Tuesday, August 31, 2021

X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #1

The Scarlet Witch is dead. Or is she? And Magneto killed her? Or did he? X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #1 offers a confusing story of the X-Men's investigation into the apparent death of Wanda Maximoff. While Magneto fights in vain for his daughter's resurrection, the evidence begins to pile up that Magneto is responsible for Wanda's death. He doesn't take such an accusation well.

What If...? - Episode Three

The third episode of Marvel's What If...? offers the most interesting setup of the first three episodes as being more than just swapping out one character for another. Instead we see the systematic murder of various Avengers before the team can be assembled to take down Loki in The Avengers. The deaths are shocking without cluing you into who might be behind the attacks. It's a great setup, offering an intriguing mystery, only to fall completely apart by a reveal that simply doesn't work as mastermind behind the entire plot is one of the least likely within all of the MCU (and I'm not buying the motivation suggested here as enough to turn him into a mass murderer). Do I believe the powers/tech within this individual's hands could do what we see unfold here? Perhaps, but I don't buy he would be the one to do it (and especially not for the reasons suggested). What started out as the best episode of the series, quickly turns into its worst.

Checkmate #3

Although Mark Shaw was able to successfully survive a stand-off with Superman over the capture of Talia al Ghul, the mastermind behind Leviathan does make a mistake with Lois Lane. Her kidnapping ends awkwardly and unexpectedly with the reporter being returned. However, Shaw's choice of destination for her clues the reporter in on his next target.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Supergirl - Welcome Back, Kara!

Supergirl returns from its mid-season hiatus primarily dealing with the fallout from the lackluster first-half of the show's final season. There's plenty of phantom talk here, along with Kara (Melissa Benoist) readjusting to life back on Earth and, only in the final scene of the episode, acknowledging and dealing with the PTSD from her time in the Phantom Zone. Kara's attempts to find other stories to reporting on than phantoms backfire when Andrea (Julie Gonzalo) assigns William (Staz Nair) to dig into the city's superheroes for more juicy stories.

Black Cat #9

"Infinity Score" continues with a talkie second issue to the arc. After stealing Star from Nick Fury, Jr., Black Cat attempts to convince the super-powered newbie to help her out while searching for her next target and making him a similar offer.

Stargirl - Summer School: Chapter Three

Stargirl follows up the introduction of Green Lantern's daughter (who is nowhere to be found in this episode), with the introduction of a new villain and pulling a plot thread left dangling since early in the show's First Season by having Mike (Trae Romano) become the new master of the mad genie Thunderbolt (Jim Gaffigan). Both stories offer twists as Mike's short-run as a potential member of the JSA disappears (along with the pen) when he wishers Thunderbolt to someone more worthy, and for all the darkness coming out of the Shade (Jonathan Cake) he does actually little harm to the new generation of heroes as he seems primarily interested in the Black Diamond and the havoc it is about to unleash on Blue Valley.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

With Marvel rebuilding its Cinematic Universe following Avengers: Endgame, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings proves to be an unexpected delight (especially for a studio who steadfastly refused to create a female-driven movie for a decade). We're given an Asian cast and director (Destin Daniel Cretton), and a focus in a new direction. Based on the lesser-known character Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings isn't an origin story nor does it feel forcibly tied down to the rest of the MCU in any way. Instead, the film feels like a breath of fresh air where anything is possible.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Leverage: Redemption - The Card Game Job

The Leverage team use a fantasy card game to target a greedy CEO (Max Sheldon) known for buying up paramedical companies and jacking up the prices of medical drugs while stalling research on potential cures. Using the target's interest in the game, the team attempts to sell him his heart's desire which becomes more complicated when the creator (French Stewart) of the game shows up willing to sell. Now to beat the man, the team will need to prove his unworthiness and show him up at the game's annual celebration which offers opportunities for Eliot (Christian Kane) to go medieval on some thugs, Breanna (Aleyse Shannon) to use her love for the game to help Parker (Beth Riesgraf) find buried treasure, and to remind us that Sophie (Gina Bellman) is only good on stage when it's part of the con.

