A Three Jokers #1 Review – Too Many Smiles?

TITLE: Three Jokers #1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS:
Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Black Label
PRICE:
$6.99
RELEASED:
August 25, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Alright, DC. You can have your “Joker War,” and you can have Three Jokers. But after these are both said and done, we put the ol’ Clown Prince back on the shelf for a little while. There is such a thing as too many smiles…

At last, more than four years after it was first teased in Johns and Fabok’s Justice League run, Three Jokers has arrived. Why’d it take so long? No clue. But I’ve gotta say, the end product was almost worth the wait. While he’s obviously used Batman in his larger DC stories, Geoff Johns hasn’t spent a lot of time on a proper Bat-book. But in terms of the overall “feel” of things, i.e. characterization, tone, the sense of sacrifice, and that lingering dread that comes with a great Joker story, Johns and the Three Jokers team absolutely nail it.

Three Jokers presents us with the notion that there are…well, three Jokers. When the Harlequin of Hate seemingly strikes three points in Gotham at the exact same time, Batman, Batgirl, and the Red Hood must figure out where the genuine article is. But certain evidence points them toward something more elusive: That three different men have played the role of the Joker over the years. And unbeknownst to our heroes, a fourth Joker may be on his way…

In a broad sense, I don’t really like the idea of there having been three Jokers. Rather, I like the notion that he evolved over time just as Batman did. But I’ve been around long enough to know these kinds of things often aren’t as they initially seem. So I’ll reserve judgment on the premise and simply judge the content on its own merits.

One thing I give this issue a lot of credit for is quickly and effectively establishing the Joker’s relationship to Batman, and also providing the character with dramatic weight he deserves. It’s all done within the first few pages, using very little dialogue. We see Batman’s scarred and mangled flesh juxtaposed with single images of his enemies corresponding to specific wounds. Characters like Bane, the Riddler, Scarecrow, etc. Then we get one for the Joker. Then the Joker again. Then the Joker again. Then the Joker yet again. Thus the reader, whether a Batman buff or someone picking up a comic for the first time, understands the Joker isn’t simply another villain. He’s the one who’s given Batman more scars, both physically and emotionally, than anyone else.

Also adding dramatic weight is the presence of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and the Red Hood/Jason Todd. Ask a casual comic book reader to name three Joker stories, and chances are two of them will be (for better or worse) The Killing Joke – Where the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara, and A Death in the Family – The infamous story where the Joker kills Jason. So having them around is a nice reminder of what the stakes are when dealing with the Joker. You’d think, with both breathing and walking, the opposite would be true. But both carry a heavy existential burden.

Jason Fabok gets to put his own little tweaks on all the iconic costumes for Three Jokers. The only changes of real significance are to Red Hood’s costume (shown above). Most of what we see is an improvement. The Bat emblem on his chest is thankfully gone. He’s now in a leather jacket with a red tunic that has, you guessed it, a hood. The tunic is supposed to look like the Robin costume. It even has an R on the belt buckle. Initially I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But it’s grown on me. In fact, it’s probably my favorite take on the costume since Under the Hood in the mid 2000s.

I credit Three Jokers #1 with having one of the best, most cinematic chase scenes I’ve read in quite awhile. There’s not even that much to it. Just Batman and Batgirl trying to stop an ambulance, with Batman coming aboard and fighting inside. But Johns and Fabok made a more exciting sequence out of this than some creators can with four times as much.

This book is also beautifully colored. The palette Brad Anderson is working with feels like it can explode into a bright, beautiful blaze at any moment. But instead we get colors that are very full and that pop, but also feel like they’ve been dipped in darkness. The way Fabok and Anderson capture Gotham City feels definitive. Like this is what it’s supposed to look like.

Jason Todd is really the star of this first issue. That’s mostly because of the climax and a deliciously emotional, character-defining moment between a killer and his victim…

Three Jokers #1 straddles an interesting line. I totally disagree with its premise, yet I can’t deny this is a great comic book. Normally I can’t stand it when even oversized comics are priced above $5. But I can say with full confidence that this one is worth the price of admission.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: “Joker War,” Billionaire Island, Fantastic Four, 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

TITLE: Red Hood: Outlaw #48
AUTHOR: Scott Lobdell
ARTISTS: Brett Booth, Danny Miki (Inker), Arif Prianto (Colorist), Troy Peteri (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora & Tamra Bonvillain.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

These “Joker War” tie-ins are giving me New 52 flashbacks. When “A Death in the Family” was running in Batman, it seemed like they couldn’t crank out enough tie-in issues.

But as far as Joker-themed tie-in issues go, this is a pretty decent one. It’s suitably focused on Jason, pits another Bat-family character against him, and incorporates a location that’s been a mainstay in the book.

On the downside, they kill off a character for no good reason. One that I thought had a decent fan following too…?

