Iron Man 2 Review

Every pop culture aficionado knows that comic book adaptations rarely make good sequels. Both Spider-Man 2 and Superman II dealt with heroes examining their costumed roles and giving up crime fighting and the genre seems filled with blander efforts when a “2” is stamped on the title. Really, sequels should be far superior; with the origin out of the way there’s more possibilities for greater action and drama. The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Now, that’s how you make a sequel.

Okay then, so where does Iron Man 2 go wrong? Needless to say, SPOILERS AHOY!

Firstly, the film starts with Tony Stark’s voice-over from the last few minutes of 2008’s predecessor and then immediately stumbles with a lengthy scene in which Tony is being questioned by  a parliamentary committee who see his Iron Man armour as a weapon dangerous to national security. This is fine, and Downey Jr. as always is charm in a sharp suit, but to begin the year’s most anticipated film like an episode of any dull courtroom TV show is  a huge mistake. It goes on far too long, there’s no introduction of the character and his world for those who missed the first film and it’s followed by an even more boring scene. Yep, Mickey Rourke in tattoos and shadows building his own dirty suit. We saw Tony do the very same thing in a cave in the first film, but the low-tech vs hi-tech approach is never realised. One could assume that this seen-it-before intro of the villain would be expanded on later, but I’m afraid not. It could’ve been an awesome chance to show the differences between golden boy Stark and his privileged upbringing with Rourke, playing Ivan Vanko (a combo of comics’ baddies Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo) but again such heights are not only never reached, but also avoided. All we know is that Vanko’s Dad helped Stark’s Dad decades ago and never got the credit, so now Vanko goes on a Stark-centred rampage. Again, Rourke play him well and looks like a combination of an Oz character who fell into the wardrobe from Pirates of the Caribbean, but as is the problem with superhero films sometimes – another villain gets in the way. Justin Hammer is a jealous Stark rival and equips Vanko with what he needs (including a parrot) to pull Stark down a peg or two. Sam Rockwell layers Hammer with the same bravado that Stark has, but with less self-confidence and greedier motivations.

Any scene between Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts is sparkling and director Jon Favreau fulfills his beefier role as driver happy Hogan with gusto. There aren’t constant references to next year’s Captain America film, and 2012’s The Avengers, but fanboys and girls know them when they see them. There’s a handy list of easter eggs in the film here. I knew references to events in New Mexico were related to Thor’s hammer landing there (wait for that scene after the end credits, like the Nick Fury cameo in film one). I know many would’ve been like me and expecting Cap’s shield to be in the box Tony receives from S.H.I.E.L.D director Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and we do see a possible prototype of it.

It’s great to see War Machine and Black Widow, but strangely those characters aren’t even referred to by those names. The action is fine, the SFX are great but what’s really annoying is the missed opportunities. If they dropped Hammer and focused on Vanko and Stark’s relationships with their respective fathers, and did more with Tony’s drunkeness and poisoning from the arc reactor in his chest the drama would’ve been more intriguing. Tony’s slow death, until a rescue by Fury, should’ve been at the heart of the film, but it was bypassed to show more drone designs.

It’s not a bad film, but sadly not as good as 2008’s surprise hit. Half the people in my cinema stayed until after the closing credits and there were many excited whispers as to Mjolnir’s owner, so that’s a good thing. Creating the first movie universe will at least hint at what’s going on in today’s comics. On that note, if you want a good Iron Man fix this week, grab Invincible Iron Man #25 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca. It’s a double sized issue and features movie-friendly concepts such as Pepper Potts as C.E.O of Stark’s company, Hammer’s relatives, military drama and a hulking suit variant known as Detroit Steel.

The Empire Strikes Back With You

Yesterday was Star Wars Day, as those like me who received multiple May the 4th Be With You e-mails would know. In honour of that, and the 30th anniversary of one of the best films ever made, (or the best as voted by the hepcats at Empire magazine) the folks at JibJab have put together a rather amusing summary of The Empire Strikes Back. As with all JibJab’s fine short videos, you can put yourself and your mates in, as seen below. Nifty.

