Drawn Dispatches – 11/30

Jacked is a new six issue series from Vertigo that has begun in an impressive way. Written by Eric Kripke (creator of the Supernatural TV series), it starts out describing the life of a man who used to be successful, but has since fallen through the cracks and is surviving. He just wants to be important again. He is an average guy, really. He did well when the economy was booming, and is stuck hunting for work now that it’s in the toilet. He’s someone many people in their 40’s will identify with. He’s looking for a break, and becoming desperate. He finds in in a drug. Yes, this comic is strictly not for children. The drug, while it gives him great strength, also has side effects. Kripke’s writing is strong, and we really get into the main character’s head, and John Higgins‘ artwork brings to mind so many scenes from movies that it communicates a whole new level of story just through the movie references it evokes. This will be an interesting comic to read.

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Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur introduces Lunella Lafayette to the Marvel universe. This pre-teen super genius is bored of life in a school that can’t teach her anything she doesn’t already know to a more advanced level, and is terrified of Terrigen, because she believes she is an Inhuman. Using a Kree detector that she built herself, she finds a strange glowing orb – The Nightstone. Before long, a portal is opened across time to the Savage Lands. The opening of the portal causes the death of Moon Boy, and Devil Dinosaur chases a group of the Killer-Folk through the portal to avenge him.

This is a great start to another new hero in Marvel’s efforts to become more diverse. As with Kamala Khan and Miles Morales, Lunella brings more colour to the Marvel universe, and looks to be a worthy successor to Moon Boy. Her brains and Devil’s brawn should be a good match, but what I’m looking forward to more is the challenges she’ll face keeping a bright red dinosaur hidden and safe in New York. It should be a lot of fun!

There have been so many awesome comics this week, but these two were the ones that peaked my interest. What have you been reading, and what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

 

Supergirl – Episodes 4 and 5

Seeing as these two episodes of Supergirl were aired out of order, I decided wait until I had seen them both before writing them up.

Supergirl is a girl. I feel I have to say this, because people seem to think that if she does anything remotely girly, she’s failing as a role model. People never really say this about male characters when they act boyish. Boys in such shows have a free pass to act like boys, but girls? Sorry, no free passes. Nobody bats an eye when Oliver Queen shifts from girlfriend to girlfriend (he’s on his third great love now), but having a romantic storyline associated with a female superhero is somehow wrong?

I call bullshit.

If we prevent strong female characters from having a romance, or behaving like a girl (in context), then we’re shifting women from one two-dimensional stereotype to another.

Okay, rant over. Let’s get on with the shows!

Spoilers

Episode 4

This episode is more about the people than the foe. We see the relationships between the characters evolve a little, and yes, the old standby of needing some sexual tension in a show is thrown in with about as much subtlety as an anvil. We know that Kara and Jimmy like each other, but as this is a TV show, they won’t actually get together for a few seasons, and if they do, there’ll be something that forces them to be apart again. I could add another rant here, but I won’t. We also get another look at Maxwell Lord, and where his character is going. It seems like he’s being set up as another Lex Luthor, as opposed to what he was known for in the comics. We also see more of Hank Henshaw’s abilities. While Henshaw is being portrayed as more of an ally than a foe, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. He’s going to go bad, and when that happens, I can see a twist where Maxwell Lord steps up to take his place. This is purely conjecture on my part, but if that is what happens, I won’t be surprised, but I will be slightly pissed off. I would rather see Henshaw remain good, but be ostracised for keeping his abilities secret, so that he has a way back into the DEO.

Episode 5

Livewire gets an origin story, and we get to see some of Kara’s childhood. Former Supergirl actress Helen Slater also arrives, this time as Kara’s foster mother. This is another episode where the villain of the week takes more of a back seat to the family dynamic between Kara and her foster family. I loved that about this episode, though. This show is succeeding where all of the Superman movies failed: It’s making Supergirl a more well rounded character. She’s not just a nerd, and not just a hero. She’s learning how to be more, and with the quality of the villains, she’s getting more of a challenge, and seeming a little less than invincible. This is not to say that she’s weaker than Superman (her strength was illustrated when she beat Reactron). She’s having to use her brain in both of her personas, and applying the lessons from each into the other.

