Comic Book Review: Dark Knight III: The Master Race

Details: Started being released in 2015. Published by DC Comics. Written by Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello. Pencils by Andy Kubert. Nine issues in total.

After Frank Miller’s disastrous run on All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, I’d pretty much given up hope on Frank Miller and the Dark Knight series. Thankfully, Dark Knight III redeems Miller, or should I say that Miller does okay work when he’s supervised by a competent adult. Writing duties for this miniseries fall to Miller and Brian Azzarello. It’s likely Azzarello’s influence that made this series so readable. I’m sure Miller has plenty of good ideas, but like George Lucas and the Star Wars prequels, sometimes you need someone around who can say no to you and tell you when your ideas are stupid.

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Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Details: Released in 2017. About two hours and twenty minutes long. Stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright.

I didn’t read any reviews before watching this movie in order to avoid spoilers. After seeing the movie, I went and scavenged over all the reviews on the internet to see what other people thought. Generally, people love this movie. I’ve even heard it called a perfect superhero movie. Personally, I enjoyed the movie, but I think it is far, far away from a masterpiece. I also think there are many existing comic book movies that are easily superior to this one. No spoilers except a brief summary of the premise.

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Movie Review: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

Details: Released in 2017. About an hour and a half long.

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is the latest DC Comics Animation movie to come out. It’s about the Teen Titans, a group of teenage superheroes and their enemies Brother Blood and Deathstroke.

I mostly didn’t enjoy it. It was cringy, corny, and hard to watch at many points. Some of it was okay. Kevin Smith guest stars near the end. I still did not enjoy. I can’t even recommend this movie to kids. It makes subtle to overt comments on sex which may make some parents wary to let young kids watch it. If you’re okay with that, then let your kids watch it.

Overall, skip it unless you are desperate to watch an animated superhero movie.

Score: 5/10

Comic Book Review: All-Star Batman (2016) #2

Official site: http://www.dccomics.com/comics/all-star-batman-2016/all-star-batman-2

Another week, another awesome Batman story delivered by Snyder. Snyder and Romita return for another chapter in this fun trip. This story is decidedly less serious than Snyder’s run on Batman. I can’t tell if it’s intentional or due to Romita’s art style.

There are a lot of interesting revelations revealed in the main story. Firstly, Snyder has retconned the relationship of Harvey Dent and Batman a bit. Harvey it seems has always known Batman’s true identity. Dent’s just never had enough evidence to prove it. In fact, Harvey and Bruce Wayne have been childhood friends. It’s an interesting addition to an old relationship. Bruce and Harvey have generally been friends in most story lines, but now they are life long friends. It’s also interesting to see Snyder add to the mythos of Two-Face and how Harvey Dent and Two-Face coexist.

What doesn’t feel natural though is how everyone in Gotham can turn on Batman so easily. I imagine it will be due to some big reveal in subsequent issues. I can’t wait.

The side story is also surprisingly good. We get another glimpse into Duke and into Zsasz’s modus operandi.

Score: 7.5/10 Another fun story and the main book I look forward to each week.

Discussion: The Fantastic Four Reboot/Movie I Want to See

So the final Fantastic Four trailer has come out and some people are saying its all right, some people are saying its terrible. I think it’s okay. It hints at a number of things, seems to take cues from the Ultimate line of Fantastic Four comics, and brings in some things relating to Doom that aren’t in the comics. It’s all well and good, but when I heard they were rebooting the Fantastic Four movies I had a very specific idea of what that should be, of what the Fantastic Four represents to me and I’d like to share it (this story takes massive inspiration from the comics, the movies, and the trailer above).

So what is the Fantastic Four? The Fantastic Four is a group of four superheroes, but to a greater extent they are defined by their leader, Reed Richards. Then who is Reed Richards? Reed Richards is a genius. He is a brilliant physicist, scientist, and engineer. He is an explorer with an insatiable hunger for knowledge and discovery, but not just for his own benefit. Reed seeks to use his knowledge to make the world a better place. And the main thing that distinguishes Reed from any other superhero/genius? He’s a family man. The Fantastic Four is his family and — if forced to do so — Reed Richards would gladly sacrifice the entire universe if it meant protecting his family. Thus, a good Fantastic Four story consists of two things: fantastic science fiction and the values/dynamics of a loving family.

