Wednesday, March 19, 2008

FanBoyWonder Television Spotlight: John Adams

FanBoyWonder would like to draw your attention to what we see as the television mini-series event of the season—the historic bio-drama John Adams this month on HBO.

Based on the amazing book by Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough, John Adams is a 7-part mini-series starting this past Sunday which traces the life of Founding Father, 2nd President of the United States and all-around unsung hero of the American Revolution John Adams.

Here’s The Upshot From HBO Films: Starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, executive produced by Playtone's Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, and directed by Emmy®-winner Tom Hooper, John Adams is a seven-part epic miniseries event that explores American history through the eyes of one of its greatest founding fathers, John Adams (Giamatti), a fiercely independent spirit whose unwavering vision steered America through a tumultuous period.

John Adams taps into the uncertainty and intensity surrounding the birth of the American republic and its first 50 years. With the fervent support of his wife Abigail (Linney), and through a lifelong political rivalry and friendship with Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane), Adams rose to be the leader of the American independence movement, the nation's first ambassador to Holland and England, the first American Vice President, the second American President, and father of the sixth American President.

Drawn from an extensive collection of letters, diaries and family papers, David McCullough's biography of John Adams was a New York Times best seller, and proclaimed by Time magazine as a "masterwork of storytelling...a rollicking ensemble drama featuring a collection of giants." The New Yorker hailed it as a "stirring history. [McCullough's] vivid storytelling will surely persuade a generation to look again at this obstinate, brave, and most deeply philosophical of American patriarchs."

We’re excited about this mini-series. We very much enjoyed McCullough’s book and from what we’ve seen and from the author’s enthusiastic endorsement, the filmmakers have gone way out of their way both to do full justice to McCullough’s book but to the entire historical period as well.

For much of the last two centuries, John Adams has suffered as the Rodney Dangerfield of the Founding Fathers—he didn’t get any respect.

His name, if remembered at all as he does NOT enjoy a marble monument as does Washington or Jefferson—is linked to the scandals such as the Alien and Sedition acts of his presidency or overshadowed by his sometime friend and life-long rival Thomas Jefferson.

Adams’ reputation seemed to rebound virtually overnight following the publication of McCullough’s biography. McCullough performed a similar feat for another President of the United States about 15 years ago.

McCullough’s biography of Harry S. Truman—Truman—remains one of our favorite books of all time. HBO Films also made a bio picture out of that book in 1995 staring Gary Sinise and it remains a favorite of ours.

We have high hopes for John Adams. This is a story and a period of history that really needs to be told. As he did with Band of Brothers, Tom Hanks is using some his Hollywood clout to tell a story that needs to be told in a top shelf Hollywood way.

This is a story worth taking the time to watch.

John Adams has already premiered with Parts 1 and 2 and we like what we’ve seen so far. Paul Giamatti is especially good as Adams—it’s hard to believe this was the same guy who was “Pig Vomit” in the Howard Stern movie. He’s come a long away and he is more than capable of carrying this mini-series. Ditto for his on-screen wife Abigail played by Laura Linney.

You can find out more information and times of encore broadcasts at its website while Part 3 airs Sunday at 9 p.m. (EST) with the mini-series running through April 20.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

FanBoyWonder’s Windy City Comics Review

FanBoyWonder Note: We wrote the following while in Chicago on business but technical difficulties kept us from securing an Internet connection—so this review lay trapped within the bowels of our work laptop until we could physically reconnect back at the office.

As we noted in our “Windy City Notes” posting, thanks to our new friends at Graham Cracker comics in the Loop of Chicago, we dropped a respectable amount of money—including picking up some of the books of the week there as well as special treat we picked up a trade paperback from Marvel Comics The Invincible Iron Man: The Many Armors of Iron Man.

Without further ado, here’s our review of the books for the week of March 12.

Suicide Squad #7

Quote Of The Week: “Don’t kid yourself. Your son was a heartless killer who planned and caused the death of innocents. I strangled him to death with my bare hands in a place from which you will never recover his bones. I’m proud of it.”Col. Rick Flag reacting to the father of Jihad leader Rustam who attacked Flag to avenge his son’s “murder.”

The Upshot from DC Comics: As the Scarlet Tears mission goes to hell and the Squad's body count rises, a final power struggle plays out between the monstrous General, the metahuman-powered Amanda Waller, and Rick Flag's own secret weapon!

