23 December, 2014

The Invisible Enemy

A Review Aliens Versus Predator #3
Part Ten of "James Versus Fire and Stone"

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. So let us reach shoulder deep into the barrel of medical waste that is AvP and see what we find. I brought this upon myself.

Another awesome cover form EM Gist

AvP #3 is a return to form of the inaugural issue. While #2 saw a slight uptick with its drunken arabesque of a story, #3 makes me ask the age old questions of “Huh?” and “Why, God, why?” and “What the fuck are they doing over there?” Questions, like all of the great questions, that we'll never have an answer to.

Alien Versus Predator #3 from Christopher Sebela and Ariel Olivetti is bilge. It should only be read by the very strong of will so that it does not taint your moral, ethical, or psychological constitution. If you must read it, keep a sitter near by to watch over you, as you might break down and end up doing something like swollowing your own tongue.

Let's get the happening of the issue out of the way:

Well, bullshit happens. Structurally, this entire comic reads like the third act of an action movie. There is no set up, there is no rising action, there is only climax. Having a story consist only of climax is no easy feat. Even James Cameron, in all of his indulgent glory, is an artist that understands the importance of narrative structure.

With that said, there is no real plot progression. The characters backslide from developments in previous issues, characteristics and plot points are dropped and picked up at the drop of the hat, and it generally makes about as much sense as fecal scrawlings on a Turkish asylum's walls. The most grevious of all of these developments is that the doctor decides that getting blood from Elden the Android and shooting it up is still a viable option. Because, you know, something has to happen in this comic.

Now that I think about it, did the doctor intentionally mutate Elden? Was this just a slight side effect to his main plan? Is he an actual mad scientist? Do I care?

So, in a poorly choreographed sequence of panels, he manages to incapacitate Elden with an Elmer Fudd-level contraption and manages to take a sample of his blood (which, apparently isn't covering the entire stupid space ship at this point) and then, like some refugee from the best Brett Easton Ellis novel ever, takes a shelter in a broom closet and shoots himself full of mutated android blood.

All the while, Elden is stuck outside like a fat kid at a party, begging the doctor not to do it for some reason? He's spent the past three issues (not including three issues of Prometheus) trying to kill the good doctor and now he wants to "save" his creator. Then the sole surviving predator (who doesn't even have a cool scar or anything so I can give him a funny nickname) attacks Elden. . . Because he can. Despite the issue's dialogue actively arguing against this development. I don't know. I'm at a loss.
 The issue then ends on the line "What's happening!?" My thoughts exactly.

Next on "James Versus Fire and Stone. . . "
This story is so sloppy, so undercooked, it's incredible. It fails to address the most basic needs of its characters and their desires. If their motivations are present, they change on a dime. Or they just do stuff simply because the plot requires them to. It fails to establish anything. When there is action or a moment where the plot twists, it becomes meaningless because Christopher Sebela has failed to establish FUCK ALL ANYTHING. Some of that might have been tempered if Ariel Olivetti had bothered to show up, but I've been hammering that point home for two reviews now.

It feels like an issue of Axecop that got shelved for lack of ambition.

I'm so annoyed I can't even be bothered to pull the peel back on this onion. It's a stupid book. But beneath the stupidity there's nothing else. Alien is marked by themes about what makes up a human and what they are afraid of. Predator is dumb, but it has a cool invisible guy in it and there's some mildly interesting allegory going on. Prometheus is ostensibly about discovery the origins of humantiy and, indeed, the origins of our purpose and wraps that in a lost island adventure story. AvP is about raking in piles of stinking, sweat soaked nerd dollar and making a kind of come-hardened igloo of incompetence and rancor.

And I want to believe that there's a way to make this all work. Somehow. It wasn't always this terrible. At least I don't think it was. I love dumb stuff, too. There's a place for pulp. It just has to be done well and I don't know what that means for a comic as undercooked as this one. Maybe Joshua Williamson has got a few ideas.

At least I'm not reading Robocop Versus Terminator.

I just like these toys, that's all.
MUTANT OF THE WEEK: It's still the Frankenpredator. He's still hulking and stupid. But he's a Frankenpredator and he has two crabs wearing surgical gloves taped to his mouth. His hands have also sprouted extra fingers, making the prospect of giving the middle finger that much more frightening and complicated, as well as an Elden-esque shoulder arm that I assume he uses to hold very small cans of coke.

Also the doctor becomes a hulk. I'm going to name him “Dr. Hulk.”

But motherfuck Dr. Hulk right in his eyes. This entire story is his fault. The blind damn fool. I hate him so. I hate them all and I want this flaming honey wagon full of dog shit to finally crash and burn like the abomination that it is.

ONE OF OUT FIVE CHESTBURSTERS for this piss-poor issues and a BURKE YUPPIE VEST OF SHAME. Wear it well, AvP, because the only thing you've done well so far is take money from me. Like your yuppie forefather, Paul Reiser, you have fleeced me. You took money from my pocket knowing full well that your product was utterly without value.

Or, God, I hope you were fleecing me. What if somebody at the Dark Horse Aliens office actually thinks this shit is good?

You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Aliens #3
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is a writer, a podcaster, and is looking for a solid lead on an MIP King Alien. Send him a line if you got one.

17 December, 2014

Staring into the Abyss

A review of Aliens #3
Part Nine of "James Versus Fire and Stone."

Here we are. Another week another issue of the Fire and Stone mini-series event. Last time it was Predator #2. We're approaching the end here and I still don't know how or why Fire and Stone is happening or why I'm keeping up with it, but here we are. The sun is out, birds are singing, and I hve a new comic book to whinge about. Come along.

Reading all of these comics has sent my brain into a lot of weird directions. Usually reminiscing over pop culture will do that anyways, but there's something about Fire and Stone that has put my brain into a mild disassociate state. This weekend, as I was cranking this out, I began to think about Mass Effect. Specifically, I began to think about it's expanded universe and how I, in no way, shape, or form want to read anything associated with it.

That's strange because I love Mass Effect. The second installment in the series is easily one of the best games of the last generation and is destined to become one of the best games of all time (alongside Skyrim and the first Modern Warfare).It's a galaxy where anything is possible, from asexual gunslinger priestesses to floating jellyfish gunmen. But I don't want any of it. Send it back. No thank you. But why?

Because it doesn't "matter." Because it didn't effect the source material and was only tangentially reflective of it, I don't want to read it.

I guess the first sense of this was sometime in high school, when the Star Wars prequels were coming out. Specifically, I remember hearing about how Boba Fett's origins were going to be explained (see Exhibit A as to why that is a bad idea in the first place), and I remember talking to one of my teachers, another Star Wars nerd about the movies. To me I didn't need to know Fett's origins, I already knew them. His name was Jaster Mereel. He was a disgraced police officer. He made a point of not raping Leia. He can sleep with his eyes open. Don't you people know this? Doesn't it matter?

