5-Second Review: "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (Plus Bonus Art!)

Did you know that I’m that guy? I’m the guy who whenever there’s Transformers related news (new film, new cartoon, new video game, etc), everyone I know comes to me. I’m like… the only Transformers pundit my circle of friends is acquainted with. So how could I not review…

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon (In theaters now!)

Man, after watching this movie, I’m all: O_O

As in shellshocked. Very intense.

Basically, it’s Michael Bay, you should know what you’re getting into, so don’t be hating. This one is better than the second one, and not as good as the first. If you’ve seen the other two, you have a good idea where your opinion will fall.

It’s a 4 hour plot crammed into a ~2.5 hour movie, and I felt like we were only watching every other scene–the burden is on the viewer to fill in the blanks in many instances. But you get what you’re there for: crazy intense robot battles, hot cars, one hot girl, and plenty of ‘splosions.

As promised by Bay himself, the toilet humor is pretty much gone (there were maybe three toilet humor jokes, and some innuendo, but nothing even as bad as the masturbation conversation in the first movie). And with that little modification, I did find myself enjoying almost every joke that was cracked.

Like the second movie, this one suffers from too many new robots with too little characterization. Let me rephrase that… there’s no such thing as too many robots, but let’s see some personality, yes? The old school cartoon had a cast of dozens, with distinct personalities established within the first handful of episodes. On the Decepticon side, the hordes of grey Genericons (some of whom were supposed to be “somebody”) were pretty dismissable.

Another notable downside carried over from the second movie–Optimus Prime’s moral compass goes beyond the Mortal Kombat mark, when it should really be closer to the Superman mark.

My last two complaints:
1) Why are Transformers so hairy and gooey? You’ll see what I mean.
2) They are referred to as Transformers in dialogue, which is a huge faux pas to me. Transformers is the name of the franchise dude, not the race. They’re Cybertronians. I know, pretty nerdy, right? Hi ladies.


Verdict: Come on, who are you talking to here? It’s me, Transformers fan numbah one. It was Awesome. Good pacing, intense action. I’m not downplaying the movie’s faults, but like I said, we all know what we’re getting into. If you can acknowledge significant flaws without letting it bum you out, and you’re looking for some robo-centric eye candy, then go for it.

For More Giant Robots Getting Blowed Up Good: Real Steel is coming out in October, and oh my god it looks stupid and also, why do I have to wait until October??? ROBOTS NOW PLZ. K thx.

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That was more like a 500 second review, but oh well. In unrelated Transformers news, I did this for my co-worker’s son:

click above for larger view

Autobot insignia drawn by me. Child courtesy of Blabidibla, photo by Ruth666.

The Big O (neither the giant robot anime, nor the tire store, nor the other thing)… Also: Tron, and Happy New Year!

First off–if you’re here because of my Tron Calamari post from two weeks ago, welcome! I got a few re-tweets regarding that post, not the least of which were from renowned Twitter maven Bonnie Burton, and the official Star Wars Twitter account! So a big thanks to Bonnie, the folks at @StarWars, everyone else who re-tweeted me, and everyone who dropped in to look at my blog (both new and long-time readers). And of course, another big thanks to my crony Dave, who came up with the title Tron Calamari.

Secondly–I was in a bit of a rush last week, so I didn’t get a chance to mention what I thought about Tron: Legacy–so how about a five second review?

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Tron: Legacy (In theaters in 3D and IMAX 3D)

The dialogue was mostly very standard for a special effects blockbuster, with occasional moments of brilliance (often via Jeff Bridges’ unexpected moments of channeling the Dude/himself). The 3D was uneven and generally not a big deal–though I’ve heard a lot of people say otherwise–your mileage may vary, as projectionists at individual theaters may not have their gear properly calibrated. The pacing and performances were strong, and the special effects and art direction were pitch perfect. But most importantly, this movie knows what it is, where it came from, and isn’t ashamed of it.

Verdict: Awesome. I had fairly high expectations, and was pleasantly surprised to have those expectations satisfied. A big bucket of black glass, neon piping, and FUN!

