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Underrated: The Impact Of Comic Book Television Shows And Movies

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: the impact of comic book TV shows and movies (outside of the Big Two).


Last week I reran a column for Underrated about The Death Defying Doctor Mirage as I had lost track of time Saturday morning, when I usually write the column, because I was watching the four episodes of The Boys on Amazon Prime that I had left after slowly picking away at the series during the week.

It was then I realized that adaptations of comic books in an episodic format are strangely underrated. Even the comic book movies, to some extent, also fall under that umbrella. Now, to be clear when I say these things are underrated, my tongue is not in my cheek; I am well aware that comic book movies are a multi billion dollar industry, and that some of those films are critical darlings – and rightly so. But I’m not talking about the movies per se, but rather their impact on comics. Not how the comics change over time to better reflect the movies, because that does happen, but rather the impact that the movies and television shows have in driving people to comic shops.

Yup.

Without the comics obviously these shows and movies wouldn’t exist in the same way (if at all). I mean you may end up with something like Heroes (remember that show from the mid-2000’s?), but there’d be no real guarantee that it’d take off. No, without the comics there’d be no live action adaptations.

But it’s not just a one way street.

I see it first hand when working at my LCS that the shows do drive purchases of the trades. To a lesser extent the floppies also sell, but in my experience that tends to be what people assume to be the key issues more than anything else; not always, and obviously it’s going to be different in different shops. It’s also important to note that the majority of the shows that push the comics aren’t always the ones I expected; shows like Doom Patrol and others that are also based on lesser known properties tend to generate more interest than the big ticket superhero movies. Personally, I think that’s because we all know who Batman, Spider-Man et al are, but even among comic book fans, few have read things like The Boys, Happy and Umbrella Academy.

It’s those adaptations that seem to have the higher impact on people wanting to circle back to the comics. Whether that’s because the people asking are already readers of comics, just not those comics, or because the idea of a smaller world to discover is less intimidating that trying to find your way into the X-Men (though the last few movies haven’t been great), the Avengers or Shazam comics.

The older a property, the more chance you’ve got at picking up a crappy story.

Now this two way street I’m seeing may be a localized trend. Your shop may have noticed something entirely different; maybe your shop has seen a surge of Avengers comics after folks have experienced the MCU, or maybe there was a sudden rush for Shazam books. Maybe the impact of the adaptations hasn’t been felt in your shop, and that sucks.

The impact of comics on television and cinema is undeniable. But there is a feedback from movie goers and others who binge Daredevil back to comicdom. It’s a small, and often underrated trend, but it is there. It’s turning the folks who wander in to a shop for the first or second time on to their new favourite book that’s the real challenge (though if you’re passionate about comics and can articulate that well, it shouldn’t be a huge hurdle).


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else next week.

Recap: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow S4E11 – Seance and Sensibility

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow‘s episode “Seance and Sensibility” starts off with Nate’s dads funeral. It seems that Zari and Nate’s pretend relationship might be turning into something real. The whole team shows up to lend their support and Ray is afraid to see his bestie because everyone believes that Nora is the killer but, a cute little heart to heart assuages Ray’s fears and everyone’s favorite bromance is still going strong. Constantine is worried about the bad mojo where they are and it has nothing to do with Nora’s presence in the bathroom. While Charlie tries to help Nora deal with her monster half, a change in the timeline occurs and they discover some trouble in Bath, England 1802 and Jane Austen , and her writing, might be in trouble. Pre-mission girl talk gets raunchy in a super real way when Mona senses Zari’s attraction to Nate right before the time jump to the wedding and things get awesome when the bride to be leaves the groom at the altar for her maid and the groom confesses his love for his betrove’s mother.

Meanwhile back on the ship Ray is getting some secret alone time with Nora until Charlie interrupts. While Zari goes off to get some dirt from the handsome coachman she met earlier, Mona learns that it isn’t always awesome to meet your idols because Jane Austen turns out to be less of a romantic than her novels would have had us believe. Rory helps Nate do some digging while Constantine realizes that Nate’s dads spirit is still present and it looks like they might be able to make contact. Using Mona’s knowledge of the Sara and her blend in and get some juicy gossip and discover that the coach man they pushed Zari to get under so she could get over Nate, might just be the time fugitive they are after. Being the sharp woman that she is, she figures it out halfway through a heavy makeout session where he admits to his magical origin and reveals himself as Kamadeva, the hindu god of love.

Kamadeva, the namesake of the Kama Sutra, is more than willing to follow Zari wherever she goes , so getting him back on the ship isn’t that hard. While trying to keep Nora hidden from the rest of his team, by hiding her in his bedroom, which isn’t as romantic or passion filled as you would think for separated lovers. Constantine and Rory fill Nate in on his dad’s presence but, Nate is unwilling to hear him out which might bode poorly for Nora. Kamadeva releases his essence through the ship which helps give Ray and Nora a little boost , even if it is only in their dreams, to have some adorable and consensual sexy time and everyone else on board to have some super sexy dreams. While Charlie got David Bowie, Zari got Nate and Kama and, Sara got Ava and they were all happy about the match up, Mona got memories of her old dead love leading to an argument with an anti love Zari leading her to wolf out and go after Jane Austen.

Jane Austen gets into it with Mona/Wolfie and doesn’t back down, she admits that she does believe in love and only marrying for it. Mona decides to lay it all out for Jane and tells her that her writing will matter and, Jane in turn gives her advice about not losing control and keeping relationships equal. Zari has it out with Kamadevi who tells her his back story and tries to help her past her fear and love block and Zari is surprisingly all in and releases him to help her sort it out, leading to Zari proposing marriage. Back at the funeral Nate forgoes his plan to tell the truth about his dad and gives a lackluster and basic eulogy, his mom tells a sweet story about how much his dad loved him and how big his heart was.

