Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Transformers #10, 1985.

Transformers, More Than Meets The Eye! So, looking back, I didn't really collect as many Transformers comics as I thought I did. I bought way more G.I.Joe comics. There's kind of a reason why I didn't buy too many Transformers books and I'll get into that as we go. So picking one to review was pretty easy, because this one was far and away my favorite for a very long time. However, as I went back and read it, I really wasn't that impressed. This comic is beat the hell up though and I remember reading it over and over as a kid, so as a kid, I enjoyed it. Marvel actually came up with most of the back story for Hasbro in addition to the cartoon, but there was a difference vibe going on in the cartoon that I liked a lot better. A lot of stuff didn't translate to the comic very well. A lot of things. But we'll get to those later.

Anyways, so this one opens with Shockwave talking to Optimus Prime's severed head. Early on in the series, Shockwave arrived and totally takes out most of the Autobots and in the process, Optimus gets his head chopped off. During this time, Megatron is also pretty hurt and Shockwave keeps him on the disabled list by attaching him to some kind of machine that just barely keeps him alive. This plotline actually took awhile to get through, I think it was about 12-14 issues, which is forever in terms of reading a comic book series. That's over a year with your best hero and villain both on the shelf and reduced to minor roles. Not good. This is kind of reason #1 as to why I didn't collect the Transformers title, Optimus was my favorite, and why should I buy a comic book that doesn't feature him or his arch-nemesis, when I could watch them beat the crap out of each other every afternoon on TV for free? Even 10-year-old Tyler saw this as a no brainer.

Anyways, it's also revealed that Shockwave was able to steal the Creation Matrix along with Optimus' head, and he doesn't waste any time creating new villains. He introduces his new creations as the Constructicons, because, well, they all look like construction equipment, like cranes, bulldozers, cement trucks and so on. Optimus' severed head doesn't like this development but he can't do anything about it, because he's just a head.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, aka: The Ark, the Autobots are making some repairs and talking to some guy in a suit, basically providing expository dialogue, just in case you weren't up to speed on some of the recent plotlines.

Bumblebee breaks this up with a report. He's keeping an eye on the badguys and reports that Lazerbeak and the Constructicons took out a military base. Prowl tells him to follow them to see where they go and that he'll send a team along to help.

Cutting back to Shockwave and Optimus' severed head, and Shockwave reveals that the Constructicons weren't his only creations. He unveils...Jetfire (who was called Skyfire for some reason in the cartoon) and he will bring about the destruction of the Autobots. Or not. I didn't buy the next couple of issues, but I'd probably put money on not if I were a gamblin' man.

Anyways, to fast forward through a bunch of stuff, we finally get to the part where there are robots fighting each other, which to me, was the whole point of buying the comic. The Constructicons build a giant satellite dish (because they're good at building stuff) and Soundwave plugs in and tries to dial up Cybertron. Well, the Autobots figure out what is going on and, it's clobberin' time! Wait a second, I think that's a Registered Trademark. Ok, it's Robot Smashing Time™!

But before we get to that, I'd like to bring up another one of the major problems I had with the comic: the transformations sucked. Normally the artists can draw a ok car or truck or plane, and they can draw kick-ass robots, but the transition from ok car or truck or plane into kick-ass robot pretty much left a lot to be desired. For example:

See what I'm sayin? How much does that suck? And there's no way that the cool transforming sound that they used in the cartoons could translate into the comic. I've seen a lot BA-DOOMs and KA-BLAMMOs in my day that get the job done when used correctly, but you just can't replicate that sound with words. However, I used to do the sound while I was reading the book. I'm pretty sure that was the only solution.

A second thing I really could have done without was all of the human characters they introduced during the series. Every issue had a least one to three new humans in it and you could never really keep up with them, because they would be gone just as fast as they were introduced. This issue introduced a dude named "Bomber Bill". He's a truck driver. He goes on to help the Autobots as much as he possibly can, but he's a human and he really can't do all that much against giant metal robots. in fact they kind of have to stop what they're doing to save him a couple of times while they're fighting the Decepticons, which is not an easy thing to do. I'm just sayin' that this comic could have used a lot less of Bomber Bill and a lot more of robots beating the crap out of each other.

Getting back on track, so we finally get to the part where the Constructicons reveal their deadly secret: they can combine into a super giant robot named Devastator. They didn't just randomly name him Devastator, he can back up his talk. In fact, he proceeds to start tearing into the Autobots right after the transformation is complete and we finally get to see them start beating the crap out of each other. It's about time.

