Review - Deadcon

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Deadcon feels like a straight-to-YouTube movie that got too big for its own boots and decided that Netflix would be its home. In a sea of horror films that reside in Netflix’s catalogue, you need to do something to stand out from the rest and Deadcon tries that. On paper, it’s a fascinating concept that could lead to a great social commentary about social media and how it can affect people mentally. But instead, it fails to achieve a satisfactory simple story.

The story follows a small group of popular social media influencers as they attend the fictional Viewcon, a facsimile of Vidcon, as they slowly begin to become terrorised by a computer evil spirit.

As far as interesting and complex scripts go, it’s as thin as the paper it was printed on. It meanders all over the place until it’s no longer focused on its initial premise, jumping ship so much so that the romance sub plot is now the main plot.

Plot points are insensitively thrown out of the window and forgotten, to the point where not a single plot thread is concluded (what few there are) – had more time been spent establishing the mythos to the haunted hotel in which our ensemble cast are staying at, instead of finding terribly timed and placed product placements, Deadcon might’ve been successful at something.

Yes, characters are “affected” by the evil presence, but when it comes down to the scenes that are meant to be creepy, you can’t help but laugh. The simplest of scares become laugh-fests due to how they’re executed. Yet, when the hauntings and possessions begin the characters care so little that you wonder “why bother at all?”. You don’t feel sorry for the characters as you haven’t had enough time to know them or for them to be developed.

In a sense, you can’t really care for any of the characters as they’re all unlikable people. Whether it’s down to the directing by Caryn Waechter, you struggle to connect to everyone but Ashley (Lauren Elizabeth), who vanishes entirely for a good portion of the script without anyone worrying or caring.

In a bizarre way, it’s a spiritual homage to haunted house/horror films that came before it. Especially The Shining due to location and several undeveloped plot threads.

On a surface level, you can tell what each character is about. But other than that, they have nothing going for them. They don’t develop over the film; they don’t learn a moral or anything like that. They just float through the film until it just abruptly ends. Outside of Ashley, there is no one worth rooting for and sadly you never get enough time with her as she for whatever reason disappears from the story.

However, any personality the characters have is purely surface level. You get to know who they are through glimpses into their social media life, but even then, they’re so boring you can’t help but to find something else to interest you.

Other than the hotel staff, none of the characters seem to notice any of the strange goings-on in the hotel. Mainly because they’re so stuck to their phones and their own moral issues that they’ve become oblivious to what’s around them.

For all intents and purposes, the antagonist is essentially the internet. As ridiculous as it sounds, the evil spirit possessing the hotel room 2210a is an evil computer program called LinkRabbit from the mid-eighties that acted as an online forum which was promptly shut down due to lack of public interest. And for some reason, the software came to life, possessed its creator and tried to “make friends”.

And like the majority of plot threads in the movie, it’s never explained as to why this is a thing that exists.

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Cinematographer turned director Caryn Waechter does a mediocre job with the script that she’s given. There are very few moments that truly stand out and those that do are inconsequential to the film. Sadly, the filler shots are the most interesting.

One shot in particular is looking down at a hire worker vacuuming a carpet, but you can clearly see that no matter how much he vacuums it will never visibly look any different. And for some weird reason, takes you out of the boredom the film has put you in to appreciate the shot. Is that a good thing?

There are multiple occasions where you must remind yourself that this isn’t a very clever parody. When these happen, it takes you straight out of the moment and you see how terrible it really is. At one point, an invisible ghost child is bouncing on the bed, but the previous time you saw the bed used it was used for sex and the way the bed curves inwards is so awkwardly over the top I could help but think that it was really good memory foam.

When it comes to horror, sound is everything, whether it’s a subtle ghostly whisper or a loud screaming jump scare - it makes a huge impact in the overall quality of the product. Yet, it seems that all the generic tropes and audio clichés were forgotten about and replaced with terrible audio design, going so far to use the sound of dial-up internet whenever a “creepy” scene happens. It’s so distracting and annoying to listen to as you no longer focus on what’s happening onscreen but rather on the overuse of bad sound effects. On top of that, whenever social media is being used and a character gets Tweeted, texted or have a livestream commented on, it’s all the same sound effect and it becomes jarring since Twitter doesn’t use the same sound as Steam does whenever you get a message.

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Regardless of the budget of $100,000, it could have taken the chance to show how truly terrifying social media can be and the ramifications of showing your day-to-day life to hundreds of thousands of people. Paranormal Activity, which was released in 2007 with a budget of $15,000, did a better job with a single location and a low budget, simply due to the style it was filmed in with a great script.

I feel Deadcon, despite its interesting premise, heavily leans more towards a teen drama than a horror of any sorts, whether it’s psychological or supernatural. As it quickly spirals itself out of control with no end goal in mind, characters drift through the film without any truly scary or interesting moments until the final act. And even then, can it be called scary?

Score: 0.5/5

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Comicvine 2019 Project Results

With 2019 over, now would be the time to post my yearly “look back” into what I contributed to the wiki. Like last year, my focus was to bring the “Series” section of the site up to date, adding shows and episodes that should’ve been added years ago.

Throughout the year, I’ve been tracking what I added to the site, whether it be a series or an episode, it got added to my Excel sheet. By the end of the year it got confusing to look at, but manageable. However, I did feel I could have done better.

Anyway, this year was an improvement compared to 2018’s results. 2019 was a productive year for me on ComicVine and in my own life, I did a 180 on my career (we’ll see how that goes) and changes things for the better. And on ComicVine I added a significant number of episodes to the site, hitting multiple milestones, personal and for the site.

But you don’t care about me, you just want the numbers, so have ‘em.

