23 June, 2016

Some Nice Reactionary Nonsense.

The fate of the Western world is scary and weird right now. It used to be kind of simple.

You had your rich people and you had your racists scared of how brown people were going to get over here and somehow fuck us out of everything. That was shitty, but it made sense in a kind of regressive, real politik sort of way. It made sense in the way a caveman would react if you gave him some real shiny rocks. There was a logic to it. Shitty, but rational.

Now, though? Now? Now, it's those same racists and shit heels worrying about foreigners, but instead of looking to do the same old shit like bomb them or whatever, these old fucks are standing on top of their towers begging these people to kill them. It's like, somehow their own lives because so terrible and bereft of meaning that the only way out they see is to demand that these foreign folks FINALLY fulfill their duty and finally wipe them out, which is what they've been telling themselves all these years. Suicide by foreigner.

Let's finally do it. Take out the whole country, the fuck do they care? They don't even have the balls to do it themselves. So they foment division and fear and all the rest of the standard playbook crap that goes back to when we was all in caves. Because the people in charge, however vague of an idea as that is, do not care. The mob wants somebody to finally break it apart and put it out of its misery. You lot seem like a good choice.

They can try to finagle their way into an assisted suicide all they want, but it's the people below them that get crushed and, let's not forget, the people they were afraid of all these years aren't the fiends they thought they were. They won't do that kind of dirty work. Because, you know, they're not all fucking assholes like some people.

I'm bummed out about the UK (more specifically: England). I'm bummed out about America. I'm bummed out about huge chunks of Europe that see their worst fears in the shadows.

Remember, we are not descended from fearful men. But we are. We're scared shitless. Top to bottom. Never forget that. You can love your neighbor as much as you want, but it's a scary world out there. People will try to shake you out of it. They'll try real hard. Because these people want desperately for some big brown fella to crush their head in with a rock. Because that's easier than dealing with reality. Which is fucking hard.

What was I saying? Oh. I don't know. Congrats to the shit heads. Congrats to the fascists. Congrats to the far right. Congrats to the Nazis. Congrats to the poor people about to get fucked by Boris and Farage and their ilk. Congrats to a newly independent Scotland, because I'm sure this was how they wanted this to shake out. Congrats to the expats who now get to think about if they get to move back or not. Congrats to lizard-fuckers like David Cameron. Congrats to the EU and the flaming pile of dog shit that just go mailed overnight to Brussels. Congrats to the Kremlin, which benefits from a divided Europe. Congrats to the shit heads and the people having shit poured on their heads. Don't worry, America is coming to meet you guys there soon.

But what do I know. I'm drinking and "Fairytale of New York" just came on, so who can say, really?

12 June, 2016

A Matter of Life and Death Part 2

Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Brian Albert Thies
Coloring by Rain Beredo

It's fine. Predator: Life and Death is fine. Perfectly fine. There's colonial marines. They fight and they bitch at each other as you would expect Colonial Marines to fight and bitch. Somebody screams “Get some” and unloads a magazine into the jungle. There's a corporate goon. There's a predator-- Predators, even. And it's all fine. It's a Predator story and it's fine.

Predator: Life and Death is another "multifranchise story cycle" from the minds at Dark Horse. Their previous attempt at weaving Predator, Aliens, Aliens Versus Predator, and Prometheus together into one big story involved different writers and different artists for every story. This time around, they just got the one writer.

Dan Abnett is a perfect choice. He's done space warfare with his Gaunt's Ghost series and he's done comic books (with Andy Lanning) in Guardians of the Galaxy (you might know them from the only Guardians of the Galaxy comic story than anyone has ever ready).

Unfortunately, like much of the line art and the coloring, Predator: Life and Death is a merely adequate experience. At best, it hits the beats that it needs to, at worst it just feels slightly off. It's a book that's better than it could have been, but still not as good as it should be.

At least it's not good enough to get me to forget about how the last time this went down, half of these stories were garbage.

There's one thing about these books, one thing that almost always bugs me, which is that the art doesn't feel right. It doesn't have the grit or the feel of the movies (or even my memory of the novel adaptations-- shout out to SD Perry). The work of Brian Albert Thies is no exception. His work feels unfocused, making it look less like an Impressionist's vision of Predator and more like sloppy art. I suppose there's an argument for both of those art styles. It isn't like adhering to the world's previous creators is going to do anyone any favors.

The colors from Rain Beredo don't help either. The page are colorful in a way that a limited edition bag of Skittles are colorful. It's a semi-pastel wash that doesn't seem to match either the art from Thies or the story from Abnett. In some cases the coloring from Beredo seems to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting (and not very well). The two sides of the art seem to be telling a different story, and neither of those seem to agree with what kind of story they're telling. It isn't bad. There aren't any mistakes that are irredeemable, but they're mistakes that keep the book from being better than a competent licensed comic. That's a bummer, considering the potential that even something as silly as Predator (see: Predator: Fire and Stone).

