Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Review: Shazam! #9

It's unprecedented!  It's apocalyptic! It's putrid!  The latest issue has been released a month after the previous issue! But after reading it, I kind of wish there was a longer gap between these issues.  This issue picks up with the newly created Daddy Shazam (although he's wearing Zazzo-Plus's costume) encountering his son, who he doesn't recognize as his son, Captain Shazam.  There's a long monologue recapping every thing that has gone on... like we really need to read about it all again.  Nice way of filling a perpetually delayed issue, Johns.  Captain Shazam, Daddy Shazam and Sexy Shazam team up to attack Black Adam, but he removes the power from Mary.  Daddy Shazam attempts to fly Mary to safety but she inadvertently takes his power.  The game of Hot Potato, Geoff Johns style.

The three retreat to the Wozenderlands (a name that gets more stupid every time I have to type it).  They are found by the Scarecrow.  No not that one, the one from the Wizard of Oz.  With the Munchkins, no less. They carry them off to see Dorothy. This is quickly turning into either bad fan-fic or a really bad acid trip. Mary's and the dad's powers keep going on and off.  Then Wizard Shazam (who was foreshadowed as being an imposter a few issues back) pops in with the other kids. Wizard tells Captain the reason the powers are going on the blink is that he must choose between his father and his foster family.  The dad and the kids all give their closing arguments.  And then Billy chooses (spoiler alert)......
all of them.  Cut to the Rock of Eternity where Sivana and Mr Mind, observing all that has happened, plot their next move.   The artwork, by three different artists, unclear who did what, is in spots a notch above last issue's, but still generic.  Geoff Johns' script... he needs to lay off the LSD.  This issue earns a D.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Review: Shazam #8

After being postponed four months, issue 8 of Shazam! is finally released and could be the final issue of the troubled series. At least it is the last issue to be scheduled for the foreseeable future, and with a rumored "five generation" timeline reboot for DC continuity on the horizon, this whole series may end up being moot.

The issue starts in the Wozenderlands (don't ask) with a rabbit (Hoppy?), Eugene, Pedro and Wizard Shazam (who may be an imposter) around a campfire discussing how a seventh member for the Shazam Family needs to be found in order for all to fully realize their powers.  Cut to Billy's father... remember he came looking for Billy a few issues back.... as Mary and the Vasquezes cover for Billy who has, as Captain Shazam, gone to the Darklands.  As Billy's dad leaves, he is trailed by Sivana and Black Adam.  Meanwhile in the Darklands, Captain Shazam encounters a skeleton in a Captain Shazam costume, who explains he is the counterpart who defends the Darklands. Then it's back to Sivana, Mr Mind, and Black Adam trailing Billy's father.  They argue about their plan with Geoff Johns clearly implying Black Adam is really a good guy who gets put in bad situations by other people.  Then it's back to the Darklands where Captain Shazam and Skeleton Shazam are discussing making a deal when the skeletal remains of the "original" Marvel Family emerge from their graves.  They help Captain Shazam escape to rescue Freddy and Darla with Mr Tawny.  They get back to the Vasquez house just as Black Adam attempts to abduct Billy's father.  Captain Shazam arrives to fight Adam, but the 7 Deadly Sins abduct Billy's dad.  As he falls to certain death, Captain Shazam infuses him with power and spells out the name he is supposed to say.  The dad does and transforms into Daddy Shazam, the previously missing seventh member. (Or maybe it's Zazzo-Plus?)

Typical slightly below average script by Geoff Johns (with the advertised return of Captain Marvel utter BS), and generic art by Scott Kolins. Will there be another chapter to this overlong, drawn out story, or does it end here with the upcoming company wide "Five Generation" reboot wiping it all out of continuity?  Does anyone still care at this point?  Stay tuned.  This issue earns a C-.

Friday, October 4, 2019

review: JOKER

In the world of comic book movies, the year 2019 has three significant achievements. First, 2019 was the year the MCU jumped the shark.  Second, Shazam! was the worst comic book movie of 2019.  Third, Joker was the most artistic comic book movie of 2019.

You have to go into this movie with the mindset that while it is based on the comic book character of the Joker, it is separate and not connected to the classic version. You had to be in the same mindset with Shazam!, but perhaps because Joker is such a much better made and better looking film, it is so much easier to get lost in this new take without constantly finding contradictions with the classic version, one of the many things Shazam! failed miserably at.

