Brightest Daycare

Suicide Squad (2016) Movie Review and **SPOILERS**

film reviewRyan ClarkComment

So this week, I did something that I have never before done- I saw a first run movie, BEFORE it was officially released, ON A WEEKNIGHT!!! That is an occurrence, I would imagine for a great many thirty-somethings out there, is utterly foreign to them (as it was to me). Thanks to Randy at Acme Comics here in Peoria, I was able to see Suicide Squad. On a weeknight. Like im some sort of Hollywood big shot, or an industry insider, or Kevin Smith or something (except not really). This post is going to be FULL of very blunt observations about the movie, which means there will be spoilers- so before I get down to the nitty gritty of talking about the movie in detail, I will buy myself some time by telling you all about my ridiculously-far-beyond-normal experience of watching a MOVIE in a THEATER on a WEEKNIGHT!!!

So, I got to the theater approximately 45 minutes prior to showtime (it was a 7 PM showing on a Wednesday) and I assumed that would be plenty of time to put me approximately halfway through the line for people seeing the film. I should state- I had NO IDEA what I was getting into, as I said before- I have never been to a pre-screening of a film; I have friends who work at theaters who have seen movies early, and I know big shots that get screener copies see things like this all the time, but mostly for me, seeing a movie involves a library card and a tote bag for Tiny Batman’s storybooks. It turns out, that EVERYONE was there ahead of my wife and I, and we were basically 5/6 of the way back in a 250+ capacity theater. I was treated to a lady in front of me checking the line around the corner ahead of us every 3-5 minutes, which seemed unnecessary: the movie started basically right on time. BUT THAT is where things got even MORE CRAZY!!!

We got in the theater, I saw a few people I recognized on my way in, and found two seats NOT right up on the screen (Hail Zod!) for the IMAX theater that is a REALLY necessary thing- I saw The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D opening day, and had to sit all the way in the front row, and gave myself neck problems for two straight weeks… anyway, we found our seats, and they do some cool giveaways (of which we couldn’t participate, because apparently they handed out raffle tickets unbeknownst to us) and then started the film. Things were moving along just fine until the movie is about to begin, and the little sequence advising us to put on our 3D glasses comes on. Did I not mention there was nothing anywhere or anyone with any idea this would be a 3D showing??? Oh, yeah! This was just supposed to be a regular, old two-dimensional film, and everyone in the 250+ seats in the theater were WITHOUT GLASSES!!! Things weren’t too bad until the DC and WB logos came up on the screen, and the first scene for the movie started playing, and showing up TWICE on the screen… Thankfully this didn’t last TOO long, and they backed up and restarted the movie once they passed out 3D glasses to everyone.

So, while it was a hassle to start watching a movie in 3D sans-glasses, it ended up working out alright, and then the production went smoothly on from there.

So ends the preamble of this little review, so now- I begin talking frankly about the film, and this is where THERE BE SPOILERS!!!!

 

**SPOILERS**

**SPOILERS**

**SPOILERS**

 

The movie opens on Belle Reve, which should surprise nobody, since that is the main staging location for Task Force X (aka “The Suicide Squad”) and we get a nice “rap sheet” rundown of the main cast of characters, while being treated to some genuinely humorous moments courtesy of Ike Barinholtz, who plays Griggs- a guard at Belle Reve. It was neat to get the brief rundown of each of the characters, with an opportunity for each of them to showcase a bit of their personality right off the bat in the movie. Though, I thought that the idea that their “rap sheets” got revisited again, not that much later in the movie, which seemed to be a bit unnecessary- BUT it was for different characters, so it’s not like they were studying up on them, they were learning about them for the first time.

I liked how we got to meet our cast of characters, and I can safely say that NOBODY in this movie feels “thin” or “wooden” or poorly cast. I liked Rick Flagg being introduced here, probably in no small part thanks to the fact that I just finished reading Darwyn Cooke’s “The New Frontier” which features Flagg as a big part of the Hal Jordan story in the book. I liked when we saw the “real-world” application of Enchantress’ powers (the first time in the movie I genuinely reacted aloud) when June Moon whispers the name “Enchantress” and a smoky black hand reaches up from under her own and grips her hand tightly, flipping it over, giving her the quick-change from Dr. June Moon to Enchantress- who was really the surprising element of this movie for me.

We got treated to plenty of flashbacks in the early portion of the movie, and that is where Batman’s part in the story comes from- So he isn’t the “antagonist” for the Squad (and much to my relief- neither is The Joker). The flashback for Deadshot really hits you right in the feels, which, really- his whole backstory is pretty emotional, if played off right. The genuinely surprising thing that came about from the flashbacks, though, was how Captain Boomerang was apprehended- I was almost certain it would have been Batman or Superman (y’know, the easy pickings) but it ended up being Ezra Miller’s Flash that brought him in, and he looked GREAT. After the SDCC trailer, I am FULLY on-board for his part in the League, and obviously he has chops if he can take down Captain Boomerang as easily as he did.

Harley Quinn could have been problematic in this film, mostly because there is so much of the character that is just a blind follower of the Joker’s, a sex object for fanboys, or a mindless killing machine that is only derailed when she’s blown up, knocked down and shoved into a padded cell. This version of Harley, however, has a lot of surprising depth to her. I mean, OF COURSE she is still irrevocably connected to the Joker, she still uses a LOT of sexual innuendo and dresses WAY more like a stripper than a homicidal maniac (but I guess those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, are they?). The best thing to come out of Harley in the early part of the movie though, is the scene where Joker and Harley have a sequence that homages the Alex Ross cover with Joker in a tuxedo and Harley in her classic red/black jester suit. I will say, at least from what I caught, there was a lot less easter egg-y stuff, and not as many comic book references that were SUBTLE in this movie- we got Harley’s “Puddin” and Killer Croc’s cannibalism, El Diablo’s standard backstory, but there wasn’t much reference to any smaller or more obscure elements of the DC Universe (at least that I caught).

The main villain of the movie is, in fact, an obscure one- I had no idea who it was until after the movie ended and I did some research into it. Incubus- no, not the band who sings “Stellar”, but the giant, magical mystical monster who teams up with Enchantress to take over the world with a machine, because the people of earth “worship machines”. There is a TON of collateral damage, which should be expected in a big-budget superhero movie at this point, I mean really. The bulk of this movie takes place in Midtown City, and I’m pretty sure that the entirety of Midtown is now a total loss. The vagueness of the movie’s villain and the wanton destruction and widespread loss of life aside, things worked pretty well in this movie.

The 3D was very prevalent in the second half of the film, and really only served to heighten the “immersed” feeling that the Suicide Squad felt as they worked their way through Midtown City to their final “objective” which was a bit of a red herring, though I didn’t mind that one bit. I really enjoyed Will Smith’s portrayal of Deadshot, and Harley Quinn was really well done (except for those few moments when her accent got a BIT overwrought) and the Joker felt like a meaningful part of the story, and that his personality worked in the framework of the film. I still don’t think that Jared Leto is a very nice person for what he “did as the Joker” during filming, nor do I think this movie is without it’s problems, both in front of, and behind the scenes.

