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A Teen Titans #1 Review – Missed Opportunities

TITLE: Teen Titans #1
AUTHOR: Will Pfiefer
PENCILLER: Kenneth Rocafort
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 17, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Teen Titans #1 was DC’s chance to take a series that had fallen on its butt since the New 52 began, and take it in an entirely new direction. There were so many ways the company could have taken this book about teenage superheroes, and made it different than anything else they’re putting out right now. They could have taken a more light-hearted, almost cartoony approach, like Amy Wolfram and Karl Kerschl did with Teen Titans: Year One. They could have recruited a young adult author to take advantage of the popularity of that genre, while also getting some new eyes on the product. Heck, they could have even played up the teens’ everyday lives more than their actual superheroics.

Instead, they gave the book to the guy who wrote Amazons Attack!

Teen Titans #1 sees a mysterious supervillain hijack a bus filled with schoolgirls and go speeding through Times Square. This quickly attracts the attention of our new line up of Teen Titans: Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Beast Boy, Raven, and Bunker. For reasons unclear, the hijacker apparently has a grudge against S.T.A.R. Labs. In any event, the Titans definitely have a new enemy. They also may have a P.R. crisis on their hands, as Bunker snaps on a civilian who nearly uses a slur against homosexuals.

Before we get into why this issue sucks, let’s talk about why Teen Titans has sucked overall since the relaunch happened…

In the New 52 canon, the team that began forming in Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth’s 2011 Teen Titans is, for whatever reason, the first and only incarnation of the group that has ever existed. While the book itself, along with books like Red Hood and the Outlaws and Batwoman, initially indicated otherwise, all such conversations have subsequently been edited out of existence. Thus, in this continuity, Tim Drake, Cassandra Sandsmark, and the other heroes from the Lobdell series are the original Teen Titans.

To put it plainly, that sucks. It robs a sense of richness and history from not only the Teen Titans series, but from characters around the DCU. Dick Grayson, Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire are just a few of those effected. Hell, even if they weren’t called the Teen Titans, can’t we at least say they hung out? Can’t they have been some sort of group to set the precedent?

Secondly, the Red Robin costume. It sucked in 2011, it continued to suck through 2012 and 2013, and it still sucks in 2014. Brett Booth completely butchered any aura of coolness Tim Drake had by giving him a suit that’s way too busy and gimmicked up. The wings are idiotic, and there are way too many belts, capsules, pouches, pads, etc. This new series was the perfect chance to clean Red Robin up. But they missed the boat on that one too.

Thirdly, and most importantly, for the past few years Teen Titans has been just another superhero team book. Again, a GIANT missed opportunity. The element that makes the Teen Titans different, and what can potentially draw in a different demographic than say, Justice League, is the fact that they’re teenagers. They’re young, moody, and haven’t fully discovered who they are yet. That concept has so much fertile ground for storytelling, and that’s why it’s used so often in popular culture. The last writer to really get what Teen Titans should be about in the 21st century was DC’s very own Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns. If you look back at the first issue of his run, which began in 2003, you see heroes who are rebelling against the adults in their lives, coming to grips with what’s expected of them, and trying to find their place in the world. They were acting like teenagers. Imagine that…

We got hardly any of that in Lobdell’s series, and in this issue we have next to none of it. We have a cover that looks like a Facebook photo, because social media exists. And we have a young hero that takes exception to his sexuality being demeaned. But that’s certainly not something specific to teenagers is it? So what we end up with is just another superhero story. And not a very interesting one, because we don’t know enough about our villain, or what she (it’s a woman, apparently) intends to do.

Kenneth Rocafort isn’t the best choice to handle the pencil, either. This is especially true when it comes to Wonder Girl. Cassandra Sandsmark’s New 52 redesign essentially turned her into a Power Girl clone wearing a variation on Donna Troy’s old costume. As if that weren’t enough, Rocafort draws her without a trace of human emotion. At one point, she rips one of the kidnappers out of the speeding bus, and subsequently stands atop the bus while holding him up with one arm (shown below). She did this because she was angry he threatened to kill a young girl. But judging by her face, you’d think she was picturing herself laying on the beach or something. She seems to be there just to be the hot blonde with big boobs. What is this, The Big Bang Theory?

As for Bunker’s little outburst toward the end of the issue, I don’t have a problem with superhero comics tastefully addressing and incorporating gay issues in our culture. But I don’t have even the slightest confidence that Teen Titans can do that effectively. Yet another missed opportunity.

At the risk of sounding like a run of the mill fickle comic book geek, Teen Titans #1 gives us almost everything the series shouldn’t be. It’s business as usual. And when I open Teen Titans I’m not looking for business as usual. I’m looking for something different, something that takes on the DCU from a different angle. That’s not what this is. And unfortunately, it may be a long time before we see it again.

