Saturday, March 26, 2011

Batman: The Brave and the Bold - "The Battle of the Superheroes!"

The good. A fantastic and welcome return of the show, for what I believe it's its final season. We get "introduced" to the whole universe of Metropolis characters, hero and villains in classic fights that were very enjoyable to watch with the likes of Metallo, Mister Mxyzptlk, Toyman and Braniac (not sure about the who the guy with the ray gun inside Kandor is). In terms of writing and directing, this is the most efficient episode Jones and Melching have put out together as a team (excellent comedic and action timing, great lines, real sense of danger - heck, even Pharaoh in the intro seems menacing).

The bad. As much as I loved finally getting to see Supes animated in this particular show, the voice casting (usually spot-on in this show) was just weird for both Supes and Lex. Other than that, not much to complain here, since this sets up a nice beginning for this coming season.

Favorite quotes:
  • “Superman has turned into a real d…” 
  • “Earthquake!” followed by little crowd screaming, explosion and smoke fills up Kandor's bottle. 
  • "Superventriloquism!" 
  • “... and I thought Batmite was a weird one” 
Random thoughts:
  • The choice of armor worn by Batman was clearly no accident, and it really made me want a "Dark Knight Returns" animated feature, since it will be years before Zack Snyder gets hired to bring it to the big screen. 
  • Was that earthquake joke on Kandor a little bit too soon? Only time will tell. 

Final grade: A-

FF #1

The good. A well-written starting point, and a full transition issue for everyone involved. We get to see how everyone continues their own personal mourning process, while not abandoning the plot developed in the last issues of the Fantastic Four and adding some intriguing new concerns for the team (Wizard's release is incredibly well-plotted from a writer's point of view, down to the eventual reveal of who is actually being released). Most importantly, (SPOILER ALERT) Valeria lets Reed into her plan, moving that piece of the plot forward, although it's not clear to me the full extent of the reveal.
The bad. For such a well-written issue, I felt there were a few continuity inconsistencies. For example, Spidey’s arrival echoes his arrival in Amazing Spider-Man #657 (coming up March 30) which is supposed to take place between Fantastic Four #588 and FF#1 (and incidentally is a welcome tribute to Amazing Spider-Man #1), and the mourning process here seems to be inconsistent with what happens in ASM657. I know we are talking about different books and different writers, but something is going to feel off with readers of both books. Also, I'm still not sure of what the Reed-Nathaniel dynamics add to the whole story, and pace-wise it felt like the weakest of the moments. I also was more interested to hear what Nathaniel had been up to, rather than finding out about his culinary abilities.

Random thoughts:
  • "Hey… hear that uncle Doom?"
  • Hilarious grace sequence at dinner
  • Love the new suits more than I thought I would (except Ben's, of course), and the explanation for the colors. Also, since we get a teaser of yet another variant of Spider-man's suit that we'll get to see before long.
  • I'm going to come out and say it: an oddly-chosen and incredibly weak cover art for such an event. The variant cover by Daniel Acuña should have been the way to go, since the art is far superior (it has a sense of classic heroes -a la Darwyn Cooke), and it actually includes everyone that is now involved with the Future Foundation. 
Final grade: B+

Green Lantern #64

The good. First thing you'll notice is the stunning art, and we are reminded of it from the very useful intro for newcomers, to the stunning spread of Krona with the entities. The writing is spot on as always, great timing and delivery from all characters, including the characters that appear briefly before being blown/transported into oblivion (see Sinestro). A very powerful ending, that leaves the open question of whether there will be a little bit history repeating itself. Will Krona lead the GL Corps to the same path he led the Manhunters? Great dire straits to leave Hal at, and a great moment to switch channels to see what's going on on Green Lantern Corps #58.

The bad. Aside from highlights and moments for long-time GL readers, not much happens really. The pieces of this chess game keep on moving and now Hal Jordan is officially in a corner (some pieces are missing, some are out of sight). This also may be a minor complaint, but shouldn't the Ion-possessed guardian look a little more like the representations of Ion we have seen before (Kyle, Sodam)? The Ophidian, Butcher and Predator possesions look spot on, for comparison purposes, so it's hard not to look for the same in Ion.

Random thoughts:

  • Speaking of chess pieces, and if we go back to Hank Henshaw and Lyssa Drak's involvement in this, there are a lot of them - was the missing Ganthet part of Krona's plan the whole time, for a final count of 6 guardians for six entities, leaving Parallax to return to the green lantern power battery? Or were we supposed to see a repeat of Green Lantern Rebirth? 
  • Is Hal Jordan destined to fail like all the other Guardian's failures (the first lantern, Krona, Sinestro)? Or is he different in some way because he has embraced (at odds with the Guardians) what they fear but usually saves the day? 
  • You have to wonder what will Sinestro do with the book’s info. You know that's not going to be left at that, and it's hard not to root for him. 
  • Lastly, a wacky thought. Has Parallax been controlling Krona this whole time? Their eyes and smile look almost identical right before Parallax “goes home”. Parallax creepy and ominous first words inside the central power battery (“My precious Hal”) almost indicates that the whole mission was about this particular moment.
Final grade: B+

