Saturday, January 17

Kill Bill Redux

Go-Go fever all over again.

This night we trooped down to Podium to watch Kill Bill Volume 1 on the big screen. As I expected, the whole gang loved the bloody fourth Tarantino film. I've had a VCD-quality bootleg for months now, but nothing beats seeing this samurai-yakuza-revenge-exploitation-anime-kungfu-opus unfold on the big screen. Nothing reeks of coolness in this movie more than O-ren Ishii's and her posse's entrance into the House of Blue Leaves, slow-mo. And of course, no character in this movie is cooler and damn finer than Chiaki Kuriyama's psychotic schoolgirl, Go Go Yubari.

Gonna get the action figures when they come out. Gonna get the DVD. Might get the soundtrack. I'll be looking forward to Volume 2. I really wonder how they're gonna top this one though...

Friday, January 16

Hit List Complete

It's over. The list of art and story contributors for K.I.A. is filled up. We've got a wonderful, ecclectic mix of art styles, ranging from manga-influenced styles to indie bents to all-Pinoy art goodness in our buffet of a book. More than ten stories full of action, suspense, intrigue, martial arts, death-defying feats and a bikini-clad heroine who just won't quit. The scripts are cool, the artists are marvelous, and we're shooting for a pocket-sized release that's heavy on the content.

Just like Agent K herself, the K.I.A. anthology will be small but pack a KILLER kick. That is, if everything goes according to plan.

The preparations are done. Now, it's time to start doing the pages. GO, GO, GO!!!

Just brought home the two-volume compilation of Batman: Hush, and I have to say I am blown away, speechless at the marvelous art before me. DAAAAMN. Jim Lee's art is simply breathtaking here, in probably one of the most impressive depictions of Gotham City and the cast of heroes and villains within. The story is probably a doozy, as well, and I plan on savouring this 12-chapter masterpiece soon. A thing of beauty.
Also got the first three issues of Aspen, which continues the adventures of Michael Turner's surfer babe heroine from Fathom. It's got babes in skimpy swimsuits and aqua-armor, weird sea beasties, water, water and more water. Cool. Makes me really look forward to seeing Turner's run on Superman/Batman later this year.

Thursday, January 15

Comic Talk

I've been on a comic-buying spree lately. Just picked up the latest issue of Fallen Angel, the first issue of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and my staple anime mag, Protoculture Addicts.

Fallen Angel really isn't something I'd normally think to pick up, but I guess I'm really a sucker for babe books, and FA's dark heroine is one sexy and dangerous femme fatale (And I love them bad).
Lee aka The Fallen Angel is a mysterious, hooded and cloaked female vigilante/enforcer/bounty hunter in the crime-infested, seedy city of Bete Noir. For reasons yet unknown, she's got superhuman strength and toughness (a hard guy in an early issue likened hitting her to 'punching concrete') and amazing gymnastic ability, letting her prowl the rooftops of the city on her mostly-bare feet like a cat. Oh, and she apparently has some lethal psychic powers which can apparently let her turn people inside-out. Hint: Don't get her mad. The art, by David Lopez (pencils) and Fernando Blanco is consistent and matches the mature and gritty storyline perfectly. Aside from Blade of the Immortal and Street Fighter, this is one of the few titles I really make a point to get every month.

Haven't gotten into Kiss Kiss Bang Bang yet; all I know is that it's about retro spy action, and it's got sexy babes and Adolf Hitler.

I haven't yet gotten deep into these new acquisitions, but I'm gonna get myself the collected editions of Batman: Hush and Michael Turner's Aspen tomorrow. Lots of comic goodness to imbibe, absorb and put to good use, percolating in the gray matter. Aaah.

Tuesday, January 13

Gaming Picks

Got a copy of the Hyper Street Fighter Collection PS2 game. It's an interesting collage disc which brings together the original Street Fighter II and all it's variants- Champion and Turbo/Hyper Editions, as well as the Super Street Fighter II games that introduced the beret-wearing, leotard-clad Cammy, among others. Interestingly enough, you can play versions of the various fighters against their personas from other SF2 games. As far as I can tell, it just shows off the progression of the character sprites and art most of all.
A surprise treat in store in the disc is the entire Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie anime, which you can view in the Gallery Section. Unfortunately for those wanting to see Chun Li's gratuitous shower scene, it's been edited discreetly. Heh.
A nice momento for hardcore Street Fighter fans. For me though, I'd ask for Street Fighter 4. Or at least another Street Fighter 3 game. I want my Ibuki back in action! Argh. Makes me glad I own a Dreamcast.

Some other recent game picks; Biohazard: Outbreak for PS2 is an online game that lets players take the role of various individuals trapped in a zombie-infested city. Choose a security guard and you can fight unarmed better. The waitress can carry more stuff. The doctor can heal people. The reporter is usually ignored by zombies (Eh?) and so on. There's actually an offline game, but it's really meant to be played with flesh-and-blood people.