Front page image from dccomics.com. Image 1 from comicbook.com. Image 2 from comixology.com. Image 3 from adventuresinpoortaste.com. 

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Sting’s WWE “Debut,” Plus WWE Battleground 2014 Predictions (UPDATED w/ Results!)

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Battleground, the topic of the week is obviously Sting’s appearance on Raw. Or at least a WWE video game commercial that aired during Raw. It was tremendously produced, and a great way to plant that seed for what could be an epic angle down the road.

Supposedly, Sting hasn’t officially signed a deal yet. But purely from an outsider’s perspective, it seems to be imminent. And that’s a great thing. With WWE trying so damn hard to get people to buy the network, the timing couldn’t be more right for Sting to finally work for them, even if it’s only for one match. As for who that match would be with, obviously a lot of people are calling for Sting vs. Undertaker to finally happen. There are many who question whether that match should take place, given what happened with ‘Taker at Wrestlemania XXX, and the notion that given the age of both men, it might not be the dream match we’ve always imagined it being. Personally, I’m of the belief that if both guys are healthy, they can make it special. Both Sting and The Undertaker have been able to defy father time for years. I won’t doubt they can each do it one more time.

But if Sting vs. Undertaker isn’t in the cards, there are a plenty of guys Sting could wrestle and draw money with. Triple H, John Cena, and Randy Orton all come to mind. But we’ve got plenty of time to speculate and analyze. For now I’m keen to sit back and enjoy the simple fact that Sting and WWE are working together after all these years.

And now, on to Battleground.

PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Cameron vs. Naomi

I’m intrigued to see how Naomi develops now that these two are no longer a duo. I think some of the stuff we’ve seen her go through with the eye injury, combined with her athletic prowess in the ring, have earned her some respect in the eyes of the “smart” fans. Cameron, on the other hand, does not seem to have earned that respect. But in her case, that may be a good thing. It’s extremely easy to dislike Cameron. Even Michael Cole seemed legitimately annoyed by her a few weeks back. That could be the basis for a great heel persona, assuming Cameron can back up what she says in the ring. This match might not be the best pick in terms of drawing last minute buys for the pay per view. But it could be interesting to watch from the standpoint of where these two performers are, in relation to where they could be later.

Rob’s Prediction: Naomi
WINNER: Cameron

Jack Swagger vs. Rusev

A few days ago, I would have easily picked Rusev as the victor here. But in light of what happened with that Malaysian Airlines jet this week, and the potential Russian involvement there, it’s a rather inconvenient time to be a in an act that sings the praises of Vladimir Putin every week. Still, I don’t expect WWE to soften Rusev or Lana from a character standpoint. I just think they’ll scale back his dominance a bit on this show. I expect Lana will get involved somehow, allowing Swagger to get a DQ victory. A brawl will follow, and Swagger will come out looking strong without actually beating Rusev. For my money, it’s best to proceed with caution for the time being.

Rob’s Prediction: Jack Swagger
WINNER: Rusev by count out

WWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
AJ Lee (c) vs. Paige

So they’re “frienemies,” huh? Meh, that’s not really my cup of tea. But hey, it’s AJ and Paige on a pay per view. I won’t complain. These two have helped break WWE’s fitness model mold for female wrestlers. So it’s great to see them getting a chance to shine together on pay per view. But it must be said: Paige is pretty bland from a character standpoint. I don’t see her winning the belt back until she develops a bit more in that respect. Maybe a few losses to AJ will bring some more emotion out of Paige, and we’ll get to know her a bit better. But for now, the belt stays with AJ.

Rob’s Prediction: AJ Lee
WINNER: AJ Lee

2 OUT OF 3 FALLS MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos (c) vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan

Here’s another kind of match I don’t think we’ve seen on pay per view in awhile. Two out of three falls for the tag straps? How cool is that? This isn’t necessarily a hot rivalry, but the Usos and the Wyatts have an old school hero/villain dynamic going on. Harper and Rowan are more than worthy of holding tag team champions. But I think right now it’s the Usos’ time to shine, and build a reputation as a dominant babyface tag team. Still, this being the kind of match that it is, it’s likely the Wyatts will at least get to beat the champs once. That’s a nice little feather in their caps.

Rob’s Prediction: The Usos
WINNER: The Usos

20 MAN BATTLE ROYAL TO CROWN NEW INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION:

Firstly, I’m happy Bad News Barrett is popping in for this match. That character was on such a role, and hopefully this will help him hold on to at least a little bit of that momentum.