At the end of the episode, we learn more about Henshaw’s early involvement in the Danvers family. While this may seem like more hints that Henshaw will go bad, I have a feeling that what happened to Kara’s foster father will explain how Henshaw got his powers. I’ll be watching carefully to see where that arc goes.

Also, Cat Grant gets the best lines. Her little twists to common phrases are hilarious.

I’m looking forward to the next episode! Are you still watching? What do you think of the show so far?

Drawn Dispatches 11/26

After last time’s diversion, there’s a lot to catch up on. Like Deadpool. This all new first issue starts with the Merc with the Mouth everywhere, and yet nowhere to be found. Deadpool, it seems, is subcontracting while the real deal is helping people who can’t afford his services. Not very mercenary of him, but then again, neither is funding the Avengers (I’ll wait for you to wrap your head around that particular bit of information). We see Luke Cage, someone who might be Jessica Jones, and Matt Murdock. We also hear how Deadpool was tricked into killing his own parents, and we’re hit by a lot of other information. What we don’t really get is any real story until the final page where a Deadpool kills a zoning comissioner. We’ll have to see what happens next.

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Vision, complete with family, move to the suburbs. This happens after he’s wiped all emotions from his memories. His wife, Virginia, and their high school age twins, Viv and Vin, try to fit in with normal neighbours and a normal life, until the Grip Reaper arrives. I’m not going to tell you too much about this particular comic, but I recommend it because it was really, really darkly funny!

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All-New, All-Different Avengers starts up with Ms Marvel calling Nova a jerk, Sam Wilson (as Captain America) saving a family from a falling car, and a penniless Iron Man who had to sell the Avengers Tower. There are no Avengers, there is no funding, but that doesn’t stop threats from arriving on Earth. Threats like a Chitauri called Warbringer, who we see standing over the defeated Iron Man, Captain America, and Miles Morales’ Spider-man. The second half of the comic has Kamala Khan trying to stop a Microverse creature from tearing up her neighbourhood. Nova, who had been following the creature, becomes mesmerised by Ms Marvel, and his attempts at breaking the ice just come across as creepy. They part ways confused, thinking they won’t see each other again. Of course, they will, if the front cover is any indication.

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All-New Wolverine brings a new Wolverine in the form of Laura Kinney, also known as X-23. With all of Logan’s bad attitude, and none of his adamantium skeleton, we get to experience a Wolverine who sometimes needs to let her brain stitch back together. This leads to flashbacks with Logan, and a different take on the Wolverine in more than one way. I’m looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

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Secret Wars continues with its penultimate issue. The war for the Battleworld begins in earnest. The Shield Wall has fallen, and all hell is breaking loose. This issue focuses on changing allegiances within the factions fighting for control of the Battleworld. With two issues left, this one feels like more of a set-up than anything to get my teeth into, story-wise.

Sorry for the delay getting these written up, folks, but I’ve been in stress hell for the past three weeks. Will catch up on the latest and greatest in the comic book world soon, especially with new Ms Marvel and Silk out!

What have I missed over the past two weeks? Let me know!

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 Review

Last year around this time, I wrote a piece for Flickering Myth about being underwhelmed by The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, hypothesizing that many of its problems could be attributed to the Hollywood machine demanding the final novel be split up into two films. Not out of a legitimate concern for quality, but rather to squeeze more surefire money out of a franchise on its way out, which would also subsequently give Lionsgate a little more time to figure out what their next moneymaker would be. Simply put, Mockingjay – Part 1 was often boring (it felt like half the movie was spent watching Katniss stumble around collateral damage and collapsed buildings in shock) and didn’t advance much of the narrative outside of uniting the districts, and ending on a high note cliffhanger where Peeta was seemingly under mind control, conditioned to lash out emotionally and physically at Katniss.

