Archive for the ‘Reviews’ 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.

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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.

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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
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, “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

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A Review of The Flash S1E2 – Freak(s) of the Week

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Two weeks in, and I’m convinced The Flash is going to be worth sticking with. At least for the short term. For the moment, they seem to be going with the old Smallville “Freak of the Week” formula to introduce new villains, which is fine for the time being. So who did we get this week? None other than Multiplex.


Thoughts From The Flash, S1E2:

Danton Black, a.k.a. Multiplex, is our villain this week. Somehow I doubt it’s an accident that Multiplex made his CW debut so early in the series. The character was, after all, just named by Latino Review as one of the members of the big-screen Suicide Squad. In any event, his inclusion in this week’s episode gave the special effects team a chance to show off. The scene where Flash is being chased by a crowd of multiples was pretty damn cool, as was the moment where Black literally grows another hand out of his forearm. If this is the kind of thing we have to look forward to, The Flash will be must-see TV for superhero geeks everywhere.

The first line in the episode: “This is the part where I’m supposed to do the whole intro thingy. My name is Barry Allen, fastest man alive. But you know all that already. Alright, let’s get to the good stuff.” This was charming, and I think it’s a nice little nod to what the show is as a whole. It’s not a prequel. It’s not an origin story. This is The Flash in all his glory. How cool is that?

More time with Cisco and Caitlyn. Odd as it sounds, Cisco’s hair is starting to get on my nerves. He and Caitlyn actually have the same hairdo. Danielle Panabaker, however, is endearing as Caitlin Snow. It’s obvious she cares about Barry’s well being. And Cisco’s line about how she hasn’t been this upset since Ronnie (her thought-to-be-dead fiance Ronnie Raymond) is essentially a neon sign pointing to a future romance between the two.

Iris starts following stories about the “Red Blur.” I’m still not into Iris West. We did, however, see some flashback scenes that help define their relationship a bit better. But I still don’t understand what Barry sees in her, other than the fact that she’s simply physically attractive. I suppose once she figures out Barry is The Flash, it’ll at least be satisfying to see our hero finally get the recognition he longs for from her. On a site note, having her date Edward Thawne, the hero cop and future Reverse Flash, is a nice touch in terms of twisting the knife in Barry’s gut, so to speak.

Dr. Wells kills Simon Stagg. So Harrison Wells is both a liar and a killer. He’s not exactly Zordon, is he? Obviously he’s got some kind of time travel thing going on. I’d like to see this story arc resolved this season, so that next season we have a more evolved Barry, who doesn’t need a mentor quite as much. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s only the second episode, after all.

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Cage Confusion, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week, WWE seemed to realize their plan for Hell in a Cell sucked. So they made some changes…and yet it still kinda sucks. Still, we had some really enjoyable wrestling to see. So at least there’s that.

Thoughts From Raw:

John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose takes place on Raw, with Ambrose getting the win, and a Cell match with Seth Rollins at the pay per view. I was encouraged by the fact that the ridiculous “Contract on a Pole” match was pulled from the pay per view. I was even more encouraged when they made Ambrose the winner. Also, seeing him bite his way out of the STF was pretty cool. Rollins vs. Ambrose inside the Cell is a worthy pay per view main event, in my opinion. These guys have proven they can go, and WWE has done a fine job building Rollins as the guy the babyfaces are dying to get their hands on. Things seemed to be looking up, until…

Randy Orton to face John Cena inside the cage at Hell in a CellGod damn it. They screwed it up. Not only does this match ruin the novelty of the Ambrose/Rollins cell match, but people are sick of John Cena/Randy Orton matches. If they had to do something John Cena and Randy Orton in a cage, why couldn’t they have just added them to the Rollins/Ambrose match? It’s not ideal, I suppose. But just put all four guys in the cage, and let them have a wild brawl worthy of a pay per view main event! But no, instead we’ve got Orton and Cena for the 45th time. Blech.

WWE emphasizes tension between Orton and Seth Rollins. These segments were pretty good. Not only did we get some awesome wrestling, but we incited a fairly natural rivalry. Seth Rollins has been the most important person in WWE for the last several weeks. As I said last week, that makes Orton second banana, which should be unacceptable to someone like him. So who knows? Maybe a babyface turn is in the cards for Orton.

