Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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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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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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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Chris Jericho, Miz, AJ, and the Night of Returns. Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Raw:

Chris Jericho returns to Raw, spoils The Miz’s return, comes face-to-face with The Wyatt Family. The news about Chris Jericho returning to Raw this week leaked a bit before the show aired. Happily, yours truly avoided the spoiler, and experienced Jericho’s latest comeback in all its glory. Seeing him come back in that segment with The Miz would have been enough, I suppose. But adding the Wyatts to the mix made it a true Raw moment. That’s the match that’ll sell Battleground, or at the very least, get folks to tune in for the next few weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how long Jericho stays around this time.

While Miz’s return obviously played second fiddle to Jericho’s, it’s great to see him as a heel again. The whole “cross brand” star thing, or whatever it is, should be a good fit for him. Miz is as easy to dislike as just about anybody. The question is, can he make his act in 2014 different from his act from two or three years ago?

AJ Lee returns, wins the Divas Title from Paige. I was honestly convinced we weren’t going to see AJ Lee again. At least not for awhile. She just got married, to CM Punk no less. Thus, the rumors she was pregnant weren’t exactly unfounded.

John Cena wins the WWE World Heavyweight Title at Money in the BankLike a lot of folks, I’m not particularly upset that Cena won the title at Money in the Bank. It’s a means to an end, folks. And that end is Summerslam. You want a big money pay per view match? John Cena’s been a key ingredient in a lot of big money pay per view matches. And if the rumors are true, that opponent will be Brock Lesnar.

Incidentally, Stephanie should do more “rap dancing,” or whatever she was doing when that WWE 2K15 poster dropped. Those five seconds were pretty damn entertaining. She seems to be having as much fun out there as she’s ever had.

John Cena vs. Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns vs. Kane announced for Battleground. Eh, I’ve seen worse filler between major pay per views.

Seth Rollins wins the Money in the Bank briefcase. Not surprised to see Seth Rollins take the briefcase home. The briefcase element always works best when used with a heel. It just doesn’t behoove a babyface to attack a champion when he’s vulnerable. Oddly enough, the only face to really have a great Money in the Bank briefcase pay off (no pun intended) was the man Rollins faced tonight, Rob Van Dam. Come to think of it, Cena was the champ back then too…

Kofi Kingston is annihilated after come-from-behind win over Cesaro. As good as Kofi Kingston is, it’s gotten to the point where when I hear his music, my brain goes: “Heel enhancement match.” Tonight was no different. Even when Kofi wins, he loses. He beats Cesaro, but then proceeds to take one of the worst ass kickings of his career. Some things never change, I suppose.

Intercontinental Championship vacated due to Bad News Barrett’s injury. That separated shoulder is a terrible break for Bad News Barrett. He was obviously doing some of the best mic work of his career, and he and WWE had turned the whole “Bad News” persona into something entertaining and cool. Here’s hoping he can parlay a comeback into a babyface turn in a few months.

Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter emerge to challenge Rusev and Lana. This segment was packed with intrigue. Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter as babyfaces? Why not? The fans seem like they’ve been ready to cheer Zeb and the whole “Real American” thing for awhile now. And they were actually chanting for Swagger! Who’d have thought that?

The Wyatt Family def. Sheamus & The Usos. That big boot from Luke Harper to Sheamus deserved all the replays it got. Right in the damn face!

Nikki Bella is placed into a handicap match with the Funkadactyls. I can’t hear either of the Bella Twins talk without thinking of the Kardashians…

Images from WWE.com.

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Vickie Guerrero’s Sloppy Swan Song, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Raw:

Stephanie McMahon def. Vickie Guerrero, forcing her out of the company.  A Vickie Guerrero babyface turn? A bunch of Eddie Guerrero references? Well damn, there was no way this wasn’t her last night. Some might cry fowl over it being a slop match. But really, what else were they going to do? Neither of them are wrestlers. And in the end, Vickie got her moment in the sun. Incidentally, Layla El gets a lot of crap here, but that splash she made into the slop was awesome!

I give Vickie Guerrero a world of credit for going above and beyond expectations during her WWE tenure. Did anyone ever envision her becoming the heat magnet she became? She was never the best pure promo on the roster, but what she delivered was so over, it really didn’t matter. Once she started with the “Excuse me!” line, and started venturing into that annoying teacher/boss routine, she was made. So kudos to you, Vickie, for living up to the Guerrero family name, and ultimately doing your husband’s memory proud.

Kane is added to the WWE Championship Ladder Match. Um…sure? This makes sense, I suppose. Although I wish they could have added Kane sooner. That way he could’ve taken the place of someone like Cesaro or Bray Wyatt, who might have benefitted from carrying the briefcase around for awhile. But Kane was kind of in that weird limbo space for awhile, due to Daniel Bryan’s injury. So I suppose it is, what it is.

