REVIEW: SPIDER-WOMAN: AGENT OF S.W.O.R.D

CAST

Jolynn Carpenter (Stonerz)
Andy Mackenzie (Sushi Girl)
Geoff Boothby (Rocksteppy)

spider-woman.jpgWith Jessica Drew still reeling from the effects of having been sedated and physically replaced on Earth by the Skrull Queen Veranke, the last thing in the world she wants to encounter is another Skrull invasion. But when Jessica is approached by Abigail Brand, a mysterious agent of S.W.O.R.D., she finds that the urge within herself to inflict vengeance upon the Skrulls is too overwhelming to deny.spider-woman-agent-of-sword-20110524003723093-000Now Spider-Woman faces the diabolical organisation of HYDRA, the new Thunderbolts and the suspicions of her new teammates in the New Avengers.spider-woman-hulu1Developed by the legendary Eisner Award-winning team of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, If you have read the comic book then this won’t be for you as it’s just the same, but if you haven’t then it’s worth a look, but only once. spiderwoman01

Advertisements

REVIEW: THOR & LOKI: BLOOD BROTHERS

CAST (VOICES)

Daniel Thorn (Technobabylon)
Jennifer Spriggs  (The One I Love)
Roger Clark (Perfect Disasters)

thor_loki_bloodbrothers_preview_01Loki has become the ruler of Asgard. However, he doesn’t have dominion over Hela, the goddess of death. Loki is demanding fealty from everyone in Asgard. Hela asks Loki for the soul of Thor for her “legions in Nifelheim”. Lady god Sif is imprisoned at the ending of the first segment. Karnilla, the queen god of Nornheim meets Loki in the second segment. She pleads for the release of Balder from imprisonment. In the third segment, Loki orders the destruction of the Rainbow Bridge. In a flashback, Odin defeats Laufey in battle. In the final segment, Loki refuses to execute Thor and spurns Hela.cbr-thorlokibloodbrothersclip118-1024x577To say this is “inspired by” the four-issue Loki graphic novel series of 2004 is a little misleading. The scripting, story and artwork are identical, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The animation is a more than a little stifled, mostly relying on computer technology to manipulate a single static image rather than produce extra frames. I find this adaptation to be fascinating. The transfer from graphic novel to albeit limited animated feature showcases the original artwork in an incredible way, adding a vibrancy to the work. The addition of the more traditional elements of Norse mythology and it’s clever integration is a very nice touch. If you liked the original source material then this you will love. thor_loki_bloodbrothers_preview_03

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: RED SON

CAST (VOICES)

David Lodge (Digimon)
Wendee Lee (Masked Rider)
Jim Meskimen (Frost/Nixon)
Cindy Robinson (Sonic Boom)
Kirk Thornton (Ninja Scroll)

In the 1950s, the Soviet Union reveals its newest asset to be Superman. The sudden revelation of a superpowered alien under Soviet control causes panic in the United States, shifting the focus of the Cold War arms race from nuclear weapons to superhumans. CIA agent James Olsen recruits Lex Luthor, a scientist employed by S.T.A.R. Labs, to destroy Superman. Luthor’s first act is to cause Sputnik 2 to plummet towards Metropolis. After Superman diverts the satellite away from the city, Luthor retrieves his genetic material and creates a monstrous clone of Superman whom Lex Luthor officially names Superman 2 when he is unveiled to Olsen.


Meanwhile, Superman meets Wonder Woman at a diplomatic party, and she becomes smitten by him. Pyotr Roslov, the head of the NKVD and Joseph Stalin’s illegitimate son, is angry that Superman has turned his father’s attention away from him and ended his chances of advancement within the Soviet regime. Pyotr shoots a dissident couple in front of their son for printing anti-Superman propaganda. Stalin dies from cyanide poisoning, and Superman initially refuses command of the Communist Party. However, a chance meeting with Lana Lazarenko, his childhood sweetheart, changes his mind. Superman chooses to use his powers for the greater good and turn his country into a utopia.

