Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 & 2

(Submitted by our Superhero Scifi buddy, Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Super Friend! 🙂 xoxo

In Guardians of the Galaxy, a group of intergalactic criminals are forced to work together to stop a fanatical warrior from taking control of the universe. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2′ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. (Marvel Studios)

When I saw the teaser trailer for the first Guardians of the Galaxy, I wasn’t all that into it. I fully blame the Thor franchise for this, as the forced humor in those films, seemed to be rearing its ugly head here. However, to be fair, I knew very little about the Guardians of the Galaxy. Instead of getting on the internet to bitch and moan about what I wasn’t liking, I hopped on to Amazon and bought two trade paperbacks of the newest comics. In truth, the humor was perfectly appropriate for the odd ball bunch of characters that make up the team. After finally seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, I absolutely loved it. It quickly became one of my favourite MCU films and ranks in my top 5 from Marvel Studios. Yes, there’s a lot of comedy throughout but what James Gunn does, is make you care about the characters and shows you their tragedies, so that the humor has greater effect when it finally happens. This film starts with young Peter Quill by his mother’s bedside, as she gives him one last parting gift and words of wisdom, before succumbing to brain cancer. He then runs out of the hospital, only to get abducted by an alien space ship. That is a harrowing but heartbreaking way to open a film. While the rest of the story also hinges on Peter Quill, the other Guardians have their own issues. Most of these aren’t brought to bear visually like Star Lord, however they’re all discussed. Gamora has familial issues, being the adopted daughter of Thanos and having a sibling rivalry with her sister Nebula. Not to mention, she’s acting as a double agent of sorts, in the process of double crossing Thanos. The family drama is very real world, just like Peter’s mothers death from cancer is, it just takes place on an intergalactic scale. I love that no matter how odd these character are, their emotional baggage is very relatable. Rocket Racoon and Groot are more unique from the rest of the humanoid looking group. Rocket is a creation, a genetically altered talking racoon, while Groot is the last of his kind, a talking tree, with a speech impediment, where everything he says is heard as “I am Groot.” While both characters are adorable, they are outcasts amongst a team of misfits. If you’re someone who doesn’t feel comfortable in their own skin, or you feel misunderstood, you will gravitate towards these characters beyond their cuteness. Drax is the only character that’s hard to relate to. After all, when we first meet him, he’s in prison for going on a murderous revenge tour. However, he is trying to avenge the deaths of his family and has killed or is going after, Thanos and or those connected to him, or took part in the murder of his family. So while you might not identify with him, you will sympathize with him.

In several trailers and promotions, the Guardians of the Galaxy were classified as criminals and outlaws and technically they are, but that’s a misrepresentation. They don’t do anything in the film to make you second guess them, or root against them. As you discover their backstories throughout the film and watch them interact with each other, they’re nothing but lovable characters. This is an ensemble film but as I said, Star Lord is the main character and the team all meet through him. That occurs when the film picks up with the adult Star Lord stealing an orb contain an infinity stone and attempting to sell it to a dealer. The dealer reneges on the arrangement when he learns Thanos is after the stone. Speaking of Thanos, not only does he send Gamora after Peter Quill, he sends out a bounty for the capture of the self-proclaimed Star Lord. This gets Groot and Rocket on his trail, as well as his old partner/father figure Yondu. Yondu is the alien who kidnapped Peter at the behest of Peter’s mysterious celestial father, who Yondu describes as an asshole. He decided not to take Peter to his father and groomed him as a Ravager. However, he feels betrayed by Peter and wants to get in on that bounty cash. As Gamora, Rocket and Groot try and apprehend Peter, they are all caught by Nova Corps officers and are thrown in the Kylm, a prison in a trading post called Knowhere. It is here where the characters truly meet. They decided to team up to not only break out of prison, as well as selling the orb/gem to Gamora’s contact, the Collector. Drax comes into the equation because he wants to kill Gamora, in his quest for revenge on Thanos. However, Peter Quill talks him down, suggesting that if he joins them, he will get his revenge on Thanos, so he acquiesces. Speaking of Thanos, displeased with Gamora’s efforts, he sends Ronan, essentially his overpowered henchmen to take them out and retrieve the infinity stone. After they escape prison, they eventually strike an accord with the Nova Corps and Yondu, to join forces and bring down Ronan, which they obviously do. As for the infinity stone, even though Star Lord promised to give it to Yondu, he double crosses him and entrusts it to the Nova Corps. I mentioned the humor throughout the film and it comes in the characters interactions. I loved all of Peter Quill’s 80’ references, including Patrick Swayze in dirty dancing, and Tony Danza in Who’s the Boss. Not to mention, Peter’s ship being named after Alyssa Milano. Gamora’s naiveté mixed in with her overall badassery made the character a good addition. As I said Groot and Rocket were the most adorable characters but having Rocket be the only one to understand Groot is hilarious. It’s like a one sided version of broken telephone, where based on Rocket’s response, we the audience can piece together what Groot says. Also, Rocket being a sarcastic jackass and asking the group to steal another inmates prosthetic leg to assist in his escape plan just to see if they’d do it, made me laugh.. Drax’s humor came from his bluntness and lack of understanding of sarcasm. For example, when Star Lord says a pun went over Drax’s head, Drax responds; “Nothing goes over my head. If it did, my reflexes are so fast, I’d reach out and catch it. “Or when he refers to Gamora as a “Green Skinned Slut”, when he admits he has gotten over his grudge against her . He’s so straight faced and honest about it, I couldn’t help but laugh at the dichotomy of calling someone a slut and your friend in the same breath.

Two aspects of the first film I didn’t like were the villain and the third act finale. Ronan is another terrible villain. He’s a glorified lackey for Thanos, and the character is so over the top. It’s mustache twirl level. The film tells us that he wants to use the infinity gem to put an end to the Kree/Xandar treaty, which he feels has wronged his people the Kree, but the story never delves further into that. His antagonism to the Guardians of the Galaxy is nothing more than them being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as well as being in position of the Infinity Gem. The other thing that I didn’t care for was that Star Lord challenges Ronan to a dance off to distract him, while the others get the Infinity Gem away from him. As noted, I’ve loved every bit of humor in this film up to this point, but this dance off was out of place. The fate of Xandar and potentially the universe is at stake, and that’s the first thing you come up with. Does Marvel have a “1 Joke per Script Page” rule for their films or what? Not only did this gag pull me out of the film, but it lessened the severity of the situation and the impact of Groot’s death to spare his teammates. Don’t worry, in typical Marvel fashion, Groot didn’t really die, Rocket was able to collect pieces of him and plant him in a pot, so he could regrow.

The sequel for my money is a step up from the original in my opinion. Make no mistake, in terms of story, and story structure it’s pretty much the same. Characters and situations change, but the story structure doesn’t break the mold. This time around, the Guardians of the Galaxy are hired by the leader of the Sovereign nation to retrieve special batteries from a monstrous alien. In exchange for returning the batteries, the group is granted custody of Nebula who was captured for stealing the batteries in the first place. As they are dismissed, Rocket can’t help but steal a few batteries. Upon discovery of this the Sovereign leader sends of fleet of ships to attack the group and retrieve the batteries. When that fails, she hires Yondu and his Ravagers to retrieve the batters and capture the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians of the Galaxy eventually team up with Yondu and his crew, not only to defeat the Sovereign army, but defeat the much larger threat of the film. A Guardian of the Galaxy even sacrifices themselves for another team member. Sounds a lot like the first film doesn’t it!? Despite this, there’s enough fresh elements that make this sequel better than the original.

The film does pick up on several open ended threads left open from the first film. One of which is Peter Quill’s celestial father. The character is first introduced in a flashback to his courtship and mating with Peter’s Mother. For this scene, the filmmakers used the de-aging CGI on Kurt Russell and you know what, it looks really good. I thought I was watching actual footage of 1980’s Kurt Russell. We first see him in earnest in the film, when he mysteriously provides an escape route for the Guardians as they evade the Sovereign Fleet. After a rough landing by the Milano, Star Lord finally meets his father Ego. Ego invites his son and crew to his planet. Once there, we get plenty of exposition detailing that Ego is a Celestial that manipulated matter to form a planet and placed itself at the planet’s core. After hundreds of years, he got lonely, so he formed a human body and traveled the universe, which ultimately led him to Earth and the love of his life Meredith Quill. When Peter asks why he didn’t return to Earth when she got ill and died, he intimated that a world without Meredith was a world he didn’t want to be on. He reiterates that he sent Yondu to retrieve him after Meredith’s death and blames Yondu for their delayed reunion. We get scenes of the newly acquainted father/son do bonding over shared taste in Earth music and Ego teaching Peter how to use his celestial power and manipulate energy and matter. This leads to a celestial game of catch. I got so swept up emotion of these scenes, that I didn’t see the twist coming. That twist being that this is all a ruse and Ego is the true villain of the film. He’s been looking for his son all this time, to use his son Peter’s celestial power, combined with his, to activate the seedling he planted on Earth to terraform it into an extension of himself. If that isn’t bad enough, he reveals he planted the tumor in Meredith’s brain, so she would die, allowing him to be left alone and easy for the taking. Even worse still, he’s attempted to do this on other planets he’s visited, but failed because his other progeny died when trying to harness their celestial powers. To use a wrestling term, I did not see that heel turn coming. One of the main reason I like this film a bit more than the first, is because Ego is a much better villain than Ronan. Part of that is the familial connection between Star Lord and Ego and part of it is the acting of Kurt Russell. The way both he and Chris Prat switch between being best of friends, to mortal enemies is emotional, raw and flawless. I could feel both the love and hate between the two characters through the course of the film. This plot point also gave us more info and more screen time for Yondu.