No, it doesn't matter! Of course it doesn't matter! And it doesn't matter way more than most other fiction "doesn't matter." The Prequel Trilogy is probably a bad example for this kind of a thing as it was lousy with its own legion of problems (link Red Letter Media here), but my point stays. If you stand around and invest energy into a property, there's a very real chance that that property (and its owners) will turn around and nullify the very ideas that you've become attached to. That your love of these things is somehow irrelevant. Or maybe it's just your awareness of how little your purchasing power matters to an economic engine. The worst of it, though, is you suddenly know that most of these stories are pointless, little more than fan fiction.

This must have been how the Gnostics felt.

In the wider world of comics, it's one of the big reasons I don't mess with main stream super hero comics. At some point an editor or a zealous writer or a marketing department is going to come by, wave a magic wand and all of the sudden Hawkman is an alien. Or an Egyptian god. Or both. And then you realize that you've been reading Hawkman this whole time and the joke was on you.

Despite all of this, I give Aliens a pass. Not all of it. Not the bad stuff. Not the stuff in that reads like a car crash of a bus full of fan fic writers and a Toys R' Us truck full of Kenner toys.  None of it will ever get back to the main series. We'll never see the Alien Queen Mother in an Aliens movie. Ridley Scott is even actively hostile towards the AvP "movies." The only screenwriter who pays enough attention to the wider world of Aliens is me and I count only on a technicality.

(God. I would kill for a Prometheus series. Or a Blade Runner series. Hell, I'd watch a Legend series. Just do something with TV, would you, Sir Scott?)

"Here's our Story Bible. Study up, kid."
It's funny, though, as Dark Horse already had revise its fiction when Alien 3 came out. They actively scrambled to make up for the fact that their fiction is, and always will, be completely disposable. In 1989 Dark Horse released several comic books detailing the further adventures of Newt and Hicks. Obviously, come 1992 this was a problem. The release of Alien 3 came with the fact that these characters were dead. In future printings (and SD Perry adaptations), the characters were renamed so that it didn't contradict the movie's timeline. How ridiculous is that? The stories are further obscured by the release of Alien: Resurrection and Prometheus.

These thoughts always come hand in hand with a solution I've been hearing for years: "Make your own continuity." I first heard the idea from iFanboy, and it's brilliant. On a functional level, it allows you to reconcile the things that "matter" with the things that "don't," as well as with the things that do matter, but are just dumb (I think this is how Bryan Singer approached Days of Future Past). On a deeper level, though, that hits on a kind of Campbellian mythological idea. Even now, two thousand years on there isn't a singular vision of Jesus Christ. What chance does Batman stand?
So. There's that.

Aliens: Fire and Stone is a good comic. I think it's solid beyond my fanboy blinders. It might not be as substantial as I remember Rogue or Berserker being, but the story that remains is still really pretty cool. It has space truckers. They die. It has some other weird shit that we have only begun to get into (including possible time travel, of all things). And then, in the end, we're left with a cliffhanger. Everyone is dead but one character, which finally completes out desert island narrative, moving it from Lost to Robinson Crusoe (but with Aliens and no racism).

Plus, besides the story itself being interesting, I honestly want to see if Patric Reynolds and Patric Roberson can pull this thing off. So far it's been a fairly solid book, but considering how Prometheus ended (I'm cheating, I know), I have some serious doubts about the direction of this book-- and of all of the books, really. But, I'm hopeful. And if there's a string that holds all of this rambling together, it's a hope for a better comic books.

MUTANT OF THE WEEK: It's the Alien/Man Blob. We ended last issue with the cliffhanger of the Alien/Man Blob arriving on the scene, emerging from the water like a cat that just wouldn't drown, as if stating to the reader "Look at me, I just wouldn't drown." And I was excited. So excited. This thing was weird and gross and it finally showed the consequences of Prometheus leaking into the Alien universe. And, so in my excitement, I named him. I named him Robert. Because he looks like a Robert, you know?

Anyways, in this issue, Robert finally shows up to fuck everybody's shit up and that lasts for. . . Like a minute and a half and then he gets taken out by some drunk trucker with a spear. And he dies like a buster. Why even show up if you're going to do that? Why tease us? Why titillate me and you know that's exactly what you were doing with this comic book, you bastards. Poor Robert, we hardly knew ye.

We also get another Prometheus Fiefield zombie, which at this point is pretty boring. That shit is done.

I give thee FOUR OUT OF FIVE CHESTBURSTERS! While I cannot gather the same kind of glee that I get out of Predator, Aliens is a fine book. Solid. It's built a world that fits within its four issues. I applaud it and its effort to write a compelling story that has every reason in the world to suck. Thank you for giving me a story that matters. Whatever the hell that means.
You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is a boxed wine connoisseur, a writer, and a podcaster. You can support his show A Quality Interruption here.

11 December, 2014

"My World is Acid and Blood"

A review of Predator #2
Part Eight in "James Versus Fire and Stone"

Am I behind on this? Yeah, I'm behind on this. Sorry. Things have come up. Like this Farcry 4 review. And the podcast's new home. But all that's behind me and you have my full attention. Come on. Sit down right here and let Papa K-berry tell you a thing or two about Fox Media franchises.

I looooooove Predator #2. It's a hulking amalgamation of high adventure and scummy sci-fi exploitation. It's everything I ever dreamed a Predator comic could be.
It's basically an amalgamation of 1980's action movies cliches packed into a fairly straight-forward comic. It is exactly as dumb as it is smart, and that is exactly what a sci-fi action movie needs to be. As a testament to its quality, that assemblage of ideas and tropes are not the kind of thing I flock towards. That's my friend AJ's thing. Maybe that's even Cruz's thing. It is not mine. But here, it's simple, it's fun and I don't have to think about what this says about the human condition or whatever other French junk that's bouncing through my head.

Props to Lucas Graciano for a great cover.
Williamson and Mooneyham decided that this comic wasn't packed with enough classic action movie tropes, he has made Galgo the Merc and the Scarred Predator into a kind of odd couple pairing. But instead of them being a good cop/bad cop team, they're a bad cop/intergalactic trophy hunter cop. Unlike a lot of concepts on paper, this one is as good as it sounds.

It then gilds this concept by chaining the predator and Galgo together, because why the hell not?

Oh man. The predator is also missing an eye, because he's a crusty old predator and he's seen some things in his day.

Oh man.

A lot of licensed comics feel like somebody is checking off a list. Predator? Check. Jungle? Check. Gore? Check. I won't accuse any of the other books on the Fire and Stone line up of doing that, but, the worst of them seem so rote. Or they seem like somebody got real excited that their fanfic was elevated. There's no life to the book. Predator #1 and #2 don't read like that. They read with a healthy mix of enthusiasm and daring.

What makes Predator work is that the premise is clear. The direction and motives are clear. While there are some mild surprises here and there, they aren't in the actual substance of the story. At no point was I forced to ask the questions “What?” or “Really” or “The fuck is this shit?” It works on its own steam and good for everyone involved for pulling that one out of the hat.

MUTANT OF THE WEEK: I am sorry to say that no proper mutants have appeared in the comic book-- YET. Presumably they're saving that for an issue #3 reveal. In the mean time what we get instead is a giant alien bull-thing (patent pending). It hardly counts as a mutant of interest, but Merc Cop and Pred Cop do manage to decapitate it with their laser handcuffs.

