Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Amalgam Comics: Spider-Boy

In 1996, after a couple crossovers, DC and Marvel decided to do something fun together instead of fighting all the time. What they did was something nobody actually likes. It's called Amalgam comics. Sure, people liked it when they combined Batman and Wolverine, but does anyone care about Magneto and his Magnetic Men?! ...Okay, well, in Amalgam, they just combined two of their characters to make one that was either incredibly popular or whom everyone tried to flush from their mind as fast as possible. Try and guess which one this was.

Comic Review: Spider-Boy

In case you couldn't tell, like me, the two characters combined here are Spider-Man and the 90's Superboy, who is the greatest example of 90's Cool I've ever seen.

Well it's got 90's Superboy half in it! Sheesh, why is everyone always talking about Dark Claw, this shit sounds goddamn amazing, it's--

Son of a bitch.

Okay, so I think now we know what we're dealing with. So... ahem, Bizarnage wants to absorb Spider-Boy. Or be Spider-Boy. Or something. After some cunning tricks, Spider-Boy locks Bizarnage in a magical science cage. It's revealed this is in the Cadmus facility, which I would tell you more about, but I have no idea if this is just like the regular DC Cadmus but with the Fantastic 4 working there. Oh, the Fantastic 4 work there. Let's see how Mr. Fantastic is in this thing!



Don't worry, we don't have time to get into that, thank god, because there's more trouble afoot! "King Lizard" (Whom I found out is Marvel's The Lizard and DC's King Shark amalgamated) got out of containment, which is no good. As long as we never have to see Bizarnage again he can fight whoever the hell he wants. Wait, what's the deal on King Lizard?



Wait, stop. I can do this. I got a handle on it. Spider-Boy makes more references to things that never happened so we can all pretend this isn't the dumbest thing anyone's ever made. Then he goes to some section of the lab where there's... Doc Ock... and, oh no.




Now we got some exposition, which you think might make a tiny bit of sense, but no. It doesn't. So our hero was part of an attempt to create a super soldier serum, so they decided to clone a person with gravity altering powers. Then the lead scientist died in a horrible explosion. Who was that lead scientist? Albert Einstein.

I'm kidding it was PETER PARKER.

So he died without ever showing his face, cool, great. Since the accident somehow released Spider-Boy from his cloning chamber, General "Thunderbolt" Ross becomes his father figure. You know, the guy who tried to kill the Hulk for 50 years. So that's all well and good, but then.

Welp. I guess you can't be anybody's goddamn uncle.

Back to the story, since King Lizard is loose, rather than try to maybe follow his path of destruction and woe, Spider-Boy decides to go to his part time job. He ends up at, where else, the Daily Bugle. Where, for all of 2 pages we get his nebbish alter ego, Pete Ross. Don't worry, that doesn't even matter, because as soon as he walks in the door, a reporter comes in with King Lizard's whereabouts. That was definitely the way that had to happen.


So there's Lizard punching. The "Special Crimes Unit" which just looks like SHIELD shows up and shoots Lizzy, but predictably it doesn't work. Also, wait. Why is he getting bigger?

So apparently he's growing because he got exposed to Pym particles, which apparently also exist in this world. So Spider-Boy goes back to the lab, grabs a glowy thing, and throws it into King Lizard's mouth. And then he aaaaAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH

Well good, now I have the irrational fear of shrinking to an infinitesimally small size. At least that wraps everything up. Villain is left to a horrible fate, and everybody is happy. No loose ends, no weird open conclusions, just a nice, simple ending. Yep, sure am glad there's no final image after a cut off senten--


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Who Are These Guys again? Honestly, this one came out of left field. Everyone expected Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. These guys? Who are these guys. Why are these guys.

I enjoyed the film, which I'll get into, but first the parts I didn't like. The plot was pretty standard. It's your usual Team-Forming McGuffin quest, but this time In Space. The villain, Ronan, was boring as hell. He might as well have been named Evil McDullbad. I wish he had more of a backstory or motivation, but what are you gonna do. The evil robot chick, Quasar-- no, Aurora-- I mean, Nebula, was about the same. Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer seemed like a weird character. His somewhat late introduction and how he didn't seem to act very well was jarring, and I have a hunch his character was shoehorned into the writing process.

In some cases, the above would be enough for me to bash a movie. Oddly enough, these didn't seem to affect my perception of the movie. Mostly that's because it had a distinct and upbeat tone. Chris Pratt as Peter Quill (Or Star-Lord) had a great performance, even when he was talking to a CGI raccoon. And that's the thing, plotwise this movie isn't very distinct from Avengers, but it's the concept and how they pull it off that's different.

In Avengers, situations weren't funny, what was funny were the one-liners characters would spout off now and again. ("Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?") In Guardians, the situations themselves were funny. They all stand, one by one, after Peter gives a dramatic speech. Rocket stands up and says, "Look, now I'm standing. We're all standing in a circle like a bunch of jackasses." (Probably misquoted.) Something big and serious is building, but then a song from Peter's mixtape starts up, changing the scene completely.

Apart from Mr. Bad Guy and Drax, the characters were pretty well rounded, especially Rocket. He had the potential to be a walking punchline, but the filmmakers managed to give him a sense of dignity. Sometimes it seemed like Groot was created to be a fan-favorite, but I don't mind that much.

