DAYS MISSING

DAYS MISSING
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Archaia Entertainment

Reviewed by Marc Mason

One of the more pleasing aspects to reviewing is the calm sense of satisfaction you feel when someone finds a theme or formula that works (and works splendidly) right out of the gate. DAYS MISSING delivers that sense of satisfaction. In a comics world obsessed with creating the perfect lead-in to an other-media project, this book not only achieves that perfection (as this would make for smashing television, as it uses the procedural format like it wrote the handbook) but it also works well solely as a comic, something that all too many of those types of projects fail to do.

DAYS tells the story of the missions of The Steward, a man who lives outside of the time-space continuum, dropping in solely when humanity reaches its lowest hours. When various doomsdays and armageddons get underway, The Steward shows up, does his best to clean up the mess, and then uses his powers to “fold” time and eliminate that particular twenty-four hour period (thus, the book’s title).

He’s been doing it throughout history. In this book we see him with Cortez in the 1500s. We see him at the Large Hadron Collider in 2008. He visits Mary Shelley in the 1800s. In short, he goes wherever he is needed in order to keep this planet on the right track.

The creative personnel that come together these stories are fantastic. Phil Hester, David Hine, Ian Edginton, Matz, Frazer Irving, Chris Burnham, Lee Moder and Hugo Petrus all have distinguished themselves in comics and they lend an air of added class to this project. In a certain way, it’s very necessary- in the procedural format, plot tends to take precedence over character and arc. And The Steward is a cipher, plugged in to fix the holes of the universe, not develop and grow. So to make this work, you need strong creators who can make the concept compelling enough to keep you reading.

The hardcover package is lovely, aided and abetted by a nifty intro from Warren Ellis, and a slew of bonus bits at the back including interviews, sketch work, covers, and more. Highly recommended.

ON THE ODD HOURS

ON THE ODD HOURS
Written and Illustrated by Eric Liberge
Published by NBM

Reviewed by Avril Brown

ON THE ODD HOURS is the third book in a series of graphic novels which are co-published by the Louvre Museum, and it is a veritable feast for the eyes. Every single page is visually tantalizing and the representations of the ageless works inhabiting the Louvre are drawn with obvious love and reverence. To open this book is to step inside the Louvre and its essence of artistic excellence.

The ‘graphic’ portion of this novel exceeds expectations and the story is an interesting and unique take on the art world, though the plot is unfortunately marred by the presence of an unlikable main character. Bastien is a deaf-mute who entered the Louvre to meet with a man about an internship, but the man he meets and the job he lands are both far different than he was expecting. Fu Zhi Ha is a night guard at the museum who sees a talent inside Bastien to mimic his own rather exceptional task, namely to soothe the souls of the artwork through ancient musical interpretation and a connection with the pieces.

In terms of story lines, this is could be an inspiring tale of how supposed disadvantages can become windows into unexpected worlds. Bastien, however, never seems to prove his worthiness of such opportunities. He consistently asks for trust from those around him but rarely does anything to earn that trust. He hits his girlfriend rather than simply turning his back on her controlling tendencies, he continually takes advantage of his only friend, and he manipulates his boss to where he has no other choice but to trust Bastien for the sake of the sanity of the artwork and its patrons. Fu Zhi Ha, on the other hand, was a character with a richness and history worth telling, and I longed to hear more about this eclectic little Asian arts lover.

Despite a disappointing protagonist, ON THE ODD HOURS remains a book worth delving into. Liberge’s amazingly artistic hand does an extraordinary job of capturing the pieces in the Louvre, thus giving readers a pocket-sized collection of world renowned works. By tapping into the spirit of the pieces, ON THE ODD HOURS delivers an unforgettable visual tour of one of the worlds greatest museums.

ROGUE ELEMENT 49

ROGUE ELEMENT 49: Avril in Wonderland

The Everlasting Fascination with Wonderland or “Why We Keep Following Alice Down the Rabbit Hole”

By Avril Brown

What is it about Wonderland? Who is this Alice in her blue and white dress and her head riddled with nonsense thoughts? Why does a tale told in the eighteen hundreds still captivate the hearts and minds of people today, whether they be six years old or sixty? When will we finally have our fill of talking creatures, painted roses and hookah-huffing insects?

