Category Archives: Reviews

TV Review: Doctor Who S8E10 In the Forest of the Night

doctor who capaldiOne morning in London, and every city and town in the world, the human race wakes up to the most surprising invasion yet: the trees have moved back in. Everywhere, in every land, a forest has grown and taken back the Earth.

For much of the season, the stories for Doctor Who has taken on the horror genre, and this episode too dips a bit into that with a trip into the forest, the setting of so many children’s tales, grim as they are. It’s appropriate since this episode focuses on a bunch of kids, Clara, and Danny Pink. Pink, Clara, and the kids begin on a class school trip, and when attempting to go home discover London (and the world) has been overrun with planets. In comes the Doctor and one strange little child.

The whole tree aspect is interesting, and some nice pro-environment messaging, though a meh story. What’s interesting though is the interaction with the Doctor and Clara. While the Doctor is trying to save the world, there’s a point Clara gives up, a switch from her integral part in saving the world the last couple of episodes. It also shows a part of her that’s a bit tired of it all. She also sides with Pink, choosing him over the Doctor.

There is some very interesting discussion at the end about forgetting, and humanity’s habit of doing so. But, really, it’s that “next time” that really has me excited. It looks like the season has been building up to something interesting, and we’re about to find out what that is.

Overall Score: 7

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TV Review: Constantine S1E1 Non Est Asylum

CONSTANTINE-First-Official-Image1Based on the wildly popular comic book series Hellblazer from DC Comics‘s imprint Vertigo, as well as the New 52 series Constantine, seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult John Constantine is armed with a ferocious knowledge of the dark arts and a wickedly naughty wit. He fights the good fight – or at least he did. With his soul already damned to hell, he’s decided to abandon his campaign against evil until a series of events thrusts him back into the fray when an old friend’s daughter becomes the target of supernatural forces.

It was only nine years ago that John Constantine made his mass media debut in the 2005 dreadful film Constantine, which starred Keanu Reeves in the title role. It’s interesting that nine years later the next attempt to bring the character to the masses shares the same title, but after seeing the first episode it sort of makes sense.

The visual aesthetic I think shares a lot with that film, something the movie got right. It has a bit of a cheesy horror film vibe about it all, just a step above the cheese though (though not much). The film and television show share the basics of the character, and a little of the attitude, and that’s where things generally end.

The greatest departure is Matt Ryan, who now embodies the role of John Constantine, sharing an impressive closeness in look to his comic depiction, and also playing off the borderline asshole personality of the character as well. The first episode rests on his shoulders, squarely on his shoulders, because that’s what there really is for the show.

Constantine the show is somewhat restrained by the fact its a network show, as opposed to being able to pull off an R adaptation. The comic has done some of its best work when it’s embraced its mature label. Mix that with some folks who know “horror” and you could have an amazing show. The debut though feels like “horror” light. It needs to go full “horror,” and dig in to what makes that genre succeed. Television lacks a solid horror show, and this could fill that niche nicely. As is, it dances around that, sanitizing the scares, and disturbing imagery, for the masses. It begins to go there, and it never quite crosses that moment that has me jump from my seat, or feel tense with anticipation and fear. There is definitely moments I was shocked NBC showed (don’t get me started on that pairing). There’s also a lot of religious themes, stories, and characters, that would probably get the masses up in arms if done correctly. The New 52 Constantine is a sanitized Hellblazer, and Constantine the show’s first episode is a further sanitized version of the New 52 Constantine.

The debut is a decent start, and should pair nicely with its lead in show Grimm. It shows promise in where it’ll go from here, but overall the debut episode didn’t blow me away. I’m nowhere near ready to render my verdict for the series as a whole. There’s a lot I like, Ryan being top of the list, and nothing I truly disliked. The show just kind of is. What it embraces from its comic roots will be a key to the season, and its willingness to go full horror and push what can be shown on television. There’s great potential in the series, we’ve seen what the character can do in the comics, crossing my fingers the series pulls off some magic and embraces a bit more of its dark side.

Overall rating: 7

 

Review: Super-Secret Crisis War!: Cow and Chicken One-Shot

On the whole, IDW Publishing has been doing such a lovely job with its licensed properties. The main Super-Secret Crisis War! storyline, mashing together a bunch of Cartoon Network characters in a big, dumb story has been lots of fun. Equally entertaining have been the one-shot releases in between issues focusing on less popular Cartoon Network shows, like Johnny Bravo, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and now Cow and Chicken. Through its hilarious, odd fixation on butts, in-your-face characterization, and often lightly grotesque imagery, the Cow and Chicken one-shot succeeds as a funny, weird read.