In the first film, you saw that Yondu and Peter Quill had an admiration for each other but the relationship was fractured. From Peter’s perspective, he believed that the only reason Yondu took him and kept him around, was because he was someone who could help him steal, getting into places where Yondu and his team couldn’t fit into. In this film, Yondu reveals that the main reason he kept him around, was because he didn’t want Ego to get his hands on Peter. Yondu taught Peter how to be self-sufficient and fend for himself. In a revealing dialogue with Rocket, Yondu reveals that he grew to love Peter and considers him his son. His action of taking Peter as a child got him in trouble with The Ravagers higher up personnel. Child trafficking is a no-no amongst The Ravagers. This plot point gives a cameo by Sylvester Stallone, who plays Stakar Ogord, and Michael Rosembaum as his right hand man, who exile Yondu and his crew from the Ravagers. Yay to James Gunn for including a cameo from Sly and Rosembaum. Boo to James Gunn for not putting Stallone and Russell in a scene together, for a mini Tango and Cash reunion. Anyways, back to Yondu. The moment where he sacrifices his life, to save Peter from dying in an explosion in a fight with Ego, was epically tragic. The moment before his death, where he says; “He may be your father, but I’m your daddy”, brought me to tears. This death does have a finality to it as well. Earlier in the film, Yondu makes a Marry Poppins reference that is quite funny. I won’t spoil it but keep an eye out for it. Michael Rooker is known as a character actor but he steals the film. By far my favourite character in the film, with Ego coming in second.

Three of my favourite characters from the first film left me with a mixed reaction. Groot was even better than last time, while Rocket and Drax left me wishing they would just shut up and had me rolling my eyes. Groot had only one way to go and that was up. As much as I loved Groot the first time around, how can you not love Baby Groot? The cutest part was how at every chance he got, he cuddled every member of his Guardians teammates. You will “aww” every time you see it. The funny part is when Rocket tries to explain to him about not touching the button to set off the bomb. He understands the words coming out of Rocket’s mouth, but he can’t truly comprehend them, which is why he wanted to push the button that set off the bomb. Essentially he has the mind of a two year old. Every time he appeared in a scene, that dynamic when mixed with what the rest of the group was going through, added the perfect amount of levity and fun to the situation. Rocket’s attitude in the first film was bold, brash and justified given his characters circumstances. However in this film, his attitude was amplified, to the point where he actively tried to push his crew members away. I understand that he felt that getting close to people hasn’t worked out in the past, so why go through that again, however, he got through those issues by the end of the first film. So this behaviour felt like retreading old ground from volume one. Speaking of retreading, Drax was a huge step backwards in volume 2. In the first film, his bluntness and naïveté was a driving force of humor. So James Gunn decided to ratchet that up ten notches, to where it became forced. This resulted in Drax becoming a cackling misogynistic brute, who besmirched and insulted Ego’s assistant Mantis, just to deflect his apparent growing feelings for her throughout the film. He flat out calls her ugly, I believe the word he uses is hideous. Then there’s the barrage of dick jokes he makes. He literally stops Ego in a piece of important, character building dialogue, to ask Ego if he created a dick for himself and how big it is. Then he and Star Lord make suggestive comments about the sizes of their package, I’m good with a raunchy penis joke now and again, but I think the four or five in this film were a bit excessive. Also, seeing as the Guardians of the Galaxy is the most kid friendly franchise to date in the MCU, you should be mindful that there are youngsters in the audience. There may have been more dick jokes in this film then Deadpool and for me, that’s problematic.

Much like the rest of both films, I am overall extremely satisfied with the visual effects in the films. The entire VFX team should be commended for making two entirely CGI characters Rocket Racoon and Groot look so real. Not going to lie, there were so many times in the first film, I wanted to reach out and pet Rocket or swing from Groot. Yes the performances are what connect you to characters, however, the first visual impressions makes you believe these characters exist, and these visuals succeed in that aspect in spades. Considering his background in smaller, low budget films I was impressed with several action scenes he crafted. Both films feature a space battle, between The Milano and Ronan’s warship in the first film, and the Sovereign fleet in the sequel. The space battles are epic in these particular scenes, almost Star Wars level worthy. Notice I said almost, so no one freak out. During the fight with the Sovereign fleet battle, when looking at the space battle from a POV shot of inside the Sovereign’s ships is a visual nod to an 80’s video game, which is in keeping with the fun tone of these films. The opening scenes of both films, are some of the most enjoyably interactive I’ve ever seen. Seeing Star Lord dance his way through an alien landscape, using dead fish like creatures as a microphone, dancing his way to stealing the orb, is like a hilarious absurd melding of So You Think You Can Dance and Indiana Jones. That shouldn’t work, but it does, making for an incredibly fun opening montage. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 starts with The Guardians fighting an alien monster, while Groot has music blaring in a stereo and is dancing, oblivious to the fight in the foreground. I love this opening because as a viewer, you’re totally transfixed, wanting to watch the battle, but at the same time, hooting and hollering over Groot’s adorably hilarious dancing. The third act featured Ego the living planet being destroyed. We almost got a firsthand look at a planet crumbling to its extinction. I’ve never seen it done quite like this. Ego transforms into a disembodied head at one point, which normally I don’t like, but it forces Peter to manipulating matter into Pac Man. Any time I can get Pac-Man references in a film is a positive. There were two instances where the CGI looked terrible. In the first film, when the Guardians join hands, trying to grab the infinity stone, the scene is engulfed in purple, as the team is literally being torn apart. This had to be one of the lamest looking third act finales in a comic book film. A clear sign that the filmmaker had exhausted his budget. In the second film, during the aforementioned fight with the alien monster, said monster looks rather rubbery and obviously CGI. Not as rubbery as the shark in Batman ’66 but considering we’re in 2017, this shouldn’t be an issue.

As I mentioned, when this film franchise first began, I had no idea who The Guardians of the Galaxy even were. As I said, the first trailer for the film didn’t even get me excited for the film. Yet, here we are two films into the franchise and their two of the best of the Marvel brand. One of the best things about these movies is, while they’re part of the MCU, they are standalone films in their own right. While I seem to have more issues with the second film, there was enough positive elements in Volume 2, that I still put it ahead of the first film. No matter which film you enjoy more, you’re guaranteed a sci-fi space opera full of emotion, humor and action featuring instantaneously lovable characters. Revisit the first one and most definitely see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, if you haven’t already.

Kinky Komic Review: Van Helsing Vs Frankenstein

(Submitted by our Superheroscifi Guru, Mr. Prince Adam. Thanks, Super friend! 🙂 xoxo)

“Liesel Van Helsing has dedicated her life to keeping the streets of New York City safe from the otherworldly threats that lurk in the night. However, when she teams up with a hunter who is every bit as cunning as she is, the very nature of the hunt is thrown into question. With the tables turned, and Helsing now on the run from an unstoppable foe, she must unite with the creatures of darkness if she wishes to survive.” (Zenescope)

After reading the first Van Helsing mini-series, I was eager to get back to her world and stories.  After fighting and beating Dracula, where do you go from there?  Well, wrier Pat Shand decided our vampire hunter’s next hunt would be Frankenstein, the most famous living dead man-monster.  Before we get to that, let me be clear, that I skipped several stories in the Grimm Fairy Tales line of stories to get to this one.  So the opening scenes where Liesel is at a bar hanging with her fellow monster hunters. The only one I recognized was Robyn Hood.  It wasn’t two confusing though, as Mr. Shand gives you enough information on the others that are pertinent for this story.  I do love that the bar scene is included though because it put extra ordinary people, in ordinary everyday situations that colleagues and friends would engage in. It gives another layer of humanity to a story full of monsters.  While Van Helsing’s lover Hades, the Greek god of hell is present, he’s only in the story briefly.  However, I do like that Pat Shand deals with the main hurdle in this relationship. Liesel is concerned because she is a mortal, and he is immortal. She worries how their relationship could last when she will get old and he will not. I love that this is an issue, because in such a relationship, this would be a concern. It also reminded me of a similar story arc in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  Truthfully, anything that calls to mind the Lois Lane/Superman relationship is a win for me.  Come to think of it, that’s a conundrum the Buffy/Angel and Buffy/Spike relationship faced, which makes it even more prevalent for me.  She is so worried about this, that while Hades is away at a family meeting on mount Olympus, Liesel believes she has discovered an experiment and formula, which would allow her to transfer her memories and consciousness to another body.  This plot point transitions the story into Frankenstein territory.

To keep her mind off of her relationship worries she teams with two members of her bar friends for a hunt.  Those characters are Franklin and Taylor Shelley.  Taylor is a cryptozoologist and she provides all the info on the monsters they fight, what their weaknesses are etc. Her husband Franklin, is the legit monster hunter of the group, although, Taylor does her fair share.  What I love most about this couple is their last name.  It’s a great nod by Pat Shand to the creator and writer of Frankenstein.  The monster they are hunting is Mothman, a giant sized monster that is exactly what his name implies.  It very much comes off as a B horror movie villain, which is by no means an insult.  What I also loved about this book is the origin of Frankenstein. It all starts when Franklin is killed by the Mothman.  He is brought back to the Shelley lab where Taylor creates a temporary body for Franklin’s mind, which is actually preserved by Moth Man’s venom.  The cool thing for me, is that Taylor creates the body from discarded monster parts they’ve hunted.  However, in addition to preserving his brain, it’s also making Franklin incoherent and crazy.  What I notice is that this Frankenstein monster was created out of necessity, from a place of love.  In the original and in most variations, the creation of the monster is done out of hubris, because the doctor felt like he could play God.  I love how powerful this new take on Frankenstein is. He went on a destructive murderous rampage and beat Van Helsing within an inch of her life, Liesel even makes mention of that fact in their final confrontation.  The last time I’ve seen comic book villains this imposing were Bane in Knightfall, Doomsday in The Death of Superman, or The Joker in The Killing Joke.  The fact that I actually feared for the main characters life, albeit briefly, is a testament to the intriguing and intense storytelling.  Given what unfolds and the death and destruction that has occurred, it’s understandable that Liesel deems it necessary to kill Franklin. I also understand Taylor’s opposition to Liesel’s decision.  Love makes you do crazy thing sometimes, so I completely understood Taylor physically trying to stop Liesel from committing the act.  The ending was a little iffy for me.  Without spoiling anything, the ending was very weighty, with significant loss, which was somewhat lessened by what I thought to be a forced “happily ever after” moment.  However, I’ll give the ending credit for tying back in to Van Helsing’s concerns about her relationship with Van Helsing and putting them into perspective.

