Friday, May 20, 2011

Comics You Need to Read: Hack/Slash

The Dallas Comic Con is this weekend so I've been trying to brush up on some comics that I've missed over the years.  My relationship with comics goes through a natural ebb and flow.  When I get into them, I get into them hardcore.  But I find this typically only lasts two or three months.  Usually I stop reading because I catch up to the current issue, and by the time I have to wait another month for a new issue I've lost interest completely.

Usually I just stick to Marvel Comics, but for one reason or another I stumbled upon this amazing little comic called Hack/Slash.  Actually I can tell you exactly how I came upon this comic.  I was trying to find out who drew that incredibly sexy image of Princess Leia in the article below this one.  The artist is Josh Howard, who is the man behind Dead @17.  So I went to Amazon to look up some of his stuff, and in the recommended section Hack/Slash popped up, also featuring sexy ladies (of which I am a fan if you couldn't tell) and I looked that up and here we are with me writing an article about it.

The draw for me to Hack/Slash was in it's set up.  The beautiful women are nice, but as I said Dead@17 has that as well, and couldn't pull me in properly.  In Hack/Slash, Cassie Hack is a survivor of her lunatic mother's killing spree.  She then makes it her life goal to seek out other "Slashers" and kill them before they can kill others.

Each story arc of the series has a set up like one might find in any B level Horror film.  One issue starts off with obnoxious kids on Spring Break, and a religious nutbag out to deliver them from temptation.  Another has a murdered child entering dreams and killing people in their sleep.  I think you get the idea.  Even when the set up is a clear refrence to a famous movie series, the book handles it in a unique and clever way, so ground is never tread twice.  The Slashers are essentually zombies, in that they are killed and then brought back to life with their anger, but the book never feels like "just another zombie" story.

Usually I stay away from indie books because the dialog and houmor seems forced, or amaturish at least.  This is an unfair label I know, but in my limited expereince it is what has kept me away from the Indie scene.  However, there is none of this in Hack/Slash as the wit and writing is what makes the book work.  A great premise is nothing if the characters aren't full of life.

Cassie Hack is the main character, and although she might appear as an emo goth chick with a chip on her shoulder, she is amazingly friendly and full of life.  Her past, and her mother, defines who she has become and she is tough as nails, but not once is she afraid to show her caring and compassionate side, and that's what makes her intriguing.  She is also very naive and inexperienced to the ways of the world and normal people, which becomes apparent every time she tries to have a normal relationship with someone.  It is a nice change of pace for that type of character archetype, where so often the main loner badass is great at everything, killing bad guys and making friends.  But the reality is, if someone spends all their time killing zombies with limited human interaction, they might end up a little socially awkward, which is where Cassie resides.

Cassie's only friend is a big Sloth-like (Goonies not Bear) man, named Vlad, that is a take on Jason Voorhees.  He is as gentle as a fly however (except when killing Slashers).  Usually I hate big mindless oafs, but Vlad is much deeper then he appears.  His intelligence might only be limited from him upbringing, and not so much an indicator of smarts.  Some of the best and most humorous moments come from Vlad.  Seeing the big hulking beast of a man sitting in an Internet cafe and ordering a coffee was a highlight for me.

The whole Cassie and Vlad dynamic reminds me a lot of Maxx and Julie Winters from The Maxx.  The Maxx is my favorite comic of all time, so that should be an indicator of my approval.  To be fair, Maxx is a lot more intelligent then Vlad, but they are both equally innocent souls born into the wrong body (or the wrong time period, to quote Sin City).

Also as a big fan of Evil Dead, this series is just my thing.  Over the top violence mixed with lots of great humor and characters.  If you get a chance pick up this book.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Star Wars Confessions and Rants

I love Ewoks.
I don't mind Jar Jar Binks.
I like when George Lucas adds things during rereleases.
I like the Prequels
I hate most of the Expanded Universe

These are five statements that would get me lynched with most "hardcore" Star Wars fans, but they are all statements I stand by.  Though I might have not been willing to admit them until now.

The Internet can be a dissease, and even though you don't initially agree with some of the things you read on the internet, the more you hear the hate over and over the more you begin to believe it.

Even though I walked out of every single Star Wars prequel, not only satisfied, but also wanting to see it again, for some reason over time after all the Talkbackers and trolls were done with me, I ended up hating the films.  I had become the very hater I just complained about.

Then one day a friend of mine had found the untouched version of the original saga, watched it, then said to me the next day, "Lucas really butchered the original movies."

After that comment a sleeping Rancor woke inside of me and roared, "Enough!" 

But I will get to the re-releases in a moment.  First I am going to take each of my above statements and go into depth as to why I felt the need to post this rant.

I love Ewoks.

This might be the least controversial of my statements.  Because they are part of the Holy Trilogy, like most of the original saga's faults, they get a free pass.  However, as of late it has become popular to say Return of the Jedi sucks because it has Ewoks.  I don't really get this.  Is it because they are small and cute, that make people think they can't fight Stormtroopers?  The Stormtroopers are used to fighting Jedi, Rebel Soldiers, and Battledroids (retcon anyway).  They aren't however, used to fighting little furry midgets in their homeland.  That is the most important part of the argument.  The moon of Endor is the Ewoks home, so naturally they have home field advantage.  On top of that they don't fight the Stormtroopers head on.  No, they use guerrilla warfare, which I'm sure anyone in Cuba can tell you works wonders.

Do people find them annoying?  I don't personally.  I think they are cute and charming.  And this might come back up with Jar Jar Binks, but I guess I don't get annoyed as easily as some audience members.  I certainly get annoyed by a lot of things in life, but characters obviously meant for comic relief don't grate on my nerves.  As I kid I remember C3PO annoying me much more than the Ewoks.

