Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Review: Batman '66 #18

This issue has something different.  Two short stores.  The first story is written by Tom Peyer and is an effort drowned in the weaknesses of a typical season 2 episode. The Archer is back, to steal a computer, that he uses to form his own rival police force. The story is quite weak, featuring a weak villain, and weak artwork by Dave Bullock. This story earns a C-.

Next up is a Batgirl solo, written by Jeff Parker. The Bookworm makes an appropriate villain for librarian Barbara Gordon's alter ego.  Parker turned in an enjoyable script, and the archaic writings in the book the Bookworm is after is quite the in-joke. The only gripe about this story was, as with several other recent issues, treading too much into the supernatural, which does not suit the character of Batman in general, especially not the 66 version.  Bookworm uses the archaic spells in the book to transform his henchmen into giant silverfish to attack Batgirl. The art is by Richard Case, who does a great job, yet I can't help but wonder how Joelle Jones, who turned in some exceptional art for the Batgirl solo in issue 10, would have handled it. This story earns a B, averaging a C for the issue.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: Thunderworld Adventures #1


If you consider yourself a Captain Marvel fan in any way, shape, or form, you must buy and read "Captain Marvel and the Day That Never Was" in issue 1 of THUNDERWORLD ADVENTURES (and I really hope it becomes an on-going series).  This is the best DC Shazam book since Alex Ross' Justice.  And in some ways it is better, because at the end of the day, Justice was really a JLA story that had Captain Marvel in the spotlight for some perfectly crafted sequences. But the premiere issue of Thunderworld Adventures is a pure Captain Marvel story thru and thru.
Grant Morrison's script flawlessly captures both the Fawcett quality, and the E. Nelson Bridwell quality.  His script is clever and fun and superbly embraces the concept of alternate earths and time travel.  Morrison writes both Billy Batson and Captain Marvel perfectly.  This is the way both characters are meant to be.  A stark contrast to the meat head idiot Cyborg sidekick, the DCnU "Shazam" Geoff Johns' portrays in Justice League. Morrison gets in some nice, subtle shots at DC.  In one panel, there is a bank of monitors showing alternate earth Sivanas.  Front in center is one with a goatee and sunglasses, looking suspicioulsy like Captain Marvel's true number one enemy at the DC offices, Dan Didio.  Later, we see another alternate Sivana in a Hannibal Lector mask, obesseing over Mary Marvel, alluding to the Emo-Goth naughty Mary Marvel of the pre-Flashpoint New Earth... hmmm, Geoff Johns, perhaps?  We get to see Uncle Dudley, Mr Tawny, and the three Lieutenent Marvels.  And the Monster Society of Evil. Three of Sivana's kids, Magnificus, Georgia, and Junior, get Shazam-like powers, and the way Captain Marvel Jr defeats Georgia is one of the book's many highlights.  My only critiques of the story would be that Beautia wasn't included, and that the whole thing was just too short!  It could have and should have been at least ten pages longer.

Cameron Stewart's artwork matched Morrison's script perfectly.  He portrayed a style that was Fawcett influenced, yet modern. Every panel was art of the highest quality. My only critques would be that Mary Marvel's costume was white instead of the traditional red, and Stewart drew Freddy/Capt Marvel Jr with a kind of Beatle hair cut instead of an Elvis style more associated with the character.  All in all, I want Thunderworld Adventures to become an on-going series.  I want the upcoming movie to be inspired by this.  I want to see all future news items about the upcoming movie to use Stewart's artwork instead of the hooded DCnU artwork. Thunderworld Adventures earns an A+.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bill Murray... Trad?

Since this is Advent, I thought I'd share an excerpt from an interesting interview with actor Bill Murray.  Apparently, a practicing Catholic (his sister is a nun), he prefers the Extraordinary Form Mass and dislikes modern pop style liturgical music, preferring chant.

