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+.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Review: Shazam! #5

This issue picks up with Black Adam being the adult in the Rock of Eternity as he deduces how the kids have screwed up by going to the Magic Lands, albeit a cruel adult who reasons he must destroy Billy Batson "before it's too late".  We cut to the Funlands, where after some verbal back and forth with King Kid (including a reference the movie plot point of Billy being separated from his parents by getting lost is now canon), Captain Shazam un-gags Mary who turns into Sexy Shazam.  Then it's cut to the Gamelands, where Latino Shazam and Asian Shazam, after a quick recap of Eugene's "origin", try to arrange a game with the Gamemaster so they can escape.  Then it's to the Wildlands where Freddy and Darla are on trial by the talking animals.  They are sentenced to death by tiger.  Then it's back to the Gamelands with a quick recap of Pedro's "origin".  Pedro gets ready to challenge the Gamemaster.  Freddy and Darla are thrown to the tigers (with a quick background on Mr Tawny tossed in). Black Adam approaches the Magiclands, to save (or destroy, depending on your point of view) the kids, but hits a roadblock-- Dr Sivana, who orders Adam to join the Monster Society of Evil... or die.  Next issue, the fight no one (except for maybe Mark Strong) has been waiting for - Sivana vs Black Adam.

The issue, written by Geoff "the Snake" Johns is par for the course.  Despite the illusion that a lot is happening, nothing really does, it's just all setting up the next issue, where again, nothing will happen just setting up the following issue.  A far, far cry from the brilliant Otto Binder, who could write a complete and great story with a beginning, middle, and end in about 10 pages. The art is by, well, four different artists, none of whom is Mayo "Sen" Naito.  It's all rather good but generic, and again I say Sen should be the artist on this series.  And really, the Snake needs to be replaced as writer.  This issues earns a D.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

movie review: AVENGERS ENDGAME

Avengers Endgame is the concluding chapter to what could be considered volume 1 of the MCU.  It's a 3 hour movie, so I am going to keep this review short as possible.  Despite being 3 hours, it flows fairly well.  There are some moments that drag on, like some of the "kitchen sink drama" scenes, but over all it does not feel as clunky or bloated as the Shazam movie was.   Unlike Infinity War, which wasn't so much a true Avengers movie, but rather a giant MCU crossover, Endgame is a true Avengers movie that keeps the spotlight on the core team plus Ant-Man, who was a founding member in the comics, if not the MCU, and Rocket Racoon. Captain America, who was a minor background character in Infinity War, resumes his leadership role in this one. One of the film's low lights is Carol Danvers, who doesn't get much screen time, but when she is on the screen, she sucks all the energy out. She is without personality, a card board cut out, whose purpose in the film is to be the MCU version of Supergirl (the original Danvers). Thor is kind of reduced to a joke with a beer gut and self-pitying, so that Carol can fill the role that should be Thor's. Hulk likewise has become more of a comedy character as he has balanced Banner and the Hulk into a merged being.

The main thrust of the film is time travel, and even though the characters joke about time travel inconsistencies, the film goes head first into the same dilemmas.  Case in point  - SPOILER ALERT: turn away now if you haven't seen the film-

when Thor is in the past on Asgard and takes his Uru Hammer from the past with him, does that mean Thor now doesn't have his hammer in any events after that point? (Not to mention Captain America later essentially claims the Uru Hammer as his own. Unless when Rogers took the hammer with him when he returned the stones, he also returned the hammer to Asgard at the same point in time.)  Or when Steve Rogers goes back in time to live happily ever after with Peggy Carter, does that mean Captain America no longer existed from Marvel's The Avengers onward? Or does that mean we now have untold tales of Captain America in the 1950s and '60s battling Communists and Socialists?  Or when past Thanos was killed in the present by Iron Man, does that mean the events in Infinity War never happened?

Despite these headache inducing questions, the movie powers on to a grand battle finale that resembles a football game-the infinity gauntlet being the football. The MCU was founded on Iron Man, and here it ends with Iron Man.  Some characters meet their final fate, some go off to live happily ever after, and some move on to the next adventure.  This movie is a must see final chapter, but it also brings up the question, is this the point where the MCU jumps the shark... will the next chapters live up to legacy or will it start to unravel?