Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Review, Superheroes

Teen Titans Vol 1: Damian Knows Best [Review]

Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artists: Khoi Pham, Jonboy Meyers & Diogenes Neves
Issues: Teen Titans Rebirth #1, Teen Titans #1 – 5 (2016 – 2017)

If the New 52 cemented anything about Damian Wayne, it’s that he doesn’t play well with others. Even when briefly partnering with the Teen Titan’s in the past, it’s clear that Damian wants things his own way, and rarely compromises. Enter DC Rebirth, and Damian’s 13th birthday. Has he grown, or still the same old egotistical pain in the ass?

Bitter at his father absence, Damian celebrates his 13th birthday largely alone. Until a letter arrives from his grandfather, Ra’s Al Ghul. He is summoned to take his place in the League of Shadows. Carry out his destiny, or die at the hands of those he one trained beside. Damian learns of not only the hit out on his life, but those of other young heroes. He brings them together to become the new Teen Titans! Only Damian’s methods, are not what you would call friendly.

“Damian: I’ve lived in the shadows of great men. No longer. I burn too brightly for that. Unlucky thirteen. The moment when life tips toward adulthood. For most, it’s a time of questioning uncertainty, awkward role-playing. But I’ve never doubted who I am… I know the legacy I’m meant to claim.”

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Despite being a Teen Titans book, this first arc acts more as a story of personal growth for Damian Wayne. Making his choice of what he wants his life to be, learning to ask for help, and that it’s ok to rely on others. The book does show growth on the part of Damian, perhaps more so than the Supersons title. However, it’s the other Titans that bring the real entertainment to the story. A mix of personalities and attitudes, playing of the young Robin. Beast Boy is loud and obnoxious, but knows full well when to dial it back, often clashing with the more serious Damian. Raven holds the most sympathy for Damian’s situation, given her own family ties, acting heavily as an older sister figure. Starfire and the new Kid Flash round off the team to create a well-balanced set of characters overall.

The driving danger of the story does feel inconsequential. We know the outcome before even the middle issue. But it works well as a catalyst to bring the young heroes together. When read together with the Teen Titans Rebirth issue, it does work well as an origin. However, it feels as though the character dynamics could have benefited from just one more issue of build-up. While easily justified, the team’s acceptance of Damian as leader, feel slightly rushed. Particularly with Beast Boy, due to his early claims of Damian not measuring up to Tim Drake. Still, the ground work is set for what could be an amazing and fun team moving forward.

“Beast Boy: So Damian… Do you prefer the title of ‘Fearless Leader’ or ‘Ruthless Overlord’?

Damian: How about ‘Work-In-Progress’? That goes for us all. I don’t know what the future holds, but one thing’s for certain… We’re in this together.”

Overall, the story is a fun pass time read, with bright and vibrant art. A visually striking battle, with decent character development, that is sure to build to a great team book in the future.

 

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine.)

The trade is available here: Teen Titans (2016-) Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best

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Posted in Batman, Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes

9 Batman stories to read NOT by Moore, Morrison, or Miller

Despite not being the first, it’s safe to say that Batman is one of the most popular superheroes of all time. The star of campy 60s tv shows, multiple big budget films, critically acclaimed video games, generation defining cartoons, and almost 80 years of comics. It’s easy to become engrained with the world surrounding the Batman without ever picking up a book, but those who choose to, know the great depth and wealth of stories available. While the works of Alan Moore (The Killing Joke), Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns), and Grant Morrison (Arkham Asylam: A Serious House on Serious Earth) are often among the first recommended to new comers. They are far from the only must-read material.

With 78 years of history, here are 9 stories NOT by Moore, Morrison or Miller, that are more than worth your time…

Batman: The Long Halloween (1996 – 97) by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

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Set early in Batman’s career, The Long Halloween follows a yearlong investigation into a mysterious killer known as Holiday. A vicious killer who strikes ever holiday, once a month. With the assistance of Captain Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman races against the clock to figure out who it is that’s committing the murders, and try to save the next victim. Along the way we encounter many members of Batman’s famous rogue gallery, including Scarecrow, The Joker, and Poison Ivy, as well as the slow transformation and creation of Two Face.

Available here: Batman: The Long Halloween by Loeb, Jeph (2011) Paperback

Batman: The Cult (1988) by Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson

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Possibly one of the most brutal Batman stories written, The Cult focusses on the kidnapping and attempted brainwashing of Batman by Deacon Blackfire, and his army of homeless followers. During Batman’s absence, Gotham city has been driven into turmoil, as politicians are assassinated by Blackfire’s followers. Attempts are made on Commissioner Gordon’s life, leaving him hospital bound, and martial law is declared in Gotham, as the city decays. The books tone is helped phenomenally by the art of the late Bernie Wrightson, and is a story that is remarkably hard to shake after reading.

