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Sunday, July 25, 2010


It's that time again and this week we have a number of real doozies. First up is the intriguingly-titled GIRTH, WIND & FIRE, apparently an interracial concoction for the "double-penetration nation."

I don't know about you, but a title like that conjures up images of a guy with a really thick dick sitting around and setting light to his own farts.

MONSTERS OF COCK 24 is self-explanatory, but what got me about this one is the look on the woman's face as a huge black flopper perches on her shoulder.

(And just so we're clear on this, I censored the image in order to avoid this blog getting yanked down by the Thought Police for being a porn site.)

While I often rail against parody porno that doesn't even make an attempt at creativity with titling, I absolutely love straight-up porn that says "fuck coming up with a clever title" and gives us examples that simply tell it like is. For example:

Whose mom doesn't? In fact, I bet that's how you came to be here.

Here's a title that I cannot believe myself, John Bligh or Hughes didn't come up with first. Probably because it was so close, we couldn't see it.

Seriously, how did we miss coming up with CHARLIE'S ANALS? It's certainly juvenile enough to have sprung from our oh-so-sophisticated collective sense of humor. The same can be said of our next offering.

Then we get to this bit of outright weirdness:

Thankfully not involving M-80's lodged into a lady's good stuff, here's what this one's supposedly about:

Last year, we asked a team of German engineers to develop a pussy pump for women. After months of research, they produced a prototype called the KA-90.

We enlisted five beautiful porn stars as our test subjects, and blew up their pussies. Then we took it a step further and had horny studs lick and fuck them to test out their new elasticity.

The results will astonish you! In fact, we guarantee that you've never seen anything like this in your life!

I bet!

This one's here strictly for the title.

And as for this one, somehow I think the late Bob Fosse would have approved:

And what's with "Songs of Semen?" Is this a musical ode to population paste?

At first glance this next one doesn't look like much,

but check out this product description:

In a galaxy pretty darned far away, somewhere in the distant future Princess Hubba Hubba (Stromy) reins the Clitorian Star system peacefully along side her father King Gonad. On the other end of the spectrum, the Evil Overlord (Mike Horner) and the Dark Witch, (Devinn Lane) rule the Intergalactic Vertical Integration Amalgamated Conglomerate with which they use to their advantage to do their evil bidding. The Evil Overlord has a master plan though, to take over the Clitorian Star system, so that he can have the power of the entire galaxy in his hands. Small problem though, the only way he can take over the Clitorian Star system is to wed the beautiful Princess Hubba Hubba.

This next one takes a prize for an inevtiable title.

Throughout the years, the porn industry has certainly done its share in the name of race relations, and BANG THAT BLACK BITCH, WHITE BOY VOL. 5 continues that fine unity-minded tradition.

But, in closing, this TWILIGHT-based parody has a truly stupid classic of a tag line:

"When you can fuck forever, you can fuck everybody." There's a certain poetry to that one.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


One of the indelible cultural phenomenons during my growing-up years was the wildly popular PLANET OF THE APES movie series from 20th Century Fox. Folks of an age with Yer Bunche all remember just what a juggernaut it was in those pre-STAR WARS days and if I'm not mistaken, it was the first sci-fi series to really go insane with the merchandising (APES tchotchkes was everywhere). Taylor, Cornelius, Zira and Dr. Zaius were household names in much the same way that Luke Skywalker and friends would be a few years later, and even our parents were eager to see the next APES flick when it came out. NYC's local and lamented 4:30 MOVIE used to run PLANET OF THE APES Week to stellar ratings and great appreciation from the kiddies, and from those many viewings was born our love for these movies. Totaling five feature films and two TV series — one live action and the other (badly) animated — it seemed like nothing could stop the PLANET OF THE APES franchise. Nothing, that is, except for budgets that were drastically and visibly reduced with each succeeding installment, coupled with scripts that mostly had no chance of living up to the classic original. So let's hop in the Wayback Machine and take a look at what became a classic series, very much in spite of itself.

Oh, and while I'm willing to bet my left arm that the majority of you have already seen these films, probably many times, I think it's only fair to state that HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. If you have somehow missed it, get off your ass and rent PLANET OF THE APES (1968). It's a fucking classic for many very good reasons and is one of the films you need to see before you shuffle off this mortal coil. And in regard to some of the opinions you're about to read concerning these films, I sat through all of them in their entirety over the past ten days, so I come at them with the details fresh in my head (although a refresher was unnecessary in the case of all but the final film).

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

Not a bad design by any means, but I always found this a strange choice as the first-run theatrical poster for this film.

The original PLANET OF THE APES came from out of nowhere to establish itself as one of the great science-fiction films and is now so much a part of our cultural DNA that there are children still gestating in the womb who already know its plot twists. Loosely based on the 1963 novel LA PLANETE DES SINGES (trans. MONKEY PLANET or PLANET OF THE MONKEYS, depending on who you ask) by French author Pierre Boulle (who also wrote THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI) and re-tooled with an intelligent and sardonic script by TWILIGHT ZONE wunderkind Rod Serling, the film details the sorry fate of a crew of astronauts whose faster-than-light spacecraft accidentally passes through a time warp and crashlands on an unknown world while the crew is in suspended animation. According to what was glimpsed on their instrument panel before their ship sinks, the year is 3978 A.D., meaning our heroes have traveled approximately 2000-plus years into the future. With the sole female member of the team dead due to a malfunction of her sleep tube, the three remaining astronauts wander the planet's barren expanses for lack of any better option. The mission's captain, Taylor (Charlton Heston, in full-on gritted teeth mode), is a cynical sort and a thinker who left for the stars out of a hope that somewhere out there there would be something better than man, while the remaining two astronauts are simply rather non-descript crew members. In short order we witness the astronauts discovering a group of primitive, mute humans who steal most of their clothes, after which the humans are flushed out by unseen hunters on horseback. When revealed, the hunters turn out to be talking man-sized gorillas in leather armor, merrily netting the humans or shooting them dead with rifles. The astronauts get separated and Taylor is shot in the throat, eventually ending up in the lab of Zira (Kim Hunter, aka Stella from A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE), a chimpanzee psychiatrist and vivisectionist who specializes in the comparative anatomy of humans and apes.

Taylor, Cornelius and Zira: one of the great trios in science-fiction cinema. I could listen to them converse for hours.

Put in a cage with a tasty piece of primitive local eye-candy dubbed "Nova" (Linda Harrison, who played Wonder Woman in a 1960's TV pilot that thankfully went nowhere), Taylor, mute himself thanks to his throat wound, gets to know Zira , who swiftly twigs to Taylor's obvious intelligence and soon learns that he can express himself through writing. Keeping Taylor's ability to communicate secret from all but her archaeologist husband, Cornelius (my man Roddy McDowall! Show some love!!!), Zira gets to know Taylor and is fascinated by him. But her investigations into Taylor's origins are halted by Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans, aka Samantha's dad on BEWITCHED), the duly appointed Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith (two positions wildly at odds with one another if you ask me, which I'm guessing was the point) who senses something about Taylor being not quite as is usual for their world's humans, so he orders Taylor gelded.

Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans): villain or hero? When all is revealed, that question is very much open for debate, depending on one's point of view...

Upon getting that piece of news, Taylor escapes and runs amok in Ape City, much to the horror of the residents, and discovers one of his fellow astronauts stuffed in the local museum (complete with glass eyes, and the remaining astronaut is later revealed to have been lobotomized). During his brutal re-capture, Taylor's throat is jostled to the point where he can once more speak, and he utters the famous "Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!" line. Think about that one for a moment: not only is it shocking enough that a supposedly dumb animal can speak, he also very effectively curses out his tormentors. That would seriously fuck you up if you witnessed that, and it's my favorite moment in the entire completely excellent movie.

Once the cat's out of the bag about Taylor, things take a rapid downward spiral and we go along with him as he once more escapes (with help from Cornelius and Zira) and makes his way to the Forbidden Zone, an archaeological dig that Cornelius had worked the previous year and where he discovered many truths that got him in trouble with his government. The artifacts Cornelius found deliver concrete proof of an intelligent human civilization that predated ape society and Dr.Zaius reveals that he knew this all along; his villainous actions were motivated by the desire to keep his people blissfully ignorant of the planet's true history. As Cornelius and Zira prepare to face trial for scientific and religious heresy, Taylor and Nova ride away on a horse into the unknown for what could be days, only to discover that Taylor's been on Earth all along — the apes speaking and reading perfect colloquial English should have been his first clue, but I'll let that slide — and that the devastation of the planet was due to a man-caused nuclear war. The film's final image of Taylor pretty much having a nervous breakdown when he sees the half-buried and kinda-melted Statue of Liberty has gone down as a pop culture landmark and is so well known that it's been referenced and parodied innumerable times since 1968.

One of the biggest downer endings in cinema history.

Everything about PLANET OF THE APES is a solid winner and the film deserves its lofty place in the annals of sci-fi cinema. Rod Serling's influence on the story is palpable and lends the proceedings the feel of a long-form episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, especially when it comes to the film's none-too-subtle allegorical content. The script touches on issues of religion, racism, animal rights, you name it, and thankfully the long form allows its ideas time to be fleshed out in a way that the half-hour seasons of THE TWILIGHT ZONE never had. All of the performances are outstanding and the level of the actors' commitment is such that the events of the potentially ludicrous story are only funny when they're meant to be, although I personally find uber -hot post-apocalyptic babe Nova to be hilarious due to her being so impossibly toothsome after a lifetime of foraging in the dirt like the animal she is and possibly flinging her own feces at her enemies.

Linda Harrison as Nova: proof that there is an upside to the post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Also of note is Jerry Goldsmith's terrific and sometimes bizarre score. I've always thought it was one of the most distinct I've ever heard and every time I see the film I swear I hear something new in the score.

The makeup effects of John Chambers for the apes are classic stuff and revolutionary for their time, so much so that Chambers won the first Oscar awarded for excellence in makeup effects. Each of the three ape types, chimpanzee, gorilla and orangutan, are fully expressive and the prosthetics don't get in the way of the actors' performances one bit.

Bottom line: if you only see one PLANET OF THE APES film, the original is all you'll ever need and you will not be disappointed. The same, unfortunately, cannot necessarily be said for some of its sequels.

BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970) Directed by Ted Post and Arthur P. Jacobs (uncredited)

The second APES film was inevitable thanks to the original's box office performance, but this time around there was a noticeable cutback on the budget and the ape makeup suffered somewhat as a consequence. Also, Charlton Heston was not keen on reprising the role of Taylor, but he agreed to do it on the provision that the character be killed at the end so he couldn't possibly dragged back for another round.

BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES conveniently has a another astronaut, the boring Brent (James Franciscus), go through another time warp and end up almost exactly where the first batch of astronauts found themselves, and upon arrival he encounters Nova, who is wearing Taylor's dog tag. But where is Taylor? Brent is led to Ape City by Nova and once more we find ourselves dealing with Cornelius (played in this outing by David Watson, who conveys little of Roddy McDowell's charm),Zira and Dr. Zaius, with militaristic asshole gorilla General Ursus (James Gregory) added to the mix. Ursus wants to invade the Forbidden Zone and use it for a variety of reasons that make little or no sense, much to the very vocal objections of Dr.Zaius , and so a gaggle of Gorillas is soon deployed into the wastes. Brent has already made his way into the Forbidden Zone and it is at this when point the film comes to life.

Even in the future, man still worships the bomb.

Once below ground, Brent discovers a civilization of telepathic mutants who have formed a religion around a still-working "Omega" bomb, a thermo -nuclear device powerful enough to incinerate the entire world. He also finds Taylor, now a prisoner of the mutants. As the forces of the Apes enter the city and clash with the mutants, Taylor and Brent escape and join in the melee, but both are mortally wounded. As Taylor's life comes to a pitiful end, his hand lands on the bomb's activator and the world perishes in the ultimate nuclear orgasm (which we are told about in narration but not shown, presumably to spare effects costs, but I find the ending more effective with its fade to black).

BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES has some interesting ideas but they don't really come to the fore until the film's final third, by which time we've endured enough TV movie-level mediocrity to half lull us into a torpor. The mutants and their culture are fascinating but they're a case of too little too late, and the presence of Taylor is also too small to have much effect other than giving the viewer hope for a better script (and human protagonist) that does not come. In my opinion, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES is a frustrating study in "Sequelitis" that gives the audience more of the same while somehow coming up with less to engage the audience. This one gets my vote as the second worst in the series, despite the mutants.

ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971) Directed by Don Taylor and Arthur P. Jacobs (uncredited)

Considering how the world was destroyed in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, exactly how the fuck do you continue the series from that point? Easy! Since time travel was the MacGuffin that allowed allow this mishegoss to happen in the first place, who's to say that some one couldn't travel backwards in time? Well, that's exactly what happens in this one and if you can swallow genius chimpanzee Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo) salvaging Taylor's sunken spaceship, figuring out how it works, and enlisting Cornelius (thankfully played once more by Roddy McDowell) and Zira to take it for a test drive, then you'll have no problem with them turning up on the Pacific Coast of America in 1972.

Cornelius, Zira and Dr. Milo: strange visitors from another (?) planet.