The answer for many, including myself, is gleefully clear: never. Never shall we walk away from Wonderland with no intent of coming back again. Always will we want a way to escape the confines of reality if only for a brief moment or two. Wonderland is a place where the only rule is that there are none, and any sense to be found makes no sense at all. For some, that makes Wonderland the ideal vacation spot.

The year was 1865 when an Englishman named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson picked up his pen, donned the pseudonym Lewis Carroll and created ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.’ Six years later Dodgson/Carroll took Alice on another adventure in ‘Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There,’ and characters and scenes from both successful books have been used in subsequent years for various adaptations, including television, film and comic books, many which bear the more commonly known title of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ People of all ages were drawn in by the colorful literary nonsense words of the author and continue to be to this day, thus creating a portfolio of ‘Alice’ pieces to choose from, depending on one’s mood.

For those who are feeling classy, naturally there are Carroll’s novels to dive into. Everything to do with Alice and her Wonderland was birthed from the words of one man, and it is important to touch base every once in awhile with the original idea. The books remain wildly popular despite their advance ages, a clear sign that the author must have done something right.

If you are craving a visual trip down the rabbit hole, Disney is now boasting two cinematic versions of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ The original is the infamous animated feature created in 1951, and the second being the recently released live action film (with a heavy dash of CG special effects) starring the delightfully demented Johnny Depp. The later is being met with mixed reviews, and though I do think Alice was missing much of her much-ness in that particular version I still enjoyed the aesthetic feast of the scenery, costumes and characters. The original cartoon film, however, will always hold a special place in my heart and head. The memories it conjures of countless viewings with my father, who loves the movie as much as I, and the smiles it continuously brings with its funny lines, colorful critters and lighthearted nature, are enough to ensure Disney’s animated ‘Alice in Wonderland’ will remain one of my all time favorite movies.

Raven Gregory is the author and one of the brains behind the series of comic books featuring a hellish dimension of Wonderland. Published by Zenescope Entertainment and most certainly meant for mature readers, these books are rife with betrayal, rape, murder, and suicide, to list a few sins. Beautifully illustrated and scarily written, the Wonderland books are a drastically different take on Carroll’s characters than the Disney films. I recently interviewed Mr. Gregory and when queried as to where this idea came from, he responded by stating he always felt there was a darker theme lying just under the surface of the Wonderland stories and he wanted to explore what would happen to a character thrust into such insanity, especially if this violent Wonderland was real. Through the entirety of the Wonderland series is gory brutality, loss and heartbreak, but there is also a central theme of love and loyalty, regret and starting over, fighting for what is right and enjoying the happiness you have. A visually stunning and nightmarish tale, Raven Gregory’s Wonderland books are another avenue for those craving a darker path when wandering about Wonderland.

Imagine a world with animals who talk and dress like people, food and drink that can make one grow and shrink and where absolutely nothing is impossible and you have Wonderland. Fantasy reigns supreme, reality with all its pesky responsibilities ceases to exist and for the briefest of moments, we are all Alice, following a rabbit wearing a waistcoat wherever he leads, thinking of six impossible things before breakfast and watching them all come true. We are free.

Whatever our raison du jour for taking the tumble down the rabbit hole, we are committed to returning to Wonderland for more adventures whether with Alice, The Hatter, or our own indomitable imagination. We enjoy our visits and then return to the real world, for what fun is the imaginary one without the colorful contrast of actuality?

“The adventures first, explanations can take such a dreadful time.”

Cheers to that.

 

CITY OF SPIES/FOILED

CITY OF SPIES/FOILED
Written by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan and Drawn by Pascal Dizin
Written by Jane Yolen and Drawn by Mike Cavallaro
Published by First Second

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two new graphic novels, with a thematic link…

CITY OF SPIES is a charming little tale, set against the backdrop of 1942 New York City. A young girl named Evelyn is sent to live with her aunt for the summer, and it isn’t exactly what she hoped for. The aunt has no parenting skills to speak of, Evelyn misses her dad, and the building where they live is bereft of children, with the exception of Tony, the son of the super. So that gives Evelyn lots of time to make her own comics, an idea that even she feels at her heart isn’t practical. But the comics serve more than one purpose for the girl, who seems to be driven to find her own inner hero and defeat evil.