In typical Legend campiness Zari breaks out in song and since they’re all still in the magic love spell, the musical turns into a bollywood musical complete with dancing. Mona shows up to put an end to the marriage madness and her girl squad backs up the deadening of the the love spell wedding, because who wants to be wife number 1001? Mona and Zari end their fighting and realize they will be okay because yeah, they might not have a relationship with the people they love, they do have some pretty kick ass female friends and it’s going to be okay because if all else fails they still have each other.

Constantine leads the seance we have been waiting for the whole episode and he jumps into Rory’s body, since Nate is still holding a grudge. Nate’s dad in his Rory suit tells Constantine that Neron was behind everything , just as Nate goes exploring in the house and finds his dad’s secret room where he sees a taped “commercial” finding out that his dad was trying to build a theme park based on one of Nate’s old drawings. Finding the tape causes Nate to forgive his dad because he realized he wasn’t being a bad guy, he was trying to do something good. Constantine is getting a little clarity too as he drunkenly fights with his taunting reflection before Neron, in his shiny new Desmond (Constantine’s former lover) suit, let’s Constantine know , officially, that he’s back and coming for him.

This episode hit all the good notes and while there wasn’t a whole lot of action, we got a whole lot of raw emotion and real feelings. Even the musical portion of the episode fit in, felt in place and made sense in the context of the episode. In a period piece with lots of drama and a little bit of song and dance, the camera doesn’t linger on bodices and beauty, even though there is much of it. Alexandra La Roche directed this awesome episode and the female gaze shows in the way things are shown and handled.

I give this episode a 9.3 for its visuals and its story.

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 7/1

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


 

Batman50CoverMr H

Batman #50 (DC) Not many times does a comic bring out such emotion but wow. I feel like this could be Tom King’s masterpiece. This was fantastic from beginning panel to end. The way countless artists and creators were woven in, was so fitting considering how they have had such an impact on Batman’s history. The simple elegance of a secret rooftop wedding was genius. In a medium where most fictional weddings are over the top fiascos this was so nice and refreshing. I loved the double story narration throughout from both Bruce and Selina. Having doubted their true connection, Tom King has made a believer out of me. If Batman is to marry anyone, it has to be Catwoman. I believe that now. There was no over the top villain showdown but a definite surprise ending. This book had me mulling and contemplating true love. Rarely does a comic bring this kind of emotion out of me. There were a couple beats that did it though. I cannot say enough good about this book. It lived up to all the hype and I am so happy it did. Overall: Incredible. Tom King pulled another miracle out of his hat and it had nothing to do with Scot Free. This was all aces from me. Still astonished how well it was done. Score: 10/10 I’d give a 20/20 If I could.

Ryan C

Dark Ark #8 (Aftershock)** – Continuing the recent and highly successful storytelling trope of alternating between “past” and “present” that this series has settled comfortably into, Cullen Bunn deepens the mystery considerably in this issue while offering some tasty, if not exactly surprising, revelations to balance things out while Juan Doe, for his part, offers one stunning, eye-popping image after another, including a couple of double-page spreads that will absolutely knock your socks off. One of the best books that no one is talking about. Overall: 8. Recommendation: Buy.

dark ark 8.jpgThe Man Of Steel #6 (DC)** – Ho-hum. Brian Michael Bendis “ends” the “threat” of Rogol Zaar with predictable Deus Ex Machina nonsense, the dangling subplot of the arson fires is left that way, and Lois and Jon are temporarily ushered out the door by means you’ve seen coming for at least a couple of issues now. Jason Fabok’s art is perfectly competent in a “New 52”-esque sort of way, but all I can say about this at the end of the day is “thank Rao it’s over with.” Overall: 3. Recommendation: Pass.

Cosmic Ghost Rider #1 (Marvel)** – Kinda dumb, kinda fun, but probably leaning more toward the dumb, Donny Cates goes the pure set-up route with his script here, which is fine, but the fireworks — assuming any are to be had — will probably kick in next issue when the Immortal-Spirit-Of-Vengeance version of Frank Castle starts tooling around the cosmos with Baby Thanos. Dylan Burnett’s art is fine, but in fairness he’s no Geoff Shaw. Overall: 6. Recommendation: Read.

The Grave Diggers Union #8 (Image)** – With one issue left to go, Wes Craig kicks things into high gear story-wise with pathos and family drama necessarily overshadowing the comedic elements for this installment, while Toby Cypress matches the mood with some great, horrifying, highly idiosyncratic artwork. If you’ve been enjoying the series so far you’ll find a lot to like with this one — and I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit. Overall: 7.5. Recommendation: Buy.

Shean

cosmic_ghost_rider_cover_1Cosmic Ghost Rider #1 (Marvel)– Cool concept of Frank Castle being brought back from the dead by Odin to become the Ghost Rider in outer space, pretty funny overall. The story feels like if Bruce Campbell played Groo The Barbarian met Hells Angels in outer space . Was expecting a more serious take , but hopefully the 2nd issue fulfills the promise of the premise. As far as how good this first issue is, it’s mainly alright, not great.
Overall: 6 Recommendation: Borrow

Patrick

I Hate Fairyland #20 (Image)** – The final issue of Skottie Young’s rampage through this muffin hugger. Gert faces off against Dark Cloudia with the Hearts of the Council – then faces off against the Council. Not a bad way to go out – but not great, either. If I had had my heart’s desire, it would have been that Young had used his last arc to really dig into what makes Fairyland fun and Gert’s wishes to escape. Still, I look forward to the possibility of seeing more of the adventures of Larry, Duncan Dragon, and company, and I’ll miss Fairyland. Overall: 7 Recommendation: Buy. 

