Comic Review: Scud, the Disposable Assassin: The Whole Shebang

Published: June 30th, 2011
Written by: Rob Schrab, Mondy Carter, Dan Harmon
Art by: Rob Schrab, Jack Gray, Dave Hartman, Jim Mahfood, Zac Rybacki, Dan Streng, Doug TenNapel, Ashley Wood

Image Comics, 781 Pages

Review:

If you like comic books with lots of crazy action and offbeat humor, than this may be the title you’ve been yearning for.

I had a friend in high school that used to read Scud all the time. I wasn’t big into it but I would still often times read through the comics he brought to school. Over time, I grew an appreciation for the character and the style and it was one of the first indie comics to really show me what else was out there beyond the Big Two.

Over the years, I had picked up a few single issues but I really wanted to give the whole series a read since it was only 24 issues long and not some monster epic like Dave Sim’s Cerebus, which also steered me towards more indie work.

Luckily, the whole run of Scud, the Disposable Assassin is collected in a thick paperback called The Whole Shebang. It’s certainly worth owning for any serious comic book reader or collector.

This release is a big fat brick of nearly 800 pages but reading through it was a breeze. Scud is just entertaining as hell and I love the art, even if other artists came in from time to time.

There aren’t many comics that actually make me laugh out loud but Scud is one of them. While I understand that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, those people probably don’t like tea and can’t be trusted anyway.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: stuff by Doug TenNapel and Mike Mignola.

Film Review: RoboCop 2 (1990)

Also known as: RoboCop II (working title)
Release Date: June 22nd, 1990
Directed by: Irvin Kershner
Written by: Frank Miller, Walon Green
Based on: characters by Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Music by: Leonard Rosenman
Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Tom Noonan, Belinda Bauer, Gabriel Damon, Robert DoQui, Felton Perry, Willard E. Pugh, Frank Miller, John Glover, Fabiana Udenio

Tobor Productions, Orion Pictures, 117 Minutes

Review:

“Sometimes we just have to start over, from scratch, to make things right, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to build a brand-new city where Detroit now stands – an example to the world.” – The Old Man

Do you remember that time that RoboCop showed up on a WCW pay-per-view to rescue Sting from the Four Horsemen? Well, that was a stunt to promote this movie. That being said, it would have been a better stunt to promote the third film, as this one wasn’t quite as cheesy as that terrible professional wrestling segment. Spoiler alert: the third movie is terrible but I’ll review that one at a later date.

RoboCop 2 is no RoboCop but it is still a pretty solid sequel, all things considered, and it is still to this day the second best RoboCop film.

Now this isn’t, by any means, a classic. It is, however, a pretty good example of a sequel that can expand on an already established mythos and expand on it in a new way, enriching the world these characters live in and giving us new material that isn’t simply just a retread of the already proven formula.

Peter Weller is still excellent and I was glad that we got to see more of him playing off of Nancy Allen. They have a nice chemistry, which existed in the first movie but didn’t really flourish until the end of it. Sadly, this would be the last time they’d share scenes together, as Weller dropped out of the series before RoboCop 3 was filmed.

The real scene stealer in this film is Tom Noonan, who just plays creepy bad guys so damn well. This was the first time that I remember seeing him but he went on to be one of my favorite character actors of his day. Although, the scenes with the young Gabriel Damon, who plays the child gangster Hob, were pretty f’n great too. The villains here aren’t as great as Kurtwood Smith and Ronny Cox in the first RoboCop but they are still fantastic foils and gave RoboCop two new types of threats that he didn’t face in the first movie.

I also liked the girl, Angie, and the top level henchman that looked like a cross between Joe Bob Briggs and Elvis.

Additionally, I love that Tom Noonan’s Cain is made into a new cyborg, appropriately called “RoboCop 2”. This was the first time that we got to see RoboCop fight a big villain that was similar to himself and not just a human meatbag. Granted, he has two run ins with ED-209 in the first film but those were relatively easy confrontations for him.