I really liked this movie, and even though quite a few of the beats were predictable (like when the characters think someone is dead- SURPRISE! We all know they aren’t dead…) and the end of the film wrapped up a bit too neatly for me, but that is again a superhero movie, and it wants people to have better feelings leaving the theater than they did for BvS, so I understand. The film was well cast, the movie was enjoyable- if a bit lopsided pacing wise, and the soundtrack was FANTASTIC! If I had the chance, before it comes out on video- I would most DEFINITELY see this again.

This movie was MUCH MUCH MUCH better than I was being led to believe by early reviews. Don’t believe the hype, and see the movie for yourself if you think you’d be interested in seeing it. I was a bit skeptical going in, but for an opportunity like this one, I was NOT going to pass it up, and I am most certainly glad that I did. This is a movie I will definitely watch again, though for me just from a logistical standpoint, it will most likely be on home video. I thought it looked really good, the team worked really well together, and ALL of the cast members had moments that could endear you to them- nobody felt “overshadowed” or “left out”- all the best parts and juiciest lines went to the characters with the most dynamic personalities, and that would OBVIOUSLY be Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Captain Boomerang was probably the best visually acted character, with his pink plush unicorn, and apparently magically appearing supply of beer cans while in the middle of a warzone. The character that I have been least enchanted by lately (pun intended) wasn’t, in fact, Enchantress- but was Katana, who was REALLY well done in this movie- she doesn’t talk much, but she is a really bombastic and kick-butt fighter, and her sword and the whole “it has the souls of everyone it kills trapped inside it” idea is played off really subtly and well.

Okay, so I think I have rambled on long enough about the movie- and I’ve jumped around sufficiently enough, spoiling things here and there, but not giving away too much of the “meaty” parts of the film. I definitely recommend seeing this movie, if you are even remotely interested in it, but if the trailers make the movie seem like it’s not for you- then follow your gut feeling. DEFINITELY don’t decide based on what you read online, because if that were the case, I would have never even thought TWICE about seeing this movie…

I think it could have been better, but it also could have been SO MUCH WORSE!!!!!!!!!!

Definitely not the worst time I have had at the movies, and probably one of the best (if only) weekday movie theater trips I have made in, say, five years…

Rating: 8 out of 10

DC Universe Rebirth One-Shot Review and **SPOILERS**

review postRyan Clark1 Comment
DC Universe Rebirth One-Shot Midnight Release Variant by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Alex Sinclair

DC Universe Rebirth One-Shot Midnight Release Variant by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Alex Sinclair

This was a book I was feeling lots of mixed emotions about before it released. I am not always the biggest fan of reboots, and I was concerned that this reboot was going to be more of the same from DC. Well, in order to avoid spoilers, and to just give the broad strokes here to keep anyone from reading things they don’t want to see- I can safely say- I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Not only was it a huge book for just $2.99 (which was something that I was very pleased with once DC announced that their $2.99 price tag would be line wide, and even apply to this monstrous one-shot) but it was packed with TONS of stuff. I ended up reading up on some of the spoilers beforehand, Randy from my LCS asked me about the breaking news last week, and I broke down and read up on them more, because I was pretty intrigued by them.

So, now that you know I enjoyed this book- time to get down to brass tacks… So, from here on out, beware any and all spoilers! I will be talking frankly about the book, and wont be afraid to add some things in from outside sources (re: BleedingCool’s spoiler reveal) when I get into it. This book opens with some vague voiceover and a nicely crafted bit of story leading us five pages in before our narrator and the main focus of this story. I hadn’t realized who was talking right away either, even though there were plenty more clues right off the bat. It was pretty easy to figure out, though. And once the reveal is made, it sets the stage for our whole story in this Rebirth one-shot.

Okay, so that’s far enough in before we drop a spoiler (but, at this point, it’s probably not even a spoiler anymore… still) **SPOILERS** our narrator is Wally West, the ORIGINAL Wally West (read as: Caucasian Wally) who is being ping-ponged around the DC Universe at the whims of the Speed Force. Wally is trying to find his way back out of the Speed Force and into his Universe, but he cant seem to pull himself out. First he goes to **SPOILERS** Batman, and confronts him about the letter Thomas Wayne wrote to Batman in Flashpoint. Then we see a giant hand and lightning bolt which is alluding to the main “man behind the curtain” for Rebirth, and potentially the entire DC Universe- but more on that in a bit.

The next part is one I had to do some digging for, because I don’t know much about the Justice Society of America, or it’s cast of characters- so I didn’t realize **SPOILERS** that the old man in the story was Johnny Thunder of the Society. This makes sense, since the JSA was pretty well cast aside during the New 52, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t get more action now for Rebirth. I liked how that played out. To me it felt pretty similar to the current Moon Knight story- but not in a bad or “ripped off” sort of way- it just seems like they both could be in mental hospitals with less-than-enthusiastic caregivers and who are trying to escape and reclaim their titles and powers.

The Pandora stuff was probably most unexpected for me- mostly because she was supposed to be such a great force for change in the DCU, featured in every first issue of the New 52 first wave of books, and even got her own book and event alongside the Trinity of Sin (that I started but never finished because it just wasn’t what I was hoping for). But she’s back in Rebirth (for a moment, anyway) and she is addressing a character off screen to the reader, and **SPOILERS** is totally vaporized by this “bad guy”- though are they really a bad guy? At this point, who knows? But the thing I mentioned before, about the giant hand in a lightning bolt and the “man behind the curtain” it seems like this moment with Pandora is where we get our first REAL specific moment to figure out who they are. Brace yourselves- major spoilers here; but the way that Pandora is vaporized looks eerily similar **SPOILERS** to the way one Dr. Manhattan goes about exploding people.

That’s right, people- Dr. Manhattan is the man behind all of this way-cray-beeswax at DC. He could be responsible for ALL of the modern DC continuity and stories, for all we know (it is still FAR too early to get any specifics on the long-term impact of this). At first, when I got this bit spoiled for me, I was worried it would taint the entire Rebirth special, that the reboot would feel heavy handed and overwrought, because it seems to be the way a lot of things like this can be handled. But the whole connection between the DC Universe we know and the Watchmen-verse seems to be quite subtle and very well done.

The thing that came to mind for me regarding Rebirth and the inclusion of Watchmen and Dr. Manhattan as the catalyst for potentially creation of this whole universe, was that this is an easy way (probably, I cannot say for certain) for DC’s rights to Watchmen to be retained indefinitely. Having a character like Doctor Manhattan able to pop up in a single story, or across a few pages, or just one page or panel COULD be all DC needs to be able to retain the publishing rights to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic tale. While that seems rather insidious and more than a bit underhanded, I don’t really fault the publisher for wanting to retain the single biggest graphic novel story of all time.