Milestones:

  • Ace of Diamond was the 700th show to be added
  • A Certain Magical Index #207 was the 30,000th episode to be added to the wiki
  • I personally added 59 shows to the wiki in 2019 (doesn’t seem much, but adding episodes takes a lot of time when done properly)

Over the course of 2019, I added a total of 2504 episodes to the wiki. I usually make this easier for myself by breaking it down into three categories so that the numbers look nicer at the end of the year and so I can see what belongs to what.

Those categories are, Live Action, Animated and, Anime.

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To no one’s surprise, Anime leads the charts since Japan produces so much content compared to any other country when it comes to tv shows. A total of 2089 episodes of anime was added to ComicVine in 2019 by myself. An increase of 1141 compared to 2018’s 948 episodes.

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The top three Anime episodes added were:

One Piece with 205 episodes, Ace of Diamond with 163 and the original Dragon Ball with 128 episodes, completing the series.

Live Action shows were rather lacklustre for me in 2019, Live Action shows were rather lacklustre for me in 2019, only 236 episodes were added, with classic Doctor Who taking up the majority of it, 125 of the 236 to be exact.

2019 wasn’t a slow year for live action shows, I was either slow to add them and someone got to them first, or I couldn’t add them due to lack of access. Damn DC Universe and Disney+’s lack of availability in the U.K.

American animated shows were also rather lacklustre this year, with most of the shows having already been added to the site. The shows that I wish I could add are not legally available in the U.K. making it incredibly hard to get decent screenshots of episodes for episode stills. Something that I take seriously since it helps grab attention for a series. However, a total of 179 animated episodes were added in 2019.

Due to how time-consuming watching and adding shows can be, I’m going to be taking a break from this project and replacing it with a comic related one. The first project of 2020 is adding the entire Planeta Cómic library, or as best as possible to the site so that the Spanish side of the comic world gets a little more representation. Once that project is completed (or I get bored of it) I’ll be planning on revamping story arc pages so that they represent the stories for people are interested and gain more traffic.

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Review: Death's Head #1

Death’s Head has been around since the late eighties and starred in his own comic every couple of years but never really stuck around for to long. His popularity reached its peak in the early-mid nineties but he faded into obscurity once his comic ended. Since then, he’s had a various cameo’s over the years and the odd full appearance, yet never a main role in a story.

Twenty-six years since he starred in his own comic, Death’s Head finally re-enters the spotlight. But the question is, is it any good?

The answer, kind-of. It’s got some minor flaws, but what doesn’t?

Written by Tini Howard (Rick and Morty) with art by Kei Zama (Transformers) and colours by Felipe Sobreiro (Spread).

Review

You know, I was hoping for a space theme or a robot action heavy comic where Death gets to show why he’s one of the best bounty hunter’s in space. Instead, we get a comedy comic starring Hulkling and Wiccan with the occasional appearance from the titular character and even then he’s not the one winning. I’m not complaining though, it’s a great comedy book with realistic characterization of a gay young adult couple. Death even gets a few quips in here and there that make me chuckle.

The dialogue is questionable at best. Due to the heavy focus on the now young adult Wiccan and Hulkling, the majority of the story is told through them. Tini Howard tries her best to portray them as realistic adults, yet fails by overusing the word “babe” (which bugs me to no end as I hate that word) and constantly trying to use a mobile phone as a metaphor for how Death’s Head functions.

There’s a moment in this issue in which Wiccan uses his powers to see all possible realities to see what could potentially happen in his future, we see some featuring Billy and Teddy together and other’s where Billy is in charge of his own Avengers team featuring a new incarnation of Death’s Head as part of those teams. Hopefully this is foreshadowing the reformation of the Young Avengers and not just pointless moment that doesn’t come to fruition.

I’m happy that Wiccan and Hulkling get more time spent on them, but I would much rather see them in their own solo/duo comic then piggyback off another character who gets even less focus. The main point of a “Death’s Head” comic is so that the titular character gets the majority of the panel space, yet a good seventy percent of the issue is focused on Wiccan and Hulking. I’m all for more LGBT representation, I just wish that its not just shoehorned into character’s that don’t really have much to do with each other.

I’ve just got a feeling that Tini Howard doesn’t know what to do with Death’s Head so just dumped him on Earth and let the more established human characters deal with the story while Death tags along for the ride.

But for real, can we focus more on the main protagonist please?

While the story is mediocre the art by Kei Zama is fantastic whenever Death is on screen, aided by the wonderful colours by Felipe Sobreiro who makes each panel stand out on its own with vibrant colours that pack a punch. However, faces are slightly clunky in design, even if they’re expressive. It’s not a bad thing, it just has its moments where it looks terrible in certain panels due to the heavy inking used.

Overall, I think this has potential. It’s a fun comic that’s not afraid of trying to be something different, it just struggles in places. Even though this is a four-issue mini-series, I’m just hoping that Death’s Head doesn’t get pushed to the side-lines in his own comic to focus more on the side characters.

Score 3.5/5

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Review - Invisible Woman #2

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You know, with #1 being a slow-paced issue, and the introduction of Black Widow on the final panel, I was hoping for things to start to speed up a bit since there isn’t that many issues to work with. Five isn’t that many issues to tell a story in, especially a spy story as that needs to be built up well to be pulled off. Yet, here we are, no closer to the end-goal than the previous issue. Find Aidan Tintreach.

Sue Storm is one of the most interesting characters out there, starting as a character who could only turn invisible and is now someone who can hold her own against some of the biggest threats to the Fantastic Four and go toe-to-toe with big name heroes. Yet, she somehow manages to be side-lined in her own book. We’re two issues into her own story, yet she’s not progressing in her own plot.

