Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

The Path to Brock Lesnar, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Another handicap match main event? Seriously? Filler, folks. That’s all we’ve been getting since Night of Champions. To make matters worse, injuries to the likes of Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns have left us with a positively painful lack of depth on the roster. You’ve got the same guys (Orton, Rollins, Cena, etc.) appearing over and over again, which does nothing but lend to the notion that they’re just stretching things out for the 3-hour format. Here’s hoping the likelihood of Brock Lesnar main eventing Survivor Series will lead to some more compelling television in the weeks to come. Still, the show wasn’t without its bright spots.

Thoughts From WWE Raw:

Mick Foley makes surprise appearance during Dean Ambrose/Seth Rollins segment. These surprise appearances by guys like The Rock and Mick Foley are obviously being done to bring some buzz to some  shows that are otherwise not buzzworthy at all. But I’ll never say I’m not happy to see Mick on Raw. In all seriousness, he got the biggest reaction of the night, second only to cheap Kansas City Royals references. I won’t say the segment did much in terms of build up for the Rollins/Ambrose match. But Mick damn sure saved that segment. I see what they were going for, having Ambrose in there with a bunch of tools and a mannequin. But…no. It just wasn’t working.

Winner of John Cena vs. Randy Orton Hell in a Cell match will face Brock Lesnar for the title. This definitely helps this match from a drawing perspective. But we’ve still seen Cena vs. Orton so many times now, it probably won’t do any good in terms of the performance itself. I don’t have a good feeling about how the crowd is going to react to this one. We may see a repeat of the Royal Rumble, with the fans booing them out of the building.

Orton involved in four dialogue segments during the first hour of RawRandy Orton is a great wrestler, but he’s just not a good talker. I’m sorry, but he’s not. No matter what he’s talking about, it’s always the same boring, monotone stuff. He always comes off as heavily scripted (which he probably is), and it just doesn’t sound genuine. And that’s weird, because ad lib Randy Orton is usually pretty interesting. John Cena seemed to improv with him a bit during their segment (the whole Royals/World Series thing), and it brought out some more emotion and intensity in him. But everything else just feels like looking at and listening to a cardboard cut out.

“By the Numbers” vignette airs for Hell in a CellThis video package made me realize just how poorly Hell in a Cell has been promoted. Here you have a pay per view that features what many would consider the most dangerous match WWE puts on every year. It’s a match that’s given us so many great moments. And yet with less than a week left until the show, WWE is just now playing that up. A pair of Hell in a Cell retrospective segments each week might have not only helped with the pay per view vignette, but also emphasized the WWE Network really well.

Orton and Paul Heyman play up the “Class of 2002.” Yes, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and John Cena all worked in Ohio Valley Wrestling together, and all made their main roster debuts in 2002. Myself and others have speculated about WWE going in this direction for some time. And it makes as much sense as anything else. If Randy Orton is staying a heel, then I suspect this idea will be part of the build up for a triple threat match between the three of them at Survivor Series. There’s another opening to incorporate the WWE Network.

Rusev assaults an “American soldier,” firing up The Big Show. About a month ago I said that nobody does the whole sappy, emotionally vulnerable promo quite like Mark Henry. But if anybody has him beat, it’s Big Show. Jeez, the two guys standing up for America are a little sensitive, huh? No wonder folks are clamoring for Kurt Angle.

So the thing with Rusev kicking a soldier, if he really was a soldier, didn’t do anything for me. Yes, it’s a very heelish thing to do. But the whole thing had a cheesiness to it that turned me off.

Damien Sandow pins Sheamus in a six-man tag. Well that’s pretty damn cool. The seed seems firmly planted for a Miz/Damien Sandow feud. And to his credit, The Miz gave an awesome reaction when Sandow got the pin.

Front page image, image 1, and image 2 from wwe.com. Image 3 from wwedvdnews.com.

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A Review of The Walking Dead S5E2 – “You’ll Burn For This”

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve got to hand it to The Walking Dead. It continues to be that show that makes me look at the clock, and dread the ending of an episode. This one wasn’t an edge-of-your-seat thriller. But we DID meet a pretty intriguing new character: Father Gabriel.