Rusev def. The Big Show via disqualification. So it looks like we’re headed for Big Show vs. Rusev at the pay per view, which isn’t surprising. And we might just get a Mark Henry heel turn out of it. I was surprised with how good the Rusev/Big Show match actually was. And I credit Show with that impromptu Tomahawk Chop motion he did to emphasize his own chop in the corner.

Damien Sandow gets a chant during Miz/Sheamus match. This whole “stunt double” persona Sandow has adopted may have been a blessing in disguise. The fans seem so into how entertaining he is in the role, that it may be the key to a babyface turn. From that perspective, a Miz vs. Sandow match is obviously a natural direction to go in.

Paul Heyman continues to be absent from RawI find it odd that Paul Heyman hasn’t been on Raw in the past several weeks. He has, however, been on Main Event and Smackdown. You’d think they’d have had him on Raw at least once to talk about Brock Lesnar, and give his perspective on things. He’s certainly been missed.

Justin Roberts released by WWE. Sad to hear that WWE chose not to renew Justin Roberts’ contract. Truth be told, he was probably the best ring announcer WWE has seen since Howard Finkel. Now that‘s saying something. The timing on the release is odd, though. The announcement was made immediately following Raw. Something seems fishy there.

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A Review of The Walking Dead S5E1 – Hope Your Stomach Isn’t Weak….

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I don’t remember The Walking Dead ever being as bloody and violent as the season five premiere was. Maybe I’ve just become desensitized over the break, But man…hroats getting cut, a zombie eating a live human’s face, people getting pulled apart in full view of the camera, a dude threatening to snap a crying baby’s neck. Good lord.

So watch for puddles and disemboweled bodies as we dive in, here…

Thoughts From The Walking Dead, S1E5:

A somewhat Negan-ish character appears at the end of the episode. No, ladies and gentlemen, that wasn’t Negan. From Robert Kirkman himself, via Twitter: “That was NOT Negan at the end of the episode. Note the face tattoos.” And frankly, I’m glad for that. It’s too soon after The Governor’s demise to simply bring another villain from the comics in to replace him. If, however, they want to create somebody new with his/her own unique modus operandi, that’s another story. But let’s save Negan for down the road.

A post-credits scene reveals Morgan on his own in the wild. Very happy to see Morgan is around this season. One of the biggest missteps Robert Kirkman made with the comic book was simply making Morgan one of the Rick’s group. He had the potential to be a really cool character with his own unique point of view, who could explore different parts of our post-apocalyptic world. I would think a reunion with Rick and the group is inevitable, but here’s hoping they keep Morgan on his own for awhile.

Rick, Daryl, Glenn, and Bob find themselves at the mercy of human butchers. Yeah…intense much? The Walking Dead continues to push the envelope in terms of gore. The image of all that friggin’ blood in the trough was bone chilling. The “Termites” actually had kind of a Dexter Morgan vibe to them.

Terminus gets wiped off the map. I know I wasn’t the only one surprised to see Rick and the others leave Terminus to the zombies. We spent half of season 4 focusing on Terminus, so it was reasonable to assume we’d be spending a decent amount of time there. But the surprise isn’t unpleasant, per se. We were shocked to find out what Terminus was, and we got to explore it a bit in this episode. It certainly served a purpose in terms of getting the gang back together. And who knows? Maybe we haven’t seen the last of these folks.

Savage Rick is a hero. Go figure. Rick spent most of last season trying to fight that savage side of himself. But when you’re up against people like the Terminus folk, Savage Rick is the guy you want on your team. Leave friggin’ Farmer Rick on the bench.

Carol and Tyreese reunite with the group after last season’s prison massacre. Seeing Daryl reunite with Carol once again begs the question: What are they, exactly? Is there a romance there? It seemed like there might have been a spark between Daryl and Beth last season, but Daryl and Carol seem like a much more natural fit. Now that they’re reunited, I wouldn’t expect that question to go away any time soon.

Beth is alive. On Talking Dead tonight, showrunner Scott M. Gimple revealed that Beth is alive, and apparently is someplace bad. Beth has some haters out there, but I’m a fan. Emily Kinney is a fine actress, and I hope we get to check in with this character soon.