The main flaws are that sometimes Guardians of the Galaxy was too formulaic or bland, but it was the little jokes, the comedic situations, and the degree to which they took the characters seriously that make it stand out. It's certainly not the best movie ever, but it's leagues above Iron Man 3. Hooked on a feeling, this is the W Defender!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Green Lantern: The Animated Series

You guys know about Green Lantern, right? The guy with the ring who makes giant green fists to punch people? I always had sort of a passing fascination with Green Lantern, my only familiarity being with John Stewart from Bruce Timm's Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Sure, I read Blackest Night, but that didn't really require the reader to know much about Green Lantern that wasn't spelled out in the series.

When Geoff John's took up writing GL, he streamlined it a bit, making sweeping retcons to hopefully make the story make sense to newcomers, and added the emotional spectrum, different color Lanterns that ran off other "emotions" like Hope and Rage. Though I can't be sure if this increased the overall popularity of Green Lantern, at the very least it provided substantial merchandising opportunities.

At any rate, in 2011, they made the movie. They had big hopes for this movie (though now we know better) and decided to make an animated series to further capitalize on the movie's assured future success. Bruce Timm, the legend responsible for Batman the Animated series and the two Justice Leagues, and Giancarlo Volpe produced the series.

I'm going to be honest, I didn't think it was going to be any good. I saw production shots and parts of the first episode and decided it was too kiddy. CGI instead of a nice traditional animation? Laaaaame. It ran for one season and got cancelled, but only once it got put on Netflix did I finally watch it. This happens a lot. Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised.

The Good:

This show is pretty damn good. Good for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which is the characters. We got the usual Green Lanterns, like Hal Jordan and Kilowog, the Guardians, and Red Lanterns as the villians. What shines in this show are the original characters, Razer and Aya.

Being that they're the only ones not based on the comic, the writers could explore their characters more and create actual development. Razer starts as what seems like a recurring villain, but joins up with the crew and becomes a regular character. His arc deals with loss and despair, in a way you're not used to seeing on a cartoon. (Unless we're talking Avatar, but come on.)  Aya is the usual AI Gains Feelings type of thing, which I found a little annoying in the beginning. However, they take it to some different places and she makes a nice addition to the cast. She's where the series takes a real departure from comic-canon, which leads me to my other segment.

The series shines in its story. It's Green Lantern but simplified without a lot of the confusing elements that end up being a part of the essential story over its 50+ year history. See, I still hold that the New 52 reboot thing of DC Comics was a bad idea, but maybe it could've been useful for some characters. Not Batman, because everybody knows what's going on with him. Green Lantern had a lot to gain from some continuity pruning. Geoff Johns started that, what with Green Lantern: First Flight, but he took stuff that already happened and tried to force it into his new ideas and make it make sense. I mean, just look up The Predator for god's sake. It makes no goddamn sense!

Green Lantern starts over, more or less, and begins with the introduction of the Red Lanterns, branching out from there. We get a nice simple starting point and the weird stuff is explained to us by them explaining it to the robot. Green Lantern fans can spot the story elements as they appear, but new fans get introduced to them slowly, save for a few exceptions. Normally I'm the last guy who cares how "accessible" a comic character is, but damn could GL use it. The first half of the season goes through the Red Lantern story, bringing it (sort of) to a conclusion. The second half is where things get really interesting, when they introduce the Anti-Monitor.

The Bad

There's not a whole lot I dislike about this show, but it's there. The first thing is the steampunk episode.

Okay, maybe it's just me. I hate steampunk. If you convincingly build a world around it, maybe it's okay, but this is a sci-fi show. Don't dump me in an episode where everyone is vaguely British and wear top hats with cogs on them.

Then there's the Zamarons. (not to be confused with Tamaraneans or Pomeranians)

They're counterparts to the Guardians, but they think emotions are fine, so of course they must be entirely female and hate men. No wait, they need men because they suck the life out of them for eternity. (That's no Star Sapphire, THAT'S MY WIFE! OOOOOOOO) But seriously, they're introduced out of nowhere and are just... weird. Exclusively female, evil undertones, very scantily clad. Considering the changes made to the other Emotional Rangers, I'm confounded at how much they kept intact from the comics on these guys. I dunno man, I just don't get it.

Another problem, oddly enough, is the comic characters. Not Razer and Aya, they're fine, I mean Hal and Kilowog. They don't really get much development as the series goes on. Sure, Kilowog gets along with Razer more, but apart from that, there's not much difference between the main GL's in the beginning to the end. Hal's a generally good guy who bends the rules a bit to do the right thing, while Kilowog is by the book, but tends to use a brute force approach.

All in all, the gripes are pretty minor compared to all the good the show has to offer. If it was so great, you may ask, why was it cancelled? In short, toy sales. The Green Lantern movie was both this animated series' boon and doom. See, that film was a horrible flop, but they sort of already did the toy deals so you had tons of green see-through plastic lining every aisle of Toys R Uses across the nation. Because of that, nobody wanted to make the toys for GL:TAS, and that's the only reason anybody agrees to fund any of these stupid cartoons. So yeah, without the toy deals, the whole thing went down the toilet.

It's a shame, really. This cartoon had a nice visual style, a good sense of action, and the writing was excellent. The stories were built up organically and you can see the seeds of future developments if you look closely enough. The show had genuine emotion, you could tell the creators deeply cared about making something worthwhile. So yeah, if you haven't watched it yet, please do. I promise you won't be disappointed. It's on the Netflix, so marathon to your heart's content. Hoping my toy line pulls through, this is the W Defender!