Typically, battle royals like this can be tough to predict. But in this case, I think there’s a clear winner: The Miz. He’s quickly resumed his heel run with a new “Don’t hit me in the face!” M.O., and he’s as easy to dislike as ever. What’s more, he was clashing with Sheamus this past week. A win for Miz here might lead to the often-discussed unification of the Intercontinental and United States Championships via a match with Sheamus at Summerslam. But even if that’s not the case, a heel Miz would certainly make a better IC Champ than the babyface Miz did.

Rob’s Prediction: The Miz
WINNER: The Miz

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins

These two are arguably even better as rivals than they were as partners. Rollins’ new role as the sell out is a perfect contrast to Ambrose’s defiant bad boy attitude. And the idea that Ambrose can run in and ruin Rollins’ Money in the Bank cash-in is something they’ve never done before. So the build up for this match has been excellent. From a wrestling standpoint, it may be the dark horse pick to steal the show. In picking a winner here, oddly enough, there’s an X factor that needs to be considered: Brock Lesnar. Rollins is supposedly The Authority’s designated plan B to take the WWE Championship back, right? But then Paul Heyman interjected this past week on Raw, and floated the idea of Brock being their back up plan. Rollins losing to Ambrose here would provide the perfect incentive for Triple H and Stephanie to cast him aside in favor of the man who just broke The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak. Thus, Ambrose wins this round. But I expect we’ll get at least one more pay per view go-around with these two.

Rob’s Prediction: Dean Ambrose
WINNER: Seth Rollins via forfeit

Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt

As great as the inciting incident for this program was, the subsequent build up for this match has been frustrating. Bray Wyatt has yet to give us a definitive reason as to why he doesn’t like Chris Jericho. This past week on Raw he said something like: “You said you would save us, Chris!” But what does that even mean? In any event, hopefully the match will make the confusing build up worthwhile. I see Bray Wyatt picking up the win here. This would, ideally, lead Jericho to take more of a proactive approach against Bray. Instead of asking why Wyatt attacked him, Jericho would now be the one doing the attacking. To see Bray on the defensive against a man like Jericho might make for compelling television.

Rob’s Prediction: Bray Wyatt
WINNER: Chris Jericho

FATAL FOURWAY MATCH FOR WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:

Meh. I’m not really into this one at all. We know who wins here. This is the obligatory pay per view title match between Cena’s title victory, and his big match with Brock at Summerslam. To WWE’s credit, they’ve at least made it look like a big important match. And if these four do their jobs well (which I’m sure they will), there’ll be a point in this match where it looks like someone other than Cena (most likely Roman Reigns) will walk out with the title. But make no mistake about it, this night belongs to Cena. And that’s fine. Bring on Cena vs. Lesnar at Summerslam. Plus, if this match goes how I imagine it will, this’ll also lead us to Reigns vs. Orton at the August spectacular.

Rob’s Prediction: John Cena
WINNER: John Cena

Images from WWE.com.

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Sam Wilson (a.k.a. The Falcon) is the New Captain America

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Right off the heels of Marvel’s announcement regarding a female Thor, the company’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada appeared on The Colbert Report July 16 to announce that Sam Wilson, a.k.a The Falcon, will take over as Captain America this fall.

Wilson stepping into take Steve Rogers’ place has been suspected in recent months, but Marvel made it official with the announcement of All New Captain America #1, written by Rick Remender and pencilled by Stuart Immonen. Rogers is ultimately forced to retire the mantle of Captain America after losing the effects of the super soldier serum, and aging 65 years.

While Sam Wilson has often served as Steve Rogers’ partner, Remender noted Wilson will be a very different Captain America than his predecessor.

“I’ve been having a lot of fun writing Sam,” Remender said. “It’s a completely different attitude. The fact that he’s not a soldier shifts things up a bit. Sam’s not going to be Steve. Steve can be very rigid. That can be kind of joyless at times, whereas Sam is absolutely not that.”

Marvel editor Tom Brevoort added: “While Sam shares many of Steve’s beliefs in a general sense, he’s also a very different person with a very different background. He didn’t grow up in the 1930s, he’s a modern day man in touch with the problems of the 21st Century. For most of his professional life, Sam has worked as a social worker, so he’s seen the worst of urban society up close, and how crime, poverty, lack of social structure and opportunity can affect the community. So he’s got perhaps a greater focus on the plight of the common man, and perhaps a greater empathy for the underprivileged than maybe even Steve himself. He’s also not a military man, so he’s more apt to be instinctively skeptical of any situation that calls for just following orders. Sam, like Steve, will be led by his personal morality and beliefs as to what is right and what is wrong—and where his beliefs may differ in their shading from those of the previous Cap are where the interesting stories will be found.”

Source: Newsarama, Marvel.com 

Image from superherohype.com.

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Marvel to Introduce Female Thor in New Series

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

On the July 15 edition of The View, Marvel broke the news that, starting in October, a new character would wield the hammer of Mjölnir. A female character.

