Doom Force #1 by Grant Morrison, Steve Pugh, Ian Montgomery, Brad Vancata, Richard Case, Walter Simonson, Paris Cullins, Ray Kryssing, Duke Mighten, Mark McKenna, Ken Steacy, John Workman, Daniel Vozzo, and Tom Peyer. Cover by Keith Giffen and Mike Mignola.

This one shot is a spin off of Morrison and Case’s Doom Patrol series, and if memory serves, it loosely ties into some of Dorothy Spinner’s fantasies from that title.

It’s basically a parody of Rob Liefeld’s brand of inane superhero comics from the same period, but laced through with proper Morrisonian weirdness. Much fun is poked at Liefeld’s unique sense of anatomy, but my favorite comedic concept here is the character of ‘Shasta the Living Mountain,’ who can basically turn himself into a fully functioning ski resort.

Covers and pages from Captain America #204 by Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia, Gaspar Saladino, Janice Cohen, and Archie Goodwin

and Captain America #205 by Kirby, John Verpoorten, Michelle Wolfman, Jim Novak, and Goodwin.

In these issues, Cap and Falcon come up against an alien intelligence that has possessed a monstrous corpse. It’s great fun seeing these characters in something like a proper horror story and Kirby renders the villain Agron in gruesomely kooky style. His treatment of Sharon Carter is still disappointingly old fashioned, but otherwise this is most enjoyable. Unlike his Black Panther, which gets more realistic and small as it goes, this Cap run only seems to get weirder!

A Blade in the Dark (aka La casa con la scala nel buio, 1983) is a somewhat sleazy and slow moving giallo directed by Lamberto Bava, about a composer writing a horror movie soundtrack in an isolated villa.

It doesn’t make the most of its premise and takes too long to get going but features a few shockingly gruesome murder scenes, a strong mystery element, and a finale that reveals a satisfactory, if rather familiar, motive for the whole grisly shebang. It’s also well shot and lit, with Bava and company providing a shadowy, claustrophobic atmosphere.

Italian horror buffs will recognize ol’ ‘Bob’ himself, House by the Cemetery’s Giovanni Frezza, in one of Bava’s patented ‘film within a film’ bits. Michele Soavi, probably the last great Italian horror director, is also on hand in one of his meatiest acting roles.

A Blade in the Dark certainly isn’t a top shelf giallo but you could do worse if you’re in the mood for some murder, mayhem, and psycho-sexual madness.

The covers and several pages from Captain America #201 by Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia, John Costanza, G. Roussos, and Archi Goodwin

and Captain America #202 by Kirby, Giacoia, Costanza, Phil Rache, and Goodwin

With no chance to rest after the Madbomb saga, Cap and the Falcon run afoul of a brotherhood of extra-dimensional lunatics called The Night People. This is really, fun, imaginative stuff from Kirby and company, though they treat Sharon Carter as an uptight nag, which is kind of a bummer. I obviously much prefer the modern version of the character, who’s a hero in her own right. (Presuming she didn’t actually die in Dimension Z.)

The story climaxes in Captain America #203, which I profiled last year here.

Not a hater.

(from Captain America #199, by Jack Kirby and friends)

Stills from Alain Robbe-Grillet’s The Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974). More shots and a review here.

I’ve been curious about French director Alain Robbe-Grillet for years now, especially because he is often discussed alongside arthouse exploitation masters like Jess Franco and Jean Rollin. Redemption is releasing all of his stuff on DVD in the States this year, so I jumped at the chance to finally check out his work.

The Successive Slidings of Pleasure (aka Glissements progressifs du plaisir, 1973) is a low budget, charmingly pretentious, time-bending vampire sex fantasy, with some mild nunsploitation and S&M stuff thrown in for good measure.

The story is about a young artist who’s held in a convent and interrogated regarding the murder of her roommate. One by one she seduces and subverts the authority figures who seek to figure her out or tame her.

In some ways it’s probably the exact type of thing people would think of when they hear ‘French art film.’ It’s visually very minimalist and very specific, with most of the action taking place in front of canvas-like white backgrounds. The characters and objects that populate the film look like figures in a painting, and every pose and placement seems deliberate. Robbe-Grillet also uses montage and non-diagetic sounds to hypnotic effect, and there’s lot of metaphorical imagery that comments on power, abuse, femininity and fertility.

For all it’s brainy artifice, the movie does have a surprising sense of subtle black humor to it, a willingness to poke fun at itself that you don’t often see with these types of films. Jean-Louis Trintignant shines in a small role as an almost Clouseau-like inspector, future Bond villain Michel Lonsdale plays an easily befuddled judge, and the enchanting lead actress Anicée Alvina is able to use her petulant blankness to land some witty barbs.This humorous streak is much welcome and keeps the film from ever feeling like a slog, even though it’s quite slow moving.

