Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Shadowland Review

Maximum Carnage.

That oft derided blood soaked comic book story arc of the early 90’s was what ultimately came to mind as I was reading through Marvel’s Shadowland.

Fortunately, I happen to be of the rare breed that, despite it’s flawed storytelling and absurd length; actually kind of liked Maximum Carnage.

Make no mistake though, Shadowland is by no means a well-liked crossover by most comic fan standards.

At least it's not universally hated like Onslaught... Onslaught sucked balls.

Written by Daredevil author Andy Diggle, and pencilled by former X-23 artist Billy Tan; Shadowland takes us into the dark territory it’s title suggest in the form of casting prolific crime-fighter and man without fear, Daredevil; as it’s central villain.

While this controversial storytelling decision has perturbed many a Daredevil fan since it’s publication, thankfully there is indeed a logical, though somewhat hokey explanation as to why Matt Murdock would suddenly turn heel overnight.

 

I don't know about you, but bad chili always puts me in a foul mood...

Leading up to the events of Shadowland, one of the Daredevil’s arch-nemeses, Bullseye; blew up a city block in Hell’s Kitchen, effectively creating a gigantic smoldering symbol of the hero’s personal failings smack dab in the middle of his backyard.

Having recently been offered the position as head of The Hand, a Japanese cult of ninjas and longtime opponent of Daredevil and Elektra; Daredevil ends up accepting the offer, in hopes of wielding the forces of The Hand to better protect the citizens of New York.

This leads to the purchase of the plot of land that was destroyed by Bullseye, and the erection of a huge Japanese fortress in it’s place; a territory that Daredevil dubs “Shadowland.”

Unfortunately, poor Matt Murdock didn’t count on being possessed by The Beast, a demon under the control of a splinter group within The Hand known as Snakeroot.

Said possession causes Daredevil to lose control of himself and his army, resulting in The Beast using him as a vessel to infect the citizens of New York with feelings of hatred and violence.

While many of the heroes of the Marvel universe tolerate Murdock’s actions, grudgingly; it isn’t until he does the unthinkable, and kills Bullseye; that his close friends begin to suspect that the devil of Hell’s Kitchen might be losing his marbles.

Thus sets the stage for a series of pitched battles between Daredevil and those that care most about him.

I assure it doesn't turn out like this, however it would be kinda' cool if it did...

A “mini-event” staged in the wake of Marvel’s most recent event comic proper, Siege; Shadowland represents the rather rare crossover event wherein the core players consist almost exclusively of  “street level” superheroes.

That is to say, despite a suitably epic storyline involving demonic possession and a mass riot across the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan, the majority of the superheroes involved consist of low-powered, or in many cases; unpowered, individuals such as Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, and The Punisher.

Unlike many event comics, that raise the stakes to cosmic levels and beyond, a strong part of the appeal of Shadowland; at least for me anyway, is the fact that the story remains grounded in Daredevil’s niche in the Marvel universe, that of New York city.

While many of the heroes, such as Cage and Iron Fist; are personal friends of Daredevil, ultimately the one thing tying everyone together in the story is that they all share New York as their field of operations.

Early on in Shadowland we’re shown an overhead splash of the city, with several embedded panels serving to show us many of the New York-based Marvel superheroes as they all glare at Daredevil’s newly erected eyesore of a fortress and ponder on what to do of it.

Pictured: The splash in question.

It’s moments like this that serve to unify the cast of Shadowland in a much more satisfying manner than many other event comics.

With the exception of Ghost Rider and Moon Knight, (and a truly random Wolverine) both of whom have close to nothing to do within the context of the 5 core Shadowland issues, the vast majority of the cast feel appropriately cast.

That being said, what of the actual story?

Well, to be perfectly honest, Shadowland is one of those crossovers that seems to demand an unreasonable level of commitment from it’s readers, such that it feels like many important story beats are found only in tie-in issues.

That being said, questions arise every now and again when one is reading Shadowland, usually pertaining to where certain characters went, or how they knew some of the things they did.

 

...Or in the case of Elektra: "How are you still alive?"

In that sense, the storytelling and plot progression of Shadowland can feel fractured and abbreviated, however in my opinion this does not hurt it’s overall enjoyability.

Put it this way:

Shadowland is not a suspenseful story.

From it’s first pages, the “mystery” of Daredevil’s bloodthirsty nature are laid out for us crystal clear.

While the (surprisingly good) ending serves to shake things up a bit, there’s close to zero character development in Shadowland.

