Tag Archives: legend of korra

FlameCon 2018: The Panels

To go along with an environment free of toxicity and full of heartfelt enthusiasm to go with the water stations, pronoun stickers, and the best press lounge in my five years of covering conventions, Flame Con also had nuanced panels on a variety of comics and pop culture topics with panelists, who represented a broad spectrum of voices and experiences. I attended three panels at the con: “Fan Activists Assemble!” about practical ways members of fandom can effect sociopolitical change, “Fangirl… But then Make It Fashion” an entertaining, yet wide ranging panel about the larger cultural context of character designs and costumes, and “Telling All Ages Queer Stories” about LGBTQ representation in all ages comics.

Jay Edidin and Elana Levin

Fan Activists Assemble! (Saturday)

Fan Activists Assemble” was hosted by Elana Levin of Graphic Policy Radio, who also trains digital organizes and is a new media mentor and also featured a guest appearance from journalist and podcaster Jay Edidin of Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men fame. Pop culture has always been intertwined with her activism beginning with her love for the X-Men comics, and her current passion is bridging those two worlds via the tool of the Internet. She also talked about how social media and the ability for protests to “trend” has helped the way they are viewed in society unlike in the past when protesters were arrested or beat up by the police, and their narrative was shaped by traditional news media.

As Stephen Duncombe said, “Scratch an activist, and you’re apt to find a fan.” At the beginning of her talk, Elana Levin stated many strengths that fans can bring to the world of activism, including community building, thinking beyond the world we exist in, and practical skills like art, writing, social media posting, and even meme and GIF making. Fans don’t have to reinvent the wheel and form their own organization and can bring their talents and fresh POV to existing organizations from larger ones like GLAAD or the ACLU to smaller, local ones.

Next, Levin brought in Jay Edidin as a case study of fan activism when he confronted Dark Horse Comics for having healthcare that excluded any coverage “…related to gender dysphoria and transition” while claiming to be an LGBTQ friendly company and featuring the Pride flag on their Twitter profile. Edidin used to be an employee of Dark Horse Comics and has been a journalist since 2007. He couldn’t go public for a while because his ex-husband worked for Dark Horse, but seeing the company’s Pride Day tweet led to him confronting the company. With the help of comic book creator, Mariah McCourt, an open letter stating a demand for expanding Dark Horse’s healthcare coverage was drafted and signed by many comics professionals. Dark Horse changed their policy a day before the letter went public.

Elana Levin showed that this action fit an effective four part organizational strategy. There was the goal, which was for Dark Horse Comics to have trans inclusive healthcare, the target was upper management because they have the power to effect change in the company, the “ask” was for comics creators to sign the open letter, and the message was for Dark Horse to basically put their money where their mouth is and support the LGBTQ community through their actions and not just through rainbow logos. Jay Edidin added that using the letter format was important because comics creators are vulnerable on their own.

Later, in the panel, Elana Levin gave examples of how social media and hashtags are able to shape discussions like the conversation around having an Asian American Iron Fist that cast a shadow over Finn Jones’ eventual casting as him in the Marvel Netflix show. Even if this didn’t end in a “win”, it started a conversation, and Marvel later did some race bent casting by having Tessa Thompson play Valkyrie in Thor Ragnarok and Zazie Beetz play Domino in Deadpool 2. Levin also laid out practical rules for hashtags, including keeping them short and simple and only using two per tweet. An example was using #WakandatheVote and #BlackPanther in a tweet about registering voters who were in line for the Black Panther film. She also reiterated the importance of having a specific goal, targeting decision makers, and having a clear ask in online activism using the Harry Potter Alliance’s efforts of having the franchise’s chocolate frogs made with fair trade chocolate and opposing North Carolina’s anti-trans HB2 “bathroom bill”.

The panel concluded with Levin engaging the audience in their own activism brainstorming session with an audience member discussing the need for more asexual representation in pop culture and comics and using FlameCon as a venue to make a case for this.  This led to a side discussion about the importance of fun in activism and helping keep people engaged in cause from free pizza and T-shirts to crafting GIFs like one of the Dora Milaje from Black Panther metaphorically confronting ICE.

Little Corvus, Yoshi Yoshitani, Aaron Reese, Terry Blas, Jen Bartel, Irene Koh

“Fangirl… But Then Make It Fashion!” (Saturday)

“Fan Activists Assemble” was immediately followed by the “Fangirl… But Then Make It Fashion” panel, which was moderated by Geeks Out’s Aaron Reese. The panelists were comic book creators Little Corvus (Deja Brew), Yoshi Yoshitani (Jem and the Holograms), Terry Blas (Dead Weight), Irene Koh (The Legend of Korra), and Jen Bartel (America). After breaking the ice with a fun discussion about favorite candies, Reese started out by asking about the difference between cultural inspiration and appropriation in character outfits. Bartel stressed the importance of “cultural and historical context” in fashion while Koh gave the positive example of the Bangladeshi character she introduced in the Legend of Korra comics as well as time periods where there was “cultural exchange” between European and Asian cultures.