Defenders #1

The arrival of the new Masked Raider inside the Sanctum Sanctorum with the story of a villain of the Enclave lost in time that could alter the past prompts to use fate and create a new team of Defenders to save the timeline. The team he gets is not exactly what he expected. Welcome to the latest version of the Defenders.

Rutherford Falls - Pilot

The "Pilot" episode of Rutherford Falls introduces us to the sleepy town of Rutherford Falls which won't remain sleepy for much longer. Our two main characters are Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms), descendant of the town's founder and proud owner of its museum, and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding), a member of the Minishonka Nation, Nathan's best-friend, and a woman struggling to get the funding to see her people's heritage get honored and celebrated in the community. The event that shakes up things in the town is the Mayor's (Dana L. Wilson) decision to move the statue of the town's founder which sends Nathan over the edge (leading to a complete meltdown in front of the town). The episode is a fine sitcom pilot, successfully introducing the main characters, teasing Nathan having to reconsider long-held beliefs and compromise, and Reagan becoming more self-assured, while the town's drama begins to be noticed by the larger world.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Protégé

For having a single writer and no directorial or production upheaval, The Protégé is one hell of a schizophrenic film. I don't know if director Martin Campbell and screenwriter Richard Wenk had conflicting takes on what the film should be or if The Protégé is simply an example of the final result being far less than the sum of its parts. The action-thriller stars Maggie Q as a bookshop owner/assassin saved as a child from violence in Vietnam by a professional killer (Samuel L. Jackson) who raised and trained her to be his, wait for it, protégé.

As a fan of Maggie Q's run on Nikita, I'm all for watching her kick some ass and leave a trail of bodies behind. And the film's action sequences definitely work well. I could have done without the torture scenes, and the luridness that seems to spring up out of nowhere from time to time contrasting the more straightforward revenge story of the assassin out for blood and the offbeat romantic thread of our heroine flirting with a rival killer (Michael Keaton). While I like both Q and Keaton, there's no reason to root for these characters to get together. Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Out of Sight, this ain't.

Red Sonja: Black, White, Red #2

The black, white, and red anthology series continues with three more tales of Red Sonja from different writers and artists. "Proelium Finalis" features Queen Sonja defending her kingdom against a legion of Lemurians led by Al-Ammon while suggesting the possibility that it might be the warrior's last battle.

The Story of the Twice Failed Battlestar Galactica

G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero #285

"Murder by Assassination" concludes as the Joes track Al Kawbra to the jungles of Amara Wapoor where they find an army of upgraded Cobra B.A.T.s protecting a secret facility. Although the team is able to fight their way into the facility and ultimately capture their target, Overkill manages to escape with containers full of specialized B.A.T. soldiers foreshadowing some future plan the Joes will have to stop.

It's Anime Matsuri 2021 (Part 2)

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Suicide Squad #6

Waller sends the Squad to Earth-3 after the captured Bloodsport and his original target Black Siren (although Wallers seems more interested in the latter than the former). Elsewhere, back on Prime Earth, Peacemaker takes a team in search of Swamp Thing in a plot thread that still hasn't gotten going yet.

What If...? - Episode Two

The second episode of What If...? follows much the same formula as the first in swapping out one character for another and observing the changes to the world (or in this case, the galaxy). This time the change involves T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who is abducted by the Ravagers instead of Peter Quill and grows up to be a far more formidable Star Lord. It's an odd set-up whose ripples don't always make sense. Do we really believe T'Challa would be able to convince Thanos not to seek the Infinity Stones? While celebrating Boseman and his beloved character, it also shits pretty hard on the MCU version of Peter Quill who is hard to see as anything more than a total joke by comparison. But it does offer a very different kind of cosmic adventure for the character who apparently is going to get several episodes this season.

X-Men #2

Cordyceps Jones continues to run bets on who can successfully destroy Earth as another threat hits the planet in the form of an Annihilation Wave (which works as a kind of monstrous blob destroying everything in its path).