I liked that they really embraced the dark humor a bit more in this film too. The use of kids as legitimate juvenile delinquents in an almost post-apocalyptic Detroit was damn cool. Especially when I saw this as a kid.

A real standout for me though was Willard E. Pugh. I talked about him a bit when I reviewed the severely lackluster The Hills Have Eyes, Part 2 because he stood out in that film and was pretty funny and the same can be said here. In this film, he plays the mayor of Detroit and he’s just so enjoyable that it’s almost a crime that he didn’t come back for RoboCop 3. Other than this film, he is probably most famous for playing Trustus Jones in CB4.

My only real complaint about this film is that the score was all new. Basil Poledouris did not return so I guess they didn’t use his iconic themes. The score here is decent but it lacks the extra gravitas that the original RoboCop theme had. Poledouris would return for RoboCop 3, however.

RoboCop 2 is a sequel worthy of following its predecessor. It’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle twice, or so they say, but this was much better than other sequels to sci-fi classics.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the first RoboCop movie and the first two Terminator movies.

TV Review: Titans (2018- )

Also known as: Teen Titans (informal title)
Original Run: October 3rd, 2018 (New York Comic Con) – current
Created by: Akiva Goldsmith, Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters from DC Comics
Music by: Clint Mansell, Kevin Kiner
Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Anna Diop, Teagan Croft, Ryan Potter

Weed Road Pictures, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 11 Episodes (so far), 40-50 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I finally got DC Universe, as it became available on the Amazon FireStick after months of dealys. So that being said, I have now checked out Titans, the streaming service’s first big attempt at original content.

While this wasn’t a total waste of time and shows some promise, it was still a pretty drab attempt at getting me excited for spending $7.99 per month on yet another video-on-demand service.

The biggest issue for me is that the characters don’t really act like the characters in the comics. Dick Grayson a.k.a. Robin a.k.a. Nightwing just straight up murders people the first time we see him confront some thugs. Then everyone else in the show kills or maims people pretty quickly and it’s fairly easy to see what we have here, which is another live action DC Comics property giving itself fully over to their gritty, edgy boy formula that only worked for Christopher Nolan, ten years ago, and Zack Snyder once with Watchmen, also ten years ago.

Also, Gotham does a good job of being gritty but it takes tremendous creative liberties and took awhile to really find its footing.

So Titans could definitely improve, as Gotham did. In fact, there are signs of better things within this first season. However, there isn’t much here to make me care about the main characters. Dick and Rachel, who will become Raven, are emo to the point of cringe but at least Starfire is interesting and Gar, who will become Beast Boy, is charismatic and could potentially be the best thing on the show.

The real problem with Titans is that the best episodes are the ones where the title characters aren’t the focal point. My two favorite chapters out of the eleven here are the one that’s all about introducing Doom Patrol and the one that serves as the origin story for Hawk & Dove. So what does it say when I’m more interested in secondary characters with minor screen time or characters who are getting their own spinoff?

I’m actually excited about Doom Patrol based off of what I saw here. And if I’m being honest, I’m not all that interested in a second season of Titans, even though I will watch it in hopes that things improve.

The season also suffers from not telling a good, self contained story. We get the season’s cliffhanger ending in the second to last episode and then the final episode, which should have been a resolution to the ten episodes before it, is nothing but a hallucination that ends leaving us exactly in the same spot that the previous penultimate episode did. It’s an absolutely terrible conclusion to a mostly mediocre season.

On the positive side, at least this moves more briskly than the Netflix Marvel shows and even though it has its filler episodes, they at least have action and progress the story in some way.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the upcoming live action DC Universe shows, as well as the DC Comics shows on the CW and Fox’s Gotham.

