The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: September 27 – October 3, 2017


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

Comics I Read Last Week:

One

The best comic I read last week was Detective Comics #965.

Writer: James Tynion IV

Artist: Eddy Barrows

I love Eddy Barrows’ artwork. There is something about his verisimilitude, the manner of his panel composition, the loving way he renders characters that feels classic and new simultaneously. My assumption is the level of detail he puts in his work paints him into the slower end of artists (pun intended) but that is okay. That makes his pages all the more special.

“Special” is the right word for this issue. Kicking off a story arc entitled “A Lonely Place of Living” (a title which must make long-time Batman fans take notice), ridiculously underrated writer James Tynion IV tells the origin story of ridiculously underrated character Tim Drake – Red Robin. Red Robin has been “off the board” for months, the captive of the mysterious Mr. Oz, and is about to break big.

That the story (along with the latest issues of Action Comics) reveals the identity of Mr. Oz is not what makes the story special, nor is the science fiction heights for which the narrative reaches.

What makes it special is the treatment of Red Robin, the respect paid to the works of Wolfman, Perez and Aparo and the promise of a return that is both important and is woven into the fabric of the rebirthed DC Universe.

I am glad Tim Drake is back and I am glad his return is being handled by these particular creators. Drake, Tynion IV and Barrows are all superstars.

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American Made – A Movie Review


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american-made-final-poster-401x600While he is not everyone’s cup of tea, Tom Cruise is a movie star of a type that we do not see on screen with much regularity anymore. One can argue about the films he chooses to make (but I liked The Mummy) and one can, correctly, critique his religious choices, but it is hard to argue that Cruise is not movie star. He may not be able to open movies on the strength of his name alone anymore, but, once you come to a Tom Cruise movie, you are more likely to be entertained than not.

Cruise’s star talents are on full display in American Made which tells the (almost) true story of Barry Seal, a TWA pilot who made a personal fortune spying for the CIA, running drugs for the Medellin Cartel and supplying weapons and a training location for the Contras. Only someone with ridiculous self confidence and a massive ego could pull of the schemes that Seal kept afloat a Cruise, in his best performance in years, does a wonderful job of conveying a kinetic recklessness in Seal. He carries the film, is in almost every scene of it, and makes the character more appealing than he likely was in real life.

Cruise relies on very few of his tropes here. Seal has no father issues, is not a superhuman action star and does not seem to do much well except flying. It is the flying that first catches the eye of the CIA when Seal is recruited for a series of spy missions taking photos of Central American hot spots from the air. It was a simply step, made completely palatable in Cruise’s performance, to segue from these missions to picking up and dropping off cocaine for the Cartel.

How Seal became a part of training and arming the Contras is another crazy matter entirely.

Cruise, as is his wont right now, carries the film and it suffers when he is not on screen. He is surrounded by capable actors, the only two of whom who make much of an impression are Sarah Wright and Dohmnall Gleeson. Wright wrings some humor and joy out of a fairly narrowly written role as Lucy Seal, Barry’s all too trusting wife. She is able to hold her own with Cruise and the ample chemistry they show might owe to the fact that they are a couple in real life. Gleeson is also very good in a one-note role as Schafer, Seal’s CIA contact. What is amazing about Gleeson is how different he is in each-and-every film in which he appears. It is truly hard to recognize him from one film to the next and he is always worth watching.

Other characters populate the film, but I found myself wishing more had been done with them, especially the pilots Seal recruits to help him juggle his schemes.

But it is Cruise’s movie and he really does deliver a fine performance here. He is engaging and funny, but smart enough to know his character has a dark side or at least a broken moral compass. Though Seal is often smiling, there is something empty behind that smile, something sad. Cruise’s Seal is no one’s hero. He is not even much of Robin Hood like anti-hero. He was a guy in the right place at a series of wrong times and is barely keeping all the balls in the air. Cruise masterfully plays the confusion that Seal felt when he realized the money was not enough to make him happy.

