Category Archives: reviews

Actor 101 – The Hollywood Survival Guide for Actors

Actor 101 LogoHollywood Survival Guide Cover

The following is a review of the book The Hollywood Survival Guide for Actors by Kym Jackson. It is billed as, “Your handbook for becoming a working actor in L.A.”

Here’s the TL;DR version: If you are an actor in Los Angeles or coming to Los Angeles you should own this book and read this book. In the 30+ years that I have been working in this business, this is, truly, one of the best books on being an actor in the modern entertainment industry I have ever read. I cannot give it a higher recommendation, it is brilliant!

Here’s the full review: When I started working professionally in the entertainment industry in 1985 things were very different from how they are now. First and foremost I was a child who was plucky, had done some amateur acting and wasn’t shy. I had a very supportive family and parents who were willing to do the leg work and driving. My dad was able to locate a reputable child manager who helped me get really good headshots and also referred me to one of the top agencies for children at the time. I had a charmed start to my professional career. I went on my first audition, to be the voice of Schroeder (the piano playing kid in the Peanuts cartoons) and booked it. Because I was small for my age, I was older to play younger for a long time, eventually playing a sixteen year old until I was well into my twenties. Because there were very few bumps on my road to early success I’m not sure that I had a real sense of just how tough this industry can be… until 2005.

In 2005 I was told, very plainly and without any malice, “I just can’t see you as a virgin anymore” by a casting director when I was auditioning to be what I had hoped would be another in a line of geeky teens that, until that moment, had been my bread and butter. In 2005 I went from “regularly working actor” to  “barely auditioning actor” and my relationship to the industry changed. I’ll be really open about this, I don’t think I was capable of appreciating how good I had it. I look back now on those first twenty years and they really were amazing! I don’t wanna’ rest on the laurels of an old resume, but I’m still very proud of what’s on my IMDb page even if most of it is over a decade old. But I took it for granted. Mistakes were made. It’s easy to slip into the old refrain of, “if I knew then what I know now…” but regrets never got anyone anywhere and the past is a terrible place to live. Since I didn’t have to struggle when I got started I was horribly ill equipped to get my acting career back on track.

Enter the producing years!

What does every actor want to do after they’ve been acting a while? The correct answer is “direct” but I never really connected to that so I decided to be a producer. The original goal was to make things that I could be in, after all why not cast yourself in the movies you make? For the first project I wanted to just focus on one job, so I did not cast myself (a decision I’m still 50/50 on). There was plenty of work to do as a producer, especially on our small independent project. The budget was tight, down to the last dollar, so I was constantly managing something. This trend continued for the next several projects over the next several years. While my intentions to cast myself were good, a combination of workload and no appropriate parts conspired to take me, essentially, out of the acting world. I still do the occasional commercial here and there and do parts in friend’s projects, but no major theatrical work whether it be my projects or anyone else’s. What I was doing, though, was seeing the job of being an actor from a whole new perspective. In setting up casting sessions I saw that you’d probably only see about 60-75% of the people you scheduled for your audition – especially if it was non-union. That everyone is hustling for that “next gig” even agents and studio heads. The whole town essentially runs on moxie and bravado as opposed to contracts and handshakes (although those are important too). I learned more about the crew than I did in twenty years of working with them including how they are hired, how they are paid, and what it means when talent is late. I learned how the sales process of different projects works, including films, documentaries and television shows. Doing the hands-on work and being a part of every facet of the production process became a better education than proper film school. After a decade of fighting tooth and claw to get things made I came to the conclusion that producing was not the right thing for me and it was time to get back to what I really loved.

Back in the saddle.

At the end of 2014 I was just coming off a very successful turn as a board member of the Big Bear Film Festival and the first year of Fun Size Horror but I was ready to be done. Producing was lots of work and satisfying on a business level, but I really missed being an actor.  After a decade of being committed to making things people had forgotten that I used to be in front of the camera and that kinda’ sucked. I didn’t like the idea of being the guy who “used to be an actor,” being one has always been part of my identity. So in 2015 I decided it was time to rejoin the ranks completely and get back to being a full time working actor…

…turns out that’s a lot harder than it used to be.

No longer the adorable eight-year-old, it has not been as simple to just “jump back in.” Now-a-days you are required to have a demo reel to be considered for even the smallest parts. Agents won’t even look at you without a strong referral or a good list of credits. Booking the jobs I used to get is a lot harder now since much bigger actors are now taking smaller parts in films and T.V. shows.