Then again, I suppose Thies deserves some credit as far as the design of the world goes. He's got some chops as a mechanical draftsman, which sounds like it isn't much, but, seriously, you go out there and try drawing machinery that looks like it actually works. It's really hard. He also manages to embed references to the original 1990 AvP comic which is a nice, if superfluous touch.

But, of course, the most important touch is this:

Thies put the Cracked Tusk Predator from the Kenner AvP action figure line into the comic. There's two reasons for this: 1) He's lazy and used the figure (or the Neca update) as a physical reference or 2) Either him or Abnett did such a deep lore dive that they figured it would be cool for the superfans to see a twenty year old toy in their silly little comic book.

Well, I noticed, and I love it.

It's little things like that that this book needed more of. More weird stuff. More easter eggs. More joie de vivre. As it stands, it's a very nice book, I just see myself having any real future with it.

. . . That was weird. Don't know where that came from. . .

Anyways, like I said, all in all Predator: Life and Death #1-4 is fine. And as fine as it is and as glad as I am that anyone can get comic books made, I can't help but feel that this isn't the best project for Abnett's talents as a military sci-fi writer and that Thies could use a few more years in the oven before he's allowed to handle something as kinetic as this book. And Beredo? He'll be fine. Jordie Bellaire and Dave Stewart can only color so many books, right?

MONSTER OF THE MONTH/MONTHS/WHATEVER: There is none. It's just the predator. Unless you consider Man to be the ultimate monster. Which I don't. Because that sucks. I suppose a straight Predator story, if well executed, doesn't need a gimmick monster to make it worth reading. Predator: Life and Death is not in need of a silly monster. It's fine as it is. It'd just be nice, you know? It would be nice if there was something more to this story than what there currently is.

I give Predator: Life and Death THREE CHESTBURSTERS OUT OF FIVE. It's a likable, well put together action story, if entirely by the numbers.

ONE QUICK NOTE-- This is not the only Dan Abnett story on the shelves right now. Over the past five years or so Dan Abnett and his artist partner INJ Culbard have been quietly making some of the coolest science fiction books out there (The New Deadwardians and Dark Ages) and Wild's End is a continuation of that run.

Wild's End is-- and I want you to stick with me on this until I'm done saying what I've got to say-- is a retelling of War of the Worlds in the world of The Wind and the Willows. It's an alien invasion with anthropomorphic animals.

It's a conceit that allows for Culbard to do some pitch perfect cartooning and for Abnett's handle on the English vernacular to be that much more charming. It's a well written, beautifully illustrated book that I simply adore. I would highly recommend it to anyone. I also feel like after the amount of shit I just talked, I should say something nice about something. Well, there it is. Buy Wild's End.

IN OTHER NEWS: This series doesn't stop here. I will be covering Dark Horse's "Life and Death" story cycle for as long as it's going. That also means that I have an excuse to talk about other Aliens, Predator, and AvP comics because, boy howdy, have I been making some dumb decisions on eBay lately.

If that sounds appealing to you at all, then stand by. If that doesn't sound appealing to you, please send help.

Aliens: Defiance #1 and #2 are out as we speak (and are not part of the "Life and Death" cycle as I had assumed they were) and, just last week Prometheus: Life and Death #1 has come out as well. I'm working on those reviews as we speak.

More on the way, in the meantime, you can check out my previous run of reviews by searching for “James Versus Fire and Stone."

As far as other parts of this series (which includes Archie Versus Predator and Aliens/Vampirella), you can go here.

See you soon.

09 June, 2016

Abandon Hope All Ye Etc Etc Etc

A review of The Wailing (2016)
Directed by Na Hong Jin

The Wailing is a film that, from the outset, purports to be a mysterious film, mystical, even. While there's many questions and concepts the film raises and just as easy moves past, there's one question that bothers me the most. Is The Wailing a dumb film that thinks its smart or a film that's just dumb?

The Wailing: It's like The Exorcist, but shit.
 We might never know. Nor should we. There are some things man isn't meant to know. That might be one of the themes of The Wailing, but you shouldn't spend any amount of time trying to find out if that's true or not. The only thing people should do to The Wailing is to encase it in concrete and drop it into the bottom of a very deep lake.

The main cop is kind of chubby. That's fun.
The Wailing comes from Na Hong Jin, he of The Chaser, one of the more contentious films amongst my friends and I (they love it and I'm right). As troubling as that film is, there was a talent on display. Hearing about The Wailing, I wanted to see what he could do with some more years under his belt, and with a different genre.