Available here: Batman The Cult TP

Batman Hush (2002 – 2003) by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee

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Batman is being stalked. The culprit’s identity, unknown. His intent seems to sabotage Batman’s every move, and something about him seems to know Bruce Wayne intimately. Complete with a large number of guest appearances by Batman’s rogue gallery, and the inclusion of Superman, Hush contains an all-star cast, for a truly interesting mystery. Including the incredible detail of Jim Lee’s art, the story is rather hit and miss among fans, but still an interesting read just to uncover the mystery.

Available here:Batman Hush Complete TP

Batman Black and White (1996) by Various

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A wonderful example of what happens when you give creative minds just a few pages, and complete free rein of the Batman world and characters. With an incredible array of talent from Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series), Neal Adams (Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore), Simon Bisley (Judge Dredd), Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Alex Ross (Kingdom Come), and more! It’s hard to find a more intriguing, varied, and fascinating creative pool of tales.

Available here: Batman Black And White TP Vol 01 New Edition (Batman Black & White)

Batman: New 52 Run (2011 – 2016) by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

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It’s hard to pick just one story from this incredible run. The opening arc Court of Owls was an unbelievable debut. Death of the family was chilling to the bone. Zero Year gave us a truly interesting interpretation of Batman’s first year active. Even Jim Gordon’s turn in the suit was notably interesting, even if a little strange. The 52 issues of Batman from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are a must read, particularly for those looking to inject just a little bit of horror to their Batman. The pair are currently re-teaming for the Dark Metal event, but it’s this run that made them both synonymous with the Bat.

Available Here: Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls TP (The New 52) (Batman (DC Comics Paperback))

Batman and Robin: New 52 Run (2011 – 2015) by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

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Despite his role as a surrogate father figure to all the Robins. When it comes to the 5th Robin, Damian Wayne, there’s no surrogate about it. The 40-issue run by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason explores Bruce and Damian’s relationship with one another while working as partners. The battle-hardened Batman having to work with, and train his own bloodthirsty son. One who sees himself as greater than his father. Ready to kill those in his way, boast of his assassination skills. Tomasi and Gleason are masters at the father/son dynamic. Something they are currently exploring over in the Superman title. But their work with Bruce and Damian stands just as strong.

Available here: Batman and Robin Volume1: Born to Kill TP (The New 52) (Batman & Robin (Paperback))

Detective Comics #27 (1939)/Batman #1 (1940)

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On the list more for history buffs than anything, but still two incredibly important issues in Batman’s life time. His first appearance in 1939, and the first appearance of both The Joker, and Catwoman in 1940. Certainly not the best that Batman has to offer, but hugely important. Learning the history behind these two issues, does add an extra layer of enjoyment. Did you know, The Joker was supposed to die in his first appearance? Or the story of Bill Finger, the long ignored co-creator and writer of these historic stories.

Available here: Batman The Golden Age TP Vol 1

Batman: Dark Victory (1999 – 2000) by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

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A sequel to The Long Halloween, though heavily enjoyable on its own. The same creative team takes the next step in Batman’s early years, and tackles the origin of the young Dick Grayson. The first Robin. The story deals heavily with the themes of isolation and loneliness, especially after the events of The Long Halloween. Affecting not only Batman, but the now traumatised and orphaned Dick Grayson, and the struggling Commissioner Gordon.

Available here: Batman: Dark Victory (New Edition)

Batman: Death in the Family (1988 – 89) by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo

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Heavily controversial at the time it was released, and still a major talking point when discussing fan outcry and involvement. Death in the Family is a defining point in Batman’s career. The death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Another death that Bruce couldn’t prevent. A death he feels heavily responsible for. Death in the Family also holds a significant point in pop culture history as the moment where fans killed Robin. DC held a call-in poll to help decide whether or not Jason would make it out of the story alive, dying with just a hand full of votes separating the options. The death of Jason is an important moment in not only Batman’s history, but in comics and pop culture. Much like Detective Comics #27 and Batman #1, not a great story, but hugely important.

Available here: Batman: A Death in the Family (Batman (1940-2011))
 

These are just a handful of amazing stories of the Caped Crusader to try, aside from The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, The Killing Joke, or Batman and Robin. Batman’s history now spans almost 80 years, and it’s incredibly unlikely that his popularity will fade. There are still plenty of stories to be told in Gotham.

 

 

Avoid All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder….

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine. I have not read every Batman story in existence.)