There is a ton, and I do mean a TON, of story packed into this 80-page giant book. I loved the glimpses into all the different facets of the DCU- from the Legion of Super Heroes, to the Justice Society of America, to the multiple Flash’s, new Green Lanterns, Damian as Robin and on and on for the whole story. It would take me SO LONG to unpack everything in this issue- but it is safe to say that for the last story written by Geoff Johns for DC for the foreseeable future, Johns crafted his Swan Song with this story, and is setting the stage for Rebirth to do things in grand fashion, and to (hopefully) fix the mistakes of Rebirth and the New 52 and DC You.

This was a great issue, and it was a TON of story for the money. I loved reading this book, and having some of the major moments spoiled for me didn’t really detract from the book at all. The two main spoiler-y reveals that I was unsure of before I read the book seem less of an issue now that I’ve read it, mostly because **SPOILERS** the “Two Wally’s” story made enough sense, and the idea that **SPOILERS** three jokers exist in this one version of Earth means that there will be some sort of reconciliatory effort to pare down that list to just one, eventually. Again, nothing is set in stone- this is comic books after all, and things are constantly being changed, retconned, rebooted or just plain forgotten in order to tell a good story.

This was a really good story, and it sets the stage for plenty more good stories to come!

Rating: 9 out of 10

Batman #52 Review

review postRyan Clark1 Comment
Batman #52 cover art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia

Batman #52 cover art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia

First of all, I would like to thank Randy from Acme Comics in Peoria, IL for pointing out this week’s Batman comic was a standalone story not by the team of Snyder/Capullo, but serves more as a springboard into Rebirth’s own brand-spanking-new Batman book. I wouldn’t have rushed out to read this issue if I hadn’t found that out, so thank you.

This book is definitely more of a “fluff” story, nothing groundbreaking happens, Batman doesn’t die, Alfred doesn’t get his hand chopped off, nothing like that. But in spite of the fact that the book doesn’t really cover new ground in that regard, it still finds a way to have a heart- and that is what I appreciate most about this story.

It focuses on Batman’s past, from the time just following his parents’ death, to his time spent training to become Batman, and how he is learning to move on from that moment. As we know, he doesn’t “move on” in the traditional sense, no- he becomes a super hero. But we get glimpses of his life and the times and places that were so instrumental to his recreation, his rebirth if you will, as The Dark Knight.

The art on this book is great, the look of the new Batman suit it impeccable, with the ring of gold around the bat symbol just making it POP right off the page. The whole concept of the “list” that Bruce needs to move on and how he changed the idea of grief counseling to become a life’s mission was a neat bit of his backstory I don’t think we see often enough. The inclusion of Lee Thompkins was a nice touch, as well. Her off-the-cuff joke was one that had great resonance for the Batman mythos to come, as well.

The bad guy in this book, Crypsis was an interesting creation- if not a bit TOO familiar to the Ghost villain from Marvel’s recent Spider-Man book. Not that I mind, or feel that it’s plagiarism or any such thing- there are only so many characters, so many suit designs and power sets to jumble up before things all start to look a bit familiar. I do like the bright colors of the suit he wears though, I though that was a fun bit of disparity between Batman and the bad guy- Batman wears a black hat, while the bad guy is the white hat (to put it into VERY antiquated Western movie terms that haven’t been used in what- 50+ years???).

The line that hit most decidedly close to home is seeing Batman fight Crypsis in the rain and Batman is delivering a rain-soaked open-mouthed (the panel shows a full set of teeth on display) decree- “this is personal.” I loved how **SPOILERS** when Crypsis gets the notebook that young Bruce wrote to teach himself to become Batman, and Crypsis tries to convince Batman to team-up with him and sell Bruce Wayne’s secret as blackmail to fund an “army of batcars, or whatever you call them” was a great moment showing how out of his depth and unfamiliar with his surroundings and opponent he was.

I would have liked to see a bit more comprehensive list of the things Bruce thought he needed to do in order to move on. There are, in quite prosaic fashion, exactly fifty-two things Bruce Wayne needed to do in order to move on with his life; and we only got to see five of them. That leaves forty-seven steps in the “how to make yourself into Batman” guide yet to be uncovered; Which I want to read. I would love an “Idiots Guide to Becoming The Dark Knight” written by Batman himself. But that is neither here nor there.

This was a good book, and it serves as a nice, soft landing point for the main Batman series, but also as a means to give readers a look at the new and upcoming Batman- with his new suit, and the fact that Bruce Wayne is in FACT the man beneath that cowl again. This was an issue I was very much not considering reading this week, or one that I probably would have read anytime soon (because I typically trade wait on Batman) but I am glad I jumped ahead in the reading to check this out and see just exactly what kinds of things we have in store for the Dark Defender of Gotham in the upcoming Rebirth stories.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Poe Dameron #2 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment

I was not entirely sold on the concept for this book, because after the mixed bag that was Shattered Empire, I was hoping we would at least get SOME flashbacks or a bit of exposition on Poe Dameron’s story- not just a bit of “forced” peril for a character we know good and well goes on to survive whatever problems he faces in this book. Add in some gorgeous artwork, done by Phil Noto (who did covers and art on the Chewbacca miniseries I enjoyed) and you get a bit of a confusing book to try and figure out, and after only two issues!

Today (May the Fourth) is Star Wars day, and for once my son elected NOT to watch The Force Awakens, and went back to his “old staple” Return of the Jedi. So I didn’t get to enjoy Oscar Issac’s performance, but I was instead treated to the sequel to the Death Star and the prequel to the Starkiller Base. Do the Imperials only know how to make big, showy monstrosities that are untenable and are basically engineered to fail? Because that is how it seems. But there are no Death Stars or Starkiller Bases in this book, just a giant, phosphorescent egg, First Order Troopers with jetpacks (super awesome!) and a new baddie who used to be a Trooper, but got better? And now is a smuggler/assassin/First Order Operative?!?

AND THAT OPERATIVE TAKES ORDERS FROM CAPTAIN PHASMA!?!?!? Okay, whoops- probably should have put **SPOILERS** around that one, but c’mon- we are all glad to see her get some more time in the spotlight, and not in the trash compactor. I really didn’t like the whole “we’re trapped here” with Poe and the Agent Terex, because it lead to the inevitable moment at the end of the issue **SPOILERS** (there, I caught that one) where he turns the tables in a very Watchmen like fashion, to say Terex isn’t trapped with Poe, but it is in fact Poe, who is trapped with Terex. Meh.

The jump pack Troopers were a gorgeous visual (one that another comic book this week is utilizing, and is a different sci-fi major franchise- that rhymes with “Schmar Schrek” in a book that sounds like “Schmanifest Schmestiny”) and I wish we got more of that and less jokey, pun-laden dialogue from Terex. I had hoped he would be a bit more charismatic than smarmy, but he is just that.

