Review: Aliens: Dead Orbit by James Stokoe

aliens-dead orbit-james stokoe.jpg
Aliens: Dead Orbit
By James Stokoe
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Given all the buzz that had surrounded its initial release, I was pretty jazzed to read Aliens: Dead Orbit, written and illustrated by James Stokoe. Unfortunately, this is a pretty disappointing exercise all around, and one that's utterly derivative of the source material it's licensed from.

Stokoe doesn't try to reinvent the wheel here, but nor does he try to do anything original or fresh. Dead Orbit is an utterly by-the-book Alien story that often times feels more like a game of swapsies. Trade in the Sulaco for a Weyland-Yutani space station with only six inhabitants responding to a passing ship's distress call, and you pretty well know where it's all headed from here. Our team of orbiters find three humans in cryo and, after nearly accidentally killing all of them in a coolant leak while reawakening them, transport the bodies back to their space station. It's all cut-and-paste Alien 101 stuff from there.

Besides being an Alien clone, Stokoe attempts to gives the story a bit of fresh polish by basing much of the story in flashback. This technique is a bit jolting and clumsily handled initially, with little in the way of segue to transition readers into what's happening, but as you grow accustomed to Stokoe's storytelling methods it does serve to keep reader's on their toes, oftentimes jarringly so. The grand finale gets a bit muddled and confusing, though, as you're dropped in and out dual climaxes in the story's recent past and lone survivor present. While it's not entirely disappointing, and Stokoe does create a few neat story beats, it's nothing that hasn't been done plenty of times before.

I also was not a fan of Stokoe's artwork, although plenty of other readers and reviewers seem to have found a lot to like on this front. I found it anime influences too garish and messy, with faces composed oddly enough to make many of the characters look unintentionally disfigured. I prefer a cleaner style, and Stokoe's lines just didn't work for me. His cover art for the individual four-issue run, however, did present some exciting concepts and beautiful artwork that I quite admired. He does do fine job in recreating the gritty industrial aspects of the Alien universe though, and while his artwork isn't pretty to look at it, it does lend a certain tension and unease to the proceedings.

Despite the critical raves surrounding Dead Orbit, it's ultimately not a work I would recommend. I just have too many reservations about the story, its execution, and presentation.

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Review: DC House of Horror #1

DC House of Horrors.jpg
DC House of Horror (2017) #1
By Keith Giffen, Brian Keene, Nick Cutter, Weston Ochse, Mary SanGiovanni, Bryan Smith, Edward Lee, Wrath White, Ronald Malfi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading five less-than-stellar Halloween-centric anthologies over the last few weeks, plus a hugely disappointing and long-awaited epic novel, I was feeling a bit burnt out on anthologies and prose in general. The time had come to catch up on some comics in the hopes of breaking out of my reading slump, and the title that most appealed to me just so happened to be -- wait for it! -- another anthology. But, fuck it. This is a comic book anthology, and only 80 pages at that (i.e. a quick read, plus a different format). I had high hopes going in, and this thing fucking delivered, giving me exactly what I had wanted in the wake of lingering disappointment and failure from previous anthologies.

Working from plots by Keith Giffen, eight horror authors have assembled to script, and in some cases completely flip the script on, DC's most famous characters, putting them through the filter of various horror genre staples. We've got psychotic killers, ghosts, a slam-bang creature feature, and more in these eerie comics and tales to astonish.

BUMP IN THE NIGHT by Edward Lee
Edward Lee kicks off this anthology in grand fashion, delivering a Superman story that’s quite a far cry from the traditional big blue Boy Scout mainstay of DC lore. Howard Porter’s art serves this alien invasion story pretty well. It’s a bit rough looking and nicely suited for the dark night ahead at the Kent farm. This was a perfect way to open up this House of Horrors, and also serves as a nice warning to readers that these stories will most definitely not be your typical takes on DC Comics superhero icons.
5/5 stars

