Comic Book Review – X-Men Epic Collection: It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

X-Men Epic Collection: It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn (2019)
Reprints Amazing Adventures #11-17, Amazing Spider-Man #92, Incredible Hulk #150, 161, 172 & 180-182, Marvel Team-Up #4 & 23, Avengers #110-111, Captain America #172-175, Defenders #15-16, and Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4
Written by Steve Englehart, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Mike Friedrich, Tony Isabella, & Chris Claremont
Art by Sal Buscema, Tom Sutton, Herb Trimpe, Gil Kane, Don Heck, John Buscema, Bob Brown & Jim Starlin

This is the easiest to pass up of all the original X-Men Epic Collections. It takes place in the gap between the initial run and Chris Claremont’s takeover in 1974, so we have a lot of short arcs with the X-Men guest-starring in other books. That was my mindset at first, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I see this as a flame carried by people who loved these characters. It would have been easy to let the X-Men slide into obscurity like many other characters whose books got canceled. They could have fallen into comic book limbo, but because writer/editor Len Wein believed in the concept, he and other creators kept finding places for these mutant heroes to pop up.

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Movie Review – Dora and The City of Lost Gold

Dora and The Lost City of Gold (2019)
Written by Nicholas Stoller, Matthew Robinson, and Tom Wheeler
Directed by James Bobin

Of all the shows I have reviewed in this series on cinematic television adaptations, this is the only one created during my adulthood. Not having children or having spent a lot of time around Zoomers as babies, I don’t really have any emotional attachments to the source material. I’ve seen the numerous parodies of Dora that show up in pop culture, and I understand the show’s concept, though. So I was a bit surprised but intrigued when it was announced that a live-action Dora movie was in the works. I always prefer an unexpected and weird take on a well-known property rather than regurgitating something we all know. This is why I am very interested in the Greta Gerwig Barbie film. It sounds like something that isn’t just a straightforward adaptation. And that’s what we get with Dora and The Lost City of Gold, a movie that balances a genuine love of the show with the ability to poke fun at it.

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Movie Review – A Madea Family Funeral

A Madea Family Funeral (2019)
Written & Directed by Tyler Perry

A Madea Family Funeral was filmed in one week. It was filmed before Boo! 2, which was released in 2017. So this means Tyler Perry shot this movie in seven days and sat on it for two years. One reason he may have done this is that he planned for Funeral to be Madea’s swan song; while she doesn’t die, he wants to kill her off and uses this film to wrap it up. He can’t, though. Once again, on a $20 million budget, this picture earned $70+ million. The curse of Tyler Perry is that this character he created to espouse male-centric life instruction to Black women has become a mask he can’t escape. Perry is trapped as Madea for the foreseeable future and is clearly fuming over this.

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Movie Review – Daniel Isn’t Real

Daniel Isn’t Real (2019)
Written by Adam Egypt Mortimer and Brian DeLeeuw
Directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer

Acts of brutal mass violence can have a powerful effect on people, especially children. Last week, over a dozen children and two teachers were brutally murdered in their school. This revived the seemingly never solved debates about gun control, health care, school safety, etc. The polling organization Gallup has found that most Americans stop engaging in online conversations about mass shootings approximately four days after they occur. Clearly, the problem will never be solved if we move into these same discourse cycles, so we must keep finding ways to incorporate awareness and potential solutions in everything we do. Though I viewed this picture weeks ago, I can’t help but find that it is relevant to what is happening now.

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Comic Book Review – Black Hammer ’45/Black Hammer-Justice League

Black Hammer ’45 (2019)
Written by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes
Art by Matt Kindt

Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice (2020)
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Michael Walsh

Black Hammer has been a fascinating experiment in superhero fiction, helmed by the immensely talented Jeff Lemire. Starting in 2016, he created a narrative about superheroes trapped in a small town who have to hide their powers. From there, he expanded and created a larger universe that serves as his personal commentary on all sorts of subgenres and archetypes within American comics. There have been some comparisons to Watchmen, but I don’t really think there are many similarities other than one writer’s voice at the center. Lemire has much more reverence for the medium than Alan Moore did or does. With both of these mini-series, Lemire can play around with tropes and, in one instance, DC’s superhero stable of characters.