In essence, that means comic book readers will have a female Thor.

“The inscription on Thor’s hammer reads ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’ Well it’s time to update that inscription,” said Marvel Editor Wil Moss said. “The new Thor continues Marvel’s proud tradition of strong female characters like Captain Marvel, Storm, Black Widow and more. And this new Thor isn’t a temporary female substitute – she’s now the one and only Thor, and she is worthy.”

The new Thor series will be written by Jason Aaron, with art by Russell Dauterman.

“This is not She-Thor,” Aaron said via press release. “This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is Thor. This is the Thor of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”

Source/Images: Variety

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A New Suicide Squad #1 Review – New Game, New Line Up

TITLE: New Suicide Squad #1
AUTHOR: Sean Ryan
PENCILLER:
Jeremy Roberts.
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE:
$2.99
RELEASED:
July 9, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In theory, this New Suicide Squad relaunch is a welcome one. DC has swapped out the likes of Captain Boomerang, King Shark, and James Gordon Jr. for characters with a bit more of that edgy, cool factor: Black Manta, Deathstroke, and James Gordon Jr. Sadly, there’s an awkward element to this book that negates a lot that coolness.

Government official Vic Sage (a character who was The Question in the pre-New 52 DC Universe) has been put in charge of the Suicide Squad. He recruits Deathstroke, Black Manta and Joker’s Daughter to the line up, an opts to keep Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Amanda Waller sticks around because she “generally knows the ins and outs of how all this works.” Our team’s first mission takes them to Russia to destroy a top secret base. But of course, they’re the Suicide Squad. And things go…well, how they usually go.

The Vic Sage character is clearly meant to be somewhat aloof and in over his head, at least on the surface. He seems largely concerned with the team’s look and marketability, and doesn’t seem to have much in-depth knowledge about them individually. In the opening scene he calls them “this clown girl,” and “the marksman with the red eye thing.” I also particularly enjoyed this line about Black Manta: “He does have a cool look. Plus, he’s got the word black in his name. That never hurts.” He’s got a humorous ineptitude about him that might be interesting when placed next to the ultra-serious Waller.

But what I have a problem with in that opening scene is how the secretary of state talks. It lacks a certain gravity, and thus he comes off a bit like the J.K. Simmons character in Burn After Reading. Also, and granted this is an odd point, but why is there nothing on his desk? For instance, in the panels above it looks like he just moved in. Who is this guy?

The scene where our five team members meet isn’t exactly inspiring either. The art itself isn’t bad, thought Deathstroke is wearing  football pads on his shoulders, and Harley Quinn still looks like a clown stripper. Again it comes down to the dialogue. We’ve got annoying expository name-dropping (“Deathstroke. Can we just get to the business at hand?” “Of course, Manta. I just needed to get everyone’s attention.”), combined with Deathstroke sounding like a dumb jock with a gun. When Harley and Joker’s Daughter get into it over the latter wearing Joker’s face, Slade shoves a gun in Harley’s mouth and delivers the awe-inspiring line: “Shut. Up. Or someone will be wearing your face, Harley Quinn.” By God, what a master of manipulation and intimidation…

Also, Amanda Waller is still skinny. Amanda Waller should not be skinny. Put her on a steady diet of Five Guys, then gimmie a call.

All this being said, New Suicide Squad does have some interesting potential as far as infighting is concerned.. Putting Harley Quinn and Joker’s Daughter together obviously creates an inherent rivalry right off the bat, and injects the series with plenty of “Joker appeal.” This issue also drops a pretty blatant teaser for Deathstroke vs Deadshot, in what could be a fight to determine the world’s greatest assassin. Black Manta also makes for a hell of a wild card. He can certainly shake things up at any time. Suicide Squad vs. Aquaman, perhaps?

New Suicide Squad has, for the moment, piqued my interest. Compared to the old series, there’s a bit more to sink your teeth into right off the bat. But unless Ryan and Roberts sharpen up their execution, as far as I’m concerned this book’ll be on track for the morgue.

Front page image and image 1 from howtolovecomics.blogspot.com. Image 2 from zonanegativa.com.

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A Serenity: Leaves on the Wind Review – The Sequel 10 Years in the Making

TITLE: Serenity: Leaves on the Wind
AUTHOR: Zack Whedon
PENCILLERS: Georges Jeanty, Fabio Moon. Cover by Dan Dos Santos.
COLLECTS: Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASE DATE:
November 5, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So here’s a question: Why did it take us so long for us to get a comic that substantially picks up where Serenity left off? Why did it take so long for us to get the next chapter? Dark Horse has published a variety of comics and graphic novels set in the Firefly universe, some of which inched the story forward. But why did we have to wait so long for a significant follow up to Serenity? 

