Alex Ross Spotlight: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

By Rob Siebert
Kontent Kreator

I’m not a huge gamer, though I’ve been known to dabble. I dipped my toe into Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe back in the day. Not really my cup of tea.

What was my cup of tea? The special collector’s cover for the game, drawn by Alex Ross…

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Batman, X-Men, 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
Not A Doctor. Even in Space.

So it looks like, at least as far as the comic book industry is concerned, our long global nightmare is finally starting to wind down.

Between the launch of Lunar and UCS as new alternative distribution, and Diamond announcing a return to form on May 20, the comic book industry is a few steps closer to being back in business. In the meantime, last week Marvel published Doctor Aphra #1 in celebration of Star Wars day. Meanwhile, issues of Justice League, Lois Lane, among other issues from DC are set to hit the stands tomorrow. I knew I liked Rucka’s Lois Lane maxi, but I had no idea absence would make the heart grow this much fonder…

I also tacked X-Men #2 on. I don’t know that I’ll start picking up the book after it starts shipping again. But curiosity has been getting the better of me. Plus, there’s no better time than now, is there?

TITLE: The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #3
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Marcelo Maiolo (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by V Ken Marion, Sandu Florea, & Maiolo.
RELEASED: May 8, 2020

This issue is titled, “The Accelerated and the Infinitismal.” Heh. I dig it.

The Infinitismal in this case is the Atom, a.k.a. Ryan Choi, as opposed to Ray Palmer. Some dialogue between them suggests this story takes place early in Flash’s career. Which doesn’t necessarily jive with the timeline as I know it. But oh well.

As their target audience is the superstore crowd, most of these DC Digital-Firsts are drawn very accessibly with new readers in mind. As it’s a little more cartoony, Clayton Henry is able to separate himself from the pack.

TITLE: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1
AUTHOR:
Alyssa Wong
ARTISTS:
Marika Cresta, Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Valentina Remengr.
RELEASED:
April 6, 2020

This series, at least at this early juncture, more or less casts Aphra as the Indiana Jones of the Star Wars Universe. She’s an archaeologist looking for priceless artifacts.

Despite enjoying her Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader series, I could never get into Aphra as a solo act. In all honesty, not much has changed now. I just don’t think she’s the flavor of Star Wars I’m looking for at the moment. But the book is written and drawn just fine. Also, good on Marvel for hiring a mostly-female team for this one.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #3
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer). Cover by Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth.
RELEASED: May 6, 2020

Now this is more like it. A slightly different take on Deathstroke. Not changing him too much. But just enough.

Jason Todd continues to look on. Is it a coincidence that he looks a little bit like the DCAU Jason Blood? Or are they just giving him the white streak in his hair from the comics? I imagine it’s the latter.

My sole artistic critique? Some bad coloring on the steam rising from Bruce Wayne’s coffee. Or maybe it’s tea.

TITLE: Wonder Woman: Agent of Peace #3
AUTHORS: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
ARTISTS:  (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Chad Hardin & Paul Mounts
RELEASED: May 6, 2020

Diana attempts to take a vacation day with Steve Trevor in this issue. Bad call. That’s always when the bad guys strike. In fact, Wondie then has an extremely busy couple of days stopping a meteor from colliding with Earth, then solving a murder mystery in Gorilla City. It’s all very nicely drawn by Daniel Sampere.

I always thought the Gorilla City idea was a better fit for Wonder Woman and the Amazons, rather than the Flash. Both are more or less primitive societies. But we get the best of womankind against the worst of mankind’s primate impulses.

TITLE: Superman: Man of Tomorrow #3
AUTHOR:
Robert Venditti
ARTISTS:
Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora.
RELEASED:
May 4, 2020

Dan Mora drawing Superman? Yes please.

Yet another awesome “shirt opening” sequence by Pelletier and the team this week. This one actually lasts a page and a half.

I don’t know if it’s because I have a baby girl now and it hit me in the feels to see Big Blue save a mom and daughter, but I can’t get enough of “boy scout” Superman.

Though at one point while dismantling a robot he gives us, “This game will cost you an arm and a leg!” Even I have my limits, folks.

TITLE: X-Men #2
AUTHOR:
Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS:
Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan (Inker), Sunny Gho (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer).
RELEASED:
November 13, 2019

I haven’t done the research yet on how a teenage (?) Rachel and Nathan Summers are with Cyclops in he present so that they can “help your old man beat up some monsters”. I’m just going with it. That’s pretty much what you have to do with most X-Men books.

Some cool creature art from Leinil Yu in here, though. Along with an awesome line from Cyclops: “I’ve got more hours in a cockpit than I do in therapy, son, and let me tell you…I have done the work.”

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

Weekly Comic 100s: X-Men #1 For the Heck of It, Plus DC Digitals

***”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
Calls it Soda. Not Pop.

The other day I said I wanted to feature the X-Men a little more. So this week I tossed in X-Men #1 from back in November. Along with DC’s digital-first stuff, of course.

