COMIC REVIEW: ‘All-New X-Men’ #14

‘All-New X-Men’ #14

COMIC REVIEW: ‘All-New X-Men’ #14

‘All-New X-Men’ #14
‘All-New X-Men’ #14

Written by Brian Bendis

Art by Stuart Immonen

Purchase issue #14 and the rest of All New X-Men @ Comixology Now.

Beware of spoilers!

I’ve been saying this in a lot of comic review recently but starting at issue #1 despite satisfying any compulsive needs for completion is just not an achievable goal for just one reviewer. With that in mind here we jump in to All New X-Men at issue #14.

For the uninitiated All New X-Men brings the original X-Men team from the past to the present day in order to confront their present selves in the wake of a devastating event caused by the Phoenix force entering Cyclops.

The story features three factions of X-Men: Present day Cyclops and his team; Wolverine and his team and the original five X-Men members all with their own separate motivations and goals. Not to forget there’s a whole troop of Hydra soldiers involved here.

The story by Brian Bendis has been pretty gripping and continues to be so throughout this issue. There’s a strong moral fibre beneath all the action that rings true to the original premise of the X-Men but doesn’t overpower the massive fun-factor that this seres contains.

This series features a massive ensemble cast on a monthly basis and Bendis has a proven track record at handling these large group characters well. The individual characters voices are well defined by this point in the series and although there are visual cues to differentiate between the past and present characters their voices portray the innocence of youth against the beleaguered present day cast.

After this arc is complete we hand over to the X-Men: Battle of the Atom arc which will introduce a further X-Men team from the future who must convince the original X-Men to return to the past. It’s all very Whovian and I’m sure will prove to be a great warm up to the ‘Days of Future Past’ film coming next year.

Stuart Immonen provides some great visuals for this issue. He captures the characters expressions in a way which perfectly accentuates the dialogue. The teenagers appear like teenagers and adults come off like distraught parents. It all adds to the fun of the book but when the story requires Immonen can turn up the drama dial all the way up.

The Phoenix visuals here are unique and distinctive to the style of this book and have definitely whet my appetite for further Phoenix developments in the future should they be required by the story.

Next month Immonen hands over the pencil to David Lafuente so, for the time being, this is his chance to make a big impact on the book and thanks to the story unfolding here he does so with impressive ease.

As I have said this arc completes itself shortly (in issue #15) so if you are looking for a jumping off point for All New X-Men either jump back in time to issue #13 or step in with the Battle of Atom mark which hits this title in issue #16 on 4th September.

8/10

‘Justice League’ #22

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Justice League’ #22

The ‘Trinity War’ kicks off in massive fashion this month.

‘Justice League’ #22
‘Justice League’ #22

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Rob Reis

Purchase issue #22 and the rest of The New 52 JL @ Comixology.

Beware of spoilers!The ‘Trinity War’ has arrived! Covering eleven issues of Justice League, Justice Leave of America, Justice League Dark, Constantine, Trinity of Sin: Pandora and Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger the story focusses on all out war between the three leagues.

The plans were laid at the beginning of The New 52 with Pandora appearing in all the issue #1s and many of the stories and over arching plot points across all series have led up to this confrontation.

Issue #22 of Justice League is by no means a brief, simple introduction to the premise. The plot focuses on the A-list JL reacting to the newly discovered Shazam’s decision to fly Black Adam’s ashes to Kahndaq and from there snowballs in to the beginning of an all out battle for supremacy.

Geoff Johns has long been hailed a hero to the DC Universe having worked his way to Chief Creative Officer whilst writing for DC TV shows Smallvile and most recently Arrow whilst also being the principal writer of the DC Universe Online video game.

Here he shows off the reasons he has become so successful by pulling together story strings from all across the DC Universe to create a story that leaves no character untouched. By the end of the issue all of the major players have been introduced and there’s a clear understanding that this conflict is unstoppable.

The only thing missing here is Justice League Dark whose characters, despite being lauded as major players in the conflict, are strangely absent from this story.

