An All Star Batman #2 Review – The Jerk Store Called…

All-Star Batman #2, 2016, John Romita Jr.TITLE: All-Star Batman #2
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 14, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I haven’t been as in love with All-Star Batman as some reviewers are. But credit where credit is due: This is good stuff.

 Harvey Dent says he can get rid of his alter-ego Two-Face if Batman can get him to a mysterious house 500 miles away from Gotham. Two-Face counters by putting a price on the Dark Knight’s head. Ergo, Batman’s enemies are coming out of the woodwork to kill and collect. But fittingly, Two-Face’s plan is double-headed. Jim Gordon and the GCPD are literally about to walk into the Batcave!

One of Snyder and Romita’s priorities with this book is to prominently feature Batman’s rogues gallery. Not just the A-listers, either. In this issue alone we get appearances from King Shark, Amygdala, Cheshire, Great White, and KGBeast (referred to as “the Beast”). As a Batman geek, one of the thrilling elements about All-Star is never knowing who will pop out from around the next corner. It could be anyone from Mr. Freeze to Kite-Man.

Snyder also does a lot of justice to Two-Face, diving deeper into the concept of duality than I expected. Not just the traditional Harvey Dent vs. Two-Face stuff, but the notion that everyone has a dark side. Everyone is secretly as twisted as he is, and by holding secrets over people’s heads, he’s going to show you how. We also get a nice scene between Alfred and Duke Thomas that spells out some of the rules for how Two-Face’s brain works. The two sides can keep secrets from one another, but also influence each other. That’s good information to have as we go forward.

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., the jerk store calledWhat I continue to dislike about Snyder’s writing in this book is the sarcastic dialogue he gives Batman during battle sequences. This book kicks off with an awesome fight against Killer Croc, King Shark, and Amygdala on top of a moving train, with Two-Face looking on for good measure. But it’s promptly spoiled with the line: “Hey Waylon. Appaloosa called…they want their fool back.”

Hey Batman. The jerk store called…

What makes that sequence all the more frustrating is that John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, and Dean White absolutely nail it. It’s got a great energy, accentuated beautifully by the motion work and the gorgeous colors in the background. This is also the best Killer Croc has looked in awhile. For my money that’s a high compliment, as this book came out the same week as one of Jim Lee’s Suicide Squad issues. Romita’s take on the Penguin is also very reminiscent of Danny DeVito’s look in Batman Returns, which isn’t something we see very often.

I also adore the panels of Batman and Two-Face fighting in the water (shown below), if for nothing else because of the water itself. The way it’s colored, the way it moves, the way it drips off the characters. It’s almost cloud-like.

We’re also introduced to the notion that many suspect Bruce Wayne is Batman, but no one can prove it. This would be interesting as a throwaway line. But they’re obviously following up on it, what with Jim Gordon and the GCPD breaking into the Batcave…

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., Batman, Two-FaceKGBeast gets put over like a million bucks in this issue. He’s put on arguably the same level as a Deathstroke or Headshot, and even has a decapitated Talon from the Court of Owls as a trophy. He’s treated with a reverence he’s rarely, if ever, gotten.

I’m still sour this “color wheel” idea Snyder is using in the back-up feature, though in all fairness there’s still much we don’t know about it. For now, we’ve got a mostly quiet scene between Batman and Duke as they track down Zsasz. Declan Shalvey’s work remains delightfully clean. His opening page is a striking mosaic of Duke’s family memories, which transitions into a scene between he and his mother. We’re not given any further insight into what exactly Batman has in mind for Duke. But things are unfolding nicely. We have yet to see a sarcastic quip from the Dark Knight in this story, so it almost has the advantage over what Snyder is doing with Romita.

There’s also a delightfully subtle detail to the one of Zsasz’s word balloons. It gets little gray scratches behind the letters to signify the various marks he puts in his own skin.

All-Star Batman is mostly quality work thus far, which is consistent with what Snyder has done with Batman previously. But as I see it, Snyder has a tendency to get in his own way, and take his own stories down a notch. Whether it’s with dialogue that’s out of character, big awful Batman robots, or something else entirely. It’s like he just can’t resist.