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Writer Jim Zub and artist Jorge Monlongo work in remarkable harmony, collaboratively maintaining solid control over all of the character work. Every panel features subtle differences in how the characters are drawn, offering constantly changing and therefor exciting expression. This comic vibrates with faux-movement, giving readers loads of little details to laugh at. It all just works, from the goofy, bodacious butt of The Red Guy bursting off of the page to every incredibly frustrated face of Chicken.

By this point, the story of these one-shots are quite predictable. A robot sent by villains in the main storyline seeks a challenger and doesn’t really find one. Some dumb or mislead character tries to befriend the robot, which eventually malfunctions at some point. It’s a shame the plots are losing elements of surprise because of this, but really, the plots aren’t that important in all of these one-shots other than the Foster’s one. This Cow and Chicken one-shot is a laugh-out-loud load of bizarre fun that brings up memories of the old cartoon, and at the end of the day, that’s enough.

Story: Jim Zub Art: Jorge Monlongo
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

To check out Matt’s about.me, click here

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Godzilla Cataclysm #3

Writer Cullen Bunn and artist Dave Wachter have been doing a wonderful job of crafting an epic, sprawling storyline with Godzilla Cataclysm thus far. The idea of exploring the classic Godzilla monsters as religious deities is a fascinating one that gives great weight and grandiosity to the plot. Additionally, the visuals have established an incredibly compelling ominous and dreary tone. The newest issue, #3, is the weakest yet, thanks to a more slow, plodding pace and some repetition, but it is still another enjoyable chapter of this awesome series.

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Much of this issue is filled with dialogue that adds to the overall beat of the religious angle to the monsters. The characters of this comic get more frantic and scared, all of which is interesting despite feeling a little overly reminiscent of past issues. The past of the old-wise-man archetype is teased a bit more, smartly creating an exciting sense of mystery. While there isn’t really any tense build-up, action eventually shows up towards the latter half and excites just like in past issues.

The intimidating, giant monsters still pop off the page and still seem to move thanks to how dynamic the art looks. The colors of the monsters pose big contrast to the typically mute color scheme of the rest of the comic, creating the same neat effect of past issues. Most of the new action is fresh and interesting, this issue focusing on “Megaguirus,” a massive, winged bug with a ton of limbs and an army of smaller buddies backing him up. The flying menaces fill up the pages, and whenever Megaguirus clashes with Mothra, huge, explosive collisions ensue. It’s excellent stuff, even though a few panels look just like work from past issues.

Not enough new ground is touched upon in the latest issue of Godzilla: Cataclysm, but all of the essentials for this series are definitely present.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Dave Wachter
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.25 Overall: 7.75 Recommendation: Buy

To check out Matt’s about.me, click here

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Avengers & X-Men Axis #3

Axis 3“Are we back here again?” – Scott Summers

déjà vu…the watch word for AXIS #3.

Issue# 3 of AXIS closes out the first arc of the event, bringing the story to an interesting break  and mini conclusion. The first thing that popped out at me about this issue  is the presence of so many connecting threads that go back to pivotal stories in the Marvel U. This comes with a caveat I will explain shortly. Although this has been a  consistent element since the first issue it’s much more prominent in this one. I’m really starting to see that thematically AXIS is not just a story about heroes and villains, it’s also a hub for a great deal of Marvel’s past stories.

Dedicated and eagle eyed readers will catch plot call backs from Doom and Wanda’s confrontation (Avengers: The Children’s Crusade)  as well as Genesis and Deadpool’s reunion (Uncanny X-Force Vol. 2)  as I’ve mentioned before I’m a sucker for continuity, so seeing these elements is not only enjoyable it reflects the author’s attention to detail and care for the characters. That said I do have some reservations. A lot of the plotting and story structure seems rehashed irrespective of this.  The greatest sin that AXIS #3 commits is reinventing the wheel so to speak (pun intended)

Given what Wanda has went through with Dr. Doom, (House of M /The Children’s Crusade) I find it highly suspect that she would risk performing Magic with him ever again. Additionally if a spell from Wanda going awry becomes the an enduring trope once more, I’ll have to let out a justified groan. The poor girl needs a break she’s earned it. The past keeps coming back  story structure wise, I can’t help but feel a sense of ennui. Like Scott said, we are back to familiar territory. The use of villains to save the day was very  much reminiscent of  the superhuman civil war. And the renewed conflict between the Avengers and X-men was very AVX.  That said I don’t want to throw the baby out with bathwater. There are some interesting developments worthy of mention. Evan Sabah Nur’s  inversion is definitely a new wrinkle in his story and builds upon years of foreshadowing. And Havok’s resignation as co-leader of the Avengers Unity Squad was huge.