In storytelling, there are two different types of characters – passive and active – and the latter is what most characters are or eventually become in their own story, even if it isn’t obvious. The Invisible Woman on the other hand, is a passive character. The story revolves around her and she’s reacting to it as it happens around her. She doesn’t influence the story in a major factor. But here’s the thing - passive characters normally turn into active characters by the halfway point in their story. So, let’s hope that she starts to do something next issue.

Mark Waid isn’t a bad writer, yet he’s hitting every single spy story cliché possible, and not in an interesting way. Everything becomes predictable if you understand foreshadowing. The foreshadowing would work here had it not been revealed in the same issue as it was hinted at. I just have a feeling that Waid doesn’t know what to do with Sue in her own story as she’s being guided through this issue by Black Widow who does most of the work.

We do have a great moment, though, with Sue in a drinking game which impressed me but made me laugh due to the predictability.

Like I said in my #1 review, the art is the strongest aspect of the comic. Mattia De Iulis does an excellent job colouring and lighting his panels while managing to make the most mundane people creepy in the right lighting and angle, though I wish that the writing was on par with the art.

I’m hoping that Black Widow parts ways with this book next issue so that Sue can become the spotlight again and progress her own plot, because if not The Invisible Woman’s first comic (and possibly only solo comic) will be going downhill pretty fast.

Score: 2.5/5

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Review - Invisible Woman #1

Cover by Adam Hughes
Cover by Adam Hughes

Susan Storm, A.K.A. The Invisible Woman, is a character that’s been around since 1961 - almost 58 years. So, why did it take her so long to get her own comic series? And now that it’s here, is it any good?

There are hundreds of stories that can be told that involve Invisible Woman as the protagonist. We could retell a story from her perspective. A ‘fly on the wall’ scenario where she’s secretly been watching people and keeping tabs on the Fantastic Four’s enemies for years and been messing around with them for a comedy story. So many options, yet Mark Waid chooses one of the least interesting options. A spy story. The character that turns invisible is given a spy story. How original.

However, the spy aspect of the story isn’t the forefront of this issue. It’s a good half of the issue, but not the real focus.

Waid does an interesting thing with Sue - she’s now an on-and-off member of S.H.I.E.L.D. and has been for a very long time, working undercover alongside her partner Aidan Tintreach. But the latter half of the story says that’s all in the past now, which isn’t a bad thing. I just feel that if the future issues are going to jump back and forth between past and present it may become jarring.

Sue’s also being framed to be the everywoman (bar the superpowers) of the Marvel universe, making out that she’s the most relatable member of the Fantastic Four. Besides being a superhero she’s a mother, wife, sister and friend - something that anyone can connect with. Which is a good thing, as for a few pages The Invisible Woman is not a superhero but a person, and a relatable one at that for many people. She’s a character that sticks to her moral compass, no matter what. Something that I feel is going to be tested due to some very heavy foreshadowing as it’s mentioned multiple times in the issue.

Plot wise, it’s your generic spy story. Spy goes missing, another spy comes out of retirement to find them, even though their told not to. Which I’ve never understood the point of. Why tell them that their friend has gone missing, knowing full well they’d want to help and then say no to that help? Then complain that if they do it’ll make things complicated? I digress…

The art here is the strongest point of the issue, being wonderfully coloured and realistically drawn (though it does give me uncanny valley vibes). Mattina De Iulis does a brilliant job of lighting his panels, making everything feel realistic and natural compared to more mainstream comics or events.

Overall, the art carries this issue’s simple story, but I’ll give it some credit for humanising Susan more. Even if it does mean putting her in a generic plot in this 5-issue mini-series.

Score: 3.5/5

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Animated Movie Month – Justice League Dark

You know, I underestimated how much I’d enjoy this movie. I’ve never really been a fan of DC’s occult/magic side as I’ve always found it a little convoluted or boring. Justice League Dark just changed my mind on that.

I was worried going into this that it’d be a Batman (Jason O’Mara) film under the guise of a Justice League movie, since he got so much cover space (Bruce is literally at the front of the group), but I’m glad it wasn’t. If anything, I don’t know why Batman was in this. I guess Batman sells.

Beware the spoilers that lie ahead!

Plot

I’ve spent ages trying to work out why Batman was even in this film. You could say that he brought the team together, but it was Deadman who set Bruce on that path, and even then, he went to Zatanna (Camilla Luddington) to get help, who Deadman (Nicholas Turturro) could have gone to first. Batman didn’t contribute to the story in any way, past the formation of the group. After that, he was out of his depth and didn’t do that much to help. He didn’t even use his detective skills to aid in the discovery of the main villain’s plan. Though I guess he was there to show how much goes on without him or the Justice League noticing.

Justice League Dark is a very basic mystery movie with not much going for it, bar the inclusion of magic which is the selling point of the film (but that shouldn’t be the case).

Felix Faust’s magic
Felix Faust’s magic

Like many mystery films, the heroes find a clue – a magic ring – and then must narrow down the suspects until the eventual plot twist happens (the villain is Ritchie Simpson possessed by Destiny). I was surprised by the plot twist since I had no idea who to suspect and was hoping that Felix Faust was the main villain, regardless of the red herring that he was meant to be.

While the plot may not be its strongest point, the characters make up for that – especially John Constantine (Matt Ryan) and Zatanna. Their past relationship is constantly brought up to make them seem more human and like they aren’t just teaming up because the plot demands it, making them seem human in a world full of mystery and wonder. Strangely enough, Batman acts as a weird comedic relief in Justice League Dark (it might just be me seeing that) as he constantly looks in confusion as he has no idea what’s going on and is just there for the ride, slowly working out what to do until the time comes to fight the big-bad.

Constantine & Zatanna
Constantine & Zatanna

Many DC animated movies are based on a volume or a specific story arc, meaning that it’s reduced to the core elements and points of that specific story. Sometimes this means leaving out the intricate parts that make it so loved. Whether it’s the characterizations, side-plots or cutting down the villains, removing those can change the outcome of the film’s version of the story. If a stories villain is underdeveloped it can weaken a great story, which is what happens to Justice League Dark.