This is what I get for being curious.

The Wailing is part ghost story, part possession story, part detective story, and part family drama. It's as much True Detective as it is The Excorcist as it is The Host. And, brother, does it show. In The Wailing's ass-grindingly long seventeen hours (IMBD says “Two hours, thirty six minutes,” but that can't be right), it bounces confidently from one genre to another, from one theme to another. At first it's fun to watch the movie slowly work its way towards the main plot. It's a mystery film and it does a good job of being mysterious. It doesn't show its cards right away and that works right up until you realize that it isn't taking the scenic route, it's just meandering. At no point is either the set up, the execution, or follow through anything less than a waste of time. Exciting sometimes, but, by the end, The Wailing's drama is one massive, ghosty wank.

God, I'm angry at this fucking movie.

Part of this is because the few twists that the film has neither work nor are they actual twists. The film's central premise is wrapped around a mysterious Japanese man that has shown up in this rural mountain village. Ever since he showed up, one of the movie's more gullible charcters says, there's been trouble around town.

The film's main character, like you, knows that this is ridiculous. People don't just show up to town and cause trouble. Especially not foreigners. Plus, it's 2016, you can't just throw a mysterious foreigner into your film and expect us to be afraid of him because it's A) Hackneyed and B) Racist. It would be like a Mexican showing up to an American movies and everyone going “There's something wrong with that greaser up there.”

(Oh, and everyone calls the Japanese man the “Jap,” which, like, I get. These aren't hyper-liberal city folk. Maybe they don't use all the right nomenclature. This isn't tumblr, this is the real world and sometimes that's okay. I'm not so much offended by any of it as I am confused. Am I meant to sympathize with these people despite their xenophobia? Or empathize with it? Am I meant to feel sorry for their ignorance? Is there just a level of Korean mountain patois that I'm missing? If the movie is only two and a half hours long, how come when I look in the mirror, I see the face of a seventy year old man?)

Anyways, if an American movie busted that out, you'd go either “Fuck you, movie” or “Fuck you, guy.” I'm not sure where I'm supposed to stand with The Wailing, which goes back to the degree of stupidity that the movie is guilty of. There are very few sane readings of a plot point like that and I don't think The Wailing accounted for any of them.

As the film unravels, it's supposed to be a revelation that this semi-racist stereotype is, SHOCKER, actually not a bad person. Unless of course. . . HE IS! And then you realiz that you don't care and that none of it makes sense. The film wants to play the premise of demonic possession and ghosts and all that in a straight manner (I must confess, Korean mysticism is not one of the areas of my expertise),

It's like watching a really confident lumberjack run along one of those logs in the water. For a while it's fun to see him play this game, to keep ahead of the log, to keep his balance, then, eventually, the momentum catches up with him and he eats shit and falls into the water. Except he keeps pumping his legs. And he's telling you that this is important, that this is really what lumberjacking is all about. And it takes three hours. And you hate yourself at the end. And lumberjacks. And life.

Fuck lumberjacks.

Fuck The Wailing.

Fuck me.

What movies was this dude in?
Wait, don't tell me, I'll get this.
Like a lot of truly hateable films, The Wailing isn't just plain bad. There's a kind of charm to shabby films. Your indy comedies, your Z-grade monster movies, your exploitation films. Those can be fun. And The Wailing, up until its ludicrous fifth act has some laughs in it, as well. It's also well shot and beautifully set dressed. You won't find a better looking movie that takes place in the Korean countryside this year. Or maybe any year.

Did I mention that I hate this movie?

I guess that zombie attack was cool. I mean, it was nonsense, but. . . No, wait. Why was that even in that fucking movie? 


Something nice: The girl that plays Gyo-Jin does an A+ of playing both a percocious daughter that has a dumbass for a dad and a ravenous demon that has a dumbass for a dad. I'd like to see her in a good movie. Also, I can't find her name on IMDB. MY BAD, OKAY?

That script, though. Boy howdy that mother fucking script.

That fucking script.

Jesus Christ, do I hate this mother fucking movie.

Ugh. And the ending. I don't even hate the ending because it's a downer. DOWNERS ARE FINE! The Exorcist is a movie that this film owes and awful lot to and it has a bummer ending and I love that movie. I also love The Host which has a both a bummer ending and an ending that makes very little sense, but I LIKE that movie because it's fun! It does stuff! What does The Wailing do? It makes your a series of promises and then, over the course of the rest of your life, breaks them one by one until you look back on them and have one fatal, terrible realization. It's too late. The Wailing already has you in its grips and it is never letting go.

The Wailing is the Devil.