For More Computer World Adventure: Track down the original Tron, or watch some Reboot (coming to DVD soon, by the way!).

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And now back to our abnormally scheduled nerdiness:

So, the tradition around here is that I draw up a Skeletor or He-Man (or some version thereof), and post it to commemorate the New Year. Well, I wasn’t sure which version to go with, and as I sat here looking at the menagerie of action figures on my desk, it occurred to me that the Masters of the Universe Classics version of Orko (character info/figure) would probably be the only figure I would keep if I had to sell off my He-Man collection. This in turn made me realize that Orko is one of my two favorite He-Man characters (the other being the Sorceress). True, Orko was most often relegated to the role of goofy sidekick, but I always thought he looked cool, had a cool species backstory (he’s a member of the inherently magical Trollan race from another dimension), and as a character, he always had the potential for more. Anywaysss… here he is:

click above for larger view

I threw in some costume elements from the 200x version of Orko, but mostly kept his classic proportions. The big “O” on his chest, while iconic, was always a bit too goofy for me–so I styled it as a circular magical ward. Yes, I know, I’m splitting very nerdy hairs in regards to what’s goofy and what isn’t. Perhaps most significantly, I changed up his eyes, to give him more of an otherworldly quality. I don’t think Orko should ever be played as “dark” or creepy, but giving a character an alien look can add a little edge to him, without changing his personality.

I think this is a huge improvement over my earlier depiction of Orko’s lady friend, Dree Elle.

Happy Nerd Year, everyone! (Note: that was intentional, not a typo. You nerds.)

Also posted on the He-Man.org fan-art forums. My post is here, the entire thread (including some of my previous sketches) is here.

Anti-Hero in a Half-Shell (Plus a review of "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"!)

Last weekend, I was hanging out with Dave, filling his wallet full of my hard-earned cash, in exchange for some action figures that he had picked up for me, and buying some of his unwanted toys as well. He gave me a pretty good deal on a bunch of Transformers and Gobots, but feeling that I needed to evacuate more money from my pocket, I also bought a TMNT figure from him–Slash, the evil Ninja Turtle (not to be confused with Tokka). FYI, Slash started off as a villain, but later became something of an anti-hero, hence the title of today’s post:

This is 100% digital, painted in Photoshop. I kept Slash’s details pretty close to his toy incarnation, with a few exceptions… I gave his crude claws a bit more gritty detail (added twine and a wood spacer, in addition to the claws/wrappings), and I interpreted his octagonal belt buckle as a representation of the eight trigrams diagram, with the Taijitu in the center. In retrospect, I don’t know why I didn’t detail the belt buckle with the actual trigrams. I guess I got caught up in Taijitu madness. Lastly, I did not give Slash magenta weapons, but instead threw in a magenta light source as a nod to his garishly colored acsessories. I considered putting some magenta in his wardrobe, but decided that might create confusion with Donatello‘s signature purple.

Overall, I’m not sure how I feel about this one… I’m happy with certain parts, like his bandanna, and the rendering on his iron belt and wooden shoulder pads. On the other hand, I just don’t know if the piece works as a whole. Thoughts?

While you’re mulling it over, here’s a review:

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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (In theaters now!)

I know that I have done my job informing the public that I’m a **huge Transformers geek when I am asked to weigh in on the movie by almost everyone I know. But enough of my self-congratulatory dorkiness, on with the review…

My experience with enjoying entertainment is that you have to have your expectations calibrated properly… I went into this movie expecting more robots and better robot fights, but also expecting more unnecessary toilet humor. I was right on both counts. Let’s break this down a bit–

Action… The fights from the first movie were widely criticized as being too chaotic and unintelligible. I said that myself, in my review. However, in subsequent viewings on DVD, I found that the fights were very easy to read–on a smaller screen. The battles in Revenge of the Fallen were better on the big screen (but still unintelligible at times), so I expect they will be even better on DVD. The tone of the fights brought the brutality of the first movie to a new level–the stakes are higher, the casualties are worse, and nobody is holding back–not the good guys, not the bad guys, and certainly not the folks who handled the movie’s record-breaking computer generated effects. The Autobots and Decepticons pull off many flashy, devastating combat maneuvers, and the results are spectacular.