Boy, I wish he could resist…

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Dean Ambrose Goes Heel? Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

Bray Wyatt, WWE Backlash 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Can somebody get Bray Wyatt a rabbit’s foot or something?

In light of Randy Orton not being medially cleared to return to face Wyatt at Backlash, the “Eater of Worlds” was instead put against Kane in a no holds barred match. Wyatt wound up getting pinned after Orton ran in for an RKO.

There should really be nothing wrong with losing to Kane, considering all he’s done over the years. But imagine all that Bray Wyatt could do here and now. His promos can get a little nonsensical at times, and maybe he is a little injury prone. But what a character. What a presence he has about him. As a babyface, he could be a bonafide superstar.

And yet, he’s been continually mismanaged creatively. This guy has been dying for a big win, and yet at Backlash they had him lose to someone in the twilight of his career. That’s not a slight against Kane. But of the two, Wyatt is the one who can offer the company more in years to come. I understand they were put in a bad spot when Orton wasn’t cleared. They obviously wanted to continue the program. But how about Wyatt gets the win, and then Orton runs in for the RKO? That at least allows Bray to brag a little bit about beating Kane. It also would have helped him build some sorely needed momentum. Instead, here we are. Another big show, another loss for Bray Wyatt.

By the way, if Orton wasn’t cleared to wrestle at Backlash, how did they justify letting him run in and to an RKO? That is, as I recall, a wrestling move.

John Cena, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, WWE Smackdown, September 13, 2016Ponderings From Smackdown:

John Cena and Dean Ambrose vye to be the top contender for AJ Styles’ WWE Championship. Shane McMahon makes a triple-threat match for the belt at No Mercy next month. Don’t adjust your TV sets, folks. AJ Styles is the WWE Champion. And for but a brief while, all seems to be right with the world. I’d be surprised if Styles stays heel for long. People inherently want to cheer him, and he’s got such a great story.

There was some great manufactured drama between Cena and Ambrose here. Cena brings up Steve Austin’s comments about Ambrose supposedly resting on his laurels, and Ambrose calls Cena a “lazy part-timer.” Some really nice worked shoot material.

I’m surprised they’re already putting Styles back with Cena. But having Cena on the No Mercy will no doubt give it a bigger feel than Backlash had. I also don’t doubt these three can have an awesome triple-threat match.

The Usos def. The Hype Bros. What the hell were the Usos wearing? C’mon, guys. You can’t wrestle American Alpha dressed like that.

The Miz, WWE Smackdown, September 13, 2016Dolph Ziggler interrupts The Miz. Miz tells Daniel Bryan he’s competing again until his contract is renegotiated. I got a huge kick out of Ziggler telling Miz that the fans will never see him as a top guy. Pot to kettle, buddy.

So if you’ve got the book, who do you have challenge Miz next? I have no interest in seeing Ziggler face him again. Apollo Crews isn’t ready. So who? One of the only people who comes to mind is Kane. But you don’t want to put the IC Title on him. We might want to get comfortable seeing that belt on Miz’s shoulder…

Jack Swagger moves from Raw to Smackdown. Don’t listen to him, folks. Remember everything you know about Jack Swagger. He’s a good wrestler, but has little to no star power. He’s another guy who could potentially challenge Miz. But there’s no sense in putting the Intercontinental Title on Jack friggin’ Swagger. Something tells me he’s just here to get demolished by Baron Corbin.

Alexa Bliss wins a Fatal Fiveway Match to become top contender for the Smackdown Women’s Title. I was overjoyed to see Becky Lynch win the belt at Backlash. I can’t say it has quite the luster of being WWE’s sole women’s champion, which was an accolade she deserved. But it was still a great moment for her.

Alexa Bliss, WWE Smackdown, September 13, 2016I’m not a fan of Alexa’s Harley Quinn-inspired look. But then again, certain wrestlers have done well impersonating comic book characters. Just ask Sting. Alexa is about to get some precious solo time in the spotlight. Here’s hoping she makes the most of it.

