Saturday, October 21, 2017

Comic Book TV season opening reviews

Had a good summer? I didn't. I mean, I still had to work and all. Summers mean less post-30. Except for OzCon. That was awesome.

I'm not going to be doing these blogs weekly like last year. Instead, I'll write reviews when I wish. Most likely if there's anything I want to say in the midseason finale. I'll certainly be reviewing more than one episode of The Flash this year over at my new blog, Dibny Diaries.

The Defenders - The culmination of the Netflix and Marvel shows sees Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Matt Murdock and Danny Rand unite to defend New York City from the machinations of The Hand.

The eight-episode format nearly makes this one of the better Netflix and Marvel shows, except for the sheer number of characters included. Not only do we have the four main characters, but their supporting casts also showing up and getting involved, and while this is done well, it can be a bit much on first time viewing.

The plot is not the same high-stakes adventure that we saw in The Avengers, the first live action Marvel team up property. A good reason for this is right in the titles: The Defenders. Defense is preventative, while avenging means something bad has already happened. When viewed that way, the series is more satisfying.

DuckTales - Disney XD revives the classic 80s show for the 21st century with a new voice cast (except for Donald Duck, who is still voiced by Tony Anselmo), a new look, and a brand new continuity. The original DuckTales was inspired by the comic book stories of Carl Barks, and while the new version is still proud of the original series, it takes a lot of inspiration from the Barks comics.

The double-length season/series opener features Donald Duck leaving his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie with his Uncle Scrooge McDuck while he has a job interview. Meeting Webby Vanderquack—granddaughter of Mrs. Beakley, Scrooge's housekeeper—the boys get into trouble with Scrooge's treasures, which Scrooge helps them set right, reawakening his sense of adventure. After an adventure in Atlantis, Scrooge invites Donald and the boys to move in with him.

The new series so far has introduced many elements of DuckTales lore around fun and exciting plots that are written so well that adults without kids should enjoy it as well. As of the fifth episode aired, we have Flintheart Glomgold, the Number One Dime, the Beagle Boys, Gyro Gearloose and his helper robot, and Magica DeSpell. New to the series is a running plot addressing what happened to the mother of Huey, Dewey and Louie, Della Duck.

Fans of fun adventure of all ages should find quite a bit to like about this new DuckTales, so I recommend it.

Inhumans - Marvel's third show for ABC was a collaboration between them and IMAX theaters, who ran an edited down version of the first two episodes in theaters for a couple weeks in early September. Now the first five episodes have finished airing.

Running into a coup on the moon by his brother Maximus, Black Bolt and the other members of the royal family are forced to flee the city of Atillan to Hawaii, where they must reunite before returning to take back the throne from Maximus.

The royal Inhumans can be compelling characters, but their in-character snobbery can make them off-putting. In the comics, the royal family was introduced in the pages of Fantastic Four, allowing a familiar and likeable team to be the conduit to meeting these characters. Inhumans doesn't have this luxury, with the Agents of SHIELD no longer on Earth and no other teams at the TV department's disposal. The series attempts to find ways to make them appealing, but considering this show is only going to have eight episodes and we've finished three and have only five left, this might be asking a lot from the audience to stick with it.

Inhumans was originally announced to be a film before it was quietly pushed back indefinitely. This series was announced, and the television budget, despite being high thanks to funding from IMAX, begins to show, particularly on Atillan. Nowhere does it feel majestic or imposing. Lockjaw, the giant telepathic teleporting bulldog looks great, but the budget means we only get a few scenes with him.

Inhumans seems doomed to get only one season at the moment. Aside from Lockjaw, there's not a lot that I'm excited about for it. The "give it a few episodes" advice doesn't help when we're looking at a small number of episodes. If you wanted the royal Inhumans in live action, check it out. Otherwise, take it as you will.

The Gifted - The Strucker family discovers that their children are mutants. In a world where the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants have vanished, the only chance they have is to join with a desperate band of on the run mutants.

The pilot sets up a lot and while fine, doesn't quite have enough time to make us totally get into the multiple protagonists. Thankfully, the second and third episodes gives us more of an idea where the showis going and gives us a much better idea of this world. Perhaps this isn't going to be quite as well crafted as Legion, but this seems to be a worthy X-Men TV series so far.

Gotham - This season finds young Bruce Wayne beginning to master the double life of playboy socialite and vigilante he will become famous for in his years as Batman as the villains continue to rise. Gotham finally feels on track as "the Batman show without Batman" finally has Batman.

Lucifer - Discovering that his wings have come back, Lucifer tries to remove them permanently while continuing to assist (loosely) with detective Chloe Decker's investigations. Tom Welling joins the cast as Lieutenant Marcus Pierce, who seems to be hiding a few things.

Supergirl - While Kara misses Mon-El, life continues in National City, for her, Lena Luthor who has bought Cat Co., and Alex and Maggie who are getting married. Reports are that this season will introduce this generation of superhero TV's Legion of Super-Heroes.

The Flash - Cisco manages to break Barry out of the Speed Force, revealing him to now be faster than ever before. Caitlin—hiding her Killer Frost identity—rejoins Team Flash as Cisco and Gypsy work on their relationship, as do Barry and Iris as they prepare to get married. Meanwhile, a new villain—the Thinker—watches the pieces of his plot come into place.