Kunoichi is the sequel to last year's hit ninja action game, Shinobi. This time, instead of a macho ninja, players control a sexy, long-legged female shadow warrior named Hibana. Once again, evil forces threaten the populace, so our heroine must traverse various urban environments, fight hordes of weird creatures and take on mammoth hardware to reach her goal. Like before, killing groups of enemies in chains will lead to a cool and pretty bloody end animation. Kunoichi will be renamed Nightshade in the US, and is far more playable (read: easier) than it's prequel.

I'm still waiting of course for Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive Online for Xbox, both of which are due for release in Japan this first quarter. I'll be scoping out the dvd shelves this weekend for some new picks to slip into the appropriate slots. Later then.


The latest issue of Questor Extreme is now available.

I just picked up the latest issue of Questor Extreme Mangamania. Checked out the stories, and here are my thoughts.
Free Spirits (Written by Benedict Bartolome, art by Vincent Bernales), the shoujo-romance tale with supernatural flavor, continues with this episode finally revealing information about those two ghosts who have been appearing to two of the visiting teens. As before, the art is clean but a little bit more 'libog', or oomph could have helped. There was a scene in it where the gardener and the cook seemed to be harassing the poor, shy maid and it kinda looked... wrong. Oh well. Still feel this story has way too many characters and the fact that most of them look the same doesn't help. Aaah... just not my type. Heh.
Cante Ista (Story by David Hontiveros, art by Peter Edric Go) once again mystifies me with even MORE pages of full prose. I guess the story just was too long to tell in panels so they just went and made this comic a pseudo novel. Again, I just can't get into this one, with Native American gobbledy-goo, werebears, ancient evil and... two guys kissing. Not for me. Still, the art's the best in the bunch.
Sidesweepers (Story by Bebert Lacuna, art by Roland Amago) yet again continues with the confusing layouts and washed-out art, a rather aimless non-story, a cast of characters that after seven issues I STILL can't remember any of, and a plot that STILL doesn't make any sense. Moving on...

Finally, Camp Big Five (Story by Benedict Bartolome, art by Franklin Quano) reveals the identities of the Secret Alliance that seem to be the villains of the story. These include a wheelchair-bound woman named Tatiana Karlova, a grim-faced human general named Laers Kraeg (probably joined to avenge the death of his girlfriend, Shmi), a Boazanian kid named Louis (DUKE LOUIS JEAGER IV!!!) who's a whiz with mutation machines and cloning, and of course... Mark Gordon (NOOO!!!), former Volt Team member and pilot of the Voltez Bomber.
The motivation and goals of this group is, of course, mostly anti-Boazanian, though they don't seem to have any qualms against killing the odd human who gets in their way. Karlova seems to be the one in charge; Kraeg is simple muscle, Jeager is the tech-head while Mark is a traitorous mole, striking at the Volt Team from the inside.

Not bad, but I would have wished that leading up to this latest issue we could have had more meat and depth to these baddies. I mean, the original cast of villains in Voltez-V were a colorful, interesting lot. Prince Zardoz had the charisma and the arrogant air of command. Zandra was the fawning but lethal mistress of beast fighters. Zul was the ill-favored, scheming and poisonous henchman (part Gollum, part Wormtongue... what a mix), while Draco provided brute force (and DAMN he was strong- remember how he threw around Jamie the superninja?). Compared to them, these new villains pale in comparison, which is understandable. But I wish more effort and thought had been put into their creation.
For example, General Kraeg, who first appears to glower at a spying Jamie Robinson, does nothing but look grim and dour and then run off with his tail between his legs when Steve drives in. It would have been cool perhaps to have him personally get the drop on Jamie during that time- perhaps he was a comrade of Jamie's late father and is a master ninja himself. The new mutant boazanian soldiers are also just given a passing and inadequate disclaimer that 'they're stronger than before'. Just a little bit more and these guys would have been all that more formidable and interesting.
Tatiana, the crippled pact leader, may be a former flame of Doctor Armstrong, spurned in favor of Steve, Big Bert and Little Jon's mother. Perhaps a connection will make her part in this even more heartfelt- and dangerous. And then there's little Louis, who seems to be a Boazanian little Jon in the making. He's actually the best portrayed of the baddies so far- a spoiled little genius never fails.
As for Mark Gordon- turning traitor just because he got into gambling debt? If he doesn't eventually turn out to be a double agent, I will be surprised.

I have to say that with all this, the focus is STILL mostly on the old Volt team, with the new pilots and the overly-large scholastic community at the new Camp Big Falcon being just gravy. Again, too many characters without focusing on those who should matter. Up to now, the stuff that made the original series great- big robot battles and intense drama- has been replaced with a generally bloodless and happy-happy sitcom status quo, beast fighters who are so insignificant they get killed off in flashback or retrospect, and a new cast of characters whom I haven't had reason to like or dislike after all this time.

As for the art, I still preferred the clean but cutesy art of earlier issues (which was too Gatekeeper-ish for a lot of people but I liked a lot), but suffice to say I am getting used to the present art. I just hope it pushes the envelope with every new issue.

That's that. I don't think I'll be able to continue reviewing this book without bias in a couple of issues, seeing as how I'll be eventually working with these people. Oh well, I'll enjoy the independence and right of a buyer while I can. Heh.