Ritchie Simpson (Jeremy Davis), who becomes the main villain, is explained to have a bad history with Constantine. Ritchie explains that he has a type of magical cancer due to whatever happened between him and John. This piece of information is vital to his eventual betrayal to the Justice League team, as all he wants to do is live and will do anything to accomplish that goal. The problem with this is that it’s a passing piece of information that is forgotten until the last act. While there may be a few moments that the effects of the cancer is brought up, what happened between John and Ritchie was never explained – had they explained it, the plot twist would have made more sense.

Animation & Art

I’m gonna be real here and take off my metaphorical fan-hat for a moment. The art style for most of the modern DC animated films is fantastic – they capture the comicbook look and that works well for fight scenes. But you know what? I think it’s just getting boring now. DC has so many fantastic artists whose art styles they could try to replicate for animation, regardless of whether or not it works, they could give it a try. It worked for Batman Ninja. While not perfect, it changed things up enough to show something different that we haven’t seen half a dozen times before. I just want to see something different from DC. They don’t have an excuse to use the same style for every film.

Constantine and Etrigan
Constantine and Etrigan

I don’t want some Avant Garde art style (I wouldn’t mind an artsy film), I just want something different.

Rant aside, the animation and art were great throughout the film managing to make the magic feel unique, although a bit repetitive. Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme is still on top for uniqueness in its magic usage. The fight between Swamp Thing and Doctor Destiny (Alfred Molina – or just Destiny here) was the best fight scene I’ve seen in one of these movies in ages. Fast paced, well animated and featuring high destruction with great cinematography that reminded me of fight scenes from high budget anime.

Swamp Thing Defeated!
Swamp Thing Defeated!

Voice Acting

Matt Ryan is the strongest voice actor from the main cast. He’s able to convey a loveable douche in a natural way, although it does help that he played Constantine in his own show, so most of that translates here. Camilla Luddington as Zatanna also does a spectacular job as the mistress of magic, but when Camilla shares a scene with Matt, they work wonders on a scene. They’re both able to portray their characters with the secrecy and care that goes alongside being magic users.

Jason O’Mara does a decent job at Batman, but I kept forgetting he was in the film as he barely has any lines and when he does talk, he’s overshadowed by the more charismatic characters. I feel Jason O’Mara is in the same boat as Nicholas Turturro who plays Deadman – underused or just comes across as annoying.

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Batman’s secrets are revealed.

Conclusion

Justice League Dark is a fantastic film for those interested in the magic side of DC which should have happened sooner than 2017. JLD features great voice acting and animation, but just offers the same simple copy and paste mystery film that we’ve all seen before.

Score

4/5

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Review - Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #41

If you’re familiar with the source material, you’ll know that during season 2 of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Jason, Trini and Zack left the original team to go to Switzerland to partake in a peace conference. After that, we don’t see them again, bar Jason who returns in Zeo as the Gold Ranger, but Necessary Evil fill shows what they were doing during that time away.

The Good

It’s nice to see what the “peace conference” trio has been up too while away from their original team – fighting evil aliens in space! With new Ranger powers and a new team member, they go around the universe saving those in need and stopping aliens affected by the events of Shattered Grid, acting almost like an early version of the S.P.D. team.

The introduction of the new Ranger, Kiya adds a new and interesting dynamic to the Omega Rangers – she’s their heavy-hitter. The Ranger who ends things in a single punch before they become too hard to handle. Which is an interesting dynamic. I just hope that she doesn’t become too powerful and makes the original three look weak in comparison.

There are some nice characterisations of the trio, how they went from fighting monsters in their home town alongside friends and family, to what appears to be the other side of the universe fighting even more powerful threats without any back-up. Feeling slightly out of their depth, but comfortable enough with their skills to be able to prevail.

While they may be off-world, the Rangers are put in a strangely familiar environment. There’s a mentor (the Blue Emissary), a robot sidekick called XI and an oddly shaped base of operations called Eternity Point. Giving us a different, yet familiar place to call home for the new Ranger team.

Daniele Di Nicuolo’s stellar art is once again accompanied by colourist Walter Baiamonte. Together they create a wonderfully drawn and coloured issue that really shows how colourful the Power Rangers and space can be it times.

The Bad

Honestly, I really enjoyed this issue and their wasn’t that much I can say that was bad about it. My only complaint is addressed below, but it’s not enough of a problem to say it’s a bad thing.

The Okay

Honestly, I’m curious as to what Ryan Parrot is going to be doing with Dayne, who’s being built as a major foe of the Rangers, but so far hasn’t done anything. However, I will admit that I found it hilarious that he’s judging the Power Ranger’s tactics while watching them on huge screens and eating food.

Conclusion

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #41 is a fantastic issue and a great set-up issue for the rest of the Necessary Evil arc, which hopefully should have a huge impact on the Power Rangers if the final page has anything to say about it.

Score: 5/5

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Interview with a Viner: Renchamp

Welcome to the fifth edition of “Interview with a Viner” series, in which I interview popular or influential users on the site on either a bi-weekly or monthly basis. This week's guest is @renchamp!

Cloudguy: For those unfamiliar with you can you introduce yourself and what would you say you're most known for on the site?

Renchamp: Briefly: I am Renchamp. I attempt to keep things moderate.

Expanded: I am a jack-of-all-trades type mod, as I moderate both the forums and the wiki. My primary love is the wiki, so I spend a bit more time there helping new editors hone their craft while also doing my own edits. I usually only dip into forum moderation when dealing with flags, so most of what I post is a warning. Probably 2/3 of my forum posts come from warnings. Is that sad? I'm starting to think that's a sad statistic.