TITLE: X-Men #1
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS: Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan (Inker), Sunny Gho (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer).
RELEASED: November 14, 2019

Jonathan Hickman intimidates me. He tends to go a little too far out of this world, and I get lost.

Thankfully, X-Men #1 is relatively straightforward. Mutants have established their own nation on the island of Krakoa. And of course, there’s a group of humans that don’t like mutants that are trying to destroy them.

Had do to a Marvel Wiki search on Cyclops to see how the hell he could be leading the team again. He’s a more interesting character than most casual fans give him credit for.

TITLE: The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #2
AUTHOR:
Gail Simone
ARTISTS:
Clayton Henry, Marcelo Maiolo (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Cully Hamner and Dave McCaig.
RELEASED:
May 1, 2020

Clayton Henry’s style, let’s call it moderately cartoony, is a perfect fit for Flash. When Barry’s zipping around in the costume, Henry stretches his body just a bit for effect. But at the same time, all the scenes about his civilian life have the weight they need. He can exaggerate, but he doesn’t overdo it.

Once again Simone gives us a scene that’s unintentionally poignant given the times, as Flash saves a pair of kids whose mom is a nurse.

Cool time-travel shenanigans make this the highlight of DC’s digital releases this week. (Or at least the ones here.)

TITLE: Aquaman: Deep Dives #2
AUTHOR:
Michael Grey
ARTISTS:
Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan (Inker), Hi-Fi (Colors), Wes Abbott (Letters). Cover by Philip Tan and Elmer Santos.
RELEASED:
April 30, 2020

Aquaman vs. Russian Mobsters? Not a pairing I expected, I’ll give you that. But it works.

The Sea Devils make an appearance in this issue. If you have no idea who they are, I was right there with you. Somehow they’re in one of the few corners of the DCU I haven’t explored yet.

Not an amazing issue from a story perspective. But mad respect to Aaron Lopresti, who’s low key one of my favorites, for drawing fish deformed by poison dumped into the sea. Legit creepy.

TITLE: Wonder Woman: Agent of Peace #2
AUTHORS: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti
ARTISTS: Daniel Sampere, Juan Albarran (Inker), Hi-Fi (Colors), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Conner and Paul Mounts.
RELEASED: April 29, 2020

So here we have Diana in another team-up issue, this time with Lois Lane. I’m curious if this is just a coincidence, of if they wanted to throw another big name character in there to help support her. With the Gal Gadot movie under her belt, and another one coming out in the near future, I’m not sure Wondie needs it right now.

We get a really nice fight sequence between her and what basically amounts to a demonic abominable snowman who spouts textbook supervillain speak. (“Give up impudent morsel! Death awaits!”) Steve Orlando gets Wonder Woman and knows how to write her. But from a story perspective, I haven’t been overly impressed by these last two outings.

TITLE: Batman: Gotham Nights #2
AUTHOR: Michael Grey
ARTISTS: Ryan Benjamin, Richard Friend (Inker), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Troy Peteri (Letterer). Cover by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, and Lucas.
RELEASED: April 28, 2020

Pretty standard Batman stuff here. It’s not bad, but it’s not overly remarkable either. Crime involving an old theater, theater lead traces back to…well, you can probably guess based on the cover.

My favorite line in this issue: “Who was it that said every villain is the hero of their own story? Probably a villain.”

TITLE: Superman: Man of Tomorrow #2
AUTHOR: Robert Venditti
ARTISTS:
Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona and Tomeu Morey.
RELEASED:
April 27, 2020

Another great issue from Venditti, Pelletier, and the crew as our Man of Steel faces off against a new villain called the Gambler.

In addition to a great “shirt opening” sequence, this issue contains a panel reminiscent of a famous Alex Ross painting where Superman is sitting in a chair with his shoulders slumped a bit. Like he can feel the weight of the world on his shoulders. Only in this issue, he’s holding what looks like a beer bottle. It’s soda, of course. I love that.

He’s got a few great one-liners too. “Don’t bet on it, Gambler!”

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman, Superman, and DC’s Digital Offerings

***”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
A Giant Something or Other

In response to the comic book industry being essentially stuck in limbo due to the Coronavirus pandemic, DC is releasing stories digitally that were previously exclusive to their DC Giants line. The Giants books were originally exclusive to mass market outlets, most notably Walmart. So what we’re getting here are basically re-prints.

But hey, they’re new to me. Plus, there’s some all-star talent attached to this stuff. We’ve got Brad Meltzer and Jim Lee on Batman, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti on Wonder Woman, Gail Simone on the Flash. Hey, sign me up!

I was also finally able to purchase that Superman: Villains one-shot. So I threw that in too.

