Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

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HO – LY COW….

This issue brings us to the midway point of the Secret Wars mini-series, and it is massive as far as story goes.  Ladies and gentlemen, the conflict has arrived.  Doom’s perfect world that he built completely from scratch is starting to crack, as the one man who has always been able to foil his plans suddenly comes back into the picture.

Jonathan Hickman’s writing in this series just keeps getting better and better.  The plot, the pacing, the dialogue, even a little bit of comedy, it’s all here and it’s all great.  Doom is a fascinating character here, and Hickman writes him incredibly well.  He’s actually a likable character in this story, as he’s the one who was able to pull off the seemingly impossible and prevent total destruction of all the universes.  Sure he’s set himself up as the king of this world, but does that necessarily make him a villain?  The other great part about this issue is that there are some genuinely shocking moments here.  The conflict that has been building for the past three issues is starting to come to a boil, and the results are not very pretty, but they are immensely entertaining to read!

Like the writing, the artwork seems to be getting better with each issue as well.  Esad Ribic brought his A-Game to this series and it certainly shows.  From grand action sequences to personal, one-on-one moments between characters, it’s all amazing here.  It’s unbelievable how much emotion he seems to be able to draw out of a character who wears a metal mask over his face.

I can honestly say that this series has completely blown me away so far, and now that we’re officially halfway through, I can’t wait to see what happens next.  I had my reservations going into it, but I’m all in now.  The only way I can describe this book is “EPIC.”  Bring on the rest of the series!

The Verdict for Secret Wars #4:
5/5 – Must Have Moar!!!

Until next time,
Stay nerdy, my friends.

Upcoming reviews:
Ultimate End #3 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Secret Wars Journal #3
March of the Crabs, Volume 1: The Crabby Condition

Something Different…

Posted: November 22, 2011 in Entertainment
Tags: , , ,

Since I haven’t posted anything for a long time, we’re going to try something different.  I’ve spent a lot of time telling you what I think about other people’s work, now I would like my faithful readers (all 6 or 7 of you :-P) to let me know what YOU think about some of my writing.  I’ve always been very hesitant to put any of my writing out there for several reasons, so this is a first for me, and it would really mean a lot to me if you provided some constructive criticism.

The story below is a short piece that I wrote in my senior year of high school and have been tweaking ever since trying to perfect.  However, knowing myself, I’ll never think it’s completely perfect… Without further adieu, I present “Dawn.”

Dawn

By

Kyle Walls

The highway ahead was dark.  There was nothing but barren desert on either side of me for miles and I hadn’t seen any other cars for a few hours.  This truly was the middle of nowhere, no man’s land.

I pressed down harder on the accelerator.  I wanted to make it to Flagstaff before sunrise.  The motor in the pickup truck hummed as the speedometer crept to 85.  The cool night wind screaming in through the open window was the only thing keeping me awake, especially since the radio went out in Santa Rosa, my last stop for gas.  I had been listening to the sound of desert wind for about six hours.

I left everything I knew back east behind me as I set out to start a new life in a new town surrounded by new people who didn’t know a thing about me and were interested in learning who I was.  Everything and everyone had become so stale back home that it often seemed like I was the only one living, or trying to live anyway.

The dim lights of the city popped up on the violet horizon a few miles ahead, just as the first few rays of sunlight crept onto the rearview mirror.  I passed the sign for the Flagstaff city limits a few moments later.

The city seemed strangely quiet.  I had been here twice before, to interview for my new PR job and to check out the small apartment that I would be renting.  It wasn’t the biggest of cities, but it was pretty lively the last time I was here.  Now, even though it was only sunrise, it looked deserted.  There were still lights in windows and cars parked on the streets, but there wasn’t a person to be seen anywhere.

“Maybe they don’t get up so early in Flagstaff,” I muttered to myself as I parked in front of a small diner.  I was hoping to find a cook inside willing to make a batch of scrambled eggs.  I had driven all night stopping only once, and my stomach was letting me know about it.

The truck door sounded like it weighed a ton as it slammed closed.  The noise reverberated from the walls of the nearby buildings and made me notice exactly how silent the city really was.  No cars passing on the street, no people walking on the sidewalk, not even a bird chirping in the sky, there was nothing.

The air had a very faint strange smell that I didn’t remember from my previous trips here, an odd burning odor that I had never smelled before.  The groan emanating from my abdomen quickly made me forget the smell and focus my attention back toward the diner.

From first looks there appeared to be no one inside the diner either, but the large neon “OPEN” sign in the window gave me and my stomach a little hope.  There was certainly no one in the dining room or behind the cash register.  A quick search of the kitchen proved my first suspicions about the place to be true.  It was deserted.  I decided not to waste a perfectly good opportunity for some eggs and fired up one of the large commercial grade stoves.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing something wrong.  The thought that I was trespassing on someone else’s ground.  I kept wondering when the cook or owner of the diner was going to come in and tell me to get the hell out of his kitchen.  My fears were unfounded.  No one came.