The artwork for this story is done by Leonardo Colapietro, His style is very current with comic book trends.  It’s actually quite similar to the artist of the previous volume.  I loved the Mothman design, it reminded me a little bit of the movie The Fly. Especially, the eyes and even the mouth area a bit. The most gruesome scene was seeing the Mothman rip out Franklin’s throat.  The design of Frankenstein really stands out in his first splash page reveal.  He’s got the trademark stitching. He’s got bolts on his body but he has metal attached to his arms and hands, his jaw is even metallic, and he is connected with wires and such.  It’s a nice mix of classic yet new.  In fact, he’s’ got a little Incredible Hulk mixed in with Cyborg Superman… To quote Aquaman in the Justice League trailer… I dig it. What I don’t dig is the look of Van Helsing’s costume, Gone is the top hat, the steampunk goggles, bustier tops, shorts and fishnet stockings.  In its place are leather pants, a leather Harley Quinn colored crop top and a black trench coat.  Her original look made her stand out and was unique. This design was not.  It reminded me of when DC put Wonder Woman in a leather jacket and pants, to appease more sensitive folks…and I hated that!

This story certainly took Liesel Van Helsing in a bigger and bolder direction. It had far more action, yet never forgot to keep things personal.  With her father dead, the personal connection came in the form of her relationship with Hades, as well as her interplay with her fellow hunter colleagues.  Not only am I interested to delve deeper into the world of Van Helsing but I’m more convinced to back track and read about the other Grimm Fairy Tale characters too. If you liked the first mini-series, this is a MUST READ!  

Comic Book Review: Grimm Tales of Terror #2

(Submitted in the spirit of all that is nerdy on this, our New Comic Book Day by Prince Adam...Eternal gratitude, my esteemed Eternian. 😉 xoxo)

“When a group of treasure hunters head to the Amazon to search for the priceless Spider King relic, they will find that their greed has put them in a horrifying predicament!” (Zenescope)

A different writer takes the reigns of this book, in the form of Shane McKenzie. As I suspected, this book feels like it’s going more of an anthology route, with single issue complete stories. Yet it seems as though these individual stories will have a connecting through line. That connecting thread is the mysterious red headed woman from the first issue. Not having read spoilers, or read ahead, the fact that death earmarks those she comes in contact with and the fact that music accompanies her, I am assuming she is either the Angel of death, or a siren of the devil. It’s intriguing to see her pop up in every issue. However, I hope we start learning details about who she is, what her motivations are and what her ultimate end game is. I trust the creative team behind this book, that they will indeed do so but if they don’t it will be a wasted opportunity and I’ll be quite disappointed. I love the hook of this story. That it centers on an antique collector and two treasure hunters searching for The Spider Queen Statue. Firstly, I like this plot point because cursed ancient artifacts serve as the perfect McGuffin for a horror story. Add to that, the fact that the artifact has ties to spiders, a critter that can be creepy and many have a pre-existing fear of. You’ve got all the ingredients for a great horror tale. The mythology around the statue, is that the Spider Queen, the mother queen of all spiders, lures men into her cave with gold and treasure and then utilizes the men to fertilize her eggs. The visual manifestation of that is rather quite unique, which I’ll get into when discussing the art. In the midst of all this, there is a theme, as well as a personal nature to this story. The theme is greed. The mysterious red-headed woman at the beginning of the issue warned that; “greed is an insatiable beast that grows hungrier the more you feed it.” She warns that sometimes you must put it down, no matter how much you’ve grown to love it. Greed is present throughout this book, from the collector, Thomas Tessier and the two archaeologists, Tyson and Chip Mayer. Despite being filthy rich and having a mansion full of ancient artifacts, he’s obsessed with this statue of the golden Spider Queen. So obsessed that this is the second expedition for it. The first cost a whole crew, save for a tour guide their lives. For the two treasure hunter brothers, their greed comes into play because they each want to be the only treasure hunter on their job. That greed over their work led to their estrangement. Things get personal for the brothers when they realize their father was the leader of the crew that first went out to search for the statue. While they blame Thomas Tessier, they go on the mission in the hopes of finding their father for closure. So the three head to the Amazon Rain Forest! Once there, they find the cave and the relic. However, when the brothers clutch the statue, they are swarmed by spiders and eaten alive. As they call for Tessler’s help, he tries to escape the cave. He is swarmed by spiders before fading into unconsciousness. When he wakes, he is seemingly pregnant, and burst to death as he gives birth to a giant spider. What I find fascinating, is the fact that both issues end with the main characters of each story dying. This book is essentially the horror genre equivalent of Game of Thrones in that sense and I’m cool with that. This book is the only comic I’ve read that has killed off EVERY main character. So I give it morbid kudo’s for that.

Artistic duties for this issue were the responsibility of Klosin Przemyslaw. I’ve never heard of this artist or seen any of his work. I had the same scenario play put in issue #1 and just like in that issue, the art is very strong. In fact, the art in issue two looks extremely similar to the art in issue #1. So while the format is more of an anthology, the similar art, reminds us that there is a continuity to these issues. The Amazon Rain Forest serves as a great setting. On the one hand, the lush, vibrant green colors give off a sense of calmness and freedom of being in the great outdoors. However, the tall trees and long thick bushes, make it seem incredibly confined and give it a sense of the unknown. The snakes slithering in the trees also make it pretty foreboding and dangerous. The scene where our three protagonists are flying to/landing in the Amazon Rainforest look like a travel montage right out of an Indiana Jones film. Speaking of Indiana Jones, Chip and Tyson’s deceased father looked like Indiana Jones, with a little bit of Crocodile Dundee thrown in. That’s just fine by me, as I adore both those film franchises. The two Texas Millionaires. Thomas Tessler, and the horribly used, throw away character of Mr. Volk fit pop culture stereo types of Texas and their inhabitants perfectly. Mr. Volk looks like a sleazy Oil tycoon, the likes of which you’d find on the show Dallas, while Thomas Tessler looks like a combination between Colonel Sanders and Yosemite Sam for the moustache. These are not knocks on the art by the way, just the first observations that came to mind. I’m not afraid of spiders, but seeing Chip and Tyson covered in red welts from spider bites was slightly traumatizing. Reason being, as someone who has an allergic reaction to mosquito bites, I sympathize and feel their pain. I was getting itchy just looking at them. The most disturbing and fantastic art of the whole issue was the splash page of a spider impregnated Thomas Tessler, literally bursting to death as he gave birth to a spider that looked to be on steroids. It was truly gross. Also, that’d make a fantastic addition on the show 1000 Ways to Die!

Overall, I think I enjoyed issue two more than I did the first installment. This is a good thing though, as the goal of every comic book story should be to improve on its previous issue. After issue #1 the hook for me to continuing this title was to learn more about the red-headed woman! While I still want to know more of her story, now I’m coming back to see how different each issues horror story is. If you haven’t read this yet, pickup Volume 1 and follow along with the reviews.

Comic Book Review: Lucifer Vol. 1 : Cold Hell

(Submitted by our Superheroic SciFi guru, Mr. Dr. Prince Adam…Thanks, Super Duper friend!! PS- Canada, am I right?? 😉 xoxo)

“Lucifer is back—wounded and weakened, but suave and savvy as ever. And he’s about to be handed the biggest mystery in the history of Creation: God has been found dead, and the Lightbringer is the prime suspect in His murder. To clear his name and reclaim his throne, Lucifer must solve the Deicide himself. But even with help from the disgraced archangel Gabriel, the task is daunting. To maintain the status quo in both Heaven and Hell, angels and demons alike are determined to pin the crime upon the First of the Fallen—but it will be a cold day in either realm before the Devil fails to get his due. “ (DC Entertainment)

The character of Lucifer is getting his time in the spotlight. First, a television series inspired by the Vertigo comic book and now a new ongoing title. This may lead you to believe that this comic is a tie-in, merely serving as promotion to the television show.  This is actually not the case. Although, the show and the book do share commonalities. In both iterations Lucifer has left hell, owns a nightclub named Lux, and the character of Mazikeen is present. In the show, Lucifer has left hell and moved to LA as he’s fed up with God, and needs a vacation from running the biblical underworld. Mazikeen serves as his right hand woman, helping him run Lux, while he consults with the L.A.P.D. in solving crimes and capturing the worst of the worst criminals.  Near the back half of the first season and for much of the second season to date, God send’s Lucifer’s angelic brothers to Earth, in an attempt to return Lucifer to hell, a place he has no intention of revisiting. The comic sees Lucifer leave hell because of his ongoing tension and frustration with God, but also because he’s fed up with being blamed for everything that goes wrong in both heaven and hell.  Unlike the show, in the comic when leaving hell, Lucifer had to relinquish his angelic abilities and also different from the show, Lucifer hand picks Mazikeen to preside over hell in his absence.

