“All the world is waiting for you…” – Wonder Woman (2017)

Monday – 05 June 2017
I saw Wonder Woman this past weekend.

I saw it Friday early afternoon, affording me the opportunity to avoid most spoilers, either in conversation or in the media.

Like many of my previous reviews, this is going to be a two-part review:

  • The first part will be more of a synopsis and spoiler-free.
  • The second part will be more in-depth.

Here we go…

Part One: Synopsis

I thought that this was a fantastic movie. Period. Full stop.

Almost eighty years after her introduction, we finally got Wonder Woman. Leading her own movie. On the big screen. And she was everything that you expect her to be: Warm, kind, and compassionate, but also a passionate seeker of truth, honor, and justice.

It’s in my Top 3 of superhero movies, along with Superman and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Part Two: In-Depth Observations

Now for the spoiler-laden deep dive…

After reading Wonder Woman Shatters Records with $200+ Million Worldwide Opening on Forbes, I had the following thoughts:

I love and hate that it shattered Warner Bros. Entertainment‘s projections of “…maybe $85 million” on opening weekend:

Love: Because it was a fantastic movie that deserves EVERY DOLLAR IT EARNED.

Hate: That WB has so little faith in the film “…because has a female lead,” or “..because it’s a female director,” or whatever thin excuse they offered that wasn’t “Our record with superhero movies over the past three years has been pretty bad, we haven’t really been true to our characters in some cases, and the fans have lost their faith in us.”

Patty Jenkins, the film’s director, struck a fine balance between drama and humor (not comedy), while also presenting elements of empathy, pathos, and tragedy. It was light in just the right places and also somber and dark in the proper places, as well. It was what I would have liked to have seen more of from the Superman side of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The locations had character of their own: Themyscira (“Paradise Island”) was lush, bright, and vibrant, London showed you why it is/was referred to as “The Smoke,” and Belgium pulled the triple duty of presenting a war-torn battlefront, a town – and its war-weary population – all too close to the front, and the lavish and the German encampment, seemingly-untroubled by the ravages of war, in a nearby castle.

The film’s first act opened in the modern day, with Diana receiving a package. She opens it to find the picture that audiences first saw in Batman vs. Superman, with her and four companions in World War I. This sends her on a nostalgic trip that leads to her upbringing on Themyscira…

The movie spent just enough time on Themyscira to show Diana not just as the Princess of the Amazons, but as a young girl – the only child on the island, a fact which was deftly noted, but not belabored. It then jumped to show Diana as a young woman, also. In these scenes, viewers saw glimpses of her impulsiveness, inquisitiveness, passion, and determination. When the veil between Themyscira and Man’s World was torn, she also received a very harsh and grim look at the face of war. Although they showed clips of the battle scenes in trailers, it was still amazing to see the Amazons in action, facing an unknown threat with no hesitation. Steve Trevor’s introduction was handled right in line with the classic version(s), his plane crashing just off the island’s shore. The Amazon’s reactions to him rang very true of a culture who was unsure of whether or not outsiders could – or should – be trusted. I was sad that we didn’t get to see the traditional contest to determine who would travel to Man’s World, but the lack of those scenes did not diminish the movie at all. Instead, Ms. Jenkins took a different, yet no less effective, route to show Diana’s resolve in wanting to fulfill her mission as an Amazon.

In the second act, Diana’s introduction to Man’s World captured the awe and occasionally doe-eyed amazement of a stranger in a very strange land. The scenes walking through London – seeing a baby for the first time and her discovery of ice cream were wonderful touches that served to make her relatable. The ice cream scenes also reminded me of similar scenes with the character in the 2012 animated Wonder Woman feature and 2015’s Justice League: War. Another callback that I appreciated, as a fan of the 1978 Superman, was Diana’s deflection of the bullet and saving of Steve Trevor in the alleyway:

 

© All Things Marvel And DC

When Diana met Steve’s superiors, she couldn’t fathom how they were so willing to sit back, rather than lead their troops into battle and victory. In meeting Steve’s other companions, she was unsure of them, as they did not appear to be the most honorable of men. She appeared to understand them and their natures a little better, as they traveled. Farther along the journey, the shock of seeing people’s lives devastated by the war was clearly visible on Diana’s face. This made for a stark juxtaposition against how Steve and his band appeared to view it as “just another day,” not that they were immune to its affect, more that that had become inured to it.

 

Then it came: Diana’s reveal/”transformation” and her march to face the German army.

©Los Angeles Times

And in that moment, we saw the warrior aspect of the “warrior princess.” Purposeful. Relentless. Strong. I was surprised and pleased at how well movie was able to keep from fully showing her costume/armor for so long. Saving the reveal of the warrior who would come to be known as “Wonder Woman” until then only served to heighten the powerful moment. The fight in the nearby village gave a couple of fine examples of just how physically strong Diana was, in ways that were not displayed on the battlefront scenes.

