Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Green Lantern: First Flight -- a real-time review

All right, all right, I have my copy of the new animated movie Green Lantern: First Flight, and I've done my best to avoid all the sneak previews, Comic-Con reviews, etc. I'm firing it up RIGHT NOW ...

- Trailer for the animated Wonder Woman movie? Good movie, but, man, this is SO March 2009.

- Smallville! Smallville? Haven't all these actors moved on to reality shows by now?

- So Carol can really put away the sangria. Somehow, that doesn't surprise me.

- Hal doesn't look the least bit scared. Perfectly in character, but it's gonna confuse the newbies.

- Abin Sur looks like a Star Trek alien.

- I think that's the longest transformation scene I've ever seen!

- Are they competing with the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie to see who can get away with having the longest opening credits?

- Wow, Sinestro looks very, er, HEALTHY. The boy's been eating his Wheaties.

- The big green ship -- a more "Earthly construct" for Hal. I love the way Hal looks out the window: But I'd rather be OUT THERE!

- The Guardians are just like they first appeared in the comics -- more like a bunch of somewhat kindly (but misguided) little old men.

- "And then there's the smell." Ha! I could SWEAR that sounded like Kevin (Batman) Conroy's voice!

- Kilowog is ticked about Sinestro doing HIS job. Hee, hee.

- "I own your ass!" Oh, Sinestro, we've ALWAYS known that about you.

- The Book of Oa and the main power battery have been combined for this movie. Interesting.

- "Earth boy!"

- I like Labella's. It's kind of a weird cross between the Star Wars cantina and the bar/saloon from Green Lantern: Willworld.

- "How come these suits got no zippers?" BEST PICK-UP LINE EVER from a super-hero tale.

- Sinestro is a ruthless bastard.

- Hal getting blasted by the fragger/bazooka. Ooooh, I'm thinkin' there are gonna be some good fights in this thing.

- Hal has a Bobby Knight moment with a green folding chair. Priceless.

- GOOD sewer fight! Ya can't have a real super-hero movie without a sewer fight!

- Boodika -- looks like Boodika, but acts like Katma Tui.

- Kanjar Ro? Really?

- So, instead of Ion and Parallax, there are "green" and "yellow" elements? Waaaah!

- Ch'p. Ch'p is WONDERFUL.

- Hal is a yo-yo man!

- Oh, geez -- the LONG string of "bug" gags: "Hold it, bug boy!" Heh, heh.

- Hal gets a tank thrown at him. Awesome.

- Explosive decompression! SUCH a bad way to die.

- Hal's framed for manslaughter. AGAIN.

- Hal says "Geez!" an awful lot in this movie. Didn't know he was from the Midwest.

- I like the running gag (almost literally) involving Oan food.

- Sinestro is SUCH a ruthless bastard.

- Okay, Boodika is definitely NOT Katma Tui.

- Damn, there's a heck of a body count in this movie. And I thought the Wonder Woman animated movie was violent!

- I like the redesign of the Weaponers.

- Woo hoo! First film appearance of a Sinestro Corps uniform!

- Hal doesn't need his ring to fight a good fight. So true to character.

- OH. MY. GOD. A Guardian just yelled, "Like Hell!" HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAaaaaaaHAAAAAA!!!!

- Lots of good cameos of Green Lantern Corps members.

- It's the battle of the main power batteries!

- There's no way the Guardians would REALLY bow to Sinestro.

- I want my OWN pet main power battery!

- Have I already said Sinestro is a ruthless bastard?

- Wow. Hal is having a SERIOUS Emerald Dawn moment. Gotta admit, the man kicks butt!



- Awwwww ...!

- Some planet's tidal system is gonna get seriously out of whack.

- Hal beats yellow. A LOT.

- Green and yellow shock waves! Pretty!

- DAMN, Kilowog! "'Scuze ME, poozer!"

- "Forgot my chute." Cute.

- The Green Lantern oath: "I just learned the thing this morning."

... and that's that.

Hey, Hal didn't get whacked in the head ONCE! I want a refund!

