Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Emasculating John Cena, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Raw:

The opening segment damn near kills the show. I hate to sound overdramatic, but that was in fact the case. Six man tags do so little for me anyway. But then to base it around the notion that Triple H doesn’t know if John Cena is really ready for Brock Lesnar at Night of Champions, after he friggin’ ran through the Wyatts last week, was nearly too much for me to take. I was worried the Raw broadcasts until Night of Champions would essentially be time killers, and this show did nothing to dissuade that. There was one bright spot to that opening segment though…

Triple H and Chris Jericho trade barbs during “Highlight Reel.” For whatever reason, Triple H likes to take little shots at the talent from time to time. We’ve seen these digs go toward top stars like John Cena, and even at virtually helpless ring announcers like Lilian Garcia. But occasionally, Hunter will get in there with someone like Chris Jericho, who doesn’t need to be in a WWE ring at this point in his career, and things get interesting. Granted, you can argue Jericho fired the first shot with the “shnoz” remark. But Hunter kind of kept things going needlessly. Either way, it’s refreshing to see talents who are unafraid to stand up for themselves and their characters when it becomes necessary.

John Cena lets Roman Reigns get the pinfall in the main event. So in a six man tag match where each man is supposed to be fighting to prove that he should be the top contender for the WWE Championship, Cena lets Reigns get the pin? Well, obviously it was to continue Reigns’ ascension toward main event level stardom. But from a character standpoint it made no sense.

Paul Heyman cuts a promo on the “emasculation” of John Cena at SummerslamWhile everybody else was essentially killing time, Paul Heyman was selling Night of Champions. I loved the direction he took things, and that’s the notion the whole show should have been built around. That could have fired up Cena, and prompted him to take charge in the main event. But instead they argued about whether Cena should really be the top contender.

The Miz (w/Damien Sandow) & Cesaro def. Dolph Ziggler & SheamusI actually like what Damien Sandow is doing as The Miz’s “stunt double.” Firstly, Miz got some nice heat out of the finish tonight. Secondly, it gives Sandow something do to other than wear silly costumes every week. And if they keep this duo together for awhile, it opens the door for a feud down the line. So what the hell, make Sandow a stunt double. Lord knows he’s played stranger roles this year…

Boredom with the Bellas, plus AJ and Paige. I was lucky enough to have gotten home late this week, so I was able to fast-forward through he vignettes where Nikki talked about “growing up Bella.” In terms of the in-ring segment, the acting was a little better this week, but it was still incredibly grating. I’m not exactly thrilled to see the intersection with Paige and AJ’s story, but this was obviously where it was going the whole time. I smell a triple threat match for Night of Champions. Paige vs. AJ vs. Nikki, and God help us, Nikki takes the title.

Incidentally, Stephanie vs. AJ? Yes please.

Goldust & Stardust continue to play heels against the Usos. Nope. Still not buying it. And if the chants are any indication (which they are, of course) neither are some of the fans. I maintain what I said last week. Goldust is too iconic for die-hard WWE fans to boo, and it’s silly for them to try and force the issue. But who knows? Maybe it’ll go somewhere good, and we’ll finally get to see the brothers fight. Though with the Bellas in a feud right now, it seems unlikely they’d go with another sibling rivalry program.

Images from WWE.com.

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A Review of The Walking Dead, Vol. 21 – Hook, Line, and Sinker

TITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 21:  All Out War – Part Two
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #121-126
FORMAT:
Softcover
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASED: July 23, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This All Out War story arc is a milestone in The Walking Dead comic book, but not necessarily for the reasons one might suspect. Sure there’s a lot of great content here, and we see some cool character stuff from Rick, Carl, Negan, among numerous others. But the six issues in this book, along with the six issues collected in the previous book, marked the only time the series has gone bi-weekly since its start in 2003. Obviously, this meant the creative team had to pump out twice their usual content over a six month period. As such, one man in particular deserves a hell of a lot of credit: Charlie Adlard.

Adlard without question proved his status as a rock star by essentially doubling his work load over such an extended period of time. And the biggest compliment you can give the guy is that the work doesn’t suffer for it. At times, Adlard even seems to thrive under the pressure.

Naturally, this book picks up where Part One left off, as Negan and the Saviors seem to have won their war with Rick’s group of survivors. Negan has found a new, horrifying way to infect those that oppose him, and at one point we see he’s willing to do something truly mortifying to Eugene. But Rick, Andrea, Michonne, Ezekiel, and the others still have hope, and the will to fight. And they’ll reap all the benefits, and suffer all the consequences that come with that.

In Part One, Kirkman fleshed Negan’s character out a bit more by giving presenting a scene where he saves Holly from being raped. He emphatically tells the would-be perpetrator that the Saviors DO NOT rape, and that after this war was over, they’d still have to live with Rick and his group. This obviously indicated that Negan wasn’t a full blown psychopath. He was a man who lived by his own set of principles. Somewhat psychopathic principles, but principles nonetheless. Oddly enough (and without spoiling anything), it would seem that those principles work against him at the end of Part Two. There’s a big climactic dialogue scene between he and Rick in issue #124, in which they essentially compare ideologies. And there’s a moment where Negan seems to have an epiphany, and finally get where Rick is coming from. I’m not sure I liked that moment. In essence, Rick gives one of his big speeches and Negan takes the pitch. I suppose it’s not impossible, especially given they’ve all been under the stressors of war. But the notion that someone as stubborn, pig-headed, and downright tyrannical as Negan could just fall hook, line, and sinker for one of Rick’s speeches is somewhat hard to swallow. Perhaps it speaks to a lack of intelligence on Negan’s part. Either way, I didn’t take Rick’s bait quite as easily.

