie Review: Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster a.k.a. Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)



Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster was the first Godzilla movie I ever watched.
Japanese movie poster
Again, this was back when TV channels actualy played watchable programming. WSAU Channel 7 in Wausau, Wisconsin, one of the few channels we could actually get  in the middle of Portage County, broadcast this one as part of the CBS Late Night Movie.

This was a message movie I found a little heavy-handed even back then. Pollution was the big message - hell, the monster's name, Hedorah, means "pollution" in Japanese supposedly. The moving rivers of gunk and junk made the Cuyahoga River look like the ol' swimming hole back home. And that song "Save the Earth" still annoys me to this day, even when listening to the Japanese version of it.

You've got your precocious kid, a kindly scientist, an acid trip, a slimy monster and Godzilla. Pretty formulaic for the genre. Even with the acid trip, which I didn't figure out exactly what it was until years later. Or allegedly found out. No, I found out the proper way wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more, squire.

Hedorah sucking up some car exhausts.
And some cars. 
Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster is definitely a kid's movie. Like most of the kaiju output of the seventies, the only adults that would really be going were parents or the die-hard genre fans. That said, there is a lot of random death and destruction. Destruction, yeah, you're gonna have that in any kaiju movie, but out-and-out death? Not too often. This one clearly shows parts of Hedorah flying off while Godzilla was spinning him around, crashing in and killing (by drowning) a bunch of mah-jongg players. The main young adult who worked with Dr. Yano and organizes the bonfire event at the base of Mount Fuji appears to be one of the casualties when Hedorah spits a blob of mud at him and some others who were tossing torches. It's not often that a main character on the side of the angels buys the farm in a Godzilla movie.

Hedorah would be a great kaiju in these days of advanced CGI. It would be easy to turn him into an much more amorphous blob that would probably engender a lot more terror from the audience. Unfortunately, he still has the same rotting-cabbage-head appearance in his brief scenes in Godzilla Final Wars, I guess since he was just a walk-on in that monster fest.

The only version of this movie available right now is the DVD, which uses the international dubbing. While it does make a lot more sense in some of the story points, it doesn't have the charm of the original American Pictures International dubbing. I think one of the last times I saw that version was on a mid-nineties episode of Chiller Theatre on WLUK out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, complete with horror host Ned the Dead. And that's the way you should be watching these goofy flicks, along with a tongue firmly in your cheek.



Trailer for Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971)


AVAILABLE FOR THE AMAZON KINDLE
FREE TO BORROW FOR AMAZON PRIME USERS


1,001 COMIC BOOK TRIVIA QUESTIONS
(Comic Book Quiz Book Volume 3)
By Rich Meyer

Here's truth in advertising: 1,001 trivia questions (and answers) about comic books! All genres, hundreds of popular characters, easy ones and stumpers ... hours of family fun!

Thor, the X-Men, Green Lantern, the Pink Panther, the Hulk, the Avengers, Batman - there are questions on nearly every comic book character you can think of in this quiz e-book.


US:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007YUL0CQ
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CA:  http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B007YUL0CQ
DE:  http://www.amazon.de/dp/B007YUL0CQ























Monday, May 20, 2013

Movie Review: Alphaville (1965)


"No one has lived in the past. No one will live in the future. The present is the only form of life. It is a state of existence which is indestructible. "  
-- Alpha-60.


Alphaville (1965) is one of my favorite foreign films. It is also that rare foray into existential science fiction that actually works on the screen, and is as much of a success in that category as Solaris (1972).

Jean Luc Goddard's "thinking-man's noir", is based on the adventures of a popular secret agent/private detective created by Englishman Peter Cheyney. This version of Lemmy Caution was a great leap from the previous prose and film versions of the character; This Caution is a tired and beaten man, trying to do his duty in a city without hopes or dreams. Eddie Constantine portrayed Caution, just as he did in several other movies, but his new interpretation of the character shocked many audiences. Lemmy Caution was normally more sprightly and upbeat ... but it's hard to see anyone being happy in the city of Alphaville.

