Tuesday, June 28, 2016

DC Comics Rebirth Continues

A couple weeks back, I looked at the introductory comic, DC Universe Rebirth, and since then more than a few first issues of this new continuity dynamic have come out. Here I'll look at some of them briefly.

Superman - One of the bits in the above-mentioned comic that I didn't care about was the death of the New 52 Superman. This comic picks up on those hanging threads as the pre-Flashpoint Superman visits the Fortress of Solitude and reminisces about Doomsday with the New 52 Lana Lang. It was more fun and much better than I expected. I want to read more, despite the huge amount of baggage here to move forward.

Batman - Much like Superman, I'm not thrilled with the new Batman costume. Sorry, I'm a traditionalist and resistant to most change. If it was an alternate Batman, I'd be cool, but not the 'real' Batman. Much of the issue is taken up by the Calendar Man and his antics, including a weird new supernatural twist of his aging and rejuvenating through the seasons. There is also the inclusion of Duke Thomas, who may or may not be a new Robin, or perhaps a Lark, or something new. Darker and more sociopathic than I like my Batman, I'll pass.

Wonder Woman - Greg Rucka returns to the Amazon Princess in this issue, and while his run was critically acclaimed, it was not by me, as you can see here. This Rebirth issue, while well done, enticing, and encouraging, is one of those 'everything-you-know-is-a-lie' stories that may or may not return Wonder Woman to what I consider greatness, or create yet another version of the character I won't be reading. It's a great start, let's hope it's the former and not the latter.

Titans - I miss the Teen Titans, and yeah, I'm in get-off-my-lawn-mode, but I was never a big fan of the New Teen Titans that everyone went gaga over in the 1980s. They were cool, yeah, but my Titans were the Nick Cardy teen hero generation of the early 1970s. What's weird is that these Rebirth Titans are twisted versions of the ones I dug. I looked forward to this book as Wally West was the best thing about DC Universe Rebirth and I wanted to see more - what I got instead was a distorted revisionist history of characters I thought I knew. It isn't the same, as a matter of fact, it's all-new. I don't know who any of these people are, and I'm not interested.

Green Arrow - One of the tragedies of the new 52 in my opinion was the rejuvenation and Tony Stark-ization of Green Arrow, as well as the removal of Black Canary as his romantic and 'business' partner. Their reunion is about all I liked about this new start, I disliked the art and the story as well.

Green Lanterns - I'm sure Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are someone's favorite Green Lanterns but I'm just not that into them. This book is more about them than Hal Jordan, and if I'm going to read a Geoff Johns Green Lantern comic, I want Hal Jordan. Pass.

Aquaman - Speaking of Johns, another great bit from the original Rebirth comic was Aquaman proposing to Mera, thereby breaking the unspoken rule about no happy marriages in the DC Universe. The problem of course is that Johns is not writing the new Aquaman series, so who knows what happens next. Dan Abnett, who had been writing the regular series, feels right at home with this soft reboot. I look forward to more of this, and more of Black Manta.

Flash - As I said, Wally West was my favorite part of the book that started all this, so like Titans, this was another I was looking forward to. The first thing that struck me was the art. It's not bad per se, but it's definitely not suited to the character of The Flash. Carmine Di Giadomenico is a terrific artist, and I admire his attempts to pay homage to Carmine Infantino, but for me, it just doesn't work. We don't get much more in the way of story than we did in the initial Rebirth book. It reminded me very much of the retelling going on in Marvel's Civil War II. I'm still on the fence with this one.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Jessica Jones S01 E11: AKA I've Got the Blues

Almost as if the showrunners knew I had given up on the show, they open this episode with something to grab my attention. As they've been doing for most of the series, they dangle Patsy Walker in front of us as bait. I doubt we're going to get Hellcat, at least not yet (I still hold out hope for "The Defenders"), but they have given us Patsy.

The flashback begins with young Jessica waking up in the hospital after the accident that killed her family. Patsy is there in her red wig and her mother. We even get a bit of the "It's Patsy" TV theme song. It actually has a bit of the Josie and the Pussycats movie vibe to it. Any chance of that showing up on iTunes? No? Too bad, I know I'd buy it. It's only a it though, and then it's back to the same old dreary "Jessica Jones" business.