In the movie’s final act, Diana moves face her foe and fulfill her purpose for traveling to Man’s World. She navigates the various battlefields deftly: She blends in almost seamlessly at the gala, having… liberated… her attire from another attendee and – unable to take on her foe there – advances to the German airstrip, steely-eyed resolve in her gaze. The look distress and lack of understanding on Diana’s face, as she saw that no one/nothing had changed after her foe was defeated and her mission had been seemingly fulfilled, was saddening and a bit disheartening. Having operated under a simple and straightforward notion – no, naivete – her worldview seemed to shatter and the pieces couldn’t be resolved into a coherent whole that she recognized. She lashed out at Steve, whose role as a spy and her recall of his dodges and half-truths along their journey seemed to only further distort the picture… until her true foe revealed himself. Her mission renewed and her true purpose revealed, she rose to meet the new challenge with the same confidence and determination than she showed at the Belgian front.

The closing scenes returned us to the modern day, with one last nostalgic look at the past and a nod to the future.

Patty Jenkins did a masterful job of bringing an iconic character to the big screen. She did this without making yet another dark and forboding DCEU film and also without making a sloppy or cheesy mess of the production. The pacing was good and the movie found a good emotional balance of drama and humor. I would say that my biggest complaints/concerns were:

  1. Lack of the aforementioned Amazon contest,
  2. Not having a scene where Diana used her lasso to help calm or quiet Charlie’s demons in the camp scene,
  3. No scene where she talked with animals,
  4. The death of Steve Trevor (but I attribute this to my expectation of Steve always being around, as he is in the comics), and
  5. Some of the CGI in the third act wasn’t great. And there was a lot of it.

Gal Gadot’s Diana, Princess of Themyscira and Wonder Woman, was portrayed beautifully; she brought the character to life. Her drive and devotion to learn the truth was apparent. The lack of guile and even her naivete didn’t come off as comical, but as the result of someone who literally had an idyllic upbringing and was then thrust into situations outside her understanding. In Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #170, “A Day in the Life,” Phil Jimenez described Diana (via Lois Lane) this way:

It is a remarkable thing. She’s perhaps THE most powerful woman on the planet. Yet men INSIST on protecting her.

Even certain SUPERMEN I know– 

Last thing I see before J.L.A. Teleporters break us into energy and fire us across the world is HER SMILE… and I’ve NEVER felt more safe.

…and, later…

And THERE it is… That look, the eyes, the everything.. The STORY.

WONDER WOMAN is a MIRROR… a mirror of HUMAN TRUTH.

She reflects the contradictions of the world — of the person STARING at her — takes them onto herself… 

And gives you TRUTH, LOVE, RESPECT in return.

Thank GOD… or GODDESS… for that.

This is the Wonder Woman that Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins brought us.  Thank God – or Goddess – for that, too.

Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor was a charming rogue. Literally. He was a spy and he was charming and a little smug. He came off as a man with his heart in the right place, but willing to stray from the path of angels in order to complete his mission. He was chivalrous, in his own way, until he realized that Diana was a woman that didn’t need his protection and whose protection and help he might need, in turn.

Hippolyta, as portrayed by Connie Nielsen, came off as every bit the warrior queen I wanted to see. She watched her general training troops for a fight she hoped to never see. However, when war came to her domain, she rode fearlessly into battle alongside her fellow Amazons. We also got to see the mother who wanted nothing more for her child than that she be happy… even if that meant curtailing her daughter’s impulsiveness. The joy and pride she felt for Diana was evident, much as the sorrow was when it came time for Diana to leave.

Robin Wright (The Princess Bride, herself) was Antiope, sister of Hippolyta, aunt of Diana, and general of the Amazon army. You understood that she was dedicated to her sister and queen, her country, her duty… and to her niece. From the trailers, I didn’t realize that it was Antiope who was shot when the Germans came to Themyscira, but I loved the fact that it was her headband – not a tiara, not a crown – that Diana wears as Wonder Woman, to honor her fallen aunt.

Etta Candy, played by Lucy Davis, is a character I wish had more screen time. Etta is a staple in Wonder Woman stories; while it was good to see her, I fear that we won’t see her again, aside from possible flashbacks. I was glad that they gave her a strong backbone, a sharp tongue, and a measure of agency – these are things that I expect to see from Etta.

Danny Huston’s General Ludendorff was a proud and patriotic German. His desire for war – along with a clever script – easily made you think that he was the primary antagonist.

I was also disappointed that we did not get more screen time with Elena Anaya’s Doctor Maru (a.k.a. “Doctor Poison“). I’m mostly familiar with the Post-Crisis and Rebirth era comic book versions of the character, but would have liked to have seen a little more about “who” she was and what drove her.

