Review: “Cobra Civil War: Cobra” #1

I posted a new comic book review over at The Terrordrome this morning; “Cobra Civil War: Cobra” #1 is in comic shops across this fine land tomorrow, May 25. I’ve forgotten to repost the last two of these that I’ve done for The ‘Drome here, but I’ll start making a point to get them up here the same day I post them over there.

Cobra Civil War: Cobra #1
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A, B & C: Zach Howard with colors by Nelson Daniel
Cover RI: Antonio Fuso

Written by: Mike Costa
Art: Antonio Fuso
Colors: Arianna Florian
Letters: Chris Mowry

With Cobra #1, Mike Costa has delivered readers with what could well be one of the best Baroness stories to ever show up in a comic. In the first season of IDW’s universe, the Baroness was portrayed as somewhat of a screwup; coming close but somehow not quite able to deliver to Cobra the things she promised, and always in need of some manner of last-second reprieve to retain her standing with Cobra. Here, Costa gives us a look at a complex, determined character who will use sex, intelligence, ruthlessness and good old-fashioned schoolyard insults to get what she wants. This Baroness is brilliant, freaky and straight-up gangster.

In doing so, he seems to be the first writer to really take advantage of the loosened boundaries present in G.I. Joe universe IDW is constructing. Sure, characters are different from how they’ve been portrayed in the past; there are plenty of examples of that so far in IDW’s universe. But for the first time, it seems as if a character has not only changed, but matured. This is Baroness as we suspected she was all along; we’ve just never been allowed to see it. As a result, Costa’s Baroness not only feels like the “correct” version, but a version that would have been completely impossible to fully develop in the Marvel or cartoon G.I. Joe universes. Never in a hundred million years would you have seen Baroness working her way into a foursome with a drug dealer and a couple of hookers in order to get past his bodyguards so she could safely shoot his brains through the back of his skull. It’s not dirty or salacious; the situation she’s in is completely clear, but it’s also just as obvious that she’s only done this to complete the job.

This is the Baroness that has always lurked just beneath the surface of the other iterations of the character; Costa’s been given a chance to finally bring her to light, and it’s brilliant.

This evolutionary leap in the Baroness character is necessary in order for her to remain a viable candidate in the Cobra Commander contest. She’s resigned to a belief that not only will she not win the contest, but that she’ll not be allowed to win by the Cobra Council. On the way to whatever end awaits her, though, she intends to make things as miserable as possible for the other eight candidates; selling that with the weaker Baroness from earlier in the series would’ve been far more difficult.

Baroness quickly learns that any successes she’s able to muster during the contest are going to occur solely due to her own force of will; she’ll be getting no support from Cobra. As the nine candidates get divided out into sub-groups to allow the series’ writers to develop subplots, it seems as if Baroness will be pitted directly against Serpentor and Major Bludd. Her hatred for Bludd is apparent throughout the issue, as she clearly still harbors plenty of resentment towards him for allowing Destro to work him over during Season 1’s Section Ten prison break fiasco. She has an equal dislike for Serpentor, but one based fully in disrespect for his activities and his role in Cobra as she sees it, rather than raw hatred. It’s an interesting dynamic, and one Costa will hopefully develop further as the Cobra Civil War progresses.

Serpentor’s unique position as leader of The Coil also comes into play in a big way in this issue, as his chosen path through the contest is laid out with a shocking cliffhanger. Apparently not officially a candidate, Serpentor makes it clear that whomever wins his favor will have an inside track to winning the contest. It makes perfect sense that such a situation would occur, given the Coil’s reach, and the situation Serpentor has orchestrated would definitely seem to put him in an early position to inflict some serious damage on the Joes.

Most importantly, however, there’s finally a palpable sense that there may well be more to this contest than simply “get out there and kill.” We still know essentially nothing about the Council, and the reader surely shares Baroness’s uneasiness when she’s told to ignore the day-to-day operations of Cobra to focus on the contest. The contest now feels like a misdirection, which suddenly makes it exponentially more interesting.

ART
Having Antonio Fuso back on art duties for Cobra is a treat. His style has been a perfect fit from the start, and colorist Arianna Florian, who also handled colors for the zero-issue Cobra story, carries the series’ trademark muted color palette well. She switches from oranges to greens to blues to reds help sell the location changes, and the sickly greens used for the Cobra interior locations are almost nauseous.

COVERS
Zach Howard’s nine-cover extravaganza ends with Cobra #1, and as with G.I. Joe and Snake-Eyes, Cobra also features a centerfold poster of the retailer-incentive cover, drawn by Fuso. As a group this is probably the weakest three-pack of candidate covers, even though the Tomax cover is among the best of the nine – a simple composition of Tomax admiring his own reflection in the bullet-shattered faceplate of the former Cobra Commander.

BODY COUNT
G.I. Joe: 0 (TOTAL: 17)
Cobra: 1 (a Viper) (TOTAL: Technically 4, but I can see IDW not putting him on the scoreboard. So, 3)
Random other folks: at least 3 “on screen” deaths; total body count likely at least five.

