Monday, September 30, 2013

Wonder Woman Fan Film Blows Away All Arguments About Why We Can't Have A Wonder Woman Movie/TV Show.

SOURCE: Rainfall TV

This project was a labor of love for all involved and it shows.  In just two minutes and without a word of dialogue, they have explained everything that Wonder Woman is and should be.  You can read the details of how it came about on The Golden Lasso - the personal blog of the costumer who designed the Wonder Woman outfit and played one of the Amazons.

Warner Brothers?  Cut these women and Rainfall TV a check. 

I much rather see more of this than a Jim Gordon cop show. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bloody Hell! NBC Developing A Constantine Series!


SOURCE: First Flash, Then Gotham… Now Constantine Is Being Developed For Television

On the one hand, as a John Constantine fan, I'm glad to hear this news.

On the other hand, NBC doesn't have the best track record when it comes to fantasy series, even if Warner Brothers is the studio actually developing the series.

I'm withholding comment until we get more news and confirmation that an actual Brit has been cast in the role this time. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fangasm - First Episode Review

I'll admit that I wasn't looking forward to SyFy's Fangasm.  I dislike Reality TV in general.  I dislike SyFy's programming in specific.  That being said, I did enjoy the one season of Who Wants To Be A Superhero? that I watched at my then-girlfriend's insistence.  It was for that reason and (full disclosure) the fact that I know two people involved in the production that I decided to give this show the chance I wouldn't give the loathsome Heroes of Cosplay.

My hopes weren't high after the first segment when they revealed the cast - seven real geeks who won the honor of interning with Stan Lee for the summer.  How could my hopes be high when one of the cast is introduced as a literal basement dweller who lives with his mom?!  Stereotyping, much?  I also wasn't thrilled when I noticed that all of the male cast looked like they'd been sent over from central casting to be background characters in Revenge Of The Nerds V: The Next Generation whereas all three of the core female cast were photogenic.  I was truly afraid this was going to be another geek minstrel show like The Big Bang Theory.

And then something amazing happened towards the end of the second segment.  After the usual Reality TV nonsense where our heroes are sent out to accomplish some task (i.e. collecting signatures at an event to make Geek Pride Day a national holiday) and the usual forced drama as they attempt said task (i.e. they forgot the official petition paperwork), the cast are getting dinner at the restaurant where this Geek Pride event is being held.  A man then announces the arrival of "The Superhero Angels" and out strut three women in costumes that were definitely NOT approved by The Comics Code Authority.

All the fangirls are annoyed by this and quite rightly so.  What follows is a surprising talk where the group discuss the difference between women who cosplay because of their love of the character and dancers who put on a skimpy parody of a Wonder Woman costume to entertain the crowd at a bar and grill.  I've seen this sort of discussion on-line a thousand times and given this explanation a few times personally.  Yet this is the first time I've seen it explained on a television show!

The best moments of Fangasm are like that.  Moments that focus upon the cast as people and the sensations that unite us all, be you Trekkie, Whovian, Browncoat or Whatever.  Scenes such as a contrived contest at a local comic book store are a necessary evil to reach the excellent moments such as where Sal persuades the only other contender in the contest to give up so that his new pal Paul can win dinner with George Takei instead of her.

Personally, I'd much rather the show just filmed the conversations between the cast instead of focusing upon such contrivances.  Alas, reality TV would not be reality TV without such contrivances and I suspect the general public's tolerance for such talk is limited.  Thankfully, the reality TV show aspects did not prove so annoying to me that I couldn't suffer through them to get to the good parts that are just fans being fans.  Nor do I think the cast embarrassed themselves or fandom at large with their antics, unlike some TV shows I could mention.

Bottom Line: If you, like me, have a low tolerance for reality series, believe me when I say that Fangasm is worth it for the good parts.  It does more to promote the realities of Geek Culture than it does to make fun of it and there's some genuinely emotional moments to boot. 

Agents of SHIELD - First Episode Review

Perhaps the most highly-anticipated new television series of the year, Agents of SHIELD has a lot going for it apart from a massive Internet hype machine and thousands upon thousands of Marvel Comics lovers and Joss Whedon fans just itching for more after The Avengers.  With a writing team that includes Whedon's co-creators on Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog and a cast headed by Clark Gregg as a not-yet-dead Agent Phil Coulson, hopes are high for the new series.  However, that optimism is tempered by the fact that sci-fi shows rarely do well on the major networks and that apart from Gregg, most of the cast is largely untested in this sort of program.

Thankfully, this pilot episode largely justifies the fans' optimism.  Unsurprisingly, the writing is smart.  The groundwork is already being laid for a complex mythology utilizing previously established pieces of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (there's a direct reference to the plot of Iron Man 3) as well as the original comics.  Several mysteries have also been set up, including how Agent Coulson is still vertical and just why his doctor (played by Ron Glass in a brilliant cameo role) and Agent Maria Hill seem to know some secret about his lucky escape that must be kept hidden from him.   