The visuals in this book are really great- the page where Poe outlines his (incorrect) assumption that he holds the high ground is just gorgeous. Seeing all the panels depicting different scenes, all of them in crescent shaped panels, rotating around a central, circular panel- wow! Just great looking stuff there.

The cover reveal for next issue shows the giant blue egg thing glowing and cracking, and Poe reunited with his squad, so obviously things go according to his plan, and everything works out fine- Poe ends up on Jakku and we can let J.J.’s story take it from there. I would have liked more from this book in two issues than what we got (most of what we got was some really gorgeous visuals- let Phil Noto draw whatever Star Wars stories he wants) I just wish there was something dynamic, interesting or engaging about Poe Dameron in this book. He is a brash, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants pilot, but IMMEDIATELY gives up his only advantage when Terex threatens the big blue egg. The then doesn’t even give his squadron good instructions, AND taunts the bad guy who is holding him at a great disadvantage. Is this all Poe knows? To talk tough, bumble your way through things, and hope one of the disaffected space-Hitler youths defect and ask you to fly them away from whatever certain doom awaits you?

So- overall, for my main book to read on this, Star Wars Day, I can safely say I am a bit disappointed. I want more from this character and his book, but I can hope that things will turn around for Poe (and for me, the reader) soon, because obviously things will progress from here and move themselves along to a new locale with new innocent bystanders for Poe to expose to First Order attacks, then to immediately give them up and “save them” only to brashly call out the “flaw” in the First Order’s offensive, which isn’t anything close to accurate.

I am still going to continue to read this book, but I am fairly certain that when I come back for the next issue, I will be doing so with a hearty bit of reservation and I will be reading it critically- for better or for worse on this title.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Kickstarter Exclusive Cinema Purgatorio #1 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Cinema Purgatorio #1 Kickstarter cover by Kevin O'Neill

Cinema Purgatorio #1 Kickstarter cover by Kevin O'Neill

Cinema Purgatorio Kickstarter exclusive edition (Alan Moore, Kivin O’Neill, Garth Ennis, Raulo Caceres, Kieron Gillen, Ignacio Calero, Max Brooks, Michael Dipascale, Chritos Gage, Gabriel Andrade and Kurt Hathaway) Avatar Press

I wasn’t sure when I would be getting this book, but earlier this week, I got the tracking information for my package, and played the waiting game. Then yesterday, it came!

This book has been one I’ve looked forward to for quite some time. I love alan moore and kevin o’neill’s work on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, plus most of the other creators on this book are pretty big names, or at least recognizable as Avatar creators. But this book has four short stories, and a photo gallery at the back, an exclusive cover for Kickstarter backers (that’s ME!!!) and kicks off a new anthology series for Avatar.

To be honest, the first chapter of the Cinema Purgatorio by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill was probably my least favorite of all the stories of this book, which isn’t all that condemning, because I still really loved this book. I thought that it was an interesting choice to add in The Vast- which is a giant monster vs soldiers story, even though the art on that is GORGEOUS… Gabriel Andrade outdid himself there. And the Code Pru story was actually quite good, and nowhere near as hamfisted or awkwardly sexualized (even though there was still a blunt an unnecessary sexual moment I could have done without) but it works really well with those previous two issues of Code Pru Avatar put out already.

 A More Perfect Union is written by Max Brooks, of World War Z fame, doing some alternate history set during the American Civil War. That story surprised me quite a bit, because I haven’t been much for reading historical fiction in many, many years, but this story seems quite intriguing. The chapter that stuck out to me most was Modded, by Kieron Gillen and Ignacio Calero. This story reads like some dystopian monstrous future Pokemon world, but instead of cutesy monsters, we get modified demonic creatures of some sort. It is a bit hazy on the details, but the concept is solid and the art is phenomenal. When they poke-demon-battle, and the baddie summons Levithane (levvy-thayne?) I had to stop and just pour over that page, because it was just so damn pretty.

This issue will hit stores for the general public in May, I believe, and will probably be available on the secondary market starting soon, since I got my book within 3 days of them shipping it, and that I am not even 2 hours drive from the Avatar Press headquarters in Rantoul, IL.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Star Wars #17 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Star Wars #17 cover by Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson

Star Wars #17 cover by Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson

I have enjoyed the main Star Wars series Marvel has put out, in fact, I have enjoyed all of the Star Wars books that Marvel has done that I have read (I have not caught up on Kanan, and I didn’t finish the Princess Leia miniseries). This book has been a bright spot in my reading list, because it usually has lots of fun, action, and some genuinely interesting and well written storytelling.

"who are you?" indeed...

"who are you?" indeed...

This issue is the second chapter of the Rebel Jail arc, which is a bit confusing for me, because it never seemed like the Rebels took prisoners, or had the resources (even post-New Hope) to construct such an imposing structure as a space prison obscured by a sun. This isn’t a conceit that I have DIFFICULT getting past, it is just one that I had to think about, and couldn’t just immediately go “oh, yeah! This makes sense…” but a lot of this issue seems to be counter-intuitive to the other portions. Like how the Rebels can fund a giant space prison, but Han has to haul livestock in order to fund some Rebel operation, because he gambled away all their money.

I don’t doubt that Han would have gambled with someone else’s money, or that smuggling livestock is an effective and benevolent way to get a product to the people oppressed under the Empire something they so desperately need- but if the livestock trade is so bountiful, and that is a way to benefit the entire human population, maybe instead of building a space prison, we figure out a way to get these starving people the basic necessities they are being denied?

Maybe I am putting too much of a current geopolitical filter on Star Wars, and getting way-too in-depth with my nitpicking, but it just stuck out to me. This issue seemed to really not have a lot of actual logic at play for the universe as a whole, which also boiled down to giving the characters a very short-sighted behavior pattern in this issue.

"Nerf" is much easier to say than "weird gross space Water Buffalo-thing"

"Nerf" is much easier to say than "weird gross space Water Buffalo-thing"

Leia teams up with a double-crossing agent of her father/the biggest baddie villain of the Star Wars universe, Han and Luke engage in some very hamfisted fan service to transport Nerfs (YES! THOSE NERFS! THEY ARE NERF HERDERS!!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS?!?!?!) and to be stopped by the Empirial fleet, because Nerf is a restricted livestock banned by the Empire.

Beyond my nitpicking, this was a decent issue, the artwork is as great as always. One thing that actually stuck out to me- thanks to my wife- was the cover art. When I showed the issue to my wife, like I usually do when I bring home books from the LCS, she looked at Han and Luke on the cover and went “who is that?!?” and explained that it was Han and Luke, to which she replied “oh- he looks like a woman”. And now I cannot stop seeing him as some genderswapped lady Luke, and imagining what a Prince Leon (that’s what I imagine the male form of Leia to be) would look like. I kind of wish I had gotten the action figure variant with Walrus Man on it, because nobody looked at that and went “oh man- I thought that was a Walrus WOMAN!!!”.

once, twice, three times a Nerf herder...

once, twice, three times a Nerf herder...