TITLE: Detective Comics #1026
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Kenneth Rocafort, Daniel Brown (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

There’s a panel on the opening page of this issue that’s markedly similar to an Alex Ross painting of Batman standing between stone gargoyles. Anyone else notice that? Or am I just an Alex Ross buff?

Actual exclamation in this issue: “Murderize him!”

I’m not the biggest Kenneth Rocafort fan. But in this atmosphere, Batman vs. Killer Croc in the Gotham sewers, he’s at home. His work here is enjoyable.

Tomasi, who has run hot and cold on Detective, is on his game too. This is the best issue this series has seen in many weeks.

TITLE: Batgirl #48
AUTHOR: Cecil Castellucci
ARTISTS: Robbi Rodriguez, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters). Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

I’ve been away for awhile (mostly because I don’t like Batgirl’s current costume)…since when does Commissioner Gordon call his daughter “Babs?” That feels weird to me.

After reading this issue, I feel bad sleeping on Cecil Castellucci. She writes a damn good Barbara Gordon. Robbi Rodriguez and Jordie Bellaire are a great team too. There’s a really nice fluidity to the work here. And as this issue happens to be the first of a new story, I just might stick around.

For all the good it’ll do. This series ends with issue #50.

TITLE: Billionaire Island #5
AUTHOR: Mark Russel
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

The art by Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry has highlighted Billionaire Island for me. Almost every expression is exaggerated to the point of caricature. But in a dark comedy you can do that.

I’m not sure who that’s supposed to be on the cover. I mean, it’s the President of the United States, obviously. But I thought Billionaire Island had cast a Kid Rock stand-in as POTUS. This guy looks more like Carrot Top with blond locks. *shudders*

I wouldn’t say this book has maintained the same level of interest from me, but it’s still worth a look.

TITLE: Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
ARTISTS: Neal Adams, Mark Farmer (Inker), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

This book gave me not-so-nice flashbacks to Adams’ recent Batman work. That’s a shame, as Adams is legitimately an innovator who’s earned his place in American comic book history. His art looks great here (though Thing’s face looks a little awkward), and Laura Martin’s colors pop beautifully. I just wouldn’t hire Adams as a writer.

Thankfully, you won’t find many writers (if any) better than Mark Waid. So Adams is in good hands for what is apparently his first-ever full-length FF story.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #8
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Daniel Sampere, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

Deadshot has a puppy named Dogshot? That is absolute perfection, and needs to be in both the new video game and the new movie.

Given both the announcements we just got at DC Fandome, it’s surprising this book is on the recent list of casualties over at DC. It’s a shame for so many reasons, not the least of which is the effort the creative team have put into the creation of new characters. Case in point, this issue, in which we dive into some backstories. Hopefully we can bring them back at some point.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #108
AUTHORS: Sophie Campbell (Story), Ronda Pattison (Script), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Nelson Daniel, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

This issue brings up something I never, ever thought we’d have in a TMNT story. With Mutant Town now existing essentially it’s own city within a city, our heroes are now pondering if they should form their own government and police force. Are the Turtles getting into politics? By God, some things are too evil for even the boys in green to take on…

For whatever reason, since issue #101 the Turtles have been wearing clothes more. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #761
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Carlo Barberi, Matt Santorelli (Inker), Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez & Sanchez.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

Barberi does a fine job on this issue. To the point that I wouldn’t mind him being the regular artist. But because he drew the last two issues, I quickly found myself missing Mikel Janin.

As for Tamaki, she gives Maxwell Lord a great “history is controlled by the victors” speech. Diana refers to him as the villain, and she talks about the Justice League controlling “the flow of justice in this world.” In the context of the story it’s very convincing, and a great character moment for Max.

Then I got to the last page, and my heart broke.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #53
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Moises Hidalgo, Walter Baiamonte & Katia Ranalli (Colorists), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

I’m diggin’ the designs of these new Dark Ranger suits. Their identities seem like a missed opportunity to introduce new characters. But then again, this series is ending soon. That seems to be a theme this week…

This is the first issue where Moises Hidalgo impressed me. He gets a nice, long battle sequence between our good and evil Ranger teams. So he’s able to really spread his wings, and it shows.

Grace (Remember her?) makes a truly stupid suggestion in this issue. So stupid, in fact, that I’m sure it’ll come to pass.

TITLE: Action Comics #1024
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

There are a lot of Super-people in this book. We’re up to five. If the “Superman family” gets too big, it pretty much makes the Justice League obsolete, doesn’t it? Plus, they spend part of the issue flying over Metropolis, scanning it with X-Ray vision. Creepy much? We’ve also got all the usual problems with John Romita Jr’s sloppy art.

Why am I still buying this book?

TITLE: Batman/Superman #11
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

This story about the Ultra-Humanite and Atomic Skull is essentially three issues of filler. But it’s good filler, I’ll give it that. Clayton Henry and Alejandro Sanchez turn in work that crackles with that great comic book superhero energy.

There’s a subplot in here about Superman not asking for Batman’s advice before he revealed his true identity to the world. It’s a little too far in the background for my taste, though. I’d have liked to see them explore that with some of the page space they used for textbook hero/villain dialogue with the Ultra-Humanite.