The gist of the mostly-improvised story is that Caution, posing as a journalist, is supposed to find out what happened to the last agent sent into Alphaville, and to find and stop the plans of Professor Von Braun, the creator of the sentient computer Alpha-60, which does all the thinking for everyone in the forlorn metropolis. 



Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution
Alpha-60 outlawed concepts such as love and emotion; even crying over someone's death has a penalty of summary execution. Alpha-60 has even erased words from society. Each room has a "bible", which unlike the ones provided by the Gideons, is actually a dictionary, which can be replaced several times a day as more and more words and concepts are banished to oblivion. 

The movie also looks at how the heroic can fail. Lemmy Caution seems to be on the verge at times, but his willingness to beat the computer has him holding on tightly to his principles and values. He finds his fellow agent Henry Dickson (played splendidly by Akim Tamiroff) near destitute and living only for his own baser pleasures. A conversation between the two mentions that both Dick Tracy and Guy LeClair are also dead, apparently figuratively killed by the emotionless world of Alphaville, if not by literally agents of the super computer. 


Goddard puts in several strange pop references into the film, as if to subtly hint as to what's going on. Professor Von Braun's real name is Leonard Nosferatu, an aside to the classic F.W. Murnau movie about Count Orlock the vampire. Two of his assistants in the bureaucracy of Alpha-60 are named Professors Heckle and Jeckle, after the comical Terrytoons magpies.  Von Braun is constantly denying that Nosferatu exists, and the two Professors just explain the strange goings on to Caution amid people tap-dancing on tables and clackering computer machinery. 


Anna Karina as Natasha 
Depending on how one goes into a viewing of Alphaville, the movie can seem either arcane or very cheap. Caution's Ford Mustang is called a Ford Galaxy, and he states he hopes to use it to put the "vast gulf of sidereal space" between him and Alphaville. The stark black-and-white cinematography can also lean toward the uninitiated looking at the film as a cheap production, rather than the existential work it really is; there are no fancy special effects, even of the limited kind available in science fiction films of the era. The photography gives the movie a claustrophobic feel that's necessary for understanding what's going on in the characters' minds, or at least what's left of them. 

The movie has been favorably compared to Jean Cocteau's Orpheus, and Goddard was definitely influenced by that classic, all the way to the ending admonition of Caution to Natasha to not look back at the city as they were leaving it. The real highlight of the film is the word play in the battle of wills between Caution and Alpha-60, each putting forth his own philosophy until one becomes the victor.

This is one of those movies that I naturally had to replace the VHS when it came out on DVD. The Criterion Collection DVD of Alphaville has a great transfer of the original film in French, but the subtitles are slightly different than the dubbing of my old copy, which I purchased from Sinister Cinema way back when I got my first VCR. Most of the new translations make a bit more sense than what I was used to hearing, which is a good thing, but it's a little confusing at time. Luckily, I've watched this film so many times that neither the sound nor subtitles really matter. 


The film's the thing, to paraphrase the Bard, and Alphaville is a movie that it would behoove most movie fans to give a try. It's Goddard so the film snob in you can be happy, and it's hard-boiled for the blue collar side of the equation. And it makes you think, which a good movie is supposed to do. 



AVAILABLE FOR THE KINDLE ON AMAZON.COM


THE 99-CENT QUIZ BOOK OMNIBUS EDITION
By Rich Meyer

This omnibus is a compendium of all four volumes of the 99-Cent Quiz Book series. All of the original 400 questions and answers are here, on Cliffhanger Movie Serials, Television Westerns, Comic Strips, and Horror Movies

As an added feature, there are also forty (40) bonus questions about those same topics. This quiz e-book omnibus is great for several evenings of family-friendly and fact-filled fun!


US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AH04L5I
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AH04L5I

CA: http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00AH04L5I
DE: http://www.amazon.de/dp/B00AH04L5I






Friday, May 17, 2013

Movie Review: Godzilla vs. Gigan, a.k.a. Godzilla on Monster Island (1972)




Japanese movie poster
 Great poster there on the left, ain't it? Next to Destroy All Monsters, I think it's the best of the series. Too bad that poster is for the movie that is the nadir of the Godzilla series: Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972).

The film was released briefly to US screens as  Godzilla on Monster Island, though the Big G doesn't spend a lot of time there.

