Sunday, February 28, 2016

Happy Leap Year

MISC. MANGA, *Robocopper

Basically a clockwork version of Robocop, this one-shot special from Antarctic Press in a world where automatons are mostly commonplace. Written by steampunk author Marshall Naylor, it also features great designs by military/horror artist David Hutchison.

In it, London officer Claire and her mechanical partner are called into stop a young boy kidnapped by a rogue caretaker gynoid. It’s revealed that the fembot was really protecting the boy from abusive parents, and the two burst out of police custody with Robocopper hot on their trail. The end result isn’t exactly a happy one, and could’ve been resolved if Robocopper was programmed with some better protocols.

This works as a one-shot, although some development into the backstory in this world would have been more helpful.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

MISC. MANGA, *Flipside

Originally a webcomic, this ongoing series from Keenspot continues Brian Foulke's manga-styled fantasy adventure. Borrowing elements from anime and role-playing games, Flipside centers around a female jester named Maytag who is a sexy blend of Harley Quinn and Tenchi Muyo's Ryoko.

Set in the mystical kingdom of Solstice, Crest is a young man who left the knight academy to help care for his widowed mother that became blind from a magic accident. Crest tries to find nefarious ways of raising money to cure his mother's blindness, this includes cheating at underground gambling which makes certain thugs want to stomp him after his slight of hand is revealed to them. Fortunately for him, Crest is bailed out by Maytag, the mysterious performing jester skilled in knife throwing, as well as carrying magical items that allow for a stealthy escape. Crest has been pining for Maytag for a while, and even tried asking her out, but after she rescues him, the two of them become closer. Maytag's past is explored more when her mentor Bernadette pulls her out of a jam when a psychotic stalker nearly makes off with her. Crest isn't completely in with Maytag though as it's revealed she still has a boyfriend. Bernadette on the meanwhile has been offered a place among Solstice's knights.

The webcomic has been active for more than 15 years, and collected in about 8 volumes so far. The trade paperbacks are available through Shark Robot, so it might be worth picking up a copy, although maybe waiting until you see Brain Foulke at a convention table might be a more financially sound idea.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman Vs. Robin

Before his overhyped mash with the Man of Steel, the Dark Knight battled his own sidekick/son in Batman Vs. Robin. This was a DC Universe animated movie which acts as a sequal to Son Of Batman, and part of the official "New 52" timeline which takes place post-Flashpoint.

Bruce Wayne's newfound son Damian goes as Robin to track down some missing children that have been kidnapped by the Dollmaker(oddly voiced by Weird Al Yankovic!), but the villain is ultimately killed by a masked vigilante called Talon. Bruce and Damian's relationship becomes more estranged as Robin keeps sneaking out to fight crime on his own, while Batman investigates Talon's involvement with a mysterious organization he remembers as a child called the Court of Owls, who Bruce originally thought were the ones who killed his parents. Batman is attacked by a few of the other Talons, which are like enhanced zombie assassins that can only stay re-animated for up to a few hours, and sends for Nightwing to bring him back home. Fed up with Batman, Robin chooses to ally himself with Talon, who the main assassin of the Court of Owls, and lover of the Court's Grandmaster(aka: Bruce Wayne's current love interest). Batman goes out looking for the Court's hideout, but get caught in a labyrinth pumped full of fear gas, which is probably connected to the Scarecrow's deleted scene from Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis. Bruce is once again rescued by Nightwing and brought back to Wayne Manor, while Robin reveals his identity to the Court. Damian however refuses to join in their cause, which prompts Talon to go all blood crazy and slaughter the entire court. After the bloodbath, Talon releases all the other zombie-Talons for an all out assault on Wayne Manor. The Batman Family manages to take out all the Talon-drones, but the main Talon gets into a final battle with Batman, where Robin comes to the rescue at the last minute, but Talon decides to take his own life making Robin feel like he was the one who killed him. Bruce and his son reconnect, but Damian decides to go discover his true identity by travelling to a Himalayan monastery to work on his feng-shui.

This worked an effective adaptation of the Court of Owls story arc from the comics, while merging it with Batman breaking in Damian as his son and the new Robin post-Son Of Batman. Most of the cast from the previous movie chapter return, with Jeremy Sisto performing a believable Talon, which the story adds a little more backstory to than was given of the character in the original comic. This animated film leads into the current third chapter, Batman: Bad Blood, that further expands the Bat-Family, but Batman Vs. Robin does make for a good enough viewing on its own too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Because somebody has to make the sandwiches

ANI-MOVIES, *Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence

Nearly a decade after the original Ghost In The Shell, Innocence is the only official sequal to the first anime movie, while so far all the other movies, TV shows and OVAs are remakes. Mamoru Oshii returns to direct this film, taking place three years after the first.