*shifts blame to users, buries feelings, moves on to next question*

Cloudguy: How did you discover Comicvine and what grabbed your attention?

Renchamp: I discovered the Vine in law school. I was at the end of my rope during a study session and needed a new distraction, so I dusted off my love of comics (I hadn't read anything for ten years at the time) and did some research on what had happened with Cable since the mid-90s. I loved the Vine's format, but I hated that Cable's wiki page was so totally lacking in information. I did some lurking before deciding to begin editing the wiki. The thing that really got me was the points system. I love a good RPG; I have no problem grinding/farming, so the idea of climbing the wiki ranks really appealed to me. Wiki editing ended up being very addictive and I soon adopted the Vine as a part of my life. It is a smaller part of my life now that I'm a working man, but I still find time to indulge in this distraction.

Cloudguy: How did you end up becoming a Moderator?

Renchamp: Honestly, favoritism. Sort of.

As I understand it: I became chummy with RazzaTazz after the two of us exchanged pleasantries on one another's blogs. Razz was a mod at the time. We became embroiled in a wiki points frenzy to see which R-named user could have the most wiki points. (Sorry Roekon, we were gunning for you and you never knew it.) We discussed our writing endeavors, the good and bad sides of marriage, and many other simple and trite things that no one should really care about. In the course of our PM-ing, I noted that I was likely going to quit the Vine. Changes had happened to the site and it was starting to feel less like a community. (e.g. staff was less engaged, users couldn't browse blogs or reviews anymore, threads seemed more toxic, etc.) Razz hated to lose me, so she convinced pikahyper to vet me as a future wiki mod candidate. I was intrigued by the idea of helping the wiki get even better so I stuck around. Razz and pika spoke well enough of me that the staff permitted/promoted me to be a mod. The catch was that I was to moderate both the wiki and the forums, as my well-roundedness in blogging/reviewing/editing/commenting could be used in basically all aspects of the Vine.

So, kiss some butts? Or kiss the right butts. I don't know. I didn't ask for it. I don't really want it, but I also don't want to lose it because a) pika would have even more work to do, and b) I really enjoy having the ability to quickly alter errant wiki pages and help new wiki editors out.

It's also possible that I completely misunderstood my appointment and only got it because inferiorego and I were both in bands. Not together. And not the same type. But band brothers none-the-less.

Cloudguy: Since you became a moderator, you've managed to become quite infamous on the site. Why do you think that users see you as a tough mod?

Renchamp: Because I am a tough mod. Users are expected to follow the rules. When users don't follow the rules, I have no problem reminding them that they should.

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I also subscribe to brevity, as I don't think some prolonged flowery warning will be any more effective than simply saying "language warning" or "warning for insults". The user knows exactly what the warning is for. This also goes for bans. If you clearly suck, you will be banned. Don't suck. How do you not suck? Read the rules and make the Vine better with your activity.

And to be honest, I have zero favorites on this site, as I can't get my head around being friends with people I have never met. It feels fake. That said, I will respect those to respect the site. I will not respect idiot trolls and the like. I know some users think that me being a little lighter with warnings would go a long way. Noted. This was noted years ago. I ain't changing. Staff and I have had plenty of conversations about my methods and nothing is changing.

Send in the pitchforks.

Cloudguy: If an opening for the position of moderator came up, what do you look for in users?

Renchamp: Honestly, mods hate when users jocky for the position, so we almost never go with someone who straight up asks to be a mod. There are always exceptions, but exceptions don't make up a rule.

We really just do a general survey of the users and take note of the ones we think most add to the Vine. If we need a Battles mod, the other Battles mods typically put forth a user's name who has shown that they aren't toxic to the forum, is well-respected, and would do a good job. Same with a general forum moderator. If you spam threads, troll, deactivate alt after alt just to change names or avoid warnings, or just downright suck then you have no chance at all.

Cloudguy: So, in other words, if you want to be a moderator; stay in line or be a kiss-ass? Or both? Jokes aside, being a moderator is probably a difficult job that requires you to look at the pettiness of people and decide where to draw the line. But what's it like being a mod on the wiki? I can imagine you've seen quite a few funny "edits" over the years.

Renchamp: Staying in line is key, but there is wisdom in the adage "It's not what you know but who you know." But there is also wisdom in knowing that fake relationships are pretty see-through and can do more damage than good. I can always tell at networking functions who is trying to get a quick hand to place a business card in and who is really trying to establish a mutual relationship. So, don't suck up. Be genuine. Mods are people, too. We can tell if a relationship is one-sided.

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As to wiki moderation, it is a lot of fun. Sure, there are idiots who never learn (don't plagiarize; don't think your way is better than the Style Guide; don't add new releases too early; don't point whore), but being in an area that is always improving is a nice place to work. Most of the editors are respectful and want to learn. Being able to see new pages garner the right attention and essentially explode with information is a beautiful thing. We are constantly adding to the database, so there is always something that needs attentions. Especially the indie pages. I love when an editor takes an indie universe under their wing and really pimps it out.

I'd also say that there are no funny edits. I wish I could relate some story where an edit went through that detailed Superman's preferred brand of underwear because it sufficiently hid his thunder, but I personally wouldn't find that amusing. We wiki mods probably take our job too seriously. We have the largest comic wiki on the internet. Silly edits get instant warnings. Stupid edits end in wiki bans. And it doesn't matter who the editor is. We have wiki-banned users with over 200k wiki points before. It sucks, but it is sometimes necessary. How's that for wet-blanketing a fun question?

Cloudguy: What sort of band were you in? I always knew you were a lawyer, but no idea you were a musician too.

