Monday, November 26, 2007

The Whole Shack Shimmies

X-Tales to Astonish

A lot of comic book readers probably know by now that Astonishing X-Men is the X-title that delivers consistent plot twists, drama and memorably good dialogue. Well, it is. Joss Whedon, TV god and comics savior, whips up a simple but absorbing tale replete with ominous prophecies, triumphant resurrections, new and returning big bads, and good old mutant mayhem.

There are two issues to go before Whedon and artist John Cassaday bid the series adieu. The Astonishing X-Men team--Cyclops, Emma Frost, Beast, Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Colossus and Armor--travel to the Breakworld planet to avert a prophesied disaster in the current “Unstoppable” arc.

In the course of the series, Emma, Kitty, and Cyclops have been developed tremendously, each of them figuring in powerful moments that add to the characters’ already rich histories. And while it’s not as clever or concept-rich as the series it succeeded (Grant Morrison’s New X-Men), Astonishing’s creators approach it with their own indelible style, and are no less effective with their storytelling and ideas.

Each issue of Astonishing is a quick read; the sleekly drawn, uncluttered but still nicely laid out panels project a spacious, cinematic feel. Too bad the artist isn’t a fast one; the gaps between issues have been torture. And those reading the latest installment might have difficulty recalling events from the previous issue. Times have changed, this particular three-year run has yielded only 23 issues to date, but it’s still one of the better Marvel titles out there. It’s very tightly written and told.

Those opting to get the run in trade paperbacks will not be disappointed. Those who have the monthly issues already know how layered and involving the X-Men are again. It really is an astonishing era.

(image above from silverbulletcomics)

Geek Mythology

Friday, I went to the new office of my erstwhile Beer Guy pal Mark, who’s now occasionally my boss, to pick up stuff. We talked briefly about work, and also about Astonishing X-Men. I lent him the first 21 issues of the Whedon-Cassaday run last summer. It was a nice surprise that he got the last two issues himself because he liked it a lot.

Saturday, I just wrote and drew. Finished episodes of Kyle XY, whose lead actor sometimes reminds me of Jason Doplito (it’s like his Caucasian version, I think!). I also played old, long-untouched music CDs.

We went to Fully Booked’s Neil Gaiman event at the Fort last Sunday. And by “we,” I mean that as two people--as in Dicky and me--and not “we” the way Queen Elizabeth I might have used it, which meant that she was actually referring only to herself.

Anyway, Dicky joked as we approached the place, “There’s gonna be a lot of nerds.”

I responded, “We’re nerds!”

“But we’re hot nerds,” he deadpanned. Hee.

Fellow Gaiman fans and geeks of every persuasion and permutation were there. We waited a bit at the shaded lawn-courtyard for Mr. Gaiman’s appearance. New Avengers artist Leinil Yu called me from behind and said hello, which was cool, because it’s been years since we last saw each other and talked. He still recognizes me. I told him I like his new penciling style (a rougher but purer look that, in my opinion, is a distinct evolution). He was starting the “Secret Invasion” pages, so I just had to ask: “So, sino ang Skrulls?” He just smiled and said, “Hindi ko pa alam.” Cool guy, that Nil.

Soon, Ner Pedrina, Azrael Colladilla, and the Arres (Arnold and Cyn) were in the area, as well. Dean Alfar also said hello. Wanted to greet Vinnie Simbulan, but he was busy talking to someone, and soon vanished. My old, dear friend Amy Mosura was there too. It’s been a while since we saw each other, so I was kinda embarrassed that I mistook her for a high school batchmate at first. She lost weight and her new hairstyle looks great.

Neil Gaiman later shared some truly inspiring words, so attending the event was really worth it.

Let’s see… I also ran into Oliver Ortega, and others whose names I can’t remember. And oh, yeah, it’s good to discover that Andrew Fornier, friend of the Brookers, was a finalist in the prose category. Gerald of the Komikeros, I think, won in the comics category. I don’t recognize the other names, but the top prize (2nd, no 1st place this year) went to Andrew Drilon. Yup, it’s the guy’s year. Congrats to the winners!