Posted in Comics, Film, Marvel

Thor: Ragnarok – the film that finally got me to laugh at THAT Avengers joke

Contains spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok

Comedy is said to be very subjective. Something I completely agree with. What you find funny, may very well not even register with the person sat next to you. When it comes to comedy, I’m fairly used to being the only one not laughing at times. Either I don’t get it, or I just don’t find it funny. On the flip side, I’m also used to being the only one laughing. When Avengers Assemble hit theatres in 2012, I happily sat there along with hundreds of others. Excited to see what was the culmination of several solo films. Eager to see the Avengers finally team up on the big screen. I thought back to the animated Ultimate Avengers film. So eager to see a bigger, better, live action film. By the films end first time round. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Was I happy? Was I satisfied? Why did it feel like something was missing? The only conclusion I could draw, was that the structure of the film felt a little off. It is, but it doesn’t ruin the film. After a few viewings, I happily admit that I like the film, and it’s something I put on from time to time when you just want to watch something fun.

After losing count of the number of times I’ve seen the film, and having seen it often in the theatre, I love sharing this film with people. That moment in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, when Ego reveals the fate of Star-Lord’s mother, is still one of my favourite cinema experiences of the past 10 years. That moment of complete silence, even with a packed IMAX screen. When it comes to Avengers Assemble, there are some wonderful group moments in the film. The audience cheering for the Avengers finally assembling. The gasp when the Hulk starts to transform. And the one I’ve never managed to take part in, the Hulk smashing Loki into the ground.

It’s a moment that incredibly iconic to the film. A rallying point for fans, and something, I have never found funny. Even on first viewing, I’ve never laughed at it. To the point that it actually used to bother me. On paper, it’s hilarious. It works great as a Hulk moment, and as a moment of revenge against Loki. It’s set up is great, the reaction perfect, and especially the timing. And yet I’ve never laughed at it. Until I saw Thor: Ragnarok.

Thor Ragnarok is easily the best Thor film. It’s incredibly funny, the characters are great, the main weakness of the film seems to be Hela herself, but even then, it’s a fun, action paced film. Though at moments, a few jokes seem to skew older than you would imagine. Not to mention a brief, but wonderful cameo from Matt Damon. The film contains multiple call backs to jokes and events in previous films, and easily, one of the best moments, is a call back to this iconic scene in Avengers Assemble. During the Contest of Champions (a cute call back to what is considered the first Marvel comics event), Thor and Hulk battle it out, with a nervous Loki watching on. In a moment of calm, Thor attempts to calm the Hulk down and talk to him, only for the Hulk to grab Thor and mimic the original scene frame for frame, while Loki cheers on. Screaming, “That’s how it feels! How do you like it!?” It’s a fantastic moment, and made the audience roar with laughter. Including myself. This was it, the pay off to a joke that never managed to grab me.

Much like Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok is an incredibly funny film. Filled with laughs and great action pieces. When it comes to comedy, it is subjective. But just because you don’t find a particular joke in a film funny, doesn’t mean that it won’t stay with you. I eagerly await seeing this film again. I’m certain there are more jokes and references to be spotted, but even so, I’m eager to witness Ragnarok a second time.

 

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine.)

Film is available for pre-order here: Thor Ragnarok BD [Blu-Ray] [2017]

Posted in Anime, Uncategorized

First Impressions: New Game! Ep 1: “It Actually Feels Like I Started My Job”

‘Slice of life’ anime can be very hit or miss for me. Some just don’t resonate with me at all, where the characters feel so boring that I don’t care what problems they are having. So, when I do choose something ‘Slice of Life’ to watch, I tend to pick it more on premise. With Bakuman being one of my all-time favourite manga series, it felt like a show based on people working to create something, may well be a good fit for me to try. Hearing about New Game! my interest was piqued, and I decided to load up the first episode. Seeing that the show had a dub, this is ultimately the version I am watching.

Episode 1 usually only works for me as an excuse to set up the situation and a few of the main characters. It’s rare I decided whether to drop a show from here. That usually happens by episode 2. While this first episode hasn’t fully convinced me whether or not the show is good, I am curious.

The plot follows Aoba Suzukaze, a recent high school graduate, as she joins a video game company known as Eagle Jump. A seemingly small company based on this first episode, that has at least put out a few well received games in their life time, including ‘Fairies Story’, a game that inspired Aoba to become a games artist.