Heath Slater signs a Smackdown contract, successfully defends the Smackdown Tag Team Titles with Rhyno against The Ascension. I didn’t expect Slater & Rhyno to strike gold at Backlash either. But again, a pleasant surprise. Its amazing what can happen when a wrestler gets himself over, and WWE doesn’t fight the crowd. Heath Slater really ran with this whole “free agent” thing, and they seem to have stumbled on to some nice chemistry between he and Rhyno.

Also, that “I Got Kids” shirt he was wearing is actually for sale. Imagine that. Heath Slater has a t-shirt.

Randy Orton calls out Bray Wyatt. Erick Rowan ambushes Orton, gets an RKO. I love the line, “Do not sleep.” That’s a great Bray Wyatt line. Now if only he actually had some steam.

So I guess Erick Rowan is still with Bray? And I guess Orton is cleared for physicality now? I’m confused.

Dean Ambrose, John Cena, WWE Smackdown, September 13, 2016John Cena & Dean Ambrose def. AJ Styles & The Miz. Ambrose turns on Cena afterward. Very cool to see James Ellsworth make another WWE appearance as Styles’ would-be tag partner before Miz took him out. There’s a spot for someone like him in that company. It was a nice touch that they also managed to further the Miz/Bryan storyline.

I think we can officially say the fans are ready for a Dean Ambrose heel turn. I’m not sure if what we saw here constitutes a heel turn. But listen to the boos after he hits Cena with that DDT. A few months ago, Ambrose would heard mostly cheers.

So Kevin Steen is the champion of Raw, AJ Styles is the champion of Smackdown, and John Cena is hearing mostly cheers?

I don’t know what to believe anymore.

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CM Punk’s UFC 203 Loss, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Mickey Gall, CM Punk, UFC 203, September 10, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I had no desire to see CM Punk lose at UFC 203. But my hopes weren’t high that he’d win. The smart bet was we’d get exactly what we got: A Mickey Gall victory in the first round. Specifically, by submission at two minutes and 14 seconds.

That didn’t make it any easier to watch, though…

Full disclosure: I’m a big CM Punk fan. Many wrestling fans have turned their backs on him since he walked out of WWE. Ironically, I came to love him even more for that. Despite generous pay, the real-life Phil Brooks was feeling disrespected and misused by WWE, and was suffering from what turned out to be a severe staph infection. So he made his health and sanity his top priority, and he walked away to pursue other interests. Stories like that strike a chord with me, given some of the bosses I’ve had over the years. When I had the chance to meet Punk at a comic book convention in Chicago awhile back, I was really proud to tell him: “Thank you for setting a good example and standing up for yourself.”

For yours truly, Punk personifies what Joseph Campbell called “following your bliss.” You don’t listen to what your friends, your peers, your culture, or even your loved ones want you to do, and you simply follow your heart and passion. You live with your heart as much, if not more than your head.

I’m guessing this marks the end of Punk’s UFC career, at least for now. But if MMA is where he finds his bliss, then he should continue to pursue it. He’s undoubtedly having a rough few days. But his wrestling career was built in part on defying expectations and proving people wrong. I see no reason why his MMA career shouldn’t be the same way.

Ponderings From Raw:

wwe-raw-september-12-2016-bayleyMick Foley, Charlotte, Dana Brooke, Sasha Banks, and Bayley open the show. After too much disrespect, Dana slaps Charlotte across the face. Sasha vs. Bayley vs. Dana is made to decide the top contender for the Raw Women’s Title.  Right after Sasha came out and said she was going to take the belt back at Clash of Champions, there was a long, awkward silence. Nobody said anything. Charlotte didn’t respond to Sasha’s threat, Sasha didn’t follow up with anything, Mick didn’t interject. They just stood there. And why? Because Bayley’s cue got messed up somehow. So they all stood there like high school kids in a play.

