Z-View: The Mercenary Sea #2


The Mercenary Sea is an on-going series created by Kel Symons & Matthew Reynolds published by Image.

Writer: Kel Symons

Artist: Matthew Reynolds

When the Venture is damaged in a trap laid by the Chinese admiral after Captain Jack Harper’s head, he’s forced to take the job offered by the mysterious American agent, Mr. Taylor, to rescue a British spy trapped behind enemy lines.

The Pitch: ”Hey, someone in comics should do a pulp action comic, you know a real throwback about a ragtag group of mercenaries led by an Indiana Jones-type who loves adventure and righting wrongs.”

“Let’s do it!”

The Tagline:  “Red Sails at Sunset”

The Overview: Jack Harper and his crew are wanted by the Chinese government for crimes against the state.  Admiral Shi Tang has sent soldiers to collect them for return to the motherland and execution.  If Harper’s team survives they have a job waiting… one that involves rescuing a spy with valuable information from behind enemy lines.

 

*** Beware – spoilers are found below ***

The Good

  • The issue begins with action.
  • Symons writing flows.
  • Reynolds’ art continues to impress.

The Bad:

  • While I like Reynolds‘ art I still think he overuses silhouettes and blurred backgrounds.  It’s not that I don’t like those techniques but if used too often they can lose their impact.
  • What happens to the Chinese soldiers that Harper’s crew took prisoner?  Why were they taken prisoner?  The Chinese team was sent in to capture and return Harper’s team to China for execution.  Harper’s team and the Chinese soldiers  were just involved in a major gunfight.  Are we to believe that Harper’s team just set the soldiers who tried to kill them free?

The Ugly:

  • The cover didn’t work for me this time.  I liked the idea, but felt the figures were too small and the blurred plane looked too small.

I look forward to the next issue of The Mercenary Sea.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Z-View: The Mercenary Sea #1


The Mercenary Sea is an on-going series created by Kel Symons & Matthew Reynolds published by Image.

Writer: Kel Symons

Artist: Matthew Reynolds

Action and adventure set in 1938—The South Seas. Japan has invaded China. War in Europe is imminent. Ex-bootlegger Jack Harper captains The Venture, a refitted German U-Boat, with a crew of expats, mercenaries and treasure hunters. They do whatever it takes to stay afloat, often running up against pirates, headhunters, spies, and soldiers. They’re always one step away from the greatest score of their lives…or their certain demise.

The Pitch: ”Hey, someone in comics should do a pulp action comic, you know a real throwback about a ragtag group of mercenaries led by an Indiana Jones-type who loves adventure and righting wrongs.”

“Let’s do it!”

The Tagline:  “Nice work if you can get it”

The Overview: Jack Harper is the leader of a group of mercenaries who make their living searching out adventure and taking jobs that bring them into contact with pirates, cannibals, treasure and the occasional job that pays real money.

In the first issue we meet Jack Harper (romantic adventurer) and his crew…

  • Wulf Renner, a former German U-Boat captain with a mysterious past
  • Jarreau, a former French Legionnaire and resident cook
  • “Smokestack” Jackson, a heavyweight contender framed for murder and on the run
  • Toby, who used to work for mobsters
  • Milton Weatherborne III aka as “Doc” a disgraced British Army surgeon who lost his medical license and a patient when he operated while drunk.
  • Samantha, the team’s mechanic and daughter of a moonshiner Jack used to work with

*** Beware – minor spoilers are found below ***

The Good

  • The logo for The Mercenary Sea is one of the best in recent memory.
  • Love the cover.  Nice design, colors and execution.
  • Matthew Reynolds‘ art.  It’s got an animation feel to it that I like.  I first became aware of Reynolds’ art on an independent comic called Marlow.  I liked Reynolds‘ art then and he’s improved a lot.
  • Kel Symons introduces a fairly big cast, backstory and lays the groundwork for adventures to come without sacrificing a fun story.
  • Special kudos to Matthew Reynolds‘ coloring of the issue!
  • The first issue ends on a cliffhanger!  (As it should considering it’s source material.)