Having studied alongside games art students, and maintained long conversations on the subject with them. Seeing a slice of life that focuses on the game industry is certainly appealing. Based on the work we see being done in the office, it’s easy to recognise many of the animator and modelers habits. Especially striking poses themselves, just to get a feel of what they should be animating. The excessive use of sweets and caffeine, while a little stereotypical, is certainly something I can relate with. Watching Aoba learn and come to grips with the shows version of Autodesk Maya was incredibly relatable, though I did joyfully wait for her to suddenly exclaim frustration at the program. The groups lead character designer spending nights sleeping under her desk at work, is a very real reality. Though the show also uses it for what feels like an unnecessary use of fan service, with the obligatory panty shot. But the characters habits and work mannerisms do feel genuine. However, the characters as a whole, are a little hard to tell apart or name, aside from identifying them by habits.

While well animated, I do take fault with the character design the show chose. Aoba is frequently made fun of for looking like a kid, being mistaken as one several times. The problem with this being is that all the characters look the same age. The only noticeable difference is clothing changes, and height. A scene in which our lead is being questioned for how old she thinks a few of the women are, is honestly hard to watch without groaning.

Episode 1 certainly just focuses on establishing the company and the series goal, creating ‘Fairies Story 3’. This is done relatively well, if a little slow paced, but sets up for what could very well be, an interesting if passive watch.

 

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine.)

Posted in Discussion, Film, Review

Should We Listen to Pre-Release Film Reviews?

When it comes to high budget, highly anticipated films, we are anxious to know if all the hype is worth it. Whether to spend our hard-earned time and money, on the next ‘sure to be game changing’ cinematic experience. When first reactions hit the internet, we hold our breath in anticipation of the ultimate answer. Is it good?

As we approach the tail end of 2017, we reach the point where some highly anticipated films, are right around the corner. From Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok, to the star powered Murder on the Orient Express. DC’s long-awaited Justice League, and Steve Carrell and Emma Stone lead Battle of the Sexes. On top of the that, the cultural juggernaut that is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and even the nostalgia filled Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You? As media consumers, and franchise fans, find ourselves anxious, and primed with day one tickets in hand. Hoping and praying for a film that lives up to our expectations. Often, especially with the likes of Justice League, a few lucky fans will get pre-screenings, weeks, or even months before hand. Followed by the much beloved, and exciting press screenings, a few weeks before the films hit theatres. When coverage hits the newsstands, and the internet at large. We find ourselves scrolling through pages and pages, hoping to learn that we are in for the experience of our lives, on the big screen.

However, should these pre-release reviews be taken to heart? Should we listen to them?

Take for example, the release of Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice in March of 2016. A few days before the films released, the internet was franticly diving from one review to another, trying to discern the truth from biased opinion. Was the film going to be everything we hoped for? While many of the reviews did lay into the film fiercely, there were outliners that praised the film as “an impressive start to a new superhero movie franchise”, commenting on how it’s “genuinely exciting for the evolution of this new DC Comics cinematic world in the coming years”. See Business Insider UK for full review. This divide in reviews, granted, causes greater discussion online before the film’s release. But also brings into question the reviewer’s actual opinion on the film. While it’s 100% possible that those that gave the film glowing reviews pre-release, do genuinely see the film in a different light than the others. It’s also possible that they are doing it for more selfish reasons. Namely, getting their name, magazine, or website into the film’s good books. Creating a favourable connection with the films production company for future releases, or trying to get their name on the films poster or new trailers.

An example from this site, is that of the 2017 horror film, Wish Upon. During the press screening for the film, most people in the room during the film, groaned or laughed at points when we were supposed to feel fear. With one reviewer even walking out mid-way through the film. Brief discussions after, gave the general consensus that while some enjoyed the poorly executed scenes as a source of comedy, and others found the whole thing to be a boring mess. Most people in the room, consisting of a variety of ages and backgrounds, agreed that the film was below average. Many of the reviews from independent outlets echoed this on the day the reviews were due for release. Our review can be read here. However, looking at the well-known, and often trusted film site and magazine, Empire, gave the film 4/5 stars, summing up the film briefly. With Empire being a more trusted site by many, it brings to mind the question as to whether or not this was the reviewer’s genuine feelings towards the film. Or the magazine wanting to keep a good connection with those involved with the film?

With the very recent release of Blade Runner 2049, many news outlets and reviewers, were quick to label the film as a “blockbuster”, or “a modern masterpiece”. While the film is certainly stunning, very well done, and well worth it’s run time. It became somewhat worrying to see how quickly many sites and reviews, jumped to the phrase “masterpiece”. Those that referred to it as a blockbuster before release, maybe shocked to find that the film is in fact underperforming at the box office. Many people rely on pre-release film reviews to shape whether or not they will see an upcoming film. Especially those with a limited income. So, the question still stands. Should we take pre-release reviews with a grain of salt?