What I’m getting at with all this preamble is that I have had a very full and complete experience in the Entertainment Industry School of Hard Knocks. I’ve been up and I’ve been down and I’ve seen some shit. It’s taken me thirty years to learn all of this.

You can get it all in one book.

The Hollywood Survival Guide for Actors

Kym Jackson has succinctly and efficiently placed all of the knowledge that a new actor in Los Angeles needs in one very easy to read book that covers everything from moving to L.A. to booking the job. I have often run into people that are ready to tell you “how it is” in Hollywood but never have I read something that I both agreed with and was able to learn something new from.

This isn’t a book you just read and put down, it is a resource. The chapters are laid out in an easy flow that makes sense as you go along. I found myself trying to come up with questions rookies might ask as I went through it. Each time it felt like the next chapter was answer to at least one of those questions with the remainder not far behind.

The best part about this book is that it is CURRENT. When I first started acting in the 80’s this business was very different and I’ve seen more change in the last five years than in the last thirty combined! All of the information in this book is up to date and looks to remain relevant for years to come.

It is a book I recommend to my acting students and one that I would recommend to any one even thinking of giving L.A. a try as an actor.

Get it, read it. You’ll be happy you did.

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Filed under acting, actor 101, actor stuff, audition technique, auditions, behind the scenes, blatant plug, books, business, career, casting, education, getting started, Hollywood, how-to, reviews, teaching, The Business

This Post Powered by Pale Ale

Normally I don’t like to post when I drink unless I’ve had an awful lot to drink or I have really enjoyed what it is that I have drunk.

Tonight is the latter.

I stopped by Nieuport 17 tonight to visit the lovely wife Rene and I had Tustin Brewery’s American Pale Ale.

It was really good!

It was nutty and golden and delicious and ended up being a really nice finish for the day.

After that I went home and felt like it was time to try another beer since we have a new selection in the fridge thanks to one of Rene’s relatives: Blue Moon Pale Moon Belgian Style Pale Ale. It has more of a citrus hit than the APA, but drinks very well and tickles the tongue with light flavor.

Overall a very enjoyable beer night. I recommend both of these if you have a chance to try them.

See you tomorrow!

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Paranormal Activity and How It Kept Me Awake at 5:30 AM

All hype aside Paranormal Activity is a great movie.

I will repeat that: All hype aside Paranormal Activity is a great movie.

If you are expecting the scariest movie ever in the whole world you will be disappointed… until you get home, turn off all the lights, turn off the TV and sit in the quiet darkness waiting for something to happen.

The horror in this film is based on the two movies that I always found scariest when I was young, The Haunting and The Exorcist, and it turns out the director Oren Peli and I were scared of the same films as kids. It isn’t gore heavy. It is blissfully CGI free. It is a very realistic take on what might happen if there were an entity in your home doing whatever it wanted to you. Your brain does so much of the work in this film and it’s easy to let your imagination go wild. There were a few times when I was convinced that I was going to catch something out of the corner of my eye, only to have my anxiety rise so high that it didn’t matter whether or not anything showed up. I got so worked up early in the film, in fact, that I leaned over to Rene and told her I felt like I needed to throw up. Nothing really scary had even happened yet.

By now the story is readily known so I will not re-post a synopsis here, nor am I going to post a link to any information about this film. OK, here’s a link to the official site. That way you can find a theater near you to go see it. It was so important to me that I went into this movie “cold” and I feel like it heightened my experience so I want you to have the same opportunity. There will be a SPOILERS section to this review, but it will be clearly marked and, if you intend to see this film, I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU NOT READ THAT PART!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The unreasonable number of exclamation points should make my point clear.

This is a great example of how a “found footage” movie and a “haunted house” movie should work. The film has a slow build and when it starts it almost feels like these two “crazy kids” are just having a good old time with a camera and that something might never really happen.

But of course it does.

This is a very original film that plays off of your basest fears. See it, love it, hate it – no matter what you will be affected. I should also mention, since it’s in the title, that I actually fell asleep just fine, but I woke up at 5:30 in the morning. Frankie moved himself on the bed and it jarred me awake. As soon as I was conscience I was terrified. The house was completely silent and my brain decided that then would be the best time to think of all the possible things that could happen at that moment that might actually scare me to death. Naturally nothing happened, but I was awake for a good hour, until I heard the birds sing and the saw the first rays of sunlight, with the chills assuming I was going to be attacked by a spectral force. I was even nervous in the shower.