The Kurdles Adventure Magazine 1The Kurdles Adventure Magazine #1 (Fantagraphics)** – This is the brainchild of artist Robert Goodin, intended to be a “kid-friendly comic magazine”. Featuring the adventures of a grumpy unicorn, a concerned teddy bear, and the star of the show, a kindly pentapus named Phineas, Goodin’s work is charming and funny – though I think my 6-year-old would find it a bit dull (so many words!). His one-page stuff is great. Guest artists include Cesar Spinoza (Pacho Clokey, a b&w cartoon in a photographed world), Andrew Brandou (with a take on Paul Bunyan and Babe that’s kind of fun), and Cathy Malkasian (the brilliant “No-Body Likes You, Greta Grump”). The book is almost worth the price of admission just for the 5-page “Forbidden to Love Him!”, starring Phineas Pentapus, an absolutely pitch-perfect 50’s romance comic. And I mean perfect on every level: the plot, the dialogue, the art, colouring, lettering, and print effects. This is a little masterpiece. Do I really have to wait a whole year for the next issue? Overall: 8 but Goodin’s material is a solid 9. Recommendation: Buy.

Logan

Catwoman #1 (DC) In one issue, Catwoman shows that it’s one of DC’s most beautiful books with art that is both grotesque and well-rendered by Joelle Jones and a palette from Laura Allred that stays in the shadows. Jones’ story isn’t too bad either as Selina is trying to reinvent herself in Villa Hermosa, Mexico, but her peace of high stakes gambling is broken up by copycats in Catwoman costumes killing cops. The initial villain is pretty freaky: kind of like a female Peter Thiel, and I look forward to more rooftop chases and gorgeous architecture and fashions from Jones and Allred. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy

Assassinistas01Assassinistas #6 (IDW/Black Crown) Sure, the final issue of Tini Howard, Gilbert Hernandez, and Rob Davis’ mini has daring escapes, sniper shots, and even retro flashbacks. But it’s also the forging of a family as it’s revealed that Dominic does have a relationship with his father, and that Octavia is still coming to terms with coming out as gay. However, by the time, the finale rolls about, his boyfriend Taylor is outwitting the series’ villain Blood Diamond, and the day is saved by an unexpected source. Assassinistas #6 has it all: a quirky family dynamic, retro aesthetic, and lively cartooning from Hernandez. Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy



Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Recap: Supergirl S3E16 “Of Two Minds”

There’s a lot to unpack in Supergirl‘s “Of Two Minds” and even more questions about the future that the Legion is trying to prevent. Pestilence is on the loose and Imra and the rest of the legion is out to kill her with their weaponized blood before she becomes Blight. Lena is still trying to find a cure for Reign using pain to induce her alien state so she can study her. A dead bird leads way to five sick city council members and there’s a mysterious mark appearing on those affected.

While the team is dispatched to the nearest outbreak site, Winn uses humor to deflect (and hit on an unimpressed doctor) and J’onn J’onzz says some foreshadowing famous last words about “not causing a panic”, which in formulatic terms means, a panic is about to occur. Imra of course, is the cause of the panic thanks to her putting up a forcefield around the building in an bid to show Supergirl just how much she doesn’t know about anything. Lena discovers new intel about Reign and the parallel universe Sam goes to when she’s not Reign.

Mon’El and Alex reach out to Imra & Supergirl ,respectively to get them to compromise. There’s a hint of everyone knowing that this rivalry is jealousy based , Imra was at the site of the their discovery of a possible Pestilence who turns up dead. Supergirl expresses her displeasure with Imra going rogue and leaving to kill the suspect without telling anyone but, their talk is cut shot by Winn coming down with the disease.

While Winn recovers Imra and Supergirl have a passionate talk about murdering WorldKillers rather than saving the human part of them and Imra storms off refusing to give up her killing objective. Sam and Reign have it out verbally in parallel plane with Reign trying to get Sam to surrender to her dark side. J’onn uses his troubles of dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s to correlate with Kara’s problem with Irma’s quest. Mon’El calls Imra on her mission statement based on her emotions and begins to question the whole League and mission with Braniac.

Alex falls ill from the precursor to Blight as Winn’s condition worsens, the DNA based vaccine from the future doesn’t work on what they have because, it’s not the full disease. Winn ruminates on his relationship with his mom and having great friends , like Jimmy who dropped everything to be by his side, seems to make peace with his seemingly inevitable end. Sam goes toe to toe with Reign and it isn’t pretty, Reign plays upon her worse maternal fears causing Sam to ask for to beg for death to save her. When Pestilence is discovered the team sets out to stop her and save her human half, while Braniac alerts Imra who is ready to kill her.

Pestilence breaks in to a board room and confronts the insurance company that has been ruining the quality of patient care , using her godlike capabilities to kill people she finds unworthy. Imra decides to attempt to kill Pestilence with a sneak attack while Supergirl is trying to talk sense into her. Her interference causes Pestilence to scratch Supergirl who falls ill which sucks for the team because it gives Julia time to show up and take her away. On the upside as Pestilence fled with Purity ,she drops her needle giving them her pure DNA which is enough to secure and create a cure. Winn and Alex wake up and Supergirl and Imra finally have an open, honest heart to heart that clears to air. Imra finally seems more real than competitive, giving her a bit more of a multidimensional portrayal than the writers have given her. The other two Worldkillers, Purity and Pestilence, sense Reign’s presence and descend upon L-Corp , which sends the team there to help Lena and her secret gets out , unfortunately so does Reign.

This episode was touching, there wasn’t a hint of male toxicity in the whole episode, there was a lot of emotion and tears from the male characters showing us something that we rarely see in modern media. There’s also something nice about Sam wanting to call in her girl crew to fix her in stark contrast to what seemed like the girl fight bound Imra and Supergirl. While his wasn’t one of the best episodes of the series, it was one of the most human, emotions were toyed with and the writing was less pop culture feminism and more real life applications of feminism. It seems like the writers are veering away from the show being all about Supergirl, like Arrow or The Flash, and more about the team as a whole. This veer isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that the story is more defined and very paint by numbers heartstring storylines with real world themes.