The rest of the core cast are made up of a collection of  the same quick-witted geniuses with an every-ready quip on their lips that populate every world created by Joss Whedon.  Therein lays the biggest problem with the show so far- familiarity.  There's nothing to truly distinguish any of the cast apart from Coulson from the same character types most of us have come to know and love in Joss Whedon's other work.  Hopefully that will improve as the show progresses but so far we know little about our core cast besides some broad archetypes.

That being said, while the general concept of the show is reminiscent of several other TV series based around secret groups working to protect the populace from general weirdness, the writing so far is unique enough to keep this from being Joss Whedon's Warehouse 13 or Marvel Comics Presents Fringe or even Stan Lee's Torchwood.  It will be worth watching if only to see how they develop it from here.  I don't think this show is quite the revolution fans hoped it would be.  It is, however, a good start to what could be a great series. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Doctor Who #13 (IDW Vol. 3) - A Review

While Doctor Who is frequently described as a series where anything is possible, rarely is this idea pushed in a historical context.  "Cities made of song and people made of smoke" are all well and good but you can't just go mucking about with "what might have been" in history.  Even when history itself is apocryphal and filled with more tall tales than any sci-fi dime novel, it just isn't done! 

And yet, with Doctor Who #13, Tony Lee has done it and done it well. 

The central conceit of this issue is that a young Oscar Wilde - who did travel the length and depth of America in 1882 - found himself in Deadwood, South Dakota at the same time as "Calamity" Martha Jane Canary.  At the same time, The Doctor and Clara make a day-trip to Deadwood.  And, yet again at the same time, there are rumors that the legendary Wild Bill Hickok has risen from the dead to seek revenge as a mysterious masked gunfighter, who kills with a gesture instead of a gun. 

Lee balances all of these stories and subplots like a plate-spinner.  More, he manages some truly touching character moments, such as Wilde and Clara bonding over booze as Clara tries desperately to avoid pitching story ideas to a Wilde who is years away from writing his most famous works of fiction.  Amazingly, there are hints of even further complications in a story that already has three good stories running through it at present time.  This story may well justify the four issues being devoted towards telling it.

Artist Mike Collins shows the same skill here he did in the recent Fourth Doctor chapter of Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time.  The characters from the show and historical figures are well caricatured and Collins proves an effective visual storyteller.  The panel layout is logical and the story flows smoothly without any confusion.

Bottom Line: If you're a Doctor Who fan, this story is a must read.  Fans of western comics in general and good historical pieces may also wish to give this one a shot.  Seeing the legendary Oscar Wilde in the equally legendary locale of Deadwood is worth the price of admission alone. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Blackbeard Legacy - Part Four

Aye, me lads and lasses.  Seeing as how it be Talk Like A Pirate Day, yer captain be thinking it be high time we scuttle this bitch of a story and sail on to more pleasant tales.

When last we left, the story had shifted gears.  No more, it seemed, were we to muddle through the exploits of Hanna Teach - bastard daughter of Blackbeard - as she searched for her father to seek vengeance for her cursed mother.  The third chapter of this series focused instead on Morgan Sheppard - a bounty hunter of greater scruples and greater interest than Miss Teach.  The last chapter ended with Morgan accepting a job to deliver Hanna Teach's head to an interested buyer and with Morgan pointing a pistol at said head.

It was a stirring conclusion.  But if ye know anything about The Blackbeard Legacy thus far, ye know the conclusions are often misleading.  And to quote me idol Captain Joel Hodgson, "anything can happen during the cutaway".  So go ahead and read the summaries of PARTS ONE, TWO AND THREE.  They will help ye not in finding your way through the sargassum that follows!

Our story opens on a lifeboat, with Madison - the blind bounty hunter Hanna convinced to work for her instead of killing her back in Part One - seemingly stranded.  Her dialogue seems to imply she just got out of a fight with a bunch of zombies or just fled from a bunch of zombies.  Which may or may not answer the question of what happened at the end of Part Two when it looked like a voodoo priestess bounty hunter was about to attack Hanna and her crew.  My gut is leaning toward 'not'.

Fished out of the briny, Madison quickly finds herself on the Queen Anne's Revenge - the personal ship of Blackbeard himself!  More, it is revealed that Madison was in the employ of Blackbeard this whole time!  She was meant to keep Hanna Teach wandering and searching for Blackbeard.  Why?  Well, we're going to find out later, but I'll warn ye right now - you're really not going to like the answer.

So here's where we stand so far.  Madison - who we last saw in Part Two - was apparently either stranded at sea or fled a fight when the zombies showed up to kill Hanna.  Either way, this happened off panel, because the last we saw Madison she was still a crew member in good standing before the hypothetical zombie attack.  That would explain away one dropped cliffhanger.  But what of Part Three's ending, with Morgan Shephard getting ready to splatter Hanna's brains across the docks of St. Mary's?

