Comic Book Review – Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus Volume 2

Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus Volume 2 (2022)
Reprints L.E.G.I.O.N. #69-70, Legion of Super-Heroes #40-61, Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #4-5, Legionnaires #1-18, Legionnaires Annual #1, Valor #20-23
Written by Tom & Mary Bierbaum, Tom McCraw, Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, and Tom Peyer
Art by Stuart Immonen, Chris Sprouse, Darryl Banks, Joe Phillips, Christopher Taylor, Nick Napolitano, Adam Hughes, Colleen Doran, Brian Stelfreeze, Chris Gardner, Frank Fosco, Curt Swan, Ron Boyd, Mark Farmer, Wade von Grawbadger, Craig Hamilton, Jeff Moy, Ted McKeever, Paul Pelletier, Arnie Jorgensen, and Derec Aucoin

The end of an era was just around the corner. The 1989 relaunch of Legion of Super-Heroes was a bold move, taking the beloved team of future teens and aging them into young adults. Some were married with kids, and others had become estranged or started new relationships. It all played out against the Dominator’s takeover of Earth. Eventually, series writer/artist Keith Giffen transitioned off the title and handed it over to Tom & Mary Bierbaum. They were a fan dream come true, starting as Legion fans in the 1970s and contributing to fanzines. Keith Giffen had become aware of their passionate devotion to the series and was impressed with some of the text stories they’d written. He and Mark Waid, editor of the title at the time, brought in the Bierbaums as Giffen’s co-writers for this new era.

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Movie Review – True Romance

True Romance (1993)
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Directed by Tony Scott

While this is a James Gandolfini-centric film series, I acknowledge he has such a minuscule part in True Romance. However, that two-scene appearance managed to stand toe to toe with seasoned film veterans like Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, and others. The film itself has not aged well, in my opinion. There’s a tasteless trans joke and multiple uses of racial slurs. The worst part is that the protagonist is a complete male Mary Sue, able to pull off some of the riskiest maneuvers despite having zero credibility in the criminal element. It’s also a film with big names in minor roles, many of whom get a single scene or just a handful. The fact that Gandolfini could stand out in a movie like this is proof of what an acting talent he was and how he was capable of such great things.

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Movie Review – Into the Woods (1991)

Into the Woods (1991)
Written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
Directed by James Lapine

For a minute, I thought about rewatching the Frank Marshall-directed version of this musical, but the idea of watching James Corden turned my stomach enough to find an alternative. So I decided to finally check out this film of the original Broadway cast’s performance. It may not have the digital effects and “star power” of the 2014 motion picture, but it is the complete musical being done by highly talented people, and I loved it. I was able to see the entire story, all the scenes and songs deleted from the Disney movie, and the result was a story with much more cohesive themes and a maturity the film ultimately lacks.

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Movie Review – Ratcatcher

Ratcatcher (1999)
Written & Directed by Lynne Ramsay

Western civilization is decaying and all at its own hand. You cannot look to a foreign enemy emerging over the horizon. The collapse of the world order we’ve known since birth was a slowly festering movement of austerity and neoliberalism that is choking the life out of hundreds of millions. The authoritarian British government brutalized its citizens in Northern Ireland and Scotland quite habitually in the 1960s and 70s. This came in the form of militarized police actions, pushing back against unions, and fighting against a higher quality of life. This is the world we enter in Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher, where garbage is piled up on the streets and canals are full of toxic chemicals. This is squalor inflicted on working people by the wealthy & powerful who want to bring them to heal. It’s hard to find hope in such a living Hell. 

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Movie Review – Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue (1997)
Written by Sadayuki Murai
Directed by Satoshi Kon

I have tried to get into anime throughout my life, and I just don’t think it’s my thing. When I was in college, I had friends who would regularly consume Dragonball, Inuyasha, or whatever else was on Toonami. I ended up watching several films & parts of shows like Vampire Hunter D, Hellsing, Attack on Titan, among others. I can say that I usually enjoy feature films. I love Akira and Metropolis; I think they push past many tropes that generally don’t click with me in this particular animation genre. Of course, Miyazaki is fantastic, but he exists in a category all his own. Perfect Blue is something beyond anything I’d ever seen before, an anime with clear links to some of the best psychological thrillers of live-action cinema.