However, in her quest to find her inner hero, the young girl begins asking questions about her Judaism, what’s really going on in Germany, and what kind of future might be waiting for her. And when she and Tony make an unusual discovery, the opportunity for her to play out the role of the hero she is in her comics suddenly looks less like a fantasy and more like a necessity.

This book really worked on all levels for me. I liked the characters; Evelyn and Tony felt like real kids to me, and their mischief is legit and amusing, as well as their curiosity. The writers allow the pair’s friendship to develop in a very natural way, and you can see why the two are drawn to one another. Lia, the aunt, also sings on the page, a woman stuck in an odd circumstance suddenly forced to take responsibility for a child when she’s never been responsible for so much as herself in her entire life. Throw in a plot that ramps up at a proper pace, delivers solid thrills, and offers up a nicely emotional and resolute climax, and you have a winner.

On the other hand, FOILED is a book that frustrated me tremendously.

It starts out wonderfully. Aliera is an outcast in her school, no matter which clique is involved. She’s not a jock, she’s not a princess, she’s not a brain, she’s not a goth. What she is happens to be a competitive fencer, and a damned good one. She can beat all the girls, she can beat most of the boys. But her unusual gift keeps her apart from most of her classmates. But when a new boy comes to her school, and she gets stuck with him for a biology lab partner, the fencer’s directive to protect the heart comes under attack, as she suddenly finds herself with emotions and sensations unknown to her. In short, FOILED gets underway as an interesting look at a young girl facing changes in her life that she’s totally unprepared for, and reads like a strong coming of age tale.

Then it goes completely off the rails. And I mean completely.

Without giving away the twist, I’ll just say that the boy turns out to be much more than she expected, and that her primary weapon has more meaning than Aliera could have ever guessed. We also discover that the young girl’s color-blindness plays a bigger part in her life than it would for anybody else.

I’m sure there are some that would read this book and be charmed by the screeching plot twist in the final act, and that’s fine. But I found it jarring to the point of nearly anger inducing. Instead of taking the hard way out and allowing Aliera to deal with her personal development in a realistic and interesting manner, we instead get an easy way out. We get a setup for multiple sequels. We get a plot moment that takes Aliera’s gift and removes it from the realm of metaphor and cheapens it to a literal need.

That’s a shame.

What these two books have in common, of course, is their young female leads, and that hasn’t necessarily been First Second’s strength. It jumped out at me that these two works would have been right at home in DC’s defunct Minx line and it made me wonder if First Second is quietly staking out territory where DC vacated. Should be worth keeping an eye on that as time passes and the company’s slate of releases continues to grow.

SPLENDID MAGIC OF PENNY ARCADE

THE SPLENDID MAGIC OF PENNY ARCADE
Written and Drawn by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins
Published by Del Rey

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Put two geeks in the same room and one of two things is likely to happen. Either the two will compare notes on their favorite hobbies, discover they are kindred, and bond for life, or the pair will compare notes on their favorite hobbies, discover that the other person believes opposite of them, and declare themselves enemies for life. When scenario one happens, the duo occasionally comes together to get find their fortune, as Krahulik and Holkins have with their long-running webcomic PENNY ARCADE. When scenario two happens, they usually bitch about it on the internet.

Either way, it still usually turns out as a win for guys like Krahulik and Holkins.

PENNY ARCADE was one of the first webcomics to gain a measure of genuine popularity, thanks to its sardonic take on gamers and gamer culture, and after over a decade of strips, it has become the vanguard of comics on geek culture. Focused on gamer buddies Tycho and Gabe, the duo play games, read comics, watch movies, and generally eviscerate the things that nerds hold dear. Yet they do it in such a way that allows them to be in on the joke and not alienate their audience. Not an easy trick.