The basic story is that an alien race of cockroaches have come to take over Earth since the humans on their own planet destroyed that world through pollution and waste. They hire a cartoonist to do some unspecified design work at an amusement park they're building to be their base of operations, complete with a giant Godzilla Tower. The cartoonist and his black-belt girlfriend get involved with a couple of folks who know about the cockroaches' plan. Gigan and King Ghidorah are called in to attack Tokyo and lure Godzilla (and Anguirus) from Monster Island, so the aliens can kill him and complete their plans of conquest. Naturally, things don't go as planned.

The ecology message doesn't smash you in the teeth like it did in the previous entry Godzilla vs. Hedorah. But the film will be giving you dentures for numerous other reasons. The plot, story and script of this movie makes Godzilla vs. Megalon, considered by many to be the worst G-Film, seem like Citizen Kane. Very little sense of logic was applied to it. I understand it is a kid's movie, but I saw it on TV when I was a kid and pretty much gave it a "WTF?" even then.


This movie is a stock footage parade. The rampage of Gigan and King Ghidorah through Tokyo is accomplish with mostly stock footage. Almost all of King Ghidorah's footage is from previous movies, notably Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster and Monster Zero. I think maybe, at the most,  three minutes of Gigan footage was filmed, and most of that was of the creature kicking in storefront windows. Apparently, he does not like seventies' era window dressing.


Use mannequins at your own risk
when this guy's window-shopping.
This movie has some of the most laughable special effects I've ever seen. For at least the first ten minutes of their appearances, King Ghidorah and Gigan are simple plastic models - possibly off-the-shelf toys - with no movement at all.  The Ghidorah suit is pretty laughable, with the hair-like tufts behind his heads making them look remarkably like Keith Richards. Apparently, this outfit was on its last legs, since the heads don't really move separately like they did in earlier movies. When they do move, that is.

Gigan's certainly an interesting looking monster, though never quite detailed as being a cyborg. The buzzsaw in his belly doesn't make a lick of logical sense, and the hook hands must mean he's really easy to beat at Super Mario Kart. Of course, it's not until Godzilla Final Wars that Gigan actually lives up to the promise of that appearance.

It isn't nearly as bad as the movie's heroes, Godzilla and Anguirus. Anguirus (also known as Angillas) shows up as different colors all the time. There's a scene in the ocean where he's lobster-red, and when he approaches land, and the Self-Defense Force shines searchlights on him, he's a multitude of colors, all looking as if it was painted in sickly splotches. All through the big battle scenes, at least in the parts that aren't taken from earlier movies, Godzilla is losing bits and pieces of himself, the rubber of the suit appearing to be on its last legs.

This is also the first, and thankfully only, movie in which Godzilla talks. He's kinda bossy, and sounds a little bit to me like Chester A. Riley with a head cold. (Go ahead and Google, you young whippersnappers; the rest of us will wait.) The whole concept is ludicrous and does little to help the lack of a plot.

Most folks know I love bad movies. Give me something by Ed Wood or Bill Rebane and I'm a happy camper. Godzilla vs. Gigan is NOT that kind of endearing bad. It's just a crappy movie. You'll, of course, have to watch it if you're a kaiju and Godzilla fan, but I can't see even kids wanting to sit through this thing. If there's a Godzilla movie to completely forget about, this is the one.


AVAILABLE FOR THE KINDLE ON AMAZON.COM

THE TRIVIA QUIZ BOOK: VOLUME 6
By Rich Meyer

Here we go folks with another bout of family-friendly and fun-filled quizzing! 500 questions for all ages and all skill-levels from trivia neophyte to omniscient master. This time around, the questions fall into ten categories: Capital cities, famous quotes, Green Lantern and Green Arrow, Doc Savage, song lyrics, Jack Benny's radio show, The Andy Griffith Show, comedy albums, the comic strip Peanuts and Presidents of the United States.




Thursday, May 16, 2013

Movie Review: Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monster All-Out Attack (2001)



Japanese movie poster
One of the interesting things about the last round of Godzilla films, known as the Millennium series, was that none of them had to have much continuity with the previous films, other than the original Gojira (1954). There was also none of the sixties and seventies' Godzilla,  who was a friend to children and protector of the planet. With Godzilla Mothra King Ghidorah: Giant Monster All-Out Attack, the Big G goes further back than the original; he's not just a force of nature in this one - he's a mean bastard out to destroy everything in sight.