Dicky and I ate and hung out a bit after the announcement of winners. I was tired when I got home, but I still had enough energy to research and finish an article for the paper. I rummaged through a box full of old magazines, but I was able to find those that I needed quickly. You see, back in the ‘90s, I’d buy magazines like Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, Rolling Stone, Empire and lesser-known ones, but only if they were ultra-cheap. I went through a sci-fi mag, got distracted for a bit, pulled out a Roswell poster, and taped it to my door.

Hmm. I’d better get organized; I’ve things lined up for the next few days. But I feel inspired. I keep thinking of all those fans at the Gaiman event, those people touched and moved differently by the author’s various works. It was like a religious meet, attended by the creative, imaginative and escapist. And, quite surprisingly, some of them were hot nerds.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Julian Sark and Veronica Mars Versus Heroes

Well, sort of. For those who haven’t seen episodes of Heroes season two, some major spoilers ahead.

Whoa, now we’re going somewhere. While season one took its time introducing a bajillion new characters, that’s now out of the way, and season two seems to be a time for unhampered progression, at least for most of them. Some minor players have been disposed of, and there were a few that debuted, like Kensei and Elle (David Anders! Kristen Bell!). But we’ve yet to see how importantly they figure into it, really, and how long they’ll be around.

It pains me a little to see Bell--fresh off Veronica Mars--smooching with Milo Ventimiglia and playing a remorseless uberbitch. Noooo! But, she’s a damn good actress, and while electric Elle requires some getting used to, I’m hopeful that she can remarkably take on whatever’s in store for her. Also, I hate to admit it, but she and Ventimiglia have some, ahem, zapping chemistry.

I’m glad that she’s in a high-profile show, though. Same with Anders, he used to be the utterly cool and kickass evil agent in Alias, so it’s good that he landed the part of the fabled English samurai-turned-immortal demigod. It pains me to see him too, sometimes, but for other reasons. That poorly edited swordfight scene was terrible, among other things. Anyway, I hope he kicks ass as Adam (those who liked him in Alias might remember that he had practically the same accent, demeanor and getup), so don’t disappoint us, Tim Kring!

If the characters fought Buffy’s season 6 gang (pictured above), who’d win? Hmm… if the Heroes organized, and honed their skills together, I’d say they’d win easily. But the Slayer’s team is tight and they’ve worked together as a unit for years. Still, it’s going to be a flashy, fun fight: Buffy versus Nikki! And Peter versus Willow (they’re both multipowered powerhouses, so that’d be interesting), Giles versus Noah, Hiro versus Spike (they’re both new at being champions), Dawn versus Claire (teen catfight!), Ando versus Xander (well, Xander will win this quick because he’s got military combat skills), and so on. Just a thought.

While Heroes is derivative and quite predictable, it’s still entertaining. It’s no Buffy, and it’s not meant to be, but it’s the fantasy show of the moment, an attractive otherdimensional world where freaks and misfits also save the day.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Week 45

November’s happening way too fast. Where’d the time go?

John gave me a belated birthday gift, a two-pack Marvel Legends set of X-Men characters Cannonball and Domino. The fast-vanishing action figures were released almost a month ago, also during the Wave 3 toy launch. Ah, so cool and pretty. Speaking of toys, Benedict gave me an advanced birthday gift way back in September, the rare Witchblade figure from the first Legendary Heroes set. It has the Pitt head and upper torso segment of the huge bonus figure. Can’t wait for the rest of the wave to go on sale so I can assemble that. Thanks for the toys, boys.

Let’s see… same old, it was a good week. John and I watched Beowulf in glorious 3D last Tuesday. Oh, and my Beowulf interviews with Neil Gaiman, Roger Avary and Steve Starkey got printed last Wednesday. In the same issue, my article about Lost production designer Zack Grobler came out (thank you Pam and Warner!). Visit my Multiply site to read them. Aside from interviews, I also post music, comic book, movie, TV show and toy reviews over there.

