Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

TNA’s TV Woes, Selling SummerSlam and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not at all happy to hear TNA is allegedly getting the boot from Spike TV this fall. That company may now finds itself in the very scary position of having to find itself another network in time, or risk going belly up.

People can crack all the jokes they want about the creative at TNA. But the fact is, the number 2 wrestling company in the United States could be in a potentially devastating position. If this turns out to be true, it could be terrible news for wrestling fans, and it’s especially bad news for wrestlers looking for work, experience, and mainstream exposure.

To my knowledge, nothing has been officially announced yet, so I’m going to avoid jumping to hasty conclusions. But here’s hoping that if TNA is indeed leaving Spike TV, another network will pick Impact Wrestling up. The show, after all, continues to draw in the ballpark of a million viewers every week.

Thoughts From Raw:

John Cena and Paul Heyman open the show with a verbal confrontation. I loved the “Biggest Fight of the Summer” promo WWE produced for Lesnar vs. Cena at Summerslam, and the opening segment between Cena and Heyman was an awesome way to follow it up. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: When John Cena has a topic he can sink his teeth into, and he doesn’t have to pander or blatantly promote anything, he can be awesome on the mic. We saw that from him this week, and it’s no coincidence that a mic master like Paul Heyman was the one to bring it out of him.

I’m of the mindset that we don’t need to see Brock Lesnar again until the Raw before Summerslam. Let Cena and Heyman carry it, and build to a mini-confrontation between Brock and Cena on the go-home Raw.

John Cena def. Cesaro. Any time these two are in the ring, it’s essentially a giant test of strength. And hey, that’s a good thing. As unlikely as it may be considering their different backgrounds, Cena and Cesaro seem made for each other. This match also showed us Cesaro and Heyman may not have completely severed ties…

Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella close the show with an in-ring brawl. I’m not a fan of either Brie or Nikki Bella. But I will say this: When was the last time a diva segment closed Raw? You’ve probably got to go back to the days of Trish Stratus and Lita to answer that one. Granted, Stephanie isn’t a wrestler, per se. But still, it placed an added emphasis on women’s wrestling that hasn’t been seen in WWE in quite some time. And to her credit, Brie’s acting has gotten a little bit better. Though that “You deserve to go to hell!” line was a bit much.

Has it really been over a decade since Stephanie wrestled? It doesn’t seem that way. The two Stephanie matches that immediately come to mind are her bout with Trish from February 2001, and her match with Vince from fall 2003. I have no doubt she’s as capable as ever. Lord knows she’s as muscled as we’ve ever seen her, and is probably much stronger. I doubt this will be a beautifully coordinated masterpiece of a match, considering Brie isn’t exactly Shawn Michaels. But then again, neither was Trish when Steph wrestled her. So who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise us.

Randy Orton and Kane brutalize Roman Reigns. I like the idea of a Reigns/Orton match at Summerslam. Distancing Orton from the WWE Title picture for a bit will be good for him, in my opinion. He’s done just fine in his role as The Authority’s chosen one. But let’s have him help elevate Roman Reigns, and possibly Dean Ambrose, before we put that bright a spotlight back on him.

Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins went to a no contest when The Wyatt Family interfered. I was really enjoying Jericho’s work with Rollins before the Wyatts got involved. I believe one of the announcers called Rollins “cat-like.” Corny as it sounds, it’s true. From an in-ring standpoint, there’s nobody else on the roster quite like him. That can only work in his favor as time goes on.

R-Truth def. Bo Dallas, ending his undefeated streak. So…R-Truth, huh? The guy with little to no discernible momentum, who’s been singing the same song since 2008, is the guy who finally pins Bo Dallas? Well that sucks. Granted, it wasn’t the most prestigious streak in wrestling history, but it could have amounted to a little more than what it did. Nothing personal, but R-Truth? Still, it allowed Bo to show off his vicious side, and that’s a plus.