The book starts out with a bang, as we are introduced to a wounded and powerless Lucifer, who’s wound mysteriously is spreading to his heart. We are also introduced to the angel Gabriel,   who has been banished from heaven and stripped of his powers, after failing to kill Lucifer. We then cut to heaven, where archangel Metatron discovers that  God has been killed. He instantly blames Lucifer. When Lucifer and Gabriel discover the news, they set out on a journey to clear Lucifer’s name and find the real killer . I liked the dynamic of Gabriel and Lucifer working together even with an antagonistic relationship in place. The back and forth between the two brothers definitely called to mind Sam and Dean Winchester on Supernatural.  Although, there is far more hatred between Gabriel and Lucifer given the fact that they both tried to willingly and consensually kill each other.   Writer Holly Black fully embraces religion and mythology by taking our characters and the readers on a journey through hell and the dream world to solve the mystery. They did mention and show a flashback to Morpheus in the dream world, which is a nice nod and call back to the Lucifer characters origin in The Sandman series. In fact, this series doesn’t negate the previous Lucifer or Sandman series.  Instead, this is part of that continuity. This little tidbit got me curious to finally bite the bullet and start reading some Sandman. Having our two characters traverse the dream realm almost gave us  second story in this book. During this segment of the sojourn, we learn of Azazel, an angel who was responsible for consuming people’s sin’s. He eventually got overwhelmed by the lure of sin and craved more. However, survivors of a village Azazel has over run with sin are fed up and coerce him into having a child.  That child is groomed to hate his father, eventually killing him. In a bizarre sci-fi twist, the son eventually becomes his father. Lucifer remembers that Azazel is the one who stabbed him. In modern day, Lucifer and Gabriel track Azazel to Earth, where he is possessing humans, and forcing them to comitt terrible sin.  Lucifer forces Azazel to heal him.  I must admit, writer Holly Black had me convinced that Azazel was the killer, however, in a clever off-panel twist back in the dream world, Lucifer learns that it was Gabriel all along that had killed God.  Like the reader, Gabriel had no inclination that he had done this. He had been manipulated into doing so and then wiped of his memory. So appalled with himself, Gabriel storms down to hell, asking Mazikeen to tell her who put him up to killing God. In exchange, he will become one of her servants, a curse upon heaven. The two strike an accord and armed with his full set of powers and brand new black wings, he heads off in search of who wronged him. As for who that was and what’s next for Lucifer Morningstar, we have to wait and see.

The art was  drawn by Lee Garbett with colors handled by Antonio Fabela.  The art style is a mix of animation with some grit to it. I’m reminded a bit of Eduardo Rizzo. There’s a great image of Lucifer in his car, arriving in L.A. and overlooking the city. Having that as the first page of the story allows the reader to enter the story with the main character, making me feel as though I was part of the proceedings.  The story sequence where Lucifer and Gabriel enter the dream space had two great moments in it. One was seeing Lucifer confront the dream sequence version of himself, which looked like the more monstrous version of himself, complete with red skin, horns and hooves.  The other is the scene where we see Lucifer leaving the dream world wearing a trench coat and a fedora. It felt appropriate because at times this book had a film noir look to it. The flashbacks featuring Azazel’s origin’s made him look like evil incarnate. He looked so evil in fact, that you almost forget that Lucifer is the lord of hell.  There’s a great splash page of Lucifer and Gabriel flying high in the sky as the sun rises to start the day. The scenery and colour here was absolutely perfect. If you like that classical depiction of angels, this image is definitely one for you. Hell looked appropriately dank, desolate, and scorching hot. Mazikeen sitting on the throne of hell looked powerful, dominant and looked perfectly at home reigning in hell. If the character’s personality wasn’t enough, these images tell you exactly why Lucifer chose her as his replacement. It’s worth noting that both male and female exposed nipple is featured in this book.

This book has been getting a lot of praise from both my inner circles and mainstream comics press and rightfully so.  This graphic novel succeeds at appealing both to fans of the TV show as well as fans of the original comic book run.  If you aren’t familiar with either, you don’t have to be. It’s easy for new readers too! This book is definitely finding a place on my permanent rotation.  This book proves, that no matter morning or night, this version of Lucifer is a star!

Movie Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

(Submitted by Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks for this write up, Heroic Ho-mie. I’ve been wondering whether or not this lived up to your Bat-spectations! 😉 xoxo)

“In the irreverent spirit of fun that made ‘The LEGO (R) Movie’ a worldwide phenomenon, the self-described leading man of that ensemble – LEGO Batman – stars in his own big-screen adventure: ‘The LEGO (R) Batman Movie.’ But there are big changes brewing in Gotham, and if he wants to save the city from The Joker’s hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up.” (Warner Brothers)

While this is a follow up to The LEGO Movie, in that if features the same Batman and voice actor playing him, other than that, there are no real callback’s or references to that movie.I look at this movie as a Batman film that is set in the multiverse. Specifically on a DC Universe made entirely of LEGO’s. The plot is simple, yet isn’t very far off from your typical Batman Vs Joker encounter. Joker tries to destroy Gotham City in an effort to finally one up and get victory over Batman.In his first attempt The Joker loads a plane with bombs and grenades, and plans to detonate it, unless the mayor is handed over to him. Little does he know, Batman is disguised as the Mayor and intercedes. During their standoff Joker demands Batman admit that Joker is his greatest enemy. When Batman insinuates repeatedly that the Joker doesn’t mean enough to him to make that declaration, the Joker ignites the timer on the bombs forcing him to choose between capturing him, or rescuing Gotham. Of course, Batman chooses Gotham. The Joker laughs with maniacal glee as he escapes, while Batman is cheered and given a heroes salute for defusing the bomb. While our hero emerged to accolades and praise and our villain escaped free, their euphoria is shown to be a façade. Batman returns home to an empty Batcave, spending his night eating alone, watching a movie in his home theater alone, and brooding over the picture of Thomas and Martha Wayne, wondering if they’d be proud of his Batmaning accomplishments. In these moments, Alfred reveals that Bruce Wayne’s greatest fear, is being part of a family again. Batman is also struggling with devoting all of his time to being Batman. Meanwhile, the Joker sits in his lair with a who’s who of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, miserable that Batman didn’t validate the specialness of their hero/villain dynamic. In a room full of his villain brothers and sisters, who look to him to lead, there’s a moment where Joker feels utterly useless and alone. This movie is flashy fun and funny, but there are deeper themes and messages they’re trying to get across, especially to their younger audience. These include the importance of family, being aware of your self-worth, but also placing your trust in others. The importance of being strong and independent, yet knowing when to work with others to achieve something greater. This is as story of relationships. Different types of relationships, both functional and dysfunctional.

Batman gets his chance to be Bruce Wayne, during the announcement of the New Commissioner of Police for Gotham City. Jim Gordon is exiting the position and the reason being is he is retiring. Taking his place is his daughter, Barbara Gordon. In most comic book incarnations, she’s a librarian. Here she is a well-established officer of the law, who transferred over from Bludhaven. Sure they changed things from her comic book background, her being a police officer to start and having fighting training from the “Harvard of Police,” made her becoming Batgirl palpable in this version. Especially since Batman is adamant about working alone. While Batman may not want partners, Bruce Wayne is infatuated with Barbara Gordon. So much so, that the song “Died in Your Arms” played the first time, and several times after he sees her. While there is romance inferred between Barbara and Bruce, it is in its beginning stages. I definitely don’t see this iteration of the relationship pissing fans off like The Killing Joke animated film did. We also see the first meeting of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. While Dick Grayson’s comic book origin is kept intact, some changes are made. His parents are killed in the trapeze accident, he’s sent to an orphanage and eventually adopted by Bruce Wayne, before becoming Batman’s partner Robin. However, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson meet at the party announcing the new Commissioner Gordon. Bruce Wayne was so enamoured by Barbara that he was randomly saying yes to whatever Dick asked him. One of those things he said yes to, was adopting Dick Grayson. Given the arrogant, narcissistic nature of this version of Batman, this outcome is picture perfect. Meanwhile, the Joker has hatched his next plan. He and the rest of Batman’s rogues will turn themselves into the GCPD, thus being sent to Arkham Asylum. This leaves Batman without any supervillains to fight and in a way, proves that without Joker Batman would be rendered moot. Batman is left lonely, and rather than admit he desires a family and spend time getting to know Dick or even Barbara, he gets fixated on putting the Joker in the Phantom Zone, to get rid of him once and for all. Dick Grayson is brought into Batman’s world and the identity of Robin is created. Batman enlists his help to steal the Phantom Zone projector from the Fortress of Solitude. They manage to get the Phantom Zone projector, but when they make their way to Arkham Asylum, the Joker and his crew make an escape stealing the phantom zone projector, and releasing the worst criminals, not only of DC, but many in the Warner Brothers film library. It was great seeing the likes of Lord Voldemort, the Eye of Sauron, King Kong, and Godzilla. Even some non-WB IP make cameos, including Dracula and the Daleks from Doctor Who. Those two aren’t mentioned by name because of legal reasons. With these new villains unleashed, Gotham City is ravaged, burned, broken and nearly torn apart. It is here where Barbara Gordon becomes Batgirl. Even Alfred joins the fray. The finale involves, everyone from Team Batman, the rogues, and even the citizens of Gotham joining together to save the city. I won’t tell you how exactly. For that you must see the film.