Go home, GIS, you're drunk.
TRIPLE LASER POINT OF EXCELLENCE. Williamson and Mooneyham have put together a nice little sci-fi/action story that is exactly what it needs to be. It's big. It's crazy. It's fun. Remember fun? It makes sense that the rest of the items in Fire and Stone aren't “fun” (even Aliens, which has the distinction of being simply “good” is rather dour). Fun is what this cluster-eff of an event needed.

I give Predator #2 a FIVE OUT OF FIVE CHESTBURSTERS. This comic almost makes this entire Stone and Fire series worth it. I mean, I don't think I would have picked this book up and enjoyed it in the way that I am if it wasn't for this entire, dumb series and this even dumber dare that I gave myself. For that, I suppose, I am thankful. Still doesn't make AvP any more literate, but I'm still grateful.

Put that blurb on your cover, Dark Horse.

Apropos of nothing, if you want pulp fiction, check out Bitch Planet #1, which came out this week. It's got. . . Lord Jesus, so many nipples.

You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is a boxed wine connoisseur, a writer, and a podcaster. You can support his show A Quality Interruption here.

BAMF: The Motion Picture

A Review of Nightcrawler (2014)

There's a term I heard on the TV show Hannibal, which is “the stitching of that person suit you wear.” That's Jake Gyllenhaal's Lou Bloom. He is a monster barely contained by the suit of skin he wars. It is an incredible performance that bleeds out onto is a film that lives and breathes with its titular character.

Lou Bloom cut from the same cloth as the kind of characters that shambled and limped through Raymond Chandler's vision of LA. He's a low rent hustler, with no virtues save ambition. That's what makes him so frightening, so terrifyingly realistic. He's a man born of disappointment and an indifferent world, and of a society that feeds off of pettiness and fear. He seems like a man capable of anything.That is what Nightcrawler is about. This tension is why the whole thing works.

Nightcrawler is the kind of movie I will see just based on its concept alone. It's about a scumbag, it focuses on a bizarre and dicey vocation, and it takes place almost entirely in Los Angeles at night. That is my kind of movie

So much of Nightcrawler reminds me of the diner scenes out of Taxi Driver. While it is a crime movie, it is more about the characters than it is about what they do (in the back of my mind The Friends of Eddie Coyle, another classic 70's crime film, also jumps to mind). There's a certain loneliness built into both pictures. They are about the men on the periphery. Not only in the periphery of the criminal world, but of the entire world. You can see it in Lou's bed, which seems like an object that is barely willing to accommodate his presence. It also helps that Gyllenhaal plays Lou like the Bickle brother who went out west.

Nightcrawler is more than just an homage or a throwback. Like all good movies, it is smarter than the genre that contains it. While 1970's grit looms in the background and the chain smoke of pre-Code crime films wafts into every frame, it exists as an original, modern film. It's a smart film that doesn't need to show you how clever it is. It's a movie that comes out of a long line of other films (including movies as disparate as Network and Broadcast News, or even Ace in the Hole), yet it has something to say about the seediness of modern news and the depravity of modern society. But, like its heritage, it doesn't wear its themes on its sleeves. It's a thriller first and foremost and like Lou Bloom, there's something hiding beneath the surface.

With all of that said, the score is one of the more lacking scores things I have heard in a good, long while (as I write this, the soundtrack of The Proposition kicked off and does not make me feel any kinder towards Nightcrawler's score).

It feels like a graduate of a Explosions in the Sky School For Ambient What-Have-You Nonsense (and even then it only graduated because its dad donated a new kinesiology center). Besides being sonically underwhelming, it doesn't feel right for the film. Maybe I'm saying this because Drive, the last interesting LA-at-night movie to come out is looming in the background, but I feel like I'm also saying this because the score simply doesn't work. When you're trying to strike a mood, playing the most generic music that you can is not a great start. Say what you will about Drive, it is a movie that strikes a mood. Nightcrawler would have benefited from a much slimier score than what it ended up with.

Another thing the film reminds me of a Neil Gaiman quote. When Constantine came out in 2005, he said that the movie would have been better had Constantine been British and had his signature tan trenchcoat. Why? Because it just would have been. Because Neil Gaiman said so.

I feel the way about the year in which this movie is set. It's supposed to take place in the modern era, but there's just something that doesn't quite connect with me. I don't buy it, which makes me think that it was written as a period piece and brought up to the present to make it more commercial. That's purely speculation, but I do know in my bones that this movie would have somehow been better had it been set in the 1980's or early to mid 90's. Why? Because.I mean, do you believe that there are crews of freelance newsmen roaming the Southland in this year of our Lord Two-Thousand-Fourteen? Of course you don't.

It would have also allowed for the period appropriate synth soundtrack that I want to bad.

Another quibble is that they very clearly shot the same three streets over and over again. That Del Taco must have been on screen at least half a dozen times. Same with the faux-Tudor bank and the Chase building. You don't think I see you, Chase building? I do!

But that's a consequence of what the film is, it's hardly an artistic choice, it's just a result of the film's very meager budget. But part of that is endearing. It kind of shows that the film is closer in its bloodline to film noir in more than its subject matter.

It's fun, it's scrappy, and it tells a kind of story with a kind of character that I don't know if I've ever seen before. It's also an engaging movie that still manages to say a lot about people, the news, and just how messed up this country is. Nightcrawler is something well worth hunting down and checking out, even if you're as late to the scene as I am.

James Kislingbury is Los Angeles deritus. He writes, podcasts, and generally schemes. Support his endeavors.

09 December, 2014

I don't know what this is. . .

But I know I want it.

White God comes to America on the 27th of March, 2015.

02 December, 2014

"I'm a sweater, a sweat"

This demands sharing.

Is it awesome? Yes. Is it a bit too much to spend on a joke? Hell yes. Would I wear it in public? Maybe not, but boy would I love to be the kind of guy who does. Maybe some day. Get a cool dog with a mohawk, break up fights on the streets of New York, and wear a really dumb cardigan. . . Yeah. Some day.

Thinking on all that, I recently I read Driven.

James Sallis' sequel is the barest bones of a book. It's almost like reading stage directions. Yet, there's something compelling about that level of minimalism and there's something daring about being willing to write so few words. If it was me-- If I could be asked to finish a novel-- It'd be coming apart at the seems, it would be so swollen with words. Not James Sallis, though. He adverbs, adjectives, all that extra stuff can go get fucked. All he needs is a man, a car, and a direction.

I don't know. It's something to read in your brand new sweater.

30 November, 2014

The Island of Broken Androids

A Review of Prometheus #3
Part Seven of “James Versus Fire and Stone.”

God. Here we are again.

One things that the Fire and Stone event has done well is that every comic book feels different. As interrelated as they are, each one is a distinct entity, each is a distinct type of story. They also each have distinct shortcomings. As the first comic in the Fire and Stone event Prometheus is the first word on what's wrong with this event.

