A Letter to Jakarta Comic Con.

This past year, Indonesia has been pampered with pop culture events. From the local-centered creative event of the year Pop Con Asia, Reed Expo’s Indonesia Toy, Game, and Comic Convention, Japanese culture mainstay Anime Festival Asia ID, the annual Jakarta Toys and Comics Fair, and smaller events like Real American Heroes-Con, there’s absolutely everything to please the con-going crowd.

In less than a month, Jakarta is about to have another one. From Bangkok Comic Con organizers BEC-Tero True Visions, comes Jakarta Comic Con. Scheduled to be held at Jakarta International Expo alongside AFA ID on the 25-27th of September this year, this event bills itself as “The Ultimate Pop Culture Experience”, promising film, TV, and animation industry guests from Hollywood and across Asia.

At the time of this writing, the event boasts Arrow and X2’s Kelly Hu, movie director Joko Anwar, Glitch Network’s Bryan Lie, KOSMIK’s Sunny Gho and Jho Tan, Si Juki cartoonist Faza Meonk, toy designer Bowo Baghaskara, and Star-Lord & Kitty Pryde art team Alti Firmansyah, Jessica Kholinne, and Yasmine Putri as their special guests.

Now, that lineup might sound impressive, but the fact that all but two of the names mentioned above were at Pop Con Asia earlier this month, coupled with the entry fee of 95.000 rupiahs (per day) compared to the 100.000 rupiahs (regular ticket price, no promotions) that Pop Con Asia charged for three day’s entry, it sounds much less impressive. No disrespect meant to Jakarta Comic Con’s guests, but in my personal opinion, the ticket price is a little bit steep. I’m no cheapskate scrooge, I swear, I’m just voicing a personal concern of mine, shared with several people I know as well. That said, I’m perfectly willing to pay a little bit extra for guests that interest me, having been to Singapore Toy, Game, and Comic Convention for the past three years and enjoying every second of it.

But that isn’t my major gripe about this event. My main issue is that for an event that calls itself Comic Con, there seems to be a lot of television and movie exhibitors, and awfully lacking of comics exhibitors, artist alley (which I’m definitely going to check out) notwithstanding. From the list of exhibitors given on the website, I count around 4-5 comic-related exhibitors, a mere fraction compared to the TV and movie studios opening booths in the event. You’d think there’d be more comics studios or publishers, local or international, opening booths in an event that bills itself a Comic Con. To anyone from the Jakarta Comic Con team, if you’re reading this and if at any point I’m wrong, please point me to a complete list of exhibitors and let me see the light.

I really want this event to succeed, I really do. But so far, it’s not doing much to attract me into coming. Unless you guys have a Sharknado replica at the SyFy booth, in which case I’m going even if I have to paddle my way over there with a life raft. If the event really patterns itself after San Diego Comic-Con or cons like New York Comic-Con and C2E2, then they should know to at least invite more local comics guests and have more comics-related exhibitors. Maybe I’m that cranky old comics man shouting at the movie and TV kids to get off my lawn, but I’m of the opinion that a Comic Con should, at the very least, have a comics presence equal to that of movie and TV’s.

Knowing me, I’d probably come at least one day to see just how it is. Then again, I watched Fantastic Four willingly, so it’s not like my standards are that high. So if any of you good Jakarta Comic Con people are reading this, I want you to please, prove me wrong.

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Blood(stone) Runner- A Secret Wars: Marvel Zombies #3 Review

  • Publisher: Marvel
  • Writer: Si Spurrier
  • Art: Kev Walker (pencils), Jason Gorder (inks, p. 6-15)

Halfway through the miniseries, I can say again with the utmost certainty that Marvel Zombies is one of the best Secret Wars tie-ins. As before, Marvel Zombies #3 chronicles the journey of Elsa Bloodstone and her as-yet-mysterious companion, affectionately nicknamed Shuttup. This time around, Jason Gorder joins the creative team on inks for pages 6-15.

Screenshot_595

Hands-down, best moment in a book filled with great moments.