From the moment Bullseye gets shanked, we know exactly who our villains are, making for a story that does most what little “telling” it needs to as fists are flying and blood is spilt.

The real meat of Shadowland is in establishing Daredevil as a character poised to take a fall, and then watching as his closest friends band together to set him straight, not through superpowered might, or even magical exorcism; but through heart… and a shit ton of kung fu.

Martial arts have a way of making any story just that much better.

While it sounds corny, Shadowland is essentially the comic book equivalent of an intervention.

Hal Jordan fell prey to Parallax, Jean Grey turned into Dark Phoenix, every now and again one our most beloved superheroes finds themselves under the control of some malevolent force, ultimately resulting in their friends banding together (unsuccessfully) to stop them, only for them to choose redemption through the only means most superheroes seem to know:

Altruisticly Superpowered Suicide, better known as A.S.S.

Sorry, couldn’t resist…

Despite the frequently used storytelling formula listed above, one should note that I never said that’s how Shadowland ends.

I’m not a fan of spoilers, so I’ll let you read the story yourself to find out just what happens.

*Spoiler Alert!* The Death Star blows up at the end!

Anyway, it’s a safe bet to say that Shadowland represents a story that has been recycled in the world of comics more than a few times already, however the new coat of paint it throws into the mix, in the form of it’s cast and setting, make for a fun experience for those who, like myself; are somewhat invested in things from the get go.

In other words, Shadowland is hardly a jumping on point for those who don’t read any of the characters involved in the core storyline, but for those that frequently read tales from the streets of Marvel New York; it’s hard not to have fun with Shadowland.

...I mentioned there was fighting, right?

Coming into Shadowland, I honestly didn’t know what to expect from artist Billy Tan.

Normally, I am keen on looking up the work of artists for comics I’m about purchase, largely because I put a great deal of stock in an artist’s abilities when it comes to gauging my overall enjoyment of a book.

Most reviews I read of Shadowland prior to purchasing it were mostly negative, however nearly all of them made mention of the art being “typically outstanding” in reference to Tan’s body of work.

Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I came into Shadowland wanting to be surprised by something, given that most of the story can be spoiled by reading even the most vague of reviews.

Anyway, I was indeed surprised by Billy Tan’s art in Shadowland, but more importantly; I was impressed.

Impressive... Most impressive...

Like many of my favorite comic artists, Tan excels at drawing his characters with somewhat more realistically proportioned bodies.

Many of his figures appear lithe and flexible, which is a very important factor to consider when dealing with a cast of characters consisting largely of martial artists and acrobats.

Speaking of which, while his face work can seem a little off at times, Tan displays a penchant for illustrating figures in motion.

There are moments in Shadowland, particularly in the battle with Bullseye; where the action of the panels felt more like viewing an animation than reading a comic.

For your viewing pleasure, a full page of awesome.

Needless to say, Billy Tan’s artwork and easily deciphered layouts in Shadowland meet my approval, and quite handily at that.

I won’t be reading X-23 anytime soon, out of my general disdain for the character; but nevertheless, I look forward to more Tan projects in the near future.

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got to say about Shadowland.

As mentioned earlier, it seems like Marvel expects us to read a lot of the tie-ins in order to get the whole story, but I myself can’t justify such an investment.

I will however be picking up the Moon Knight tie-in, as it genuinely looked pretty good to me, and besides; Moon Knight’s my boy.

Other than that though, I’m mostly happy with what I got from Shadowland on it’s own.

Hope this was helpful to some of you, thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Filed under: Comics, Movies, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blackest Night Review

*Disclaimer* No spoilers, but just want to say that I don’t really touch on the plot AT ALL.  Too lazy…

Blackest Night is the latest in DC’s long line of major crossover events.

Unlike Crises past, present and future however, this particular storyline is distinctly more focused on the actions of the Green Lantern rather than the usual “Big Three” (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.)

Is it just me, or is Wonder Woman dead behind the eyes?

Blackest Night was written by Geoff Johns, with the event serving as a major climax in his very long, and revolutionary run on the Green Lantern franchise.

Beginning in 2004, Geoff John’s run on the series took us from the rebirth of classic Green Lantern, Hal Jordan; (as depicted in the story “Rebirth”)

to the expansion of the Green Lantern universe to accomodate power rings for every color of the light spectrum,

and finally; to the fateful prophesized day of reckoning known to the Guardians of the Universe (the overseers of the Green Lantern Corps) as the Blackest Night.

The Guardians of the Universe: Little Known Cousins to the Smurfs

Key to the build-up to Blackest Night, was the creation of the “emotional spectrum” of colored power rings.