Act 1 – Reed Richards and the Baxter School

So our story starts with Reed Richards. Reed is twelve and your classic pale, nerdy, friendless kid. Well, friendless with the exception of Benjamin Grimm, his childhood friend. With only one real friend, Reed spends most of his time alone dreaming. He dreams of the stars and of all the mysteries of the universe. He dreams of a better world. When Reed isn’t dreaming, he builds. He builds things no twelve year old should know how to build. Things that never seems to work. Things that often explode and get him a scolding from his parents.

While Reed may be a dreamer and a genius, Reed’s parents are profoundly ordinary. They want Reed to go out and play, to make friends, and maybe chase some girls. His dad is a man’s man and often gives Reed a tough time. His mother babies him and encourages him through hugs and kisses.

One night after school, Reed invites Ben over to his garage to look at his latest creation. Ben comes over and sees Reed’s creation: a jumble of wires, metal arms, and what look like nuclear reactors. In the middle of this jumble are two platforms. Reed explains that he has built a teleportation device. With this device an object could near instantaneously travel from one point in our universe to any other point. Reed discovered that the distance between two objects in our dimension is larger than the distance between two objects in separate, but parallel dimensions. Upon this premise, the machine sends an object from point A in our dimension, briefly through a parallel dimension where the laws of time and space act differently on matter from our universe, towards point B which is once again in our dimension, thus lessening the distance and time the object travels. In fact, the distance has been so shortened that the travel time is near instantaneous from our perspective.

So Reed demonstrates the machine. Ben is scared and hopes the thing doesn’t blow up the block. Reed places Ben’s baseball on one of the platforms and turns on the machine. The machine starts charging up and as the platforms start glowing, the lights blow and the neighborhood promptly blacks out. Reed takes out a flashlight and finds Ben. Reed’s dad is yelling from the house and Ben bids Reed adieu and runs out of the garage before Reed’s dad yells at Ben, too. Reed is left alone and fearing the arrival of his father when he points his flashlight at the platforms. The experiment worked; Ben’s baseball teleported from one platform to the other. Reed has finally built something that works and raises his arms in triumph. At that moment, Reed’s dad comes in, grounds him for the next sixty years and takes him off to bed.

The next day, Dr. Franklin Storm shows up at Reed’s house and asks to enroll Reed into the Baxter School for the Gifted. The Baxter school is a school for brilliant children, funded by the United States government, and located in a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. Dr. Storm detected the outage and asked the U.S. government to not arrest Reed for his dangerous experiment, but to speak with Reed first. After some discussion, Reed’s parents agree and Reed enrolls. This is an opportunity for Reed to learn at his level while truly being able to make the world a better place. Reed later says goodbye to Ben and promises to stay in touch. Ben promises that he will always have Reed’s back.

At the Baxter school in midtown Manhattan, Reed begins his orientation. He learns that the Baxter school is a school for children as brilliant as he is. He meets Susan Storm and Johnathan Storm, Dr. Franklin Storm’s children. Sue specializes in biology/medicine and Johnny in mechanical engineering. The school has the feel of Hogwarts; a magical school were anything is possible. The students are brilliant yet still immature; a great place for shenanigans. Reed, Sue, and Johnny get into shenanigans and quickly bond, with ample flirtation between a self-assured Sue and an introverted Reed. For the first time, Reed has found a girl he can really open up to. Reed also starts to realize that even among a school of brilliant children, he is especially brilliant.

Act 2 – Reed and gang explore Universe 106, they get powers

One year goes by. Reed is a sophomore. Reed has built numerous prototypes of his teleportation machine. He sends various objects through and they teleport perfectly. In his latest experiment, he decides to send a video recorder through. The recorder goes through instantaneously. However, when Reed goes through the footage, he finds that there is about thirty minutes of video on the recorder. While most of it is static, there is a moment when a humanoid figure walks over, picks up the the recorder and looks into the aperture with green, human eyes.

