Thursday, November 29, 2012

Anime Double Feech

While it isn't exactly comics, I recently had a chance to re-watch some anime DVDs in my collection. Since they are based on Japanese comics (Manga) I decided that it wouldn't be too off topic to write about 'em here.

TOKYO BABYLON

Directed by: Koichi Chigira



Some of the awesome moody shots from the beginning of episode 2.
Tokyo Babylon is a 2 episode OVA series based on the manga created by super team Clamp. Each episode focuses on a case of the supernatural, investigated by Medium Subaru Sumeragi, his sister Hokuto, and their mysterious friend Seishirou.

The atmosphere these OVAs convey is plenty creepy and intriguing.  The animation is outstanding in both installments, but I am particularly impressed by the second episode. It opens with eerie shots of Tokyo set to ominous music, the story concerns a serial killer preying on commuting passengers on trains. Subaru is a witness, and works with police and another medium who can see the past by touching objects with her bare hands. Together they track down the killer, and also meet another medium who also has the ability to see the past by touch. What happens when these two tactile mediums touch hands? I think the setting really contributes to why I enjoy this animation, there are many exciting scenes in the dark subterranean tunnels of Tokyo.

Nagumo, the villain from episode 1. I love the black and back lighting in the background.

The first installment is fine, but is more of a slow boil. It takes place on a construction site, where executives are dying under mysterious accidental circumstances on the site of their future headquarters, always in the company of Nagumo, a young business man who always seems to escape the accidents unscathed. There are a lot of excellent lighting effects in this episode, and an exciting, fluid action sequence to close it out, with some on point effects animation. As a warning, there is an awful song sung in bizarre English in the first volume, be warned. The English dub is also poor.

DARKSIDE BLUES

Directed by Yoshimichi Furukawa



Darkside Blues is a problematic little movie based on a comic written by Hideyuki Kikuchi, creator of Vampire Hunter D. It is a weird mix of the gothic and science fiction...much like Vampire Hunter D is. The title character, Darkside, is a magical being of few words and seemingly limitless power, who is dressed like Barnabus Collins. Darkside emerges from a Black Mirror in a horse drawn carriage. He settles in Kabuki Cho, and befriends a group of freedom fighters in their efforts against Persona Century, an evil corporation that owns much of the world.

The movie doesn't really focus on any one character, and I found my interest wane pretty quickly. I thought the animation was inconsistent. The most consistently well animated character seems to be Darkside. Darkside definitely has coolness potential, but really he's just boring. Nothing seems to be a challenge to him, and his personality isn't particularly compelling. Supporting characters and new villains appear and dissapear, no one was really focused on enough for me to develop an emotional attachment to. I think my favorite character is Mai, a resident of Kabuki Cho and leader of a small rebel group, along with her companions. They are the most likable characters, and get a good deal of action sequences. The movie doesn't really have a 'pay off' as far as I'm concerned. The characters are all barely sketches, at the end of the movie none of their arcs really seem complete. As far as action sequences go, the best is a showdown between Darkside and an assassin named Enji in a crowd of bystanders who are turned to stone, and a scene on a rooftop where one character deflects a missile with some knives.

This is an excellent sequence in the film. 
Overall I would say this movie is too uneven to warrant watching. I would stick with other movies based off of Kikuchi's works, like Vampire Hunter D, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Demon City Shinjuku and Wicked City.

Until next time!

-Eamon



Monday, November 19, 2012

"My Boyfriend's A Crackhead...BRRRRR!"


The Punisher is a character I really started to appreciate after reading Garth Ennis's take, after binge-reading volumes of Hellblazer and Preacher. I've since read all of the Ennis Punisher material, and now and again buy random issues of the various Punisher comics I think could be fun to read. One such random issue was The Punisher War Journal # 28, from March 1991, written by Mike Baron with art by 'Tex', lettering by Jom Novak and colors by Greg Wright. I found the cover and interior art to be up to snuff, so I added it in my 15 comics for $10 pile. 