Taken into custody by the government and held at the Los Angeles Zoo, the simian trio opt not to reveal their intelligence and find themselves in the care of kindly behavioral scientists Lewis (Bradford Dillman) and Stephanie (Natalie Trundy), aka "Stevie." Their ruse does not last long as Zira loses patience with being treated like a dumb animal and, needless to say, their observers practically shit a Humvee when they hear them speak and immediately twig to the fact that the apes are not only intelligent, but downright brilliant. Unfortunately, Milo is killed by an agitated gorilla in a neighboring cage, leaving Cornelius and Zira to defend themselves, while chained, to a tribunal of government, military and religious figures. Once freed, thanks to their considerable charm and eloquence, the chimpanzee scientists become media darlings and are given a swanky apartment and whisked on a whirlwind tour of 20th century American culture in all of its frivolity and horror.

Cornelius: media darling.

But the good times are short-lived as statements made by the apes during their hearing arouse the suspicions of the reptilian Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden, in a chilling performance), a government-connected futurist who believes the apes to be a threat to the human race. Hasslein's paranoia escalates when Zira announces she's pregnant, so Hasslein gets her drunk and doses her with sodium pentathol, making sure to record all she says in answer to his questions. Zira's revalations are shocking, to say the least, as she outlines man's eventual fall into mute animalistic savagery, a state brought about by apes becoming sentient, developing the power of speech, and violently overthrowing humans worldwide. Armed with such damning evidence, Hasslein rallies the government to have Zira's pregnancy terminated and both she and Cornelius sterilized, but upon finding out his plans the couple escapes from the zoo with the aid of Lewis and Stevie, just as Zira goes into labor. Unfortunately, Cornelius accidentally kills an orderly during the escape, so now the authorities have an excuse to shoot him and Zira on sight. Brought to the traveling circus of the totally sympathetic Armando (Ricardo Montalban), Zira gives birth and names her baby Milo in honor of her dead friend, after which the ape family once more takes flight. It all ends in heart-wrenching tragedy as the couple take refuge on a rusting derelict ship at the local docks, only to be mercilessly blown away by Hasslein and a small army of heavily-armed police. As the dying Zira dumps her baby's corpse into the water, Cornelius shoots and kills Hasslein, only to meet his own horrid end in a hail of gunfire. Zira crawls to her husband's body and expires atop his stone-dead carcass, leaving the authorities to believe it's all over. But, unbeknownst to the government, Zira, with the aid of the kind circus owner, switched her newborn with that of one of Armando's chimps, so the line of super-intelligent apes lives on. The final shot of the baby chimp plaintively repeating "Mama" over and over will tear your heart out and grind it into the dirt with a hobnailed boot heel.

A big departure from the previous films, largely due to further budget cuts, ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES eschews all of the previous films' fantastic visual elements except for the talking apes, and as a result the film revels in character. We may have liked Cornelius and Zira from the get-go, but by the time this film is over we have gotten to know and care about them as people (be they apes or not) and as a result we adore them and want to see them somehow overcome odds that are impossible for them to surmount. Theirs is a touching and heartfelt relationship that you cannot help but get caught up in if you have anything resembling a heart, so when the inevitable happens it's just devastating. It is that deep emotional resonance that made this my favorite of the sequels during my youth, but with age comes wisdom and opinions can change...

CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972) Directed by J. Lee Thompson

Continuing the history of the ape-dominated future's origins, CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is by far the darkest and most bitter film in the series, which is only appropriate since it is an allegory about slavery and what happens when the enslaved finally get it together and say "Fuck this shit."

In 1983, a plague wipes out all of the planet's cats and dogs (as first described by Cornelius in the previous film and leading one to imagine how the world's rat population must have consequently boomed) so of course mankind, unable to live without its pets, decides it would be a good idea to domesticate apes, specifically chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. No explanation is given as to how the apes develop to human-size, but these man-scale simians are soon trained to do household chores and are met with brutal punishment if they blunder or fail in their appointed tasks. By the time CONQUEST starts, it is 1991 and those pet apes are in practically every household, acting as slave labor for their human masters. In the midst of all this, Zira and Cornelius' son, Milo, renamed Caesar (Roddy McDowell, rocking a far more intense ape persona than one would expect), has grown to adulthood and performs as a bareback rider under the sheltering care of kindly circus-owner Armando (a returning Ricardo Montalban), forced to hide his great intelligence and ability to very eloquently speak, as well as being degradingly led around on a chain leash as is common for his species.

Armando (Ricardo Montalban) and the ticking time bomb that is Caesar (Roddy McDowell).

There is much love and respect between Caesar and Armando and for all intents and purposes their relationship is that of father and son, but Caesar must be forever vigilant in keeping up a front of docile obtuseness or else face execution, a state that understandably eats at him like vitriol.

During a circus tour stop in an unnamed major North American city, Caesar finally snaps upon seeing an ape getting beaten and drugged by Nazi-like human enforcers. Blowing his cover by loudly shouting "Lousy human bastards," Caesar comes to the attention of the authorities and local government, but Armando claims it was he who screamed the damning epithet. Knowing watchful eyes are upon them, Armando hides Caesar among a group of newly arrived orangutans from Borneo while he goes to the authorities in an attempt to lie his (and Caesar's) way out of trouble. What Armando didn't plan on was Caesar being trained for slavery, where the innocent chimpanzee beholds all manner of torture, er, "conditioning" (that includes beatings, cranial electro-shock and flame-throwers) which only serves to further offend the intelligent ape and harden his heart against man...

While Caesar endures his unwilling indoctrination and comes to understand cruelty firsthand, Armando is gruelingly interrogated by government officials, led by the sadistic Inspector Kolp (Severn Darden). About to be subjected to a machine that would force him to tell the truth and realizing there's no other way out, Armando throws himself out of the interrogation building's window and plummets to his death. Caesar, meanwhile, is sold into slavery and ends up in the home of Governor Breck (Don Murray), where he is handed an encyclopedia volume and allowed to page through the book in order to provide a name for himself, an activity considered amusing and cute by the Governor. Apparently well-read, Caesar seems to randomly flick through the book, finally indicating his own name in the text (good thing he was handed the "C" volume), with a mildly disturbed Breck noting that he's chosen the name of a king. Also citing Caesar's intelligence and seeming docility, Breck puts the ape to work within the local government's main building under the supervision of MacDonald (Hari Rhodes), Breck's right-hand man and a black dude who sympathizes with the apes, recognizing and being appalled by their obvious state of slavery.

Upon learning of Armando's horrible end and being devastated by the loss of his beloved foster parent, Caesar's hatred of man fully ignites and he begins teaching his brethren the basics of revolutionary thought and tactics.

Caesar gets serious.