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Comic Book Review – Suicide Squad Volumes Seven and Eight

Suicide Squad: The Dragon’s Hoard (2017)
Reprints Suicide Squad #50-58
Written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale
Art by Robert Campanella, Jim Fern, Geof Isherwood, Karl Kesel, Tom Mandrake, Luke McDonnell, and Grant Miehm

Suicide Squad: The Final Mission (2019)
Reprints Suicide Squad #59-68
Written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale
Art by Geof Isherwood, Robert Campanella, and Andrew Pepoy

The opening chapter of The Dragon’s Hoard sees Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad fully operating as mercenaries for hire, breaking most ties with the US government. It was the 50th issue of the series. It’s an oversized affair that interweaves the history of Task Force X with a fight against the undead. Rick Flag is revealed to have a son that the Squad never knew about, and the child is in danger. Waller feels compelled to honor her fallen friend and protect his child. That means putting together a crew of mainstays from the run. The team ends up facing zombie-fied versions of foes they’ve encountered along the way.

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Comic Book Review – Suicide Squad Volumes Five and Six

Suicide Squad: Apokolips Now (2016)
Reprints Suicide Squad v1 #31-39
Written by John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and Robert Greenberger
Art by John K. Snyder III, Luke McDonnell, Grant Miehm, and Geof Isherwood

Suicide Squad: The Phoenix Gambit (2017)
Reprints Suicide Squad v1 #40-49
Written by John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and David M. DeVries
Art by Geof Isherwood, Luke McDonnell, and Mark Badger

Suicide Squad had an interesting conceit that allowed it to shift the narrative focus every few issues. It was also easy to drop new characters into the book and toss them out when needed, as they were primarily supervillains going through Belle Reve’s revolving door or getting killed on the missions. For the first two and half years of the title, that was how things were, but in the wake of The Janus Directive, it appeared John Ostrander was interested in dramatically shifting what the Suicide Squad would be. Before he can head off in a new direction, though, he has to wrap up loose ends from previous years.

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Movie Review – Funny Games

Funny Games (2007)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke

Following its showing at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, a panel was held for Funny Games. Director Michael Haneke and his actors fielded questions from the press about his movie. If you are subscribed to the Criterion Channel, you can watch it. Over 45 minutes, Haneke became amusedly frustrated over the journalists and critics’ seeming inability to understand the subtext of his film. Unlike David Lynch, Haneke didn’t keep the greater meaning of his work close to his vest and was very explicit. He kept reiterating that the film is not concerned with the pathology of its antagonists or anything else that was surface level. Funny Games is a film experience in which the viewer is interrogated about the very nature of violence & entertainment. 

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Movie Review – Benny’s Video

Benny’s Video (1993)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke

Reality in our current period has become a grotesquely malleable element. QAnon cultists talk about wild conspiracies with such confidence that it seems to come from an entirely different dimension. The State Department gins up war with Russia and China in parallels with the fabrication and lack of substantial evidence needed to justify such actions. Everywhere you go in America, you are bombarded by marketing attempting to warp your sensibilities to believe unnecessary consumption is the answer to your existential woes. The screen acts as a filter for your emotional response. You can pause, rewind, skip, and because of that, you never really have to reflect or engage. This is the world Michael Haneke saw in Austria all the way back in 1993, and it hasn’t gotten any better.

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Movie Review – The Truman Show

The Truman Show (1998)
Written by Andrew Niccol
Directed by Peter Weir

In 1991, screenwriter Andrew Niccol began shopping around a spec script for The Malcolm Show. It was a science-fiction thriller set in New York City that focused on a man discovering his life was a television show, and he tried to escape the control of his handlers. Many directors were considered: Brian DePalma, Tim Burton, Sam Raimi, Steven Spielberg. Eventually, the studio chose to go with Peter Weir, who saw the script as too dark. Instead, he wanted to emphasize the satire of the situation, still holding onto the core existential dread of the concept, but presenting it with a lightness to counter that thematic weight. 

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