Legends of Tomorrow - Finding various anomalies through time, the Legends have the Waverider taken from them by Rip Hunter's new time correction force. After getting it back from him, they convince him that they can help him correct anomalies through time. Meanwhile, a mysterious threat rises.

Arrow - With Thea in a coma and Oliver now having to care for his son, things take a turn as a photo revealing Oliver as the Green Arrow is exposed to public, putting him under the eye of the FBI.

Riverdale - As Archie's dad recovers from being shot at Pop's, the killer begins to target other people in Archie's life.

That's what we've been able to tell from the shows so far. Frankly, I'm enjoying this season. Even Inhumans, though I'd say it's quite the weakest show.

Here's some quick reviews of comic book movies that came out since the last blog.

Wonder Woman - The first truly impressive DCEU movie features the story of Wonder Woman as depicted by Gal Gadot as Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) arrives on the island of Themyscira and tells the Amazons about World War I. Diana returns with him to find and defeat Ares, the God of War.

Wonder Woman finally gives the DCEU an inspirational hero. Henry Cavill's Superman and Ben Affleck's Batman are promising, but their outings so far have rendered them as flawed without really having a victory without a major downside. In Man of Steel, while saving the world, about half of Metropolis is destroyed. In Batman v Superman, Batman makes the wrong judgement call and Superman is killed. Diana sets out to destroy Ares and even though she makes mistakes, she learns and emerges victorious. And it's done with a very good pace and amazing visuals. And furthermore, the message the movie makes is pretty welcome.

Spider-Man: Homecoming - The first MCU Spider-Man solo film embraces the high school setting of Peter Parker's (Tom Holland) early years in his career as Spider-Man, being secretly assisted/monitored by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Peter comes across the weapons-running gang of the Vulture (Michael Keaton). Tony and Happy tell him to let someone else handle it, but Peter wants to prove himself. Just he needs to do that and balance his school life, especially if he wants to impress Liz (Laura Harrier).

Homecoming is a lot of fun, but also uses some good intrigue to the proceedings with a worthy plot twist. The film clearly links to the larger MCU, but manages to create a world specifically for Spider-Man to exist in on the streets and neighborhoods of Queens. Giving Spider-Man a benefactor and a confidant (who is not a romantic interest) gives us something new that we haven't seen in any of the five previous Spider-Man films from the past twenty years. For once, Spider-Man feels like a young kid. He screws up, but he gets up and tries again. That's really what the character is about and Homecoming nails it.

Batman and Harley Quinn - One of this year's DC animated movies finds Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) teaming up with a reformed Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) to foil the plots of Poison Ivy (Padget Brewster) and the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson).

It goes for a bit more of a comedic take on Batman mythos while not betraying the characterizations. Some of the humor is a bit more raunchy, including a scene where Nightwing and Harley have sex. Overall, I had fun, but some fans have expressed displeasure.

Batman vs. Two-Face - The follow up to The Return of the Caped Crusaders finds Harvey Dent (William Shatner) entering the world of the Batman 1966 TV show. After an attempt to drain Gotham's worst of their evil goes awry, Harvey is transformed into the villainous Two-Face, with Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) going after him. Both Julie Newmar and Lee Meriweather do voice work for the movie as well.

Although still campy, the film feels a bit more serious than the old TV show, but it's all right as the audience for the show has changed and is more open to it. It has a good story, fairly good animation (it's still direct to video), and a spectacular voice cast.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Elongated Man

I was very excited to hear that the character Ralph Dibny, aka Elongated Man, would be joining Season 4 of the CW's The Flash.

My first exposure to the character was in Detective Comics #359, which was the debut issue of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. My father had a copy of it and I read it, surprised to find a backup feature I'd never heard of about a man who could stretch his body. Soon after, I looked through his other copies of Detective Comics and found more stories about Ralph Dibny.

Ralph debuted in The Flash #112 in 1960, which told his origin. Obsessed with contortionists, young Ralph Dibny did everything he could to figure out how exactly they were able to contort their body in seemingly impossible ways. Finally discovering that they drink a soft drink called Gingold, Ralph was able to make an extract of the Gingo fruit and tried it, only to discover it gave him temporary elastic powers. Getting an elastic costume, Ralph set out to make a name for himself. He didn't even bother with a secret identity.

In his third appearance in The Flash #119, Ralph married Sue Dearbon. They would eventually become a backup feature in Detective Comics, starting with #327. Having become rich from media appearances, Ralph and Sue traveled the country, solving mysteries. Eventually, Ralph would join the Justice League.

Having a married couple very much in love, one of them being a superhero with no secret identity set the Dibnys apart from most other comic book characters at the time. Marvel's The Fantastic Four would bizarrely also have a leading man with elastic powers whose first name begins with R who marries a woman named Sue with no secret identities, but the Dibnys were first.

I always found the inclusion of Sue to be problematic. In many of her Detective Comics appearances, she would only appear in the beginning and close of the story, sometimes even not appearing at all. Some of her later appearances had her assist Ralph with his cases.

The comics eventually claimed most people were allergic to gingold, then later identified that Ralph was actually a metahuman whose power was triggered by gingold.

This would basically be the status quo for the Dibnys until 2004's Identity Crisis miniseries. In the opening of this series, Sue is murdered and the rest of the series dealt with the shakeup it caused in the superhero community before the murderer is found.

