DC Rebirth Final Thoughts

I’ve got the last two Rebirth issues from last month to review here, as well as some final thoughts on DC’s whole Rebirth initiative. Or at least the first phase of it.


Batman Beyond Rebirth

Dan Jurgens & Ryan Sook

DC has been nothing if not persistent in keeping Batman Beyond alive. They have been publishing at least one book in that setting for more than the last five years. After messing with the concept in the weekly misfire Future’s End, Batman Beyond Rebirth attempts to reset things to a status quo more familiar to fans of the cartoon. It works setting up an interesting direction for at least the first storyline of this new series.

The story, by Dan Jurgens, is a perfectly competent introductory issue to a comic. He efficiently introduces the characters and their relationships while also starting a mystery that will fill at least the next six or so issues. The real draw for the Rebirth issue is the art by Ryan Sook. Sook does a lot of cover work, but his interiors are an infrequent delight. The presence of his art is enough to warrant a purchase of this issue.



Teen Titans Rebirth

Ben Percy & Jonboy Meyers

This is a fun, slight comic that is yet another largely unnecessary getting the team together book. It starts with Beast Boy at a party, then follows with Starfire, Raven and Kid Flash. All of them ruminate on their current problems, a lot of them in relation to [spoilers] the death of Tim Drake, before being taken out by a mystery assailant. At the end of the issue, with the team gathered and trapped in Incredibles-esque shackles, the mastermind reveals himself. Since it is the cover of the book, I am just going to reveal that it is Damian, who has gathered the team so he can ply the Robin on the Teen Titans.

It is fun; Percy shows a strong understanding of the most of the characters (I am ambivalent to his take on Starfire that seems to ignore the excellent Conner/Palmiotti series) and Meyer’s art is cartoony and playful. It is a perfect art style for a younger skewing book, one that is looking to take advantage of the inherent humor of Beast Boy’s transformations and the like. Like with most of these Rebirth issues, though, there is just not a lot here. It feels like a 0 issue, something that could easily be ignored or avoided.


With these being the last rebirth books for a couple of months, though I am much looking forward to Batwoman and Justice League of America, I guess it is time for some final thoughts. With Rebirth, DC seems to have taken a good look at why the New 52 failed creatively and made steps to fix it. Steps like not rushing the books out all at once and having a stronger focus on the core of the characters instead of asinine attempts to “modernize” them. The evidence of editorial edict is much less prominent. While to line did lose a lot of the New 52’s initial variety, as well as that of the DCYou, stripping everything down to just core superheroes. That problem has been alleviated somewhat by other lines of comics, like the Hanna-Barbera comics and Young Animal. Young Animal’s recent start, with Doom Patrol, Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye and Shade the Changing Girl, has been excellent, nailing the early 90’s Vertigo Comics feel. The Rebirth books have not all been good, there have been a few that haven’t quite worked, but most of them have been an improvement on what came before. I am buying more DC Comics now, and there are more than a few I wish I was reading that I can’t fit into my budget. In all, I’d rate Rebirth as a big win for DC.

I’ve got a top 5 favorite Rebirth series list, but it was a somewhat tough one to come up with. Not only because a lot of the books are very good, but also because the different number of issues each series has shipped. I’ve just read Superman 9 and Supergirl 2; it is hard to judge them against each other. Still, I did just that.

5: Batgirl – Barbara’s adventures in Asia have been very enjoyable so far.

4: Green Arrow – I’ve never been a huge Green Arrow fan, but I’ve really enjoyed this series so far. I liked it enough that I went back and got Percy’s run on the title before Rebirth, which was pretty good.

3: Supergirl – Steve Orlando is one of the best new writers at DC, between Supergirl and Midnighter and the recent crossover Night of the Monster Men I’ve loved everything he’s written. This is a strong take on the character, with great art from Bryan Ching

2: Batman – Tom King is great, and his take on Batman is right in line with what came before and its own thing. This is Batman as a full on superhero and it is a blast.

1: Superman – I love the set-up of Superman adventuring with his kid, and the most recent issues, on the time displaced Dinosaur Island, were amazing. This series is just great.

Dragon Quest VII

Dragon Quest VII has had a long road to recognition in the West. The Dragon Quest series in general hasn’t had too great of success, but Dragon Quest 7’s struggle has seemed even tougher than some of the games that weren’t initially released in America. This game was released for the Playstation, as Dragon Warrior VII, but that was in 2001, a scant couple of months before Final Fantasy X hit. That original version has its strengths, but the disparity in visuals between those two games effectively illustrates why the game was so poorly received. That seemed to kill the series in America for a while, before its revival with Dragon Quest VIII and the subsequent run of DS games. But even that petered out before the 3DS came along, with a DQVII remake. (As well as a Rocket Slime sequel that will sadly remain Japan only) It long looked like this game would never come over from Japan, not reaching Western shores for more than three and a half years since it originally came out. It is such an improvement in many ways from the PS version, giving its stronger qualities a chance to shine in a way that it didn’t before. While it isn’t the strongest game in the series, it is certainly a must play 3DS game.


