Category: Reviews

REVIEW: The Flash: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray
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REVIEW: The Flash: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray

When The Flash arrived on the CW, it was pitched as the anti-Arrow, a feel-good series about the joy of being a superhero. After all, the title character (Grant Gustin) was wearing a crimson and yellow suit; hard to be moody in that.

As with all CW superhero series, it was quickly over-populated with too many powered supporting players, frequently taking the focus off the hero. It also grew too reliant on speedsters, the Speed Force, and time travel, so a sameness was infused throughout each successive season. There was every reason to believe this was to be the final season, so it was plotted as such. They could have done better. Much better.

With The Flash: The Complete Eighth Season now on Blu-ray from Warner Home Entertainment, we see how weary the producers and writers had become, seeking to find ways to pump new life into the show. We began with the five-part “Armageddon” crossover event that aired separate from the remainder of the season, featuring a boring Despero (Tony Curran), who wasn’t a conqueror as a misguided figure trying to preserve one timeline. Yawn. At least we were minded that the Scarlet Speedster operated in a world with other heroes as it guest-starred, among others, the Atom (Brandon Routh), Black Lightning (Cress Williams), Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), Ryan Choi (Osric Chau), Mia Queen (Katherine McNamara), and Batwoman (Javicia Leslie).

The rest of the season juggled multiple storylines, mostly involving or dealing with the repercussions of Iris (Candice Patton) suffering from time sickness. We also get the introduction of Tinya Wazzo (Mika Abdalla); in the comics, she’s the 30th Century legionnaire known as Phantom Girl. With so many threads, quite a bit of time was with Iris and Sue Dearbon (Natalie Dreyfuss) chasing Tinya while the rest of Team Flash dealt with other silliness, including yet another speedster Fast Track (Kausar Mohammed).

The most interesting developments were non-super as Allegra (Kayla Compton) grew into her role of a journalist, and Caitlin Snow (Danielle Pennebaker) coped with the loss of her alter ego, Frost. And these were downplayed in favor of familiar storylines.  With a ninth and final season in the offing, one can hope for a more satisfying resolution for the characters.

All 20 episodes are presented with a strong 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. For such a colorful series, it requires a good scan and here we have it, along with a solid DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, capturing every sound effect and music cue.

The discs are packed with a handful of Special Features, notably 22 minutes of deleted scenes, some of which focused on character bits and are missed. There is also The DC Heroes – Path To Glory (17:00), focusing on the larger DCEU; The Flash – Standing the Test of Time (9:00), looking at its overuse of time travel; and the ever-popular Gag Reel (10:00).

REVIEW: Sweet Tooth: The Complete First Season
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REVIEW: Sweet Tooth: The Complete First Season

I first discovered Jeff Lemire as an inventive cartoonist was with the Vertigo title Sweet Tooth, and to my delighted surprise, it got turned into an equally enjoyable Netflix series. And now, thanks to Warner Archive, the Complete First Season is now available on Blu-ray.

In a near future, the world has gone to the Great Crumble as a result of a plague known only as the Sick, coupled with the arrival of human-animal hybrids that engendered fear among the survivors. Most people blame these innocent creatures for the plague although there is no direct proof.

Puppa (Will Forte) saw the writing on the wall and went into the wilderness, raising Gus (Christian Convery) for the next decade. When Puppa is killed, Gus goes on the run, encountering the haunted bounty hunter Tommy Jepperd (Nonso Anozie). The gruff man wants nothing to do with Gus, seeing him as a nuisance, hinderance, and likely dangerous. Gus’ naiveté, though, turns Jepperd, dubbed the Big Man, into his protector and then friend. They travel together as Gus seeks the woman; he thinks is his mother.

Meantime, we get flashbacks to how hybrids were developed along with other storylines featuring those hunting the hybrids and others protecting their own. There are a lot of characters and backstory to cover in these eight episodes but producer Jim Mickle takes him time so the show never feels rushed.