Robots… there were sooo many new Transformers in this movie, and with a variety of sizes and body types/alternate modes. They got tons of screentime, but surprisingly few lines of dialogue–hopefully in the presumed sequel, the Transformers will get some more character development. But even so, more, diverse robots is a step in the right direction.

The toilet humor… or “edgy, adult” humor, if you prefer to be delusional, was unnecessary in the first movie, and even worse, totally unfunny. The bad news is that Revenge of the Fallen, unfortunately, has about ten times more toilet humor. The good news is that the crude jokes are occasionally funny, unlike the first go-round. The other bad news is that whether or not it’s funny, the jokes are still totally out of place, and add nothing. The really disappointing thing is that the non-toilet humor in the film is actually very charming and endearing, and more of that would have served the film better.

Story… there’s no two ways about it, there’s a lot of sloppy storytelling and bad editing in this movie. It doesn’t have any egregious plotholes–but there are several instances of questionable storytelling decisions that create unecessary ambiguity. However, the movie has good pacing–it marched forward at a good clip, and there weren’t any real lulls.

Verdict: For me, it was Awesome. But I’m not gonna lie–your mileage will vary. Since that fateful day in 1984 when I first discovered Transformers, I’ve been quietly rearranging my brain-space to more efficiently harvest Transformers information. In all honesty–I do not, blindly love everything with a Transformers label on it, but I am able to enjoy whatever good that does exist in the franchise, moreso than many fans that I have encountered. I’d like to think that I’m also capable of honest criticism, in spite of my affection for the franchise, but that shall ultimately be up to you to judge, dear reader. If you’re capable of enjoying mindless fun and eye candy, with some flawed storytelling, this is for you. For anyone else–save it for a rental, or a cable viewing. And specifically for the haters–please, don’t go just so you can smugly tell your friends, “I told you it would be terrible.” Save your money!

For More Transformers Goodness, But With A Totally Different Approach: Watch Transformers Animated! It’s charming, light-hearted, filled with references for long-time fans, but at the same time, totally accessible to n00bs.

**Actually, I’m not huge–just 5’8, 155 pounds. Yes, these are the jokes, folks. My sincerest apologies.

Don’t let it go to your head (plus a review of "The Fall")

Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing… MODOK

MODOK is spectacularly hideous, and therefore great fun to draw.

And now, a five second review!

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The Fall (In theaters now!)

Contrasting a slyly humorous, self-aware, and visually gorgeous fantasy world against a nostalgic yet poignant view of 1920’s Los Angeles, The Fall elegantly tells the story of two convalescent hospital patients. Watch the trailer here.

Verdict: Awesome. Just go watch it!

For More Fantasy Movie Awesomeness: Corny and not self-aware, Krull is still pretty awesome. Just saying.

Crouching Villain, Hidden Dragon… (Plus a BONUS Dragon-Related Review!)

Resuming my series of Masters of the Universe action figure variants re-purposed into new characters–today, I bring you Dragon Blaster Skeletor, now recreated as simply Dragon Blaster, another member of Skeletor’s Elite. I’ve dubbed his previously unnamed pet dragon Paralyzor, a name which comes from one of the international versions of the figure, known as “Skeletor Paralyzor.”

click above for larger view

To be perfectly honest, I’m really not crazy about how this one turned out. The drawing feels lethargic to me, and the skull-motif face paint just didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it. On the plus side, although I found it a struggle to get the colors to mesh, I think that part (at the very least) turned out reasonably well. This is one that I’ll need to revisit someday, but for now I’m just going to move forward. Super-nerdy character profile follows–but stay tuned (or skip ahead) for a bonus review!

