Comic Review: Animal Man – The Hunt (2012)

Animal ManThe Hunt (2012)
Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Travel Foreman

Rating: B

There was a time when Animal Man was just a nobody superhero. He had the power to use the abilities of any animals within reasonable range, which is actually a pretty cool power, but Buddy Baker didn’t have a lot of interest or personality until Grant Morrison took over. Morrison took Animal Man from nobody hero to vegetarian political crusader who fought some pretty strange villains and ended up becoming the only hero we know of in DC Comics who is actually aware that he is a comic book character. Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man is frankly the shit, but it didn’t take long for the character to become relatively obscure again.

A few years ago, the weekly universe-wide series 52 made Animal Man into a main character again, as he had a pretty major plot that involved among other characters Starfire and Adam Strange. After that, he had small roles in the Blackest Night crossover and James Robinson’s Cry for Justice miniseries, but this new Jeff Lemire-penned comic is the first time we’ve seen Buddy have his own book in quite some time. Although it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Morrison days, there is a lot to enjoy about The Hunt.

The basic plot revolves around Buddy’s daughter Maxine discovering that she has powers, apparently passed down from her father somehow (despite him receiving them from aliens and not from genetics). Things pretty much go crazy when he finds her in the back yard digging up the skeletons of dead animals that she then turns into zombie skeletons. Some kind of strange web-like map appears on Buddy’s skin and his daughter informs him that in order to save the world they have to follow the map into a place called the Red. That’s about where it stops being vaguely coherent and becomes a surrealistic horror adventure into some kind of hidden nether region. I would suggest I have to read it about five or six more times to even have a vague idea about what is going on but it is definitely amusing and amazing in the way of Salvador Dali.

There are some lovely nuggets here for fans of the Morrison run on the book, but it is definitely easy to jump right into. The art is trippy and wonderful, and it is clear that Lemire has a really good grasp of who Buddy Baker is and how to make him tick. Although some reviewers are praising The Hunt as the best book of the New 52, that is going a bit far. There are certainly some issues of coherence here, but its enjoyability far outweighs its weaknesses.

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Film Review: Prometheus (2012)

Prometheus
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Jon Spaihts & Damon Lindelof

Rating: A

Ridley Scott has been a real mixed bag in science fiction. He is responsible for the most criminally overrated film adaptation of all time in Blade Runner, which turns a cerebral and brilliant science fiction masterpiece of a novel into a poorly paced film that has aesthetic going for it and nothing else. On the other side of the coin is Alien, a completely original film that combines elements of horror and pure deep space sci-fi into an immensely entertaining and scary film that overcomes any lack of depth with visual excitement and strong characterization. Prometheus is a spirtual prequel to Alien that takes all the elements that made Alien great and adds depth to make a film that surpasses it.

In the year 2089, a team of archeologists lead by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace of the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo film trilogy) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star map on an island in Scotland that matches exactly drawings found in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Sumeria, and a handful of others. Being that none of these ancient cultures ever had any connection, Shaw and Holloway believe that the pattern is not a coincidence but an invitation from the alien creators of man to come meet their makers, as it were. They convince the Weyland Corporation to fund an expedition to find the location of the map and try to answer the questions of where humanity came from. Joining them on the mission are an android called David (played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender of Inglourious Basterds and X-Men: First Class fame), a Weyland liason (Charlize Theron), the ship’s Captain Janek (Idris Elba), and a handful of others.

Although the film has a lot of the same scares and action that made Alien so much fun, Prometheus is a much more cerebral undertaking that asks poignant questions about the nature of faith and the origins of man, while also being sure not to present any concrete answers so that the viewer can make up one’s own mind. Many viewers find it frustrating when a film doesn’t tell you exactly what to think, but it is a mark of stronger filmmaking to ask the questions and provide the evidence for both sides and allow the one watching to decide. The script is not flawless, but the story is engaging, the philosophical questions are so strong, and the cast is overall so brilliant that the end result is a film that is genuinely more satisfying than Alien. Although Scott may not always hit the mark, he has shown with this film that the world he created in Alien is one he will always be his; others have dabbled here, but his two entries in the series are superior.

Indie SF/F Names to Know: Jeff Pearce

Since independent publishing became so easy thanks to websites like Smashwords and Amazon, the ebook community has been inundated with an endless pile of novels. There aren’t any hard statistics to back up this claim, but I believe that it is fair to say that more than 95% of what is published through this medium is garbage that would never have seen the light of day through traditional publishing means. There are definitely a fair few writers who have either published independently or started their own small press publishers however that are extraordinarily talented and worth taking a look at. One of them is Jeff Pearce.

Pearce started his own book publishing company, Gallivant Books, and has published books in a handful of genres. What is perhaps most remarkable about Jeff Pearce, aside from his pure writing ability that includes quality prose, dialogue, and plotting, is the diversity of stories he tackles. In The Karma Booth, which has been reviewed by Frida over at Adarna SF, Pearce tackles horror in an effort that, if the opinions of those I’ve seen can be taken as gospel, is as strong as anything published by any of the big speculative fiction houses. Reich TV, which follows George Orwell, Dylan Thomas, and the Marx Brothers in the middle of World War II, is one of the strongest alternate history novels ever written, second perhaps only to Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Pearce has also published the first of a series in what is best described as literary superhero fiction with Bianca: The Silver Age.

There are a handful of writers in independent speculative fiction who are in the same ballpark as Jeff Pearce in terms of quality of writing, but none who manage to dabble so perfectly in such a diverse array of genres. He is an extraordinary writer of science fiction, thriller, horror, and super hero action, and it is kind of a head scratcher as to why he isn’t writing for Tor or something as big. Pearce is definitely a name to know. Read about his various works at Gallivant Books, and read some reviews of his novels at Adarna SF.