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time

The long-delayed final film in the Rebuild of Evangelion film series wraps up the story of Shinji Ikari (Megumi Ogata / Spike Spencer), looming angels, and the end of the world. The film finally sees the light of day more than eight years after the release of the last movie.

As with the other feature film adaptations of the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time is beautiful, bizarre, at times haunting, and often confusing. It's certainly a step-up from the third, and weakest, entry into the franchise, although it does have to work extra hard while relying on quite a bit of monologuing to wrap up the tale.

Broken after the events of the Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo., much of the last film deals with Shinji healing, growing up, and finally coming into his own as his father takes one more drastic attempt to enact the Human Instrumentality Project, bring about the end of the world, and reunite with his dead wife. The heart of the film returns to the father/son dynamic on which the fate of the world will rest.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Rick and Morty - Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort

With the rest of the family off on their own vacation, Rick's (Justin Roiland) attention turns back to one of the series' lingering plot threads as he attempts to save the life of his former best-friend Birdperson (Dan Harmon). After removing the cybernetics, Rick enters Birdperson's mind and attempts to convince his suicidal friend that there is something worth living for. In order to save Birdperson, Rick is forced into asking for help from a younger version of himself as remembered by his friend (who turns out to be far less cynical than the current version of Rick).

Invincible - It's About Time

The first episode of Invincible, adapted from the comic series of the same name, introduces us to teenager Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun). The son of the world's most powerful hero, Mark finally gets his own powers as "It's About Time" works as an origin story for the hero who would come to be known as Invincible. It's not until the end of the episode that the darker themes of the comic are touched on as Mark's father Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons) lures the world's greatest heroes into one location and murders them setting up a mystery and eventual confession which will lead Mark to find his own place in the world.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Batman: The Long Halloween (Part Two)

Batman: The Long Halloween (Part Two) concludes the two-part adaptation of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's thirteen-issue maxi-series. Part Two races through the remainder of the story with more villains, more holidays, flashbacks to a young Bruce Wayne, the birth of Two-Face (Josh Duhamel), and (when it remembers to get around to it) the final unmasking of the Holiday killer. The adaptation takes a more definitive approach to Gilda (Julie Nathanson), playing off the heavy foreshadowing from Part One.

The movie jumps around a bit, and with so much focus on Bat-villains such as Poison Ivy (Katee Sackhoff) and Scarecrow (Robin Atkin Downes) who both put Batman out of action for a bit (seriously, Batman gets his ass handed to him quite a bit here), the actual Holiday mystery gets buried. The script also dives into a bit more of the mobster plot, and its ties to the Wayne family, along with the reveal of Catwoman's (Naya Rivera) interest in the Falcone family.

Harley Quinn cosplay by Andrasta

Andrasta is a cosplayer and gamer. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Loki Honest Trailer

Cleopatra in Space - Do-Over

Cleopatra (Lilimar) gets stuck in a shortening time loop in "Do-Over" as she attempts to get events of a stressful day right (and fail miserably each time). There are episodes of the series where Cleopatra embraces her new future home and those where the homesick girl attempts to run from it, "Do-Over" is the latter as her attempts to return home using a time machine still being built lead her to reliving the same day over and over (and struggling to make any meaningful changes). The final time through, Cleo does break the loop and seems to learn some lessons about the trouble she causes her friends (although we'll see if those stick around longer than a single episode).

Harley Quinn: The Animated Series - The Eat, Bang, Kill Tour #1

The new series Harley Quinn: The Animated Series - The Eat, Bang, Kill Tour follows the events of the Second Season of Harley Quinn: The Animated Series working as a cold open loosely tied to the series upcoming Third Season. Events pick up with Gordon and the GCPD chasing Harley and Ivy down the Harley Quinn Highway. Suggested for mature audiences, the comic uses a bit of adult language and suggests physical intimacy between Harley and a confused Ivy still wracked by guilt for leaving Kite Man at the altar and following in love with Harley Quinn.