A negative example given by Koh was Queen Amidala’s outfits in Star Wars, which she said were inspired by North Asian and Mongolian fashions and demeaned the original culture. Reese added that Padme had dreadlocks in a deleted scene from Revenge of the Sith, which led to the realization that most of the design and fashion choices in Star Wars are cultural appropriation beginning with the “white guys dressed like ninjas” that Terry Blas used to describe the Jedi Knights. Blas said that unlike Star Wars which exoticizes or “others” its Asian influences, Avatar: The Last Airbender respected Asian cultures even though it wasn’t created by Asians and was superhero stories for people who didn’t have superheroes that looked like them.

The discussion then turned to the popular video game Overwatch where Yoshi Yoshitani criticized the character Doomfist, whose map and character is supposedly inspired by Nigerian culture, but he is half naked, has tusks, and looks like the creators never did research on actual Nigerian fashion. She said that Hanzo and Symmetra had good designs while Irene Koh poked fun at Hanzo’s obsession with honor. Aaron Reese said that the issue with Overwatch was that the game designers focused on environments instead of character looks.

The next topic was body positivity, and Reese gave a shout out to Rose Quartz and the curviness and softness of characters in Steven Universe as well as the strength of Antiope from the Wonder Woman film and the other athletic “hunter/gatherer” Amazon women. His bad example was Psylocke, and a slide showed an example from both the comics and Olivia Munn playing her in X-Men: Apocalypse. Little Corvus made a good point that the difficulty that the panel had thinking of examples was a big problem in pop culture. Terry Blas used the example of his comic Dead Weight about a murder mystery at a fat camp where the characters are drawn as fat in different ways that reflects their character instead of just having the same body shape.

Bartel said that she had done covers for the character Faith from Valiant Comics and liked her as a representative of body positivity, but said that she wished she could redesign her costume into something that the superheroine would actually wear. In connection with this, Blas said that some male comic book artists spend hours of research getting a jet engine part right, but don’t consider fashion in their work. This led to a discussion about female superhero body types with Yoshitani saying that there was pressure on female superheroes to be perfect for everyone. Irene Koh said that she wished superhero artists took inspiration from ESPN: The Body Issue, which shows how different kinds of athletes have different body types.

Other topics discussed by the panel, included gender expression and how this was handled better in anime than in Western comics with Little Corvus making an excellent point about how Mulan could be non-binary as she explores different gender presentations in the 1998 Disney film. Another topic was color washing where Reese and Koh strongly criticized writers who described people of color like food.  The panel ended on a positive note with Reese, Blas, and Little Corvus talking about how the Runaways from the Hulu TV show and America were good representations of teenage fashion and their clothing choices made them seem like they were real people.

This panel reinforced the idea that careful attention to a character’s heritage even through something like a piece of clothing makes for a richer reading or viewing experience, and it also challenged me to look at media that I have taken for granted for instances of cultural appropriation. Star Wars was a big one.

Steve Fox, Chad Sell, Barbara Perez Marquez, Molly Ostertag, Lilah Sturges, James Tynion IV

“Telling All Ages Queer Stories” (Sunday)

The final panel I attended was on Sunday and was about all ages comics created by LGBTQ creators. The panel was moderated by Paste’s Steve Foxe and featured Chad Sell (Cardboard Kingdom), Barbara Perez Marquez (Cardboard Kingdom), Molly Ostertag (Witch Boy), Lilah Sturges (Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass), and James Tynion IV (Justice League Dark)Foxe began by asking what kind of LGBTQ characters whether positive or negative the panelists came across when they were young adults.

Tynion said that he mainly read superhero comics growing up where there wasn’t a lot of LGBTQ representation except for homophobic jokes and said he connected to the X-Men as well as webcomics with gay characters when he was in middle school. Sell said that an issue of Superman from the early 1990s scared him into possibly not coming out when two gay men were chased out of town and then rescued by Superman. The point he got from this story is that if he came out as gay, he would be forced to run away. Sturges’ first experience with a trans character in media was The Crying Game, but she said until Lana Wachowski made her 2012 speech that trans characters were portrayed as either pathetic or deceivers. She said that she enjoyed writing Jo as a happy trans kid in Lumberjanes. Perez Marquez talked about how she didn’t grow up with LGBTQ characters, but did connect with queer coded” characters like Spinelli from Recess.

