Comic Book Review – New Super-Man: Rebirth Volume 1


New Super-Man Volume 1: Made in China
Written by Gene Yang
Art by Viktor Bogdanovic

newsupermanKong Kenan is a high school bully in Shanghai, China when through a chance encounter he accidentally drives off notorious super-villain Blue Condor. This draws the attention of spunky young reporter Laney Lan and Dr. Omen, the director of the Ministry of Self-Reliance. Kenan is imbued with part of the life essence of the New 52 Superman and becomes China’s answer to the Man of Steel. He’s paired up with the Bat-Man and Wonder Woman of China who find Kenan to be an incredibly immature brat with very unreliable powers. Kenan’s father, Kong Zhongdan is an aging political activist who comes at odds with his son’s new direction in life.

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Comic Book Review – Batman Beyond Rebirth Volume 1


Batman Beyond Vol.1: Escaping the Grave
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Bernard Chang, Ryan Sook, Pete Woods


batman beyondAfter a year-long absence, Terry McGinnis returns to take on the identity of Batman in a futuristic neo-noir Gotham City. This time an entire borough of the city has fallen into the hands of The Jokerz, a cult that worships the deceased villain. Another enemy, Terminal, has taken advantage of this religious fervor and is using the cult for a mysterious purpose. Without Bruce Wayne to guide him any longer, Terry must strike out on his own and prove his worth to continue the legacy of Batman.

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Comic Book Review – Deathstroke Rebirth Vol.1


Deathstroke Vol.1: The Professional
Written by Christopher Priest
Art by Joe Bennett & Carlo Pagulayan

deathstroke vol 1Some call him a mercenary. Some call him an antihero. But as his partner Wintergreen states in this collection, Slade Wilson is always going to be a villain. And he is a villain with a complicated history. He was once married with two sons, Grant and Joseph. His life as the assassin Deathstroke led to an enemies list that stretches for miles and one of these enemies targeted his family. Around the same time, he learned of a daughter he had with a Hmong sex worker and headed off to Southeast Asia to find her. In the present day, Slade reels from losing one son, having one son near murdered, the collapse of his marriage, and the fractured relationship with his estranged daughter Rose. Rose is a pretty tough character in her own right, a clairvoyant killer called Ravager. Slade decides he wants to bond with his kid and what better way than to investigate who put a hit out on her?

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Movie Review – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017, dir. James Gunn)


The Guardians have made a name for themselves and now act as heroes for hire. They finish up their latest job, protecting the energy source of The Sovereign, a genetically engineered “perfect race” but run into trouble on the way out. This leads to Peter Quill meeting his father for the first time, a strange man named Ego. Meanwhile, Yondu and his Ravagers are hired by a party disgruntled with The Guardians and wanting revenge. Gamora is also dealing with family issues (her vengeful sister Nebula), and everyone else seems to have their own interesting arcs as well.

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Movie Review – Logan

Logan (2017, dir. James Mangold)


I remember being between by freshman and sophomore years of college and going to see X-Men in the movie theater. This was our first introduction to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Jackman almost wasn’t this iconic mutant; it would have been Dougray Scott who dropped out of X-Men to play the villain in Mission Impossible III. But now Jackman and Wolverine are constants throughout the X-Franchise, even shoehorned in cameos in First Class and Apocalypse. He is the star of what is roundly considered the worst film of the lot: X-Men: Origins: Wolverine. With Logan, his tenure as this character, and Patrick Stewart’s role as Charles Xavier comes to a close.

We learn at one point that the year is 2029 and for a little, over a year James Howlett aka Logan aka Wolverine has been in hiding with Charles Xavier and another mutant, Caliban. Some catastrophic event occurred that forced these three into the Mexican wilderness. Logan is saving up cash to purchase a Sunseeker yacht and take Charles as far from humanity as possible. Time has caught up to our protagonist. He moves slower and stumbles more often. His claws are impeded by arthritis and injuries that aren’t healing like they used to. While trying to live a quiet life Logan’s path crosses with that of a nurse and a little girl who desperately need his help. There’s one final mission for Logan and Charles where they must struggle past their physical and psychological issues to be heroes again.