This is why I wish they didn’t overly script these segments. Granted, it sucked that Bayley’s entrance was late, and it was a bad position for anyone to be in. But if you’re performers, and you’re in the moment, you can compensate for that.

The audience definitely popped when Dana slapped Charlotte. But imagine if Dana hadn’t been playing such a bratty heel the whole time. Imagine if she actually had some sympathy. Imagine how much more impactful it would have been…

On a more positive note, I Iiked shy Bayley. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of that side of her character. Very endearing.

sasha-banks-wwe-raw-september-12-2016Sasha Banks def. Bayley and Dana Brooke to earn a Raw Women’s Title Match at Clash of Champions. I loved how the TV audience barely saw Sasha and Bayley wrestle in this match. Dana Brooke was constantly between them. That’s how it should be. The novelty of seeing them wrestle for the first time on the main roster should be protected as much as possible.

Of course, Sasha did end up sneaking in to catch a quick pin on Bayley. My question is, were they both supposed to have their shoulders on the mat? Was that supposed to be a double pin that the ref didn’t see? If so, that’s a nice way to protect Bayley until they eventually meet.

In a pre-tape, Enzo challenges Epico to a match. The only one of Enzo’s catchphrases I’ve soured on is the one about “a cuppa haters.” He overuses it.

So Primo & Epico are literally Puerto Rican travel agents at this point?

Bo Dallas wins a squash match. I’ll give them this much: I’m interested to see what happens when Bo stops squashing jobbers. I’m not hopeful he’ll get very far reciting poems like Heidenreich used to to. But you never know.

Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, September 12, 2016Sami Zayn is a guest on Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel. Zayn bringing up “the old Chris Jericho” is likely a foreshadowing of what we’ll see from the inevitable Jericho vs. Owens feud. Owens obviously can’t play the babyface. So it looks like we’ll be getting the return of the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n Rolla. In the meantime, Jericho vs. Zayn seems imminent.

Cesaro def. Sheamus in match five of their Best of Seven series. The current score is Sheamus: 3, Cesaro: 2. Cesaro cheats to win, like true babyfaces always do. Ugh. They’ve timed this so the last match can take place at Clash of Champions. This “championship opportunity” the winner gets is pretty vague. I suppose it’s too much to ask that Cesaro earn a Universal Title Match at Hell in a Cell in October. More likely they go with Seth Rollins again.

Nia Jax def. Alicia Fox. Very effective outing for Nia. The size difference between these two ladies was almost unsettling. I can’t recall ever seeing someone hurled into the barricade by their hair. Also, have we ever seen one of the girls do e a spear through the barricade? I can’t think of one offhand.

I got a chuckle at Cole referring to Fox as “one of the most accomplished competitors here in the WWE women’s division for years.” I get what he was trying to do. But c’mon, Cole. Accomplished? When was the last time she even won a match?

WWE September 12, 2016, Gallows & AndersonLuke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. The New Day. I find it funny that in the pre-match promo, Kofi talked about how Gallows & Anderson’s “Old Day” segment from last week wasted five minutes of everyone’s time. Why would I want to watch this show when the performers themselves are telling me it’s wasting my time? Still, at least WWE has a sense of humor about how bad that damn skit was. Also, Anderson & Gallows were back to being serious ass kickers this week.

This was another instance of WWE basically giving us the pay per view match early to…wait for it…promote the pay per view match. Because that always works so well.

Jinder Mahal def. Jack Swagger. Wow. They gave us this match during the third hour, and expect to hold the casual fan’s interest? This is basically a Superstars match.

After the match they had Tom Phillips mention Swagger’s Raw contract expiring soon. I guess that might be interesting. Jack Swagger has basically been Dolph Ziggler’s constant reminder that things could always be worse…

Epico def. Enzo Amore. So they gave us Jinder Mahal, Jack Swagger, and Epico in the third hour. Even with him winning, I’d call that a tactical mistake, wouldn’t you?

Rusev, Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, September 12, 2016Kevin Owens def. Roman Reigns thanks to a distraction by Rusev. So now we’ve got Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins at Clash of Champions, and chances are we’ll get Roman vs. Rusev as well. No doubt a lot of people are happy about Reigns being kept out of the Universal Title picture. I can’t say it breaks my heart.

