Book Review: Batman Unauthorized

Batman Unauthorized
Vigilantes, Jokers, and Heroes in Gotham City (Smart Pop series)
Edited by Dennis O’Neil with Leah Wilson
Written by Various
BenBella Books
Release date: March 1, 2008

One in many Smart Pop publications looking at popular culture and its lasting influence on a society, Batman Unauthorized collects numerous essays from critics, scholars, and comic book professionals as they take a scrutinizing look at the Dark Knight and the impression he’s left on society.

Originally created as a way to capitalize on Superman’s mounting popularity, the Caped Crusader leaped into our hearts and blazed a path of pop culture notoriety so deep that volumes could be written on any given aspect of the detective’s existence.

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Book Review: Tank Girl: Armadillo!

Tank Girl: Armadillo!
…And a Bushel of Other Stories
Written by Alan C. Martin
Illustrations by Jamie Hewlett
Titan Books
Cover Price: $9.95; On-sale: Apr. 8, 2008

Tank Girl: Armadillo is a bashing prose edition of all those great Tank Girl comics written by Alan C. Martin and illustrated by acclaimed artist (and Gorillaz founding member) Jamie Hewlett. Armadillo delivers a steady stream of violence and intricately laced profanities with the devastation of a nuclear missile attack from up on high.

Here the rampant and different drawing styles used in the comics give way to a novel, or at least as close to a novel as Martin may muster. The book is frighteningly linear, a slight (note sarcasm) derivation from the original graphic novels, as the narrative chronicles the hijinks of Tank Girl and her rag-tag band of fellow miscreants — fans of the comic will easily recognize the names of Booga, Jet Girl, and Sub Girl — as they plot and scheme their next mayhem-ensuing caper.

The depth at which Martin explores his title character transcends what he’s able to convey in the graphic novels, the prose exposition bearing much more weight than mere caption boxes, but the author’s witty choices of dialogue in Armadillo match up pound-for-pound with any discourse previously printed.

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DVD Review: No Country For Old Men

No Country For Old Men
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Barry Corbin
Miramax Home Entertainment
Release date: March 11, 2008

The movies of Joel and Ethan Coen dare to be compartmentalized, to be labeled one way or another. Generally, a Coen Brothers movie branches across several genres. Their latest, the multiple Academy Award-winning No Country For Old Men, isn’t an exception by any means.

Road movie. Horror movie. Crime story. Noir. Western. Comedy. Action. Drama.

Based on the 2005 Cormac McCarthy book of same name, the film earned Academy Awards for best supporting actor (Javier Bardem), best adapted screenplay (Joel and Ethan Coen), best director (the Coens), and even took home the best picture Oscar, beating Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.

The tale begins in West Texas, an arid and dry region, near the U.S.-Mexico border, at the turn of a new decade. The year 1980 belongs between two ages. It’s a time of a generational shift, just as the three main characters — Llewelyn Moss (Vietnam veteran), Ed Tom Bell (a county sheriff), and Anton Chigurh (looming hitman) — that represent different personalities in this flux of ideas and moral values.

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Comic Review: Awakening #3

Awakening #3
Written by Nick Tapalansky
Artwork by Alex Eckman-Lawn
Back Cover by Teresa Marra
Lettering by Thomas Mauer
Archaia Studios Press
Cover price: $3.50; Available Now

The zombie genre has permeated the comic book industry the world over, nearly saturating the market with two-dimensional undead. Big names like Robert Kirkman and even Warren Ellis have gotten into the act, with The Walking Dead, penned by Kirkman, as the ultimate in graphic fiction, the soap opera zombie film that doesn’t end, while Ellis’ Black Gas takes enough narrative turns to give a reader whiplash.

Lucky for us, Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn deliver a fresh perspective on the instinct-driven flesh eaters with Awakening. Cline Pharmaceutical, a giant corporation, moved into the town of Park Falls and left under mysterious circumstances. Not long after, a plague of murders cuts through the population, escalating the fears and concerns.

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DVD Review: ‘Sabrina The Teenage Witch’ S3

Sabrina The Teenage Witch
The Third Season
Starring Melissa Joan Hart, Caroline Rhea, Beth Broderick
Paramount Home Video
Available Jan. 15, 2008

Sabrina, The Teenage Witch Season 3 offers up 25 episodes of more high school hijinks and hilarity for teen witch Sabrina Spellman, played by Melissa Joan Hart, and her family and friends.

Sabrina and her hocus-pocus trio of compatriots — her aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), and the family cat, Salem, (voiced by Nick Bakay) — share in the teen’s quest to solve the family secret, a preclude to her being able to use her newly obtained witch’s license.

Refraining from telling Sabrina outright, her aunts recruit various Spellman family members to offer up clues to the secret when each relative comes for a visit. Each clue unfolds a giant rebus puzzle as each piece only adds to the mystery and builds upon Sabrina’s frustration and worry that she may not solve the secret in time.

Most of the episodes construct some vaguely real-life scenario Sabrina must overcome, but when she enlists her spell-crafting ability, her miscast magic causes further havoc and the teen witch must rely on the sage advice of the elder aunts, or worse, she has to listen to the cat in one of his oh-so-self-righteous “I told you so” rants. Salem, a one-time warlock turned cat as punishment for trying to take over the world, actually plays a duel role within the Sabrina series, as both catalyst and foil to Sabrina’s teen naïveté. Over and over, Sabrina overcomes the odds and redeems herself at the end, a premise that should grow tired, cold, and trite, but always seems to find the right beat and heart-warming conclusion.

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