His status as an anomaly comes to light when the shipment he was in draws suspicion because there are no chimps in Borneo, so Caesar is immediately placed at the top of the Most Wanted list and sanctioned for execution. Though allowed to escape by MacDonald, Caesar is soon apprehended and put though cruel electro-shock torture to make him talk, which he unfortunately does. Having concrete proof of his identity, Breck orders him to be shocked to death, but MacDonald turns off the power to the shock table, allowing Caesar to convingcingly fake his death and once more escape. Once more on the loose, Caesar wastes no time and he organizes the already disgruntled apes of the city into a brutal throng of retribution. Taking over the city by violent overthrow, Caesar declares that this is but the first strike against the reign of man and thus sets in motion the downfall of human civilization and the rise of what would become the Planet of the Apes.

While most of the APES series in some way provide commentary on various issues as veiled within a sci-fi context, most of them were quite heavy-handed and groan-inducing with the handling of the allegorical material, but not so with CONQUEST. It's obviously a commentary on the evil of slavery, with Caesar as an anthropoidal Nat Turner, and the allegorical thrust could not be made any more clear if one replaces the word "ape" in the script with "nigger." Despite the film's budget yet again being lowered (with the majority of the ape makeup looking to be pullover masks), CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is very strong meat and now that I've seen it again a few times from an adult perspective, I find it to be hands down the best and most intense of the sequels.

A major point of interest among the many found in this film is that its events call into question the statements about the rise of the apes that were made by Cornelius and Zira in the previous film. In ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, the chimp scientists state that the revolution was started somewhere around what we would reckon as the year 2100 by an ape named Aldo. It is also noted that between the year when the plague wiped out all the dogs and cats and the time of Aldo's revolution, the apes who became pets/slaves had a couple of centuries to physically and mentally develop to near what they became by the time of the first film. It them took another three centuries or so after Aldo's revolution for the new status quo to be firmly established, with no explanation for mankind's descent to a state of mute animalism. So with all of those historical notes and what is seen in CONQUEST, it may be construed that the history known to Cornelius and Zira is full of either significant gaps or outright apocrypha accepted as fact in their time. Just a wee something to think about.

The Blue-Ray release of CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES includes the more violent director's cut version which ends with zero show of compassion from Caesar, which is the polar opposite of how the theatrically released version ends. I always found his sudden softening of his stance to be a total fucking cop-out, but the darker, more violent version was apparently toned down by the studio and the more familiar and "safe" ending tacked on. I don't own a Blue-Ray player, but I will pick up that version of the disc and invite myself over to the house of a pal with one and someday see this version for myself.

BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973) Directed by J. Lee Thompson and Arthur P. Jacobs (uncredited)

Having simultaneously twigged to the facts that kids really dug the APES movies and that the series had more or less come full circle and reached a creative dead end, Fox once again slashed the budget and cranked out one last APES film, only with all of the heavy elements dumbed down or excised to create a straight-up kiddie film.

Opening with an expository prologue delivered by the Lawgiver (John Huston in orangutan makeup) some 600 years after Caesar's death, the story proper takes place twelve years after the events of the previous film and finds Caesar leading an agrarian community of both apes and humans. While dim-witted, power-hungry, human-hating gorilla General Aldo (a pre-SHERIFF LOBO Claude Akins) plots to overthrow Caesar, the ape leader sets off to the irradiated "dead city" in order to view videotpaes of his dead parents that reveal the ultimate fate of the world, tapes he was alerted to by MacDonald (Austin Stoker), his human adviser and brother to the character from the previous film. (No explanation is given as to the fate of the original MacDonald but I bet he was killed during the revolution, sympathetic to the cause or not.)

Caesar (Roddy McDowell), MacDonald (Austin Stoker) and Virgil (Paul Williams).

Taking MacDonald and the brilliant orangutan scholar Virgil (composer Paul Williams) with him, Caesar views the tapes, but the presence of his party is detected by the resident radioactive mutnats, the ancestors of the bomb-worshippers from BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, led by Inspector Kulp (a returning Severn Darden), who was surprisingly not executed during the revolution.

Our heroes arrive in the dead city.

Barely escaping from the mutants, the trio returns to Ape City — which looks more like it should be called "Ape Commune" or "Ape Dude Ranch" — and alerts the populace to the possibilty that the mutants, now aware of their existence, may soon come a-knockin'. As Ceasar ponders that inevitabilty and the mutants mobilize a low-budget assault force of beat-up jeeps, convertibles and school buses, Aldo and his equally-rockheaded gorilla soldiers secretly meet and, with Aldo as the agitator, decide to steal all the weapons from the city's armory and "smash" both the humans and Caesar. This plan is overheard by Cornelius (Bobby Porter), Caesar's young son who was obviously named after the beloved character so cruelly murder two films previous, and so the poor kid is killed by Aldo in direct violation of their society's most sacred law, namely that "Ape shall never kill Ape." MacDonald discovers evidence that the child's death was not an accident and brings his discovery to the attention Virgil, but before anything can be done about it, the radiation-sick mutants pretty much figure, "What the fuck? We're gonna die anyway, so let's take those hairy fucks with us!" and engage the apes in all-out combat. The gorillas, having commandeered the city's guns and such, and the rest of the apes kick much ass ("Now, fight like apes!!!") and rout the mutants, after which Caesar is made aware that his son's death was actually murder, leading to an unexciting to-the-death showdown between the ape king and Aldo in the branches of the tree from which young Cornelius was forced to fall. When all is said and done, Caesar remains king and his integrated ape/human community lives on, while the remaining mutants return to their underground city and establish the cult of the bomb in order to prevent its use and the consequent total destruction of the world.

And from there, there really wasn't anything more to tell, so the film series fizzled out and it would be another two years before Ape-mania finally gave up the ghost with the horrible animated series (1974) and the turgid live action TV series that lasted for a mere fourteen episodes in 1975.

The nadir of Ape-Mania: the 1974 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float, with a musical number!

Come to think of it, around the same time there was a ridiculous APES-based float in the 1974 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, complete with actors in ape costumes and bored-looking local kids in shabby "human" getups that resembled minstrel show leftovers, accompanied by a truly awful song that went something like this:

The is a planet of the aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapes
Where evolution changed its plaaaaaaaaaan

Yeah, if that wasn't the clear death knell of the franchise, then I don't know what was. Even at the age of nine, I found this embarrassing and knew the tit had run dry. For more on this affront to common decency, including an MP3 of the heinous sing in question (track 13), click here.