Well... we may have an answer for that, as we cut to Hanna's current whereabouts, where the zombie-raising bounty hunter Obeahmama has shown up again.  Again?  Maybe?  Or is this the same fight that Madison fled earlier?  

It's really unclear.  Just as it's unclear if the pony-tailed woman on the left-side of this first panel is Morgan Sheppard.  Not that it matters.  Whether it's Morgan or not, she disappears from the book immediately afterward and is never spoken of again.     
Thankfully, before Hanna can be cursed or zombified or whatever Obeahmama's magic blast is meant to do, she is saved by Schepsel!  Yes, Schespel!  Loyal and faithful Schespel, who sacrifices himself so that his friend Eddie might escape.  It is a noble sacrifice and one I'm sure would mean something had Schespel and Eddie EVER SHOWN UP AT ANY BLOODY POINT IN THE COMIC BEFORE NOW!!!


You're probably wondering who Eddie is too.  Eddie is the genius who designed a peddle-powered submarine that is shaped like an octopus.  Apparently he and Hanna are friends, since he raises no objections to her jumping on board his ship.  Then again, he may just want someone else to do the peddling as they flee for their lives.  
Two days later, Eddie and Hanna emerge somewhere off the coast of the Carolinas.  If you're thinking that's remarkable good time for a foot-powered submarine to travel from Madagascar (I'm presuming the port they just left was St. Mary's), you'd better brace yourself.  Because now comes the point in this story - which I'll remind you features zombies, pirates, magic, numerous anachronisms and steampunk submarines - when things get WEIRD!
The more well-read among you are probably face-palming at this point. 

For the rest of you, allow me to explain.  This Coleridge fellow is The Ancient Mariner.  As in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge - a poem about a sailor who was cursed to walk the Earth for all eternity after murdering an albatross that his crew believed brought them good fortune.  The Ancient Mariner learned from his mistake and now preaches a message of love and respect for all God's creatures.

He tells his story to Hanna and Eddie, who are bored senseless by the whole thing.  The Ancient Mariner recognizes Hanna's map - somehow - and tells her that seeking revenge will bring no good to anyone, for Blackbeard, loathsome though he is, is still one of God's creatures and must be given a chance to atone his wickedness.  Naturally, Hanna is having none of this but she does have wits enough to realize that arguing with a cursed undead sailor is never a good idea.

Suddenly, Eddie and Hanna find themselves standing on Blackbeard's island hideout.  And just as suddenly, the two stumble into a pit-trap and are captured by Blackbeard's crew.  The two are dragged before Blackbeard, who sits on his throne attended by a number of scantily clad wenches.  Because what's the point of being a pirate king if you aren't attended by a number of scantily clad wenches?!

Dead Old Dad is less than impressed with his bastard daughter and I can't say that I blame him at all.  The only reason Hanna has made it this far is through dumb luck and supernatural intervention.  And yet, I can't help but wonder why - if Blackbeard was so concerned about this bastard daughter seeking him out - did he not either deal with her personally or make it a damned bit easier for her to stumble into a trap?

Blackbeard orders Madison to be brought out.  Ready yourself for another pointless plot-twist.  It turns out Madison wasn't really blind!  And why is this pointless, you may ask?  Well...
At this point, I feel it worth noting a flaw in this comic series I've not spoken of much before.  It is very hard to read.  And I don't mean because the artwork makes my eyes bleed or the story is utter crap.  I mean it is hard to understand which dialogue balloons are meant to be read first and how the panels are meant to flow together through a good portion of the book.  There are many places where the reader is meant to start on the right then move left, such as in the page two images ago where we're meant to start with Hanna's thoughts then move to the dialogue on the left.

Another common problem is that this series tells us things without showing them.  Perhaps the writers did not trust their artist to be able to depict a woman turning her head?  Who can say?  Given the quality of artist Bluewater Productions tends to hire, that's not an unreasonable guess.  All I know is that there is no excuse for this story requiring a thought balloon and a dialogue balloon to tell us what it could more easily show us in the art.

Anyway, Blackbeard makes good on his threat and does shoot Hanna.  It's at this point that an albatross flies in the window and begins making enough noise to wake the dead.  Not literally, understand, but the noise is apparently so distracting to Blackbeard and his crew that nobody raises any objection as Eddie picks up Hanna and makes a run for it.