Aliens is slow, but I'm interested to see where it goes. AvP is a total shit show, though that at least presents its own kind of pleasure. Predator is the stand out among this crossover event in that it is a rock solid genre comic. But Prometheus? It is this vast scene of blandness. An entire ocean of semi-sentient pureed vegetables that think of "Yeah, I guess so" is the height of repartee.

I wish it were more terrible. That might actually be fun.Then again there must be some inherent value in keeping me tortured.

So, what's going on with the actual comic?

Last issue we left off with an entire hive of aliens (which, as I understand it are hundreds of years old at this point? I think?) chasing our generic main characters, but not swiftly enough to actually do any damage to people with names. And it kind of goes on like that.

The beginning smash cuts to Francis (there, I finally remembered the black scientist's name) being chased by Elden the Android (now in full GWAR mode). We assume he's there to kill Francis, but then he lets Francis go. It's not to tease him, not to play with him like a cat plays with it's prey. No. Elden lets the man go because this comic book is dumb.

All the while, Elden is rambling on about the type of shit that only psychopaths in poorly written stories ramble on about. He's upset that Francis betrayed his trust, yet, by his own admission, he is smarter, faster, and just generally cooler looking, yet he seems to be really worked up about this? Why? Why any of this?

God, do I hate Elden.
The rest of issue #3's story comes in fits and starts, picking up the fumbled ball of the past two issues and just sort of looking at it. “Is this a football?” and “What do you want me to do with this?” it asks.
Across the planet, the scrappy captain and her remaining crew are high tailing it towards the only way off the stygian nightmare planet that they've found themselves on. There's some push and pull about what needs to be done, but who really cares. The captain is a non-entity and so is the rest of her crew.

There's an attempt to characterize a bunch of the survivors (people who should have met and cared about in issue #1), by introducing a female scientist that has a wife that is threatened by the aliens.

But, who is this lesbian scientist? And who is her wife? Why should I care? Does she even have a name? The only information I can glean from this plot line is that in the future people are cool about homosexuals. Good for them! But so what? I'm cool about homosexuals now and I have to live through this comic book. Give me something to care about. Give me something to latch onto. If you're going to arbitrarily introduce characters and ideas, why not just go all out? Why not just make them polygamists? That way you've got even more wives at hazard. More wives means more tension! It'd be stupid not to make them polygamists! You missed a trick, Paul Tobin!

Then, towards the end of the issue, Galgo and his daring-do crew of dirtbag mercs abandon the crew on the ground because they found out that there was a better storyline somewhere out there (which is Predator. Go read that book).

An Engineer also appears for some reason. He's culling the xenomorphs. That's pretty cool, I guess. I kind of wish it tied into the story at all instead of just being a thing that happened.

Also, Captain What's-Her-Face reprimands Francis for exposing Elden to the black goo and then abandoning him. She goes as far as to accuse him of murder, even though Elden is, in Francis' eyes, about as human as a coffee machine. Unlike the nameless lesbian and his equally unknowable cipher wife, Elden and Francis actually are characters. We don't care about them, but we at least know who they are. To then treat Elden as a human being in light of Francis' need to play God could be accused of being an interesting idea. It's not great, but it's a kind of story telling, at least.

All of that said, I think I unfairly criticized Juan Ferreyra's art in my previous reviews. When dealing with a panorama of people, he isn't at his best, but there are individual panels, mostly close ups of characters, that are actually quiet striking. As works of art, they're beautiful. As panels in comics, they also do something that only comics can do, which is to convey, in shorthand, the emotional state of a character in a larger story.

With that said, I don't know if Prometheus is the right book for him, but I'm willing to bet that he has some great work in the past and some great work ahead of him. I would very much like to see what he can do with a better script at his disposal.

On the plus side, I should state that the past two covers have been pretty neat (#2's cover from David Palumbo is an especially handsome work of art). #3 also features art from Mr. Pulumbo (man, he does Magic: The Gathering card art too? This guy sure gets around) and it is another attractive work of art. It almost has me tricked into thinking that the idea of a mutant android is a good one.Then my memories come back to me like a shotgun blast full of piss.

Prometheus #3 receives THREE FACEHUGGERS OUT OF FIVE. And it has just barely earned that third Facehugger. This comic is rapidly souring and the sun has yet to come out. As the inaugural comic in the Fire and Stone event, Prometheus is a poor pointman. It should be leading the pack in both tone and quality. It should be the best thing on the line. Instead the best comic in this whole event is the last one released. Instead of a grand new era in Dark Horses comics we're introduced to a line of comics that are basically dead on arrival.

What can be done to fix all of this? I don't know. Hire me, why don't you? I've got plenty of terrible ideas about Aliens and Predators. Plus, I'll work for a song. Scott Allie, I'm only a few key strokes away. You know you want to.

You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is a writer, a podcaster, and a dirtbag merc.

24 November, 2014

Victory Snatched From the Double-Mandibles of Defeat

A Review of AVP #2
Part Six of "James Versus Fire and Stone"

For all of my enmity towards AvP #1, the second issue is actually pretty enjoyable. It is a marked improvement from the previous issue. As readers we're less burdened by Christopher Sebela's decision to write the comic en media res and are free to enjoy the spectacle in front of you. . . And boy what a heaping pile of nonsense that spectacle is.

If you had to boil down everything that is wrong with this book, you should take a look at Elden the Android. His motives are as oblique to us as it might be to the writer and artist. His design is atrocious (Juan Ferreyra does a slightly better job of it in Prometheus #3). He fails as a villain, he fails as antagonist, he fails as everything a villain should be. He seems to be opposed to the predators, but we don't know why (and he's after that dying doctor and we don't know why). He has a retinue of aliens following him and we don't know why (which don't seem to affect the plot in any meaningful way). And the very premise of his transformation is both abundantly clear and incredibly dumb. Across the two books that he is featured in, he has managed to be both over-explained and under-explained. He's a dicotomy built out of sheer poor story telling. Again: I don't think this the writer is being mysterious, I think he's just being sloppy.

Elden is simply the worst.

Speaking of his design, he has two little stumps that protrude out of his shoulder blades. Its imagery reminiscent of a fallen angel you would see in a Dore illustration. It's a fine image to summon up and it at least shows an attempt at making something bigger and better than a licensed comic book. But in this issue I noticed what his “wings” actually were. They aren't boney protrusions or superfluous spikes. No, they're tiny hands. Our main villain is at all times shaking little doll fists at the skies. Real frightening stuff.

Also, not only is he a GWAR, but now, apparently, he is also a The Thing. Half of the way through the issue, after shaking off a laser blast because, okay, sure, he develops a stomach mandible, because, okay, sure why not that too? 

And it goes on like this.

The major problem with the storytelling is that there are no transitions. Nothing leads to anything. Nothing comes as a direct consequence o anything else. Or, well, it kind of does. Sort of. This comic doesn't so much introduce new ideas and plot points as it just skips to them. It reads like entire pages are missing from the issue. It's like if they told the issue quick enough nobody would notice how shoddy it is.