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

The Lost Carnival Deep Dive – Nightwing, is That Really You?

TITLE: The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel
AUTHOR: Michael Moreci
ARTISTS: Sas Milledge, Phil Hester, David Calderon (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer)
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Graphic Novels For Young Adults
PRICE:
$16.99
RELEASED:
May 5, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic  Novel isn’t really a Dick Grayson graphic novel. Or at least it doesn’t feel like one. It’s more like a YA novel about a lost carnival forced into the graphic medium that they slapped the name Dick Grayson on for brand recognition.

All that being said, it’s still a pretty decent book.

The Lost Carnival introduces us to a teenage Dick Grayson, a traveling circus performer with his parents, the Flying Graysons. But the struggling circus is being walloped by a carnival that’s opted to set up shop nearby. Dick, however, soon discovers all is not as it seems. The carnival, and a mysterious young magician named Luciana, are linked to the past in ways Dick could never imagine.

My biggest problem with some (not all, some) of these original DC graphic novels is they don’t necessarily feel like they’re trying to tell a story about their main characters. Rather, it feels like the story was concocted first, and the character pasted on to it. For instance, a story about a girl in a band? It’s obviously about Black Canary! Girl in a wheelchair solving puzzles? Oracle! And if you’ve got a story with a carnival/circus theme, it’s got to be Dick Grayson. (I’m not making any accusations here. I’m just saying that’s what it feels like.)

For a book that claims it’s “redefining Dick Grayson for a new generation,” there’s not much in here that necessarily feels specific to Dick. He’s got a love interest, a best friend, a crush. He’s rebelling against his parents, and ultimately learns a lesson about holding on to those dear to him, All pretty standard YA stuff. Yes, he’s in the circus. But outside of the magic element, the book doesn’t play with that too much. An opening scene with Dick and his parents on the trapeze is about it.

But who is Dick Grayson, exactly? As Robin, he’s essentially the yin to Batman’s yang. He’s the plucky and exuberant light that keeps the Dark Knight from journeying too far into the proverbial darkness. Unlike Bruce, Dick also thrives when working with others. He becomes the leader of the Teen Titans, and develops close friendships with virtually all his teammates. He’s also quite simply an easy person to like and get along with.

Lots of teenagers struggle with not fitting in. The feel isolated. So in Dick’s situation, why not make that literal? The Lost Carnival tells us he only travels with his parents in the summer. But that’s a missed opportunity. Why not make him a year-round circus performer who’s home-schooled, and thus doesn’t know a lot of kids his own age? Thus, his connection to Luciana isn’t just your standard “boy crushing on girl” story.

The book gives Dick a best friend named Willow, a magician and fellow circus performer who will ultimately play into the book’s climax. But why not have the two start the book as virtual strangers, with Willlow having recently joined the circus. Then by the end of the book, Dick has something he didn’t have at the beginning: A new friend his own age.

Y’know. Just a thought.

The pencils and inks are credited to Sas Milledge with Phil Hester. Not quite sure how that breaks down. The figure rendering in this book has the tiniest bit of fluidity to it. It’s not much, but enough to make things feel a little bit off. Still, Milledge’s version of Dick Grayson manages to be pretty strong. Faithful enough that it reminds us of Nightwing, but unique enough to be her own.

The book plays with different color tints for different scenes, with everything else staying black and white. I can’t say it works amazingly in terms of setting a mood or a tone, or even separating parts of the book. But it’s a way to go. David Calderon’s colors look nice at any rate.

I won’t say The Lost Carnival is utterly forgettable. It works as a story about a magic carnival, but it underachieves as a story about a young Dick Grayson. There’s a certain authenticity that’s missing. The Flying Graysons may sour, but this Dick Grayson graphic novel falls short.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Drakkon New Dawn, Star Wars, 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

TITLE: Power Rangers: Drakkon New Dawn
AUTHOR:
Anthony Burch
ARTISTS:
Simone Ragazzoni, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jung-Geun Yoon.
RELEASED:
August 19, 2020

I’m starting to get a little weary of all this Drakkon-verse stuff. It works as part of a story where the Power Rangers go to a dark alternate universe. But as an island unto itself? Meh. As time progresses, it feels like all we’re doing is answering where this person or that person are in the Drakkon-verse. That’s not enough to justify a miniseries like this, in my view.

Then again, it must be selling. So what do I know?

TITLE: Batman #97
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Guillem March & Morey.
RELEASED:
August 18, 2020

The central story of “Joker War” has lots of intrigue. But there are little things that throw if off-balance. For instance, there’s a really cool moment where Batman has to fight a bunch of “Joker zombies” blind-folded. I love that. It’s a wonderful use of all Bruce’s training. But much like Joker’s facial expression at the end of last issue, a small detail taints it…

Batman says, “A good bat knows how to fight blind.”