Okay, so enough complaining- this was a decent issue, but it just didn’t floor me like I was hoping from a book that has a space prison takeover, breakout and team-up of unlikely (“unlikely” my exhaust port!”) allies, AND NERF HERDERS!!!! It just wasn’t the great thing I was hoping for, but it is still new Star Wars stories, and there is still a lot left to this book, so I wont write anything off at this point.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Deathstroke #16 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Deathstroke #16 cover by Tyler Kirkham and Tomeu Morey

Deathstroke #16 cover by Tyler Kirkham and Tomeu Morey

I have been sticking with this character for a while, through the first series cancellation, into this new book, through some rocky stories in the middle of the arc and I am still on board, even though I know now that this book is going to double ship monthly, and will have a revolving door cast of art teams to try and keep up with the ridiculous pace of a new 20+ page book every two weeks. So, it only served to temper my expectations further, as we approach Rebirth (and this weekend’s announcement of the creative teams- which since Kirkham is off this issue, I am betting he is landing elsewhere once the reveal is made) that this book (and most other books from DC) wouldn’t be quite the same as what I have come to expect from them, much in the way Convergence was so vastly different (and often lower in quality) than what I was used to getting.

touche-stroke

touche-stroke

I enjoyed the look of this issue quite a lot, and with a new art team on-board alongside James Bonny, it doesn’t seem like the book lost too much of it’s focus. I am hopeful for the end of this series, and the character Lawman (I just LOVE saying his name “LAWMAN!” c’mon- try it with me…) and I really hope he sticks around, at least for a while, because we haven’t gotten much out of him so far.

I wonder if the tease from the end of the issue is actually just the reveal of Lawman’s identity, which could really be anyone, because I don’t really know of any Deathstroke or Deathstroke-adjacent characters who could have taken the Lawman (“LAWMAN!!!”) mantle upon themselves.

I liked the way that Deathstroke kept fighting through all his injuries, and I was glad for the clarification on Red Hood’s intentions in this story- what I didn’t like is how seemingly without logic Deathstroke approached the constant threat of “betrayal” from Victor Ruiz. It really felt out of character for him to work so closely with someone who he assumed was constantly going to double-cross him and then **SPOILERS** once they get to Copper Cliff, that’s the SERIOUSLY FIRST THING THAT HAPPENS.

I am hopeful for some intervening assistance from Red Hood in the next issue, and the last page reveal of Lawman (“LAWMAN!!!!!”) and **SPOILERS** his daughter, Rose- who he had been searching for, because he thought she was in danger- are ready to lay a serious smackdown on him. I liked the way she looked on that last page, and I am hopeful for lots of big action to come from the next issue, and that it is in fact a “showdown” as it is being touted. I wont spoil it here- but it is on the cover of next issue (and that is the second-to-last issue in the book) but I actually am pretty excited to see Deathstroke face off against THAT particular character… it looks like Tyler Kirkham is set to come back for the last two issues, but I wont hold my breath on that one.

Judas- never synonymous with "chill bro"

Judas- never synonymous with "chill bro"

This series has worked pretty well lately, and for me that was because of the creative team on the book having a seemingly consistent and dependable output. Now, with Rebirth fast approaching, all DC's creative teams are in flux, and it feels like its just chaos over there. This issue has a new artist. I'm not familiar with them, but I liked the art on this book. I was glad we got the explanation that Red Hood wasn't taking an assassination job for Deathstroke, just to beat him up. The tease of an "old friend" coming back for the next issue should be interesting, but if its yet again another new artist, I don't know how much I will like it.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers #1 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers #1 Launch Party Variant cover by Tradd Moore, Rico Renzi, Hendry Prasetya and Jillian Crab

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers #1 Launch Party Variant cover by Tradd Moore, Rico Renzi, Hendry Prasetya and Jillian Crab

Talk about a book that is made for less traditional comic readers- this book takes the 90’s staple of the Japanese import Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and updates it into a much more modern story. We get Bulk and Skull as video podcasters, who run the Ranger Station, which is a massive Power Rangers fan video page, and the rest of the kids, who are dealing with the fallout from Tommy, the recently converted Green Ranger, who just so happens to possibly still be held in Rita Repulsa’s thrall.

This book, when it was announced, seemed to be the kind of laser-focused licensed product comic book that it would only appeal to a very small, narrow fraction of comic readers- but having read this first issue, I think that getting someone like Kyle Higgins to write it (even though he is a big Power Rangers, and all things 90’s fan- like The Batman Animated Series) it shows that this is being taken seriously and being given an opportunity to really be something more than just a run-of-the-mill comic book adaptation.

I really liked the way this series was handled in this and the previous zero issue, and I hope that that trend continues well into the future, because as long as they are trading on 30-something weird beard fellas like myself and their classic 90’s kid show nostalgia AND doing it well, then there is no end in sight for the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers comic series.

The artwork on this story really drive home the modern sensabilities of this book, while the characters all look and feel an awful lot like their 90’s Saved by the Bell analogues who were spliced in alongside Japanses kaiju fight footage. The backup story by Steve Orlando is fun and silly, and the cartoony artwork helps to reinforce that fact- but Bulk and Skull kidnapping a putty- like such a great bit of storytelling, I cannot WAIT to see where this story goes. Things don’t seem to be going well for Tommy in the main story, and it looks like the next issue things will just get worse- but things are looking up for Kimberly, who is getting her own book soon. Since she was the ranger I had the biggest crush on growing up, you can BET ill be picking that book up.

Also, maybe Trini will get a book herself? Except that I have the biggest issue with Trini as a character, because what the heck kind of name is Trini? I know it’s nitpicking, but I cant help it! The rest of the team has such classic 90’s names- Jason, Zack, Billy, Kimberly and Tommy… then there is Trini??? What?!?!

It was an odd choice then, and it just feels incomprehensible now. but beyond that, I still love Power Rangers, and made my kid watch the first season of the original Mighty Morphin, before I let him get into Dino Charge, the new series, which is actually a lot better. I think with the newer series, the Japanese side of things realized the amount of money to be made from the dubbed American version of the show, and started to make the show more easily translated from the overseas version into the Americanized version (though, to be fare, Dino Charge seems decidedly international).