So what’s the deal with this Seth Rollins/Mick Foley stuff? Where does that go? Not in a match, we know that much. Will they find themselves at odds over where Stephanie’s loyalties lay? Come to think of it, we still don’t know why Triple H helped Owens win the title. Hopefully they can answer that one sooner than later…

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A Superman #6 Review – Like Father, Like Son

Superman #6, 2016, Patrick GleasonTITLE: Superman #6
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
PENCILLER: Patrick Gleason. Cover by Doug Mahnke.
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 7, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s a page in Superman #6 that I absolutely adore (shown below). It’s a callback to the cover of the original Superman #6 from 1939, with our hero striking the classic hands-on-hips pose. We’ve even got the American flag in the background for good measure. I will neither confirm nor deny swooning upon seeing that page for the first time.

For yours truly, the best Superman writers and artists don’t shy away from the character’s status as a symbol for hope and idealism. They don’t try to modernize him, or God forbid darken him. They embrace who and what he is, which naturally leads to good storytelling. That’s mostly what we’ve gotten from Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and team on Superman these last few months. No more stupid armor, no more bare-knuckle fighting. Just Superman doing what Superman does. We didn’t need to give him a son to create good stories. It just so happens that parenting brings out the best in Big Blue.

Superman continues to battle the Eradicator in a bunker on the moon, as Lois and Jon look on. The Eradicator, who holds the life force of so many deceased Kryptonians within him, is determined to kill the half-human Jon and “purify” the House of El. But as the Man of Steel tirelessly fights to save his family, Earth may come to a shocking realization: One way or another, Superman is back.

Superman #6, callback, Patrick GleasonThe Superman books are in a complex spot right now. We’ve got the pre-New 52 Superman, Lois Lane, and their son Jon as our lead characters in Superman. Then we’ve got a Clark Kent doppleganger in Action Comics, and the New 52 Lois over in Superwoman. But as complex as things have become, most of the books have surged upward in terms of quality. Look no further than this book as an example. This is the best Superman has been in at least five years.

One of the keys to that is this book’s heart. It’s not afraid to be a little sappy as it shows us the love shared by the Kent family. It’s also not afraid of embracing some of the corny, but feel-good and classic elements of the Superman legend. Not just the pose and the American flag, but the glasses, the superpowered dog, the adoration of Metropolis. The issue also bucks the isolated, lonely, brooding Superman trope we’re often subjected to. In one glorious, yet understated panel, Superman looks up at the reader and says: “I’ve never felt alone.”

Can I get an amen?

We’ve heard a lot of talk lately about DC restoring hope and positivity to its books and movies. The DC Universe’s first stop for both those things should be Superman. For some, that’s a turn off, which is fair enough. But if you’re looking for the brooding, isolated superhero, they’ve got a guy for that. Actually, they’ve got a few guys for that. So lets stop trying to make this character something he’s not. These attempts to darken Superman always end up fizzling out anyway.

Superman #6, 2016I understand the notion of comics not being for kids anymore. But I’d be curious to see what would happen if I gave these Superman issues to a young reader. If they kept coming back, would it be for Superman? Would it be for Jon? Perhaps both? Either way, Jon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As indicated by the end of this issue, he’ll have an even bigger role going forward. And for the time being at least, that’s a good thing.

We bordered on the edge of Over-Baturation in this story with the climactic battle taking place in Batman’s moon bunker (Yeah, he has one. Don’t you?), and the inclusion of the Hellbat, a carry over from Tomasi and Gleason’s run on Batman & Robin. But I’m giving this book a pass, as we see very little of Batman himself. It’s even established that Superman followed the Dark Knight without him knowing, which was a nice touch. Also, Lois using the Hellcat to protect Jon managed to be pretty cool.