The Bad:

  • While I like Reynolds‘ art I think he overuses silhouettes and blurred backgrounds.  It’s not that I don’t like those techniques but if used too often they can lose their impact.

The Ugly:

  • Harper and his crew run into a tribe of cannibals in the jungle.  There’s a set-up and payoff on some humor that works.  I think it might have worked even better had the cannibal tribe (especially the chief) look like cannibals.  The cannibals looked more silly than scary.  So yeah, this “ugly” is that they weren’t “ugly” enough.

I look forward to the next issue of The Mercenary Sea.

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Additional Source Material: CBR.com Interview with Symons & Reynolds.

Z-View: The Saviors #2


The Saviors is an on-going series created by James Robinson & J. Bone published by Image.

Writer: James Robinson

Artist: J. Bone

You saw.  You know.  No way they let you go home, cover your eyes, put your fingers in your ears and pretend this never happened.  You’re as good as dead.

In issue one Tomas Ramirez, a slacker content living in a small town, discovered that shape-changing aliens live among us.  Tomas discovered their secret and they discovered his… that he knew.

Issue two picks up where issue one left off — Tomas is on the run in the desert from one of the morphing aliens.  Things are looking bleak when a stranger new to town provides a chance for escape… if he can be trusted.

James Robinson lulled us into the story in issue one.  Issue two flies at a breakneck pace as Tomas attempts to stay alive.

J. Bone’s art continues to be a joy.

The Saviors  is a comic for mature audiences due to drug references and language.  If you’re a fan of 50’s alien invasion movies [“I Married a Monster from Outer Space,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” etc.], ,or well written, well drawn comics, then The Saviors is for you.

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Z-View: “The Fastest Gun Alive”

The Pitch: ”Hey, let’s do a western and call it ‘The Fastest Gun Alive.’ The title alone will sell it.”

“Let’s do it!”

The Tagline:  “WHAT HAPPENS in the next few minutes makes one of the most dramatic climaxes of any story you’ve ever seen!”

The Overview:  Broderick Crawford is Vinnie Harold the leader of a trio [along with John Dyner and Noah Beery, Jr.] of bank robbers and the self-proclaimed fastest gun alive.   Harold takes every opportunity to challenge and kill other fast-draws.

Glenn Ford plays George Temple, a shopkeeper in a frontier town.  Temple doesn’t drink, doesn’t wear a gun and has more than a couple of secrets.  One is that his real name is George Kelby, Jr. and the other is that he may be the fastest gunfighter ever to strap on a gun belt.  Temple/Kelby just wants a quiet life with his wife.  He knows that if the townspeople find out his real name, his prowess with a gun or the notches it contains, his life in the town is finished.

Yet, keeping the secret is killing Temple.  The men in town look down on him.  Temple isn’t considered a real man – he doesn’t drink or carry gun.  Temple doesn’t work with his hands — he’s storekeeper who sells dresses and candy.  When the men begin talking about how fast Vinnie Harold was when he gunned down Clint Fallon, it is more than Temple can take.  He starts drinking and talking about how fast he is with a gun.  No one believes him until he proves it.

Unfortunately for Temple and the town, Vinnie Harold and his crew are on the run from a posse and all roads lead to their quiet little town.

*** Beware – minor spoilers are found below ***

The Good

  • The story for The Fastest Gun Alive is deeper than your typical 50’s cowboy/gunfighter movie.  The psychology of being the “fastest gun alive” makes it clear that being #1 is not only an obsession, but frightening to everyone (including the person who is the fastest).
  • Glenn Ford is excellent as this flawed hero.  As his secrets come out, you realize the depth of his character’s struggle with being “the fastest gun alive.”
  • The supporting cast contains a lot of familiar faces: Russ Tamblyn, Lief Erickson, John Dehner, and Noah Beery, Jr.
  • Special props to John Dehner in his role of Broderick Crawford’s second in command.
  • Broderick Crawford’s hand motions and body language before he enters into a gunfight.