Convery gives a winning performance and the largely unknown cast does a nice job making oyu feel their anguish, their hopes, and their dreams.

Thankfully, the show has been renewed and you can see for yourself.

The 1080p transfer is nice and clean, making for fine at home watching.

Delicates by Brenna Thummler
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Delicates by Brenna Thummler

I don’t want to say there’s always a sequel…but, these days, it’s the way to bet. Anything that has any degree of success will have a follow-up, telling more of the story or doing as much of the same thing as possible.

So when Brenna Thummler’s first graphic novel, Sheets , was an unexpected success a few years ago, what would her next project be?

Yes, obviously: the direct sequel Delicates , which came out three years later (in 2021). And, though I might sound dismissive, Delicates does all the things a good sequel should: it starts from the end of the first book (rather than rehashing the same story/issues/ideas), adds more details and richness to the world, examines slightly different (but related) concerns, and moves the overall story forward.

Sheets took place, in retrospect, in the fall of Marjorie Glatt’s seventh-grade year. (We didn’t know then exactly how old she was; we did roughly know the time of year.) Delicates jumps forward a bit, to the start of another school year. Summer is ending: Marjorie is about to enter eighth grade.

In the wake of the events of Sheets, Marjorie has a new friend group, mostly because the boy she has a crush on, Colton, is part of it. The rest are all girls, and at the center is Tessi, a mean-girl-type who controls the conversation and is low-key angry most of the time. Tessi has her own issues, mostly with a mother who is trying, in a well-meaning way but not one that has much chance of luck with the terminally sour and image-obsessed Tessi, to engage and lighten up her daughter. But we’re not really on Tessi’s side – we don’t have an antagonist here as we did with Mr. Saubertuck in Sheets, but she’s pretty close.

Wendel the ghost is still Wendel, still basically the same. That’s usually the deal with ghosts, of course. If you want to change, you have to do it before dying.

And there’s a new central character: Eliza, the girl on the cover. She’s the oldest daughter of a favorite teacher at this middle school, has just been held back to repeat eighth grade, and is clearly on the spectrum somewhere. (No specific diagnosis is given in the book: she’s just who she is. But she has obsessions and verbal tics, and I may just be more prone to notice those things.) Her particular obsessions are photography, ghosts, and their overlap: she spends a lot of time trying to photograph ghosts.

She doesn’t know ghosts are real – or, rather, doesn’t know how ghosts actually work in Thummler’s fictional world. She’s pretty sure ghosts are real. I don’t know if she pictures them as Charlie Brown kids-in-sheets, but that’s what they are here.

Delicates is partially a book about fitting in: Eliza is too weird, too specific, to really fit in, Marjorie is weird but can cram herself into a shape Tessi & crew will be friends with, and Wendell only really has Marjorie, so he hates any ways she changes that makes her less friendly to him.

It’s also, like Sheets, a book in which death looms, always off the page and never specifically mentioned, but there all the time. All of Marjorie’s family is still dealing with her mother’s death: her father is engaging more with life now, but seems to be running around trying to do all the things his wife used to do, to keep all the old plates spinning, and to tightly control the few things he feels competent to control. Her kid brother Owen is doing something similar, on the level of a first-grader. And Marjorie, of course, is trying to be a “normal” teenager – have a friends group, be part of the group, maybe have a boyfriend if she can ever figure that out.

By the end, they’ll all have to be themselves instead of the people they’re trying to be. This isn’t exactly a book with a moral, but the story it’s telling aims in that direction: be who you actually are, and let other people do the same. Those are excellent things to remember, and Thummler tells a good story around them.