This book could easily be a way to get younger (but not TOO young, because there’s still a lot of fighting) comic book readers interested in something that their parents grew up with, and that they probably grew up watching some future iteration of- and giving them some common ground to work from. I am sure that when my son is of a comic book reading age (he is still young enough that I read the books TO him) he would enjoy something like this, since it carries on the story that is established in the original Power Rangers TV series.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Another Castle #1 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Another Castle #1 cover by Paulina Ganucheau

Another Castle #1 cover by Paulina Ganucheau

This was a book that I was definitely going to check out, but I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to be as excited by it as I was. I love Paulina Ganucheau’s artwork, her work on Zodiac Starforce was quite impeccable, but Andrew Wheeler is an altogether unknown entity as a writer. He worked on the Marvel 75th anniversary special (which I did not read) so I didn’t really know what he is capable of, before I read this issue. But I love this story.

I don’t know how I really feel about the main character, but she doesn’t seem to be the focus of the story so far- we get a lot more on the secondary characters, and the world that they inhabit, rather than focus too much on the damsel NOT in distress, who can save her own dang self if she so chooses. Which is an idea that I love, she’s no princess trapped in a castle, waiting on a fat, mustachioed plumber in overalls to pounce on turtles and mushrooms and save her. Giving the female character her own agency is a decision that isn’t often made in pop culture, and I was interested to see how it would play out in this book.

This is a book I think that would, as long as the content doesn’t skew any more adult going forward, be good reading for young female readers, because it is so very different than the typical story where Superman saves a woman from the bad guy and flies her around while she swoons over him (okay, so that’s a really outdated reference to the character- but you get what I’m saying). I like that the woman takes charge, and the guy seems to be a bit of a bumbling (albeit good-intentioned) fool.

I thought that the reveal of the second, former castle, and explaining what happened to the kingdom, and Misty being able to empathize and understand her position (and to know what happened to her mother, and I’m sure se will have to process THAT reveal in future issues) really shows that she is as strong emotionally as she is physically.

The reveal of the “bad guy” of this story was something beyond what I was expecting- because instead of the “typical” hulking brute with horns and scales who seems to have zero charisma and all strength and anger- we get a more easy-to-digest baddie, even though he does have a bit of scaly look to him, and muscles, AND a jagged skeletal-monster mouth… he just seems a bit less despicable of a bad guy than what I was expecting. He is less The Purple Man from Jessica Jones, and more like The Punisher.

This story seems to have a lot of weight behind it, and the world it is set in feels REALLY huge. I am wondering where things go from here, and I am very hopeful they will go in a positive direction. If you want something to appeal to a different sensibility of comic reader, or what to get someone who is a less traditional comic book reader (i.e.- young, female readers) then this is the book for you!

Rating: 9 out of 10

Black Knight #5 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Black Knight #5 cover by Julian Totino Tedesco

Black Knight #5 cover by Julian Totino Tedesco

Here we are at the end. I am really sad to see this series ending, because in five issues, I have really come to appreciate and enjoy Dane Whittman and the character of the Black Knight. One thing that stuck out to me was the inclusion of Hydra and their weapon called The Satan Claw- is that a real thing? Does that exist in Marvel continuity prior to this? If it does, I want more of Baron Von Strucker and the Satan Claw for sure! I am not a big fan of snakes and serpents (read as: I am terrified of snakes) but the way they are incorporated into the pages of this book as background art and setpieces was a beautiful and subtle nod to the serpent-y-ness of Hydra.

It seemed like an inevitability, PLUS it is the whole cover of this issue, but seeing Steve Rodgers possessed by the evil bloodlust of the Ebony Blade was a welcome bit of “I told you so” that Dane gets to rub in his face, because he still is much more effective at keeping his murder-y stabby nature in check. I loved the flashback/forward page with the really age-specific artwork showing the different ages in which Voodoo is experiencing the Black Knight and it’s connection to the Ebony Blade. I also really loved the panel showing crazy-face Steve Rodgers gripping the Ebony Blade so tight and standing over the prone and unconscious bodies of the Uncanny Avengers.

Another great page was the Black Knight on horseback, looking regal and composed, really putting Rodgers’ crazypants throwdown into perspective for him AND really starting off the final showdown between Black Knight and Caden Tar (who is currently wielding the Satan Claw… seriously- I love the look and name of that Hellboy jumbo fist weapon SO MUCH!!!).

There are still some good lighthearted moments, like when we find out Deadpool watches Downton Abbey, and is kind of defensive about it. As someone who watches (oops- I mean watched Downton Abbey… it is over. Forever. Like this book. **SOBS**) Downton Abbey, I loved getting a nice shout out.

It is sad to see this book end (almost as sad as I was when Downton Abbey ended… but thankfully there are plenty of BBC period dramas out there for me, but no more Black Knight) because I thought that this series could really have done quite a lot with it’s own little corner of the Marvel Universe, especially with Black Knight ruling over a section of Weirdworld- it could have made for some really interesting and unique storytelling.

We could have gotten more people to show up on Weirdworld, or an infinite number of warring factions of Weirdworld inhabitants waging war on Black Knight and his people, or having the bloodlust of the Ebony Blade driving Dane on to greater feats of bloodshed until he set his sights on conquering Earth- a plan that could be met and thwarted by any number of great, and high powered, guest stars… but alas, it is not to be. But this is a really solid short arc for the character, and could (and hopefully WILL) be used as a primer for how the character is to be treated when he joins up on another team book or event book in the (hopefully near) future.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Captain Marvel #3 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Captain Marvel #3 cover by Chris Anka

Captain Marvel #3 cover by Chris Anka

This book is about some of the women in the Marvel universe who kick butt and hold nothing back, and it is created by a team of awesome women of the Marvel roster who kick butt and hold nothing back. So it is no shock that I love this book, I love the art, and I really hope more people are jumping onto this book, because it stands to be enjoyed by more people. Plus Alpha Flight is in it- ALPHA FLIGHT. So you get the modern Captain Marvel, PLUS lots of great nostalgia for old-school Marvel stuff all in one.

I know that I am less knowledgeable than most about Alpha Flight- thankfully for me, my best friend (we’re such good friends we share a first name) is a huge AF fan, and I can always turn to him whenever I have a question or am just confused by who or what this or that characters is, in connection to Alpha Flight. Thankfully, on this book, I don’t really have many questions about who the characters are, because this book serves as a new launching point for Alpha Flight AND Captain Marvel.

That, added to the fact that this book has quite a bit of suspense, mystery and misdirection, it is actually really fun to read, and kept me engaged throughout. I like when a book takes it’s time to unwrap a mystery fully, and I’m worried that this book is building up to pull the covers off a bit too soon, but we don’t get too much spoiled for us in this issue, so I am holding out hope. I would enjoy this book if we didn’t necessarily get everything laid out for us so quickly, and I think that is what this book is shooting for- to deepen the mystery, rather than to solve it straight away.

The artwork on this book is awesome. Alpha Flight look really cool and modern, and the space station stuff is really, really cool. There is a lot of great work on the colors of this book- the bright colors really pop, the subdued hologram and flashback colors are really nice, and the depth and pervasiveness of the blacks when they are used to full effect is really spooky and oppressive. There is a lot to take in when reading this book, and it almost certainly merits a second read, to drink in the art and colors, and also to pick up on a lot of the small, more subtle parts of the book that often get missed the first time around.