So where did the albatross come from?  From The Ancient Mariner.  Who has apparently gone from being a messenger of God's love and mercy to being this world's equivalent of The Spectre.  He apparently sealed the doors of Blackbeard's tower after Eddie and Hanna were safely away.
Faster than you can say "RELEASE THE KRAKEN!", the Ancient Mariner... eh... releases the Kraken.  At least, that's what it looks like in the artwork.  According to Hanna's thought balloon a green fog ate away at the tower, the crew and everything else.  Maybe she's hallucinating from the blood loss, although she doesn't seem to be at all hurt and is standing unaided in the next panel.   
And so, with her father having tried to kill her and the apparent blessing of the albatross (who scoops up Blackbeard's hat and drops it on her head), Hanna decides that she must continue the legacy of her father.  The father who cursed her mother, hired mercenaries to kill her and then tried to finish the job himself.

Hanna is a complete moron, in case you hadn't noticed.
Then Hanna's eyes rolled into the back of her head as the internal bleeding took its' toll. The End.

This series is one of the worst collection of comics I've ever had the misfortune to read.  If I owned the print edition, I would not use it to pick up the droppings of my worst enemy's dog.  The artwork is terrible.  The plot is incomprehensible, with things happening just because.  The heroine is an idiot who is the least interesting character in the whole thing and her character arc is completely pointless since her one goal is accomplished without her doing a damn thing and then she decides to continue the legacy of the jerkass father she was trying to kill because he was a jerkass!

Stay away from this book, me hardies.  Stay far away from it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mission: G.E.E.K. (Ginormously Exciting EBook Kaper!)

Alan Kistler (whom wrote for Fanzing at the same time I did and is currently writing many books like Doctor Who: A History) and Jessica Mills (of Awkward Embraces & The N00b Chronicles fame) are partnering together on a travelogue book that promises to do for geek-based tourism what Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas did for mescaline.

There is a Kickstarter with all manner of benefits, including e-books, print books, digital sundries and various bits of autographed bric-a-brack.  Go and support it, just like your Unca Starman did!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Red Sonja #3 - A Review

Gail Simone's Red Sonja run has proven revolutionary after two issues if for no other reason than she has given us a Sonja who has faced multiple failures and not bounced back from them.  She has been defeated.  She has been enslaved.  And now, following the revelation that she's a plague carrier, she is an exile.  Denied help.  Denied shelter.  Denied even her own name!  The woman once called Red Sonja has been sentenced to wander into the frozen wastes as a nameless victim to die alone - her life against the lives of the city she swore to protect.

Sonja The Red of Hyrkania is capable of most things and more capable than most.  Yet there is one thing Sonja has never been able to do or do well - admit defeat.  Even in the face of a dual death-sentence and denied her name, Sonja cannot find it in herself not to fight for life, though madness and visions of her family's violent deaths plague her as surely as the disease that saps her strength.   

I'll admit to some worry as I first began reading Red Sonja #3.  Perhaps I've been made over-wary of any story set in a dream-vision after Brain Wood spent several months giving us Conan The Barbarian stoned off his ass on lotus fumes, seeing a future that we know will never happen.  Thankfully, Simone keeps this story firmly rooted in reality. 

More, Simone finds another way to revolutionize the character of Red Sonja by instituting some major changes to her background.  I shall not spoil the surprises here, for there are two of them for long-time Red Sonja fans.  Suffice it to say I think Simone has given by taking away and the action at the heart of this issue proves a fitting beginning for a new origin of the She-Devil with a Sword.

Walter Geovani is a marvel of an artist.  I could write for paragraphs about his wonderful character designs, his skill as a visual choreographer, his use of shadow and all manner of other positive traits.  In the end, I think the scans above do far more justice to Geovani's craft than my words could.

Red Sonja has always been one of my favorite series but Simone and Geovani have transformed it into one of the best.  Great art.  Great story.  This should be on everyone's pull list, even if they are not typically a fan of the sword-and-sorcery genre.  Trust me - there's nothing typical about this sword-and-sorcery!

Riddler #1 (Batman #23.2) - A Review

The Riddler has always been my favorite Bat-villain and one of my favorite comic characters period.  I have a special fondness for all the characters who feel a need to prove themselves in some form or fashion.  And if my inner supervillain might make a confession, I'll admit to having a certain sympathy for Edward Nygma as another intellectual who doesn't suffer fools well, though I'm not homicidal about it. 

Both of these ideas are at the center of Riddler #1 - a special that focuses upon the method behind the madness of Edward Nygma as he attempts to circumvent the security of Wayne Enterprises' corporate office.  Why?  For several reasons that are revealed as the story unfolds, but in part just to prove that he can.

Nominally this issue is a tie in to the Batman: Zero Year event currently taking place in the main Batman book.  However, the only obvious connection to that story is that this features Scott Snyder's take on The Riddler.  This Riddler is a fixer - a trouble-shooter who sees to the dodgy work of other people for a price.  At least, that was Edward Nygma's role until seemingly being spurred to self-interest after one of his employers asked him what was the point in being the smartest man in the room if nobody else knew it?

