Toy Chest Theater: Sephiroth and the Sword

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Final Fantasy VII is once again all the rage right now. As it should be. The remake is great. The original is legendary, iconic, wonderful, every positive adjective you want to use. It also happens to be my favorite video game of all time. It opened me up to how deep and expansive this medium can be.

Another medium I love? Toy photography, of course. So when I came across this image from danstoyart, I was enraptured.

Shifting focus is a pretty elemental trick. But it’s funny how the simplest of maneuvers are often the most effective. We can obviously tell that’s Cloud in the background. But by shifting the focus to Sephiroth, and the sword in particular, it emphasizes the danger our hero is in. Remember, that’s the sword that killed Aeris, and many others in Cloud’s hometown all those years ago…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Batman, Vol 11: The Fall and the Fallen Deep Dive – Too Much Canvas

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 11: The Fall and the Fallen
AUTHORS:
Tom King, Andy Kubert, Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, Mairghread Scott, Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley
ARTISTS:
Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Amancay Nahuelpan, Carlos D’Anda, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith (Inker). Eduardo Risso, Patrick Gleason. Cover by Kubert.
COLORIST:
Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Luis Guerrero, Tomeu Morey, Dave Stewart, John Kalisz
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Andworld Design, Tom Workman, Tom Napolitano
COLLECTS:
Batman #7074, Batman: Secret Files #2
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE:
$24.99
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As a whole, City of Bane, which essentially starts here, is Tom King’s version of The Dark Knight Rises. Or if you want to go back further, the Knightfall storyline from the ’90s.

It’s also where the wheels come off King’s Batman run. I take no joy in saying that. But the proof is in the pudding, kids. So let’s dip our spoons in…

1. Daddy’s back.
The Fall and the Fallen is when we finally see Bane and Flashpoint Batman, a.k.a. Thomas Wayne from an alternate universe, team up to break our hero once and for all.

Yes friends, Thomas Wayne, one of Bruce Wayne’s parents, is here. You know about Bruce Wayne’s parents, right? They were murdered in front of their young son. It was that heinous act of violence that inspired Bruce’s vow to wage war on criminals for the rest of his life, and ultimately the creation of Batman. We saw these two come face-to-face in The Button, and it was a tremendously emotional experience for Bruce. One can only imagine what would go through his head if his father, even an alt-universe version, masterminded some kind of plot against him…

So tell me something: Why is Bane our big bad in this story? Why bring him into this when Bruce’s father shakes his son’s world to its core simply because he exists? Add the fact that this version of Thomas Wayne is his universe’s Batman, and Bane becomes redundant by comparison.

Batman #72 takes us back through the events of the series and outlines Bane’s plan, which all centers around the Bruce/Selina marriage. In the end, Thomas proposes a partnership.

But picture this, Thomas Wayne somehow survives the destruction of the Flashpoint universe and winds up in the DC Universe proper. He initially wants to seek out his “son,” but this alternate world intrigues him. So he opts to lay low, observe, and learn.

Remember, in The Button, Thomas pleaded with Bruce to stop being Batman and simply live his life. Devastated that Bruce hasn’t heeded his words, he decides he’s the only one that can stop his “son.” So he opts to do what must be done, by any means necessary.

In the end, it comes down to Batman against Batman. Father against son. It can be on the rooftops of Gotham, the Batcave, or anywhere really. All we need is the emotional impact of that showdown.

In the end, Catwoman shoots and kills Thomas in an act of desperation. Bruce then has to decide if he can forgive her or not. This would pay off the revelation from The War of Jokes and Riddles.

Not bad, huh? But no, instead we got another big fight with Bane. Yippee…

2. Father/Son Time
And what of what we actually get from father and son? They journey through the desert to get to a Lazarus Pit, occasionally stopping to fight members of Ra’s al Ghul’s personal guard. They take turns riding a horse, which is dragging a casket behind it. I won’t say who’s in it. But if you consider who we have in this scene and where they’re going it’s not too hard to figure out. There’s a really nice subtle reference to Batman: Knight of Vengeance, which is low key one of the best Batman stories of the last decade.