Comic Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Dark Trinity

Published: May 2nd, 2017
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Dexter Soy

DC Comics, 150 Pages

Review:

Man, I really dig this series. Unfortunately, I came into it a bit late. But now that I’ve read this first story arc, it’s added a lot more context to the three main characters and how they are actually very similar to DC’s “Trinity” of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

Here, you have Red Hood: a former Robin under Batman, Artemis: an Amazonian warrior like Wonder Woman and Bizarro: a clone of Superman. While they aren’t together at the beginning of the story, this arc shows you how they came to be a unit.

The story also focuses on Red Hood trying to take down Black Mask. He infiltrates his gang, wins over his trust and must wait for the perfect moment to bring the crime boss down. He also has to do all of this without breaking Batman’s rules or else he will have to answer for it.

Scott Lobdell really penned a good script and the art of Dexter Soy is fantastic and gives this fine story a lot of life. It’s vibrant and colorful yet it is still as gritty as a story about Gotham’s criminal underworld needs to be.

Red Hood and the Outlaws has been a favorite series of mine over the last few years. I came into it just after this arc but I am now going to revisit all of it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Red Hood and the Outlaws collections post-Rebirth. Also, the recent Bat-family titles: NightwingBatgirl and also the current runs on Suicide Squad and Deathstroke.

Film Review: RoboCop (1987)

Also known as: Robocop: The Future of Law Enforcement (script title)
Release Date: July 17th, 1987
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Written by: Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Robert DoQui, Felton Perry

Orion Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!” – RoboCop

I put off reviewing RoboCop for a long time on this site because it’s one of my all-time favorite movies and I wanted to save it for a rainy day. Well, the day wasn’t rainy but I was suffering from my almost annual mini cold that all the snowbirds bring down to Florida every January.

It is hard for me to talk about this film and not get overly excited about it, which certainly gives me a strong bias towards it and also taps into nostalgia and the possibility that I can’t be as objective, as I don’t care about a single flaw in the movie. But there really aren’t many, to be honest, and this was absolutely one of the best action movies of the ’80s and really, it’s better than almost every action movie now, 32 years later.

This is a film that just has the right kind of magic. It is lightning in a bottle and even though I like the first sequel, that film doesn’t come close to what director Paul Verhoeven did here. Plus, the script by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner was absolutely superb. But the one thing that really brings everything together is the stupendous score by Basil Poledouris. His work on the Conan films and its themes were wonderful. Poledouris worked his musical magic again and gave RoboCop one of the best themes of all-time and the score is pretty incredible, overall. They just don’t quite make movie music this good anymore and without it, I don’t know if the movie has the same sort of energy and spirit.

All of those elements I just mentioned, created a film where the tone was perfect for the story that they needed to tell. And all of these solid pieces coming together so well still doesn’t account for how great the cast was. I mean, RoboCop truly is a perfect storm of badass sci-fi action.

Peter Weller is RoboCop and it will always be the role he is most remembered for but he has such a long and rich career of amazing performances that it isn’t hard to understand how he was so good in this and how he gave a robotic character a real sense of humanity. You feel his emotion, his pain and it is impossible to not root for Alex Murphy a.k.a. RoboCop.

The villains in this were so damn good though. They were kind of terrifying to me, as a kid, but the impact of who and what they are is still strong and it isn’t lost in a film where there is some of that famous ’80s movie cheese. The bad guys are well written with strong dialogue but they were also well cast between Kurtwood Smith, who steals the show, Ronny Cox, Ray Wise and even Miguel Ferrer, who isn’t specifically a villain but he is a reckless yuppie piece of shit.

I love Dan O’Herlihy in just about everything I’ve seen him in. He was creepy as hell as the villain in Halloween III and on the flip side of the coin, he was absolutely lovable as Grig, the alien co-pilot in The Last Starfighter. This is my favorite role he’s ever played, however. He was great as the old man running OCP, the corporation that pretty much owns all of Detroit. I also love that he continued to play the role after this film.

RoboCop birthed a franchise. While no other movie in the series has lived up to this one, which is a really tall order, it still spawned comic books, video games, a cartoon, action figures, sequels, a live action TV show, TV movies and a remake nearly three decades later. In fact, there is another RoboCop film in development now.