2006's 52 event featured Ralph becoming suicidal over the absence of Sue in his life before attempting to have her resurrected. Ralph's story in the series culminated in his death, the final issue revealing that he and Sue were reunited as ghosts.

2009's Blackest Night event had the Dibnys resurrected as Black Lanterns before being destroyed. When other characters who were made into Black Lanterns are restored to life in the finale, Ralph and Sue are revealed to not be among them.

2014's new incarnation of Secret Six saw both Ralph and Sue return as undercover members of the Secret Six, Ralph disguised as a character named Big Shot, rescuing Sue from the Riddler. The main continuity of the DC universe had shifted to a new universe, and in this one, the Dibnys were not dead.

The name "Elongated Man" has always bugged me because "Elongated" is past tense. Ralph elongates. But it's weird to switch the name up after nearly 60 years, I suppose.

The treatment of Ralph and Sue after 2000 has been disappointing for fans of their classic incarnations. Luckily, Secret Six ended with them living happily ever after, something they haven't yet changed. Hopefully they can get back to Ralph and Sue seeking out mysteries.

The character hasn't officially appeared in any live action media prior to his appearance on The Flash coming next month. He's made small appearances in Justice League cartoon series and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Hopefully his appearance on The Flash will prompt DC to do more with the character.

I haven't done a recommended reading list before, but discovering that the only other lists start with Identity Crisis, I felt like the previous adventures of Ralph and Sue needed to be highlighted before you see tragedy strike. (Not to mention, as a fan of the character, I have an aversion to Identity Crisis.) So, here's a recommended reading list of Elongated Man stories sans Identity Crisis, 52 and Blackest Night. If you want to read those, well, I just listed them.

The Flash #112 - "The Mystery of the Elongated Man!" When the Elongated Man arrives in Central City, the Flash is wary of his tendency to help people get attention. When he notices some unsolved crimes, he begins to suspect the Elongated Man of committing them.

The Flash #119 - "The Elongated Man's Undersea Trap!" While skin diving on his honeymoon, Ralph disappears. Sue calls in the Flash, who discovers alien fishermen who kidnap humans for slaves.

The Flash #124 - "The Space-Boomerang Trap!" One of the more iconic Flash and Elongated Man team ups. When Captain Boomerang uses time-traveling boomerangs to commit crimes and appear innocent at the same time, it brings the attention of beings from another dimension, forcing Flash and Elongated Man to join forces with the villain.

Detective Comics #327 - "Ten Miles To Nowhere!" The start of Ralph's Detective Comics stories, which continued to #383 before going to irregular appearances. While traveling, Ralph notices that his odometer mysteriously gained ten miles overnight. Investigating, he cracks a crime ring.

Detective Comics #331 - "Museum of Mixed-Up Men!" Ralph's first team up with Batman. Arriving in Gotham City, Ralph joins Batman's investigation of a gang that uses a device that causes people's faces to change.

Detective Comics #355 - "The Tantalizing Trouble of the Tripod Thieves!" Ralph spots jewelry thieves floating away against their will and follows them to discover Zatanna, who winds up enlisting his help in finding her father. This was part of a running story throughout several DC titles that culminated in Justice League of America #51, which Ralph appeared in.

Justice League of America #105 - "Specter in the Shadows!" Ralph is inducted into the Justice League and calls them in when he and Sue witness a gang of putty men raid a museum.

The Flash #252-253 - "Double Dose of Danger!" and "Don't Mess With The Molder!" A two-part story in which Ralph drinks a dose of gingold at super speed when he's recruited by the Flash to investigate a mysterious phantom gang. The "speed-charged" substance causes Ralph to take on the villainous persona of "The Molder," who can change the shape of whatever—or whoever—he touches, part one ending with him reducing the Flash to a puddle on live television.

Detective Comics #572 - "The Adventure of the Lost Adventure!" Part of a book-long crossover with Batman, Robin and Slam Bradley (and a surprise mystery guest), Ralph foils a plot to steal a long-lost Sherlock Holmes manuscript from 221B Baker Street.

Secret Origins (Vol. 2) #30 - "The Home Stretch." A new version of Ralph's origin based on how the character had developed since his debut, including how he met Sue. It's told in a framing sequence of Ralph returning to his hometown.

Ralph and Sue frequently appeared in Justice League Europe and Justice League International.

Elongated Man #1-4 - 1994 saw Ralph get his very own miniseries. A bit goofy, Ralph and Sue head to Modora where an old Justice League villain attempts to break them apart.

Formerly Known As The Justice League #1-6 - A miniseries featuring a comical take on several former League members, including Ralph and Sue.

JLA Classified #4-9 - "I Can't Believe it's Not The Justice League!" A sequel to Formerly Known As The Justice League.

Booster Gold (Vol. 2) #15 - "Reality Lost, Part One" While time traveling, Booster Gold runs into Ralph.

Convergence: Justice League of America #1-2 - Part of the Convergence crossover, this one takes a peek at a world where Ralph and Sue still live, and Ralph is still an active hero.