Reed makes two conclusions from the video. First, when an object is sent through the alternate dimension, even though the teleportation is instantaneous, the object spends more time in the alternate dimension than in ours. The ratio is about thirty minutes for every tenth of a second. Second, there is life in the alternate dimension, humanoid life. Reed decides it is time to build a machine that can teleport people, not for the purpose of teleportation, but to explore this alternate universe.

After much argument, Reed convinces Dr. Storm and the Baxter school’s representative from the U.S. government to approve of a project to send Reed and two others into what Reed is now calling Universe 106, based on the frequency at which the matter of that universe seems to vibrate. The team he picks is Sue (for her specialization in biology/life forms), Johnny (to assist in any repairs that may be required, Johnny also helped build the prototypes), and Reed since no one understands the science or function of the machine better than him. The machine is massive, but the key components consist of  two platforms; one for arrival and one for departure.

On the day of the experiment, Reed invites Ben to come witness it. They spend some time catching up before the experiment. At the experiment, various people from the school and the government/military are present. The plan is this: Reed, Sue, and Johnny will teleport in the latest prototype and in the thirty minutes they spend in Universe 106, they will gather as much information as they can.

During the experiment, something goes wrong and Reed, Sue, and Johnny seem to be getting electrocuted and locked into their platform. No one can abort the experiment. Ben runs to the platform and tries to tackle Reed and the gang off the platform. At that moment, the machine initiates and teleports Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben to Universe 106.

Reed and gang wake up in what is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. They go over their situation and find that the machine worked perfectly. They are in Universe 106. They have about thirty minutes to explore before they are transferred back to their home universe. They are all wearing space suits except for Ben, who is in a t-shirt and jeans. Ben seems to be fine however, and this world seems to supports life. They will check on Ben when they get back. There doesn’t seem to be any signs of life around, just a vast wasteland of cracked earth as far as the eye can see. Reed and gang begin exploring.

They find mostly nothing and Reed begins to doubt himself and the footage from the recorder. Then they find some signs and some structures. They are all in English. After some more discovery they learn that where they landed was not an alien world, but an alternate Earth. They arrived in the ruins of Manhattan. They wonder if they didn’t travel to an alternate dimension, but into the future? Reed promptly shuts that down. The nature of matter in this universe is similar, but very different from our own world. This is an alternate world, one where all life seems to have ended.

At that moment they see a humanoid figure walking in the distance. It looks like a person, but also like a machine; metallic with eyes glowing green. The humanoid turns to face them and emits a loud noise, like the horn from Inception. The earth begins to shake and and even further in the horizon, an endless number of metallic humanoids are running at them, like a stampede of rabid animals. Some run like animals using their arms and legs, some run on their feet. It’s like a scene from a zombie movie, except with machine-esque humanoids with glowing green eyes. Reed and the gang start running for their lives.

As per the time limit, Reed and the gang have about 3 minutes before they are sent back to their world. So they run. The following happens: Ben falls into a hole and gets buried, Johnny and Sue get caught in a geyser explosion that spews fire and electricity (Johnny gets hit by the fire, Sue by the electricity), and Reed falls into a pool of goop. As Reed is sinking and blacking out he sees a figure floating above the hoard of machine humanoids, wearing a green, hooded cloak. He recognizes it as their leader.

Reed wakes up strapped in a hospital bed. He slips/stretches out due to his new powers; Reed can now stretch and bend like water. Guards show up and a government official with Dr. Storm show up and explain what has happened. According to the telemetry recorded in their suits, Reed and gang were in Universe 106 for approximately thirty minutes, then they teleported back to the Baxter building, where they all are now. Each of them seemed to be alive, but with fantastic changes to their physiology. It was as if they merged with the matter from the alternate universe. Reed can now bend/stretch like a liquid, Sue can turn invisible and make force fields, Johnny can turn himself on fire and throw fire, and Ben is now a rock like monster. Unlike Johnny, Ben cannot seems to turn off his powers and is seemingly stuck that way. Reed hypothesizes that the matter from Universe 106 interacted with each person and altered their biology. Ben was not wearing a suit so his changes match his greater exposure. Reed meets with each and speaks to them. His conversation with Ben is more somber and he promises Ben he will fix this somehow.