David Thewlis’ Ares was proud, cunning, and manipulative. I think that Ares was a good – if not perfect – choice for Wonder Woman’s first villain. He provided an antagonist who could go blow-for-blow with Diana and also served as someone who challenged her beliefs. I, likewise, appreciated how he engineered events to his liking. As gods are wont to do. When his plans were revealed and his facade stripped away, he became even more ruthless in his drive to see them come to fruition. As one would expect from the God of War.

To conclude, I think that this was an excellent bit of cinema. It moved well, it hit the right beats, and it stayed true to the characters it brought to the screen.  In short: It was pretty much the polar opposite of what I’ve come to expect from from a DCEU movie. I’m sad that it took so long to come to fruition, but I am conversely glad that there is a movie with a strong female protagonist (who “just happens” to be a character of whom my daughters are very fond) that I will be happy to share with my girls when they are a little older.

As Gail Simone wrote in 2008’s Wonder Woman (vol. 3) #25, “A Star in the Heavens – Scene 2: Personal Effects”:

This movie was worth the wait.

Salt Lake Comic Con FanX 2017

Sunday – 19 March 2017
This past Friday and Saturday, Salt Lake Comic Con presented their third Fan Experience or “FanX” event. Two days of celebrities, artists, authors, panels, and vendors celebrating all manner of fandoms, not just comic-related ones.

I attended both days. The first day, I didn’t have a particular agenda in mind, so I wandered the floor. It served as a good opportunity to check out artists and vendors. I also hung out at the Dr. Volt’s Comic Connection booth for a while. The second day, I brought my friend, Andy, to his first-ever con. It was like watching the proverbial kid in a candy store. I was content to roam around with him, as he took in everything.

Also, on Day Two, I was a panelist on the “Diversity in Cosplay” panel.

My co-panelists were:

Our panel opened with Jay explaining “why” there still needed to be this kind of panel. From there, it explored topics including: gender-bending/race-bending/and body type-bending and making cosplay your own (not worrying about what others might think or say), what got us into cosplay, our favorite cosplay, our most proud moments in cosplay. We also took a number of good questions from the audience. It was an honor to be a part of the panel and a pleasure to meet my fellow panelists. If you aren’t familiar with their work, please take a few minutes to check them out.

After the panel, there was a bit more wandering before calling it a day.

In all, I found this FanX to be another great con experience; I look forward to what the the Salt Lake Comic Con team plans for September.

And now, the pictures!

Quick hits

Friday – 24 February 2017
There’s been a lot of comics-related news in the past couple of weeks… and I’ve had very little time to post anything about it. But, I’m carving out a couple of minutes here to do that very thing.

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Reviews from the First New Comic Book Day of 2017!

Thursday – 05 January 2017
Happy New Year and Happy Day-After-New Comic Book Day!

As yesterday was the first new comic book day of 2017, I went to my local comic book shop and came home with new things to read. This week, I picked up:

  • Champions #4  (DC)
  • Cyborg #8 (DC)
  • Green Lantern #14 (DC)
  • Hawkeye #2 (Marvel)
  • Justice League #14 (DC)
  • Nightwing #12 (DC)
  • Scarlet Witch #14 (Marvel)
  • Shade: The Changing Girl #4 (DC: Young Animal)
  • Superman #14 (DC)
  • The Unstoppable Wasp #1 (Marvel)
  • The Unworthy Thor #3 (of 5) (Marvel)
  • The Wicked + The Divine #25 (Image)

In all, it was kind of a mixed week for my books – some good, some kind of meh, and a couple of extraordinarily fun reads. My favorite reads were:

  • Cyborg #8
    I’ve been a bit lukewarm about Cyborg after David Walker’s departure. But, there was something about John Semper, Jr.’s writing that drew me into this issue. Perhaps it was seeing Cyborg “intervene” in an instance of police brutality. Perhaps it was watching the interaction between Cyborg and Exxy Clark. Perhaps it was that the Cyborg we had been reading about for most of the issue wasn’t Cyborg. I’m not sure exactly what the special sauce was, but I not only enjoyed the read, it made me laugh at points.
  • Champions #4
    A portion of this issue dealt with the literal fallout from Issue #3. And a fight with Atlanteans. And the question of leadership. And, a very quick and well-handled discussion about mutant-Inhuman relations. From the pacing to the dialogue to the artwork, I think that this is one of the freshest – and most fun – books in Marvel’s stable these days.
  • Hawkeye #2
    Kate Bishop. Superhero. P.I. (kind of, sort of). This issue picks up right after the end of Issue #1, with Kate taking a perp from her first case to the police station. She then stops a back-alley assault – there’s a kinetic feel to the two-page spread showing how the action plays out, as well as a bit of the aftermath. That scene also includes the following bit of dialogue:

    Kate (aiming bow with nocked arrow at a mostly off-panel figure): Touch some sky, pal.
    Guy: Whoa whoa whoa. I am not with these dudes.
    Kate: Okay, then you should probably mosey on out of here, cowboy. I don’t need help.
    Guy: I buy that. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen anyone that needs help less than you in this moment.