This over-sized hardcover isn’t so much a collection of the strip as it is a historical document on the rise of the creators and their strip. Indeed, what we have here is mostly text, illustrated by the pair’s output. Each man offers up his take on the growing pains of their strip, the history of their friendship, and more. Plus, you get essays from some of the folks behind the scenes helping keep their empire together and functioning. There are some strips reprinted, allowing for commentary from the pair, but it isn’t anything I would describe as overwhelming or mind-blowing.

The book itself would be a huge treat for a fan of the strip, of that I am certain, and is likely a must-have. But for anyone not a fan of PENNY ARCADE, I suspect it might be a bit of a disappointment. Someone new to the comic would be far better off starting reading one of the books that’s solely a collection of the online strip, allowing them to determine if the characters hold any real interest to them. This tribute edition isn’t really going to help much in that way.

SUPER SPY: THE LOST DOSSIERS

SUPER SPY: THE LOST DOSSIERS
Written and Drawn by Matt Kindt
Published by Top Shelf

Reviewed by Marc Mason

SUPER SPY was one of my favorite graphic novels of the year back when it came out, an exciting, labyrinthine story of World War Two espionage full of murder, sex, and double crosses galore. Now Kindt is returning to his greatest work to date and offering up some extras.

LOST DOSSIERS is not, in any traditional way, a graphic novel. Rather, consider it the bonus disc you get when you buy the “director’s cut” of that movie you like so much. There are a few new stories here; one actually requires you to cut out the panels and put them in order! Another combines the text of a diary with single-panel images to tell the story of one woman’s training in how to lose someone that is tailing her, while another is told through prose and single-panel images, and they’re all terrific.

However, the bulk of this book is made up of Kindt showing you behind the curtain in the making of the original book. Sketchbook material, pin-ups, commentary pieces on the nuts and bolts of individual pages from the graphic novel, aerial surveillance photos from the 1940s that he used as inspiration when writing and drawing… all of it guides you through Kindt’s creative process, and when all is said and done, it’s pretty cool.

That said… I have to believe that this book’s audience is severely limited. I can’t imagine anyone buying it that doesn’t already own SUPER SPY. I can’t even honestly say that it serves as a solid “trailer” for the main book, either; there isn’t enough here to really suggest how great that book is. Ultimately, I’m sure that the author and publisher are hoping that readers will buy the pair as a combo. And really- it isn’t a bad idea at all.

BLIND MICE-OCHO #8-11

BLIND MICE/OCHO #8-11
Written and Drawn by Eric Mengel
Published by Blind Mice Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Reasons to love minicomics #437: they tend to deal in local flavor.

Local Phoenix/Tempe homeboy Eric Mengel sent me a batch of his popular mini, BLIND MICE recently, and it was fun to catch up on the series. He collected the first seven issues of his series into trade paperback a few years ago, and with these books in hand, I’m fully up-to-date. Happily, I might add.

BLIND MICE, which undergoes a name change with issue #10 to OCHO, reflecting its focus on the character of that name, focuses on an alien missionary that finds himself living in Tempe, Arizona and doing his best to blend into human society. This isn’t always easy, seeing as how he’s seven feet tall, blue-skinned, and has no pupils. Yet, this being an accepting community (and God knows, it wouldn’t surprise me to stroll down Mill Ave on a Friday night and see this guy standing in front of Robbie Fox’s) he manages to do pretty well for himself. If only he weren’t plagued by the warrior missions he went on back when he was on his own planet…

There’s a certain sense of lunacy you can get away with when you’re making minicomics as opposed to standard floppies, and Mengel embraces it. Ocho has a roommate named Pitbull, and the guy travels around on a magic carpet (which would be pushing it, even for Mill), ultimately deciding that Geronimo (the carpet’s name) should just stick to working Ocho because Pitbull prefers to walk.

These minis have a fun, loopy attitude that carry you along for the ride. Mengel’s storytelling, panel to panel, isn’t always strong- a sequence in issue eight where Ocho needs to climb into his upper floor apartment because he forgot his keys is clunky at best- but Mengel makes up for it with spirit and zeal. He’s developed the world within his book to the point where he understands it and knows how to manipulate it. So while it’s risky when Ocho winds up elsewhere later in these books, you don’t lose confidence in the creator’s ability to make things work.

