Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Southern Bastards #5

So here we are, back in Craw County after a brief hiatus. We come back to a little bit of a breather. A little bit of place setting. And that’s okay, because we learn a lot this episode too.

One of the big questions about the first arc was who exactly is Coach Boss? Earl said they played football together, but past that we knew nothing. How did he become so powerful? How did he become comfortable enough to kill a man in the street, in front of plenty of witnesses, and think he could get away with it? (He even went to the funeral and gave the sheriff the business!) While we don’t learn that, we do learn a lot about the man himself.

Coach Boss is ordinary, except for one defining trait: he doesn’t give up. In flashbacks he’s told that he’s terrible at football, and that he should quit. His family is insulted, and he’s told he should quit. He’s sexually assaulted, and he’s told he should quit. But he gets right back up and makes for the tackling block, like nothing even happened. So we learn that he’s an average player with an unhappy childhood, which is not a unique history, but he’s also the most stubborn man in Craw County. He makes it work. And he wants people to remember it, which is why he tempts fate and puts Earl’s stick (the weapon Boss used in the murder) right up on the wall of his barbeque joint. Fair enough.

Through a few wordless panels we also learn a lot about present day Coach Boss. His home is modest; he’s the only one sleeping in his bed; the empty half of his closet, and the one high heel on the floor that he hasn’t picked up, imply that he used to be married or be in some kind of relationship, which in turn implies a gloomy former life. These panels are drawn in pale, muted colors, which make the scene stand out from the red, heat soaked panels of the flashbacks. It gives the scenes of his home life a sterile feel; it makes him seem lonely.

The rest of the book is given to the funeral, which is okay, as well as the introduction of presumably major players who will soon be introduced/play a large role, which is much more interesting. We get a reference to a hunter who lives in the woods, twin young women who own the bank, maybe a reference to the Dixie mafia, a sick mayor and his wife (who most likely wields the power), as well as a panel solely focused on the sheriff, who was introduced in the last arc. Earl’s daughter is finally given a name (Berta), and I hope she comes to town really soon. She ought to bring Hell with her.

All of these pieces of story are pulled together by the once again incredible artwork. I already mentioned the coloring choices, but this issue proved again that Jason Latour is just as deft with quiet scenes as he is with violence. The scenes at the funeral lose none of their grit just because there’s a lot of talking.

Now that we know a little bit more about Coach Boss, and the table has been set, I’m really excited for what will hopefully be a big next issue. Bring the pain, Berta!

Story: Jason Aaron Art; Jason Latour

Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

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TV Review: Arrow S3E4 The Magician

arrowOn this episode of Arrow, Nyssa and Oliver join forces to go after the Dark archer. Yeah, that pretty much sums up the episode. There’s a lot of “who killed Sara” in the episode, enough to keep us the viewers wondering who’s telling the truth, and who’s lying. At the end of the episode I’m still not sure.

This is a pretty straightforward episode that brings the fact Malcolm Merlyn is still alive to front and center. Overall, the episode brings up a lot of interesting stuff. First there’s Thea and Oliver’s relationship. They’ve promised to be open to each other, but clearly they’re both keeping something back. Second, you’ve got Nyssa running around and trying to get vengeance, and then Oliver’s proclamation to her. Finally, there’s Oliver’s vow to not kill. He struggles a lot in this episode with that. And we see that he’s a lot worse about all of that in his past than we know about… ie his time with Amanda Waller.

The episode overall is pretty mixed. By itself, the episode doesn’t stand too well on its own. But, as part of the build up in the season, it’s a solid episode. In three episodes we’ve had a lot thrown at us, and this episode slows that down some to have us catch up and bring some of those threads together.

It’s a bit weaker of an episode, but that’s partially because the first three were so packed with things. But, the episode was needed as well. Overall, Arrow has learned a lot in it’s first two seasons, and we’re seeing those lessons on full display, in a positive way, so far this season.

And, lets face it, it’s kind of hard to not dig the end of the episode.