    Our intrepid Hawkeye even has a run-in with a cultish mob. I have to admit that I didn’t see that coming, as I was reading. I look forward to seeing how it resolves.

  • The Wicked + The Divine #25
    Gillen and McKelvie continue to knock it out of the park with this book. Where to start…? Persephone is on the warpath, Woden is in her sights, and it looks like Cassandra of The Norns has been cast in the unlikely role of Persephone’s Jiminy Cricket. Readers – and Woden – are treated to an interesting look at some of Persephone’s power set – more than just *KLLK*-ing someone’s head to explode, that is – and are rewarded with this:

    Woden: Listen. We’re the clever, practical two. Baal is practical. Minerva is clever. We’re both. Who else is going to work out what’s going on? Sakhmet? Dionysus? I think Amaterasu only wears sandals so much because she has trouble with shoelaces…
    Persephone: And I am…?
    Woden: You’re the wild card Dark Arts professor who scares the shit out of Slytherin kids like me. I still have no idea how you do half the things you do.
    Cassandra: Me neither. You’re the only god who’s ever affected me. Why? You projected a performance through Owly…
    Woden: She did? That’s impossible.
    Cassandra: And… you said something happened after Lucifer died. What was that?
    Persephone: Nothing important.
    Cassandra: See! That’s the kind of enigmatic wankery we haven’t got time for when we’re all going to be dead in two years!

    And the closing pages with Baal, Minerva, and… Sakhmet (?) were a curious look at a little “family” and how they were dealing with revelations about Ananke.

  • Green Lanterns #14
    There’s a GL book on my list. Amazing surprise. But, this issue wrapped up a storyline that had an interesting premise: What if one ring could harness the entire emotional spectrum? (And, as much as I hate to admit it: I just made the “One ring to rule them all” connection. Yep, Slow on the Uptake Guy, that’s me!) While I found the character who found that ring a bit tedious, I liked the concept. What I enjoyed even more was a breakthrough for rookie GL Jessica Cruz. She has a lot of potential and want to see her live up to it. It was also nice to see other members of the Corps show up… and the reactions of Jessica and Simon’s to who it was that dropped in. Sam Humphries also left a nice little surprise to be unraveled at the story’s end.
  • The Unstoppable Wasp #1
    When talking about Champions earlier, I said that it was one of the freshest and most fun books coming out of Marvel these days. This book is another. Let me first start by saying that I’ve been reading – and thoroughly enjoying – Jeremy Whitley‘s PrinceLess titles for the past few years. (As the father of twin girls, I love the concept of a princess who didn’t need a prince to rescue her. If you haven’t read PrinceLess or PrinceLess: Raven – The Pirate Princess, do so!) When it was announced that he and Elsa Charretier – and Megan Wilson – would be doing this book, I was intrigued. And then came the wait.The wait is over…

    The Unstoppable Wasp

    …and I’m happy to say that Whitley’s Nadia Pym is an absolute delight! And Ms. Charretier’s artwork is a perfect pairing with the writing.  Nadia is unstoppable. (Just ask Ms. Marvel and Mockingbird!) She has an irrepressible spirit and drive that is a refreshing change from so much of the angst associated with so many heroes these days. And she has no pretense, just a passion to help and to do good. Oh, and she’s loves science. A lot. She’s also a total fangirl, as evidenced in this post-battle conversation with Mockingbird and Ms. Marvel:

    Nadia: You worked on one of my father’s projects? I’ve researched them all. I don’t remember a Bobbi.
    Mockingbird: “Bobbi” is short for Barbara. Barbara Morse.
    Nadia (realization dawning ): Biologist Barbara Morse? Like, “Project: Gladiator” Barbara Morse? Like, almost succesfully reproduced the Super-Soldier serum Barbara Morse?
    Mockingbird (somewhat astonished): Those are not usually the things people remember about me.
    Nadia: Like, lady adventurer scientist in the Savage Land and hanging out with Man-Thing in the Everglades Barbara Morse?
    Mockingbird: That is… weird that you know all of that.
    Nadia: You are my hero! I read your research on the super-soldier serum and you talked about all the traveling and the Savage Land and I thought– I thought “This is who I want to be when I grow up!” A woman who’s a super scientist but doesn’t stay in the lab all day. She has adventures! (reaches over and hugs Mockingbird) You inspire me.
    Mockingbird: Okay… that… that’s a lot right there, and I just… you know, I’ve worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. for a long time… and I… I don’t know that anybody has ever said that I inspire them, and… and it’s totally cool for a super hero to just cry in public… people don’t remember that I’m a scientist. They just remember that I used to be married to Hawkeye1 and I hit things with sticks. So that means a lot. Come here, kid. It’s been a rough couple of months for me. Can I have another one of those hugs?
    Nadia: Heck yes!

