Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Say It Aint So Batman, Say It Aint So!


Unless you've been in solitary confinement in Arkham Asylum, you know what happened at the end of Batman #77 last week. Even if you haven't read the latest chapter of City of Bane, it’s been all but impossible to surf the internet without bumping head long into a spoiler for the last page. Nevertheless, I’m going to leave ample spoiler space below this paragraph just in case you've wandered in here by mistake and you’re still planning to read the issue. Although, I have no idea WTF you’re waiting for?
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OK, those who haven't read the issue yet should be gone. OMG, BANE KILLED ALFRED!!!!!!!!!!! I freaked when I’d initially read #77’s final panel. I doubled back, looking for the page I’d missed, when Alfred was replaced by a clone. Of course, it wasn’t there. Robin (Damian Wayne) had called Bane’s bluff by continuing to fight crime in Gotham City, and Bane broke the neck of his hostage, Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth.


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I was as upset as if a real person had just been killed. I told myself they couldn't do this. It would be like killing off Perry White or Jimmy Olsen, I told myself. I mean, he’d always been there, or so I thought. As it turns out, this isn’t the first time Alfred has died.

Back in Detective Comics #328 (June, 1964) Pennyworth threw himself in front of an on coming boulder to save the lives of the dynamic duo. Being seven years before the debut of Ra’s Al Ghul, there was no such thing as a Lazarus Pit yet. Thus, he remained dead for two years before a mad scientist would resurrect him as a scaly white super villain called The Outsider (Batman’s team of the same name wouldn't appear until 1983).

Being comics, I don't expect this death to last long. Either Damian will take Alfred’s body to Nanda Parbat for resurrection in the Lazarus Pit, or, given the role the multiverse is currently playing in DC’s current titles, we may see an orphaned version of Alfred being adopted by our universe's Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Think about it, even without the precedent from the 60s, it’s a good bet they won’t leave Pennyworth dead for long, just as he’s starring in his own hit series on EPIX.

Note of Interest: Detective Comics #328 not only saw the original death of Alfred, but also introduced the character Aunt Harriet, whom I’d thought was created solely for the 1966 TV series.

Editor’s Note: So far, I’m not really impressed with the City of Bane storyline. It seems like a rehash of No Man’s Land to me.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Powers Of X & House Of X Mean New Direction Of X

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This summer Jonathan Hickman is writing two interlocking X-Men miniseries (House Of X and Powers Of X), which will spawn a new direction for upcoming X-Titles.

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House Of X #1 hit stands first, for $7.99. Without spoiling anything I can say, the issue picks up during, what feels like, the middle of the story. After reading a few pages I actually put the book down and checked the internet to make sure I hadn’t missed something between the final issue of Uncanny X-Men and the book I was currently reading. I hadn't. The issue simply began after an entire new “world order” (for lack of a better term) had been created for mutants.

I almost pulled the title from my subscriptions list. However, I’m a huge X-Men junkie and if these books were setting up new ongoing titles, I didn't want to go in blind down the road. I’m happy I stuck it out.

The fourth season of Babylon-5 showed fans the future of humanity one-hundred years, five-hundred years, one-thousand years, and one-million following the end of the Earth Alliance Civil War. Powers Of X #1, for $5.99, does roughly the same thing with the future of mutants. I was hooked. Seriously, I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a book more.

A week later, I picked up House Of X #2, for $4.99, which rewrites the history of one well known character without contradicting anything which has been published previously. Hickman gives the character a power I’ve always wished I had, to tell a brilliantly creative quasi time travel story. Then he reshows readers a seen from Powers Of X #1 from a different point of view, which had me thinking about mutant history for few hours after I’d read it. Thanks for costing me sleep Hickman.

Each issue is peppered with pages mimicking computer readouts to convey important story elements to the reader. These can take the form of historical facts, mutant population statistics, political insights, etc….

Both #1s feature extra long stories which increase their price. Plus, I mistakenly bought the “Director’s Cut” of House Of X #1, featuring a cover gallery, script notes, and other extras, which add nothing to the story, but increase the cover price by $2.00.

The new take on the X-Men takes some getting used to, but now that I’m a few issues in, I like where it’s going.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Super Hero Prequels

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In 1999, George Lucas gave fans the first chapter of Darth Vader's origin story.  While Phantom Menace was, unquestionably, the worst movie of the Star Wars franchise (at least until Solo hit the big screen), it made over $1 billion and reignited the Star Wars universe. 



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Perhaps inspired by the success of the prequel, DC gave TV viewers a prequel of its own two years later.  Smallville, told the story of young Clark Kent coming to terms with his powers.  Unlike the syndicated Superboy series of the early 90s, Smallville focused as much on teen angst as on super powered plots.