Old timey music has been a theme during Tom King’s run. In issue #73, he has Flashpoint Batman singing “Home, Home on the Range” to himself. Fun fact: It’s really weird to read that scene while playing Bing Crosby’s version of the song in the background…

Issue #74 is where things finally boil over between our Batmen. Thomas’ motivation, as always, is to get Bruce to surrender his life as Batman and live a normal life. That’s a hell of a premise for an issue. The trouble is, King spends far too much time harping on a story about a bedtime story Thomas told Bruce as a child about a bunch of animals eating each other in a pit. If I’m not mistaken, it’s an actual story written by Alexander Afanasyev, who’s widely considered to be the Russian counterpart to the Brothers Grimm. Father and son talk about the horror of it all, and why Bruce supposedly liked the story. They eventually get to the real meat of their conflict. But by the time they do, you feel frustrated because they’ve spent so much time talking about that damn story. Even during their inevitable battle in the pit, King uses the story as a narrative backdrop.

And all the while, I can’t help but think…Thomas Wayne, Batman’s dad, is standing right there. And this was the best they could do?

3. Dump the Duster
Okay DC, we get it. Batman v Superman was a thing. You guys liked the image of Batman in a duster and goggles, so you decided to use it. Fair enough.

But these issues came out in 2019. The movie came out in 2017. There was no need whatsoever to put the Flashpoint Batman in a duster and goggles just like the ones his “son” happened to wear several issues earlier in The Rules of Engagement.

If it looked cool, that would be one thing. But it doesn’t. Plus, it’s impractical and redundant even by superhero standards, and therefore silly.

What’s done is done. But let’s make this right. If you want to have Batman wearing his costume in the desert, that’s fine. Heck, if you want to have Bruce Wayne wear a duster and goggles, that’s fine. But you can’t have Batman wearing his costume in the desert with a duster and goggles. The two ideas are mutually exclusive. That’s got to be a rule in writing Batman from now on.

4. Batman Gone Batty?
Issues #70 and #71 focus on a needless, and at times silly plot point about people thinking Batman is losing it, and Jim Gordon severing ties with him.

When we open the book, our Caped Crusader is punching his way through Arkham Asylum, facing off with most of the supervillains you’d expect to see. It’s a great opportunity for Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes to draw virtually all of the iconic rogues gallery.

The trouble is, King once again supplies us with bad Batman dialogue. Not the least of which is: “You challenge me with…nightmares? I live the nightmare! Bane! Why can’t you understand! I’m Batman! I am the nightmare.”

Shut up, already.

Given how convinced Batman is that Bane is faking insanity to remain in Arkham, and how intense and violent he is in his pursuit of the truth, Gordon becomes convinced that the Dark Knight has gone off the deep end. In issue #71 he tries to kick him off the roof of police headquarters (shown above).

That skepticism spreads to his extended family of superheroes, who are convinced Bruce is still grieving over his broken engagement to Selina Kyle. The situation is punctuated when he punches Tim Drake in the face.

There’s no worthwhile payoff to any of this. It all comes off like padding. Because it is padding. You can revolve an entire story arc around either of those moments. But instead they just come and go. That’s particularly a shame when it comes to the Gordon story, as there could have been some real substance to that.

5. Where’s Wesker?
This trade also contains Batman: Secret Files #2, which in theory is supposed to spotlight all “the villains who broke the Bat.” Okay, sure.

For what I think is the first time since Batman #23.1, Andy Kubert gets to write a Batman/Joker story. Things fare much better this time, largely because he goes the comedic route. Also, Amancay Nahuelpan draws a hell of a Clown Prince of Crime.

Colin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing put together a so-so story about the Psycho-Pirate leading a cult. Artist Carlos D’Anda overachieves on this one, which I did not expect.