Foxe’s next question was that in writing stories about LGBT youth that the panelists drew on their own childhood or an idealized one. James Tynion said that his science fiction series The Woods about a school being transported to a different planet drew on his own experiences as an out queer high schooler while his series The Backstagers about theater kids was more idealized. Molly Ostertag said that she wasn’t out as a lesbian in high school, and her upcoming queer high school girl romance was a vision of what she wanted as a teenager. However, she didn’t want to talk down to teens or avoid the realities of homophobia. Lilah Sturges said she felt a moment of doubt writing about the happy romance between Mal and Molly in Lumberjanes, but said she was able to write it because Lumberjanes like their relationship is a true utopian vision. Barbara Perez Marquez’s work on Cardboard Kingdom was more true to her life as a young queer Dominican girl while her webcomic Order of the Belfry was pure wish fulfillment about lady knights who kiss.

The discussion shifted to queer content filtering and pushback about LGBTQ content from editors and publishers. Tynion made a good point about how companies realized there was money in queer audiences and said he got some pushback in his superhero books and relatively none in his all ages comics for BOOM! Ostertag said it was easier to “push the envelope” in regards to LGBTQ content in comics versus television where she rarely interacted with the people who pulled the strings. So, it was much easier for her to explore gender roles in Witch Boy where a boy wants to try girl magic and not boy magic and harder to have a same gender couple holding hands in the background of an animated show. Sell and Perez Marquez talked about the “sneaky” representation of Cardboard Kingdom which are stories geared to 9-12 year olds and don’t have labels, but do explore things like same sex attraction and gender nonconformity.

Then, the panel basically transformed into a pure celebration of LGBTQ YA stories. James Tynion talked about how in Backstagers that he began with subtle representation and then had two of his leads, Jory and Hunter, become boyfriends by the end of the series. Lilah Sturges said that she enjoyed writing a pre-teen trans coming of age story in Lumberjanes because it’s not sexual and is a pure statement about what does it mean to have a gender. She also revealed something adorable that will make fans of the series smile when they read her graphic novel. Chad Sell talked about how he chose writers for The Cardboard Kingdom based on their own personal experiences that they could bring to the “neighborhood” of stories.

The panel ended in Q and A where an audience member asked about how the creators as adults captured the voices of today’s young people in their comics. Barbara Perez Marquez made the excellent suggestion of having kids or teens like in a public library’s graphic novel or anime club to beta read their scripts and give notes on what they liked about the scripts.

NYCC 2015: Brittney Williams Joins Legend of Korra

At New York Comic Con 2015, Dark Horse Comics announced that Brittney Williams will be the artist for its line of Legend of Korra comics.

Brittney Williams will join The Legend of Korra writer and cocreator Michael Dante DiMartino for the new series of original graphic novels, which will begin in late 2016, continuing the story of the fan-favorite and award-winning animated series.

BRITTNEY WILLIAMS LEGEND OF KORRA 1

Fashion Spotlight: The Last Space Bender, Never on Time, and Dancing with Elements

Ript Apparel has three designs today. Two are for fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and one for Garfield fans. The Last Space Bender, Never on Time, and Dancing with Elements from kharmazero and adho1982 will be for sale on January 10, 2015 only!

The Last Space Bender by kharmazero

The Last Space Bender

Never on Time by adho1982

Never on Time

Dancing with Elements by kharmazero

Dancing with Elements

 

 

 

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Fashion Spotlight: Avatar: The Animated Series – Volume 2, Balancing the Universe, and You Arrowhead!

Ript Apparel has three designs for fans of Avatar and Legend of Korra. Avatar: The Animated Series – Volume 2, Balancing the Universe, and You Arrowhead! from BadEye, kharmazero, and adho1982 will be for sale on December 22, 2014 only!

Avatar: The Animated Series – Volume 2 by BadEye

Avatar The Animated Series - Volume 2

Balancing the Universe by kharmazero

Balancing the Universe

You Arrowhead! by adho1982

You Arrowhead!

 

 

 

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

TV Review: The Legend of Korra S2E9

“The Guide”

So here we are, come off of an amazingly great episode of Legend of Korra. Can the momentum and quality hold? Turns out, no. No it can’t, but I think I might have to reassess how I’m viewing this season.

I say I might have to reassess because of how the season continues to be structured. In Book 1, there were many subplots involving a huge cast of characters; however, because the two creators wrote every episode and the same guys directed every episode, it was clear how each subplot built up and supported the main A story. I don’t mean to say that Brian Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino are hands off this season: showrunners have final say on everything in the series. What I mean to say is that with those guys writing every aspect of the series and not handing off episodes to staff writers, the season felt like an extended, interconnected novel. This season does not feel like that.