Once the eggs finished cooking, I slid them onto a plate and found a spot at the counter to sit and eat.  They weren’t the best eggs I’d ever eaten, kind of rubbery, but I guess that was my fault.  A little salt and some ketchup took my mind off the texture just long enough to get them down.

After I finished eating, I took the plate and silverware back to one of the sinks and placed a five-dollar bill on top of the cash register, “Keep the change,” I said with a smirk as I turned around to leave.  Just as I was about to walk out the door I noticed the small television mounted to the wall above one of the corner booths.  I walked over to the set to see if anything new had developed in the growing oil conflict that nearly every world power was involved in.  And maybe figure out where everybody was.

I pressed the button beneath the screen and the set buzzed to life.  I found nothing but static and white noise on many channels, but eventually I came across a grim-faced anchorman, with many television monitors and several people scurrying behind him.  I caught him in mid sentence as he sorrowfully said “—several major cities in the Western portion of the country.  The attack came at approximately 1:00 am this morning.  Massive casualties are expected.”

I wondered what he could possibly be talking about.  Many of the screens behind him showed rubble-strewn streets and buildings on fire, while others just showed static.  The rolling bar at the bottom of the screen instructed viewers about evacuation plans and told of federal actions.  Was it another West Coast earthquake?  No, he mentioned something about an attack.  I stared at his lips intently as he began to speak again.

“Once again, if you are just tuning in, many nuclear warheads have hit major cities in the Western portion of the country.  We now have the list of which cities were attacked.  It reads: Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Portland and Las Vegas.  As I stated before, massive casualties are expected.  We’re also receiving reports that some new form of fast-acting chemical agent was used in conjunction with the attack and experts believe that the toxins may have reached as far east as Phoenix and Aspen just a few hours ago.  If you can hear my voice, please avoid these areas at all costs.”

My heart thumped in my chest.  I couldn’t move from that spot in front of the television.  Everything I had come out here for was gone, and everything that I had come from would probably soon follow.

But something still troubled me.  His words didn’t explain what happened to the people or why I wasn’t dead yet.  The chemicals may have dissipated since the initial attack, which would explain why I was still alive.  However, the attack had clearly killed the citizens of Flagstaff, but where were the bodies?  The streets should have been filled with them.

A distant childhood memory came creeping into my mind, a rather disturbing one.  I remembered when I was about ten and we lost our family’s pet dog, Sparks.  My parents and some of our neighbors spent nearly an entire afternoon looking for him, only to end up back at our house with nothing.  Tearful and angry, I ran into my bedroom to hide under my bed and be alone.  There was Sparks.  Lying on his side.  Not breathing.  He had beaten me to my favorite hiding spot.  He didn’t want anybody to find him this way.

The thought that came next, odd as it may seem, made more sense than anything I had come up with before.  Perhaps people are the same way.  Maybe we’re ashamed of dying.  Maybe we think that it shows our weakness and we don’t want to show anyone else that we’re weak and frail enough to die.  Maybe, just maybe, because of that weakness, we hide.  It was an odd theory, but it was all I had and it was the only idea that made any sense right now.

The anchorman started to speak again.  “Our first estimated casualty totals are coming in and they are astronomical.  This is just terr—” he stopped abruptly and placed his hand near his head to press the tiny earpiece deeper into his ear.  A shocked and horrified look passed over his face.  He looked directly at the camera, a look that pierced time and space.  He seemed to be staring directly at me as he said “Dear God!  We’ve just received word that another round of missiles has shown up on radar, and by the trajectory and speeds that are being reported, this wave seems to be targeted farther inland.”

The man’s words cut through me like a knife.  I was terrified, but there was absolutely nothing that I could do about my impending doom.  I would die here, in the middle of the desert, surrounded by concrete and steel, no family or friends by my side.  I was more alone than ever.

Accepting my fate, I turned the television off and walked to the front of the diner.  The heavy glass door swung open easily under my tense grip.  Passing my truck, I brushed my fingertips against its cool metal side as I realized it had taken me everywhere that I wanted to go and it would go no farther than this.  My faithful chariot had carried me straight to my doom.

I walked out to the yellow centerlines of the street.  I stood and turned to face the darkness of the west, turning my back on the warm light of the sun coming up over the horizon.  The promise of dawn and a new life was shattered by the tiny white dot hurtling towards me in the bright purple sky.  I raised my arms perpendicular to my sides, defeated and waiting for the final blow.  I watched the vapor trail as it stretched ever longer, propelling the promise-breaking dot closer.  The sound of the missile’s thrusters over the utter silence of the deserted city became deafening.  As the winds around me began to pick up, I closed my eyes and waited for the over burdened sky to fall.

So far, it seems like what Hickman misses in the Ultimate Hawkeye mini-series, he makes up for with this storyline in the Ultimates.