Stargirl - Summer School: Chapter One

Stargirl returns for its Second Season at the end of the school year. Although the town has been quiet since the defeat of the Injustice Society of America, the various members of the new Justice Society of America aren't without their own issues. Coutney's (Brec Bassinger) hyper-vigilance has led her to flunk both English and History, putting a kybosh on the family's summer plans. Beth (Anjelika Washington) is still struggling with the loss of Chuck, and the discovery of her parents' divorce doesn't do anything to help her mental state. Speaking of mental states, Yolanda (Yvette Monreal) is still haunted by Brainwave's death and Rick's (Cameron Gellman) emotions are still running hot as he blows up at at teacher for suggesting he wasn't smart enough to pass the final without cheating.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Green Lantern #5

Teased in the last issue, we get Teen Lantern heading off halfcocked to New Korugar to take on Sinestro and all of the Sinestro Corps. She does pretty well for herself, at least initially. The young Lantern is stopped and saved by a Yellow Lantern who allows Simon Baz to return with her to Oa. Is this what has become of Jessica Cruz?

Transformers: King Grimlock #1

The concept for Transformers: King Grimlock #1 is simple but effective. What would happen if you dropped Grimlock in something like the Savage Land? We start with a brief cameo from Optimus Prime who Grimlock saves from a portal only to find himself transported to the savage world of Menonia.

Fantasy Island - Hungry Christine/Mel Loves Ruby

Everything is new again. Again. For the second time Fantasy Island is rebooted (anyone remember the 90s version with Malcolm McDowell?). Roselyn Sanchez is cast as the island's caretaker, although the role of her sidekick won't be filled until the end of the episode when one of the characters gets a... tattoo. The premise of the original show is kept here with guests arriving at the mysterious island to live out a fantasy (which may not always go as planned). It's not awful, which is more than I can say for some of these reboots, but I don't know that there's much magic here either.

Deadpool: Black, White, & Blood #1

Following in the footsteps of Batman, and other heroes who have gotten their own black-and-white anthology series, Deadpool gets three tales in Deadpool: Black, White, & Blood #1 which feature the wisecracking hero's wacky adventures in three colors. In "Red All Over," Deadpool calls Honey Badger for help in wrangling a zombie zebra (or as Wade names it a zombiebra) and have a heart-to-heart with the CEO of the company creating undead killing machines.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Leverage: Redemption - The Paranormal Hacktivity Job

With the boys out of town, "The Paranormal Hacktivity Job" offers an all-girls episode as Parker (Beth Riesgraf) finds a client (Gillian Saker) scared out of her home by a pair of con men (Mike Massimino and T.C. Matherne). Using the bar as bait for another of their swindles, Sophie (Gina Bellman) tempts the pair in to use the high-tech haunting techniques allowing Parker to explain the pair's actions to their client. The Halloween episode offers a late twist with the arrival of an assassin (Matt McTighe) whose fear of ghosts, and the methods already deployed in the bar (raised one-hundred fold), become tools to take down another criminal as well and stop an assassination.

What If...? - Episode One

Since it first debuted back in 1977, Marvel Comics' What If...? has asked the question what might have happened if events had turned out differently. With decades of comic history to pull from, the on-again/off-again series examined both big and large changes and what ripples they might have caused. The Disney+ series takes the concept and applies it the MCU (meaning it has far less history to diverge in creating alternative timelines). The first episode asks the question of what might have happened if Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) had received the super-soldier serum rather than Steve Rogers (one of the most prominent characters not voiced by the actor who played him in the films)? It turns out to be a fun idea that the series will repeat in the next episode which uses a very similar set-up of swapping characters.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Suicide Squad

Writer/director James Gunn's sequel to 2016's Suicide Squad is bonkers. If Legends of Tomorrow ever makes it to the big screen, I'd expect it would look something like this (with a far smaller body count, to be sure). Bringing back a handful of the stars from the first film, with some notable absences, the story this time follows a more straightforward Task Force X plot of the criminals turned black ops soldiers by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sent overseas to a foreign country to cause some mayhem under the radar. Oh, and then the movie throws in Starro. Starro!? Did I mention this movie is bonkers?