I don't mind Jar Jar Binks

Mostly I never heard anyone complain about Ewoks until Jar Jar showed up in Episode I and everyone was looking for similar situations in the original saga and the best they could do was Ewoks.  Again, I would say that C3PO is a much better template to Jar Jar than the Ewoks, as both were intentionally designed to be annoying.

Like C3PO, Jar Jar exists so he can make the main characters roll their eyes at his clumsiness as well as the audience.

Now notice I didn't put "I like Jar Jar", just that I don't mind him.  That is an important point to make.  I  remember after I walked out of Episode I, not giving a damn one way or another about Jar Jar Binks.  I didn't feel a bubbling loathing in the fiber of my being that made me want to cut out his tongue and parade down the street with his head on a stick, which is how most people reacted.  It wasn't until after hearing about how many people just hated him, I started to hate him too.  But honestly there was nothing in the film itself that made me feel this way.  It was all power of suggestion from Fanboys, like a Jedi mind trick, "You will hate Jar Jar Binks."  Though I guess I just called myself weak minded with that comparison.  Maybe I am, for not agreeing with everyone's unbridled hatred for a character made for children.

To be honest, my softening on my position towards Jar Jar came in Episode III.  Lucas had been so bombarded with hate mail for Jar Jar, that the clumsy Gungan only gets one second of screen time.  Even though he was a main character in the first film.  He seems so broken, not only from the death of his friends, but from his complete sidelining, that I can't help but feel a little bad for ole' Jar head.  You broke him people, I hope you are happy now (I'm guessing you are).

I like the Prequels

For this reason:

I like when George Lucas adds things during rereleases.

People bitch about anything Lucas does, just to bitch.  There is nothing, other than the whole "Han shot first" thing that makes the rereleased original saga inferior, and even that scene has been so blown out of proportion it has become a parody of itself.

Did anyone complain about Ridley Scott rereleasing Blade Runner where Decker was now an android?  No.  How is it different?  Is it because that is what Scott says he wanted originally?  Why does that matter?  In the end they are both directors of their own work and what they change is their business.  In Blade Runner the Directors Cut, Scott said he took out the Voice Over narration, because it seems cheesy, but you know what?  It actually feels more like a film noir detective film with the VO in there.  No one every questions these types of changes, so why does Star Wars get special treatment? 

It should be stated to give me a little cred that I majored in film, and so of course I WANT the original untouched version available to me, for purity sake, and for the sake of nostalgia from my childhood.  Also I am not a fan of CGI in movies (believe it or not).  But from a story perspective and making a more unified universe I hope every time I watch a rerelease of Star Wars something has changed from the last time I watched it.

I hate most of the Expanded Universe

Most of the Prequel haters come from fans of the EU novels that take place after Return of the Jedi.  And this statement will likely anger a lot of fans but it is the truth as far as I see it:

Original Trilogy > Clone Wars > Knight of the Old Republic > Prequels > Star Wars: Legacy> Dark Forces>>>>>>>>>> Rest of the EU Novels

What really needs to happen is Lucas needs to come out and say, "Everything after Return of the Jedi thus far isn't canon."

I've tried to get into the EU post-Jedi and I just can't.  It is some of the most muddled incoherant fan fiction I've seen in my entire life.  Everything the characters fought for in the movies is thrown out as Luke turns to the Dark Side, the Emperor is revived, and Boba Fett is Dick Van Dyke.

Seriously, I love Boba Fett as much as the next geek and am willing to accept he escaped the Sarlacc Pit, but the fact he settled down with the woman of his dreams and had a kid, ALL WHILE wearing the Mandalorian armor is harder to swallow than... well... Boba Fett for a Sarlacc Pit.

You can also tell the novels are heavily influnced by whatever Sci-fi show/game the writer was watching at the time.

"Hey this Starcraft game is neato!  Lets put in some Zerg into Star Wars!"  Worst idea ever.  Worse than Jar Jar swimming is a pool of Mediclorians.  But I don't know how many times some fanboy has come up to me and told me the prequels are garbage but I should read the books.  No dice.

Plus they kill Chewbacca in the books.  What a spineless move.  They all thought, "Hey this will get us attention!"  So they kill a character with no weight of gravatas to the death.  Chewy?  Really?  Kill Han Solo or Leia if you want to make an impact.  Killing Chewbacca is as lame as killing the dog in a horror film.  They don't have the balls to kill their main character so they kill the pet.

You might have noticed I made sure to clarify many times they my hate only applies to the novels set after Jedi.  Half the problem with the EU is a lot of it was written a long time ago (sadly not in a galaxy far away), when our standards were lower.  But every new writer still embraces this mess of a storyline and constantly adds on to it.  Now our tastes have become refined and there are a lot of great things being added to Star Wars canon, such as The Old Republic, and Star Wars Legacy.

But even a great idea and concept such as Legacy is mired by it's faint connections to the EU.  If you want to accept Legacy as canon, you must at least accept a crappy alien race named the Yuuzan Vong exist, and that Luke, Obi Wan, Darth Vader, the Emperor, and Yoda weren't the only ones using the Force during the Holy Trilogy.

Most of the new stories coming out based in the Star Wars universe are pretty good, but would be better if the post-Jedi slate was completely cleaned off.

So I apologize for this long winded rant, but I've had it with going on every forum where the prequels are briefly mentioned and it is just accepted without protest the the prequels are the worst thing ever.  They aren't.  There is much worse out there.

And for anyone who really truly despises the Prequels, I beg you to watch The Clone Wars.  You can nearly ignore Episodes 1 and 2 and get a better story and better characters by far.  The Anikan Skywalker in the Clone Wars is the Anikan in my mind that becomes Darth Vader.  He is much more worthy.