I imagine that can work if we are invested in the world or the characters are given enough time to grow on us. I was just thinking about Christopher Nolan and he's a writer/director who occasionally skips important steps in his story, but with him it works because, as Mark Kermode points out, it makes emotional sense. If facts and continuity are not the through line, then the characters are. Or the grander story is. Something is there for us to follow. AvP #1 and #2 lack all of this. Instead of delicate character interactions, we have. . . Well, we have Elden the Android.

Man, what the fuck is going on with this comic?

WEIRD MUTANT OF THE WEEK: As with Aliens #2 and with Prometheus #2 someone or something is exposed to the black goo and we are treated to a new mutant grotesque. This week? A Predator is bitten by Elden's stomach mouth (God what a dumb sentence) and we are treated to what I would call a “Frankenpredator.”

The Frankenpredator is distinguishable from a normal predator by its big, black doll eyes and it having the rippling body of a steroid-filled Super Fund site. It's mouth has also transformed into that thing where you put your wrists together and curl your fingers in so it kind of looks like a monster mouth. It uses that to eat another predator's face. That's pretty fun.

This issue, for all of its nonsense, still gets THREE FACEHUGGERS OUT OF FIVE. It's still garbage, but at least it's garbage with a bunch of dumb aliens fighting. For all of its lack of cohesion, it still manages to chuck a whole lot at its readers. Ariel Olivetti's art is slightly tighter to, so I'll look the other way regarding its digital art problems (I also do not have the energy to get into it).

Most importantly, I don't have to look at that stupid spaceship again. It gets a bump just for that.

You can read previous entries in "James Versus Fire and Stone" below--
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislignbury is a writer, podcaster, and has nothing against androids. 

19 November, 2014

Wagner's A Space Odyssey

Or "Time is Not a Flat Circle, It's a Sphere"
A Review of Interstellar (2014)

While I've been diddling around reviewing mediocre comics on a self-imposed dare, I have been remiss in my actual calling: Reviewing good movies and telling you to go see them. Ignoring the movies that I have already reviewed, I will say this before I get onto the actual review, the following movies are fantastic and deserve to be seen: Fury, Calvary, Noah, Gone Girl.

Alright. Thanks. Here we go, into the great wide open--

For those of you who worry: This will be a spoiler free review. Part of the wonder of Interstellar is not knowing where it is going and then, somehow, arriving at these amazing vistas. And the rest of the fun comes from figuring out how you got there. So, worry not. Put your adult diapers back in the closet, you won't get them in a ruffle over little old me.

I will also try to be brief.

2014 has been a fantastic year for film and, specifically, it has been a fantastic year for the special effects movie. Between Snowpiercer, Godzilla, Days of Future Past, Guardian of the Galaxy, and Edge of Tomorrow there have been a lot of well done, exemplary films that also happen to involve running, jumping, and blowing things up. We are in a new golden age of special effects pictures and Interstellar fits snuggly in among all of those.

Christopher Nolan, he of Batman and Inception, has crafted a movie that is as much about human relationships as it is about fast things moving through space. That has always been his strong suit. His weakness is that in that ambition, he misses out on the details, yet we are also left with an amazing experience. Interstellar is about human beings interacting with time, space, movements, and sound on the grandest scale possible. It is not so much film as it is opera.

I will come absoluetly clean with you: Interstellar is a movie that I did not understand at all for the last hour and a half, but I know that I loved it. Somehow that feels thematically consistent.

So, the good things--

First of all, the music is incredible. As much as 2001: A Space Odyssey is about melodrama in the Classical sense, so to is Interstellar. The score by Hans Zimmerman sets the tone and the emotions as much as the actors on the screen set them, and between Matthew MacConaugher (Academy Award winner), Anne Hathaway (Academy Award winner), Michael Caine (Acadamy Award winner), Matt Damon (Academy Award winner), and Jessica Chastain (Academy Award nominee), the movie does a pretty solid job on that end.

It's an amazing score, and it underlines what the movie is about, which is motion and emotions. I think I vainly tried to describe this when Gravity came up last year and I failed. I think the same feelings apply, though. Interstellar in many ways is about feelings and movement in the grandest sense possible. Again, this is opera that we are dealing with. Zimmerman's score, mixed with everything else in the film elevates it to something more, something much more precious than the sum of its parts.

Space Man, Dude
A lot of people complain that music is manipulative, that it tricks people into thinking a scene is more important than it is. Well, that's nonsense. That's what music does. That's what music in film does. It's a trick. It's all a trick. Nolan and Zimmerman manage to pull off the greatest trick of all, which is making you believe in this massive, cosmic opera that they have constructed. The film's score is as much responsible for making me cry during this movie as anyone else in the project.

And, on a slight aside, Interstellar has the best movie robots since. . . Aw, hell. David from Prometheus? We all liked him, right? Anyways, somebody give me a TARS spin-off. What an amazing/dumb idea.

Interstellar, like all of Nolan's films, are not the perfect watches that he wants them to be (or, with some people, needs them to be). I won't slog into the Dark Knight Risesdebate again, but we all have opinions on that film, right? Whether we like it or not, we all know that the details of the story are not Nolan's main concern, right? In his ambition, Nolan tends to overstep. Missing the details in favor of the grander picture. And unlike a great piece of Islamic art, his mistakes are not intentional. He is a man and his reach excedes his grasp.The same is true of Interstellar.

When the film arrives at what I will call the “Cosmic Erector," the movie hits a patch of black ice and starts careening out of control. It is at this point that we are asked to take a big bite of this mystery sandwich. Now, I might be mixing up my metaphors (or are the similes?) here, but I'm riding high off of space fumes and really need to get this all across. Like Nolan, I need you to stick with me.

Anyways, it's nonsense. Utter nonsense. In a movie that has painstakingly and proudly adhered to scientific reality (there is a reason that Nolan called upon physicist Kip Thorne to work on this movie) it is an abrupt and confusing stop. Faith is a major theme in the movie, but I don't know that this extends to the viewers. It has given you a good few hours of concrete, scientific adventure, then it basically asks you to believe in wizardry. And fuck you, no I am not. I just paid sixteen bucks, not including parking to get into this movie. But, the movie has been good so far and I just paid sixteen bucks, not including parking to watch it.

And, luckily that great filmic ditch never arrives. The narrative rights itself and everything turns out just fine. And that's kind of amazing. It then appears to be less of a film losing control as it is a film that has earned a few moments of indulgence. From the places it has been and the places that it then goes, it maybe had earned that indulgence.

And that mystery sandwich that I mentioned earlier? It is a Reuben. Maybe the best Reuben you've had in years. And you feel like a fool for ever doubting this delicious, delicious sandwich. And what's that? A pickle? Yes it is. You earned it.

Interstellar feels like a movie born to receive superlatives. It is about the greatest achievements of mankind. It is both a requiem and a jubilee all rolled into one. It's big, it is audacious, it is very loud. There is nothing muted or demur about the movie, even when it is dealing with smaller character moments. Even its flaws are incredibly loud and obvious. As a whole, though, like the best of Nolan's films, it works. Interstellar is a grand and imperfect film that perfectly encapsulates what is so incredible about people, the universe, and film.



