Wednesday, May 20, 2009


For fans of 24 and Burn Notice, or of the original comic book adventures of the Human Target, this looks pretty darn keen...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lovers and Madmen- A terriffic Batman/Joker tale!

I love the Beatles. Almost every song they ever did is a classic, a standard, a pillar of almost total perfection. Even today, many of the music industry's top singers and songwriters freely admit that they hope to attain even the tiniest portion of the Beatles success, ability and creativity. That's why I love it when artists are able to cover a Beatle tune and not just reproduce the original sound but really and truly work with the source material and make it their own. Case in point: Joe Cocker and With A Little Help From My Friends and Earth, Wind & Fire with Got To Get You Into My Life.

In one of my recent blog rants I came down pretty hard on, among others, Batman comics from the past few years. I'm angry at their almost constant reimagineering of the Batman origin story. DC just spent 2 entire issues in a row doing this during R. I. P. I find this spate of "retelling the origin of..." to be irritating, unimaginative and senseless, thus my blog tirade ended with my plea for comics to "just make sense."

A few months ago I started reading Batman Confidential. Liking the current issues I was reading, I went a searching for all it's back issues because it's still a relatively young comic a little over 2 years old. I was able to track down issues 7-12, under the arc title of Lovers and Madmen, which originally came out back in early 2008. The cover stated it contained "the thrilling chronicle of Batman and Joker's first historic confrontation". Great, yet another rehash battle.... Zzzzzzzzzz. Even with this strike against it, I thought I would still give it a chance due to the fact that the current issues were pretty darn good, and that it was being written by TV show Hero's writer Michael Green.

This phase of Batman's career has been tackeled many times by son of the greats of comics including Finger, Kane and Robinson in the 40's, O'neil, Adams, Englehart and Rodgers in the 70's, and Moore and Bolland in the 80's just to name a few. Over the years each crew has added, subtracted, erased and redrew, ignored and explored various facets of the Batman/Joker relationship. So, you can imagine my trepidation upon finding "another thrilling chronicle...".Boy was I ever wrong. Reading this story once again reminded me of why I love comics and why I still hold out hope in an industry gone EPIC crazy. Green's take is very much in line with the then newest and now legendary screen portrayal of the villain by Heath Ledger. In Lovers and Madmen, the Joker is best described by pre-Scarecrow Jonathan Crane. "He's not a criminal. This isn't crime. This is EVIL."

This story is one of the best explorations about the struggle to understand the nature of evil and how far good will go to subdue and overcome it. This battle is best summed up in a conversation between Bruce and Alfred in the Batcave. Bruce has just found out that the woman he loves, whom the Joker sliced open during their latest confrontation, has taken a turn for the worst in the hospital.

Bruce: " I can't do it Alfred. When I began my mission I thought I would battle MEN who were monstrous. I never imagined I'd be fighting actual monsters. Demons. Things I don't even believe in. But DO exist. What killed my parents...he was nothing compared to what's coming. And this one... He's plutonium, Alfred. An atom split, rupturing two more--and two more...and two more after them in an ever widening chain--spreading the damage exponentially...until there isn't an atom left. In the face of that, my methods... are nothing. I can't do it."

In just this one page, this story was able to capture the essence of the entire superhero genre. And later in the story, Alfred sums up the feelings of all the innocents in society, all the friends and family of our heroes, and the pressures that they can come to bear on the superhero's themselves.

Alfred: "I have known you your whole life, sir... your best moments, your darkest nights...I was there. Many times I've said I hoped better for your soul than this mission you say chose you. This disinfecting of man's basest nature. That I wanted for you a LIFE. But this...YOU did this. You unleashed something foul and depraved. On whose lives you swore to improve. A dead thing. Killed by you. That makes more dead things. And now they call on you to rein it in. You cannot do nothing."

And to be fair, Batman's point of views aren't the only ones explored in this series. The Joker starts out as a brilliant but bored criminal, planning and committing ever more elaborate crimes. Yet, each heist, planned down to the smallest detail, brings him less and less pleasure. There's just no surprises, no fun. Until Batman breaks up one of his robberies.Later in the story Joker says "I owe it all to YOU. I didn't know WHAT to do with myself til a man put on a mask and called himself Bat." This is very reminiscent of the scene in the famous fan film Dead End, in which the cornered Joker says to Batman "You made me...Daddy!".

And later still during their climatic battle scene comes this wonderful interaction:

Batman: "You're CRAZY."

Joker: "No. I'm just funnier than you. I see the world right as rainbows and I have you to thank for it. I had nothing. Then YOU came, gave me my spinach strength. And now the world is full of color-- even sick sad bland bad Gotham is bright as sunrise. Or sunset. You pick.

Batman: "All those lives. All those people-- you MURDERED them! Why do you kill them?"