I made the mistake of writing the show off early on, because I felt it was a cross between Superboy and Dawson’s Creek.  Despite what I thought, the show developed a huge following and lasted ten years.


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In 2014, FOX aired Gotham, the story of the city about ten years before Batman took to the mean streets.  While young Bruce Wayne definitely played a major role in the series, it really focused on a heroic Jim Gordon earning his future job as Police Commissioner.  

The series just wrapped up a few months ago, and I was sorry to see it go.  Not only were we given rich foundations for our heroes, but popular villains such as the Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman were portrayed as multi-layered characters rather than one dimensional evil foils for Wayne and Gordon.

Right now, the Syfy Channel (don’t get me started on the whole Syfy vs. Sci-Fi thing) is airing season 2 of Krypton.  Basically, Krypton is to Superman what Caprica was to Battlestar Galactica (2004)… with a bit of Terminator thrown into the mix.  The series chronicles Adam Strange traveling back in time to protect Superman’s grandfather, Seg El, from Superman’s enemies seeking to prevent Superman’s birth.


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Setting aside the fact that if one can travel through time and space one can probably shoot down a rocket solely occupied by a baby, Krypton is an immensely fun show.  Not only have we been treated to live action versions of classic characters such as Brainiac, Lobo, Doomsday, and the aforementioned Adam Strange, but the scripts and production values are movie quality. 

This Sunday, July 28, 2019, epix is scheduled to premiere the prequel series, Pennyworth, about a young Alfred meeting Thomas Wayne.  At first I thought, “Who cares about a pre prequel about a butler?”  Then I remembered the character was a British intelligence agent before he came to work for Wayne Manner.
            
Judging by the trailers, Pennyworth looks like it has the potential to be an exciting TV show filled with humor, action, and Easter Eggs (allusions to related material).  Based solely on what I’ve seen, it looks to me as if the main antagonists will belong to the Court of Owls, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the League of Assassins being involved in some way too.

There's room for lots of other fresh material to be produced within the prequel genre.  I wouldn't mind seeing a pre-Hal Jordan Green Lantern series featuring Abin Sur.  Whatever the powers that be have in store, it’s a pretty safe bet that fans will be shown back stories of our favorite characters for some time to come.
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Spotlight:

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Wolverine is the best at what he does, selling comics.  Since returning from the grave late last year, Wolverine has been featured in Uncanny X-Men, War of the Realms, Infinity Watch, and other series which I’m probably not aware of.  However, he has yet to return to his own series

Instead of relaunching a Wolverine title, Marvel has spent the Summer putting him in a bunch of one-shot stories.  These solo appearances include; Wolverine vs. Blade, Wolverine + Captain America, Wolverine: Exit Wounds, and bizarrely a Wolverine Annual #1 for a title which doesn't exist.


Granted, this format has the benefit of allowing readers to by only the stories they want, without having to wait for another story to end.  I get it.  However, in order for that to work, one has to be aware of each one-shot coming out.  Keeping track of multiple publications can be a daunting task, even for a mega-nerd such as me; a casual reader doesn't stand a chance.


It would make much more sense to release the stories sequentially under a single title, so readers can sign up for “Wolverine” and know they're going to get every story.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Bye Bye Westeros

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It's been way too long since I’ve written one of these blogs.  I have no excuse.  Well, that’s not true.  I have multiple excuses, but simply none that are any good.  I think my sails lost some wind when I couldn't get to the movies to see Captain Marvel or SHAZAM!

While I’ve been gone, the world of geekdom has seen several major developments.  I’m not going to address them all, but I want to touch on two of them.

SPOILER WARNINGS FOR AVENGERS/AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D & GAME OF THRONES
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I'm not going to address the events of End Game, it's been analyzed by a good portion of blogosphere has already picked it apart.  That being said, I feel the need to address a plot hole regarding Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  The show was synced with the Avengers’ timeline at the end of last season.  This season picked up one year later, which should put it a year after the snap.  Yet, the show completely ignores the fact that half the people on Earth are gone.  It's just lazy writing.  Grrrrrrrrrr…….  Enough said about that.


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I’d rather spend time giving my impressions of the Game of Thrones’ finale.  I know that’s been picked apart too, but I’ve been hashing it over with my friend Kyle, so I thought it'd be fun to post my thoughts here too.  Kyle, you can take a nap, I’ve told you all this.

I liked the way the story ended,  for the most part.  Although, I wanted Sam to kill Daenerys to avenge his father and brother.  Jon doing it though was powerful, but having Daenerys inadvertently create her own worst enemy would have been so much more epic.

