Sunday, December 30, 2012
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Monday, August 20, 2012
Monday, July 09, 2012
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Throne of the Crescent Moonby Saladin AhmedBook review by Dan Tres OMi
This is yet another book I stumbled upon. The cover was immediately appealing. After reading the first two pages, I fell in love with the story. Saladin Ahmed introduces us to the ancient city of Dhamsawaat. A city ruled by a corrupt Khalif and besieged by The Falcon Prince, the precursor to Robin Hood, who is loved by the poor but hated by the rich and royalty. It is in this atmosphere we meet Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, the last of the real ghul hunters, and his young assistant the Dervish Raseed bas Raseed. Makhslood spends his time fighting off ghuls and defending people who have no other place to go. Raseed is a Dervish who has committed himself to fighting The Traitorous Angel (Shataan) with his very life.
I think the best part about this story are the two main characters. On one hand we have Makhslood who is an elder gentleman who has fought ghuls most of his life. He is looking to get out of the ghul hunting business since he is getting old and tired. He would rather spend his days reading books and sipping tea. Makhslood is a practicing Muslim but is very lax in his rituals. He openly flirts with women, enjoys fighting, and is known to celebrate just a little too much. He is like that loving uncle we all have and love to be around despite the fact that our parents would rather he not show up most of the time. Raseed on the other hand is extremely pious, young, and naive. His worldview is in complete conflict with his mentor. Their interaction is wonderful to watch. When it comes to fighting ghuls, their partnership is as one.
Ahmed throws many elements and characters into the story that forces Makhslood and Raseed to question their arrangement. In the end, they stay true to one another and win the day. Ahmed does a great job providing a full tapestry of the religion of Islam. You have your everyday practitioners, your mystics, and fundamentalists all wrapped up in a story of adventure. One need not know the history of Islam to appreciate this. One can't help but to fall in love with the characters as well as the city of Dhamsawaat. I look forward to hearing more tales about Makhslood and Raseed and the fate of the city of Dhamsawaat. Ahmed has introduced the reader to a great and wonderful world from our distant past.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
It's easy to see that being a sci-fi/fantasy/comic book fan, it's a love and hate relationship especially when you are raising children. You want to see characters that look like you. You want to see heroines who are independent and fierce. And yes in the 21st century, there are still stereotypes galore. So it's difficult to navigate in those genres.
I really enjoyed Avatar: the Last Airbender. Most of all our children really enjoyed it. It was something we shared together and we felt like we watched Aang and his crew grow. I was really hurt by the movie adaptation. I mean when Hollywood does it bad, which is quite often, they pull out all the stops. So we had our fingers crossed when the news came out that they were continuing the Avatar series on Nickelodeon. It was frustrating to hear the news about the dates being pushed back and there were very few teasers. When it finally arrived, it was well worth the wait.
The Legend of Korra begins 50 years after the events from the original series. Aang is dead and Korra, from the Southern Water Tribe, is the new avatar. While she has mastered the fire, water, and earth elements, she is having trouble mastering air bending. Initially, she is slated to train with Tenzin, Aang's son and council person for Republic City. However, when Tenzin arrives and explains that he will not be able to train Korra, she decides to take matters into her own hands. That is when the adventure begins.
It seems that most of the action will take place in Republic City. It reminds me of Shanghai in the movie "Legend of the Fist: Return of Chen Zen." Now just add air ships, metal bending police, and triads, and you have the Legend of Korra. I loved "Legend of the Fist" and love Legend of Korra even more. Chief of Police Lin Beifong, is actually Toph's daughter, and has no love for the Avatar and would prefer to see Korra leave Republic City. This adds so much tension to the story.
Unlike the original series, Korra is not on the run from the Fire Nation. She even does press conferences which I think are hilarious. However, there is currently an anti-bender movement headed by the mysterious Amon. Korra doesn't help matters since she ends up destroying so much property when fighting. This brings more sentiment against her mission.
Through her antics and fierce independence, Korra sneaks out again and discovers the bending tournaments where fire, water, and earth benders battle it out for the everyone's entertainment. She actually joins a team and this eventually helps her with her air bending. Korra meets Mako and Bolin. Bolin is the comedian of the team. Mako is the serious one and of course, Korra's love interest. I like the idea that bending in the modern area has a commercial slant to it. This idea makes perfect sense. Tenzin, who is a monk, is dead set against Korra's entry into the tournaments but he eventually sees its worth.