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PROFILE: From a perilous cliffside, about a day’s ride from Snake Mountain, the air is sundered by fearsome draconic cries. The cliffside, riddled with a network of caverns, serves as a roost for Skeletor’s fleet of dragons. The evil warrior DRAGON BLASTER walks silently and authoritatively amongst the trained saurian killers, charged with their care and training. His training techniques are cruel and harsh, revolving around the gradual break down of each dragon’s will, accomplished partially through psychic conditioning. Dragon Blaster is a capable warrior in his own right, but prefers to let his ‘pets’ do the fighting. His favorite is a particularly vicious dragon named PARALYZOR, whom Dragon Blaster can only rein in with the aid of a bewitched collar and psionic chains. Paralyzor is named for his paralysis-inducing venom. In spite of his relatively diminuitive size, he is particularly pugnacious, and has frequently taken down fearsome beasts several times his size.

HISTORY: Dragon Blaster is, in his own twisted way, an idealist. Hailing from a long lineage of Infinitan dragon tamers, Dragon Blaster was raised on tales of Infinitan domination over man and beast alike. To him, the subjugation of dragons (who are perhaps the most powerful of all living things) is the ultimate symbol of Infinitan power. Skeletor, seeking to fortify his aerial cavalry, has taken advantage of Dragon Blaster’s idealism by painting a vision of utter Infinitan supremacy brought about by a fleet of dragons with numbers so great as to blot out the sun itself. Thus, in order to ressurrect his ideal of Infinita, Dragon Blaster has joined the ranks of Skeletor’s Elite. He cares little for the petty power struggles between ARMORAX and TERROR CLAW, nor is he interested in the machinations of Evil-Lyn or any of Skeletor’s other lieutenants–very simply, anyone who stands in the way of the Infinitan cause will suffer his wrath. However, in truth, Skeletor only feigns devotion to Infinitan ideals to secure the power of Dragon Blaster’s reptilian fleet. What will happen when Dragon Blaster discovers Skeletor’s true nature?

It is worth noting, that in his struggles against the forces of good on Eternia, Dragon Blaster’s vile enslavement of dragonkind has earned him the lifelong enmity of Granamyr.

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Also posted on the He-Man.org fan-art forums. The thread is here and the post is here.

For my other “new characters from old variants” posts:

Oh yeah, speaking of dragons, I somehow tricked Jacob and Carrie into going to watch a certain dragon-y movie with me:

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Dragon Wars AKA D-War (In theaters now!)

Ok first up, I have to say, what’s up with the title? This was originally a Korean movie titled D-War, and according to Wikipedia (questionable, I know) the title in the North American release is D-War: Dragon Wars. Buuut… everything I’ve seen for the movie calls it Dragon Wars with D-War as a subtitle. And regardless of that little confusion, how is it that Dragon Wars (PLURAL) becomes D-War (SINGULAR) when abbreviated? Nonsensical.

Well, the movie makes just about as much sense as that crazy little rant I just had. Peppered with large doses of corny dialogue and bizarre leaps in logic, Dragon War must be seen to be believed. However, on the plus side, unlike the little rant I just had, Dragon Wars is filled with dragons! And wars! And dragon wars! Basically, you have to think of Dragon Wars as a Godzilla movie (which it essentially is).

Verdict: Awesome. There are bad movies (which are just no fun), and there are B-movies (which are both bad AND fun). This here, is a bona fide B-movie. Thankfully, the rest of the audience (all seven of them) found this as openly laughable as I did. It was a good time, I didn’t regret spending the money, and I got to see good special effects in the form of bad-ass dragon-y monsters destroying cities and fighting each other.

For More Giant Monster Goodness With A Mysteriously Plural “Wars” In The Title: You must watch Godzilla: Final Wars. Featuring modern versions of almost all of Toho‘s major monsters, Final Wars is mindless monster mayhem at its best. There’s even a battle between the true Godzilla and his ersatz american counterpart (from the lame Matthew Broderick version). For reals!