While Godzilla was ostensibly destroyed in the original movie (with a little retroactive continuity for this one), the monster in this movie is given a much more mystical origin and is basically Zombie-Godzilla for all intents and purposes. The lack of pupils and irises makes him even more evil-looking in my opinion.

Godzilla now exemplifies all the lives lost to Japanese forces during the Pacific War. He's come back to take revenge on the islands of Japan for those deaths, since the Japanese people (or at least the Government) is more than willing to consign those acts to a forgotten corner of their history. To protect the land (the actual land of Japane, not the people), the Guardian Monsters rise up: Barugon (from Frankenstein Conquers the World), Mothra (from almost as many movies as Godzilla), and King Ghidorah (ditto). It is interesting to see Ghidorah as a hero, as usually the space monster is one of the ultimate bastards. Barugon is still a popular kaiju in Japan, which explains his inclusion, rather than the more popular Rodan or fan favorite Anguirus (Angillas).

The human side to the story features the commander of the Japanese Self-Defense Force dealing with his often-drunk daughter, a reporter for a cheap digital TV station producing sensationalist dramas. She's the only one who has contact with an old man who knows everything about the Guardian Monsters, and the coming battle.

There's a lot of great action and destruction in this one, as Godzilla, left loose for the first time in his cinematic career, gets a free hand to destroy Tokyo. Nothing accidental about this rampage ... he's there to kick ass and take names! He decimates the Japanese land forces in less than a minute, and nearly destroys everything on the water as well. The battles with the Guardian Monsters show there's no quarter given to the populace of Japan. Hundreds, probably thousands of people are shown being crushed under the debris of the monsters' swath of havoc. The only way this could be worse for Japan is if Godzilla was hungry and started eating people.

Godzilla facing King Ghidorah and Mothra
(Barugon already met his end about
twenty minutes earlier).
Barugon gets a bit short-changed in the end, but does have a pretty long battle with the Big G in the movie. Mothra's role is apparently just to die and supercharge King Ghidorah a couple of times. Ghidorah is at his most impressive (short of his brief Mecha-King Ghidorah phase, which was simply too cool for words), but it is Godzilla's show all along. And one of the few instances in the long series that the efforts of the human forces actually play a major role in the villain monster's defeat, much like the original 1954 movie.

This is definitely a must-watch for the kaiju fan, and it is a very accessible film for the average movie-goer.

John Carter (2012): $300 million for ... this?


After reading John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood, a book that went deep into the problems behind the latest cinematic megaflop, I decided it was finally time to sit down and watch John Carter. Given that Disney pretty much set the film up to fail with either too much or not enough control or effort at various stages, I was actually hoping to see a good adaptation of a story I had read a long time ago.

Perhaps that was the problem, as I read the entire eleven-book Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs one after the other over a period of a week or two. So I think my memories may be a little warped over what happened where. I just started re-reading the series from the first book, A Princess of Mars, from which this movie is supposedly adapted.

To be completely honest, I see very little of that book in this movie. I see very little Burroughs at all, really. I see a lot of Flash Gordon, a lot of  Star Wars and a bit of Dune, all of which can probably claim the influence of John Carter of Mars somewhere in their lineages, but I would've hoped this movie, of the original source material, would've found away to rise above that.

There's a lot of CGI. I assume that's where all the money went. And the Martian Tharks are amazing. The various Martian vistas are truly wondrous to behold, though I'm not exactly sure why Mars has a blue sky when there are no oceans. And you gotta love the babysitter beast, Woola. But not even a Michael Bay movie can get by just on eye candy anymore, and there needs to be a story.

There's some stuff that resembles one in John Carter, but it doesn't always jump out at you. The sound mixing is horrible (at least to me) and I found myself having to go back to see what people said a couple of times because the soundtrack music drowned it out. The mysterious Therns, the inadvertent reason Carter is even on Mars to begin with, are interesting, but they really seem out of place in this movie, as there seems to be enough global political strike on Barsoom that they didn't need to stick their noses in it. The super-high tech that the Therns give the Zodangans is similarly out of place.