MAN'S WORLD by Mary SanGiovanni
Mary SanGiovanni scripts a magnificent and powerful Wonder Woman in a violent story of possession. It’s quick and dirty, and I loved the heck out of it. 'Nuff said.
5/5 stars

CRAZY FOR YOU by Bryan Smith & Brian Keene
Bryan Smith and Brian Keene pen a fun ol’ story of snapped sanity and a whole lotta murder. Bryan Smith needs to write more Harley Quinn, be it in-continuity or more horror, I don’t care, just get him to do more with this psycho gal. Kyle Baker’s art is a bit more roughly sketched than I usually care for, though, but I think it serves the story nicely, giving illustration to a man's frenetic mind. Good, good stuff right here.
4/5 stars

LAST LAUGH by Nick Cutter
Nick Cutter writing a Vincent Price-like Batman? Oh sweet baby Jesus, fuck yes. Here, Cutter tackles the psychology of a man dressed like a bat, perpetually chasing a crazy killer clown. Rags Morales does a great job illustrating this descent into madness, and I dug the little touches he and colorist Lovern Kindzierski added to show the differences between the characters viewpoints.
4/5 stars

BLACKEST DAY by Brian Keene
Brian Keene blazes hell with the Justice League as they square off against an apocalyptic outbreak on Earth while trapped in their Watchtower moon base. It’s a fun, fast-paced story with plenty of carnage. Scott Kolins does a good job with the art duties, and there’s a good amount of guts spilled under his pencils. I've also got a particular hankering from some Keene-written Constantine now, because how awesome would that be? (The answer, by the way, is very. Hint, hint, DC Comics!)
4/5 stars

STRAY ARROW by Ronald Malfi
In the DC Rebirth, Green Arrow is a self-described Social Justice Warrior. Under Malfi's hand, he's a cold blood pscyho killer, in a city that drives its inhabitants insane. I had expected so much more from this pairing between author and superhero, and I think it could have been a lot better if the story’s femme fatale had gotten more room for development. The premise is dynamite, and I wish there had been more room to deliver on some of the story elements it hints at. Still, it's worth it for the wildly different spin on these familiar faces.
3/5 stars

UNMASKED by Wrath James White
Holy shit, y'all. A serial killer and a giant monster are tearing apart Gotham in Wrath James White’s story. From the story's opening narration about a victim who has been degloved, I knew I was going to be right at home here. There’s a lot of craziness jammed into a handful of pages, and artist Tom Raney really knocks it out of the park with his delivery of the script's biggest shocker scene. God damn, I loved this one!
5/5 stars

THE POSSESSION OF BILLY BATSON by Weston Ochse
Words have power and, in Weston Ochse’s script, one word in particular haunts Billy Batson. Howard Chaykin depicts 1970s New York and a punk-rocker-styled Batson with flair, keeping the story’s keyword in both the background, and front and center. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of depth to the story and it ends pretty abruptly. I must admit, though, I am not very familiar with the character in question here, which may have hindered my enjoyment a bit. The saving grace for me was the period-setting and how well rendered it was by Chaykin.
3/5 stars

Although I didn't flat-out love every story in DC House of Horror #1, I found all of them to make for a fun reading, and the ones that I loved, I loved deeply. Keene and Company put some truly wonderful and unexpected twists on DC Comics staples, bringing in oodles of darkness, morbidity, and depravity (or at least as much DC has allowed them to get away with. I would absolutely love to see House of Horror continue as a Mature Readers or Vertigo title.). For sheer entertainment value alone, and the consistency of goods delivered throughout,, this one gets a five-star from me. This is the most flat-out fun read of October.

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Review: MAD About Trump

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

One of the things that makes satirizing Donald Trump so difficult is that no matter how low the bar for expectations are set, Trump always manages to fall short, repeatedly surprising us with how shallow, crude, and idiotic he actually is. Even when we think he cannot possibly manage to be any stupider, he proves us wrong, over and over and over.