That’s why the lady is a vamp…

I am notable in that I am one of the few people in all of geekdom who has not seen Ed Wood but has seen Plan 9 From Outer Space. Someone lent it to me recently, so I was inspired to draw Vampira:

This was sketched in pen (no preliminary pencils of any kind) on a piece of scratch paper, and touched up a bit in Photoshop. If you look carefully, you can see some text gibberish in her hair–I could have cleaned it up, but decided that it gave the piece an interesting quality. In retrospect, the text is so tiny, I don’t think it makes a difference one way or another. When I drew this I wasn’t looking at any reference, and with that in mind I think its a halfway decent likeness. I don’t know what made me color the picture monochrome, but I think it worked out alright.

And now, a five second review!

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Plan 9 From Outer Space (Available on DVD)

For those who have not seen Plan 9 From Outer Space, I just want to say that it is far from being one of the worst films of all time. It is filled with flaws, riddled with continuity errors, and is unintentionally laughable. In spite of all that, or because of all that, it’s still, like, totally watchable. In fact the pacing in Plan 9 has better pacing than most of the movies I’ve seen in the past two and a half years. No joke!

Verdict: Awesome. Vampira! Tor Johnson! The best narrator ever! Bela Lugosi! Sort Of!

For More B-Movie Awesomeness: An Italian movie from 1963, Atom Age Vampire is a work of genius!

Welcome Back Potter

To (belatedly) commemorate the release of the final Harry Potter book, I present to you, the boy who lived…

Harry and the Snitch were sketched out in blue pencil, inked with an extra fine Pilot V Ball Grip pen, and then scanned and colored in Photoshop. The castle in the background (presumably Hogwarts) was drawn in Photoshop with the pencil tool. Quidditch is probably my least favorite part of the Harry Potter mythos, but giving Harry a broom to hold and adding a Golden Snitch zipping by gave this little picture just the extra oomph it needed. At least, that’s what I think. The linework on this one is pretty coarse, but I’m happy with the composition, even if it is a little busy. I’m satisfied with my color choices, but there’s something missing. I think perhaps I should have done more rendering. Thoughts?

As for my review of the book itself, please step into…

Turn back now, lest ye be spoiled forever! Seriously.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (759 pages, $34.99–but available for much less just about anywhere)

Dang, Dumbledore is actually dead! See, when I say spoiler zone, I mean business. I’m not just spoiling for the sake of spoiling–I actually have a point to make here. The past few books in the Harry Potter series (Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince) were all plagued by over-hype–particularly in regards to the supposedly climactic deaths of supposedly “main” characters. The deaths of Cedric Diggory and Sirius Black in Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, respectively, were so anti-climactic, that when Dumbledore died in Half-Blood Prince, I assumed it was a fake-out, and I was positive Dumbledore would just “pull a Gandalf” and show up in the next book. How wrong I was! The fact that J.K. Rowling really did kill off Dumbledore not only makes it clear that she was “playing for keeps” in the final book, it also redeems Half-blood Prince, which, up until now, I had been dismissing as yet another anti-climactic cop-out.

I can accept that future generations of readers will be able to explore the series sans-hype, and many may even find the deaths of Cedric and Sirius to be meaningful and poignant. And, having now read the entire series, I only have two real complaints about the franchise– 1) J.K. Rowling gave us an expanded view of international wizardry in Goblet of Fire, which made the possibilities of that world seem endless. Unfortunately she never made any real use of this. In fact, in Order of the Phoenix the world view instantly shrank back to provincial boundaries, and I found myself constantly wondering why non-British wizards never stepped in as the Ministry of Magic began to rapidly adopt alarmingly fascist policies. 2) No explanation as to why James Potter was a total douche-bag, and no indication that he ever redeemed himself, or that Lily married him for any reason other than to piss of her former BFF. WTF, J.K. Rowling?

But, aside from my complaints, Deathly Hallows exceeded my expectations and desires. The explanation of Snape’s allegiance, the revelation of Petunia’s secret shame, Voldemort and Harry mano-a-mano at last, and the redemption of the Malfoys–plenty of memorable moments. As always J.K. Rowling’s writing style was easy to digest, and this volume, in particular, was less exposition-y in its explanations.