The Bad:

  • Broderick Crawford as Vinnie Harold. Harold is obsessed with being the fastest gun alive and will go to any lengths to prove it.  Harold is a big, loudmouth bully with the gun speed to back up his mouth.
  • How quickly the townspeople are ready to turn.

The Ugly:

  • How out-of-place and how much I liked Russ Tamblyn’s dance scene.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Z-View: All Crime Comics #1


All Crime Comics #1 published by Art of Fiction.

Writer: The Art of Fiction

Penciler / Inker (Chapters 1 & 3): Ed Laroche

Penciler / Inker (Chapter 2): Marc Sandroni

Colorist: Tony Fleecs (Chapters 1 & 3)

Colorist: Andrew Siegel (Chapter 2)

Cover: Bruce Timm

Cars, murder, revenge. Not recommended for children of any age.

All Crime Comics #1 leads with a beautiful Bruce Timm cover that is sexy, provocative with an undercurrent of bad things to come.  The design of the cover makes All Crime Comics #1 look like a beat-up pulp from the 50’s.  It definitely sets the tone for things to come.

Chapter One starts: Marko, a big Russian enforcer, beating a group of men to death in an effort to obtain information for his partner, Dodger.  Marko and Dodger stop to torture a dopehead before going on to meet up with a Dodger’s associates.  Dodger lays out his plan to kill his old partner Louie despite the fact that Louie has become a big time mafia boss and is currently doing time in a federal prison.

In Chapter Two we flashback 23 years.  Louie and Dodger are in high school.  We learn how they became friends and drifted into a life of crime.  They both fell for the high school hotie, Carla Blackman.  Carla was out of their league until Louie became a big man in the crime syndicate.  Carla then falls for Louie which of course drives a wedge into Louie and Dodger’s friendship.

Chapter Three brings us back to Dodger and his crew as they execute their plan to get into the prison and kill Louie.  Unfortunately for them Louie knows they’re coming.  A lot of people are going to die and not according to either Dodger or Louie’s plans.

All Crime Comics #1 is a comic for mature audiences due to extreme violence.  The story covers a lot of ground and spends about a third of the book with Louie and Dodger in high school.  That’s not the crime story that interests me.  It was hard to get Dodger’s fascination with Carla.  Sure, Carla was the school fox, but she had time for everyone but Dodger.  Twentythree years is a long time to carry an obsession and deciding to break in to a federal pen to kill a crime boss is a bit outlandish.  With that said, there are a couple of cool twists of plot at that point.

The packaging is great, the cover is awesome.  I liked the idea of the story.  The art was well done.

With all that said, if you think I didn’t like All Crime Comics #1, you’d be wrong.  I did.  I just didn’t like All Crime Comics #1 as much as I wanted to.

Rating: 3 out of 5

 

Z-View: “Jack Reacher”

The Pitch: ”Hey, let’s do a movie adaptation of one of Lee Child’s best selling Jack Reacher novels and get Tom Cruise to star.”

“But Jack Reacher is described in the novels as being 6′ 5″ — a modern day giant.  Tom Cruise is pretty short and fans of the novels will hate the casting.”

Tom Cruise is in so who cares about the miscasting.  What do you say?”

“Let’s do it!”

The Tagline:  “The law has limits. He does not.”

The Overview:  James Barr, a former military sniper, kills five random people.  He’s quickly caught in what appears to be an open-and-shut case.  The evidence is overwhelming.  Barr claims he didn’t do it and tells his defense attorney to get Jack Reacher.

Reacher shows up on his own.  Reacher is a former Army Criminal Investigator who is now living off the grid.  Reacher is there to prove that Barr committed the crime since Reacher knows Barr got away with a similar killing when deployed overseas.