TITLE: Superman: Man of Tomorrow #1
AUTHOR: Robert Venditti
ARTISTS: Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona and Tomeu Morey.
DIGITAL RELEASE: April 20, 2020

Our story here is about the Parasite leeching off the city’s power grid and causing a mass blackout. In response, Superman tells the people of Metropolis to stand by one another. To share food, help find medicine for people in need, check on their neighbors, etc. Seems like a pretty poignant message right now, eh?

It’s so awesome when somebody gets Superman right. What we get here is also very accessible to new readers, and Paul Pelletier absolutely nails the art, particularly with the Parasite.

At the end of the day, this is the Superman I want to read.

TITLE: Batman: Gotham Nights #1
AUTHORS: Sal Giunta, Brad Meltzer, Larry Hama,
ARTISTS: Jim Lee, Mirko Colak, Scott Williams (Inker),
COLORISTS: Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz
LETTERERS: Chris Eliopoulos, Travis Lanham
DIGITAL RELEASE: April 21, 2020

What Sal Giunta and Brad Meltzer do with “Medal of Honor” is really special. So I’m simply going to encourage you to read it without going into things.

The Lee, Williams, and Sinclair trio give me Hush flashbacks. In a good way.

The second story follows a similar “service” theme, only with Kate Kane instead of Batman. We go back to her military days, which is unexpected but not unwelcome. But I’m sure it was a surprise for casual fans looking for Batwoman.

TITLE: Wonder Woman: Agent of Peace #1
AUTHORS: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti
ARTISTS:
Inaki Miranda, Hi-Fi (Colors), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Conner and Alex Sinclair.
DIGITAL RELEASE:
April 22, 2020

I’m not really a Harley Quinn fan. I know that’s enough to get me strung up in some circles. But I’ve almost always found her more annoying than humorous.

But with Wonder Woman as her “straight man” you get a pretty entertaining team. To their credit, they actually got me to chuckle when Harley appeared wearing what was supposed to be Amazonian armor.

Conner and Palmiotti write a hell of a Wondie. Early on, there’s an exchange between her and two security guards that I got a kick out of. Like Robert Venditti with Superman, they get her.

TITLE: Aquaman: Deep Dives #1
AUTHOR:
Steve Orlando
ARTISTS:
Daniel Sempere, Juan Albarran (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by Liam Sharpe and Romulo Fajardo Jr.
DIGITAL RELEASE:
April 23, 2020

“My name is Black Manta. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

That’s basically what this issue is about.

I imagine because these were (at least in theory) released to a different audience, they wanted to start on the ground floor in some of these stories. That means a lot of expository dialogue. Superman: Man of Tomorrow did that. But this one really lays the expository dialogue on thick.

Great fight between Aquaman and Black Manta, though. At the “Museum of Unnatural History.” I adore that.

TITLE: The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1
AUTHOR:
Gail Simone
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Marcelo Maiolo (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Dan Panosian.
RELEASED:
April 24, 2020

Coming out of this issue I know two things.

The Flash TV show has indeed ruined Iris West for me. Not because of the actress. Because of how she’s written.

Had it come out a month or two sooner, a few less people would have gotten on those disease-infested cruise ships.

Not surprisingly, Gail Simone writes a great Flash. Gail Simone writes a great almost-anything. Together with Henry, Maiolo, and Leigh, they’ve put together one of the highlights of this DC Giants digital-first campaign.

TITLE: Superman: Villains #1
AUTHORS: Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Jody Houser
ARTISTS:
Michael Gaydos, Riley Rossmo, Scott Godlewski, Bryan Hitch, Cully Hamner, Steve Lieber, Jim Mahfood.
COLORISTS:
Gaydos, Ivan Plascencia, Gabe Eltaeb, Alex Sinclair, Dave McCaig, Nathan Fairbairn, Mahfood.
LETTERERS:
Dave Sharpe, Clayton Cowles, Tom Napolitano, Troy Peteri, Josh Reed.
RELEASED:
March 4, 2020

So here we have a bunch of villains reacting to Superman telling the world he’s Clark Kent. We hear from Toyman, Mongul, and a Joker-ized Supergirl (see Batman/Superman). We also get a story that bridges into future Superman and Action Comics storylines.

But by far the best part of the issue is a two-page Lex Luthor story, as he discovers he has 98 messages on his voicemail. And several of them (Possibly all of them?) are from the Joker. And he’s laughing. Take a wild guess at what he’s laughing at, folks…

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

Robin’s Animated History by Noah Sterling

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Awhile back, we looked at Noah Sterling’s animated history of Green Lantern. Or rather, Green Lanterns plural. There have been a lot of Earth-born ring-wielders in the 80 years since Alan Scott first graced the page.

Thankfully for us, Sterling is also well-versed in the history of Robin, who also turns 80 this year. And the iconic sidekick of all sidekicks got an animated treatment that’s every bit as fun as what Green Lantern got…

For more, check out Noah Sterling’s official site or his YouTube page.