Verdict: Awesome. Possibly my favorite in the series, the other candidate being Prisoner of Azkaban. Deathly Hallows is a return to form for J.K. Rowling, and provides a structured and satisfying resolution to the story of Harry Potter.

For More Serialized Fantasy Targeted at Young Adults: Try Artemis Fowl novels by Eoin Colfer, or the manga series Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto.

5-SECOND REVIEW: I Saw Transformers O_O

Transformers (In theaters now!)

I’m cramming for Comic-Con, plus it’s already late, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time reviewing Transformers here. Basically, it’s a fun film that is sometimes silly, with good special effects and action, and a some decent one-liners and nods to the franchise’s history. Some of the attempted humor is clunky, and a lot of the fight scenes are blurry and chaotic, but the character designs, which were controversial among many fans, work excellently in the context of the film, and we are left wide open for a sequel.

Verdict: Awesome. Well worth full ticket prices to see robots gettin’ blowed up good. You will leave the theater feeling like someone grabbed you and shook you by the shoulders for two-plus hours… in a good way!

For More Giant Robots Getting Blowed Up Good: My other favorite giant robot franchises include, Giant Robo, Escaflowne, The Big O, and Robotech.

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NOW, as a bonus, here’s a little e-mail that I wrote up and sent out to a few friends and co-workers. Hammers said it was blogworthy, and by god, when he says something is blogworthy, I BLOG! You will note, that as I have enjoyed the movie at this point, I must eat my words in regards to the filmmaking skills of one Michael Bay. My apologies to Mister Bay and the enormous pile of money that he sleeps on. At any rate, please enjoy:

As you all may or may not know, the live action Transformers movie is debuting on the fourth of July, 7-4-7, as the posters say. Only it isn’t, because they moved it up a day, so 7-3-7, as the new posters say. But then they decided to move it up another day with advance screenings starting at 8:00pm, so now it’s premiering on 7-2-7, which is not on any poster that I have seen. Basically, Transformers will be opening on a Monday, giving it a SEVEN day Fourth of July ‘weekend’ opening. You are asking yourself a question right now, and the answer is, “yes, Hollywood is ridiculous.”

Oh, and by the way, there was already a screening at the L.A. Film Festival, the world premier in Italy, and another advance screening set for this weekend at the annual Transformers convention taking place in scenic Rhode Island. So, even watching it on the first day of the SEVEN day opening, I will already basically be the last person in the world watching it.

Which brings me to the point of this mass mailing. for those of you who had the stamina to stick with me, I applaud you. Again, I digress. presently, the point of this message:

This Monday July 2nd, 8:00 PM

(Author’s Note: location excluded, as this invite has now expired)

I have my ticket, and I will be there, rain or shine, alone if need be–as track four of the soundtrack to the original Transformers movie says, NOTHING’S GONNA STAND IN MY WAY. I will not be buying tickets or saving seats for anyone, but I would be delighted if you would meet me there. If you decide to come, I highly recommend buying tickets online. And since I’m not doing anything other than writing this email, feel free to bring as many people as you like.

I need not remind you that this is a movie based on a popular toy franchise, being released on a major holiday ‘weekend’ in hopes of attracting the lowest common denominator, and is directed by Michael Bay (a director who is, in case you haven’t noticed, not necessarily good). In short, this movie has three strikes against it–and we are walking into a dangerous situation at best (Let us not forget Pearl Harbor… the movie, not the historical tragedy. Though we should also remember the historical tragedy, for reasons that I shouldn’t have to explain to you here**). Ahem. As I was saying–

Like Optimus Prime recruiting soldiers for the Ark’s fateful journey to planet Earth, I will only be taking volunteers for this mission. Let no one feel obligated to fight for the freedom of all sentient beings. But with any luck, we might see some cool special effects and watch some robots get blowed up good.

So–if you decide to attend, just meet me inside. You will know me by the geeky child-like grin on my face.


** Actually, I’m being a jerk about Pearl Harbor (the movie), I haven’t seen it, though I understand that it is terrible.

DUCK WEEK REVIEW: A Duck-Related Comic Gem!

Dungeon By Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim, and Various; English editions published by NBM.