It was a really good movie!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!HERE THAR BE SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, if you are here I’m assuming that you have seen the movie. I’m now going to completely geek out on you!

OMG!! I really loved this movie! A lot have people have been making the Blair Witch Project comparison, but I’m going to completely ignore that. Yeah, it’s a “found footage” movie, but let’s really break this movie down – this is a demonic possession movie. As we were walking out of the theater I told Rene, “That was just like The Exorcist. Every time they were upstairs shit got worse.” That’s actually a bit paraphrased, but it’s completely true. Every time the night shots started you knew something was going to happen, just like every time you went up to Reagan’s bedroom you knew that she would be more messed up and scary. The path of the films are also the same, starting with flickering lights, knocks and scratches and even the ubiquitous attic scene! The only thing missing was the high flame candle – oh, but there was the Ouija board! I also REALLY liked the fact that so many of the effects were practical, in camera effects and not CGI. I know how most of them work, but the effect was still startling. When those footprints showed up WALKING into the room I was like, “Oh, no fucking way!” And when Katie got dragged out of the room by the unseen force… well I will simply say I tip my hat to Mr. Peli. My favorite effect, even though it was so simple, was the use of the shadow on the door. Simple and terrifying all at the same time.

My interpretation: I know there are multiple endings for this movie and I, like the rest of the horror world, would love to see them (apparently they will be on the DVD), but I’m going to discuss my interpretation of the movie with it’s theatrical, Steven Spielberg ending. I think the demon was a jealous bitch! When you breakdown all the things it was doing, keeping a picture of Katie, making her leave the bed, staring down Micha, the claw marks through his picture and, well quite frankly, killing him it seems like it definitely wanted some Katie all to itself. Oh, and the bite on her back, like animals do when they claim something, at least that’s how it came off for me. I also really want to see more of the deleted scenes. I know that there’s more internet footage of possessed Diane and some other things that were apparently in the other cuts of the movie and not in this one. Like all things that scare me I’m now totally obsessed with this film. I’d really like to see it again, but there are other movies that will take priority.

Enjoy! I’ll see you tomorrow!

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We Live In Public –

Trailer is kinda’ NSFW, but not horrible. I was going to post the “safe” trailer, but this really captures the mood of the movie best.

Ever wonder what all this social networking is doing to our lives in society? That the question explored in the documentary called We Live In Public which was recently screened at the NuArt Theater in Los Angeles. Rene and I missed it this year at Sundance, there were just too many good movies to see, and so we jumped at the chance to get free tickets!!! It’s currently traveling around the country and if you get a chance to watch it I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a Facebook junkie.

The documentary follows an internet pioneer you’ve probably never heard of, but he predicted, about 15 years early, how we would be using technology and social media today and he tried to jump start it back in the 90’s when the technology couldn’t keep up with his ideas. Following his life, and those who were affected by it and his projects, is shockingly self affronting and made both Rene and I re-examine just why we interacted with social media the way we do.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

See you tomorrow!

Oh, and if you’re still feeling voyeuristic after you see it make sure to visit me on all of MY social networking sites. The links are in the sidebar.


Filed under filmmaking, reviews, social commentary

Paris: The Movie

Saw Paris on Tuesday September 15th and it was FANTASTIC!

Right off the bat I want to tell you to see this movie if you have the opportunity!

Now the story of how Rene and I came to see the film Paris.

I had actually been working most of Tuesday getting all of my important programs back onto my computer. That’s a boring and time consuming process. I have not been super good about remembering events for the last year or so (although I’m sure there are those who will say that I have NEVER been good at that) and I did not notice or remember (not sure which) that Rene and I had been invited to a free screening of this movie, Paris. Because of the economy and our lack of a personal economy (that’s a joke about being broke that I thought would come out better than it did, but I’m still going to leave it in because I’m that kind of guy) we do not turn down any free options for fun and excitement that we can find. It was also a great way to see our friend Peter who lives in LA and, therefore, is someone we don’t see too often. The movie was playing at a small theater on Sunset & Crescent in H.Wood which has a name that I can’t remember.

Paris is a great film! It covers three interwoven stories: a sick dancer and his social working sister, a fish monger and his friends at the street market and a professor with a crush on a student. This film is very french, not just because it’s in french but because it is all about suffering. I know that sounds funny, at least I’m hoping it was funny because that’s why I wrote it, but there is a satisfaction that goes along with the suffering. The suffering leads to all of these people living their lives as much as they can and pushing to achieve all the stuff that they want if only because there’s nothing else to do. And there’s struggle and set-backs and defeats, but it’s witty and relate-able and surprisingly funny.

Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+.

Go check it out if you can, it’s a good movie to watch.

See you tomorrow!

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Avengers: New, Mighty, The Initiative & Young

It’s easy to lump all the Avengers books into one pile, but much tougher to say that all of the Avenger books are the same. While they all seem to be dealing with the same subject, Norman Osborn and the Dark Reign, the stories are all over the place – street level, cosmic, conspiracy and ridiculous. I’m starting to hit the wall of Dark Reign fatigue and these are four examples why.

The New Avengers #55

Brian Michael Bendis writes and Stuart Immonen pencils what was actually my favorite of the Avengers books reviewed here today. The cracks in The Hood’s army of super villains are starting to show and when Chemistro & Dr. Jonas Harrow reverse engineer the power blocker that the Avengers attempted to use several issues ago. They expect to use it as the great equalizer in the “super power” war and eliminate the need for The Hood. I like that plot line. Also we see just what it is like to invite the New Avengers over to your house to stay when your name isn’t Steve Rogers and how they mess up your place. I like that bit of character. I also like how there is a build up about Spider-Man revealing identity and the possible/inevitable complications that will rise because of it. There were lots of little things that really show off BMB’s sense of drama and character. The conversation about killing Osborn, how Spider-Man reacts to it, the fact that Bucky gets alerts about trouble in the city on his Blackberry are all really subtle and make the read really enjoyable for me.

As far as moving the story though, it feels pretty slow. We actually spend a good part of the issue in flashback. And there was a weird art thing that actually took me out of the story when the villains pull out the power blocker and use it. I don’t want to go into the effect it has on the heroes, because that’s dealt with next issue, but seeing Clint Barton vomit through his mask? I’m pretty sure the mask would stop that, or it’s the most porous mask ever invented.

All in all I still really like New Avengers, but I’m ready for more forward momentum.

The Mighty Avengers #27

Dan Slott how is it that you can do such amazing work on Avengers: The Initiative and then have such a slow start on The Mighty Avengers? I should start off by saying that I like this issue, but it really feels like Slott is writing for the trade and not for the month. The story comes in stilted chunks and flows dramatically to a sudden cliffhanger. The introduction of a new Inhuman villain was my favorite part, but then we go right back to Pym’s new headquarters and get a glimpse of Stature making a mad face at the Scarlet Witch, even though she has seen her before and not reacted the same way. Does she have reason to hate the Witch? Totally, Scarlet Witch killed her father, but why hasn’t she reacted like this before? Maybe she did and it just wasn’t memorable? I don’t remember.

Maybe it’s the Christos Gage script that is making the changes? I have no idea. I really like what Khoi Pham is doing with his pencils, and the art in general is really nice! They all look like powerful heroes. I keep waiting for this book to wow me and I think I’ll have to keep waiting.

Avengers: The Initiative #26

Up is down, left is right, and good is bad. Osborn is in charge of all the heroes in the United States and he’s replacing them all with villains! Our new hero roster, Gauntlet, Tigra, Justice, Ultra Girl, and the rest of the “New Warriors,” are going underground but still trying to go on the offensive.

This book is finally finding its footing in a post Civil War world and it’s making big strides in, what I think, is a good direction! Christos Gage scripted this book as well and is becoming a common fixture in books that make dramatic strides forward. This story was kinetic, well thought out and really sets up the whole status quo for this series. The art by Rafa Sandoval (pencils), Roget Bonet (inks), and Edgar Delgato (colors) matched the story style with visual perfection – and there’s an appearance by the U-Foes! where have they been?!?!

It’s an exciting time for this book and if the past issues scared you off then now is a good time to come back!

Dark Reign: Young Avengers #3 of 5

Paul Cornell and Mark Brooks keep the hits coming! This teenage soap opera where the good Young Avengers meet the Bad(?) Young Avengers, test them and show how age and experience really help make good decisions.

Now that Captain Britain and MI13 is over this is a great place to get a monthly Paul Cornell fix. The twists and turns and reveals are way too good to spoil and the the story is being paced perfectly for its five issues. Between Princess Python and a last minute Norman Osborn issue #4 looks like ti’s going to be phenomenal!

Don’t wait for the trade on this, buy it NOW!!