Saturday, Dicky and I went to the third Komikon, which was, as usual, jampacked with different comic book lovers. He was able to get new pig sketches, as expected. It was colder at certain areas, thanks to several “evaporative” aircons placed at some parts of the venue. Said hello to old friends and fellow comics creators. Bought some sale comics (mostly L.E.G.I.O.N. back issues at P10 each!) and ate a late, late lunch later at a Shakey’s.

Pretty normal geek week. Not much to say here, except… I’m hungry. I wanna eat cake. Or a huge pizza. And I wish that I wuz anywhere, with anyone, making out. Just kidding. That line is from Dashboard Confessional’s “Screaming Infidelities.”

Must lie down now and dream of superheroes, ass-tapping, food, money, and Christmas.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

November Reign

Pulp Dreaming

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. A few days from now and it’s the middle of the month already, which is kinda weird because I still have some leftover Halloween candy, those coffee-flavored ones that people don’t seem too interested in.

Anyway, I’m just doing the usual. Not noticing time pass by, most of the time. Oh, yeah, early this week, I saw this movie:

In a word: WOW. I’ll be watching it again.

Two days later, I’m on the phone, talking to the master of The Dreaming, Neil Gaiman, and Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary about the movie. Again, WOW. It was brief; the whole thing lasted maybe a little over twelve minutes, but they answered generously. And that was an awesome experience, definitely. I loved Neil’s Books of Magic and Sandman (and the related minis), Roger’s Rules of Attraction, and their writing collaboration on Beowulf. That was one special phoner.

Gush, gush. And, yeah… wow.

Plastic Peeps

I bought Donna Troy, from the Infinite Crisis set, at almost half the regular toy store price. There are two Donnas in that wave; the other’s wearing the classic George Perez-designed Wonder Girl costume from the ‘80s. These are different figures, but it’s noticeable that the body mostly came from the same mold. The heads aren’t the same, obviously, primarily because of the ‘dos. The costume is faithful to the current comic book design; the silver flecks and dots make the star field look consistent with the similarly painted armbands, wristbands, boots and belt.

Donna Troy or Troia is DC Comics’ Jean Grey-esque character, in that she’s a resurrected heroine who’s been imbued with cosmic significance. She’s supposedly the next Harbinger (cool, she has the “floating” sphere accessory), but it seems that it hasn’t really been addressed clearly in the comics, yet. Well, many people are just glad she’s back, after that ridiculous death at the hands of a Superman robot. It’s about time that the she got the toy treatment, too, and both of her sexy, pretty figures are worth getting.

Like with other DC Direct a.f.’s, articulation is quite limited, but the 15 points are enough for Miss Troy. If only it had changeable hands like its fellow IC fig, Wonder Woman. Closed fists would’ve been great. But, it’s still excellently made, and the attention to detail is extraordinary. What a beauty.

Meanwhile… As followers of the comics- and movie-based action figures know, Hasbro is now making the Marvel Legends toys. Among the company’s first figures released last summer, Banshee, is one of three X-Men in the set. This is the Irish mutant hero’s first fully poseable toy incarnation--he has 30 points of articulation--which mostly follows the older Toy Biz templates.

Banshee is in his classic green and yellow Dave Cockrum-era costume, and that’s decently painted, although older collectors may miss the more textured color rendering that made many of the previous ML’s look great. And speaking of colors, one might wish that this figure sported reddish hair (to match the comics version’s), and a darker skin tone (because he looks really pale, almost undead-like). His “wings” are made of cloth, which takes a little getting used to. Plastic ones, a la Falcon’s or Vulture’s would’ve worked just fine, but the black and yellow design actually translates well on fabric.

His angry face and Jim Carrey-esque gaping mouth, however, make him look weird. The character uses his vaunted sonic scream, hence the open mouth, but couldn’t they have done something that looked better while retaining some coolness? The head’s nicely sculpted, but it would’ve been awesome if it could be replaced with a close-mouthed, more heroic-looking one.

