Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Review: Batman '89 #2

Once again, the main focus of issue 2 is on Harvey Dent.  The story opens with a task force trying to bring in Batman, but the guy who was stealing baby food for his kid ends up getting killed. Dent and Barbara play with a batarang and then Dent gives a political speech at his old neighborhood, Burnside.  We are introduced to Drake Winston (the role Marlon Wayans supposedly would have played in Batman Returns, although in that script he was only referred to as "The Kid"). He stops a robbery dressed in a weird poncho-like costume, revealing he was the costumed figure at the end of last issue. There is a word play on robbin'...Robin.  Racked over guilt about what happened earlier, Bruce offers to give every kid in Burnside free education. The garage where Drake works is set on fire by the robbers he stopped earlier.  Bruce (in a ski mask) heads that way but is intercepted by the return of Catwoman. Dent, meanwhile goes into the burning garage to save Drake, only to be knocked unconscious. 

Joe Quinones' art keeps the quality from the previous issue: well done if somewhat streamlined, with somewhat vague likenesses of the actors. It is curious that much of the unofficial, personal art he has posted regarding the Batman movies over the last several years looks much more detailed with pin-point likenesses of the actors. It seems like Sam Hamm continues to be more influenced by Daniel Waters' Batman Returns script than his own 1989 script. He is also making the same mistakes DC made with their Batman '66 comics, by abandoning what made it what it was, and trying to graft elements of modern DC continuity onto it. In the case of Batman '89, we are introduced to Dr. Harleen Quinzel.  Unfortunately we also get a lot of the current political climate grafted onto the story.  Sorry, but I'm not a fan of this approach. When I read a comic that is supposed to embellish and follow the spirit of the Michael Keaton Batman movies, the last thing I want is preaching about political and social issues that are constantly on the news in 2021.  I want to get lost in that timeless movie world, not be hammered by Hamm-fisted opinions and commentary about 2021 topical sociopolitical issues.  Batman '89 is quickly becoming a huge disappointment. This issue gets a C-.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Review: The Robonic Stooges #2

For the first time ever, American Mythology has published an issue #2 of a Three Stooges comic. The Robonic Stooges #2, like the first issue, features two stories and a couple text pieces. The first story, written by S.A. Check, is another story taking inspiration from Marvel Comics.  What, no love for DC?  In a Fantastic Four inspired tale, our heroes encounter a giant mole man who bears a slight resemblance to Shemp.  As with the previous issue, the art by Jorge Pacheco, has a distinctive Mad Magazine/Sergio Aragon├ęs riff.

The second story, written by Todd Livingston, deals with the boys taking a vacation on a Fantasy Island-esque island, and, hold on to your grouses, attempt to make Larry a romantic leading man by giving him a love interest, perhaps inspired by his leading man turn in the boys' first Columbia short Woman Haters.  The art by Diego Tapie mimics the art from the later Dell comics.  After the text pieces and a misplaced "sneak preview" of Three Stooges Thru the Ages, which was published ages ago, there is an announcement there will be an issue #3 later this Fall. It looks like the comic book may last longer than the original cartoon series did.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Review: Superman '78 #1

The first issue of Superman '78 hits the bullseye. The script, by Robert Vendetti, reads like a comic book adaptation of an unreleased Christopher Reeve Superman movie.  He hits all the right notes, and gets the tone perfect. The art by Wilfredo Torres, has an Alex Toth quality to it, yet he still captures the actors' likenesses to a tee. That makes it more confusing why Batman '89 had to be more vague with the likenesses. The story opens on a flashback to Krypton's destruction observed by Brainiac. From there we are reintroduced to Richard Donner's version of Metropolis, where Brainiac sends a robot to scout the planet in an action sequence that undoubtedly would not have been able to be done justice on film in the 1970s. 

I hate to compare the first issues of  Superman '78 to Batman '89, but in many ways the Superman issue gets things right where the Batman issue stumbled. Superman '78 #1 was a very fun and entertaining read, and could easily be envisioned as an installment of the Christopher Reeve Superman movie franchise.  This issue earns an A.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Review: Batman '89 #1

Batman '89
#1.  Written by the 1989 film's writer Sam Hamm, with art by Joe Quinones. Something I have been waiting for.  But did the anticipation drive up expectations so that reading the actual comic book falls short?

The first part of the issue is essentially a set up to get the reader back into the Batman '89 mindset.  Except it quickly becomes obvious this is not really Batman 1989, i.e. a bridge between Batman and Batman Returns.  No this is more like Batman '94, set some time after Batman Returns.  And in a lot of ways, this issue seems to have a lot more in common in tone and character portrayals with the Daniel Waters penned Returns than with Sam Hamm's own 1989 script.  

Harvey Dent is the main character of this issue, and we open on his marriage proposal to Barbara Gordon.  Wait... what?  Yep, you read that right. Now, I'm not much of a Barbara Gordon fan.  It seems like whenever she pops up in a franchise, things go down hill.  The 1960s Batman TV Series. Batman The Animated Series. Batman & Robin (although technically that was "Barbara Wilson").  So to see her right off the bat in this comic... eh.  Harvey's fixation of a double headed coin, not referenced at all in the 1989 movie, is heavily explored here, and then we get a great Batman action sequence that involves a giant penny. Harvey visits Bruce at Wayne Manor to try to get him to join with him to rid Gotham of Batman, and force Commissioner Gordon out of the police force.  This seems vaguely like a rehash of the Max Schreck story line from Batman Returns.  We get more background, sort of an origin, on Harvey.  Then Batman attempts to stop a robber who stole diapers and baby food for his kid, and Batman is ambushed by another costumed figure who is obviously going to turn out to be either Barbara Gordon or Drake Winston.

