Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Thoughts On The DC Universe Reboot

For those that care to know, DC Comics has recently gone on record stating plans for a massive reboot of all their major titles and characters this fall.

To non-comic fans, this means you can expect to see (or in the case of those that truly don’t give a fuck, not see) a bunch of comics and trades bearing the increasingly common designation of “Issue #1” in the coming months.

The reasoning behind this rather ballsy maneuver by one of comics’ biggest publishing houses, has largely been attributed as an effort to contemporize the characters and origins of the DC universe.

While part of me feels that this could in fact pay-off, and might even prove beneficial to the legacies of some of the more obscure characters of DC (Hawkman, Deadman, Red Tornado, etc.) by giving them extra face time and a new coat of paint; the comic-whore in me can’t help but feel a little thrown by the idea of a universe-wide reboot.

Pictured: When Superman met the 90's... Things could've gone better.

It’s not the fact that I’m a continuity whore or anything either.

I grew in an era when most people considered themselves either “DC Kids” or “Marvel Kids,” and with the exception of Batman and Superman; (mostly Batman…) I was very much a “Marvel Kid.”

What can I say, Marvel's always been good at aiming low...

In the past decade or so, my undying allegiance to The House of Ideas (AKA Marvel, dumbass…) has loosened up, or rather; my appreciation for DC has grown, but even so, I’ve never really found a good way to get my feet wet when it comes to the labyrinthian mess that is DC universe continuity.

I think it’s the Multiverse aspect of DC that has always scared me off when it comes to DC crossovers.

Though I have to admit, this is pretty fuckin' awesome.

Sure, you could argue that Marvel has a Multiverse as well, (one that I don’t really pay attention to aside from the MAX imprint) but the difference between the 2 is that DC merges their universes from time to time, while Marvel usually keeps theirs separate.

Keeping track of hundreds of characters in a single universe is one thing, but when you put together a host of stories I.E. the Crisis series; that draw into focus numerous iterations of said characters across multiple universes, I’m sorry, my feeble mind just can’t handle it.

For this reason, along with the occasional poor review or 2, I haven’t read any of the Crisis stories, nor do I think I’ll ever care enough to do so.

Case in point: Superboy Prime.

The point I’ve been trying to make with all of this bullshit, is the fact that when it comes to DC; I don’t really have that much of an investment in the history of it’s characters… Aside from Batman, Superman, and maybe Green Lantern.

Call me crazy, but I kind of liked it when Hal Jordan went nuts and killed off the Corps.

Could've done without the creepy pedo-face though...

Anyway, the first thing that came to mind when I heard DC was going to be dumping a fatty diarrhea of reboot juice into their books, was Marvel’s Ultimate series.

I haven’t read any of the Ultimate line, largely because, unlike in the case of DC, I’m very comfortable with Marvel’s continuity, past and present.

From what I’ve read, the basic mission statement for the Ultimate line was along the lines of:

“Purge all the non-essential/less popular characters, make the characters more contemporary, make use of big-name writers and artists, make it accessible for non-comic readers/people that like the Marvel movies.”

To reiterate: Marvel, not afraid to whore themselves out to the kids.

That’s basically what I’m thinking DC is trying to do with their reboot.

The really goofy thing about this whole reboot thing, is the timing of it.

Superman: Secret Origin wrapped not that long ago, the ink on Superman: Earth One (not be confused with “Earth-1“) has yet to dry, and Batman: Earth One is likely to follow in the coming months.

Even Wonder Woman was recently revamped from the ground up.

Oh God! It's the 90's all over again!!!

When I think about it, it seems like DC’s been teasing a reboot for awhile now, but it’s only just now they’ve built up the courage to go ahead and do it to their entire line, and not just their A-list characters.

Deep down, I know that DC has some serious housekeeping to do with their characters and storylines, as would any other book line published over 70+ years; but starting from scratch is not something I like to consider.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m fine with comics simply ignoring or retconning the less important or relevant moments in their continuity.

As a fairly seasoned comic fan, I don’t think a reboot is all that necessary; but if it breathes new life in the industry, and grabs new fans that otherwise wouldn’t have given a shit, then more power to ’em.

In any case, here’s hoping DC’s gamble pays off.