Nah, just kidding.

First impression: I LIKED it. I liked it better than Superman: Doomsday, but I thought Wonder Woman was a teensy bit better. There were a lot of really good super-hero-type battles in this film -- and, really, don't we primarily read super-hero stories for the FIGHTS?

Hal was very much Hal -- handsome, cocky, arrogant, resourceful, kinda dumb, but fearless and heroic to a fault. However, I have to say the real star of this film is not Hal but SINESTRO. This movie isn't really about Hal -- it's really about how Sinestro orchestrates the events that bring about his own downfall. Sinestro is completely ruthless, and I think this film does an excellent job of explaining what drives him to act the way he does. This is one of the best film interpretations of a major comic book villain's origin (outside of a Batman villain) that I think I've ever seen.

Wish I could say similar for Hal. Originally, when I first heard about this movie, I griped about DC doing yet another super-hero origin movie. However, now that I've seen the movie, I don't think they spent enough time explaining who Hal is, or why he acts the way he does. Of course, readers of Silver Age-era comics really weren't given much in the way of explanation, either -- but in film, you have to at least let the audience know what motivates a character. The filmmakers in this case did a great job of doing that for Sinestro, but not for the supposed star of the film. Even with this film added to the existing roster of super-hero cartoons, viewers who don't read the comics STILL know more about John Stewart than about any other Green Lantern. It's doubtful that this film will generate any new Hal Jordan fans.

Still, I did enjoy it. I now wanna see DC/Warner Bros. do an entire Green Lantern series, complete with Hal, Guy, John, Kyle, Emerald Twilight, Rebirth, Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night ... the whole shebang! You listening, DC?

Okay, time to toss in some illustrations and post this thing ...

UPDATE, 7/29/09: Mr. Sea (who is primarily a Marvel fan, especially for Spider-Man) watched the movie last night and said he liked it a lot. He said he went into it with the attitude that it would be like an "Elseworlds" story, and he thought it was quite good.

Oh, and here's the BEST part of the movie: When all is said and done, at the end, the only person who manages to get Hal Jordan into bed is KILOWOG.

No, I'm not kidding. ;-)

THIS is a Green Lantern?!?!?

So, I sez to my friend who's going to Comic-Con, I sez, "Hey, bring me back a Green Lantern toy or two! Especially figures. I LOVE figures."

And he sez, "OKAY!"

So, what do I end up with? I end up with THIS:

Errrrrrr ... Right. Not exactly Hal Jordan or John Stewart, is it? And shouldn't it be a RED Lantern? It's a frickin' kitty cat, for crying out loud.

Sigh ...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Because Hal Jordan looks good in more than just GREEN

Even though I don't attend Comic-Con in San Diego, every year there's always something featured there that I want REAL BAD. And every year, I hear from people I know who are going, and I manage to hit them up for a goody or two. Usually, the things I want from the convention are artist sketchbooks. THIS year, however, what I want is THIS -- or, rather -- THESE:

LOOK CLOSELY, or click on the image for a larger size. Yep, that's Hal Jordan in Green Lantern AND Red Lantern AND Orange Lantern AND Blue Lantern AND Sinestro Corps uniforms. What, no Indigo, or Lavender, or Black? Oh, well. I'm not really complaining. GIMME, GIMME, GIMME!

Hey, I just noticed something ... Hal in GOOD Lantern mode wears GLOVES. Hal in BAD Lantern mode DOESN'T wear gloves. Hmmmmmmm ...

Monday, July 20, 2009

How science fiction movies can mess with your head

Today is the 40th anniversary of the day human beings first set foot on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission touched down in the Sea of Tranquility in 1969, and images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the moon were broadcast all over the world. I’m greatly saddened that the iconic newsman of that moment, Walter Cronkite, passed away days before this anniversary. He was one of the reasons I decided to pursue a journalism degree in college. Mr. Cronkite was a class act, all the way.

I’m also a little sad that, though I am among the people who were around to witness the lunar landing, I still kind of regard the whole thing with a shrug.