The whole concept of the moving city of Zodanga is completely ludicrous. It's like someone had a vaguely interesting steampunk design left over from The Wild Wild West movie and had a little too much beer one night. Sure it looked interesting during Carter's escape, but it makes no logical sense on a world with rapidly depleting resources to move an entire bloody city around the planet.

After reading that book, I was in a very accommodating mood for this movie. It may have been wronged by the morons at Disney, but it also wasn't very good. It was a disservice to long-time fans of the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic, and it certainly wasn't worth $300 million.

There are sometimes when a book really shouldn't be made into a movie. I think John Carter will stand, at least for a few years, as an example to prove that axiom.

Watch the fan trailer and save your Redbox dollar for a Scooby-Doo movie...



AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM FOR THE KINDLE


THE 1970'S SCI-FI MOVIE QUIZ BOOK
By Rich Meyer



This is the quiz e-book for the b-movie fan in everyone! If you liked watching Peter Graves fight giant grasshoppers, Bela Lugosi turn people into Tor Johnson, or giant brains crawling around the countryside, then you'll enjoy these questions (and answers) about the movie era that spawned a thousand chills and a million drive-ins!








Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Movie Review: Destroy All Monsters (1968)



When I was a kid, Destroy All Monsters was the gem in the kaiju eiga crown ... that Holy Grail that every Godzilla fan wanted to see. Luckily, back then in the seventies, TV stations actually played stuff that people actually wanted to watch. The CBS Late Night Movie, The ABC Friday Night Movie, WLUK's T.J. and the ANT (All Night Theatre), and Saturday afternoon movies on the local stations in Central Wisconsin finally got me to that goal. And then the early days of TNT and The Sci-Fi Channel (I can't being myself to call it SyFy out of deference to the days when it actually played science-fiction) Channel buttressed it in the mid-eighties by replaying it. It took nearly twenty years to see that film twice.

Of course now, I have it on DVD and can watch it anytime I want. And two nights ago, it was my Kaiju fix. This 1968 flick is what you would call a "monster fest", much like Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman or House of Dracula  twenty five years earlier. it featured almost all of the popular giant monsters created by Toho Studios, battling on both sides of an alien invasion. In the far-flung year of 1999, space travel with the moon is common and all the world's monsters have been confined to an island for study. The invading Kilaaks take control of the island and the monsters, wreaking havoc on the world's cities. Earth isn't defenseless and fights back, culminating in a monster brawl at the base of Mount Fuji. The aliens bring in the space monster Ghidorah as a last ditch effort, but hey, you know how this ends, right? Godzilla, good guy, aliens, smucked all over the place.

Godzilla is, of course, the star of the movie, but a good number of his kaiju cohorts get a lot of airtime, namely Mothra (in caterpillar form), Rodan, Angilus (a.k.a. Angurus of Gigantis the Fire Monster fame), Manda (from the sci-fi movie Atragon) and Gorosaurus, who's only previous appearance was as the dinosaur that the giant ape kills in the Rankin-Bass/Toho production of King Kong Escapes. The monsters Varan (from Varan the Unbelievable) and Barugon (from Frankenstein Conquers the World) make brief appearances, usually at a distance, since the rubber man-in-a-suit-a-saurus costumes for those two creatures had degraded to the point that they couldn't be used for close-up, active city stomping. Gorosaurus does the subterranean monster bit instead of Barugon in Paris, destroying the Arch de Triomphe. Godzilla's son is on hand for a little comic relief in the final battle, blowing a smoke ring onto one of Ghidrah's flailing heads as he gets stomped by his dad and friends.

On the whole, the special effects are pretty good in this one, with a minimum of stock footage. Godzilla gets to stomp New York for the first time, and the monsters attack cities that aren't Tokyo for the first time. The story's fine, too. Don't bother deconstructing it; I mean it is just a monster movie and if you're watching a monster movie like you'd watch a Scorsese or Tarkovsky flick, you've got something wrong in the cabeza to begin with. The plot is adequate for the movie's intentions, and gives lots of opportunities for spaceships, monsters, aliens and wanton destruction to appear on the screen.