X-Men toy collectors will get this regardless, as it’s the first and possibly only figure devoted to one of the less-popular members. But it wouldn’t hurt to wait for it to go on sale, as it’ll be paired, buy one take one, with the better figs of the bunch (Planet Hulk or Hercules!). Banshee’s an okay addition to anyone’s collection; he’ll stick out in the group shots as the angry dude, but otherwise, the figure’s playable and his fierce look fits perfectly in more action-themed scenarios.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sweet Sugar, A-Pumpin’ In My Veins

Celebratory, Celestiatory

I didn’t do anything differently for my birthday last week. I really haven’t been celebrating it with big parties or anything. But I’m glad that I got yummy cake, among other tasty food, when I got home. Watched the 30 Days of Night preview at Gateway with John before that, while enduring a headache brought about by, I assume, lack of sleep. The artist of the source comics, Ben Templesmith, was there; he seemed like a shy guy, judging by his posture prior to introducing the film.

Halloween, Benedict and I met up, went to Fort, and shared candy. Sucked on some lollipops (semi-chewy Boom Boom and generic Halloween ones), ate tiny orange jelly slices, and other candies. It still felt like my birthday, as people were still greeting me that day, which is so cool, by the way. I got a whopping three dozen plus greets from friends, relatives and acquaintances, so thanks again for that, you lovely people.

So, another year. And what a year it’s been, so far. Six months ago, I was drinking beer in the shower and having one of the most memorable summers of my life, after a period of monotony and routine. More recent months are about emotional phases bleeding into each other. I have assessed and re-examined my relationships and my jobs; it’s been a roller coaster ride. Thoughts and feelings I’d forgotten resurface, and I’m encountering new ones too. They’re not all pleasant, but I’m acknowledging and confronting ‘em head on.

I’m older. And maybe, just a little bit wiser. One of these days, though, I’m just gonna party like mad.

Marvel Girl Marvels

I got this as a prize some weeks back (see the Mash Master blog entry). The Marvel Girl figure in the third Hasbro wave is a good-looking, differently articulated female figure. It’s actually one of the prettier ones, and there have been quite a few from the Toy Biz lines.

The time-traveling telepath-telekinetic Marvel Girl, a.k.a. Rachel Summers (or Grey, as she’s honoring her currently deceased mother Jean) is one of the X-characters that started out great, but eventually similar characters from alternate future timelines followed suit, making the X-titles’ storylines hopelessly convoluted. Still, Rachel’s had many personas in the last two decades, and her current one’s immortalized for the first time in plastic.

Rachel has fewer points of articulation (21) than the usual Marvel Legend, but less is more in this case. No unsightly leg and knee joints here. It’s surprising that each knee can bend, and still turn whichever way via some hidden joint articulation. Also, her feet can be positioned through subtle ankle points.

While it’s not the best-looking girl on the block, it can be ranked up there with attractive figures like Kitty Pryde, Black Widow, Psylocke and even the Marvel Select ones, face- and paint-wise. There’s even a repaint of Marvel Girl in the new Hasbro two-pack of Cable (Ray’s brother Nathan) and, well, the original Marvel Girl (Jean in her early days). The body and costume have been repainted, yes, but the head’s a totally different sculpt, as that one’s wearing a mask and has longer hair. Completists, or those keen on forming a Summers-Grey clan might want to get that too.

Accessories: the translucent fiery fist attachables are similar to Iron Fist’s. More interesting is the teeny-weeny, separately crafted X-amulet. It would’ve been great if she had a translucent yellow visor too, but that would’ve covered up the fine paint work on her eyes.

Maybe in the future, there’ll be another Rachel Summers toy (her Hound/Phoenix costume, preferably), but for now, this version stands out from Hasbro’s ML sets. Let’s hope that the upcoming women are done as painstakingly as this particular X-lady.