This is most obviously for people around Marjorie and Eliza’s age – the ones figuring out who they are, alone and with their parents and with their friends and with any potential boy/girlfriends. But, like all good YA, it’s a fine story even for those of us who have been pretty sure who we are for a few decades now, since we sometimes can still tend to forget.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

REVIEW: The Munsters
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REVIEW: The Munsters

Starting in fall 1964, children across America could watch CBS’ The Munsters but come January 1966, they seemingly all flipped the dial to ABC and Batman. The superhero series’ smash ratings cast a death spell on the humorous take on the classic monsters, with the exaggerated look as perfected by Universal’s horror films of the 1930s. Fred Gwynne was a delight as Herman Munster, paired nicely with Yvonne DeCarlo and Al Lewis. The sitcom transferred traditional family drama tropes to the residents of 1313 Mockingbird Lane and for 70 episodes, it was tremendous fun, revived for wildly successful syndication.

Ever since, there have been revivals in feature films, animated series, and failed attempts at series revivals. Now, here comes director Rob Zombie with his take on the classic characters, largely retaining the look of the original series, but in garish color.

The film, now available both on Netflix and disc from Universal Home Entertainment, lacks the charm of the initial performers and atmospheric black and white look. Over the course of approximately 1:50, we get an origin story for Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips), created by Dr. Wolfgang (Richard Brake), and his idiot assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia). [They appear straight out of the Hammer remake with Brake looking like Peter Cushing.] At the same time, Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie) has been seeking her perfect mate, when she sees Herman on Good Morning Transylvania.

What we know and they don’t until later, is that much as Fritz stole the wrong brain in the 1931 classic, Floop fails to obtain the brain of the second smartest man in the world but has, instead, taken the brain of Shecky, as big a moron as he is. There’s still Grandpa (Dan Roebuck) but added is Lily’s brother Lester (Thomas Boykin), a werewolf.

As the romance heats up, the gypsy witch Zoya (Catherine Schell) conspires to force Lester to have Herman sign over the house to settle his gambling debts. Ho hum.

It’s padded, not terribly funny, and the actors just don’t feel right for their roles. Maybe at half the length, with some judicious editing, it could have been a serviceable pilot for a new series or a special. But it fails as a tribute, a revival, and as entertainment. Perhaps the best parts of the film are the cameos from Cassandra Peterson, as the realtor, and the original stars Butch Patrick (their son Eddie) and Pat Priest (their ‘plain’ cousin Marilyn), who provide voiceovers.

The film, on Blu-ray, looks just as garish as a superior 1080p transfer. It is visually strong and well matched to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless audio track.

The only Special Feature is The Munsters: Return to Mockingbird Lane (1:01:52), a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. This is only for the handful who may have been entertained by the misfire. Zombie provides an audio commentary that attempts to show what he had in mind but failed to execute.

REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween Deluxe Edition
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REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween Deluxe Edition

Batman: The Long Halloween has been embraced as a superb Batman tale, a solid mystery story, and a superlative effort from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. It has remained in print since its arrival in 1996-97. Warner Animation tackled this in 2021, releasing it in two parts, which I liked when I reviewed them here and here.

The parts have now been sewn together into a far more satisfying single volume, upgraded to 4k Ultra HD, which incrementally enhances the overall enjoyment.

The 13-part story is set early in Batman’s career, with Loeb plumbing the Gotham underworld as established by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli in Batman: Year One. Interfering in Carmine “The Roman” Falcone’s (Titus Welliver) gang operations is the arrival of the Holiday Killer. Tracking him with little effect over the course of a year are Batman (Jensen Ackles) and his grudging allies Captain James Gordon (Billy Burke) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel).

The trail pits the newly minted Dark Knight against his familiar rogue’s gallery with the addition of Solomon Grundy. Along the way, we see Falcone deal with his adult children with varying degrees of success counterpointed by Dent’s strained marriage with his unhappy wife Gilda (Julie Nathanson), and Gordon’s fraying homelife.

The adaptation is one of the more successful ones from the studio and edited together, is stronger. The 2160p is marginally better than the Blu-ray, even with the HDR10 enhancement added. There appear to be numerous banding and compression issues here and in the combined Blu-ray version, also included.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix for both 4K and Blu-ray are perfectly fine, though unexceptional.