Good Lord! We would say that we had forgotten just how good this book used to be back in the day but writer John Ostrander’s second act with the Suicide Squad is even better than his first time around two decades ago.

We did NOT see the confrontation between Col. Rick Flag and Rustam Sr. coming but we should have known that Ostrander would have a plan in mind when introducing Rustam the younger during the early issues of this mini-series.

It was nice surprise to see Plastique accept The General’s invite to throw in with him then do nothing, opting to stay with the Squad that brought her to the fight. What she did and the way she did it was perfectly in character for her—she would absolutely be offended that it was assumed she would fall into line with the other bad guys and betray the Squad.

Plastique has learned from her past as she said and we’re glad that Ostrander remembered and acknowledged the history of the character of these last 20 years—but Ostrander is an old school pro who is good enough to put make is own mark on a story without over-writing somebody else’s previous work.

Of course it wouldn’t be called “Suicide Squad” if someone didn’t buy the farm. Poor Windfall—R.I.P.

She at least died a hero—important for a character who straddled both sides of the line—as she tried to hold back Chemo’s deadly acid vomit belch.

As we noted a couple of issues back, Ostrander instantly made us feel for Windfall during a single page scene of dialogue with the Squad’s shrink as she explained how she tried to go straight and go to school but she ended up wanted for multiple murder when she used her powers to kill the frat boys who legally got away with drugging and gang-raping her.

That one scene gave this obscure character feeling and personality and it made us really invested in her getting through the mission alive to redeem herself. Alas, it was not to be. Damn you Mr. Ostrander and Bravo.

On the other hand, we were never so happy to see someone get shot than Cliff Carmichael, although we were slightly amused that Amanda Waller was saddened at the passing of her pet sociopath.

Cliff Carmichael was Ronnie Raymond’s high school nemesis in the pages of Firestorm when he was created by Gerry Conway. When John Ostrander took over Firestorm, Cliff went from brainy bully to full blown nut job—then he became the new Thinker in the pages of the original Squad.

He’s been in limbo in the years since the end of the first Suicide Squad series but we really could never stand the bastard but we’re just sorry King Faraday couldn’t shoot him again and again.

This issue wraps up with the Squad in their usual position—behind the eight-ball. Next issue finishes the eight-issue mini series but we hope that DC green lights a new ongoing Squad series by Ostrander with this amazing art team.

Hands down this is the smartest, best put together book in the DC Comics line up today.

Batman Confidential #14

The Upshot From DC Comics: The secret of the Wrath's return is revealed as he demonstrates just how much he knows about Bruce Wayne's life — and his parents' deaths!

Writer Tony Bedard is so far successfully walking the fine line between respecting Mike W. Barr’s classic original story from Batman Special #1 (1984) while crafting his own tale.

As it turns out, this Wrath is NOT the Dark Knight’s original “opposite number” but his apprentice who has assumed the costume and identity of his master. The reader discovers this to be the case because Wrath 2.0 is narrating the story while Batman figures it out through his opponent’s fighting ability—he younger and “frankly better” than the original.

The pacing of this four-part story is just right. We learn just enough about the “Wrath Child” to keep us interested and we know that Batman does NOT know why the original Wrath wanted Jim Gordon dead.

Readers of the Batman Special know the significance of June 26—both to Batman and to Jim Gordon but it’s fun to watch Batman get all turned around trying to figure it out and lean on his old friend Gordon.

Yet Bedard does exactly what we were afraid of when he introduced Nightwing into this sequel story last issue and we’re annoyed—Nightwing the Boy Hostage.

As Wrath 2.0 hot foots it away from Batman, Nightwing appears on the scene with a gimmicky glue gun intended to stop this uber bad guy yet he makes the cockiest, dumbest uncharacteristic mistake which serves to make Nightwing look stupid and forces Batman to abandon pursuit to rescue his former partner.

Come on Bedard! The character is smarter than that. You couldn’t figure out a way to let Wrath get away without playing Nightwing the fool????????????????

Meanwhile the art by Rags was not quite as sharp as we’ve been used to and we realize that the inks by Mark Farmer, while serviceable, are not quite up to par. Furthermore, we realize by his absence just how much Rags Morales’ regular inking partner Michael Bair brings to the table in their collaboration.