Thanks to Geoff Johns, we now have Green for Willpower, Yellow for Fear, Red for Rage, Orange for Avarice, Violet for Love, Blue for Hope, and Indigo for Compassion.

It’s cheesy, yes; but interesting nonetheless.

Every single one of these colors has a Corps of it’s own, with distinct and interesting characters whose temperament clearly reflects their place in the emotional spectrum.

It was a revolutionary idea, and it almost single-handedly got me back into Green Lantern after almost a decade of me not caring post-Emerald Twilight.

Yes, I read it. And yes, I was too young to understand that it sucked.

Hey, I was a 90’s comic fan, I liked my Hal Jordan, particularly when he had his pimpn’ Mr. Fantastic white badger-esque hair.

Indeed, Blackest Night has been a long time coming.

I myself will admit that I came into Blackest Night just a little bit under-prepared.

Prior to reading this event, I had read John’s Rebirth and Sinestro Corps War, with a majority of the essential tidbits and factoids leading up to Blackest Night being revealed to me through reading reviews of the in-between story arcs.

Despite this, I will say this:

As long as you at least know who most of the characters are in Blackest Night, or the DC Comics universe for that matter; you probably won’t have any problems understanding the storyline, as most of it is fleshed out on the fly for you in convenient, exposition heavy “comic speak.”

Pictured: A child fluent in "Comic Speak."

That being said, is said storyline worth reading in the first place?

In short, yes; but only if you genuinely want to read this particular story.

All others, may be better spending their money/time elsewhere.

I’ll get back to that, but first let’s take a moment to go over the details of the story in question:

In short, Blackest Night is a story about the dead coming to life throughout the universe wearing Black power rings of Death, and tearing out the hearts of the living to fuel the resurrection of their mysterious leader.

For the love of God, get these people some Clearasil!

Of course, there’s a lot more to it, but I don’t feel like going into it, on account of me being lazy.

Our main characters are, surprisingly; The Flash, (the recently resurrected Barry Allen version) The Atom, Mera, (Aquaman’s hoe) and of course; Hal Jordan.

Could it be!? A moment where Aquaman is actually being cool!?

Personally, I found most of these characters to be interesting and a decent enough focal point for the narrative, but the problem for me was that I genuinely don’t give two-shits about half of them.

By half, I mean The Atom and Mera.

The reasoning behind using these particular characters, seems to be largely the fact that they have close ties to the recently deceased, making them good candidates for drama throughout.

To make a long story short, this particular ploy works, largely due to the visual impact that the various Black Lanterns have when in conflict with the heroes.

Goddamn they look cool..

It needs to be said that Blackest Night, despite being a whopping 8 issues long, twice that of Siege; the one major downside to the story is that it’s full of holes.

Seriously, half the reason I didn’t attempt to write a review until just now, was the fact that I really didn’t feel like I finished the story until I read the accompanying Blackest Night: Green Lantern.

Hell, I read that, and I still don’t feel like I’ve finished Blackest Night ’cause now I know there’s still a shit ton of holes regarding what went on with the Green Lantern Corps!

Pictured: Blackest Night

Getting back to what I said earlier, about this being a story that one needs to want to read, the problem with Blackest Night is that the 8 issue core story just isn’t a complete thought.

Characters inexplicably disappear for half the story, events are hyped that are never further explored, and in general, the whole thing genuinely feels like the writer was writing in too many directions at once.

Which of course, is exactly the case; as Geoff Johns just happened to be writing the Green Lantern series parallel to Blackest Night.

Despite the content of the collected edition being a little sparse, the writing is typical of Johns, with characters speaking with a distinct sense of voice, and entertaining banter throughout.

In particular, I really enjoyed John’s Sinestro, he truly captures the overbearing and forceful passion of the character.

Sinestro: He doesn't look like Hitler. Not at all...

Ivan Reis illustrated Blackest Night, and I doubt anyone can say that his work in it is anything short of excellent.

Characters are rendered faithfully and beautifully, with several of the Black Lantern designs coming across as truly inventive an downright creepy to boot.

The one issue I had with the art, is not actually an issue at all.

My one problem with the art of Blackest Night, was the fact that it wasn’t done by Ethan Van Sciver.

Did I mention Ethan Van Sciver was a good artist?

I understand that Reis and Van Sciver have collaborated several times, and indeed have similar styles, but for my money, Van Sciver is the real talent of the pair.

Seriously, the Van Sciver art for John’s Rebirth story arc was a huge factor in getting me back into the Green Lantern, and to this day I’m still hoping to see his work on the character again.

