Saturday, January 26, 2008

Winick And Churchill: Two April Fools Taking Another (Back) Stab At The Titans

Although we knew it was coming, the preview list of comic titles for the month of April left us depressed in the extreme as we saw that DC Comics was indeed pushing forward with a new Titans title in April by Judd Winick and Ian Churchill.

While under ordinary circumstances, a new Titans book featuring the original seven New Teen Titans of the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez era would make us very happy, we are anxious as we think of just how badly Winick and Churchill are going to FUBAR the Wolfman/Perez classic characters.

Here’s the Upshot From DC Comics: A new team of Titans is born in the extra-sized first issue of a new ongoing monthly by Judd Winick, Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund! Someone or something is continuing its attack on anyone who's ever been a Titan, including Nightwing, Starfire, Donna Troy, Beast Boy and Raven. You won't want to miss this new startling chapter in Titans history that may forge a new team from the ashes of old, dead friends.

As much as we adore the characters of the original New Teen Titans and as much as we would like to see them reunited in an ongoing title of their own, we have zero confidence in the ability of the new creative team—Winick “The Pointless” and “Cheesecake” Churchill—produce even a marginally satisfactory storytelling experience.

Exhibit A: November’s Teen Titan’s East Special.

Exhibit B: The review of the aforementioned Teen Titans East Special by Dan Phillips of back in November:

“Let's start with the opening flashback, which takes up a full sixteen pages and is about as original as any other superheroes vs. super-villains battle you'll find in any mediocre comic every written. Some bad attempts at witty dialogue are made, penciller Ian Churchill flexes his "muscles and boobs" style of art, and we're forced to watch as a battle of absolutely no consequence unfolds for entirely too long,” writes Phillips. “Once again, DC has proven that they are not above the worst type of clichéd, gimmicky and hackney attempts at sucking the blood out of past concepts and series. I can only hope this upcoming Titans East ongoing goes away as quickly as some of the other attempts at revitalizing a form of the original Wolfman/Perez team.”

It’s said that that the true test of someone’s intelligence is how much one agrees with you so we can say that Mr. Philips is really quite brilliant.

We had been holding out the thin hope that DC management would have gotten the memo given the ridicule and general bad reviews of the Titans East Special and either s**tcanned the project outright or perhaps even reshuffled the creative team at the 11th hour such as was done with the new Batman and the Outsiders.

Speaking of Outsiders, it was Winick’s involvement with BATO’s predecessor title that exacerbated our misgivings about this new Titans book.

Winick’s Outsiders featured Nightwing as team leader yet true to form; Winick was less than cooperative with the Nightwing creative team when it came to the sharing of the title character with the result that for all intent and purposes, there were two separate Nightwing characters out there contradicting one another.

We can only see double the problem if The Flash is featured on this team in addition to Nightwing.

As much as we love these characters, we just can’t see ourselves being complicit in their character assassination by supporting this title and giving tacit approval to Winick’s and Churchill’s lazy, aimless storytelling.

If you feel the same way, vote with your wallet and ignore Winick and Churchill’s Titans.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

R.I.P. Heath Ledger—The Joker

FanBoyWonder was stunned to come home from work this evening to learn on the NBC Nightly News of the sudden and untimely death of actor Heath Ledger today at the age of 28.

During his short life and short but spectacular career, we first noticed Ledger in 2000 when he stared alongside Mel Gibson in the Revolutionary War action drama The Patriot.

However, like many Batman fans we were at first skeptical when we learned that he had been cast as The Joker in this summer’s sequel to Batman Begins—The Dark Knight.

Yet when we saw a 5 minute long preview clip, as well as the film’s trailer, we couldn’t helped but be blown away by his rendition of the Joker as less the Clown Prince of Crime and more Dark Prince of Evil.

We take some small consolation that Ledger finished filming his scenes in Dark Knight prior to his death so hopefully his final film will be minimally effected by his sudden passing.

Yet another reminder that life can be too short.

Below is Heath Ledger’s obituary posted in the early hours following his death from the Los Angeles Times.


