Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets Steed and Mrs Peel #4

This issue opens with Batman and Mrs Peel via Batplane, and Robin and Steed via Batcopter, in hot pursuit of Michaela Gough and Lord Ffogg via airship.  Peel deduces Batman is really Bruce Wayne, and Michaela sends her flying Cybernaughts into a dogfight with our heroes in a spectacular action sequence.  Robin reconfigures the tracking device to short circuit the Cybernaughts.  Michaela contacts Mr Freeze to help set a trap. Bruce and Dick, incognito via false mustaches and a toothpick, arrive in London to meet Steed and Peel with Inspector Gordon (Commissioner Gordon's cousin) at the Tower of London.  We are introduced to Michaela's unseen and mysterious father, as she and Freeze set a trap involving the White Star diamond. At the Tower of London, our heroes are ambushed by the Cybernaughts, posing as Beefeaters, with Michaela and Freeze electronically communicating with them through the Cybernaughts. Matthew Dow Smith once again turns in a stellar job on art, and Ian Edginton continues with a quality script, the highlight being the airborne dogfight, although the plot really isn't advanced in this issue. This issue earns a B.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: Three Stooges Stooge-a-palooza

The Three Stooges #2, which is really The Three Stooges: Stooge-a-palooza #1 because this is a series of all number ones instead of a consecutively numbered series, is the second issue of this volume even though it is a number one and if you understand that, then point to the right.  Even my comic book store is thoroughly confused thinking these are all variant covers to a single issue, which is why I'm a month or so behind in getting these comics. The issue's first story is "Stooge in a Box" written by S.A. Check with art by Brendon and Brian Fraim. As with Check's story in the last issue, it seems to be in the mold of the Farrelly Brothers movie, setting the Stooges in contemporary times and situations.  The boys land jobs at a burger joint and create chaos. There are a few good gags, but overall I prefer the Stooges to be in a more timeless and unspecified era.  The art is very good, but unlike the Fraims' work in the last issue, which had a tone reminiscent of the two-reelers, their art in the context of the script has a contemporary tone. After a fake Fruit Pie ad, the next story, by the same team, is "Night of the Living Stooge". It has the boys having jobs as mall cops (and they happen to be living in the mall as well). A funny gag has Larry looking like Richard Simmons, but overall this too has a modern trendy feel, with the boys encountering zombies.  Then there is a two-page spread which seems to be a fake movie poster. Up next is a reprint from Dell Four Color #1170, "Boobs in the Woods" written by Jerry Belson with art by Sparky Moore.  As with the reprint from last issue, the script is good, and has more plot than either of the two new stories, but has weaker artwork.  It seems to be loosely based on the two-reeler "Idiots Deluxe", where the boys go camping and encounter bears, rangers, and geysers. The issue closes with a text article on the annual Stooges convention in Philadelphia. This issue earns a B-, a slight step down from last issue.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets Steed and Mrs Peel #3

The third issue picks up at the Batcave as the double Dynamic Duos are invaded by the Cybernaughts, who followed them to the Batcave via a homing transmitter in a fountain pen planted on Steed. The foursome fight off the robots, with Batman permanently ending the conflict by using the Batcave's atomic pile to create an electromagnetic pulse. The heroes then use the homing transmitter planted on Steed to trace it back to the nefarious newbie calling all the shots. Predictably, it turns out to be Michaela Gough, who with the help of Lord Marmaduke Ffogg, escapes when Ffogg fills the lair with African Death Bees. Mrs Peel leads the Dynamic Duo and Steed in a ritual dance, that "speaks" to the bees, allowing them to get to safety. Ian Edginton's script continues to capture the flavor of both shows well, and injects absurdist moments, like the dance escape from the bees, and a cutaway to Aunt Harriet in the Wayne Manor living room during the Cybernaught fight down in the Batcave causing the living room floor to rumble, and also a seemingly budding mutual fondness between they Boy Wonder and the older, widowed Mrs Peel. Matthew Dow Smith's art continues to be the measuring stick for the Batman 66 franchise, and it's high point.  This issue earns an A-.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: Three Stooges #1

This one flew under the radar.  I had no idea a new Three Stooges comic book series, published by American Mythology, was coming out until I saw it at the store.  So, of course I had to pick it up.  But what's more confusing is, after I got it I did some online research, and it appears this will be a series of one-shots, all labeled as #1.  So, I think I did see the second issue at the store, and according to the website it should be out now, but I didn't pick it up because it was labeled as issue #1 and I thought it was just another variant cover.  So I will have to pick that one up next time - the second issue #1, which is really issue #2, but since this is a series on one-shots, all issues will be issue #1.  Huh?  I think I got it.  Maybe. I think this may actually be a test run for DC's next reboot.  Make every issue a #1.

