Thursday, May 26, 2016

DC Rebirth #1 - A review with some SPOILERS

So we're starting all over again.  Well, maybe not so much re-starting from scratch, but cleaning out some of the crap from the stalls that has accumulated over the past decade.  Sadly, some of the dumber stuff, IMHO, is continuing but it looks like they are making an attempt.

Beware, as I'm giving away a lot of stuff: SPOILERS AHEAD 

Writer/demi-god Geoff Johns takes the lead with this issue, beginning with the event that lead up to this (New 52 Superman is gone and presumed dead) and setting up the events that that will lead to a newer DCU. The older pre-52 Superman, along with his wife, Lois and son are now in place here on Earth-1 or Prime or whatever it is called. Batman, thanks to events in some earlier story line now knows the Joker's name.  Of course, since things can't be that simple as it appears that there are actually three Jokers running around.  I'm guessing that they must know each other, or at least be aware of the others, but that isn't made clear. It also seems that Wonder Woman actually has a brother who had been secreted away after his birth and Darkseid (dead, but reborn) may have had something to do with it. As if that wasn't enough....

Wally West is trying to escape the Speed Force, which in someways resembles what we have seen on the TV series, THE FLASH, and events in the CW/DCU may begin to reflect things in the print versions and the other way around.  At least, some of the things that Johns has Wally reveal seem to imply that to me.  Then again, I've not been reading much of the DC output for the past few years, quitting well before Flashpoint, which seems to be where this Wally left us.  I admit to being confused.  Wally is trying to find his long-lost love, Linda Park, but like everyone else he encounters she has no memory of him.  We see a number of characters who had interacted with Wally from the time he was Kid Flash, but nobody recalls him and his connection to our world seems to be slipping away, until... I'll let you find that one out, as it nearly brought me to tears and somethings should not be spoiled.

Ted Kord is back and he is trying to help out Jamie Reyes the new Blue Beetle, who would like nothing better than to be rid of the scarab that gives him his powers.  At this point we get a visit from Doctor Fate who tells Ted that both of them are mistaken when it comes to the origin of the scarab.   We get brief glimpses of a number of other DC characters, from a new Green Lantern, Arthur Curry/Aquaman, and Johnny Thunder (the original), plus a couple of folks from the supernatural side of the DCU, other than the good Doctor.

Most of that seems on the good side, although DC editorial still believes that Bruce's sociopath son, Damien still needs to be hanging around. Never a good idea in my opinion and one I've never understood the need for.  If ever there was someone who should be written out of continuity it is that little psycho.

Finally, I've debated whether to reveal something that I really do hate and that spoils much of this whole thing from the beginning.  DC has decided that characters created decades ago as part of a stand-alone series and not a part of the DCU are now not among the characters of this Earth, but may have been the cause of much of the past decade's events that many fans have disliked.  Nah, find out for yourself and judge how you feel.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Captain America: Civil War - A Popcorn for One review (with SPOILERS)

As some of you may recall, and you can scroll down to check, when I saw BATMAN v SUPERMAN I gave the film a solid "B". I can still see why, although it really had more to do with the main actors in the film and how they interpreted the characters rather than the overall film. It's easy now to give it perhaps a "B-" when you compare it to the newest super-hero film.

Personally, and I don't think I'm the only one, I find the Captain America trilogy the strongest of the Marvel franchise films.  The first film was fun, because it was Cap as we've always wanted to see him on the screen. The second was a very, good thriller which changed the dynamics of the Marvel cinematic universe, both in films and in television.  This third film wraps everything up nicely and sets up how, not only Captain America, but the other Avengers will interact in coming films.

When several incidents involving the Avengers go wrong and civilians are killed, the world governments decide that the team must be put in check.  Accords are drawn up and the members of the team must sign and agree to them, if not they may be prosecuted.  Steve Rogers/Captain America feels this will put too many restrictions on any future actions, while Tony Stark/Iron Man believes the U.N. and world governments have a right to be concerned given past destruction caused by the Avengers when dealing with their foes.  This splits the team and individual members must decide where their loyalties lie.