The 4K, Blu-ray, Digital HD code combo pack offers one new 4K featurette: The Long Halloween: Evolution of Evil (24:56) with Loeb, screenwriter Tim Sheridan, producers Jim Krieg and Butch Lukic, and others.

The Blupray repurposes older features including

BLU-RAY DISC

The Long Halloween: Evolution of Evil (24:56)

From the Vault – Batman: The Animated Series: “Christmas With The Joker”, “It’s Never Too Late”, “Two-Face – Part One”, and “Two-Face – Part Two”.

Bottom line: if you don’t have this yet, buy this version for an all-in-one experience. If you have the two parts already, there is nothing to compel you to upgrade.

The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag
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The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag

Morgan Kwon knows exactly how her life is going to go. She’s going to get through highschool, being exactly the person she seems to be now, with exactly the same friends, and then she is going to get off Wilneff Island forever, go to some big city, and begin her real life as the person she really is. All she has to do is keep everything packed up in the right boxes until then, and everything will be fine.

Narrator: everything will not be fine

Morgan is at the center of Molly Knox Ostertag’s mid-grade graphic novel The Girl from the Sea , and I think every reader – even those on the young and thoughtless end of that age-band – will sense that Morgan protests too much, that she can’t keep all of the boxes separate. Her parents have already separated when the story starts, so that’s one box broken up…and that, of course, is the point: she’s trying to control the things she thinks she can control, because something so central to her life was just totally uncontrolled.

In the opening pages of Girl from the Sea, Morgan slips on some rocks and nearly drowns. She’s saved by what she thinks is a cute girl, Keltie. And, if we readers are paying attention, we notice one very big box that she’s trying to keep separate and closed: that she likes girls. She thinks that’s got to stay hidden until she gets away, that it can only be a piece of her eventual adult life.

But Keltie is not just a cute girl: she’s something more special, and already loves Morgan. She’s loud and pushy and wants things and can show Morgan different ways of viewing and living her life.

Some of that is a metaphor for coming out. But a lot of it is literal: Keltie is a selkie, transformed from seal to girl, and with a lot of the traditional folkloric issues. (Ostertag plays a bit with reader expectations for some of these, I think, especially Keltie’s skin, but she’s not retelling any specific story or doing the usual folkloric stuff here.)

So: this is a story about whether Morgan will let herself unbend, if she will let herself break through her own boxes and be the person she actually is right now. And what will happen along the way: do her friends and family react the way she fears they will?

Oh, and Keltie has something pretty important she needs to do, too – she’s not in human form for nothing. Oh, sure, she’s crazy about Morgan, too – that definitely is part of it – but she has a mission for her people as well, and that’s not optional.

I liked Girl from the Sea better than Ostertag’s Witch Boy  books – those were fine, but had a slight whiff of formula about them, a sense that they were Teaching Lessons and Being Good Models and all that. Girl from the Sea feels more personal and specific, tied to a specific place Ostertag knows well and centered in a deep but new relationship. I also like the way it implies conflicts that never happen – there are things that are huge in Morgan’s head but don’t really exist in the real world. It’s still very much a book for younger readers, so people even more cynical and world-weary than me might find it too too, but it’s the kind of book I love to see for young readers, the kind that tells them they can be exactly the people they really are and that they have good, loving places in the world that they just need to find or make.

That may not always be true, in the actual real world. But it’s an important story, and it needs to be said as often as possible.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Paris by Andi Watson & Simon Gane
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Paris by Andi Watson & Simon Gane

I read this for almost entirely extraneous reasons, if that matters.

I’d seen the original edition of Paris  when it was first published, and wrote about it for ComicMix. (Be careful with that link; much of ComicMix’s back catalog seems to have been infested with hijackers, and there may be malware lurking about.) I vaguely knew that there was a newer, slightly longer edition, and had a perhaps even more vague idea of reading it, eventually, since I’ve been re-reading Andi Watson’s books over the last few years.

This is written by Watson, by the way, but the art is by Simon Gane. It’s the only time they’ve collaborated so far; Watson usually draws his own books. (Though they do have a new book together, Sunburn, coming up this fall.)