In contemplating this film, I realized that we haven’t had a big screen superhero send off like this ever. If we look back at the iconic comic book movie franchise, they more often than not fizzle out and just end with a whimper. Christopher Reeve ended his tenure as Superman with a dismal fourth installment. Michael Keaton left Batman due to creative disagreements. Tobey Maguire danced his way out of Spider-Man with Ted Raimi’s third installment. Christian Bale’s Batman seems to be the only movie superhero I can think of with a proper ending to their iteration, and that is not regarded too well. For close to two decades Hugh Jackman has played this character, even after some films that any of us would have forgiven him from not returning after. So there is a special sentimentality to Logan.

There’s no doubt I loved this film. Will it be on my top ten of the year at the close of 2017? Probably not. But if I were to make a list of best comic book films this is up there. What helps Logan transcend the weight of the convoluted X-Franchise is that it doesn’t need the other films to work. You could switch out the X-Men with any generic superhero team, and the allusions to past events still work just a well. Instead of looking at this as a piece of a larger franchise, writer-director James Mangold smartly chooses to make the film a character piece. I have much stronger memories of the character moments than the action set pieces and that is quite an accomplishment these days in big-budget studio fare. The relationships between the three core characters (Logan, Charles, and Laura) feel honest, and choices they make are affected by these relationships. Logan’s hesitance to take Laura in and embark on her quest is true to his character.

The acting from the three most important cast members is phenomenal. You likely won’t see better performances in another 20th Century X-Picture ever again. Jackman is very comfortable in the skin of Logan and adds more layers with the affliction of age. It would be interesting to go back and watch the action sequences in X-Men and X2, comparing them to the awkwardness and lumbering of Logan in this film. Killing is taking a physical and emotional toll on the protagonist, and we see it how he slows down, how he falls. I have to say I don’t think I have ever seen Patrick Stewart in a role quite like this. The staid, headmaster of previous films is gone, and now we have a very broken, crass, angry Charles Xavier. He floats between states of consciousness due to medication, and when he does gain clarity of mind, it brings up tragic truths Logan sought to bury from his mentor. Dafne Keen as Laura delivers a very powerful performance. She is forced to hold her own against Jackman who is giving probably his best work, and she never flinches. For the majority of the film Keen is non-verbal and how an actor does in a role that asks them to act through reacting is a great litmus test. She has the makings of someone very special because she understands Laura isn’t just an angry Lil’ Wolverine. There is history beneath the surface, and she chooses to reveal that in interesting ways.

There are strong allusions to other films. The most obvious is the 1953 Western film Shane which Charles and Laura watch in a hotel room. The ending monolog of Shane is quoted in Logan’s climax, and it pretty much spells out the themes and ideas Mangold is aiming for. I don’t enjoy this element of comic book films, where at some point characters or the director put up big neon signs that point at what we’re meant to learn from the picture. I’d prefer to infer theme from watching the story unfold, and this element is a big part of why Logan isn’t going to end up as one of my top favorites of the year. Just a personal preference, but one that has always had me keep comic book films at arm’s length. There is also a moment in the third act that is blatantly nodding to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and I loved that film acknowledge it was taking a lot of inspiration from the structure of those films.

If I could just end the X-Men franchise with this film, I would. 20th Century Fox has other ideas it seems. I hope that they look at Logan not for what it is on the surface, but for what it represents in the way comic book properties can work beyond just four color summer tentpole action. In the hands of the right creative people, these characters can be elevated and be central to stories that go much deeper than audiences expect.