Intelligence agents Batou and his new partner Togusa are given a new assignment involving several sex robots killing their owners. The trail leads to the yakuza using one of them to take out a high ranking rival mob boss. The androids were manufactured by a company called Locus Solus, so Batou and Togusa track down an ex-soldier and retired elite hacker who reveals Locus Solus' involvement, but after several head trips that make it look like the two of them enter the hacker's mansion at least three times. With the intel they got, Batou dives towards Locus Solus' offshore sub which houses their underground android manufacturing. Batou is attacked by several androids and commandos, but the Major manages to put some of her consciousness(which is spread throughout the net after the first movie)into one of the android bodies to help Batou out. They discover that Locus Solus was using stray or kidnapped children to dub their ghosts(electronic souls)into android bodies, which means that genuine ghosts must cost way too much money, so they were illegally copying the children's ghosts, but the children used the androids to try and leave a message to search for them. After the case is closed, the Major heads back into the net.

Innocence was a little short on action as compared to the original, but seriously amped up the cinematography and animation, so much so that it prompted Mamoru Oshii to go back and add similar effects to the first movie which became Ghost In The Shell 2.0. There's also a serious head dunking into philosophy dealing with the differences between man and machine, which is effective for a version of cyberpunk world where the distinction between humans, androids, and cyborgs is very blurry. There are two English dubs of this, the first one was done for the UK with most of the original American cast, and a American dub done later with also most of the original cast. If you're more of a fan of the intrigue in Stand Alone Complex, or the visual appeal of Arise, then Innocence might be more just worth a rental for you, but definitely see it after watching G.I.T.S. 2.0.

Monday, February 1, 2016

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman: Assault On Arkham

Tying into the Batman: Arkham video game franchise, Assault On Arkham takes place in the same universe happening sometime after Arkham Origins, but before Arkham Asylum. This DC Universe Animated movie isn't connected to the current New 52 titles, and is directed by former Justice League animator Jay Oliva with and Avatar: The Last Airbender director Ethan Spaulding. This was done as being a lot more mature than the traditional DC animated films, and is the first movie outing of the Suicide Squad.

The Riddler finds out some secrets from Amanda Waller, the head of a secret government agency, but Batman puts him in Arkham, so in order to get the data back, Waller assembles Task Force X. This is a select group of criminals that Waller forces to do suicide missions, otherwise they get blown up from an explosive inserted in their body. For this trip, Waller gets: Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Killer Frost, King Shark, Black Spider, and Deadshot, although the non-Batman heroes that some of these villains arch are never referred to in the movie, so no cameos by Flash or Firestorm. Waller sends them to break into Arkham and steal a thumb drive Riddler had confiscated in his cane that has restricted info on it. Most of the Suicide Squad take on the appearance of asylum staff, while Deadshot disguised as a guard pretends to be bringing in Harley, but not after having a major tiff with a locked up Joker. The Squad then put on their supervillain threads and storm into the storage room, but discover that there isn't a thumb drive in it. Batman pops in knowing of the Squad's infiltration, and is seemingly taken out by Black Spider. Killer Frost ditches them to secretly kill Riddler for Waller, but he tells her and the others that the real reason they were all sent to kill him was because Riddler knew how to turn off the bombs in their heads. The bad guys go the infirmary to use electro-shock to deactivate the Squad's bombs. Meanwhile, Joker has busted loose, and busts in just at the moment the Squad is getting bomb-removal therapy. Riddler figures out that Black Spider was really Batman in disguise, and all hell busts loose as Batman fights Joker, while Black Spider and King Shark have their heads asplode by Waller. Harley makes off with Joker after loosing a face off with Deadshot, but Harley's old giant mallet she got from the asylum's storage turns out to carry a dirty bomb Joker hid in it. The remaining Squad members get lost among several Arkham escapees, and Boomerang and Frost supposedly buy it. Deadshot makes off in a police helicopter, which he didn't notice has Joker and Harley stowed away. Batman catches up to them, and the adversaries duke it out in the chopper with the bomb about to go off, with Harley crashing it into a skyscraper. Deadshot knocks Joker into the chopper before it falls to the ground while Batman stops the bomb. Deadshot escapes while being reunited with his daughter, and has his sights set on terminating Waller, even though we never find out if he really shoots her in the end.

This made for a great send up of Smoking Aces with several different bad guys aiming for a similar target, but each out for saving their own skins. Batman is more of a guest star in all this, even though it is great to have Kevin Conroy returning as the Dark Knight. There is some intense action scenes in this, and some serious mature situations(like Deadshot and Harley playing bumper cars), which makes the movie really not for your kids. It's not essential for you to have played any of the Arkham games to enjoy this because it does work as a stand-alone feature. Before you see the Suicide Squad live-action movie, give this one a peak first and see which one works for you.

For Rent...Barco Rammer