By Mark Olsen, Special to The Times January 23, 2008

The surprising death of Heath Ledger, at age 28, ends all too soon a career that had been jelling into a fine body of work, marked by risk, fearless immersion and the seeming respect and affection of fans and colleagues alike.
It is not difficult to imagine his fame and legend continuing to grow, making him, if not the James Dean of his generation, most certainly its River Phoenix.
All three were actors who seemed able to transpose their interior pains into external gesture and behavior, providing deep insight into the emotional states of their characters, and in turn ourselves.
Ledger had always seemed to gravitate toward roles that featured him as the troubled outsider, even in his earliest roles.He elevated "10 Things I Hate About You" -- a 1999 teen take on "The Taming of the Shrew" -- with his buoyant charm and dark-laced charisma.
He also played the tortured son of Billy Bob Thornton's prison guard in 2001's "Monster's Ball."But it was in 2005's "Brokeback Mountain," for which Ledger earned an Academy Award nomination for best actor, that he seemed to turn a real corner in his acting, bringing tremendous nuance and sympathetic anguish to his role as Ennis Del Mar, a man struggling to bridge the gap between the person he is and the person he would want to be.
After "Brokeback" he seemed to be growing by leaps and bounds as a performer.His turn in last year's "I'm Not There," playing an actor who grows isolated by his fame and no longer able to connect to his wife and children, was remarkable.
His scenes with Charlotte Gainsbourg as his wife provided the film -- a look at the artistic personas of Bob Dylan -- with its heart.
Ledger's performance as the Joker in the upcoming "The Dark Knight," in which he takes on the role already made iconic by Jack Nicholson, has been eagerly anticipated. It will now provide an unintentional epitaph to a life and career that seem painfully cut too short.

Booster Gold, Four Blue Beetles & A Cavalcade Of Comics

Proving that there’s no grass growing under the feet of your friendly neighborhood FanBoyWonder, we’ve been busy, busy, busy—unfortunately that has meant not having our usual time for reflective comic book reviews.

Coupled with the fact that it was a hefty half-dozen books that our friends at Brainstorm Comics pulled from our list most recently and you have a sure fire recipe for us to work our comics reviews from the shotgun formation.

So without further ado, here’s FanBoyWonder’s take on the books for the week of January 16.

Booster Gold #6

The Upshot From DC Comics: "52 Pick-Up" concludes as Booster Gold journeys back in time to save the best friend he ever had - the Blue Beetle! But can Booster stop Maxwell Lord before someone else dies in Ted Kord's place? And will Ted Kord let that happen?

One door closes and another one opens. Credit to the writing team of Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz. They gave us exactly what we wanted by having Booster along with the trio of past, present and future Blue Beetles save their namesake Blue Beetle Ted Kord’s life by preventing his murder at the hands of Checkmate’s Maxwell Lord.

This is something that Booster Gold has been itching to do since hooking up with Time Master Rip Hunter and traveling across time and space and multiverse to make right what has gone wrong with the timeline.

Yet at issues end we cant’ help but feel something has gone disastrously wrong with Ted Kord’s rescue. While we strongly suspect that Ted’s new lease on life is only good through this story arc, there is just enough glimmer of hope and past history to leave us guessing.

After all Geoff Johns in the pages of JSA helped correct one of the most horrific wrongs of 1994’s Zero Hour by using time travel to retroactively prevent the death of the original Hourman Rex Tyler. If only the original Atom and Dr. Mid-Nite could have been saved as well.

As always kudos on the art by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund. They maintain their own visual style while also managing to replicate the art of different illustrators when the story revisits a historic event from the DCU.

Just like the character, Booster Gold is the greatest comic book title you hardly hear anything about.

Birds of Prey #114

The Upshot From DC Comics: Oracle delves into the mystery of Misfit while Lady Blackhawk and Huntress hash out their differences.

The jury for us is still out with new writer Sean McKeever but his stock went up big time following this issue as he chose to tackle something even the great and beloved former BOP writer Gail Simone never got around to—a spotlight on Lady Blackhawk.

You know we’ve been reading this title continuously since issue #1 came out a decade ago but for the life of use we can’t remember when or how Lady Blackhawk was introduce to the Birds of Prey. We just suddenly noticed she was the Birds’ pilot and a pretty balsy babe besides.

Through the wackiness of time travel, Zinda is old enough to be getting an A.A. R. P. discount but yet always getting carded at the bar. She is a cute combination of macho, tough, jovial and just a little naïve to the ways of the post-modern world.

Meanwhile, Misfit continues to be on Oracle’s s**tlist following last issue’s disastrous operation that resulted in a big bang in downtown Metropolis. No doubt Oracle is still smarting from the lecture Superman gave the Birds for f**king up by the numbers and we see Barbara Gordon channeling her inner Bruce Wayne to Misfit’s Dick Grayson as Oracle relentlessly berates and pushes the kid during “training” sessions.