Masks: Refugees AP Part 3


We began our session with anti-mutant protests right outside Dr. Green’s clinic, a known safe place for mutants. A counter protest also showed up in support of the mutants and police were present to keep things from escalating. Ajax and Monster were working at the time, and both had to temper their personal feelings. Though they did spy an unmarked armored truck out of which a small squad of SWAT-like soldiers emerged. They hung back, but something about them rubbed Ajax the wrong way. The shelter was located in a district called The Tumbledown, which came from a devastating earthquake decades ago. Ajax takes advantage of that fact and uses his geo-manipulation just to rattle the earth beneath the protestors enough that they are scared away by a minor tremor.


The Order - Shooting Star
Shooting Star, the speedster member of The Order

The next day, an explosion is heard in the skies of Halcyon City, and smoke is seen coming from The Panopticon, the floating island headquarters of The Order. Ajax and Shatterstorm are in class at Halcyon High. Shatterstorm is easily able to excuse himself due to his frequent work at his dad’s laboratory at the University. However, Vice Principal Quesada remembers Ajax ignoring him when he left the other day to deal with Risk Imsit. Quesada is hearing none of Ajax’s excuses and sends him back to class. To help, Shatterstorm sets off the fire alarm, and the entire student body is rushed outside. Quesada tries to keep an eye on Ajax and loses him in the crowd.


Ajax and Shatterstorm meet up with Sparks and Monster, and the four fly Sparks’ ship to dock with the Panopticon. On board they find American Steel battered and beaten. He tells them the “thing” is in the labs before passing out. Sparks’ AI D.A.D. brings Steel to the sickbay while the Refugees continue. They head to the anti-gravity generator and get it back online, so the island isn’t on the verge of crashing into the city. Then they head to the labs but get sidetracked on the way from cries of help in the holding cells. Risk Imsit, the alien bounty hunter who tried to return Sparks to Rio Prime, is being manipulated by strange disruptions in the gravitons on board. He’s rescued and accompanies the Refugees to the labs.

In the labs, the Refugees find Timekeeper containing a strange cloaked figure in one of her time bubbles. Shooting Star and The Badge lay unconscious on the ground. There’s no sign of the occultist Mr. Phantasmo. The block of Ifritium taken by the Order lays in chunks nearby, the team making the inference that this cloaked figure emerged from the stone. Sparks’ wrist device tells her the device is in the room and she identifies it as the ornate belt the cloaked one is wearing. Shatterstorm manipulates the gravitons around the time bubble and snatches the belt, which ends up containing a small piece of Ifritium. The time bubble shatters and Timekeeper goes hurtling through the walls of the facility.

The cloaked figure eyes the new challengers and acknowledges Shatterstorm by speaking an ancient form of Obrijianian, the language of Shatterstorm’s birthplace. He also appears to have the same powers as Shatterstorm, but more refined and able to manipulate gravitons on a much larger scale. The cloaked one refers to Shatterstorm as “grandson.” A battle ensues and ends with the cloaked one blasting a hole through the Panopticon and flying away. The Refugees message AEGIS who say they have a ship on the way, however, the cloaked figure intercepts and kills everyone onboard, crushing the vessel into a small piece of metal scrap.


Villain - Impetus
Impetus, master of gravity and ancestor of Shatterstorm?

After failing to get ahold of his father, Shatterstorm leads to the team to Dr. Batin’s lab at Ditko University. Dr. Batin is there working and appears shocked to see them, though his son senses something off in the gravitational field in the room. The cloaked one reveals himself, having manipulated the gravity of the light in the room to conceal himself. A second fight begins that leaves Ajax miles away with multiple fractures and unconscious. Through distraction and manipulation, the cloaked one is eventually taken down, but not before it is revealed that Dr. Batin is simply a graviton construct, an illusion. AEGIS arrive and lock the villain up, coding the name Impetus onto his cell. However, Dr. Batin is still missing.