As for the rest of the main cast… most are given a moment to take centre stage and make sure that their voices are heard. The biggest problem with this kind of cross-title event is multiple writers can take over characters depending on which title you are reading but Johns knows those voices better than anybody else. This event will be introducing more casual readers to certain characters within the DC Universe so it’s only right that they be handled well.

The artwork is here is A+ material ranging from dark and hopeless glimpses of a post-war future to an amazing splash page of Superman completely losing it in a way that Man of Steel fans will find a de ja vu. I found it a neat little throw in that when Shazam makes an appearance the artwork adjusts itself slightly to match the visuals of his back-up story that has accompanied so many recent JL issues.

If you aren’t already reading Justice League then I highly recommend that now is the time to start!

9/10

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 9 #23

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 9 #23

Season 9 of BtVS motors towards its conclusion as all parties fight their way to the core…

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 9 #23
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 9 #23

 

Script by Andrew Chambliss

Pencils by George Jeanty

Inks by Dexter Vines

Colours by Michelle Madsen

Purchase your copy at Forbidden Planet now.

Beware of spoilers!I realise that coming in to this series at issue #23 of 25 is a little late but going back to review the 22 issues that came before this seemed like too much of a mammoth task.

For me season 9 has been a massive improvement over season 8 which I felt got massively lost in the scope of the visuals that a comic book can produce in comparison to what is available on the modest budget of a TV series. All credit to the writers and artists on season 8 for the ambitious scope but BtVS was always about the character at heart and when the characters get lost in the story the magic (apologies for the pun/reference) is lost.

Whedon himself has admitted in interviews that perhaps season 8 wasn’t quite the product that the team expected it to be and so season 9 started out by scaling back the action and scaling up the character.

Several mini-series and small arcs later and we have reached ‘The Core’ part 3 and find Buffy, Willow and Xander heading towards the centre of the ‘Deeper Well’ former home to Illyria and the Old Ones in a race against Severin, Simone and a whole butt-load of demons who all have a stake (pun #2) in either taking away or bringing magic back to the world.

It’s interesting that we’ve reached issue #23 and Simone is looming large over the story considering she also featured on the cover of season 8 #23 in much a similar status. In comic world some of our villains and secondary characters are experiencing a much slower burn than they would on TV again probably due to budgetary constraints.

After 7 seasons on TV to develop one of the most rabid fan bases its safe to say that 95% of those reading this series have pre-conceived ideas about how that expect the characters to behave and also how they expect them to be treated. All this makes for a massive weight to carry as the scriptwriter on this book but Chambliss has yet to disappoint and this issue feels right for where we are in the story in relation to the ‘season’ finale.

Episodic TV formats translate well in to comics and BtVS is a shining example of this. Whedon does many (MANY!) things well but building up story arcs over time and bringing them to climactic conclusions is one of his finest traits in TV and the season 9 comics are no different.

This book crams in a fair amount of action, some solid story development and yet still has time for smaller character moments. Although some fans are displeased with the relationship between Xander and Buffy’s sister Dawn but in this issue it’s the two of them who are packing the emotional punch that reminds us just why we got on this ride in the first place.

The artwork by Jeanty has also never ever let us down. There’s a great balance of making the characters recognisable to their TV counterparts but also evoking the feeling of where they are in their lives. The demons in this series, particularly with so many in this issue alone, also reflect their TV versions without making a mockery of the design work which went in their makeup.

This may not be the right place for new readers to jump in to this series but if you’ve been a casual reader then ‘The Core’ arc which began in issue #21 is a great place to come back to BtVS.

8/10

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E05 ‘Broken’

TV REVIEW: ‘Beware the Batman’ S01E05 ‘Broken’

Nursery rhymes never looked so creepy…

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E05 ‘Broken’
‘Beware the Batman’ S01E05 ‘Broken’

Directed by Rick Morales

Written by Michael Ryan

Watch it live on Cartoon Network USA, Saturdays @ 10:00

Beware of spoilers!

This week marks the introduction of Humphrey Dumpler aka Humpty Dumpty to the ‘Beware the Batman’ universe in an incredibly fun episode which packs a huge amount of action into its 22 minute running time.