Overall Rating: 7.9

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 2/10

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


 

Jon

DSK_Cv28Deathstroke #28 (DC): This is probably the best starting place you’re going to get on this series as Slade Wilson deals with the fallout from last week’s annual. Unfortunately it feels a bit like watching a random episode of an ongoing soap opera. Christopher Priest is one of our best writers but he’s not one to hold the hands of new readers. There’s plenty of action and a few good character bits. Diognes Neves’ art is good but not particularly remarkable. You’re better off starting with the first trade if you haven’t been reading from day one. Rating: 7 Recommendation: Buy.

Swamp Thing Winter Special (DC): I’ve never understood the appeal of Tom King and the late Len Wein. I don’t dispute that they’re good writers but they’re just not my thing. That said I love Swamp Thing so I was interested to read this especially after the attrocity that was Young Monsters In Love. It’s okay but it doesn’t come close to touching Alan Moore or Scott Snyder’s run or even Wein’s seminal work on the character with co-creator Bernie Wrightson. Nothing really grabbed me about either King’s story of Swamp Thing in a blizzard or Wein’s final script presented as he left it without dialog and illustrated by Kelley Jones (one of the few artists who could possibly hold a candle to Wrightson). It’s not bad but it’s not particularly memorable either. Rating: 6 Recommendation: Pass

Vs #1 (Image): Since there’s nothing particularly original about the concept (war as entertainment) execution is key and fortunately it’s pretty good. Ivan Brandon is a solid VS_01-1writer but the real star is Esad Ribic’s art. He delivers some really interesting, quirky designs in his signature style that give Vs the feeling of a Euro-comic or a Heavy Metal feature. Letter Aditya Bidkar completes the illusion with square balloons and some night digital effects meant to simulate the pop up text that appears on screen during a broadcast. There’s a lot of fun to be had here and a lot of potential for more as the series progresses. Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy.

Twisted Romance #1 (Image): Reading Twisted Romance is a bit like visiting a modern art museum. It’s so defiantly different from what mainstream comics are that just looking at what Alex DeCampi, Katie Skelly, and Sarah Horrocks put on the page challenges your perception of what comics can be. There’s also a text feature by Magen Cubed. This isn’t a comic for everyone but if you like the idea of a horror romance comic with LGBTQ themes rendered in the visual tradition of Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon then it just might be for you. Rating: 8. Recommendation: Buy.

X-Men: Red #1 (Marvel) Whatever bad taste might have been left in my mouth from last months end of Phoenix Resurrection this first issue has pretty much purged. Tom Taylor does a great job of wrapping the newly restored Jean Grey up in the trappings of a messiah for mutant kind and it only makes sense seeing that she’s come back from the dead not once but twice. More importantly he understands how these people should talk. I’m really looking forward to where this one is going especially once the identity of the shadowy villain of this first arc is revealed. Mahmud Asrar’s art is great as usual.
Rating: 7 Recommendation: Buy.

 Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock (Marvel) With Avengers: Infinity War part one opening in a few months it only makes sense that Marvel would prepare for another Infinity themed event in the comics. Surpassing the original Infinity Gauntlet is a tall order but writer Gerry Duggan has me intrigued with this first one shot leading up to…something with a series of time hops engineered by Kang. Mike Allred is so perfectly matched to the character of Adam Warlock that it’s surprising he hasn’t more with him in the past. Rating: 8 Recommendation: Buy.

abbottElana

Abbott #1 (BOOM!) is such a great example of a comic that lives in a genre I’m hungry for in the medium— a bi black woman doing investigative work in an urban fantasy setting. And it does it one better: it’s in Detroit in 1972, and deals with all the sociopolitical context surrounding that moment in time. Ahmed is one of the most exciting new voices in comics and he’s done his homework here. Kivelä’s art has page compositions that fit in the retro genre setting and his 1972 works for me (a major 70s obsessive even if I didn’t live it). Wordie’s colors are soft but saturated— extra painterly, warm like vintage film.
Rating 9 Recommendedation: Buy
For more on Abbott listen to our podcast interview with Saladin Ahmed: https://graphicpolicy.com/…/saladin-ahmed-podcast-abbott/

Ryan C

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #2 (DC)** – Another fine issue from Mark Russell and Mike Feehan that seems a bit confused and disjointed from a story standpoint at first — but all comes together brilliantly by the end. Not really sure what purpose Brandee Stillwell’s backup strip serves, but it’s more “okay” than it is “bad,” and the main feature is strong enough to carry the weight with or without it. As good as “The Flintstones” was, this is shaping up to be even better. Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: BM_Cv40Buy

Dastardly & Muttley #6 (DC)** – Garth Ennis and Mauricet wrap up their six-parter with a genuinely surprising and smart finale that will give the best of Grant Morrison’s mind-benders a run for their money in the “meta” department, and while this comic won’t blow you away with its art, truth be told it’s been solid, if unspectacular, throughout, while the scripts have been uniformly clever and funny. A really solid conclusion to a really solid series. Overall: 8. Recommendation: Buy

Batman #40 (DC)** – Tom King pulls back from the idiotic idea his last cliffhanger flirted with, but he’d put himself in such a “no-win” situation with it that backing off feels like a cheap cop-out. Better just to not have even gone there. As for the rest of the issue? It’s pretty slight, and the choppy dialogue style is seriously starting to grate. Seriously, everyone sounds almost exactly the same. Joelle Jones’ art is lush, dynamic, and captivating, though, so the whole thing’s not a total loss. Overall: 5 Recommendation: Read. Or at least look at.