There seem to be two main groups: Korra/Tenzin and co. and Mako/Bolin/Asami. After the first episode or two, their stories have barely intersected at all. In fact, I think it’s been several episodes since those groups have even been in the same place. And that’s not a terrible thing, but it takes away so many opportunities for character growth through internal and external conflict. One of the best ways to deepen a character is to bounce him or her off of his or her close friends and relatives, because there’s already a connection between them. It’s easier for the character to loosen up. Without even the remotest chance for that kind of interaction, we risk stagnation.

Fortunately, this episode seeks to solve that problem: we finally have some movement towards the Spirit World, which means that Korra may be able to move forward in her experience as the Avatar and as a person. Hopefully her time in the Spirit World will change her for the better, or at least make her a little easier to be around. Of course, this week ended with Korra and Jinora in the Spirit World, and most of the episode (or at least most of Korra’s part of the episode) was Tenzin desperately trying to get into the Spirit World himself. Actually, there wasn’t all that much to Korra’s plot this week, save for the everyone catching a glimpse of Korra’s newfound spirit calming abilities. (But seriously, how did she learn that? Did she just watch Unalaq and pick it up based on his movements alone? I didn’t know it could work like that. Even though Aang learned the forms for water, fire, and earth, he still had to practice in order to perfect them.)

And that’s okay, because frankly, I like the other plot better anyway. There’s something very concrete about the Mako/Bolin/Asami storyline of corporate sabotage and betrayal. It’s pulpy; it’s dark; it’s over the top; it’s fun. Varrick is perhaps the most interesting and unpredictable character in the entire series, and it’s been really enjoyable to see him slowly transform from friendly, goofy business man to manipulative, dangerous business man. Varrick very coldly threatened Mako and his family, suggesting that unless Mako joined his security team Varrick would hurt Bolin and Asami. I’m not sure if Mako was stupid enough to not understand what was happening, or perhaps he was willing to stick to his principles over his family, but he said no. Which means more problems for him, more problems for Bolin and Asami, all of which means a more complicated plot, particularly compared to Korra’s generic save-the-world type deal.

So then let’s move forward with this. Let’s just embrace the separation. At some point I’m sure the groups will come together again, but for now I’ll just be satisfied with half of the storyline.

Stray(ish) Observations

-Has Jinora always been able to see spirits? Has her connection to the Spirit World been implied throughout the season? I don’t remember.

-Again, with Studio Pierrot. Two moments stood out to me in this episode. 1. Korra and Tenzin sitting on a bench, talking, with absolutely no body movement. 2. When they find the ancient Airbender meditation area, there’s about ten seconds of Korra in the foreground just staring at nothing while Tenzin talks in the bachground. Ugh.

-Why was everyone trying to get into the Spirit World?

-Is Asami really falling for the police arresting Mako for stealing her merchandise? Is she seriously going to fall for that?

-Speaking of, beautiful detective mustaches. Love those guys.

-Some of the dialogue seems a little stilted and it doesn’t really make sense. It’s bumming me out. “I guess I’ll never have the connection to spirits like my father wanted me to.” “It’s okay, Daddy.” “I’m proud of you.”

Written by: Joshua Hamilton

Directed by: Colin Heck

Overall Score: 7.5

TV Review: Legend of Korra S2E7-8

“Beginnings, Parts 1 and 2”

Wow. What a pleasant departure. Last episode hinted that Legend of Korra might actually function better without its titular protagonist, and this two-parter really nailed it down.

There’s a lot to discuss here, and I don’t think that I can really do the episode justice, so I’m going to jump around, picking and choosing what I want to talk about. What I think is going to happen is that I’ll essentially have paragraphs functioning like bullet points, which is as good a way as any to unpack as much about this episode as I can. There won’t really be a sense of journalistic flow, but I think that’s all right in this instance.

Firstly, let’s talk about the story. The story was clear; the story had momentum; the story was simple in the best possible way. Without being beholden to an overarching narrative and established subplots, the writers were free to tell a self contained, quest based narrative with a heavily folkloric vibe. Now don’t get me wrong. I love Tenzin and co. and the Korra Krew, but this season has been heavy on the dark, meandering serialization and light on the pleasant aspects of being in the Avatar world. Usually I’m a fan of gray, complicated serialization, but one of the nicest aspects of the original series is that the Aang Gaang were always the good guys. Yeah they fought amongst themselves and could kind of be dicks, but at the end of the day most of the stories were cut and dry, black and white. And that’s nice to have. It lets the audience enjoy themselves without having to think too much about character motivation. I think that Pro Bending acted as this release in Book 1 of LoK, but Book 2 has had a serious lack of simplicity.