    See, unabashed science-loving fangirl. And superhero. And, from the look of the last page, ready to take on the world.

    If there is one book that I’d recommend reading from this week’s new titles, this is it. Buy it. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

And that’s a wrap!

1 – Clint Barton, not the aforementioned Kate Bishop

Luke Cage: A brief look at Marvel’s newest series

I shouldn’t have to become a bulletproof-Luke Cage just to feel safe as a black man in America.
Jay Whittaker
30 September 2016

This comment sparked an interesting – and introspective – thread on the Facebook account of my friend, Jay Whittaker.

Like me, Jay is a long-time comics fan. Also like me, he was eagerly anticipating the release of Luke Cage on Netflix this past weekend.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage

I’ve been a comics fan since the mid- to late-70s. Most of the heroes wore capes and tights (and their underwear on the outside). It was pretty easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. “Representation” wasn’t really a watchword when I started reading comics, but there were some signs of change and inclusion around the time the 80s rolled around. Today, you can find heroes of all colors, genders, belief systems, and/or sexuality. And they aren’t just in comics. They are also on TV, in books, and in major motion picture releases.

I’ve come to appreciate Black heroes more in the past fifteen years. For me, it really started with John Stewart, the Green Lantern on the Cartoon Network Justice League series. (My affinity for the character isn’t something that I’ve ever been shy talking about.) But, I have taken the time to become more familiar with Static, Black Panther, Cyborg, Nick Fury (MCU/Marvel Ultimate Universe version), Black Lightning, and many others.

Friday, Marvel’s Luke Cage joined the list of Black characters who have reached out from comics into other media. Who is Luke Cage? He’s:

  • A man framed for a crime he didn’t commit.
  • A man who wants to help his community.
  • A man who never wanted to be a hero… but became one.

I’m only about halfway through the series, but I am enjoying it. In bringing the character to the small screen, a few changes have been made, but nothing that makes the character unrecognizable. Something that I found interesting was what I can only assume was a rather conscious choice on the part of the show’s staff: Dressing Luke in an outfit that has become associated with many Black shooting victims in America today – a hoodie and jeans. Part of this is because Luke is trying to maintain a low profile and a hoodie affords a bit of anonymity. But, I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t a couple of underlying messages in that choice:

  1. A hoodie doesn’t automatically make someone a criminal, in the same way that a suit doesn’t mean that someone is respectable.
  2. Anyone can be a hero.

The series has also depicted something that doesn’t often get seen on the small screen: Glimpses at and inside the Black community. No, parts of it aren’t always pretty nor clean, but I don’t know of any community that truly is. But, you see the community – what brings them together, what tears them apart – and not just a caricature of it.

For a more personal connection to what made this series so special for so many people, I’ll defer to Jay once again:

Cage has always been the character I’ve truly identified with. Yes, I know you’re thinking, “But, what about Falcon?” [For those who don’t know him, Jay’s been a vocal fan of Marvel’s Falcon over the past few years, even cosplaying as him at Salt Lake Comic Con.]

Put it this way: Falcon, War Machine, Black Panther have always been the brothas I’ve wanted to BECOME. Falcon & WM are both respectable service members AND CAN FLY! Black Panther is a damn king. The same can be said about John Stewart as Green Lantern. But Luke Cage has and always will represent who I’ve BEEN and probably always WILL BE. He’s an experienced man of the streets, who’s seen and done things he’s not proud of. His dark past is shrouded in mystery and difficult for him to talk about, but in the end he’s an everyday guy who just wants to do the right thing. He’s more realistic than a high-tech brotha that can fly. That’s why this show is so important right now.

You don’t have to soar through the skies to be a successful black man. You can stay on the ground, make a difference in your community and push forward…ALWAYS FORWARD.
Jay Whittaker
September 30 at 3:31pm

After reading that, I messaged Jay, asking if he’d be alright with me quoting him. I also noted that his summary of what Cage meant to him was “perfect.” Why? As I told him:

…your POV is a great one – not only for people who know the characters, but also for people who just know the movies/Netflix series.

It humanizes – and personalizes – the character in a succint but very poignant way. Pointing out that the others are (ex-)military, given your background, and that Cage is still the most similar to you and the core of your being…? That adds a level that anyone can relate to.