Thanks to its dumbed-down kiddie movie flavor, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES can easily be considered the weakest of the lot; it's not flat-out terrible, but considering what came before, it's pretty feeble and its cheapness makes it look and feel like a made-for-TV movie. The re-purposing as kiddie fare gave us a Caesar who was no longer the righteous and violent revolutionary firebrand of CONQUEST and his persona is only slightly less warm than Cornelius as seen in the first three films. He is now a family man, married to Lisa (Natalie Trundy), a minor character first seen in the previous film, and his little community/commune/dude ranch has the aspect of something out of a late-1960's naive stoner fantasy in which man and the animal kingdom live in vegetarian harmony (the humans are forced to cease eating meat). The characters are nearly all the most basic of cardboard cutouts, with little or no shading to their characters, and General Aldo in particular is a laughably lazy piece of character writing. While the gorillas had previously been written as the ape society's military bully boys, they at least had motivations that displayed levels of intelligence. Aldo is portrayed as nothing more than an empty-headed jock-type who has virtually no capacity for sensible thought, and as such he amounts to no more than a rote "baddie," little different than what the kiddie audience knows from the daily arena that is the schoolyard.

I saw this film when it came out and even then I had already seen the previous films and enjoyed how they took a concept that could easily have been laughable and infused it with intelligence and (ironically) humanity, but even at the age of eight I could see what had been done with BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES and as a smart kid I felt it was an insult not only to my intelligence, but also to the intelligence of children everywhere.

When it came to the self-proclaimed "most incredible showdown ever filmed," the battle itself looks exactly like what any kid could have accomplished in his backyard in the '70's with an assortment of G.I. Joes ("With life-like hair!"), some random PLANET OF THE APES dolls and disparate toy vehicles that the figures could fit into. I would not have been surprised in the least to have seen the filmmakers stick a handful of mutants into the Partridge Family's Mondrian-looking school bus, or even a replica of the 1960's Batmobile crafted in someone's driveway from fiberglass, chickenwire and Bondo. So pathetic is this melee that it is only slightly better than the reenactment of the Bay of Pigs invasion in the Coleman Francis "epic" RED ZONE CUBA (originally entitled NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNDO FINE, 1966) that featured maybe ten guy in gear culled from the local army surplus outlet. APOCALYPSE NOW this ain't.

To me, the only items in the film worth noting are the following:
  • Forearmed with full knowledge of the future that is to come, Caesar's early efforts appear to be an attempt at fostering a peaceful accord between apes and humans, but those were the early days and who knows what happens to change that state of affairs over the next two-thousand years? Nonetheless, does that foreknowledge establish a new paradoxical timeline, one of eventual harmony that does not witness the complete destruction of the planet?
  • The establishment of the bomb cult, initially established to keep the Omega warhead's use from ever occurring.
  • Paul Williams as Virgil is by far the most interesting and fun character in the film and his erudite brilliance is something I would have liked to see more of. But, alas...
And so ended the run of the PLANET OF THE APES franchise, a fondly-remembered cultural artifact born of the 1960's and fine-tuned in the 1970's. Such is its popularity that it managed to survive Tim Burton's horrendous 2001 "re-imagining" and is currently set for a reboot that does not feature his wankery. The new film will chronicle the rise of the apes beginning with Caesar, who will be played by Andy Sirkis, the gifted actor who so memorably brought Gollum to motion-captured life in the LORD OF THE RINGS movies. I have high hopes for that film, but then again it would have to really go out of its way to be anywhere near as bad as Burton's take on things. Anyway, long live the Apes!


It's that time again, dear Vaulties, and this Sunday brings us more salacious material that looks like it completely blows (in more ways than one).

Is there really anyone out there who gets horny over GLEE? Horny enough that there's actually a need for a porno version of it?

I guess some folks can rub one out to damned near anything. In my admittedly jaded opinion, the only way this could possibly be worth a look is if the character based on Jane Lynch's evil gym teacher has a scorching lesbian scene where she tongues some young ingenue's lathered-up nethers like a cow at a salt lick.

This one irritates me because its title is so flagrantly misleading.

Do you see nuts anywhere near this woman's chest? I certainly don't, so this looks to be a colossal middle finger aimed straight at titty-fucking fans.

This one might be fun, playing as it does into my passion for all-natural big tits and savage jungle girls, so when you combine the two and come up with savage jungle girls with all-natural big tits, it's a potential slam dunk.

The "plot" description is certainly silly enough to get my attention:

Explorers, searching deep in the jungle for a legendary relic that can make all women stacked, are taken prisoner by the Mamzon tribe: six horny, exotic babes with huge tits. Have the explorers finally discovered the source of their bounty? Maybe, but to find out, they'll have to survive the wildest sex of their lives with their cum-hungry captors!

I do, however, balk at this being a two-disc DVD, garnering it a price tag of just over $25 (not including shipping). Are there so many gigundo tits that a second disc is required to accommodate them?

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Thursday, July 15, 2010


Peter Fernadez, one of the masters of voice dubbing for imported Japanese movies — including several Toho giant monster flicks — and TV shows during the 1960's and beyond, has passed away from lung cancer. Not only did Fernandez perform the voice of Speed racer, the role for which he is best known, he also wrote the famed English language lyrics for that show and provided voice direction and voice acting for characters in shows that are indelible in the youths of myself and many of you out there in the Internet ether who are reading this, works such as (but by no means limited to):
And the list only goes on (with the IMDB missing several items that spring immediately to mind).

I had the honor of meeting Mr. Fernandez at the NY Comicon two years ago and he was one of the most warm and genuine of my childhood influences that I've encountered. Rest well. Mr. Fernandez.

Monday, July 12, 2010

R.I.P. HARVEY PEKAR (1939-2010)

Harvey Pekar, scribe of the underground comics series AMERICAN SPLENDOR, has been found dead in his home at the age of 70. More on this as it develops.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Things have been busy in Yer Bunche's world, so I haven't had the time to really sit down and read the big stack of comics that's accumulated over the past two months in anything resembling a timely manner until the past week or so. When I finally did get around to it, man, did it feel good, kinda like I would imagine a long-deprived junkie would feel if given a clean fix. Anyway, there was a lot to read and not all of it was worth covering (some was just mediocre, so who needs to read about that), so here's the pertinent stuff.


As the history of Iron Man continues to be retconned to match the origin story from the first movie, I'm finding myself very much liking the tweaks and as a big fan of Iron Man's arch-nemesis, the Mandarin, I could not have been happier with this annual focusing entirely on him. Tony Stark's not even in it and I didn't even notice his absence. The story has to do with the Mandarin kidnapping an acclaimed Hong Kong filmmaker and holding his wife hostage to ensure the filmmaker's cooperation in crafting a film that purports to tell the Mandarin's "heroic" life story as a cinematic epic. The film is to be made from the Mandarin's own accounts of his story and over the course of the issue we see the Mandarin's heavily revisionist take on his history contrasted against eye-witness accounts of what really went down, leaving us with a very clear understanding of the man's tremendous evil and megalomania. Also, for the first time in my decades of having read the character, I an finally convinced that the Mandarin is deeply emotionally scarred and is actually quite insane. Brilliant and driven, yes, but very definitely a madman. RECOMMENDED.