Ugh. Why? Whatever happened to Batman being the strong silent type?

Also, why does Joker have abs?

TITLE: Justice League #51
AUTHOR: Jeff Loveness
ARTISTS: Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques (Inker), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Philip Tan, Jay David Ramos, & Nick Derington.
RELEASED: August 18, 2020

Robson Rocha really gets to flex here with an beautiful two-page montage of some of the League’s most iconic moments. Beautiful work.

The narration in this issue is a little confusing. It takes some time to catch on to not necessarily who it is, but who they’re talking to. Still, you should catch on by the end. I love me a good Black Mercy story. So it’ll be interesting to see what they turn in here.

TITLE: Dead Day #2
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Evgeniy Bornyakov, Juancho! (Colorist), Charles Pritchett (Letterer). Cover by Andy Clarke & Jose Villarrubia.
RELEASED: August 19, 2020

“Nice to see you two lovebirds back together, though. I’m sure rigor mortis has it’s advantages.”

Ew.

These fashionable guys on the cover are “Lifers,” a group of religious extremists somewhat ironically opposed to the whole resurrection thing. They make for a nice bit of world-building. I like ’em.

TITLE: Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #4
AUTHOR: Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS: Paolo Villanneli, Arif Prianto (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED: August 19, 2020

Story-wise, this isn’t the most engaging book you’ll find. I’ve almost completely lost the plot. But Paolo Villanneli and Arif Prianto are killing it on the art. The opening page is beautiful. It’s got a gritty texture, yet is still as colorful as you want Star Wars to be. And of course, Lee Bermejo’s covers are awesome.

TITLE: Darth Vader #4
AUTHOR:
Greg Pak
ARTISTS:
Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by InHyuk Lee.
RELEASED:
August 12, 2020

Vader basically gets swallowed by a whale in this issue. I mean, c’mon. You’ve gotta love that. A friggin’ whale!

In contrast, this story is trying to get a lot of mileage out of trotting out characters from prequels. As if we care that much what happened to Ric Olie. Don’t know who Ric Olie is? You’re not alone. There was a way to do this without scraping the bottom of the barrel. It might have only been a one or two-issue story where Vader simply visits Padme’s tomb. But sometimes, less is more.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #9
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Werter Dell-Edera, Miquel Muerto (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters)
RELEASED:
August 12, 2020

There’s a fantastic image in here that takes us into our first ever flashback scene with Erica Slaughter. She’s curled up in a cupboard, and one eye is staring straight out at the reader. That and all the deep blacks make it a really spooky shot.

Should this book count as a guilty pleasure? Because of all the…y’know…child death? Either way, I’m enjoying the hell out of it. It’s one of the best indie comics on the market right now.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #760
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez.
RELEASED: August 18, 2020

I find it so amusing that Maxwell Lord, the character created for Justice League International, has evolved into such a formidable villain for Wonder Woman. And low and behold, he’s once again  casting her in an unfavorable public light.

Last issue, we were introduced to Diana’s new neighbor Emma, who I get the sense will be a civilian-level friend for her. Almost a Jimmy Olsen equivalent. I’m very curious to see how that evolves, as it’s not often we get to see Wondie have that kind of relationship.

 

Rob Watches Star Trek: Bones Slaps Catwoman!

***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
EPISODE: S2.E11 “Friday’s Child”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
GUEST-STARRING: Julie Newmar
WRITER: D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: December 1, 1967
SYNOPSIS: Kirk, Spock, and Bones are caught in the middle of a tribal dispute on Capella IV, and face a moral dilemma when a woman does not want her unborn child.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

As someone who grew up with the ’60s Batman show, it’s difficult in reviewing these old Star Trek episodes to not draw comparisons between the two. As they were made around the same time, they already look and sound quite similar.

It’s even more difficult when familiar faces pop up. Julie Newmar, who for a time played Catwoman, has a central role in “Friday’s Child.” It’s also shockingly physical, given her character is pregnant…

If you’re ever looking for a Star Trek episode that holds up to today’s “woke” culture about as well as a wet paper towel, it’s this one. Look no further than when Bones, in trying to examine Newmar’s character, places his hand on her pregnant belly. Eleen tells him not to “touch me in that manner.”

Bones responds with, “Now you listen to me, young woman. I’ll touch you in any way or manner that my professional judgment indicates.”

An unnerving line by today’s standards. But not so bad when you consider he threw in the bit about professional judgment. He is a doctor, after all.

Far less excusable is, after she slaps him across the face twice, Bones responds with a slap of his own to the heavily pregnant Eleen. Not a good look for the good doctor. Even if his patient is Catwoman.

Then again, maybe Bones had the right idea. Mere moments after the slap, Eleen seems to come around. She later insists that only McCoy is allowed to touch her. As the culture on this alien world is very male-dominated, maybe the slap earned Bones some form of respect from her? Or maybe you just had to be there…

Kirk later proceeds to give the whole thing a borderline rapey vibe by asking, “How’d you arrange to touch her, Bones? Give her a happy pill?”