Overall, this looks like it's a great series that will surpass the original in so many ways. I can't wait to learn about what happened to the other members of Aang's circle. It is great to see his children and grandchildren at play and they will be important to the story. You don't have to go back and watch the original series to understand what is going on. I think this is the best part of this series. It's a new Avatar, so there will be new stories and new adventures for everyone to pick up on.
Sunday, March 04, 2012
by Frank Miller
Published by Legendary
I waited to pick up this comic book after all of the hoopla about Frank Miller's rants. I remember after the success of the movie 300, Miller went on several interviews sounding like Karl Rove. Personally, I don't have any issues with people espousing their political ideology. As an Afro Latino, I have realized that many of my artistic heroes have ideas that are backwards, racist, and sexist. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't challenge those artists and those ideas. We should do that every chance we get but I learned that I shouldn't assume that just because I like someone's work it means that we agree on most things. When it comes to Miller, his genius is undeniable.
I mean to this day Miller's Daredevil and Batman are still my favorite. With the exception of Jim Lee's Batman during the Hush story arc, no one has been able to match either one. It bothered me that someone who created a comic book character who broke so many barriers (please read Miller's Martha Washington series - which is still unmatched to this day), could put together something as awful as "Holy Terror."
Originally, "Holy Terror" was going to be another Batman story. Rumor has it that DC found it too racy and in terrible taste. Many called it racist before it was even released. Miller also began doing more rants on interviews. Many other artists called him out on his rabid conservatism. It was ugly. I was scratching my head on it. The Batman concept explains the protagonists in this story. The Fixer is Batman without the ears and with Rush Limbaugh like ideology. The story begins with Fixer chancing the Cat Burglar or Natalie Stack. I bet you can't guess who that is.
I don't know if it was a situation where Miller already drew most of the story boards with Batman and the Catwoman and refused to re-pencil. If it was, it explains the sloppiness of the inks. Some scenes are indecipherable and the inks look as if Miller bled over the entire thing and dropped some coffee on it. I can safely admit that this is the worst ink work I have ever seen.
The story is cliched. It begins with the Fixer chasing Stack. Once he captures her, they being to make love. Then there are a series of explosions. Terrorists attack Empire City and destroy the Lady of Justice (the Statue of Liberty). It's Al Qaeda at it again. This time the chief of police is in on it. Fixer teams up with an ex Mossad Agent with the Star of David tattoo'ed onto his face. And it's on.
What is troubling about the depictions of civilians is the steep contrast between non-Muslims and Muslims. Miller even pencils some coon like drawings of President Obama. To be honest, I don't know why these profiles were part of the story. It seemed as if they were just thrown in there to make noise. I could see why DC left this alone. Overall, it's in horrible taste.
In the end, I felt like I supported something that should have been left in the dustbin. Again, I am saddened that Miller put out this product. While I don't believe that an artist should mute his or her's ideas or beliefs. I find that art should offend. Art should question. It should demand. Art should also make the viewer or consumer think. Art doesn't have to do this all the time either. While I don't agree with Miller's politics, I still don't get why he went ahead and publish "Holy Terror."
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Sunday, January 29, 2012
It was before the release of Star Wars Episode III, when I heard George Lucas reveal that he was going to put together a movie about the Tuskeegee Airmen. I remember being very excited about this movie much more so then watching Episode III. Whenever someone would negatively criticize Lucas, I made it a point to bring up the mythical production of a mainstream movie about the Tuskeegee Airmen. Being a historian, World War II has become one of my favorite eras to cover with the contributions by African American pilots and tank crews, Chinese partisans, and Russian female fighter pilots being my favorite parts. So when I saw the preview to "Red Tails," I have to admit that I had a large emotional investment in the project.
American pop culture in general has been very nostalgic when it comes to doing movies or stories about WWII. That war is considered "the just war." It is sacred ground. Anything about segregation, Japanese internment camps, and the dropping of bombs on civilians (Dresden stands out the most) is never to be discussed. The last movie that dealt with segregation in the US military during WWII was HBO's Tuskeegee Airmen in which Lucas took many cues from. With a smaller budget but stellar cast, HBO produced a wonderful piece. Lucas employed probably one of the best satirical writers in Hollywood today: Aaron McGruder and John Ridley. The most critical approach to WWII was put together in comic book form by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker entitled "Truth: Red, White, and Black." It's release in 2003 was controversial in geekdom since the story implied that the U.S. military experimented on African American soldiers with the untested super soldier serum that later made Steve Rogers Captain America. We learn that the original Captain America, Isaiah Bradley, was secretly fighting Nazi's while Rogers was doing parades and USO shows. Thankfully, Marvel Comics has kept Bradley's story as canon. What was interesting in the latest movie adaptation of Captain America is Derek Luke's role as Gabriel Jones one of the members of Howling Commandos. Luke's Gabriel Jones was the renaissance man speaking several languages, able to operate almost every vehicle, out punch any Nazi, and even give a shout out to Howard University.