I have said before- I had heard good things about Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel, but never really got around to reading it, which I am sure is safe to say, I am the worse for it, but this book is really solid and stands on it’s own very well, and is absolutely worth the read.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Clean Room #6 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Clean Room #6 cover by Jenny Frison

Clean Room #6 cover by Jenny Frison

This book closes out it’s first arc on a pretty high note, but I could have done for a bit more closure from this issue. I loved the fight sequence, and seeing Chloe really come into her own when she struggles to find her mental footing through the first five issues. That, coupled with some gorgeous and grotesque artwork, and some big reveals, PLUS some teases of reveals yet to come (maybe???) make this a great pivot point for the story, and opens the world of Clean Room up in a really big, and really frightening way.

I loved that we got some answers as to what happened to Chloe’s husband, and we even got Astrid Mueller to give a bit of straightforward exposition of what happened to her in the beginning of the series. We still don’t have any real clue as to what these things are, except MAJOR bad news, but Clean Room doesn’t languish over it’s mysteries, though many of the characters seem to languish in their own personal hell.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 12.17.00 PM.png

I have said before just how much I LOVE the covers of this series, and how I LOVE the cover artist Jenny Frison, because her work is just so nuanced and detailed, while having a very easy way about it so that you can glance at it and appreciate it, but could spend quite a long time pouring over it and seeing lots of small things, tiny details, that passed you by on first glance.

The same could be said for the interior artwork- it is the kind of thing that almost always bears a second reading, even if that may be difficult, considering some of this book’s material. But this series is just great, it started well, it has built up quite a bit of momentum thus far and is really doing quite a good job at giving little to nothing away- is this thing being shopped around for movies or TV, because it feels a lot like the way we are teased with the reveal of Outcast, and how there hasn’t been a straight answer about what the infected/afflicted/possessed actually are, or where they come from.

This is a really good book, and this is a really solid issue, and I cannot wait for the next arc, and to see what kind of gross, disturbing stuff that Gail and Jon can procure for us going forward…

Rating: 8 out of 10

Legends of Tomorrow #1 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Legends of Tomorrow #1 cover by Aaron Lopresti and Chris Sottomayor

Legends of Tomorrow #1 cover by Aaron Lopresti and Chris Sottomayor

This is a book that is rather difficult to review, because it has four very different, very unique and separate parts to it’s story. Which is why, as youll see- in the end, I gave this book an unimpressive, albeit without disdain rating. The Firestorm story was one I was really interested in, because I loved the New 52 Firestorm book, and I was really excited to see where Gerry Conway was going to take this character- y’know, since he co-created it an all.

The visuals were really solid, but the story just seemed to be a bit flat. I liked the relationship between Ronnie and his football buddy Eddie, but I really was a bit miffed by how Professor Stein was handled- maybe because I am so smitten with Victor Garber’s take on him in the TV series of the same name that I thought we would be getting a suave, charismatic and butt-kicking silver fox, not a Nutty Professor-meets-Rainman that we had in this story.

Metamorpho was a bit of a better story, but with some flaws in the art- the characters changed their looks quite a bit, and im not just talking about Metamorpho. It was all the other characters who often looked very different from panel to panel. Maybe it was a stylistic choice, or maybe the art on this story was just rushed? I don’t know. But I liked the way this story flowed, and I am actually really interested to see where things go from here.

I liked the stuff with Java the caveman and his inability to cope with the fact that he was discovered by Mason (aka Metamorpho, and how he is in love with the Boss’s daughter, who also seems smitten with Mason, so he kind of goes off the deep-end and is planning to put an end to Metamorpho once and for all. The story felt pretty grounded for a book about a crazy element man, caveman and with a cameo from a random JLA baddie who was featured in a Green Lantern Animated feature.

Sugar and Spike was my most conflicted read of the issue, because I have zero connectivity to the characters prior to this story, and really don’t have much connection to them now. Killer Moth was a weird, but fitting addition to this story, but beyond that, this could have been a story about any two people in the DCU. It could have been Montoya and Allen and been a nice nod to Gotham Central. It didn’t feel like a decidedly “rebooted” or “Revamped” property, but was decent in spite of that. Beyond that though, I don’t really see myself clamoring for more Sugar and Spike anytime soon, or ever.

Lastly is Metal Men, a team I was vaguely aware of, but not opinionated on one way or the other. This story worked pretty well, and it kept me engaged, but it just didn’t have IT. Whatever “it” is- it just didn’t have it. I wasn’t excited by the story. I didn’t care about Doctor Will Magnus, or Doctor “im named like a Bond Girl” Chantilly Lace, so that was a majority of the cast of characters off the board for me right away. The visuals on this were the most pleasantly surprising, but that didn’t really give me any reason to be IN LOVE with this story- and I was not.

Overall, this was a decent oversized issue, but I would have liked to see MORE out of this issue (strange sentiment, I know). I would have liked more recognizable characters, beyond mentioning Batman, and seeing Alfred briefly, we don’t have any real moments where these characters have the slightest connection to the DCU, and that keeps me from having much of a connection with these stories. This isn’t a bad way to get people to read other stories, but for the higher-than-normal price tag, and the stories that are continuing on only in Legends of Tomorrow, I don’t really see this book being deemed “a resounding success”.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Drax #4 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Drax #4 cover by Scott Hepburn and Matt Mila

Drax #4 cover by Scott Hepburn and Matt Mila

You would imagine that a character like Drax, who takes things so literally all of the time wouldn’t have a book with so much talking in it, but for a book set in an outerspace version of classic Roman gladiatorial pits, there is an awful lot of jabbering. This book has a nice look to it, and the inclusion of Fin Fang Foom adds a bit of connective tissue to the Marvel Universe, because I don’t know how many people really know/care about Terrax, I for one didn’t really know anything about him before this book, and what I learned from him in the early issues is that he is a forgetful drunk who loses things far too easily. Couple that with the mystifying fact that the co-writer of this book is a drug-free “Straightedge” type, and it is rather confounding that this and his only other foray into comic book writing started off with binge drinking and bar scenes.

I haven’t been impressed with this title like I would have liked- being that Bautista brought some real heavyweight (heh) action to Drax the Destroyer in the MCU, I was hoping that someone like CM Punk, a former professional wrestler and soon-to-be MMA fighter, would bring some dazzling footwork and freight train punches to this character and his story. But really, it hasn’t been the most stellar outing for this series, if the match were called right now- I would declare no one the winner. But the artwork is solid, and it seems like, maybe, just maybe there is some decent groundwork being laid for some future stories involving some buddy-buddy Drax and Terrax goodness.