Another entry in Marvel's Heroic Age creative thrust — whose stated goal is to restore fun to comics, which is what they were supposed to be doing in the first place — this slight effort introduces what appears to be Marvel's latest attempt at coming up with an answer to DC's Teen Titans. If that's the case, this doesn't even come close, but this first issue was an okay time killer. A group of disparate young heroes — the female Nomad, the de-powered Araña, Gravity, Toro (a man-bull version, not to be confused with the sidekick of the Golden Age Human Torch) and Firestar — unintentionally find themselves teaming up against a bad guy team of the illegitimate offspring of several "name" villains who call themselves the Bastards of Evil (best bad guy team name ever!), resulting in an okay throwdown that culminates in a literally explosive "To Be Continued" moment. Realistically, I don't see this amounting to much and will be surprised if it lasts for twenty issues, but it definitely does have a "fun" feel that will appeal to kids, and I'm all for that.


And so ends Gail Simone's run as writer on Wonder Woman and considering how it seems that the powers that be at DC may not have allowed her to work her scripting magic on the Amazing Amazon and disrupt the character's more-often-than-not dull status quo, I'm glad to see her go. If you've got one of the best writers in the biz and don't let her cut loose, then let her move on and concentrate her considerable talent on projects that let her flourish.


This issue's number supposedly reflects the total of issues Princess Diana has starred in since her first appearance back in 1941 and celebrates that anniversary with an over-sized edition featuring an introduction by Lynda Carter, some short stories of varying quality (my homegirl Amanda Conner's charming five-pager pairing WW and Power Girl being the best of that bunch), pinups that I mostly could have done without (the exceptions being those contributed by Phil Jiminez and Francis Manapul) and the launch of J.M. Straczinski's "new look" Wonder Woman in a story arc that erases her history, effectively removing pretty much all of the stuff that made her unique. I'll read what follows because I can do so without spending money on it, but the introductory chapter was generic at best.


One of the best of the ongoing comics out there, this series continues its leisurely unfurling of its current story arc as our heroes settle into a functioning community of survivors they encountered a few issues ago. I won't give away any of what happens, but I will say that it's as excellent as ever and my man Abraham (seen on the cover) again proves why he's my favorite of the regular cast. The man don't fuck around...


As per usual with this series, just as things begin to go well for our heroes, the shit again hits the fan. That's all I'm gonna say, except that I wish I had the next issue in hand right now!


Another over-sized anniversary issue that ushers in J.M. Straczinski at the scripting reins, this issue is pretty tepid stuff, save for a fun early encounter between the Man of Steel and Dick Grayson's Robin. I've occasionally looked in on the Superman books over the past decade and for the most part have not enjoyed what I've read. The stories to be boring long-form arcs that hold no interest for me and this issue picks up right after the end of the last epic, in which Superman fucked off from Earth for around a year, leaving his wife and job behind, and now that he's back, what's he gonna do? He's gonna voluntarily walk across America in an attempt to re-connect with a country and people that he feels he's lost touch with. What the fuck?!!? The guy's been gone for a year and now he's gonna basically separate himself from Lois and his Clark Kent identity and job for another indefinite leave of absence? Man, get me a wife and job that'll let me get away with that kind of absenteeism!


The best ongoing team book continues apace and Gail Simone's scripting mojo is firing on all cylinders as Cat-Man's off-the-rails quest for vengeance against the men who kidnapped his infant son reaches its violent conclusion. If you haven't been reading this series, go straight to your local comics shop and pick up the trade paperbacks of the previous stuff, along with the VILLAINS UNITED collection that kickstarted it.


All you need to know about this is that artist Amanda Conner has left the building, taking all of this series' life and fun with her. What remains in her wake is a mere simulacrum that bored the ass off of me. It's competently assembled, but there is no heart or charm to it now. I will not be returning.


I've encountered MOUSE GUARD in bits and pieces and have found it to be quite charming, a trait displayed in spades by this first of a four-part mini-series of short stories. Very good art and a fun script kept me entertained and I will be back for the duration.


I've lost count of how many times this series has been rebooted from issue #1 and I've been an avid LEGION reader since 1973! Anyway, legendary LEGION writer Paul Levitz is back and I was not impressed with his first chapter on the current Legion, but that may just be due to the story needing an issue or two to find its footing. When it's good, the Legion is one of the most entertaining comics out there and Levitz was one of its surest helmers, so I'll give him a chance.


As previously stated, I've been a Legion of Super-Heroes follower for just shy of forty years and when I first discovered them outside of a reprint story, they were the long-running anchor feature in ADVENTURE COMICS, so it's only fitting for them to be there once more. This Paul Levitz-scripted story gives us Superboy early in his career, having recently met his peers from a thousand years hence and enjoying a day in their time in which he can finally cut loose and just be himself. It's simple, straight-forward and very much something aimed at younger readers, and I'm all in favor of that. For too long comics have catered to the grownups who followed this stuff since childhood and have pretty much forgotten the kids for whom it was intended in the first place, and I think there needs to be more kid-friendly stuff to go around. The old school Legion were young themselves and as such they were a perfect gateway into comics for young imaginations such as mine and many of you out there who are reading this. That was a special time in my youth and I hope that this generation's kids will find the same fantasy refuge with the Legion that I did. That's not to say that this was particularly outstanding, but it is certainly welcome.


The JOKER'S ASYLUM short story series has returned and if this one-shot is any example of what it holds in store, I'll be there for each installment. In this outing, the Joker, locked up yet again in Arkham Asylum, regales us with the story of what happens when the pre-reformed Riddler falls in love at first sight during an art heist. His every advance is soundly rejected, so the Riddler decides to intensely analyze his inamorata and craft himself into the man she would theoretically want. Unlike the majority of the Batman's rogue's gallery, the Riddler is not so much insane as he's too smart for his own good and consumed with a need to prove to the world how clever he is, and when intellect collides head-on with matters of the heart, things cannot go well...