Snyder's Nygma is different than previous incarnations of the character, being as much a master of multiple disciplines as Bruce Wayne.  Comparisons might be drawn between this Edward Nygma and Jim Moriarty from BBC's Sherlock, where Holmes' greatest enemy has been reimagined as a consulting criminal who helps other evil-doers as consulting detective Holmes assists the police.  Nygma is as mentally unstable as ever, though his psychosis takes the form of an obsessive-compulsive disorder that drives him to be a literal know-it-all.  It's an engaging take on the classic formula and Ray Fawkes does a good job bringing it about.   

Jeremy Haun offers an equally inspired visual redesign of The Riddler.  With his new sideburns and tools that basically amount to a piece of psychic paper and a multi-tool cane, it's hard not to see this Nygma as looking somewhat like David Tenant - perhaps drawing inspiration from a now famous fan poster?  Regardless of the inspiration, Haun's cinematographic style depicts the story perfectly.  The direction is fittingly reminiscent of several recent heist movies and the action is well-paced throughout.

Riddler #1 is a welcome relief from the banality of titles that have made up the majority of the Villain's Month books so far.  There are no tired tales of abusive childhoods here - merely Edward Nygma being his brilliantly baffling self.  It's a good read for Riddler fans both old and new and gleefully fun in a sadistic sort of way.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Blackbeard Legacy - Part Three

When last we left The Blackbeard Legacy, we knew precious little more than when we'd started.  Halfway into this series and all we've learned about our heroine Hanna Teach is that she claims to be Blackbeard's daughter and that she wants revenge for what Blackbeard did to her mother.  It took us two issues to learn that much of who she is and what her motivations are!

There was also some nonsense about a zombie-raising bounty hunter and a key that has something to do with finding Blackbeard, but none of that really seems to have anything at all to do with the plot, such as it is.  You can read my commentary on Parts One and Parts Two if you really must know more.

Now read on...

How much do you want to bet they didn't have time to finish coloring this page?

Astute readers will note that the art style for this issue seems to be different.  Not better, mind you - just different.  The characters are still misshapen and oddly colored but now their eyes are smaller and their hands are freakishly big.  And yet, I consider this artist - who is uncredited in all the information I can find on this issue - to be an improvement on Mike Maydak, because while the character designs are outlandish they are also consistent.

Unlike the first two issues of this series, we do not start with a rambling narration from Hanna Teach.  Instead, we open somewhere off the coast of Africa, in a tower.  Here we find Drake Santiago, Fearless Pirate (TM) bragging about his latest adventures to a pair of conquests.  Whether they're bought slaves in matching costumes or ladies of negotiable affection who just happen to wear the same outfit is unclear.  It is also unclear if the dark-skinned woman is Hanna Teach, once again working undercover to retrieve something she needs.

The only thing that is clear is that Santiago is ready to celebrate his victory in style with some good old-fashioned booty plundering.  The Asian woman offers Santiago a drink to help him relax.  The drink soon has Santiago feeling more than relaxed - he's downright helpless!  It turns out the Asian one of his nubile lady friends in an assassin out for the bounty on his head! 
Luckily for Santiago, the other lady friend is also an assassin - one out for the bounty on the other assassin's head.  She retrieves a pair of pistols from... somewhere (Seriously!  Where does she get those guns from?) and blows the first assassin away.  It is here we find out that - despite looking very much like Hanna Teach - the other lady friend is not Hanna Teach, but is a bounty hunter named Morgan "Hack" Sheppard.
In a final bit if irony, Morgan reveals that nobody in the tower was who they claimed to be.  She knows that "Santiago" is not actually Santiago on account of her partner killed the real Drake Santiago a while earlier.  She's kind enough to advise Santiago about being more careful who he pretends to be in the future, noting that not all bounty hunters are as scrupulous as she and her partner are about confirming their targets before killing them.  Not too long that, after we meet Morgan's partner - a pirate named Patrick - and they're on their way to claim the bounty on the Asian assassin. 
At this point, some of you may be wondering what happened to Hanna Teach and why this story has suddenly switched focus onto this other pirate woman, particularly when the last chapter ended on a cliffhanger suggesting that Hanna was about to get attacked by zombie assassins.  That's a good question. 

Another good question is why do we now know more about Morgan and her motivations and backstory after half an issue than we do about Hanna after two issues?  And a really good question is why I'm so much more interested in Morgan's adventures after this short glimpse of who she is and what she does compared to Hanna.

Well, I do have an answer for that last one.  It's because Morgan is an interesting, morally complex character who does exciting things!  Compare that to the casually exploitative Hanna, who freely uses people without thinking and spent most of last issue walking around asking random townsfolk for information.