As I said, for a story that seems to be 100% focused on fighting, and it’s titular character isn’t one for flowery speech and wasted words, this issue has SO MUCH DANG talking… it’s like an endless wrestling promo, and I wish it would just be over! I don’t know when it happened in professional wrestling, but there is SO MUCH FLIPPIN talking these days. I love to torture my wife by turning on whatever program comes on, and sitting with the TV blaring out whatever stilted and poorly pronounced nonsense these cro-magnon men and women are yammering on about for more than five, sometimes TEN straight minutes. I remember a time when monologues were interrupted with a chair to the head, or someone bursting out of the audience to challenge whoever was in the ring, but this just feels like I’M the one who got smacked with a steel chair (though, to be honest, those chairs were most certainly aluminum).

The art on this book is really good, and the story sets up the next issue with Drax, Terrax and Torgo facing off against Fin Fang Foom. Though, if I am being honest, and that last splash page is any indication, I don’t think that Torgo’s inhibitor collar actually is what made him want to fight and kill other combatants, and Drax removing it just means that he is going to be stuck between a Foom and a Robot-dude (read as: “rock and a hard place” I know it’s not great- just go with it!). Which will make for some good, if not a bit obvious, story to move things along.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 1.44.17 PM.png

I hoped for more from this issue, and I really would like to see more of the Guardians come into play in this series, even if it’s just one at a time, and for only an issue or so each. It would give this rather one-dimensional character someone to work with more than another pretty wooden and stiff character OR A ROBOT who kills for sport!!!

Overall, this book isn’t great, but Drax isn’t necessarily the top-tier guy in the Guardians, so it would make sense that he isn’t necessarily the high tide that lifts all ships, but is more or less just another boat buoyed along by Chris Pratt’s devilish smile. Maybe that will make this book better- put in more shirtless Star-Lord pinups, and this will sell two billion copies! Because if something doesn’t really change soon for this book, I think things can get a lot worse before they get better…

Rating: 6 out of 10

Cyborg #8 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
Cyborg #8 cover by Derec Donovan

Cyborg #8 cover by Derec Donovan

I haven’t been as excited by this standalone Justice Leaguer’s book as I had hoped, but this issue really got me back interested, seeing Cyborg and Shazam working side-by-side. I think this book has a great handle on art, I just wish there was more to this book story-wise. I think that Victor has a lot of great, meaty emotional storylines to delve into, and it seems like this issue is starting to push the character back in the right direction. I hadn’t seen much of the humor in this book being appreciated by the characters in it’s pages, so the jokey nature of some of the scenes was something that felt like a moment we had been waiting for, for EIGHT ISSUES now.

This issue opens with a page that thoroughly engrossed me, both because it showed Cyborg being silly and joking at a time where it FELT right, PLUS we get some sort of analogue to the Marvel “Brute Force” in this APTLY named Beast Force. Shazam and Cyborg are quipping up a storm, and this doesn’t sit well with the Zookeeper- not any sort of City Zoo Employee, that’s the baddies NAME… yikes! Again, the artwork is on point, and I really like the look of Cyborg and Shazam as they lay a savage (heh) beatdown on Bru… I mean Beast Force.

The humor in this book, as I said, is laid out right on front street. And it is helped by the fact that Cyborg is cracking jokes to what is in essence a tween/teenager (is Billy Batson even in 8th Grade???) whose level of humor is AT BEST categorized as “sophomoric”. When Cyborg said “Ive heard this city was a zoo, but this is ridiculous!” and Shazam responds “This city’s a zoo? That’s HILARIOUS!” you know that the jokes aren’t necessarily the best, but that the lighthearted camaraderie between these two dudes is pretty obvious. The book takes a bit of a Tarantino-esque approach to timelines, because afer that we jump back SIXTY days into the past, for some good old fashioned father-son time, and Cyborg’s dad is making a pretty substantial stack of pancakes for just two dudes…

That is a LOT of pancakes...

That is a LOT of pancakes...

There is a mention of The Island of Doctor Moreau, and more animal related puns when we flash backwards in time again, and we get to see more of the stable (heh) of animal minions that the Zookeeper has at his disposal. After that big splashy panel, we jump ahead again, this time only fifty-nine days into the future, where Bobby Zirrozinski (what a mouthful- couldn’t he have just been Bobby Thomas??) is brought in to meet with the Government agency who wants to regulate control and contain all of the people with cybernetic implants who were infected by the Technosapien invasion.

Here is Bobby- looking like Owen Wilson

Here is Bobby- looking like Owen Wilson

Bobby looks an awful lot different than I remember him from previous issues, and I just kept thinking to myself- “this dude looks like Owen Wilson in an eyepatch… IS THIS Owen Wilson in an eyepatch???” but other than that, we get some more talking, and time to digest the fact that Bobby and this Government Agency is coming for Victor, and want to take him into custody and study him (which is probably a very nice way of saying “vivisection” and “painful experimentation with knives lasers and whatnot”).

And here is Owen Wilson... looking EXACTLY like Bobby!

And here is Owen Wilson... looking EXACTLY like Bobby!

Then we flash forward again to Shazam and Cyborg wrapping up their battle against the herd of Zookeeper’s beasts, just in time for a few more jokes, and then a bit of a cliffhanger for the scene where Shazam sees something outside of the readers line of sight, and Cyborg says “Well, I see how that might appear to be ominous”. Then another jump in time where Cyborg shows his father the ghost of his mother that he discovered in the previous issues, and we get a gorgeous panel where his father looks comically mortified (but it’s to be expected- he is seeing a ghost of his dead wife).

I don't even know who this is anymore... Owen or Bobby???

I don't even know who this is anymore... Owen or Bobby???

Then we flash back to that “ominous” thing that turns out to be Owen Wilson, I mean Bobby and a team of mercs who are there to take Cyborg into custody. But again, this moment cannot pass without a good bit of humor passing between Cyborg and Shazam, where Cyborg remarks on how there are mercenaries with cybernetics, and they aren’t looking to find out how Cyborg keeps his metal parts “all fresh and shiny” to which Shazam asks “How DO you keep your metal parts all fresh and shiny?”.

The issue ends with a big splash page teasing the next issues big fight, with the tagline “Public Enemy #1” at the bottom. And I believe it- if Cyborg is going to take on a government sanctioned agency (even one as misguided as this one) he will not be seen favorably afterwords. I hope that the next issue gets plenty more big fight sequences, and we leave the leapfrogging timelines at the door, because I don’t think we need much in the way of backstory for this next issue- just plenty of slobberknockers and lightning bolts coming from Cyborg and Shazam, respectively. This was a decent issue, but I felt that the flashback/flashforward hurt the pacing a bit, but the art was great and the story, for all it’s pitfalls on the wibbly wobbly timey-wimey side really ended up working out well in the end, and teasing out a pretty big throwdown next issue.

Rating: 8 out of 10