Secret Six #1-14 (2014-2016) - Ralph and Sue's new incarnations in Earth Prime make their debut as they work to take down the Riddler.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Comic Book TV recap (5/15/2017 - 5/17/2017)

Agents of SHIELD sees its season finale this week. It has officially been renewed for a fifth season with, although it will not begin as usual with Inhumans taking its slot, which has been moved to Friday night. Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow will be wrapping up for the season next week.

Supergirl: "Resist" - Reya's invasion of Earth begins and Cat Grant and the President return to Central City to face off against her along with the DEO.

Gotham: "Light the Wick" - The Court of Owls grows suspicious of their new recruit, Jim Gordon, as he investigates what they're doing with the Alice Tetch virus, being assisted by Oswald. Ivy tries to revive Selina using plants.

Lucifer: "God Johnson" - Investigating another murder, Lucifer meets a man who claims to be God, and he becomes convinced this is actually his father.

The Flash: "Infantino Street" - The day that Savitar will kill Iris has arrived and Barry has to recruit the help of a past version of Leonard Snart to steal the power source for a cannon that will trap Savitar in the Speed Force.

iZombie: "Dirt Nap Time" - Infuriated at the theft of the remaining doses of the zombie cure, Liv eats the brains of a friendly teacher who also slept around. Major attempts to find the thief.

Agents of SHIELD: "World's End" - The agents reunite with Robbie Reyes in a last ditch effort to shut down the Framework, defeat Aida and stop anyone from using the Darkhold again. The finale wraps up the storylines of Season 4 nicely while setting up new possibilities for Season 5.

Arrow: "Missing" - With Adrian Chase in jail, Team Arrow believes they can breathe easy until they realize Chase's true plans are yet to be realized.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Comic Book Shows Recap (5/8/2017 - 5/11/2017)

Supergirl: "City of Lost Children" - Jimmy befriends an alien boy after his mother is put in custody after causing chaos in public. But what made her act up? The DEO and Kara investigate, linking it to the machine Lena Luthor has been duped into helping Mon-El's mother build.

Gotham: "The Primal Riddle" - Eddie decides to figure out who controls Gotham with a series of deathly riddles aimed at Gotham's elite. Gordon decides to use his connection to the Court of Owls to sort things out. Bruce's impostor confronts Selina. Oswald and Ivy recruit Bridgit Pike and Victor Fries for their army of freaks.

Lucifer: "Deceptive Little Parasite" - Chloe and Lucifer investigate the murder of an admissions officer for a high-class elementary school. Lucifer retrieves the blade of Azrael, which only he can light to allow a return to heaven for himself, his mother and brother.

The Flash: "Cause and Effect" - With Savitar's identity out there, Cisco wipes Barry's memory to prevent Savitar from knowing anything. However, this proves more problematic than helpful.

iZombie: "Some Like It Hot Mess" - Major recovers from taking the zombie cure, but Ravi is anxious to try to test his memory serum to prevent Major from losing his memories. Peyton gets an important secret from Blaine. Liv eats the brain of an irresponsible DJ to solve her murder.

Agents of SHIELD: "The Return" - The SHIELD team has to work on two fronts to take down Ivanov and his LMDs. Ophelia—AIDA's name for her new human self—helps rescue everyone before being captured by SHIELD in a facility that limits her powers. However, when she discovers that Fitz doesn't love her, she returns to Ivanov.

Arrow: "Honor Thy Fathers" - Oliver discovers something disturbing about his father's legacy as he finally tracks down Chase. Rene decides where he should side in a court case.

Riverdale: "The Sweet Hereafter" - As Betty breaks the word that Jughead's father is innocent, tensions rise between Cheryl and her mother. Jughead re-evaluates his place in Riverdale. Season finale.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Comic Book TV Recap (5/1/2017 - 5/4/2017)

Supergirl: "Alex" - A mysterious villain captures Alex, forcing Maggie and Kara to join forces to find her. Thing is, the kidnapper also knows that Kara is Supergirl. His ultimatum is to get his father out of jail, or Alex dies. Mon-El's mother makes a proposition to Lena.

Gotham: "These Delicate and Dark Obsessions" - After calling in former henchman Gabe, Oswald and Ivy are betrayed and are captured. Despite imprisonment, Bruce begins psychological training to become a beacon of hope in Gotham. Gordon realizes the Court of Owls was behind his father's murder.

Lucifer: "Candy Morningstar" - Lucifer returns from Vegas (and hiatus) with his new wife, Candy, which forces confrontations with the women in his life.

The Flash: "I Know Who You Are" - Thanks to a tip from the future, Barry goes to see Tracy Brand, who is working on a Speed Force trap that can stop Savitar. Thing is, Savitar and Caitlin—now Killer Frost—are dead set on stopping them, and aren't afraid of shedding some blood. And Cisco is having trouble bringing himself to harm his former friend.

iZombie: "Spanking the Zombie" - Liv has to eat the brain of a dominatrix to solve a murder. Meanwhile, Major works on a mission for Fillmore Graves, discovering their barbaric methods of ensuring their ranks are fed.

Agents of SHIELD: "Farewell, Cruel World" - Daisy and Jemma have found the "back door" of the Framework, allowing them to escape. Now to round up everyone and get them to go through. Only problem is Fitz, who still believes himself to be a head of HYDRA.

Arrow: "Underneath" - Oliver and Felicity are trapped in a powerless Arrow Cave, thanks to an EMP that also disabled the chip that allows Felicity to walk. They have to do their best to find the exit along with the rest of Team Arrow doing all they can.