So finally we can get a self contained, clear cut story, and the momentum is all the better for it. Wan always has a goal he can strive towards; his motivations are never in question. Even in the beginning, when he was a thief (Riffraff! Street rat!), we understood why he was stealing. When he was kept fire from the lion turtle, we understand why he did it. Such a story makes for a nice break as well as pleasant viewing. And what’s more, it was a fascinating story. It was peppered with all kinds of references to the original series, and gave us an interesting look at the history behind bending and the four separate cultures. We got to learn more about the lion turtles, which is nice, as they seemed kind of dues ex machina in the original series. We got to see Wan learn how to use fire from the dragons, and maybe even originate the fire dance that Aang and Zuko learn. I love a good folktale, and “Beginnings” use of good versus evil, order versus chaos, was a smart and fun way to tell a richly detailed history that actually has an effect on the storylines happening in to/with Korra. I can only assume that Unalaq’s plan is to release Vaatu.

Secondly, let’s address how much better the animation was. Obviously the episodes had a different art style; it seemed to be a mixture of watercolor and woodblock carving, and I loved it. The new art kept the series firmly rooted in the Avatar world, but it was enough of a departure to indicate that these episodes were telling a different kind of story. Plus it was gorgeous. But even before the history started, the scenes with the fire monks and Korra were noticeably improved. Movement was so much smoother. Fire was more detailed. And hey! People were blinking and moving when they talked, not simply standing there with vacuous mannequin faces. Studio Mir really does make all the difference, and I’m so glad that they’re doing the majority of the animation for the rest of the season. Their skill really sells the idea that these characters are people, which is incredibly important for an animated series which involves so much talking and discussion. After so many episodes with the less skillful Studio Pierrot, I can’t say enough good things about Studio Mir. Let’s hope Mir does the rest of the series.

So I think that’s all I’m going to address. I’ll just leave some final random thoughts below. Sorry these reviews are late, you guys.

Stray(ish) Observations

-Particularly Fine Direction: I loved the moment that Wan got eaten by a huge Venus fly trap. When he used fire to try and get out, the fire illuminated the inside of the plant and showed him in silhouette. Beautiful.

-This story is a interesting version of the Pandora’s Box/Original Sin myths. Wan used a gift from what is essentially a god and loosed chaos on the world. That in itself isn’t so unique, however the fact that he thought he was doing good stands out. Wan honestly thought he was helping, and in doing so he nearly doomed the world and created the Avatar. Interesting.

-So much Miyazaki in these episodes. Spirited Away was all I could think of when Wan came across the spirit oasis and tried to sneak in as “Bushy! The Bush Spirit!” I think I saw a reference to No Face as well, and I loved that there was a Carrot Spirit just chilling in the background. Finally, Wan on whatever animal he was riding was exactly like the protagonist in Princess Mononoke. I’m sorry. I’ll stop. God, I love those movies.

-The return of the ATLA score during the final battle literally gave me chills. I kind of freaked out.

-A few reviews ago I mentioned that the direction suffered without the presence of Joaquim Dos Santos, who directed every episode on Book 1. I caught his name in the credits this time, and he’s listed as Co-Executive Producer. Whatever that means. Get back to directing, man!

“I think I’ll call you ‘Stinky.’” “The name’s ‘Wan.’” “’Stinky’ is . . . more accurate.”

Written by:Michael Dante DiMartino, Tim Hedrick

Directed by: Colin Heck, Ian Graham

Overall Score: 9.8

TV Review: Legend of Korra (S2E6)

“The Sting”

So who knew that the best episode of this season of Legend of Korra wouldn’t feature Korra in any capacity? Sure we had that cliffhanger (which I’ll address), but for the most part, this episode was 22 minutes of secondary characters and subplots.

And thank God for that.

So far, this season has been pretty Korra-heavy, maybe rightfully so (her name is in the title of the series, of course), but Korra’s also been kind of a dick. Plus, with so much of the action set in the South Pole, Mako, Bolin, and Asami have been kind of left out in the cold. (Get it? I’ll see myself out . . .) However, with the show returning to Republic City, the secondary characters can once again have some agency. In fact, I could even talk about their plots separately, which is an incredibly refreshing feeling.