Dragon Quest VII strongly follows the series vignette based story telling style. It follows it to a fault. Games like DQV and DQIX used the structure to great effect, letting smaller stories flesh out the world and the greater conflict. The main story is unfolds by the player collecting tablet fragments that, when combined, unlock new islands, each with a town or two. Each little town was its own story, though there was a greater narrative building behind them. Dragon Quest VII does this, but that greater narrative never really materializes in a significant way or more precisely doesn’t seem to really grow out of the smaller vignettes. All the details you get about the greater conflict are laid out relatively quickly and flatly, all of the vignettes merely tell their own stories. Those little stories are much more interesting that bigger story, which is as rote as rote can be. Those little stories are the draw and they deliver. Each town freed from the darkness has some sort of story. Few of them are particularly happy affairs. The game is suffused with a sense of tragedy. There are moments like in the past forcing a reclusive inventor, who lost is one love years ago, to help you defeat an army of killer robots by having him make his own robot, only to find in the present that that lonely robot is still attempting to attend to the needs of the inventor, who died long before. It is tragic and heartbreaking and a little absurd. That goes for much of this game.


It does have some great characters, though the game doesn’t put them to the best use. You spend a lot of time alone, or just with reckless young prince Keifer before the spoiled young Maribel joins. It is that trio for several hours before you finally get a forth party member and a full party. The game then, of course, yanks a character away a good long while before dropping the last two party members on the player. That last one especially joins too late to make a strong impact. Still, the characters are a lot of fun. Ruff, a small boy who rides around on a wolf, is only ever concerned with food or smells. His one track mind gets a lot of great reactions. Maribel is the game’s breakout character, being delightfully awful the whole time. She constantly berates the hero, suggest various princesses and queens abdicate in her favor and is just generally kind of terrible. Mervyn, the old hero, and Aishe are fine, but join too late to be all that memorable.


Gameplay wise it is classic Dragon Quest, with the classic Dragon Quest butchering of a class system. It has such a system, but it doesn’t unlock until more than halfway through the game. For stretches near the end it also locks the player out of being able to change classes, so hopefully you didn’t get stuck with some crappy ones. It does give the player a wide variety of options for tackling the games challenges, but nothing, so long as you don’t do something stupid like make the whole party mages, poses enough of a challenge for your choices to matter. Everything else is standard Dragon Quest, which means standard JRPG. Very solidly made, but also quite simple.


In the end, Dragon Quest VII doesn’t stack up against the best games in the series. It is no IV or V, but it is certainly better than VI. This 3DS version is a visual delight and a very enjoyable 45 hour game that just so happens to take 60 hours to beat. Dragon Quest VII’s flaws are all very forgivable, since they come from the game trying to do and be too much. It starts small, but it eventually gets very big. It doesn’t manage to nail that turn, but most of the game is a lot of fun to play.

The Accountant Review


The Accountant sets a lot of plots going, but doesn’t manage to pull them together into a satisfying whole. There is a lot to like here, not the least of which is Ben Affleck’s autistic protagonist. While many of the films elements are worthwhile, the puzzle pieces don’t all fit together. Still, it features some moderately satisfying action and a lot of entertaining performances giving entertain performances.

Affleck stars as Christian Wolff – one of many aliases – an accountant for organized crime and warlords, anyone who can’t just call up the usual CPA to help with the books. For once he takes a supposedly normal job, finding missing money for a robotics company. A discrepancy was found by a young accountant, played by Anna Kendrick, so they call in Wolff. While he quickly finds what appears to be the source of the missing money, the thief turns up dead and the business owner (John Lithgow) wishes the matter dropped. Wolff is unwilling to drop it, and things go south from there. Interspersed with this are scenes with Treasury agents tracking the mysterious accountant and scenes with a charming heavy; as well as scenes showing Wolff’s experiences growing up with his harsh father and younger brother.

While most of the actors give fine performances, notably Jon Berenthal as the charming mercenary, this is Affleck’s movie. He makes his character’s autism obvious, without turning it into full Rain Man shtick or making it seem like a superpower. He is blunt in his personal interactions, furtively avoiding eye contact and speaking flatly and plainly, with none of the small talk to make things move easy. It is clearly a performance designed to take his condition seriously.

Honestly, I might have liked the movie more if it had completely eschewed the action. The scenes with Affleck doing his work and spending time with Anna Kendrick are charming, if brief. The action is actually fine, whether it is Affleck’s complete efficiency or Berenthal’s more conversational tone. Affleck’s character had been trained by his strict and not especially likeable father, to master his body, giving him skills that he can use when his communication skills break down.