Reacher looks at the evidence and fairly quickly determines that Barr was used as a patsy and didn’t kill those murdered.  As he digs into the case, Reacher becomes the target of those behind the killings and a bigger conspiracy.

*** Beware – minor spoilers are found below ***

The Good

  • Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher as if he knows he is not only the smartest but also the baddest man in the room.  Reacher doesn’t flaunt either ability, but he won’t back down from showing either ability when pressed.
  • Because Cruise isn’t a 6’5″ hulk, it is even more impressive when Reacher refuses to back down.  You can see Reacher enjoys the chance to show how smart he is or whoop some butt if those who are pressing him refuse to stop.
  • The story is a good one.  It is fun seeing Cruise unravel the mystery and put together the killings so that they make better sense than the sequence of events that the prosecutors laid out.
  • The car chase is one of the best in years.
  • Cruise has a number of great lines.
  • Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney and Alexia Fast are impressive in their roles.  It’s always nice to see Robert Duvall show up.

The Bad:

  • Lee Child fans who refused to see Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.
  • The scene where two thugs attempt to beat up Reacher in a bathroom.  The first part of the scene almost plays like The Three Stooges, but then takes a turn and the second half of the fight scene works much better.
  • It would have been nice had Werner Herzog been given more to do.
  • Telling someone you didn’t see them so they won’t have to kill you and getting the response, “It doesn’t matter.”

The Ugly:

  • Being given the choice to break or chew off a finger or take a bullet to the head.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Z-View: “The Black Cat” Starring Karloff & Lugosi

The Pitch: ”Hey, let’s take two of Universal’s biggest stars, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and stick them in a horror movie that will end up being the #1 money-maker for Universal the year it is released.  We can even name it “The Black Cat” after the Edgar Allan Poe story — even though the movie will have no real ties to it.  What do you say?”

“Let’s do it!”

The Tagline:  “Things you never said before or even dreamed of!”

The Overview:  A young, newly married couple find themselves seeking refuge in a creepy mansion after the bus that they were traveling on crashes during a dark, stormy night.  Along with the couple is Bela Lugosi playing a psychologist who was just released from a prisoner of war camp after 15 years.  Lugosi has led the couple to the mansion since he was going there anyway to confront Karloff who Lugosi believes was a traitor and caused the death of thousands including Lugosi’s wife.

Karloff welcomes them in and although on the surface seems a genial host, is actually a Satanist who plans to murder the young bride in a ritual.  The movie has all the hallmarks of a 1930’s horror movie: big name stars, a mad scientist, an old dark house full of secret passages/rooms, the dead coming back to life, a strange manservant, revenge and more.

*** Beware – minor spoilers are found below ***

The Good

  • Karloff and Lugosi in the first [and perhaps best] of their many on-screen team-ups.
  • The overriding atmosphere of things being slightly off-kilter created through creative set design, costume choices and the physical appearance of Karloff and others.
  • Playing chess for the lives of the newly weds.
  • The banter between Karloff and Lugosi where what is said it subtext for the true meaning.
  • Lugosi’s manservant is creepy, but loyal to the end.

The Bad:

  • What Karloff has in his secret rooms below the house.
  • Lugosi is the hero, but has there ever been a creepier one?  [Like when he is caught touching the hair of the sleeping bride.]
  • Being trapped in the house of a mad, Satanic murderer.

The Ugly:

  • Lugosi’s fear of cats.
  • What happens to people who are Satanic, traitors who steal the wives of their friends.  [I’d hate to have to live in his skin.]
  • What happens when it appears you are harming a man’s bride despite the fact that you’re saving her from a fate equal to, if not worse than death.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Z-View: Dead Body Road #1


Dead Body Road is a six issue mini-series published by Image.

Writer: Justin Jordan

Penciler / Inker: Matteo Scalera

Colorist: Moreno Dinisio

The men involved in his wife’s death must die.   All of them.

Dead Body Road #1 sets the bar high.  Great writing, great art and a crime/revenge story that hits all the right marks without being cliché.