Issues eight through eleven will comprise the second trade paperback volume featuring Mengel’s characters. Not many minicomics make it this far or even to a single collection. That’s something to be respected and appreciated.

 

COSPLAY FEVER

COSPLAY FEVER
Written and Photographed by Rob Dunlop and Peter Lumby
Published by Ablaze Media

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Ahh, cosplay. Outside of TWILIGHT fans, nothing divides the geek set quite like it. On one side you have the men, women, and children that display their love for their hobbies through clothing and make-up, immersing themselves in the worlds they care about in the most literal way they can. It’s a powerful devotion, one that takes up hours of time and effort, and not a small amount of money. And on the other side, you get the nerds that sneer at cosplayers’ level of nerdity, that consider them a blight; fodder for the local news cameras that want to make fandom look as bad as they can.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as usual.

Rob Dunlop and Peter Lumby, creators of the satiric comicbook TOZZER, have spent years setting up tables at conventions, and through those years, their interest and intrigue with cosplayers grew until they decided that more attention needed to be paid to the phenomenon. Thus was born COSPLAY FEVER, a photographic essay exploring the scene at various U.K. conventions between March and July of 2009. The result is something quite fascinating to behold, and might broaden your mental portrait of who and what cosplayers really are.

The surprise comes from how the creators explore the broad spectrum of costume types. Unlike what every San Diego television news division would like for you top believe, not everyone dresses up as a Klingon. Are there STAR TREK costumes to be seen here? Sure. STAR WARS, too. But you also get superheroes (Marvel, DC, and others), manga characters, anime characters… and then it expands past those.

How about plushies and furries? Yep, they’re here. Those animal costumes are seen as something more than a sexual fetish by the authors. They also include young women that have immersed themselves in the Gothic Lolita scene, too. Are either a traditional form of cosplay? No- but they are cosplay just the same.

What this really accomplishes is to deliver proof of something I have believed for many years, having written a column about it a while back: the geek community and the fetish community are separated by an extremely thin line, and should embrace their similar interests.

Most of the cosplayers featured in these 256 pages have offered details about how they put their outfit together, what it cost, and why they take the time and trouble to do it- interesting information, no question. But ultimately what impresses is the diversity of those behind the make-up. Young men and women. Mature men and women. Men that dress as female characters and women that dress as men. Small children. Families dressing together. You cannot pigeonhole who and what cosplayers are any more than you can a comicbook fan- they are everybody. They are geeks.

They are us.

GIRL COMICS 1

Girl Comics #1
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Marvel Comics

Reviewed by Vincent S. Moore

Ever since the middle of last year, the purchase of Marvel by Disney has sparked tons of speculation in comics shops across this land. If the bulk of the speculation was similar to what I heard and overheard at Comics Ink, then most of what it boiled down to was this: Disney’s got cooties and they are going to give it to Marvel. So much of this fear of cooties infecting “our” superhero comics comes from Disney’s primary marketing focus, girls, through the various princesses in the animated movies and merchandise. Some, but not all, fanboys of all ages would express fears of toning down the violence or putting out “girly” projects a la Twilight no matter how much I and others tried to say that no one really knew or could speculate safely as to what the new owners would do. If anything, Disney bought Marvel to appeal to the one group that the House of Mouse had lost decades ago: boys. After much dialogue and pontificating, the conversations would shift away to the minutiae of the latest crossover event and other topics of interest.

For a while at least.

Then Marvel announced their plans for 2010 to focus on the Women of Marvel. Which would spark the fears all over again.

Now, I like women that read comics. I also like women that make comics, at least the idea of it. It’s cool to me, as a longtime fanboy, to see women enjoying what I enjoy, namely the medium of comics. So when the Girl Comics anthology was announced as part of Marvel’s plans, I was at least curious to see what developed.

This past Wednesday, the first issue, Girl Comics #1, finally arrived at local comics shops. And I satisfied my curiosity.

I only wish that was all that was satisfied.

I did not expect perfection nor was I completely expecting, given some of the talents listed whose names I had never heard of (I tend to stick more in the mainstream waters of the comics industry), slam-bang superhero fiction of the type of which I am familiar. But I did hope to be entertained and perhaps enlightened.