Riverdale: "Anatomy of a Murder" - As it becomes clear that Jughead's father was framed for Jason's murder, mysteries and tensions rise and Archie and his friends scramble to finally discover the truth.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - The sequel to 2014's surprise hit Marvel movie is now in theaters, as colorful and full of excellent tunes and fun and action as a fan would hope.

After recovering Nebula (Karen Gillan) from the Sovereigns, the Guardians run into Ego (Kurt Russell), who reveals himself to be Peter Quill's father and is eager to reconnect with his son. After being betrayed by his team of Ravagers, Yondu (Michael Rooker) joins up with Rocket, Baby Groot and Nebula. None of the Guardians suspect a plot that threatens the entire galaxy.

It's a little difficult to describe the plot without spoiling the movie. As I guessed early on in promotional stages, parenting is a big theme in the movie, with the Guardians caring for Baby Groot, Nebula and Gamora confronting how they've turned out, being the daughters of Thanos, and the comparison of Yondu and Ego, who are both father figures to Star Lord: one is the person who cared for him (admittedly after abducting him from Earth) and brought him up, the other is his biological father.

I was also impressed at the use of female characters in the movie. We once again have a strong leader of a society who is female, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). The Guardians also add Mantis (Pom Klementieff), whose power is actually her empathy, enhancing a usually considered feminine trait into a superpower. While Peter is revealed to be falling for Gamora, her own story in the film doesn't revolve around him.

And of course, it's as full of fun and humor and action as you've come to expect from a Marvel Studios film and The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Excellent entry to the MCU, definitely check it out.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Comic Book TV Recap (4/24/2017 - 4/27/2017)

Gotham makes its return along with the CW shows this week (except, of course, Legends of Tomorrow). Lucifer is coming back next week. I will be seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on Thursday night next week, so my recap blog will likely be posted Friday.

Supergirl: "Ace Reporter" - Jack Spheer (Rahul Kohli) arrives in National City to debut his nanobots that appear to have revolutionary medical advances, as well to reconnect with his ex, Lena Luthor. However, Kara spots the nanobots attacking people. Anxious to return to Cat Co., Kara approaches Snapper Carr again. James takes issue with Winn having his girlfriend nearby when they're working nights.

Gotham: "How the Riddler Got His Name" - Proving to himself that he doesn't need Oswald, Eddie begins committing crimes, giving his victims or the GCPD clues via riddles. The Court of Owls finishes grooming their Bruce Wayne clone and kidnaps the actual Bruce. Jim reconnects with his Uncle Frank who invites him to join the Court of Owls.

The Flash: "The Once and Future Flash" - Trying to discover the identity of Savitar, Barry goes to the future to discover his surviving friends and future self broken, and himself unable to return to the past. Finding Central City under the thrall of Mirror Master and the Top, Barry finally realizes that he has to remind the future of what it means to be a hero.

iZombie: "Wag the Tongue Slowly" - As Ravi tries to perfect his memory serum by using Blaine as a guinea pig, Liv uses the brain of a murdered office gossip to try and figure out whodunit. Clive gets a lead. Major's condition continues to get worse.

Agents of SHIELD: "All the Madame's Men" - May and Daisy—now with her powers returned—escape the HYDRA base as the plans of Madame HYDRA becomes clear, and Fitz is working hard to see them completed as Coulson prepares to hijack a pro-HYDRA television program to spread the truth about HYDRA. Daisy sorts out her feelings about Ward.

Arrow: "Dangerous Liasions" - As Oliver deals with bad PR while exposing Adrian Chase, Felicity's new hacker friends try to break someone who can trace Chase out of jail, which Team Arrow carefully monitors in case anything goes wrong.

Powerless: "No Consequence Day" - While this episode was advertised as the staff of Wayne Security celebrating "No Consequence Day" (Lois Lane was killed, so from that point onward, anything goes as Superman will reverse time to save her), NBC has pulled Powerless from the lineup, which seems to effectively cancel the show. The remaining episodes will be released, we have been told, but how and when is a mystery.

Riverdale: "To Riverdale and Back Again" - Archie's mom is back in town to reconnect with her son as well as the school homecoming. There's a lot of suspicion on Jughead's dad, and despite Betty's wishes, Archie and Veronica sneak away to search his trailer. Polly discovers some secrets about the Blossom family.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Comic Book TV Recap (4/18/2017)

Most of the shows are not on this week. Powerless is scheduled to air "Emergency Punch Up," which I wrote about two weeks ago.

iZombie: "Eat, Pray, Liv" - As Major works undercover for Filmore Graves, he begins to feel his condition getting worse. Liv eats the brain of a yoga guru as they solve his murder. Blaine and his friends attempt business endeavors as Peyton is confronted with the truth about Blaine as Ravi tries to prevent memory loss when Major must finally take the cure.

Agents of SHIELD: "No Regrets" - After the shocking reveal of Fitz last week, the agents band together to infiltrate HYDRA inside the Framework under the leadership of Mace as the Patriot. Can they gain more support? Can Daisy be recovered from HYDRA's prison?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Comic Book TV Recap (4/11/2017 - 4/13/2017)

iZombie: "Zombie Knows Best" - Clive is asked about being a recently killed (zombie) boy's emergency contact and remembers how he was the boy's neighbor. Trying to solve a double homicide, Liv and Major use the brains of the victims: a teenage girl and her father. Except Liv takes the father's brain, leaving Major to take the daughter's, and they take on their personalities.