Bones’ cringe-worthy response?  “No, a right cross.”

None of this is meant to be offensive, of course. The episode even seems to understand that the slap was a big deal. So I credit it for that, while also taking into account when this was written. But that’s not an excuse. Even with the benefit of hindsight, this is bad writing.

So how do you fix it? How do you write this scene by today’s standards? Let’s assume you have to have some version of it in there. Some scene where Bones convinces Eleen that he has to physically examine her…

It’s only a short time later that Eleen actually gives birth. As this was written by a man, I think we can safely assume he wasn’t cognizant of the excruciating pain involved in childbirth. So maybe have Bones offer to see to her, but she only accepts his offer once she’s really in pain?

Of course, they could have avoided a lot of trouble by taking out the whole “men can’t touch Eleen” part of the story. But that’s a separate issue.

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

A WWE Summerslam 2020 Preview – Enter the ThunderDome

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So that’s the “ThunderDome”, eh? Alright sure. What the hell? Let’s give it a whirl.

There are so few upsides to this pandemic. But one of the few is that these drastic circumstances have led to forced creativity and innovation. Not just in wrestling, but all walks of life. We just wrapped up the first ever all-virtual Democratic National Convention. Now, we’re about to get the first ever all-virtual pro wrestling crowd.

One thing’s for sure: Brawling into the crowd is going to be a lot different.

I’m as anxious to get back to normal as anybody else. But this kind of inventive mindset should be encouraged. Even if we only get one good idea for every 10 bad ones. Case in point, at Wrestlemania, the Last Man Standing Match and the Firefly Funhouse Match weren’t really my cup of tea. But the Boneyard Match was awesome!

Let’s see how Summerslam looks…

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Apollo Crews (c) vs. MVP

Here’s my question: Why MVP and not Bobby Lashley? Even if you ignore the fact that Lashley pinned Crews in that gauntlet match on Monday, Lashley would be the next logical person in line after MVP lost in his title match a few weeks back. So why go with MVP again? Is it because we’re still rehabbing Lashley from all that crap with Lana and Rusev?

Actually, that’s not a bad reason…

I’m inclined to think they wouldn’t be going with MVP again unless they were going to put the belt on him. They may have even been planning to do it at Extreme Rules. Now MVP can be the cowardly heel, using Lashley and Shelton Benjamin to hold on to the championship while Crews chases. I’m not sure I expect his run to be a long one, but it’ll still be pretty cool to see him hold it again after so many years.

PREDICTION: MVP

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits (c) vs. Andrade & Angel Garza

I’ve gone back and forth on this one. The titles would be good with this Andrade/Garza/Zelina package. I definitely like the idea of giving Garza a more prominent spotlight. But on the other hand, Dawkins and Ford have grown on me as the tag champs. In an era where WWE needs new stars as badly as they ever have, putting some more shine on the Street Profits wouldn’t be a bad thing.

In the end, I think that’s exactly what they do. Dawkins and Ford go over early on the card. And for their next challengers? How about Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin? I’d be curious to see what kind of chemistry they have.

PREDICTION: The Street Profits

HAIR VS. HAIR MATCH:
Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville

I love this match. Not just because of the Hair vs. Hair stipulation. Although I do believe it’s the first female Hair vs. Hair Match since Victoria vs. Molly Holly all those years ago.

I love this because Mandy and Sonya are getting an opportunity to shine on what, in theory, is the second biggest pay per view of the year. This is the kind of match that would have gotten bumped if you had the likes of Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Undertaker, or other part-timers on the card. If we really are trying to make new stars, this is a wise move. And frankly, it’s well deserved. Mandy and Sonya have both stepped their game up this year. I’ve got high hopes that these two will deliver a great Summerslam moment.

As for who wins, I’ve got to go with Mandy. Sonya will rock a buzz cut for a few weeks, then nail some kind of short hairdo.

PREDICTION: Mandy Rose

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Bayley (c) vs. Asuka

The elevation of Asuka has been a really pleasant surprise this year. For so long, it seemed like she had become an afterthought. And she’s just too good to relegate to the back of the line. Now she’s doing something that I don’t think anyone’s ever done at Summerslam before: Challenge two different singles champions for two different titles.

Based on what we’ve seen in recent history, I’m guessing they’ll do these matches back-to-back. On Raw, they established that Bayley is defending her title first. I don’t see why Sasha Banks wouldn’t be at ringside for this, as they’ll need her in short order. So I’m thinking Sasha does something underhanded to cost Asuka the Smackdown title. It’s just as well. The fact that they’re borrowing someone from Raw for the second-biggest show of the year doesn’t speak well to the status of that division.

PREDICTION: Bayley

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Asuka

Having just lost to Bayley, Asuka will seem like easy pickings for Sasha. Thus, Sasha can underestimate her and get rolled up for the shock title change. They can do it clean, or have some kind of mishap involving Bayley. I’m good either way.