The last we left our intrepid duo, Shuttup has been captured by the rotters, Elsa meets a dangling Deadpool, and there’s a spork hanging near Danglypool. Most of this issue centers around Elsa’s rescuing of Shuttup, and after months of mystery, an encounter with the mysterious hooded figure stalking them ever since their journey started.

Well...that's one mystery solved.

Well…that’s one mystery solved.

Childhood flashbacks are still numerous here, and boy, do they hit hard. With Ulysses’ teachings guiding most of Elsa’s actions so far into the series, her small acts of defiance have been a highlight whenever it happens, and this time around, it happens in a big way. The mystery of how her hair became that colour, something I’ve talked about on the review of the first issue, is also answered here. Elsa softening up and opening herself to Shuttup is also another welcome change, having been consistently cold and distant to her (yes, her) over the course of the series.

The Bloodstone Way. Not a bad way to live, really.

The Bloodstone Way. Not a bad way to live, really.

That’s not to say that this issue is short on action. On the contrary, there’s a lot of zombies being dispatched in short order, especially in the first half, masterfully depicted by Walker, Gorder, and Guru-eFX. Some highlights are Elsa playing a game of Run-a-Mole Man-Over and her headbutting a dangling zombie Morbius’ head off.

Zombie Kill of the Week? Zombie Kill of the Week.

Zombie Kill of the Week? Zombie Kill of the Week.

Something I’ve regretfully neglected to mention the past few issues is the work of letterer Clayton Cowles. His sound effects in this issue are brilliantly shaped, and I’ve always liked the gray bubbles indicating Elsa’s flashback dialogue. But the best thing about his lettering in this issue has to be the first-ever spork-bubble.

If there's such a thing as a Speech Bubble of the Year award, this is certainly a contender.

If there’s such a thing as a Speech Bubble of the Year award, this is certainly a contender.

With plenty of action, loads of character, delightful bouts of dark humour, and that shocker of a last page, Marvel Zombies #3 is yet another great ride. October is going to be a long, long wait.

Also, I take back my feeling bad about Ulysses. He’s a prick. A well-intentioned prick, but still a prick.

A Well-Oiled (Gun) Machine – A Gun Machine Review

  • Title: Gun Machine
  • Author: Warren Ellis
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books (January 14, 2014)

Not long after finishing Crooked Little Vein, I found myself picking up Gun Machine, another Warren Ellis novel, and I was not disappointed. Besides being one of my favorite writers in comics, Ellis is slowly creeping up my list of top novelists.

Detective John Tallow, responding to a 911 call, found himself having to gun down a naked man with a shotgun after the man shot his partner dead. Inadvertently finding a room in the same apartment building filled wall-to-wall with firearms from various periods in history arranged in some arcane pattern, the titular Gun Machine, linked to numerous unsolved murders the past twenty years. Thanks to the heap of cold cases reopened with this discovery, Tallow is tasked to find who owns this cache of guns and arrest them.

The traumatized Tallow certainly isn’t the right man for the job, at first. Even before his partner Jim Rosato was shot dead, Tallow is a brilliant but lazy cop who mostly coasts and lets Rosato do the heavy lifting. And then there’s the fact that he tends to get lost in his head, has little social skills, and what little of those social skills he has is nonexistent for the first half hour of the day.

During the course of this investigation, Tallow manages to rope in two Crime Scene Unit personnel no less eccentric than himself. Scarly, a lab tech who hoards stuff like paintball guns and whatever else her wife doesn’t want in the house in their lab and her partner Bat (not short for Batmobile, probably), a nerd with even worse manners than Tallow but is a whiz with technology. And got a chunk of his ear blown off by a wild firing pin from an old gun being tested.

While this unlikely trio goes around New York looking for clues that’ll lead them to the killer, at the same time in alternating chapters, the novel gives us the point of view of the killer, who for most of the book known only as ‘the hunter’. The hunter himself is an….eccentric man, who goes through great lengths to live life devoid of technology and comforts modern people take for granted. This changes the novel from a clichéd “Who did it?” to more of a “Who is this guy and why did he do it?” story.