  • Dungeon Volume 1: Duckheart (96 pages, full color, $14.95)
  • Dungeon Volume 2: The Barbarian Princess (96 pages, full color, $14.95)
  • Dungeon The Early Years Volume 1: The Night Shirt (96 pages, full color, $14.95)
  • Dungeon Twilight Volume 1: Dragon Cemetary: Duckheart (96 pages, full color, $14.95)
  • Dungeon Twilight Volume 2: Armageddon (96 pages, full color, $14.95)

Please note that these are only the volumes available in English, and as of this writing, there is one more English volume that I have yet to obtain/read–expect another review in the future!

A series of graphic novels, originally published as Donjon in France, Dungeon tells the story of Herbert the Duck, his friend Marvin the Dragon, and their boss, the Dungeon Master Hyacinth (who, if I’m not mistaken, is a chicken). The main series focuses on Herbert’s adventures, the Early Years sheds light on Hyacinth’s life before he became Dungeon Master, and Twilight tells the of the last days of Marvin and the end of the world.

A fantasy adventure peppered with RPG references and filled with slapstick comedy, Tom & Jerry-esque violence, dark humor, and absurdism, Dungeon nevertheless depicts a complex world populated by sympathetic characters with great depth. The dramatic moments are poignant and never over-done.

Verdict: Awesome. It’s really tough for me to convey just how much I enjoy this series. Economically, the comic book industry has been very healthy for the past few years, but in terms of content, there hasn’t been much that has appealed to me. Dungeon is a very compelling breath of fresh air–the closest comparison I could draw is the widely lauded Usagi Yojimbo, another comic book tale of an anthropomorphic warrior in an ancient time. At any rate, Dungeon is highly recommended–give the first volume (Duckheart) a try! Just one word of warning–these books aren’t necessarily for kids! Give it a read before you hand it to a wee one.

For More Duck Adventures In Sequential Art: The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, by Don Rosa (256 pages, full color, $16.99)–the title pretty much explains it all!

REVIEW: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (Available on DVD)

This review is not timely by any means, but I enjoyed Advent Children enough that I thought it merited a review. To quickly summarize, Advent Children is a direct to video computer-animated movie that acts as a sequel to the Playstation game Final Fantasy VII (FF7). I’m familiar with the basic story of FF7, but have never played through the game due to the fact that I lack sticktuitiveness, and therefore am a poor candidate for completeing RPGs. But even so, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I wasn’t crazy about the character model for the main character, Cloud, at first, but it had grown on me by the end. The animation is very smooth for the most part (a definite improvement over Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), but the movements of background characters can be a bit marionette-like at times. Advent Children has a lot of atmosphere, and plenty of action (I guess some would say too much–but not me). The battles gleefully defy the laws of physics, and are truly epic in scope.

Verdict: Awesome. My only caveat is this–Advent Children is not for those who dislike anime or “wire-fu” martial arts movies. Granted, there are no wires, but the wildly exagerrated aerial fights certainly draw inspiration from the wire-assisted gravity-defying stunts of martial arts movies. In other words–if you hate the general awesomeness of anime and kung fu movies to begin with, don’t come back crying that it was melodramatic and the fights were unrealistic!

For More Awesome Martial Arts Battles: Kung Fu Hustle. ‘Nuff said!

BONUS POST + REVIEW: Michelangelo is a Party-Dude!

In honor of TMNT, which I saw last night with Gavin, Marlene, and Hammers, a bonus post followed by a review:

This is an older illustration, from early 2005. These are pencils, scanned and colored in Photoshop–one of the first un-inked pieces that I ever colored, and for those who have not seen anything in the more anal-retentive style that I have mentioned previously, here ya go. As you can see, unlike most of the stuff that I’ve posted, this is a fully realized illustration with multiple characters and a background. The drawback of course, is that this thing took me forever, as opposed to the sketches i post regularly, which usually take a couple of hours of actual work.