The only scenes that really don’t work are the ones with the Treasury Agents investigating his activities. Despite JK Simmons’ best efforts, those scenes don’t amount to much. Partly because they are too far behind the whole movie, slowly unraveling the Accountant’s methods and origin while the more immediate story is happening. It mostly amounts to the younger agent watching videos on her computer and relating that to Simmons’ character.

Then there are the various third act revelations that should tie everything together. They really don’t. Some of them are obvious, some are preposterous. It turns the ending into something of an anti-climax, since the movie’s humanity gets in the way of the usual structure. I liked one big departure; it made the end of the movie something completely different even if the whole thing didn’t quite work. The Accountant is a movie with too many plot threads to adequately service all of them, so it ends up feeling a little bloated and unfinished, though completely enjoyable.


25 Years 25 Games 17: Legend of the Mystical Ninja

Legend of the Mystical Ninja is a weird little game that I have been somewhat fascinated with for a long time. My cousin had the game, but I rarely had the chance to play. I saw it played, I spent twenty of thirty minutes with it, but I never really got to dig in and enjoy it. Still, its strange sense of humor was evident even from my brief encounters with it. I heard of N64 sequels and ones that were Japan only of the SNES, but again they kind of evaded me. The virtual console gave a method to finally play this game, even if I didn’t exercise it until recently.


Legend of the Mystical Ninja is not quite the game I thought it was. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I built it up in my mind as something akin to River City Ransom, which is among my favorite games of all time, but while it has some superficial similarities, it is not the same. The stages are kind of a free roaming brawler with enemies that drop coins when defeated. But River City Ransom has some strong RPG elements, where the money is used to build up the player character’s skills and abilities. The food you buy increases you stats and the books give permanent abilities. In Legend of the Mystical Ninja, power ups are temporary and food merely refills health. The free roaming parts of stages give way to straight platformer levels at the end. And there are actually stages. River City Ransom allows the player to travel freely around its rather small world, Legend of the Mystical Ninja is much larger but more restrictive, with hard breaks between levels.


While it isn’t exactly what I thought it would be, Legend of the Mystical Ninja is still a lot of fun. The action is straightforward, with tight controls and clear objectives. Each level starts with a goal and the player (or players) explore the level to find the location of the boss, then deal with it. There are a good variety of enemies and a decent array of attacks. There are some annoyances. Goemon (or Kid Ying) as three levels of weapon: a small pipe, a bigger pipe, and a yoyo looking weapon. Collecting small cats that some enemies drop level the weapon up, but each hit the player takes drops it a level. The same goes for sandals the player can buy. They speed the player up, but disappear with each hit. It makes enemies that have ranged attacks, particularly attacks with odd angles, especially annoying to deal with. The biggest struggle in the game (at least when you are abusing save states like me) comes from getting to the boss with a decent method of attack. Still, there is a money consuming sub-weapon. The player can toss coins at bad guys for an effective, if expensive, ranged attack. In all, it is a lot of fun.

Then there is the game’s off kilter sense of humor. It is a sense of humor that survives a hatchet job of a localization. Goemon is something of a Japanese Robin Hood, with his own cast of merry men. In bringing the game to America, Konami changed just about everything. Goemon became Kid Ying, his buddy Ebisumaru Dr. Yang. I guess it is in keeping with the games wacky tone, but they are no more American than Goemon. It is not like the game can hide the humor. Most of the houses you find in the free roaming areas are filled with goofy minigames. One is a quiz game with an opponent that likes to answer before the question is complete, though he is usually wrong. Others are straight up levels of other Konami games or first person mazes. A lot of it is just a waste of time, but some of them are quite a bit of fun.


Legend of the Mystical Ninja is a near classic. It does everything so well that the spots where is gets annoying stand out all the more. Still, despite the annoyances the game is a lot of fun to play.

Mascots Review


A new Christopher Guest movie, another mockumentary at that, is certainly cause for celebration. It has been more than a decade since the last Guest movie and even longer since he has done a mockumentary. After the trio of Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, any Guest mockumentary would be worth watching. Mascots is good, giving viewers more of what his earlier movies delivered. The problem with it, though, is that it doesn’t deliver anything more nor does it do anything better than those previous films. It is new Guest, but it is not the best Guest.

Many of his usual players return for this one. The cast is filled with the likes of Jane Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard and Parker Posey. They all give fun performances, crafting characters in some small parts. Then there are the new additions, like Chris O’Dowd and Zach Woods who do a lot of the heavy lifting. Tom Bennett, who was amazing earlier this year in Love & Friendship, plays the closest thing this film has to a straight man and still manages to stand out in this excellent cast.