Gage is an ex-cop.  His wife Anna (also a cop) was killed in what looks like a robbery gone bad.  Everybody in the building was murdered and the bad guys got away… just not together.  When the robbery turned into the OK Corral, one of the thieves (the one with the item being stolen) high-tailed it.

Now he has Gage, and the other crooks hot on his trail.  It won’t be good for him no matter who catches him first.  And how bad would it be if the crooks and Gage get to him at the same time?

Justin Jordan has created a crime story that starts with a bang and doesn’t let up.  There’s a lot going on and each scene propels us deeper into something that is much more than your typical ex-cop seeks revenge against those who killed his family tale.  This could have been a simple story of revenge, but Jordan has layered in much more.

Matteo Scalera creates visuals that have the maximum impact for each scene.  Car chases are usually boring — especially in comics.  Scalera pulls off a four page sequence that not only advances the story, but makes you feel the speed and danger of the chase.  His characters have character.

Dead Body Road #1  is a comic for mature audiences due to violence and language.  If you’re a fan of crime/revenge stories then this is for you.  Dead Body Road #1 gets my highest recommendation.

Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Z-View: “Savages”

The Pitch: “Let’s get a name director, a first-rate cast and film an adaptation of Don Winslow’s Savages.”

The Overview: Ben (a pacifist) and Chon (ex-military) are best friends who share a thriving marijuana business and a woman named Ophelia.  The relationship works as well as their multi-million dollar pot business.  All is paradise until a brutal Mexican cartel (is that redundant?) decides to move in on their pot trade.  When Ben and Chon refuse their offer, the cartel kidnaps Ophelia.  Nothing will stop Ben and Chon from getting her back.

The Good: The novel by Don Winslow provides a solid foundation.  The screenplay by Shane Salerno, Don Winslow and Olver Stone isn’t afraid to make changes to the great source material.  The cast: Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, and Salma Hayek are excellent in their roles.  Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta are as well, and own almost every scene they’re in.  Oliver Stone delivers.

The Bad: The things that happen to folks that mess with a Mexican cartel.  Don’t mess with a Mexican cartel.  (Sounds like a commericial for direct tv, doesn’t it?)

The Ugly: Keep an eye out for what happens when “traitors” are bull-whipped.  Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Z-View – Marlow: Soul of Darkness

 

The Pitch: A hardcase with a secret leads a small group of mercenaries onto an island full of zombies in order to rescue a scientist.The Good: The concept. The Marlow character and his associates. The art by Mathew Reynolds shows a lot of promise with inspired panels/poses. Running some of the original proposal pages [by a different artist] was cool.

The Bad: The lack of backgrounds — at times it works, but as the story progressed I missed them and wanted more than just gray-scale figures, etc. The fact that Marlow almost always has a cigar in his mouth became a bit much.

The Ugly: The logo needs to be reworked. The shop owner where I bought Marlow said he had no idea what the title was when he first looked at the cover. The price tag of $4.95 felt a bit high.

The Summary: Marlow was created by Aaron Thomas Nelson and Dario Carrassco Jr. The first issue is 46 black and white pages with a color cover, written by Aaron Thomas Nelson art by Mathew Reynolds. I enjoyed the first issue and feel like Nelson and Reynolds could have a hit on their hands if they stick with it.

"28 weeks later" Rates…

I loved “28 days later.” So when “28 weeks later” was announced, along with the fact that the original writer [Alex Garland], the original director [Danny Boyle] and the original cast were not returning, I felt we might be in for a letdown.

“28 weeks later” has an ambitious screenplay by Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Jesus Olmo and Enrique Lopez Lavigne. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes the director’s chair and does an admirable job of retaining the feel and style of the original. Robert Carlyle [who is always good] is the biggest name actor in the new cast although many will recognize Harold Perrineau, from “Lost” in a small but important role.