Agents of SHIELD: "Identity and Change" - Daisy and Jemma, realizing that their device to escape the Framework doesn't work, have managed to convince Coulson that they are in a world that is not real. They find Mace, who is running SHIELD, an underground resistance to HYDRA. However, HYDRA is on their trail as they find Mack and Radcliffe, and they will realize that the people they knew are no longer who they thought.

Powerless: "Van v Emily: Dawn of Justice" - Emily tries to claim her own office, but Van decides to challenge her for it. Most of the office supports Emily, but it's anyone's game. After Green Fury (better known as Fire as part of Fire and Ice in the comics) rescues Teddy, he believes she's into him.

An aside, what has been up with Powerless? A couple weeks ago, an episode was expected, but an episode of another NBC show aired instead. Last week, my TV series app said an episode titled "Van of the Year" would air. Day of airing, it had revised to this episode, but "Emergency Punch-Up" aired instead. This episode was on Hulu the following day and sites such as Wikipedia claimed it had aired. I'm getting a bad feeling about chances of a Season 2. And now for the episode that aired this week...

 Powerless: "Green Furious" - Emily befriends Green Fury, who gives her a device to call for her help. Emily uses it to get the superheroine's help for a marketing campaign. Teddy tries to make the moves on Green Fury again. Jackie objects to her daughter becoming friends with Wendy.

Riverdale: "The Lost Weekend" - Archie and Betty plan a party for Jughead's birthday. Betty tells Veronica about how Clifford Blossom seems to have gotten Hiram Lodge in jail, information she attempts to use for legal assistance. Chuck's return to school reawakens negativity in Betty and frustrated with her other cheerleaders, Cheryl takes advantage of this as they crash Jughead's birthday.

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract - The latest DC animated film adapts a landmark Teen Titans story, updating it from the original story to a more modern version of the DC universe.

As the Titans handle moving on with their lives—such as Nightwing and Starfire moving in together and bringing in a new member—they are unaware that Brother Blood and his cult have sent Deathstroke to capture them to absorb their powers.

Personally, my enjoyment of the movie was hampered by the fact that I'd had little sleep the previous night and wasn't feeling up to watching a movie, and had said as much, but it was played anyway. Still, there's a reason why Warner Brothers keeps making these movies: they keep selling. And they sell because they show respect to the characters and to good storytelling, which is continued here. The animation is good, never spectacular, but that's really all that's required of it. The voice cast does well, too.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Comic Book TV Recap (4/4/2017 - 4/6/2017)

Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow are on a short break as Legends of Tomorrow has its season finale. iZombie and Agents of SHIELD return.

Legends of Tomorrow: "Aruba" - The Legends have to go back in their own time to stop Eobard Thawne from using and destroying the Spear of Destiny. Thing is, interacting with their past selves may cause severe damage to time itself.

iZombie: "Heaven Just Got A Little Smoother" - "Team Z" gathers after the public exposure of Max Rager and prepare to face the new threat of the CEO of Filmore Graves, who wants to turn Seattle into a zombie homeland.

Agents of SHIELD: "What If..." - Jemma and Daisy find themselves in the Framework, experiencing a virtual world where HYDRA is in charge. Daisy works with her boyfriend Grant Ward, along with their supervisor agent May and their commander Fitz. Jemma finds Coulson working as a teacher, telling kids about how Inhumans are a danger and how HYDRA has helped the world. Just one more twist: in this world, Jemma's records say that she's dead.

Powerless: "Emergency Punch Up" - A gas bomb attack on Charm City cancels a retreat for the staff of Wayne Security. How long can the team stay chipper? And what happens when Emily gets exposed?

Riverdale: "La Grande Illusion" - Veronica befriends Midge and discovers the effects of the Lodge brand on Riverdale. Archie is befriended by the Blossoms, being invited to family events. Jughead finds another possible link to Jason's murder.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Comic Book TV recap (3/27/2017 - 3/30/2017)

Supergirl: "Distant Sun" - Someone has set a bounty on Kara, and Mon-El suspects his parents. Alex discovers that Maggie hasn't been forthcoming about her exes. Some excellent action scenes and a few twists.

The Flash: "Abra Kadabra" - Abra Kadabra—a villain from the future who uses methods and tech so advanced it's like magic—attacks Central City. He makes an offer to Barry: let him go, and he will tell him the identity of Savitar. Julian eventually has to operate on Caitlin and is faced with letting her unleash her Killer Frost powers to help her survive.

Legends of Tomorrow: "Doomworld" - The Legion of Doom has used the Spear of Destiny to rewrite reality to their liking. Mick Rory decides to find the other Legends, who have been put in subservient positions and are unaware of who they really are.

Arrow: "Disbanded" - Oliver decides to disband Team Arrow, too bad he can't stop Adrian Chase from gloating in his face... So he turns to the Bratva, the criminal organization he fought against long ago. But Diggle isn't willing to let Oliver turn to criminal action.