Monstro Mechanica #3 (Aftershock)** – Paul Allor’s take on Leonardo da Vinci is certainly unique — seldom is he portrayed as a calculating and entirely unsympathetic asshole like he is here — but the supporting characters, including our ostensible protagonist, are considerably less developed, as is the historical setting itself, replete as it is with intricacies that are never even close to fully explained. Chris Evenhuis’ art is nice and sleek and reasonably crisp, but not enough in and of itself to keep me hanging around at four bucks a pop. I think I’m out after this one. Overall: 4. Recommendation: Pass

Logan

X-Men Red #1 (Marvel)– Another day, another superhero hit for Tom Taylor. With Jean Grey back from the dead, Taylor and artist Mahmud Asrar portray as filled with empathy and ready to make mutants a player on the global stage not through battle or isolation, TwistedRomance_01-1but integration. It’s cool watching her get T’challa and Namor to back her play for mutant nation. The team assembled around her is fantastic blend of heart, ferocity, and comic relief from Nightcrawler, Wolverine (Laura), and Honey Badger (Gabby) respectively. Toss in some wide screen and occasionally touching visuals from Asrar and a great surprise villain, and it’s strong launch for the new team. Overall: 8.6 Verdict Buy

Twisted Romance #1 (Image)– Katie Skelly, Alex De Campi, and Sarah Horrocks do genre in a very indie way in this mini-anthology. Skelly and De Campi’s incubus story is sleazy and jazzy like the clubs Mackie prowls and is chased nicely by Magen Cubed’s prose story about human and vampire monster hunters in love. It’s easily the best of the trio with its sexual tension, queer romance, and Stevie Nicks karaoke. The CW should cancel Supernatural and option it immediately. Horrocks’ Red Medusa is the weakest narratively of the three, but her art drips with anguish and impotency. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy

Shean

Black Panther: Sound and the Fury #1 (Marvel)– This last year, Comics fans have had their share of great books about Black Panther to choose from, as the bar of excellence had been set. So when I heard that the House of Ideas was giving us a new book right before the movie comes out and it is written by the co-screenwriter of the movie, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Unfortunately, this book spends a good amount of BLACK PANTHER SOUND AND FURY #1time reintroducing readers to who T’Challa is and who Black Panther is as a hero, which in its delivery, feels vacant and insincere.This debut issue falls flat on its face, I hope the second issue takes readers somewhere. Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

Rise of the Black Panther #2 (Marvel) – We get deeper into the abductions of Wakandans from two different points of view. We see all the trouble Syan, T’Challa’s uncle dealt with while he was the Black Panther, including the abductions that were rampant during his rule. Fast forward, to when T’Challa has taken the mantle, and the abductions have become worse which leads T’Challa into a confrontation with the Sub -Mariner, as he searches for the traitors, where both men forge an uneasy alliance. By issue’s end, T’Challa and Namor find what they are both looking for, in a neighboring country nation, where Wakandans gain their freedom and The traitors who tried to overthrow Namor are punished. Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy



Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Movie Review: Justice League

Justice League posterIt’s hard to think of a time recently when a film has had so many expectations riding on it. 

And Justice League will undoubtedly fulfill many of those for a lot of fans of the source material. If you’ve been a fan of what Zack Snyder has done with the DC universe so far, you will continue to enjoy this. If you enjoyed Joss Whedon‘s work on The Avengers but have been “meh” so far on Man of Steel or Batman v. Superman, then you may enjoy yourself here, as the best explanation of Justice League is “Joss Whedon meets Zack Snyder.”

Unfortunately, that also means the film also embodies many of their respective weaknesses, too.

It’s no wonder this feels like a mishmash. Zack Snyder finished principle photography on the film and then had to step away from the project due to family issues. He entrusted finishing the film, including some reshoots and a script polish, to Whedon. Both of their fingerprints are evident in this film. Snyder’s stylized action is key and brings a bombasticity to the fights Whedon has never been capable of. Whedon brings some humor and teases out character elements in little asides that are key to enjoyment of the movie. In a lot of ways, this is a marriage that makes sense. In others. . . well, let’s say it’s easy to tell which parts of the film who was responsible for. It’s sort of like listening to The Beatles’ White Album — Lennon and McCartney were credited for all of their songs together, but it was very clear who took the lead on which track as the two partners styles started to diverge more wildly.

THE SETUP

Superman is dead. (Spoiler alert!) Sensing a moment of weakness and hopelessness, intergalactic conqueror Steppenwolf has returned to Earth to try to conquer it. Yes returned, because apparently he tried this schtick before and was repelled by the combined armies of Amazons, Atlanteans, and men. So he’s going back after them and artifacts he left behind that he needs to conquer the planet.

Batman (Ben Affleck), wracked with guilt over the death of Superman, is trying to put together a team to fight what he sees as this oncoming storm even before he’s aware of Steppenwolf’s presence. When Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) informs him the threat is already here, they redouble their efforts to find new teammates.

This includes Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Barry Allen aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher). While Bats and Diana get top billing, make no mistake that the other teammates are not sidekicks. Indeed, each gets their due and gets their own fun moments and character arcs.

Yes, Aquaman is really f*#king cool. You would’ve told me 20 years ago I’d be saying my favorite part of a Justice League movie might be Aquaman, I’d have laughed in your face. You’ll believe a man can swim. . . and kick all sorts of ass. Momoa’s comedic skills are put on full display here as well, delivering some of the best lines in the movie.

Speaking of comic relief, The Flash has always been the Justice League’s jokey conscience. In this version, we get a much younger, greener version of the character who is only barely discovering his powers. This is a double edged sword, as it gives the character room to grow and a great story arc, as well as giving Batman a chance to play superhero mentor. Ezra Miller does a great job and tries to steal every scene he’s in, which can sometimes be a little overbearing, but is overall really fun.

Unfortunately, we also get a wildly uneven powerset and skillset. At one moment Flash is literally tripping over himself, and not ten minutes later must perform a demanding run to deliver a static electricity bolt at a precise moment. Characters can be layered and be able to grow and have varying degrees of competence, but we can’t expect someone to be so bad at something one minute and five minutes later perfect at it (without even the use of a sports training montage!) That’s not showing growth and nuance, it’s just sloppy storytelling and characterization.