Searching through morgues looking for Kilgrave's father, Jessica discovers something else - Clemons, murdered by Simpson. Not only has Nuke gone rogue from Kozlov and 'the program,' he's on his drugs and looking for both Jessica and Kilgrave. He's gonna hit them like a, well, like a nuke.

Along the way, Jessica, working on no sleep, gets hit by a truck. There are good moments with Malcolm and Trish. Like Flashback Island on "Arrow," we get short but intriguing vignettes of Patsy and Jess as kids, informing the relationship. It's like watching an alliance be formed, explaining the strength of the current friendship.

Then Nuke attacks. He's powered by his combat enhancers and Jess is battered by her accident, so they are almost a match. He believes that she's lying, and that she's been protecting Kilgrave from the start. The fight is no hallway fight like in "Daredevil," but it's probably the best we've seen so far in this series.

But it gets even better when Trish shows up to 'save the day.' As ridiculous as that sounds, she does. Trish takes one of Will's reds and evens the odds. Between her fighting like a 'hellcat,' and Jess helping, they take down Nuke. Trish nearly loses her life by -I kid you not- forgetting to breathe, it works out and is one of the highlights of the episode.

The end of this one is a bit puzzling. Kozlov and other 'boys from the program' retrieve Simpson, so he's not out of play yet. And Jessica gets a text from 'unknown' saying they ran into her boyfriend. Jess immediately rushed to the bar in time to see it blow up and Luke Cage, aflame, stagger out. Cue credits.

Kilgrave is on everyone's minds and lips this episode but he does not appear, which is refreshing. I liked all the young Jess and young Patsy bits. And of course I loved my sadly non-costumed Hellcat moments. This was better than previous episodes, let's see if they're on a streak...

Next: Take a Bloody Number

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ~ So many folks have requested a full review from me of Batman v Superman, but the truth is I am worn out by this movie. I hated it in the theater, and have hated talking about it since, which I have done multiple times.

What I'll do instead is direct you to where you can read and hear some of my opinions on the movie, and then present a comic to read, one that shows what Superman is supposed to be like. Here you go…

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Jessica Jones S01 E10: AKA 1,000 Cuts

Another week passed before I picked up watching "Jessica Jones" again. I tired of the moronic plot twists and Jessica's increasingly idiotic plans, and longed for the early episodes that were so good. But I figured I got on this horse, I should finish circling the track at least once, and watch the entire series. There are only four episodes left after all, but then again, it all just fell apart in only three. Sigh. Onward.

As the episode opens, it's seconds after the end of "AKA Sin Bin," and Kilgrave is staggering out of the warehouse where his cell was. Whether by convenient or ridiculous coincidence, Jeri is driving by on her own escape from the madness, and he enthralls her. Offscreen, it should be remembered, they made a deal while he was in that cell. Things don't look good for Hogarth's soon-to-be ex-wife at this point...

Meanwhile inside, it's bedlam. Kilgrave's mother is dead, his father is dying if not dead, Trish is trying to put a bullet in her head, and Clemons has a broken wrist and a Jess-kick to the face. Jessica herself is a mess. Kilgrave got away again. On the plus side, she seems to have broken Kilgrave's control, Jessica is immune.

When it's brought up, Kilgrave's father, who's not quite dead, but still wants to cut his own heart out, intimates he might be able to concoct a cure for Kilgrave from Jessica's blood. Apparently his power isn't mutant, metahuman, or pheromonic - it's a virus. I'm stunned, and feel the same way I felt when I heard about midi-chlorians, or that Santa Claus wasn't real.

Jeri Hogarth brings Kilgrave home to her wife, not to eff with her as one would assume - at least not yet - but for her medical skills. He's been shot and needs help. I have to say it's a bit of brilliance to have the Purple Man act as negotiator between this couple snapping at each other, especially when they must do as he says. Simple phrases like 'tell the truth' and 'shut up' have new power in such conversations. And to cover his escape, once bandaged up, Kilgrave orders wife Wendy to cut Jeri a thousand times.

Back at the holding cell where Clemons is securing the scene, Will Simpson arrives. Not sure if he's now Nuke, still under the Purple Man's control, or just overdosed on two many red pills, but Simpson wants to know where Kilgrave and Trish are. Once he knows, he puts a bullet in Clemons' forehead. Something tells me Jessica has a new adversary.