In an earlier review I questioned Captains America’s choice of Havok as the leader of the team. This seemed to make him the “Uncle Tom” of Mutants in some respect. It appears he has come to his own similar conclusions in this issue and asserts himself in a manner we rarely see from him. The X-Men  in general appear to be headed in a new direction and I’m excited to see what follows next. Witnessing Evan usher in the genesis (apocalypse?) for this new X-era was particularly poignant and foreboding.

Overall the issue was good…good but familiar. I’m excited to see the new landscape that AXIS will carve but right now the story telling feels a bit formulaic. The art was very reflective of the story, and depicted the chaotic nature of the battle quite well.

Story: Rick Remender Art: Leinil Francis Yu
Story: 6 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read

Review: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #18

she-raAlthough introduced fairly early into the stories of He-Man there has never been a very good way to overlap the stories of his sister with his own.  He-Man was at first a toy and then later a television series and comic, which was wildly popular among boys in the early 1980s.

Seeing the success of the franchise in one demographic, the creators tried their hand at a related franchise that would appeal to girls and they came up with She-Ra.  Although the animated show had some success, with two seasons compared to He-Man’s three, it never gained the same traction in terms of a fan base.  The characters were a weird mix of dolls and action figures, with the main character Adora/She-Ra focused equally on love as on fighting her mortal enemy, Hordak.   I remember as a young boy eager to fill out my own collection of action figures, that I took one look at a discounted Bow and scoffing and walking away, such a blatant romantic interest that he has a heart on his chest.  Equally although there must have been some, I never met a girl that collected She-Ra figures.   She-Ra has always been a character in need of a home and never really able to find one.

He-Man and the related characters now exist in popular culture primarily as comic book characters and since the relaunch of DC Comics into the new 52, has formed one of the sole ongoing and reliable series not tied to the main universe.  As a comic franchise it has had its ups-and-downs, though one constant has been an attempt to integrate She-Ra into the storylines.  The conclusion of the Blood of Grayskull story line introduces the character into He-Man universe as well as has probably ever been done.   Gone are the somewhat hoaky aspects of the character, replaced only by a strong story, which spanned 6 issues of the series and 1000 years of comic book time.

This final issue of the story arc is still one that is not going to be extremely moving for a lot of readers, as it borrows heavily from aspects of science fiction, fantasy and comic clichés to give a mostly action-focused story.  Nonetheless it is still interesting to read, well-produced and flows well with the bits of story and dialogue moving the action along well.  Fans of the franchise might be particularly interested in this issue, as after nearly thirty years it gives Adora a proper home and a new meaning.

Story: Dan Abnett Art: Pop Mhan
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

TV Review: Arrow S3E3 Corto Maltese

arrowOn this episode of Arrow, Oliver decides it’s time for Thea to come back to Starling City, so he packs for Corto Maltese, where Felicity has traced Thea’s whereabouts. Lyla asks Diggle to go with Oliver because one of her field operatives, Mark Shaw, has gone dark in Corto Maltese and she’d like him to look into it. Feeling responsible for Thea’s departure, Roy joins Oliver and Diggle on their journey. Shaw double-crosses Diggle, putting numerous A.R.G.U.S. agents, including Lyla, at risk. Meanwhile, Laurel meets Ted Grant, and Felicity adjusts to her new job.

Interspersed throughout the episode is Thea’s origin into whatever she is now. We get to see her and her father in the beginning, and generally how he won her over. Juxtapose that with Oliver and Roy attempting to bring her back and you get an interesting back and forth.

Then you have Laurel, who seems to be heading down an expected path, especially after the introduction of Ted Grant, a name that should be familiar to DC Comics fans. Blonde hair, and mask? Yeah, I think we might be seeing a new Black Canary in the making. We’ll see where it all goes though in the television series.

What’s a bit meh is the A.R.G.U.S. storyline which just feels like they needed to add in a big action sequence for the hell of it. The episode would have been much stronger focusing on Laurel and Thea instead and get rid of the side story. Giving more details on either of them, some more training, some more discussing their motives, that would have been much more interesting.