Anyway, I’m running out of steam, so I’ll just say this:

I liked Blackest Night, but bear in mind, I like comics.

I’m not exactly a DC kind of guy for the most part, but I liked the Green Lantern, and I liked Geoff Johns, so I gave it a shot.

After reading it, I said to myself:

“Hmm…  That was good, but where’s the rest of the story?”

That lead to me buying, reading, and enjoying (in that order) Blackest Night: Green Lantern, but after that I said to myself:

“Hmm…  That was good, but where’s the rest of the story?”

To my knowledge there are 7 Blackest Night collected editions.

Enough to require the use of an Amazon.com B6 box. I should know, I'm a certified box maker...

While I don’t intend to purchase all of those, I genuinely liked the spectacle to be found within 2 of them, and am fully prepared enjoy a 3rd.

I think that speaks volumes as to the appeal of this storyline.

When faced with reading the messy and incomplete collected edition of Blackest Night, my gut reaction was to ask for more.

That surprised me, and I feel good knowing that.

Filed under: Comics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Marvel’s Siege Review

I’m really fuckin’ tired tonight, so I’ll make this quick.

Oh wait, this is an event comic we’re talking about, so there’s no possible way I can say anything about it without first explaining a half dozen or so events leading up to it.

Man, I hate event comics

Anyway, Marvel’s most recent mega event comic, Siege, made it’s collected edition debut a weeks ago, and, fashionably late as I tend to be these days; I just got my hands on it a few days ago.

The basic premise of Siege, was to serve as that of a bookend to the era in the Marvel Universe known as Dark Reign, thereby kicking off the current era, The Heroic Age.

A tonal shift if I've ever seen one...

For those that are unaware, Dark Reign began after the attempted alien Skrull invasion of Earth during Secret Invasion, which ultimately resulted in the Norman Osborn AKA The Green Goblin, coming to prominence in the Marvel Universe as a legitimate public and governmental figure.

Hah, and I just happened to find a pic where George Bush was doing the Spider-Man hands!

Don’t ask.

Anyway, Dark Reign was an era that blanketed the entire Marvel Universe with, well, darkness.

Evil reigned supreme in Marvel from late 2008 to the beginning of 2010, when Siege was finally released.

The basic premise of Siege involves Norman Osborn and his Cabal (a secret collective of unified villains including the likes of Doctor Doom, The Hood, and Loki) attempting to “siege” Asgard, Thor and the other Norse God’s homeworld, which just happens to be floating 10 feet above Oklahoma.

Let it be known: Thor makes everything better.

Again, don’t ask.

While most of his Cabal scoff at Osborn’s ambition, and end up abandoning him, he nonetheless enacts his siege with the entirety of his resources, including the Dark Avengers, (evil replacements wearing the costumes and bearing the titles of established superheroes) several of The Hood’s otherworldly henchmen, all of The Initiative, and of course, the great golden retard himself, The Sentry.

Behold, the Meta Knight/Magneto/Chun-Li of the Marvel Universe... Broken-ass piece of fuck...

While Thor and the other Asgardians put up a decent fight, The Sentry proves to be too powerful to be harmed by anything they can throw at him.

Osborn’s victory seems to be in the bag until a few issues in, when Steve Rogers AKA Captain America, Bucky Barnes AKA Captain America with a Gun, Nick Fury, The Secret Warriors, The Young Avengers, and members of most of the other Avengers variants, decide to finally come out of hiding and assemble some bitches till they die from it.

Said panel of Assemblage.

Oh yeah, and then Iron Man shows up after finally waking up from his period of braindead-ery.

By "braindead-ery" of course I mean, "shrooming."

Go ahead and ask, don’t expect any answers from me.

Essentially, Siege is meant to serve as a massive culmination for all the conflicts brewing over the past year or so, as most of the battles that take place during the siege of Asgard have been long overdue.

By stories’ end, Osborn and his forces are defeated and/or repelled, however one final obstacle stands before our heroes…

A certain golden, retarded obstacles that’s just been given orders to kill…

At that point, The Sentry makes his long hinted at, and all too obvious transformation into his alternative EVIL persona, The Void, thereby resulting in a climax scenario that mirrors that of just about every major anime film since Nausicaa.

Pictured: The climax of Siege.

The world world crumbles, major characters die violent deaths… Oh whatever, I’ll just let Bill Murray handle this for me, he’s so much better at it:

CLICK HERE ‘CAUSE YOUTUBE FAILS AT EMBEDDING
*Sigh* Now that we’ve got all that goddamn explanation out of the way, let’s get down to how I felt about Siege.