Speaking of, this brings us to Cyborg. It’s a good thing most audiences aren’t familiar with the character, or else they may have expectations about his powers. Apparently, Cyborg’s main superpower is exposition. He also has the ability to pull a Deus Ex Superhero at any given time. Need your jet to take you from Gotham to Russia in under 2 hours? Cyborg can “hack” your plane and make it happen!  Need to prevent Steppenwolf from assembling his doomsday terraforming machine to conquer earth? Cyborg can “hack” it!!

To be fair, [Minor Spoiler] Cyborg’s origin in the film is tied in to one of the artifacts Steppenwolf is using, but it’s still incredibly convenient. You know what else is incredibly convenient? The Kryptonian spaceship containing all sorts of technology (for the THIRD. MOVIE. IN A ROW.) whose main purpose, again, is to move the plot forward. Equally convenient? Another alien would-be conqueror who wants to terraform the earth.

It’s almost hard for Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and The Flash to shine under the weight of all of this– but they do. It’s just unfortunate that they have to.

WHEDON v. SNYDER: DAWN OF “JUST US” LEAVE

Getting back to the description of the film as “Joss Whedon meets Zack Snyder”– Note that in this description of the film, nowhere is a mention of Patty Jenkins. And that’s with good reason. Jenkins’ Wonder Woman still stands head and shoulders above all other DC movies, including this, as Princess Diana herself does among her teammates. Nowhere here do we match the spirit and fun of Wonder Woman, but we get occasional glimpses of it.

And Wonder Woman is the best part of Justice League. Her mere introduction on screen elicited cheers and applause from the audience, and her opening intro is masterful and fun. No small amount of credit should be given to Whedon, whose trademark handling of “strong female characters” is basically a cliche at this point, but it’s still missing some of what Jenkins brought.

Indeed, the film’s best analogue is Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. That film nearly collapsed under its own weight of trying to move Marvel’s franchises forward, but forgot to really ever be or say anything in and of itself. Justice League sometimes feels that way– an obligatory team up sequel because that’s the next step in the movie franchise plan.

Another apt comparison might be to Superman II, which famously had Richard Donner fired from it and the rest of the film was completed by Richard Lester. The seams are clearly visible on that Frankenmovie where Donner ends and where Lester begins. So too is it clear how much of Whedon’s sardonic essence was brought into this film both in its script and reshoots which he oversaw.  While Snyder stepped away due to family issues (and I’m not going to give him any hard time about that) and entrusted Whedon to finish his movie, the end result is more Donner-Lester than Lennon-McCartney.

But perhaps this is best seen in the film’s most glaring flaw: Steppenwolf is a boring villain. The only thing remarkable about him is he’s big and powerful and he wants to conquer the earth, so we need an equally awesome team to work together to defeat him. In this, he’s a lot like Ultron. . . and, come to think of it, Zod. Unfortunately you don’t have as interesting an actor portraying Steppenwolf as Terrance Stamp, Michael Shannon, or James Spader. He’s not bad, he’s just lackluster. He can join Malekith from Thor: The Dark World as the least interesting superhero movie villains of recent memory.

And yet, both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Superman II are incredibly good, enjoyable films. You might invoke an aphorism about how great power brings great responsibility, and so maybe we should expect even better than this, but that’s a completely different guy– and he has his own track record of mediocre movies he’s trying to fix (and largely succeeding).

A STORY ABOUT SUPERHERO MOVIES

My son is 9. He is a frequent companion of mine to press screenings, especially when superhero movies are concerned. His first movie in the theater was The Avengers in 2012. He liked Batman v. Superman ok, but mostly just the final battle. Fast forward to 2017: He liked Guardians 2, but not as much as the first one. He was not a fan of Spider-Man: Homecoming — let’s be clear, that was a teeanagery John Hughes movie with superheroes in it, so give him a few years. He was not a huge fan of Wonder Woman —ugh. Girls. (His father is hugely disappointed in him for this)

He gave Thor: Ragnarok a “13 out of 10” and begged to go see it again as soon as possible.

He gave Justice League a 9 out of 10. Because if you can just enjoy this movie for its jokes, its iconography, its action, and its broad characters, you can have a great time with it. Truth? It made my inner 9 year old pretty happy, too– the same 9 year old who taped Superman II off of tv and watched it over and over not at all aware of the film’s flaws. It was simply “Kneel before Zod!” time, and everything else was just fine.

There are also moments of sheer brilliance in this movie, some of which we can’t get into without spoilers. DC fans will be happy, though, as other characters are referenced or implied.

And there are some sweet moments. In a flashback that opens the movie, little kids interview Superman for a podcast they’re doing. A sign of the type of hopelessness Steppenwolf and his parademons feed off of are a white skinhead hassling a Muslim shopkeeper and kicking over his fruit stands. Wonder Woman signs autographs for some little girls and I triple dog dare you not to tear up a little at how much it matters to them.

And then there are the after credits scenes. Yes, two of them. So make sure you stay. The one at the very end of the credits made me want a direct sequel as soon as meta-humanly possible.

It’s unfortunate these moments only checker the film rather than deeply permeating it like a piece of finely marbled kobe beef. Instead it adds extra sizzle to the steak, but doesn’t leave the whole thing as tender and juicy as it might otherwise be. But when you’re dining at Snyder & Whedon steakhouse, this is the meal that we expect. And at the end of the day, it’s still a pretty good steak.

3.5 out of 5

Underrated: (The Concept Of) DC’s Earth One Graphic Novels

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: DC’s Earth One graphic novels.


Because I’m currently reading Batman Earth One Vol. 2, this week I wanted to take a look at DC’s standalone graphic novel series Earth One. The series started with Superman in 2010, followed by Batman and a sequel to Superman in 2012, Teen Titans in 2014, two more sequels (Batman and Superman) in 2015, with Wonder Woman and a Teen Titans sequel in 2016. There will also be more released in 2018 and beyond, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.