Before they get a chance to relax, a rift opens in the Baxter building and one of the machine humanoids appears and attacks people. The creature is strong and durable, but Reed and gang fight and defeat the creature. More humanoids start appearing in the Baxter building and even across midtown Manhattan. Reed and gang use their new found powers to fight and defeat all the humanoids. This is a big set piece action scene with a lot of collateral damage. It’s also an exploration of each of the Four’s powers and a test of their limits.

Afterwards, Sue leads an autopsy of one of the deceased machine humanoids. They learn that these creatures were originally human beings with all their human organs, except they were altered by nano technology. More horrifying is that these changes were deliberate; each machine humanoid was programmed and received instructions from somewhere/someone. Like a human drone. Reed has a feeling it is the floating figure he saw in Universe 106.

Reed and gang talk with representatives from the government, military, and Baxter school. They conclude that the appearance of machine humanoids (we can call them “drones”) is only the beginning. When Reed and gang went to Universe 106, they attracted someone’s attention, likely the person who turned Universe 106 into a wasteland. They decide that a military force must be sent into Universe 106 to subdue whatever sent the human drones. After further inspection, Reed and gang have been altered at a molecular level. They are now made of matter that consists of both Universe 106 and their own universe. This combined with the fact that they now possess power that rivals an army makes them the best candidates to be sent through. If anyone else was sent through, who knows how their physiology would change. They may be altered even more severely than Ben.

Dr. Storm knows they must do this, but he hugs his children and makes them promise to return safely. Reed talks to Ben and reaffirms that after this is over, he will spend every waking moment on changing him back. Ben tells Reed to focus on the matter at hand because they don’t know what is waiting for them on the other side.

Act 3 – Reed and gang go back to Universe 106 to confront Doom

Reed and gang teleport through again. Reed alters the machine so that they can teleport back and forth at will. When they arrive they find a massive structure that was not there the last time they were in Universe 106. They are also surrounded by the hordes of human drones, except they are all standing quietly. Reed and gang make their way to the structure and find the floating man Reed saw last time floating above the structure. As Reed and gang prepare to fight the man, the man speaks. He introduces himself as someone with many names: God, Death, Messiah, Doom. But the name he is most fond of is the name he was born with: Reed Richards. With that the man pulls off his hood and our Reed is face to face with himself, except the face of Universe 106’s Reed (I’ll call him “Doom” from now on) is a patchwork of metal, like a machine and the human drones.

Doom explains that in this universe, he also wanted to make the world a better place. Instead of cross dimensional teleportation, Doom specialized in nanotechnology/machines and human biology. In hopes of creating a world with no war, pain or illness, he created machines that could alter human physiology, curing disease like cancer and AIDS. But that was only the beginning. Doom built machines that could alter people thoughts, removing feelings of aggression, conflict, and greed and replacing them with better thoughts. The thoughts of Doom. Doom took over the minds and bodies of every person in Universe 106’s Earth, creating what he calls a paradise. Doom was content with his world until he noticed the incursion by Reed and gang. When Doom saw Reed’s face, he understood that he came from an alternate universe and began building a machine that could cross into Reed’s world. Doom intends on spreading his paradise into Reed’s world and perhaps into all the other parallel universes Doom can find. Reed is stunned. Stunned at the idea that he did this, that he could be able to do this.

Reed and gang start fighting Doom and the countless number of Doom’s human drones with the intent of destroying Doom’s dimension traveling machine. This is the big, final action set piece and should be bombastic. Each character should get an opportunity to show off their powers. There should also be an escalation where each character’s use of their powers becomes more and more powerful. Ben’s immense strength should be shown off as every punch he throws causes shock waves, craters, and the flight of human drone bodies. Sue can fly and uses her ability to create force fields to create shapes to annihilate large number of drones, all while remaining hidden, invisible, and flying around. Johnny lights on fire, flies around throwing fire, shoots beams of flame at the human drones, and when surrounded lights himself into a greater fire, like a mini-sun. Reed snakes around the drones, throwing punches that stretch forward and hit many human drones in the face. Most importantly, Reed snakes his way towards Doom who floats above the machine. Doom is assembling the machine.