When the action ventures outside the white walled rooms, it takes on a very Rollinesque character indeed, with scenes taking place on lonely beaches and in overgrown graveyards. There is also a Rollinesque semi-romantic relationship between two outsider women at the heart of the picture.

I’m very fond of Rollin, so these similarities alone would be enough to interest me in this film, but I don’t want to overstate a resemblance to any other filmmakers. The Successive Slidings of Pleasure is  visually arresting, amusingly provocative and quite well cast. I will certainly be watching more from Monsieur Robbe-Grillet and I look forward to discovering his own particular quirks and perversions. For folks interested in the process behind the film, the Redemption disc also features an enlightening half-hour interview with the director.

More screenshots here.

Q

rassimovs-deactivated20140725 asked:

Nice review of The House with the Laughing Windows. A very neglected slice of italian genre.

A

Thanks, it’s an underrated gem for sure. I’m enjoying looking at your blog too. Lots of cool stuff on there I haven’t seen yet!

The Replacements - Left of the Dial

Posting this one in honor of Tommy Ramone who died this week. He produced Tim, probably my all-time favorite record. Thanks to the original uploader.

The cover and several pages from Spider-boy Team-Up #1 by Karl Kesel, Jose Ladronn, Juan Vlasco, Joe Rosas, Bill Oakley, Digital Chameleon, and Ralph Felder.

Easily the best of the Amalgam comics I read this week, Spider-boy Team-Up features an amusing, imaginative script from Karl Kesel and awesome art from Jose Ladronn. His Kirby meets manga style is absolutely perfect for this book and he does a great job designing three different Amalgamated versions of the Legion of Superheroes. I loved the one page tribute/parody of Keith Giffen’s ‘Five Years Later’ era. They even used a Giffen-esque nine panel grid!

Not that ongoing books were ever in the cards for Amalgam, but as I mentioned in my look at the first Spider-boy, I think the concept is one of the few Amalgam ideas that was built-up enough that it could have supported one, and this issue does nothing to change that. I would have happily read a few years of a Kesel/Ladronn Spider-boy.

The covers and several pages from Spider-boy #1 by Karl Kesel, Mike Wieringo, Gary Martin, Joe Rosas, Bill Oakley, Glenn Greenberg, and Tom Brevoort.

Challengers of the Fantastic #1 by Karl Kesel, Tom Grummet, Al Vey, Richard Starkings and Comicraft, Joe Rosas, Digital Chameleon, Glenn Greenberg, and Tom Brevoort.

Karl Kesel has emerged as the MVP of the half-dozen Amalgam comics I read this week. Spider-boy is absolutely packed with Amalgamations and world building but still feels like a complete story with a nice, light tone.This is the only one the Amalgam books I read that might have worked as an ongoing series. Check out Spider-boy Team-Up #1 here. It’s even better!

Challengers of the Fantastic is a Spider-boy spin-off that isn’t quite as fun despite a lot of obvious Amalgamation match-ups, but that may be because I’ve never been a huge Fantastic Four fan. It does make me want to revisit Kesel and Grummet’s run on Superboy though.

The cover and several pages from JLX #1 by Mark Waid, Howard Porter,  John Dell, Chris Eliopoulos, Gloria Vasquez and Heroic Age, Ali Morales, Brian Augustyn, and Ruben Diaz.

Here’s another of the improbable Amalgam crossovers between DC and Marvel from the late 90s. This one is just ok. It gets bogged down in establishing a bunch of continuity when it should be focusing on breezy fun. I’ve always liked Porter’s art from this period though, so it’s fun to have some more dynamic superhero art from he and his JLA partner John Dell.

The cover and several pages from Thorion of the New Asgods #1 by Keith Giffen, John Romita Jr., Richard Starkings and Comicraft, Glenn Greenberg, and Tom Brevoort.

I used to write off the whole Amalgam event as a bit of 90s gimmickry, but I read through a few this week to see if there are any real gems there, and while I’m not sure if I uncovered any straight-up brilliant comics, they are generally a bit of fun. The novelty factor alone is huge, especially considering how unlikely we are to ever see this sort of thing again. (Unless Disney eventually swallows Warner Brothers whole.)

Thorion is probably the least dense of all the Amalgam books I read this week. The creators don’t force too many mash-ups, instead opting to tell the entire saga of Thorion’s life in one issue. The story feels slight and truncated but Romita’s art is terrific. He channels Kirby of course, but also a bit of Frank Miller and Walt Simonson, and  he comes up with some great character designs. I wondered at first if this was Romita finishing Giffen’s layouts, but I think the art is too open and widescreen for Giffen to have been involved.

I do hope DC can get Romita to draw some more 4th World type stuff while they have him there because it certainly suits him.

From The House with Laughing Windows (1976). More screenshots and a short review here.