This is an exciting time to be a Superman fan. Given the relaunch, Superman has more readers now than in quite awhile, and DC is making the most of those new eyes. Quite honestly, there’s no one I’d rather see on this title right now than Tomasi, Gleason, and their crew. I’m hopeful they’re only beginning to take flight.

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A TMNT Universe #1 Review – “Your First Step into a Larger World.”

TMNT Universe #1, Freddie E. Williams II, coverTITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #1
AUTHORS: Paul Allor, Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz
PENCILLERS: Damian Couceiro, Bill Sienkiewicz, Eastman. Cover by Freddie E. Williams II.
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: August 31, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz, and the crew at IDW have been creating good to great TMNT comics for several years now. This new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe series opens the door for even more. If this freshman issue is an indicator of things to come, we’ve got mostly good things ahead of us.

The Turtles and April O’Neil are hoping they can make an ally of Baxter Stockman. But Agent Bishop and the Earth Protection Force are in hot pursuit of the boys in green. Our heroes will soon find themselves in a fight to survive. Then in our back-up story, Leo faces off against the Foot Clan by himself. Despite his skills, he may be hopelessly outnumbered.

Paul Allor is no stranger to the Turtles, having written a number of their adventures for IDW. His experience is evident here, as he writes a damn good opening page. We get a glimpse into Bishop’s psyche, and why he opposes mutants the way he does. It’s a misguided, though relatable sentiment.

TMNT Universe #1, sonic weaponAllor uses this first issue to remind us that the Turtles, and mutants in general, are isolated and at times hated. Though Bishop’s motivation, while villainous, is relatable in its own way. As one might expect, the most emotional reaction we get comes from Raphael, and it’s used effectively to close the issue.

Allor also isn’t bad with the repartee between the Turtles. Panels like the one above aren’t exactly dripping with wit. But they’ve got a nice charm to them that we don’t always have time for in the main TMNT series.

Couceiro, who’s on both the pen and inks for this issue, is a solid fit for the Turtles. He’s got a really nice command of light and shadow, which obviously bodes well for our shadow-bound heroes. He also doesn’t draw their bandanas too large, which I tend to chide Mateus Santolouco, and more recently Dave Watcher for. I do, however, have one thing to nitpick: His Turtles are very toothy. He draws toothy Turtles. Panels like the ones below actually take me out of the story, as I can’t help but stare at their teeth. On the plus side, they’re very white. Splinter must have gotten the boys good dental insurance.

TMNT Universe #1, back-up, LeonardoOur back-up story is about Leo trailing a Foot ninja, who as it turns out, has some friends. A lot of friends. When I initially read this story, I thought it was scripted by Kevin Eastman. Leo’s inner monologue reads like one of the original Mirage books. He seems more like an easy going teenager, and less like the disciplined leader we usually see. But the issue credits Tom Waltz for the script. I’m not sure why Leo is so casual here. It almost strikes me as out of character.

This is also a premise that’s been done to perfection in both the original Eastman and Laird series, and the IDW series. It’s Leo against a bunch of foot ninjas. This story is set to continue next issue, so hopefully they do something with this concept we haven’t seen before. Eastman handles the page layouts, slowing the pace a bit to take us into the action. Bill Sienkiewicz and colorist Tomi Varga are a good fit for the Turtles, providing the gritty, street-level feel the story needs.

Like many things in life, this issue reminds me of a line from Star Wars. In the original 1977 film, Obi-Wan says to Luke: “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.” In a sense, that’s what Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe #1 is. Chances are good that this series will really enrich what IDW has created for the Turtles. Dare I say, cowabunga?

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A WWE Backlash 2016 Preview – The Return of “Brand Specific” Pay Per Views

WWE Backlash 2016, promo artBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Whew boy. We’re back here again, aren’t we? A Smackdown-only pay per view…

History doesn’t look kindly on “brand specific’ pay per views, specifically the Smackdown shows. They’re notorious for being either one-match shows, or altogether bad. For instance, at WWE Armageddon 2004 we got an awesome fatal fourway match for the WWE Title. It was JBL defending against The Undertaker, Eddie Guerrero, and Booker T. But in the hours leading up to it, we got such thrilling bouts as Spike Dudley vs. Funaki, Dawn Marie vs. Jackie Gayda, and Kurt Angle against Santa Claus. Seriously. Look it up.