The appearance at the end of the issue by Black Alice seeming to accept Oracle’s apparent invitation to join the Birds should lead to some interesting moments of character tension. Stay tuned.

Checkmate #22

The Upshot From DC Comics: "Mademoiselle Marie" concludes! Will Black Queen's Knight get her target safely out of Bialya, or will she become the latest Mademoiselle Marie to be laid to eternal rest?

This was by no means a bad issue and if anything it was even better than the first part of this arc. We've been wanting this book to focus in on characters and we get our wish here with Mademoiselle Marie.

The designation of “Mademoiselle Marie” is a high honor among the French as it’s a title passed along to female patriot/spy/warriors of France one to the next through the generations.

The current Marie Josephine Tautin is dispatched to save the daughter of a U.N. diplomat kidnapped by insurgent terrorists. This same diplomat happens to be the long lost love of Tautin—but to be Mademoiselle Marie one must sacrifice their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to serve France.

All in all this is a pretty by the numbers rescue story. Not bad but didn’t blow our doors off either. Again as we noted last issue, series writer Greg Rucka brings in a co-writer Eric Trautmann for this 2-part character story, which tells the reader that he is taking a breather in-between mega story arcs.

Rucka’s outsourcing/delegation also tells us that Checkmate character profiles aren’t his bag or his primary interest and he’s just filing issues before his next broad themed story arc featuring characters we hardly know (even after nearly 2 years worth of issues) begins.

Justice League of America #17

The Upshot From DC Comics: Double trouble for the League! First, in the lead story written by Alan Burnett, a mysterious and familiar team from beyond time has infiltrated the Hall of Justice looking for a weapon. Will Black Lightning be their first victim? And wait 'til you see who they are! Plus, writer Dwayne McDuffie begins a very special back-up story exploring what's wrong with Vixen's powers. And when her condition worsens, it leads to a new arc and major change for the Leaguer.

We feel bad for writer Dwayne McDuffie because we get the sense that he is really trying to raise the quality level on this book despite the many handicaps imposed upon him by the various and sundry “events” occurring outside this book as well as mandates from DC management.

We suspect that McDuffie was trying to give readers two stories for the price of one but all he really ended up doing was giving us two partially complete stories.

The Justice League as the hero team with the DCU’s big guns should be involved as it turns out the U.S. Government is “rendering” supervillians big and small off planet and away from Earth—trial and charges not withstanding.

It also makes perfect sense that the remaining villains on the loose would come to the League to seek help and sanctuary from the government.

At the same time, we are glad that Vixen’s wacky power situation is FINALLY being addressed—but these are both topics that deserved a full airing. Better luck next issue.

The Flash #236

The Upshot From DC Comics: The stunning conclusions of feature story arc "The Wild Wests" - with art by fan-favorite Freddie Williams II - and the backup tale "Fast Life"! The newest Flash family faces a last stand in Keystone - but in this spectacular climax, we find they've been here before, once upon a time on the world that sheltered them!

We can’t say that we’re sorry to see Mark Waid leave this title. With great respect toward his previous run on the Flash, to his other work and to the journeyman’s job that he did of transitioning the return of Wally West following the disastrous post-Infinite Crisis run of “Bart Allen” as the Flash.

But the fact is that Waid never has a firm grasp of Wally West as a family man. We really like that Wally has advanced to the next level as head of his own Flash Family—there are lots of potential adventures to be told with super powered kids at his side but Waid doesn’t seem to be the one to tell those tales.

Add to that an unfathomable set of extra-terrestrial villains bent on dehydrating everyone on Planet Earth and it just makes for an unreadable story arc. Better luck next writer.

Amazing Spider-Girl #16

The Upshot From Marvel Comics: “Silent, But Deadly!” Part 1 of 1 A brand-new super-menace enters Spider-Girl’s life when she crosses paths with Deadspot—the invisible destroyer who kills with a touch!

Well we already declared our love for Miss Spidey last issue during her 10th Anniversary issue. The issue was interesting in that Spidey added a new villain to her very own Rouges Gallery in the newly introduced Deadspot—the invisible bad gal—rather than fighting her dad’s old enemies or hand-me down bad guys.

However, for us the best part was the wordless three-panel scene from a distance where May Parker informs her Peter of Baby Ben’s developing spider powers. Watching Peter deflate from shock was the best visual. Could the new dynamic duo of Spider-Girl and Spidey The Kid Wonder be too far on the horizon?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Battlestar Galactica: Razor—Unrated Extended Edition Review

Well it took us a good long while but FanBoyWonder finally got around to viewing the unrated, extended DVD of Battlestar Galactica: Razor.