The cover, by Michael Golden

This issue threw me for a loop about a half dozen times. Is it a comment on over zealous protesters, who frown upon people that eat meat? Or perhaps a creed against the meat industry, where The Punisher starts out a meat eater but ends up on the side of the animals? Read on, dear reader, to find out!

The story begins outside of Bruno's Steakhouse, where protesters are gathered behind a police cordon, protesting...people that eat meat. Our hero, The Punisher (a.k.a Frank Castle) is meeting an ex girlfriend, Joy, for dinner. Even though The Punisher doesn't wear a mask, I guess in this series it isn't yet common knowledge that Frank Castle is indeed the mass murdering Punisher, who I am sure has been all over national news. When Joy asks Frank what he's been doing with himself, he replies "You don't want to know, it isn't pretty." Which is a completely normal response to that question and, of course, would not prompt ANY follow up questions. Joy cackles and manically tells Frank that she is seeing Cole Grist, the 'Biggest Meat Packer in the state', and tells Frank she hopes he can meet him. 

Once outside after a dinner that "hit the spot," with Joy in her fur coat, they are confronted by the extreme anti-meat protesters. 

Did they not notice the protesters when they went INTO the restaurant?

After dousing Joy's coat with red paint, Frank decks a protester with a mighty PTHMM! (actual sound effect they used) and guides Joy through the crowd, while a stander-by congratulates Frank for giving the self-righteous prigs a 'poke'. Frank thanks him for his support, with a Grinch-like grin.  It's here that the book throws me for the first loop. Joy gets a call from Cole, her meat packing beau, and we find that an extremist animal rights group, The Animal Liberation Army, rigged his mailbox to explode, and sadly (although fortunately for Cole) the mailman was killed instead, and I expect the Punisher will be facing off against militant vegans. But is that the whole story?

Cole hires Frank to be his bodyguard, per Joy's suggestion. Frank goes with the happy couple to a social club, where they eat every Saturday night, complete with protesters, again. Seems Cole's country club only allows whites. (Why is Frank guarding this man again? And why is Joy ok with going to a place like that?) Cole asks the cops not to coddle the protesters  and proclaims that he would like to "Rip their lungs out"...what is that sniffle Cole lets out? Does he have a cold? At the club, Cole runs into a "slimy union official" and makes a meeting with him later, at his meat packing plant. Cole also keeps getting up to use the bathroom, which prompts Frank to wonder if Cole has a coke problem.


Hmmm I wonder if this development will come up later?


After dinner, Cole goes to his meet with the slimy union guy, at the meat packing plant, and tells Frank and Joy to wait in the car. Needless to say, Frank and Joy don't wait in the car, and follow Cole. They come across some of the Animal Liberation Army folks, who happen to carry membership cards.
Do they get decoder rings too?

Frank dispatches one ALA member, only to come across another, with a gun, trying to get into the plant. Frank and Joy get the drop on him, and he explains he was only trying to save the animals, and a few panels show some of the inhumane conditions the animals undergo at Cole Grist's plant. So maybe the bad guys aren't the Animal Liberation Army? Is Frank Castle going to side with them? It seems that way after it comes out that Cole Grist is also connected to the mob...but before the ALA goon can elaborate, Cole appears out of nowhere with a machine gun and mows the animal rights guy down.


It seems the union rep Cole came to meet tried to kill him, and now Cole has gone off the deep end, and suspects that Frank and Joy are having a little fling. Turns out Cole IS on drugs, as Joy so eloquently states while hiding in a freezer...


