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Avengers & X-Men: Axis #3

By: Rick Remender (Writer), Leinil Francis Yu (Penciller), Gerry Alanguilan (Inker), Matt Milla, Laura Martin, Edgar Delgado (Color Artists), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer), Jim Cheung, Justin Ponsor (Cover Artists)

The Story: Witness another schism, the result of a civil war between the Avengers versus the X-Men. Next up? A dark reign where villains seem to be heroes. The only original sin here would be lack of novelty. Oh, the inhumanity!

The Review: Okay, first impression– Again with the quips!?? I mean, Deadpool’s humor actually works and comes from a character known for non-sequiturs and hyperbolic randomness with liberal dashes of pop culture. Ditto, to some extent, for Loki. But when nearly every other new character shows up with the same attempt at one-liners, such as the Enchantress remarking about fondue parties, it comes across as bland NOT distinctive. At worse, various characters lose their individuality– no matter how many times Carnage can drop a “yo!” in his dialogue (get it? he’s *redneck* you see), it’s too distracting to see him playing well with others and even joking about “courtesy” with the Absorbing Man.

This lack of distinction highlights the fact that really the choices of the villain-team seem arbitrary to the point of meaninglessness. There’s no reason why Magneto should have sought out Carnage or Hobgoblin or any of them, specifically. Perhaps he did in fact track down, say, the Melter, who is infinitely a better choice than Sabretooth when fighting giant robots, but, you know. Even Mystique, whose face-shifting powers could conceivably confuse a specifically hero-hunting Sentinel, is set against the Red Skull during the fight. Strategize, Magneto. Strategize.

(The exception here seems to be the Enchantress. Despite my quibble with the assumption here that her powers are basically nothing but “love magic,” she actually succeeds in taking down the Red Onslaught, if you think about it. However, her usefulness done, she’s scuttled to the side so the Scarlet Witch can take the stage and cast the “inversion” spell and change the world, as she so often does. Why the heck couldn’t the Enchantress have done that?)

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The Flash S01E03 – Review

By: Alison Schapker & Grainne Godfree

The Story: As it turns out, some supervillains are a gas.

The Review: With every new show, the best you can hope for is that each week will see strengths bolstered and weaknesses ironed out. This doesn’t always happen. Some shows seem committed to repeating the same mistakes over and over, while others can’t figure out how to get rid of certain flaws (two years later, Arrow still struggles to find something for Dinah to do). The Flash had the good fortune of starting off strong, but there are plenty of areas in which it can improve.

To get the bad out of the way, decent villains will probably be an ongoing problem for the life of the show, because any Freak-of-the-Week show has that problem. While the second episode at least attempted to make Multiplex sympathetic, this one doesn’t bother with Kyle Nimbus (a.k.a. the Mist). A death row convict taking revenge on those who convicted him requires little depth; we get scant details even on what crimes he actually committed. He’s a purely functional villain, whose danger comes mostly from Anthony Carrigan’s genuinely menacing appearance and performance.
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Green Lantern: New Guardians #35 – Review

By: Justin Jordan (writer), Brad Walker (penciller), Andrew Hennessy with Robin Riggs (inkers), Wil Quintana (colorist)

The Story: One night Kyle dreamed he was walking with a god.

He was bothered and said

“During the most trying periods of my life

I see that there has only been one set of footprints behind me.

Why during my lowest moments have you not been there for me?”

Then Highfather turned to him and replied,

“That’s when you were Ion, we don’t really talk about that anymore.”

 

The Review: The New Gods have arrived and they’re at war with more than one of the Lantern Corps right now. All the same, one can’t help but feel that that’s really just a side effect. Highfather already declared the Lantern rings failures two weeks ago. So while I encourage you to follow your favorite characters as far as you care to, for me, it was always Kyle Rayner who held the lion’s share of my interest in this “Godhead” crossover.

Ever since Justin Jordan took over Green Lantern: New Guardians, this title has always been the unsung hero of the Lantern books. It’s held its own against big brother, Green Lantern, and sleeper hit, Red Lanterns, while introducing many of the major plots for DC’s cosmic universe. Indeed, it’s becoming even clearer that the Lantern line has really been following Kyle’s story ever since Geoff Johns left.

This crossover arrives rather suddenly. To get right to the meat of it, I think that this issue’s biggest problem is one that has frequently afflicted the title, namely a feeling of being somewhat padded.