The set up for Mascots is nearly identical to that of Best in Show; an eclectic group of contestants vie to excel in a competition that really only matters to them. This movie is about sports mascots fighting to win a Fluffie award from an awards show that if things go well it might just be televised next year. In mock interviews they unwittingly reveal who they are. There is the sad sack (Peter Moynihan) and the bad boy. There is Posey’s Cindi Babineaux, an altogether too earnest Southern Belle with a makeshift armadillo costume and an off putting modern dance routine. There are the Murray’s (Woods and Sarah Baker) a married team of mascots that clearly hate each other. It is frequently chuckle worthy, but rarely inspiring full laughs.

What the movie is missing from Mascots that Guest’s earlier work had is affection. It is the same sort of collection of obsessed weirdos, but they were still human. Harlan Pepper from Best in Show was strange and obsessive, but in a way that is relatable to anyone with a hobby they love. In that same movie, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara played a dorky married couple, but there was heart behind their eccentricities. I think the lack of those two regular Guest players, Levy and O’Hara, is why this movie doesn’t quite stack up with previous efforts. The heart just isn’t there. This is just watching sad people flail sadly.

There is still a lot to like about the movie. The routines at the end are enjoyable, as are many of the little off the cuff conversations that crop up in various scenes. It can’t quite escape the feeling of being a greatest hits album of a movie. It has all the things you want to see in this sort of movie, but doesn’t have anything new to offer. While it will be hard to displace the best of his movies, Christopher Guest and company doing their thing at even this level is very welcome.


Luke Cage and Some Thoughts on Other Fall Superhero Shows

I really wanted to love Luke Cage. I do like the character; definitely more than the other two characters that have gotten Netflix shows. I’ve never cared at all for Daredevil and I mostly know Jessica Jones through her relationship with Luke Cage in the comics. The show is good. There is a certain level of production quality that never slips. The cast is great, the production values are high and though it dances around them a little too much it has some great messages. But the plot and dialogue are nothing special and the tone frequently conflicts with the action.

There is a lot to like about this show, such as how black it is. A lot of shows throw out the idea of diversity, but most of those shows are still from a very white perspective. The Flash has the West family, but their stories are all secondary to Barry’s and most of the rest of the cast and guest stars are white. That is not a complaint about the Flash; its cast feels just right for that show, but rare is a show that embraces a minority POV as strongly as Luke Cage does. Mike Colter is great as the title character. He plays Cage as more erudite than most takes on the character; he is a smart guy who just happens to be an unstoppable, bulletproof strongman. The bulletproof is a big part of it. In a time where this country seems to have weekly shootings of black men by police it is something to have a superhero whose closest thing to a costume is a hoody filled with bullet holes. Really, every part of the make-up of Luke Cage is just about perfect.

That is why it is so disappointing that the dialogue and plotting lets it down so much. It starts good, with a series of events forcing Luke into taking action. But after that it becomes a big jumble of nothing, spinning its wheels until it hits the last episode or two and is allowed to finish up. For the first half of the show, things happen. Actions have consequences. Then Diamondback shows up and things change for the glacial. Really, the shows eventual primary antagonist is a void of a character. Attempts are made to make his vendetta against Cage personal, but it doesn’t work. Diamondback pales in comparison to Kingpin or Kilgrave. It is worse that the show has to remove a legitimately interesting villain in Cottonmouth to get to him.

Then there are the problems with tone. Luke Cage wants to be serious, important television, but as much as it mocks them it can’t escape its pulp roots. It tries to simultaneously get viewers to take its musings on seriously at the same time as it villains shooting rocket launchers in the middle of the city with no repercussions. It is about a man given unbreakable skin through a science experiment, but also takes the time to make fun of idea of a superhero wearing a costume. It wants to have it both ways, to stay true to the comics while distancing itself from them. It doesn’t work.

Still, the show is more good than bad. It is a good show with a handful of niggling problems that keeps it from realizing its potential.


How about the other superhero shows starting new seasons this fall? I have a few thoughts.

Agents of SHIELD – Now in its 5th season, this show is adding Ghost Rider to the mix. That is sure to move the needle for some people, but it does nothing for me. I’m just as disinterested as I’ve been since after the first handful of episodes. Maybe I’ll catch up one day with a Netflix binge.

Gotham – This isn’t the show I thought or wanted it to be. It is not a Batman prequel show, but an insane show that happens to share some characters with Batman. I didn’t think it could go further off the rails, but the showrunners seem to take sentiments like that as a challenge.

Arrow – I was pretty down on last season’s meanderings, but I’ve caught the first two episodes of season 5 and have been a pleasant surprise. They aren’t great, but it feels stronger than last season. Adding a handful of new characters to Team Arrow and moving some of the longtime members into interesting roles has shaken things up enough, as has eliminating/putting on the back burner all the Ollie & Felicity stuff.

Flash – Flash’s season 2 was a bit of rough patch. There were a lot of really good episodes, but a lot of it was a less effective retread of season 1 with added bad decision making by Barry and spending a lot of time setting up Legends of Tomorrow. So far season 3 has largely sorted out a lot of season 2’s mess while setting up what should be some good stories. Hopefully it will fully return to season 1 form.