In any event, thanks to the magic of comics, we finally get to see the fallout from that movie that came out 10 years ago with Serenity: Leaves on the Wind. Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of the Serenity are the most wanted outlaws in the ‘verse. However, they’ve planted an all-too-valuable blemish on the Galactic Alliance’s reputation by revealing that the Reavers (space cannibals, basically) are actually byproducts of their experiments. What’s more, the ship is running low on food and supplies, and Zoe on the verge of giving birth. To say the least, our heroes are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Something’s got to give.

Whedon and Jeanty give us a pretty strong opening, jumping right into the damage done to the Alliance’s reputation by the Reaver scandal, and the “New Resistance” created by the controversy. They make us wait a bit to see Mal and his crew, and that wait carries a lot of, um…weight to it, as when we left them in Serenity, they were in a fairly vulnerable state.

About halfway into the first issue, we learn that Mal and Inara finally gave into all that romantic tension at some point between Serenity and Leaves on the Wind. For yours truly, that’s a creative disappointment. We spent all that time becoming invested in their relationship, and then we don’t get the pay off? Lame. If they’d wanted to, they could’ve built this entire miniseries around the moment Mal and Inara finally reveal their true feelings. But instead, they simply jump into bed in issue #1. What a missed opportunity…

Zoe comes out of this book looking particularly strong. In the span of one story, she has a vision of her dead husband, gives birth to the child she conceived with said husband, gets tossed into an “unnamed prison camp,” and kills a man, among other feats of badassery. Character-wise, one can argue Zoe has never been more interesting than she is in Leaves on the Wind. She’s incredibly vulnerable and emotional, but still tough as nails. Zack Whedon more than lives up to his brother’s standard for strong female characters.

Leaves on the Wind also adds a pair of new crew members to Mal’s ship. The first is Bea, leader of the New Resistance. Aside from her fierce contempt for the Alliance, she’s not fleshed out much here, but that’s understandable given how much other ground we have to cover here. Interestingly, she seems to have attracted the romantic interest of Jayne. Coupling Jayne up with someone might make for interesting storytelling down the road. But as we now have Mal and Inara together, along with Kaylee and Simon, that might run the risk of making things too “coupled up.” Toward the end of the story we also meet Iris, a victim of the Alliance’s experiments much like River. She serves as an interesting illustration of how far River has come since we first met her, and could lead to some further development for her down the road.

Leaves on the Wind isn’t necessarily friendly to fans who haven’t seen Firefly or Serenity, which is fair enough, I suppose. But if you haven’t seen the source material in awhile, you may need a review session before jumping into this book. It took yours truly some time to remember who The Operative was, and how he was connected to Mal and the crew. We also see Jubal Early again, which is delightful. But keep in mind, he only appeared in one episode of the series.

Georges Jeanty’s art is hit or miss for me here. At times his characters perfectly evoke the actors that played them in Firefly and Serenity, and at other points they don’t. As a reader, that’s frustrating. Either make your figures look like the actors, or render them in a way that suits your particular talents. But pick a direction and stick with it. What’s even more frustrating is at times, is when Jeanty really nails an actor’s face. Zoe, for instance, looks like Gina Torres a good portion of the time, which is part of the reason why she comes out so strong in this story. Mal on the other hand, vaguely resembles Nathan Fillion. Other characters, like Kaylee and River, go back and forth in terms of accuracy. Realistically, unless you’re an Alex Ross, there’s only so much you can ask from any artist in terms of photo-realism. But it’s that touch-and-go factor that irritates me.

This issue also includes the 2012 Free Comic Book Day exclusive, Serenity: It’s Never Easy, the short story in which we learned Zoe was pregnant. Illustrated by Fabio Moon, it’s far more cartoony-looking than Leaves on the Wind. But on the plus side, it lacks the inconsistency of Jeanty’s work. In truth, it’s only there to lay the foundation for Zoe’s pregnancy, which is fine.

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind is a bittersweet creation in a lot of ways. If the world were a fair place, we wouldn’t need this book to exist. Joss Whedon and everybody involved with Firefly would have gotten to make their TV show, and it wouldn’t have become one of the biggest missed opportunities in the history of television. It’s actually painful to imagine what Firefly could have been, and I’m not even a die-hard Browncoat. Leaves on the Wind is flawed, but I doubt you’ll hear a lot of folks complaining about it. Hell, it’s new Firefly! Just kick back and enjoy the positives, folks. And hey, maybe there’s reason to be hopeful. Now that Star Wars is leaving Dark Horse, there’s a hell of a void to fill.

And to that I say, why not Malcolm Reynolds?