Whether you want it to be true or not, Christopher Nolan is going to go down as one of the Great Directors. Make yourself right with your god, because no one else is going to save you. And, for the record, The Dark Knight Rises was the second best Bond movie to come out that year.

 It's also appropriate that the last movie I saw at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood was 2001: A Space Odyssey (it also might pass for a major plot point in a Christopher Nolan movie, but anyways. . .)

Man. Now I want to see 2010: The Year We Make Contact. And Contact. And Sunshine again. And Event Horizon when it's not on TV. Man. Space really is the place, isn't it?

I still have this document, complete with pictures, about the hows and whys of how amazing space travel is. I will never finish it. But Interstellar will do in its own way. It is a love letter to space travel and space exploration which, to me, is a love letter to this planet. Going Out There represents the greatest achievement that we could possibly have. Or not. I don't know. I never finished it because the ideas never coalesced in my head. We should strive to do impossible things, I guess is the major thrust of it. I don't know if that is what Interstellar is arguing for, but I'd like to think that it is. I'd like to think that somebody does something impossibly because of what this movie represents.

It would be nice to live in a world where our greatest heroes are pioneers, not soldiers. And I say this as a guy who loves Fury with all of his pinko heart.

James Kislingbury writes, podcasts, and begs for money.

16 November, 2014

"I'm tired of your bullshit"

A review of Alien #2
Part five of "James Versus Fire and Stone"

Here we are again. Another week, another entry in Dark Horse's “blockbuster event” Fire and Stone. This week: Aliens #2. This is the sixth installment in the series and my fifth blog entry. By the time this comes out, we'll be a full two months into this long march to insanity. Let's do it, to it, shall we?

Half out of confusion and half out of academic interest, I've been asking myself over and over again: What makes an Alien story and Alien story?

I think the best way to boil down what makes the Alien series unique (besides the titular creature) are the themes that it visits and revisits. It's these ideas that Ridley Scott and his creative team produced in the original film that were then extrapolated on and expanded upon. At some point the French got involved and really fucked up the line of reasoning, but, hey, what are you going to do?

Each movie is fairly different from the last, yet there are a few disctinct features and themes of each movie (the cast outside of Ripley). There are also a few themes that reoccur a few times, but not in every movie (such as the Colonial Marines and Jones the cat, for example). A lot of other movies use the same tropes, but an Alien movie is different in that it uses the same tropes over and over again.

All of this in mind, I did the most academic thing I could think of: I made a list. Below are the things that define the Alien series (as I see it):

Working class heroes (The crew of the Nostromo, the Colonial Marine grunts)
Androids (Ash, Bishop, possibly another Bishop, Cole. This can also be extrapolated to the idea of something being human-like, but not in and of itself human like the Alien.)
Monster as Worst Nightmare (Being an unkillable Space Viet Con in Aliens and a demon from Hell/woman in Alien 3)
An Evil Corporation/Higher Authority (“The Company,” Weyland-Yutani, the Army)
Strong Female Protagonist (Ripley, Ripley, Ripley, Ripley, and even Elizabeth Shaw)
Industrial Space/Working Environment (The Nostromo, Hadley's Hope, the Leadwork)
Confined and Inescapable Spaces (Space Ships, Prisons, Etc.)
High Schlock (Haunted House + Gender Horror, Sci-Fi Military Metaphor, Apocalyptic Prison Drama, and. . . a French movie.)
The Alien Itself (and its ability to mutate and adapt. The queen, the facehugger, the hybrid, etc.)

(Let me know if I missed anything!)

In that regard, Aliens #1 and #2 features a scant handful of these themes. There's the Working Class Heroes. The Company is also present, but it isn't malevolent or greedy, it is just there. If anything, it's a zombie comic book with some aliens thrown in. Which, you know, hey. That's a perfectly fine idea. If you can't copy it, at least mke it interesting. It's just that it isn't an Alien story. Not really.

As for Fire and Stone as a whole (and a lot of other Alien comics), I can't tell if the writers and artists are simply trying something new and failing or if they simply do not get it. These books seem to exist in this middle ground, where I'm wondering whether I should pat them on the head for doing their darnedest or to roll this book up and hit them on the nose with it. That's annoying. I like my emotions to be clear cut.

What I keep on thinking time and time again: "This doesn't feel right."

Besides my metatextual nitpickings, how is Aliens #2?

It's a solid horror comic. Patric Reynolds is doing a bang up job keeping the book as dark as it should be. There's something about his work that seems grimy and funky in the way that an Alien story is supposed to be.If anything fits my semi-fictional construct of what an Alien story is, his art is it.

I wonder if he's done a Hellboy book before. . . He has! And an issue of Abe Sapein. Huh. Makes sense.
As for Roberson, he keeps the book moving and on point. There's nothing terribly fancy about his work, but that's just fine. The plot moves forward and as spare as the some of the story might be, it moves along and it tells it all coherently.
Actually, now I'm going to look up Chris Roberso, as well. . . Man. This guy is mad prolific. Good for him! Good for everyone!

So, the story. What goes down?

After some fairly yeoman like exposition and an obvious revelation or two, the end sneaks up on us with a really interesting cliffhanger.

Keeping in lock step with every other issue #2 (including AvP, a comic I have yet to review), Aliens #2 ends with a mutation. This time, a xenomorph and a human are seemingly bonded together by the Engineers' black goo (or "accelerant" as this comic insists on calling it for whatever reason). It's fun to see the black goo increase the stakes and change the status quo. It's a simple addition to the formula and it is exactly the kind of change I do want to see coming out of a non-canon Alien franchise expansion (did that sound qualified enough?).

Plus, we get to see a new, weird mutant-alien and why wouldn't we want that?

Is Aliens proving to be an integral extension of the Alien series? No. Look to Alien: Isolation if you want that. But, is it a good book that manages to mix Dawn of the Dead with Land of the Lost and sprinkle a bit of Lost here and there? Yes. Is it worth reading? It kind of is. I am interested to see where Predator #2 goes, but so far Aliens is in a technical lead as the best book in Fire and Stone.

This book gets Four out of Five Chestbursters. I am kind of on the fence about some things and #3 is going to be the book to determine whether this is an actual book of quality or if it just appears to be. But, I am optimistic. Hesitantly optimistic. . . Or maybe that does make it an integral part of the Alien franchise after all.

You can read previous entries in "James Versus Fire and Stone" below--
Predator #1

James Kislinbury is a writer and a podcaster. Right now he's begging for money to support the latter on Patreon.

07 November, 2014

"You're one ugly. . . No, wait, I spoke too soon."

A Review of Predator #1
Part four of James Versus Fire and Stone

It should be said that Predator's entry into the Fire and Stone “blockbuster crossover” was going to be awful.

Luckily, I was wrong. Predator #1 succeeds at every level as a comic book. It's funny, it's good looking, and it has a solid story. It's so well done, it's successes are so specific, that it appears that Joshua Williamson looked at the other comics in the crossover event and made a conscious decision to not do any of that. It's saving grace of this entire mini-series/crossover/money-grab/whatever that it is.