Reed attacks Doom, but Doom stretches out of the way of his attack and punches Reed with a stretch punch. Doom tells Reed that he is the god of this world, that he is no longer just a man, and that Reed should not expect Doom to have any limits on what he can do. At that moment, Ben attacks Doom and Doom blocks his punch, causing a shock wave. Doom out fights Ben and knocks him a distance away. Sue and Johnny attack together. Doom lights his arm on fire and blasts Johnny with a beam of flame. Doom then turns invisible and appears behind an invisible Sue. Doom blasts Sue with a large blast of flame, making Sue turn visible and blasting the shielded Sue a distance away. Doom hovers over the dazed/injured Johnny and Sue an prepares to finish them by charging a large flame blast when Ben comes back and knocks him away. Ben and Doom continue fighting. Reed makes his way to Johnny and Sue. Reed explains that Doom is too strong. The only way they can win is with a coordinated attack. They formulate a plan. 

Ben is still fighting Doom, when Sue becomes visible and puts a force field around Doom’s head, seemingly suffocating him. Reed then erupts from the ground and constrict himself around Doom’s arms and legs. Reed yells at Ben to punch Doom in his body/chest. Ben complies and pounds away inflicting a large amount of damage, chipping away metal pieces and moving Doom a great distance with each punch. Sue follows in the air while Reed remains constricted around Doom.

Doom eventually has enough and goes “nova;” Doom charges flame in himself and explodes in a massive, fiery explosion that sends Reed, Sue and Ben flying. Reed, Sue and Ben are lying on the ground. Doom walks toward Reed and goes on a super villain speech about his superiority and how righteous Doom is as Doom lights his right arm and prepares to incinerate/kill an incapacitated Reed. Just as Doom raises his hand to burn the life out of Reed, Reed opens his eyes and yells, “Now!” Reed turns invisible and Doom hears Johnny describe his curiosity at how hot Johnny can really burn. Johnny also expresses sarcastic admiration of Doom’s last maneuver, where Doom exploded like a supernova. Johnny then appears behind Doom from the invisibility Sue was hiding him with. Johnny is glowing as bright as the sun and getting brighter by the second. Doom’s metallic shell is burning away. Sue is shielding everyone else and Reed yells at Johnny to do it. Johnny now goes “nova;” Johnny explodes in a massive explosion many times larger than Doom’s. In the light of the explosion we can see Sue protecting everyone with her shield and all the metal getting burned off of Doom in a massive, bright explosion.

We cut back to the Baxter building. About two minutes has elapsed when Reed and gang reappear in Reed’s teleportation platform. Reed and gang bring back Doom who is naked and whose entire body is covered in severe burns. Armed soldiers take Doom away.

We end the film with a number of cuts between various characters and locations, conveying to the audience Reed’s new life, new family, and how all the characters are getting on. Reed’s life has changed fantastically. Though their have been dangers and losses, that is the price of exploration/discovery and Reed is ultimately better for it. However, Reed still wants to rectify any mistakes that were made. During this sequence we see cuts of Reed walking down a dark hallway, pass some armed guards, and into a dark room. He opens the door and inside is Doom, fully stretched out and restrained in a large machine, with only Doom’s burned face exposed. Reed approaches Doom face to face and asks Doom to help fix his best friend, Ben.

After Credits scene – Welcome to the Brotherhood

We cut back to Reed facing a restrained Doom when a boom and a portal appear from the side of the room. Through the portal walk out another Reed Richards with two more Reed Richards’ behind him. The lead Reed is older, with some gray in his hair. One of the other Reed’s exiting the portal is partially invisible, like Sue’s power. The other is partially on fire, like Johnny’s power. The older Reed says, “Hello, brother. I’m here for him.” The older Reed gestures at Doom. Our Reed has an expression of shock on his face. The older Reed from the portal then tells our Reed, “You didn’t really think that — across the infinity of all universes — you two were the only two Reed Richards’ out there, did you?”

THE END

Comic Book Review: Uncanny X-Men (2013) #31

Details: Published by Marvel. Official site is http://marvel.com/comics/issue/52876/uncanny_x-men_2013_31

Bachalo, like Coipel, is one of the few comic book artists whose books I will read unconditionally. While not as crisp as Coipel and more cartoony, his frenetic style adds much to a book. Since the beginning of this renumbered Uncanny X-Men series, Bachalo’s art has done exactly what it always does and put the Uncanny X-men on my must read list.