Overall, this is a needed episode that could have been done a bit differently with a much better result.

Overall rating: 8

Review: Lumberjanes #7

The world is filled with a ton of stupid noise caused by people being jerks and life being weird and arbitrary; comics like Lumberjanes serve as a lovely escape from the bad and a welcome reminder of the good. Yes, writers Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis and artist Brooke Allen’s Lumberjanes is a warm, cute little comic book, unlike those grim and gritty ones about bats and guns. The penultimate issue of this arc (the series is now ongoing!), out today, offers a solid story that makes sense of past issues’ mysteries and gives off the sense that everything is coming together. It’s great, accessible fun.

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At this point in the series, an elegant feeling of camaraderie among the characters melts off of the pages. The simplest interactions between characters is enough to garner a smile, because of how much has been built up to by this point. It really is remarkable how well the creative team here has managed to make these girls worth caring about. All of the good times they share give off an infectious feeling of happiness, and every struggle, no matter how small, is felt; intimate character work is done incredibly well in Lumberjanes. Unfortunately, the amount of action in this issue is certainly lacking in comparison to others, but it is not without its bits of cathartic excitement.

After a silly, funny opening sequence at the start of this issue, the biggest chunk of the plot begins. Reveal after reveal and explanation after explanation ensue, making sense of every head-scratching moment from past issues. The only noteworthy problem with this series has been confusion associated with these intentional gaps in the plot, but this issue rids away those issues. With this one in the can, it is safe to say this arc will read noticeably better in a bulk, trade format.

Given the quality of Lumberjanes #7, it’s likely next month’s conclusion will stick the landing. If you missed out on this series as it came out, you better look out for the trade.

Story: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis Art: Brooke Allen
Story: 8.75 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

To check out Matt’s about.me, click here

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

TV Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E5 A Hen in the Wolfhouse

Agents_of_SHIELD_logoCoulson’s team is up against the beautiful and deadly Bobbi Morse — Security Chief for Hydra. Meanwhile, Skye’s father forces Raina to reunite him with his daughter at any cost.

The first third of the episode, I honestly tuned out. Not much jumped out at me as exciting our all that interesting. It wasn’t until Coulson talks to Skye, and reveals she might be an alien…. now you have my interest…. until predictably Jemma is threatened with being outed as a mole for S.H.I.E.L.D. by Hydra. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. summed up in a two minute span right there.

But, really the episode is about the introduction of Bobbi Morse into the Marvel cinematic universe. And boy does she enter in a pretty bad-ass way.

The rest of the episode mixes things up a bit getting things settled for the rest of the season. Bobbi is now part of the team, and clearly has some history with folks, REALLY entertaining history. Skye’s pursuit of her father is probably the main story for the season, and I’d expect a big reveal at the end about Skye, or for it to lead to a further mystery next season. There’s the weird symbols Coulson is drawing. And Jemma is back, which can mean a whole lot of things for Fitz.

Overall, better than last week’s episode, but not quite the quality from the end of last season.

Overall Score: 6.5

TV Review: The Flash S1E3 Things You Can’t Outrun

theflash_full_costumeAs Barry and the team at S.T.A.R. Labs work to capture Kyle Nimbus a.k.a. The Mist, a dangerous new meta-human with toxic gas powers, they revisit the painful night the particle accelerator exploded and killed Caitlin’s fiancé, Ronnie. Meanwhile, Joe decides to finally visit Henry in jail after all these years, but things take a dangerous turn when Kyle shows up looking to punish Joe for arresting him years ago. Meanwhile, Iris and Eddie continue to hide their relationship from Joe.

Three episodes in and The Flash keeps running away as the freshest “comic” show to debut this year, might be why its been picked up for a full season.

Tonight’s episode introduces yet another meta-human for Barry to fight, but really the episode’s points are two other things. First, it addresses the fact that Barry could run into prison and grab his father. The second is the introduction of Ronnie Raymond. Why is he important? Well, fans of DC Comics will know him as the superhero Firestorm.

The episode is decent, not quite as strong as the first two, but like those first two it does an excellent job setting up what’s to come. We know there’s more Rogues, the Reverse Flash, Firestorm, lots for comic fans. The fact the show is able to do this in a fun package.

Yes the episode has issues, lets face it a vacuum could defeat the bad guy, but that’s not the point. This is a show that’s fun, and that’s something we need more of on tv.

Overall rating: 7.5

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