Comic Review: Jack and the Zombie Box

Hey there!

Comic books are one of the guilty pleasures I gained as a kid. I grew up raised by two English teachers as parents and my Mom was never too keen on me spending time reading comics. It wasn’t until I was in high school I finally picked up a few here and there, but long before then I’d found my Uncle’s stash of old Marvel comics at my Grandparent’s house in the back of a closet. Any chance I had I’d dive into classic Spiderman, X-Men, and Fantastic Four stories.

For me, comic books epitomize the marriage of storytelling and art. When a great artist and a great storyteller meet, there’s no limits to what they can accomplish. And now that I have a daughter with a knack for art and an interest in telling stories, I’m finding ways to introduce her to the wonderful world of graphic novels so she can learn more about a potential hobby or career path.

A couple of years ago I reviewed Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom by Bruce Brown and Renzo Podesta which managed to tell the creepy story of a young H.P. Lovecraft and his adventures in other dimensions and worlds inhabited by the creatures of Lovecraftian horror. Brown and Podesta managed to capture not just the horror factor but the innocence of a childlike fascination with the unknown.

Brown is back now with a new book – Jack and the Zombie Box – which brings his storytelling ability together with artists Mike Barentine, Rafel Hurtado, and Shawn DePasquale to tell the story of a father in over his head with his kids while his wife is away. Now, being a father, I understand far too well the troubles that can happen when you’re occasionally on your own as a single parent. But thank goodness Brown and his team of artists managed to capture the humor more than the horror in this particular situation.

The story starts with a quote from one of the funniest people I know – Bill Cosby – “Parents are not interested in justice, they’re interested in peace and quiet.” And I’d have to agree with that assessment 9 times out of 10! That quote however sets the stage for the magic that only children can achieve on a regular basis… the ability to take one small thing – whether it’s a phrase, a song, a TV show, or whatever – and turn it from innocent to annoying in the blink of an eye through the power of repetition.

Jack is the youngest of the three children of Brad and Teri, and he’s a handful. With his big imagination, he and his toys get into adventure after adventure that unfortunately have the side effect of driving his Mommy a bit crazy. Teri is getting ready to go to a conference, but is concerned that her husband won’t be able to handle the kids. Brad isn’t as worried and thinks he has a secret weapon – DVDs of old cartoons like “Larry and Dewby Dog.” Jack loves the cartoons and as Brad says – “It’s just Larry and Dewby Dog. What could it possibly hurt?”

The first night that Teri is gone, Brad and the kids have a “home cooked meal” from Cowboy Bob’s burgers and enjoy a night in front of the TV with Larry & Dewby… That combination repeats for the next few days and when Teri gets home, there’s a little problem. Jack wants to watch Larry & Dewby and have Cowboy Bob burgers… forever!

I won’t spoil Brad’s solution to the problem, but it made me laugh out loud.

The artwork is bright and family-friendly, the story is great fun, and the combination provides 40+ pages of entertainment. Jack and the Zombie Box is another comic book I’d be happy to share with my eldest daughter. She might even catch the Scooby-Doo-like references of “Larry and Dewby Dog,” as I’ve shared more than a few of the cartoons from my childhood with my kids. And no, my name’s not Brad!

Be sure to check out Jack and the Zombie Box when it’s released in May 2011 at Amazon and other retailers!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other books from Bruce Brown at Amazon below:

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Blu-ray Review: Human Target: The Complete First Season

Hi again!

When Human Target started airing on Fox television in January 2010, I was hooked. The series, loosely based on the DC Comics comic book of the same name, pits a problem solver – Christopher Chance (Mark Valley, Fringe) – against various threats and situations where he literally gets his clients out of harms way and cleans up after himself. The writing and acting manages to balance an intriguing backstory with fun action and humor without going overboard.

Starting with the pilot episode, we’re introduced a little at a time to the strange little security business that Chance and his buddy Winston (Chi McBride) have going. California’s new bullet train has a jealous husband and it’s Chance’s job to stop him. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Tricia Helfer on board as your first damsel in distress either. Though Chance and Winston are the main operators of their security firm, they do call Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) when his particular “skill set” is needed, though Winston would rather avoid it if possible.