Sure, it's dated, but this is a fun movie and wastes an hour-and-a-half quite efficiently!





Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Movie Review: The X From Outer Space (1967)



The X From Outer Space (1967) was one of many kaiju-eiga (strange beast)/science fiction films released in Japan during the monster boom of the sixties. It is a seriously goofy movie. Do NOT even think about trying to find a proper rationale for anything that goes on in this film! Just sit back and enjoy the goofiness!

Several mission to Mars have gone missing with all hands lost, so the spaceship AAB-Gamma is being sent out to investigate. The crew encounters a fuzzy UFO that the comm officer notes as looking like a fried egg that impedes them a little, mainly forcing them to waste some fuel, and the ship's doctor comes down with an illness, and head for the moonbase instead. There's some romantic entanglements with the Captain, the biologist and a lady on the moonbase. The doctor on the base is forced onto the AAB-Gamma, and they again run into the UFO on their way to Mars. This time, they turn back after wasting more fuel and discovering a strange foamy substance on the outside of the ship, along with egg-like spores, one of which they take with them back to Earth.

The crew and some of the staff had a dinner party, which is interrupted by the obligatory call from the lab - the substance is missing and there's a hole in the floor ... and a track on the floor that looks like a big chicken! The four of the crew head out to a party in Hakone when the power goes out and a strange-looking  (and I mean strange - look at the picture!) monster pops out of the ground and starts on a rampage. They fairly quickly (y'know, around noon the next day) deduce that this is what escaped from the lab and they name the deely-boppered creature Guilala.

Lots of cornball destruction of the Tokyo landscape, some dams, and some tanks and planes (of course) follow. The scientists reason that perhaps that mysterious foamy substance might be a defense against Guilala, so the AAB-Gamma takes to the skies once again. The new substance, Guilalanium, sucks up energy and radiation, making it difficult for the ship to return home, since it interferes with communications and controls. They manage to find a way to shield it and, after another UFO encounter in which they are buzzed by the flying egg (and not much else), get the Guilalanium back to Earth in time to prevent Guilala from destroying the entire island. A poignant choice in the romance department and "The End" flashes on the screen.

A clip from The X From Outer Space (1967)

This was the first monster movie produced by the Shochiku Film Studio, and while it had none of the polish you would find with a Toho Production or the early Daiei Gamera films, it was still an enjoyable film. There's a lot of goofiness, with the comm officer trying hard to be the comic relief, the monster itself being just the strangest thing they could've come up with, and the quaintness of the special effects. You don't notice a lot of wires, but the buildings tend to fall apart like gingerbread houses. The design of the AAB-Gamma space ship is very interesting though; looking a lot like some sort of modified submarine and not the usual rocket/missile-shaped craft of the era.

But one of the hallmarks of being a kaiju eiga fan is to look at a movie in a Japanese manner: If the story is worth telling, you can overlook flaws in the presentation. The X From Outer Space was a tale worth telling, so I find I can quite easily enjoy it with those flaws; in fact, like a lot of films, you can enjoy it more with the flaws.


AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM FOR THE KINDLE

THE MONSTER QUIZ BOOK
By Rich Meyer

If you like monsters, giant-sized, human-sized or any size, then this is the quiz e-book for you! Godzilla, Gamera, Frankenstein, the Creature, the Mummy, Dracula ... nearly every creature that's tried to scare the pants off you gets a shout out in this one!








Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Doctor Who "Nightmare in Silver" SPOILERS ABOUND


Okay, the latest episode of Doctor Who, while having a few excellent points on the plus side, really emphasizes the descent of the show into being a children's TV show again, rather than an actual science fiction program.

First the good stuff: Warrick Davis. You can't go wrong with Warrick Davis. And a couple of the special effects were good, though the sound editor didn't do a good job. How could that twit of a kid have screamed like she did if the Cyberman was moving at that speed? She wouldn't have even noticed until she was halfway down the hall.



And the final good point: The Cybermen, of course. They weren't all that scary to viewers, I don't think, but in the concept of the story, they were played to good effect, especially giving them an element of deviousness they hadn't really had before.