From the first pages, writer Joshua Williamson lets you know that the predator is in good hands. In two or three page you know exactly where you are in the world and who the characters are and what their motivations are. And then a predator appears and he starts doing some predator-ass shit.. It's a simple, but it's fun and it works on a level that most of the rest of Fire and Stone does not.

Now, is it clunky to cram the first three pages with dialogue like “Hey, you remember when we were in Prometheus? That was crazy, wasn't it?” Of course it's clunky. It's such a specific way to get information across that it almost seems like a parody of the old Spider-Man comics where we would be told that Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider (apparently Stan Lee made a point of keeping this in because "Every comic could be somebody's first comic"). It also seems like an attempt to avoid the leaps that AvP #1 made and that has to be a good sign.

In all this it works, and I would much rather read something mildly clunky than a comic book with no mooring in any sort of reality. It doesn't assume anything from its audience. It actually bothers to tell a story and wrap a predator into the mix. It's a small victory, but it works and that's the important thing.

Now, is there a major copy editing error in the “Previously on Fire and Stone” summary on gatefold? Yes, but would you rather have some copy editing errors and a bad comic or a really good comic with something that only an asshole like me would notice? So, Predator #1 does have some problems, but it doesn't ever get in the way of the story.

This comic also works on a character level. With Aliens we're left with a fairly passive narrator, with Prometheus we're left with a cast of characters that exists as a list of names more than anything else, and in AvP we have, I don't know? A GWAR?

This time, we have Galgo (a mercenary who features prominently in both Prometheus and AvP), his two partners, and a predator (or yajuta, if you're feeling frisky). This time around, though, it works because all of the characters are established. Their motives are clear and we are told who these people are in very short order: There's the older dirtbag, the dirtbag in training, and Galgo (or "Dirtbag Prime" as I'm sure he was called in the script). From there the action unfolds and by the end we're left with a fun little cliffhanger. It's a simple, uncomplicated comic book, done right.

Another thing that I like is that Galgo is that he seems to be a refugee straight out of an 80's action movie. He's a jerk, he's ruthless, and he's kind of funny. He seems like the exact kind of guy who would try to fight a predator.

With all of the hard work that Joshua Williamson put into the writing of the book, the real hero is Christopher Mooneyham. His work, like the character Galgo, seems like it is out of a different era. It seems fairly old fashioned. It seems like it's un-touched by modern production methods in a way that's really nice. The closest comparison I can think of is Walter Simonson, which is funny because not only is he famous for Starjammers, a book about space pirates, but he also drew the adaptation of the first Alien movie way back in 1979 (it's also funny because the other book that I picked up that week is Ragnarok #2).

This comic excites me in the way that comic books should excite me. It's a big, pulpy, fun science fiction story with just enough ideas hanging on in the background to make it more than the sum of its parts. It uses all kinds of little tricks to get you up to speed, but it doesn't ever sacrifice the story or the action. In that way Williamson and Mooneyham have made a proper tribute to the Alien name. . . Even if it doesn't actually bare the Alien name.

Five out of Five Chestbursters. If you like action, if you like Predator, if you just want to get the taste of AvP #1 out of your crab mouth, read this book. I'll also give it some bonus GLOWING GREEN BLOOD STAINS OF DISTINCTION as it might actually redeem Fire and Stone. You know, might. Also, Joshua Williamson is a cool dude and he deserves your money. 

You can read previous entries in James Versus Fire and Stone below--

And, this is the last thing I will hype, I swear, but I podcast. And I love doing it, but it isn't free! So, if you love pulpy movies like I do and you want to support the arts, however low and turgid they may be, please think about throwing a buck or two my way on my Patreon.

So that's that! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for Aliens #2 and, ugh, Alien Versus Predator #2? God. Already? God. How many more of these issues are there? Jesus. . .

03 November, 2014

"We Were So Wrong!"

A Review of Prometheus: Fire and Stone #2
Part Three of "James Versus Fire and Stone."

Prometheus #2's greatest sin might be that it is rote to the point of not needing to exist. It is baseline comic book making from beginning to end. Its one or two interesting moments are counter-weighed by an equal number of equally powerful moments of idiocy. It isn't bad, it's just not very good.

Prometheus #2 executes on the cliffhanger issue #1 sets up. Meaning: Everyone gets turns into dog meat by a horde of xenomorphs. So there's that. This is followed by a chase scene involving lots of gunfire and then, finally, a mutant-alien shark attack. And it doesn't work. It's just there. As action, though, it isn't compelling because none of the people being killed or fighting back matter. They're just cyphers for the aliens to chew through, one after the other. 
I couldn't find any real art from #2, so here's this.

It made me think of Alien 3 and one of the many reasons why it doesn't work. It's chock full of violence and carnage, but, as a story it fails to scare you in the same way that it does in Alien and Aliens (or even Predator). Why?

As many people get wiped out in succession in James Cameron's masterpiece (to which all of these stories owe a debt, so I think it is fair to bring it up), that movie does a very good job setting up who these people are in very short order. Drake is a jock. Apone is a born marine. That one butch pilot is a stone cold professional. That one black guy likes pussy. And the world these characters live in. We recognize them, we like them or we hate them, but we know who they are and when they die, we can see them die as people. 

This comic does not accomplish that feat of tricking the audience into thinking they know something. Maybe it attempts to do so. Maybe it thinks that Prometheus, as a film, is enough to carry this world along. That there is a certain amount of knowledge an audience is going to carry in with them. If that's the case, then Paul Tobin has gravely miscalculated how to tell this story.

It isn't until about half of the way through the issue that any of the story actually bothers to get told. That's fine. Nothing wrong with that. I feel like most issues of Zero have a story that could fit on a bar napkin and that series is brilliant. This comic, if you haven't gathered is not brilliant.

The little plot we have is unpacked in a way that doesn't make sense and then completely lacks in any gravitas. So, it fails on both a functional and an emotional level. For example, our captain, you know What's-Her-Face, finally decides to come clean about the "true nature" of the mission. Her secret agenda being that she is out to discover what happened to Peter Weyland.

It's odd, because this is something that we already know. It doesn't read right at all. Is she supposed to appear to be a believer like Elizabeth Shaw? A fanatic like Ahab? A profiteer like the crew from Resurrection? Who knows! Who cares? All I can see is that her crew members are pissed off that they've been mislead. . . Even though danger was already inherent in the mission and there is no indication that they won't still be collecting big paychecks. She doesn't care about her mission, so neither do we.If anything, her "big reveal" is less a confession to her crew than a half-hearted apology to the reader.

Secondly, there is an entire sub-plot involving Elden and some scientist guy, who discover a cave that a survivor had been living in on this hostile alien planet. And, credit to Tobin, the idea of Robin Crusoe in space is pretty neat (if lacking in a monkey this time). Where it falls apart is that this plot goes from "Hmmm, what's all this?" to "Let's shoot each other up with alien goop. Should work out, right?" in about eight seconds flat. It's ridiculous.