So this one ends with what was basically the hallmark of the Transformers comic series; the classic Good News/ Bad News ending. Good News: they saved Bomber Bill (or was that bad news?) and no one got seriously hurt or deactivated. Bad News: Soundwave was able to send a message to Cybertron, they got their asses kicked by Devastator, and Optimus Prime's head is still severed from his body. Mmmmm, not a very balanced ending now that I think about it. Like I said, upon rereading it, I really wasn't that impressed, but you could kind of see why kids would eat this stuff up. So there you go, Transformers #10, sort of entertaining.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Transformers 2007, Review #3

Why do another Transformers post? Why NOT, is my question. My review will be brief - I didn't like this movie. The most obvious plot hole that bothers me is - if they were all after the glasses, why didn't they just bid on eBay? That auction had zero bids, and since "they learned about Earth" from the internet and they mention eBay like, twenty times, it would have been so easy. The movie could have been 2 hours of Bumblebee trying to outbid Starscream, and someone getting sniped at the last minute.

The marketing team could have totally had fun with the eBay page, too, but they totally blew it.

Hasbro has a GI Joe movie in development and I seriously, seriously hope they make it cheesy. That's what makes the cartoon so awesome - it's over the top ridiculous, but they'll probably crap it up by trying to make it all serious and realistic. On a scale of "See it on iMax" to "You're better off stabbing your eyes with a pencil," I give Transformers a "Rent it and watch it drunk with your buddies."

Monday, July 16, 2007

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Transformers, 2007. Review #2.

I got to see this one on the 4th and I have to rate it two separate ways. As an action movie, I’d say it was good and kicked a decent amount of ass. However, as a Transformers movie I’ll just say it didn’t totally suck, but it came close.

The thing about the original Transformers series was that it was simple: two warring factions of advanced machines crash land to earth, set up base, and try like hell to get back home. Their ship computers rebuild them so they transform into vehicles that fit in on Earth. The Decepticons try to get the energy to get off of the planet by stealing it, the Autobots try to come up with a way to generate it themselves without interfering with the humans. Decepticons hatch a plan, Autobots find out about it and stop them, lather, rinse, repeat. Simple, clean, plenty of robot battles and LOTS of transforming to "move out".

Now, I understand the need to broaden the appeal and give more background when making a big-budget flick like this. I just don’t understand why it almost always means that the original story/premise gets crapped on in the process. Sure, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that a .45, a tapedeck and an F-14 would all transform into like-sized robots, but as kids we all bought it and let it go. Why is that suddenly not good enough for the movie? Megatron’s right hand man, Soundwave, was always a badassed character and would have been great in the movie instead of the random assortment of “who’s that?” robots from the 10+ years of crap that came out after the good, original series was over. We could have gotten past the fact that he went from being 12 inches wide to being 12 feet tall, in favor of seeing more of our favorite characters.

So, the basic premise of the movie bares no resemblance to that of the original series, but the story weak in some other areas as well: There is very little group dynamic on either side. The Decepticons are all basically working rogue and they just show up here and there and interact minimally with each other. And this is a tragedy because they never got a chance to touch on the power struggle between Megatron and Starscream, which could have been very cool to play with a little in this movie and then make into a major subplot in the sequel. The Autobots move as a group, and you get to see them work together...a little, but I still feel like there could have been a better team dynamic.

In this one, I really would have preferred to avoid the whole “super secret government agency that’s known about this all along” story arc. It’s way too clichéd in sci-fi movies and wasn’t necessary. It’s just more sub plot to eat away at the time I get to see robot on robot action...even though we did get to see "the Jesus" himself John Turturro, it just wasn't worth it.

And I don’t know why all of these remake flicks have to include such a sizable block of cheese; corny lines, lame subplots, and a terrible character or two, really chip away at the integrity of a movie that could have hands down kicked any sci-fi movie’s ass.

Personally, I think the worst part of the movie itself (other than the story) is the character of Frenzy. It makes me cringe to think of poor Frenzy (the REAL one) rolling over in his fictional robot grave as his name is used in vein for a character that is basically the Jar-Jar Binks of 2007. This character’s movements were goofy and clumsy, his speech/sounds were basically baby talk, he didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of what was going on, and when he does finally die, he says “Oh shit”. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking “WAIT, WAIT WAIT, there’s no cussing in Transformers!!” (*in my best Tom Hanks, “There’s no crying in baseball” voice). Just a bad character.

So, I had a good time in the theater, but I’m not sure if I’ll be picking this one up on DVD. Eh, I guess I probably will if I can get it for 10 bucks. After all, I DO own Episode 1 on DVD.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Transformers, 2007. Review #1.