Joker: "Why do you save them?"

In the end, it's hard to tell who is really the crazy one... but it sure is easy to tell That this is a fantastic read. And not only is it a great read but also a beautiful book to look at. Denys Cowans' pencils, John Floyds' ink and stunning colors by I.L.L. combine to make images just jump off the pages. I particularly liked the use of the color red throughout to highlight key points such as sunglass lens, a ballroom mask and of course, blood on the Bat A Rang.

So, as I'm prone to say... Rush out in a buying frenzy and get these issues. By the way, just last week DC made this much easier to do by putting out a trade paperback compilation. So there goes your excuse of I couldn't find them all.
Until my next good read... ENJOY!

Konxari- a treat for all your senses!

A funny thing happened on the way to writing this review, I was forbidden to actually try out the product by my house mate. But I'll get into that in a minute. Matt Busch was kind enough to send me the newest version of IRM Foundation's Konxari (pronounced kon-zar-ee) Cards to try out. Konxari is a form of Cartomancy, which is divination or fortune-telling through the use of cards. Konxari itself dates all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and is said to have been created by their god, Thoth. The word Konxari derives from the Egyptian word Konxar which means to speak with the dead. And this is where the history and entomology lesson ends but unfortunately where my problems begin.

You see, I live in a haunted house. The term Haunted House usually goes hand in hand with the word “BAD”, but not in this case. Have I seen eerie shadows of hanging figures on the stairs leading down to the basement? No. Do I awake at night to the sound of distant echoing voices in the hall. Not really. Is my house a creepy old mansion, built on a sacred ancient Indian burial ground whose previous tenants mysteriously disappeared late one foggy, desolate night? Ahh... No, No, and No. But I do often find my dog just sitting for hours staring at the empty stairwell, tilting her head listening, to things that remain unheard to me. And my roommate, who swears she's sensitive to such things, says that she often feels various presences around the house. So, who am I to argue with the smartest dog in the world and the lady who pays half my rent?

But I digress, and will continue to do so for one more paragraph. So here's my problem. I have this pack of cards that plainly state DO NOT USE ALONE because, well, it would be bad. How bad?

I'll let my friends the Ghostbusters explain:

Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean “bad?”

Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously, and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light. Total protonic reversal.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Right, that's bad, Okay, alright, important safety tip, thanks Egon.

I think you get the picture. There is absolutely no way I was ever going to actually try these cards in this household. So, I did what all good strong virile dominate “THIS IS MY HOUSE” kinda guys would do. I said a variation of “Yes Dear” and just did an end run around the entire situation. So, here is my non- review review.

As soon as I opened up the pack and started flipping through the cards I noticed these weren't like any other divination cards I'd ever seen. They are beautifully designed with a central photograph surrounded at the edges by a main title, such as DESIRE and a letter, number or symbol meant to further elaborate on the theme of each card. As I slowly scanned through all the cards, I was amazed at how many memories, thoughts and feelings were invoked by the imagery portrayed. Creepy would be the primary feeling I had while looking through them. Thoughts filled my head of Blair Witch and abandoned buildings with shattered glass, John Carpenter's Halloween and old 1950s war department Nuclear bomb tests, The Ring, The Grudge and One Missed Call, and walks late at night when you just know someone or something is following just beyond the fading streetlight. Like I said, Creepy.

But freaked out as I was by this flood of memories, I was often totally surprised by the occasional card that led down other interesting paths. The Desire card made me think of the first girl I ever kissed. And the Hatred card made my thoughts jump to Martin Luther King's struggles for freedom against intolerable and seemingly insurmountable odds. Great works of art can do that to you. Make you stop in your tracks and suddenly think and feel... I mean really think and feel.

Did I just call this pack of cards a great work of art? Well yeah, I guess I did.

The photographs for the Konxari Cards are taken by award winning photographer Paul Michael Kane. Amazingly, each photograph is 100% pure with zero Photoshop effects. In this age of digital manipulation and spending hours adding just the right shadow where one never existed, Kane's startling array of haunting and otherworldly images is astonishing in their natural beauty. The entire project is being over seen by Matt Busch, best known for his work on such mainstream projects as Star Wars, Witchblade and Battlestar Galactica, and Matt's also representing IRM Foundation as their chief spokesman for the cards.

I highly recommend going out right away in a buying frenzy and picking up a pack of Konxari cards to see what amazing doors of perception they trigger in your mind. And while your sitting there in the dark, candlelit recesses of your house, and just before you try to cross between the realms to retrieve the hitherto veiled and hidden messages the spirits have for you... Please... Please... don't forget...

Give me a call... I'm dying to try these suckers out!

PS: I just read this review to my roommate. The only response:”I'm still not trying the damn cards.”