Mairghread Scott and Giuseppe Camuncoli turn in a Riddler story that holds up pretty well. More amusing to me is the fact that “Sideburns Riddler” is still a thing.

Steve Orlando and Eduardo Risso steal the show with a Hugo Strange tale featuring multiple Batman “specimens.” Given he’s a mad doctor, I’ll let you jump to your own conclusions on what that story is about…

Tim Seeley teams with one of my personal favorites, Patrick Gleason, for a story late in Bane’s pre-Gotham days. I’m used to Gleason working with a much brighter color palette than John Kalisz provides here. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just different.

My big problem with this issue? No story about Arnold Wesker, a.k.a. the Ventriloquist. He’s on the cover, and plays one of the more interesting roles in Bane’s big scheme, as sort of Bane’s counterpart to Alfred. It’s a little disturbing, considering what happens to Alfred in the next volume.

6. Consistence and Versatility
The Secret Files issue notwithstanding, our drawing duties are split between Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes. While The Fall and the Fallen may have its share of story problems, I can’t find much to complain about artistically. Both these men are awesome Batman artists very much in their element.

Mikel Janin was a star coming into this series. But he’s a superstar coming out of it. Speaking for myself, Janin’s art can now sell a book on its own. His line work is always super clean, his figure work consistent, and his character acting on point. I now look forward to specifically seeing his versions of Batman, the Joker, and even less flashy characters like Alfred and the Penguin. The fact that he’s got colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire backing him up in this book does nothing but help, of course. But Janin’s style on its own is versatile enough to handle any story. Whether we’re on the streets of Gotham, the Source Wall at the edge of the universe, or anywhere in between.

Objectively, Janin’s best work in this book is probably issue #74, as that’s where the book hits its emotional crescendo and is really firing on all cylinders. But selfishly, I’m partial to issue #70 because Janin gets to draw some of the more obscure Batman villains. Calendar Man, Doctor Phosphorus, the Cavalier, etc.

It’s difficult to look at Jorge Fornes’ work without thinking of what David Mazzucchelli did with Batman: Year One. The figure rendering is similar, the texture is similar. Bellaire’s coloring doesn’t have the same faded palette that Richmond Lewis’ did. But it’s still reminiscent.

I can’t bring myself to complain about the similarities, because Year One is obviously one of the all-time greats. But that means Fornes is better in environments that are a little more mundane, and can have that noir-ish spin put on them. Street level scenes, Wayne Manor and Batcave scenes, etc. It’s no accident that a hero like Daredevil is also on his resume. But something tells me that, like Janin, he’s got a versatilty to him. One that isn’t necessarily apparent here. I’m anxious to see what he does next.

7. Too Much Canvas
When someone mentions Tom King the first thing that comes to mind, at least for me, is his 12-issue run on Vision. That was such a masterclass in comic book storytelling. It’s frustrating to think that someone who wove such a classic at Marvel could make these kind of mistakes on Batman.

What it all comes down to is too much canvas. Give an artist too much canvas to work on, and suddenly the focus of the art wavers. If any story has ever had too much canvas it’s City of Bane.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Astonishing Art: Rick Celis’ Batman Pulp Covers

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The spiritual successors to Batman and other comic book superheroes were the heroes found in the pulp magazines of the early 20th century. You can actually trace some of Batman’s roots back to them, and characters like Doc Savage and the Shadow.