Legion: "Chapter 8" - David finally faces Shadow King as a mysterious face from his past reappears in a mind-bending, exciting and downright weird conclusion that leaves us looking forward to Season 2!

Powerless: "I'm a Friend You" - Emily tries to help a coworker who isn't forthcoming about what she's doing. Van tries to discover who used his private bathroom.

Riverdale: "The Outsiders" - Archie discovers that Jason was running drugs for the Southside Serpents before he died. Fred loses his crew before starting a big construction job. Veronica throws a baby shower for Polly, causing a confrontation between the Coopers and the Blossoms in which some new revelations are made.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Comic Book TV recap (3/20/2017 - 3/23/2017)

Riverdale continues its mini hiatus before its final three episodes. In addition to the regular shows we watch every week, we also got in the complete first (?) season of Iron Fist.

Supergirl: "Star-Crossed" - Couples are having problems this week as Mon-El's parents (Teri Hatcher and Kevin Sorbo) arrive, revealing that he is the royal prince of Daxam. Winn's alien girlfriend gets caught in an art theft, and Winn could be arrested if he can't figure out what happened.

The Flash: "Duet" - The long awaited musical crossover of Supergirl and The Flash sees the Music Meister (Darren Criss) put Kara and Barry into a sepia-toned alternate world where familiar faces are characters in a musical they're living in. Just two catches: they must see the show to the end, and if they die in the musical, they will die in their world.

With all the musical talent that have been featured in The Flash and Supergirl, doing a musical episode was basically inevitable. John Barrowman, Melissa Benoist, Grant Gustin, Jeremy Jordan, Jesse L. Martin, Victor Garber, Carlos Valdes and Darren Criss have all done musical theater, so finding a clever way to do a one-off musical episode (that thankfully isn't all-singing all the time and didn't forget about the currently running plots of the two shows) was brilliant and quite welcome.

Legends of Tomorrow: "Fellowship of the Spear" - The Legends are determined to destroy the now completed Spear of Destiny. But in order to do so, they need some of the blood of Christ. There's one man who knows where to find a sample: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. In order to counter the Legends, the Legion of Doom adds a new member: Leonard Snart. Vixen, meanwhile, has other ideas about what to do with the Spear.

Arrow: "Kapiushon" - As Adrian Chase tortures Oliver, we're shown an adventure from Oliver's past that built to some of his defining moments.

Legion: "Chapter 7" - David's friends finally understand the very real threat of the Shadow King/Lenny as David works with his rationality (depicted as Dan Stevens with his British accent) to understand the threat himself and what he needs to do to be a hero.

Powerless: "I'm a Friend You" - This is strange, but it seems the episode was pulled at the last minute. I randomly selected the above promo picture, but now it seems most appropriate for my reaction.

Iron Fist - This is Marvel's fourth show on Netflix, the final one before the crossover event The Defenders. It also wound up being controversial for casting a white actor as a white character. This follows from a distinct lack of Asian-American led properties on film and television, and the fact that the character of Danny Rand learns a traditionally Asian (or Asian-like) skill and takes an honored title and special ability. No one raised a fuss when the character was introduced in the comics in the 1970s, but the movement for better representation wasn't quite there then. Also, the character has never been a major one for Marvel.

Keeping Danny white falls into problematic tropes about white characters taking part in non-white cultures and becoming a leading example of that skill. Marvel and Netflix decided to continue with the character as established. I don't think the show deserves the extremely negative criticism on this point, but the issue does deserve to be brought forward. The lack of representation for Asian-Americans as lead characters should be addressed.

Well, going in with the problematic premise, how is Iron Fist itself?

The Rand family was reported dead fifteen years ago when their plane wrecked over China, leaving Rand Industries in the hands of Harold Meachum (David Wenham) and his family. However, young Danny Rand survived and was brought to the mystical realm of K'un-Lun, a city in another dimension, where he spent the next fifteen years learning to fight and claiming the power of the Immortal Iron Fist. But now, Danny (Finn Jones) has returned to New York to take his place as his father's heir at Rand Industries.

It's not so easy, however. As it seems, forces inside Rand Industries were responsible for the plane wreck, and the way the company's grown since, Danny's return is inconvenient. Danny is also on the lookout for the cult known as The Hand, which he's looking to destroy. He winds up meeting and enlisting the help of Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) returns.

The Marvel Netflix shows have had a problem of being thirteen-hour long movies with long plots and subplots running through them. Daredevil and Jessica Jones were able to fill the episodes with enough drama and supporting characters to keep us happy. Luke Cage began to show signs of suffering due to needing to fill thirteen hours. Iron Fist really shows that weakness. Fans are suggesting Marvel and Netflix change up after The Defenders, incorporating Danny into Luke Cage and creating Heroes for Hire, and having Colleen and Misty Knight team up for their own show, Daughters of the Dragon. Others feel that 13 episodes is too much and future seasons should look into fewer episodes.

Iron Fist spends little time on the expected martial arts, despite it being very present. A lot of the show is spent inside with board meetings and talks about how to move forward with Rand Industries. The acting is fine, the pacing is slow, and fans looking forward to an energetic series are disappointed. If you're a Marvel fan and want to keep up, find some time to watch it. It's all right enough if you're fine with a slow pace. It seems some issues were tied to Iron Fist having the smallest budget of the Netflix shows and being contracted for 13 episodes. Still, smaller budgets should force creative talents to make a better show without spending more money. The writing certainly suffers by never saying exactly why Danny came back to New York, with a kind of clue being given late in the series. Perhaps the next Netflix/Marvel series, The Defenders, can improve on this take on one of Marvel's more obscure heroes.