Part Two is also a very important book for Eugene. I haven’t talked much about Eugene in previous books, as in all honesty, the character never did much for me. He was involved in an awkward love triangle between Abraham (another character I never enjoyed) and Rosita, in which his longing for her is never reciprocated. But when you look at how he’s developed sine we first saw him in issue #53, you can see that Kirkman, whether he intended it to be this way or not, has done a sort of slow burn character arc with Eugene. He started as a liar and a coward, and has now become someone willing to take risks and make sacrifices for the greater good. Ironically, he now seems very much worthy of Rosita’s love, and might just get it before all is said and done.

The world of The Walking Dead is a much more intriguing place after All Out War – Part Two, partially because they didn’t completely blow things off the way they did with the Governor in issue #52. But we’ve also got a more interesting cast of heroes than we’ve had in quite some time. Ezekiel has another great character moment with Michonne in this book. Maggie also steps up in a big way, taking on a hell of a responsibility. Carl, of course, is Carl. We get more of that good vs. evil inner conflict that has become so synonymous with him. I’m also interested to see what they do with Dwight post-All Out War. He’s essentially accomplished his mission. So what does he do now?

And on the subject of now, things change quite a bit after issue #126, as we do a two-year time jump. So this book, to an extent, marks the end of The Walking Dead as we know it. In the next volume, characters will be a bit older, they’ll look different, and we’ll have a brand new status quo. In Kirkman’s own words: “This will be a drastically different book starting with Issue 127.” But if we’ve learned anything from The Walking Dead over the years, it’s that no matter what the status quo is, chaos is never far away.

RATING: 9/10

Front page image from thewalkingdead.com. Image 1 from maxmangas.com. Image 2 from whatelseisonnow.wordpress.com.

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Personal Hardships, and Letting It Slide

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In the last several weeks, the latest viral internet craze, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, has resulted in an massive outpouring of donations to a more than worthy cause, and a flurry of mildly amusing YouTube videos to boot. In terms of internet trends, it’s actually rather…well, cool and refreshing!

But as always, the trolls are out. Which is fine, we need skeptics and contrarians out there. But in this instance, they’re wrong.

Let’s set the table here: ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative condition that effects the brain and spinal cord. The motor neurons that initiate muscle movement in the body gradually die off, leading to progressive paralysis, and eventually death.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge occurs when you challenge someone to either donate money (usually $100) to the ALS Association, or dump a big bucket of ice water over their head. Since the beginning of August, the internet has been flooded (no pun intended) with videos of both average joes and celebs dousing themselves with water. The publicity has brought the ALS Association $13.3 million (as of August 17) in donations, compared to the $1.7 million they received at the same time last year.

Naysayers have called out the Ice Bucket Challenge for essentially prompting Americans to celebrate the notion of not giving money to a charity. Hey, fair point. While many are indeed dousing themselves AND making a donation, it’d be foolish to think that a lot of us aren’t doing it simply for fun. And let’s certainly not rule out false boasting, narcissism, and flat out stupidity. Make no mistake, it’s a lot easier to pretend to be charitable than to actually be charitable. Plus, there are a lot of countries in dire need of all that clean water.

But in spite of all that, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge gets a pass from me. And here’s why…

Several years ago, I was working for a small regional newspaper. One summer, around this time of year, I was dispatched to do a story on the Les Turner ALS Walk for Life, a Chicago area event that raises money for ALS patient care. When I got the assignment I had never heard of the event, and had no knowledge about ALS.

Then I met Len, and his wife Sarah. At the time, Len was confined to a wheelchair and was only able to move his head, neck, and left arm. They were very open about what they’d gone through, especially considering I was such a young reporter, let alone a complete stranger. Len told me about being forced to leave his job, the trip to Hawaii he and Sarah had taken once they learned about his ALS (a last vacation of sorts), and how his body had gradually broken down. He did, however, tell me with pride that he was able to stand up at his daughter’s wedding, despite having extremely limited use of his legs.

When the interview was over, and Sarah had left the room to get something, Len and I small talked for a minute. In all honesty, I don’t remember what the topic was. But then, as we could hear Sarah coming back, he thanked me for my time, and said eight words I don’t think will ever leave me…

“I just try not to think about tomorrow.”

He started to choke up a bit. But he fought it back.

Len is gone now, but I’ve thought about him quite a bit over the years. I can’t even imagine what must have been going through his mind when we talked, or Sarah’s for that matter. It sounds incredibly corny when you put it into words, but what kind of strength do you imagine needs to be mustered to face something like that? Even all these years later, I can’t even begin to comprehend it.

Sarah still participates in the ALS Walk for Life with her team “Len’s Den.” Through the wonders of internet stalking, I discovered they have a Facebook page. On August 15, Sarah posted a message, and signed off with: “Keep those ice buckets coming!”

So I’m okay with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As a member of the human race, I’m willing to bear whatever idiocy or ingenuity arises from it. Because $13.3 million is a lot of money. You can’t treat ALS with money, but you can with what put the money there: Generosity, compassion, human decency, and the willingness to take action.

I guess the moral of the story here is that sometimes, you have to be willing to take the bad with the good. Is this ice bucket thing a little over the top? Absolutely. Does it expose America’s bizarre fascination with stupid YouTube videos? Of course it does. But it’s got people talking about donating to charity, and the ALS Foundation has reaped great benefits from it. I’ll take that trade off.

Front page image from sammy-riggs.com. Image 1 from centralaz.com. Image 2 from time.com. Image 3 from time.com.

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