The movie, as enjoyable as it was, does not do enough to indicate just how high the stakes are, right up until the conclusion. People live and people die. Lives are changed. Many are hurt but director Doug Liman is more than happy to let his star carry the action without suffering many consequences of his choices. This is a good decision for the movie – because Cruise is the best thing in it – but it hurts what might have been a more powerful exploration of the time in which it takes place. Name dropping Bill Clinton, including George W. Bush and Oliver North as characters and wrapping the whole thing up with real news footage of the time illustrates what might have been. Cruise is very much worth the price of admission, but American Made could have been an even better movie.

AMERICAN MADE receives FOUR and KILOS OF COCAINE out of a possible FIVE.

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Battle of the Sexes – A Movie Review


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The-Battle-of-the-Sexes-poster-345-600x894There is very little I did not like in Battle of the Sexes.

Okay. There was nothing I did not like about Battle of the Sexes. Boasting superior, multi-faceted performances, deft and subtle direction, a lovely score and a 1970’s production design that kicks off from the promotional materials (take a look at the poster on the left – the folds are part of its design) and does not let go until the closing credit sequence (which itself features a terrific and moving song If I Dare by Sara Bareilles), Battle of the Sexes immediately moves towards the top of the class for Academy Award consideration. It is important. It is compelling. And it is eerily timely.

Smart, touching, funny and complex, the story of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs’ so-called “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, pitting the mid-50’s Riggs against the late 20’s King, is so accomplished at involving the audience in the lives and motivations of its two main characters, the actual match feels like something of an anti-climax. Emma Stone, perhaps the most chameleon-like actor of her generation, disappears into the part of Billie Jean King, the sometimes reluctant poster woman for the 1970’s women’s rights movement. Stone’s performance is garnering Oscar talk for good reason. She is powerful and sympathetic in the role, simultaneously balancing the confidence of a superior athlete with the confusion of someone confronting questions of sexual identity. The tension between these personas is powerfully played and Stone makes King a poignant protagonist, someone for whom to cheer but for whom Stone generates enormous sympathy.

This is primarily accomplished without lengthy monologues or preachy dialogue. Rather Stone’s performance – her body language or the expressions on her face – tell the story. While Kine may have known what she was getting into when she took on the powerful, male- dominated apparatus of the professional tennis world, she did not seem to understand where she was headed (and what trail she was blazing) when she first acknowledged her sexual orientation.

There are prescient themes at play in Battle of the Sexes and, while the movie was in production before the political events that have driven the cultural conversation of the last 18 months, it is likely that the filmmakers shaped the film to have immediate relevance today as the pulled it together in editing. The story of Battle of the Sexes feels all too important in our current climate.

One of the reasons the film plays out as well as it does owes much to the performance of Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs. Carell is a talented guy (and his physical resemblance to Riggs is nothing short of uncanny) and is the perfect person to nuance a role which, in the hands of someone else, might push into parody. Never willing to let his Riggs become a buffoon or an out-and-out villain, Carell’s portrayal provides enough shading for the audience to connect with a man who is on the wrong side of progress and is incapable of understanding that fact.

Battle of the Sexes is an excellent movie with a tremendous supporting cast (Alan Cumming deserves a special call-out). The material, in lesser hands with a lesser group of actors, may have been handled in a much more formulaic fashion. Battle of the Sexes rises above this trap by focusing less on the actual battle on the court and more on the battles going on in the character’s hearts and the film is all the better for the choice.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES receives FOUR and a HALF BLISTERING BJK OVERHANDS out of a possible FIVE.

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Link’n’Blogs – 9.29.17: Anthem


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

My wife, The Amazing Cinnamon Girl shared this post earlier this week. As we ramp up to another NFL weekend, this video warrants a repeat view. Click the photo below…

Flag and Football

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The 2017 Denver Broncos – Week Four: Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos


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 Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos

Sunday, October 1, 2017

 Oakland at Denver

 

LAST WEEK’S RESULT

Prediction: Denver 31, Buffalo 10

Actual: Denver 16, Buffalo 26

BACKGROUND

Will the real Denver Broncos please stand up? How about the real Oakland Raiders?