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

Thoughts From The Walking Dead S5E2:

Father Gabriel makes his television debut. Readers of the comic book know Gabriel Stokes, but TV-only fans are obviously meeting him for the first time. Seth Gilliam did an awesome job playing him as not only a coward, but a coward carrying a hell of a secret. In his own way, Gabriel is carrying a tremendous weight on his shoulders, and that’s something Rick can obviously sense.

The most chilling moment in the entire episode was seeing ”you’ll burn for this” carved into the church. It not only implies the gravity of what Gabriel must have done, but it plants a haunting image in your head of someone actually doing the carving.

I’m curious to see what they do with the Gabriel character once the secret gets out. Do you have him fall victim to the walkers? Does someone kill him? Or do they have him hang around and be part of the group? He could act as the group’s collective conscience, I suppose. But that role seems to be filled by Tyreese at the moment. Once we find out what he’s done, Gabriel could become easily expendable.

Bob is captured and mutilated by Gareth and the Terminus survivors. Not to harp on the comics too much here, but much of Gareth’s dialogue at the end of the episode was lifted from a scene in the comics which saw Dale in a very similar situation.

The Bob character has been a mystery to me for awhile now. He seems like an easily expendable character. But that almost seems too obvious. So what do you do with him?

I can only assume Bob was secretly bitten when the group was retrieving food. Why else would he have walked off and broken down like that in the midst of a celebration? The group does seem to be getting rather large, so taking a survivor or two out of the equation might not be a bad idea. But with The Walking Dead, you just never know.

Michonne moves on without her sword. It was nice to hear a little bit about the origins of Michonne’s sword, and how she became so proficient with it. It was also pretty damn cool to see her kill a zombie with, of all things, a wisk. But I suspect it won’t be too long before we see her pick a different sword up, and resume her blade swinging bad-assery. I suspect part of the reason she’s lost it is to illustrate to the audience she doesn’t need that weapon to be an ass kicker. I don’t think we really needed that hammered home, but it’s a decent route to take with her.

Carl convinces Rick to save Father Gabriel, is optimistic that the group can handle anything. I hope they’re careful with Carl, here. It wasn’t long ago he was essentially portrayed as the demon child. Now he’s all hopeful and optimistic again. I understand that Carl spent a lot of quality time with his dad last season, and that getting Judith back has probably restored a good portion of his humanity. But he doesn’t have to be naive, does he? If this show has taught us anything, it’s that being happy and hopeful usually means something bad is right around the corner.

Front page image/Image 1 and image 3 from amctv.com. Image 2 from zap2it.com. 

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A Batman: Gordon of Gotham Review – Tales from the Nasty ’90s

TITLE: Batman: Gordon of Gotham
AUTHORS: Chuck Dixon, Denny O’Neil
PENCILLERS: Klaus Janson, Jim Aparo, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dick Giordano
COLLECTS: Batman: Gordon’s Law #1-4, Batman: GCPD #1-4, Batman: Gordon of Gotham #1-4
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $15.47
ORIGINALLY RELEASED: 1996 (Batman: GCPD), 1996-1997 (Gordon’s Law), 1998 (Gordon of Gotham)
COLLECTION RELEASED: September 24, 2014

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

I’m pretty sure that there is exactly one reason that the name of the third story included in this trade paperback was used as the collection’s title. Calling it Gordon of Gotham makes the most sense (from a Doylist standpoint) for one reason and one reason only: Marketing.

Yes, this collection was probably released for the sole reason of promoting the televised travesty that is Gotham. It sure as heck wasn’t released to cater to rabid ‘90s era Chuck Dixon fans like myself. It even says on the back, “He’s Jim Gordon. And he’s tough as Gotham.” What the heck does that even mean? I always envisioned Gotham City as being mean or moody or dirty, occasionally creepy, definitely scary, frequently depressing, and sometimes incredible. “Tough” isn’t the word that comes to mind when I want to describe Gotham.