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

A Dear Justice League Review – Keep It Simple, Superheroes

TITLE: Dear Justice League
AUTHOR: Michael Northrop
ARTIST: Gustavo Duarte
COLORIST: Marcelo Maiolo
LETTERER: Wes Abbott
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Zoom
PRICE: $9.99
RELEASED: September 2019

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I love this idea. Love, love, love it. Love. It. It’s so simple, yet so brilliant. In a culture where the Avengers are sitting at the cool kids table, this is how you introduce the Justice League to a young audience.

Fan mail. That’s it. That”s the premise. Yes, there’s an evil force consistently in the background. But the meat and potatoes of Dear Justice League is the heroes answering emails from young fans. The heroes all get roughly the same number of pages. Ergo, marquee characters like Batman and Wonder Woman don’t seem more important than say, Hawkgirl or Cyborg.

The questions fall on a spectrum between things kids can relate to and the comedic and zany. For instance, Batman gets asked: “Have you ever been the new kid in town?” On the other hand, Aquaman gets: “No offense, but do you smell like fish most of the time?” The King of Atlantis then proceeds to wander about the Hall of Justice trying to get the answer from other heroes.

But it’s not just the premise that makes the book. The winning formula comes when you combine the premise with Gustavo Duarte’s cartoony, “pencil sketch” style. It’s a perfect fit in every sense of the word. He captures the essence of each character, giving them a comedic spin without getting too silly. I really can’t say enough good things about it. It actually reminds me a little bit of the Pixar-style Justice League that artist Daniel Araya showed us several years ago.

My only complaint about this book? Cyborg doesn’t get a question! Alright, he does. But it’s a cop out question! C’mon. We can’t give the guy something with some meat to it? Heck, I’ve got one! “Hey Cyborg. Why don’t you hang out with the Teen Titans anymore? I thought you and Beast Boy were BFFs?”

Dear Justice League may have a lot of laughs. But I’m absolutely serious when I say it’s become one of my favorite League stories of all time. We’re talking top five. Maybe even top three. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind if something like this were part of the ongoing Justice League series. There’s absolutely no harm in taking a break from the Dark Multiverse and Martian Lex Luthor for something a little lighter and simpler.

Maybe that’s something the DC brain trust should keep in mind more often. Somebody should send ’em a poster that says “K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple, Superheroes.”

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Batman: Bride or Burglar? Review – What Might Have Been…

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 6: Bride or Burglar?
AUTHOR:
Tom King
PENCILLERS: Travis Moore, Joelle Jones, Mikel Janin
COLLECTS: Batman #3844
FORMAT:
Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: July 25, 2018

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This is the part of Tom King’s Batman run where things start to get weird. Like, really, really weird.

Bride or Burglar? is book-ended by two strong single issues. But in between, King starts needlessly messing around with space-time. He also plants some seeds for Heroes in Crisis that, like much of that ill-conceived event comic, are needlessly awkward and forced. There’s one bit that’s downright blasphemous. From a quality standpoint, this is the lowest the series has dipped up to this point.

But let’s start by focusing on the positives, shall we? And to do that, we have to jump to the last story in this collection…

1. History Lesson
The highlight of the trade is easily Batman #44, which features the titular “Bride or Burglar” story. It sees Selina hunting for a wedding dress as only Catwoman can. But interspersed among the story are actual scenes from Batman and Catwoman’s history that King and Janin make their own, with most of the original dialogue intact. We go as far back to the original Batman #1 in 1940, through the ’50s, on into the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, all the way to the present.

While they do take certain creative liberties, they keep Catwoman’s various different costumes intact. As such, we not only get a sense of how her relationship with Batman has evolved, but how her Catwoman persona has evolved over its lifespan. For history buffs like yours truly, it’s an absolute treat. Story-wise, there’s also a wonderful little moment between Selina and Alfred on the final page.

Tom King’s Batman run has gotten a lot of flack, much of which is justified. But I’ll never knock the way he makes Bruce and Selina’s chemistry radiate off the page. Their familiarity, their intimacy with one another on a strictly verbal scale, is enough to make you believe they love each other, and perhaps should be married.

2. Who is Bruce Wayne?
Jumping back to the start of Bride or Burglar, Batman #38 introduces us to one of the most unlikely villains in all of Batman lore. I won’t spoil the specifics of who it is, but the character’s M.O. is that he models himself after Bruce Wayne. He essentially wants to become Bruce Wayne, which naturally puts Batman in a rather awkward spot. It’s been said that many of Batman’s enemies are, at their core, different versions of what Bruce could have become after his parents were killed. This premise takes that idea so literally that it’s actually pretty clever. We also spend some time doing C.S.I. type stuff with Batman and Commissioner Gordon, which is always fun.