It's important to note that McGruder on his popular Boondocks series on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, wrote a story about the elder Freeman as a Tuskeegee Airman entitled "Wing Man." It was probably one of the funniest episodes of that season. Ridley also penned a jingoistic period piece entitled "The American Way" for DC Comics about fake superheroes employed by the US government during the Civil Rights era to entertain the public. The black superhero of that story was called "The New American." His power was being impervious to almost anything but the catch was that he would still feel the pain of the particular onslaught be it bullets or flamethrower. We see that same approach to the characters in Red Tails. Most of them are hard, gritty pilots who can match barbs with the best of them but understand that their presence in the Army Air Corps stands by a thread.
Unlike HBO's story of the Fightin' 99th, Red Tails lacks substance. If anything Ne Yo is annoying. There is someone named Joker (Elijah Kelley) but all the comic relief attempts were done by Ne Yo. Cuba Gooding, Jr. was restrained in his role as Major Emanuelle Stance. Although, he had few lines, Gooding did well playing the old pilot dropping jewels on his young fighter pilots. While I love Nate Parker, he did not sell his role as squadron leader Marty "Easy" Julian. The stand out performance was by new comer David Ayewolo who played Easy's Wingman, Joe "Lightning" Little. Ayewolo carried the movie and one couldn't help but root for him. Like any black and white movie produced in the 1950s about WWII pilots, Parker played the by the book squadron leader who has conflicts with the maverick pilot. Unfortunately, we didn't see that chemistry played well between the two.
What I enjoyed the most about the movie is that it was about fighter pilots. Anyone who has worked around fighter pilots will tell you that they are a unique breed who want to see action. They disdain anything that grounds them. I know quite a few Colonels who are up for desk jobs who refuse to do this and want to remain fighter pilots until their heart stops. We see that conflict arise when Ray "Junior" Gannon (Tristan Wilds) is grounded by the flight surgeon. At one point Gannon laments that he would rather die than be grounded. This is how real fighter pilots think. Gannon, who insists on being addressed by his call name "Ray Gun," is referred to as Junior because of his green ears. As he is shot down and taken prisoner by the Germans, we see his fellow POWs rely on him. When he escapes and returns to his unit, they immediately call him "Ray Gun." There is even a Nazi villain. What's a fun movie about WWII without it's Nazi villain. The Tuskeegee Airmen even dub him "Pretty Boy." I must admit that I jumped up when he was blown out of the sky.
Overall, the movie could use some work. The acting leaves much to be desired. The pacing is slow. The real struggle of the Tuskeegee Airmen was pretty much written out. Lucas admitted that there was so much to cover and let's face it, the American audience disdains long history lessons. The movie is fun and the action is unparalleled. The dog fights are realistic and the costumes are spot on. I took my daughter to see this. Like my other children, she is familiar with the story of the Tuskeegee Airmen, Patton's Panthers, and Russian women fighter pilots. Like her father, my daughter is a huge Star Wars fan and I wanted to share this moment with her. She found the movie to be fun and entertaining. I think that was the entire point. So this writer salutes Lucas and I hope his gamble pays off.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Written by Adam Glass & Mike Benson
I enjoy when artists re-imagine a particular character. Even as a child, I had my issues with Luke Cage. Under Brian Michael Bendis's hand, however, Cage has been rehashed and remade. I enjoy it. They removed the stereotypical garb and he fights in regular civvies. He has been on the Avengers roster for awhile now. Honestly, he has become one of my favorite Marvel characters. This is a clear demonstration about how in comics it's about great writing instead of dope powers and a great costume.
When I saw the Avengers Origins series, I assumed it was another Marvel attempt to cash in on the Avenger's franchise. While Cage gets so much shine in several of the Avengers titles, I decided to pick it up. While Adam Glass doesn't change much about the story: Luke Cage was a street thug with a big heart and gets framed. While in jail, he takes part in an experiment that gives him his steel like skin and super human strength. He escapes jail and decides to use his muscle for good. What Glass changes are his motivations.