The U.S. government sends “Superman 2” to engage Superman, and their duel causes an accidental nuclear missile launch in Great Britain. The clone sacrifices itself to save millions. Luthor murders his research staff at S.T.A.R. Labs and founds LuthorCorp, dedicating his life to destroying Superman. By 1978, the United States is on the verge of social collapse whereas the prosperous Soviet Union has peacefully expanded its influence to nearly every corner of the globe. The cost of this progress is an increased infringement on individual liberties, with Superman fast becoming a Big Brother-like figure; a brain surgery technique that turns dissidents into obedient drones, or “Superman Robots”, is in use. Superman now works with Wonder Woman to save lives as well as govern the Soviet state. Wonder Woman has become enamored of Superman, but he considers her simply as a comrade, and is oblivious to her love for him.

Luthor plans to shrink Moscow, but this plan fails when Brainiac, his collaborator, shrinks Stalingrad instead. Superman intervenes and retrieves both Brainiac’s central processing unit and the tiny city, putting an end to the Brainiac-Luthor cooperation. He is unable to restore Stalingrad and its inhabitants to their proper size. This becomes his one failure and a source of great guilt.

Luthor’s third plan involves Batman, who was the boy orphaned by Pyotr. Batman joins forces with LuthorCorp and Pyotr, now head of the KGB. They capture Wonder Woman and use her as bait for Superman, hoping to sap his powers with rays that imitate the light of Superman’s home planet. The plan works, but Superman convinces Wonder Woman to break free of the lasso that she is tied up with and destroy the generators running the lamps emitting the solar rays of Superman’s home planet. She does, severely injuring herself in the process, but the lamps stop running and Superman’s powers return. Scared that Superman was going to lobotomize him and turn him into a robot, Batman kills himself as a martyr to his cause. Pyotr is turned into a Superman robot, and Wonder Woman no longer has feelings for Superman as he shows little to no regard for her injured condition.

Luthor enacts his fourth plan when he finds a mysterious green lantern found in an alien ship that crashed at Roswell, New Mexico. Brainiac is reprogrammed into Superman’s aide, and the construction of a Fortress of Solitude, located in Siberia and referred to as “The Winter Palace”, begins. Superman’s reign continues with no crime, poverty, or unemployment, but with an ever-present state authority. Superman is committed to “winning the argument” with the U.S., and repeatedly refuses Brainiac’s suggestions of an invasion. Stalingrad remains his one failure, now contained within a protective glass “bottle”. The USA elects Luthor and Olsen as President and Vice President. Using his scientific expertise, massive economic capital and dictatorial powers, Luthor returns prosperity to his country. This is only a part of a more general plan to provoke Superman into invading the United States. Luthor shows Olsen two of his greatest discoveries: the Phantom Zone, a place that super-hearing cannot reach; and the Green Lantern Corps.

Luthor confronts Superman in the Winter Palace. Brainiac yanks Luthor deep into the recesses of the Fortress to be converted surgically into a Superman Robot, claiming that Lex would convince Superman to commit suicide in less than fourteen minutes. Superman agrees that his hand has been forced, and prepares to attack. First Lady Lois Luthor visits Paradise Island to forge an alliance with the Amazon empire, now ruled by an embittered and vengeful Wonder Woman. Superman attacks the East Coast, confronting and defeating the Green Lantern Marine Corps, which is led by Colonel Hal Jordan. The Amazon forces, commanded by Wonder Woman, attack Superman but are quickly defeated, along with a collection of “super-menaces” (including Atomic Skull, Parasite and Doomsday) that Luthor has put together over the years. Brainiac’s spaceship cuts the U.S. Pacific fleet to pieces, and the two superbeings meet at the White House. They are greeted by Lois Luthor with the last weapon, a small note written by Lex that reads, “Why don’t you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?” Realizing he has meddled in affairs that he had no place in, Superman orders Brainiac to end the invasion. Brainiac, however, reveals it has never been under Superman’s control, and instead attacks Superman with green kryptonite radiation. Brainiac is shut down from inside by Luthor, who evaded surgery. As the singularities powering Brainiac’s ship threaten to collapse, Superman rockets it into space, where it explodes. The Earth is saved, but Superman is apparently dead. The Soviet Union falls into chaos, but is soon brought back under control thanks to the Batmen (resistance members who began wearing the costume after Batman’s death). Lex Luthor integrates many of Superman’s and Brainiac’s ideas into the new philosophy of “Luthorism” and forms a “Global United States”. This becomes the defining moment for mankind’s future as it enters an unprecedented age of peace and stability. A benevolent world government is formed and maintained. Luthor presides over a string of scientific achievements, including the curing of all known disease, and colonization of the solar system. Luthor lives for over one thousand years.