"You've got the touch. You've got the POWER!!!" Oops, sorry, that was from the Eighties animated movie. So, if you haven't heard already, Transformers is out in theaters, and I saw it yesterday, so I thought I'd give it a review. I think there are spoilers ahead, so be prepared if you haven't seen it yet (But I only think three people in the entire United States hasn't seen it yet, because it grossed something insane like $156 million for it's first week. It broke Spidey's record. Crazy.)

Let me start by saying that I was a huge Transformers fan back in the day. Much like G.I.Joe, I watched the cartoon, I had a lot of the action figures and collected the comics (in fact, I'll probably review one on Wednesday). So I was pretty excited to see this movie, even though Michael Bay was the director, which was kind of a major turnoff.

Anyways, so I got to the theater about a half hour before the movie started and went to one of the kiosks to buy tickets, because only suckers wait in long lines to buy tickets. Well, I was almost a sucker because the first kiosk I tried didn't work and I was afraid that what happened on the Fourth when I tried to see FF2 was going to happen again. None of their kiosks were working and I didn't get to see the movie. Luckily, the second kiosk worked, and when I was flipping through the list of movies, I was going to go for the regular ten o'clock showing, but then noticed that they had a Digital Laser Projection (DLP) showing at ten thirty. Making the ten o'clock would have been a little tough, and since the DLP was the same mantinee price of six bucks, I decided to follow my own advice and went with the DLP.

So my advice is, if you've ever got the choice to see any of these superhero/action movies on a regular film projector or on a DLP, you've gotta go DLP. The image is sharper, the colors are brighter and because there are so many CGI effects in these kinds of movies, they show up much cleaner on a digital projector. Transformers is no exception. Bumblebee was super bright yellow, even when he was robot form and Optimus was actually pretty cool with the flame paintjob that he had going on. There's also a pretty cool part involving Optimus that I don't want to give away. But that scene was pretty rad with the DLP and I highly suggest it if you know you've got one in your area.

So, moving on to the actual movie. It was ok, not super great, but not super bad either even though it was a little long at two and a half hours. Some stuff could have been cut out and I wouldn't have cared that much. A lot of the comic relief seemed forced and probably could have been cut down or cut out.

Acting: Personally, I find Shia LaBeouf really annoying, but he was tolerable in this movie. This next observation is pretty obvious, I probably don't even have to bring it up, but Megan Fox and Rachael Taylor are superhot. I understand Megan Fox's character, she's from the wrong side of the tracks, blah, blah, blah, but Rachael Taylor's character is kind of hilarious because she works for the government as a highlevel codecracker. I'm not trying to be sexist here, but there is a scene where the camera pans around a room full of super codecracking nerds and then it stops on her, and she's smokin' hot with an Australian accent. Right. And it turns out that she can't even crack the code, that's why Anthony Anderson is in the movie. But she was still smokin' hot.

The Plot: So the effects were great. I mean it's a Michael Bay movie, so you're really not expecting an intellectual, plot-driven, mind-expanding movie. Effects are his bread and butter, and he's good at it. Basically, you want to see Robots beating the crap out of each other, and that's what they do. I do have one gripe though. There was one scene where they're at Hoover Dam and they say they're going to go to a city twenty miles away to extract Shia LaBeouf's character. Why they couldn't do that somewhere in the desert to cut down on the collateral damage is beyond me. Oh, that's right, there aren't any radios in this movie that work, so they had to use some shortwave radios and they had to get them in the city. Yeah, lame plotline. Anyways, they get to the city and it's downtown L.A. Now, it was pretty well publicized that it was filmed downtown, but they could have at least made an effort to downplay it in the movie. At one point, they prominently showed a Wilshire street sign. Alls I'm sayin' is that they could have made an effort here. And the ending left out a whole group of characters, I guess they survived, but you really don't know because they did show them at the end. And of course they set it up for a sequel.

So, overall, it was good, but I probably won't be buying it on DVD, so there you go. It's a superbargin as a matinee, so go out and see it when you get the chance. I think Rich is working up a review that he'll post tomorrow and from what I've read it's pretty good and hits on a couple of points that I didn't bring up.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What If...Vol.2 #15, 1990.

Ok, so, due to the overwhelming response we received to review this issue*, I'm finally gonna review this issue. I had some technical difficulties the last couple of days, but we're through that now and we're ready to go. Alright, so, What If...#15. I find it totally crazy that this comic is seventeen years old. And while technically it's a comic from the Nineties, it's pretty much a standard comic from the eighties, which means it doesn't suck and it was printed on newsprint, so there's all kind of printer's errors. Which I think is cool. It's also a really long one, I think there were only four ads in the whole thing, which means there's 27 pages of action to get to. So we should probably get to that, don't you think? Ok, here we go.