Supergirl – The first season was good, if uneven, but the first episode of season 2 was excellent. If this is the focus and tenor of the second season this could be great. The new additions, Superman and Lena Luthor to start with, have been welcome and the slight adjustment of character relationships really works. I can’t wait to see this unfold.

Legends of Tomorrow – The first season was a mixed bag, with some truly great episodes and some pretty bad ones. They made some good changes, like dropping the Hawks, and some I’m not too happy about, like losing Captain Cold. Still, the kept most of the strongest parts of last season and this year are going to be doing what is my favorite superhero team, the JSA. If they do that team even a bit of justice I will be really happy.

25 Year 25 Games 16: Super Mario RPG

I long thought that Super Mario RPG was a game that passed me by. It is exactly the sort of game I like, but somehow I never managed to play. I love Mario games, I love JRPGs, I love SNES games, I love Nintendo and Squaresoft; it was perfect confluence of my interests in 16-bit gaming. The commercial for this game, as terrible as it may be, was one of the first I remember that really got me excited to play a game. Despite spending all of my time, and money, on SNES JRPGs, though, I never ended up playing Super Mario RPG at the time. I had a few chances to play it over the years. It was one of a handful of SNES game’s at my aunt’s house, but my only chance to play them involved staying at her place in the summer, doing farm chores and eating stale cheerios with weevils in them for breakfast. So that didn’t really work out. Neither did when it first came to the Virtual Console or any of the many chances I’ve had to emulate it. It was just a game I missed out on. Until this year.


Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is a great example of a Squaresoft SNES JRPG and a Mario game, but it doesn’t really meld them. It does a good job of turning Mario mechanics into RPG mechanics, but there is a fairly clear delineation between the Squaresoft stuff and the Mario stuff. I think that has a lot to do with why characters like Geno and Mallow have rarely appeared after this game. There are likely some rights problems, but the bigger problem is that they just don’t fit in with Mario crew. They stand out as something clearly different. That is not to say they don’t work in this game, this game itself is something different. And something great.


Squaresoft did a great job of making Mario into an RPG. They kept the heart of the character by focusing on platforming like challenges and a timing based attack system. It manages to feel like a Mario game despite the awkward perspective. Really, the games it great but it biggest flaw is that isometric perspective, which makes a lot of jumps harder to judge than they should be. It is clearly a Mario world, inhabited by Mario characters. Honestly, though I am coming to it late, it is clear that it helped set some of the details of Mario’s Universe. Those details were further codified in Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi, as well as the sports games, but this one did some work as well.


Despite having a lot of Mario touches, though, this more accurately captures the feel of a 16-bit Squaresoft game. The Mario stuff is window dressing; this is the guys behind Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI at it again. (I know it is not literally the same guys) No one was better at making SNES JRPGs than Squaresoft. Those two games I mentioned are among my favorites of all time. I’ve played a lot of mediocre 16-bit games chasing the experience of playing those games for the first time. Some get close, like Breath of Fire 2, but most just feel like games. There is something indescribable about Squaresoft’s best games at the time; they felt like they were taking full and perfect advantage of the system. Great music, well balanced battle systems and stories that were just deep enough. While I wouldn’t put it quite with Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI, once Super Mario RPG gets going it is right there on the next rung down.


I really wish I had played this game back in the day. It would likely be among that select group of games that I try to replay every couple of years: CT, FF6, Earthbound and Suikoden 2. As it is, I finally understand why so many people consider it one of the best games on the system. It was the first full collaboration between Squaresoft and Nintendo one of the last games Squaresoft released for a Nintendo system for nearly a decade. At least they split on top.

DC Rebirth Month 4

Two of this month’s books were in the last week, so Batman Beyond and Teen Titans will be in some sort of addendum next month. That leaves only four books to cover, and one of those isn’t even a true Rebirth book. Still, three of the books I’m reviewing are very good. It was a good month.


Blue Beetle Rebirth

Keith Giffen & Scott Kolins.

For the most part, Blue Beetle Rebirth gets back to what made the first Jaime Reyes book so good, with the only big change being adding in his new partnership with Ted Kord. With a character as low profile as Blue Beetle, having two well-loved versions of the character usually splits the fanbase. Jaime is great, but I know a lot of people were slow to embrace him because his origin coincided with the pointless killing off of Ted. Here, DC and Keith Giffen have managed to combine them. Keith Giffen is in his irreverent mold and Scott Kolins continues the strong work he has been doing, most recently in the unfortunately overlooked Justice League 3001.