Our guest artist for the issue is Travis Moore, joined by colorist Giulia Brusco. I can’t say I fell in love with their work here. But it was serviceable. No harm no foul.

3. The Eternal Vow
Here’s where we start to run into trouble.

In issue #39 we meet the Gentle Man, a warrior from another realm who spends night and day single-handedly fending off an army of monsters called the Hordes of Gehenna. Apparently, some time in the past Batman and Wonder Woman met and fought alongside the Gentle Man. They offered to take up his fight for a day and allow him to rest. But what he neglects to tell them is that minutes on Earth equate to years in this other realm. Thus, Bruce must not only fight alongside Diana for what winds up being about 30 years in relative time, but he must remain faithful to Selina. That’s not necessarily easy when you’re in the trenches with an Amazonian Princess.

While Joelle Jones is very much in her element with the battle scenes, this whole “Eternal Vow” story winds up being stupid and pointless filler on the path to the wedding in Batman #50. Bruce and Selina didn’t need a fairy tale story like this to emphasize the love they have for each other. A huge part of their appeal is that they’re not the fairy tale lovers destined to be together. They’re two orphans who met when their bizarre and violent paths happened to cross, and they fell into a unique kind of love. That’s all you need with them.

Furthermore, I don’t buy that Bruce comes out of that realm the same person. Yes, he’s Batman. But that’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card for crap like this. Both he and Diana would be shells of their former selves. Nearly unrecognizable to anyone who knew them before.

As if that weren’t enough, Tom King has trouble writing Wonder Woman. Her dialogue is acceptable, but very weird. At this point, she’s been an active hero for years, right? But King writes her as if she’s just stepped out of Themyscira. It’s needlessly off-putting. And sadly, Diana isn’t the only Justice Leaguer to get a bad shake here…

4. Crazy Love
In “Everyone Loves Ivy,” Poison Ivy is able to gain control over the minds of everyone on the planet, except for Batman and Catwoman, who are able to fight it off using comic book science. Thus, it’s literally them against the world.

I like parts of this idea. It puts Ivy over huge, as she becomes a Justice-League-level threat, and is ultimately victorious. How she went about gaining the mind control is believable. The way they beat her is a little hokey, but acceptable given the parties involved.

Mikel Janin is back for these issues, and he really knocks it out of the park with all the greenery and foliage this story requires. Rarely has a Poison Ivy lair looked so good. I also give King and Janin credit for showing us what would actually happen if Superman full-on punched Batman in the face. It ain’t pretty, folks.

Sadly, I was yanked out of the story rather abruptly during the first issue. Ivy attempts to use the Flash against Batman. Barry Allen runs at him, or more specifically at Alfred, using his super-speed. Batman knocks him out with a single punch, effectively an inexplicably knocking him out of super-speed. What’s worse, this happens three more times in the following issue. Not just to Barry, but to Wally West and Kid Flash. Apparently Catwoman is also inexplicably capable of defeating the Flash with a single blow…

Bull. Shit.

I normally shy away from profanity. But this one deserved it. Shame on both Tom King and the Batman editorial team. You don’t get to turn the Flash and his supporting cast into a gag because you aren’t creative enough to find a better way to neutralize them. This is especially offensive in hindsight, given what King does to Wally in Heroes in Crisis.

In the end, Heroes in Crisis was the master this story served. It planted the seed (no pun intended) for Ivy’s role there. As such, her motivation involves a specific trauma from The War of Jokes and Riddles that we never saw, and thus can’t connect with as easily. So when the story tries to pivot and make her a victim, it fails because despite that trauma, she still took over the damn world. To an extent, she just made victims out of billions of innocent people. So you’ll pardon me if I’m rather unsympathetic.

5. The Verdict
Bruce proposed to Selina in Batman #24. I’m assuming by that point the knew the wedding was going to be in issue #50. So they had 25 issues to fill before the big pay-off. Some of the storytelling was very organic, i.e. the one with Talia al Ghul from Rules of Engagement. “Bride or Burglar” worked very well. The stuff with Superman and Lois Lane was fun.

But then you’ve got stuff like “Eternal Vow” and “Everyone Loves Ivy,” which are somewhat apropos, but still bizarre choices to fill that gap. It seems like we could have spent at least some of those issues figuring out how Selina adjusts to being in Batman’s inner circle. What sort of changes does it require of her? Are Batman and Catwoman essentially the new Dynamic Duo of Gotham City? What about Thomas and Martha Wayne? What was their wedding like? And how does Bruce think they’d react to his choice for a bride?

This obviously isn’t going to be the status quo forever. So why not mine this wedding stuff for as much character exploration as possible? They could still have told fun and compelling stories along the way. But instead we’re left with a feeling of missed opportunities, and the nagging question of what might have been.