We shall see.

Let’s start with Amanda Conner’s wonderful cover. I am a huge fan of her work. Her cartoony style brings a dynamics back to superhero art that’s been missing for some. The overall design and storytelling — of an arm wrestling match between Iron Man and She-Hulk — are great. But I have to pull the serious geek card on this one. Unless this situation has changed without anyone making note of it, Iron Man’s armor doesn’t work if the helmet is off. No helmet, no cybernetic control over the suit. No control over the suit, no enhanced strength. No enhanced strength, there is no way Tony Stark in a couple hundred pounds of dead weight is a match for She-Hulk. So, as staged, the match is not a fair contest. Was this simply a mistake neither Ms. Conner nor the editor caught? Or was it a subconscious statement about the premise behind the whole book? That the deck was being stacked in favor of the women to give them an easy victory? I don’t know.

Grade: C

Moving on to Colleen Coover’s opening 2 pager. I found her art as lovely and fun to see as usual. Too bad the preachy message — that of justifying why superheroines are superheroines, as if that is really necessary — ruined it. At this point, I wondered who was this comic for, besides the creators and editors themselves?

Grade: C-

The second story is entitled “Moritat” by G. Willow Wilson and Ming Doyle. At least I hope that was the title. The lettering of the title was a bit difficult to decipher. It dealt with Nightcrawler taking in a bit of evening entertainment in a German speaking club. I liked how Ms. Wilson used the lounge singer’s song to frame the bulk of the story. She also pulled what is now the standard reversal of the knight rescuing the damsel by having the young dancer Nightcrawler dashed in to help save him in the end. Cute, if it were done for a women’s studies class by a freshman. But this feels so incredibly forced and completely ignores Nightcrawler as a character with powers and skills. If he been completely overpowered or defeated, perhaps this twist could have worked. Not likely, but perhaps if executed well. Meanwhile, Mr. Doyle’s art style fits in with current waves of books like Strange Tales and the alternative side of the industry. I’m definitely not a fan of it and it left me disconnected from the story and almost disoriented.

Grade: C-

The third story by Trina Robbins and Stephanie Buscema was a charming piece, in complete contrast to the first two tales. This story shows Venus, the goddess of love, — one time Golden Age Marvel Superheroine — returning to Earth in the modern era. Accepting a bet with Zeus, she attempts to resume her old role in the human world and use her powers of love in the fashion industry once again. This take has shades of The Devil Wear Prada. A very good touch. By the end of the story, love does indeed conquer all, and a very happy ending for the goddess herself leaves open the possibility of telling other stories. Ms. Robbins keeps true both her own long expressed interests in comics –beauty and fashion — and to the nature of the Greek Gods in that Zeus and Ares would cheat to win the bet. Ms. Buscema’s retro cartoony visual approach works with with Robbins’ script. My only problem was there was no title for the story that I could find. And I wished the story was longer because it was a pleasure to read.

Grade: A-

There are also two sections spotlighting women who have worked for Marvel as pioneers. The first features Flo Steinberg, longtime staffer from the heyday of Stan Lee and the birth of the House of Ideas. It was nice to read that she’s still alive and even contributed to this anthology. It is always good to recognize one’s elders while they are still alive to receive the praise.

Grade: A+

The fourth story is “A Brief Rendezvous” by Valerie D’Orazio and Nicki Cook. If I wasn’t completely sure about this anthology up to this point, this tale of The Punisher trapping a cyber predator did little to make me feel good about this book. Even with it in the distance, I don’t know what to make of this story. I know cyber predators are big news these days. I also know protecting all children online and otherwise is terribly important. But putting The Punisher on the case? That’s like using a nuclear weapon to get rid of a mouse. The story’s punchline hit, well, like a girl, and not in a good way. Ms. Cook’s art continues the trend of using alt comix folks in mainstream books. Blah.

Grade: C

Now, the She-Hulk pin-up by Sana Takeda is gorgeous. Until you see the left foot is attached to the right leg and facing the viewer! Where was the editor on this one?!?