Cut to a tavern in Gibraltar, where Patrick and Morgan meet with their contact, collect their pay and find out about the next job their fixer had for them.  This is where the plot (such as it is) finally gets back on track as we find the bounty hunters' next target is - big surprise - Hanna Teach!
As Morgan goes to get her contact another drink, she's confronted at the bar by Phahed and Sharah - a rival team of bounty hunters.  They trade some sharp words about how Morgan should be working at the whorehouse down the street and how Phahed and Sharah are unskilled grunts who get by doing the dirty jobs Morgan and Patrick refuse on reasons of principal.  The kind of jobs that involve killing orphans and feature eating their corpses as a side-benefit.  
The duo inform Morgan that they came as a professional courtesy.  Someone else has put a price on Morgan's head with a bonus for Patrick.  Naturally, the cannibals mean to collect that bounty themselves.  But being the sort of idiots who inform someone that they're going to try and kill them instead of just killing them, they are easily startled when Morgan puts up a fight and a bar brawl ensues as a result.
As Patrick and Morgan make good their escape, we cut to the pirate haven of St. Mary's, just off the coast of Madagascar.  Here we find Hanna Teach and some of her crew, shopping for supplies (i.e. rum and limes).  Teach claims she's also there to rob some of the dead king's tombs that lie under the island but is quickly distracted from both thoughts of treasure and fighting scurvy when one of her crew spots her wanted poster.  And so our comic ends with Morgan showing up and placing a gun against Hanna Teach's head.

This issue is the chapter of The Blackbeard Legacy that really made me hate this series with an intensity I usually reserve for child molesters, book-burners and Mark Millar comics.  Not because it was bad but because it was so much better than the rest of the series.  The fact of the matter is that Morgan Sheppard is a much more interesting and competent heroine than Hanna Teach.  To have nearly an entire issue devoted to such a character after two issues of banality is painful because it gives you hope that things are actually improving.

Alas, it is a false hope.  As you will see next time when we conclude The Blackbeard Legacy...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us #35 - A Review

The penultimate issue of Injustice: Gods Among Us is built around an action-free conflict between Superman and Batman.  Yet despite a distinct lack of fisticuffs, this issue is far from boring. In fact, writer Tom Taylor hangs a lampshade on this point, with Batman explaining - in defiance of decades of fanboy arguments -  that if Superman truly wanted to kill him he could do so easily.  Likewise, Batman - like Taylor - demonstrates that the most effective weapon when fighting Superman is not wKryptonite or Magic... but words. 

Tom Derenick's art is a perfect complement to this particular issue.  Derenick's shadowy style is perfectly suited towards an issue set inside the Batcave.  The coloring team's palette perfectly complements Derenick's inks, with everything clearly defined despite being largely rendered in blacks and blues.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

What Can One Man Do Against The Death Of Hope?

Earlier this week, I wrote a column in response to the recent ruckus regarding  J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman leaving Batwoman.  For those who missed the news, the creative team quit in the wake of DC Comics Editorial declaring that they didn't want Kathy Kane and her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer to get married.  My article was based around the idea that the comics industry in general seems to have acquired a fear of depicting happily married superheroes, with most of the married superheroes at DC Comics having been rendered single by the New 52 revamp and Peter Parker still single because of Joe Quesada's belief that a deal with the devil is less inherently sinful than a divorce.

The digital ink was barely dry when another scandal involving DC Comics emerged later that afternoon.  This time the source of trouble was a contest for amateur artists, vying for a chance to depict Harley Quinn in the #0 issue of her upcoming solo book.  The catch?  All four panels are meant to depict Harley Quinn attempting suicide in a number of comedic ways, with the final panel depicting her naked and in a bathtub.  Some fixated upon the nudity aspect of the contest but most were outraged by the suicide element.  Particularly since next week is National Suicide Prevention Week.

I've been struggling with how to speak about this for the batter part of a day.  More than any character in recent memory, Harley Quinn had always been portrayed as one of the most fun characters in comics.  And try as I might, I can't think of a better metaphor for the state of affairs at DC Comics right now than a suicidal Harley Quinn.

As it turns out, I didn't have to think of a better metaphor.  For I learned today that Hope has literally been erased from the New 52 universe! Metaphors are completely meaningless at this point.  For all better writers and critics than me have spoken about the sense of all hope and joy being removed from the DC Universe in recent months, never did we suspect it would soon be a literal truth.

So the question that has been on my mind for the past few hours has been how - how do we fight this?

Protest?  It's already been made abundantly clear that our opinions as mere fans are completely meaningless to The Powers That Be.  So far the only instance where public outcry made a difference was in getting Gail Simone rehired on to Batgirl and even that may have been due entirely to the threat of decreased orders from the distributor.