But actually, their plots dovetail extremely well, and everything is connected to everything else, for once. Mako’s frustration at police protocol leads him to set up a sting for whoever stole Varrick’s/Asami’s goods from Varrick’s fifth favorite ship in his fleet. He and Asami hire the Triple Threat Triads for some reason as extra muscle, and ship out to sea, hoping to lure in the hijackers and hit them with the cold hand of justice. Despite the incredibly fun presence of Two-Toed Ping (a character I really hope we see again), the sting goes south when Mako learns that the Triads double crossed him (duh-doy). This leads to what is probably the best fight we’ve seen all season; who doesn’t want to see a bending battle atop speedboats?

Upon escaping Shady Shin and returning to shore, Mako and Asami discover that while they were at sea, the last of her inventory was boosted by whoever hired the Triads; this effectively puts Future Industries out of business. But lo and behold, in comes Varrick to save the day, buying a controlling share of Asami’s company, accompanied by the slyest, oiliest grin even seen on television. At last Varrick is outed as a villain, adding another antagonist into the mix. While that was a little obvious, it’s nice to have an antagonist that isn’t quite as cut and dry evil as Unalaq. Varrick’s motives and goals are a little murkier, which adds some much needed depth to both his character and the season as a whole. This plotline is only tangentially related to the main A plot, but I have no doubt that Varrick will come to have a huge role to play this season, and it adds such flavor to what’s going on now.

Bolin, of course, has the silliest subplot. He gets wrapped up in his “Nuktuk! Hero of the South!” persona, even forcing Mako to use that name instead of Bolin. We get some classic Bolin buffoonery, and I love that he mistakes Ginger’s (admittedly poor) acting for genuine romantic interest. And why wouldn’t she love him?! He’s Nuktuk! Hero of the South! In this plot we again get some great nods to classic, early Hollywood cinema, which I adore. I totally freaked out when they had the silhouette battle. Even this plot, though, meets up with the main thrust of the episode: when Mako visits Bolin on set, he sees some pyrotechnic work and discovers that Varrick’s company manufactures the detonator used on the explosives that destroyed the Southern Water Tribe Cultural Center. So by the end of the episode, Varrick is revealed as both an economic terrorist and a terrorist terrorist. (Unless, of course, Zhu Li is behind everything, which would be really amazing.)

And then we come to the final scene, and Korra has goddamn amnesia. I just can’t handle that trope (or body switching, for that matter). It seems so lazy to me, and it’s been used so often. However, maybe it won’t last long, and maybe it means that Korra won’t be so annoying now. God, that would be great.

Stray(ish) Observations

-I’ve seen enough cop shows to know that a rookie cop can’t just barge in during an interrogation. Come on, Mako. Get yourself together.

-Speaking of the police department, I love those detectives and their facial hair. Particularly that guy who was awkwardly, and sexually, feeling up his hair as he was berating Mako.

-Best Direction of the Episode: This week there were three standout moments for me. 1. That close up of Asami as the boat rises into the air and then falls was amazing. I’m not sure what it really added, but it was super cool. 2. The medium shot of Shady Shin trying to water bend only to be hit in the hand by Mako’s fire. The collision of the fire and water was really cool, as was Shady Shin being forced backwards. And 3. The extreme close up of Mako as he watches the pyrotechnics go off, which are reflected in his eyes. It’s almost like a light was literally going off in his head as he began to understand that Varrick might be involved.

-Varrick named his fifth favorite vessel after his mom. ‘Rest in peace, ‘Rocky Bottom.’”

-Bolin: “Ow! My instrument!”

Written by: Joshua Hamilton Directed by: Ian Graham

Overall Score:9

TV Review: Legend of Korra (S2E4-5)

“Civil Wars: Part 2/Peacekeepers

So . . . Korra kind of sucks. All through this season so far she’s been a little much, as if the writer’s are just going to let her do and say whatever she wants. And that’s a problem.

Korra is the Avatar and is the main character (obviously), but that doesn’t give her license to be a dick all the time. One of the biggest problems I’ve had with the series so far has been the treatment of Korra as a character: she’s just kind of mean. She’s rude or cruel to almost literally everyone around her, and while that might work if we were actually able to see the character progression or her being ostracized by friends and family, we didn’t get to see any of those things. We were tossed into season 2 and confronted with a main character who gave her family crap, who treated her boyfriend like dirt, who sent away her mentor and one of the few adult characters who trusts her completely, and who was generally too pigheaded to see what was going on around her.