Why were these shows so bad? To quote Paul Heyman: “Smackdown is the b**ch of WWE,” meaning it’s the perpetual B-show. Smackdown would be fed just enough to be kept alive, while Raw took priority. That’s still the case today. It’s why Raw has three hours and Smackdown has two. It’s why Raw has been called “the flagship” broadcast for so many years. Raw is the show that rocketed WWE to new heights in the late ’90s, while Smackdown is just “the other show.”

But per USA Network, Smackdown has now taken on a renewed importance. In many ways, Backlash will serve as a progress report for WWE’s efforts to make the show a true commodity. But they’re fighting an uphill battle. Not only is John Cena missing from the card, but this roster split is still fairly fresh. Newer, younger stars like Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews aren’t true commodities yet. Thus, roster depth is an issue. At only six matches, the card is also a little light.

Smackdown needs to overachieve with Backlash, lest history repeat itself.

Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos/The Hype Bros.

So the winner of The Usos vs. The Hype Bros. advances to face Heath Slater & Rhyno in the tournament finals. If Slater’s team wins, he gets a Smackdown contract, and is no longer desperate for a job. Slater & Rhyno have a chance to be the first Smackdown Tag Team Champions. Who’da thunk it?

But he Smackdown tag team division is all about making American Alpha at this point. And how do you make a good babyface tag team? You give them good heels to feud with. In this case, the Usos. Jimmy and Jey are due for a change, and they’re already getting heat for their association with Roman Reigns. What better way to keep those boos coming than by having them not only injure Chad Gable (as they did this week on Smackdown), but cheat Heath Slater out of a WWE contract? What’s more, the Usos are already a decorated team, very much worthy of being called the first Smackdown tag champs. This night belongs to them.


WWE Backlash 2016, The Miz, Dolph ZigglerWWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

When I talked about Summerslam last month, I talked about how Miz had to retain over Apollo Crews, as the latter wasn’t worthy of the title yet. This month, it’s more about Miz. Between the length of his title run and the epic promo he cut on Daniel Bryan, Miz deserves the win here. This is arguably the most momentum he’s had since he was WWE Champion, and they have yet to follow up on what he did with Bryan in any meaningful way. Now isn’t the time to take the belt from him.

Plus, after what happened at Summerslam, babyface Dolph Ziggler is officially a loser. Ambrose said he’d prove Ziggler wasn’t as good as he thought he was. Then he pinned him clean. The guy needs a heel turn, and badly. If I had my way, this match would be the next step in that direction.


Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Carmella vs. Alexa Bliss

You know who really deserves to win this belt? Becky Lynch. She’s the personification of “always a bride’s maid, never a bride.” She’s the only one of the “Four Horsewomen” (the others being Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Bayley) to never win the NXT Women’s Title. She’s also been in multiple matches for the Raw Women’s Title, but has yet to win it. All this, despite being a legit star. She’s got a great look, she’s great on the mic, and more than knows her way around a wrestling ring.

But let’s be honest, this is probably Nikki Bella’s night. Why? Because…well, they love her, that’s why. That’s not to discount everything she went through with her neck surgery, and her drive to come back. I’m not even saying she doesn’t have wrestling talent. But I find myself longing for a new face at the top. This is supposed to be the new era, right? Apparently WWE’s fascination with the Bellas never changes…


WWE Backlash 2016, Randy Orton, Bray WyattRandy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt hasn’t had a great year. He’s been plagued by injuries to the point that he’s been of most of the major shows. Backlash is a chance for him to build up some steam again. I maintain Bray should be a babyface. He could be one of the biggest fan-favorites the company has. But that’s a battle for another day. Right now I just want him to win a damn match.

But I don’t see that happening here. Randy took a hell of a beating from Brock Lesnar last month, and the smart bet is they’ll want him in a pay per view title match soon. So a win here would boost him back into title contention. Also, they may just want to see if Bray can stay injury free for awhile before they do something of real significance with him.