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Movie Review – Terminator: Dark Fate

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
Written by David Goyer, Justin Rhodes, & Billy Ray
Directed by Tim Miller

After recently rewatching Terminator 2: Judgment Day, I became curious about the latest attempt to revive the Terminator franchise. At this point, we now have three separate timelines branching from T2 that all seem to fail to continue a story that feels finished. I watched the T2 Director’s Cut, and it has an ending scene with John Connor grown in the new future where he serves as a senator. It felt like the day had been saved; everything was wrapped up. But of course, Hollywood couldn’t let that be when there was more money to make. I had seen Terminator: Genisys, which is unwatchable, and wondered what damage control would be done in Dark Fate if maybe they had made a palatable follow-up.

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Comic Book Review – Immortal Hulk Book One

Immortal Hulk Book One (2019)
Reprints Immortal Hulk #1-10 & material from Avengers #684
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Le Beau Underwood, & Rafael Fonteriz

When I was a five-year-old living in Central Illinois, I can vividly remember watching NBC Saturday mornings, and my favorite shows were Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends and The Hulk. I would play-act, by myself usually being these heroes, and the transformation from Bruce Banner to Hulk was always one of my favorites. The shoes splitting open as his feet grew, shoulders expanding to split my shirt. Hulk, like dinosaurs, is one of those empowering figures for little kids; they represent an ability to unleash anger & strength in a world where your size and lack of knowledge make you vulnerable. However, as I got older, I didn’t find Hulk to be that compelling of a character. There were moments during Peter David’s epic run that piqued my interest, but after he left the book, it felt like there wasn’t much to say about Hulk other than retread that territory. Then Al Ewing came along.

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Movie Review – Violence Voyager

Violence Voyager (2019)
Written & Directed by Ujicha

Gekimation. A new word for me and one I won’t soon forget. It describes the very unique style of animation seen in the work of Japanese filmmaker Ujicha. Characters are paper cutouts moved & posed in real-time against paper backgrounds. There’s no stop-motion animation here. It’s hard to compare this to any other animated works because it is so unlike anything else. There are hints of early South Park with the DIY-paper aesthetic. Storywise we’re in Junji Ito/David Cronenberg territory, a very retro body horror atmosphere. But Violence Voyager will be a shock to your senses no matter how many things you know inspired it.

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Comic Book Review – Hawkman by Robert Venditti

Hawkman: The Awakening (2019)
Reprints Hawkman v5 #1-6
Hawkman: Deathbringer (2019)
Reprints Hawkman v5 #7-12
Written by Robert Venditti
Art by Bryan Hitch

Hawkman: The Darkness Within (2020)
Reprints Hawkman v5 #13-19
Written by Robert Venditti
Art by Pat Olliffe, Tom Palmer, and Will Conrad

Hawkman: Hawks Eternal (2021)
Reprints Hawkman #20-29
Written by Robert Venditti
Art by Fernando Pasarin

How do you solve a problem like Hawkman? As I laid out in my Superhero Spotlight on the character, when you take on Hawkman, you are taking on a writing chore. There have been so many conflicting attempts to “simplify” the hero that led to him being a toxic continuity bomb. DC Comics are obsessed with continuity, so this results in a conundrum. I can’t say I am a fan of Robert Venditti. I read his X-O Manowar revival for Valiant, which was fine. I definitely didn’t enjoy his Green Lantern run, but he immediately followed Geoff Johns, who raised the bar so high it was nigh impossible to top. As this Hawkman series went on, I began to hear some surprisingly positive buzz, and when it was announced, it was coming to an end; I realized it was the perfect time to read through it.

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Movie Review – The Climb

The Climb (2019)
Written by Michael Angelo Covino & Kyle Marvin
Directed by Michael Angelo Covino

Two men toil up a road in rural France, barely enjoying the countryside, one more slightly out of breath than the other. A secret is revealed, and suddenly the friendship crumbles. This is one of many deaths and rebirths we will see of these two guys as they rekindle their bond, only for one of them to continually stomp it out through selfishness. The Climb is a remarkable indie comedy that manages to be quirky without falling over into the cliches around this genre. The two lead actors are genuinely hilarious, and the film is masterfully shot. Many Steadicam and long takes with hidden cuts make the story feel a little more sweeping than you would expect.

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