Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Off the shelf: Chew, Vol. 1

One of the great things about comics is their ability to surprise you, to come up with an idea too strange for other media and make it work completely.

That’s the case with Chew, Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice (Image Comics, $9.99), which is most definitely one of the weirdest and coolest comics I’ve come across in a while. None of this will be news to the many folks who picked this up in periodical form. (It’s interesting that this series caused an old-fashioned back issue run when it came out last summer, with prices rising quickly as folks caught on to the series. There’s still some life in the old ways after all, it seems.)

This is the story of Tony Chu, a police detective with the unusual gift of cibopathy — he can obtain information on objects by eating them. This has obvious drawbacks, and Chu takes the vegetarian route to avoid constantly being exposed to the fate of most proteins.

All of which would be interesting enough, but writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory add an extra layer of strangeness by putting Chu in a world where the bird flu has made chicken illegal and made the Food and Drug Administration a major law enforcement agency akin to the FBI. Since “food crimes” are now serious, Chu’s talent comes in extra handy. And it just gets weirder and more fun from there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Trailers: Planet Hulk and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

In case you missed it, last week Marvel premiered its upcoming original animated movie Planet Hulk at the Paley Center in both New York and Los Angeles. I live-blogged the post-screening panel out west for Newsarama, which you can read here.

I quite like these animated movies, especially the ones that are wildly inventive like Batman: Gotham Knight or adapt specific comic stories like Planet Hulk. I will confess to not being terribly familiar with Planet Hulk prior to seeing the screening, but I came out wanting to pick it up and read it. (It'll have to wait until I find a deal — the trade I spotted at Comics Factory in Pasadena this week cost $35!) And I just got the Blu-ray to check out for Animation Magazine.net (you're all checking out that site, right?)

Here's the trailer to Planet Hulk, which comes out on DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 2, and is well worth checking out.

If there's one area where the Warner Bros. folks solidly beat Marvel on these things, it's in the animation. It's just too hard to top the crew they have over there, loaded with guys like Bruce Timm. My knowledge of these Crisis stories isn't very deep, but I still am looking forward to checking out Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and figuring out how close it is to the comics. Plus, there's a cool-looking Spectre short on this disc written by Steve Niles that also should be fun.

Here's the trailer for JL: COTE, out Feb. 23.

Webb on Spidey; AMC taps Walking Dead — a turning point for comics and Hollywood?

It’s kind of interesting to note the attention that’s paid to comic book movies and TV shows these days because the tone of everything shows just how deeply comics have penetrated the culture and business of Hollywood.

The classic example is the announcement by Columbia Pictures that Marc Webb has been hired to oversee the next Spider-Man film, which will reboot the franchise and focus on a Peter Parker still in high school.

By coincidence, I watched Webb’s current movie, (500) Days of Summer, almost simultaneous to the announcement (and thanks to the magic of awards season DVD screeners). It's doing quite well on the awards circuit, though not well enough it seems to win too many of the awards its nominated for — it is, after all, a comedy.

What struck me the most was a scene after the lead character of Tom Finn, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, has had sex with and fallen in love with Zooey Deschanel’s Summer Finn and he walks though downtown Los Angeles, seeing himself as Han Solo in a window reflection and dancing in synch with a large crowd to the tune of Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams.” My first thought was to compare it to a nearly identical scene — minus Han Solo and the animated bird — from Spider-Man 2 in which Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker walks through the park and everything goes wrong to the tune of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”

There’s a bunch of questions to ask about this film, not the least of which is why reboot and the second being whether it’s reasonable for Columbia or the fans to think Webb can deliver a satisfying film on a budget rumored to be about $80 million.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Off the shelf: Captain Canuck, Vol. 2

Growing up in Canada as a kid in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I always knew about Captain Canuck. When I was in Grade 3 or 4, a friend of mine used to have a yellow T-shirt with the artwork from the first issue’s cover on it that was very cool and the envy of the rest of the boys at Grandview Heights Elementary School. Given my interest in Canadiana as well as comics, you’d think I’d be an expert on this comic.

But the truth is, I have never read a page of Captain Canuck until now. And I have to say thanks to IDW Publishing for putting this one back into print, even though I missed that they'd published it all up until now.

I’m starting with Vol. 2, which just came out, and collects the Captain Canuck Summer Special and issues 11-14. These are from, according to John Bell in Invaders from the North, “the period that saw Captain Canuck become of the finest superhero comics ever published.” And while that claim may be a bit over the top, there’s no arguing that these are some damn fine superhero comics.

The best stuff is in issues 11-13, a three-parter called “Chariots of Fire” (this came out before the 1981 Oscar winning movie of the same name). This story has a dual plot, one in which Canada has, in the 1990s, become a world superpower due to the value of its natural resources and leads the world’s efforts to repel an alien invasion. Meanwhile, Captain Canuck, who exposed the invasion and was set to lead it, stumbles back in time about a thousand years in an encounter with one of the aliens. The modern world believes the good Captain dead and simultaneously mourns him while using his death to rally the world to the impossible cause of defeating the aliens.