Green Lantern Corps #22

The Upshot From DC Comics: The jaw-dropping ending to "The Curse of the Alpha-Lantern"! Last issue, the Alpha-Lantern Boodikka uncovered secrets from her past that she believed long buried. Now she wishes they were, as her fight for survival continues! Will the Green Lantern of sector 1414 come to her aide? The look into the life of Alpha-Lantern Boodikka concludes in part two of "The Curse of the Alpha-Lantern"!

This story wasn’t actually as bad as we recall from reading part 1 last month. Sure it’s a fill-in story arc but we liked the focus on Green Lantern Boodikka.

We especially enjoyed how writer Sterling Gates revisits her tragic turn of events that started the day she tried and failed like so many other Green Lanterns to stop a Parallax infected Hal Jordan during the events of Emerald Twilight.

She became a “Lost Lantern” when Jordan took her power ring and her hand with it and she was believed to be dead.

As a newly commissioned Alpha Lantern, Boodikka has been dispatched to return to her Amazon home world and face her tribe sisters—one of whom has been selected as a rookie GL but has refused to answer the training call to Oa.

The space amazons want to keep the power ring and they have a long-standing grudge against B, whom they exiled when she answered the call of the Green Lantern Corps.

After a half decent battle, we learn that Alpha Lantern has the weaknesses of the Manhunters and can be taken out the same way—for a while at least.

In the end the Guardians partner Zale and Alpha Lantern Boodikka with Alpha serving as Zale’s power battery.

All in all, an amusing waste of time of a story but at least it is not a total throw away story as action that has occurred during these two issues will have lasting implications down the line.

But hurry back Peter Tomasi—we miss you. And please bring back Green Lantern Natu with you.

The Amazing Spider-Girl #18

The Upshot From Marvel Comics: “Betrayed!” Part 2 of 2 Circumstances compel Spider-Girl to join forces with the most unlikely ally of all--The Hobgoblin!

Frankly we were some what surprised and more than little relieved at how relatively simple our hero Miss Spidey got herself out of the pickle she was in at the end of last issue’s cliffhanger.

Luckily for her, the bad guys were so preoccupied with each other that they nearly forgot about the “guest of honor.”

It was also nice to see the Hobgoblin both get knocked on his mega-maniacal ass and it was nice to see him and the reader be reminded that he isn’t nearly the master criminal that he things he is—sure he’s dangerous but he’s not infallible. Especially when his ego is in play—which is just about all the time.

In true the enemy of my enemy thinking, Hobgoblin frees Spider-Girl and they fight their way out of the bad guys’ headquarters together.

One of the parts of Spider-Girl we have consistently enjoyed is seeing Peter Parker as a supporting character. When he calls May to check on her and realizes she is the middle of a fight, it’s only natural for him to consider getting out his old costume to help her.

However, he realizes that both he is past his prime and that it is the child not the parent who is now the web-slinger, the hero of the family—it’s up to her.

But we can’t help but think that he has to have a special appreciation for Mary Jane and for all she endured during his own web-swinging days.

So Miss Spidey escapes, kicks the bad girls arse, and her baby brother will hear again—AND she makes up with her boyfriend. A true happy ending—and we’re glad. Miss Spidey was due a break.

The Invincible Iron Man: The Many Armors of Iron Man (TPB)

The Upshot From Marvel Comics: Constantly revamping and improving his suits of armor through the years to meet new adversaries and environmental conditions, Tony Stark is a modern man of science and technology, yet also an Old World man of integrity and discipline. Now, journey into the past and relive comicdom’s greatest invention, Iron Man’s armors: the Space Armor, the Stealth Armor, the Deep Sea Armor and more! Collecting IRON MAN #47, #142-144, #152-153, #200 and #218.

In anticipation of this summer’s Iron Man motion picture Marvel Comics has re-issued this trade paperback to get newcomers up to speed. Good for the newbies. Better for we old farts who remember these issues lovely the first time around.

We were especially fond of the Space Armor arc of issues #142-144. It not only brought back great memories reading it as a kid but now reading it as a Grandpa FanBoyWonder we realize just how good….just how ahead of its time Iron Man under David Micheline and Bob Layton (as writer/inker/co-plotters) was.

They portrayed a sophisticated Tony Stark as a businessman, however benevolent, but a man who is used to getting is way and accustomed to the trappings of wealth and power.