Conan O’Brien appears on Talking DeadConan needs to host this damn show. He’s funnier, and not even remotely as awkward and grating as Chris Hardwick. Seriously, get Hardwick off my television.

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A Superman/Wonder Woman: Power Couple Review – Scandal and Realism

TITLE: Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Power Couple
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Tony Daniel
COLLECTS: Superman/Wonder Woman #1-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
September 17, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Charles Soule is good. He’s really good. And how do we know? Well, Marvel is trusting him to kill Wolverine. That’s a hell of an example. But personally, I prefer this one: He took Superman and Wonder Woman, two of the most fantastic and over the top creations of popular culture, and make them feel like real people. Even the best writers have trouble in that front. What’s more, he made them real people in a relationship. As implausible as the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship is to some, Soule (with help from Tony Daniel and the rest of the art team, of course) makes it feel real within the context of the DC Universe.

Clark and Diana’s relationship is still very new when we open Power Couple, and only a select few know about it. But that will soon change, as the world comes to know that arguably the two most powerful beings on Earth are a romantic item. As if that weren’t enough, Clark and Diana must deal with a Phantom Zone breach. Wonder Woman meets Doomsday for the first time, and Superman comes face to face with someone from his father’s past. A man named Zod.

I find it somewhat fateful that I’m reviewing this particular book in the wake of yet another “Fappening” celebrity photo leak. Secrets are part and parcel to the whole superhero gig. But now two of the world’s greatest heroes have had their privacy violated. A guarded secret is now out for allies and enemies alike to see. Their response, and those of their supporting cast, are very telling from a character standpoint. Soule and Daniel pull off an awesome two-page spread (shown left), giving us reactions from across the world. Amongst a litany of everyday civilians, we get responses from Green Lantern and Flash, Eros and Apollo, Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor, even the President of the United States. Later on we get Lex Luthor, as well as Batman. The issue does a great job capturing just how fast and how far news/scandal can travel in the 21st century.

My only complaint about the “leak” falls back on DC’s tendency to “over-Baturate” things. While almost everyone else’s response to the leak was condensed into the two-page spread containing the kiss, Batman’s response somehow merited a two-page spread of its own. This is completely out of whack within the context of the story. Yes, we know Batman is cool and important. But his moment really only consists of throwing some Batarangs at a big screen to keep people from seeing some distasteful news coverage. We needed two whole pages for that? Right…

Skewed perspective notwithstanding, what’s truly impressive about Power Couple are the one-on-one scenes between Clark and Diana. Soule absolutely nails them. Given the culture she’s from, Wonder Woman is clearly the more aggressive of the two, and she’s not afraid to assert herself. At one point when she and Superman are fighting Zod and Faora, she actually tells Clark, who is trying to offer her advice, to “Pay attention to your own fight!” Indeed, if Diana has her way, Superman/Wonder Woman will see the Man of Steel become a better fighter. “You’re so strong, Clark. But you’ve never been trained to fight. Power isn’t everything…” she says. “You have much to learn, and I’m just the woman to teach you.”

But Wondie isn’t strictly a warrior. She also has a nurturing, loving side. When Superman learns about Doomsday’s return, she assures him he won’t be fighting alone. For Christmas, she gives him a gift that perhaps only a fellow superhero can truly appreciate. We even see a bit of a sensual side, as Tony Daniel renders her walking barefoot on the beaches of Paradise Island.

On the other hand, Clark is more the conventional romantic. He brings Diana a flower from the Fortress of Solitude. He beats himself up when he says something cheesy to her. He even stands up for her when Apollo condescends.

This is such great character work by Soule because it rings true to the essence of both Superman and Wonder Woman. They both have a strong set of ideals and principles, and they’re not as similar as one might believe. And yet, they care for each other because at their core, they both fight for things like peace, justice, truth, and defending the defenseless. Again, it feels very real within the context of the DC Universe. And despite their differences, we see just how similar they are during the book’s climax.

Tony Daniel does mostly good work here. But the one thing that really holds this book back, and much of Daniel’s work for that matter, is the color palette presented by Tomeu Morey. There’s a certain dullness to almost everything that robs the book of a certain epic feel. We’ve got such flamboyant and iconic characters on the page, and yet they feel subdued in a sense. Still, this is some of Daniel’s best work in recent memory. The final page of the book certainly resonates in a powerful way.