5 Incompetent Characters Who Make Superhero Plots Possible

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra & Retaliation Honest Trailers

Kung Fu - Transformation

The season finale returns Nicky (Olivia Liang) back to the Chinese monastery and a final confrontation with Zhilan (Yvonne Chapman) who has also learned this is the location of the forge where the weapons were imbued with power. We do get some final twists here as power isn't in the forge and the power of the weapons eventually dispersed equally between Nicky and Zhilan. Nicky's choice to release the power into the world, rather than horde it for her own use, proves to be the key to defeating Zhilan. However, the series (now renewed for a second season) does tease a new enemy for Nicky in Russell Tan (Kee Chan) who is just as obsessed with getting his hands on the power as Zhilan ever was.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Black Widow #9

Black Widow #9 picks up immediately from the previous issue's cliffhanger with Yelena dead and Black Widow surrounded by the Olio. Enter Lucy with the timely save, and a strategic retreat for the three women. Given the gravity of the situation Natasha was in, things are wrapped up rather quickly, but once out of danger the heroes can begin to regroup.

Black Cat #8

A new storyline kicks off here as Black Cat sets her sights on perhaps the most dangerous score of the career. And the person standing in her way is none other than Nick Fury, Jr.. C.F. Villa (who drew some of the previous volume's better issues) returns as artist freshening up the look of the comic and character once more.

Rick and Morty - Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion

Voltron fans should enjoy "Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion" which features Rick's (Justin Roiland) obsession with collecting Gotron Ferrets which can be combined to form larger and larger Voltron-like robots. Not content with a single robot piloted by each member of his family, Rick reaches out to alternate versions of himself bringing them into to fold to create robots made of other robots as things quickly spiral out of control. If the Fifth Season of Rick and Morty has a theme, that seems to be it: take a simple concept and run with it at breakneck speed, not always stopping to make sure it's telling a coherent tale, until either the episode ends or you run out of gas. "Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion" manages to keep the crazy going fairly well, but with less and less giant Voltron over the course of an episode about giant Voltrons, it does peter out towards the end.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Star Wars Adventures #7

Part One of "The Princess and the Bog, A Twin Tale" kicks off a new story in Star Wars Adventures #7 featuring Luke and Leia and set between the events of the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. While scouting the Outer Rim world of Bogano, Leia is a bit miffed to discover Luke there as well (who has felt drawn to the planet by the Force) rather than following the orders she gave him.

We Are Lady Parts - Godzilla

A crushing failure for the band is followed up by a huge success in "Godzilla" as Amina (Anjana Vasan) decides to rededicate herself to the band and Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey) promises to help her new friend through her fear. Although Amina continues to keep the band secret from her friends, her parents do become aware of her new hobby as the show support both in her daughter overcoming her fears and in her new friendships. The episode gives us Amina struggling through reciting a poem at a poetry slam. Although at times incomprehensible, the small victory pays off huge when she's able to help perform at the band's next gig in front of an unimpressed Irish pub. Although Lady Parts doesn't win over the crowd, Amina (inspired by Saira) does find the strength to perform. The episode also introduces Sofia Barclay as a social influencer who offers to help the band, although the episode foreshadows other motivations behind the woman's actions.

It's Anime Matsuri 2021 (Part 1)

Monday, August 2, 2021

Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #5

Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #5 wraps up the Mordred arc with not one but two resurrections as the villain is thwarted with using the Ebony Crown to take control of the world. Although dead for most of the issue, Dane Whitman plays a large role as his dying declaration helps pave the way to the arc's conclusion and the creation of a new Black Knight.

Monday Morning Montage - SHAZAM (Powers Tests)

Checkmate #2

The six-issue mini-series continues as Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev remind us that Talia al Ghul can be a hell of a character when put in the hands of the right creative team as Leviathan's captive starts causing trouble for the cabal. (Although I'm not quite sure where the Damian part of the plotline is going). She's not the only female highlighted here, as Lois Lane's investigation into Leviathan's actions leads her to being kidnapped by the group leading to an inevitable showdown.