None of that is why I read Paris. And, looking back, it’s completely random that I did read it, only five days after this new edition was released.

I was browsing through Hoopla, the app my library uses, trying to find something to read that day. I’d just come back from a movie The Wife dragged me to. Now, it was not a bad movie, in any sense, but it was predictable and obvious and thuddingly normalizing in all sorts of ways: a well-executed thing that I didn’t mind watching but cared almost exactly nothing about. So I wanted something of a palate cleanser: something like that in superficial outlines, but more subtle, with better storytelling, and maybe something subversive about it. To be blunt, something with a bit of romance, maybe set in Paris in the 1950s, maybe without a moral of “common people are magical beings who make everyone’s lives better with their cheeky clear-headedness”.

Thus Paris. My original review covers the story (assuming you can navigate the “click Allow now!” pop-ups to read it): young American painter Juliet is in Paris, studying at the Academie de Stael in genteel poverty. Young British heiress Deborah is also in Paris, chaperoned by her horrible Aunt Chapman and having the most boring time possible in that city.

Juliet is hired to paint Deborah; they have a spark. Circumstances intervene to snuff out that spark, possibly before many readers have realized it is a spark, and not just a friendship. Will they meet again, and re-connect?

That’s the story. There’s some additional complications, such as Juliet’s lusty roommate Paulette and Deborah’s swishy brother Billy, but it’s a story about these two women, and whether they can manage to get together despite everything.

Gane has a very detailed style, that, to my eye, is influenced by both mid-century illustration and the lanky grace of high fashion. I don’t know if he always draws like this, but it’s a lovely choice for this story, making the City of Light a place of glamor and bustling life, real in its own way but idealized, the perfect vision of a romantic city of the past.

Like most of Watson’s work, the story here is low-key; you need to pay attention. It also helps to know a little French, since some phrases are untranslated until a set of notes at the end. But they’re all clear in context to readers who do pay attention.

The first time around, I thought of Paris as minor Watson, but I’ve revised that estimation upwards this time around. Gane’s art adds something unique and wonderful, and Watson is at his most subtle and allusive here, trusting his readers to see this story and not need to be told everything. You may need to read Paris twice to properly love it, but you don’t need to wait fifteen years between readings as I did.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Girl by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo
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Girl by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo

There’s all kinds of ways to build a creative program, but the two big ones are to follow a specific editorial plan (superhero comics, TV shows for teens & twentysomethings, R&B music) or to work with a curated group of popular creators and let them do their thing.

The first is most common; you tend to see the second in more highbrow media areas, like prestige publishing imprints and classical music…and, maybe, that means they’re already in a sub-genre, but just don’t like to think of themselves that way.

In the ’90s, DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint was undergoing a slow-motion transformation. It formed out of a cluster of very popular comics that were mostly Type One (superhero comics taken seriously!) but were often presented to the public as Type Two (all British writers! all the time!). But the core superhero universe was on its own path to take itself seriously, in a very different and much more tedious way (pouches! grimdark! no captions!), and the premise of Vertigo was being undermined by that, and by the relentless demand for ever-more-complex and ever-more-consistent continuity everywhere.

I don’t know if Vertigo was consciously looking for a new Type One structure, but they eventually found it in High Concepts, SF and fantastic premises (Fables, Ex Machina, Preacher, Y: The Last Man) that were roughly Classy Television in comics form, typically owned by their creators rather than being sharecropped superheroes, and featuring enough FX that they wouldn’t have been feasible in a filmed medium. It took a while to get there, though, so the ’90s are an interesting period for Vertigo, full of quirky sub-imprints (Vertigo Visions! Vertigo Voices! Vertigo Verite! V2K! Vertigo Pop!), as the editorial team tried to figure out what their remit was and what kind of books they could do that would also be hugely successful.

