Archive for September, 2014

What I Watched Today: Gotham (episode 2)

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Last week, the highlights were definitely Harvey Bullock and Oswald Cobblepot. This week, i think that prize goes to Selina Kyle, sorry, I mean “Cat”. And that right there is my biggest problem with the character right now. I would be very easy for Selina to become the most interesting part of this show, she may very well do just that, but do we have to call her “Cat”? Really, guys? I mean, I get the thinking behind the decision. She grows up to be Catwoman, but she’s not Catwoman yet, so for now we’ll just call her “Cat”, just to make sure everybody knows this is Catwoman. Sure, I get it, but no. I don’t even care if it’s something they took right out of the comics (I’m not aware of it if it is), this is one of those things that’s just going to needle at me every time, like the Ivy Pepper thing from last week. Her name is Selina, so can we please just call her Selina? Other than the name thing though, I like her. Carmen Bicondova’s not bad and if we’re lucky she’ll only get better as we go.

As for the other significant positives for this episode; they toned down on the super-obvious fanboy bits from the first episode, and they managed to do the Dollmaker without actually doing the Dollmaker. Ok, that second one is a weird way to phrase a positive, but let’s be real, actually having the Dollmaker show up would get super weird, and while maybe we’ll be ready to go their at some point, episode 2 is not the time to get that weird. That they used the character though, even if only in name, was something I found very pleasing as his significant connection to the Joker in The New 52 is still fairly fresh in my mind. Other than the Dollmaker, and the “Cat” thing, the only other fanboy-ish thing I picked up on was the mention of Arkham Asylum, and even that didn’t feel that ham-fisted, so that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

On the negative side though, my general worry about the overall story, and the focus on young Bruce Wayne that comes with it, was not helped by this episode. Yes, it was a relatively minor factor this week, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be onboard with solving the Wayne’s murder being a major plot point for this season, or the series as a whole if it continues through this season. That murder is not one is meant to be solved, and if it was to be, Batman is the one who’d do it. I really do not want to see Joe Chill on this show, ever, for any reason, even as a cameo. Please don’t. And now we’re working Selina into that story as well? I can’t imagine I’m going to like what comes from that, it goes back to the forced connectedness I talked about last week. For other negatives, I gotta mention a couple of the actors unfortunately. I don’t know if it’s the Fish Mooney character or the way Jada Pinkett Smith is playing the role, but I don’t like her. Not in a ‘i hate her, she’s such a good villain’ way either, more of a ‘I wish she wasn’t onscreen’ sort of way. Then there’s Jim Gordon, kind of a pivotal role here right? i’m not saying I don’t like Ben McKenzie in the role just yet (I admit it, I watched The O.C., I like the guy) but something about it just isn’t working for me. Maybe it has something to do with Gary Oldman being the last one to fill the role and doing such a good job of it, I don’t know honestly.

And finally, to close on a but more of a positive note, I have to mention Richard Kind as Mayor Aubrey James. One, it was nice to see the character get more screen time this episode, and show a bit of a slimier side. And two, it was interesting for me to see Kind in that of a role as I’m most familiar with him as Paul Lassiter on Spin City more than ten years ago. While I don’t think we need to see the character every week, he’s another layer of corruption in the city to make things interesting for “Saint Jim”. Overall, not a bad second episode, but there’s definitely room for the show to get better, and I hope it does.

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The longbow Hunters continues with its second double-sized issue and it continues to remind me just how much comic books, at least so far as the big two (Marvel and DC) are concerned, have changed over the last number of years. My understanding is that this story is regarded as something of a classic, essential reading for fans of the Green Arrow character, yet looking at this issue, I doubt DC Comics would dare to even print it today.