Overall rating: 7.25

Review: Harley Quinn Volume 1: Hot in the City

The influence of Deadpool comics is really quite apparent in DC’s current Harley Quinn series; she’s a nutty killer who doesn’t take anything seriously and finds herself talking to both the reader and to herself. Thankfully, however, Harley Quinn, a comic co-written by couple Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner and primarily drawn by Chad Hardin, doesn’t feel overly derivative. There is enough uniqueness to the way this book operates that the Deadpool comparison is easy to forget while reading. It’s also important to note that having something like this, shining a silly light in a cave of grim and gritty darkness, taking place in a modern DC comic is special. The first nine issues of this comic, collected in Harley Quinn Volume 1: Hot in the City, form a great read that offers loads of funny, simple fun, even though it isn’t very consistent in quality.

harley bob

While not without the rare instance of groan-worthy, juvenile humor that vaguely objectifies particularly attractive women, Harley Quinn is largely sex-positive and empowering when it comes to its portrayal of sexuality. The titular main character, along with Poison Ivy, a reoccurring character used to pal around with Harley, is sexually playful, but the sense that they are in control and comfortable is always clear. The characters are also ethically complex, but this dynamic is handled with intelligent care; for example, when Harley takes up a part-time therapy gig, she doesn’t do anything offensive that will upset those emotionally invested in issues of mental health.

Fortunately, Harley Quinn’s first volume treads careful ground and offers light-hearted entertainment that is easy-to-read. The characterization of Harley works incredibly well, embodying an infectious, care-free brand of goofy sociopathic behavior with some heart. Harley just wants to have fun, which for her means loads of violence, loads of food, and loads of cute animals. Every now and then that quest for a good time is interrupted by an impassioned tangent from Harley. Often, these little bits manage to be more touching than what one would expect.

The book is all over the place in terms of plot, but this is rarely a cause for concern. Various plot threads are touched upon for just a little while before the book moves on, but at the end of the day, no subplot is particularly substantial enough to need that much attention. A lot is built in this series in terms of supporting cast and activities for Harley to partake in, all carried along with another simple, overarching plot point that ties every issue together. Most issues more or less work on their own, all the while crafting a bigger narrative that is fun in its totality.

To the book’s detriment, the quality isn’t linear either. The first issue, featuring a ton of fourth-wall breaking comedy that ends up incorporating a cavalcade of big name DC artists, is fantastic fun that is never exactly matched by later efforts. Sometimes, a particular issue isn’t as solid as the average attempt, dragging down the pacing. Towards the middle, particularly in a two-issue arc found in issues five and six, certain sequences come off as rushed and to a certain extent, dull. The comedy is usually sound, but every now and then it gets a bit uncomfortable; the most striking example is in the fourth issue, featuring some violence towards a young boy that proves unnerving.

The art style of Harley Quinn is largely safe, but still compelling in its technical proficiency and emotive sense of style. Page layouts are standard, but the sense of movement and display of facial emotion works as good as one would want. While not remarkable in this regard, the book manages to look and feel exciting and energetic. There is plenty of color and detail, with solid background work as well. The medium of sequential art is also put to great work here when it comes to comedy; panels bereft of dialogue that work mainly to get across a character’s facial reaction to something ridiculous are plentiful and end up being hilarious.

All in all, Hot in the City is a load of fun that is easy to enjoy. It doesn’t maintain a consistent quality, but it’s always enjoyable to some extent: generally a great extent. Anyone looking to get a laugh out of something in DC’s lineup would be hard-pressed to find something better.

Story: Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner Art: Chad Hardin
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

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DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

TV Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E6 A Fractured House

Agents_of_SHIELD_logoThe world turns against S.H.I.E.L.D. when Hydra impersonates them to attack The United Nations, and an unexpected enemy leads the charge to bring about their downfall.

With Hydra running around pretending they’re S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson’s team decides to head to a weapons dealer who might help them figure out where they enemy is, and stop them. The whole part is a bit odd, but it is what it is. There’s also an issue of a Senator after S.H.I.E.L.D. is Grant’s brother. I snickered when they listed him as a Republican.

I will say, the coolest part of the episode is the increased profile of Daniel Whitehall. This is one character from the comics that might be a bit under the radar for most. Whitehall is also known as Kraken, a relatively new character to the Marvel comic universe who was introduced in a S.H.I.E.L.D. related comic series Secret Warriors. Whitehall doesn’t sport his awesome design, but there’s hope we’ll see it in the future. Also solid in the episode is Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird’s relationship with her ex-husband. Their banter is solid, and we’ve seen something similar in comics with her and Hawkeye.

The action at the end is pretty decent. There’s some nice weapons battles and the inclusion of Morse to the team is very welcome. Seeing her kick-ass with her iconic weapons is great to see and of course May whipping ass too is entertaining.