Monday, March 14, 2011

Smallville -"Scion"

The good. One word, two syllables: Kon-El. Smallville writers couldn't have come up with a more creative way to mix in the current developments in the final season in order to introduce Kon-El (a.k.a. Superboy, Conner Kent). The acting of Lucas Grabeel as Alexander had been so stunning in "Beacon" (episode 13), I had little doubt he was to become the new Lex Luthor (in particular, see the scene between Oliver, Lionel and Alexander at the top of Luthorcorp - goosebumps!). Here, Grabeel (with different haircut and color) pulls off an excellent version of Superboy struggling to rein in his powers. This episode packed a lot into 42 minutes and credit needs to be given to Turi Meyer and Al Septien for not shying away from telling an awesome, complete story. There are so many aspects of the relationship between Clark and Conner that are explored in such a short episode, like the intricacies of what each of them get from their relationship as mentor and mentee at a broader scale.  But most importantly, a lot of weight is given to Conner's duality as being part Superman, part Lex, and what he does with it, what kind of exploration about who he is it leads to and what kind of decisions he needs to make at critical moments. The end result: one of the best Smallville episodes in a while.

The bad. Not much to complain about. I do have a problem with the fixation with hooks, meat-packing plants and bondage in this season. I know we're trying to make a point about the Darkness and Darkseid's minions making their way into everything. But it has been feeling forced lately, and the scene with Lois and Lionel could have happened anywhere else while having the same effect.

Other thoughts:

  • SPOILER WARNING: With Alexander out of the picture as the means for the eventual return of Lex, how does Lionel from parallel Earth get his son back? Darkseid in a bottle!
  • Lucas Grabeel (Kon-El) and Cassidy Freeman (Tess) look so much alike you would think they're clones. Seriously, aside from their abilities to act, that's just brilliant casting.
  • Lois Lane's perennial referencing of pop culture to get any simple sentence across is getting a little old. It worked for Sawyer in Lost, but then it was all about delivery and timing. Here (much like the meat hooks), it is just feeling a little forced.
  • It will be a long break until the next Smallville episode and the beginning of the final 5! And there is a lot to look forward to in those last episodes.

Final grade: A

Venom #1

The good. “Venom” gets rebooted with an intense and ominous first issue. A well-written first entry for Flash Thompson as he struggles under the cloak of Venom and the multilayered implications in his personal life. The similarities with Soldier Zero are apparent, although the plethora of myth behind Flash’s persona and what we know about the symbiote make this far more interesting. Most of the action involves a well-scripted encounter with a very menacing Jack O’ Lantern with twists and turns throughout the fight, that leave no clear winners and leave the reader asking for more. This is followed by a series of scenes in which Flash, his past, his present and his future are dramatically outlined, in scenes that could be in an award winning script. 

The bad. Not much really to complain about, because the story is so strong. The art was slightly inconsistent at times, even though it kept a sense of darkness and sadness much needed for this issue. And in this regard, the expressions of every character may have stayed in the same “facial modality” as in the very first scenes, which works for effect but leaves you wondering if there will be any characters drawn differently or if the mood will be the same regardless of what situation Flash will find himself in. 

Final grade: A-

Young Justice - "Bereft"

The Good. Michael Chang does wonders to keep the action rolling as director of this episode. I have been a fan of his work in Batman The Brave and the Bold, where he mixes action and humor in what I consider the best episodes of that show. In his third take on the Young Justice series, he does just that. From the segue of the team trying to switch their suits' color like Kid Flash (which leads to the best punchline from Artemis in the whole series thus far), to Robin's fight sequence (which could have happened on any alley of Gotham or Bludhaven). Storywise, a few reveals were very exciting, like the boom tube appearance towards the episode's end and a few teasers from Artemis' previous life. 
The Bad. After the stunning run the series has had since its start, this episode feels a little bit like a lull. If the memory loss had served a higher purpose, like really emphasizing what would have been different with the team members without everything they have learned in the past two months. I would have loved to get a better glimpse of what Artemis' previous life was like in the reconstruction of their memories. Just a glimpse for teaser’s sake! She did seem pretty appalled to have something resembling a Green Arrow costume on her, so that will hopefully lead into something more.
Personal highlights:
- I'll say it again: BOOM TUBES! (and in partnership with The Light)
- Tactile telekinesis gets introduced - or at least it seems to be that way, considering the artifact's activity and ability to communicate with Superboy got enhanced only with Superboy’s biorythms, to which Psimon muses “Interesting”. 
- I'm curious to see if the appearance of Psimon is a precedent to the Fearsome Five.
- Ninja clans? Interesting reference to Artemis’ dad’s “stupid tests”, although I would have preferred “games” (if indeed her father is Sportsmaster). 
- Also, kind of interesting to see Superboy as a version of Hulk in this episode. The grunts, the attacks on the tanks, and the pants-only attire- all it was missing was a "Superboy Smash!" or a "Superboy is strongest there is!"
Final Grade: B-


I'm a comic book collector and enthusiast (like a hundred thousand out there), and this is just a place to share musings and comments about new books, TV episodes and movies related to the comic book world (like a hundred thousnad blogs out there). Enjoy!