Renchamp: Ha! It was this stupid funk/island hybrid that really went nowhere. Don't get me wrong, it was a lot of fun and we wrote some tunes that I am very proud of, but we weren't that great. We played a few shows around Utah and Idaho and recorded some demos. We made some friends.

I played the bass. Still do for fun. It's a five-string Fender Jazz bass, which didn't really lend itself the best to funk grooves. I grew up on punk music, so I thought playing funk with a punk flair added to our mystique. (Holy crap, am I the reason we sucked?)

Cloudguy: Honestly, I'd love to hear some of your music based on how you described it. It might not be as bad as you think. But who knows?

Renchamp: There is an episode of Boy Meets World where the dad reunites with his old band mates and they jam. The dad realizes that he is terrible and must have always been terrible. The mom comforts him by saying she just thought he looked good in the band. That is how I view my band career. It was fun. I got married. I see now that we were likely deluded as to our abilities. I will say, however, that my crowning achievement was learning "Do You Right" by 311; not because it is super complicated on the bass, but because it was such a big part of my high school life.

Cloudguy: What do you prefer more, Comics or Manga? And why do you prefer them?

Renchamp: Hands down comics, but only because of exposure. I have read very few manga and I kinda liked the different narrative and art styles. But comics speak more to me because I've read enough of them to know what I like and what relates best to me.

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Cloudguy: Who's your favorite Manga and Comic character and why do they appeal to you?

Renchamp: I don't have a favorite manga character. I just haven't read enough. This could change one day.

My favorite comic character is Cable. As a kid reading comics in the 90s, he was just what I wanted out of a character. Pouches. I mean big guns. I mean cringy dialogue. I mean anti-hero status. Gosh dang, I got Liefelded, didn't I?

Honestly, I love the time paradox of the character. He has lore in the past, present, and future of the X-Men. His dad is younger than him. He has a tragic limitation that shows his strength. Domino hangs around him from time to time. Deadpool is his best frenemy (screw you, Spider-Man). He is always looking to do what is right, even if it isn't popular.

And all those Elfring guns, yo.

Cloudguy: Speaking of Liefield, what's your opinion on him and his constantly changing in quality art?

Renchamp: I have no problem with Liefeld's art. Is it over-the-top? Duh. Is it sometimes bad? Duh. But did it help shift how we look at comics? Yup. He was perfect for the era in which he started. The 90s basically required someone like Liefeld, whom I call the Michael Bay of comics. In-your-face, violent, and often campy.

I am also okay with him continuing to work today. His flaws are so much more obvious now, but I like variance. Not every comic can look the same because static kills commodity. Some people have a problem with Adrian Alphona, JRJR, and so on, but they do the same thing for me: spice up my comic life.

Cloudguy: What do you think of the current state of Comicvine?

In the words of President Trump: "Sad." I miss the days of browsing blogs and reviews. I miss staff involvement. I miss the five "friends" that have left the site. I miss feeling like this is a community of users that love discussing comics. Now this place is my wiki home where I ban the same troll alts and give warnings to users who know better.

On the other hand, we have an ever-expanding wiki that just gets better with each new editor. And Cable's page has never looked better, although I still have a long way to go before it is complete. (I'm still stuck in 90s comics as far as his page goes.)

Cloudguy: Do you think the lack of editorial content from the staff is driving older users from the site or could it be something else?

Renchamp: I think older users are simply that: older. We are curmudgeonly in thinking that things now are not as great as they once were. We miss staff content (especially k4tzm4n's stuff). We miss community spotlights and random contests and so much more.

Also, being older, many users simply leave because they move on from investing so much time in a website and focus more on a new kid, college, and so on. It's rare that a few of us older statesmen have the ability to devote as much time as we do to the Vine.

I wish we got new content from staff. It isn't going to happen.

Generic Comic Book #1
Generic Comic Book #1

Cloudguy: It is a shame that some of our older users are leaving, but do you think they'd ever come back?

Since the staff aren't giving us any new content, the last article posted to the site was about this time last year. Do you think the community should start to put themselves forward for writing interesting content? While it's not their job, people do read them and find them interesting. Take myself for example, I do these interviews and post reviews quite often and they always seem to get traffic. It would be a fantastic way to get the community invested in something.

Renchamp: The community has tried to step up in the past and things typically fizzle. I would love users to PM me with article ideas. I would pin interesting stuff in a heartbeat. In fact, I would commandeer the Contests Forum to pin exceptional threads that are worthy of a special forum. If we got a nomination thread going, the Contests Forum could end up being an unofficial hall of fame for threads that took a lot of effort.

Cloudguy: While you may be a moderator, if you became a staff member, even for a day; what would you post about?

Renchamp: I would love to have a feature where I review and analyze gimmick comic books, like Power Pachyderms and Generic Comic Book; stuff that is supposed to be bad. I'd give a history of the ideas behind the gags, compare the books to contemporaries, and discuss any cultural impact.

I think a feature discussing the ramifications of important between-the-panels situations would also be fun.

Cloudguy: I think your idea of analyzing those sorts of comics would be quite fun. What's stopping you from doing it now?

Renchamp: Time. I would rather read a comic to add to the wiki than do a feature that would get overlooked since we just don't have a vehicle to get this type of project to the masses. It would be fun, but ain't nobody got time for that.

Cloudguy: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you'd like to say before we wrap this up?

Renchamp: Just that everyone should listen to the Front Bottoms, be civil on the Vine, and call their parents once in a while. Cheers.

38 Comments

Animated Movie Month - Hellboy: Blood & Iron

If you read my Hellboy: Sword of Storms review, you’ll know that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Hellboy’s first animated movie. So, I’ll admit I was a little sceptical going into this one, hoping that it had a more mature tone to it (due to the 15-age rating it received here in the U.K.) and it didn’t disappoint. I think it’s a superior film in every way compared to the original.