Be honest. Look at the DC Comics of today, or the landscape of mainstream comics in general. Can you imagine, even for a second, DC printing a book in which one of their hero characters is strung up, bloodied and left just barely covered while her captor/torturer implies that she may soon (if she hasn’t already) be raped. I certainly can’t see that being printed today, but evidently in 1987, with the likes of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen already on shelves and ushering in a darker era, such scenes were nothing to fret over. Stepping away from the dark and bloody closing scenes of this issue, there is another, lighter aspect of the story I want to discuss. Last issue saw the first appearance of the character Shado, who fans of the current run of Green Arrow and the Arrow TV show are probably quite familiar with. This issue offers up a bit more of her background with glimpses of her upbringing/training and the philosophy she operates under. It also features the first meeting between her and Green Arrow in a classic archer duel scenario. I really like Shado in this story, not so much because of who she is herself (because even with the backstory we get in this issue, we still don’t know much about her), but because of how she stands as such a counterpoint to the Oliver Queen of this story. Seeing how much younger, and apparently better, Shado is than Oliver really serves to drive home where Green Arrow is in his life at the time of this story. He is already having thoughts of settling down, of having a normal life and family and now he has a younger, better archer in front of him to show him just how far past his prime he really is. It’s this kind of obstacle that can make for a great heroic journey.

One more issue to go and i really can’t wait to see how it plays out. I’m looking forward to seeing how old Oliver and young Shado come together in the end, or if they are even able to. “One arrow. One life.” is not something they both follow, so the pursuit of justice may not be enough common ground for them.

Score: 8.5

Written By: Mike Grell
Art By: Mike Grell, Lurene Haines and Julia Lacquement
Letters By: Ken Bruzenak
Price: $2.99 (on ComiXology)

What I Watched Today: Sword Art Online (episode 13) and Akame ga Kill (episode 13)

Sword Art Online:

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So the fight with Death Gun within GGO (and the BoB tournament as well) is over and at least one of his real world accomplices has been revealed, sort of. I know, technically speaking Shinkawa is the original in game Death Gun, but he let his brother control Sterben for BoB because he wanted to be the one in the room with Sinon/Asada. I’m a little disappointed in myself for not seeing Shinkawa’s true nature until shortly before the reveal in this episode (it hit me about the time Sinon and Kirito were logging out. What wasn’t surprising is just how rape-y things got after the reveal. This is Sword Art Online after all. For everything I like about this show, it’s pretty sad that I’m more surprised when the story doesn’t go to that same old rape-y place. On the plus side, Shinkawa still isn’t as creepy as Sugou was in Season 1.

I guess the question now is where do we go from here? Obviously the story isn’t quite as once again the episode ended mid-fight, but I definitely can’t see the GGO/Death Gun story lasting another 11/12 episodes or whatever is left in the season. Unless they have a really hard time rounding everybody up.

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Akame ga Kill:

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Another episode down and still no more Night Raid deaths! Something’s gotta give pretty soon i’m sure, which is making this really tense. Which is why random nonsense like the “Tatsumi’s fly” scene is so great. Seriously, that scene may have been incredibly stupid, but it put a huge smile on my face. Susanoo and Akame were played to perfection here. Getting back to my fear that another Night Raid member dying is only a matter of time, I have to put my money on Lubbock. His friendship with Tatsumi has put him more front and center recently, and this episode we even got some backstory on him. That seems to me like it’s a pretty bad sign.

And on the topic of bad, from the episode’s last scene and the next episode preview, it looks like Tatsumi and Esdeath are going to be getting some more quality time together. So, that’s probably going to be pretty rough/awkward. But hey, maybe he’ll actually manage to convince her to come over to the good guys. Or, you know, not.

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With the premier of the third season of ‘Arrow’ just about a week and a half away, it seemed like an appropriate time for me to dig into my comics backlog and pull out ‘Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters”, arguably one of the most influential Green Arrow stories there is.