 

I’m literally amazed at the character growth our hero goes through. Batman starts out, as I’ve mentioned, an arrogant loner, who thinks he’s the best at everything he does. He is, but we as the viewer see that this behavior is part of an act to hide his pain of losing his parents and being alone. I actually teared up, when he was looking at the image of his parents and having a conversation with them. Yes, a LEGO movie made me cry. Don’t judge. When he meets Robin that characters youth and hopeful outlook begins to break down Batman’s walls. You see when he’s training Robin that he’s feigning sarcasm to keep up his “persona.” Barbara Gordon further changes Batman’s opinion on working with a team. You really sees how much he cares, when he programs his vehicle the bat scutter to take Batgirl, Robin and Alfred away from Gotham, while he dealt with the Phantom Zone escapees. They think he’s doing it so he can have all the glory for saving the day, when in reality, he does it out of fear of potentially losing his new Bat family, the way he did his parents. He further shows them how much he truly cares, by giving them their own personal Bat-Signals and then reveals himself to Dick Grayson to be Bruce Wayne In case you’re wondering, yes, I got emotional during both these scenes. What can I say, I’m an emotional fanboy when it comes to Batman.

Yes there’s character evolution and emotion but make no mistake, there is a Batcave full of humor here. It starts right in the opening credits. Batman comments on the fact that all great movies start with a black screen and terrifying music that make studios and parental groups nervous. He then comments on the company logos. He mistakenly calls Warner Brother’s Warner Bra’s. When the DC comics logo appears, he refers to DC as the house that Batman built. He then tells Superman; “Come at me bro”. When the Rat Pac logo appears, Batman wonders what exactly they do, but remarks how cool their logo looks. This intro reminded me of Deadpool’s intro. Granted this one was PG. It was also better because it featured Batman and Batman will always be better than Rob Liefeld’s rip-off Deathstroke character. 😉 In its humor, the film finds ways to make nods to past Batman incarnations. In the scene where Batman stares at his parents portraits, Alfred mentions that Bruce is going through one of his brooding fazes, like he has in 1989, 1992, 1995, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2016. Not only was Alfred name dropping years that Batman films were released, but a montage of Lego posters of those films were shown. Except for Batman and Robin and Batman ’66. For Batman and Robin, they flashed a picture of Clooney’s Bat-Nipples. Yes, that still scares the piss out of me. Adam West got much more respect and deservedly so. The film actually showed a clip of him doing the Batusi. When the Joker tries to blow up the Gotham City airport, the air traffic controller remarks that Batman will stop him; just like he did that time with the balloons and the Prince music, as well as that other time with the two boats. These are obvious callback’s to both Batman ’89 and The Dark Knight. At her announcement ceremony, Barbara Gordon shows a video for how long Batman’s been cleaning up Gotham City’s crime ridden streets. Here, the animations on the monitors reflect imagery from the Superfriends, Batman the Animated Series, even the black and white film series from the 40’s are featured. This film is very much a love letter to every Batman era. It continues to make fun of itself. For instance, when the Joker proclaims himself to be Batman’s greatest adversary, Batman responds by saying Superman is! Joker then retorts that Superman isn’t a villain. Barbara suggests to Batman, that they use his rogue’s gallery to battle the Phantom Zone escapee’s. Batman responds; “You want me to use a team of bad guys, to fight bad guys? That’s stupid!” This funny Suicide Squad dig wasn’t my favourite though. That distinction belongs to two nods in particular. The first is when Batman visits the Fortress of Solitude. He rings the doorbell of the giant door and the John Williams Superman theme begins playing. As a Superman fan that had me laughing and smiling joyously. The line that had me in stitches, was the password to enter the Bat Cave. That phrase being; “Iron Man Sucks.” As a lifelong fan of DC Comics, and someone who feels that while the Marvel films are good but many are highly over-rated, I can’t express in enough detail how much joy this line of dialogue brought me.

The voice acting was very strong by all but one of our lead actors. Will Arnett once again gives Batman a gravely, cocky arrogance that, while it would be annoyingly frustrating from any other character, is positively endearing and adorable coming from LEGO Batman. Michael Cera’s Robin was higher pitched and had a more youthful tone then I’m used to for Robin. Shockingly I wasn’t annoyed by it, even when the character was singing. For the story being told, Robin’s role in it and the fact that the character is clearly appealing to a younger audience, having him sound younger makes absolute sense. Ralph Fiennes sounded great as Alfred. He brought a great mix of compassion and classic English droll that is synonymous with the character. Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl is a standout. She has a commanding authoritative presence in her voice as the police commissioner, but is kinder and gentler when dealing with Batman and Robin. She sounded somewhat like a big sister with them. Zach Galifianakis was just okay as the Joker. Neither his voice nor his laugh really stood out or made me take notice. Far more disappointing then that was Jenny Slate as Harley Quinn. There was no distinct accent and she didn’t utter the word “Puddin’” once. It was just Jenny Slate reading her lines.  As a super fan of Batman ’89, it was great to have the look and voice of Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face. However, it was such a letdown that he only had one line. Zoe Kravits was wasted as Catwoman, only uttering the word “Meow” twice in the film. The only supporting rogue whose voice entertained me was Doug Benson as Bane, who sounded exactly like Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises. Also, Superman sounded like a douchebag in this movie. Then again he was played by Channing Tatum, so that explains it. No wonder I was hoping Batman would kick his ass! Visually, the animation looked great! The opening action sequence stopping the bomb at the Gotham City airport was so action packed it felt like it belonged in a live action film. There was so much detail and so many levels to the Batcave. You see the various Batmobile’s as well as the Dinosaur and giant penny. I just wish we got more close up shots of these things, so I could inspect the details of each. Oh well, guess that’s what freeze framing the Blu-ray will be for. Seeing the crystak Fortress of Solitude was a great bit of nostalgia, as was the word effects popping up during the third act fight, to evoke Batman 66. The fight was even framed, positioned and shot, like a fight sequence on that show. I never thought I’d see Godzilla or King Kong in a Batman film. The fact that I saw both in this film, makes this film visually breathtaking. Also, those Lego recreations of the Burton/Schumacher and Nolan era Batman film posters were so incredible. I didn’t know that I wanted them, but now that I have them, they will soon be a profile picture or banner, on every one of my social media outlets.

Given all the drama surrounding The Batman live action movie, specifically who will direct it and if Ben Affleck will star in it, The LEGO Batman Movie is exactly what we need right now. A fun, entertaining love letter to this incredible character and his history. I don’t think it would be fair to rate this amongst live action Batman movies. They’re vastly different entities. I will say it’s the Batman movie I’ve had the most unadulterated fun watching. As far as animated Batman films, it’s definitely one of the best. It stands right alongside Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Under the Red Hood and Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker. I loved The LEGO Batman Movie. It’s fun for Batman fans of all ages and an absolute treat no matter what era of Batman you may be partial to!

Comic Book Review: Tomb Raider Vol 1: Season of the Witch

(This comic is very near and dear to my black heart… 😉 Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it, Mr. Dr. Prince Adam at Large, Esqurire. 😉 xoxoxo)

Superstar writer Gail Simone (“yay!” 🙂 -D.P.) picks up Lara Croft’s story where the smash hit Tomb Raider game left off in this collection of Tomb Raider #1-#6! Lara and the other survivors of the Endurance are experiencing horrific visions after their ordeal in the Lost Kingdom of Yamatai. But the visions lead to a darker fate . . . can Lara survive the calamities that await her as she struggles to piece this new mystery, and her life, back together? (Dark Horse)
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Much like my last review of a Tomb Raider comic book, I was concerned that my years away from playing the game would make getting back into the world confusing. Luckily for me, that book was a prequel to the reboot of the video game, so it dealt with the reader as if Lara Croft was brand new to them. This graphic novel however, directly revolves around the events of the newest game. I haven’t played the latest game yet, so chances for confusion were optimal and very high. I’m happy to report, I wasn’t lost at all. The story, through writer Gail Simone gave me exactly what I needed to know. The Endurance capsized and sank killing Roth, Alexis, and Angus.  Only Lara Croft, her best friends Samantha Nishimura and Jonah Maiava, as well as the bad ass ex/cop ship mechanic Joslin Reyes survived.  Along the way, Lara and the crew fought the Solarii, a group of religious cultist lead by Father Mathias who worship Himiko, She is believed to communicate with the spiritual world and control the sun and rain. The people on the island of Yamatai, worship her, even though she ruled inscrutably and ruthlessly. In order for her and the remaining crew to survive, Lara killed Father Mathias and watched  Himiko vanish. They returned home from their ordeal with gold totems from the island.  This is where our story begins. What’s great about this book, is that the trauma has left our remaining characters with emotional scars. Lara is definitely suffering survivors guilt, and having nightmares, reliving the traumatic events. Similarly, Samantha finds herself sleepwalking. Jonah is suffering fits of delusions and is temporarily hospitalized because of the events of the island. Finally, Joslin is steering clear of Lara, as she partly blames Lara for the events, believes trouble follows Lara and wants to avoid putting her daughter in danger.  I though this aspect of the story was ingenious. It makes these characters feel far more real. Anyone who’s suffered tragedy of any kind knows the effects can be long lasting and life changing, No one has ever come out of a traumatic event 100% unscathed.  Given everything these four characters have been through, it’s 100% appropriate and justifiable that they would suffer mental and emotional stress.
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This book isn’t only about our character dealing with internal struggles. For the physical, tangible aspects of the story, the synopsis is accurate; their past does come back to haunt them. Followers of the Solarii, so essentially followers of followers, have come to regain the golden totems, and to capture Lara, as they believe her blood is the key to reviving Father Mathias, who will in turn revive, Himiko. To get to Lara, Samantha is kidnapped. This brings the remaining surviving members of The Endurance back together to find and rescue her.  This part of the book had me ecstatic. One of the reasons I didn’t care too much  for the prequel graphic novel was it’s lack of adventuring and archaeology.  This book takes us from America to Ireland, where Lara studies the mythology surrounding the gold and the totems, thus she is able to link them to the Solarii.  She is then lead on a wild goose chase to Japan, before heading to London to gather her weapons, then finally finds her way to Yamatai for the final confrontation. In terns of harrowing near death adventure, Lara, Jonah, and Joslin have to survive a flood, fire and a ground slide, before they even get to the Island of Yamatai The mix of archeology and action/adventure is what I remembered from Tomb Raider and sorely missed in that prequel graphic novel. Gail Simone gave that to me in ample supply here. This book is no cock tease. We do see Lara Croft spill blood, the resurrection of Father Mathias and the Solarii Queen Himiko. That’s a minor spoiler compared to how it all comes about and how Lara and her friends get out of their precarious situation. The twists and turns the story takes are pretty fun and you’d hate me for spoiling it.  And I don’t want hate mail sent to Diana and then redirected to me. So you’ll just have to read it to find out. Gail Simone did a great job with flashbacks, solidifying the strong friendship between Samantha, Lara an Jonah, as well as the stand-off type of animosity between Lara and Joslin. These flashbacks not only legitimized the different relationships and made me feel as though I played the video game. Also, even though Gail Simone gives our heroes a somewhat happy ending, they are still haunted by all they’ve seen and done. The characters have been forever changed by the game and this stories events, and pulling a Marvel Cinematic Universe “Shwarma” moment would have been a lazy copout and unnecessary Disney style fluff move.