Before proceeding can I just say it now… Humpty Dumpty here looks like a Sonataran! Don’t pretend you weren’t thinking it!

I could quite happily start my review each week with: I love this show! I’m still surprised by how much I’m enjoying a CGI animation show, it’s a complete first for me.

This week continues to drive forward the Tatsu/Katanna story whilst Batman makes up for a lack of development with a pretty awesome show of gadgets and detective work.

Let’s start with Tatsu who a lot of online fans are applauding for being a complex character with a continued story which shows that the production team behind this show are playing to both their audiences: the kids and the comic fans.

This week Tatsu is lurking around the manor trying to find the missing sword after last weeks battle. With the help of Alfred we get some history on the sword and learn a little more about Tatsu’s motivations.

The relationship between Alfred and Tatsu is becoming quite father-daughter and it’s really great to see. Alfred is so often portrayed as the stoic Brit or as the expected father figure to Bruce. With ‘Beware’ he is getting to spread his wings much further and I for one applaud that.

Batman/Bruce is in need of some development but this aside he has a lot to do this week. There’s little time to setup the story this week, as soon as the opening credits (that theme tune will be in your head for hours Bat-fans!) have finished rolling the toy soldiers are attacking and Humpty’s plan is in full swing.

Batman is required to do some detective work, interrogating mob bosses and having serious conversations with Gordon who pretty quickly regretted asking Batman to stay off the case.

There’s a great format coming in to this show. Batman detects, there’s a scuffle, some gadgetry and further detective work required and then the big final battle and in between this is woven the story of Tatsu.

Morales does a brilliant job of directing his second episode of the series but of course his first episode was ‘Secrets’ so that’s a big one to follow. The action sequences to be really well choreographed and in this episode there are even some faux focus shifts to give the effect of real camera lenses. It’s clever stuff and well worth keeping your eye on.

The script continues to work well and Michael Ryan proves himself to be a great addition to the writers room. This episode crams in screen time for all three leads as well as both Ltd. and Barbara Gordon, Humpty and Tobias Whale. There’s even a mention of Ra’s al Ghul.

At the risk of repeating myself Gotham still seems empty. There’s a great scene at the shows opening featuring some members of the public but after that Gotham is mainly populated by toy soldiers. One major plus for me was the couple appearing at the beginning seemed to be very BtAS in style the only difference being that they were 3D, looked to me like a nod to the classics.

The episode builds to a great dramatic conclusion without crossing any boundaries towards excessive violence which as we all know was a toned down before the show premiered due to concerns as to how parent groups would react.

A great family show, shaping up to be a great addition to the Bat-family.

7/10

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1990)

CLASSIC REVIEW: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1990)

Kowabunga dude! We flash back to 1990 with a review of the movie that brought the NInja to the UK.

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1990)
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1990)

Directed by Steve Barron

Written by Bobby Herbeck (story) & Todd W. Langen

Pre-order it on Blu-Ray now @ Amazon.co.uk

Beware of spoilers!I thought it was about time that I reviewed something which wasn’t DC Comics and didn’t involve Batman… having recently viewed a copy of this film in it’s 1080p transfer it was naturally high on my list to review.

Back in 1990 I was turning 5 years-old and like most other 5 year-olds I was obsessed with the Turtles only in the UK you had to call them Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles… TMHT doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!

I had all the toys, the clothes, a turtle camera and there was an abundance of ooze especially with my catapault garbage thrower. My favourite was Donatello and I was confused why the toys had them all shaded different colours of green when that was note the case in the cartoon.

It wasn’t until a decade later that I finally picked up a proper adult TMNT comic and began to understand the wider universe that these characters inhabited.

What I can’t remember is if I saw this film at the cinema. I do remember seeing the second but wonder if perhaps I was deemed too young for the first despite its PG classification.

The sheer fact that they could invent live-action turtles that I could see on screen what mind boggling and I’m sure I will have had a nightmare or two about the fact that Shredder could also be on screen.

On a side note: why did nobody attempt to recreate Krang in live action? A puppet brain would have been amazing!