Trump is horribly flawed, to put it lightly, but usually in a predictable way. We know that if you stroke his ego, he'll promise you the greatest things, the best things, things you can only ever imagine, but the best things nonetheless. Call him a small-handed pussy-grabber whose breath reeks of rot and decay, and he'll still be sending you press clippings decades later arguing that his hands are not that small. And you know he'll be dedicating many a lonely hours tweeting ALL of it from his golden toilet. Even when we think he cannot possibly be stupid enough to undermine his own staff who are attempting to cover up whatever latest treasonous BS he's committed through his own ineptitude, he still manages to surprise us by being even dumber than we gave him credit for, but we kind of know it's coming anyway. In these ways, he's completely, utterly predictable. Unfortunately, MAD Magazine's effort at making light of and mocking such shortcomings are equally predictable and tiresome.

Frankly, MAD About Trump: A Brilliant Look at Our Brainless President is not nearly as mean, cruel, derisive, or scathing as Trump deserves. It also doesn't feel particularly fresh, releasing in late June, our 8,976,349th year of Trump's reign. Too much of the magazine's attempts at humor are trite acknowledgments of how Trump actually behaves, and its attempts at caricature are nowhere near as outlandish a Trump himself. When one artist draws the orange buffoon trying to sneak into a pageant contestant's dressing room, we can only sigh with the sad realization that not only is it true, but that Trump-proper was also known for ducking into an underage girl's dressing rooms, as well. It's difficult to make light of his history as a sexual assailant and voyeurism of naked or scantily-clad children.

The biggest problem with this issue of MAD Magazine is that it is utterly soft serve, a little league softball attempt at mockery, but one that is too often completely on the nose. Take for instance the poster about Besty DeVos's purchased cabinet post, or selections of Trump tweets, one of which includes his thoughts on Thanksgiving: "A great day to remember how the Indians welcomed the Pilgrims to America, but NOT Muslims or Syrian refugees. Smart!" Seriously - are we sure he hasn't actually tweeted that (and if he hasn't, can you honestly promise he won't?!). Or, "If you're committing hate crimes in my name, please stop. It's Thanksgiving, for God's sake! You can always pick it back up tomorrow!" Of course, the biggest inaccuracy in any of MAD's tweets from Trump are the lack of misspellings and shoddy grammar. Where this comic should be ripping Trump and his supporters 120 thousand brand new assholes, it instead settles for the obvious and more mundane aspects of Trump's character. Where are comics about the infamous pee tape, or a poster of Trump drenched in urine, fresh off a golden shower and ripe for use in Resistance protests? Where are the checklists of who will be covered under PutinCare and who won't be? (Rich white guys in the GOP: COVERED. Women and minorities: NOT COVERED). Instead, we get several cheap and weak spoofs of The Apprentice. The MAD writers chose simply to opt for the cheap, easy, and sometimes greasy, way out. Just like Trump himself.

There are a few bright spots, though, even if they are really few and far between. The crap-to-quality ratio is decidedly skewed in favor of crap, but occasionally a few gems snuck past the editors here and there. The comparisons between a Trump press conference and a bus station bathroom are on point, and I got a few chuckles out of a one-page segment on the similarities and differences between him and Pope Francis. Trump's new presidential seal, which sees the eagle replaced with the Twitter logo, is pretty clever, as is a quick visual gag of Trump's hair mussed by his KKK hood, and a one-liner about our national anthem being replaced with its Russian counterpart. In fact, the half-page bullet points devoted to the silver linings of Trump's presidency are all pretty funny, and perhaps uncomfortably close to the truth... Another segment worth exploring, particularly in light of Evangelical support for Cheeto Hitler, is Trump vs. The Bible, which pairs Bible quotes against Trumpism, such as Leviticus outlawing incest against Trump talking about banging his daughter, or Proverbs 18:15: "An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge," against Trump's "We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated." Trump's rewritten version of John Lennon's "Imagine" is also pretty remarkable, and maybe even the stand-out segment of the whole issue. I also have to give props to MAD for including a fake diploma from Trump's fake university that allows you fill in your name and frame for hanging. Friends and neighbors wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between this and the phony one! I also got a big laugh out of the similarities between Trump and Burger King's new Mac 'N Cheetos for noting that both look like an Oompa Loompa boner. That's a top-fucking-notch, spot-on observation. Scattered between all this are some movie poster spoofs that are Photoshopped pretty nicely, providing send-ups of Taxi Driver, Captain America: Civil War, and Die Hard. And even all this sounds much better than it actually is... Coming in at 132 pages, this comic is a massive failure, all things considered.