Triple H announces that Dolph Ziggler, Rob Van Dam, Bad News Barrett, Kofi Kingston, and Jack Swagger will join Seth Rollins in second Money in the Bank Ladder Match this Sunday. What really interested me was Hunter’s remark about the audience thinking he doesn’t appreciate Ziggler’s talents. That’s a curious thing to say about someone the office is supposedly trying to “bury.” Even Jim Ross has speculated on The Ross Report that Ziggler “isn’t high on somebody’s list.” But why? And how long do we all have to wait before Ziggler moves up said list?

Also, Rollins had a really focused, effective promo this week. Much better than anything we’ve seen him do on the mic previously. That. combined with the match he put on with Rob Van Dam, gave me a bit more hope for his future as a solo act in WWE.

Dean Ambrose baits Triple H and Rollins into adding him to the ladder match. I always have to roll my eyes a bit when something like this happens. I understand we’re dealing with wrestling logic, but come on. Rollins wants to “keep an eye” on Ambrose, so he gets Hunter to put him in a position to earn a guaranteed title shot any time he wants? Yeah, that makes sense.

Alicia Fox def. Naomi, as Cameron and Paige join the announce position. Cameron’s definitely a heat magnet, I’ll give her that. She’s somewhat reminiscent of Michelle McCool and Layla El back when they were a team, in that her heel mic work is so grating and irritating that it almost prompts one to hit the mute button. Even Cole seemed to be irritated: “Well, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but you just continue to ramble on.” Paige on the other hand, as good as she is in the ring, came off like the stereotypical white meat babyface.

Big E. def. Damien Sandow, who is dressed as Abraham Lincoln. Okay…so the idea behind Sandow doing all the crazy stuff he’s being doing lately is that he wants to be “entertaining.” Alright, I guess that kind of makes sense. But where does it go from here? Also, what the heck was Big E. trying to do in that post-match promo? Was he channeling some kind of overcharged preacher? Either way, I don’t recommend he revisit that idea.

Bo Dallas def. Titus O’Neil. Did they really need to start calling him “The Inspirational” Bo Dallas? I think most of us got the point…

Images from WWE.com.

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Roman Reigns, Kevin Hart, Stardust, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about all the talent cuts that occurred last week. WWE parted ways with Brodus Clay, Evan Bourne, Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal, Teddy Long, and Aksana, among others.

None of these names were particularly surprising to see, as none of them have contributed to notably to WWE programming lately. The biggest effect this will have on Raw and Smackdown is that 3MB is now forcibly disbanded.

It is sad to see a few of these talents go. Evan Bourne never got to make a return to TV, and he was always a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Seeing Drew McIntyre go is sad, as he was once such a prominent part of WWE TV, and a heck of a talent. But at the end of his run, he was jobbing to El Torito. It’s also a little bit depressing that Aksana’s last TV appearance consisted of her being humiliated by Alicia Fox.

But in the end, that’s just business. And it certainly leaves a lot of open roster spots for the current NXT regime…

Thoughts From Raw:

Roman Reigns won a battle royal to earn a spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match. Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose have already started to go their separate ways, as Reigns hovers close to the main event picture, while Ambrose occupies his time with Seth Rollins. I wasn’t surprised to see Rusev as the runner up, but what did surprise me was that we finally got to see some emotion and intensity out of Rusev. Where has that guy been these past several weeks?

John Cena def. Kane in a stretcher match to earn a spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match. This wasn’t a surprise either, as it’s only logical to put Cena in a multi-man pay per view main event. Adding Cena to the mix certainly injects some hefty emotions and opinions into the ladder match. It was also nice to see them pay off the stretcher match stuff, to an extent at least. Cena and Kane didn’t give us anything too extraordinary, but it made for a cool TV main event.

Kevin Hart joins the announce position during Raw. Kevin Hart got a couple of grins out of me during his segment, which is more than I can say for most of Raw‘s celebrity guest stars. So I’ll give him a passing grade. He did the best he could with what he was given, and what I can only assume was a limited knowledge of the product.

Cody Rhodes wrestles as “Stardust” alongside his brother Goldust. I LOVED the Stardust segment. Cody Rhodes pulled it off wonderfully. Seeing Cody play his own version of the “Bizarre One” may just turn out to be a milestone in this slow burn program between the Rhodes brothers. What’s more, Cody was obviously having fun. Knowing what we know of Cody’s love of comic books and superheroes, it was undoubtedly a blast.

Stephanie McMahon “vomits” on Vickie Guerrero after Roman Reigns spikes her iced coffee. Yeesh, if anything ever had “Vince” written all over it. Incidentally, it’s interesting that Roman Reigns just happened to have…whatever he put in Steph’s coffee on him as he just happens to run into Vickie Guerrero carrying their drinks. But hey, that was the least offensive thing about this bit. On the up side? Vickie gave us a pretty nice outraged scream. Obviously her tenure with WWE is winding down, and her putting Reigns in the battle royal opened the door for The Authority to fire her. I assume we’ll be talking about that as early as next week, or possibly the night after Money in the Bank.