Such a character type can work, but not like this. Buffy was kind of a dick in the early parts of seasons because she was dealing with emotional fallout from the season before. Walter White could act like a dick because we got to actually see his degradation from family man to power hungry empire builder. We’ve got neither of those things in Legend of Korra. Last season ended happily enough for Korra: she got her bending back, was able to return everyone else’s bending, got a boyfriend, and learned how to enter the Avatar state at will. All in all, that seems like a pretty sweet ending. But no. This season, Korra’s just an ass. It’s frustrating to see all of the characters bow to the wisdom of the Avatar when it’s so clear to the audience that she’s full of it. It cheapens the secondary characters, and throws the narrative off balance: if I don’t believe these characters would act the way they do, why would I watch the show? It would become an exercise in frustration. (Can I just point out that every time Korra’s mean to Mako, and he takes it, I want to punch one of them in the face? I don’t know which one, but I definitely want to.)

So as a consistently pigheaded and frustrating character, Korra becomes predictable in a way that’s not very fun to watch. Her father tells her not to do anything rash. Guess what? She attacks a judge. Unalaq believes that as the Avatar, Korra will stay neutral in any civil war. Guess what? Not going to happen. And yes, I do realize that her rash actions in these episodes propel the A plot forward. By attacking the judge and threatening him with decapitation via polarbear-dog, we learn that he’s on the take, and that Unalaq got Korra’s father banished. (In what is a pretty dark moment for her. More on that in the Stray Observations.) And yes, her taking a side in the civil war means that in “Peacekeepers” we head back to Republic City, about which I’m pleased. I really enjoyed spending time at the South Pole, but I got a little tired of all the ice and snow. I’m happy to have some architecture.

I get using her pigheadedness as a way to move the plot along. But it’s just so predicatable. Of course Korra was going to try and bruise her way through every situation. Of course she’s going to threaten people with violence and try to steal an army behind the back of the President of Republic City. Clearly, she’s going to do stuff like that. And that indicates a lack of character progression. It indicates a lack of the ability to learn. To me, it would be far more interesting to have a plotline based around Korra, as the Avatar, trying to stay neutral. That would represent a way for her to mature as a character/woman, and it would lead to a lot of great inner and outer conflicts for her character. It would mean a story based on character growth, not character stagnation. Currently, she’s being rewarded for acting like a brat.

However, there is some hope. Having finally revealed Unalaq for what he is, Korra is made to understand the scope of her mistakes and misunderstandings. She has to realize that through her own issues and selfishness, she’s helped her uncle take over the South. Perhaps now, she can begin the process of looking inward and understanding herself, which would actually tie back in to the name of the season: “Spirits.” There’s still time for Korra to snap out of whatever’s eating her and to have a truly important moment of personal insight. Without the Unalaq-created fog of war surrounding her, I’m hoping that she can have some self-agency.

Secondly, there’s some hope stemming from the romantic subplots. Up until this point, we had more of a focus on Bolin/Eska, which was great for some laughs. Bolin’s sheer terror at the sight of Eska, along with his being dominated by her in every aspect of the relationship (he wore the traditionally female betrothal necklace, for God’s sake), is a real delight, and at least it’s given his character something to do, which is more than I can say about Mako and Asami (who I had forgotten was even in the South). But finally, in “Peacekeepers,” Mako gets some self-respect. He stands up for what he thinks is right, which means he has a different opinion than Korra. Which is good, because Varrick’s/Korra’s plan to steal an army is really stupid. After finding out that Mako told the President Korra’s plan to steal a fleet, she screams at Mako in the police station and, growing a pair, he breaks up with her. Finally. God. So of course she airbends his desk and stomps out of the station. I’m hoping that this may act as a wakeup call for Korra and maybe clue her in on how ridiculous and self-centered her actions are. I’m hoping that will happen, but it might not. Because it’s Korra, and this is season 2, in which Korra is a dick now for some reason.

But on a lighter note, let me just quickly say that I found these episodes to be extremely funny. Almost every cut to Varrick or Bolin was absolute gold, and the sight gag of the platypus-bear pooping money makes me laugh even now, almost a week after I watched the episode for the first time. So for these episodes, the comedy really was what pulled me through, and despite some chaotic and frustrating characterization and plotting, I still really enjoyed watching these stories unfold. I trust Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, so I’ll just have to trust that these episodes will act as catalysts for a better final two thirds of the season.

Stray(ish) Observations/Things I Couldn’t Make Fit into the Body of the Review

-I’m really not sure about the “Ikki Runs Away” storyline. I get that it drives home a larger theme of family and trust, and the tea party with the baby flying bison was adorable, but it seemed like it was there just to give Tenzin and co. something to do. And that’s never a good sign.

-Give Asami something to do, please.