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Nicolas Daniel Selma is the sole artist on this graphic novel. He did half of the art for the prequel graphic novel. If you’ll remember, in my review of that book, his was the art I enjoyed. His rendition of Lara Croft is perfect. A great mix of intelligence and  beautiful. One trait doesn’t dominate the other. She fits perfectly on a movie screen or a runway, while at the same times looks right at home in a library. Basically, what I am saying is this iteration of Lara Croft is smexy! Last review I said this artist showed he had a flavor for drawing an action scene, the brief moments he got a chance to.  Well forget just a flavor, in this volume, he draws you the whole meal.  The disaster scenes are truly all encompassing.  When Lara and Jonah are trapped in his trailer that has been submerge in water, you really experience, the rush and overwhelming feeling of drowning. The scenes where their transport boat is torched, you sense the confusion and chaos the character are going through as it seemingly  seeps through the pages, or your screen, if you’re reading digitally.  If you’re claustrophobic, the mountain scene may bother you.  This book would be a perfect candidate for the 3D effect that the Batman 66 digital comic had, or would also work great as a motion comic. The more magic/mystical moments in this book never felt awkward or out of place, I also liked that I could never tell a nightmare sequence from a present day moment, until the frightening moment occurs. Sometimes, they are far too easy to telegraph.  In addition to these big, bold explosive moments, he can also draw peaceful and playful moments. A great example of this is that scrapbook of memories flashback page, highlighting Lara and Samantha’s friendship throughout the years.
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If you read this after playing the game, it’ll expand and make the gaming experience a fuller one. If you haven’t played the game in decades, this will bring you right back in time to a Tomb Raider you remember but is new.  If you’ve somehow miraculously never heard of Lara Croft or Tomb Raider, this book will make you want to not only read more stories but venture into the gaming world as well.

 

Comic Book Review: Scooby Apocalypse

(Submitted by Prince Adam…Thanks, Super Friend! 🙂 xoxo)

The Hanna-Barbera cartoon classic is re-imagined for a new generation in SCOOBY APOCALYPSE VOL. 1! When the world is tossed into chaos, it’s up to a group of meddling kids –Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and their dog, Scooby-Doo– to solve the mystery and survive hordes of zombies! But can they save the day and cure everyone or will they become brain-eating zombies? The creatures of the night are among us, and the crew of the Mystery Machine has to fight to survive–because in the apocalyptic badlands of the near-future, the horrors are real! (DC Comics)

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I was fully ready to channel my inner child and dive into this book with that frame of reference in mind.  That’s not a slight on Scooby Doo, as I do the same thing when reading or watching Batman 66. Sometimes you have to put yourself in a certain headspace to get the full enjoymentof a property and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Besides who wouldn’t want to mentally go back in their headspace and read this with child like wide eyed wonder?  To quote George Takei; “Oh My” was I pleasantly surprised with what this story gave us. When the description says re-imagined, it’s 100% accurate, specifically where tone is concerned.  This had more in common with a Robert Kirkman comic book instead of a Saturday morning cartoon. Sure the cartoon features our five some running from and battling monstrous creatures, but given its nature as a kid’s show, you really don’t get a sense of their fears or their desperation in the moments where they look to be overwhelmed by the monsters. In the cartoon, it’s always covered up or glossed over by humor.  Again, this is totally understandable because it was geared towards children.  With this book, you really sense their fear and the fact that the crew gets overwhelmed by this monster/zombie apocalypse.  For example, the first time Daphne kills a monster, she has what equates to a nervous breakdown because she realizes that these monsters were once human beings with families. There’s also Velma, who wrestles with the role she played in this monster/zombie apocalypse. At first she somewhat places blame on her employers but as the story progresses, she realizes the role she played and suddenly has the weight and burden of that responsibility on her shoulders. These types of reactions are more adult and true to what the reaction to a monster apocalypse would inspire.

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Fret not, despite the reimagining, the core essential elements and traits of the characters are intact. Velma is the brains of the group, with a particular fetish for science.  For Daphne Blake, Keith Giffen an J.M. DeMatteis references both A Pup Named Scooby Doo and Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island by having Daphne be from a family of wealth, as well as being a TV reporter. The book does have Daphne under attack by monsters a lot; however, she’s no damsel in distress here. She’s the most badass warrior/gunslinger on the team. At times she’s almost a Rambo with boobs. Fred Is Daphne’s cameraman and best friend, who is also obsessively in love with her. He definitely takes the lead at times but also finds himself getting hurt or knocked unconscious in the strangest of ways. All the attributes that featured in the characters traits in the various interpretations are present here. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo are stuck together like glue.  Scooby is still clumsy, still loves to eat, especially pizza, still has a speech impediment and manages to always come through and save the day, even if unknowingly. He’s the lovable Great Dane he’s always been. Shaggy also has a certain type of speech, specifically using a lot of filler words.  He’s also a food junkie and also has a love for pizza. The character is aloof, but seemingly smarter in this iteration of the story. Shaggy always treats Scooby like an equal, while at first the other characters are more dismissive of Scooby, before eventually treating him like an equal.

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What’s unique about this book is that the Scooby gang are not teens. They’re in their mid 20’s to early 30’s.  You’d think we’d get even more history between the characters. Instead, the story goes in a different direction. What we have here is the first ever meeting between our five main characters.  They are all brought together by a monster/zombie attack. The monster zombie outbreak, as I mentioned before was in part caused by Velma. The company Velma works for “The Complex”, infected humanity with a techno virus via nanites. The original intent was to weed out humanity’s baser instincts like greed, hate and violence, then reprogramming humanity to live in a more peacefully way. However, it is revealed that Velma’s employers, who happen to be her brothers, double crossed her and altered the nanites. The result is that a portion of humans have been turned into zombified monsters, in the form of aliens, werewolves, vampires and mummy’s. I loved that this book used classic monsters for this zombie outbreak.  Although, how or why the humans manifested into these particular monsters wasn’t explained well at all. The way it was eluded to, it seems that either Velma was clairvoyant and foresaw this change or, that her brothers based these monsters off of their sister’s nightmares. I hope this is cleared up over the course of the second half of this story. One thing that is explained well, is the reasoning behind Scooby Doo’s ability to speak and why he has a speech impediment.  Scooby Doo was the first dog in the Smart Dog program, an initiative that saw The Complex implant computer chips in him, to stimulate the language centers of the brain. These chips would also enhance the dogs’ protective instinct and killer instinct to have the dogs help and assist the U.S. military at home and abroad.  However, Scooby doesn’t take 100% to the procedure and his verbal skills hardly advanced past that of a toddler. This is essentially the Christopher Nolan/Batman Begins explanation of Scooby-Doo and I love it!

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Howard Porter is the artist of record on this book. I’ve had exposure to his work for years, as he’s been an artist for both Justice League and The Flash. The characters have gone through a slight redesign, but overall remain very true to their animated counterparts. Scooby, Velma and Fred look virtually unchanged, while Shaggy and Daphne have undergone some slight hairstyle and wardrobe changes, but in these cases there’s always a nod to their past, be it in color of clothing or whatnot. The character do seem built in more superheroic proportions. That could be in part because of the artists style, as well as the fact that the characters have grown up, no longer being in high school. Scooby Doo looks adorable and cuddly most of the book, but when he is protecting Scooby and or Velma, he looks epically fierce in growling mode.  I also love that the monsters have the classic, mummy, devil, vampire and werewolf look.  These characters are timeless. They are the Batman and Superman of genre. They can be done and redone and no one would ever get sick of them.  My favourite images of the book are the Monsters hovering over the Scooby gang, while they are below them and totally unaware, or when the Mystery machine is attacked by the monsters and a “battle for your life shootout” begins.

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No matter what, on some level, I knew I’d like this book. I had no idea I’d love it as much as I did. It’s respectful to the past, while reinvigorating these characters and this world. Truth be told, in some instances it tells a better zombie story then The Walking Dead comic book does. I know, that’s a controversial statement but it’s my review and I can say what I want and express how I feel. This book ended with a cliff-hanger, so I can’t wait to see how the story concludes. I also can’t wait to see what DC’s new take on The Flintstones is like. Of course, that is also a book I will be reviewing for you guys.