So it’s more than fitting that Rick Celis (who has been in this space before) lend his artistic style, which borrows from Batman: The Animated Series to pay tribute to the genre…

My personal favorite? The Black Mask cover. We never saw Black Mask in the series. But to see his rivalry with Catwoman renewed in this format is really cool. Plus, it’s a really memorable cover.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek – Putting the “Captain” in Captain Kirk

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODES:
S1.E14
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei
GUEST-STARRING: Mark Lenard, Paul Comi, Lawrence Montaigne
WRITER: Paul Schneider
DIRECTORS: Vincent McEveety
ORIGINAL AIR DATES: December 15, 1966
SYNOPSIS: A century after the Earth-Romulan war, the Romulans threaten to ignite another war by luring the Enterprise into a precious Neutral Zone.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been waiting on an episode like this. A “heavy is the head that wears the crown” sort of episode about Kirk. I won’t say he’s been under-served in the episodes I’ve seen so far. But for yours truly, this is the episode that puts the “captain” in Captain Kirk.

What it all comes down to is Kirk being responsible for people’s lives. The decisions he makes impact those around him, both on a larger scale and a smaller one.

Obviously, this notion applies to the Enterprise at large. But it’s exemplified more poignantly in our would-be married couple. We open the episode with what’s supposed to be their wedding, and we end the episode with the revelation that the husband-to-be was killed in the fight against the Romulans. These are the things that happen, and these are the things a captain has to live with.

MEANWHILE, IN DECEMBER 1966: On December 15, Walt Disney dies of lung cancer at the age of 65. Flags on all government buildings in Los Angeles County are lowered in his honor.

So I was listening to the commentary track for Revenge of the Sith recently (because of course I was). At one point, the filmmakers started talking about the big space battle at the beginning, and how they wanted to show us how big ships like Star Destroyers get into fights. It’s more or less a pirate ship like scenario, where they just get up next to one another and start shooting.

It seems like space battles in the Star Trek universe are similar. Very 17th century in nature. The fight between the Enterprise and the Romulans is very slow by modern standards. That’s a shame. Not to say one style is better than another by nature, but fans who were raised on the fast-paced action of Star Wars would inevitably be turned off by something like this.

It seems like it wouldn’t be a Star Trek episode without Spock being disrespected. Apparently Romulans are genetically related to the Vulcans. So naturally, we have a racist asshole on board who says some crap to Spock.

It feels weird to be talking about racism in this forum, given everything we’re seeing on TV right now. George Floyd, etc. But suffice to say, Spock saves this guy’s ass during the episode. Just like he’s saved the whole damn ship time and again. And yet the poor bastard can’t get an ounce of respect from some people…

Even in the ’60s, human beings were not smart. Some things never change.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Go Go Power Rangers, Dead Day, Suicide Squad, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

God damn, did I miss some of these books. Go Go Power Rangers. Tom Taylor’s Suicide Squad. Alienated.

God damn it’s great to have them back.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #31
AUTHORS: Ryan Parrot, Sina Grace
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Simona Di Gianfelice (Inking Assist), Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Eleonora Carlini and Angulo.
RELEASED: May 27, 2020

A new zord formation, the “White Tiger Mechazord” (NOT Megazord), makes its debut in this issue. That’s kinda cool. This series is just about done, but it’s still cranking out new things.

On the downside, this issue also shows us Jason, Zack, and Trini flat out lying to Zordon about the peace conference in Switzerland. They’re not even lying well. They come off like grade schoolers lying about why they don’t have their homework done.

“Uh….I went to a peace conference. In Switzerland!”

TITLE: Dead Day #1
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Evgeniy Bornyajov. Colors by Juancho! Charles Pritchett (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 27, 2020

Be VERY careful about your feelings for somebody. I’ll only half in jest say that’s the big message I took away from Dead Day #1, our second Ryan Parrott offering of the week.

Dead Day presents us with a world in which the dead come back as what I gather are zombies that can think and speak…? It’s still a little unclear. Either way, you’ve got that trusty plot point of main characters endangering themselves over a former or potential love interest.

My only complaint is that the figure drawing is a little off. Hopefully that tightens up with time.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #5
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS:
Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 26, 2020

They’re doing something to break up the usual “captives with brain bombs” formula, which I’m pleased with. This Taylor/Redondo/Lucas team has done a great job keeping me engaged. With new characters, nonetheless.