Batman-_Earth_One.jpgEach book in the Earth One brand is, as far as I am aware, unconnected to the others aside from the sequels which means that they’re not bogged down by decades of continuity and the ever present worry of making sure the events in one don’t contradict another.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read them all, or even most of them, so don’t expect this to be an all encompassing review type Underrated. The reason I wanted to shine a light on these books is that in the current comics climate where there’s almost too much to keep track of month to month for some of these characters the Earth One books are a breath of fresh air.

It doesn’t hurt that these hundred and forty odd pages were never written as individual issues so there’s a different flow to the stories as the graphic novel format allows the creative team a little more freedom in building their stories. For the reader this means that you get a full and complete story in one read without having to worry about the other Earth One books (yes, obviously the sequels are designed to be read in order as the story follows the characters on their respective journeys).

And books they are.

The two Batman: Earth One books that I own have a slightly embossed dust jacket free hardcover that look and feel fantastic, but that’s not why I wanted to spotlight the series today. The reason I sat down to write about them is that I had forgotten how wonderful it is to read a self contained story about a character you love without thinking about where it fits in the character’s life.

Sometimes all you want is a story that isn’t weighed down by the constraints of continuity and history – I think that’s why the Elseworlds and What If series are so appealing to fans – so that you can lose yourself in a hundred or so pages of your favourite characters.

There we have it. A much shorter Underrated than usual, but hopefully no less enjoyable.

 


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else comic book related next week.

Those Two Geeks With Alex And Joe: Episode Six

This week on Those Two Geeks!

Recording the day after the Mayweather/McGregor fight the hosts start off by sharing their thoughts on the scrap.

There was a topic planned this week, but we ended up tangenting away from it with more discussion about the state of the Marvel and DC television and movie universes.

Disclaimer: there is a bit of cursing this episode.

As always, the Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jc_hesh if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week!

DC Rebirth Recap And Review For Comics Released 8/23

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s DC Rebirth: Recap And Review where we take a look at the comics released under DC‘s Rebirth banner and try to work out just how accessible they are for new readers – we’ll also be providing  recap of sorts for the relevant story beats up until the issue in question in order to help you figure out if the series is something you’re interested in.

Each comic will receive a rating of Friendly or Unfriendly based on how easy it was for new readers to pick them up; the ratings are based solely on the issues released in the post-Rebirth ongoing series. More consideration regarding the comic’s accessibility will be given for the specific issue being read rather than the series overall, but if reading a back issue will help, then that will be mentioned. You’ll also notice that each comic will get a rating that falls on Graphic Policy’s typical ten point scale, which is there to help you pick between issues if you only want to check out one or two.

Not every comic is covered week to week, and that’s because I  sometimes forget to read them  (although that doesn’t happen often), or I really can’t bring myself to pic up the issue. If I have missed an issue, typically I won’t go looking for back issues to catch up on events – this feature is all about accessibility for new readers, after all.


 

DTC_Cv963_open_order_varAction Comic #986 Lex Luthor, now a hero, has been mind controlled into fighting Superman by a mechanical chip that’s on his neck. As long as you don’t care too much about plot and just want to enjoy a good Superman/Super Lex scrap then you’ll be okay to start here – even though there are some story beats that tie into the whole Rebirth story event as a whole. Depending on how you approach the comic will depend on whether you find this Friendly or Not6.75/10

Batgirl #14 Unfortunately it has been awhile since I picked this series up – in part because I always do this feature at the last minute and tend to not read the series I enjoy the least (something that isn’t happening this week). So without a recap we’re both in the same place. Fortunately, this is part one of a new arc (which seems to be my luck when I pick a series back up) that guest stars Nightwing, and tells a dual story of Now and Then that’s an easily read Friendly comic. 7.25/10

Batman Beyond #11 So Damian Wayne has taken his grandfather’s place as Ra’s Al Ghul and is currently engaging in a battle to the death with Terry McGinnis who is wearing a murderous version of his suit that is overriding his ability to control himself – all while Bruce Wayne looks on. It is a Friendly issue, which is a nice change for a concluding chapter. 7.5/10

Blue Beetle #12 Another comic that I’ve had an on again off again reading relationship with, this series has gone unread by yours truly for a couple months. This issue is HJGLC_Cv27_dsfairly Friendly, but not overly good as Batman makes a guest appearance. 5/10

Detective Comics #963 Tim Drake is dead (except he’s not and Batman just found that out last issue) and Spoiler has abandoned Batman because, in part, of her grief over Red Robin’s death. Oh, and Clayface is a hero now. This issue refers back a little to the Night Of The Monster Men that saw Gotham’s heroes facing off against Godzilla sized beasties with infected blood. As far as these things go, this is a Friendly issue. 7/10

Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps #27 So I don’t actually remember the last issue… at all. No idea why. Still, having forgot the last issue, this one turned out to be pretty Friendly all the same. 8/10

Harley Quinn #26 Full disclosure: I am not a Harley fan, and so usually when I’m pushed for time when writing this feature her comic is the first to go on the chopping block. And while this issue is somewhat chaotic, it is Friendly. I just didn’t enjoy it myself (but that doesn’t mean you won’t). 5/10

Nightwing: The New Order #1 The first of a six issue miniseries that takes place in 2040. It’s a fantastic future/alternate reality style take on Dick Grayson, and one that’s well worth checking out (bonus: the first issue is, somewhat obviously, Friendly). Because this is a miniseries, don’t expect the next issue to appear here. 8.5/10

FLS_Cv29_open_order_varSuicide Squad #24 Last I remember, Harley Quinn is the new leader of the Squad because the last one died. Beyond that? Not a clue. This issue is good enough to make me want to go back and read some of the more recent issues because this isn’t exactly an ideal place to start. Indeed, you could call this Unfriendly. 7/10