I know exactly why I have that attitude. For one thing, I was only four years old at the time -– and, of course, four-year-olds have the annoying habit of not feeling the same things their parents feel when witnessing important events. Yes, Dad sat me down in front of the TV, and he was obviously thrilled about the fact that mankind had made it to the moon. However, all I remember from witnessing that historic event is a strong sense of confusion. My poor dad had unwittingly sown the seeds of that confusion by taking me to the movies a year before, to see director Stanley Kubrick’s now-legendary film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

My dad, who was a very young dad, had a naïve and rather brave habit of taking Sea-the-toddler anywhere he wanted to go, and where he wanted to go usually involved movies and sporting events my mom didn’t want to attend. I remember being taken to Pacers basketball games, where I quite happily munched on cotton candy while Dad screamed at the guys on the court to quit fouling. I also remember feeling astonished by three movies I saw that still have an impact on me: Disney’s Fantasia, The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. To me, the scene of the half-built space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the music of Strauss’ “Blue Danube” swelling through the soundtrack, is one of the most beautiful movie moments I’ve ever witnessed. I love the movie, unconditionally.

Because the Apollo 11 lunar landing occurred after I’d seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, my four-year-old self was completely unimpressed by it. I thought we’d already been to the moon! Besides, there were big, circular space stations up there among the stars, weren’t there? So, what was the big deal about some guy jumping around the moon’s surface in a big, bulky suit? Not only that, the image on the TV set wasn’t as clear and nice-looking as the images in 2001: A Space Odyssey. How could Dad possibly expect me to find the lunar landing impressive?

Even later, when I learned that 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn’t REAL, I couldn’t muster up any excitement for the lunar landing -– and I still can’t. It certainly doesn’t help that mankind has had the ability to do so much more since that day -- and, quite frankly, hasn't done it. Yes, the lunar landing was a remarkable achievement, but to this day, I don’t feel excited about it. I feel more excited when I rewatch 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Curse you, Stanley Kubrick!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blackest Night #1: Observations (punctuated by fangirl squealing)

Oh heck YES I picked up Blackest Night #1! What, you think just because I haven't been blogging regularly that I'd given up my favorite comics? HA! Here are some observations -- and, yes, there are a few spoilers. Sorry, can't help it! -->

- Blackest Night starts the same way Sinestro Corps War ended. I LOVE that. LOVE it!

- Interesting that Blackest Night officially begins on the anniversary of Superman's death. VERY interesting.

- So, Katma Tui was murdered by A Star Sapphire all of a sudden? At the time, there was only THE Star Sapphire -- Carol Ferris. At least artist Ivan Reis kept that (awful) costume Carol wore back then.

- Well, whaddaya know! Hal Jordan actually admits to being envious of Guy Gardner. I could have sworn I heard a scream of triumph from the direction of Connecticut when I first read that (eh, Sally?).

- Look at all the living heroes (and villains) mourning over the dead -- while being presented SO clearly and described so well. Why wasn't Final Crisis set up this well?

- Alfred said "Bruce"!

- The villain crypt in the Justice League basement ...! I'm glad that particular Nightwing story wasn't forgotten.

- Hal's method for updating Barry on DCU deaths is interesting, to say the least. Look, Barry! Hal's ring is full of dead people!

Y'know, if you think about it, Hal Jordan must have one heck of an impressive memory. That's an awful lot of people (and costumes) to remember AND be able to ring-generate all at the same time. The man must have a photographic memory -- one that obviously hasn't been damaged despite all the times Hal's been whacked in the head over the years.

- The Flash finally sits down. Why do I like Barry better in the GL stories, so far, than I do in Barry's own title? It doesn't make sense. It's the same writer, for crying out loud.

- Poor Ray. Poor, poor, poor Ray. And he's gonna feel even worse VERY soon. (Also, Hawkman and the Atom are probably the only DC heroes who DON'T use cell phones -- and on purpose, too.)

- Hal actually thinks Carol is SAFE?!?! (Major snicker!) Hal or no Hal, when has Carol EVER been safe -- even when she WASN'T a Star Sapphire?!