But the episode also went a little overboard on turning the Cybermen into the Borg. The partial conversions, the facial implements on the Doctor and Webley, even the mental combat all screamed "Borg" to me. The Cybermen could possibly have been an inspiration to the Star Trek: The Next Generation creators for the Borg, but this is such a blatant swipe.

Also, I think the writers should have maybe watch a few episodes of the original series, as I could've sworn that gold only messed up a Cyberman's respiration unit. Why touching a piece of foil to part of an implement would do anything is beyond me, at most a minor short circuit, I would think.

And now we come to the bane of the episode: The two kids. One kid, no problem. But two? Now you're pandering to the kid demographic and you officially have a kid's TV show. The mere fact that the Doctor would consider taking them along in the TARDIS, especially in a storyline where he is trying to erase his presence from history, is absurd. I suppose you can laugh it off because of his obsession with their governess, but it is lame no matter how you look at it. This is THE DOCTOR, not a babysitter. At least the initial process of turning them into Cybermen shut them up for a good portion of the episode.

Much like the previous episode, this one had a lot going for it, but stopped itself short of being a properly good episode. This one certainly did not feel like it was written by someone of the calibre of Neil Gaiman.  I suppose even the great ones phone one in now and again.

I don't hold out much hope for the next episode either, with the pointless answering of the "Question That Must Not Be Answered" either. In fact, I don't hold out much hope for the series until both Matt Smith and Stephen Moffat quit the show.

I'm still hoping that the entire Eleventh Doctor saga is some odd alternate universe that will resolve itself and disappear from the collective memory next episode or on the 50th Anniversary Special.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Comic Book Reviews - May 7th, 2013

As yesterday was a DC fest of reviews, today is all Marvel, primarily "Marvel Now" books.

The second Dark Avengers comic book is a spin-off from both the "Dark Reign" mega-event and the last Thunderbolts book. The team features corollaries to some of the most popular Avengers: USAgent for Captain America, Skaar for Hulk, Ragnarok for Thor, Trickshot for Hawkeye, Toxie Doxie for Scarlet Witch, Moonstone for Captain/Ms. Marvel, and Ai Apaec for Spider-Man. The current storyline has them in an alternate universe in which New York City is divided into gang and tribe-style territories run by Dr. Strange, Iron Man Mr. Fantastic, the Thing, and Spider-Man, following a major battle that resulted in the deaths of Hulk and Thor. There's some fairly good scripting and artwork in this one, and the story and characterization is fun to read. Moonstone constantly being forced to dress up as Ms. Marvel (something begun by Norman Osborne in the original Dark Avengers series) provides a little comic relief. The use of a character like Ragnarok, which I would've normally thought of as just a throwaway bit for Civil War is an interesting touch, as is the unique way Toxie Doxie gives John Walker (USAgent) back his mobility. This really isn't a top-tier book by any stretch, but it currently reminds me of Exiles, with this strange dystopian verve on the MU. It's definitely worth a read.


Scraping the bottom of the Marvel barrel, we have Nova. Now, this title is a natural, as a tie-in to both the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series and the planned Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  But, unfortunately, this series has none of the fun of the cartoon series, and little of the majesty of what you would hope a GOTG movie would have. We're stuck with Sam Alexander instead of Richard Rider in the Nova Corps gear - a young kid with no experience in using the abilities the uniform gives him. We've got a cameo by the Pointer err the Watcher, and Gamora and Rocket Raccoon stop by with a less-than-inspiring training session for the kid. And issue three brings in the Chitauri, in all their Avengers movie glory. Considering that these were the Marvel Ultimate Universe version of the Skrulls, one wonders what unseen retro-continuity effects these aliens will have played in galactic politics. From their armada, they appeared to have fared much better than their namesakes during the Annihilation Wave. I've read almost everything in Nova before, mostly in the Jaime Reyes incarnations of Blue Beetle. The only difference is that Sam Alexander can take off his helmet and walk away, something I hope rapidly declining sales will make him do soon, so we can get back to a proper Man Called Nova.