Peter Bagge's HATE was (and is) one of my favorite reads during the 1990's and was one of the very few comics that most of my circle of friends from college and the comics biz were somewhat obsessed with. The slacker anti-adventures of Buddy Bradley, his ultra-neurotic girlfriend (and later wife) Lisa and a cast of assorted fascinating losers is hilarious stuff, so if you haven't read HATE don't start with this annual; instead go back and pick up the collected editions of the previous stuff. You'll be glad you did and getting started with this issue would be like diving into a long-running soap opera with no prior clue as to who the characters are or what makes them tick. Sure, you can eventually figure it out, but an intimate understanding of their minutia is an essential prerequisite. This annual features a number of short gag pages and strips, but the main attraction is the nineteen-page "Lisa Leavenworth-Bradley Discovers Her Creative Outlet," in which the much older, somewhat less neurotic and married-with-rugrat Lisa starts up a Tori Amos ripoff band with another mother whom she encounters at a PTA meeting (they take Tori Amos songs and write new lyrics) and when they take their act out of the practice area and onto the stage of a seedy titty bar in a bad neighborhood, things get rather interesting. Also of note is an hilarious look at the cast's misgivings about the towering inaccuracies about marijuana and its use as portrayed in the classic exploitation film REEFER MADNESS (1936). RECOMMENDED.


After the seemingly endless and ultimately disappointing "Blackest Night" epic and the currently-running and utterly uninvolving BRIGHTEST DAY mini-series, it's good to have an issue of GREEN LANTERN with nothing on its mind other than a gorgeously-illustrated, bone-crunching, city-demolishing slugfest. While Geoff Johns does his usual skilled scripting thing, Doug Mahnke turns in a tour de force of violent mayhem as Lobo arrives in New York City to claim a bounty on the Red Lantern Atrocitus. That alone is fuel enough for a major throwdown, but toss in Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris (in Star Sapphire mode) and Sinestro, along with Red Lantern kitty cat Dex-Starr and you have a savory stew of fun badassery and crisp dialogue that is a joy to read. The icing on this cake of kickass is a short story detailing the tragic origin of Dex-Starr, and when you find out what fueled this once common housecat's burning rage, I defy you not to shed at least a few tears. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Who would have imagined that the moment when the Cybernetic Alpha Lanterns inevitably went bad would turn out to be so boring? The polar opposite of GREEN LANTERN #55 in every way.


What started out as a promising return to form after a lengthy stint in turgidville continues a steady decline that may see me once again ditching my favorite classic superteam. This issue centers around a trip to a new toystore by Franklin Richards and his uncle Johnny (aka the Human Torch) with Leech in tow, only to run into the Impossible Man and Arcade, a character whose wad of interest was shot just over thirty years ago. Predictable mayhem ensues and when coupled with Neil Edwards' dull art, I just did not care. The only item of interest in the entire issue takes place during the ast five pages, when Valeria and the other ultra-geniuses under Reed Richards' tutelage present Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, with an intriguing possibility (that I won't spoil). Five pages are not enough to have made this issue worth buying as a whole, but the development at the end has me interested enough to give the FF another issue or two before I once again break up with them.


"The Innocents" arc comes to a shattering end as Wee Hughie refuses to stand by and allow the sociopathic shape-shifter Malchemical to rape the innocent and childlike Legion of Super-Heroes parody known as "Superduper" and he suffers greatly for his chivalry.


Part 1 of "Believe" gets off to a good start as the unwilling Homelander is conscripted by Vought-American to headline at a bullshit religion and wholesomeness rally called "Capes for Christ." Starlight (aka We Hugie's sweet lover, Annie) is also roped into the event and, having given up on her Christian faith in the wake of the atricities she's witnessed and the abuses she's endured as a member of supergroup The Seven, she's not at all happy about it and is surprised to find herself on the same side of the argument as Homelander. Meanwhile, Hughie's out of the hospital, mostly recovered and enjoying time with Annie, but as the Capes for Christ event nears, the couple's hidden-from-one-another secret lives are about to collide...


Just as good as the previous issue, with Gail Simone and Ed Benes firing on all cylinders. RECOMMENDED.


Easily the best of the "Heroic Age" books (which admittedly is not saying much), this Brian Michael bendis-scripted story finds Iron Man (in his 1970's armor), Thor and Steve Rogers (no longer captain America, but now in charge of U.S. security) dealing with the aftermath of the "Siege" story arc and the fall of the main city Asgard. After some back-and-forth bitchery between Iron Man and Rogers while they're supposed to be helping Thor seal off a mysterious and potentially dangerous portal, the trio are transported to different areas in the many realms of Asgard where they individual run into dire situations. Of these, the standout is the sequence where Steve Rogers makes his way into a tavern populated by what turn out ot be evil elves and when his allegience to Thor is revelead, the multitude of elves launch into combat with Rogers with the intent to eat him. What follows is artist Alan Davis having a field day as the man who was Captain America kicks the motherfucking shit out of every elf in the place, all while simply asking to be informed of where he's landed. When the smoke clears, a triumphant Rogers (was there ever any doubt?) heads of into the unfamiliar Asgardian hinterlands decked out in pilfered scale mail (that looks very much like that which he wore as Cap) and armed with a sword, a quiver of arrows (a bow was not evident) and a shield. Aw, HELL yeah. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is lost in the middle of a vast plain while attempting to repair his damaged armor (and jonesing for coffee), while Thor has the misfortune to land in the deserted Vanaheim and run straight into that Asgardian uber-bitch, the Enchantress, who magically kicks his ass (there's no one deadlier than a former lover) and swears vengeance upon him and his house. This is good stuff, made whole and fleshy by Davis' art, so if you're a fan of the classic Marvel heroes been portrayed at their best, this is definitely RECOMMENDED.


The back-from-the-grave characters do some disjointed stuff and...Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....


The back-from-the-dead characters do more disjointed stuff and...Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...


This annual-sized special sets in motion upcoming events in TITANS as Deathstroke assembles a team of hardcore badasses to aid in his vendetta against that monthly's heroes. Comprised of Cheshire (who's somewhat off her game in the wake of the death of her and Arsenal's daughter), the latest version of the Tattooed Man, Cinder (an Italian Human Torch-type whose ability to turn into molten lava renders her naked) and Osiris, the team's first assignment it so kill the Ryan Choi version of The Atom, which they most certainly do. It's a brutal five-against-one execution that illustrates each team member's abilities, and I can't wait to seem them unleashed against the Titans. And while there are those who will mourn the killing of Ryan Choi, I am not one of them.


This issue, drawn as well as written by series creator Mike Grell, is a treat for those of us who grew up with THE WARLORD from the beginning. The series just isn't as fun when the art is not provided by Grell, whose vision of his world is best realized by his own illustration skills and integral to its overall feel, so this all-Grell issue is loads of fun and keeps us interested despite the absence of its dead (yeah, right) title character. The heroic reigns are taken by Travis Morgan's son, Joshua, whose true birthright was only recently revealed to his parents (though long-known to readers, and while his adventures are fun enough, we're also given heavy doses of the character moments that Grell excels at. The moments between a clearly joyous Joshua and his psychically-linked newborn sister, Morgana, are sweet without being cloying, and they provide a perfect counterpoint to the impending arrival of an invading armada of space aliens. Definitely worth reading, but recommended mostly for those already familiar with the territory of this series' thirty-five year history.