- The Black Lantern rings sound like FLIES. How very, very cool.

- HEY! Am I mistaken, or do the Guardians have YELLOW blood! YELLOW! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, HA!

- Scar finally gives the other Guardians their comeuppance -- and with such panache! "Your hearts are USELESS. The Darkness cannot feast on YOUR hearts. They need to hunt FULL ones." Heh, heh, heh, heh.

- ZOMBIE LANTERNS at last! And, OH, how I am going to miss artist Ivan Reis on Green Lantern. MISS him!

- I finally got to see the Black Lantern I've been wanting to see most: Zombie Martian Manhunter.

So far, I'm not disappointed. Yeah, that would scare the hell outta me!

- Hawkman and Hawkgirl! Y'know, Green Lantern readers have seen a lot of the plot details coming for a long, long time, but I certainly didn't expect THAT one! Holy moly!

- Writer Geoff Johns has, of course, been building up to this story for YEARS, and so far it's living up to all expectations. I hate to say it, but when Blackest Night is over, he may want to consider retiring from writing super-hero comics altogether, and move on to something else, like novels or screenplays. I don't want him to end up like all-too many comic book writers of the past who reached their magnum opus and then squandered their talents (and demeaned their original achievement) trying to duplicate the feat. He should quit while he's ahead, and move on to other interests.

- Speaking of Mr. Johns, I only have one gripe about Blackest Night #1, and it's THIS:

He really, really needs to quit doing that. Yes, I KNOW it's supposed to be a vocal effect, but I can't help it -- whenever I see "KKK," my brain tells me it's an acronym for the Ku Klux Klan. I know I'm not the only reader with that problem -- and this isn't the first time Mr. Johns has used it. He either needs to use different letters for that sound effect, or quit using it altogether.

- Can I say right now how much I've always loved the people at Comic Carnival? Not only did they give me my Black Lantern ring, I also got some nifty Blackest Night postcards from them, and they said they'd try to preserve the in-store Blackest Night promotional poster (designed by Ivan Reis, of course) for me when the storyline is over. They don't squander the promotional items, bless 'em. HOW I LOVE THEM! Here's my ring, modeled by Mr. Sea -- because I haven't been able to get the ring away from him since I brought it home:

Gee, honey, I didn't notice before how HAIRY your hands are! Maybe you should GIVE ME MY RING BACK and go shave or something!

Looking forward to seeing what happens next in Blackest Night! MORE! MORE! MORE!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Justice League: Cry For Justice -- Promising indeed!

Originally, I was a little skeptical of the idea of a Justice League spinoff title, even as a mini-series. As I pointed out several times, the last time Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan led a Justice League team (Justice League Europe), it was a disaster. However, in the case of JLE, Hal didn't have a real motivation for leading the Justice League, other than just enjoying being in charge. That's not true in Cry for Justice #1. There IS motivation. REAL motivation. And it's a form of motivation that, so far, extends to all of the future members of the team. (Spoilers!)

The motivation is, in all honesty, the tried-and-true DC chestnut that I like to call "Batmanitis." That is, the hero has suffered a loss and/or witnessed someone else experiencing loss, and feels compelled to bring the person/people responsible to justice. But Batmanitis WORKS, and it's used in Cry for Justice #1 to great effect, to convince readers that these future Justice League members DO have a good reason for wanting the same thing Hal Jordan wants.

The story begins, of course, with the segment that was presented as a preview/teaser in DC comics a couple of weeks ago. Hal is tired of heroes and their friends and loved ones being picked off by bad guys. He wants justice, and as a space cop who's supposed to be in charge of Earth, he's going to make sure he pursues justice from now on. The other Justice Leaguers are uncomfortable about this, no doubt reminded of Hal's behavior when he was Parallax. But when Superman voices his concern ...

... Hal calls him on the carpet:

(OF COURSE Superman finds that more than a bit intimidating because, well ...

They sure do, Supes. They sure do.)