*There be spoilers ahead.*

Speaking of this latest incarnation of the Uncanny X-men as a whole, the series has been very entertaining. Seemingly swapping places with Wolverine, Cyclops has become the bad boy of the X-Men world, not evil but not good either. The X-Men have split into two schools. One led by Cyclops which chooses to teach a new generation of mutants about the cruelty and harshness of being mutants. The other led by Wolverine who seeks to prepare young mutants for the world while maintaining their youthful innocence, to a degree. While both schools oppose each other, they are not enemies. However, the biggest rift between the schools is in regards to Charles Xavier’s recent death, largely caused by Cyclops (he was under the control of the Phoenix so not entirely his fault). Wolverine’s school generally blame Cyclops for Xavier’s death.

Which brings us to the current story arc. She-Hulk shows up and seeks to enforce Xavier’s last will and testament, which requires the presence of all X-Men from both schools. In the will, Xavier reveals that there is a mutant he has kept hidden all these years who is powerful enough to destroy the world. Xavier kept the mutant under control by placing psychic blocks in the mutant. With Xavier dead, the will asks the X-Men to take care of the mutant.

To make a long story short, Cyclops tries to teach the mutant to control his powers, things go to hell, and the mutant kills almost all the X-Men. One of the mutants, who time travels, goes back in time and, along with a younger Charles Xavier, change history so that the mutant was never born. Xavier goes back to his time and erases his own memories of the event and the time traveling mutant comes back to the present to tell Cyclops what transpired. They also warn Cyclops to get his shit together. Cyclops (finally) does and asks that Wolverine’s school take all the mutant from his school, thereby closing his school and walking off to figure out his craziness.

Score 6/10 Overall, a good issue with great Bachalo art. The story is fine. I just hate the use of time travel in almost any context. It’s a narrative cop out. A deus ex machina which allows the writer to retroactively change or invalidate the story they just told, which is what happened here. Time travel, fix everything, then nothing. The last few issues were a fun read but were absolutely pointless in that they never happened in the continuity. The only meaningful thing is that Cyclops finally got less crazy, which suggests many interesting possibilities for the future of the X-Men. The cover is also deceptive and has nothing to do with the story.

On a side note, I sincerely hope Marvel/Disney is not ending the X-Men books in some petty attempt to hobble the X-Men movies. If they are, then they are being childish and showing incredible pettiness for trying to hobble someone else’s success, and Fox has been extraordinarily successful with the X-Men movies. Hey Marvel, Fox bought your movie rights when you were about to go bankrupt. They gave you a lifeline. They also made one of the first comic book movies (the first X-Men), largely contributing, if not solely responsible for making comic book movies mainstream. Get over it. Plus, everyone likes Hugh Jackman. He was great in Les Miserables and he’s a great Wolverine. Let it go, Marvel. Success shouldn’t bother you anyway.

Comic Book Review: Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #12

Details: Published by Marvel. Official site: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/45811/amazing_spider-man_2014_12

I LOVE this event. It’s fun, and funny, even though there is a bunch of dying.

This is the most recent comic in the big Spider-Verse Marvel Comics event. The story isn’t worth talking about too much. Spider-Man is under attack from Morlun (an old enemy from one of my favorite Spider-Man stories), and Spider-Man must team up with the Spider-Men of all the parallel universes in order to stop him.

The main reason you read this comic is for the art and for the funny. It’s just awesome to see every conceivable variation of Spider-Man, from Japanese Spider-Man and pornstar Spider-Woman, to Cowboy Spider-Man and Spider-Pig, all engage in big action scenes.

A lot of the fun is just waiting to see what Spider-Man they’ll think up next, or make a reference to. Personally, I enjoy the Spider-Men who have mechas.

Score: 7/10 Fun story. Great art. What else do you want from a comic book?

Oh, and while this wasn’t drawn by Coipel, some issues in this event are, and I will read anything drawn by Coipel. Link to the preview site below. The image above was drawn by Coipel.