The piece has some problems (particularly in the color department–almost no variation in value), but overall, I’m still fairly satisfied with it. I don’t often do complete illustrations like this, with a background and all. I need to start doing more! I do have plans to eventually follow this with similar illustrations of each of the turtles.

click above for larger view

Clearly, between the orange headband and Michelangelo’s opponents, this pic is inspired more by the cartoon than the comic, which I guess might be considered pretty sacreligious by some. But I needed an excuse to draw Bebop and Rocksteady, so there you have it. In my head I’ve sort of re-wardrobed each of the turtles into different outfits, and the results for Michelangelo are seen here. Oh, and for anyone who cares, Mikey is wearing a Lance Armstrong bracelet + buddhist beads on one wrist, and a G-Shock wristwatch on the other. It all seemed appropriate for his personality.

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TMNT (In theaters now… and in case you’re, like, totally not with it, TMNT stands for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

A fresh re-introduction to everyone’s favorite teenage mutant ninja franchise, TMNT delivers what it needs to, with plenty of style–cool ninja fights, crazy monsters, ancient warriors, and good characterization and interaction between the core characters. The character models and animation are fitting and well executed, and the direction and camera movement are very dynamic. There are a couple of minor plot holes, some expositiony dialogue, and some cheesy humor for younger viewers, but nothing too off-putting. As an added bonus, there are a few subtle nods to continuity, and an obvious set-up for a sequel.

Verdict: Awesome. I paid for full-priced evening admission, and I didn’t feel ripped off–these days, that’s sayin’ something! Your mileage may, of course, vary, but I think just about anyone who’s nerdy enough to be reading this would be happy with paying for a matinee of TMNT. My only significant complaint: Donatello didn’t get to do anything cool!

For More Misfits Fighting Evil In The Shadows of New York: You owe it yourself to try out Gargoyles, which was, in many ways, the superior spiritual successor of the Ninja Turtles in the mid-90’s. In terms of mood and plot, watching the Turtles’ most recent foray into the silver screen was very much like watching a couple of strong Gargoyles episodes, albeit with excellent computer animation. The first two collections of Gargoyles are available on DVD now!

REVIEWS: A Little Bit of Eastern Culture & A Little Bit of Arcade History

From time to time, I’m going to briefly review the books, comics, movies, TV shows, and action figures that are currently entertaining and/or inspiring me. In a roundabout way, this will give you an idea of what might be influencing me these days, even if it isn’t readily apparent.

Today’s offerings include an illustrated book and a video game anthology…

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The Little Book of Hindu Deities, written and illustrated by Sanjay Patel (144 pages, full color, $14)

After reading an article about this book and checking out the author’s website, I could not resist buying a copy. Patel, who works for Pixar as an animator and storyboard artist, created this book on the side to showcase his heritage, influences, and mad skillz. He also made this book so that I would loathe my own lack of talent. The writing is lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek, and the illustrations are charming and expressive.

Verdict: Awesome. Find it for a few bucks less at one of the usual online vendors and BUY IT!

For More Eastern Religion Mixed With Pop Culture: Vimanarama by Grant Morrison and Philip Bond (104 pages, full color, $12.99)–easily one of my favorite comics of the past couple years.

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Capcom Classics Collection Volume 2 (For Playstation 2 or Xbox, $19.99 )

This anthology contains numerous games from the prestigious history of arcade giant Capcom. With 20 games showcasing everything from bonafide blockbusters (Strider, Super Streetfighter II Turbo) to beloved cult classics (King of Dragons, Captain Commando, Magic Sword) and obscure gems from Capcom’s past (Avengers, Quiz & Dragons) this anthology provides a veritable cornucopia of sprite-based goodness. That’s right, a veritable cornucopia. And the great thing is, these are perfect arcade ports, which means unlimited continues! For once, my complete lack of game does not hinder me!

Verdict: Awesome. Buy it and relive your days of boundless arcade glory.

For More Boundless Arcade Glory, Good Sense Requires You To Try: Capcom Classics Collection Volume 1 (For Playstation or Xbox, $19.99). Dude. Final Fight, Forgotten Worlds, Streefighter II–need I say more?