I digress… on to the film. We all know by know that TMNT 1990 retells the origins of the turtles and their sensei Splinter and pits them against arch nemesis Shredder in their first battle which brings them out into the open of the human world. Not to forget the shady ‘Foot Clan’ are also involved in all the furore.

Back in 1990 this film was budgeted at a hefty $13.5million by New Line Cinema only to pull in an estimated $200million at the box office and was a massive hit with fans and less of a hit with critics due to the violence portrayed.

In the UK we had to wait until 2004 for an officially sanction ‘unedited’ version of the film with all previous releases omitting the word ninja as and where possible and also dispensing with any shots of Michelangelo with his nunchaku.

Finally seeing this film in glorious 1080p is pretty awesome. I remember the film being a little more colourful than it appears here but as this is just a transfer for and not a restoration I had expected the film to look a little ‘lived in’ by this point in its life.

What I hadn’t expected was the level of detail hiding in the VHS and DVD transfers. Anybody who is approaching this film expecting a flat upscaling is going to get a pleasant surprise. The level of costume detail is nigh on unbelievable. The turtle puppets look impressive still to this day, the biggest let down still being their mouths. I found myself often pausing the film to take in the details around their features.

Forgetting the puppets for a moment we can’t forget about Shredder, his costume also reveals a massive amount of detail that has not previously been noticed and I’m looking forward to seeing the improvements made for ‘TMNT 2: Secrets of the Ooze’ which had a higher production budget.

A box set of all three TMNT movies is available to import now form the US but stand alone releases and a budget box set come to the UK on Blu-Ray in October of this year.

If you want to evoke some fond childhood memories or, like me, you are still as obsessed with the turtles as you were at 5 years old this new transfer is well worth checking out as it breathes a new life in to an old favourite.

8/10

‘The Wolverine’ (2013)

FILM REVIEW: ‘The Wolverine’ (2013)

High-concept sequel to 2009 ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ doesn’t disappoint but doesn’t break new ground.

‘The Wolverine’ (2013)
‘The Wolverine’ (2013)


Directed by James Mangold

Written by Mark Bomback & Scott Frank

In cinemas now! Check it out in 2D and 3D.

Beware of spoilers!I’ll preface this review by saying I don’t dislike ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ but I don’t love it either. I felt that Fox – or somebody else involved in production – was worried that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine couldn’t carry a movie by himself despite his massive popularity and so the film became overstuffed with secondary characters who added nothing to the story.

‘The Wolverine’ seems to suffer the same problem. There are less mutants on screen this time around and Jackman is allowed much more time to run around screaming and saying the word ‘bub’ but even then those mutants who do pepper the story are not given time to develop.

For those who haven’t yet seen the film the story revolves around Wolverine being dragged back from a life of obscurity post ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ to say goodbye to an old friend. Of course chaos ensues and an adventure that takes place across several Japanese locales takes on a journey through 126mins of giant set pieces and small character moments.

The story is flimsy but it’s there although potentially a little hacked up to make the 12a rating and also to cut down the running time. There are times I almost expected Wolverine to say ‘ah f**k it’ and go back to the woods.

Jackman has inhabited this character for 13 years now and it shows. He may not have aged too much in that time – much like the character – but there’s now a very blurred line between actor and character for me. His dialogue is short and a sometimes a bit stunted but it embodies the character well and reflects the kind of dialogue you would expect to see in a comic. Adaptions like this often struggle to balance the visual-to-dialogue ratio when basing on strong source material.

The other stand out character in this film is easily Rila Fukushima’s Yukio. She has the most screen time behind Jackman and most of her scenes are shared with him. There’s not a great deal of exploration of her powers but if she was to appear in future movies the groundwork has been laid. There’s enough backstory to make her seem real and she fits in well to the story and with Jackman.

The ending would suggest that she could return to appear in future movies but the post-credit scene, not to be spoiled here, may suggest otherwise for the time being.