“Inception”

I’m going to catch the late show of “Inception” in about two hours and 45 minutes. It’s going to be a late night, but I can’t wait… I’m very excited to see this movie. I’ll post a review of it when I get home.

**update

This movie was awesome. Not Dark Knight good, but still awesome. Easy to follow, ending wasn’t at all a surprise and actually made the movie make more sense to me. Visuals, acting, music, all great. Definitely worth a theater viewing if you’re for some reason on the fence about it; best movie I’ve seen this summer by far.

Movie: “Primer”

So, tonight I finally watched “Primer,” which has been in my Netflix instant-view queue for a long time.

Short version: Two engineers working on a hobby project in their garage accidentally invent a time machine. All hell breaks loose.

Long version: I don’t even know where to begin. This movie was fun and challenging and quite nearly impenetrable; even reading a bunch of stuff about the movie afterward (including a 17-page examination on the film written by a master’s student somewhere) only marginally helped clarify what I’d seen. I first heard of this movie on some random blog post listing the “10 greatest mindfuck movies of all time,” and “Primer” most certainly fits the bill.

“Primer” certainly isn’t a mass-audience movie by any stretch of the imagination, but if you enjoy challenging films that require your undivided attention, and are even a little bit curious about how traveling through time might actually play itself out, I think there’s a lot to like about this movie.

Movie Week in Review

Mel and I knocked out three movies this week – we joined the 21st century and rented our first three BluRay discs. PS3 + mega-clearance on a 37″ LCD = we’re finally living in the present, home entertainment-wise. 🙂

Gran Torino [IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes]
We missed this in the theaters and had been waiting patiently for the DVD; it was worth the wait. This was an incredible movie, even though I thought it suffered a little by a poor acting job by the kid who tried to steal Clint Eastwood’s car — particularly the scene at the end when Clint locks him up to go off to do his ultimate good deed. The kid just didn’t sell well enough his anger about being caged and missing out on his moment of revenge. Honestly, though, that’s a minor nitpick for what was otherwise an absolutely fantastic movie. Eastwood was great; the girl who played his next door neighbor, a person who ultimately pulls him not only out of his racist shell but offers an avenue for the general redemption of his life, was really good. The ending was also completely unexpected (not the final final scene; everybody knows who’s getting the car, and it’s not the bitchy granddaughter). Well worth the price of a rental, and then some. This is an amazing film.

Revolutionary Road [IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes]
Absolutely boring and a huge letdown, especially having just recently seen an exceptional Kate Winslet movie from basically the same time, “The Reader.” The performances by Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio felt very melodramatic and over-the-top; it felt better suited as a play. The ending was completely pointless and changed the whole tone of the movie in one turn of a hearing aid knob – rather than just being a tale about the difficulties that came with DiCaprio having to deal with a wife who had mental issues, the ending turned the entire movie into a cautionary tale about marriage being a trap that breaks the spirits of men. It was awful.

Changeling [IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes]
A powerful, incredibly-acted movie that I felt suffered by being entirely too long. At 2:20, it seriously plodded – especially in the front third. Too much exposition, too much time spent in the insane asylum, too much time developing the storyline of the serial killer. There was great effort here to tell the entire story – and it was very well-done. It just got to the point that it felt like the movie was trying to be too much. Angelina Jolie is really good; John Malkovich is fantastic, as always; the guy that used to have that sitcom on FOX where he’d sit in the basement, get hammered and talk to his friend the invisible rabbit was fabulous as her eventual high-powered attorney; and the kid who ultimately leads the police to what was the true fate of Jolie’s son was *really* good. I just felt the pacing of the movie was off, particularly compared to Gran Torino; both were directed by Clint Eastwood, but Gran Torino is a superior film in just about every way. Better paced; I was more involved with the characters; just a more enjoyable film. Some of the things that befall Jolie as the LAPD is out to persecute her for standing up to them are genuinely difficult to watch; it could be those negative feelings had something to do with my opinion of this movie.

Still, Changeling is very good; I’d have no problems recommending that you see it. It’s still, by a significant margin, the middle of the three movies we’ve seen this week though. Gran Torino stands far above, and Revolutionary Road far below.

Film redemption: “Hangover”

The cinema redeemed itself yesterday in a big, big way. After sitting through two hours of the disastrous “Terminator: Salvation” on Friday, I rebounded in a big way by seeing “Hangover” yesterday with Melissa.

Having seen a little about this movie on-line beforehand, I figured it’d be worth watching. It’s so far beyond simply “worth watching”; it’s genuinely one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. To oversimplify it, it’s a combination of “Bachelor Party” and “Dude, Where’s My Car?”packed full of ridiculous and hilarious cameos. This is one of those movies that we’ll watch forever. We’ll assuredly buy it immediately on DVD and will do things like watch it three times in one night, guaranteed.