On the day when the representatives of the world meet to vote on the accords a bomb kills dozens, including the king of Wakanda.  His son, T'Challa, is his heir and also the current Black Panther, a hero dedicated to protecting his homeland and its people.  He vows revenge on the person believed to be the Winter Soldier.  Captain America is just as sure his former partner and friends, Bucky Barnes is not responsible for the actions. This brings the underlying tensions in the Avenger team to the boiling point and both sides decide to take action.

The first Avenger's film brought us the Marvel universe as we fans had always envisioned it. The most powerful heroes in the world united, after initial bickering, to fight together for a common goal.  This third Captain America film brings that era to an end as we see the team broken apart, with some members missing and new heroes appearing to take their place. 

Thor and the Hulk are not around, the Thunder God having returned to his home and the big green guy MIA since he stole an aircraft and disappeared from sight. On the other hand, The Falcon calls upon Scott Lang/Ant-Man to join he and Cap, while the Panther (for his own reasons) finds himself fighting along side Stark's group.  It's exciting to see theses characters in action and the fight scenes are spectacular.  The events taking place in the airport will have a long-lasting effect not only because former friends and teammates must confront each other, but because of the appearance of a certain web-slinging teenager making his first appearance in this part of the Marvel universe.

I'm not sure if this film holds together as well as Winter Soldier but has instantly become one of my favorite super-hero films.  This is what we grew up seeing in those Marvel Bullpen days.  Pages and pages of heroes in action, characters interacting that you never expected to see together.  It was all up there. 

Chadwick Boseman is wonderful as T'Challa and the scenes of the Panther in action prove that a solo film will be pretty exciting. The final scenes set up some events we can expect in future films.  Tom Holland is absolutely perfect as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, his awestruck reaction to being included in Stark's team and his scenes with his aunt (Marisa Tomei) give us a hint of what new Spider-Man films will have in store.  If it wasn't for the appearance of Spidey, I think everyone would be talking about the Panther.

Okay, before I wrap this up I need to talk about the major weak point in the film and the one thing that the Marvel films rarely seem to get right.  The villain in this film is pretty much in namesake only one of the biggest and longest running foes of Captain America.  Zemo (played by Daniel Bruhl) is not the former Nazi and contemporary of the Red Skull we have known in the comics for decades.  Here is simply a resident of the nearly destroyed nation of Sokovia, who seeks vengeance.  What the hell?  Why even give him the name of a super-villain when you don't use him in that capacity.  He cold have been just as effective as some guy called Siegfried, or something.  Save the 'real' Zemo for a later film incarnation.

Overall a well-acted and written film that far surpasses the big screen battle of the DC titans only a few months earlier.  If that earlier film was set up, this was wraps up some things and promises even more.  Easy to give this one an "A", even if that one little problem still bugs the hell out of me.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

My Free Comic Book Day Haul - 2016

We worked today, but thanks to the fact that Big Red Comics is located only a few blocks from the Library, I was able to go over on my lunch break to take part.  I had to stand in line for a bit, but the back room was set aside with several tables of goodies.  It was difficult to choose, but I did get a decent sampling of stuff.

You were allowed to select six comics from the thirty or so available.  I was able to pick up two others because I have a pull list, plus I was lucky enough to be in a drawing which scored me a few additional titles.

I'll try to review some of these over the next week or so, but I'll only do that if I like a book.  Hate to bash something I've gotten for free, which is something I got into way back when I was doing reviews for Inside Joke and some apas.  If I bought a book it was fair game, but if a creator or publisher was good enough to put me on a comp list I felt it only fair to be kind.  Some books got by with a 'decently drawn' or 'some interesting concepts', if I was really reaching for anything good.

Here's the haul:

AVATAREX: Destroyer of Darkness (Graphic India) - Grant Morrison
BOOM! 2016 Summer Blast
DOCTOR WHO FCBD 2016 (Titan Comics)
MARCH (Top Shelf) - John Lewis auto-biographical
MIX TAPE 2016 (Devil's Due/1First Comics)
THE PHANTOM (Hermes Press - Reprints of Charlton Comics material
ROM #0 (IDW)
SCIENCE COMICS (:01 First Second)
SPONGE BOB FREESTYLE FUNNIES 2016 (United Plankton Pictures/Bongo)
2000 AD FCBD  Prog 2016 (Rebellion)

Hard to know where I should start, but I just might do them in the order I listed above.  Don't want to play favorites and there are a few I want to immediately jump into.