Well, that’s it for now. See you tomorrow!

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Filed under avengers, comic books, mighty avengers, new avengers, reviews, the initiative, young avengers

Comic Book Under Dogs: Captain Britain &MI13 #15 & Agents of Atlas #8

So now that the news about Disney’s acquisition of Marvel comics is public knowledge, and it looks like they’ll have no problem getting past the anti-trust panel, I think it is safe to have my fanboy freak out followed immediately by the calm realization that the publishing end probably won’t change all that much.

I expect to see an Iron Man ride at Disneyland before the world ends on December 21, 2012.

Now on to the reviews!

Captain Britain & MI13 #15

This is the final issue of a great series that died before its time. Maybe it’s the Anglophile in me, but I really enjoyed how “British” this comic book felt which was due, in no small part, to to the excellent writing of Paul Cornell. He had no small task to achieve with this issue seeing as he needed to end the whole series and complete the current Dracula storyline at the same time. I won’t lie, there are sections that seemed rushed. You can tell from reading it that there are characters and plot lines that were clearly going to be drawn out longer, especially the return of Meggan. I enjoyed the device of Pete Wisdom taking a girl on a date and using that to basically explain everything that was going on.

There are some continuity questions I have, mostly stemming from the issue where the skull was “destroyed,” but these are small gripes. The reappearance of Death’s Head was a nice surprise as was the final battle against Dracula. Cornell’s ability to make Dracula such a great villain makes me hope that he’ll get his hands on more lesser known characters and give them a reboot. He’ll certainly have the opportunity now that Marvel has moved him on to four different books!

As usual Leonard Kirk’s art was dynamic and fun and it continues to make me wonder how such a great book can get canceled. The trades of this series will be out and complete by October. If you like good stories you’ll pick them up.

Agents of Atlas #8

There are times in the life of a comic book that you have an issue or two that are used to push forward an overall plot line as opposed to the tight single issue plot line. In issues like this it is customary to have a big guest star to help fill out the book. In my opinion, this is one of those issues for AoA. Jimmy Woo leaves to investigate an old branch of the Atlas Group with the robot M-11 and, just as he leaves, the rest of the team is called to action by a secret base in Nevada. What danger could require the whole inner circle? The Hulk!

Seeing the team come together without Woo or the power of M-11 was actually really nice. The action was not played simple or without consequence. The team goes through all the “expected” ways that you’d try to suppress the Hulk and the final solution ends up being creative and, while not surprising, satisfying. Jeff Parker really understands his characters and their team dynamic. He does it so well that this issue, which is actually quite good, seems mediocre by the standards set in the rest of the series. That can be a problem with a book that is so regularly good, you get accustomed to it and it’s hard to be “wowed!”

Art duties are well executed by Carlo Pagulayan on pencils and Jason Paz with Noah Salonga inks. The story flows very well and the creature designs are suitably creepy. It’s just a really solid book. The end cliffhanger actually has me wondering what’s next, and that’s not something many comic readers are accustomed to!

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow!

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Comic Review: All Things Iron Man

It’s been a really long time since the last comic blog and I finally got over to The Realm to pick up my stack. The nice thing about not reading too many titles is that even after almost two months of not picking up my books I only had nine in my box.

I won’t be reviewing all nine in this blog – that would be insanity!!!!! Instead I’m going to break them up over three blogs:

  1. All Iron Man! Invincible Iron Man #16, War Machine #8 & Iron Man Armor Wars 1 of 4
  2. Unsung Comics That Are Awesome! (That title may change) It will cover the final issue of Captain Britain & MI13 #15 & Agents of Atlas #8. This will be up in a couple days.
  3. A Bunch of Avengers Books: The New Avengers #55, The Mighty avengers #27, Avengers: The Initiative #26 & Young Avengers: Dark Reign 3 of 5. This will be up a few days after the last.

So let’s get down to it!

