Comic Review: Batgirl: Strange Loop

Published: April 25th, 2018
Written by: Hope Larson
Art by: Minkyu Jung, Jose Marzan Jr., Mat Lopes, Dan Mora

DC Comics, 50 Pages

Review:

This story arc is featued in issues 22 and 23 of the current Batgirl series.

I haven’t read any of the solo Batgirl stuff since Rebirth started but I have always been a massive fan of Barbara Gordon, especially as Batgirl. This, however, was a pretty big disappointment. And maybe it wasn’t a good place to jump in but it was a small story arc and I wanted a morsel sized sample of where the series was at. Plus, I am really enjoying Nightwing, right now and the two characters are sort of tied together.

I should also mention that I found this hard not to buy because the Dan Mora cover on issue 22 was really friggin’ cool. I don’t know, I just really liked it and sometimes I will support a book with a magnificent cover.

I didn’t find the interior art to be anywhere near as good as the cover though. Granted, the art was pretty decent but it didn’t give me anything with a real “wow” factor.

The story is sort of pointless. Batgirl saves a mother and her kid from some bad guy ex-husband with a strange gun. However, Batgirl is blasted by it and ends up trapped in her mind. The story is called Strange Loop but it’s not really a loop, it’s more of an introspective hallucination. But nothing that happens in Batgirl’s mental maze is all that interesting. This seemed like a missed opportunity to see her truly overcoming past demons. Instead, we get her fighting jacked up female wrestlers.

Batgirl figures out what’s happening, she goes against her nature and breaks free from this “loop”. She then quickly takes out the baddie. The end.

This arc certainly didn’t make me want to read more but the issue after this story is also being taken over by a new writer, so I might give it another shot. But based off of this story, I’d rather just see her pop up in Nightwing for now.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Other modern Batgirl and Batman family stories, primarily the current Nightwing series.

Film Review: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017)

Release Date: March 31st, 2017 (WonderCon)
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Ernie Altbacker
Based on: The Judas Contract by Marv Wolfman, George Perez
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Cast: Stuart Allan, Taissa Farmiga, Brandon Soo Hoo, Jake T. Austin, Kari Wahlgren, Sean Maher, Christina Ricci, Miguel Ferrer, Gregg Henry, Meg Foster, David Zayas, Kevin Smith (cameo as himself)

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, 84 Minutes

Review:

“They prepared well. Their reaction time is much better.” – Robin, “Robin, stop complimenting the bad guys.” – Nightwing

I don’t watch a lot of the animated films that DC Comics puts out but it was hard for me to not check out an adaptation of The Judas Contract, as it was a story I loved when I was reading Teen Titans as a kid in the ’80s. Granted, I haven’t read it since the ’80s but it was my introduction to one of my all-time favorite characters, Deathstroke.

And yes, Deathstroke is a big part of this, which was a big selling point for me.

This film starts with a sequence that sees Starfire meet the Titans for the first time. It then fast forwards to a time where she is in charge and Dick Grayson has been off being Nightwing for awhile. Dick comes back and works with this new version of the team. However, one team member is a spy for the villains of the story, one of which is Deathstroke.

I love how all of the characters were used in this and I also loved that there was a bit of profanity and a level of violence that lets you know that this isn’t a cartoon for kids. I guess this is the norm with a lot of the DC animated feature films now, which is kind of cool considering that I’m an adult that has grown up watching these characters for decades but am too old to really dig a Saturday morning cartoon at my age.

The voice acting was well done, the action was solid and the script was really good. You felt for these characters and their struggles.

You also get to see a cameo by Kevin Smith playing himself in the animated DC universe.

I was happy with this and am glad that I gave it a shot. Honestly, it’s made me want to check out some of the other animated features by DC.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other recent DC Comics animated features.

Comic Review: Comic Review: Hack/Slash – Omnibus Five

Published on: June 12th, 2012
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Dan Leister, Elena Casagrande, James Lowder

Devil’s Due Publishing, Image Comics, 300 Pages

Review:

I really loved this series back in the day when it was new and fresh. Reading this fifth and final omnibus, however, makes me kinda glad that this series wrapped up. I don’t know why but it lost its luster for me. I know other people still like it but it just feels like it is moving without a clear direction as to where it’s going. But this does end with the series’ official finale.