The Washington Post called Luke Cage “…the blackest thing that Marvel has ever done.” Whether or not that’s true can be called into question, but it’s definitely about time that people – everyone – has a chance to see something like this.

Check it out.

 

Salt Lake Comic Con 2016: Coda

Saturday – 03 September 2016
Salt Lake Comic Con
2016 has come to an end.

This was, quite possibly, my most fun time at the con to date. I had a great time seeing friends, reacquainting with others, meeting new people and being a panelist for the first time! (Hopefully, I’ll get to do it again next year!) There were some things and people that I did not have the opportunity to see, but I really can’t complain about this year’s con experience.

This morning, Sara and I took Team DiVa to the Con (ahem… “the costume party”), so that they could see people in costumes. We found “a few” Captains Marvel, to Diana’s glee, but we had a hard time finding a Ms. Marvel for Vanessa. I was hoping to see the young lady (also pictured below) that I saw on Friday; she was nowhere to be found today. Sara managed to find both a Captain AND a Ms. Marvel – at the same time – who were both happy to take pictures with the girls. This happened while I was having a brief meet-and-greet with Phill LaMarr (Pulp Fiction, Mad TV, the voice of Green Lantern John Stewart on Justice League). WHEW!

We left Comic Con, so the girls could have lunch and some down time. I realized that I needed some recovery time, as well.

I returned to the Con a little after 5 PM… to find that the main floor was closing at 7 PM. Fortunately, I had managed to check off most of the boxes on my “To Do” list during the earlier visit. I visited with the Dr. Volt’s crew and managed to get more than three pictures of cosplayers today. I wrapped up the evening attending a panel with three-fourths of the lovely ladies from the Hello Sweetie Podcast, and three other panelists.

I think that Salt Lake Comic Con 2016 was fantastic convention and hope that it was a great success for all involved. I’d also like to thank and congratulate the staff and crew of Salt Lake Comic Con for putting on a great event… and for letting me be a part of it this year! I look forward to what SLCC 2017 brings.

And here are the pictures…

 

 

 

Salt Lake Comic Con 2016: Day One – Aftermath

Thursday – 01 September 2016
For a No Bad News Thursday, today wasn’t horrid. It didn’t start off as what I would have called “perfect,” things came together by the end of the day and it ended with a bang! The day started with me at work and not at the Mark Hamill and William Shatner Salt Lake Comic Con panels that I had originally planned on attending. Oh, well. (As the song says: “I guess this is growing up…“) The work day came and went I left work a little early and made my way downtown.

People. Everywhere.

Many/most of them were in costume. It was great to see the array of characters and the work that people put into their outfits. (I only took one picture.) Of the standouts I recall, there was:

  • A really great Rule 63 Flash (Jay Garrick)
  • Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers),
  • Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan),
  • Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell, in a costume that looked to be primarily body paint),
  • An armored “trooper” that I don’t think that it was a Stormtrooper, and
  • Squirrel Girl.

I made it to the convention center, picked up my badge, and hung out at the Dr. Volt’s Comics booth before heading to my panel discussions.

Salt Lake Comic Con 2016

Wile E. Coyote… Special Guest! (What!? It has the same initials as “Super Genius!”)

Leigh George Kade (Geekshow Podcast and Frisch) moderated both discussions. They were fun and hopefully informative. Audience members asked a number of good questions across a decent spectrum from – we even fielded a few questions after each panel ended. I think that augurs well. (And, if it doesn’t… just let me sit here and enjoy my little delusion. Thank you.) The fifty minutes passed far too quickly – it felt like we had just gotten a good head of steam built up when the “Five Minutes” sign was waved. Hopefully, I’ll get an opportunity to be a panelist at a future con; if not, I’ve scratched an item off my bucket list that I didn’t even know was on the list!

For now: Sleep.
And tomorrow: Work… and Salt Lake Comic Con: Day Two!

The Return of the Justice League

Wednesday – 27 July 2016
For nearly a year, the folks at Cartoon Network and Warner Brothers have been dropping breadcrumbs about a new Justice League-related series that seemed like it would be called “JLA.”

Check out the far right end of the posters...

Check out the far right end of the posters…

Then this much less oblique picture popped up a few months ago:

Justice League Action

The Justice League is back…

The poster below came with the news that Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman for over 20 years, would be returning to the role for this series.  We would later find out that Mark Hamill would also be reprising the voice of The Joker.

Justice League Action... and this time, they brought friends!

…and they’re bringing some friends…

 

Some of the faces - friendly and otherwise - that you'll see on Justice League Action.

…probably even more friends than this!

At Comic Con, last week, they even trotted out one more picture…

I like Wonder Woman's slightly edgier look in this one.