While there are (literally) a couple clever gags and funny punchlines, I found most of the issue pretty humdrum, if not outright basic. I haven't read MAD Magazine in probably a good twenty-five years, but recalling my fondness for it in my youth, I figured if anybody deserved my attention for a Trump takedown, it was this particular title. Maybe I've simply outgrown MAD and its comedic stylings, or maybe Trump is too much of a real-life moronic cartoon villain to properly satirize. Just when you think you can take a comedic razor's edge to the man, he stoops ever lower still, proving that you have, once again, given him far too much credit. And that's the fundamental flaw in this issue - Trump is given far, far, far too much credit. Even when he's getting torn a new one, you know it's only a matter time before MAD's writers look like Nostradamus predicting Trump's next nation-ruining moment, even as pundits declare it to be the moment Donnie-boy really became president. There's a few biting segments worth a look, but the magazine overall is an unremarkable dud, particularly in light of far more scathing late night TV monologues from Stephen Colbert or John Oliver, or even the occasional Twitter account for that matter. Perhaps that's as it should be though. Trump is best known for his late-night twitter rants and celebrity TV shows. If he's to be taken down on any battlefield, it'll be online or on television, not in books he'll have never heard of and won't be bothered to read regardless of how many pretty pictures and illustrations may be inside.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]

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Quick Hits

I got hit with an awful intestinal or stomach bug over the weekend, and have had a rather unpleasant week as a result. I'll spare you the details, but it definitely cramped the amount of writing, proof-reading, and blog updating that I had wanted to focus on. So, today I just want to make a few bullet points on the geeky stuff I've been ingesting while ill. Warning: this is seriously TV and comic-book heavy, so if that's not your bag, do move on.

  • Spider-Gwen. What an awesome character, and I love the concept and design.
  • Powers finally got its television debut thanks to Sony and their Playstation console last week! This past Tuesday saw the release of Episode 4, which was pretty dynamite. I'm a fan of the comic, and am really enjoying the series. It's not a straight-up adaptation and, instead, takes its cue from the recent Marvel productions and AMC's The Walking Dead. This is definitely Powers, but it puts a slightly different spin on the concept while maintaining the tone and all those cool ideas from the comic. Walker and Pilgrim are well cast, although the portrayal of Deena Pilgrim is more of a hybrid with Enki Sunrise, and I'm waiting for Deena to become the more hilarious, foul-mouthed woman of the comics. At times it definitely feels low-budget, and certain scenes feel very much like it's just two actors on a set. Some of the effects resemble a well-produced YouTube fan video, but maybe if the series is successful enough Sony will give them more money to work with. They definitely aren't putting Marvel money into this, but overall I'm finding it to be a pretty solid adaptation. And Eddie Izzard as Wolfe, a super-powered cult-leader and psycho cannibal, is wonderfully creepy, coming in fresh off his brief run on Hannibal. You can watch Episode 1 at YouTube.
  • Bosch got picked up for season 2 by Amazon! So, that's awesome. And Sleepy Hollow was just renewed for season 3. And Hannibal season 3 is finally coming in June!
  • And have you seen these new trailers of Avengers: Age of Ultron? I love the sight of Cap throwing a motorcycle into a jeep of bad guys. Truly excellent!

[embed]https://youtu.be/0WM915QsOyI[/embed]

[embed]https://youtu.be/JAUoeqvedMo[/embed]

  • I'm currently reading an ARC of Ania Ahlborn's Within These Walls and damn if it's not absolutely terrific. I should have a review up next week and am little more than half-way through at the moment. I'm really, really happy with this book so far, and it's got everything: haunted house, intrepid true crime writer, a cult leader with a history of gory murders, and family angst galore. Such an easy story to fall into and I'm looking forward to digging in much deeper during the weekend.