Questor Extreme Mangamania 7 is now available at bookstores and magazine stands, Php 100. Free Spirits cover art by Aldin Viray.

Sunday, January 11

Great Katch

A K.I.A. montage by Karen Cheung.

Here's a cool pinup artwork from Karen Cheung, AKA Katch. This otaku artist will also be doing the pages of an 8-page story entitled "Freedom", giving Agent K the benefit of her clean, solid lines of art. We can't wait to see what she'll be coming up with soon.

Remember what a martial arts wiz Ernie Reyes Jr. was years ago? This little girl could probably kick his arse easy.

Last night, I turned on the TV to ESPN and found myself watching a martial arts competition. But unlike the usual combat sports competition, this was all about forms and katas, techniques and looking good doing it. The first couple of female competitors were adults, and it was pretty boring actually- a couple of non-attractive women (okay, you really can't expect model-gorgoues martial artists, I know) YELLING (that's all part of the focus and intensity factors of martial arts, of course) and kicking and punching and waving their arms did not really look too great. But then came the KIDS, and I gaped.
Perhaps it's because of their lightness, or maybe they were just really good. But a couple of kids, notably a ten-year old girl (looking quite cute with her Chun-Li hairdo) were not only kicking and punching like martial arts masters, they were jumping and joing flipkicks, sweeps and strikes like lightning. They yelled, expelling their inner force and ki, lashing out with kicks and sticking them (doing a kick and holding the pose) perfectly. The little girl (who won) even did a cute, videogame-ish win pose at the end of her routine.


From how the commentators were talking, martial arts 'forms' competition is the next step in gymnastics, mixing the beauty and grace of martial arts with exhibition-style presentation. I hope it catches on... it's pretty awesome to see.
10 Things I love about Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is finally out in wide circulation here in Manila, and from the sold-out ticket booths and long, long lines I gather that a lot of people have finally seen this finale to the best movie trilogy yet. At the very least, the people in my inner circle have finally seen it. So now I can gush without fear of spoiling the experience for those who matter. Heh.

1. The Siege of Minas Tirith. The sight of a massive siege army covering a field like a festering plague is something else. 200,000 orcs, trolls, towers, catapults... My gosh. Never has an invasion been portrayed like this. 10,000 Uruk-Hai? Helm's Deep was a skirmish. THIS was the real battle.

2. Pelennor Fields. From Theoden's rousing call to arms to the supernaturally-themed slaughter of Mordor's minions, this is easily the finest fantasy battle yet put to screen.

3. The Rohirrim. Easily the coolest and best warriors in Middle Earth as far as I'm concerned. Led by the coolest king and a KICK-ASS princess. That massive charge that sent an enemy more than twenty times their number RUNNING with tails between their legs. That magnificent trademark Rohan theme music, their mad, suicidal, head-on collision with the Haradrim Mumakil... DAMN. These guys rock. Makes you wonder why they didn't have a Rohan member in the Fellowship earlier. Probably the whole LOTR story would have ended far earlier. Heh.

4. The Haradrim Mumakil. Terrifying and incredibly brought to life. Where in the world did Peter Jackson find these building-sized elephants? Special Effects? Oh.

5. Shelob. Imagine the furriest, creepiest, most evil and realistic-looking spider ever. Now, imagine it's as big as a freaking car. Now imagine it can move without a sound. Now imagine it's right. Over. Your. Head. My GOSH that's scary.

6. Samwise Gamgee. Who's the real hero of LOTR? This guy right here.

7. The long goodbye. Anyone who stands up to leave before the words 'The End' appear onscreen doesn't deserve to see this whole trilogy. Just get out and let the rest of us enjoy in bliss. My favorite phase, the coronation and the Mulan-like homage. Though Aragorn breaking out in song was kinda much. Heh.

8. Legolas' Super Stunt. After the good guys get kicked and pushed down so long in this film, it's great to finally kick back. And look great doing it. A guaranteed clapfest moment.

9. Eowyn. This girl's STRONG. How else can you hoist up a fully-armored hobbit with one hand, cripple a Mumak with one-handed blows, and KILL Sauron's most powerful servant? All that after she gets her heart broken, natch. You go, girl! WOOHOO!

10. The End Credits. Lovely, lovely artworks of a magnificent, perfect ensemble cast. My only gripe is the absence of Christopher Lee's Saruman and Brad Dourif's Grima. Hopefully the Extended Version DVDs will remedy that. Take a bow, people. You all just set a benchmark for fantasy, sci-fi and high action for the next several decades.

It's over. Well, at the very least we have the extended dvd set and more than four hours of ROTK to look forward to by the end of the year. And then it's just a matter of bringing out the movie to visit Middle Earth. But we'll miss the yearly pilgrimage to theaters. Oh well. It had to end someday.

Thanks, Peter Jackson, WETA and the cast of LOTR. Hopefully, their legacy will last into the Next Age and beyond, and that this great trilogy- no, 10+ hour epic, will be an inspiration for even better films to come.