Going into Week Three, Denver and Oakland were two of the top five teams in the NFL and each looked formidable. It would not have been a surprise last week if both teams would win their respective games, even though both were on the road.

Denver was handled by Buffalo.

Oakland was annihilated by Washington.

It is hard to know what all this means going into this week.

KEY MATCH UP

This is strength vs. strength. Oakland’s offense can be explosive and it can score quickly and run away from opponents. It will face a very tough test in the Denver defense which remains one of the best units in the league. Whichever of these units dominates the other will absolutely determine the outcome of this game.

Ironically, Denver’s offense, which sure looked… average last week will be pitted against an Oakland defense that, itself, is fairly average (outside of some very strong line play).

Strength vs. strength. Relative weakness vs. relative weakness.

Hard to pick a winner.

X-FACTOR

Much like the real Denver Broncos need to stand up this week, so does the real Trevor Seimian. After a coming out party against Dallas two weeks ago, Number 13 looked very much like a 7th round pick against Buffalo. He should have easier sledding at home versus a pedestrian Oakland secondary.

Should.

If he can play well, the Broncos can win.

PREDICTION

This week is an AFC West game and strange things happen in this contests. As strange as Von Miller’s bizarre 4th quarter penalty or Emmanuel Sanders’ catch that was ruled not-a-catch? Perhaps not.

Denver must take care of the ball. The team that wins the turnover battle here will win the game between these two teams that will likely come out angry.

Smart money says a low scoring game, but I am going to predict an offensive show as the two teams try to get back to winning ways and back into the conversation of whether or not they are really any good!

Oakland Raiders – 27

Denver Broncos – 34

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: September 20 – 26, 2017


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

Comics I Read Last Week:

OneTwoThree

 

The best comic I read last week was Batman: The Red Death #1.

Writer: Joshua Williamson

Artists: Carmine Di Giandomenico

And I thought the parent book, DC Metal, was crazy.

It is hard to describe just what happens in this comic but, suffice it to say, that Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art is brilliantly vibrant, bloody, bizarre and over-the-top, the perfect counterpoint to regular Flash writer Joshua Williamson’s brilliantly over-the-top, bizarre, bloody and beautifully vibrant script.

This book is gonzo in the very best way, unexpected and insane, a story that sticks with the reader long after reading it.

I guess doing Batman is something like playing Hamlet – everyone wants to put their spin on it and Scott Snyder in DC Metal has built the vehicle to do so: the Dark Multiverse wherein alternate (and very evil) versions of Batman have taken the powers of their fellow Justice Leaguers to pursue their own ends.

I do not wish to spoil the chaos but, in this issue, Batman steals the power of the Flash and becomes The Red Death.

Anything named after an Edgar Allan Poe story cannot be good, right?

Batman: The Red Death is not good.

It is great.

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Countdown to Star Trek Discovery: Boldly Go TODAY!

Star Trek Discovery


On Sunday, September 24, Star Trek Discovery premieres. This is an exciting event for Trekkers everywhere and And There Came A Day celebrates with a week long countdown to the pilot episode!


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Ready?

Today is the day… which of these characters will become fan favorites? Which will not survive the pilot episode? Which will take their place among Kirk, Spock, Picard, Data and the rest?

I cannot wait to find out!

Voq (unknown actor) – “Touched by fate and fire. He is Voq”

T’Kuvma (Chris Obi) – “The ruthless unifier”

L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) – “Battle Deck Commander of the Klingons, L’Rell.”

Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) – “The first officer”

Captain Phillipa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) – “The Leader”

Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) – “Captain of the USS Discovery”

Lt. Saru (Doug Jones) – “The Kelpian”

Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) – “The brilliant science officer”

Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) – “The Soldier”

Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) – “The loyal cadet”

Sarek (James Frain) – “The Vulcan ambassador”

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