For more of Tom King’s run on Batman, check out I Am Gotham, I Am Suicide, I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, The War of Jokes and Riddles, and The Rules of Engagement.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

 

The Fanboy’s Closet: Wonder Woman Gear for Guys

***In ”The Fanboy’s Closet,” I pull a geeky item of clothing from the closet, snap a pic, and then see what subjects it takes us into. Why? Why the hell not?!?***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Another arrival from the folks at Loot Crate. Imagine the smile on my face when I pulled these suckers out of the bag. They’ve almost got a regal quality to them, what with the red and gold. Certainly fitting for an Amazon Princess.

You know what sucks? You don’t see a lot of Wonder Woman apparel out there for guys. I’m mainly thinking of t-shirts, but it doesn’t have to be exclusive to that. You see a little more now that the movie has been so successful. But before all that, if you were looking at a major retail outlet (Target, Walmart, Meijer, etc) you were almost out of luck. You’d have to go to a comic store or some other specialty shop. As much as I love my local comic shops, they’re not always easy to find for more casual superhero fans.

The only one I was ever able to find before Warner Bros. really started promoting Wonder Woman was at Hot Topic, and that was the DC Bombshells version of the character. No disrespect, but I’m talking about the true face of Wonder Woman. The feminist icon that has endured longer than most of her male counterparts.

(Incidentally, that Bombshells Wonder Woman t-shirt was in the bargain bin.)

From a purely capitalistic standpoint, I get it. You market male characters to men, and female characters to women. It’s only natural. That doesn’t mean I like or agree with it. But I understand. I just wish we lived in a world where men could be more secure in their masculinity. It would be a hell of an example to set for kids. Especially boys.

Here’s a challenge: Next time you go to a big box store, or any kind of clothing outlet, look in both the Men’s and Boys sections. See how often you spot Wonder Woman, or any female superhero. Black Widow, Supergirl, Gamora, etc. Not only can it be difficult, but on certain products they’re either shoved to the background or deliberately excluded (i.e. the shirt on the left).

At the risk of acting like the PC Police, I hate that. It’s so damn cynical and it sends a bad message. These characters don’t need to be separated by gender. Being a hero is for everyone. It would serve our next generation of men well to learn that early.

For those of you that are interested, I’ve taken the liberty of hunting down some of my favorite Wonder Woman t-shirts for men and boys. (Special thanks to the folks at NerdKungFu.com.) Please note the lack of oversexualization  or innuendo. That’s an entirely different issue…

Simple 75
At Your Service
Vintage Wonder Woman
American Heroine
Power
USA Banner

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

A Justice League Review – Lessons Learned

TITLE: Justice League
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STUDIOS: Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films, RatPac Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME:
 120 min
RELEASED: November 17, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Justice League is a standard superhero popcorn flick. It’s nowhere near as dark, dreary, and generally abysmal as Batman v Superman. But it also doesn’t accomplish anything remotely special. It’s about a team of heroes coming together to fight a villain with a doomsday plan. Been there, done that. Several times, actually. So what we get comes off completely and utterly average.

After all these years, the first Justice League feature film is just average. What an awful, heartbreaking waste…

The plot is basic enough to surmise from the advertising. As the world continues to mourn the death of Superman, we’ve got a new big bad in town. Steppenwolf, a tyrant from the hellscape world of Apokalips, has returned to Earth after thousands of years with his army of Parademons in tow. He aims to conquer the world using the immense power of three “Mother Boxes.” Batman and Wonder Woman prepare to meet this invasion head on by assembling a team of super-powered heroes. The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman are all called to action. But in the end, they won’t be enough. For this new team to triumph, Superman must return…

Trust me, it’s a lot more exciting on paper than it is on screen.

Justice League is the culmination of the years-long comedy of errors that is the “DC Extended Universe.” Man of Steel was an adequate start, flawed as it was with it’s dreary look and overindulgent third act. It was followed by the downright dour Batman v Superman, which robbed its characters of almost any charm, heart, or likability. Suicide Squad wasted arguably pop culture’s most iconic supervillain in the Joker, but managed to be fun in a mindless hot mess sort of way. Wonder Woman was the exception that made the rule. It felt like a single vision, with purpose, heart, and passion put into it.

And so, on one the most rickety foundations in cinematic history, Justice League was built. Like Suicide Squad before it, this movie feels like a melting pot of visions, voices, and priorities clumped together to form a viable commercial product. Our director is once again Zack Snyder. But with their confidence shaken from the backlash to Batman v Superman, Warner Bros. brought in Avengers director Joss Whedon to reshape the script. Thus, we have a Joss Whedon superhero movie taking place in Zack Snyder’s grim DC Universe, under the management of a studio desperate to compete with Marvel at the box office. Hot damn! Sign me up!