So anyway, on to this issue, the first issue #1 (not to be confused with the second issue #1, which is really issue #2, which may also be out as I write this). Oh, look!  On the inside front cover, it lists this issue as "The Three Stooges: The Boys are Back" #1. It contains three stories.  The first is "Triple Knuckleheader" written by S.A. Check and art by Bill Galavan. The art is very good, very reminiscent of Norman Maurer's artwork on the original Three Stooges comics of the 1940s and 50s.  The story, however, seems to be heavily influenced by the mediocre Farrelly Brothers movie.  It puts the boys in a modern setting with modern references to T-shirt cannons and Johnny Depp pirate movies. It's basically a comic strip's worth of material padded out to 8 pages.  Then there is a fake add for "Stooge-Monkeys".  They misspelled Monkees. The second story, "The Big Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk" fares much better. Written by J.C. Vaughn with art by Brendon and Brian Fraim, this story is inspired by the original two-reelers.  A film noir detective story where a beautiful dame hires the boys to get some photos back from a gangster. The art is very good, capturing the Stooges' likenesses and establishing the right tone for the story.  Next is a "Stooges Fun Fact" article that is little more than a cut and paste from Wikipedia. The final story is a reprint from "Dell Four Color" #1170, from 1961 (misidentified as 1942, although that's the year the "Dell Four Color" series started). "Midway Madness" written by Jerry Belson with art by Sparky Moore, features Joe DeRita as the third Stooge. The art is pretty bad and crude, but the story is decent, perhaps better than the lead off story in this issue. But what I find amazing is there is more plot in this 8 page story from 1961 than there is in the other two stories combined... dare I say more plot than a typical issue of a current DC comic. Overall, this issue earns a B and is a must have never-the-less.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A kind of, sort of, Shazam movie update

A few months after Hiram Garcia offered a barely existent update on the Shazam! movie, his sister Dany Garcia, ex-wife of Dwayne Johnson, and manager of both Johnson and Henry Cavill, offered a similar not-much-of-an-update update as an "Exclusive!" to Newsweek.

Regarding the perceived failure of the DCEU thus far, she says, Shazam! is to live in the same world [as the other films] but we have incredible autonomy over this brand and franchise. We are working with a different team, different producers, directors… it’s a different set-up. We don’t feel fettered by, or constrained by, the successes or failures and challenges of the other projects. That was a key component to our participation—that we be able to control the tone and the voice, and do it the way we want to. It needs to be of the world. You’ve got Justice League, Wonder Woman with a different director, so you’re going to see different points of view. I think by the time we land with [Shazam!] we’ll fit nicely within the world that’s been created, but not such a shorthand relationship. [It’ll be] enough that people say, ‘Oh, this is within the family,’ but the culture will be a little different.”

Regarding the on-going development of the film, she says, “We’re getting [script] drafts in… it’s important to make sure we get the tone right for Black Adam, which is Dwayne’s part. We don’t mind taking our time. We’re being very careful with each act and scene to go back and layer in as much as possible. We’ve got so many wonderful superhero franchises out there… we don’t need to run away from them and say ‘we can’t be that,’ but it’s important to understand what are the best aspects of a Batman [movie] versus Avengers versus Deadpool? What are the elements people are responding to? We want to move the needle.”

It can be interpreted that previously announced script writer Darren Lemke may be off the project, considering she implies they are getting multiple script drafts in, presumably from different writers, in a lottery to choose the best script. Or perhaps Lemke's script needs tremendous rewrites, again possibly from various and different writers or script doctors. What is also telling is it seems the number one priority is to get the Black Adam character perfect, with everything else allegedly taking a back seat.  Not exactly something a Captain Marvel fan wants to hear, but I bet Geoff Johns is tickled pink.

Friday, August 5, 2016

movie review: SUICIDE SQUAD

Let me preface this review by saying I was never a fan of Harley Quinn. I always thought she was a one-joke character, kind of a parody of the interchangeable molls that used to accompany Cesar Romero on the Batman TV series.  I also thought she was a rip-off of Prank, The Trickster's (played by Mark Hamill, no less) moll from the short lived Flash TV series from 1990.  For whatever reason, Harley found favor with the producers of Batman The Animated Series. They kept using her over and over until the fan base got brainwashed into loving her. When she got so popular and DC incorporated her into the proper continuity, my reaction was, "Really?  We need this?"

Let me also say I was an early supporter of Margot Robbie being cast as Beautia in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie.  She was on my short list of top 2 or 3 choices.  When it was announced she was cast as Harley Quinn instead, my reaction was, "Really? We need this?"

So, after watching Suicide Squad my overall impression is that Margot Robbie was the highlight of the movie and she made me a Harley Quinn fan (or more accurately, a "Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn" fan). Her scenes are the most interesting of the film, and when she is on screen, no matter who the focus of the scene is, she commands the viewer's attention.  The bad part is, Margot Robbie is not the star of this movie.