I’m several years behind on reading these stories but I’ve spent over a decade with Cassie Hack and Vlad and I do love them but even they seem like they’re bored with the proceedings. Tim Seeley has done well with his creation but this just feels like he was ready to move on and put his focus on his other work.

Most of this book just feels like filler that is working towards winding down but also taking its sweet time in doing so. There is an interesting Mercy Sparx crossover thrown in, which was cool to see but not anywhere near as exciting as some of the other crossovers from Hack/Slash‘s past.

When you do reach the finale, which is a story stretched over the final six issues in this collection, it is kind of welcomed. I thought that finale was actually the best part of the book. Granted, the first story dealing with a monster island of kaiju and a mad scientist was also kind of neat.

I do like how this wrapped up even if the characters don’t get a very happy ending. The ending had impact and real finality to it and any return to the series would cheapen it. It’s not the ending I wanted to see but it did bring closure where so many other comic series that call it quits, leave the door wide open for eventual followups.

This series was its strongest when it was at Devil’s Due before moving over to Image due to Devil’s Due’s financial woes. Tim Seeley gave us a damn good series though, overall.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Hack/Slash omnibuses. But They should be read in order.

Film Review: Explorers (1985)

Release Date: July 12th, 1985
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Eric Luke
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Jason Presson, Amanda Peterson, James Cromwell, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, Meshach Taylor

Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“It’s asking for coordinates on x-, y- and z-axes to locate a point in space relative to its terminal. How did you dream this?” – Wolfgang Müller

The Explorers was one of my favorite movies in the mid-’80s. It kind of fit in with all those other kid adventure movies like E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Goonies and Monster Squad. These kid films did really well back then and they all sort of just tapped into something that films didn’t do as good before the decade. I guess that’s why Stranger Things and the modern It movie have built up solid fan bases off of the nostalgia for these sort of films and stories.

This movie is no different and it also came from the imagination of Joe Dante. Ultimately, this feels like a Spielberg film too but he wasn’t even involved but maybe Dante’s experience working with Spielberg on Gremlins, a year earlier, kept that magic mojo going.

The plot follows three boys and their attempt at building a spaceship. Yeah, it is really fantastical and unrealistic but the movie is more about imagination and childhood than the going to space bit. Granted, they do go to space and meet aliens but even then, this is still about youthful imagination, living your dreams no matter how ridiculous they may be and never losing hope in yourself. It’s a metaphor, y’all!

What makes this movie so fantastic is that you do see this through the eyes of children but you also see it through the eyes of an adult, in this case the super talented and underutilized Dick Miller. Miller’s character, an old man that once had dreams and aspirations similar to the kids, discovers what these kids are up to and when he witnesses them succeed, he is living vicariously through them and tapping into something he hasn’t felt in decades. It’s pretty f’n touching and Miller really conveyed the right emotions in playing this part. While Miller’s role in the movie isn’t very big, it’s central to the most pivotal message this film tries to communicate to its audience.

The special effects in this are really good and I loved the sets and the creature effects on the aliens, once these kids journeyed to their spaceship.

Spoiler alert, the aliens are friendly and as the film rolls on, you come to discover that they’re just kids to. So the Earth kids and the alien kids meet and you see that they’re not too dissimilar. The alien kids are also driven to go on adventures and discover the universe with childlike enthusiasm. Plus, Robert Picardo was awesome as the male alien, even if you couldn’t see him under the bulky costume.

I like watching this film as an adult because it keeps me grounded by making me remember the ideals and view of the universe I had when I was a kid. Watching this as an adult is similar to being in the shoes of the Dick Miller character.

This is one of Joe Dante’s best pictures.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Flight of the NavigatorE.T the Extra-TerrestrialD.A.R.Y.L., The Goonies, Monster Squad.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 1: The Professional

Published: March 14th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: James Bennett, Belardino Brabo, Mark Morales, Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Larry Hama

DC Comics, 143 Pages

Review:

I started reading some of the modern Deathstroke stuff recently. Being that I felt like I needed to have the earlier stories in his current run to have a better grip on what was happening, I decided to go back and start with the first collection of Deathstroke issues since the start of DC’s Rebirth.

This was an interesting book and it showed me how far the character of Deathstroke has come since I used to read about him in the ’80s and ’90s. Plus, it really helped to give me more context as to where he fits in the DC Comics universe now.