You don’t need to ask if his faith is important to him. He talks about how 19th-century candidates risk not getting canonised because the church is keen to push ahead with the likes of John Paul II and Mother Teresa. “I think they’re just trying to get current and hot,” he smiles.

One new saint he does approve of is Pope John XXIII (who died in 1963). “I’ll buy that one, he’s my guy; an extraordinary joyous Florentine who changed the order. I’m not sure all those changes were right. I tend to disagree with what they call the new mass. I think we lost something by losing the Latin. Now if you go to a Catholic mass even just in Harlem it can be in Spanish, it can be in Ethiopian, it can be in any number of languages. The shape of it, the pictures, are the same but the words aren’t the same.”

Isn’t it good for people to understand it? “I guess,” he says, shaking his head. “But there’s a vibration to those words. If you’ve been in the business long enough you know what they mean anyway. And I really miss the music – the power of it, y’know? Yikes! Sacred music has an affect on your brain.” Instead, he says, we get “folk songs … top 40 stuff … oh, brother….”

 Jimmy Fallon has also recently lamented how the Church establishment is attempting to make the Mass more pop-culture entertainment with social worker values, and less a religious sacremental worship.



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Upcoming Captain Marvel comics

Not only do we have Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart's highly anticipated Thunderworld featuring the Captain Marvel of Earth-5, in two weeks, but just announced is a two issue spin off of the upcoming Convergence event featuring the original Fawcett version of Captain Marvel, i.e. pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths Earth-S, by Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner. Between Thunderworld and the Convergence: Shazam microseries, the bad taste of the DCnu52 hoodie wearing "Shazam" who was a jerk in Curse of Shazam  and currently in Justice League has become the idiot clown sidekick to Cyborg, Costello to his Abbott, is sure to be wiped away.  Now, as readers of this blog may point out, I have been somewhat critical of Parker's scripts on Batman '66. Even though he hasn't, in my opinion, been able to really grasp that series, he is a good writer, and has in fact turned in several good Batman '66 stories, and a couple great ones.  Plus he turns in stellar work for  Dynamite Comics, such as for Flash Gordon. I am confident his Convergence: Shazam script will be some of his better work. Artist Evan Shaner is a lifelong Captain Marvel fan, and it is great he gets an opportunity to draw the character.  Convergence: Shazam should be on sale mid-Spring.
 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Review: Batman '66 The Lost Episode

This special issue has bronze age greats Len Wein and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez taking a rejected Harlan Ellison treatment for the TV series featuring Two-Face, and transforming it into a Batman '66 comic book story. To top it off, included are Garcia-Lopez's pencil pages, and Ellison's original treatment.  On the critique that the regular series is too much like the third season episodes, and the just concluded Green Hornet team up is strongly in a second season style, Wein's script kind of reads more like a bronze age era comic book story rather than an episode of the TV series.  The creative team have inserted some bronze age moments that are out of place for the TV continuity, like Robin using the Batcycle as transportation.  The camp is kept to minimum, more in line with first season episodes, but I think had Two-Face been used on the show, he wouldn't have had such a graphically disfigured face, as Garcia-Lopez drew him. The show would have been more inclined to simply paint half his face green, with no scarred flesh or damaged eye.  Despite this mash up of TV show and bronze age comics, the script is excellent, and the artwork is some of the best we've seen on the Batman '66 franchise.  The unaltered pencils are even better than the finished artwork, and it's easy to see why it was included.  Finally, there is the Ellsion treatment itself. While somewhat bare bones, reading it, I could easily picture it as a TV episode, more so that the comic book version.  The treatment captures the rhythm and pattern of the TV show better than Wein's script. This special issue is very unique and well done and earns an A.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review: Batman '66 #17