RATING: 7/10

Front page image from comicbookresources.com. Image 1 from gonnageek.com. Image 2 from mygeekygeekyways.com. 

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A Grayson #1 Review – “Dick” Jokes, Guns, and The Midnighter

TITLE: Grayson #1
AUTHOR: Tim Seeley, Tom King
PENCILLER: Mikel Janin. Cover by Andrew Robinson.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 9, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Though this issue just hit the stands this week, Grayson has, for my money, had problems for months…

First and foremost, the series tag line: “You think you know Nightwing…You don’t know Dick.” That’s literally the worst promotional line I’ve ever read for anything, ever. His name is Dick. Dick is also a phallic euphemism. So let’s go ahead and use the same stupid, third grade quality pun we heard in that timeless cinematic classic, Batman and Robin. That’ll hook the fans! To me, that line borders on disrespecting the Dick Grayson character, who by the way, is one of the founding heroes of the DC Universe. Having made his debut in 1939, he predates Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and most of the other pillars of the company’s mythos. “You don’t know Dick.” What a joke.

Secondly, while putting Dick Grayson in this super spy role does indeed have some interesting storytelling potential, exactly how much desire was there from a fan’s perspective to have him removed from the Nightwing role? Nightwing possesses that oh-so-important cool factor that many of DC’s heroes are (arguably) lacking. At the tail end of his career as Robin, he stood up to Batman and opted to become his own man, with his own set of principles. That being said, he still loved Bruce like a father, and would chip in and help when he needed to. Then in the ’90s he got that awesome black costume with the blue “V” stripe, he got his own city to protect, his own series, and he was off to the races. He also had plenty of sex appeal for female readers. Dick was a ripped, athletic superhero with a dark and tragic origin who you could also take home to mom. Mind you, some of his appeal has been watered down since the New 52 reboot. But it was still a fact: Nightwing rules. Yes, this spy stuff has potential. But why fix what isn’t broken?

Thirdly, the cover. Dick Grayson with a gun. No. BIG no. Granted, Tim Seeley has said they’re going to dive into the issue of Dick having to use a gun on the job, which is fine. But still, no. There were plenty of other directions they could have gone in. And even if they had to use the gun, this cover still sucks. I like the use of color, but what does Dick’s face say? Nothing. It’s essentially a blank expression. His body also looks too slim and lanky for my taste. Oddly enough, somewhere along the line his hair got changed. In the original solicitation (shown left), his hair was short, and bit more militaristic looking. Now it’s longer, and more reminiscent of his Nightwing look. I’ll give them this much: That was a positive change.

And so, with all that working against it, we open Grayson #1 and find…something that’s really not so bad.

After the events of Forever Evil, Dick Grayson/Nightwing is thought to be dead. In reality, he’s been dispatched by Batman to be a mole in the top secret espionage organization known as Spyral (see Batman Incorporated). Now, guided by the mysterious Mr. Minos, Grayson and his new partner Helena Bertinelli must save the life of a Russian man carrying a bioweapon inside his body. And in this first issue, Dick crosses paths with none other than The Midnighter of The Authority fame.

Our first page is somewhat akin to what we saw when we opened All Star Superman #1. Four panels, each with sentence fragments to fill us in on Dick’s backstory. It’s not nearly as epic as it could have been, because we’re stuck with the crappy New 52 Robin and Nightwing costumes. But Seeley and Janin got most of the exposition out of the way early, so I give them credit for that.

Dick starts out the issue in a blonde wig, which is pretty damn surreal. But once he takes it off and the action kicks in, it becomes apparent that this is in fact the Dick Grayson we know and love. As a longtime Nightwing fan, that was a big relief. Seeley and King have changed the character’s M.O., but they’ve kept his personality intact. What’s more, Seeley writes a better Dick Grayson than I’ve seen in awhile. Maybe the best since the New 52 began.

The Midnighter’s appearance in this issue came as a surprise, though not an unwelcome one. It serves as an interesting reminder that there are other black ops heroes out there whose interests could collide with Spyral’s (Checkmate also gets name-dropped in this issue). The motion effects do a lot to accentuate the fight, and add a certain flow to the proceedings. There’s also some pretty good dialouge in there…

Midnighter: “Disciplined, but not averse to improvisation. You fight like jazz.”

Dick: “…you talk an awful lot for the grim and gritty type.

We also get a little more time with the New 52 incarnation of Helena Bertinelli (not to be confused with Huntress, who is from Earth 2). Now an African American agent of Spyral, she’s apparently attracted to her new partner. But Dick isn’t keen to let her get too close, as he’s a mole in the Spyral organization. That’s obviously an interesting dynamic, and of course, plays up Dick’s status as the company’s resident male sex symbol. So the pieces are in place for some interesting storytelling there.