Boycott?  In most cases, we're already not buying the offending books.  Those offended by Tony Daniel's dismissal of a female fan's concerns over a romance-based Superman/Wonder Woman book that was likened to Twilight by reassuring her there would be just as many butt shots of Superman as of Wonder Woman can't effectively boycott the title without The Powers That Be using that as justification for the belief that all their fans are 45 year old men and that women don't read comic books.

Jessica Mills touched upon another challenge before us quite eloquently in her recent column - DC Comics and Institutionalized Sexism – Purchasing Power is Not Power.  She touches upon the aforementioned  problems with boycotts while pointing out another problem.  Namely that boycotting an entire company does little to strike against the management and only hurts the artists and writers whose work we are enjoying.

"Telling people not to buy DC Comics as a way to change things at DC Comics is short sighted and dismissive.  Not buying those comics means readers have to, not only give up on beloved characters, but pull their support of talented and dedicated writers, artists, and others"

 "I like reading comics.  I love Gail Simone’s work.  I love Greg Rucka’s work.  I’m not going to stop supporting THEM because the DC leadership refuses to acknowledge the terrible decision-making that continually alienates a large portion of their client-base."

I'm in a similar fix.  Any pledge not to buy any more Batwoman comics is meaningless since I was reading the series as the collected editions became available at my local library.  Refusing to buy the upcoming Harley Quinn book would send a message against Amanda Conner - an artist whom I have been dying to see on a monthly series again for some time now.  And boycotting the company as a whole will only hurt Jeff Lemire and Gail Simone and all the other creators whose work I am enjoying.

I already know from experience that boycotts don't work.  I boycotted all things Marvel Comics for a goodly while over One More Day, wrote some rather good articles about why the storyline was a bad idea and it did nothing.  Eventually I focused my personal boycott on all things Spider-Man, purely so I could justify seeing The Avengers and supporting Joss Whedon (Browcoats Forever!).

So what can I do?  What can one man do?

And then it hit me.  We fight them the same way we do a bully.  We treat them as we would any disruptive child who makes a mess just to get attention.  We ignore them. 

Marvel Comics editor and One More Day apologist Tom Brevoort let the secret slip - that they see even bad publicity as good publicity and bad attention is still attention.  That they fear apathetic fans far more than angry fans because angry fans are still buying the comics.

So this is where I will start.

As a fan, I'm not going to pick up any more books out of habit in the hope that they're building toward something big.  If they can't do something to keep me entertained for one issue, it's not worth my time.

As a critic, I'm not going to bother writing reviews for long-running series or crossover events just to keep people informed as to what is going on.  If the book isn't worth reading most of the year, why should I care about it for the three months it's involved with the books I do care about?    

No more angry rants drawing curiosity .  No more hash-tagged Tweets giving you free publicity.  And no more second chances.  I'm that sort of a man.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Arrow - Season Two - New Trailer And The Casting of Amanda Waller

SOURCE: The CW’s Arrow Casts Spartacus Actress As Our New Amanda Waller (The Mary Sue) 


Rumors abounded that Amanda "The Wall" Waller would become a part of the cast of Arrow when it was revealed that Deadshot would be returning and that Michael Jai White would be playing the part of Bronze Tiger - both characters having been a part of Waller's Suicide Squad.  While we cannot confirm or deny that a Suicide Squad style team will be a part of Arrow's storyline, we can confirm that Spartacus actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson has been cast as Amanda Waller.

I'm withholding any judgement until we see her on the show.  While the odds probably weren't good that The CW would ever cast CCH Pounder or Angela Bassett in the part (even ignoring the younger, sexier Amanda Waller in all the New 52 comics), I take it as a good sign that they cast an actress better known for playing tough female characters than the model-types that usually grace The CW's shows.

Also, we now have a new trailer for Season 2 of Arrow.


Fear And Loathing Of Love And Marriage In Superhero Comics

Who said that comic fans don't want to see people getting married?

What prompted this question is today's news that J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman are leaving Batwoman as of Issue #26, citing editorial interference in their plans to have Kathy Kane and Maggie Sawyer get married.  Williams was quick to note that DC Comics' objection was to marriage in general - not a marriage between two lesbians.  The evidence does bear him out, given that nearly every major married couple in DC Comics pantheon of superheroes has either been broken up since the New 52 revamp or not appeared at all. 

Clark Kent and Lois Lane?  Not an item.  Barry Allen and Iris West?  Flirting but he has a new girlfriend.  Wally West and Linda Park?  Don't even exist!  Ditto Ralph and Sue Dibny.  Heck, the only married couple I think is still around is Aquaman and Mera and they've interacted so little in his book you'd hardly know they were married!

Of course DC Comics is far from alone in being guilty of this sort of thing.  Do the words One More Day ring a bell?  Does everyone remember how that whole mess started because Joe Quesada thought the reason Spider-Man's sales were dropping were because the fans couldn't relate to a happily married Peter Parker?  Do anyone but me and the guys writing remember that they tried killing Mary Jane off because of that theory and all it did was upset the fans?