In true Warren Ellis fashion, things do get weird, but unlike Crooked Little Vein, the weird stuff are mostly kept as background details, like the police band chatter saying that someone got their neck broken by a suicide bomber’s flying arm or a sex store clerk being beaten to death with a fifteen-pound dildo. And then there’s the Fuck You Robot constructed by Bat. It’ll make sense in context. The requisite dark humor is also ever-present, as does the vivid descriptions of violent acts. This is truly an Ellis work, through and through.

Another thing I found great about this book is it sometimes reads like a love letter to New York, delving into its history in detail and incorporating it into the plot, especially the bits about settlers coming into Mannahatta and how that affected the native residents. As befitting of the title as well, there are some loving descriptions of firearms from various makes and models, going at length into their history, their quirks, and the creative application of them as tools of murder. From the Lorcin .380 famed for its shoddy quality to a flintlock, this book is loaded with guns.

While it brings nothing new to the table of police procedural and crime thriller genre, Gun Machine is still a very, very solid read with its compelling characters, good pacing, and a healthy dose of black humor sprinkled with weirdness along with a little gore for good measure. For those of you too squeamish or just simply couldn’t read Crooked Little Vein, then this one’s for you. If you have read and enjoyed Crooked Little Vein, here’s another piece of Ellis goodness.

Is This A Weird Sex Tour Guide? – A Crooked Little Vein Review

I’ve been a fan of Warren Ellis and his comics work for a while now, but for some reason I haven’t taken a look at his prose work….until a friend told me about one of his books the other day, and two words caught my interest. ‘Godzilla Bukkake’. I shit you not.

And so, I seeked out the book, found it, and finished it in two days. Which is kinda fast for me. Anyways….Crooked Little Vein. This debut novel, published in 2007, tells the story of Mike McGill, a private eye hired by the United States government (and a very, very, weird Chief of Staff, to say the least) to recover a ‘secret’ second United States Constitution. This results in Mike undertaking a very strange and very darkly humorous journey across America, accompanied by an equally strange student named Trix, who goes with him in the name of her thesis about sexual fetishes.

This novel is probably what would happen if you locked a hardboiled detective story, several gigabytes’ worth of stuff you find in the darkest, dankest corners of the Internet, and a few grindhouse films for good measure in a room and told them to have a drunken threesome. Their illicit love child would be this novel. Yes, it’s THAT weird.

This novel is certainly not for the faint of heart, ones who find weird fetishes repulsive, and ones easily offended. If you’re none of the above, then you’re in for a treat. Beneath all the weird shit, and I mean WEIRD, this book is an interesting read. If you can see past the tantric ostrich orgies and drinking dead cow’s milk, this is an interesting commentary about what is ‘mainstream’, and how the things that become too ‘mainstream’ eventually gets boring and people keep trying to find new, more extreme things. In this case, of course, are weird sex acts.

Mike and Trix themselves are very likeable, and very interesting, despite (or maybe because of) their quirks. Mike is a self-proclaimed shit magnet, drawing all kinds of unfortunate and strange events to him (and HOW!), while Trix is very sexually adventurous and is very….open to whatever it is they’re trying to do at the moment. These two create an interesting dynamic that fuels the story between the weirdness happening every other chapter, and their banter is a high point, as expected from an Ellis work.

If you’re remotely interested in Transmetropolitan, Planetary, Supergod, or any of the other weird work Ellis has written in the past, this book is well worth checking out. It’s weird as shit (sometimes literally), but the colorful cast of main characters and support characters manages to keep it somewhat grounded and for it to not become just a series of descriptions about the strangest sex acts you’ll find this side of the dark corners of the Internet.

Just try not to emulate what they do in the book. Or do. Do whatever you like.