But you know what really is tough? How much this trade let me down.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Jim Gordon. He’s one of my favorite characters in all of comics. I also love it when they take old, rarely highlighted characters like Shotgun Smith and Harvey Bullock and give them a chance to shine. However, I hate it when we get prequels and Serpico rip offs which range from mediocre to craptastic. And it annoys me to no end when entirely new characters are made up for a miniseries who are supposed to prominently figure into a major character’s backstory, and were obviously meant to have been really cool and memorable. But they come off as ridiculous and dumb. Like Cuchulain. But we’ll get to him.

Batman: Gordon of Gotham collects a trifecta of four-issue stories from the mid-to-late-’90s, the era of the great mega-series which later spawned those monstrous, phonebook-sized digests that we have today. Knightsend was just wrapping up, No Man’s Land was a twinkle in Denny O’Neil’s eye, and Chuck Dixon was in the middle of his beneficent reign as chief writer in the Bat-group. A lot of good stuff was being put out in books like Robin, Nightwing, and Detective Comics.

These three miniseries are not among that good stuff.

The Gordon’s Law story revolves around Gordon teaming up with Shotgun Smith to take down a criminal conspiracy involving some rip-off of Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang and a bunch of corrupt cops. GCPD is about, well… the GCPD, but proto-Gotham Central it ain’t. Gordon of Gotham doesn’t even take place in Gotham City, but rather is a flashback to Chicago. I’m not sure whether it’s about how Gordon first came to be a police officer in Gotham. Or perhaps it’s about how he botched something up during his 20-year sojourn in Chicago prior to Batman: Year One, which resulted in him going back to Gotham City again. He looks too young here for the latter, but I’m not completely sure.

Gordon of Gotham is essentially a rehash of Gordon’s Law, only this time Gordon’s walking around with one arm in a sling the whole time, and he’s still a novice lawman. Plus, you’ve got this leprechaun-like hitman named Cuchulain hopping in and out of the story whenever it’s convenient. Man, I absolutely hate that guy, just like I absolutely hate all caricatures that are meant to be taken completely seriously.

All of these stories have their own unique, individual faults, but they all suffer from a single defect: Aside from Batman’s token appearances, you would never guess that these stories took place in a shared superhero universe. Instead of a crime story with the larger DC Universe in the background, we just have standard issue crime stories guest starring Batman.

This of course raises the question: Why do these stories need Batman at all, if they’re supposed to be about Jim Gordon?

This question brings up a valid, point which I will phrase in the form of another question: Can you have Commissioner Gordon without Batman?

The answer is, “Yes… and no.” It’s perfectly fine to have a story almost entirely about Gordon. We had one just before the New 52 blew everything to Hades, Batman: The Black Mirror. That was a great Commissioner Gordon story because it focused both on Gordon the lawman and Gordon the man. It intertwined details about Gordon’s reaction to his son returning to Gotham with his ongoing investigation into a serial killer. But that story had its fair share of Batman too.

In my opinion, the key to writing a good Gordon story, or any good story with people like Bullock or Montoya, is to have figuring into the background the guy around whom Gordon was constructed to orbit: Batman. That’s not to say that Gordon and the rest of the GCPD can’t stand on their own. Simply take a look at Rucka and Brubaker’s Gotham Central. It’s just that most writers haven’t been able to pull it off without churning out another Serpico rip-off.

The other big roadblock to writing a good Gordon story is that it’s hard to write one when the character in question has no real arc. When you think about it, Commissioner Gordon is usually only in the story to give Batman missions and make him look heroic by heading up an overwhelmed police force. He has no arc. This isn’t because he’s a stale character, but because his arc is already complete before we ever see it start. In the words of David Uzumeri of ComicsAlliance.com, “I almost find early Gordon more interesting than later Gordon, because once he’s become Commissioner, he’s won. Now he’s just directing an awesome police department. There’s way more drama in the good man stuck in the corrupt organization.”

That’s why Batman: Year One is such a great Gordon story, not to mention one of the best overall Batman stories of all time. It’s basically Serpico in Gotham City, with Batman, and yet it’s not a rip-off. And it’s awesome! It shows Gordon fighting against a corrupt system, and how he can’t do much of anything unless he chooses to work with Batman and his cohorts. Of course he wins, just like the good guys always do.