Forget the publication date, just take one look inside this book and there’s no mistaking that it comes from a different era of comics (it was published in 1987). Sure methods have changed in the last 27 years, but nothing in The New 52 looks like this (if I’m wrong, please, show me), and while I won’t go so far as to call this art style superior, it’s definitely a welcome change from all the modern comics I read. Get past the art though, and the content will drive the point home. When was the last time you saw two DC heroes naked in bed together (ok, that one may be relatively recent)? How about bare breasts in a DC comic? How about a vial of crack rocks? Yeah, this was a different time for sure. None of this is gratuitous though, it’s just there without ever seeming strange or out of place. What is strange, at least for a reader like me who’s used to a much younger Green Arrow, is to see the character in his 40’s and in his own words, a grandfather (of sorts anyway).This is probably a much more introspective Oliver Queen than modern readers are probably used to as well. He doesn’t even officially don his costume (brand new and given to him by Black Canary) until 30 or so pages into the double-sized issue, and up until that point the narrative is much more focused on him looking back, contemplating and philosophizing, not thinking of his next adventure.

From this first of three issues, it seems this is likely to be a significantly dark story, perhaps even a hard one to read at times. There is a conversation this issue between Green Arrow and Black Canary that already has me anticipating an unhappy ending, but in the end, I have no doubt that I will come away from this story with a better appreciation for the character than ever before. And to bring it back to the ‘Arrow’ TV show for just a moment, this issue showed me something I wasn’t aware of, that there is a precedent for Black Canary being blonde in her hero guise and dark-haired as a civilian. Just sayin’.

Score: 9.0

Written By: Mike Grell
Art By: Mike Grell, Lurene Haines and Julia Lacquement
Letters By: Ken Bruzenak
Price: $2.99 (on ComiXology)

What I Watched Today: Star Wars The Clone Wars Legacy

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Without question it is a very interesting time to be a Star Wars fan. There are a slew of new movies on the way over the next five years. The new animated series Star Wars Rebels premieres this coming Friday (Oct. 3). The new canon expanded universe (I don’t think they’re actually calling it that anymore) kicked off earlier this month with the release of Star Wars A New Dawn, a novel that acts as a prequel to the Rebels TV series. Yes, there is a lot coming down the pipe and I am loving being able to get in on the ground floor of all this new material.

Let’s take a step back for a minute though. The last Star Wars animated series, Star Wars The Clone Wars ran for five seasons from 2008-2013 with the shortened sixth season premiering this past March exclusively on Netflix when the series as a whole became available on the service. If you were like me, you probably thought, with rebels on the way, those Netflix-exclusive episodes were the end for The Clone Wars. Well, turns out that’s not quite the case. Over on StarWars.com this past Friday I believe, they put six videos and various pieces of concept art under the heading of Star Wars The Clone Wars Legacy. One video talks about three stories that had been finished to one degree or another for the series, but that never got the final full production treatment, and the various ways in which these stories are now being told (one is going to be a novel, another is a limited run comic book, and the third I’ll talk about in a second). A second video is a short one of series Supervising Director Dave Filoni in which  he introduces the other four videos.

But what are those other four videos? They are what the site and Dave Filoni refer to as story reels for one of the three story arc I mentioned before titled “Crystal Crisis on Utapau.” Essentially each of these videos are full length, fully voiced episodes of the show, only lacking final art assets and proper animation. It’ odd sitting and watching these episodes in such a clearly unfinished/unpolished state, yet at the same time, once you get past them looking something like a bad student project, they’re actually a lot of fun and it’s a very cool story. One that plays deeply into a very important part of the original trilogy of Star Wars movies. Honestly, the worst thing I can say about these story reels is that they really made me miss The Clone Wars series. As a counter to that though, I’m probably more excited for Rebels since watching them than I was beforehand (not that i wasn’t excited already).

If you were a fan of The Clone Wars, or if you are just generally a Star Wars fan, you should definitely head over to StarWars.com and check these videos out.

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No question about it, on the surface, this book seems like it came out of nowhere. And maybe it did. I know I did a double take when I saw it among this week’s new releases. Here’s the thing though, when you actually sit down and read it, you’ll be hard pressed to not see it as the start of something bigger.