It’s not regular padding, either; things don’t just happen to fill space, it’s smarter than that. The problem here is that, whether due to editorial constraints or Jordan’s own sensibilities, the, rather lovely, endpoint for this issue doesn’t feel quite like it has to be twenty pages from the beginning. Jordan tries to alleviate this by giving us greater character depth, but at times the level of tension in the book simply can’t hold up.
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #39 – Review

By: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz (story), Mateus Santolouco (art), Ronda Pattison (colors)

The Story: Among other vices, Old Hob is a specist.

The Review: I’m feeling pretty good about the future of this series because it just occurred to me how massive and colorful the cast has become since I first started reading. The best serial fiction requires exactly such a cast because that’s the only way it can sustain itself over the long term. Placing all your bets on your star is always a bad idea because eventually, he will collapse and no one else will have muscle to take his place. Isn’t that kind of what happened on Dexter?

Anyway, this issue shows how much potential TMNT has now to mix and match its characters in search of new storylines. Who’d have ever thought of pairing Alopex and Angel together, for instance? Yet when you see them together, it all makes sense: both are buttkicking females; both are sort of outsiders from the other groups in the series; both are seeking purpose. Although Alopex’s motive in reaching out to Angel may be another bid to curry the Turtles’ favor, I think she’s found her BFF right here.
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NYCC Report: So Where Do You Get Your Ideas? And What Do You Do With Them?

Where do you get your ideas

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m kind of fond of Godzilla. The big guy has been a part of my life for a very long time and so, when I heard there was a sixtieth anniversary panel at New York Comic Con, I rushed to the back of the line.

Unfortunately, the king of the monsters didn’t receive a kaiju-sized room and I found the panel woefully overfull. It was the first of a number of instances where the limitations of the Javitz Center became apparent this year, but, while I would have loved to talk Godzilla with all of you, it turned out to be quite a fortunate bit of bad luck.

Dashing back to the room I’d just given up a spot in, I managed to find a great seat for one of the more interesting panels of my 2014 Comic Con experience: So Where Do You Get Your Ideas? And What Do You Do With Them?

“The question is not really ‘where do you get your ideas’,” moderator Heidi MacDonald told us, “everyone has ideas. The question is what do you do when you get that idea.” On hand to answer that question were Eisner Award-winning writer/illustrator Becky Cloonan; Batman writer and general comic book superstar, Scott Snyder; Bryan K. Vaughan, the brilliant madman behind such favorites as Saga and The Private Eye; and actor/writer, Amber Benson.

MacDonald’s first question was for Snyder: what was it like to get offered Detective Comics? Terrifying, replied Snyder. Surprising as it may sound in hindsight, Snyder’s acclaimed Batman debut, “The Black Mirror”, was intended to merely be the backup in Paul Dini’s Detective Comics run. Unfortunately Dini encountered time constraints and had to leave the book. Left without a headliner, DC called Snyder in to offer him the job. It was nerve-wracking, Snyder recalled, “I thought I was going to get fired.”

Intended as a backup, “The Black Mirror” made a startling debut thanks to Snyder being in a perfect position to appreciate the huge shoes Dick Grayson was being asked to fill.

Confronted with just about the opposite of what he was expecting, Snyder still had a case of nerves, worried that his story wouldn’t live up to Detective Comics’ lofty history. Nonetheless, after thinking about it for a minute, he eagerly accepted.

It was somewhat unclear whether this discussion took place before Dini moved to Streets of Gotham or if he was planned to return to Detective Comics, but given the numerous fill-in writers on the prior series and the overwhelming response to “The Black Mirror” and “Batwoman: Elegy”, I find myself in the odd position of thinking that it was for the best that Dini limited his output.

While Snyder was also working on American Vampire, this was some of his earliest licensed comic work. With licensed characters, Snyder told the crowd, it can be a challenge to make the story personal – much the opposite of creator owned work, where you struggle to give it enough mass appeal. In stepping into some of the biggest shoes in comics, Snyder embraced the similar position of his protagonist: then Batman, Dick Grayson. He contrasted the difference between the two Batmen. “Bruce is all, ‘I’m Batman.’ But Dick was, ‘Hey, I’m Batman!’”