Just in case you forgot who the big guns are…

…and a synopsis…

Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman lead the DC Comics Super Heroes against their most infamous foes in adventures packed with relentless thrills, fun and action. No need to wait for the good stuff to start, each eleven-minute episode jumps in with lightning-paced action and heroics. Whether defending the Earth, facing invaders from space, or battling the bizarre forces of magic, the always-rotating team of Justice League heroes, are up to any challenge.

…before presenting an actual teaser trailer:

No premiere date has been announced, as yet.

Bandette

Friday – 10 June 2016
This evening, I spent some time getting reacquainted with a series that caught my eye a while back: Bandette, from Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover and Monkeybrain Comics.

bandetteindiepromo_lores1

Bandette is… well… here, let’s just take a look at what Mr. Tobin had to say about it (excerpted from an interview on Comicsverse)1:

Bandette is a carefree teen thief in sort of a fake Paris. Its a very French comic, its very Tintin-inspired. Even though I do love things like Colder and doing really unsettling horror, there’s also a very carefree side to my writing, very whimsical. Bandette is that for me. She’s a thief who works with the police every now and then. She fights a secret organization of evil masterminds called FINIS. And she steals a lot of things! Basically, it’s as charming as we can make it.

And there you go. And that, along with the picture above, is about the best possible summation of Bandette. Ever.

But, just in case that wasn’t enough, there’s also the description on Monkeybrain’s Comixology site:

The adventures of Bandette, a young costumed “artful dodger”, leader of a group of urchins dedicated to serving justice, except when thieving proves to be a bit more fun. The story of Bandette treads a thin line between Tintin and Nancy Drew, with a few costumes thrown in. Bandette and her crew at turns join forces and cross swords with the mysterious master thief known only as Monsieur, and one B.D. Belgique, perhaps the most harassed police inspector of all time.

I don’t recall exactly how I first stumbled across the title, but I think that it might have been a Free Comic Book Day offering. However it happened, it was an excellent find. It’s light-hearted and fun, which is getting difficult to find in books that aren’t rated “All Ages.”2 It is also a welcome change of pace from the traditional cape-and-tights fare that most people think of when they hear the words “comic books.”

Bandette #3 (cover)

Bandette #3 (cover)

If you’re looking for something new – and fun – to read, I suggest heading over to Comixology and checking out the first issue of Bandette. She’ll steal your heart. (And your candy bars!)

1 – The interview can be read in its entirety here.

2 – This is not intended as a knock against “All Ages” books nor books for older readers. -Disclaimer Man

Review – Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Tuesday – 12 April 2016 Monday – 18 April 2016 Monday – 27 April 2016
I finally saw Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice earlier this last week two weeks ago. I’ve been trying to write this summation of my thoughts since then. More or less. At times, it just felt like too much drudgery to finish. But, here it is.

I managed to avoid most spoilers, either in conversation or in the media, before seeing the movie. There was one nominally big one that slipped through the cracks, but I thought it might have been a misinterpretation. (It wasn’t.) I will most likely pick up that thread later in this post.

Like my Man of Steel review, this is going to be a two-part review:
The first part will be more of a synopsis and spoiler-free.
The second part will be more in-depth.
Consider yourselves duly warned.

Part One: Synopsis
I mostly enjoyed this movie.

It appeared to draw from the following sources, among others:

Some would contend that there were too many moving pieces in this film and that never works. I’d counter with a look at X2: X-Men United. That story took four storylines from over 20 years of X-Men lore and wove them into a compelling story. This, however, threw a lot at the audience in its two-and-a-half hour runtime and there’s still (at least) thirty minutes of footage that will be seen on the DVD/Blu-Ray release.

And, seventy-five years after her introduction, we finally got Wonder Woman on the big screen. She was introduced with an air of mystery that I hope will be expanded upon in her feature film, due out next year. For the in-costume screen time that she did have, I was pleased with how she was presented: She was a warrior and one, it seemed, who enjoyed a good fight.

I give this movie five SuperBats… possibly six:

Superman BatmanSuperBat!SuperBat!SuperBat!SuperBat!   (SuperBat! )

Part Two: In-Depth Observations
Now that the niceties are out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter.

This was a dark movie. Granted, Batman is in it, but I expected a Superman with a much lighter tone to juxtapose against the Dark Knight’s… darkness. That was not what audiences got.

This Superman was still rather aloof and somewhat removed from the people. Yes, there have been stories around that concept, but for the most part, Superman has seemed to enjoy not only being a role model, but also just being with and around people. Well, more people than just Lois Lane and Martha Kent. There was talk of – and a little lip-service towards – him being a symbol of hope for people… but it seemed more like they were just trying to convince the audience of that than anything else.