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Thoughts On Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen

Donnie Yen’s butt.

That, my friends; is the one element of Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen that I can honestly say I’ve never seen elsewhere.

That one goofy and slightly embarrassing little detail aside, Return of Chen Zhen is a bipolar mess of a film that can only be recommended to the most hardcore of Donnie Yen fans, I.E. me.

The basic plot is as follows:

Picking up after the conclusion of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury, Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) flees China for the French battlefield of WWI.

How he managed to survive charging headlong into a hail of gunfire after the events of Fist of Fury, is never explained.

During the war, one of Chen Zhen’s friends is shot dead, prompting him to go apeshit and kill a bunch of Germans via the combined techniques of parkour and shank-fu.

*Cue shitty rip-off of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme* What? You think I'm kidding?

Much violence and badassery ensues.

With that, Chen Zhen opts to assume his fallen friend’s identity as he sets off for Shanghai; declaring his homeland his new battlefield in fighting against Chinese oppression.

Why he decides to take out his aggression on the occupying Japanese (embodied by the decidedly flacid antagonist played by Kohata Ryu)  instead of the German forces that were directly responsible for his friend’s death, is not explained.

Once in China, Chen Zhen uses his resources to build himself a network of newsies, students, war vets, and cops to serve as his Shadow-esque eyes and ears.

He also invests in a pencil-thin fake mustache, seemingly just because pencil-thin mustaches are pimp.

"Hello, I'm Donnie Yen, and you sir; have just stumbled upon my secret Pimp Party. Prepare to be kicked in the face... Repeatedly."

How Chen Zhen acquires said resources to put together said network, and purchase said mustache, is never explained.

Now firmly established as a wealthy entrepreneur of sorts in Shanghai, Chen Zhen links up with fellow wealthy socialite and nightclub owner, Li Yutian (Anthony Wong) in order to spread his influence… At least that’s what I got out of it anyway.

Li’s nightclub also happens to play host to a foxy singer named Kiki (Shu Qi) whom Chen Zhen quickly becomes attracted to.

Donnie Yen would hit it, but y'know; supermodel wife...

The wikipedia entry for this movie states that Chen Zhen “is romantically attracted to Kiki,” however this is hardly evident in the film.

I know they’re Chinese, and they’re not good at that whole “love” thing, or y’know; talking to each other, but when 2 characters never so much as hold hands throughout a movie, I find it hard to believe they’re “romantically attracted” to each other.

Not only that, but their most intimate moment is actually when Chen Zhen threatens to kill her.

ROMANCE.

Anyway, in case you couldn’t tell; Kiki really ruined the movie for me.

Usually I kind of like Shu Qi’s bubbly cutesy-ness, as was the case in the delightfully, uh, adequate Jackie Chan flick, Gorgeous; but this time around her role was just plain ugly.

Her character’s arc, much like the flow of the entire film, is predictable; yet somehow all over the place all at the same time.

Not only that, she’s shitfaced for roughly 3 quarters of the film, making her a very difficult character to like.

I’m guessing her character was supposed to be tragic, but in the end; she just brought the whole movie down by needlessly slowing the pace with frequent, and boring dialogue scenes.

Speaking of boring dialogue scenes, Return of Chen Zhen has a fuck ton of ’em!

In most cases I can deal with inane and extraneous dialogue, but in the case of this movie; I actually found myself muttering the words:

“Jesus fuck man, I DON’T CARE.

Well okay, I didn’t exactly “mutter” those words so much as yell them, but you get the point.

Needless to say, Return of Chen Zhen has some writing issues… And pacing issues…  And it smells funny.

Now, when I said Return of Chen Zhen was a “bipolar” movie, I was of course speaking of it’s up and down pacing, specifically the jarring contrast between it’s action sequences, and the rest of the film.

In short:

Return of Chen Zhen has some pretty spankin’ fight sequences.

Heh heh, I like the part when the one dude gets kicked in the face. That was cool...

While nearly all of it is of the classic, Dynasty Warriors/1 man vs. the world style, most of it is well choreographed, and perhaps more importantly; competently shot.

Make no mistake, while the staging of the fights was indeed very good in Return of Chen Zhen, the editor, and perhaps more importantly; the cinematographer deserve a special pat on the back for their contributions.