New G.I. Joe Series

The recent G.I. Joe Resolute was an awesome animated web series/movie and much better than the embarassing live action film. Hopefully a new series, called G.I. Joe: Renegades will be of the same calibre. It was just announced at the weekend’s G.I.Joe Con. According to Animation Magazine, “the series was announced as a reboot of the classic series, with plans calling for a two-part pilot kicking off a total of 26 episodes. The series will be animated in 2D, with animation veteran Margaret Loesch serving as executive producer. The series will be aimed at a slightly older audience, with a toy line based on the new series set to debut in fall 2011.”

Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost #3 Review

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Radical’s luscious books, as is anyone who looks at them really, and with the good news that a new volume of Steve Pugh’s excellent Hotwire lands in July, I’m a happy man indeed.

And on that note, Aladdin #3 concludes another great, and great looking, entry in Radical’s line up. Written by Ian Edginton with art by Stjepan Sejic, this has been a well crafted tale. It’s the kind of series that doesn’t demand attention, in that it’s not a high concept book (like Radical’s The Last Days of American Crime) and it doesn’t resort to cheap storytelling tricks and ‘mature’ updates of a myth to generate readers. It’s simply an attractive and accessible well structured story and unfortunately that’s all too are these days.

This final issue concludes the previous two (umm..obviously) but its simplicity means that every issue can be dove into without trying to rack your brain regarding what happened in the last installment. However, for those new to this title – Aladdin is a bit of a no hoper and a thief when he discovers a magical ring, meets wise adventurer Sinbad, tries to rescue Princess Soraya from the evil wizard Qassim and finally journeys to the undreground city where he and Sinbad get betrayed by the Mantis Queen. Kind of like Star Wars in the Middle East, but not really.

Edginton has used the familiarity of the legend including the titular hero, and wish granting djinn as the first steps on a grander epic. Throwing in surprises such as the appearance of Sinbad is just a nice bonus. The attack on Sinbad’s ship opens the issue, as Aladdin gets eventual aid from the djinn in his magical ring, who has a connection to the other djinn…the one in the lamp from the first issue, which is now held by Qassim’s greedy fingers.

Where this issue differs from the previous issues is its more hectic (though never harried) pace, the introduction of a few more scary beasts, the greater use of magic and the examples of love, and the heroism or selfishness it brings.

Sejic shines as always, quite literally, with his landscapes and dazzling cities looking like they belong in a Prince of Persia film as if made by Peter Jackson. He’s one of the industry’s brightest and most consistent artists and his sense of design when it comes to characters and layouts, holds immense visual appeal.

The other thing I noticed with this issue was Edginton’s approach to dialogue. With an ancient-set story like this it could easily become a bad mix of Shakesperean talk via the mouth of Thor, but thankfully there’s nothing like that here. It somehow feels old and I don’t mean because there’s no iPhone references. Every character speaks with the kind of purpose and heroism, and villainy, that you’d expect and want from a Middle Eastern epic journey.

Pilot Season: Stealth #1 Preview

Yes, this one-shot from Top Cow’s Pilot Season series was meant to come out at the start of the year, but delays do happen. Now it’s out this week. Official description, and previews pages, below.

Pilot Season: Stealth #1
(W) Robert Kirkman (A) Sheldon Mitchell      (Cov) Marc Silvestri

From the creative minds of Image partners Robert Kirkman & Marc Silvestri!
Todd Carey is recovering from a nasty divorce, his daughter is flunking out of college and he’s just learned that his father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Unable to really take care of himself, Todd has allowed his father to move in with him.  What Todd doesn’t know, is that his father is the masked vigilante STEALTH… and has been his entire life.  Stealth has many enemies and his erratic behavior could easily get him killed–and all this trouble falls squarely in Todd’s lap.

Full Color 22 pages $2.99  pilot issue

BOOM!’s Best This Week

So, suppose you went to your friendly neighbourhood comic shop on Saturday for Free Comic Book Day, to see what was what, and maybe get your kids or younger relatives into comics for the first time. Well, this week diverse indie publisher BOOM! Studios have something for your every reading requirement to keep you in the (good) habit. The final issue of Muppet King Arthur is out, as is the latest issue (#5) in their wonderfully entertaining and thankfully ongoing The Muppet Show Comic Book and Walt Disney Comics and Stories #706. See previews from these two issues below. For something that will bring the chuckles to both kids and adults, you can’t go wrong with the awesome Toy Story: The Return of Buzz Lightyear TPB, which collects the very amusing 4 issue series from Jesse Blaze Snider and Nathan Watson. Also in collected form are the first 4 issues of Roger Langridge’s The Muppet Show series.