DC lost a hell of a player when Soule signed his exclusive contract with Marvel. What he gives us here is no small feat. The Superman/Wonder Woman romance isn’t necessarily one we can relate to, or project ourselves on to. But in Power Couple, Soule, Daniel, and the creative team make it one we care about. I can’t help but tip my hat to them for that.

RATING: 8.5/10

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A Review of The Flash S1E1 – Run Barry, Run!

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When Arrow premiered a couple of years ago, there was a lot to complain about. Much of the dialogue was bad, and the acting was strictly so-so. There was a lot of potential there, much of which has been fulfilled as it moves into season 3. But Arrow had plenty of kinks to work out.

With The Flash, there are considerably less of those kinks. The pilot suffered from a lot of the problems that typically plague first episodes, most notably contrived and expository lines. But for the most part, The Flash had a much smoother debut than Arrow did.

After a freak accident involving a particle accelerator and a lightning storm, forensic scientist Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) finds himself with the gift of super speed. But when Barry learns he wasn’t the only person affected by the storm, and a weather-shifting criminal is at large, he vows to use his abilities to protect Central City. Along for the ride are the architect of the particle accelerator Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), and his two assistants at S.T.A.R. Labs: Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker). Inspired by his friend Oliver Queen (again, see Arrow), he dons a mask and takes up the mantle of The Flash!

As expected, The Flash partially follows the Geoff Johns rendition of Barry Allen’s origin (Johns co-developed the show, and co-wrote this episode, after all). As a child, Barry loses his mother to some sort of mysterious lightning phenomenon, and his father is falsely charged with her murder. Thus, Barry becomes a forensic scientist, bound and determined to discover the truth about what happened that night. I’ve got no complaints here, as the Johns origin injects an element of tragedy that a lot of fans are looking for in their superhero stories nowadays. Plus, if the TV show goes the same route the comics did (which it appears they will), it’s going to be really cool to watch this play out.

On the other hand, something we’ve never seen before is how Barry and Iris West (Candice Patton) are connected on this show. After his parents were out of the picture, Barry was raised by a cop named Joe West. Iris is Joe’s biological daughter, and as such Barry and Iris have a sort of brother/sister relationship, which Barry wants to take to the next level. The notion that Barry is crushing on his surrogate sister has, quite frankly, a creepy vibe to it. But I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

There is, however, the issue that there’s not any romantic chemistry between Gustin and Patton. One of the reasons we get that creepy brother/sister vibe is because they feel like siblings. Not exactly material for a sizzling on-screen romance. Oddly enough, there seemed to be more of a spark between Barry and Caitlin during that “You don’t smile very much” exchange. Maybe Barry and Caitlin in the short term, while we slow burn to Barry and Iris?

Grant Gustin makes a better everyman than one might think. In his first scene with Candice Patton, he plays his over-enthused science geek role very well. He’s also got the right look for Barry Allen. He’s not chiseled like an MMA fighter the way Stephen Amell is. But he’s also not portrayed as an hyper science nerd the way Tobey Maguire was in the original Spider-Man. He’s in a nice middle ground. And he’s got a certain charm to him that feels right for the role. Gustin’s differences from Stephen Amell are a major plus, in my opinion. The Flash needs to be a different kind of show than Arrow. There’s no need to be quite as dark are broody here. This show can be a little lighter. In that sense, Gustin makes for a good leading man.

The only major downside to this episode from my vantage point was the Flash costume. Point blank: It looks like something made in a basement. It’s also needlessly dark. In terms of color, it’s more faded and subdued than just about anything else we’ve seen in the modern era. Thankfully there’s a little hope. The Arrow costume has obviously evolved a bit as the show as progressed. With luck, the folks at S.T.A.R. Labs will whip him up something that’s less depressing.