The biggest offender on the cast list in this film… Viper played by Svetlana Khodchenkova who comes off as nothing more than a clone of Poison Ivy from ‘Batman & Robin’ her screen time gives Khodchenkova no chance to develop the character and so she totters around, reads her lines and is then gone to be forgotten. No disrespect to the actress but the character is an unnecessary addition to the film. Secondary to her lack of story her costume becomes increasingly green (and shiny) to the point where comparisons to Uma Thurman as Ivy are impossible to avoid.

There are many redeeming features to this film. The set pieces are ambitious to say the least. There were moments during the bullet train scene where I was ducking in my seat and I only saw the 2D version. The flashback scene which opens the film is a little uncomfortable but plays out well although not as well as the WW2 prison camp scenes from ‘X-Men’ and ‘X-Men: First Class’.

There’s nothing major by way of plot twists (during the main film) and the twists which do occur are easily predictable just to those who have seen the trailer. On the topic of the trailer I did feel that there are some misleading scenes which had led me to make assumptions about the plot which were incorrect. Nothing wrong with that, I was actually pleasantly surprised I couldn’t quite read the whole film before having seen it.

Special effects are what we have come to expect from this kind of summer tentpole. There were a couple of occasions where the claws on Logan’s hands were clearly added later but this aside this film has a great visual style which makes the viewer aware they’re in the X-verse we have come to expect on film.

The biggest difference from the previous Wolverine film is the sense of realism. Ignore the fact that you are witnessing mutants with special abilities and this film exists in a relatively real world. My other main gripe with the ‘Origins’ film was that as it lacked a sense of reality due to the number of set pieces which were purposely constructed. Overall ‘Origins’ felt staged whereas ‘Wolverine’ feels much more organic.

Excitement is building massively for next years ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ and with the viral marketing already in play it may have overshadowed this film but actually if you can let go of a meaty plot this is still an enjoyable addition to the X-Men saga.

6/10

‘Batman ’66′ #6

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #6

Put your earplugs in guys… it’s the return of the Siren!

‘Batman ’66′ #6
‘Batman ’66′ #6

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art & Colours by Jonathan Case

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Beware of spoilers!
This week Batman ‘66 has confused me a little and I can only assume that when the Penguin story makes it’s way to print this little side story featuring the Siren – played by Joan Collins in the series – will find itself as a backup at the end of the issue.

The reason I’m so confused is that the digital version of this ‘chapter’ still features the Penguin/Mr. Freeze cover art that came with the previous two weeks chapters. It’s a small gripe but none-the-less I still have a couple of small gripes with this series.

Once again the story here is the shining star. Parker is proving each week here that he has the upmost respect for the source material as well as the wider Bat-verse and this week he threw in one massive nod to the Silver Age of comics that just took my love for his storytelling to a whole new level.

‘Chandell’s Chanteuse’ is a neat little story that finds itself wrapped up in a single issue and doesn’t even feature a full appearance by Robin. The ending – not to be spoiled here – clearly sets up a later storyline and I’m intrigued to see if we’re building towards a genuine story arc.

This week Jonathan Case is back doing art and colours and it instantly lifts this series back up to its early status. The art pops right off the screen and I have to admit that after two weeks of feeling disappointed about the lack of interactivity this is the first issue where the art holds its own against the DC² of previous issues. I’m really happy to see this comic finding its feet beyond it’s A+ story.

The hallucination sequence allows Case the opportunity to break out from the confines of the usual panels and fill the page with some highly stylised work which adds a new dimension to the series.

It’s too early to pass true judgement as we have only had a couple of artists work on the series but thus far it is Case who is setting ‘Batman ‘66’ apart from other digital comics. His style of art is what I would call the signature style of the series and I hope we can see this style continue in the weeks to come.

I’m definitely looking forward to the return of Joker next week.

8/10

‘DC Nation: Wonder Woman’

‘DC Nation: Wonder Woman’

Wonder Woman goes back to the 70s for hyper stylised animated short.

‘DC Nation: Wonder Woman’
‘DC Nation: Wonder Woman’

Written & Directed by Robert Valley

Produced by No Dice INK inc.

Beware of spoilers!Not being situated in the US I don’t have access to view the weekly DC Nation block on Cartoon Network. I do however regularly read about some of the animated shorts that are currently being screened as part of the block.