 

#SuperheroSunday Comic Book Review: Superman: Birthright

(Submitted by fellow Superman Superfan, Mr. Dr. Prince Adam…Super-Hugs, Super Ho-mie, and Happy #SuperheroSunday, Superfiends!! 😉 xoxo)

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Superman Birthright is another re-telling of the Man of Steel’s origins.  Ultimately, it is a modernization of a classic tale, a melding of old and new. Unlike Superman: Earth One, this was meant to be DC’s official incontinuity Superman origin story  The tale begins on the planet Krypton, where chief scientist Jor – El, is testing a prototype rockets potential journey into space via computer.  Jor – El’s wife Lara enters the room with baby Kal – El in her arms.  Jor – El recounts to the Council of Elders that the planet Krypton is doomed.  The only way to ensure the safety of their son and preservation of their race, is to rocket him into space to another planet. Jor – El is insecure of this, as he is yet to find a civilization as advanced as Krypton.  Lara reassures him it’s the right thing to do.  As the planet begins to tremor, the boy is placed in the rocket and Jor – El programs earth’s co-ordinates into the ship.  Earth’s yellow sun will give Kal – El abilities far beyond those of mortal men.  As the planet explodes and the ship departs, Kal – El’s parents wonder what will become of him.  In the ship accompanying Kal – El are a hand held holographic projector embedded with all of Krypton’s history and a quilt bearing the symbol and colours of the House of El.  While I prefer Earth being pre chosen as the destination for Kal – E, this version is just as good because the last minute finding of earth serves as hope for Jor – El and Lara for their son’s survival. Just as their son will serve as a symbol of hope for humanity.

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The story then jumps forward 25 years.  Clark Kent is in Africa working as a freelance reporter.  He meets a man named Kobe Azuru, who is an activist against tribalism.  Kobe advises Clark to embrace his heritage.  One day while covering a story on Kobe, assassins make an attempt on his life.  Clark intervenes and saves his life.  Here we are first introduced to Clark’s super strength and heat vision.  The heat vision looks like the special effect on Smallville.  It seems to intensify depending on his mood.  I like this aspect because it adds realism to the ability and differentiates heat vision from laser beams ala Cyclops.  There is a majestic looking sequence in the book, where Clark flies over a herd of Zebra’s in the African plains. As we know, this scene was transplanted into Man of Steel and was equally as beautiful.  This origin story gives Clark a new power, “soul vision”.  Clark is able to see the soul or aura around any living being.  In an email to his Earth mother, Martha Kent, Clark says that the aura is a multitude of colours and when a living creature dies everything goes dark.  This is why Clark is a vegetarian in this version of the story.  Many fans took exception with this, but I don’t because it makes sense in the context of this story and adds to Superman’s resolve against killing. Eventually, Kobe is killed in an assassination despite Clark’s efforts to prevent it, prompting Clark to return home to Smallville.

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The Kent’s, Clark’s adoptive parents are younger than previous iterations.  In both age and actions, they mimic their Smallville counterparts.  Both have a hand in helping Clark shape his dual identity.  The main reason for doing this is so Clark can maximize his full potential.  He can help people and feel connected to humanity.  After deciding to adopt the look of his birthplace, Martha uses the quilt that was in the space shuttle to create a costume.  Then the family begins crafting the “mild –mannered reporter” disguise.  They put Clark in clothes that are slightly big on him to hide his physique.  They advise him to slouch, so he won’t stand out in a crowd and train him to speak in a higher pitch, changing his voice from when he’s in costume.  Even after all this, his eyes still stand out so the decision is made for Clark to wear his father’s glasses.  While they don’t change the colour, “the way the light refracts through the lens it cuts the colour.”  Clark departs for Metropolis.  This story gives Jonathan and Martha Kent a larger role in the creation of Clark’s dual identities rather than Martha just acting as his seamstress.  The Kent’s are now an integral part of their son’s past, present and future.  I also enjoyed the explanation of every aspect of the disguise, especially the glasses and how they can actually slightly alter his appearance.  It is the most in-depth and realistically plausible explanation in any medium.

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When the story hits Metropolis, the reader is instantly put in a post 9/11 world.  A cab driver informs Clark that the armed copters overhead are anti-terrorist measures performing a test run.  Putting this Superman origin in a world fearful of terrorism is smart because not only does it make the story more relatable, it allows the character to stay relevant in society.  This is why the character has lasted so long and will continue because he changes with society.  Everyone at the Daily Planet is status quo.  Perry White is a driven editor who wants the best from his staff and paper.  Lois Lane is the ever-feisty female reporter.  She is respected by her peers and fights for the “little guy.”  Clark first encounters Lois protecting Jimmy Olsen from a public humiliation from the Planet’s publisher.  Clark sees this and is enamoured with her.  I love the fact that Clark falls for Lois because of her personality, above and beyond her looks.  During his interview with Perry White, Clark has perfected the bumbling, mild-mannered routine.  He is jittery, soft-spoken and constantly looking at his shoes.  The disguise almost costs him the job, until he makes a passionate argument as to why he deserves it.  An anti-terrorist copter crashes through the window of Perry’s office, just as Clark pushes him out of the way.  The confusion in the office allows Clark to leap out the window unnoticed and change into Superman.  Whether on the printed page or on screen, the “shirt rip” that reveals the “S” insignia is always intense.  All the copters have malfunctioned and Superman proceeds to dismantle and stop them.  In an attempt to follow the story, Lois and Jimmy board the Daily Planet helicopter.  A problem with the throttle causes Lois to hit one of the anti-terrorist copters.  As the helicopter falls from the sky, Jimmy falls out while Lois is trapped inside.  In an action packed two-page spread paying homage to Superman: The Movie, we see Superman holding the helicopter with Lois inside in one hand, while catching Jimmy with the other.  After averting the disaster, Superman uses his super hearing and telescopic vision to discover that Lex Luthor sabotaged the anti-terrorist weapons.  When he confronts Lex, Superman speaks as if the two individuals know each other.  Lex seems confused by the implication.  When the media arrives Lex puts on a show, calling the attacks horrible and thanks Superman for his efforts.  Disgusted, Superman flies away.  The reader is left wondering what Superman and Lex’s past connection is, and why Lex doesn’t remember it.  The people of Metropolis seem to adore Superman after his first appearance. Lois also wins praise for her article on the Man of Steel and Clark secures himself a job based on his expose on Luthor’s connection to the attacks.

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The books focus shifts to Lex Luthor.  Not only is he a businessman, he is also a scientist.  This is a melding of Lex’s pre-crisis and post-crises origins.  This serves to satisfy all fans, while making Lex a better rounded complex character.  Lex’s company, LexCorp, also funds a scientific observatory devoted to the discovery of extra-terrestrial life.  All research is based on a discovery Lex made when he was a child.  This fascination adds another layer to the relationship of Superman and Lex Luthor.  Superman is the validation of Lex’s findings but cannot be used to achieve Lex’s motivations, which frustrates Lex.  Thus, when he reveals his data on Superman’s powers and birth planet to Lois and Clark, he puts a negative spin on it.  It is also revealed that Lex possesses a green stone engraved with Superman’s insignia.  Back at the Daily Planet, Clark is forced to write an article chronicling Lex’s findings and wonders what impact it will have on the public’s perception of Superman.  Later, when Superman stops a train from derailing and asks if there is a doctor available to help the injured driver, bystanders cower in fear of Superman.  Lex’s plan appears to be working.  An explosion on a Metropolis bridge forces Superman back into action.  As Superman is holding the cables, Lex sets off another explosion to make it seem like Superman is tearing the bridge apart.  Superman tries to save a civilian but he is weakened by radiation from a green meteorite.  To escape its effects, Superman jumps into the water under the bridge.  The public’s trust of Superman deteriorates even further due to these seemingly coward-like actions of leaving the scene in the midst of danger.

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Clark returns to Smallville to re-group and recalls his first experience with the meteorite, which ties into his past with Lex Luthor.  It turns out that Clark and Lex went to high school together because Lex was held back after doodling schematics for an invention on an aptitude test.  Lex is a mere 3 years older than Clark.  I like this take better than Smallville’s version because the T.V. version of his father being in town on business seems too coincidental and contrived.  Clark and Lex befriend each other due to their mutual belief in extra-terrestrial life and their sense of isolation from the rest of society.  One day, Lex shows Clark the wormhole device he invented that can communicate with past alien civilizations.  Lex reveals the power source of the machine, the green meteorite. Exposure begins to make Clark ill and he cowers in pain.  Lex misinterprets the reaction as fear and throws Clark out of the laboratory.  Just as Lex makes contact with the Kryptonian civilization, the power source overloads causing an explosion.  Not only is Lex’s research gone, his hair has been burned off his scalp, and his father is killed.  Fast forward to present day, Lex has once again made contact with the Kryptonians, and uses the images to fabricate reports of an alien attack on earth led by Superman.  Author Mark Waid understands that Lex is a threat to Superman because of his conniving mind.  He is an adversary Superman must outsmart constantly, and due to Superman’s own moral code cannot be eliminated by physical means. In addition to Mark Waid borrowing from Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum, Zack Snyder and Geoff Johns have admitted to referencing this Lex for BvS. This is obvious in his look and his machinations to discredit Superman to the people of Metropolis.