Revisiting that educated theory after having now seen The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, and well, I still stand by that assessment. Somewhere within both of these two-hour films lies a spectacle free from exposition and lulls in forward motion that would have quite frankly made for one of the greatest blockbusters of the decade. As it stands, much of Mockingjay – Part 2 is more of the same before coming to an ending that is somehow both climactic and anti-climactic.

The journey there is riddled with breaks in the action for characters to rest up before advancing further onto the Capitol, where much dialogue is exchanged that no one feels to benefit from. The love triangle that was once interesting (one of my favorite aspects of the franchise was Katniss and Peeta staging a romance that may or may not have been real all for the sake of progressing the revolution as symbols of hope) falls surprisingly flat here as it disappointingly reverts and flounders into cliché young adult material. Not to mention, it also feels forced and awkwardly there just to appease teenagers, when the attempted assassination of a heartless dystopian future dictator should be priority one. It’s unfortunate to say, but I couldn’t give one shit as to who Katniss ended up choosing, especially when the rest of the tone is very grim, featuring numerous casualties of both key characters and civilians.

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What does work is the franchise’s ability to once again create an entry that feels wildly different in structure from its previous films. The Hunger Games was pretty much all about the titular games, while the sequel Catching Fire delved much deeper into the political side of Panem (even though it did reuse the actual games), whereas Mockingjay as a singular entity is about unification and all-out assault with greater themes of war at play. So with that said, the idea of President Snow effectively booby trapping all of the Capitol to make sure the rebels, and more specifically the Mockingjay herself, meet their demise before reaching the front door is a uniquely awesome way too keep the spirit of the franchise intact.

This also paves the way for some intense and clever action sequences, but one encounter in particular with seemingly undead creatures in an underground tunnel made me confused as to what movie I was watching. Basically, not every idea is a winner, although it doesn’t really take away from how entertaining many of these set-pieces end up being. As randomly unexpected as that aforementioned underground scene was, I can’t deny I liked it for multiple reasons. There is legitimate danger in each and every unfriendly encounter, no matter how crucial to the story any character may be. Without saying if she dies or doesn’t, I legitimately had no idea if Katniss would even survive some moments towards the end, which is a testament to how well executed some of these battles are.

For as exciting as the final act is though, it also feels clumsily handled and weirdly paced. Without even mentioning the epilogue that lasts an eternity, much of the final push feels like it jumps from scene to scene even when twists and major death are flying at the screen. It’s kind of a bummer that some of what you end up seeing is pretty predictable, but on the other hand I admire the franchise for sticking with an ending that is both subversive and bittersweet. To be honest, I expected the happily ever after ending, but instead surprisingly and pleasantly got something that muddled the lines.

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It is also worth mentioning that the acting is all over the place in terms of quality. Jennifer Lawrence is obviously fantastic but sometimes gets a little too over-dramatic in certain moments, while Liam Hemsworth is rather monotone and dull. Meanwhile, Josh Hutcherson is able to properly convey Peeta’s conflicted emotions and worrisome mentality of slipping back into uncontrollable rage. Naturally, veteran actors like Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (this is also his final role filmed preceding his tragic death) all once again give worthy performances.

As it stands, it’s really hard to pass off Mockingjay – Part 2 as a great or even good film, because too much of the first half is once again filler. Somewhere out there however, a talented fan-editor will undertake the task of combining the most important bits of both films into one three-hour epic that can stand alone as the grandstanding conclusion this franchise deserved. Disappointments aside, The Hunger Games is a franchise that will be sorely missed. Apart from the final film split, the adaptations were handled with care and a great understanding of what made the novels work, which is something that cannot be said for pretty much every other young adult series trying to cash in on its famed success.