One of the major missteps in Justice League is it’s choice of villain. DC Comics lore is full of baddies worthy of challenging Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Darkseid is the obvious choice. But you’ve also got big cosmic villains like Brainiac, Mongul, and Despero. Professor Ivo and the Amazo android could have made for an interesting story. Hell, team Lex Luthor up with the Joker! It sure as hell beats Steppenwolf…

Yes, Steppenwolf. A second-rate, paper-thin, poorly rendered Darkseid stand-in with an army of space bugs, a silly name, and a generic doomsday plot. This is who they came up with to face the Justice League in their debut feature film. Strictly from a cynical marketing standpoint, how the hell to you pass up slapping Darkseid, Brainiac, or Lex Luthor on t-shirts and posters, and instead opt for someone called Steppenwolf?

Justice League cost a whopping $300 million to make. That’s astounding, considering our CGI-rendered Steppenwolf looks like he was done in the late ’90s. It’s not just him, either. It’s been well documented that reshoots were done with a mustached Henry Cavill. The movie’s opening sequence wasn’t even over before Mrs. Primary Ignition turned to me and asked, “What’s up with Superman’s mouth?” Certain shots in Batman’s introduction are also extremely fake looking. Makes you wonder what the hell happened to good old fashioned stunt doubles and prosthetic make up…

Superman has a certain aura of reverence in this movie. Had that been earned or established in Man of Steel or Batman v Superman, that would have been fantastic. I’ve always been a proponent of Superman being the center, or at least part of the center, of the DC Universe. He’s certainly its moral backbone. But all this mourning we see over Superman doesn’t match the controversial figure we saw in Batman v Superman. Yes, some people loved him. But he was also the subject of protests and a congressional hearing. Lois Lane, Batman, Wonder Woman, and those who knew Superman have a reason to miss him. But based on what we saw before, there’d be a large contingent of people who’d be glad Superman died.

So now that I’ve sufficiently ripped Justice League apart, what’s there to like? What did they get right? Believe it or not, all was not lost from the get go…

Unlike in Batman v. Superman, almost all of our heroes are likable. Superman knows how to smile. Wonder Woman is compassionate, but still fierce. I’ve never needed a lot of selling on Ben Affleck’s Batman. Joss Whedon’s influence in the movie is obvious when the Dark Knight gets in a quip or two. Ezra Miller plays a socially inept Flash, who provides much of the comic relief. His costume looks absolutely ridiculous. But there’s a certain charm to him. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is surprisingly okay as a dude bro. For a team flick, it works fine. Granted it’s not the approach I would have gone with, and they’ll obviously need to deepen his character for the Aquaman solo movie. Assuming that’s still in the pipeline after all this.

As much as this movie fell short of what it could have been, there is a certain warm and fuzzy quality to seeing these characters on the big screen together. Most of them aren’t true to the essence of the iconic characters they’re based on. But at the very least it’s cool on a superficial level to see Batman is standing next to Wonder Woman. Superman is running next to the Flash! Aquaman is in Atlantis! It’s a highly tarnished version of what we should be getting. But at least we’re getting it in some form. That counts for something.

And so, four years into the DC Extended Universe, what have we learned? What has the road to Justice League taught us? More than anything, it’s this: Darkness doesn’t equate to quality. At least not to larger audiences.

Some people point to darker tales like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen as the pinnacle of the superhero genre. But while they pushed the boundaries of how these stories and characters could work and be seen, they weren’t simply dark for the sake of darkness. The Dark Knight Returns isn’t just about an older and grittier Batman getting to punch Superman in the face. It’s about a hero returning to face a world that’s changed in his absence. Watchmen isn’t about Rorschach beating people up. It’s a look at superheroes from a different, more grounded angle. The dark tones fit the stories and the characters, not the other way around.

We also need to remember that at the end of the day these characters are meant for children. That doesn’t mean we can’t love them as adults. We don’t need to dumb them down for kids, but we can’t keep them all for ourselves either. If DC and Warner Bros. should have learned one thing from Disney and Marvel, it wasn’t the cinematic universe element. It’s that these movies can be accessible to viewers of all ages. They can be mature without being meant for mature audiences.

The blame Justice League‘s failures, creative and otherwise, falls primarily on the studio higher-ups. But the finger also needs to be pointed at Zack Snyder. He’s got a devoted fanbase that will filet me for saying so. But if Batman v Superman didn’t convince you, the fact that the first Justice League movie didn’t outperform the third Thor movie should say it all. Snyder must be kept far away from any and all future DC films. I shudder to think what this movie would have looked like without Joss Whedon’s influence. 

Superhero movies can be thrilling, emotional, and surprisingly versatile. But at their core, they aren’t complicated. Give us a hero worth rooting for, a villain worth rooting against, and a reason for them to fight. We don’t need to see a bad guy get his neck snapped, a bomb inside a jar of piss, or a city destroyed to compensate for a lack of emotional connection with the audience. 