 
This issue has writer Jeff Parker turning in another mediocre story, this time featuring King Tut. The plot has to do with Tut using an Osiris Virus to turn Gotham citizens into... zombies! It comes off as a feeble attempt at capitalizing on the current pop culture zombie fad, especially when you consider the virus served the same purpose as Tut's Abu-Rabu-Simbu-Tu potion from the TV show.  Tut also has a ridiculous sarcarphagus automobile that looks like a rip-off of the Joker Mobile from the TV show.  Mayor Linseed appears in this story, once again portrayed as an African-American (more in line with the mayor from Batman Forever), causing a continuity gaffe with not only the TV show, but with Ralph Garman and Kevin Smith's superior Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet miniseries. One positive thing, in Parker's previous Tut attempt, I critiqued that he actually made Tut too toned down.  Here, Tut is back in full Victor Buono glory.  Even so, this is one of Parker's weaker efforts, and the art by Scott Kuwalchuk gives issue number 12's Dario Brizuela a run for the money on worst artwork in the series.  DC powers-that-be, again I must request that you bring in Andy Fish to take over writing this title, with Ralph Garman on hand to do fill in's.  You have to base this series on the superior first season, and the constant failure to do so will kill this series sooner rather than later.  Better quality artists need to be brought in, also.  Over all, this issue earns a D.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review: Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet #6

The final issue opens with Batman and The Green Hornet about to detonate via Batzooka a missal launched by the Joker and General Gumm before it hits Gotham Park.  However, the bomb turns out to be a joke, shooting off postage stamps.  The four heroes deduce the villains are going to kidnap Franco Bollo.  After a Bat-Climb (with window cameo by Richard Nixon), the heroes discover they are too late.  As the villains try to escape via plane, the heroes arrive in a Bat-Hovercraft, neatly avoiding the gummy glue around the plane, preventing the police from arresting Joker and Gumm.  The heroes chase the villains away and rescue Bollo.  In gratitude, he offers to drop his lawsuit against the two cities for an out of court settlement of three million dollars.  After the payoff, Batman and his cohorts bust in, knowing that Bollo was really Gumm in disguise all along, putting an end to this case.  This final chapter is somewhat marred by rehashing a similar plot twist from the episode The Joker Trumps an Ace/Batman Sets the Pace, where the Joker impersonated the Maharajah of Nimpa, while the real Maharajah was on a secluded hunting trip.  This is the second issue in a row to "borrow" a scene from a Joker episode.  It makes you think that writers Ralph Garman and Kevin Smith were running out of ideas for a six issue story arc, and perhaps should have done a four issue arc instead.  Never the less, their script, and this miniseries, is an improvement over Jeff Parker's efforts in the regular series, albeit Garman and Smith seem more entrenched in the series' weaker second season, rather than the far superior first season (Parker, on the other hand, seems entrenched in the awful third season, although the one thing in his favor is he avoids using the TV show's all too rigid storytelling formula).  As usual, Ty Templeton does an excellent job on the art, although he could stand to get Burt Ward's likeness a little better.  Alex Ross' cover painting is a masterpiece, of course.  But it's the recycling of ideas in the last two issues that bring the miniseries down a notch. Even so, I would like to see Garman write some issues of the regular series.  This issue earns a B-.

On a side note, I was hoping to review Batman '66: The Lost Episode today, but all the issues received by my comic book store were damaged and sent back. So it will have to wait until next month.  Ironically, it is also noted the long awaited Batman DVD set has some errors: a missing tag on the episode Marsha's Scheme of Diamonds  and several missing "next week's villain" bumpers.  (I wonder if Chris Nolan and/or Zack Snyder is paying someone off to mess up these classic Batman items?)  I am sure Warner Brothers will be providing corrected replacement discs, as they have done so before, when the Superman movie box set included the bare bones version of Superman III instead of the deluxe edition, and when the Elvis movie box set likewise included the bare bones version of Jailhouse Rock instead of the deluxe edition.  Also, when a Popeye volume included a few cartoons with the old AAP TV opening titles instead of the restored Paramount titles.  Warners is actually very good about replacing discs.  But on the other hand, if they had better quality control, they wouldn't need to issue so many replacement discs for so many different titles in the first place.