Teen Titans #11 The newest Teen Titan, the son of Black Manta and an Atlantean, is underwater with Black Manta as the villain tries to locate a powerful artifact that he’s been after for years. The conclusion to the current arc is Friendly enough as far as things go, but you could always wait to the next issue if you’re unsure. 7.25/10

The Flash #29 Barry Allen has a new set of powers because of the Negative Speed Force, and while I can’t quite remember the previous issue exactly, I seem to recall that the Flash’s new speed powers are incredibly destructive to those around him. As Barry Allen, he’s also been tasked to figure out who has been stealing evidence from the crime lab by Captain Singh. Good news: this issue is fairly Friendly7.5/10

The Hellblazer #13 I honestly don’t remember the last time I read this series, but it’s been at least a couple of months. Needless to say, while there’s no recap, this is a Friendly issue (partly because it’s another first parter). 7.75/10

DC Rebirth Recap And Review For Comics Released 8/16

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s DC Rebirth: Recap And Review where we take a look at the comics released under DC‘s Rebirth banner and try to work out just how accessible they are for new readers – we’ll also be providing  recap of sorts for the relevant story beats up until the issue in question in order to help you figure out if the series is something you’re interested in.

Each comic will receive a rating of Friendly or Unfriendly based on how easy it was for new readers to pick them up; the ratings are based solely on the issues released in the post-Rebirth ongoing series. More consideration regarding the comic’s accessibility will be given for the specific issue being read rather than the series overall, but if reading a back issue will help, then that will be mentioned. You’ll also notice that each comic will get a rating that falls on Graphic Policy’s typical ten point scale, which is there to help you pick between issues if you only want to check out one or two.

Not every comic is covered week to week, and that’s because I  sometimes forget to read them  (although that doesn’t happen often), or I really can’t bring myself to pic up the issue. If I have missed an issue, typically I won’t go looking for back issues to catch up on events – this feature is all about accessibility for new readers, after all.


 

 

BW_Cv6_open_order_varAquaman #27 If you haven’t been reading Aquaman you’re missing out on a fantastic story. But what have you missed? Arthur Curry has been deposed as King of Atlantis and is hiding in the deepest parts of Atlantis with a fresh new hair cut – or more specifically a lack of one – that’s almost as effective as Clark’s glasses at concealing his identity (though one could argue it’s more so as he’s still wearing the same clothes and nobody has noticed). Recently he and a new ally, Dolphin, have been captured by an underworld mob boss… the issue is almost Friendly without the recap, and it’s so good. 9/10

Batman #29 The fourth part of The War Of Jokes And Riddles is here, and thus far the story basically boils down to Joker verses Ridler with Batman caught between them -as told by Bruce Wayne to Selina Kyle while they’re in bed. This gross over simplification doesn’t do as much justice to Tom King’s story as it should, but it gives you a rough idea of where we’re at before reading this tense, Friendly, issue where Bruce Wayne hosts a dinner party for the two warring criminals. 8.5/10

Batwoman #6 It’s been awhile since I read this series because, honestly, it just didn’t do it for me and I usually read the comics for this feature the night before it comes out because I love procrastinating, but this week I started early, so I figured I’d give this a shot. While I enjoyed the comic I had almost no idea what was going on, but near as I can tell it seems to be taking place several years in the future. Batwoman #6 is just about Unfriendly, but if you’re willing to stick with it all the way through it’s really quite enjoyable. 7.75/10

Green Arrow #29 Green Arrow is travelling across the country looking for something (I honestly don’t remember what), and he’s about to hit Gotham.  While he’s doing this, Oliver Queen is due to face trial for murder, but the former billionaire has skipped town (Ollie lost his money after the evil Ninth Circle ruined his life, took control of his company and burnt his base down in a much more interesting story than this short bracketed recap would indicate). So with Ollie in Gotham, guess who makes an appearance… the comic is a Friendly one, and a solid chapter in the longer story, but I’m worried it may start to drag soon. 7/10

GA_Cv29_dsGreen Lanterns #29 Simon and Jessica have been shunted back in time ten billion years, and now they have to train the first seven six lanterns in the use of their brand new Power Rings in order to confront a much younger version of the enemy that pushed them back in time – only Simon’s ring was destroyed. So now they have to train the new lanterns and convince them to fight an enemy that isn’t theirs. The issue is Friendly, but feels like it dragged it’s feet a little here. 7/10

Justice League #27 The children of the Justice League have come from the future to seek help from the League. With the story only being an issue deep, and the kids having to update their future parents, this is  Friendly issue. 7.25/10

Nightwing #27  Much to the continued dismay of my Those Two Geeks cohost Joe, I have still not read Grayson. That presents a bit of a hurdle for this arc that pulls a fair bit from Nightwing’s spy past, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless, especially with Dick’s recap Friendly monologue at the beginning. 7/10

Superman #29 This is a new story, and by this point you know who Superman is which aids a great deal toward making this a Friendly comic. 7.5/10

Super Sons #7 The Teen Titans guest, and have just lost a fight to some mysterious folks, with some rather amusing (for us) consequences for Robin. This series has been so incredibly fun that it’s hard not to just be immediately happy when reading it – thankfully this is an almost entirely Friendly comic on its own, but you may want to SUPSO_Cv7_dsgrab #6 while you’re at it. 8.5/10

Trinity #12 Another series I haven’t read in awhile but conveniently it’s the first part of  new arc, and seeing as (again) you should know who the Trinity is… and as much as I was able to follow along with this comic, I felt that I was missing something; that maybe it should have been part two, not part one. That being said, it is almost Friendly. 7.5/10

Wonder Woman #28 I don’t think I read last issue, but then I didn’t miss much. Wonder Woman’s friend was injured at a wedding and seems to have spent some time in the hospital – anything else you can pick up as you go along. As a jumping on point this is Friendly enough to work out, but it’s not the best comic this week. 6/10

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