I don’t think Sasha has defended the title since she won it last month. Thus, her streak of winning the Raw Women’s Title and then quickly losing it on her first defense remains intact. You’ve got to wonder if they’re doing that on purpose at this point. Are they even that clever?

PREDICTION: Asuka

STREET FIGHT:
Seth Rollins vs. Dominik Mysterio

Look for all sorts of shenanigans in this match, with both Rey Mysterio and Murphy getting involved from ringside. This should be fun. Dominik is in good hands with Rollins.

Dominik has no business beating Seth Rollins. And yet, I expect that’s exactly what will happen here. It’s time for the heel to get his comeuppance. As sick as I am of all the eye stuff, I wouldn’t mind seeing Rollins get “hit” in the eye with a kendo stick or something. Then we can get eyepatch-wearing, pirate-looking Seth Rollins.

PREDICTION: Dominik Mysterio

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt

Involving Alexa Bliss in this program was a smart move. Not only did it freshen things up and add a new layer to the feud as we head into Summerslam, but it pays off something from as far back as that first Mixed Match Challenge. Braun and Alexa have a really cool on-screen chemistry that I’m happy to see again.

Clearly, Bliss is going to factor into the finish somehow. The question is whether it benefits Braun or Bray…

At the end of the day, I think it’s time to correct the mistake that was made before Wrestlemania when Bray lost the title to Goldberg. It’s time to put the title back on the Fiend. As for Alexa, it’s time for her to return to her villainous roots. Babyface Alexa Bliss isn’t nearly as fun as heel Alexa Bliss. So let’s bring her back, and maybe feud her against Nikki Cross.

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Randy Orton

Getting back to his legend-killing, punt-kicking ways has done wonders for Randy Orton. He’s once again one of the hottest heels in the business. He’s just what the doctor ordered in terms of giving Drew McIntyre a great villain to face.

But as hot as he’s been, Randy Orton does not need to be WWE Champion for a 14th time. At least not now. I’m sure falling ratings have scared WWE. But now isn’t the time to fall back on old habits. They need to stay the course with McIntyre, and focus on telling good stories with him as the hero. If this were a relatively normal year and we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, it might be a different story. If John Cena or Brock Lesnar were challenging, it might be a different story. But not Randy Orton. Not here and not now.

They need to stick it out with Drew until Wrestlemania at the very least. Let him be that stalwart champion that gets us through the so-called “pandemic era.” Then we can think about changing things up.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

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

Rob Watches Star Trek: Lower Decks

***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
: Lower Decks
EPISODE: S1.E1. “Second Contact”
WITH THE VOICE TALENTS OF: Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noel Wells, Eugene Cordero, Dawnn Lewis

WRITER: Mike McMahan
DIRECTOR: Barry J. Kelly
PREMIERE DATE: August 6, 2020
SYNOPSIS: Ensign Brad Boimler is asked to keep an eye on the antics of Ensign Beckett Mariner aboard the on the U.S.S. Cerritos.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m not old, am I? My father, who’s [age redacted], assured me the other day that 30-something is not old. So I can’t be old, right….? Right?!?

The reason I ask is because Star Trek: Lower Decks made me feel really, really old. Because I found myself saying things like, “Slow down!” and “You’re giving me a headache?” At least they weren’t walking on my lawn…

Lower Decks isn’t a bad idea. An animated series about a few low-ranking crew members and their adventures on the U.S.S. not-the-Enterprise. Our main characters are Beckett Bariner, an irreverent rule-breaker with an attitude, and the straight-laced Brad Boimler, who has eyes on becoming a captain one day. So far, so good, right?

The problem, however, is evident from the very first scene: The Beckett character is annoying. Her attempts at humor are loud and obnoxious, and she largely ruins the episode.

I understand the rules for character-building can be a little bit different in a comedy. But I still need something to latch on to, someone to care about, something to emotionally anchor the story. We kick off the episode with Brad fantasizing about being a captain. That’s a pretty good starting point. We’ve got a character with a dream and a goal. Most of us can relate to that, right?

But then Beckett comes in with clumsy, babbling, rapid-fire attempts at humor. She says something about being drunk on Romulan whisky, and then swings a Klingon weapon around for no real reason.

I recently watched the classic original series episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles.” I was inclined to compare the Tribbles to the Ewoks of Star Wars fame, given their cutesy nature. Whether that’s a justified comparison or not, if the Tribbles are the Star Trek equivalent to Ewoks, then Beckett just might be the  Star Trek equivalent to Jar Jar Binks.

The super fast-paced, fill-all-the-silence dialogue is what hurts the episode more than anything. Lower Decks simply won’t shut up. In the following scene, for instance, where Beckett and Brad meet new crew member D’Vana Tendi (the green-skinned girl pictured above), it’s like somebody pressed the fast-forward button. We don’t have time to breathe or digest anything, so nothing lands.

