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.

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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?