At Luthor’s funeral, it is revealed that Superman survived the explosion of Brainiac’s ship and is apparently immortal. Superman attends the funeral wearing a business suit and thick glasses essentially identical to the appearance of Clark Kent, an identity he never adopted in this timeline. Luthor’s widow, Lois, sees this mysterious figure in the crowd and, other than an eerie sense of deja vu, suspects nothing. Superman walks quietly away from the ceremony, planning to live among humans rather than ruling over them.

Billions of years in the future, Earth is being torn apart by tidal stresses from the sun, which has become a red giant. Luthor’s distant descendant, Jor-L, sends his infant son, Kal-L, rocketing back into the past. The final panels of the comic book depict the landing of Kal-L’s timeship in a Ukrainian collective in 1938, effectively causing a predestination paradox (and, thus, making Superman a descendant of Luthor).

 

Superman Red Son is an animated version of Mark Millar’s graphic novel. The artwork is fantastic and the alternate tale of an infant Superman who crash lands on Earth 12 hours earlier in this Universe and therefore lands in Russia rather than America is just awsome. a Great Motion Comic for DC fans.

REVIEW: BATGIRL: YEAR ONE / MAD LOVE

BATGIRL: YEAR ONE

CAST (VOICES)

Kate Higgins (Sailor Moon Crystal)
Erin Fitzgerald (Sabrina: TAS)
Lex Lang (Batman: The Brave and the Bold)
Neil Ross (Centourions)

Batgirl: Year One is a motion comic series developed from DC Comics iconic Batgirlâ nine-part Batgirl: Year One series as we gain a deeper look at one of Barbara Gordons first turn as the caped crusader, learning just how hard it is to wear the mask while staying alive. Young, supremely intelligent, and determined, Barbara would do anything to take down criminals, though every route to that goal, either legally by becoming a cop like her dad, James Gordon, or illegally by becoming a masked vigilante, is dismissed.

When the Killer Moth crashes the Million Dollar Masquerade Ball, Barbara puts to use her female Batman costume by taking down the creepy villain before Batman and Robin arrive. Initially dismissed by Batman and flirted with by Robin, Barbara works hard to prove that she has just as much right to become a superhero as the others, ultimately becoming Batgirl. Batgirl: Year One was adapted by the new graphic way of storytelling, holding onto the panel-by-panel style but with moving graphics, sounds, and explosive dynamics.

BATMAN ADVENTURES: MAD LOVE

CAST (VOICES)

Billy Davis
Cindy Airey
Paul St. Peter

After having his latest plan to kill Commissioner Gordon foiled by Batman, The Joker retreats to one of his hideouts to plan his next move, but is being annoyed by his lovestruck sidekick Harley Quinn and kicks her out of their hideout. As Harley sits outside, she remembers how she met Joker, back when she was the psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel and spending her internship at Arkham Asylum. Harleen interviewed Joker and learned that he was abused as a child by his alcoholic father. After more interviews, Harleen determined that Batman was the source of Joker’s anger, but also that she was falling in love with him. Harleen became Joker’s partner in escaping from the asylum in hopes that she could win his love.

Harley decides that the only way to make the Joker love her is to kill Batman, which she attempts to do by feeding him to a school of piranhas. Batman distracts her by telling her that the Joker had been using her from the start, and that Joker’s stories of an unhappy childhood were lies. When she tearfully insists that Joker really loves her, Batman convinces her to call Joker so that he will know she accomplished her goal (as the piranhas would leave no convincing evidence other than bones and a tattered costume which anyone can fabricate). When Joker arrives, however, he is infuriated that Harley would try to kill Batman herself and knocks her out a window, where she is found by nearby police officers. Joker then decides nonetheless to use the opportunity to finally kill Batman, which escalates into a wild chase ending atop a moving subway train. Batman taunts Joker by saying that Harley came closer to killing him than he ever did. Joker attacks him in rage, but Batman sends him lunging into a burning smokestack.

Back in Arkham Asylum, a severely injured Harley Quinn renounces The Joker forever, wanting nothing more than to heal and leave Arkham for good. A moment later, however, Harley finds flowers sent by her clownish beau with a “get well soon” card and falls in love with him again

Both are very entertaining and done in a unique style. This is definitely a must in a super hero collection.