What might have helped this episode is a slightly tighter focus. We have three main characters in Beckett, Brad, and D’Vana, plus a few supporting characters. Instead of trying to cram so much into 20-some minutes, keep things zoomed in on Brad and Beckett. D’Vana is seemingly supposed to be Brad’s love interest, so maybe do a brief intro at the end where we establish that he thinks she’s cute. But that’s all we needed.

Beckett’s execution is a problem, so she definitely needs to be toned down. But how about a little heart? Why is she so boisterous? Does she have trouble making friends? We find out late in the episode that she’s related to someone high in the ship’s pecking order. Does that have anything to do with it?

Give me something human to latch on to. Then we can talk about Romulan whisky and slimy tentacle monsters.

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

Rob Watches Star Trek: Meet the Parents

***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
EPISODE: S2.E10 “Journey to Babel”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
GUEST-STARRING: Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt
WRITER: D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: November 17, 1967
SYNOPSIS: As the Enterprise transports planetary delegates to a diplomatic conference, Spock’s father becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s a moment in this episode that I absolutely love. It’s when we cut to a wide open common area and see all the various aliens that have come together on the Enterprise. We’ve got blue people with antennas, we’ve got pig men, we’ve got little people painted gold (shown below). And of course, we have a Vulcan.

For yours truly, this is a sort of gloriously campy predecessor to what we’d see 10 years later in the cantina scene in Star Wars. For a few brief moments, Star Trek does some world-building simply via the visuals. Those glorious ’60s sci-fi visuals.

The only thing missing was a Gorn. Though that particular alien race seemed, shall we say, less inclined toward diplomacy. And hey, maybe Kirk’s got hard feelings. You can’t blame him, can you?

In addition to a Gorn-less alien convention, we’ve got quite a bit else happening in this episode. A family reunion with Spock’s parents, Marek and Amanda. We then go into a murder investigation after one of the pig men is killed. Next we find out Marek is ill and needs a blood transfusion from his son. This leads to Bones having to perform the procedure as the Enterprise is rocked back and forth in a space battle with the Orion crime syndicate. There are so many plates spinning, and yet it somehow all seems to fit. That’s a credit to the writing.

So Marek is Vulcan and Amanda is human. The Vulcan mindset is that humans are emotional, thus irrational. Vulcans, on the other hand, are strictly logical. The idea, which we see played up in this episode, is that Spock gets his rarely seen emotional side from his mother.

I reject this notion.

MEANWHILE, IN NOVEMBER OF 1967: The satellite ATS-3 transmits the first color image of Earth’s entire disk (nearly all of the western hemisphere).

We’ve heard Spock discuss the Vulcans and their history before. As a race, they were once quite volatile even by human standards. Warfare was commonplace, to the point that it threatened their very existence. Their salvation came via the adoption of a philosophy that cast uncontrolled emotion as the root cause of all problems. Thus, the need to rigidly control all emotion, and conduct one’s self via an ethical and logical code.

So the Vulcan mindset is cultural, as opposed to being somehow biological. They are taught to be as cold and emotion-less as they are. This flies in the face of the show’s implication that Spock’s behavior is genetically influenced by either one of his parents. For all intents and purposes, humans and Vulcans are born with the same blank slate. The difference lays in nurture, not nature.

What I’d love to see is a new and budding romance between a human and a Vulcan. I’m sure the franchise has covered that at some point in its 50-year history. But thus far the closest we’ve seen (or at least the closest I’ve seen) is the strange dynamic between Spock and Nurse Chapel. Not exactly Romeo and Juliet, those two…

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Seven Secrets, Billionaire Island, Batman, 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

TITLE: Seven Secrets #1
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Daniele di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte & Katia Ranalli (Colorists), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer).
RELEASED: August 12, 2020

Take a shot every time the word “secret” appears in this book. I dare you.

We’ve got a compelling main character here. The trouble is, we don’t actually meet him. He’s merely our narrator giving us a bunch of flowery language about secrets, their importance, etc. Things pick up once we get past the halfway point, and I am curious enough to check out issue #2. But I’d still call this an underwhelming debut. Especially given the talent involved.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #10
AUTHORS:
Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED:
August 13, 2020

We’re still working our way through Jason Todd’s DCAU origin. Thus far it’s closer to his classic origin than I would have preferred. Though they do give him his own unique Robin costume. It’s a little tacky, but somehow I find that it suits Jason…

You know what I’m hoping this all comes down to? Jason Todd vs. Tim Drake. The current Robin proves himself at the expense of the failed Robin. And hopefully we hear from Dick Grayson, the original Robin, along the way.

TITLE: Billionaire Island #4
AUTHOR:
Mark Russell
ARTISTS:
Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
RELEASED:
August 12, 2020

It’s getting harder to tell what aspects of Billionaire Island are satirical and which aren’t. It’s a fun read, but the writing manages to tap into a part of our basic humanity  that’s not exactly flattering: The laziness that comes with privilege, and what we’re willing to do to accommodate it.

Let’s not forget our stupidity. And I quote, “This is what their world is…a billion-dollar mansion undone by a two-dollar lock.”