One thing I’ll credit The CW for: They’re not giving us prequels like Smallville or Gotham. With both Arrow and The Flash, they’re going straight to the meat and potatoes of the superhero genre. Flights, tights, heroes, villains, and super powers. The Flash also doesn’t waste a lot of time getting into the action. This was only the first episode, and already we’ve seen our hero take on the Weather Wizard. This show also had more than a few Easter eggs for comic book geeks to chow down on. That newspaper headline at the very end gave me chills…

At the end of the day, The Flash is very encouraging, because there’s so much potential here. We’ve got a forensic scientist with super powers, which makes for an interesting blend of science (Flash Facts, anyone?) and science fiction. Also, between Barry, Iris, Edward Thawne (the future Reverse Flash), and the plot involving Barry’s parents, been set for some very emotional storytelling. If this show is done the right way, it could have a lot of awesome things going for it.

That’s certainly enough to get me to tune in next week.

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It’s The Rock!!! Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Raw:

WWE continues to work its way through their annual autumn slump. There’s certainly no shortage of things to improve upon these days. They did, however, give us a nice surprise this week…

The Rock makes a surprise return to Raw, confronting Rusev and Lana. This was a hell of a shock to say the least. It’s always nice to see The Rock out there doing his thing. It was undoubtedly the highlight of Rusev and Lana’s careers thus far, to be deemed worthy of being in the ring with Rocky. I’m not sure if this segment did the Big Show any favors, though. Now I’d be up for a Rock/Rusev match, as opposed to a Show/Rusev match. Still, it was a nice shot of adrenaline into a pretty lackluster show.

John Cena def. Seth Rollins, Randy Orton & Kane via DQ. I like how WWE has essentially made Seth Rollins the man to beat while Brock Lesnar is off TV. Even though the WWE Champion is gone, John Cena and Dean Ambrose still have somebody to chase. Literally and figuratively. But the added emphasis on Rollins puts Randy Orton in a peculiar position. In the context of the whole Authority faction, he was originally the golden boy. Triple H and Stephanie’s chosen champion. But now it seems like the emphasis is shifting to Rollins, which essentially makes Orton a lame duck. For a guy like Randy Orton, that’s not a good place to be in. Can’t we give him something to do? Maybe they’ll put him with Ambrose after Hell in a Cell. That might be interesting.

Dean Ambrose to wrestle John Cena at Hell in a Cell, winner gets Rollins in the cage. Word had broke about something like this going down at Hell in a Cell, so it’s not that surprising. Still, a John Cena/Dean Ambrose match has plenty of intrigue to it. My only hope is that they don’t put the loser with Randy Orton later in the show, as was reported. Again, that makes Orton look like a lame duck.

Cena and Ambrose exchange words in the ring mid-showOddly enough, Jerry Lawler once compared Dean Ambrose to The Joker. It sounds weird, but it makes sense if you think about it. You never know just what the guy’s going to say or do. That makes for a hell of a character. He’s also been compared to Roddy Piper, Brian Pillman, and the like. But either way, he’s somebody the WWE needs right now. He’s one of the few breaths of fresh air on Raw these days.

Wyatt Family vignettes continue to air, spotlighting Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Keeping Bray, Harper, and Rowan off TV for a bit is a good move, in my opinion. They’d been so prominently featured in recent months, and scaling them back will hopefully make the fans anxious to see them again. We might as well bring them back as babyfaces at this point. Why fight it?

Jack Swagger def. Tyson Kidd. Loved seeing Tyson Kidd and Natalya together on Raw again. This is a way for both husband and wife to get over on a whole new level. Make Tyson the whiney heel who’s jealous of his wife’s fame, similar to what Marc Mero and Sable did all those years ago. It makes perfect sense, and with Total Divas airing new episodes, there’s no better time to milk this angle than now. Here’s hoping Tyson finally gets a decent shot at stardom.

Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb do an in-ring segment with Adam Rose. Eh, could have been worse. Smart move by WWE to play Rose’s music during this segment to drown out the boos.

In contrast, I was really proud of those Brooklyn fans for showing Joan Lunden such respect during her little speech. Good form.

Dolph Ziggler & The Usos def. Cesaro, Goldust & Stardust. The best match of the night, for my money. The Brooklyn crowd was hot for Ziggler, and rightfully so. As far as Ziggler reinvigorating the IC Title picture, I always look forward to seeing his matches. And as such, I always look forward to seeing the Intercontinental Champion perform. That’s how it should be, right?