I won’t say much about it; just go see it. And when you do, stick around for the first two minutes or so of the credits.

“Terminator: Salvation” — ugh.

T4-getmeout

Ugh.

That’s my one-word review for Terminator: Salvation [IMDB|Rotten Tomatoes]. There’s so much wrong with this movie I’m not even sure where to begin…

First, in the previous Terminator films – particularly in the most-recent two – one needs a relatively large ability to suspend disbelief that the human resistance could not only defeat Skynet’s military assets, but even remain remotely competitive with them. For example, Terminator 2 should have ended in four minutes – the T-1000 should’ve seen John Connor and used his “pointy face-stabbing finger of doom” trick to execute him immediately from across the room. But you suspend that disbelief and go along for the ride, because the movie is fun — and for a really entertaining movie, I’m willing to do it.

Terminator: Salvation wasn’t one of those movies. It requires an absolutely preposterous level of belief suspension if you’re to buy into the movie. Let’s run down a few examples (by the way, Marcus is a Terminator – I’m not remotely going to try to cover up that “spoiler.” If this ruins the movie for you, too bad. You’ve got bigger problems.).

• John Connor [Christian Bale] is flying a helicopter close enough to a nuclear explosion to have the blast knock it out of the sky, but apparently not close enough to suffer any other adverse reactions – not so much as a scratch.

• The Marcus Terminator crawls out of the hole in the ground where the nuclear bomb had gone off just minutes before, and has every square millimeter of his human tissue completely intact.

• Connor can jump out of an aircraft into oceans with 50-foot swells, without a diving suit, and miraculously appear dry inside a submarine in the next shot. There will almost certainly be a restored scene here on the DVD.

• Skynet’s Hunter-Killers use IR cameras to find and kill humans at night – and are exceptionally good at it, but apparently only if they’re in cars. No human on foot at night is ever in the remotest bit of danger from IR cameras on HKs. And apparently you’re completely invisible to them during the day? The desert must be exactly 98.6 degrees at all time, and nobody’s body temperature is allowed to deviate from that of their neighbor.

• Enormous motorcycle-deploying Terminator robots have incredibly accurate laser cannons that allow them to instantly destroy any vehicle carrying an extra, but somehow if your name is on the movie poster their guidance systems go completely haywire.

• Motorcycle-deploying Terminator robots will send two motorcycles after our heroes, who will then need to defeat three of them.

• If you step on a land mine, it will completely wreck every part of your body except your face.

• However, being thrown a half-mile by a motorcycle-deploying robot into a river will cause no visible damage whatsoever.

• Terminators, despite being made of metal, can float and swim.

• Motorcycle Terminators can duck to avoid semi trailers, but can be defeated with a rope across the road. Once they’ve been defeated with the rope, you can take control of them with a PSP.

• When being pursued by a T-800, the best defense is to jump down one level of whatever building you’re fighting in. This causes the T-800 to inexplicably disappear for long periods of time.

• T-800s can punch Marcus-class Terminators in the heart hard enough to put them out of commission, but not hard enough to so much as knock the wind out of John Connor.

• When Terminators get punched in the heart and killed, you can revive them with a little shock by shoving live wires into the holes in their chest.

I could go on, but I really don’t want to. It’s depressing.

Going into geek analysis mode here, it even seems as if they’ve screwed up the timeline for the progression of Terminator models. The first Terminator we saw, Schwartzeneggar in the first Terminator movie, was a T-800. Salvation starts with John Connor finding evidence of a “new Terminator model,” the T-800, in a Skynet computer.

However, Marcus is far more advanced than a T-800; T-800s are Terminator frames with human tissue coverings. Marcus has a) a human brain (apparently one human “cortex” and one cybernetic “cortex”) and b) a human heart powering it; a more advanced model, from both an engineering and AI standpoint — clearly a successor to the T-800, which hasn’t yet been deployed. So why bother with the T-800 at all then? Just deploy the Marcus (which is not referred to by a model number; I’d guess it’d have to be a T-900) and crush everything.

In the original Terminator, the T-800 sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor originated in the year 2029. This movie takes place in 2018. So Skynet has no less than five models of Terminator – the T-1, T-600, T-700, T-800 and Marcus models (all of which are seen in Salvation) – developed in the first 21 years after Skynet becomes self-aware on Aug. 29, 1997, and then nothing for the next 11 years? Sure.

At any rate, Marcus leads us to…

The ending… Oh, good lord, the ending. Stupid. As. Hell. It was the most trite, transparent and ridiculous ending… The much-reviled Terminator 3 ending, which I actually liked a lot, seems like Citizen Kane in comparison.

Mostly, a Terminator movie shouldn’t be boring. Terminator: Salvation was boring. I checked my watch three times. Hollywood’s next step to get the Terminator to not suck will probably be a “reboot” of the original with Will Smith as the Terminator. It baffles my mind that the same Hollywood that produced “The Dark Knight” was also responsible for this.

Ugh.