"But Starman," I hear you metaphorical masses say.  "Superheroes get married and divorced all the time!  It's a common element in drama in many genres!" 

That is true, dear masses.  Yet there is a world of difference between simple drama preventing marriage from occurring and a refusal to consider a plot element completely. 

It seems that the very idea of marriage itself is under attack in our comics due to some mistaken belief that young readers do not want to read about married couples.  This seems odd given the belief some publishers have that their key demographic is 45-year old males, but that's a whole other argument.  So we still have the question - where did this idea come from?

Any ideas?  I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Blackbeard Legacy - Part Two

I'll be honest, me hearties.  Your Captain did think better of continuing with this series.  Not out of any compassion for you, of course, but because there is precious little in this second chapter of The Blackbeard Legacy worth making fun of.

It would be fair to say that nothing that advances the plot happens in this issue.  In point of fact, nothing happens in this issue at all!  Now, a bad comic I can make fun of easily.  But a boring comic?  Aye, that's a challenge that makes even my stout heart tremble a bit.

And yet I shall persevere and try to weather this challenge!  Because even if I can't deliver my best, you still deserve for me to try!  Besides, I  haven't gotten any new comics this week and I've got nothing else to blog about right now.  So if ye haven't already been exposed to Part One of The BlackBeard Legacy, click this link before continuing.on past the next image.

Our story begins with a wizened woman wearing tattered clothes and a skirt made of bones, standing on a beach.  This is the same woman we see on the Chapter Title page, though - unlike on the title page above - her skin is not green.  This, apparently, is Obehmana.  Our narrator, Hannah Teach, tells us that Obehmana is a witch/bounty hunter who - although Hannah didn't know it at the time - had been hired to track her down. 

We see Obehmana raise some zombies and it's quite spooky and terrifying.  Shame that's the last we'll see of them until the end of the issue.  Suddenly, we cut to Hannah waking up in bed, screaming.  Apparently she's been having reoccurring dreams of zombies coming for her.  Or some other reoccurring nightmare.  The narration is less than clear about this.

What is clear is that the log-book Hannah stole mentions a key of some kind.  The key is apparently some kind of "Beautiful Circle" and is located in Cuba.  Hannah admits to herself this seems unlikely but the man who compiled the log isn't given to tall tales, so it must be the truth.    

After a brief scene in which Madison (the blind bounty hunter from last issue) voices her objections to going to Cuba and Hannah blows her off, we arrive in Cuba.  At this point we discover just how low the writers of this series will go in a cheap attempt to maintain reader interest as they indulge in the lowest form of humor possible - blatant parroting.

That joke's not dead yet! It's getting better!

I don't know what's worse - the fact that they've been reduced to copying Monty Python skits wholesale for a cheap laugh or the fact that they misquoted the very thing they're ripping off!  As any teenage boy of a certain intellectual bend could tell you, the Norwegian Blue has "beautiful plumage" - not "lovely plumage".

The next four pages see Hannah and her crew questioning every damned person in the town about a mysterious key.  Apparently nobody in the crew bothered to put ranks in Gather Information because all they get is confusion, propositions and lines that I'm sure are references to the random townsfolk dialogue from various classic NES role-playing games or old TV shows.

Eventually, Hanna makes her way to a tinker's shack that most of the locals seem to avoid.  Even Hannah, who is no shrinking violet, seems a little disturbed by the contraption that the tinker seems to be working on.  She asks about the key, claiming her book says they have it.  The tinker denies this and sends Hannah packing.

So... wait a minute.  If Hannah's log book told her exactly who she had to talk to about the key, why did she send her crew off asking random people in the street if they knew about a key?  Was Hannah just trying to keep her crew busy and distracted from the fact that there's no treasure waiting at the end of their journey?

That seems likely and Hannah does admit to lying to them in the narration, when she says she's sure the tinker does have the key and that they should come back later and make a show of force to get it.  The irony being that the tinker DOES have the key and he's half-ready to give it to Hannah rather than worry about it since it's never done him any good.

Our issue ends with some random drunk woman running into Obehmana and her zombies.  Remember them?  The bad guys who were set up as a big menace at the start of this comic?  Yeah, well the story ends before we get to see the poor unfortunate become zombie chow.  Or be turned into a zombie herself.  Or indeed anything interesting or exciting happen.

This comic sucks!  There's no action at all.  Nothing really happens except our hero fails to find a key.  It's never explained why she needs the key in the first place.  A villain is introduced but doesn't do anything.  And the only real continuation of the plot  from the first issue is the revelation on the penultimate page that Hannah's whole reason for wanting to track down Blackbeard is because of his part in her mother's death.  We're half way through this series and we're just now finding out our hero's motivation!

Next time won't be as dull but it will make you angry for entirely different reasons.