Fans chant “This is stupid!” during El Torito/”Mini-Gator” match. Vince Russo was on a podcast recently, and made an interesting point regarding these kinds of segments. When WWE puts these kinds of matches together, they need to consider who’s up and watching TV at this time of night. If I’m your average 18-34 year-old male, and I have the choice between watching a football game and seeing something like this, I’m leaning toward football. These kinds of matches need to be saved for the WWE Network, and not the company’s flagship show.

The Miz def. Sheamus. The fact that Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus essentially swapped dance partners this month really illustrates the lack of depth on the roster right now. Last month Sheamus had Cesaro, so now he has Miz, and vice versa. Sheamus desperately needs something to freshen him up from a character standpoint. He consistently turns in good matches, but his character has become unbelievably bland. Can’t they do something to freshen him up?

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Roman Reigns, Character Assassination, and Other Ponderings from WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

WWE shows footage of Roman Reigns after emergency hernia surgery. NO!!! No, no, no, no, no, no, NO! You do NOT show footage of Roman Reigns drugged up and in a hospital bed! You do NOT do that! You’re killin’ the guy off!!!

*sigh* Alright, let me dive into why this INFURIATED me so damn much.

Roman Reigns was being built as the WWE’s next top guy. And for my money, he was (and could still be) a viable candidate. But WWE can’t necessarily make Reigns into the next John Cena, because they’re cut from very different clothes. Reigns can’t be the all-American, “Never give up, kids!” superhero that Cena is, because that’s not his character. Reigns has a nice bad ass vibe going for him, between his look, his demeanor, and his ring work. Reigns runs into trouble when he gets on the mic, not just because he hasn’t developed a solid promo yet, but because his character shouldn’t talk much. His visage and his actions do his talking for him. He’s got a quiet, foreboding aura about him that makes for a great babyface with a bit of edge.

But showing Reigns in a hospital bed, especially while he’s still on his way up, spoils all that because it kills his vibe. It humanizes his character in a way they shouldn’t be doing yet. If you want to milk this injury on the WWE Network, fine! Have your on-air talent talk about it, talk to the doctors, talk to the trainers about what the injury is, etc. But don’t friggin’ show him in the hospital! This is supposed to be our next big hero! And few things kill a hero’s image quite like a hospital gown.

Dean Ambrose returns to Raw following Night of Champions comeback. The use of Ambrose on this show was a great breath of fresh air. Speaking of auras, he’s got that great unpredictability about him. He’s so good on the mic, and at times he seems so spontaneous (i.e. hanging on to the car while Rollins was driving away), he’s just so damn entertaining. And the possibility of an Ambrose/Cena match is definitely intriguing.

John Cena faces Randy Orton in the Raw main event. I had literally no interest in this match. None. No offense to either man, but this is 2014. We’ve seen John Cena wrestle Randy Orton countless times over the years. You simply couldn’t garner my interest for another match between the two, and I think that’s the general consensus of the fanbase. You’d think what happened at the Royal Rumble would have been enough to let WWE know that.

Dolph Ziggler def. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship. Was unpleasantly surprised (as WWE likely wanted me to be) that Miz took the Intercontinental Championship back from Dolph Ziggler at the pay per view, and slightly confused to see Ziggler simply regain it 24 hours later. To both men’s credit, they’ve at least got me invested in their rivalry, despite how lackluster it was in the weeks following Summerslam. One can certainly argue whether this program is helping make the IC title “matter” again, especially with the hot potato title changes. But at the very least, I wanted to see Ziggler take it back, which he did.

Mark Henry apologizes for losing to Rusev at Night of Champions. Mark Henry probably cuts one of the best sappy, emotionally vulnerable promos in the business right now. Whether he’s “retiring” or apologizing, sad Mark Henry is usually good Mark Henry.

Adam Rose & “The Bunny” def. Heath Slater & Titus O’Neil. Not sure how I feel about the whole “Bunny” as a wrestler thing. If we want to do an angle about just who it is under the suit, that might be interesting. But the novelty of a guy in a bunny suit wrestling is wearing thin.

Natalya & Rosa Mendes def. Summer Rae & Layla El. So Summer Rae is a heel again, huh? Because of Total Divas? Alright sure. Whatever.

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