Cage confronts the childhood friend who betrays him and earns justice. I did cringe when I notice that he was wearing the black tights with the yellow disco shirt. I think that's where I have my issues. While I like Dalibor Talajic's pencils, there are pages where the work gets muddled. One some pages you can tell he took his time and on others, the pencils look rushed. While the artwork needed more work, the writing is on point.
If you are wondering, it is something that you should pick up. While Luke Cage doesn't have his own comic, he continues to be a major character in the Marvel Universe. It's good to learn something more about his past.
Sunday, January 01, 2012
One graphic novel that stood out to us was of course, a non hero graphic novel. "99 Days" which was written by Matteo Casali and illustrated by Kristian Donaldson. It's on the Vertigo imprint which has released a gang of graphic novels and comic series dealing with crime and investigation. Some of it is great but much of it is not even worth the five finger discount. Vertigo still puts out quality stuff for being on the DC side so there other titles to check out. I will say that "99 Days" does a wonderful job of intertwining genocide with police brutality and gang violence as well as poverty and political strife without being too preachy or cliche. The artwork fits both locales in Rwanda and Los Angeles and it works seamlessly. Casali pulls off several twists. This better win an Eisner Award.
Vertigo did publish the last DMZ (Issue Number 72) this month. Let me say I love Brian Wood's writing. Ricardo Burchielli's art really kept up the storyline throughout its 72 issue run. The covers are probably the best in the biz. Vertigo knocked it out of the park with this. It won a gang of awards. I know some professors who use it in their political science and journalism class. I knew eventually, the series would end because of it's setting: Civil war torn New York City. I didn't like the last issue too tough. I mean Wood did a great job tying so many loose ends before the series ended. The last issue did bring back many of the characters we know and love. I just felt that it was outside of the story. I know it takes place 15 years after the previous issues when the war is way over, but still. It felt too distant. I wanted more. So yes, I am saying you can avoid this issue.
I will admit that the Captain America movie did not disappoint. It was everything I expected it to be. It's a wonderful piece of American propaganda when our soldiers fought the just fight and were heroic enough to be bulletproof. I love Captain America, I just don't dig this sanitized version of WWII. I think the movie played right into that. It even removed anything Nazi from history. That bothered me too much. I do think that Chris Evans redeemed himself in this role. He did horrible in Fantastic Four even though I felt much of the blame should be placed on the writers and didn't do too well in Push (even though he did his thing in "Sunshine," but again, the writer and director get full credit for that one). I give Marvel points for putting Gabriel Jones (played by Derek Luke) and giving a shout out to Howard University. What saved the movie was the last 5 minutes when Rogers is awakened in the 21st century by SHIELD.
The real winners of 2011 had to be DC with their 52 line. No one saw that coming and everyone thought it would be a flop. They hit us with four titles featuring non white characters: Mr. Terrific, Static Shock, Bat Wing, and Blue Beetle. While many might argue that some of these super heroes lean on other white heroes to work, who else is putting out non white superheroes with this much distribution. Marvel isn't anymore. Is this progress? I don't know but its a step in the right direction. It was a big risk especially in this economy for DC to do something like that so I have to give them cool points for that. I have heard many white cats call it a publicity stunt and that's a shame that some folks feel that way. We all know that paper is going the way of the do do and digital is where it's at. So DC get's love for taking that risk.
And yes for 2012, we plan on highlighting independent comic books by non white writers and illustrators so stay tuned for that.
The biggest story of 2011 was Ultimate Spider Man as Miles Morales. Even Fox News came out to blame Michelle Obama on that one. As usual Brian Michael Bendis did not disappoint. If you haven't checked it out already please do. Your best bet is to get the digital comic or wait for the Trade Paper Back. Yes, it's that crucial. I have to say that Marvel took a big risk on this one and it came through for them. The story is just so dope. So much to go over. It's not Peter Parker in black face. Bendis brings all the nuances of being a black child in NYC in the 21st century. Morales is about my sons. Morales is about me growing up in NYC trying to figure it out.
With all this and more, 2012 will be an interesting year in comics.
Thanks to all that follow us and pass our blogs around. We appreciate it. Yes! if you are wondering, more posts in 2012.