In a similar vain, I REALLY WANTED Jaime to kill Sersi.  It would have been a great moment of redemption for his character.  Going from an incestuous sleaze who pushes boys out of windows to a knight who kills his lover for the good of the kingdom would have made a complete hero’s journey.  Still dying in each other's arms, while Bran came out on top was poetic justice.

When I watched it, I groaned at Bran becoming king.  I thought they did it just for the sake of the big twist.  I thought about it though, and given all the people who struggled to protect him, it made sense.  Hodor died holding the door to protect the one who would be king.  We live for the one, we die for the one.  Oh wait, that’s from a different saga.

I think Arya served her purpose.  Some people think she should've killed Sersi, but given that she had already killed the Night King and saved humanity from the White Walkers, it seems like a lot to ask.  Just saying.  There is a rumor she may get her own spin-off showing us what's west of Westeros.  We’ll see.

Right now, I’m gearing up for The Dark Phoenix Saga.  I know going in that they have to combine The Phoenix Saga with The Dark Phoenix Saga, so that won't bother me.  I just hope they do better with The Dark Phoenix Saga than they did with Apocalypse.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Enjoying War Of The Realms

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Enjoying War Of The Realms:

When Odin of Midgard, Thor’s father, is, supposedly, murdered by Malekith’s forces, the Ten Realms are drawn into a war which will determine the fate of all existence.


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After reading issue #1, this is my non-spoilery synopsis of Marvel’s latest mega event, War Of The Realms. Like all mega events, since the original Secret Wars, the story consists of a main title, several tie-in titles, and relevant issues of ongoing titles.

Act 1: The World at War - April Books
War of the Realms #1 |
War of the Realms #2 |
Asgardians of the Galaxy #8 |
Avengers #18 |
Thor #12 |
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43 |
Venom #13 |
War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #1 |
War of the Realms: Punisher #1 |
War of the Realms: War Scrolls #1 |
War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1 |

Act 2: (Title Unknown) - May Books
War of the Realms #3 |
War of the Realms #4 |
War of the Realms Strikeforce: The Dark Elf Realm #1 |
War of the Realms Strikeforce: The War Avengers #1 |
War of the Realms Strikeforce: The Land of Giants #1 |
War of the Realms: Spider-Man and the League of Realms #1 |
War of the Realms: Spider-Man and the League of Realms #2 |
War of the Realms: War Scrolls #2 |
War of the Realms: Punisher #2 |
War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1 |
War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #2 |
War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #2 |
War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #3 |
War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #2 |
Fantastic Four #10 |
Venom #14 |
Giant Man #1 |
Giant Man #2 |
Asgardians of the Galaxy #9 |
Thor #13 |
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #44 |
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #43 |
Champions #5 |
Tony Stark: Iron Man #12 |
Avengers #19 |

Act 3: (Title Unknown) - June Books
War of the Realms #5 |
War of the Realms #6 |
War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #4 |
War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #5 |
War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #3 |
War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #4 |
War of the Realms: Punisher #3 |
War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #3 |
War of the Realms: War Scrolls #3 |
Thor #14 |
Champions #6 |
Avengers #20 |
Captain Marvel #6 |
Captain Marvel #7 |
Deadpool #13 |
Deadpool #14 |
Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 |
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45 |
Tony Stark: Iron Man #13 |
War Of The Realms: Omega #1

Make no mistake, I DO NOT plan to collect every single tie-in. Not only would it eat up way too much of my bank account, I learned long ago (in 1991 with DC’s Armageddon 2001 and War Of The Gods) that many tie-in issues don't add much to the over all story.

As for me, I’m going to collect the main title, War Of The Realms: Punisher, War Of The Realms: Uncanny X-Men, War Of The Realms: Scrolls (because Captain America is in it), and the tie-in issues of the titles I normally collect. I recommend you do the same; find a few tie-in titles featuring heroes you really like, and don't knock yourself out trying to collect every single skirmish.


Editor's Note:

To make these blogs easier to post on social media, I'm moving the Spotlight section back to the end of each entry.


Spotlight:

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Happy!, arguably one of most bizarre shows on TV, has returned to SyFy for a second season. The show, based on the graphic novel of the same name, tells the story of, alcoholic ex-detective, Nick Sax being guided by his daughter's imaginary blue unicorn.

The first season was about rescuing his daughter from a sadistic Santa. This season revolves around a sado-masochistic Easter Bunny and a plot to control the Easter holiday by scamming the Pope. Happy! is a show jam packed with graphic violence, adult language, and sexually suggestive content. While the show is crude, violent, and COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN, adults will find a hilarious exciting series.

Happy! airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on SyFy.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

SHAZAM Is Just The Magic Word!

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Spotlight:
Based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, American Gods has returned to Starz for a second season.