-Can I just say for a second how weird this show has gotten? I mean, at the end of “Peacekeepers” we had Korra fighting Eska and Deska, the former of whom was riding a giant waterspout and screaming about Korra stealing her husband. Come on. If you had no idea what this series was about and you were just flipping through channels and came across that scene, you would probably never watch the show again. Or you would make it a point to watch every episode. Depends on who you are, I guess.

-Speaking of that scene: Finally, spirits. Thank you. It’s only the name of the season. Also, the fact that Korra couldn’t calm the spirit even in the Avatar state is extremely telling. I’m beginning to think that Unalaq has an even bigger role to play on the spirit side of things: maybe he’s controlling them? Maybe he has some special bending ability that can enrage a spirit and give it more strength and speed than normal? Kind of like giving it spiritual PCP.

-I wrote about how dark this show is in an earlier review, but it just keeps getting darker. Korra threatens to have her polarbear-dog eat a man’s head, the Water Tribe apparently is a fan of the death sentence, and there was an explosion at the Water Tribe cultural center. My first thought at seeing that: “Oh God, there’s explicit, ripped-from-the-headlines terrorism now.” Those things combined with family betrayals and a civil war? This is a dark season of what is ostensibly a children’s television show. I was actually reading elsewhere on the internet, and I read somewhere that some people think that Korra is going to turn out to be the first evil Avatar. How cool would that be? To be so anxious to end the civil war and see the wrongs righted, that she just goes totally overboard and becomes Darth Vader? So cool. I doubt it’ll happen, but what a fun story arc.

-Something else that struck me about “Civil Wars: Part 2” was how static all of the character animations are. The first scene of dialogue between Korra and Unalaq was so boring to look at. They didn’t move for like forty seconds. It was just a two shot of them talking at each other. After I wrote this review, I looked up some other reviews online to see if anyone else had noticed it, and I ran across this article, where the reviewer talks about how the characters don’t blink anymore. Now it’s all I can see.

-Joaquim Dos Santos was a co-director and producer on every episode of season 1, and I’m really missing him. He is such a brilliant director, particularly for action, and this season the action has been nowhere near as imaginative or frequent as it was last season. It’s a shame.

-Being someone who absolutely loves film and film history, I totally geek out every time this season talks about film in its early stages. I love Bolin telling Korra not to worry, because what she’s seeing on the screen isn’t real. The first time the Lumiere brothers showed this 1895 short of a train arriving at a station, the audience freaked out because they thought it was going to come out of the screen and run them over.

-I was so happy at the return of Lin Beifong: “Thanks for starting a war.”

-“That platypus-bear is pooping money!”

-“What’s the money for?” “Bribery, of course!”

-“No honey?! We’re in a bear, for crying out loud!” Varrick and John Michael Higgins are just the best. Although, every time I hear his voice, all I can think of is Wayne Jarvis saying, “I shall duck behind that little garbage car!”

-I’m sorry this is late. Apologies, friends.

Written by (respectively): Michael Dante DiMartino, Tim Hedrick

Directed by (respectively): Ian Graham, Colin Heck

Overall Scores (respectively): 6, 7.5

NYCC 2013: Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Legend of Korra

Nickelodeon gives New York Comic Con attendees insight into the hit animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which returns with season two Oct. 12 at 11:00a.m. (ET/PT), and The Legend of Korra, premieres Fridays at 7:00p.m. (ET/PT).  During each hour-long presentation, voice cast and executive producers will reveal never-before-seen art, show special sneak peeks and answer fan questions.  A brand-new episode from The Legend of Korra will also be screened during its panel.

Upon entering the convention center, fans will witness a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles display of action figures from their inception in the 80’s to present day.  The action figures will be contained in glowing mutagen canisters and assigned a unique hashtag, giving fans an opportunity to participate in a social sweepstakes.   Turtle enthusiasts who use the hashtags will automatically be entered for a chance to win the action figure displayed.

The Turtle costumed characters, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo, will be available for photos throughout the day on Friday, Oct. 11 and Saturday, Oct. 12.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel

Friday, October 11, 2013
6:30p.m.-7:30p.m. ET
Room: Empire Stage 1-E

Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles celebrity voice cast – Rob Paulsen (Planet Sheen) as Donatello, Greg Cipes (Teen Titans) as Michelangelo and Hoon Lee (Royal Pains) as Splinter, along with executive producer Ciro Nieli and story editor Brandon Auman.

The Legend of Korra panel

Saturday, October 12, 2013
11:00a.m.-12:00p.m. ET
Room: Empire Stage 1-E

The Legend of Korra celebrity voice cast – Janet Varney (Dinner and a Movie) as Korra and PJ Byrne (Intelligence) as Bolin, along with co-creator and executive producer Bryan Konietzko and co-executive producer Joaquim Dos Santos.

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