Not-So-Fantastic Four? – A Fantastic Four (2015) Review [POSSIBLE SPOILERS]

As you may have seen the past few weeks, I’ve been having….doubts about Fox’s reboot of the Fantastic Four Franchise. Having watched it, I have….rather mixed feelings about it.

This much-maligned reboot has had quite the uphill battle since the get-go, amidst claims that this movie won’t be ‘like the comics’, set photos of Doom looking….less than convincing surfacing on the ‘net, and even a little (good-natured) rib at the cast in a Punisher comic. This, coupled with the movie being savaged by the critics on release (9% on Rottentomatoes as of this writing), made me lower my expectations quite a bit.

For better or worse, it’s change. Most likely the latter.

Directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle), this movie tells the story of Reed Richards (Whiplash’s Miles Teller), Ben Grimm (Snowpiercer’s Jamie Bell), Susan Storm (House of Card’s Kate Mara), and Johnny Storm (Chronicle’s Michael B. Jordan), the titular Fantastic Four, in a revamped origin story of how Marvel’s First Family gained their powers, and their confrontation against Victor von Doom (Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ Toby Kebbell). Unlike Tim Story’s 2005 outing with the team, Trank opts for a more hard sci-fi approach, involving almost body-horror transformations and interdimensional travel.

For the most part, this concept works well, and the scene where they first discover their powers was rather impressive. The depiction of the powers in proper fight situations was also well-executed. Not exactly on par with most superhero movies these days, but it did what it set out to do. One thing I do have to give them is that despite complaints of him looking bad in the promotional pics, Ben Grimm’s rocky form looks great in motion.

   As seen in th–Wait, we don’t see this in the movie. More on that later.

From an acting standpoint, most of the cast’s performance was good. Michael B. Jordan’s Johnny Storm is the brash, hotheaded (pun intended, probably), and childish at times Johnny Storm we’ve all grown to know and love. Kate Mara’s Sue Storm is smart and a little bit snarky, save the obvious inconsistent wig issues. Jamie Bell’s Ben Grimm is the loyal friend he is in the comics, though he lacks the boisterous quality of the Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing from the comics and his signature Brooklyn accent. Miles Teller’s Reed Richards is awkward, though he has some moments of suspiciously confident comebacks.

Victor von Doom (not Domashev, thank god), as portrayed by Toby Kebbell, initially has the ever-present jealousy of Richards that’s been a core of Doom’s character and the ego to back it up. Seeing all that thrown out into the Negative Zone and trampled by the Annihilation Wave is saddening, really. These major contentions with Doom became my biggest turn-off from the movie.

Doom basically became a cackling madman covered in a suit that makes him look like a metallic version of that failed Jesus restoration painting. The Scanners-style loosely-defined telekinetic powers may be cool, but that doesn’t really help with what his character’s become. If I know Doom, he’d want to use Planet Zero (aka Not!Negative Zone) to somehow rule the world and usher in a new world order under Doom, not destroy it and leave only him as the only person alive. I’ve spoken at length in the past how I can tolerate changes as long as the core of character stays intact. But this time? Both the look and the personality of Doom has been mangled almost beyond recognition. Never have I thought a villain only showing up in the last 20-ish minutes of the movie could be a blessing. If any of you has seen that Doom clip making its way around the Internet, that’s almost half of his scenes.

Toldja, he looks like Monkey Jesus.

The doomed Doom portrayal aside, for a movie that’s about /the/ superhero family, it’s sorely lacking in family. For those who came in expecting to see the always-entertaining joshing and prank wars between Johnny and Ben, prepare to be disappointed (although they do have a little moment in the end that I hope can escalate, if they do decide to make a sequel). The interactions between Reed, Ben, and Johnny are well-written and acted great, but what’s sorely lacking is any interaction between Ben and Sue. They barely even share screens until the very last scene of the film. For a team that prides itself in being a family, it’s something I can’t quite let slide.