The main characters are clearly Deadshot and Rick Flagg.  Joel Kinnaman plays Flagg with the right amount of sympathy and charisma.  Will Smith does a great job playing Deadshot, making the character more than a one-dimensional villain, although at times it seems like there is too much Will Smith at the expense of the other characters. Jay Hernandez as Diablo is the other character that stands out with an intriguing story arc. Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and Katana are portrayed as background characters, each with a moment or two to shine, but otherwise just there to fill out the ranks. Slipknot is there just to be killed off, showcasing the bomb-injected-in-the-neck gimmick of Amanda Waller's.  Speaking of Waller, she is played by Viola Davis, who does a decent job, but... OK, I'm going to get politically incorrect here. Amanda Waller in the comics is a big fat Mabel King type of woman. Of all the live action versions of Waller, from Smallville to Green Lantern to Arrow to this movie, we have yet to see such a Mabel King type actress given the role to shine in.

The script is very straightforward, unlike Batman v Superman, where the first two reels we are introduced to the characters with some background flashbacks (including cameos by The Batman and The Flash, and for the true Harley fan, her original animated costume), while setting up the motivation for creating Task Force X.  Carla Delevingne's June Moon/Enchantress goes rogue and the Suicide Squad have to bring her down.  There is a dominate soundtrack to the film, which didn't really bother me.  In fact, without it, I think the film would have dragged in spots. David Ayer's directing brought the right balance of humor, which Zack Snyder's efforts lack, and a full color pallet, again unlike Snyder's muted colors. Overall somewhat better than Batman v Superman in certain ways, but not nearly as epic.

And then there's Jared Leto's Joker.  All the promotion and trailers for the movie mislead us into thinking the Joker will be a major force in this movie.  Not quite.  It's little more than a glorified cameo.  He gets just slightly more screen time than Batman, which is odd considering Leto gets second billing in the credits. Perhaps Leto's best scene is where a gangster kisses the Joker's ring, and Joker's response. According to new reports, the majority of Leto's scenes were left on the cutting room floor.  I know of at least one scene I saw BTS clips of where Joker is confronting Dr Quinzel on a street, at one point putting a gun to his own head, when a trucker enters the scene and Harleen grabs the gun from Joker's hand and kills the trucker. It's not in the final cut. Because of this, I really can't judge Leto's performance as the Joker.  The things that really stood out to me was his physical appearance- a cross between Billy Idol and David Bowie in a pimp's wardrobe, with punk rock green hair, heavy metal tattoos, and a rapper's grill. The other thing is that the Joker comes off as a love sick puppy chasing after Harley, while Harley is the dominate member of the coupling--essentially the opposite of the original dynamic from Batman The Animated Series. Another odd thing is that it seemed Harley has more chemistry with Deadshot than with the Joker.

But for me, although Margot Robbie didn't get the most screen time, this was her world and everyone else was just living in it.  I would have liked to have seen more scenes with her (and Joker), perhaps a little less of Deadshot. Of the DCEU to date, Cavill's Superman was lackluster, Affleck's Batman has potential, Gadot's Wonder Woman was a surprising delight, but it's Ms Robbie's Harley Quinn that really brings the A game.

If you consider Man of Steel is a strike, Batman v Superman is a foul, then Suicide Squad is a base hit.  Depending on how Wonder Woman does, the future of the DCEU in order to salvage it, may have to be centered on Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. Now, that's a laugh and a half.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets Steed and Mrs Peel #2

This issue picks up right where issue 1 left off. The Cybernaughts are trying to abduct Catwoman from the Gotham City Jail. We see there is a mystery woman controlling them. Batman and Steed are successful in thwarting the abduction of Catwoman. Using a can of Bat-Rust (and a call back to a line from Batman Forever) the heroes capture one of the Cybernaughts. Lord Marmaduke Ffogg is revealed to be working with the mystery woman, and uses his Ffogg pipe to help the other Cybernaughts escape. Back at Gordon's office, they interrogate Catwoman, and the heroes get a report that Michaela Gough, who appeared at the beginning of the first issue, was kidnapped.  Could she be the mystery woman calling the shots?  Steed and Peel explain to Batman and Robin the origin of the Cybernaughts. There is a lot of dialogue in this issue. In a way, it captures the spirit of 1960s adventure shows, which tended to be more talk than action due to budget restraints. The heroes head to the Batcave, after putting Steed and Peel under the effect of Bat-Gas, to study the captured Cybernaught, but several more Cybernaughts have trailed them to the Batcave.  How could Batman not know that a homing device was incorporated in the Cybernaught... or does he know?  Writer Ian Edginton's script is dialogue heavy, but captures the tone of both shows perfectly. Once again, the highlight is Matthew Dow Smith's art. If only the regular run of Batman '66 had such amazing art instead of the weak lampoonish art that it suffered with for too many issues. Issue 2 earns another A-.