This collection has two stories in it. One of them sends Deathstroke to an exotic country where he must deal with double crosses and twists. He also comes face to face with supervillain, the Clock King. The second story takes Deathstroke and his daughter Rose to Gotham City. We see them get tangled up with Batman and the modern Robin, Damian Wayne. I feel like there are some hints or Easter eggs here that will come back in the current ongoing story arc, Deathstroke Vs. Batman. But I won’t read that until the final two issues come out.

I really liked this volume in the current Deathstroke run. I’ve always liked the character and it seems like the writer, Christopher Priest, has a good grasp on who Slade Wilson is. The stuff with Slade and his daughter was really well written.

I also though the art was damn good and liked seeing that Larry Hama worked on some of it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Deathstroke stories since DC’s Rebirth. Also, the current runs on Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 2

Published: December 5th, 2012
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: David Marquez, Sara Pichelli, Chris Samnee

Marvel Comics, 113 Pages

Review:

I was really sold on the Miles Morales character after reading the first volume of this series, which served to be his origin story. With this one, we get to see Miles struggle with mastering his powers and how he is faced with a major moral dilemma.

His uncle, who is the Prowler, becomes aware that Miles is the new Spider-Man. He seeks out his nephew in an attempt to get him to help take out Scorpion, who is in New York City to get revenge on the Prowler. Miles really wants no part of it but his uncle blackmails him and then other circumstances push him towards a showdown with Scorpion, which is set to happen in the third volume.

This isn’t just a build towards a battle with Scorpion though. Miles also faces off with some known villains in this volume. We see him pitted against famous X-Men villain Omega Red and lesser known villain the Ringer.

While I really enjoyed this chapter in the Miles Morales story, it was slower and less exciting than the previous one. It is still very good and builds off of the first volume but other than advancing the story between Miles and his Uncle Aaron, not much happens. I’m assuming shit will hit the fan though in the next volume, as Spidey and the Prowler confront Scorpion.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The other early Mile Morales Spider-Man stories. Also, Spider-Men I and II and Spider-Verse.

Film Review: Saturn 3 (1980)

Also known as: The Helper (working title), Saturn-City (Germany), Kronos III (Greece)
Release Date: February 15th, 1980
Directed by: Stanley Donen, John Barry (uncredited)
Written by: Martin Amis, John Barry
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas, Harvey Keitel

ITC Entertainment, Associated Film Distribution, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Now tell me. Can you talk? Or are you malfunctioning?” – Benson, “I AM NOT MALFUNCTIONING – YOU ARE” – Hector

This film has three actors and a killer robot. Well two actors, a robot and Farrah Fawcett, who isn’t as robotic as the robot but is clearly overshadowed by the two other actors in this: Kirk Douglas and Harvey Keitel. Fawcett was the top billed star however, as she was at the absolute height of her career when this came out and she got her boobies out, which was something to behold when I was way too young to see this film for the first time.

I remembered this movie feeling incredibly cheesy and it does have a lot of cheese. However, it is also better than my memory’s recollection of it.

This film is pretty damn dark for looking like it was made on leftover sets from Battlestar Galactica. The robot is creepier than most of the killer robots from the time period. However, the story behind the robot and why it is a killer is more interesting than what similar films did, as he actually has a backstory and you fully understand why he is out for blood.

This film has a lot of narrative layers to it, which was impressive for a 1980 sci-fi film with an obviously small budget. There is some real philosophy in this movie, which was way over my head as a kid.

Harvey Keitel was a great slimeball in this but he wasn’t as disturbing as his role in Taxi Driver. But he did bring some of that darkness into this and he was great as the villainous Benson.

Kirk Douglas was typical Kirk Douglas as the more heroic male character of the two and he just came off as he always does, as a real man’s man.

Fawcett was also pretty impressive when you compare this to her most famous role as one of Charlie’s Angels. She got to be dramatic in this and showed signs that she could perform well beyond just being a TV sex symbol. I wouldn’t say that she ever became great but had her career continued on an upward trajectory, she wouldn’t have been half bad.

Saturn 3 looks fantastical and lighthearted in its style but it is a pretty dark movie with some disturbing undertones to it. It’s definitely worth checking out if you like sci-fi films of its era.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Outland, The Black HoleFlash Gordon (1980), The Last Starfighter, Dune and the original Battlestar Galactica TV series.