The Batman we saw could have been lifted directly out of The Dark Knight Returns: Older, world-weary, hardened. He perceived Superman as a threat to be negated and he also gave action to the growing sentiment of wariness and fear… even if he was pushed into this action through Lex Luthor’s machinations. That point, I’ll come back to in a few paragraphs. While I can understand Bruce’s rage-filled dream about Superman taking over the world, what I cannot fathom is why he would have any notion of parademons, the firepits of Apokolips, or Darkseid at this stage of the game. Hell, he shouldn’t even really have an inkling until Lex started ranting at the end of the movie… if even then.

Lex Luthor. There are many ways to get him wrong. Richard Donner didn’t do it. Bryan Singer didn’t do it. Hell, even the writers on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman didn’t do it. But, this Lex… I don’t know. The genius was there, but there was something missing. Perhaps it was in the way that he came off as a bit manic in some/many scenes. Perhaps it was an attempt to show the smartest man in the room, whose mouth literally couldn’t keep up with all of the lines of thought going on in his mind. I don’t know. I think that he did morph a bit from a less manic Lex and more of the cold, calculating Luthor that I was used to seeing in scene on top of the LexCorp tower with Superman.

Once again, I found that I enjoyed Amy Adams’ Lois Lane. She was tenacious and willing to fight for the stories that she felt needed to be told. You could see that she truly cared for Clark, with his best interests at heart, but also saw the dangers in the shadows that he didn’t – or wasn’t willing to – see.

The brightest spot, in terms of characterization, was Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. To be honest, I was worried about what we would get. This, they got right. We didn’t get a lot of backstory – that’s being left to next year’s movie. While I would have liked to have known a little more about what she does for a living – she’s an antiquities expert/dealer, a fact I discovered from the packaging of a Wonder Woman figure for the movie – I was happy that Snyder got the “warrior princess” part right. And that was done very well. I loved the fact that, once she got into the thick of the fight, you could see that she was enjoying it, almost reveling in the ability to cut loose.

A friend pointed out something that I hadn’t considered: Snyder used Diana to effectively stop the plot (or at least put it on “Pause) while she “…watched trailers for the next movies.”  True. For those who aren’t following: After Bruce Wayne decrypted Luthor’s file on metahumans and sent it to her, the story got derailed to show clips of the three unknown metas.

I mentioned Bruce Wayne’s buttons getting pushed by Lex Luthor above. Here’s where I come back to that point. I’ll grant you that Lex is traditionally considered one of the most intelligent characters in the DCU. What I would love to know is how did he figure out the identities of two of the most guarded figures in the DCEU?! Granted, if you watch Lois Lane’s movements enough, pick up on the fact that “where goes Lois, so too goes Superman.” Put that together with the fact that she started dating a guy – roughly Superman’s size and build – about the same time he showed up on the scene and it’s arguable that you could deduce that Clark is Superman, given enough time. In fact, Lex figured that out in comics in the second issue of Superman (1987), but rationalized it away, thinking that no one with Superman’s powers would waste his time pretending to be… just human. But, figuring out that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Nope. Can’t see it. And, being able to lead “the world’s greatest detective” on a snipe hunt for a man who not only doesn’t exist, but there’s a ship in the harbor that he’s been staking out with the exact same name and he can’t figure it out?! Nah, man. You lost me there.

Then there’s Zod Doomsday. I’m amazed at how quickly Lex not only wrapped his not-yet-bald head xenotechnology and took control of the ark/Fortress of Solitude, but let’s also give him a hand for mastering xenobiology in about 10 minutes. “Lex E. Coyote, super genius…

And the death of Clark Kent was handled even more ham-fistedly than in the comics. And that’s saying something.

I was struck by something that Christopher Tapley wrote in his review of the movie for Variety:

… given that Snyder is obsessed with iconography, a visualist more than a storyteller. 

That phrase triggered something for me. After reading it, I considered some of the movies that Snyder has directed: 300, Man of Steel, Sucker Punch, and Watchmen. While I enjoyed all of those films – and even purchased three of the four – I realized that Mr. Tapley was right. Snyder has a keen ability to make something look visually stunning… but, unless he is (more or less) directly adapting something – 300 or Watchmen, for example – the story is kind of thin. And this movie was no exception to that rule.

As much as I enjoyed Man of Steel for the things that it did differently with the character, I just couldn’t muster that same satisfaction out of this movie. Wonder Woman pulled a lot of this movie’s fat out of the fire for me. I am not disappointed that I paid to see it (in IMAX, even) for the spectacle, but I’m on the fence whether I’ll be putting down money to buy the DVD/Blu-ray… unless the extra footage seriously helps the story. And that’s a pretty strong statement, coming from the guy who saw Green Lantern in the theatre twice(!) and bought the movie on Blu-ray.