Something bigger. What does that actually mean? Well, I don’t actually know. I’m not sure anyone outside DC Comics knows right now. Maybe it’s a new Booster Gold ongoing, maybe it’s not. At the very least, the tag at the end of the issue seem to imply the events of this one-shot are going to have some sort of effect on the “Futures End” story and the “Earth 2: World’s End” story as well. So, let’s actually get into those events shall we? Alright, now, actually having to talk about what happens in this book is where it gets hard. The nature of how the story is told is a bit strange and frankly schizophrenic. It’s a bit hard to follow at first as Booster is hopping, seemingly at random, and certainly unintentionally on his part, through time and possibly the multiverse as well. Stranger still is that these moments of the story as interspersed with scenes of the present day New 52 Booster Gold in captivity and being relentlessly berated to give up some unspecified piece of intel. As the book draws to a close though, the separate plot threads that have been running through the issue seem much closer together and the picture of what exactly has been going on starts getting much clearer.

I’ll be honest, as a singular story, I’m not sure I can say that this was very good. As I said, the rather schizophrenic nature of the narrative can make it somewhat hard to follow. I have to admit however, that Dan Jurgens came up with something comprehendible at the end of it all was actually impressive. What I feel right is more important about this issue, is not this story itself, but the implications it seems to have for the oncoming future of DC’s comics. I am definitely intrigued to see where these events lead, and if Booster gets his own book out of it, all the better.

Score: 7.0

Written By: Dan Jurgens
Art By: Moritat, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Will Conrad, Steve Lightle, Stephen Thompson, Mark Irwin, Ron Frenz, Scott Hanna, Brett Booth and John Kalisz
Letters By: Taylor Esposito
Price: $2.99

What I Got Today: Loot Crate

Technically I got this in the mail a couple of days ago, but I didn’t get around to actually opening it today. So I’ve been a Looter for about 8 months and I gotta say, opening up these packages every month is a treat, both because you never know what’s going to be inside them, and because what is inside is always so cool. Now, I admit, routinely the highlight for me is the shirts that often come in them, because, well, I love stupid/nerdy/random t-shirts. This month though, no shirt. A bit of a disappointment, sure. But all same, this may be the best shirtless crate I’ve gotten to this point. First up, let’s give you a look at the whole haul (the theme for the month was “Galactic”):

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Now, let’s check out my personal highlights this month:

– Han Solo in Carbonite poster

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I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but as big of a Star Wars fan as I am, I don’t actually have any Star Wars posters (and yet Vito Corleone and Tony Montana are still hanging on my walls from almost 10 years ago). So, needless to say, I was very happy to see this. The images from this franchise don’t get much more iconic than this one.

– Tribble

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I’m not actually that big of a Star Trek fan (I did kinda just make it clear I’m more a Star Wars guy), and when I do watch Star Trek, it’s more likely to be The Next Generation or the J.J. Abrams movies, not The Original Series, regardless of how wonderful my Canadian brother William Shatner may be. That said, Tribbles are one of the most highly recognizable things associated with The Original Series and seeing this little toy, for no apparent reason, put a big smile on my face.

– The Official Currency of the Union of Allied planets

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I admit it, I didn’t immediately recognize what this was from, I had to consult the booklet that came with this month’s crate to see that it was from Firefly. Upon learning that though, this item went from ‘hey, that looks cool’ to ‘oh my god, that’s so cool!’ What can I say, Firefly ranks behind only Star Wars as far as live-action material set in space goes for me. I may put Mass Effect ahead of Firefly overall though, but that’d mostly be because I’ve invested so many more hours in that franchise.

– Malcolm Reynolds vinyl figure

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I just made my feeling about Firefly pretty clear so I don’t need to say it again for this one. What I will say though, is that as soon I saw the possibilities on the back of this blind box, the Mal figure that I got was one of two choices I was hoping for, the other was the other available Firefly figure; Jayne. I almost would have preferred Jayne, mostly cause he’s wearing that damn hat (actually I really would have preferred Kaylee, but she doesn’t have a figure, at least not in this set), but I’m certainly not complaining about what I got. After all, ain’t no Browncoat in the ‘Verse wouldn’t follow the Cap’n into the depths of Reaver space or anywhere else he took a fancy.