Grade: F

The fifth story is “Shop Doc” by Lucy Knisley, features Doc Ock, longtime Spidey foe, out for a grocery run. Yet another alt comix take. It’s a cute two page romp. But merely cute.

Grade: B-

The second spotlight is on the great Marie Severin. Again, another more than worthy lady to mention.

Grade: A+

The sixth story is “Clockwork Nightmare” by Robin Furth and Agnes Garbowska. This one features Franklin and Valeria Richards of the FF in a Hansel & Gretel/Through The Clockwork Tree adventure. It is told mostly in a fairy tale manner, with text mixed with illustrations. A neat little story. Nothing dazzling about either Ms. Furth’s script nor the art by Ms. Garbowska. Just a really nice tale.

Grade: B

The last story is “Head Space” by Devin Grayson and Emma Rios. This one is an X-Men tale playing on the the love triangle between Cyclops, Phoenix, and Wolverine as seen through Scott Summer’s worried mind’s eye and dreamscape. The ambivalent ending, while fitting with the wispy nature of the piece, left me wondering what was the point of the whole thing. Nice to see a new comics story by Ms. Grayson but Ms. Rios’ art is typical of the upcoming generation influenced by manga. In her case, it’s the branch that mixes European and Japanese influences. It’s okay to look at but doesn’t wow me.

Grade: C

For the book as a whole, Girl Comics #1 gets a total grade of C+.

But as my father used to tell me, everybody can appreciate a C student. They are willing to work harder than anyone else. My hope is the remaining issues of the anthology show some improvement. I would actually like than one out of seven stories.

Until next time, Namaste.

 

ROGUE ELEMENT 48

Bad Movies I Adore Anyway

by Avril Brown

We all have them. The undisclosed DVDs we keep to ourselves, the films stuffed under our mattresses which we secretly heart but are too ashamed to admit to the general public. No, I’m not talking about porn. I am referring to those movies which are terrible yet titillating, undeniably awful yet we cannot resist watching them again and again. Personally, I got over my shame over loving horrendous movies a long time ago and proudly display my entire collection of films, from one-star duds to Oscar contenders. I originally planned to compile a list of my favorite bad movies from all sorts of genres, but I discovered my choices largely favored the Action and Adventure theme, so please enjoy the following assemblage of my own personal favorite crap-tastic creations.

Futuristic Sci-Fi – Demolition Man (1993, directed by Marco Brambilla) Sylvester Stallone plays a twentieth century cop wrongly convicted of a crime, cryogenically frozen and defrosted in the future. Wesley Snipes also stars as one of the most spastic, irritating and horribly dressed villains ever conceived. Both were put on ice when L.A. was a war-torn nightmare and thawed when the city had mellowed to a freakish degree. Sex has become virtual, swearing is punishable by fine, ATMs offer emotional pick me ups such as ‘You inspire joy-joy feelings’ and people somehow wipe their asses with three seashells. Absolutely terrible movie, of course, yet Demolition Man possesses certain nuggets of brilliance which consistently leave me in stitches, and one of my favorite scenes involves Dennis Leary delivering one of the best rants ever written: “You see, according to Cocteau’s plan, I’m the enemy, because I like to think. I like to read. I’m into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I’m the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, ‘Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbequed ribs with the side order of gravy fries?’ I WANT high cholesterol. I want to eat bacon, and butter and buckets of cheese, ok? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-o all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, ok pal? I’ve seen the future, and you know what it is? It’s a 47-year-old virgin sitting ‘round in his beige pajamas drinking a banana-broccoli shake singing ‘I’m an Oscar Meyer Wiener.’” Classic.