Pryde of the X-Men - This week's throwback is the pilot for an animated TV series based on the X-Men. Using Kitty Pryde, we are introduced to the X-Men as she joins their fight against Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants.

I'm not a big X-Men comics reader, but I thought it was a rather nice start for an 80s X-Men cartoon, but it seems fans thought the tone was too campy and there were too many changes with the characters. However, if you don't mind that, it's just fine. This stands as an obvious forerunner of the popular X-Men animated of the 1990s, even some of the animation designs are similar.

If you want to see the pilot, it's on YouTube.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Something Sweet and Almost Kind: Queer Theory and Interpretation of Disney's Beauty and the Beast

In 1991, Walt Disney Animation Studios brought their follow up to their previous musical animated adaptation of a fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast.

The story had initially been a parable to encourage women into learning to love their husbands they were made to marry by arranged marriage. Ever one to eschew source material for a more marketable story, Disney heavily reworked the story to give both of the title characters more of a sense of agency to the proceedings. Beauty became Belle, a strong, intelligent young woman who speaks for herself. The Beast becomes a vulnerable figure who lashes out in rage but opens up to kindness and eventually, love.

Rounding out the cast were a villain, Gaston, inspired by the character Avenant in Jean Cocteau's 1946 film adaptation of the story, and his sidekick, the buffoon LeFou. Belle has her father Maurice, her horse Philippe, and the Beast's castle is staffed with people who have been transformed into objects, most notably Lumiere the candelabra, Cogsworth the clock, Mrs. Potts the teapot, and Chip the childish teacup.

The storytelling of Disney's version would use a good number of songs that would move the story along or establish the characters (the lone exception "Be Our Guest" being a welcome showstopping spectacular). Key to these and the overall story process was lyricist Howard Ashman, who had worked on the predecessor, The Little Mermaid.

The movie became a hit and became the first and only animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. A couple of years later, a Broadway musical adaptation premiered, and a few direct to video midquels were released, telling more stories of Belle's time in the castle during the enchantment. Last week, Disney's live action/CGI remake was released.

The remake courted controversy during its press tour when director Bill Condon revealed the character LeFou was gay in this version. Although some balked that a character previously depicted as a comedic buffoon whose name literally means "the fool" would be Disney's first canonical LGBT character, others saw this as pushing a dangerous agenda and called for boycotts. Regardless, the film has already made over twice its budget in its first weekend.

LeFou's story in the new film has been rewritten. While still comedic, he is not such a buffoon, now clearly in love with Gaston, frustrated that Gaston goes after Belle. During the climax of the film when the villagers attack the castle, LeFou is pinned down and left behind by Gaston and decides to change sides, highlighted by saving Mrs. Potts when she falls. LeFou's story is one that many LGBT people know too well, loving someone who doesn't love you in return.

But the queer influence in Beauty and the Beast was already there. Howard Ashman was a gay man who had AIDS and died before the animated film was completed. And it's believed that the Beast's living under the enchantment became an allegory for living with AIDS.

Life for people with AIDS was lonely, and finding love appeared to be impossible because not only was it a contagious death sentence (access to more effective medication was a few years away), but public knowledge of it was so poor. It was a scary thing, just like the Beast's appearance. In addition, the Beast's curse is depicted as degenerative: if he doesn't love and earn love in a certain amount of time, he will become a Beast forever with no hope of recovery. (The musical adaptation suggests that his violent outbursts are a symptom of the curse about to become permanent.) It is not until the Beast recognizes Belle as an equal that he can hope to have the curse broken.

Belle's love as a cure for AIDS might not be the easiest analogy, but the allegory really becomes strong in the third act when Belle reveals the existence of the Beast to the villagers. Despite her claim that the Beast is kind and gentle and her friend, the toxic male Gaston makes the baseless claim that "The Beast will make off with your children! He'll come after them in the night! ... I say we kill the Beast!" This launches "The Mob Song," in which the villagers give into fear, and inflate the believed threat the Beast poses, ending with the line, "And fifty Frenchmen can't be wrong," suggesting that as a majority, they must be right.

Substitute the idea of the Beast with the LGBT community, and the parallel draws itself. The Beast and his servants seek only to live peacefully and better their lives, but they're being made out to be a danger and being unfairly persecuted. (The new film makes it clear that the villagers would be the friends, family and neighbors of the staff if not for the curse.) One might even try to compare the raid on the Beast's castle to the Stonewall Riots.

Gaston's defeat is by the Beast having Gaston at his mercy but choosing to let him live, proving that he is not the monster he has been made out to be. Gaston, however, stabs the Beast in the back (a traditionally cowardly move), then loses his footing and falls to his presumed death. Perhaps this is hopeful thinking on Ashman's part when the allegory is considered.

I could say more about the LGBT people who have worked on the various iterations of the Disney version of the story, or the cross-dressing attack the Wardrobe uses ("Be free!" she cheers in the new film), but that's really going into semantics. The point is that Disney's version of the story already has queer fingerprints and they aren't going anywhere.