I really cannot call myself the biggest X-Men/mutie book fan. I was back in the early days, up until Dave Cockrum left the book the second time. I did manage to be the only person on the planet to trade his copy of X-Men #94 for an issue of Two-Gun Kid (in my defense, it did have a kick-ass pin-up with all of Matt Hawk's gizmos). The X-Men have just grown so exponentially since I started reading them (X-Men #63, if I recall correctly, back in the reprint/nearly-canceled years), and that exponential growth, coupled with the bad artwork of the nineties that other people thought was exceedingly brilliant (even after all the artists went over to Image), left a sour taste in my mouth. The last time I tried any X-book was Grant Morrison's brilliant run on New X-Men. I've started reading the "Marvel Now" versions, in the aftermath of Avengers vs. X-Men, beginning with the excellent Cable vs. X-Force.

Cable's a character I never liked. Much like most of the nineties creations, I saw him as just a bozo with a gun, and usually one the size of a small sofa. The same with Domino, only with smaller guns <insert bad joke here>. But this series has an interesting cast, with Colossus from the proper New Uncanny X-Men, Forge, and golden age Marvel hero Dr. Nemesis. Cable and X-Force are a strike force working save lives by being proactive in trying to make sure Cable's prophetic visions don't come true. From Cable arguing with his daughter Hope (who wants to be involved in all parts of her father's life) to Forge and Dr. Nemesis' video game and giant monster contests, to Domino and Colossus getting a little frisky, this is a wonderfully written book with some great artwork. This is a book any comic fan should at least give a try once. You'll probably be back for more.

Well, to make a post even stranger (at least for me), here's another book for a character I never thought I could recommend. Wolverine has become an interesting character, but somehow his multitude of appearances in nearly every Marvel Comics title, at least as of late, haven't become tiresome. I personally haven't read a Wolvie solo book since the pioneering Chris Claremont-Frank Miller mini-series of the early eighties. I never got into his first on-going series, as the whole "Patch" thing seemed so stupid. But having enjoyed seeing the character in New X-Men and the Avengers titles, I thought I'd give the character another try. Savage Wolverine doesn't disappoint, though the series is more of a off-beat team-up tale (at least so far) instead of a straight Wolverine book. It's set in the Savage Land, with Wolverine, Shanna the She-Devil and and Amadeus Cho trying to find the secret behind an strange island, all for different reason. Frank Cho handles the story and art chores, while Jason Keith gets cover credit for being the colorist (finally at least someone remembers the important job a colorist does on a comic ... y'know they used to be called "four-color comics" for a reason). The tale is fast-moving and action-packed. There's nothing not to recommend about this one.

The latest iteration of the time-honored Bruce Banner is the focus of Indestructible Hulk. Dr. Banner has discovered that his condition, being the Hulk that is, is incurable, and much more like a chronic physical condition like diabetes. He's also become worried about how history will remember him - since other super-intelligent men like Tony Stark and Reed Richards get all the acclaim for using their minds and not their brawn. So he puts forth a proposal to SHIELD Director Maria Hill:  They give Banner the facilities to make scientific miracles come true, and they can use the Hulk as a WMD when needed. A little blackmail helps things along and a trial run against the Mad Thinker in issue #1 gets Banner "hired". Mark Waid is always a great writer, as anyone reading Daredevil nowadays already knows. Leinil Yu, an artist I never heard of before, is very capable and captures the raw power of the Hulk with aplomb. A great book for the Hulk fans, and definitely a more interesting take on the character.

Well, that's all this time around. Next time, some a few more books I think are worth reading, like Masks, and probably a couple that aren't worth buying for your birdcage. We'll see.


AVAILABLE FOR THE AMAZON KINDLE: 



THE MUSIC TRIVIA QUIZ BOOK
By Rich Meyer

Are you the kind of person who wants to rock and roll all night? Enjoy being all out of love? Is Georgia on your mind? Are you the very model of a modern major general?

This quiz e-book features 301 easy-to-navigate trivia questions on music: All genres - rock, country, R&B, classical, opera, alternative and even pop! There's something here for everyone!  Hours of fun for the whole family! Stump your friends! Enrage your enemies! And have a rockin' good time with the Music Trivia Quiz Book!

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AZ36XEO