I liked Siege.

It was straightforward, tautly paced, and reasonably approachable for the most part.

The whole thing is only 4 issues long, with an additional 2 included for the purpose of providing expositional padding for the collected edition.

Unlike say, DC’s Blackest Night (we’ll cover that some other time), which was 8 issues long, Siege had the advantage of being a streamlined, and simple event meant to appeal on the basest of levels.

Pictured: A similar ploy to appeal to said levels.

Probably my favorite part about Siege, was the fact that it really is just an “event.”

The whole story takes place over the course of a handful of hours, resulting in a scenario that feels focused and immediate to the point in which there isn’t really any room for plot holes to emerge.

On the downside, the relatively low page count also means that most of the individual battles you’ve been waiting all this time to see, the Venom vs. Spider-Man, the Wolverine vs. Daken, Iron Man vs. The Iron Patriot, end up being shown in the background of panels, but rarely ever explored in any sort of detail.

Sadly, this is actually kind of accurate...

That being said, Siege is an event that, like most event comics, seems to require the reader to take a look at some of the spin-offs and crossovers to get the whole picture, at least for the characters they care about.

Personally, I see myself checking out Siege: Battlefield and definitely Siege: Thunderbolts at some point, however I’ve heard Siege: Embedded is bad news.

Pictured: A woman receiving several copies of Siege: Embedded from an elephant.

While I haven’t personally read Brian Michael Bendis before, (remember, I’m not an Avengers guy) I can honestly say that after reading Siege, I’m thinking about taking a look at some of his other stuff.

While the plot progression was manic at times, due to the low page count, Bendis’ strength, in my opinion; is his ability to give a real sense of personality and voice to each individual character.

At the end of every issue of Siege, there are a few pages of text-only dialogues between some of the major players in the story regarding the events of, uh, the event.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I found these pages to be interesting throughout.

In particular, I was impressed by the first of them, wherein Osborn and his Dark Avengers sit down with Ares to plan out the actual siege of Asgard.

What? You didn't KNOW that Ares, the Greek God of war was a Marvel Comics character?

“Listening” to Venom and Bullseye bitch and moan about the inherent lunacy in taking on literal Gods on their home turf, was both funny and true to form.

Though each character’s speech is preceded by a note regarding who exactly is speaking, I bet most of us could read these scenes without such aides, as each character is written that sharply.

On the visual side of things, again, Olivier Coipel is not an artist I am familiar with, but, as with Brian Michael Bendis’ writing, I think I might have to check out his other stuff.

Coipel, who is apparently the current artist for Thor, has a style that is intrinsically geared towards the Asgardian aesthetic.

His men are burly and square-jawed, and his women are, well, burly and square-jawed.

Seriously, there’s a panel of Victoria Hand early on that is downright Xena in how butch it is.

Yikes! You could lose a hand to those cheekbones!

Anyway, outside of that one panel, Coipel’s work in Siege is gorgeous.

Aside from his very clean lines and wonderfully fluid character designs, the sense of motion and speed generated by his action panels is truly breathtaking.

Seriously, there were times in this comic that I caught myself being able to actually see the panels spring to animated life.

THIS my friends, is why I bought Siege.

Kudos definitely need to be given to the colorist of Siege as well, as the color palette is refreshingly vibrant and diverse throughout, with many of the earlier scenes being all blue skies and daisies and such, while during the later scenes, particularly the ones involving The Void, things take on an menacing and otherworldly tone.

Anyway, Siege was a good event comic for me, someone that doesn’t really care much for event comics.

It’s a shame most of the “slug-fest” aspect of the event was omitted from the core storyline, as unlike novels, comics are usually best crafted on the page rather than in one’s imagination, but oh well, I liked it anyway.

I’ll let yah’ know how the spin-offs turn out.

Filed under: Comics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s Play Godzilla, Part VIII

Alright folks, we’ve finally reached the end of the 8-bit abortion that is Godzilla on the NES.

Sorry for the protracted nature of this post-subject, I didn’t realize how long and BORING the game was until I had already reached the point of no return

Oh well, live and learn I guess.

I think it goes without saying that you won’t be seeing a Let’s Play on the Azn Badger’s blog for quite some time…

I just finished reading DC’s Blackest Night and Marvel’s Siege, so hopefully I’ll be able to type up a little something about one or both of those major event comics!

Filed under: Comics, Games, Movies, Tokusatsu, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Donate