Eisner Award Winner For Best New Ongoing Series The Invincible Iron Man #16: I love this creative team! Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca continue the “World’s Most Wanted” storyline exactly where it left off last issue: Pepper Potts was tied up after being tortured by Madame Masque, Tony had been knocked to the floor and incapacitated, and Masque was forcing Tony to tell her whether or not he had truly loved her back when they were an item. She’s completely obsessed going so far as to try and blow them all up just because Tony no longer loves her. It’s the little details that make me enjoy this run so much. It was, literally, decades ago that Tony Stark and Madame Masque were the most conflicted couple since Batman and Catwoman. Her father was Count Nefaria – yes as in “nefarious” – who was a MAJOR Avenger’s villain. Madame Masque was a major player in the Iron Man books from issue number one back in 1963. In the late 80’s, during the dark times of editor negligence, she fluctuated between being a clone, going completely good and becoming a bad guy again – she (or her clone) even joined an Avengers team for a short while. I’ve been really pleased as Fraction digs deep into the Iron Man mythos to bring these characters back. Right now every major player in this story arc either got their start in, or was a major player in Iron Man comics: Madame Masque, Pepper Potts, The Black Widow, The Controller(!), The Crimson Dynamo, even Maria Hill – a new character but one who is explicitly linked to Iron Man’s current situation.

Speaking of Maria Hill and The Controller, it is so impressive to see how scary this character is now. Maria is still suffering from the effects of The Controller’s slave disk and she is not well. We’ve never seen the effects of a slave disk represented so well and it continues to be good story telling. Whatever demons are in her past seem to be coming to the surface. It is really rounding out the Maria Hill character making her someone that I care and want to read about.

Now on to my complaints.

Story wise I feel like this is being “written for the trade.” Although I really enjoyed this part of the story, it was just that – a part of the story. I was left wanting more and not in the “Oh boy! I can’t wait for next month!” more like, “Really, we leave off here? Couldn’t we get just a bit more?” Also, I think a couple scenes were re-ordered. If they weren’t then I feel like the story telling was clunky. I refer you to the scene’s with Black Widow and Maria Hill. Did anyone else think that the shower scene was intended to happen before the table scene? It also makes more sense since the Black Widow left then to go have the hard drive examined.

By the way, I’m writing down this prediction right now – although I’ve assumed this since it was first mentioned: I think that hard drive is a back up of Tony’s brain a la the “Hypervelocity” mini-series. Just putting that out there.

My remaining complaints are art related and really just seem like the proof reader was rushing the job. The first is a clear error when Madame Masque takes off her mask. It looks like her eyes are attached to the mask and can also be seen correctly positioned on her face in the same frame. To me it looks like a Photoshop mistake. And on the last page, as Iron Man flies away in the classic armor, his shoulders are colored red even though they shouldn’t be and weren’t just a page before. These are minor, but I noticed it and I don’t want to notice it. Still, over all, the emotional impact and characterization in this story are fantastic and I’m so looking forward to seeing how it all plays out!

War Machine #8: I know, I know I said I would drop this title. I still might. I’m really conflicted on this book. Greg Pak writes and Leonardo Manco on art. I had a small discussion at my LCS about how Greg Pak is usually really good about coming up with things that are new and different on the titles that he writes however, although this is new and different, I’m really not a fan. The West Coast Avengers show up in this issue to stop Rhodey from going after Stark in a jumbo jet. Yes, I said the West Coast Avengers – even though Ronin, Mockingbird, Tigra and Wonderman are tossed to the four winds in continuity right now. And they show up in a Quinjet! The Dark Avengers barely have a Quinjet and none of the other Avenger teams do for sure! All geek bitching aside, it was nice to see the West Coast team back together. Maybe when the Dark Reign is over that might happen for good?

So the Ultimo storyline continues, still, in this issue. Turns out it was MORGAN Stark not Tony Stark who was responsible for the whole Ultimo fiasco. Morgan is the “evil” Stark cousin who was all kinds of annoying back in the 60’s and 70’s. Every decade or so they try to bring him back, but he never proves to be much of a villain. Even in this he’s just a red herring who then turns into the Ultimo – spoiler – and then blows up – another spoiler. What really turns me off from this series is the fact that two other characters are flying around in War Machine armors, Bethany Cabe and Jake Oh. I know where Jake got his armor (issue #7) but where’d Bethany’s come from?! So, yeah, things blow up, Rhodey gets compromised by the Ultimo stuff and Norman Osborn shows up on the last page in the Iron Patriot armor acting like he’s going to save the day.

I don’t want to sound like a petty fan boy, but I don’t have a lot of extra money so the next issue needs to impress for me to keep picking this up.