TITLE: Superman #24
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Kevin Maguire & John Timms, Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, & Sinclair.
RELEASED: August 11, 2020

I know I say this every time he draws an issue, but the novelty hasn’t worn off: Yay! Kevin Maguire!!!

I had no clue there was a new Doctor Fate. This is why I need to catch up on Justice League Dark

As great as it is to see Maguire’s pencils, this issue and issue #23 are filler until we get to the “Double-Size 25th Issue Spectacular” next time. The art is worth the cover price. But if you’re looking to save some cash, it’s skippable.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1025
AUTHOR:
Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS:
Kenneth Rocafort, Dan Brown (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED:
August 11, 2020

Just because they called the Batmobile a tank in Batman Begins doesn’t mean Batman should literally be driving a tank. He does that in this issue. It’s about as stupid as is sounds.

Far less stupid is Batwoman’s return to Detective Comics. She’s a breath of fresh air in what has been a pretty stale series of issues as of late. Even the Joker wasn’t able to liven things up. And that’s coming from a big Peter Tomasi fan.

TITLE: Batman #96
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Jorge Jimenez, Tomey Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer).
RELEASED:
August 4, 2020

With the Joker, you often walk a fine line between the frightening and the funny. Batman #96 shows us what happens when you step on the wrong side of that line.

The issue builds up to a climactic moment involving Batman and a room full of what I can only call “Joker zombies.” The trouble is, it also includes a headshot of Mr. J himself, and he’s making a funny face. Ergo, much of the tension in the scene is dissolved and the end of the issue is ruined.

No one ever said drawing the Joker was easy…

TITLE: Young Justice #17
AUTHORS:
Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS:
Scott Godlewski, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by John Timms & Eltaeb.
RELEASED:
August 4, 2020

This issue introduces us to Yolanda Chan. As a character she’s perfectly fine. Nothing wrong with her. I’m just not sure why she’s here. I mean, we find out what her job is at the end of the issue. I’m just not sure why we’re focused in on her. Time will tell, I suppose.

Don’t let the cover fool you. Superboy, Drake, and Impulse don’t meet their ’90s/old universe counterparts or anything. Which is almost a shame. That ’90s Robin costume…all the feels, man.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars, Bad Mother, Disaster Inc., 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

TITLE: Star Wars #5
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Jesus Saiz, Arif Prianto & Dan Brown (Colorists), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by R.B. Silva & Guru-eFX.
RELEASED:
August 5, 2020

This new Star Wars series hasn’t been doing it for me thus far. It had Luke and Lando go back to Cloud City for a really stupid reason. It’s about to give Luke a yellow lightsaber right after he lost his father’s. Now in this issue he meets yet another Force user, who I assume is going to serve as a mentor. Even though adding another person in that role dilutes the impact of Obi-Wan and Yoda.

In exploring the year between Empire and Jedi, I’m starting to think we should have kept Shadows of the Empire as canon.

TITLE: Bad Mother #1 (of 5)
AUTHOR: Christa Faust
ARTISTS: Mike Deodato Jr., Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Dezi Sienty (Letterer)
RELEASED:
August 5, 2020

Bad Mother feels a little bit like Taken if the lead role were gender-swapped. Granted, April Walters doesn’t have that “particular set of skills.” But the cover certainly suggests a big attitude change is coming. I’m expecting something cathartic and suitably gory out of this one.

I’m definitely excited to see what Mike Deodato Jr does with this material, as he fares quite well here. There’s one exception, though: Based on the cover and the first page, I thought April might be pregnant. Whoops.

TITLE: Disaster Inc #2
AUTHOR: Joe Harris
ARTISTS: Sebastian Piriz, Carlos M. Mangual (Letterer). Cover by Andy Clarke & Jose Villarrubia.
RELEASED:
August 5, 2020

The industry hiatus caused by COVID-19 did no favors for Disaster Inc. It took me a decent amount of time to re-familiarize myself with the real-life disaster it’s based on. But once you start to pick up momentum in that respect, you fall back into it.

We get to explore our setting a little bit in this issue, which is nice. We also dive into some samurai folklore, which obviously lends itself to our monster/killer. All in all, a solid sophomore issue with some great art and colors by Sebastian Piriz.

TITLE: Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler
AUTHORS: Jonathan Hickman, Alan Davis
ARTISTS: Davis, Carlos Lopez (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Davis & Edgar Delgado.
RELEASED:
August 5, 2020

These Giant-Size X-Men titles are a little misleading. I come into them hoping for something tightly focused on the title character. But with the Magneto one, and now this Nightcrawler issue, that’s proving not to be the case. This is less about Kurt and more about the three other mutants that are with him.

This issue takes us back to the mansion in Westchester, which has apparently been abandoned for so long it’s being overrun by friggin’ vegetation. (Not to mention some aliens.) You’re telling me that thing wouldn’t sell? It’s the X-Mansion, for cryin’ out loud!

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