In our estimate, Iron-Man as penciled by John Romita Jr. in concert with Bob Layton’s inks has never looked better than during their early 1980s run.

The reprint of Iron Man #200 featuring the debut of the Red and Silver armor by writer Denny O’Neil and artist Mark Bright was adequate and still an amusing read after all these years but it pales in comparison to the sheer creative firepower of Micheline and Layton.

For Iron Man newcomers who want a crash course on the Armored Avenger, we would recommend reading the Many Armors of Iron Man in concert with the Trade Paper Back Iron Man: Demon in the Bottle to read the very best of Iron Man.

Like (Stan the) Man said back in the day…. ‘nuff said.

Monday, March 17, 2008

FanBoyWonder’s Tales of the Windy City—Chicago’s Our Kind Of Town

Did you miss us? Well rest easy now because FanBoyWonder is back and we’re happy to report that the Windy City of Chicago is still there—right where we left it the last time we were there.

We hadn’t intended to go so long between postings but technical difficulties kept us from getting onto the Internet while we were away, so we felt like we spent the past week half blind.

Once again we were traveling for work—our third trip in five weeks. It was a heck of a time to be away as things have been breaking at both home and at work, so in one respect it was nice to get away but now we’re back and we’ve got some things to deal with.

Of our recent trips—to Orlando and to New Orleans and last week in Chicago—we must confess that there are much worse ways to spend a week than in the Windy City.

We lucked out with the weather last week—it was chilly for a couple of days but warm (for March) on others but in total we were blessedly spared the Chicago winter chill.

Chicago—which as every fanboy should know serves as the template to Gotham City in Batman Begins and the upcoming The Dark Knight—has become our favorite city to visit.

Chicago is an old city but not ancient—not in the same Colonial way that our native New England or even current world headquarters in Maryland feels.

We found that our lodging during our stay at the historic Palmer House Hilton Hotel to be....satisfactory. It’s not up to our usual standards of the Days Inn or the Super 8 but we made do.

Unlike our recent trip to New Orleans, we weren’t all that social, dining alone with no business dinners—but we enjoyed the solitude as we’ve had some heavy duty thinking to do.

However, we did make a point to try to dine at a couple local, non-chain eateries. For Lunch on Wednesday during some downtime we enjoyed pint or two of Guinness ® at the Elephant & Castle pub and restaurant on North Wabash Street.

The next night we enjoyed a nice Italian dinner at Pizannos Thanks to our waiter Sergio who recommended a really good Kansas beer whose name we can’t recall, as well as the extra-ordinary dish of spaghetti and meatballs. Good deal.

Following our Irish lunch on Wednesday we made our way to our favorite new comic book store in the Windy City—Graham Crackers in The Loop.

As an aside, kudos go to the Palmer House’s Concierge—FanBoyWonder fully expected to stump the hotel’s answer man when we asked where we could find the nearest comic book store.

Yet without missing a beat, he gave us a map and directed us to Graham Crackers. While at GC’s threw was so many goodies—tee-shirts, action figures and the like—but we had to limit our purchase by what we would be able to fit into our carry-on bag for the return trip home.

Yet we still managed to make a nice donation to the store. Our purchase included that weeks books—Suicide Squad #7, Batman Confidential #14, The Amazing Spider-Girl and Green Lantern Corps #22—a trade paper back—The Invincible Iron Man: The Many Armors of Iron Man as well as the most recent issue of Comics Buyers Guide for reading on the airplane ride home.

We’ll be reviewing those books presently as we get back to speed on our blogging. We also picked up just a little something (very little) for our best pal Kemosabe. Who loves ya baby!

Speaking of goodies, Grandpa FanBoyWonder couldn’t leave the Windy City without picking up something for the grandkids—Brianna the Girl Wonder and Baby T.J.

For Brianna we got her a lively pink Chicago tee-shirt. For T.J. being less than 6 months old made it a challenge. We finally opted to get him a Chicago Cubs jumper…but the size was 12 months. So by the time he’s a year old it will be the playoffs and with luck the Cubs will win the Pennant and make the World Series and he’ll be fashionably dressed for the occasion.

We got back on Friday and had to deal with more issues over the weekend. Today we were catching up after a week gone the office but we’re done traveling for a little while and we hope we can resume regular programming in the near future.
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