Plot

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“Hellboy and his team face off against a new supernatural threat, while Professor Bruttenholm must investigate the possible re-emergence of a vampire he had slain decades prior.”

Hellboy: Blood & Iron is loosely based on 1996 story Hellboy: Wake the Devil, taking aspects of the story and adapting them into their own unique story about gods, vampires and ghosts.

One of the problems the previous Hellboy film had was how safe it played it, making sure that it was suitable for most audiences by toning down the violence and blood. Blood & Iron, on the other hand, goes all out. Blood, torture and the gruesome sounds of mutilation. This one takes advantage of its higher age rating and for the better I would say, dropping aspects of the Saturday morning cartoon vibes its predecessor gave off.

I noticed some drastic similarities between both movies - Hellboy (Ron Perlman) himself doesn’t have that much to do with the plot overall. Most of the story is explained by other characters and develops around their actions, while Hellboy wanders from point A to point B without developing the plot any further. Although in Blood & Iron’s case, this is a story about Trevor Bruttenholm (John Hurt) more than anything, which isn’t a bad thing. I just feel that Hellboy always takes a backseat in his own animated films.

This time around the whole cast is together, rather than split off in their own stories, allowing us to see each of them interacting with each other in a realistic manner. It helps the viewer understand everyone’s roles and relationships with one another. Although the hints at romance between Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) & Elizabeth Sherman (Selma Blair) is completely ignored as if it never happened. Learning how integral each member of the B.P.R.D. is to the mission. And unlike last time, everyone (including Bruttenholm) gets their own chance to defeat an opponent, but Liz gets the coolest moment in the film by annihilating a pack of demon wolves in a single move.

Liz showing some badass Dark Phoenix vibes
Liz showing some badass Dark Phoenix vibes

The inclusion of a side character, Sidney Leach (Rob Paulsen), felt deserved this time. While he didn’t appear that much, he contributed to furthering the plot in minor ways, making his inclusion useful, rather than for pure comedic relief. On that note, this film lacks comedy and I mean that in a good way. Unlike Hellboy: Sword of Storms, most of the comedy is cut down in exchange for a tighter, more coherent story and better dialogue in general - something that Sword of Storms severely needed to improve on.

Story wise, it’s a solid film. Rather than the three plot threads Sword of Storms had, Blood & Iron reduces it down to two, but tells its thread in two completely different ways. The side plot tells the story backwards, slowly revealing subtle story elements through each flashback, while the main plot happens in the correct order. The last time I saw a film tell the story this way was Memento. The side plot isn’t integral to the overall plot, it just makes some moments easier to understand.

I'm sorry, who are you again?
I'm sorry, who are you again?

Now, I don’t know if I missed something towards the end of the story, but I had no idea who the final battle was against (I know who it was, I just don’t know how the story got there) and it lasted a lot longer than the fight against the villain they’d actually built-up throughout the film.

What disappoints me with the plot is that no one gets any form of character development in any way. No one is changed by the events of the story. I know that this is basically their day job, but we don’t learn anything about these character’s that we didn’t already know before.

Animation

Honestly, based on appearance alone, you’d still mistake this for a children’s cartoon, but when it deals with the more serious moments, the animation style strangely suits it. It’s almost as if Starz Media is trying to be more serious this time around. This is down to the editing and colouring of those scenes come to think of it.

It could be worse...
It could be worse...

There are some scenes which seriously suffer due to the art style, fight scenes don’t look as if they have any impact when the punches land, chairs are thrown and the bullets are shot, but that can all be ignored as we get decent fights. Hellboy faces a small, but dangerous number of foes that all pose a threat to him and the B.P.R.D. but they’re enjoyable to watch and some of them last a good few minutes. The choreography could be a lot better, though.

Character designs haven’t changed in any way, but due to the smaller cast and single location, it helps the boring designs stand out. The monster designs even improved, yet not in a drastic way. Everything does look unique and looks like a threat. Specifically, Erzebet’s (Kath Soucie) vampire form.

I still wish that we had an art style that was similar to Mike Mignola’s own style, but since only two of the animated films were made (not including the short), this won’t happen unless another film is made based on the newly rebooted film.

Voice Acting

If you remember what I said last time about the voice acting from Ron Perlman, I wasn’t particularly impressed by his constant flat tone and constant sarcasm. But this time he’s a lot more comfortable in the sound booth. While not significantly better, the change is noticeable, making Hellboy feel a little more real and less monotone whenever he talks.

The addition of John Hurt to the cast made a world of difference as he lends his voice to the already great cast, bringing the (visually emotionless) Professor Broom to life.

Selma Blair and Doug Jones once again provide the better voice acting for most of the movie, although coming across as a bit lost for some scenes. Barely raising their voices when fighting giant monsters yet talking in their normal voices as parts of buildings get demolished.

Conclusion

All in all, I think that Hellboy: Blood & Iron is a vast improvement to its predecessor, taking everything that didn’t work last time and finding a way to make it work. With great fight scenes and improved voice acting and plot, this is an enjoyable film that deserves more than a single viewing to enjoy some of the subtle story elements.

Score

4/5

7 Comments

Animated Movie Month - Hellboy: Sword of Storms

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I’m going to clarify something before I review this. I know almost nothing about Hellboy. I’ve read a few comics here and there, watched the original two live-action movies, but that’s it. I don’t know enough about the characters to say whether this stays true to them.

What I can say though is that this isn’t a good place to start. For one thing it’s not based on any comic story as far as I can tell, it takes place in the Guillermo del Toro movie universe (not that it’s a bad thing – I liked those films). The cast of the live-action films even reprise their roles to provide the voices. And secondly: is that it’s not that interesting of a film.