Lessons learned. Six years and millions of dollars too late. But lessons learned…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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A Dark Nights: Metal #2 Review – Aw, Look at the Baby…

TITLE: Dark Nights: Metal #2
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 13, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Dark Nights: Metal #2 is a marked improvement over its predecessor. There are no awful giant robots to speak of, and the Batman worship has been toned down to a degree. There’s even an opportunity for Batman to beat up the whole Justice League again, and Snyder and Capullo pass…sort of. This issue gives us the best from all parties involved. Now if only I were confident things weren’t going to degenerate going forward…

The League is on the hunt for Batman after learning he’s a living doorway into our world for a demon named Barbatos from the Dark Multiverse. The Caped Crusader is determined to prevent Barbatos’ arrival on his own. But it’s a mission that’s doomed to fail, as his determination is about to backfire on him. One way or another, the Batmen of the Dark Multiverse are on their way.

One element of Metal that has yet to falter is the art. Penciller Greg Capullo, inker Jonathan Glapion, and colorist FCO Plascencia give us the DC Universe in all its grandeur, albeit a shade or two darker. The issue opens with a sequence that quickly jumps between Gorilla City, the House of Mystery, Metropolis, and the Amazon rainforest. Later on, we go to a location that Superfriends fans will recognize as the Hall of Doom, which is a cool little moment. Then you have the two-page spread revealing of all the Dark Multiverse Batmen. I stand by what I said last time about how they don’t all need to be twisted versions of Batman. But there are a lot of fascinating design elements.

“The Batman Who Laughs” (center) is the most provocative, as he comes with what appear to be cannibalistic zombie Robins on leashes. But the Aquaman equivalent (far left), “the Drowned,” has an intriguing design that seems to be pirate-inspired. The Wonder Woman equivalent is clearly inspired by Ares. Of course, having Doomsday stand in for Superman is a nice touch.

My complaints about the art are few and far between. But one of them deals with a shot of Damian Wayne. Early in the book we get a chase sequence through the Amazon, as Justice League members chase various Bat-family members who have been digitally camouflaged to look like the Dark Knight. Robin, meanwhile, is driving what essentially amounts to a big Bat-tank. There’s a panel where we zoom in on Damian behind the wheel, and the poor kid looks like he needs a booster seat (shown below). He’s supposed to be 13 years old, not six. What gives?

I’ve made no secret of how much I hate what Snyder and Capullo did with Batman and the Justice League in their Endgame storyline. While under the effects of the Joker’s mind control, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Aquaman all attack Batman. Naturally, Snyder gives Batman a giant robot to fight back with, as he trumps all of them one by one. Each time, we got a detailed explanation of the pseudoscience involved. It all culminates with Batman spitting in Superman’s eye. There was no harm intended, but the whole thing wound up being absolutely disgraceful. One of the worst instances of Batman worship I’ve ever seen.

So naturally, the rainforest chase scene between the League at the Bat-family was nerve-wracking for me. Especially when the various members of Batman’s team start springing various traps. But in the end, with Superman’s help, the League gets a win. Batman himself winds up not being there at all. But let’s take our wins where we can get them. We avoided some indirect Batman worship.

Snyder and Capullo handle Superman pretty well this time around, which is a nice surprise. He’s compassionate and concerned about Bruce’s wellbeing, even referring to him as a brother. But at the same time, he’s the assertive leader that he should be. One way or another, he refuses to let Bruce face this threat alone.

I’m a little less sure about baby Darkseid, however. This transformation happened back in Geoff Johns’ Darkseid War. It’s not so much the way the little guy is used, but how he looks (shown below). I understand the goggles, which Batman addresses in the scene. But did we have to put him in a miniaturized version of his normal blue armor? There’s a ha-ha quality there that puts a damper on the drama.

On the subject of Darkseid, Snyder surprised me by weaving The Return of Bruce Wayne into this story. The idea is that Barbatos first saw Bruce when he was sent back in time via Darkseid’s Omega Beams, which set up the events of Return. I’ll say this much, it at least offers a little explanation as to why this giant cosmic entity is specifically targeting Bruce.

According to Snyder, Metal has been in the works since his run on Batman began in 2011. Metal #2 takes us back through the events of said run, and reminds us of the various otherworldly metals our hero has been in contact with. Electrum, Dionesium, etc. While I adore the long-term storytelling, the issue takes it a little too far by introducing a new metal called Batmanium. Ugh. Really? Batmanium?

I’ll say this much for Metal: It’s unabashed in its cornball moments, while at the same time creating a threat with some real gravity to it. We know it takes a lot to scare Batman, much less the entire DCU. While the heavy metal aesthetic isn’t really my thing, and the Batman worship continues to rub me the wrong way, Metal is worth your attention. Snyder seems to be writing a love letter to DC Comics lore, as Capullo and the artistic team continue to deliver quality work. Now it’s just a question of how much this thing is going to piss me off. Somehow, I doubt Snyder is as concerned about that as I am…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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