In Batman: Gordon of Gotham, we are faced with two Gordon stories (Batman: Gordon’s Law and Batman: Gordon of Gotham), one of which is blatantly a prequel to Year One, and a story which is generally about the GCPD. That is, Batman: GCPD.

Gordon’s Law is a drag to read because Batman is locked out of it pretty early, due to Gordon suddenly getting all gung-ho about investigating police corruption being a purely police matter. It would have made more sense to have Batman be simply unavailable due to all the busy stuff going on with the fallout with Bane and Azrael, with only Robin answering the Bat-Signal. In the meantime, we’re saddled with large cast of one-shot, cookie-cutter characters, a stupid and predictable mystery, a ludicrous amount of backstabbing, even for Gotham, and a boring and anticlimactic conclusion. It doesn’t help that the art is cartoonishly gritty and overly penciled, which might make for a good effect in the hands of a writer who knows how to write a good Gordon story. Sorry Chuck Dixon, but you have failed this city…

GCPD puts Gordon in a less prominent role, focusing more on Harvey Bullock, Renee Montoya, Sarah Essen, and a couple more obscure cops who didn’t even make it to Gotham Central. Bullock gets reassigned to a new partner after a spat with Renee, and they work together to track down a serial killer. Montoya poses as a foreign ambassador’s wife in order to protect the ambassador from members of an insurgent cell, which is for some reason operating in Gotham. Meanwhile, these other two detectives, Kitch and Caz, investigate a corrupt lawyer while the desk sergeant tries to solve the mystery of missing office equipment. Also, there’s the standard stuff about Bullock getting dragged in front of an Internal Affairs tribunal.

In short, GCPD is a failure. Why? Because, once again, there’s nothing in the book that directly connects it to Batman. The genius of Gotham Central was that it was about Batman, his associates, and his rogue’s gallery through the viewpoint of his unwilling allies, the police, who don’t share the reader’s privilege of knowing Batman’s side of the story. GCPD just takes Montoya, Bullock, and the rest and throws them into a bunch of standard cop show adventures, and all the clichés that go with them. It’s entirely dull and uninteresting, being shoddily built and poorly executed.

Finally, we have Gordon of Gotham. This story is slightly better than the last two, but only slightly. I like how it’s pretty clearly set several decades in the past, probably the ’60s or ’70s. There are also a couple of great moments with Gordon being a tough guy lawman. But that’s about it. The story’s greatest strength is that it has a good reason to not have Batman in it: The entire story is actually Gordon relating to Batman his memories as a rookie cop in Chicago. This in and of itself makes a minimal amount of sense, as Batman and Gordon are not generally known to engage in idle chitchat. Thankfully, there is once again a barely sufficient reason to explain this glaring error.

The story itself is your usual Serpico rip off about Gordon going outside the law to unearth a political conspiracy based in police corruption, blah blah blah. It’s not incredibly bad, but it’s not incredibly good either. It’s just the blandest shade of mediocre. We’ve got lazy plotting, barely competent dialogue, and an altogether sorry story.

My least favorite part of the story, however, was Cuchulain. He’s literally some cartoonishly Irish pretty-boy who says things like, “Me country” and “Jimmy-boy.” He’s just impossible to take seriously. This is plainly dumb writing, I don’t care if it was Denny O’Neil at the helm. And who in the world of contract killing uses a flipping handgun to snipe people? The conclusion was rushed and poorly handled, but we did get a fairly cool fight scene with Gordon, which just goes to show that he’s still one tough old son-of-a-gun. The one great redeeming value of this story is the art by Klaus Janson and Dick Giordano. It’s pretty great, and would go great with the story…if the story was actually good.

To summarize… Tough as Gotham? More like tough as five day old donuts, and leaving almost as bad a taste in your mouth. I wanted to like Batman: Gordon of Gotham, I really did. But there’s just not really anything to like. Save your money and go check out Batman: Turning Points. That one’s worth the read.

RATING: 5.5/10

Front page image from dccomics.com. Images 1 and 2 from hradzka.dreamwidth.org. Image 4 courtesy of ifanboy.com. Image 5 from wikia.com.

Follow Levi Sweeney on Twitter at @levi_sweeney
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