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Reblog: Dr. Seuss Does Horror - Neatorama

In Whoville, everyone can hear you scream.

DeviantART member DrFaustusAU does all sorts of inventive mashups, using different entertainment franchises and mimicking the styles of other artists. His impressions of Dr. Seuss are particularly good, which he demonstrates by showing Suess-style versions of The Silence of the Lambs, The Last of Us, and other horror movies and video games.

Check out the rest at the link:

Source: Dr. Seuss Does Horror - Neatorama.


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Sci-Fi November: Macro Lego Universe

I came across this Macro Lego Universe page from an Empire Magazine Facebook post and immediately fell in love with the photography and recreations of iconic Hollywood movie scenes and images.

Definitely check out the Macro webpage, and if you're on Instagram, give them a follow! There are even a few tutorials on how some of the effects are achieved in Photoshop.

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[embed]http://instagram.com/p/rIl0MXQxwF/?modal=true[/embed]

[embed]http://instagram.com/p/ox0J1zQx45/?modal=true[/embed]

[embed]http://instagram.com/p/oieIHzQx2i/?modal=true[/embed]


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Reblog: Marvel Studios Announces "Captain Marvel," "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War" - Comic Book Resources

Avengers Excuse me while I freak the fuck out!

I am absolutely amazed and astonished by this uncanny news report of all-new Marvel movies coming up over the next few years.

Check out Comic Book Resources full report:

Marvel Studios Announces "Captain Marvel," "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War" - Comic Book Resources.

It's hard to believe that Avengers: Age of Ultron is coming out soon, and yet it still feels so far away... That trailer blew me away and has become a frequent source of viewing since it released last week. I'm definitely looking forward to more footage during tonight's episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Here's a quick rundown of what's coming up, according to CBR, with Ant-Man official kicking off Phase III.

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron - May 1, 2015
  • Ant-Man - July 17, 2015
  • Captain America: Civil War - May 6, 2016
  • Doctor Strange - Nov. 4, 2016
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - May 5, 2017
  • Thor: Ragnarok - July 28, 2017
  • Black Panther - Nov. 3, 2017
  • Captain Marvel - July 6, 2018
  • Inhumans - Nov. 2, 2018
  • Avengers: Infinity Wars (Part I - May 2018) (Part II - May 2019)

black-panther-concept-8a438

I really cannot express how tremendously excited I am by all of this. I'm ridiculously happy to see Carol Danvers finally getting her big-screen dues in the Captain Marvel movie, but, damn it, not until 2018.

I'm also really curious to see how Infinity War plays out. Captain Marvel could be the bridge that helps connect the intergalactic adventures from the Guardians movies to the rest of the Earth-based MCU. And with Marvel's propensity to borrow from recent story-lines, as with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I'm wondering how much Hickman's epic war story, Infinity, will serve as a basis for the Avengers two-parter. Especially given the prominence of Black Panther in that comic's pages and as a member of the New Avengers. And, can I just say, an Avengers two-parter?!?!?!?!?! Wow. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes to all of this.

There's just so much to absorb here, and even more to speculate, wonder, and day-dream about. Maybe even a little too much.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/tmeOjFno6Do]


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Displate: The Heroes | Art prints on metal by Eddie Rock

It's ridiculous how badly I want need these. Superhero prints on metal sheets. I absolutely love the design work on these renderings. So well done. I think whenever we get the basement remodeled or can clean up some wall space in the office, these will be an instabuy. Especially Emiliano Morciano's Batman print at the bottom. The Heroes | Art prints on metal by Eddie Rock.

Bad-Ass Bonus:

Prints on steel by Emiliano Morciano.

They've also got some terrific looking movie-inspired prints, like typographic displays that form iconic characters out of their famous phrases, as shown in these Drive In Prints. Lots and lots of pop culture art making its way onto my wish-list now...


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