Spoilers will follow…

The movie opens with perhaps the best scenes in the film. A band of survivors [including a husband and wife who hope that their children are still alive] have barricaded themselves in a remote farm house. As they settle down for dinner, it is obvious that their situation is wearing them down. When a child is heard yelling to be let in the house, the theme of the movie comes into play… who/how many will you sacrifice to save yourself? There’s hesitation, but they let the boy in and soon enough all of the “infected” that were chasing the boy, are breaking into the house. They succeed and the survivors run and fight for their lives. A horrible moment occurs when the husband makes it to the window and his wife hesitates so that she can bring along the boy. A group of infected get between them and the husband is faced with a choice: try to save his wife and the boy or himself. He chooses to save himself. The last image that he sees as he runs from the farm house is of his wife being pulled from the window.

The husband makes his way to safety and is part of a group brought in to repopulate London. The virus is gone, and the military are everywhere insuring a quick end should it return. And return return it does…

The Good: “28 weeks” retains much of the feel of “28 days.” Robert Carlyle. Jeremy Renner who almost steals the show in his role as Doyle. The way that the virus is brought back into play. The infection spreading through the crowded underground safe haven. No one is safe… no one! The potential for “28 months later!”

The Bad: The way that Robert Carlyle is always able to find the survivors who are on the run. The killing of Jeremy Renner’s character.

The Ugly: The helicopter taking out “the infected” with it’s blades and not crashing.

“28 weeks later”

Rating: 4 out of 5

Kill Bill Disappoints

I’m a huge fan of Quentin Tarintino’s work. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are two of my favorite movies. From Dusk till Dawn is as well. [And yes, I know that Robert Rodriguez directed it!] I loved everything about the original trailer for “Kill Bill.” The look. The music. The stars. How could it miss?

 

Let me tell you how. [Minor spoilers ahead.]
“Kill Bill” starts off well enough. It begins with a scratchy, cheesy “Now For Our Feature Presentation” intro straight out of the drive-ins that I loved as a kid. There’s also the retro “Presented in Shaw-Scope” title card, the “Revenge is a dish best served cold” Klingon quote, and the Sonny Bono song, “Bang, Bang” playing over the credits. Yeah baby, Quentin was tapping in to everything that we loved about this genre from our childhood.
Then the movie starts with a bang. Literally. Uma Thurman is shot in the head and left for dead. But she’s not really dead… just in a coma for four years. And when she wakes up she must have her revenge. Great set-up.

The action is over-the-top and brutal. The first payback that we see is really well done. It has the right mix of Tarantino heightened reality, humor and action. Then we have a flashback to the hospital and this is where the movie starts to loose me. There are a couple of scenes with a red neck and Buck the orderly that just really push the envelope. And for some reason everything after that seemed truly excessive and redundant.
How many arterial sprays do we need to see? How many limbs chopped off? But before we get to that gore we have to sit through an anime cartoon [which is pretty well done but again, very gory], a boring dialogue about tea, and discussion about why Uma needs a specific man to make her sword.When I left the theater, I was disappointed. I had been hoping to see a really fun, really exciting revenge film. To make matters even worse, we don’t get to see how everything turns out, since “Kill Bill, Volume 2” doesn’t come out until February. The funny thing is, I didn’t hate the movie. I’m not sure I even disliked it. I was disappointed… but disappointed enough not to see the rest?

I guess we’ll know in February.

“Kill Bill”

Rating: 3 out of 5

Training Day Lives Up to Hype

I finally got an opportunity to see “Training Day” — what a powerful movie. No doubt, if you’re a movie fan, you’ve heard the hype. This is one movie that lives up to it.

Denzel Washington turns in a truly Oscar-worthy performance (his best yet, in my humble opinion). Ethan Hawke is excellent as well. While this movie isn’t for everyone, it is for my money one of the best movies that I’ve seen in months.

If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts… if you haven’t, consider it on your next trip to the video store. As for me, this baby is gonna end up in my personal collection!

“Training Day” rates an A+

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