Ajax is in the Halcyon metahuman hospital and receives a call from his parents that they will be having a conversation about his future with the Refugees. He also receives a video message from his villainous former mentor Croydon Samford (who is currently on trial for crimes against humanity). Samford hints that they will be seeing each other soon and attached an encrypted data file. Sparks is finally contacted by her father, The Grand LeBon of Rio Prime, who explains his desperation to get her back to her homeworld: He is dying and needs her to run the planetary industry. Senator Hu’s anti-mutant legislation has led to the development of a private security force, Vanguard, a subsidiary of BanCon Industries to help quell tension in urban areas. Things are looking dire for the Refugees with one more session before a hiatus.

Movie Review – Dredd

Dredd (2012, dir. Peter Travis)

Judge Dredd Still Image

Mega-City One is an urban sprawl filled with crime and poverty. Enforcing the rule of law in this crumbling post-apocalyptic landscape as the Judges, a natural combination of judge-jury-executioner. The most famous of these brutal lawmen is Judge Dredd, an enigmatic figure who is more of a justice-dispensing machine than a human being. He’s charged with testing rookie Judge Anderson on what ends up being one of his toughest days. The call comes from the large tenement Peach Trees that there has been a triple homicide. The Judges quickly learn these murders are tied to a threat is plaguing all of Mega-City One.

Most movie-savvy people are aware of Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 trash fire of a film, Judge Dredd. His adaptation of the popular UK comic book made a ton of errors that betrayed the spirit of the source material. He rarely wore his Judge’s helmet after the opening action sequence, and the script gave a lot of backstory to the Judge. These story elements are pretty antithetical to the nature of the comic book. The film ended up highlighting the more absurd elements and has become a perennial entry of the Worst Films of All Time lists. So, this reboot had a tremendously bad reputation to overcome.

Dredd manages to stay very faithful to the source material, even the more fantastic parts while delivering a character-centered story. Apparently inspired by The Raid, Dredd focuses its action within the walls of Peach Trees, a housing complex that provides plenty of set pieces and a palpable tension. When you have nowhere to run from the forces out to kill you, it will inevitably bring out more ferocious elements in humans. With a character like Judge Dredd, he is absolutely in his environment with this scenario. To say Dredd is a violent film is an understatement. This is a gory, visceral, kill fest. Yet, it tells a compelling story, particularly through Judge Anderson.

In the same way, Max in the Mad Max films is merely a cipher through which to tell a story, writer Alex Garland fashions Dredd into the same type of protagonist. It is entirely unimportant what Dredd was like as a child or the what the moment was that he forfeited his humanity to become an arbiter of justice. Instead, he is the vessel that helps tell the story of Judge Anderson’s loss of innocence. Actor Karl Urban takes on a role many actors would shirk at, the majority of his face covered with the entire film. But Urban, a fan of the comic, expressed that he understood why keeping Dredd’s identity obscured was essential to the character. Olivia Thirlby as Anderson first appears as your typical by the book, nervous rookie but by the end of the film, she is able to hold onto her humanity while acknowledging the violence that people can be pushed towards. The exact route her character will take within the fiction of the film is left for us to wonder about.

Lena Headey plays the movie’s central antagonist, Mama. I was absolutely thrilled with the choices she made in playing this crime boss villain. The minute she spoke I knew I was going to love her performance because she chose to be quiet in the way she spoke. This wasn’t the godawful Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Rising sort of calm quiet then SHOUTING performance. We learned a lot about Mama through how she communicated. In the environment where she grew up, words carried little currency. For people in places like Peach Trees, a threat is worth nothing if there isn’t a physical punishment behind it. Mama makes sure to inflict brutal horrors on people who cross her. Even in the final showdown between Dredd and Mama we have her maintaining a very calm, quiet hate in her voice.

Dredd succeeds and undoing and helping the audience forget everything about the 90s attempt to adapt the property. It is definitely elevated above your average comic book fare as well. It has tons of social commentary cleverly embedded in amongst the brutal violence. It is definitely one of those futures that, while extreme and different than our modern day, still feels unsettlingly familiar and far too close to our lifetimes.