I went out of my way to search my local pre-owned games and film store to find this and its sequel, Hellboy: Blood & Iron, only to find out that they’re on Amazon Prime while writing this.

Plot

Does anyone remember those Saturday morning cartoons that tried to be all serious and dark, but ended up just coming across as if they were trying too hard and failed? Hellboy: Sword of Storms is a Saturday morning cartoon, but it doesn’t shy away from that fact. It embraces it to an extent.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m not disappointed that this wasn’t a lot darker in tone and story, as one would hope from a Hellboy film. It presents itself as a child friendly story, and even with the 12 (PG-13) rating, you could look past the art style (more on that later). Still though, Sword of Storms doesn’t tell a story you haven’t seen before.

Saturday Morning Cartoon Art Style. (Liz is giving Dark Phoenix vibes here)
Saturday Morning Cartoon Art Style. (Liz is giving Dark Phoenix vibes here)

With awkward comedy that got one laugh from me, the plot is as simple and straightforward as it can get. I think that it could have worked better as a TV show.

“A professor of folklore opens a forbidden scroll and becomes possessed by the ancient Japanese demons of Thunder and Lightning, who seek to return and dominate our world. The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense sends Hellboy and a team of agents to investigate, but when Hellboy picks up a samurai sword, he literally disappears into a weird wonderland of Japanese legends, ghosts and monsters. Meanwhile, B.P.R.D. agents Kate Corrigan and Russell Thorne are on the trail of the possessed professor to bring Hellboy back.”

That plot isn’t that interesting. It could have been, had they not split the story into three separate plot threads, with Hellboy’s being the weakest personally. The focus is split between Hellboy (Ron Perlman), Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) & Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and Kate Corrigan (Peri Gilpin) & B.P.R.D. Psychic Russell (Phil LaMarr). Each interconnecting in one way or another, although only minor, with Hellboy’s pushing the plot forward, but leaving the details to the other threads.

I’d rate them in this order:

  1. Liz & Abe
  2. Hellboy
  3. Corrigan & Russell

I don’t know how much of a talker Hellboy is, but I feel that they didn’t do him much justice here, most of his plot is focused on moving from one monster to another without any development to his own plot. Each monster becomes bigger and therefore more dangerous, but I wasn’t invested, as it turned into the same over and over. Hellboy struggles to fight, throws a punch or two and beats the monster. Rinse and repeat throughout the entire film. We don’t even learn what most of the monsters are, just that they are based on Japanese mythology.

A Google search tells me what it is, but I shouldn’t have to do that.
A Google search tells me what it is, but I shouldn’t have to do that.

I don’t get why Hellboy wasn’t getting the plot development and explanation to him. Instead, Liz and Abe were given that task.

I’m not complaining though. Apart from the seven years’ worth of exposition spewed every 20 minutes, their story progressed somewhere. While we learnt the most about the plot through them and Corrigan, the part that interested me was the slight hint of a romance blossoming between Abe and Liz. They also get the most character development out of the entire cast. Liz becomes more comfortable with using her powers, while Abe starts to have feelings towards his partner.

I don’t know what they were doing with Corrigan, Russell and the villain here. Corrigan and Russell were just comedic relief with some plot details thrown in every now and again and the villain wasn’t even in the film until the last 5 minutes. Yes, the possessed guy had some semblance of a presence, but he didn’t do anything the entire film. He dropped a few monsters to try and defeat Hellboy, but other than that, he wasn’t there. I don’t even remember their names.

I want to spend the next paragraph or two complaining about the movie’s issue with exposition dumps. It has way too many and they last way too long. We have an opening narration, a full minute long explanation as to who the villains are (who don’t turn up until the last 5 minutes and hardly get mentioned, so thanks for that I guess.) and an explanation of what would happen if they get resurrected. Which they could have just shown without explaining it.

Animation

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As I mentioned earlier, this feels like a children’s cartoon, and the art style doesn’t help with that. I honestly think that it’s quite similar to 2004’s The Batman (I don’t know why everything keeps reminding me of that show. It could be that, it was the art style of the 2000’s), but the character design shows that it’s not afraid of being boring. I know that the designs are based on their characters, but at least try to make them look a little more interesting.

One of my complaints is that the villains aren’t that memorable, especially the big bad as they have generic demon designs that I’ve seen elsewhere.

Another would be the lack of consistency. There are several occasions where things completely change in appearance. One of which is the magical scroll. When the professor picks it up before becoming possessed, it’s a simple, blank scroll with Japanese Kanji inscribed on it. The next we see it later in the plot it’s a full-on art piece. Unless it happened to be another scroll with the same story told on it, just illustrated. That’s an error.

Liz, one of the main protagonists, who wears a B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) uniform, doesn’t stand out from any of the other B.P.R.D. members. If I didn’t know who it was, I would think that she’s just a background character getting some screen time.

Complaints aside, I enjoyed the art style, it reminded me of my childhood, growing up watching shows with a similar style. The more I watched, the more I grew used to it. But I wouldn’t mind a more serious and adult style or even one similar to Mike Mignola’s himself.

Voice Acting

Now, I don’t know if this was just me, but I felt that almost everyone’s performances were rather flat. Especially Ron Perlman, who delivered every line as if he was reading it sarcastically or didn’t care, making it hard to tell when he was actually being sarcastic.

Yet, on the other hand, Selma Blair and Doug Jones do a great job with their characters, managing to be subtle with their expressions, but not enough to feel as if they aren’t paying attention (looking at you Perlman). There are, however some moments in the more dramatic scenes where they could perhaps put a little more effort into it.

Conclusion

Hellboy: Sword of Storms is a great film for young teens but fails to be engaging with its main protagonist and story, It can be an enjoyable watch nonetheless, if you have the time to pass.

Score

2.5/5

7 Comments
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