Within the first minute, Jared Leto's bungled take from Suicide Squad is completely blown away.  What we have here is a character study of a mentally ill person, Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) that, at times, gets uncomfortable to watch. The concept of giving Arthur Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is brilliant in its obviousness and makes one think why no story has ever hinted at The Joker having this ailment before.  Arthur is on screen for nearly the entire movie, and we are immersed in his daily life.  Outside of a straight narrative, we also get glimpses of Arthur's daydreams and fantasies.  Just when you think a concept is part of the story, it gets revealed it was only in Arthur's imagination.  Zazie Beetz plays Sophie, a woman Arthur becomes fixated on. Robert DeNiro  plays Murray Franklin, essentially a variation to David Endochrine from Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, and surely, the main thrust of this movie is a live action variation of the scene from the graphic novel.  Arthur's aspiration to be a stand-up comedian comes from The Killing Joke. Brett Cullen plays Thomas Wayne as a physician-turned-politician much like in the unused Tom Mankeiwicz Batman screenplay.  Another borrowed idea comes from the recent Gotham TV series, where its proto-Joker Jeremiah Valeska inspired a movement, much like Arthur does in this movie, although with a more Antifa-like result.  One of the more cringe worthy moments is when Arthur begins to believe Thomas Wayne is his father, which I'm sure causes eye rolls from all comic book fans thinking "oh, that's original... make the hero and his enemy brothers". What makes it even more weird is that Arthur and Thomas look to be roughly the same age, even though in real life the two actors are nearly 20 years apart.  There actually isn't too much violence in this movie, but what there is, is very graphic. We also don't see Phoenix in full-on Joker mode until the last act of the movie, and don't expect to see any kind of Joker crime sprees.  But do expect to see that chilling, iconic moment on Crime Alley. 

The direction by Todd Phillips and the cinematography are top notch, and as I said at the beginning, very artistic, and visually Joker completely blows away a film like Shazam!  As I also mentioned, at times this movie does become uncomfortable to watch, but wouldn't it be a disservice if a movie based on the Joker was all lighthearted fun?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review: Shazam #7

After an almost comedic amount of delays, Shazam #7 is finally released.  Was it worth the wait? Well... maybe, depending on how you look at the ending.

But first,  the story picks up where the last issue left off, if you can remember that far back. Wizard Shazam brings Pedro and Eugene to the Wozenderlands, a bizarre mash up of Wonderland and Oz (I'm starting to think Geoff Johns might be doing some LSD while writing this. It would also explain the numerous delays).  Then it's to the Earthlands where we see the result of Mary exposing her secret to the Vasquezes, and she convinces Billy to spill the secret also.  Mr. Vasquez seems a little too giddy about it.  Perhaps foreshadowing a heel turn for him down the line?  Then it's cut to the Wildlands and Freddy and Darla, who were missing from the last issue, as they are about to be fed to Mr Tawny.  They say "Shazam" but do not change.  They are about to be eaten, but at the last second Tawny protects them from the other tigers, and the three of them escape.  In an attempt to get back home, the end up in the Darklands.

Then it's back to the Vasquez house where Captain Shazam and Sexy Shazam instruct the Vasquezes to keep their secret.  Sexy Shazam goes to get Wonder Woman to bail them out, while Captain Shazam flies to the Rock of Eternity.  Sivana has won his fight with Black Adam, and Captain Shazam is transported to the Darklands where he sees tombstones of all the characters. The Wizard appears and reveals to Billy there is an imposter - the one with Eugene and Pedro. He gives him instructions, only to fade away, revealing a tombstone for (spoiler alert)....

Captain Marvel.  So next issue New52 Shazam meets Captain Marvel.  Now, knowing Johns' track record, I am not going to get excited about this.  This will not be the classic pre-New52 Captain Marvel returning.  If anything, this will be a way to illustrate "Captain Marvel" is gone forever and all that is left is New52 Shazam.  Johns' script is typical Johns, and the art by Dale Eaglesham and Scott Kolins is rather generic.  This issue gets a C-.  Be back in four or five months for the next issue.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


To cut to the chase, Spider-Man Far From Home is a notch below Homecoming, both directed by Jon Watts.  The first part of the movie has a very similar tone to a 1990s sit-com that has a "very special" multi-part episode where the cast goes to a scenic locale.  Peter and his classmates' summer vacation has a strong Disney Channel sit-com feel to it, mixed with a big budget travelogue. Ned, Flash, and Michelle (aka "MJ") are all back, and Betty Brant, played by Angourie Rice, who I thought was one of the best characters in Homecoming, gets a lot more screen time in this installment.