Two moments, however brief, remind me of what the show once was. There's Malcolm helping Robyn put up 'missing' posters for her brother Ruben, it reflects his change. He wants to tell her, but he can't, so he helps her. Having something to do keeps her on track, even though he knows that Ruben is dead.

The other one is that Pam, now in custody for Wendy's murder, sees Jeri Hogarth for exactly what kind of person she is. She's figured out what Jeri did and what Kilgrave had to do with it - and now she wants nothing to do with Jeri. These two character bits stand out where the main plot, that of Jessica and Kilgrave, has become an implausible sitcom with lives at stake.

When Jessica goes home, yeah, she's apparently got nothing better to do than go home and chill, Kilgrave is there. We find out why he loves her and thinks he can get her, as well as the fact he's known for some time she's immune to his power - obviously part of the attraction. Now that she's free of fear, it almost seems to make this whole trip unnecessary. I'm tired of it.

While Jessica makes plans to trade Kilgrave's father for Hope's freedom, another threat is rising. Malcolm finally opens up to the support group about Ruben, but unfortunately Robyn is eavesdropping. She riles them up, rightfully bringing up that Kilgrave would not have messed with any of them if not for Jessica Jones. Great, now that Kilgrave is close to being neutered, Jessica will have both Nuke and mob rule to contend with.

From there the episode runs quickly like whirlpool to its depressing end. Between Hope's suicide and Jessica's vow to kill the Purple Man, it's no longer a question of is it time for the good guys to win yet, but why am I watching this. If this was not meant to be binge watched, and was a week to week broadcast series, this would be my last episode.

Next: I've Got the Blues

Friday, June 03, 2016

The Spell 1977

The Spell ~ Like The Initiation of Sarah, this 1977 NBC movie of the week was meant to take advantage of the success of Stephen King's Carrie. This time in the bullied school girl with secret telekinetic powers role is Susan Myers as Rita. She was best known, and perhaps known only, as Marlene, the mousy platonic friend of Lance Kerwin on the much-missed and sadly brief "James at 15." She kinda vanished after that.

There's also Lee Grant as the mom doing some of her best underacting, and very young Helen Hunt as Rita's more loved kid sister. Rita is put upon by her parents for being both insubordinate and overweight. She's also, unlike Carrie and Sarah, quite unsympathetic. So instead of rooting for the underdog, we're kinda left waiting for Rita to get her comeuppance. That's not how these kind of movies are supposed to work.

The story doesn't make much sense if you think about it too much, with the supernatural aspects thrown in like a random kitchen sink. The 1970s score slips into weird electronics occasionally, and the movie is filmed in a house that makes one think more of interior design than anything else going on in the flick.

Unlike a lot of the 1970s telemovie horrors I remember as a kid, The Spell does not hold up at all. It's best remembered half asleep late night on my bedroom black and white TV. Not recommended.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Jessica Jones S01 E09: AKA Sin Bin

After two well done but not well thought out episodes that were on the whole unsatisfying, I was starting to have doubts about the "Jessica Jones" series. I had already stopped watching once, involuntarily due to illness, but one shouldn't want to stop watching on purpose, especially with television meant to be binged. That said, there was a bit of a break for me between episodes eight and nine. Let's see how the resumption went...

Since last time when Jessica incapacitated and captured the Purple Man, she's placed him in the room set up for him way back in "AKA The Sandwich Saved Me," filled with a few inches of water and an open electrical wire so he can be shocked if he's naughty. He's also being recorded so Jess can be extract a confession from him.

I'm not sure how permissible such an admission would be, if given under conditions of torture. But as we've seen last episode from Kilgrave's home movies when he was a kid, he's no stranger to torture. We find his real name is Kevin Thompson and his parents were doctors or scientists, either way, they were fond of experimenting on their kid. And then his powers kicked in, and things changed.

This is where "Jessica Jones" and the previous Marvel Netflix series "Daredevil" are similar. We have a monstrous villain, who when we learn their origins, we are made to feel sorry for them. And I feel sick about it. They made me feel sorry for one of the most despicable and immoral monsters in the Marvel Universe.

While Kilgrave sits in the trap, tortured by these home movies of his parents' experimentation on him and other children, life goes on outside. Jeri is still being screwed by her wife, Hope is being offered a plea bargain, and Trish has her hands full taking Will to the hospital. He got blown up by Kilgrave, along with his boys and Jessica's old neighbor. He's in pretty bad shape but insists he can only see a doctor named Kozlov. This doctor makes us wonder if Will is pre-Nuke or post-Nuke as weird red, white, and blue pills are prescribed and seem to make him a new man. Curiouser and curiouser.