The title of this story is, "What If...The Fantastic Four Had Lost The Trial Of Galactus?", and it's also known by it's working title, "Gladiators Gone Wild!" It starts off with Reed Richards getting killed in the third panel of the first page. What? Wow, that was pretty fast. I guess they decided to mix it up a little and got to the point as fast as possible. So then Uatu starts talking and gives the reader a recap of how we got to this point in a cool double page spread:

So now that everyone's up to speed with what really happened in the normal Marvel Universe, we get back to what happened in this alternate universe. So they show Reed getting killed again, in case we missed it the first time (personally, I can never get enough of seeing Strecho getting killed, he's pretty annoying) and the rest of the FF get sent back to earth instantaneously. So, as you can imagine, they're pretty pissed, so the Thing smashes into Reed's vault and they hop into a Skrull Flying Saucer that just happens to be sitting in there for them. So they fly off, and somehow they know how to fly a saucer full of alien technology. Ok, then. They make it back to the Shi'ar galaxy with no problems, but Lilandra gets on the horn and tells them to back off. Well, Ben ain't haven' any of that and starts attacking their warship, while Sue shields them. Lilandra sends her Imperial Guards to go teach them a lesson, but then Ben fires a laser and blows up the Shi'ar homeworld. Oopsie. It was a total accident, dude, Ben didn't know it would do that. Plus he's really, really sorry bro. He just wanted to teach Lilandra a lesson, he didn't mean to kill her and a whole planet in the process. So, um, what do we do here, just exchange insurance information and let them figure it all out?

Gladiator doesn't take it too well, and he calls a war council with just about every single planet in the known multi-universe, except for Earth. He's pretty much totally pissed. He convinces everyone to go along with his plan of crushing Earth as payback and everyone starts to get ready. There is one wrinkle though. One of the Skrulls was posing as a Kree Admiral and stole an Omni-Wave Projector, which is an intergalactic cellphone. Only one of those cellphones from the eighties because it's pretty huge. Anyways. so then all of the warships from every planet converge on Earth to blow it to smithereens, the Skrulls are going to send a doom ray to wipe all of the ships and Earth, leaving them with the only remaining fleet. Diabolical.

So right about here is where Sue goes on TV and tries to tell everyone that they're super sorry for blowing up a planet. It was totally their bad. So the news reporters go out and get some reaction from a few of the local supersheroes and it's pretty insightful:

Wow. Earth-shattering insight right there, thanks guys. Anyways, while that was going on, the United Nations had a meeting and they decided to turn to the only man that can lead the Earth through a situation like this. That's right, they tell Colonel Nick Fury to come on down! (What you were thinking, that they'd turn to the President of the United States? Please, they go to the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., baby.) So Fury gathers the Avengers to tell them what's up. The Avengers are ready, but it probably won't matter because everyone's gonna get blowed up.

So the FF are hangin' out at their pad and they decide to do something about this madness, so they steal back their Skrull Saucer and head out into space to see what they can do to help. Their sensors pick up another Skrull Saucer chillin' on one of Mars' moons and they find out that it's packin' the Omni-Wave Projector. So they break into the other saucer and start wrecking the place. They find the Omni-Wave Projector, but the fleet that's coming to destroy the Earth is arriving, and back at Skrull Headquarters, they're getting ready to send the doom ray. So the FF decide to destroy the Projector, and the feedback ends up destroying them and Mars' Moon. "In space, no one can hear you scream". Good to know.

So Gladiator and his crew arrive and are ready to throw down. Or are they? Seems that right before they blowed up, the FF sent Gladiator a transmission telling him about the Skrull's treachery, and because of their sacrifice, the fleet will not deliver the Galactic Beatdown that the Earth had coming. It ends with Fury, Cap, Thor and the Vision gettin' all philosophical while an astral projection of Gladiator looms overhead. So basically it's a win-win ending. Unless you happen to be Reed Richards. Or the rest of the Fantastic Four. Or on the Shi'ar homeworld. Or on that moon that blew up. Then it pretty much sucks to be you. But you know what? This really didn't even happen, because it was in an alternate universe. That's the beauty of the What If... series.

*I was being sarcastic here


The What If/FF review is coming, I swear. Until then (probably tomorrow morning, but maybe this afternoon) enjoy this link on Marvel's website. It's about the David Finch cover to X-Men #200. You can see it in the raw pencils stage, then with ink, and finally after the colors. Pretty cool. There is also one with a handy-dandy key to identify all of the X-Men on the cover, because there are a ton of them. If someone hadn't already done it, we should have done a "build your favorite X-Men team post". Whatever, we still may do it. Alright, I've got some work to finish up and then another post to write.