In the end, Grayson #1 is flawed. But it’s not nearly as flawed as it could have been. Tim Seeley, Tom King, Mikel Janin, and everybody involved with this series has turned it into a potential hot commodity. But let’s make sure we underscore potential. It’s only one issue, folks. There are a lot of places we can go from here.

Front page image/interior image from scifibloggers.com.

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Harry Potter Returns in New J.K. Rowling Short Story

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Just shy of seven years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling has returned to Harry Potter in a new short story on PotterMore.com.

Formatted as a newspaper article in the by gossip columnist Rita Skeeter, the story takes a look at the adult Harry Potter, his wife Ginny, as well as Ron and Hermione as they attend the 2014 Quidditch World Cup.

Oddly enough PotterMore.com also notes that the Skeeter character will have a new book, Dumbledore’s Army: The Dark Side of the Demob, published on July 31 (Harry Potter’s birthday). In the world of Harry Potter, Dumbledore’s Army was the name given to a group of rebellious students led by Harry who rebelled against the ultra-strict Dolores Umbridge.

Rowling is currently involved with the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film trilogy, based in the world she established in the Harry Potter series.

Image from telegraph.co.uk.

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Protecting Roman Reigns, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s talk about Roman Reigns. I mean, why not? Everybody else is.

In the past year or so, much has been made of Reigns’ potential to become a main event level talent. Out of the three former Shield members, he has clearly emerged as “the chosen one.” While Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were immediately pit against each other, Reigns has graduated to multi-man pay per view main events with the likes of Kane, Randy Orton, and John Cena. He’s also been getting into staredowns with Triple H (as we saw last week on Raw). Signs are definitely pointing to Roman Reigns as WWE’s choice for the next top babyface.

But here’s the thing: If you want to be WWE’s top star in 2014, the stars really need to align in your favor. The WWE machine, as bizarre as it is sometimes, needs to be behind you. More importantly, the fans have to be behind you. And as we saw crystal clear earlier this year, sometimes those two groups want very different things. WWE had constructed the main event program for Wrestlemania XXX as Batista returning to disrupt his old mentor’s regime. But when “The Animal” was met with almost universal boos, they were forced to go with the people’s choice, Daniel Bryan.

Whether it’s the ever present “Cena sucks” chants, the flat out rejection of Batista’s babyface return, or the question of pushing wrestler A over wrestler B, what WWE creative wants has an undeniable tendency of clashing with what the fans want. And now, the WWE machine wants Roman Reigns to be a top star…

But do the fans want Roman Reigns to be a top star? They seem to be receptive to him, but a lot can change between now and Wrestlemania XXXI. I’m of the mindset that Reigns can be a star if he’s protected.

What do we mean by protected? It’s a simple case of accentuating the positives and hiding the negatives. Admittedly, Reigns doesn’t have many negatives. But there’s one glaring blemish on his game: His mic work.

When he was part of The Shield, Reigns was really effective at wrapping up those three-man promos with Rollins and Ambrose. He didn’t have to say very much at all. He’d just give us a line or two at the end to put an exclamation point on what they were saying. Something like “Believe in The Shield” was all it took. That quite and menacing demeanor, his look, and his intense physicality in the ring were enough. But whenever Reigns took the mic for a more extended period of time, he came off very weak, especially compared to someone like Ambrose. If Reigns is forced to rant and pander like Cena and Sheamus tend to do, he’ll be dead in the water.

Case in point? His promo to kick off this week’s Raw. It was decent, but not at all what you’d hope to see from the next big superstar. Hell, in the middle of it the Montreal fans started chanting about Cena. To his credit, Reigns ran with it. But the fact remains: The mic work is painfully absent.

This is why, even though he’s on his own now, the old Shield formula really shouldn’t change much. Let’s let Reigns keep that mystique about him, and keep him a man of very few words. Emphasize his look and his ring work, and let his actions do the talking. That way when he does get on the mic for a little bit, it’s that much more meaningful.

Also: No attempts at WWE-style comedy, i.e. bad comedy. That whole shtick from a few weeks ago where he put something in Stephanie’s coffee? Stupid. Roman Reigns should not be funny. He’s a serious, stone faced destroyer with an understated charisma, who’s on his way to the top whether The Authority likes it or not. He’s a locomotive that takes down everything in his path. Now THAT’s a character you can get behind.

Thoughts From Raw:

The Authority is “on vacation,” not at Raw this week. As I recall, this has been done a few times since Triple H and Stephanie have been put in their current on-screen roles. It always turns me off. From a fan’s standpoint, if the two people who run the damn show can’t be bothered to show up, then it must not be that important. So why should I show up?