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As the story progresses, Superman saves Lois once again, this time from mob gunfire.  As he flies her to safety at sunrise, she tells him she trusts him and wants to help clear his name.  This is one reason why Superman loves Lois; she is one of the few reporters who is concerned with reporting the truth, rather than selling a paper.  Superman decides to confront Luthor.  Here, due to his extremely large ego, Lex reveals to Superman information about his origins.  He tells him about Krypton and its explosion and dubs the green meteorite that is lethal to Superman, “Kryptonite”.  Lex enjoys the perverse pleasure of not only informing Superman that he is alone in the universe, but also revealing his plan to discredit and eliminate Superman.  Superman vows to stop him and flies off.  While Clark later reads a rival paper, which indicates the public fear Superman, one of Lex’s “Kryptonian” warships attacks.  

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Here’s where the story gets a little sour.  The warship is a giant robotic spider.  No, don’t get your eyes checked, you read that correctly.  Does it sound familiar?  Either Mark Waid was inebriated when he wrote this, or Jon Peters was an unaccredited story consultant.  This is one of the reasons I can’t give this book a perfect grade.  Why did Waid use a spider?  He is so knowledgeable in Superman lore, yet he chose to take one of the most dreaded plot devices from an unused Superman script and insert it into the book.  My suggestion, take Maalox or Pepto Bismol before reading this chapter of the story.  Anyway, Superman confronts the war craft, but Lex found a way to disperse Kryptonian radiation into the air.  Weakened and being chased by the police, Superman has lost hope and decides to return home.  As Superman watches from the sky, his symbol is being burned into the ground as a brand. Upset, he decides to stay and defend Metropolis.  Before he does so, he confides in Lois about Lex’s plot and the effects Kryptonite has on him.  He tells her that it is the key to Luthor’s whole charade and asks Lois for her help to expose Lex.  Superman rejoins the war zone severely weakened by Kryptonite.  Still, he goes toe to toe with Van-Gar, the “Kryptonian” leader.  At the same time, he manages to reveal to Metropolis that the “invasion” is a hoax. Nearby, Lois manages to pull the kryptonite out of the control panel at LexCorp and as a result, half of Van-Gar’s army disappears.  As the citizens witness Superman’s heroism, they pick up make shift weaponry and stand in front of him, ready to defend their city.  I’m glad this was included, because it shows that Superman is a symbol of hope and inspiration, not because of his amazing abilities but because of his actions in doing good and helping others first and foremost.

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Back at Lexcorp, Lex captures Lois after finding her with the kryptonite.  Lex tries to “get rid “of Lois by pushing her out the window.  However, after defeating Van-Gar Superman catches Lois just before she hits the ground.  Following a battle with Lex at Lexcorp, Superman begins seeing “video” from Krypton.  Superman is essentially watching his past, seeing Jor – El and Lara place him in the ship and rocket him to Earth.  Prior to the end of the transmission Superman somehow breaks through the time barrier sending his parents a message.  Kal – El tells his parents he is fine and made it to earth.  Back at the Daily Planet, Lois and Clark share their first front-page story.  Clark teases Lois about her feelings for Superman, which she denies while doodling Superman’s insignia on a blank sheet of paper.  The book ends with one of the most poignant scenes in a comic book.  As the planet Krypton is falling apart, Jor – El and Lara receive their son’s message.  Their son is alive and living a prosperous life.  They will live on forever through him.  They share one final embrace. This scene started my penchant of crying while reading it the first time.

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Superman: Birthright is an immensely satisfying Superman story.  It has all the action, sci-fi, humor, and romance you expect from a good Superman tale.  Mark Waid knows Superman lore well.  The only thing missing from said lore in this story was the Fortress of Solitude, which could have been included instead of that ridiculous robotic spider, but I digress.  Leinil Yu’s art is realistic and vibrant.  It’s as if Yu tapped into the minds of Superman fans, and mapped out the artwork from there.  Each character has a distinctly different look, a skill few modern comics artists have.  Superman: Birthright is a solid beginning to an ongoing enduring saga.

Ho-stess’s PS- Speaking of Superman… 😉 #hehe #GOAT!!!!!!!! #SuperheroSunday for really reals!! 😉 xoxo

brady201


    

Comic Book Review: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(Submitted by Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks, Bat-Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

“GOTHAM CITY. From the Penguin to Killer Croc to Ra’s al Ghul and beyond, the caped crime-fighter called Batman already has his hands full protecting his city. Suddenly, a new enemy emerges—the Shredder and his ninja followers, transported to Gotham and unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. Now they’re on the hunt for the technology that will help them return home…and conquer Gotham City in the process with the help of Batman’s deadliest rogues. But heroes come in all shapes, and the Dark Knight does not fight alone. As the Caped Crusader joins forces with Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Master Splinter, can the Bat, the Rat, and the Turtles take down the most vicious villains from two dimensions?” (DC/IDW)

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This is the crossover every child of the 80’s-90’s dreamed of. It took a couple of decades, but The Dark Knight & Turtles in a half-shell have finally joined forces. It took a couple of decades, but was absolutely worth the wait. A great aspect of this story was that it starts by hitting the ground running. The Turtles and Shredder are already in Gotham City and the explanation is simple and makes perfect sense. During their last altercation, the alien conqueror Krang teleported them away, so he could go about subjugating IDW’s New York and the world unopposed. I’m so glad they didn’t go with the mistaken coordinates while testing their teleportation device story hook. They did that in the crossover with the Ghostbusters and to go their again, would’ve been redundant. Even the way Batman comes into contact with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is very practical. They are both on the hunt for Shredder who is stealing tech that will power the portal to send him home. Of course, this story isn’t just about the Turtles and Shredder getting home. There’s a plot twist for both the TMNT and Shredder. The mutagen in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not functioning properly in the DCU and the result is that if splinter and his green skinned sons don’t get back to their earth, they will revert back to their normal turtle and rat form, before eventually dying. Meanwhile, Shredder has designs on traversing both worlds and establishing a Foot Clan stronghold in both Gotham and New York. To do so, he first uses Penguin as his patsy to gain access to the tech he needs to go back and forth between worlds to gather a supply of mutagen. Upon his return he, aligns himself with Ra’s al Ghul, merges the Foot Clan with the League of Assassin’s, strengthening their power base. Then they storm Arkham Asylum and inject all of Batman’s heavy hitters with mutagen and turning them into super strong monsters. Sure the third act, the inclusion of April and Casey and the way the Turtles get home gets a little cliché, yet you won’t care. The final battle, specifically the massive brawl at Arkham Asylum and Batman and The Ninja Turtles working together, will wash away any blasé feelings you might get at certain points.

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My favourite aspect of this book by far, is the character interactions between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman. Firstly, I love that different universes is nothing shocking or groundbreaking to either of the characters. They’ve both experienced the phenomenon many times, so to force shock and awe would’ve been eye rolling. I love the reaction the Turtles had towards Batman. Michelangelo, Leonardo and Donatello essentially went full fanboy. Specifically over Batman’s costume and gadgets. Donatello loved the holographic 3D imagery and the Bat-Computer, while Michelangelo wanted to drive the Batmobile and ride the giant dinosaur in the Batcave. Meanwhile, Leonardo and Splinter were very impressed with his martial arts ability. Their reactions were absolutely hilarious. Their reactions would essentially be me on set of a Batman film, meeting Ben Affleck, while he was in full costume and still in character (Make it happen WB!) Raphael wanted nothing to do with Batman at first (typical Raphael). He sees Batman as a spoiled rich guy who only fights crime for the adrenaline and fun of it. He resents him because he and his brother were born in the way of the ninja and have to fight just for survival. To turn Raphael’s opinion around, Batman takes Raph to Crime Alley and recounts the story of his parent’s death. He tells Raphael that the reason he is Batman, is to prevent families like the TMNT from going through what he did. This was an incredibly emotional scene. When you actually read the dialogue and see the imagery, I guarantee you that emotions will flow. I also really liked the pairing of Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul. This version of Shredder has his roots in reincarnation and Ras al Ghul has the Lazarus Pit. So they both have that quasi eternal life thing going on. They are essentially the mirror version of each other on their respective universes.

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Freddie Williams II is the artist on this book and his work is INSANELY fantastic. His art is more stylized, in the sense that the characters are highly muscular.
This is by far the best drawn version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in comic book form in my opinion. I got all nostalgic because the turtles look a lot like the ones from the movies in the 90’s. Batman looks quite a bit like his Arkham Asylum counterpart. The longer ears and the more armored costume certainly point to that aesthetic. I really appreciated that the artist drew more than one Batmobile and that each one he drew was inspired by a previous Batmobile from the comic books, instead of the films. The Batcave was massive and all tricked out with Batman’s wonderful toys! Easily the best Batcave image is seeing Michelangelo ride the giant dinosaur. That image and the pure glee Michelangelo has on his face reminds you how fun and escapist comic books can be. As I said, the massive brawl at Arkham between Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles against Mutagen infected inmates. It was chaotic, action packed, and very detailed. Every animal that the villains turned into fit their character. Seeing Riddler as a fox, Bane as an elephant/mastodon, and Joker as a snake made for some pretty wild imagery. My favorite animal transformation was Poison Ivy, who became a humanoid Praying Mantis, which is an absolutely PERFECT analogy for that character. A key to a successful Batman artist is his ability to draw Gotham City, the DC Universe earth’s most dangerous city, and make it look so good that I still want to live there. In that regard Freddie Williams II is an A+ Batman artist. The scene with Penguin and Shredder overlooking the Gotham Harbor was beautiful, even though it feature so much evil.

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There’s a comic book trend, I’m noticing on a personal level. That is, that the crossover comic books I’ve been reading are the best of the comic books I’ve been reading. I’ll admit, I enjoy this crossover slightly more then the one with the Ghostbusters. However, that’s because Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were absolute favourites of mine as a child. Read both and make up your own mind. There’s another TMNT/Batman crossover set in the animated universes, as well as a Justice League/Power Rangers crossover on the way. Look for my reviews on both here.