Front page image from betweentheropes.com. Image 1 from tnanews.com. Images 2 and 3 from wwe.com.

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A Superman #33 Review – “You’ve Out-Neiled Him!”

TITLE: Superman #33
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 23, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

For John Romita Jr’s big DC Comics debut, he and Geoff Johns have pulled an “alternate Superman” story out of their hats. At face value that’s a bit of a let down, just because we’ve seen so many of those. Hell, Scott Snyder and Jim Lee are essentially doing that in Superman Unchained. Thus, the pressure’s on our creative team to give this “The Men of Tomorrow” story a completely different feel than Snyder and Lee’s story…

Ulysses, a.k.a. Neil, was transported from Earth to an alternate dimension as an infant. His parents, two scientists at the Ulysses Research Center in Nebraska, had feared the impending destruction of Earth. Upon returning to Earth, Ulysses is shocked to discover that didn’t happen. He’s quickly taken in by Clark Kent. But getting Neil accustomed to Metropolis, and teaching him certain boundaries will prove difficult. All the while, Superman investigates what has become of the Ulysses facility, and sees what he can learn about Neil’s past.

One thing “The Men of Tomorrow” has going for it thus far that Superman Unchained doesn’t is that we haven’t seen Batman, Wonder Woman (aside from a brief phone conversation where we don’t actually see her), or the Justice League. What frustrated me about Unchained from the start was how Batman kept being unnecessarily shoe-horned into the proceedings. Hell, half of the most recent issue consists of the Batcave being destroyed in a fight between Batman and Wraith (that story’s alternate Superman). Johns and Romita haven’t done anything like that yet. They haven’t fallen victim to the “over-Baturation” trend. They’re not taking the cheap route. They’re on Superman, and they’re using Superman characters. That’s a very respectable move.

Another plus? This story is being published in the ongoing Superman series. Obviously, big name creators reinstate that sense of value to staple books like this, in contrast to some prestige format series that abruptly ends when the creative team has told their initial story. Yeah, my Superman Unchained review is going to be a bit…volatile.

As for Romita’s art, he continues to give us what we came to see: His take on Superman’s world. In this issue, he gives us Clark Kent, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, The Daily Planet building, and a bit of Lois Lane. However, in my experience every John Romita Jr. story has at least one panel that’s drawn awkwardly. This issue has such a panel, and it’s a close up shot of Neil’s face. Unbeknownst to him, Neil is about to come face to face with a huge part of his past. Before the reveal, Romita gives us the panel at left.

What is this face, exactly? Skepticism? Trying to play it cool in the face of anxiety? Boredom? Curiosity? Whatever it’s supposed to be, it took me out of the scene immediately.

From a writing standpoint, Johns makes abundantly clear that Superman is looking at Neil’s life and asking: “What if?” He uses an old photo of Jonathan and Martha Kent as a storytelling tool, although they don’t look like the people we saw in Action Comics, or even Batman/Superman. Still, the advantage Ulysses has over other “alternate Supermen” is that he’s easier to relate to. He’s human, and as such it’s that much simpler for readers to project themselves on to him. This also plays up Superman’s alienation from humans, literally and figuatively. He’ll never truly be one of them, and his parents, the two people who made him feel most at home on Earth, are gone. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how start to tell an emotionally gripping Superman story. Mind you, it’s merely a start. Lord knows we may venture off into all sorts of crazy directions at any point.

But at this point, I’m willing to trust Geoff Johns with Superman. He’s done well with the character in the past (See: Superman: Brainiac, Superman and the Legion of Superheroes), and has a firm grasp on how to write Superman as the compassionate idealist that he should be, without making him into a wuss with a cape. That’s the kind of Superman I want to see, and that’s the kind of Superman that’s worthy of a John Romita Jr. pencil.

Front page image from blastr.com. Image 1 from blacknerdproblems.com. Image 2 from author’s collection.

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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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