Trust me, I think I would have been happy with any of the books I missed.  Maybe there will be some left over when I make my weekly run next Wednesday.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lee Falk’s The Phantom - 80th Anniversary Special

One of my all-time favorite characters.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Batman v Superman - A Popcorn for One review (with SPOILERS)

There will be some SPOILERS thrown in here so if you haven't seen the film be warned.  I'll not give everything away, but the trailers already showed us quite a bit.

First off, I was not one of those folks that hated MAN OF STEEL nor did I have a problem with Henry Cavill as Clark/Superman. It was a different take and a bit darker than some folks might want their Kal-El, but I was fine with it. Like some folks I wasn't crazy about the ending of the film and the death of General Zod, but I could except it.  If anything, it showed that DC and Zack Snyder were creating a different film universe. You could look at the Nolan Batman films and get a hint where things might go.  Hell, things certainly aren't rosy in any of the Marvel films, either.

I also was willing to give Ben Affleck as Batman a chance, since I didn't think the things wrong with DAREDEVIL were his fault entirely.  Since then he has proven himself as both actor and director. Yeah, I did have some issues with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, but looking back it was more the costume which seemed a Xena knock-off and not the outfit we are accustomed to in classic WW.  She did seem a bit small in the first shots we saw of her, but she looked much better in the trailers and the WW teasers.

Beginning the film with Bruce, his 'origin' and witnessing of the Superman/Zod battle, I thought was smart.  The first time you see him in costume with the police finding the sex trade victims was really creepy.  You can see why criminals would fear him.  That's the Batman you want to see.  I think Affleck whether in cowl & cape or in a business suit was fantastic.  This is an older and much more cynical Batman, he is certainly more brutal and apparently lethal. I can't wait to see the solo Batman film.

Gal Gadot won me over as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.  She is, of course, beautiful, but she also beings an air of mystery that we haven't seen in the character before.  You believe this woman has been around a very, long time and has witnessed incredible things.  Her one comment in the heat of battle about having fought 'alien creatures' before really does have me looking forward to her solo adventure as well.

Okay, I admit to being one of those that threw a lot of hatred at Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor as he appeared in the teasers and trailers.  This certainly wasn't the Luthor we were expecting, even though I have never thought the big screen versions of Lex really captured the menace of the character at all.  Early on in the film however, it is revealed that this is not the Lex Luthor we thought, but his son.  The neurotic son of a domineering and brutal father certainly would have some issues, especially someone as intelligent as Eisenberg portrays him.  While physically he doesn't inspire fear, it becomes apparent that this is a much scarier Luthor than we have ever seen before.  Also, frightening is that he believes he is doing the 'right' thing no matter how brutal his methods may be.  He believes he will be the savior of mankind.

One of me small problems with the films were the portrayal of Lois Lane as the helpless woman in peril over and over again. I realize that plays into the importance of Lois in Clark's life, but the first time showed us that. The other times could have been written differently, especially the final time where there really wasn't a need to put Lois in danger as she was showing how brave she could be up to that point.

The second problem was the end, which seemed to be there simply to allow the use of Doomsday to be justified (no pun).  Yeah, the final shot we see indicates this isn't the last we'll see of one of the three leads, but there really wasn't a need for it.  And yes, I admit to actually feeling for the character at the end, but it was a bit of manipulation since comics fans know what is going to happen.

By the way, I think Jeremy Irons is fine as Alfred, a role that can be thankless, but here works perfectly.  It was cool seeing the three other Justice League members, even briefly. Loved the scene with The Flash and the short glimpse we see of the character who will become Cyborg is chilling to say the least.  Can't wait to see more of Aquaman as well.  I happen to like the look.

In the end, I'll give the film a solid 'B', and throw in a '+" for any scene with Affleck, This has me looking forward to the Wonder Woman movie as well as the up-coming DC films.  This surprises me, but also has me excited.