Rating: 3/5

Ash vs. Evil Dead 1.3 – “Books From Beyond”

The next question on the mind of both longtime Evil Dead fans and newcomers to the series (one week after being granted proof that the show can function properly without Sam Raimi writing or directing), was simply one regarding repetition. For the first two episodes, Ash vs. Evil Dead has had a noticeable blueprint; some traveling and witty dialogue, all punctuated by a gloriously bloody set-piece with a Deadite, all with a few subplots thrown in depicting a police officer and an unknown character of seemingly great knowledge portrayed by Lucy Lawless.

So it comes as a welcome surprise that this third episode entitled “Books from Beyond” (also directed by Michael J. Bassett, whom steered the ship on last week’s episode “Bait“) plays with that formula. This comes by further exploring the lore of both the Necronomicon origins and its demons beyond the standard Deadite looking to swallow souls and sing nursery rhymes.

Ash, as brilliant as always, while visiting the bookstore of a friend that apparently can decipher the ancient text and iconography penned inside, decides that the next step should be summoning a lesser demon in power on the hierarchy (using a special chant to contain it within a ritualistic circle), and essentially interrogate him for information on how to undo everything once and for all. It’s not necessarily a bad idea on paper (aside from the fact that a creature willingly helping them  would make no sense), but we all know somehow this will go terribly wrong. Much to our surprise it’s not Ash that royally screws everything up this time, but I’ll leave that as a surprise.

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I would rather briefly touch on this new demon itself, named Eragos (that’s probably spelled completely wrong but even with research I cannot find the actual correct spelling) who is a gray, faceless, monstrosity with deep cuts and streaks of blood all over his head. His only distinction is a round mouth with vicious looking teeth and saliva, or possibly slime dripping downward.  Most intriguingly, is how he attacks (is it really a spoiler that he escapes from the captivity of a circle?) by sonically affecting neurons in the brain while placing his palm over the faces of characters. It’s not really known how this will affect anyone in the long term, but the demon is described as one that preys on the psyche of the mind.

My only real complaint (one of the first with the entire show so far) is that it is easily defeated by having the Necronomicon slammed shot around him, which seemingly transports him back into the book. It’s completely odd and uncharacteristic of an adult oriented horror/comedy show, and something more in line with what I would see and forgive in something family-friendly like Goosebumps. There’s also the possibility that this thing isn’t dead at all, but the finale to this action sequence was unfortunately rather anti-climactic. The baddies unleashed within this book should take an overwhelming amount of punishment before succumbing to defeat, or at the very least, having a spell vocalized.

Also, while this episode was still definitely humorous, it did pale in comparison to the previous two efforts. It still has its moments and memorable quotes, but placing it alongside episode two showcases a noticeable step down in terms of quality. Trying to choose a specific favorite moment from the first two episodes was fairly challenging, but not so much with this one. The bright side is that some lore of the universe was delved into, and we got to see some new interpretations of what hellish beings this book actually houses.

Rating: I’m going to give “Books from Beyond” a 7/10. Although not the best episode of the series, Ash vs. Evil Dead is still one of the best shows on television. This episode expands upon the mythology. pushing the narrative forward, all while still delivering what we’ve come to expect from the franchise, although the absurd humor and over-the-top violence wasn’t all there this time around except for one scene in particular towards the beginning, which is actually our…

Grooviest Moment: We still don’t know who Lucy Lawless is playing (although you could spoil it for yourself by looking at some appearances she and Bruce Campbell made recently on television talk shows), but we do know that she can fuck up a Deadite. While visiting the farm house of Kelly’s now deceased parents, the father rises from his grave (fork still stabbed in his eye) much to the expectations of Lucy Lawless, whom then impales the sucker on Ash’s makeshift crosses, demands the whereabouts of Ash, and then uses a very large knife to cut off his face. Ouch!