What’s more, it looks like we’re about to start integrating heroes like Batman and the Flash. Given Taylor’s approach to Suicide Squad, that offers a lot of intrigue.

Redondo’s style is fairly straightforward, though it still has a nice kinetic energy. In that respect, it certainly doesn’t hurt that we focus on a speedster for most of this issue. But my point stands.

TITLE: Rogue Planet #1
AUTHOR: Cullen Bunn
ARTISTS: Andy MacDonald, Nick Filardi (Colorist). Letters by CRANK!. Cover by MacDonald and Nic Klein.
RELEASED: May 27, 2020

Basically what we have here is a horror movie where the monster is an entire planet. Our heroes, naturally, are trapped on world.

Rogue Planet #1 is…okay. The story is okay. The art is okay. Nothing too remarkable. But nothing offensive. Nothing yet, at least. It’s one of those books that’s just kinda there. As such, I’ll pick up issue #2 if I can afford it. But I’m not sure there’s room in my stack for a book I know is strictly okay.

TITLE: Alienated #3
AUTHOR:
Simon Spurrier
ARTIST:
Chris Wildgoose, Andre May (Colorist), Jim Campbell (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 27, 2020

Holy crap. This issue got dark.

Or perhaps “mature” is the right word. It zooms in on the teen angst stuff, which I liked. But then Sam and our little alien friend tackle…well, look at the cover and you can probably guess. It’s fine. There’s nothing offensive or wrong about it. But tonally it seems like a swerve turn.

How bad is it that with the world in the shape it’s in today, I found myself relating to the teen character griping about society on his YouTube channel?

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Toy Chest Theater: Power Rangers Edition, Vol. 1

By Rob Siebert
Out-of-the-Closet PR Fan

Power Rangers and toys. For the longest time, I hid my love of both. And yet as an adult I’ve learned to celebrate both. For my money that’s a beautiful thing.

Most of the figures you’ll see here are from Hasbro’s “Lightning Collection” line. Whether you’re talking about classic characters from the ’90s or the ones from the current Beast Morphers series, they’re the best PR figures ever produced.

See, these Hasbro people? They ain’t no dummies.

They know Tommy, the original Green Ranger, is going to be their big seller. Or at least in the very top tier. So they don’t necessarily want to give it to us right away. But of course, they like money. So what do they do? They split the difference with “Fighting Spirit” Green Ranger, i.e. a Green Ranger with that weird gold gimmick on his helmet. Because we know that’s not the true Green Ranger. And of course, they know we know.

Semantics aside, this is a great shot from Brazilian photographer Andre Gurian. It’s very reminiscent of something you’d see in promotion of Power Rangers Legacy Wars. Only here we have a setting with a much better texture to it, and lighting that’s a  little more moody. It’s got the more mature feel that adult fans think they want Power Rangers to have. But of course, will never get.

This, on the other hand, is much more in tune with what Mighty Morphin Power Rangers looked like. Gary Foster puts our two heroines front and center, bright colors in all their glory and surrounded by the vaguely undead looking Putties.

The poses are what make it, though. The Yellow Ranger’s in particular. It’s very ninja-esque. It feels like we’ve captured the moment right before that initial explosion of the fight.

Basketball photos are one of Noserein‘s trademarks. Go to his page and you’ll see basketball court shots of Golum, Baby Groot, Lord Voldemort, not to mention Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Here of course, we have the Power Rangers and the Putties. It’s just now registering with me that the Putties are actually the stars of this one. The Rangers are all background players, and the two Putties are clearly in the foreground. And don’t tell me this could never have happened on the show. Frankly, I’m surprised it never did. The Rangers and the Putties in a game of three-on-three to decide the fate of the world.

Hey, I’d watch.

Of these images, this is the only one that doesn’t feature figures from Hasbro’s Lightning Collection. If I’m not mistaken, these guys are all from Figuarts.