Obviously, Hunter and Stephanie aren’t there because their real-life positions at WWE prevent them from being at all the international shows. But hey, here’s an idea: Bret Hart is in the building. Why not make him the guest general manager? That’ll inject a little extra excitement into the show!

But no, instead they put Bret in a segment with Damien Sandow. Hey, it’s always nice to see the Hitman. But come on…

Chris Jericho def. The Miz. I’m interested in what Miz is doing with the whole “no face shots” M.O. It’s sort of a callback to what Rick Martel and Shawn Michaels did at Wrestlemania VIII all those years ago. It could be cool to see Miz focus a decent portion of his in-ring offense on face and head shots, and then in turn by terrified to take them.

As for Jericho’s latest run-in with The Wyatt Family, Bray gave us some pretty good mic work, and we got a peek at his morivation before Y2J cut him off with the “Shut the hell up!” catchphrase. Not quite the response promo I would have liked from Jericho, but there’s still plenty of time.

Randy Orton def. Dean Ambrose. So…about Ambrose’s jump from the top rope. Did Orton miss his cue? Did Ambrose jump before Orton knew where he was? I’m not trying to place blame. I’m just curious about what actually happened. Still, Orton and Ambrose had a pretty good showing otherwise.

Alberto Del Rio def. Dolph Ziggler. One of the reasons I miss guys like Jim Ross and Joey Styles being on commentary, is that they’d actually call the wrestling moves. What the hell was that move Del Rio hit Ziggler with from the top rope? According to Michael Cole it was: “What a move!”

Rusev def. Rob Van Dam via submission. I liked the increased emotion from Rusev, especially put combined with a good guy the fans can really get behind, and actually mount a believable offense against the big man. Slowly but surely, the Rusev/Lana act is getting better. I do, however, wish RVD hadn’t had to tap out.

Bo Dallas def. El Torito. Considering El Torito actually holds a victory over Drew McIntyre, I was actually concerned Dallas was going to lose this one. It was nice to see a more despicable side of the Bo Dallas character, though. Perhaps we’ve got more than a comedy act on our hands.

Images from wwe.com.

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A Rocket Raccoon #1 Review – Ready For His Close Up

TITLE: Rocket Raccoon #1
AUTHOR/PENCILLER: Skottie Young
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 1, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ah, Skottie Young. Nobody draws mischievous, cartoony little scamps quiet like you do. And in the farther reaches of the Marvel Universe, our resident little skamp is Rocket Raccoon.

Rocket Raccoon, Young’s first attempt at an ongoing series, sees our titular character framed for murder by someone who’s apparently of the same species he is. Considering Rocket is thought to be the last of his kind, that’s a heck of a revelation. Now Rocket, with the aid of his fellow Guardians, must unravel the mystery. But our hero has some powerful, vindictive enemies from his past who want him dead…

Skottie Young seems tailor made for Rocket Raccoon, setting a light-hearted, cartoony, fun tone for the series. This book has much of the same appeal as Young’s various adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. He gets to draw various quirky, out-of-this-world characters in his trademark style, which is so much damn fun to look at. A portion of this book is set at a pro wrestling event, and Young hits us with an awesome onslaught of alien creatures, not to mention humans dressed in freaky get ups. It almost has a Mos Eisley Cantina feel, except it’s much more lively and colorful.

Mind you, calling Young’s art “lively” is a hell of an understatement. His characters are so expressive in that exaggerated, cartoony way. This is true for almost everyone we see in Rocket Raccoon, but Rocket himself naturally give us our best example. In this issue alone we see him run the emotional gauntlet. First he’s cocky and confident, then he’s riled up and excited, then he’s charming (in his own mind at least), after which we go to frightened, angry, discouraged, and then cocky and confident again. All this is evident not just through Rocket’s face, but his body language as well. Young is always quite adept at making his art silly and fun, but not so much that the tension in the story dissolves, and things simply become a farce.

Young also gives us an iconic cover right out of the gate. Oddly enough, I just saw that image on a t-shirt the other day. The issue wasn’t even a week old, and it seems to already be paying dividends. Sadly, the confines of a XxX comic book cover don’t truly do the image justice. More casual fans may not realize that’s actually Groot that Rocket is standing on. Yes, Rocket’s in a nice pose. But to me, that contrast of the giant tree figure with the relatively pint-sized raccoon is what makes the image.

Certainly the timing of this first issue couldn’t be better, what with the Guardians of the Galaxy film coming in August. As someone who admittedly is fairly naive about Rocket, the Guardians, and that portion of the Marvel Universe, I can tell you Rocket Raccoon #1 makes for a hell of a hook. But the movie notwithstanding, Rocket Raccoon #1 is a must-read for anyone who likes a healthy does of fun and laughter with their sequential art.

Front page image from marvel.com. Interior image from comicvine.com.

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