Sheamus def. Bray Wyatt via disqualification. “…comin’ out here and talkin’ and singin’ about how you’ve got the whole world in your hands. Well tonight, how about we change that tune to more like: “How about I shove my whole boot down your throat?” Wow. I’m a Sheamus fan, but wow was that a bad line. Still, the match delivered, as Sheamus’ usually do.

Bad News Barret def. Dean Ambrose via count out. Obviously WWE is now playing up the crazy, unhinged aspect of Ambrose’s character. Hopefully they don’t go too far with it, and toss him into a straightjacket or anything. Ambrose’s mic with is truly unique, and it would be a crying shame if they somehow overplayed their hand by casting him in a cheesy psycho role.

Heath Slater seemingly turns face before losing to Rusev. I’m a Heath Slater fan, and in a perfect world, the departure of his “bandmates” would lead to an opportunity at singles stardom. Based on what we saw this week, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Still, at least he got to have a little moment to shine.

Image 1 from wrestleenigma.com. All other images from WWE.com.

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Picking Up the Pieces, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From WWE Raw:

Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns break their silence after Seth Rollins’ betrayal. Awesome promo by Dean Ambrose this week. Everything from his face to his body language suggested a man who was an just an inch away from snapping. And that bit about rearranging Rollins’ face was excellent. The only downside to the segment was that Roman Reigns had to follow Ambrose. If I’m Reigns, I’d be a man of few words. Reigns is a little bit like Brock Lesnar or Batista, in that he does his talking in the ring. He doesn’t need to actually say very much in order to get his point across. In terms of verbage, less is more for Reigns.

Seth Rollins explains why he turned on The Shield. Aside from Seth talking about “destroying his own creation,” and what not. There really wasn’t much to this promo. It essentially seemed like your standard “He were never really my friend” post heel turn speech. One can definitely argue that Rollins was The Shield’s most gifted in-ring performer. But for my money, he was usually the weakest on the mic. From a delivery standpoint, he’s just not interesting to listen to. So it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of him now that he’s broken off from The Shield, and he’s working as a bad guy.

WWE announces Daniel Bryan will not be able to compete at Money in the Bank, strips him of the title. Championship to be decided in Money in the Bank Ladder Match. It’s good to finally have an answer to the question of whether Daniel Bryan will keep the championship. And in truth, this could be an instance where a negative turns out to be a heck of a positive. Bryan makes for a fantastic underdog. And for him to have his huge Wrestlemania moment, only to have it snatched away by an injury, is a hell of a story at the end of the day. And it’ll make for a hell of a comeback story too. So I say we let Bryan heal up, and come back better than ever. And for God’s sake, no more diving headbutts.

John Cena, Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins def. The Wyatt Family. It was no surprise at all to see John Cena join forces with The Shield to take on the Wyatts. I’ll wager Cena and Bray Wyatt end up being the last two guys who qualify for the ladder match. If that does wind up being the case, Bray Wyatt could very well end up walking away with the WWE Championship. He just seems like the best guy for the role, quite frankly. He just seems like the most compelling choice. Of course, they could go the safe route and give it to Randy Orton.

Sheamus def. Bad News Barrett to qualify for Money in the Bank Ladder Match. As often happens, Sheamus had a hell of a match on this week’s Raw. He and Bad News Barrett gave us exactly what we wanted to see. A tough-as-nails Brit and an Irish brawler teeing off on one another. Great victory for the “Celtic Warrior.” Heck, it would have been the match of the night if not for…

Cesaro def. Rob Van Dam to qualify for Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Excellent match between Cesaro and RVD, capped off by Cesaro finishing Van Dam with a neutralizer. To his eternal credit, Paul Heyman has managed to put some heat on the “Swiss Superman,” as we saw this week with his tease of Brock Lesnar. But it’s still tough not to respect the hell out of the guy. Could he take the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank? My gut says no, but stranger things have happened…

Lana compares “girly man” Obama to Vladimir Putin in pre-match promo. The showing of those Obama clips seems like a Vince McMahon-inspired move. Still, their use, combined with Lana’s venomous words provided some nice heat for Rusev before he squashed Zack Ryder yet again. I think his face might have even changed expression this week. He actually looked like a live human being! Imagine that.

Ryback & Curtis Axel def. Goldust & R-Truth. So this week, Cody picks R-Truth as his brother’s partner, after picking Sin Cara last week, and Kofi Kingston on Main Event. What better way to build up for a heel turn than to team your brother with a bunch of jobbers?

Images from WWE.com. 

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