There are some slow bits. This rebirth issue doesn’t have much for Jaime’s supporting cast to do, but it goes out of its way to have them all appear. There are brief appearances of Jaime’s family, his mother, father and younger sister. Then there is a slightly off banter with his friends Paco and Brenda. Its fine, but it goes on just a little too long. Still, it does the job of establishing the dynamics among the trio. Then it gets to the action, with a new pair of villains, named Rack & Ruin, attacking a coffee shop in order to draw Blue Beetle out and test his abilities. This is where the relationship between Jaime and Ted really shines. Jaime is a reluctant superhero, feeling cursed by the scarab that has attached itself to his back, but Ted is completely gung ho to be in the superhero game, even if he can only do it vicariously through Jaime. Jaime fights the villains, with some help Ted before the two escape.

This is a great set up for the series. There is a lot of space for Ted and Jaime to clash. They have different attitudes about being a hero, Ted comes from a very affluent family while Jaime’s family is working class. Then there are the other plot threads set up in this issue; from the classic teenage superhero troubles of balancing school and heroism, to the revelation that the scarab is magical instead of alien or that Brenda’s Aunt is actually a crime boss. This is a fertile prologue for what should be a great series.



Cyborg Rebirth

John Semper Jr & Paul Pelletier

Paul Pelletier’s art is good, at least. I don’t want to be harsh, since I believe this is or at least close to John Semper’s first published comics work, but this isn’t a great issue. Pelletier does something that resembles the DC house style, like the poor man’s Ivan Reis. It looks good. Not great, but more than fine in communicating the story. It is also overwritten and not especially engaging.

Nearly the entire issue is Cyborg fighting a rogue AI named Malware. It shrugs off his best attacks and moves quickly through STAR labs, where Cyborg’s father works. The whole thing is being watched and narrated by some unseen figure. After Cyborg is briefly knocked out, he recounts his origin, starting with his parent’s meeting. It is a rather dry recounting, with some truly terrible narration. While it communicates a lot of information about Cyborg’s history, it doesn’t actually give much insight to him as a character. Cyborg is a character that needs a status quo for a solo title, since he has always been a character that’s part of team, not a character with an independent supporting cast or mission. This issue rehashes is origin yet again, but does nothing to solve that other problem.

While it does start a new story for Cyborg, it doesn’t really instill any faith in books ability to flesh out the character. The fact that it seems to going down the “man or robot?” road is especially disappointing. Still, this is less bad and more completely generic. I won’t be continuing, but I could easily see this improve greatly in the coming months.



Trinity #1

Francis Manapul

Written and drawn by Francis Manapul, Trinity is a book that starts DC’s Trinity: Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. There is a lot to love in this issue. Manapul’s art is, as always, gorgeous. This book is just a delight to look at, sumptuous and luxurious. The story is somewhat weaker. Not bad, just lacking in any urgency. Lois invites Wonder Woman and Batman over to get to know this new to them Superman. They have dinner. That is pretty much the extent of the issue. Again, I can’t stress enough how good this book looks. It does allow Manapul to demonstrate how well he gets the characters. Wonder Woman shows up with a gift; a wild boar she hunted. Batman gripes about having to be there and about how he likes to work alone when accidently blasted by young Jonathan’s heat vision. Superman has an appropriately skeptical of Bruce’s protestations, noting his usual pairing with a Robin or other Bat-related character. It is just a lot of great little character stuff incredibly well drawn. Again, the story lacks urgency or action, but it is still a completely delightful read.



Gotham Academy Second Semester #1

This is not technically a Rebirth book. I can’t figure out why Gotham Academy Second Semester didn’t get the Rebirth banner thrown on it; several other Rebirth books are just continuations of what came before (Batgirl) and the initiative has been such a success that calling this a Rebirth could have done nothing but help its sales. Still, I am going to cover it because it is a new DC book that has come out during this whole Rebirth thing. And because Gotham Academy is great and everyone should read it.

The start of Second Semester has Olive alone at the Academy during the Holiday break, since she has no family to go home to. While her planned dinner with her favorite teacher is cancelled, she ends up meeting a troublesome new student that brings out the worst in her. They cause some havoc at the deserted academy until Olive starts to see the some of the consequences of their actions. It is mostly an issue setting up Olive’s current situation while introducing a new student that is sure to cause problems among the detective squad. Unfortunately, the focus on Olive means that there is little to no space for anyone else, including the books breakout character Maps. Still, Gotham Academy is great and you should read it. And read the first volume. And read the crossover with Lumberjanes.


What I Read September 2016

Another month that was slightly disappointing. I just can’t get on track this summer. Still, I read three books. One of which I had been working on for at least a month or two before the start of September. This month I don’t have any proclamations about getting back on track. I don’t know that I will. I have at least one book I know I’ll finish, but I don’t really know what I’m reading after that.


Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

Sean Howe

This is a great read for a comics fan. It details Marvel Comics growth from a small Golden Age outfit to the dominant comic book line in the USA to what caused the company to crater in the middle 90’s. It tells the stories, or at least parts thereof, of comics luminaries like Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Steve Gerber. Howe does a great job of capturing the personalities that made Marvel what it was while keeping the bigger picture clear. It paints Stan Lee as a self-mythologizing opportunist. It strips him of some of his geek myth, but it doesn’t villainize him; it merely makes him more human. There is no discounting the big hand he played in making Marvel comics, but it also shows how early he checked out of the day to day comics business for generally unsuccessful attempts to get the properties on TV and into film. It shows how great artists, like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, were given almost nothing for their great contributions to the comics medium. These are not thing unknown outside of the book, but Marvel Comics The Untold Story gives the story a very human face.

If there is a flaw, it is that the book deals much more thoroughly with the early days of Marvel than the later days. It is filled with tons of details from the 60’s and 70’s, but by the time it gets to the 90’s it becomes more scattershot. Some of that is likely due to recency, some of it due to greater interest in Stan and Jack. There is still good stuff as the book nears its end, but it doesn’t quite match the early stuff. If you like superhero comics, this is nearly a must read. It is the best behind the scenes look at comics that I have ever encountered.


Before the Fall

Noah Hawley

Another Kindle book I picked up, this one because I knew Noah Hawley from writing on the really great Fargo TV show. A lot of that sensibility travels over to this book, though it really doesn’t have much in common with that show. Before the Fall is about a plane crash just off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean, leaving only two survivors. One is an aging painter who was a friend of one of the families on the plane and the young boy he managed to swim back to shore with. It then explores the lives of the people who perished on the plane and attempts to determine what caused the plane to crash.

A large thread in the story is a Fox News like TV station that was run by one of the victims. One of their talking heads tries to place suspicion on the survivor, for no reason other than spite. The book does create some compelling characters, both before and after the fateful flight, but it keeps them at such a remove that it can be hard to feel like you know anything about them. That is necessary, though, to keep up the mystery until the books somewhat disappointing conclusion.

I liked Before the Fall a lot, except for a couple of things. The first is that ending. It spends most of its pages setting up such a compelling mystery that it would have been a tall task to live up to it, but what is there is really disappointing. The other thing is that the book was largely written in the present tense, which I almost always find off putting. This book was no exception.


Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet

Charlie N Holmberg

Speaking of books written in the present tense, Charlie N Holmberg’s Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet does it as well. I don’t like it anymore here. This is a short book that I liked less the further I got into it. It starts with an amnesiac woman who can add magic to her baked goods. It is a novel and interesting premise for a story, but it is rather quickly abandoned and everything it is replaced with is less interesting. Her town is attacked and she is sold into slavery to a strange, otherworldly man. He has her bake goods for faerie tale analogs, with the protagonist, Maire, growing more desperate. At the same time she is meeting with a different otherworldly man who is trying to get her to remember who she is. It is fine, but my interest waned with each new development or revelation.

What I Watched September 2016


How to Train Your Dragon 2 – It’s not bad. I never went as crazy over the first How to Train Your Dragon as some people did, but this follow up is adequate but definitely lesser. There is nothing really wrong with it, but it just feels kind of unnecessary. ***

Saving Private Ryan – This isn’t quite one of Spielberg’s absolute best, but it is very good. The war scenes are to this day amazing to watch. Other parts of it drag on just a bit too long; I could do without the framing scenes, which I don’t think are effective or add anything to the film. Overall, though, it is just great. ****1/2

The Big Short – This is a great movie. It starkly and humorously lays out the circumstances that lead to the recent financial collapse. It manages to combine a very important history/economics lesson with a funny, entertaining movie. It is just really, really good. *****

Bonnie & Clyde – There is a lot of great moments and performances in this movie, but I don’t know how well I like how it came together. It is certainly very watchable, with a lot of great scenes. I really like the brief appearance by the late Gene Wilder. ****

Joe Dirt 2 – I liked Joe Dirt. Maybe I was just young and stupid, but I found it largely entertaining. This is just stupid and mean spirited; it is certainly not funny. A more unnecessary or unwanted sequel I couldn’t imagine. 1/2

The Last Samurai – I think I like this movie a lot more than I should. There are some real problems, like the white savior stuff this movie indulges in and the historical inaccuracies, but I still find it to be a very entertaining film. Tom Cruise is usually good and Ken Wantanabe is great. ****

Chasing Amy – Kevin Smith writes some good dialogue, but unless you are as fascinated with the idea of lesbians as he is this movie hasn’t aged particularly well. There are some fun scenes and some good ideas, but it feels a little flat to me. ***1/2

The November Man – Pierce Brosnan plays a spy that is more like Daniel Craig’s Bond than his own. It isn’t terrible, but there really isn’t much here to recommend. **

Always – One of Spielberg’s lesser known movies, this romantic comedy/drama about the ghost of Richard Dreyfuss helping his ex-girlfriend move on almost works. I love nothing more than movies about planes, and this is one such movie, but it struggles with tone for most of the runtime. It does some slapstick and some tear jerking, but mostly it just meanders around trying to sell a romance that only intermittently works. It is still largely entertaining, but it is easily among the director’s lesser works. ***