Many ’80s films don’t age well and while this is very much an ’80s motion picture, it doesn’t feel dated in quite the same way as other similar films from the time. RoboCop doesn’t have a dull moment and none of it slows down, it’s just balls out action and super violence of the highest caliber. Even critics love it and this is the type of thing that critics loathe.

If you’ve never seen this film, you’ve done yourself a disservice.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the RoboCop sequels and the first two Terminator movies.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen

Published: February 7th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Alvaro Martinez

DC Comics, 158 Pages

Review:

Since I have been liking a lot of James Tynion IV’s work, as of late, I figured that I would go back to the beginning of his Detective Comics run and revisit it, as I was a fan of the things he did and the team he built.

If you are a fan of solo Batman stories, this isn’t the series for you.

Batman convinces Batwoman to join him in forming a team to protect Gotham City. As a larger group they can be more effective than working independently.

This new team consists of Batman, Batwoman, Red Robin, the Spoiler, Orphan and Clayface.

I was always attracted to the idea of Clayface working with Batman. He feels like the odd man out and sticks out like a sore thumb within this group of similar styled heroes but his story and his attempt at redeeming himself was well handled by Tynion. And that really starts here.

We find out that Batman has been replicated by the military on a large scale. If you are familiar with the Arkham Knight video game, the story is kind of similar. The military is building an army of Batmen similar to what the Arkham Knight was in that video game.

Batman and his new team must stop this immense threat while also dealing with the oncoming storm of the League of Shadows.

There are some solid twists and reveals within the plot that have major consequences for everyone involved, especially Batwoman and Red Robin. This is a pretty pivotal story if you care about those two characters.

The art is solid, the writing is damn good and while this doesn’t completely feel like a self contained story, it is a nice intro to this good run on Detective Comics.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.

Comic Review: Nightwing: Knight Terrors

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – January 9th, 2019
Written by: Benjamin Percy
Art by: Travis Moore, Christopher Mooneyham, Klaus Janson, Tamra Bonvillain, Nick Filardi

DC Comics, 184 Pages

Review:

So I was reading Nightwing like a good, long-time Dick Grayson fan, enjoying the story that wrapped up in issue 49 and then all of a sudden, I picked up issue 50 and felt completely lost. Somewhere between the issues, in another comic title that isn’t Nightwing, our title hero was shot in the head, lost his memory, quit being Nightwing and changed his name to Rick because the editors were sick of fans making Dick joke memes.

Color me lost.

Regardless, I said “fuck it” and kept Nightwing added to my pull list because I figured that I’d still give it a shot. I mean, I’ve been a fan of the character my whole life and sometimes a little change is good.

…and then sometimes it isn’t.

This hurt my head, probably even more than that bullet hurt Dick Rick Grayson’s head. Wait… it’s “Ric”? I guess DC’s gotta make him edgy and shit.

So this story is about Dick walking around feeling sorry for himself, treating those who love him like total shit and then being all smuggy and douchey about it like some Millennial communist that hates his rich ass parents because they embarrassed him by picking him up from an Occupy rally in the family Porsche.

Anyway, while Dick is busy sucking at life and starting a career of cab driving in the hood, some actual heroic people find his old stash of Nightwing suits and decide to put them on and take up the mantle. So this new but inexperienced team of four Nightwings end up in over their head, thanks to Scarecrow. The real Nightwing ends up having to step in and save them, even though he’s still just Dick being a dick.

This was a damn challenge to get through but I wanted to believe that this was going to build to something worthwhile. After this seven issue story arc, I’m done. Nightwing is off of my pull list, as one of the best DC Comics titles has been reduced to canary cage liner.

Well, at least I have twenty-plus years of back issues I can revisit where Dick isn’t an insufferable asshole and he does a lot more than just mope and bitch like a petulant toddler.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: some douchebag teen’s private diary about their fucked up suburban parents.