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Starring Ian McShane as “Mr. Wednesday," the show tells the story of the old Gods (Odin, Belquis, Czernobog, Anansi, etc…) trying to find their place in a world which worships Technology, Media, and similar new Gods. If such an array of characters wasn’t eclectic enough, Gaiman throws a zombie, a six foot tall leprechaun, and an excon named Shadow into the mix for good measure.

Stir the pot and the result is an exciting, mind bending tale filled with violence, dark humor, and profoundly thought provoking ideas about why we believe what we believe.

Due to the use of graphic violence and adult language, this is not a show for the little ones. Yet, adults, who tune into Starz on Sunday nights, will find new episodes of an intelligent entertaining series.


SHAZAM Is Just The Magic Word!
The movie Captain Marvel opened on March 8th, and has been breaking box office records. SHAZAM opens in theatres on April 5th. Bizarrely, at least to us old farts, the two movies are about two completely different characters.


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When I was growing up, Billy Batson shouted SHAZAM (Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury) in order to transform into the world’s mightiest mortal Captain Marvel. Now SHAZAM is the name of the hero Billy Batson turns into, and Captain Marvel is a female heroin in a different universe. So, WTF happened ?

Fawcett Comics, the original publishers of Captain Marvel/SHAZAM comics, cancelled the title in the 1950s. In the 1960s, Marvel Comics trademarked the name Captain Marvel for their own Kree alien superhero, which meant when DC licensed the Fawcett characters in 1972, they had the Fawcett character named Captain Marvel, but couldn’t call the comic Captain Marvel, so they used his magic word “SHAZAM!” for the title.

The rule applied to non-print media as well. When Billy Batson made his TV debut in 1974, his show was titled The SHAZAM/Isis Hour, which I looked forward to every Saturday morning. Eventually, DC grew tired of making the distinction, and renamed the character SHAZAM when they rebooted their line of comics as “The New 52.”

In my mind, SHAZAM will always be Captain Marvel, mainly out of tradition. Plus, if you think about it, it just makes more sense. If his name and magic word are the same, how can the hero tell someone his name without reverting to Billy Batson?

Thursday, 28 February 2019

The Umbrella Academy Graduates To Netflix

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Spotlight:

In 1975, the Justice League of America hit ABC’s Saturday morning air waves as the Super Friends. The first, kid friendly, season saw Wendy, Marvin, and their Scooby-Doo-esc pet Wonder Dog serving as the Super Friends’ interns. The second season saw the interns suddenly replace with the shape shifting Wonder Twins; Zan, Jayna, and their pet space-monkey Gleek.


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Unless you were fortunate enough to have read Super Friends #7, you had no idea the original interns had gone to Ivy University (Ray Palmer’s fictional university) and Paradise Island to further their educations, and the Wonder Twins had been sent from their planet, Exxor, to learn how to be super heroes. You only knew that when they touched hands, to activate their powers, he could turn into any water construct and she could turn into any animal.

Since the end of the Saturday morning series, in 1984, the twins have made occasional appearances in Extreme Justice, Teen Titans, Young Justice, and Smallville Season 11. Now, written by Mark Russell, with art by Stephen Byrne, DC has finally given the siblings their own title.

The new incarnation depicts the twins as exiles, rather than exchange students. Yet, like their TV predecessors, they're again being shepherded by Superman, and interning in the Hall of Justice, as they try to adapt to their new planet.

Wonder Twins is a light hearted comic book geared toward kids and teens, with plenty of super hero cameos and high school hijinks.  Think Archie meets the Justice League.


The Umbrella Academy Graduates To Netflix:


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On October 1, 1989, 43 women around the world give birth simultaneously, despite none of them showing any sign of pregnancy until labor began. Seven of the children are adopted by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves. This is the first bit of information the audience is given as the Netflix series, based on the Dark Horse comic book series by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, begins.

What follows is a majestically off beat super hero drama. Seeing a loosely knit team of super powered individuals who don't all get along invites comparisons to the X-Men. Yet, the grand mansion and non-human staff reminded me of SyFy’s Sanctuary.

Without revealing spoilers, it’s safe to say we meet our characters just as their lives change and they're thrust into a mystery. As soon as we start to get into the mystery, another, more ominous threat rears its head.

I’m only three episodes into the series, and so far I'm having a lot of fun with it. Not only is their plenty of high powered action, but the characters are written with layers of complexity, making them come across as believable despite their powers.

Although this is a superhero show, I’d recommend watching it when the little ones are in the other room. Violence and use of adult language makes this a show for adults and mature teens.

Super Hero Prequels

- In 1999, George Lucas gave fans the first chapter of Darth Vader's origin story.   While Phantom Menace was, unquestionably, the wors...