While I understand the direction this film is going and how it almost avoids the comic lore like it’s the plague, there are some points that I felt needed to be changed. The fan-favorite battlecries of “It’s clobberin’ time!” and “FLAME ON!” are basically treated like an afterthought here. “It’s clobberin’ time!” was implied to be something Ben’s brother shouts before physically assaulting Ben (only a slap to the head on-screen, but their mother’s reaction drove the point home that it happened often, and maybe even worse than what was seen). Seeing him use the same phrase before, well….clobberin’ Doom is a bit uncomfortable knowing the fact. Thankfully, “FLAME ON!” didn’t have any bad overtones attached to it, but it does feel underwhelming, having Johnny not scream it at the top of his lungs as would befit him. Not a big gripe from me, though.

Being well aware of Trank’s complaints against Fox tampering with the final product, I’m not going to point any fingers, but I will say that there are some important scenes left out that might be better off making it into the movie. Remember that scene in the trailer where Ben drops off a plane and supposedly goes to fight terrorists? (Seen in this trailer, at around 1:21)

Yeah, it’s nowhere to be found in the movie. Instead, we get to see him rip up tanks….from a recorded footage on a TV! With only one big action set piece in the movie and it being the climax, this scene showing what the Thing can do up-close would’ve been a great set piece somewhere in the middle of the movie.

That flying car crack made by the teacher at the start?

It’s no four cars welded into one, but we have to start somewhere.

Yes, there was probably supposed to be a Fantasticar in the movie. It might be a little bit silly, but if the Avengers have a Quinjet and the X-Men has their Blackbird, why not give them a Fantasticar? We do get Sue’s force field powers instead, that supposedly only holds when she holds her breath….a plot point quickly forgotten in the final scene where she yells and yet the force field still keeps up.

There are several more missing scenes from the trailer like Ben playing baseball and an actual, proper conversation between Reed and Doomified Doom, which certainly leaves us wondering how would the movie would be better with those scenes left in. With Trank blasting Fox for tampering with his movie, a director’s cut might be too much to ask. Which leaves us wondering what could have been.

Yes, these guys actually /talked/ at length. At least before it ended up on the cutting room floor.

If you dig deep under the weak villain, severe lack of action scenes for a superhero movie, and the lack of a ‘family’ vibe despite the movie’s insistence, you can somewhat find good acting, portrayal of superpowers that, while nothing too flashy, does the job, and a concept that in better hands may turn out to be a good movie. But as it stands, this isn’t quite that movie. Is it as bad as the critics say? Not quite, though I can’t say it’s good. Can this be improved? Very much so.

This movie has potential, but unlike Reed, it just can’t stretch and get its full potential to shine in fans’ eyes like Johnny on Supernova. Instead, it dropped like Ben out of a plane and will probably be as invisible as Sue in the discussion of good superhero movies.

Bottom line, if you’re expecting a Fantastic Four movie, try not to have too many expectations. If you’re not a hardcore comics fan or a casual coming into this movie blind, you might have more things to enjoy than I did.

A little palate cleanser for all you brave souls who made it all the way through this writing. The /proper/ Fantastic Four.

Yes, I DID Just Cream My Pants – Deadpool (FINALLY) Official Trailer Reaction

So if you’ve been anywhere on the Internet the past hour or so, just about everyone and their dogs are talking Deadpool, and for good reason. THE NEW TRAILER’S OUT!

Done watchin’? Good. Because that shit is AWESOME.

Yes, it’s the SDCC version, or even, SDCC trailer-lite. Some notable footage missing, like that gold Negasonic Teenage Warhead scene and cameos by [REDACTED], but saving those gags from the ones who haven’t seen SDCC’s potato-trailer is a good idea anyways.

The whole thing looks MILES better in glorious, glorious HD, and I must’ve looped the thing about four, five times by now. That aside, there’s not much to say since what I needed to say was said in my previous reaction article here. But hey, it looks good!

Also, if you’re one of those boring people or is at work, here’s a watered-down green band version, for your (not-quite-complete) viewing enjoyment. A lot of things cut and redubbed, but all things considered, it’s not /that/ bad. I am honestly going to flip if we get the watered-down version in theaters here.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go change my pants.