With what Grant reveals to Skye, the episode continues to build to…. something. I’ve got thoughts, and theories as to where they might go with Skye, especially with her Hydra connections. There’s also the political play, which seems to shift S.H.I.E.L.D.’s standing with the US government. This is an interesting series shifting episode. Where it goes from here? We’ll see though.

Overall Score: 7

TV Review: The Flash S1E4 Going Rogue

theflash_full_costumeThe Flash stops a robbery but the culprits get away after shooting a guard, and The Flash chooses to save the man instead of following the criminals. Joe shows Barry a book of suspects and Barry identifies Leonard Snart as the leader of the group. Snart revises his plan to steal the Kahndaq Dynasty Diamond and gets a boost when he gets his hands on a stolen “cold gun,” which could kill The Flash. Dr. Wells is furious when he finds out that Cisco built the cold gun without telling anyone and now it’s missing. Meanwhile, Iris is getting the silent treatment from Joe because of her relationship with Eddie. Finally, The Flash and Captain Cold have an epic confrontation.

The first that stands out about the episode is the humor of it. With Felicity back for the episode, there’s a cuteness that really grounds The Flash. It’s really cute, and put a smile on my face. That cuteness is balanced out with the seriousness about half-way through as the Flash and his team have to deal with the loss of a life (a civilian, so no big shocks). That mix of serious and lightheartedness really makes the episode, and series, stand out for me.

This episode is the debut of Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold, probably the most iconic of Flash’s rogues. Out of them all Captain Cold is absolutely my favorite, partially due to the fact he’s somewhat sympathetic. He has a clear set of rules, like to not kill unless they have to. But, here he ups the damage compared to previous villains. He goes out of his way to cause damage, and almost kills folks, which flies in the face of his rules.

Even better, the episode ends in a bit of a draw, and sets up Snart/Captain Cold as a big villain for the future. We’ll clearly get the full Rogues in the future, I’m crossing my finger it’s this season, and if the end is any indication, looks like we will! Can’t wait.

Overall rating: 8.5

Review: Purgatori #2

purgatori cover 002Purgatori represents an attempt by Dynamite Comics to revive an almost forgotten character from the bad girl days of mid-90s.  In the first issue the character was roughly introduced, offering enough of a jumping off point for either old fans or new fans to know what was going on.  In this issue Purgatori continues in her mission to free herself from the control of her bloodlust while also trying to figure out what has happened to her.

The issue kind of plays out in two distinctive parts.  The first half is more focused on mostly gratuitous blood and gore, as Purgatori is revealed to have sucked the blood dry out of numerous animals as well as the lecherous truck driver from the previous issue.  While this part of the story is maybe necessary to establish her as a character, it is equally difficult to read as it seems mostly superfluous, especially as some parts of it seem particularly unrealistic, especially as a random family looks at her writhing in pain and only comments something to degree that she is sick.  The second half of the issue finally advances the story, but it is once again with the somewhat unnecessary addition of blood and gore.  After she is rescued, her group is soon ambushed and killed, but the artist would have maybe been wiser to go with the “less is more” approach as the images of exploding heads is not really necessary from a storytelling standpoint.  It is only at the end where the story finally moves forward, but it is too late to save what the issue was after.

The end result of the issue is one that feels mostly unnecessary.  While the story is moved forward, it feels mostly as an afterthought to the gratuitous violence.  For fans eager to see the return of the character, perhaps some of this violence is what they after, but for a new reader, it feels as though this issue missed the mark.  Indeed, an issue two synopsis at the beginning of issue #3 would reveal little more than what transpired in the last three or so pages.  This promise of a story sounds intriguing enough, but the question becomes how long will it take to tell this story with all the other disturbances.

Story:  Aaron Gillespie Art: Javier Garcia-Miranda
Story: 6.5 Art: 6.0  Overall: 6.5  Recommendation: Pass

Dynamite provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

TV Review: Gotham S1E6 Spirit of the Goat

gotham cast When a killer begins targeting the first-born of Gotham’s elite, Bullock is forced to confront traumatic memories from a nearly identical case he worked in the past. Later, Gordon is confronted by past decisions.

This episode of Gotham is light on the main attraction, Oswald Cobblepot, but heavy on Gordon and Bullock. It’s a very different episode that focuses more on the detective aspect, with some supernatural elements, versus what we’ve been seeing before, which I’d call more drama.