Frank leaves Joy hiding in the freezer and goes after Cole, and finds the union guy dead. Turns out he and Cole were freebasing, and got into an argument over drug money. Nothing more about the Plant, or the Animal Liberation front, is brought up for the rest of this comic. Suddenly its about a drug problem gone haywire. Cole captures Joy, and lures Frank out for a showdown. Frank, unarmed, confronts Cole, but Joy pushes a button and a meat hook grabs Cole from behind. At this point, Cole is subdued and unarmed, but The Punisher decides he needs to stab Cole in the stomach with a nearby knife, for good measure, and quips "I guess this means I'm out of a job." Yeah, I guess so, Frank.

-Eamon

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stand Alone Complex: All Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder # 9

Hello Internet!

Eamon here, it has been a while since I have written about my one true love, comics, so I thought I would try to get back into the swing of things. For 'Stand Alone Complex' entries I'm going to write about a single issue of a comic that I like or find notable in some way. For the first entry, I thought I would tackle issue number 9 of the much maligned All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder, written by Frank Miller with Art by Jim Lee, inks by Scott Williams, colors by Alex Sinclair and letters by Jared K. Fletcher.



As far as I am aware, the All Star comics line was started to give creators carte blanche to do whatever they wanted with DC characters without being held hostage by decades of continuity...and who better to tackle Batman than Frank Miller, one of the most important Batman scribes living! I never checked it out back in 2008, and have recently been picking up random issues.

 Page one of issue 9 makes it immediately apparent that this Bats isn't the one we're used to...from the pen of Frank Miller or anybody else. Batman is in Green Lantern's face, and, as conveyed by his narration in the captions, brags about how rich he is, relishes an opportunity to potentially beat the snot out of a fellow hero, proceeds to insult and belittle that same hero along with Superman, and describes how he would use Lantern's power ring...by sending some tidal waves to "Knock out a few enemy fleets" and bring "some real firepower to a nasty ground war or two." So yeah...not the Bats we are used to.

Oh, I forgot to mention, Batman is also painted yellow on the opening page. For those of you who don't know, the Green Lantern's only weakness is the color yellow. His power ring doesn't work against it. Comics, right?

The whole Batman painted yellow thing is really why I wanted to write about this issue, and share it with the 'net. I never expected any part of this series, which is pretty unanimously ridiculed, to be so funny. Batman has to meet with Green Lantern, who on behalf of the Justice League wants Batman to tone it down. To be on the safe side Batman has the meeting in one of his safe houses, and has Robin paint everything yellow. Everything. For well over half of this issue Batman and Robin are yellow, in a yellow room with yellow floors, walls, pipes and furniture.

Batman even has lemonade to drink, and Robin has some yellow ice cream. Batman smirks, sneers and leers as he drinks his Lemonade, "Refreshing" he says as he takes a sip. Green Lantern declines a glass.

Don't be a rude guest, Lantern!
In this panel both Green Lantern and the reader must wait for Batman to finish his lemonade.

Robin is also very entertaining in this scene, in the background eating his ice cream, ready to catch a falling glass of lemonade when Green Lantern decides that Batman needs a punch in the face, pouring Batman another glass for when he is ready for another sip. He is also reading The Yellow Kid comics, for you comics history buffs out there.

Please pay particular attention to Robin on this page. Spectacular storytelling. Very funny.

The focus on the Lemonade is bizarre and distracting. I also find it hilarious. I don't know if Robin's antics were called for in the script, or if Jim Lee decided to do that stuff on his own, but its a real hoot. Green Lantern is a real lunkhead in this series, who can't figure out that Robin is really Dick Grayson, a boy Batman kidnapped in an earlier issue, and seems to have a real temper problem...as does every character in this issue. After taking Lantern's ring, Robin does some flip kicks and karate chops Lantern's neck, almost killing him. This causes Batman to flip out and punch Robin, who is probably ten years old, really hard in the face, twice.

The rest of the book is moping, gloom and doom, but darn if the yellow Batman and Robin pages weren't fun. Definitely something I was not expecting. I would highly recommend checking this issue out. If there are any readers out there, are there any other issues this funny from this title? Let me know in the comments!

-Eamon