Hours pass and Jessica, Trish, and Jeri take turns with temptation guarding Kilgrave. Jess manages to track down his parents after studying the films and doing a modicum of detective work. Not for the first time nor for the last time in three consecutive episodes I have no idea just what the hell Jessica is thinking. She puts his parents in the cell with him. Kilgrave tries to kill them. Seriously, did no one see that coming??

The whole situation goes to hell very quickly after that. Kilgrave is loose on the streets once more. I'm nine episodes in, but at this point, I'm soured. I will march on however. What began as brilliance has decayed to bullshit. Don't worry though, I'll watch it so you won't have to...

Next: 1,000 Cuts

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Arrow S04 E23: Schism

Since the beginning of this season the theme has been light and darkness, and how Oliver is trying to be 'good.' From becoming the Green Arrow to running for mayor he's always been trying to do the right thing, and sometimes it shows, even as bizarre as this may sound, it can even be seen on Flashback Island. One must wonder what must have happened to him before his rescue that turned him back to the dark side. The question now of course, is he good enough, and in the light enough, to finally defeat Damien Darhk?

The opening salvo in this episode is fast and furious. Darhk attacks Felicity, Curtis, and her mom, Green Arrow and Spartan to the rescue, some nice special effects - we thought we'd lose Donna, but it's not-so-terrific Curtis that takes the brunt. Darhk escapes with the launch codes, seemingly not caring that his EPCOT ark went up in white dwarf star flames last episode.

Things go south swiftly from there. Darhk launches the missiles all over the world, leaving Team Arrow less than two hours to ...try... and save the world. This pronouncement is followed by an act that Darhk probably should have done weeks ago when he first found out who Green Arrow was - a H.I.V.E. attack on the Arrowcave. Even though the attack is repelled, the team sinks further into dismay.

The team however might have been led by Malcolm Merlyn, who then conveniently joins in with Team Arrow. Wtf? Whose side is he on? And why isn't somebody, anybody, on Team Arrow watching him and keeping track?

It's Curtis in the ruins of the Arrowcave that has the answer and gives everyone hope. When he and his boyfriend Paul we're going to leave the city when the terrorist attacks first began, it was the Green Arrow that gave them hope, and by extension Oliver Queen in his run for mayor. If he can raise that hope in the people of Star City, now in a state of panic because on oncoming missiles, well, that's a whole lotta white magic, baby.

On Flashback Island, as a parallel as usual to the present day, Oliver has to kill Taiana to release her from the power of the Khushu Idol. With Reiter also dead, the threat of Shadowspire in the past is over, and Oliver calls the svelte Amanda Waller (good to see her again, even if it is in the past) to rescue the rest of the prisoners. He could go with them, but it looks like next season's Flashback Island may well be in Russia against Kovar. Maybe we'll get more of Oliver's connection with the Bratva.

So while Felicity and company tackle her hacker opposite number and divert all the missiles from their targets, Green Arrow goes to city hall to fight Darhk one last time. This time there's mob rule as the crowd's hope makes Oliver stronger and Darhk weaker. With magic out of the equation, it's a man-to-man street fight, but even without his power, Darhk is still a former member of the League of Assassins.

When H.I.V.E. arrives it becomes a full-on riot. Didn't we see this same fight at the end of last season? Bottom line however, questions of why the H.I.V.E. ghosts with guns didn't just mow the crowd down rather than go hand to hand aside, Green Arrow finally kills Darhk, and exactly how the villain killed Black Canary - arrow to the heart. I'm sure there was a sense of relief and exhaustion throughout the viewership. Finally! And no matter how much I love John Barrowman, where's Merlyn's arrow to the heart??

And then the goodbyes begin. Back at the Arrowcave, first Quentin and Donna, then Thea, and then Diggle, they all leave. They need some time away. As Oliver is signed in as temporary mayor, and he and Felicity stand alone in the wrecked Arrowcave, all I can say is it's going to be a very different dynamic next season...

For my other reviews of the entire "Arrow" series, click here. And if you'd like to discuss this episode and anything else in the Arrowverse, please join the Arrow Discussion Group on Facebook.