Review: Jack The Bastard and Other Stories

Jack the Bastard and Other Stories

By Micah Nathan With Illustrations By Phil Noto, Michael Allred, Russ Nicholson, and Tradd Moore

Review by Luke Herr

Jack the Bastard and Other Stories was a tonal shift in what I’ve been reviewing over the past few months – mostly comics. To be honest it has been some time since I’ve read any short stories that weren’t for school in one way or another though there is some strange and I’ll confess, grudge based reason for that. Anthologies have always stood mentally as these tomes filled with only three stories that support the purchase of the book, be it for class or simply because the other stories, this literary filler, doesn’t hold up to the caliber of work that the book’s greater stories might raise. So when I approached Jack the Bastard and Other Stories by Micah Nathan, it was with trepidation and without any idea of what I might expect and to open, this book has restored to me the idea that an anthology can be an enjoyable and strong read.

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Reviewicide Squad: Suicide Squad Issue #11

Oy gevalt. So far in Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller’s characterization has been weak and pathetic, which has amounted to a major annoyance but not much more. This issue was CHARACTERIZATION BRUTALIZATION for our Waller, and baby, does it hurt.

In related news, I wish the covers would stop showcasing Harley so hard, especially since she’s no longer the focus after that terrible escapee arc.

If only this was accurate, and they actually were falling to their overdue demise. (And was that “UNfriendly skies” tagline really the best they could come up with? Read More

JON HEX REVIEWS: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

Up front, I should tell you I was prepared to dislike this movie. I’m a big fan of the Raimi movies, even though SPIDER-MAN 3 was mostly subpar. Going back to the origin story seemed like a waste of time. The dramatically reduced budget made it seem like this movie would be a rush job so Sony could keep the rights. After seeing the movie, I am impressed at what Webb was able to accomplish. The special effects are incredible. This Spider-Man moves more fluidly and dynamically than Raimi’s ever did. The cast didn’t just play their parts, they immersed themselves in them. As much as Denis Leary plays Denis Leary as.., his interaction as Captain Stacy with Stone and Garfield feels natural. Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Ben and May Parker act as if they have been together for years.  Andrew Garfield for the most part is more of a Spider-Man that I’m familiar with. Having Spider-Man so jokey and irritating was like the best thing about this movie. And Emma Stone, oh Emma Stone. Her Gwen Stacy kind of blows Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane out of the water. Making her an intellectual equal (even if it’s just to set up the climactic final fight scene) and having her so heroic in her own right beats out being a damsel in distress for three movies.

Which brings us to one of my problems with this movie. Building up Gwen as this relentlessly compatible love interest is really weird when we all know what’s going to happen to her. When she is inevitably killed, are they going to make Mary Jane into a professional crime scene photographer who’s studying forensics? How do you follow up a character made to have so much in common with Spider-Man? But that’s a future instance problem, much like the credits scene. Spoiler alert: I have no idea who shadowy prison prowler is supposed to be. It can’t be Norman Osborn, the employer of Rhys Ifans’ Dr. Curt Connors, the geneticist who becomes the Lizard. Osborn is so close to death, he has to have an underling make veiled threats and allude to previous crimes. The special scene the end of IRON MAN worked because fans know who Nick Fury is and what his mentioning the Avengers Initiative was going to lead to. Shadow ghost Deep Throat? I got nothing. Speaking of the Lizard, maybe a scientist accidentally turning himself into a super-villain isn’t the best approach to rebooting a property when the best of the previous well-received movies were about exactly that. I know it’s a fairly common occurrence in comics, but there are many other Spider-Man villains who aren’t scientists that knew Peter from before they went insane.

One of my major gripes with this movie is how diluted Webb makes the importance of Ben Parker’s death. Ben is no longer Peter’s father figure, just his uncle who took him in. Ben doesn’t even get to have credit for teaching Peter that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Mainly becomes the line is nowhere in the movie (despite being a famous quote most non comics people don’t realize was created by Stan Lee when he wrote Spidey’s first appearance) and also because the reworked moral lesson is now Richard Parker’s life creed. Ben just relates it during an argument with Peter, minutes before he gets killed by a convenience store robber Peter doesn’t try to stop. Ben’s death and Peter’s culpability in it isn’t even the catalyst for Peter choosing to become a hero. Peter finds out almost immediately that the robber is the guy who killed Ben, but just goes out hunting down blonde small time crooks so he can beat down the guy who killed his uncle. It’s only when Captain Stacy points out that randomly attacking crooks who look alike seems like revenge that Peter realizes his mistake. A mistake Ben had already pointed out when Peter uses his power to embarrass the bully Flash Thompson. What once was a role reserved for one person has been unnecessarily divided among three: Ben, Richard, and Captain Stacy.

Also been done a disservice is Mary Parker, Peter’s mother who is apparently of little consequence to her son’s life. Despite losing both parent’s in a plane crash, only Peter’s relationship with his father is being mourned. When Richard and Mary have to leave Peter with Ben and May, Mary is shown in tears telling Ben and May what Peter likes. She has to be almost dragged away by Richard. This is a woman who clearly loved and cared for her boy yet even Ben says “I know it’s been difficult for you without your father.” If you’re going to bring up Peter’s parents as a secret component of Spider-Man, why is Mary Parker not important?