Iron Man and the Armor Wars 1 of 4: Written by Joe Caramanga, art by Craig Rousseau and covers by Skottie Young. I found out about this book by accident. I actually thought it was the Ultimate Comics Armor War that will be coming out in a month or two and was surprised that Skottie Young, who just finished up a great version of “The Wizard of Oz,” was doing the covers. When I finally picked this up I thought it was cool that it was a 616 Iron Man story from back in the late 80’s when Stark Enterprises was in California and Stark was flying around in the Neo-Classic armor. It really felt like one of those old stories when Tony was still both a playboy and on top of the corporate world. There were a few changes, though. Where was Mrs. Arbogast? At that point in Stark history Pepper and Happy Hogan were off on the East Coast. What about the rest of the supporting cast from back then? I’m hoping they’ll show up in future issues. The conflict comes when all of the Iron Man armors are stolen by the Russians led by Crimson Dynamo and then Doctor Doom shows up. I know, totally confusing, but that’s what issue #2 is for! The art is fun and cartoony, like the old Marvel Comics Presents they used to do in the early 80’s. This is a series for the Iron Fanboy more than the casual reader, but if you are a long time Iron Man reader I suggest checking it out.

See you tomorrow!

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Comic Review: Invicible Iron Man #15, Agents of Atlas #7, and – Total Suprise – Marvel Divas #1 of 4

I am now officially caught up with my comic book weeks! I’ve dropped a few books in June so just three to look at today, but all three are really good! Let’s get to it!

The Invincible Iron Man #15: Oh, I’m sorry, maybe that should read “Eisner Award Nominated Invincible Iron Man”! Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca keep making a really good book and I’m so happy that my favorite character has such a great creative team! I haven’t enjoy a storyline so much since the first Armor War – and that was twenty years ago! Tony’s in Russia running around in the Crimson Dynamo’s armor. Pepper shows up. Madame Masque is ready with a sniper rifle to kill them! She doesn’t, that would make for a short book, and we finally see Tony and Pepper rekindle the spark that they shared way back when Iron Man first started way back in the 60’s. Jealous much Madame Masque? Oh yeah! Let’s not forget that Tony and Whitney Frost (A.K.A. Madame Masque) used to be a thing for YEARS back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Matt Fraction, in his infinite wisdom, brings that element back – with a vengeance! If there’s just one reason why you should buy this book it’s so you can see how these interpersonal relationships, that stretch back decades, are being played with in the here and now. Tony is still losing his mind and makes a rather meta reference to the fact that he feels like he’s losing his super powers and that a lot of his super-friends have had to go through it. I’m personally on pins and needles waiting to see if they really go all the way with his whole “losing his smarts” thing or if Tony will find some miracle cure at the last second. And on top of that I’m really not sure which way I would prefer it go. As if that wasn’t enough for you Maria Hill is in New York trying to convince the Black Widow to take her to Captain America so she can drop off the mysterious “X” drive that apparently has something really important on it, but we still don’t know what it is. The worst part is that HAMMER is on to them and no one is really sure who to trust. This story keeps getting better! The cliff hanger puts Tony is a compromising position with Madame Masque and Pepper – two girls sounds like a fantasy, but this three way looks like it will end with someone dead.

Agents of Atlas #7: Will Namor and Namora get married?!?!!? Who leads the Atlas Organization?!?! A dragon!??!!? There are two stories this issue and it feels like Jeff Parker, with art by Gabriel Hardman, are tying up loose ends before what I believe will be the start of a new story arc. No, Namor and Namora aren’t getting married – in fact a major act of betrayal sours that soup pretty bad. All story work aside, what really sells this book are the characterizations. So many little nuances make the stories told in this title feel so much bigger than they necessarily are. This is definitely one of the best team books being written right now by either company. We also get a fun look into the history of the Atlas Organization and get to know more about Mr. Lao the dragon. If you are even considering reading this book pick up issue #8. I have a feeling it will be a good spot to come on.

Marvel Divas #1 of 4: This was a surprise. Recommended to Rene by our friend Enrique, the cover makes this look like a total cheesecake comic however that is far from the case. This is actually a very female centric comic where our main cast, Patsy Walker (Hellcat), Monica Rambeau (Photon), Angelica Jones (Firestar) and Felicia Hardy (Black Cat), are represented like “Sex and the City” girls rather than super heroines. No costumes in this one. Patsy is our Carrie, writing a book about being a super hero, Angelica is the Charlotte so far, Monica looks like she’s going to be Miranda and Felicia has always been the Samantha. I was really surprised with how much I liked this comic book. The last time I remember seeing Hellcat she was crazy and strapped to a chair drooling and hairless with her husband, the Son of Satan, trying to make her better. Apparently that got fixed. One of the themes of the first issue is that the girls feel like they are the “B” list superheroes. When the “A” listers show up at Patsy’s book release party (Storm, Invisible Woman, She-Hulk and Emma Frost) our girls take off to get cocktails. Girlfriend Rene also enjoyed this one! That’s saying something! I think we’re going to get the rest of this limited series and see if it stays good.