Ollie pledges his support for Hal, then Hal whips up a big green bubble and makes a dramatic exit for him and Ollie -- leading to THIS curious conversation:

Now, this conversation doesn't make sense to me. As Green Lantern, Hal can travel through space, and walk through walls -- and Ollie has traveled with him via Big Green Space Bubble dozens of times. So, why the heck would Hal even THINK about using a teleporter in the first place? He doesn't need it.

Oh, well. It's a minor quibble in an otherwise nice exchange between Hal and Ollie.

Next, readers are taken to Albuquerque, to the hideout of Killer Moth -- yes, Killer Moth. Two Atoms -- Ryan Choi and Ray Palmer -- are there beating up Killer Moth and his gang, and engaging in some rather entertaining double talk/double thought. Ray's friend Mike Dante is dead and Killer Moth is somehow connected. Ray uses a rather ruthless method to get Killer Moth to yell out a name ("--Prometheus!"), and then leaves Ryan in charge of Ivy Town while Ray goes in pursuit of justice.

Next stop for readers is a funeral parlor in Opal City. Mikaal (Starman) Tomas is there for a visitation of his friend Tony, who was beaten to death by villains at S.T.A.R. Labs in New York. (I'm not familiar with Tony as a character, so if there's more information about him out there, I'd love to hear about it!) Mikaal leaves the funeral parlor, determined to seek justice.

Next and final stop for readers (for this issue) is the Congo, in Africa, where we meet who I think is going to be my favorite character in this series. Congo Bill -- Congorilla -- is looking sadly over the remains of his band of gorillas, which have been horribly slaughtered by an unknown assailant. Not only are all of the gorillas dead, so is Bill's human body (which had been hosting the Congorilla's/Golden Ape's spirit), and so is FREEDOM BEAST.

Poor Freedom Beast! I don't know about the rest of you, but the last time I saw HIM was in the Green Lantern: Wanted: Hal Jordan storyline, kicking Hal Jordan in the head. Despite that (hey, Freedom Beast was possessed by aliens at the time), you can bet Hal is not going to be happy to hear about Freedom Beast's demise.

That aside, my heart really goes out to Congo Bill. Granted, prior to this comic, I didn't know a whole lot about Congo Bill. To me, he was just comic book trivia, a forgotten relic of the Golden Age. But writer James Robinson, with help from Len Wein, has done something great with this character. Comic book readers tend to have a soft spot for big monkeys in their stories, but I predict that the modern Congo Bill is going to turn out to be something very special indeed. I don't thinks he's going to end up being just another anthropomorphic ape character. There's some DEPTH here.

All in all, Justice League: Cry for Justice #1 is a setup issue, but that's okay, because James Robinson has presented something VERY promising here. It remains to be seen how all of these heroes are going to meet up (and, of course, we haven't yet seen the full team lineup), but Robinson has given them all a common purpose, one that's relatively simple yet powerful. I wish the current, main Justice League title had started off this strong.

I also love Robinson's notes at the end of the issue, which also contain Len Wein's retelling of Congo Bill's origin story. Robinson has obviously put a great deal of research and thought into this mini-series, and he brings to the table an obvious respect for the characters and their histories.

The issue isn't without its flaws. There is the strange Hal-and-Ollie exchange I mentioned earlier, which I don't quite buy. There's also the Supergirl costume controversy, which has been reported by other eagle-eyed bloggers. In the preview from two weeks ago, Supergirl was modestly covered:

In the actual issue #1, however, the artwork has obviously been "corrected."

It's a shame, really. The bare midriff look is becoming passe, anyway, so I think they should have just left Supergirl with a "whole" shirt.

I suspect, however, that the whole Supergirl kerfuffle is due to an honest error on the part of artist Mauro Cascioli as opposed to an attempt to change Supergirl's costume -- simply because Cascioli's pencils clearly show that he made a similar mistake on Hal Jordan's costume:

That's Hal's OLD costume, not his current one -- but it's been corrected in the final art.

Oh, well. Supergirl will get a whole shirt again, SOMEday. In the meantime, I'm really, really looking forward to seeing issue #2 of this series. What a nice feeling that is to have for a Justice League title.