Dean Ambrose (c) vs. AJ Styles

Some have soured on Dean Ambrose as the WWE Champion. I’m still into him, especially after his mic work this past week on Smackdown.

But I get it. It’s AJ’s time. He’s more than proved his worth in the short time he’s been with the company. He’s stolen the show with Roman Reigns and John Cena, proved he can hang on the microphone, and all in all become one of WWE’s best assets. Styles is in a position to become Smackdown‘s franchise player. As a fan, I’d happily tune in each week to see what he pulls out of the hat next.

As recently as a year ago, I couldn’t imagine myself saying this. But here goes: AJ Styles is going to win the WWE Championship. The former heart and soul of TNA is set to claim WWE’s richest prize. Frankly, the sheer joyous outpour from the fans may be enough to turn him babyface. Ambrose, on the other hand, may be looking at a turn to the dark side.


A Glitterbomb #1 Review – When Bad Things Happen to Bad People

Glitterbomb #1, 2016, Djibril Morissette-PhanTITLE: Glitterbomb #1
PENCILLER: Djibril Morissette-Phan
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 7, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Glitterbomb may not look like a book about purity of spirit, overcoming society’s preconceived notions, or the parasitic nature of the entertainment industry. But it covers all of that, with some tentacles thrown in for good measure.

Farrah Durante is a middle-aged, out of work actress and mother desperately on the hunt for her next part. But neither Hollywood nor her agent have anything for her. They’re not exactly kind about it, either. But when Farrah is at her lowest, she’s possessed by an otherworldly monster. She then abruptly wakes up with no memory of what’s happened. The world hasn’t been very nice to Farrah Durante. Now, she and her new “companion” are going to be not-very-nice right back. And blood will be spilled.

What we have here is a good ol’ fashioned cathartic revenge story. There’s certainly no shortage of either catharsis or revenge here. In Jim Zub’s indictment of the entertainment industry, Farrah has committed the unforgivable sin of aging in Hollywood. Her desperation and her struggle to keep up with the needs of her young son, who is so little and naive, are heartbreaking. People also say things to this woman that are almost impossibly mean. Normally it’s considered a bad thing to get possessed by a sea monster. But for Farrah, it’s an improvement.

Glitterbomb #1, 2016Zub’s concept and his intentions make for a good comic. But the issue really belongs to penciller Djibril Morissette-Phan and colorist K. Michael Russell. The sheer despair and hopelessness injected into Farrah make her almost immediately relatable as a character. Look at her body language, the bags under her eyes, the complete lack of anything remotely resembling contentment. Delightfully complimentary are Russell’s dreary, muted, gloomy colors. This issue feels like it takes place in the middle of an L.A. heatwave. I read Farrah as being constantly sweaty and dirty. Except, of course, when she plunges into the ocean. We get a gorgeous two-page spread, and a little hint as to the monster’s motivation.

I’ll also credit Glitterbomb with actually giving me a fright. At the bottom of page 26, Farrah’s son takes a fall. Then on page 27, she leaps to catch him as he’s about to hit the ground. Before you can process the entire image, there’s brief moment where you wonder if he’s actually going to complete the fall. Definitely one of the more jarring moments I’ve seen in recent memory, as it’s so much more reality-based than someone being killed by a monster. Though to the issue’s credit, if you’re picking it up without having seen any previews (as I did), that first kill is a big surprise. Did not expect that at all…

Post-story, Holly Raychelle Hughes also contributes a heart-wrenching prose essay about how awfully she was treated in the film industry. Frankly, it’s worth the $3.99 on its own.

Glitterbomb #1, 2016, FarrahI can’t say I expected a story like this from the author of Skullkickers. But Jim Zub and this team have something good here. There’s a satisfying moral to Glitterbomb as well. One might be distracted at first by the blood and gore. But one can certainly appreciate the message about how to treat people, particularly those down on their luck.

After all, karma can be downright monstrous.

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