Issue #2 starts off with more detail regarding the threat that Thor and the E.U.S.S. team Excalibur discovered in the last issue.  Apparently they are a race of human-like beings that have made their home in a dome in Northern Germany.  From what I gather, time and generations are super accelerated inside this dome because they speak as though they’ve been there for several centuries, yet the creation of the dome was depicted in issue #1.  Once Thor and Excalibur break through the dome, they are immediately attacked by its inhabitants, who are referred to as “the Children.”  These Children have some wickedly advanced technology that they use to figure out that most of the intruders are merely augmented humans, who can in turn be killed, that is until they come across Thor.   Instantly they realize there is something different about him, so they send an image to their elders, one of whom recognizes the god of thunder.  This discovery causes the Children to shift their focus to Thor’s home, the realm of Asgard, where all hell breaks loose when they attack.  The rest of the issue centers on Thor and his efforts to protect his home and family.

I’m loving the absolute epic scope of Jonathan Hickman’s story in this series.  It almost feels like reading the original Ultimates title by Mark Millar where you literally had no idea what was coming next.  The writing in this series is so intense that you really do get the impression this new villain is a serious threat to the Ultimates and the world in general.  To add to that seriousness, it’s someone who knows all of the characters in the Ultimate Marvel Universe on a personal level, making this villain all the more dangerous.  It makes me wonder how long they’ve been brewing this storyline because this is a character that has been around for quite some time in the universe.

Something else that I’m really enjoying about this series, and this issue in particular, is the way Thor is portrayed.  In a lot of previous Ultimates stories he has a tendency to come off as very unlikable.  However, so far in this series, he really feels like a character I could get behind and begin to care for because we are seeing what he cares for, and we’re seeing how devastated he feels when his home is under attack.  We also see just what he would do to protect everything that he loves, even to the point of smacking death in the face… literally.

Ribic’s artwork in this issue is once again right on par with the story.  You feel the sense of motion in the action scenes.  It also meshes very well with the epic scope of the story.  There are regular size comic panels that display huge battles stretching way off into the distance.  I’m really hoping we get to see a full page splash of an epic battle in future issues.  I have no doubt it would be amazing.

Overall, this is a great issue, in a great series, which is part of a great Universe of continuity.  I highly recommend this series because it seems like it is starting fresh, and there is really the sense that anything could happen at any moment.  I’m very pleased to say that it’s like reading the old Ultimate universe again because it actually seems like the writers are willing to do things with these characters and put them in situations that would never happen in regular Marvel Universe continuity, and that was the original goal of the Ultimate Marvel line in the first place.

It’s been a while, I know.  I’m a little behind again.  I try to limit my visits to the comic book store since it’s a bit of hike to get there… That and frankly, I’ve been kind of lazy lately, but here we go.

The second issue in the Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye mini-series gives more backstory on the title character that we haven’t gotten in ten years of the Ultimate Marvel Universe yet, but does little to move the current story forward.

The situation in the S.E.A.R. as it was left at the end of issue #1 is rapidly deteriorating from bad to worse.  Hawkeye leads a small band of S.H.I.E.L.D. troops through the war ravaged streets of Bangkok in an effort to get to the city’s capital building.  They encounter some resistance along the way and see something very strange, which causes Hawkeye to reflect upon his past and how he became involved with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury in the first place.  Following the flashback and what he finds at the capital, Hawkeye determines that they need to get in contact with General Fury, so the group heads to the nearest place where contact can be established.  I won’t go any further into the summary of this issue, because some potentially very interesting plot points are revealed after this part of the story, as well as some familiar characters.

Hickman continues the story well enough here, but, as I mentioned before, doesn’t seem to move the situation along a whole lot further.  I feel like the main part of this story that the author wants the readers to focus on is the interesting little bit that we get of Hawkeye’s backstory.  I also get the impression that this backstory is going to be expanded upon in issues three and four (why else give Hawkeye, a character that they’ve never really given much of a history to, his own mini-series?).  Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of the current narrative thread, as most of the issue seems like a goose chase from one place in Bangkok to the next, until we get to the end and see what’s coming in the next issue, which I have to say, I’m very excited for.

Rafa Sandoval’s art is still good in this issue, and I won’t deny that he can draw some pretty awesome action and motion shots.  That being said, he seems to insert some of them at some pretty awkward moments in the story.  Take for example, in the middle of the issue, one character calls Hawkeye outside to look at something going on, the next panel shows him running at a full sprint with the background completely blurred behind him like he’s leading and invisible army headlong into battle.  It’s a great action shot of the title character, but it just seems a little out of place within the scope of the story.

Overall, this isn’t a bad issue.  It just doesn’t seem to push the story along all that much.  By the end of the issue we’re not much further than where we started, but we do know just a little bit more about our protagonist.  Also, given what is revealed on the last page, I look for the action to get a lot more intense in the final two issues of this mini-series, and hopefully we learn a lot more about Hawkeye in the process.