See you tomorrow!

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Avengers: Dark, New & The Initiative

My commitment to writing once a day renews again this month and I will begin this July with a comic review concerning my favorite super team – The Avengers – in three of it’s multiple forms. As a complete sidetrack, have you noticed that there are as many Avengers titles now as X-books? I always wondered how someone could follow so many variations of the same title, but now here I am reading five different titles all with the name”Avengers” in them. Anyway, here’s my review.

Dark Avengers #5: Even though the cover suggests that we’ll see a fight between Noh-Var and Venom that does not in this issue. Brian Michael Bendis does write us what I feel is a filler issue, with art from Mike Deodato & Will Conrad, with some nice insights into The Sentry and the Dark Avengers team dynamic. We see a meeting of the Cabal again, although they stay mute for the most part as Osborn and Namor fight about how to handle the Atlantian attack on Los Angeles. By the way, apparently Melrose in the Marvel Universe is still the same as it was back in 1999 and the ocean got about 20 miles closer. Did anyone else notice that the Golden Apple was in it’s old location or was that just me? The power struggle between Namor and Osborn just goes to show why bad guys can’t work together. It’s especially fun to see how the rest of the Cabal observe their interaction. The art, although not my favorite, does a good job of showing the intricacies of the characters faces. The “acting” in this book is right on. In addition to the Cabal, the Dark Avenger’s team interactions are getting deeper and more interesting as well. The motivations are getting clearer and I really feel the clock ticking on how long this team will actually stay together. Bullseye is ready to kill everybody, Ares is around because there is good to be done, Noh-Var just found out he’s teamed with criminals and murderers so he took off, but it’s what’s happening with The Sentry that I find most compelling. The Sentry has been a controversial figure in the Marvel Universe ever since he was brought into the 616 universe. Originally presented to be “the Marvel Superman” BMB always wrote him flawed and broken more than anyone else has. Even in his own limited series where his alternate personality The Void was front and center I didn’t feel like the character was crafted as well as when he is written by Bendis. Since his return to life after the battle with Mogana LeFey The Sentry has been distant, confused and scary. Osborn’s manipulations of him are wonderfully in character and when the Sentry goes all “dark side” and kills the Atlantian terrorists it makes you wonder just which side he’ll be on when all is said and done. The cliffhanger is Stark’s vault makes me wonder if Norman will even make it the whole year before he turns back into the Green Goblin, but I’ll definitely be around next month to find out!

The New Avengers #54: Brian Michael Bendis again this time with Billy Tan on pencil duties. Brother Voodoo is the new sorcerer supreme! And he has more character to him than he has ever had before! Between Brother Voodoo, Dr. Strange and Hellstrom it’s enough to make you want a whole magic line of Marvel books to come out. The combined strength of the Avengers and the magic users versus Dormammuu made for one hell of a 16 page fight scene! Hellstrom is still my favorite character out of this whole arc. He’s irreverent flippant and funny! I would really like to see more of him. Of course I was also one of about six people who bougth his last series back in 93 so maybe I’m a little biased. Seeing The Hood get his powers taken makes me wonder how the rest of the books he’s in will be effected – although the appearance of Loki at the end of this issue makes me think that he won’t be powerless for long. Clint Barton has another really good video moment making sure that The Hood and Madame Masque are held accountable and the final page makes you remember why Clint has always been a bit of a loose cannon. Good issue! You should be reading this!

Avengers: The Initiative #25: I wish I could say that this was a good issue, but it is really just setting up the new status quo for this book. Here are the basics: Gauntlet and Tigra have joined the New Warriors and now go by the name Avengers Resistance, Norman has opened Camp Hammer to “train” super-villains to be “super-heroes” (yeah right), and now we know that Trauma is the son of the demon Nightmare. Oh and who here forgot that Tigra is pregnant with a Skrull baby? Yeah, me too. That’s been brought back to the forefront. Gage, Ramos and Delgado have had me wavering back and forth on this book. I’m really hoping that the story will pick up speed next month. If not it just means I’ll have one less Avengers book to pick up.

See you tomorrow!


Filed under avengers, comic books, reviews, the initiative