REVIEW: BATMAN BLACK AND WHITE

 

CAST (VOICES)

Michael Dobson (Dreamcatcher)
Janyse Jaud (Hulk vs)
John Fitzgerald (Mon Ami)
Adam Fulton (Broken Saints)

Motion comics aren’t an itch many casual superhero buffs would take the time to scratch, but Batman: Black and White is an enticing collection that might sway some leery minds. I can understand the logic behind it: with one of the chief complaints about comic-to-film adaptations being a lack of faith to the source material, why not put those printed pages front and center? With a minimum of animation, motion comics can show classic heroes and their exploits in an interesting perspective, which Black and White does for the Caped Crusader with all the pitch-dark atmosphere you’d expect.

Twenty brief adventures set in the thick of Gotham’s seedy underworld are presented in Black and White. Bringing the work of writers like Bruce Timm and Alex Garland to life is striking art as provided by Dave Gibbons, Alex Ross, and others. There’s no shortage of the Dark Knight’s dynasty to cover, as we bear witness to stories ranging from macabre fantasy (“Monsters in the Closet”) to heartwarming and thoughtful (“Sunrise”). Batman combats street thugs, Nazis, mad scientists, and the most notorious members of his lengthy rogues gallery. A few of these villains even get their own turn in the spotlight, showing more than mere greed gnawing at their psyches. Fleeting as their lengths may be, these tales each do their part in shining a light on what’s made Batman’s crimefighting legacy endure for so long.

The DC Animated Universe has given fans some of the best superhero media in recent years — Wonder Woman and Justice League: Doom can stand toe to toe with Captain America or The Avengers, if you ask me. But what sets Batman: Black and White apart is that it’s not a linear narrative (or a single, connected story whatsoever). Every vignette is self-contained and lasts a few minutes at most, leaving next to no elbow room for grand, epic plotlines. This doesn’t always play out well, with some stories (“Hands,” especially) suffering abrupt anticlimaxes after a marathon of build-up. Black and White is staunchly economical and only so effective when its entirety is viewed in succession, but on their own, the bulk of the stories stand as distinct, eye-catching, and emotionally fulfilling. The wide range of art styles and environments each short incorporates (from a futuristic police state to a WWII-era Gotham) is impressive, as are the tones they adopt. We get some light-hearted escapades (as when Batman gets the jump on a trouble-making Harley Quinn), although most delve into its protagonist’s psychology to intriguing effect. It says a lot when a three-minute hostage crisis or quick encounter with a certain man of steel lingers in your mind as much as a grandiose Christopher Nolan opus.

Batman: Black and White might appeal most to those fans who’ve pledged complete allegiance to the cape and cowl, but there’s no reason outsiders shouldn’t find something to rile them up. With each scenario possessing a unique presentation and its own brand of derring-do, this omnibus has no trouble packing a collective punch.  Batman: Black and White does just right by Bob Kane’s legendary guardian of the night.

REVIEW: BUFFY: THE VAMPIRE SLAYER – SEASON 8

CAST (VOICES)

Kelly Albanese (Street Boss)
Marcus Ashley (Laurel Canyon)
Alex Collins (NCIS: New Orleans)
Tauvia Dawn (The Monkey’s Paw)
Natalie Lander (Castle)

imagesJR6PV6ZKThe good news about the Buffy Season 8 comic series is, of course, the involvement of Buffy series creator/mastermind Joss Whedon, who has written the scripts for several of the issues, served as an “executive producer” for the entire series, and brought on other Buffy writers as well. The bad news about the motion comics is the lack of involvement from those who appeared on the other side of the camera; none of the actors  show up to resume their characterizations. It’s a tad disorienting, particularly at first. though it is worth noting that several of the sound-alikes (Faith, Giles, and especially Xander) are awfully good sound-alikes.img-buffy-motion-comic-8x04-477It should also be noted that the word “complete” appears nowhere in the disc’s title, as the series is ongoing, and this disc “motions” only the first 19 issues (they’re at 40+ and counting). Within those 19, there are four four-part series: “The Long Way Home” and “The Time of Your Life” (penned by Whedon), “No Future for You” (by comic writer and Lost alum Brian K. Vaughn), and “Wolves at the Gate” (by Drew Goddard, who wrote episodes of Buffy, Angel, Alias, and Lost, in addition to Cloverfield). Whedon also wrote the disc’s three one-off issues, “The Chain,” “Anywhere But Here,” and “A Beautiful Sunset.”