Spy Thriller – Long Kiss Goodnight (1996, directed by Renny Harlin) An amnesiac PTA mom (Geena Davis) gets into a car accident with Bambi (whose neck she humanely snapped after she found it still alive and suffering) and slowly but surely her memories of being a covert assassin for the CIA begin to trickle back just in time for her to cut and dye her hair, kill a bunch of bad guys and stop a nefarious plan by greedy government officials to fake a terrorist attack in order to encourage Congress to cough up funding for national security. Abundantly absurd and by the end of the movie boring in its ridiculousness, this is a film which nevertheless boasts snippets of invaluable entertainment which keep me coming back. The concept of having repressed kick-ass skills is an appealing one, but what really makes this demented movie is the plethora of hysterical lines delivered by Samuel L. Jackson and Brian Cox, the later laying claim to one of my favorite movie quotes ever: “Alice. The dog, Alice. It and my appetite are mutually exclusive.” “What’s wrong with the dog?” asks dotty Alice in a vague British accent. “Simple. It’s been licking its asshole for the past three straight hours. Now I submit to you there’s nothing there worth more than an hours attention, and whatever he is attempting to dislodge is either gone for good, or there to stay. Wouldn’t you agree?” Absolute gold.

Vampire Thriller – From Dusk ‘till Dawn (1996, directed by Robert Rodriguez) Some of the ugliest vampires since Nosterafu are partying in Mexico as the fugitive Gecko brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) and their hostages cross the border to deliver their latest pilfered bounty. With a slightly disturbing first half involving off-screen rape and murder, the movie progresses into complete ridiculousness as the vampires and the unsuspecting yet well-armed humans dive into a gory and outlandish fight for their lives. Boasting such gems as a super-sexy, tattoo-clad Clooney and Selma Blair performing the steamiest snake-and-champagne dance EVER, this is a bad movie which is hard to resist. Good things come to those who wait, and the best line in this movie is in the last five minutes as Cheech Marin (in one of his multiple roles in the film) confusedly asks if psychos were responsible for the death and carnage. An exasperated Clooney snaps back: “They look like psychos? Is that what they looked like to you? They were vampires! Psychos don’t explode when sunlight hits them, I don’t give a fuck how crazy they are!” True that.

Treasure Hunt – National Treasure (2004, directed by Jon Turteltaub) Nicholas Cage, the rather foxy Diane Kruger and many other familiar faces star in this wonderfully boisterous and completely impossible hunt for hidden treasure. From almost the first scene it becomes glaringly obvious how many liberties were taken in creating this flashy and fun ‘history lesson,’ but despite the obvious plot holes and some uber-cheesy scenes, this remains one of my favorite light-hearted tales of family quests, romance and doubloons. Justin Bartha as Riley Poole, the plucky sidekick, provides the comic relief and claims most of the amusing lines in the movie, delivering them with an adorably dorky air: “How did a bunch of guys with hand tools build all this?” asks the mindless muscle as the crew descends an ancient wooden staircase. “Same way they built the pyramids, and the Great Wall of China,” educates Cage. “Yea,” Bartha chimes in, “the aliens helped them.” Alas, despite the return of most of the original cast and the addition of a couple favorite faces (such as Ed Harris), National Treasure 2 does not make my list due to it sucking more ass than it kicked.

Creature Feature – Tremors (1990, directed by Ron Underwood) Gigantic prehistoric worms with advanced hunting techniques terrorize a small town by sucking people, trucks, tricycles and all, underneath the sand to be devoured. The band of battling survivors determined to escape and outsmart the beasts include a mullet-sporting, southern style Kevin Bacon and a gun-toting, prepared-for-the-end-of-the-world Reba McEntire. ’Nuff said. Well, except for one of the best scenes of the film: “Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya, you bastards!” Michael Gross yells as he and his equally armed wife unload an unholy amount of firearms into one of the creatures. Too cool.

The nineties undoubtedly hold the honor of creating some of the most entertaining flaming piles of shit ever to grace the silver screen, and I for one am thankful for their daring lack of largely intelligent scripts and believable plots. The cinema of the new millennium has certainly brought a slew of brain-numbing pictures, yet too many of them stop at ‘stupid’ and forget to incorporate a reason or two to stick around for the whole two hours of piss-poor story and laughable characters. So instead of being diverted by cheesy one-liners and over-the-top action sequences, more often than not I find myself saying ‘That’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.’ Though I am disappointed by the stunted growth of good bad movies in this day and age, I can find solace in the fact whenever I am craving such a fix I can always return to my cache of crap and be almost as entertained as I was upon my first viewing, for some things, be they 30-foot carnivorous worms, trucker vampires or anal-retentive officers of the peace, never go out of style.