I'm very thankful that Vertigo has the excellent MADAME XANADU series to provide the line with an ongoing book about a sorceress, because if they had been allowed to do Zatanna as an ongoing it's a good bet that they would have "Vertigo-ized" the character and made her all dark and depressing, which would have completely ruined her. This DCU-set ongoing series is scripted by Paul Dini, one of the masterminds behind the excellent BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, and here his deft hand is evident as he establishes Zatanna for beginners and old fans alike. Though an internationally famous stage magician, Zatanna is in reality an extremely powerful and adept sorceress who famously speaks her incantations in backwards English, a trope that makes reading her adventures a hell of a lot of tongue-twisting fun. In this first arc, Zee (as she's called for short) is called in by by the San Francisco police to aid them in the investigation of a bizarre underworld hit in a restaurant that displays horrifying evidence of occult involvement. Shifting into her magical persona, Zatanna soon discovers the hit was the work of Brother Night, a skull-faced mystical gangster who seeks to control San Francisco's magical underworld's goings-on, and once she makes it known to him that she has appointed herself protector of the human world and flatly suggests that if he crosses over into her realm again there wil be a conflict, Brother Night quite correctly considers himself "served" and the battle lines are drawn. Bolstered by excellent art from Stephane Roux — that makes me wonder how long he can produce such gorgeous work on a monthly basis — this series has gotten off to an engaging and thoroughly entertaining start.

Another excellent issue from Dini and Roux that picks up right where the previous issue left off, this chapter, entitled "Fuselli's Nightmare," depicts Zatanna's encounter with a nasty little dream demon who feeds on the misery he generates in people's nightmares. Dispatched by Brother Night as an intended terminal strike against Zatanna, Fuselli severely underestimates his target...


This J.M. Straczinski/Jesus Saiz team-up of the Doom Patrol and the founding members of the Legion of Super-Heroes continues this book's solid run of fun pairings of characters you never expected to see together. When a black hole destroys the Earth in the future where the Legion hails from, Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl barely escape the devastation in a time bubble. Figuring that the only way to fix things is to go back in time and stop the black hole before is hits the Earth and consequently destroys the rest of the solar system, the Legionairres go to the Doom Patrol for help, citing Negative Man's bizarre energy powers as being the key to their plan. Despite Cliff (aka Robotman) sustaining some heavy damage in the process, the threat is thwarted and all is well...or is it? TO BE CONTINUED.

NAMORA #1 (one-shot)

Desspite a cover that looks like the Sub-Mariner's cousin relaxing in the BP oil spill, this one-shot featuring the apparently manga-influenced art of Sara Pichelli is an okay stand-alone work, though its story is kinda slight. Basically, Namora finds yet another lost colony of Atlanteans, only these are held in thrall by a mind-controlling monster/elder god of Lovecraftian proportions, and she must deal with the beast in order to free them. Not bad by any means, but nothing that can't be missed.


The ongoing return of Barry Allen continues and really picks up steam as the Flash's run-ins with the "Reverse Rogues" escalate and the original Captain Boomerang discovers a new ability.


CAVEWOMAN, when handled by its creator, Budd Root, is one of my favorite comics, but Root's output could understatedly be described as slower than a constipated tortoise. The demand for his voluptuous Meriem has been met with a plethora of mostly crappy pinup books, stuff that I genuinely loathe, so when a CAVEWOMAN one-shot containing an actual story appeared, even though it's done by Rob Durham and not Root, I just needed to have my itch scratched, so I plunked down my $3.75. What I ended up with was a barely passable yarn involving Meriem and some of the series' kids dealing with some strange and dangerous monsters, punctuated by some staggeringly bad anatomy in the drawings of meriem's uber-zaftig figure. For those unfamiliar with the series, Meriem's build is pretty much a blend of a typical Frazetta woman and She-Hulk, only with a greatly exaggerated pair of boobs and an ass that would make Sir Mixalot's head explode. That's something only experts at drawing the uber-zaftig female form can truly pull off and for me that short list of artists includes Frank Cho (often a go-to guy for CAVEWOMAN illsutrations), Richard Corben (who I would kill to see do a CAVEWOMAN arc), Adam Hughes and Amanda Conner, alongside creator Root's charming D.I.Y. amateur efforts. Durham's art doesn't even come close to that level and it doesn't help that the story is middling, to say the least. Hold out for whenever the next issue of the Root-crafted CAVEWOMAN: PANGAEAN SEA comes out, but don't hold your breath while waiting; issue #0 of that series came out in 2000 and only a total of eleven normal-sized issues have seen the light of day over the decade between then and now, and the story still has not wrapped up.

X-WOMEN (one-shot)

This graphic novella, produced for the Italian market three or four years ago from what I've heard, teams veteran X-MEN scripter/hack Chris Claremont with Italian porn comics superstar illustrator Milo Manara and the results are exactly what one would expect, only minus Manara's well-drawn closeups of inviting labia. This tale of what happens when Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Psylocke (one of the least interesting characters in comics history, IMHO), Marvel Girl (Rachel Summers) and Storm go on vacation and run into all sorts of trouble features the usual clichéd Claremont masturbation fantasies involving borderline lesbian action (the girls clinging to each others' nubile flesh, but not in a sexual way; yeah, right) and S/M bondage wankery, and if not for manara's art there would be absolutely no reason to even thumb through this bullshit. And as for Manara's input, this is a case of him phoning it in. I'm hot and cold on the guy's work, athough I do think he's a talented artist and storyteller whose Italian sensibility in depicting graphic sexual content can sometimes be quite erotic, but here his illustrations of the familiar X-females are only distinguishable by reading the dialogue and the drawings being in color. The main characters' figures are virtually identical in height and shape and in many instances their faces betray that semi-Down's Syndrome aspect that crops up from time to time when Manara tries to convey "sexy." Utterly unmemorable and a frustrating waste of Manara's time and talent (I hope he got a serious paycheck for this one), this is not recommended, not even to the legion of rabid X-MEN fanboys who always wished for an X-book that was specifically designed to cater to their comics-related sex fantasies. As the old adage goes, "be careful what you wish for, because you just may get it" and one of my personal maxims is that a gilded turd is still a turd, which definitely applies here because X-WOMEN is a piece of shit.


Collected in a handsome and very reasonably-priced hardcover edition, this mini-series gets my vote as the hands down best mini-series of 2009. Chronicling the occult/paranormal adventures of a group of neighborhood dogs and their stray cat buddy, this book also includes the short stories that led to the series. If you haven't read this stuff, here's your chance and you will in no way be let down by the collaboration of Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. Simply put, this is excellent and has charm to burn, so this one gets my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.