Each episode, Chance, Winston, and Guerrero fight the good fight, helping people in need stay alive to stop whatever the current threat may be. It’s a common formula that kept the A-Team going for 5 seasons in the mid-1980s, so the “threat of the week” seems to work. And with the sarcasm found in every episode, it’s hard to go wrong.

Now, I do have to say that early on in the season some of the green screen work and enhanced action scenes were a bit cheesy. For example, there’s no way a motorcycle could leap quite as far as it did in the “Embassy Row” episode. However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying every episode throughout the season.

A few of my favorites were “Rewind” where Chance rolls a passenger jet so it’s flying upside down for a while, “Embassy Row” which pitted Chance against the beautiful Emma Barnes (Emmanuelle Vaugier, CSI: NY, Two and a Half Men), and the season finale “Christopher Chance” featuring one of my other TV heroes from my childhood – Lee Majors (The Six-Million Dollar Man)..

Human Target: The Complete First Season captures all twelve episodes as well as a few great extras. From unaired scenes fro several episodes to the “Human Target: Confidential Informant” and “Human Target: Full Contact Television” features, which provide behind the scenes details from the cast and creators.

And I have to say that being new to Blu-ray, every episode is extremely crisp on screen. The quality is amazing. Though I have to say I was hoping for a few more extras. The Fringe season one DVD set included many more extras than did this set, so I was a bit disappointed.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a few hours or an opportunity to catch up before season 2 airs in November 2010, you can’t do much better than this two disc Blu-ray set for season 1. Check out Human Target: The Complete First Season on DVD and Blu-ray at your favorite rental or retail counter!

For more details, check out the official site for the release – HumanTargetDVD.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great TV on DVD & Blu-ray below!

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Book Review: Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn

Hey there…

There’s nothing like the feeling I get when I discover a new writer. It’s like opening a door to a brave new world. Sometimes I have to admit I don’t like what I find on the other side. But then there are those rare moments when I get there and don’t want to leave. Discord’s Apple from Carrie Vaughn drew me in from the opening chapter and didn’t let me go until I finished the book just a few hours later.

This is the story of Evie Walker, a successful comic book writer from Los Angeles, and her trip home to Hope’s Fort, Colorado, to help her father Frank face his own mortality. It’s also the story of Alex, a stranger who has truly seen it all who is looking for something he can’t seem to find. Together, Evie, Frank, and Alex face new challenges as the mysteries around them deepen and things really hit the fan.

Let me start by saying that, though I love Colorado authors, I’d never read anything by Vaughn. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, which is only a couple of hours away from me in Colorado Springs. And evidently she’s been writing about a werewolf named Kitty for a while now in a series of urban fantasy novels – the latest of which is called Kitty Goes to War. So how have I managed to miss her?

Discord’s Apple was paced amazingly well. From the subtle beginnings of Evie’s drive into the tiny town of Hope’s Fort to the way she slides characters from myth and legend into play alongside the heroes of the comic book Eagle Eye Commandos, the plot builds and beckons the reader ever forward and back from present to past and back again.

But not since reading Dan Simmons‘ books Illium and Olympos, which managed to weave the Trojan War and Greek gods together with a far flung science fiction, have I seen those stories made relevant. Vaugn masterfully tangles the tale of Sinon, the liar who encouraged Troy to open its gates, with a different spin on the Greek gods that grants Sinon the curse of immortality.

Somehow she also manages to mix in the tales of Longinus, Arthur, and the glass slippers of Cinderella while bringing in elements of the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where a nameless government employee stashed the Ark of the Covenant. Add to that a sprinkle of a world where the balance of power has tipped enough to make everyone paranoid…

However, at no time in the novel did I feel that any of these elements was ever out of control. Somehow she tames these tornadoes, each of which has their own Oz attached, and pulls them into a coherent tapestry of plot, character, and story. I don’t know how she did it. I only know that I really enjoyed it and want to know what happens next!

So if you’re looking for a book for summer reading, be sure to add Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn to your list. It’s a fun ride. Now I have to go back and see what all the fuss is about this werewolf named Kitty…

For more information about Vaughn, be sure to check out her website at CarrieVaugn.com and look for her books published by TOR/FORGE!

This review first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other Carrie Vaughn books below!

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