Having seen some of the character designs for the Wonder Woman short which recently aired I was compelled to seek this three minute masterpiece out to see what all the hype was about: Wonder Woman in the style of Starsky & Hutch?!

The basic premise is familiar to viewers: Steve Trevor has crash landed, presumably, on the island of Themyscira the island of the Amazons. He is quickly outlawed by the natives apart from one certain Princess Diana.

The animation is what sets this story apart from other DC animated projects that I have seen and put simply it’s genius! Technologically the animation is pristine yet in appearance it’s completely 70s. The character designs, the cars, the music it all screens retro. No Dice INK inc. have created a totally out of the box design that you are screaming out for more of long before the short is even finished.

The story sees Wonder Woman rescue Steve not in her invisible plane but in her invisible car instead. Making their escape they are attacked by Giganta and save the day.

Okay so there isn’t a huge amount of story here but what do you expect from a three minute short?

The film packs enough visual and audio punch to make up for the lack of time to tell a full story. There’s no much here by way of dialogue but the soundbites that are dropped convey enough for you to feel you have at least seen a convincing short story.

9/10

Checkout the three part film below:

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E04 ‘Safe’

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E04 ‘Safe’

Some ups, some downs and a whole lot of action…

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E04 ‘Safe’
‘Beware the Batman’ S01E04 ‘Safe’

Directed by Sam Liu

Written by Mark Banker

Watch it live on Cartoon Network USA, Saturdays @ 10:00

Beware of spoilers!Last week I was critical of this show for the handling of the villain. Anarky was billed as the big villain for the series but instead of crashing in to the show at full pelt he was instead tossed in under developed.

Perhaps learning from their mistakes this week we are introduced to Silver Monkey – an unkown for me – and Lady Shiva who although not seen is heard on a couple of occasions during this episode.

At the beginning of the episode Bruce Wayne is seen introducing the world to his revolutionary new energy source – the Ion Cortex. The technology has been developed by Dr. Jason Burr (perhaps ready for a later appearance as Kobra?) and has drawn the attention of the League of Shadows.

Are you keeping up with the introductions? Jason Burr, Silver Monkey, League of Shadows and Lady Shiva.

This episode is a massive improvement over last week and possibly edges ahead of ‘Secrets’ for me as the best episode so far although I still have some issues with this show overall.

Gotham is once again empty this week. We get several wide angle shots of Batman and the Shadows ninja’s on motorbikes but there’s little other traffic around and I don’t think I saw a single person out on the streets. Yes this show is set at night but I’m starting to feel like I’m back to being a child playing with my action figures and imaging the world around them.

Batman does not get a huge amount of screen time this week. He does get to pop in and out, use some gadgets and kick some butt but in between that he was MIA.

Less Batman does mean more focus on Tatsu – finally referred to at Katana this week – and we finally begin to learn more about her back story.

Alfred is also finally becoming a bit more mobile this week and gets to wield some serious weaponry. I particularly enjoyed the addition of the bowler hat. He’s still a little Jason Statham for me but it’s undeniable how kick-ass this Alfred it.

Now lets get to a major bonus: the soundscape. I wanted to touch on this last week but got sidetracked by disappointment. This show sounds amazing and I don’t mean the voices.

The score by Frederik Wiedmann is brilliant. It accentuates the series perfectly. It’s perhaps not the kind of soundtrack that the average fan would run out to buy as there are not yet any stand-out themes running through the episodes but the music is a perfect fit for the mood and the tone of the show.

This week the ninja theme and the focus on Tatsu/Katana means the music pushes for a more oriental feel and it is executed to great success.

The sound effects themselves are also extremely meaty and ensure that the show has an immersive feel. Listening to it on home cinema the booms of explosions are deep and the thuds of each punch ricochet around the room in an impressive fashion.

I highly recommend you go back and re-watch this episode and try to focus on the sounds.

There’s a much higher focus on storytelling that I hope continues through the next few episodes that prove this show can rise above the generic CGI action genre and take it to the kind of territory that Bat-fans have come to expect over the years.

8/10