If you’re chasing something a bit more mature, either the Nola TPB (heroine wakes up battered in a New Orleans hospital facing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and revenge on her mind), the Incorruptible TPB by Mark Waid and Jean Diaz, which is a reverse Irredeemable of sorts, following villain turned hero Max Damage, or the latest issues of 28 Days Later (#10), Irredeemable (#13) or Codebreakers (#10). There ya go! Plenty to choose from.

Arcana #1 Now Here

A print offshoot of sorts of the on-line magazine I co-created, Extra Sequential, Arcana has now been released in some comic book shops around the U.S. I got my hands on a few copies this week at my LCS in Perth, Western Australia and was so excited I just had to take a photo of it on the shelves, right next to Archie. It’s not a bad looking product, I must say and from all reports the next issue, which will be in conjunction with the team behind the great SP! Nexus magazine will be even better.

At least now I can finally add “internationally published writer” to my resume!

Inside its 80 pages, there’s interviews with creator of The Surrogates Robert Venditti, writer Marv Wolfman, superb artist David Mack and our cover feature on Aussie Star Wars: Invasion, The Authority writer Tom Taylor. If you see a copy, make sure to grab it!

The Last Days of American Crime #2 Review

In the age of Tarantino and Ritchie it’s unsurprising that this series was picked up, by producer/actor Sam Worthington, with such immediacy. With new concepts like this, Radical show that they know what it takes to make comics like the best examples of bold cinema.

The debut issue of this bi-monthly series introduced us to the world of ageing Graham Bricke who, like many others, wants to choke every opportunity they can before the U.S government broadcasts a signal throughout the nation, rendering criminal desires null and void. It’s one of those simple concepts that can be described in a sentence, yet whose potential is limitless. No wonder Hollywood are keen. Writer Rick Remender never gets bogged down by the hug scope of the idea though. There’s hints to actions outside of the happenings involving Bricke and his fellow crims, but it’s the ragtag bunch of ne’er-do-wells who are the charismatic centrepiece. The signal combined with the complete and total transfer of paper money to digital transactions ensure that the window of opportunity for Bricke and co. is becoming narrower and deadlier.

Issue 2 begins, with only 7 days left so Bricke (or Rory as he’s also known) has to move things along quickly with his new partners, safe cracker Kevin and his hacker girlfriend Shelby (who Bricke had a brief …encounter with last issue). The 3 characters are largely separated during the story, which means with only one issue left in this series, the finale is set up to be explode.

There’s no doubt that the world of American Crime is a filthy one. Rick Remender is writing the Punisher after all, so he knows a thing or two about the criminal mind, but whereas his work on that series, and Fear Agent shows a deft ability to welcome the fantastic, here he has a different agenda. From the opening pages in which members of a Mexican gang threaten a rival’s naked partner, it’s blindingly obvious that this isn’t one for the kids. Remender knows his boundaries though. There’s never a point, despite all the profanity and loose morals, that he’s puffing his chest out to show how ‘cool’ he is. He shows restraint and makes sure to give the reader a breather, and that’s something that Mark Millar could do with learning. There is a lot more violence, nudity and drug use in this issue than the debut, but there’s also the sense that Remender is ramping up his grandiose story, with the reason to the signal being given, as well as its implications on society’s freedoms.

This is a well paced tale, with Bricke as the guiding force, but the scenes involving Kevin’s run-in with some local drug dealers, his visit to his unique and wealthy family, and Shelby’s kidnapping, (along with the possibility of backstabbing) means that this is a guaranteed page turner. With a world filled with hardcore characters in the Sin City realm, and the approach of a Hollywood blockbuster, American Crime is an intoxicating, if sometimes shocking, mix.

A large part of the razzle dazzle is due to Greg Tocchini’s sizzling artwork. I’ve never seen an artist who can colour his own pencils with such verve. He has a rough approach, but one that is filled with details lesser artists wouldn’t bother with. By choosing unique angles it really does feel like a movie directed by the next big thing from the world of music videos.

This is another great entry in this series, and for a cheap 64 pager with a production and design gallery included, it’s pretty hard to pass by.

Resistance Book 1 Review

At Broken Frontier is my review of the OGN, Resistance from First Second Books. It’s a fairly solid drama about a group of kids joining the French Resistance during the dangerous days of WWII. Read my full review here.