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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

New Marvel Animated Movie Pits Hulk Against Thor, Wolverine

This one's got me all excited. Don't get me wrong, I prefer well-written, intelligent super-duper-hero fare, with nary a shred of goof or camp in sight. But, I'm also still a fanboy at heart. Which is why I was VERY interested to hear of Marvel's animated movie offering slated for January '09 release.

The opening of next year will bring fans a Marvel dvd sporting two epic slugfests: Hulk vs Thor and Hulk vs Wolverine. No, they probably won't be big on characterization, but the action will no doubt feed the need for good ol' fashioned knock-down, drag-out super-powered goings-on!

Now, I can remember being extremely jazzed over the prospect of such battles as a pre-teen reader of comics. More than once I was in awe of the seemingly earth-shattering confrontation(s) between ol' "Jade Jaws" and "Goldilocks". (Oh, what we owe Stan Lee!) And, I still often kick myself for letting Hulk #181 go (for about 20 bucks, at the time) as a 16-year-old vehicle owner, no doubt looking for gas- and "fun"-money.

Well, while this animated venture is not likely to end my decades-long self-criticism for not still owning the first-ever (appearance of and) confrontation between the Canuck of Cutlary and the Irradiated Rampager (Ouch! I'm no Stan!), it's sure to salve my soul.

Click here to read all about it and view the trailer!

Mark Allen

Lazarus: The Many Reincarnations - From 2000

The difference between an amateur and an Olympic athlete is often a fraction of a second.

The difference between an amateur and a master cartoonist is often just as small.

As proof, Lazarus: The Many Reincarnations is a new comic book series by an exciting new talent who just barely misses the mark. If such awards existed, Zak Hennessey would be a strong contender for "Most Promising Newcomer of the Year".

Lazarus is an epic adventure set firmly in the storytelling tradition of novelist J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and cartoonist Jeff Smith's Bone.

The Lords of the Dead rise up to overthrow the human warriors of earth. In a last ditch attempt to escape annihilation, a dead champion is literally resurrected as muscle, skin and blood clothe the skeleton of Lazarus, the reluctant but last hope of mankind.

That isn't wildly original, but does offer some nice concepts. So, the fault lies not in the plot of Lazarus. It lies in the telling.

Zak Hennessey's prose occasionally reads like an outline. "Everywhere she runs, there are more [monsters]. Their undead fingers tear at her. Yet she manages to elude them. She breaks through some trees and suddenly sees hope!" Just as unsettling, Hennessey's dialog occasionally sounds stilted and melodramatic.

But, for comic fans who wrongly value art above all else, it is its art that is most troublesome. It is flat. Although the artist's visual storytelling is clear, his pacing crisp, and his characters well staged, the width of his line never seems to vary. That weakens the illusion of depth, perspective and movement, and the ability of readers to suspended disbelief and live inside the story.

Then the difference between this artist and a master cartoonist is the width of a line? That and a polish and personal viewpoint that will come with time, practice and life experience.

Review by Michael Vance

Lazarus: The Many Reincarnations #1 is priced at $2.95 and is 21 pages. It is printed by Lodestone Publishing and is sold in comic shops, by mail, and on the internet.

Joker/Mask - From 2000

(Joker/Mask trade paperback)

Face it. The appearance of one successful comic book character in the title of another popular icon is seldom a gamble for publishers. But "crossover" titles do not guarantee a winning hand for readers...unless there is a Joker in the deck.

Batman's Joker is easily the most popular and recognized villain in comic book history. The Mask is easily the most successful superhero rifle in Dark Horse Comics' history. So, how can you lose?

You could lose yourself in the story.

While vandalizing a museum exhibit, The Joker dons an infamous mask that unleashes a person's suppressed desires and morphs them into a super-powered, invincible Tasmanian Devil on acid. Since Joker is already madness incarnate, it enables him to finally accomplish his ultimate goal, to beat Batman within an inch of that superhero's life.

With “Bats” out of the picture, the Joker's unstoppable crime wave quickly leads the Clown Prince of Crime to boredom and...television!

You could lose yourself in the art.

Those pictures in Joker/Mask are drawn in the simple but dynamic style of the current television animated series featuring the Caped Crusader. Dark but cartoonish, the straightforward visual storytelling is flawless and exciting. Harlequin could not be sexier, the Batman more grim, or The Joker less menacing.

Those words in Joker/Mask do an amazing job of capturing the essence of both characters without lessening either. The subtle fear that always underlies the Joker's ghastly face (when done right) is only heightened by the maniacal hyper-energy that is the trademark of The Mask and many classic cartoons.

And super villain Poison Ivy is waiting to infect the third issue! So, how could you lose, reader? You could buy Opra's new magazine instead of Joker/Mask.

But, then, the joke would be on you.

Joker/Mask is highly recommended for all ages.

Review by Michael Vance

Joker/Mask #s 1 & 2 (of 4)1$2.95 and 22 pages each, Dark Horse/DC Comics/story: Henry Gilroy, Ronnie del Carmen; art: Ramon F. Bach/sold in comic shops and by mail.