While not so great a fight, this shot was pretty enough to redeem it.

Donnie Yen served as action choreographer for this one, and if there’s anything Donnie Yen is good at; it’s making himself look good.

While I heard reports that indicated an excessive use of stunt doubles for this film, I can honestly say that I didn’t notice them.

I’m assuming most of the parkour and stunt work was filmed using doubles, but everything that counts in my book, that is; the punching and kicking of people’s faces, was definitely all Yen.

Trust me, nobody throws kicks like Donnie Yen, nobody.

So… Where are his balls during all of this?

Speaking of which, from an action standpoint, Return of Chen Zhen serves as a sort of “best of” for Donnie Yen’s various trademark moves.

From the leaping spinning back kick above, to the cheesy windmill uppercuts of old, to even some of the joint locks and MMA style moves seen in SPL and Flashpoint; pretty much every cool thing Donnie Yen has done to someone throughout his career is featured, and ably performed in this movie at some point, with satisfyingly brutal results.

Though sadly there’s no breakdance fighting ala Mismatched Couples…

Kung Fu B-Boy Donnie Yen!

Getting back to the movie, seeing as most of the fight sequences in Return of Chen Zhen have Mr. Yen clothed in a Kato-esque mask and suit, the movements and strikes incorporated into the choreography bear a satisfying and altogether appropriate “superhero-y” quality to them.

That is to say:

When people get hit in this movie, they fly across the room and then some.

Yeah, that guy's goin' through a wall... Or 2.

Normally I’m not a fan of wirework in my kung fu movies, but their use in this film was largely used for the simple effect of slamming people into bookcases/windows/walls/platypuses, instead of the more fanciful bullshit as in Dragon Tiger Gate and other such films.

In all, Donnie Yen’s physical performance was nothing short of incredible in Return of Chen Zhen.

Given his relatively advanced age for the genre, (47) dreading the day when Donnie Yen suddenly gets old overnight and can’t perform as well he used to, but goddamnit; Father Time must owe him money or something, ’cause if anything he looked better in this movie than he did 2 years ago.

My guess is, the Ip Man movies actually served to smother Mr. Yen’s performances a bit over the past few years.

Wing Chun is a very practical, and straightforward fighting system; and one that is foreign to Donnie Yen’s martial talents.

As I mentioned earlier, Return of Chen Zhen was choreographed by Donnie Yen, for Donnie Yen, and in getting back to the basics, I think Mr. Yen showed us all that he’s still got it.

Anyway, enough cock-sucking.

In closing, I’d just like to point out a few little tidbits I felt needed mentioning:

Yasuaki Kurata and Shawn Yue have cameos in this movie.

They’re brief, and largely pointless; but it was fun seeing them nonetheless.

Would’ve really liked to have seen Kurata do a bit of fighting, seeing as he seemed relatively spry in Master of Thunder a few years ago, but oh well; take what you can get.

If you didn't see it already, then you probably shouldn't...

The vast majority of the sets for Return of Chen Zhen were very obviously recycled from the one used for Bodyguards and Assassins.

While it’s an incredible set, and definitely worth revisiting, there’s no denying that it was framed with a lot more love in Bodyguards and Assassins, and thusly comes across as kind of cheap looking this time around.

Also, if you’ve seen Bodyguards and Assassins, then it’s kind of surreal looking at little things like staircases and windows and remembering them, very clearly; from their use in that movie, which is peculiar being as Bodyguards and Assassins took place in Hong Kong, while Return of Chen Zhen is set in Shanghai.

I suppose it’s worth noting that, yes; the Japanese are the villains of this movie, and yes; they are portrayed as the most vile, baby boiling, dog kicking sons of bitches you’ve ever met.

Xenophobia has always been marketable in Chinese films, and nothing is ever gonna’ change that.

Regardless of how bad they make my people look, as long as Hong Kong keeps pumping out awesome movies about people kicking each other in the brain, I honestly don’t care.

Anyway, the plot sucked, the characters were boring, the dialogue was excessive and dull… but the fighting was pretty good.

If you love to see Donnie Yen do his thing, see it.

If not, then all you’re really missing is Donnie Yen’s butt.

Can you live without seeing Donnie Yen’s butt?

Filed under: Kung Fu, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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