Power Rangers Ninja Storm doesn’t get a lot of love these days. But I really love this shot from our old friend satoshi_k. Once again we’re playing with foreground and background, as our Red Ranger is being pursued by the Thunder Rangers. And yet he’s prepping for a fight, as evidenced by his hand being on his weapon.

Here we have Devon, our current Red Ranger, hitting a high octane kick to…to…what the heck are these things? They aren’t the foot soldiers from Beast Morphers. Originally I thought they were Skrulls. But apparently not.

Either way, I love the implied motion in the way both our primary figures are posed by ZurEnArrh1906. It’s very easy for your mind to fill in the gaps, see the green guy go flying, and even hear Devon’s boot make contact with his torso.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Owen Hart Chronicles: Shawn Michaels, August 12, 1996

***Everyone has seen Owen Hart’s matches with his brother Bret. But Owen had the talent, charisma, and ability to hang with anybody. That’s what we’re here to illustrate. These are “The Owen Hart Chronicles.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Out of all the matches Owen Hart and Shawn Michaels had, this might be the least remembered. Yes, it was a Raw main event. It was really just a way to get Shawn and Vader in the ring together before a big pay per view main event the following Sunday.

But for yours truly, this match has always been special. In August 1996 my interest in wrestling was really ramping up. So at my younger brother’s behest, I tuned into watch my first live (or live-to-tape in this case) Raw match, featuring two men that at that point I’d only seen either on video cassette or in Super Nintendo games. Shawn Michaels, and the man who was quickly becoming my favorite wrestler of all, Owen Hart.

THE BUILD-UP: We were a week out from Summerslam 1996. Shawn Michaels, the WWF Champion, was booked to defend the title against Vader in the main event. At that time, Jim Cornette managed not only Vader, but Owen Hart and the British Bulldog. Obviously, such a scenario begs for the heels to set a trap for the babyface. Thus, announcers Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler told a story of Shawn putting himself in jeopardy mere days before his big match.

BELL TO BELL: What struck me about this match more than anything was how quick and smooth it was. These guys were both in their athletic prime here, and it shows.

Case in point, Shawn and Owen trade the famous twirl-and-nip-up-out-of-an-attempted-hammerlock spot (patent pending, and each end it with a takedown via hair pull takedown. Obviously choreographed? In hindsight, yes. But smooth as silk.

Shawn also hits Owen with a martial-arts style back leg sweep. He might have seen that in a movie and decided to try it, as I can’t recall him making that part of his repertoire.

This was during the “cast phase” of Owen Hart’s career. Much like Bob Orton Jr. a decade earlier, Owen was feigning a broken arm. But would use the cast as a weapon in his matches. If you’re looking for a hint of Owen Hart’s brand of comedy in this match, watch him as he sells an arm bar from Michaels. He doesn’t overdo it. But he’s not exactly subtle either.

This match was hardly Shawn and Owen’s best encounter. Not the least of which because they had a Botchamania moment on the finish. Shawn catches Owen in the chest with the superkick, rather than the face. Thankfully they recovered, and the champ hit another one for the three-count.

THE AFTERMATH: Predictably, Vader comes out toward the end of the match to try and cost HBK the win. They have a cute little standoff afterward with Vader holding a chair and Shawn clutching Owen’s cast. But in the end our hero does indeed fall victim to not one, but two Vader Bombs.

Vader would go on to lose to Shawn at Summerslam in what would, for better or worse, be the pinnacle of his WWF run. The match is perhaps best remembered for a botched elbow drop spot after which a frustrated Shawn yelled “Move!” at him.

Owen, meanwhile, would defeat Savio Vega in the opening match

Years later, Shawn would write in his book, Heartbreak and Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story: “Working with Owen Hart was fantastic … by far the most talented of all the Harts. With Owen you could call things on the fly, change things up, experiment, and basically do anything you wanted to do. He was a pure joy to work with.”

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.