Elizabeth: The Golden Age – This is a gorgeous movie, but it is also kind of melodramatic and overblown. The production design alone makes it worth watching, but I wouldn’t say it is especially good. **1/2

Sully – see review here. ****

The Usual Suspects – The whole movie is its twist, which makes me want to keep lowering my score the more I think about it. This a plain story told in an interesting way. That first time through it is amazing, but there isn’t much there for repeat viewings. ****

The Finest Hours – A perfectly fine disaster/ shipwreck movie. Chris Pine is good, but the actual rescue is dwarfed by some numbing search scenes. It just lacks the necessary spark to be at all memorable. ***

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey – Still great. It takes the same characters and set up of the first movie and does something completely different with it. It is just a lot of fun. ****

Ip Man 2 – This is like two different movies mashed together. It starts with Master Ip building up a new martial arts school after relocating in the last movie, but about halfway through it turns into Rocky IV with a less likeable villain. It is decently entertaining, but that split in the middle is hard to reconcile. ***

Ip Man 3 – This starts much like the previous movie, but this time the split in the middle makes for a better story instead of an inexplicable one. It starts with Ip fighting off some gangsters who want to demolish the school his son attends and builds into a rivalry between Master Ip and another Wing-chun master. I really like how that rivalry was dealt with; it is not what would normally be expected. ***1/2

The Good Dinosaur – This is one of the few Pixar films I missed in the theaters and I don’t feel like I’ve missed much. It has an interesting look; with nearly photorealistic backgrounds mixed with very cartoony looking characters. The story is simple, with shockingly little going on for a Pixar movie. There is a base level quality that it doesn’t drop below, but it doesn’t really rise above a certain ceiling either. ***1/2

Underworld & Underworld Evolution – How do you make werewolves fighting vampires movie and make it this completely boring? These movies are unspeakably dull; the only thing of interest is Kate Beckinsale in skintight clothes. *1/2

DEBS – I watched this after happening upon Roger Ebert’s scathing review. I don’t really agree with him, but that doesn’t make it good. It is a kind of flabby comedy spy spoof. There are some good moments, but it mostly just looks cheap and not especially well constructed. **1/2

Coffee Town – It has a fun cast in Glen Howerton and Ben Schwartz, but it doesn’t really feel like it has a purpose. It is at its best when it is embracing that lack of purpose. Until its main plot comes into focus, it is a lot of fun watching this goofballs mess around a coffee shop. ***1/2

The Boxtrolls – I loved Kubo, but this was more like the Laika films that I more admire than enjoy. I can’t deny the craftsmanship that is apparent on screen in this movie, but I don’t much care for the aesthetic or characters. It is perfectly good for what it is, it just really isn’t for me. ***1/2

Big Trouble in Little China – I feel like I don’t have the words to talk about how much I like this movie. I really wish I had watched this as a kid. It is everything you could want out of a mystical kung fu movie starring Kurt Russell from the 80’s. It is amazing. ****1/2

13 Assassins – I wanted something Seven Samurai like before seeing Magnificent 7 and this was the closest I could find on short notice. It starts with the usual gathering the team scenes, along with some to establish just how awful the villain of this movie are. But about an hour in it gets to the big fight scene and that doesn’t disappoint. It is a nearly hour long fight scene that just keeps shifting and growing. It is great. ****1/2

Tomorrowland – This is a weird movie. One of its central plot’s is a love story between George Clooney and a tiny girl. She is a robot, but it is still awkward. It is called Tomorrowland, but only the last act gets to that place. Also, it is a rather pessimistic movie about optimism. Still, Brad Bird can make a fine movie. ***

Aloha – This is in a lot of ways wrongheaded and ill conceived, but it is also well acted and intermittently entertaining. **

Magnificent 7 – See review here. ***


Galavant – I gushed about this show when the second season aired, but I will do so again now that the entire series has been added to Netflix. Galavant is only 18 half hour episodes long. Each episode has at least two songs. It ends up being about a 6 and a half hour long fantasy musical. It has some great characters and great songs. The second season is especially good. Timothy Omundson is particularly good as the inept King Richard. This is a show everyone should take a look at.

Psych – I know I’ve written about Psych before, but I felt the need to do so again. I watched as much as I could of this before it left Netflix. As this is one of my background noise staples, I hope it returns sooner rather than later. The more I watch this, the more I feel comfortable saying that this is a great TV show. It starts as a straight formula, but as it gets more comfortable with its characters it grows in some interesting ways. Psych’s loving homages to all kinds of classic movies and TV shows are mostly very well done, and honestly more true to their inspirations than I initially realized. It does falter in the last season or two, as the show loses sight of its mysteries and kind of falls apart, but other than that it is great.