The movie also drops an appeal of Spider-Man many feel draws them to the character. Peter Parker was a shy, bullied nerd who gains this incredible power by a freak accident and it changes his life. In the movie, it kind of isn’t a freak accident. It plays out like Peter is destined to become Spider-Man. The spider whose bite gives Peter his power was bio-engineered using Richard Parker’s work. Peter is bitten while trying to gain clues about his father’s research instead of being one of many random students in a tour group. Even his status as a nerd is lessened. He gets slightly teased by Flash and takes a beating only when Peter stands up for another kid. With his old camera, multiple shirts and skateboard, he’s more of a hipster and since it’s set in New York, I don’t see how that makes him an outcast. Just making his parents absence so important further takes him away from that classic appeal. How many can relate to having their parents killed because of a scientific discovery that a dangerous industrialist needed to save his own life?

To sum up, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is a movie that does a fantastic job bringing Spider-Man to the screen, but goes way off track trying to make an old story new.

(One last thing: why the hell was Flash Thompson enrolled in Midtown Science High School?)

Amazing Spider-Man Clashoff: It was Uncanny

Amazing Spider-Man poster.

Amazing Spider-Man

I saw Amazing Spider-Man, and I really liked it. It’s charming, with actors that seem more at ease with each other than any of the other Spider-Man movies. There’s a spoiler-free review after the jump, and a second jump with a couple major problems I had. That part will have spoilers, this part won’t.

First of all, I’m going to get this out of the way. Tobey Maguire freaks me the hell out. I never liked him as Peter Parker, and his whole romance with Mary Jane seemed really odd, probably because I thought he and Kirsten Dunst were both pretty unconvincing as the characters they were portraying. In this movie, however, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have a really nice chemistry; they both have this awkward shyness and haltering speech with each other that perfectly works in their high school romance. Also, Martin Sheen is the best Uncle Ben. He has a wonderful moment where he brings Peter back down to earth when he’s being cocky, and he does it all without saying “With Great Power comes Great Responsibility”. In fact, almost all of the actors do a great job hinting at character depth without needing to explain their motivations in their entirety. Even Flash Thompson has an actual character arc!

The Lizard, too, works surprisingly well by setting him up as an opposite to Spider-Man, a lab experiment gone wrong in a scientist that’s already pretty unbalanced. Dylan Baker balances the kindly scientific mentor and creepy lab mutant personae pretty well.

A lot of the action scenes are slick and well-shot, and do a good job showing two characters moving in ways we haven’t been able to see in a movie before. Also, Spider-Man is almost always in motion, flipping, or climbing on walls or ceilings, which exactly how a character with his power set should move in fight scenes.

Overall, I’d say it’s worth the ticket price, and for the most part, the good scenes will vastly outweigh the relatively minor problems you might have with it. We’ve got a more spoiler-y review after the jump that deals with two major problems I had with the story, but didn’t manage to change my orginal review.

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Some Frankenhole Thoughts

Frankenhole season 2 has been troubling me so far – while the show is still one of the most beautiful shows there is especially in HD where you can see the detail in each of the puppets, I feel the show has lost some of the spark by being too mundane.
I will confess I haven’t seen every season 1 episode but what I have seen have blown every current episode of the humorous waters with perhaps the exception of H.P. Lovecraft’s Vagina. Part of it might simply be the fact that the show doesn’t seem to be trying as hard to introduce anything new. During the last season each episode gave us a new historical figure with a problem that got solved with the exception of Death (which still remains one of my favorite episodes). With that said though Death was a character who got fleshed out and still had a hilarious problem that tied into the story and rounded out Frankenstein as the horrible monster that he is. Frankenstein really didn’t even try to get humanized until Humanitas and even then he ultimately resided to the fact that he was pretty monstrous.
The current season though hasn’t really built on the characters and none of the featured characters really got a chance to build themselves up in the same way. Dr. Jekyll might well be the closest we got and even then the episode was focus on Frankenstein’s monster and ultimately surrendered to a pretty poor joke which was scientists/nerds are afraid of emotion.
Seriously? That is almost on the level of offense as Comic Book Men for the nerdy. I mean you could have stuck in a woman and have gotten the same effect with the same joke – nerds don’t like women/emotions.
And that has been another thing, minus H.P. Lovecraft’s Vagina (and even partially in that) the jokes have been really old hat standards. Loudmouths was the stereotype that black people are loud at movies – except hey they are vampires instead. And then the episode sort of meandered looking for something with Joe Yunger, the Southern vampire hunter being into the founding fathers and then they all became vampires and he got over the issue – because Frankenstein couldn’t figure out a better solution – I mean really Frankenstein the guy who pissed off Death can’t find a solution. The guy who lead to an all Ron Howard three-way can’t do something about vampires – he is suddenly weak and powerless. He didn’t even try to kill the Vampire-ish PETA supporters himself. What happened to the guy who made the woman he though he loved immortal? Where are the balls (besides being in some horrible torture device)?
The one time that they did bring in a guest character was also a pretty unbearable episode – John Belushi turning into Jim Belushi can be a funny idea but here it was just painful to watch. My dad was watching with me and he didn’t get it. The idea just came and went with no force – oh we get it everyone likes John and hates Jim and they turn into each other. What goes beyond that? Where is the were-Lawrence multiple levels of insanity.
The season is most likely finished as far as production and there will probably be another year or so before the next season and I’m going to keep watching the series with hopes that we get another solid episode or two. Andy Dick as Jesus is always good for a laugh.

Sorry for being rambly but I figured shooting out all the ideas would be the best way to let it go.

Luke