To borrow a quote from Roger Ebert, "A good movie should leave you searching for answers, not asking questions." If that is true, then Prometheus #2 isn't a good story. It is less about developing a mystery than it is about leaving certain facts half-told and hoping that's good enough.

It bares stating that Juan Ferreyra is a solid enough artist and he delivers in #2 just as he did in #1. He can draw talking heads that look suffictiently different very well. If any of his work is actually lacking, it is in his panel layouts. His action sequences both show too much and then fail to connect one panel to the next. For whatever reason they don't seem to work like they should. Maybe that's more the fault of the writer, but how fair is that? He's already getting blamed for enough here. . .

The main failing is Paul Tobin's story. It doesn't hold together. On a character level we fail to understand what is motivating these characters and why their actions matter.

And, again, that space ship still looks like shit.

I give this THREE CHESTBURSTERS out of five. Not particularly great, but not particularly offensive. Plus, it gets some bonus points for trying its hand at writing something new for a movie that people talked nothing but shit about. A thankless task, if there ever was one.

The next issue on the agenda will be Predator: Fire and Stone #1. If you read one review in this entire series, I think you should stick around and read that one. . . That and AvP #1, because I hated that thing.

You can also read my reviews for:

And, if I haven't said it before, I'll say it this time: I am riding this fucking thing into the ground. There might even be a bonus after all the smoke clears. . .

James Kislingbury podcasts, writes, draws, and has brow-beatingly bold beliefs about Alien 3. He also has a Patreon going for his podcast, so if you love rambling and movies, why not help us out?

23 October, 2014

Fire and Stone and Piss

Or a Legacy of Acid Blood:
A review of Aliens Versus Predator: Fire and Stone #1.
By James Kislingbury

Exhibit 1: Pay attention. This will
 come up later.

Alien Versus Predator wasn't ever good, was it?

If making me ask the tough questions indicates sharp writing and fine storytelling, then Alien Versus Predator: Fire and Stone #1 is an excellent standard. If you judge it by any sort of actual standard, you will discover that this is one of the crappiest things you could throw $3.50 at. I suppose you could just flush it down the toilet, but that doesn't seem very environmentally sound.

If anything AvP #1 should be applauded for its consistency. The comic begins as it ends: An incoherent jumble of characters, plot points, and unknown motives, then filled in with lazy art and a dumb concept. 

From the very first pages, you know that you're in trouble, because it begins less en media res than it does directly after another comic book, one that, notably has not been released yet (The editorial staff at Dark Horse are happy to point out in synopsis that this takes place between the Prometheus story and the Predator story, which, again, if Predator is going to be in the future then why even. . . Ah, never mind).

The story Christopher Sebela has scrawled into the dirt with his numb hands, rendered as dactyl as flippers from years of neuro-syphillis (or so I imagine) is shockingly incoherent, even for a book that contains the word “Versus.”

I could go on and on about the problems this issue has, from minor to major, but to burn any more calories on this than I need to would make me look like an even bigger asshole than I already am. The problematic crux of this book is the villain. . . Or rather, who I understand the villain to be. And he must be the villain, he doesn't have any skin. Or, well, a little bit of skin, which is arguably worse than no skin at all.

Hey! Look! Stuff!
I don't know who this bad guy is. Not in the sense of “Who is good? Who is bad? In this crazy, mixed up world of ours, is there any other shade than grey?” No. I mean it in the sense of “I do not know who this is supposed to be.” I know now that he is from the Prometheus comic book, but really, how is anybody supposed to piece that together? Or much less care? I'm reading these books and I have no idea what this is supposed to be.

The villain looks like he's dressed up as an edgy re-imagining of Skeletor that you found on Deviant Art and. . . Poison Ivy? And he can control aliens? For some reason? As best as I can tell, the bad guy, whoever the fuck he is, is some kind of a GWAR. I mean, I like GWAR and it's good to see them get work, but I don't know if this is the right project for them. Also, I wish for death.

As far as the art goes, I was actually looking forward to Ariel Olivetti's return to this weird sub-series. In 2007 he worked on the book Superman and Batman Versus Alien Versus Predator which, even as a devout nerd is a bridge too far. That said, I like him as an artist. He's done fine work in the past and it's always good to see a book like this, which can sell on its name alone, featuring a skilled, respectable artist.

I can see now this thinking was delusional.

As fine as Olivetti might have been in the past, this comic book (on all levels, to be fair), on every level, is a lazy, misguided book. So, again, at least the art matches the script.

His panels, in many cases look unfinished. And, fair enough, maybe that's his style. Cary Nord's art never looks finished and he's great. As you read on, though, a pattern begins to emerge. You being to see an unfortunate amount of recycled backgrounds in the book, as well as one of the silliest, most obvious cut and paste jobs that I've ever seen. If he doesn't particularly care about the book and its art, why should I?

So, there is a laser gun in this book. And it is a plot point. Because, of course, in all the universe, in all of the things and ideas you could stumble upon, from the dawn of the species to its near extinction, the only thing you can come up with to intrigue the audience is a gun that shoots slightly better than the other guns we've already seen. What wonders await us in issue #2? Maybe a car that goes slightly faster than other cars! Maybe it uses five wheels!

But you will see this gun over and over again. I do mean the same gun. Olivetti only seemed to have drawn it two or three times, the other times, it is poorly photoshopped into a character's hand. Oh wait, sometimes it's mirrored. And sometimes it's tilted slightly.

Also, the space ship from the Prometheus comic book still looks dumb as hell. It looks like a dumpster with a cyst problem.

Admittedly, the color palette in this
version is better than the print version.

AvP also carries on Prometheus' tradition of featuring a great artist kind of phoning in a cover. The cover features another AvP legacy artist: Mike Mignola. Who originally worked on AvP #0 way back in the late 80's, the inaugural issue of this entire debacle. In a way he's to blame for all of this. Anyways, it's not a god cover. It's not good A, v, or P art and it certainly doesn't belong alongside other Mignola art. Oh well. At least he didn't lose too much time making this one and he could probably buy a high end juicer with this pay check. And everybody deserves a good juice.

I don't hate this comic. I hate that I have to read three more issues of it. None of that feels good to say. I like this universe on the whole and, as I get older, I don't like to trash things simply because they're bad. Now I try to only trash things because they are morally objectionable or because of some terrible political point they're trying to push. But this? It's just lazy. And that's not enough of a character flaw to justify my anger.

This poor excuse for kindling gets one chestburster out of five. I pray for the silly chestburster from Space Balls. Give me anything else but what this is. It is only spared a zero for Olivetti's competent, if fairly unenthusiastic art. Even when he doesn't care, he can still pump out something worth looking at. Almost.

See you next month, you blight, I hope you. . . Oh. Oh, we're going to get a fucking pred-alien, aren't we? Goddamnit what am I even doing here?

Speaking of logos, the AVP logo puts a sour taste in your mouth, doesn't it? I prefer the original logo, if only because it isn't tainted by those terrible, terrible movies. Goddamn Requiem is a piece of garbage.

You can read part one of Me versus Aliens Versus Predator here.

James Kislingbury writes, podcasts, and needs you and is sick and tired of your bullshit.