Mysterio is introduced as a superhero from an alternate earth in the multiverse, who comes here to destroy the Elementals, who destroyed his earth, before they can do the same to this earth. Mysterio takes Peter under his wing.  As with Dr. Octopus in Spider-Man 2 and the Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man, there is an expected and predicable heel turn. Then the movie finally starts to kick in to high gear. Through the Mysterio character, there are some good natured jabs at the whole CGI dominance in movies, and the ever growing outlandishness of the plots.  Jake Gylanhaal, who ironically was considered as a possible replacement for Toby Maguire in the original Spider-Man films when Maguire injured his back and was uncertain if he could continue in the role, plays Mysterio in a kind of likable, yet sort of phoned in way.  Its as if he figures "this is just a comic book movie, so I won't be using all cylinders of my acting talent".

Tom Holland naturally returns as Peter Parker, and keeps the same light comedic tone he established for his take on the character. Marissa Tomei returns with her radically different take on Aunt May, and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is back to keep this version of the Spidey continuity firmly tied to Tony Stark, as well as attempting to get tied to May. Samuel L. Jackson is along for the ride playing Nick Fury.... maybe.

One of the biggest plot flaws in the movie deals with Mysterio gaining control of Tony Stark's EDITH computer program. Once Happy is informed of this by Peter, he should have been able to simply override Mysterio's control of EDITH. But then the movie would be about 45 minutes shorter.  There is a mid-credits scene that changes the status quo of Spidey's life, and re-introduces J. Jonah Jameson to the movies.  Not to mention any names, but the character is played by the same actor who played him in a previous franchise.

Far From Home is above average and very enjoyable, yet also shows signs that Endgame could be pinpointed as the moment the MCU jumped the shark.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Review: Shazam! #6

This issue picks up with Captain Shazam and Sexy Shazam breaking free from King Kid and searching for the others.  There is an interlude with the fight between Sivana and Black Adam, where in between punches, Adam gives the same kind of over-explanatory speech that was mocked in the movie.  The effects of the fight causes Billy and Mary to magically pop back into the Vasquez house, where Billy comes face to face with his dad.  Billy's dad tells him where he was born and how they moved to Philadelphia and reveals he was a criminal and served time in prison.  He wants to take Billy and search for his mother.  Cut to the Gamelands where Latino Shazam and Asian Shazam are playing the video game to try to escape, when Wizard Shazam does a Batman-like entrance, pissed and looking like he's ready to strip the powers away from the kids.  Cut back to King Kid who mentions for the sake of the reader that there will be a war between kids and adults.  And the issue ends with Mary revealing to the Vasquezes she's a superhero.

Once again, Geoff "The Snake" Johns turns in a mediocre script.  It almost reads like a recap issue, which I thought was a weird way to advance the story, for what little advancement there is.  The artwork by Marco Santucci, Dale Eaglesham, and Scott Kolins is OK but kind of generic.  Once again I could say this book needs a new writer and needs to add Mayo "Sen" Naito as artist, but at this point, I wish DC would cancel this series and replace it with a Thunderworld/Earth-5 series of the "real" Captain Marvel.  But what do I know, I'm just a fan, and as this series and the movie prove, fans are very low on the totem pole of DC's priorities. This issue earns a D.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Double Review: Three Stooges Astronuts and Laurel & Hardy #1

The Three Stooges Astronuts features a new lead story that is similar to the boys' later space themed shorts and features, but on a much larger scale that a comic book can illustrate opposed to the low budget of two-reelers or b-movies.  The script by S.A. Check faithfully captures the mayhem of the latter day Stooge space exploits, and the artwork by Brendan and Brian Fraim is, as usual, excellent, with gray tones by Dan Conner (hey, wait... the Roseanne guy?) giving it a vintage look. My one critique would be, since this is a space themed installment, it might have been better to have Joe Besser or Joe DeRita as the third Stooge instead of Curly Howard.  The second story is a reprint, and like the previous issue, it suffers from a crude xerox black & white look.  It would be better if the reprints that were originally in color were reprinted in color.  This issue earns a B.

Laurel & Hardy #1 (it has yet to be seen if this series will have normal numbering or will follow in the Stooges' footsteps by having all #1 one-shots) presents three stories, all in color.  The first one written by S.A Check, is well done, and I might hazard to say his style may be a better fit for Stan and Ollie than the Stooges.  The second story is written by Jordan Gershowitz, and captures the feel and tone of the classic Hal Roach two-reelers.  Both stories are drawn by Jorge Pacheco, who perfectly interprets the classic Larry Harmon character designs with a slightly more modern look.  The third story is a classic Larry Harmon-era reprint and holds its own opposite the new material.  This issue earns a B+.