Razor had first aired on the Sci-Fi Channel during Thanksgiving weekend before being released a couple of weeks later on DVD with additional scenes not included due to time restrictions on the original broadcast version.

We had actually purchased our copy of Razor in December—a present to ourselves as we shopped the stores in search of Christmas presents for our grandkids Brianna The Girl Wonder and Baby T.J. However, things have been quite hectic for us lately so only just FINALLY got a chance to watch the “unrated and extended” version of Razor last night.

To refresh everyone’s memory, here’s the Upshot from the Sci-Fi Channel and Universal Studios Home Entertainment: "Battlestar Galactica: Razor takes you on an edge-of-your-seat adventure with as it tells the story of Lee Adama's (Jamie Bamber’s) first mission as the commander of the Battlestar Pegasus — and the harrowing tale of that ship's desperate fight for survival in the immediate aftermath of the Cylon's genocidal siege of the Twelve Colonies.

Lee Adama's new XO, Major Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Chaves-Jacobson), is plagued by memories of her service and sacrifices under Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes), who was able to save her ship during the Cylon attack — but only by making Shaw and her fellow officers rationalize suicidal battle tactics and brutal war crimes against their own people.

“In the crucible of war, Shaw must let her hesitation and doubts burn away, until all that remains of her is the honed edge of a living human weapon — what Colonial veterans call "a razor." But an edge so fine cuts in more than one direction. It can cleave an enemy to pieces … or it can carve away a person's soul.”

In our original review of the broadcast version, we noted that our disappointment with BSG Razor. Not that it was bad. As far as we’re concerned, compared to 95 percent of what’s out there, the worst episode of Battlestar Galactica is excellent.

For our original Razor review—click here:

Yet Razor did feel incomplete. Having viewed the extended version, the addition of a few select scenes and the extension of other scenes have gone a long way toward making Razor much more of a coherent stand-alone movie.

Unfortunately, the additional footage isn’t enough to make Razor a better story. At least not better than the Pegasus Trilogy of episodes during BSG’s second season—Pegasus and Resurrection Ship Parts 1 &2.

Extended Razor includes scenes that featured both a young William Adama (Nico Cortez) and a young Helena Cain (Kyra Scott) during the last day of the First Cylon War. The scenes featuring young Adama as a rookie Viper pilot—call sign “Husker”—that we had previously seen in the weeks leading up to the broadcast of Razor in the form of “webisodes.”

Husker’s scenes in the DVD make for a coherent movie but don’t add anything the overall story. Young Helena’s flashback however, was the most pivotal scene of the entire movie and we think it’s an absolute crime that it failed to make the broadcast cut.

Back on Tauron, one of the twelve colonies, 41 years earlier looking very much like Bosnia in the 1990s as the Cylons are rolling over the colony. As Cain family flee for their lives in-between mortar explosions and weapons fire, the Mother Cain is killed and Father Cain is mortally wounded—ordering young Helena (6 or 7 years old??) to get her and her younger sister Lucy to safety.

When Lucy stumbles in an open field with all Hell breaking loose—Lucy can’t get up either due to fear or wounds—Helena leaves her behind to hide from the Cylons. A Cylon Centurion bears down on a hiding Helena is about to pull the trigger when it mysteriously withdraws….they all do as we find out the Cylons and Colonies signed an armistice.

Helena goes back to find Lucy and only her broken and mangled doll remains. And in an instant it all becomes clear to us and we can read this character like a comic book. THAT’s why Cain is such an unrelenting hard charger—hardest most of all on herself.

In our original review, we had chided this character as presented in Razor as being little more than a bunch of different military clichés. Yet THIS ONE SCENE made it all come together and explained how someone could become “a razor.”

Fortunately, the one scene we DID NOT see more of and for which we are thankful is the actual “interrogation (read: ritualized rape and torture) of the version of Cylon Number Six named Gina (Tricia Helfer).

There are times when it’s best to allow certain parts of the narrative to be implied and frankly, there isn’t any way we can think of to show the breaking of a prisoner in the most inhumane way imaginable that wouldn’t be anything other than exploitive and a detraction from both this story and from the original Pegasus Trilogy.

Bottom Line: The “unrated and uncut” version of Battlestar Galactica: Razor raises the grade of this story from a solid “B” to a “B-Plus.” It’s not the best Galactica we’ve ever seen it’s still a worthwhile viewing experience. So say we all!
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