 

 

The results are mixed. On the plus side, most issues (each running somewhere between 10 and 13 minutes) maintain the series’ wry comic sensibility. Xander (now the eye-patched leader, with Buffy, of the central command of slayers at a castle in Scotland) gets most of the good lines–in one sticky situation, he notes “Unless I can fall-down-and-throw-up my way outta here, I got nothin’.” As on the best Buffy episodes (and Firefly’s, for that matter), the richest comic territory proves the deflating of fantasy/action clichés, usually in throwaway moments like when main villain “Twilight” stops an evil monologue to pull away his mask a bit, and then apologizes: “Sorry, itchy neck. Where was I?”

The most intriguing quality of the books is that they allow Whedon and his writers greater opportunity to play with structural and narrative possibilities, be it shifting point-of-views–the story of the “The Girl” in “The Chain,” for example, or the Faith-ccentric “No Future for You” series–or scrambled timelines, as in the “Time of Our Lives” series. Those experiments, which feel more organic to this format and less an attempt to replicate the television show, point the way towards this new “Buffy” becoming its own, unique entity. Because the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Motion Comic disc ends less than halfway into the “season,” the ending we’re provided is less than satisfying–a dash, rather than a period. That incompleteness, the undeniably jarring experience of hearing new voices for characters we’ve spent countless hours with, and the simple aesthetic disparities between live-action television and comic book/motion comic may very well prevent “season 8” from playing as true canon for Buffy fans. It feels more like a curio, a collection of footnotes and epilogues. Then again, there are worse ways to pass the time.

REVIEW: WATCHMEN: THE MOTION COMIC

CAST (VOICES)

Tom Stechschulte (The Clairvoyant)

A re-examination of superheroes, done with a bleaker, more realistic point of view, Watchmen was revolutionary when it was released in 1985, and it remains as relevant as ever, despite some dated elements (which are mitigated by the fact that the story is told in an alternate world in a specific time frame.) The Crimebusters were a group of costumed crime fighters in the 1960s, but as the world became more complicated, they became less relevant, and they disbanded, and superheroes were outlawed by the government, leaving only a few government-sponsored adventurers, including the ultra-violent patriot The Comedian and the super-powered Dr. Manhattan, who gained command over reality when he was torn down to molecules by an atomic accident.The main story is a mystery, as the psychotic Rorschach, whose mask is an ever-changing ink blot, attempts to discover who killed the Comedian, who was found dead in his civilian identity. Thinking someone is out to kill the former superheroes, he uses his own brand of ruthless violence, driven by an insane, right-wing mindset, to figure out just what’s going on, drawing in his former teammates, as the truth becomes more twisted and complicated as the story plays out. In the end, the plot is intensely deep, focusing on the choices and mistakes made in life, the meaning of existence, the value of an innocent life and the lengths one will go to in order to achieve their goals, while the story is told using intricate storytelling techniques, interwoven supplemental material and smart literary devices that make it more intelligent and engaging than most novels. That it’s told about guys wearing tights just adds a layer of accessibility and absurdity.This version of Watchmen, which was released episodically on iTunes and elsewhere, is somewhat like an audiobook version, but enhanced with animation that’s built off the actually art from the graphic novel. Now, this was done way back when with some Marvel cartoons, and it was terrible, and has become a bit better recently, but these Watchmen episodes are the best yet. Taking Dave Gibbons’ original art, panel by panel, and doing slight animation effects (and some impressive lighting and special effects work,) Warner Premier allows you to watch the graphic novel, complete with dialogue, music and sound effects.The dialogue, provided entirely by Tom Stechschulte, is really quite good, especially when voicing Dr. Manhattan, though there are a few major exceptions, namely the fact that he also provides the voices for the female characters. Though he thankfully didn’t attempt to imitate a woman’s voice, which would have yanked you right out of the story, it’s highly creepy to hear him seductively purr as Silk Spectre, especially when he’s doing it up against his own voice.You’re never going to see a more faithful “movie” than this presentation, which offers up the 12 chapters of Alan Moore’s story, including the ending that fanboys nationwide were hoping to see on the big screen  Even if you’ve read the book many, many times, it’s a new experience and an entertaining one at that.