Joe Quinones' art is excellent, but only Billy Dee Williams' likeness is truly captured.  All the other characters, like Bruce, Jim Gordon, and Alfred, have a more vagueness to them. Bruce, in particular, is far too gray. Perhaps DC couldn't get clearance to use the actors' likenesses... but do they need permission if they own the original material?  Gray area, I know.  Quinones puts in a lot of Easter egg callbacks to Prince's Bat Dance video.

Sam Hamm's script is, frankly, a far cry from his 1989 movie script, or his unused script for Batman II, but it is still miles better than most of the Batman comic book scripts of the past decade or so, and after this six-issue miniseries ends, I'd love to see Hamm and Quinones become the regular creative team on either Batman or Detective.  However, making Barbara Gordon such a major character so quickly in, and the rumors the comic will utilize the Batman Returns concept of Marlon Wayans as Drake Winston/The Kid, a choice that was widely and universally panned, instead of the actual 1989 concept of Ricky Addison Reed as Dick Grayson/Robin, factors into the answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this review. Does this issue fall short of the anticipation and expectations?  In a word, yes. This issue earns a C+.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Review: The Robonic Stooges #1

American Mythology's The Robonic Stooges recreates the classic Saturday Morning cartoon from the late 1970s, created and developed by comic book talent, latter day Stooges manager/agent/producer, and Moe Howard's son-in-law Norman Maurer, for Hanna-Barbara Productions.  The cartoon was a classic for the kids of the late 1970s, where the Stooges mix with superheroes, robots and bionics... hence the "robonic".  With the real Stooges deceased, the voice actors that were chosen were perfectly cast.  Paul Winchell, who starred in the Stooges clip feature film, Stop Look and Laugh, is excellent as Moe, Joe Baker does a fine Larry, and Frank Welker, who had been doing a Curly imitation for the title character of the Jaws inspired cartoon Jabberjaw, is pitch perfect as Curly. 

As for this comic book, the first story by S.A. Check and Phillip Murphy takes a subtle jab at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with artwork that is very faithful to Maurer's original character designs.  The second story by Jordan Gershowitz and Jorge Pacheco has more of a vintage Mad Magazine flavor in both story and artwork. The issue concludes with some special feature articles of the history of the Robonic Stooges and interviews with this issue's creative teams.  Another good and fun outing from American Mythology, and even though they usually only do one-shot specials with the Stooges, I wouldn't mind seeing an actual issue #2 of The Robonic Stooges.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Shazam movie sequel news

There has been a flurry of activity and casting announcements over the last couple weeks regarding both the Shazam! sequel and the long gestating Black Adam movie. (Shouldn't that be ShazAdam movie?)

The highlights are Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren nabbed roles as the evil daughters of Atlas in Shazam 2: Fury of the Gods, which presumably could possibly be a musical, and Pierce Brosnan was cast as Dr. Fate in ShazAdam or Black Adam or whatever it's going to be titled.

But to be perfectly honest... I really don't care. You see, they screwed up Shazam! so bad that I really don't have any interest in the sequel, and frankly, I don't even care about Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam anymore, even if it does introduce the Justice Society of America.  But truthfully, it's not really the legendary JSA. It's more like Dr. Fate, Hawkman, and a few 3rd tier Infinity Inc. characters.

If both movies end up premiering on HBO Max, like all of Warner's 2021 films, I'll probably give them a peek, but I'm not planning on going to a theater to see either of these movies.

I think what sums it up is what David Sandberg posted: "Though I can confirm with ~90% certainty that Shazam will appear in Shazam 2. So if you’re a fan of that character you might enjoy Shazam 2." That's just it.  I am not a fan of New52 Shazam.  I'm a fan of the Original Captain Marvel.  So I guess I'm just out of luck until the reboot happens, and hopefully is done right.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Review: The Three Stooges Thru the Ages

American Mythology's latest one-shot of the Three Stooges, subtitled Through the Ages, presents three different line ups of the boys.  The first story, by the regular team of S.A. Check and Brendon and Brian Fraim, feature Moe, Larry and Shemp causing chaos as Zoo workers. The creative team turns in a solid entry, with special note going to the Fraim Brothers stellar artwork. 

Next up is a story by Todd Clarke and Diego Tapie that has Moe, Larry and Curly in a sport fighting tale reminiscent of their shorts Punch Drunks and Grips, Grunt, and Groans. Clarke's script is fun, and Tapie's art is cartoon-inspired and top notch.  

The third story is by Jordan Gershowitz and Jorge Pacheco, and has Moe, Larry and Curly-Joe DeRita as movie actors in a situation similar to the DeRita era where the boys were making watered down feature films aimed at children. 

Unfortunately there was no story featuring Joe Besser, who was superior to the lackluster DeRita, nor was there a story with the comedic genius who essentially created the Stooges, Ted Healy. Perhaps a future one-shot will give some time to Healy and perhaps even Besser (but I wouldn't mind if we don't see DeRita anymore). 

The issue concludes with a check list of the past five years of Stooges comics, and a fun interview with Larry's great-grandsons and Curly's grandson. This issue is a good and fun read, and I look forward to the next one.