Snyder admitted that he’s his own worst critic and that that’s inured him to outside critique pretty well. He also spoke briefly about the importance of that part of himself in writing the self-critical Grayson. For Snyder, it’s not worth writing Batman if you’re just going to tell a mediocre story, you need to have something to say. In the case of “The Black Mirror” he found his angle on the story, but he cautioned any writers out there against taking an assignment, even a career-making assignment, if you don’t have something unique to say about it.

Amber Benson was quick to admit that she wrote a lot of goth poetry in high school but never took her aspirations of writing much farther when she was young. That said, working as an actor, she had plenty of opportunity to be inspired by writing and eventually succumbed and tried it herself with a story in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic series. Liking the process, she sought out more projects, eventually being put in contact with Ben Templesmith. The result was Shadowplay.

Benson also spoke about Ghosts of Albion, a transmedia project that includes short films, prose, and even a tabletop RPG. While there is no comics component as of yet, Benson said that working in animation had a very similar feel to her.

Unfortunately, before she could be asked another question, Benson had to run to another panel.

This spider, the symbol of the titular Killjoys, was created for the original announcement of the series back in 2009, but it would be another four years before it, or the Killjoys, would grace a comic cover.

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The Legend of Korra S04E03 – Review

By: Tim Hedrick (story)

The Story: Korra gets her butt kicked by a blind old woman.

The Review: Last episode represented something of a high water mark for the show in terms of psychological gravity, but if there’s one area in which the show still has little experience, it’s politics. From the season premiere, almost any viewer could see that Kuvira’s control issues and Prince Wu’s utter incompetence was going to lead to some kind of coup, yet it takes nearly every other character in the episode by surprise. Even for politicians, that’s a new low of shortsightedness.

Tenzin’s mostly a spiritual world leader, but at least he voices some misgivings about Kuvira. Leave it to the seasoned official to totally get the wrong call. In response to Tenzin’s concerns, Raiko says matter-of-factly, “She gave me her word she’d step down.” That pretty well sums up the level of sophistication in government affairs for the Avatar world: global power handed over on the basis of essentially a pinky-swear. Even Suyin, who’s openly hostile to Kuvira’s power grabs, labors under the assumption her future daughter-in-law will eventually relinquish that power. Thus the season’s biggest conflict arises from everyone else’s stupidity.
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The Walking Dead S05E02 – Review

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 3.18.13 PM

Original Air Date: October 19, 2014

Review (with SPOILERS): “No, no, no…” is what this episode inspired me to say again and again.  As I feared in reviewing last week’s episode, once the budget for zombie-splatter gore diminished, the same stale group of writers would again assert control over TWD and the results would be uninspired.

An important caveat is that this is a comic review site and I come at this episode as someone who has read the TWD comics.  If you have not read the comics, there might be more anticipation in this storyline than there is for a comic reader.

There was so much draggy and soggy moments in this episode and almost nothing crackled.  This show continues to waste insane amounts of time on whether good people can do bad things.  That’s an interesting question and has been the root of some of the best TV dramas of the last 10-15 years, but this concept has been MUCH better explored in shows like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos or The Wire or pretty much anything.  When I see fist-bump Tara being agonizingly integrated into the group and forgiven for her past sins, I just think how poor the acting/writing/directing are when compared to a show like Breaking Bad.  What makes it worse is that TWD constantly reminds us what  these characters have done: Tara was “there” when The Governor attacked The Prison, Carol shot psycho-Lizzie in the back of the head, Rick has done “stuff,” Bob was part of groups that died, etc.  It’s just so damn tedious to be constantly reminded that these characters have done some questionable things, but remain fundamentally good people and are worth rooting for.  And if you were slow on the uptake, we got a patented moment where Rick squatted down to tell Carl how it was (except that Carl has to sit down for these squat-talks because Carl is now 6 feet tall).  The writers are just much more fascinated with these topics than any of the viewership.  If you doubt me, Google “was Walter White a bad person” and you will find serious, Ph.D.-level ethical debate about the main character in Breaking Bad.  Now do the same for any TWD character and you’ll find almost nothing.  It’s not just me.  Nobody cares.  Just move on, and splatter some zombies while you’re at it.

The other problem with these characters is that their stories are all the same.  Virtually every character has done “something” (often referred to as “it” during dialog; as in, “Are we going to tell them about IT?”) and the show demands that we reanalyze this same dynamic of a basically good person who had to do some questionable things to survive, over and over and over…  Where is the diversity of storytelling and character creation?  Why do we have to see the same basic story repeatedly?
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