What’s particularly interesting, and very much-needed, is a bit more insight into who Bullock is. Yes, he’s crooked. Yes, he’s morally questionable. But with all of that, there’s still a code that drives him, and we get a bit of that. We get to see that he really isn’t all that shitty, and there’s some good in there.

What’s also meh is the whole Gordon killing Cobblepot aspect, which comes to a head here. It’s not exactly difficult for him to beat the charges, so I don’t see this going very far, and in general it’d have been great for this to play out longer in the season.

Again, the episode is mixed, like previous episodes. Bullock and Gordon on the case is solid. The rest is a bit meh. Much like a lot of the series as a whole. It’s still figuring out its rhythm and balance, but it’s getting there. The ending though hints it’s all about to get good.

Overall Score: 7

TV Review: The Walking Dead S5E3 Four Walls and a Roof

walking-dead-5 photoAs Bob fights for his life, Rick and the group take a stand to defend the church against Gareth and his gang of cannibals.

Right away the episode kicks off catching up with Bob and Gareth as Gareth continues to rant about eating people. Bob then drops a bomb on them about his condition, something I wondered about during last episode. But, moving from him back to Rick’s crew, it’s clear that someone is watching them. Finally Gabriel admits what he did. All of this is within the first 10 minutes of the The Walking Dead, one hell of a start.

We also get the first butting of heads between Abraham and Rick, something that’s been brewing for a bit. It’s clear there’s two alpha males, and they won’t always agree. Interesting enough though, Glenn steps in, continuing his interesting role in the group dynamic.

What plays out is some amazing strategy played out between Rick and Gareth with some highly tense moments played out in very dark quarters. To say it’s all cathartic is an understatement with Rick completing a promise he made to Gareth. Just beyond cathartic.

But here’s the question, with the violence shown and committed, is Rick’s crew any better than Gareth? Both are done out of necessity. Both are done out of survival. The difference really plays out at the end between Bob and Rick. If you want to know if there’s a difference between Gareth and Rick’s actions, it’s summed up by Bob.

It’s the last 10 minutes of the show that hits you. If you can watch the end, and not tear up a little, you have no heart. Truly the end of the episode sums up what the series is all about. The Walking Dead might have zombies, and scares, and lots of blood and death, but at its heart, the show is about people and humanity. A stellar episode, one of the best of the series.

Overall rating: 10

TV Review: Comic Book Men S4E3 Stand Up Guys

comic book menIn this episode of Comic Book Men, Walt challenges the guys to perform stand up comedy at the Stash. A collector brings in key Marvel comics from the 1960s.

The show kicks off right away with that 1960s comics above. The man who comes in says he’s a collector and a dealer, which makes me wonder why he’s coming into the Stash to sell these books, and it’s an impressive set of comics. It’s a little weird that he’s a dealer and yet goes to another shop to sell them, and they never ask why he’s trying to sell the books. Plus, Walt doesn’t even check out the books. He doesn’t see if it’s restored, or how the insides are. Walt just hands over cash. As a person who used to work at a store myself, this segment doesn’t really sit well with me at all. But, segment shows off some comic history. It’d have been better talking a bit more as to why they’re important, but also going over and grading the comics themselves. Dropping a couple hundred dollars without checking the item out is just odd.

There’s another segment about selling a toy. That one was a bit more interesting to me. It’s a toy I know nothing about. Here, some history is given about why the toy is important, and there’s a lot of joking. It’s a stronger segment than the first, and here the dealing is more realistic and there’s an explanation as to why the guy is trying to sell the toy.

The third segment sadly plays into folks who are on the show for some fame. She walks in dressed as the Baroness to sell a toy. It felt a little bit playing into the whole tv show aspect. The selling of the item does have a good reason about it, it’s to raise money for a charity. That part is nice, but it’s a bit odd overall.

The comedy segment, I do have to say I’m impressed with the two comic minimum to get in. That’s some great out-of-the-box thinking that more stores should do to sell products. It’s actually a great idea overall, and if I had a store still, you better believe I’d be holding events like that. The jokes themselves…. are mixed. The crowd seems to enjoy themselves, so that’s good. None of them will likely be making a living in comedy. Overall though, the crowd seems to have fun, and it’s a good idea to get folks into the store. I’d love to see more of this type of things going forward. Mix that with the comic history, and the regular banter, you’ve got a solid series.

Overall, this is the first episode that I had an issue with someone selling something, it bothered me as a former store clerk. With that, it was a mixed episode overall.

Overall rating: 6.75

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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