Girl  was in the middle of that searching: part of the Vertigo Verite burst, it was a three-issue miniseries from 1996 that I don’t think actually got collected until this 2020 edition. Written by Peter Milligan, one of the core Vertigo writers (launch title Shade and a bunch of shorter-run things) and drawn by Duncan Fegredo, the same team from the three-years-earlier Enigma .

It’s not a superhero comic. It’s not fantasy or SF, either: pure realistic drama. And, despite the first issue feinting hard in the direction of “I’ll tell you something crazy, and then tell you what was really going on,” it settles down quickly to a more-reliable narrator, maybe because Milligan realized he only had seventy-two pages or so to tell the whole story. Or maybe not: there are some things here that are “real” at the time but retroactively not, or maybe vice versa.

Simone Cundy is a fifteen-year-old British girl, living in a crappy town (neighborhood? city?) she calls Bollockstown. She’s one of those smart, prematurely cynical kids, and was born into a lower-class family happy to live up to all of the stereotypes. She, though, wants to Change the World, or at least Get Out. Or maybe just Do Something.

She’s fifteen, living in an urban hellhole (at least: that’s how she sees it. Everything here is how she sees it). So it makes sense.

Girl is the story of some stuff that happens to her. It’s psychological realistic, though not necessarily realistic in the pure, kitchen-sink sense. It’s pretty weird, I mean: not weird in the Weird Tales sense, but weird in the “weird kid” sense. Simone is a weird kid – I should say a weird young woman, since her story is largely about sex and death, as such stories often are.

I’m not convinced her story is entirely successful: there seem to be several warring story-structures that pop in and out of place as we go along, and it sprawls an awful lot for something less than eighty pages long. Also, Simone is very much a type, and that type was all over the place in that era: the depressed semi-Goth girl was as common as salt-water taffy for about a decade and a half.

And I’m not going to be any more descriptive about the things that happen to her, or that she causes: if you read this, you should discover them as you go.

Simone has a fun voice, even if it’s a very familiar voice of the era. And this is a short book. So you might as well read it, if any of the above sounds intriguing: the Vertigo transition, the Goth-chick vibe, the weird story structures, the heavily-captioned style that was quickly going away by 1996.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice! by Jeff Lemire, Michael Walsh & Nate Piekos
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Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice! by Jeff Lemire, Michael Walsh & Nate Piekos

In the life of every licensed superhero comic, there will come an especially blessed day: Baby’s First Crossover.

This, my dear hearts and gentle people, is that blessed event for the unnamed super-team of Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer comics. [1] (See here for the previous volume and here for the first volume, if you’re unfamiliar.) Oh, you may quibble that they have already met quite a lot of other superheroes and villains, fighting and teaming up and generating a lot of Licensable Content. But all of those previous encounters were from Lemire’s universe as well; those calls were all coming from inside the house.

For the first time here, someone else deigned to have a play-date with Black Hammer, to let their toys play with the Black Hammer toys, to touch the dolls’ faces together to make them kiss. Those heroes are the current Justice League, the someone is DC Comics, and it is a bit like Barbie and GI Joe in the hands of an hyperactive eight-year-old.

The story is Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice!, possibly the laziest possible title for this story. (The exclamation point might have taken a moment of thought; thus the “possibly.”) It’s written by Lemire with art by Michael Walsh and colors by Nate Piekos; I imagine someone on the DC side kibitzed editorially to keep the JL on-brand as well.

Amusingly to me, the Black Hammer gang are still their core ’80s incarnations while the JL is the current (I think) modern incarnations. Sure, separate universes don’t need to line up their timelines exactly, but wouldn’t it be more fun if Lemire had used the contemporaneous bwa-ha-ha era League? Or, possibly even better, the Detroit League? Ah, well.

In any case, the plot is the usual: a Mysterious Someone appears to both teams in their normal milieu (the BH gang grumping on the farm; the JL punching Starro) and swaps their places for making-mischief reasons. In a twist that is never explained, the JL immediately believe they’ve been on the farm for ten years, and mope about that, but the BH gang are aware of actual reality and spend most of their time squabbling with other Justice Leaguers.

The plot from there is…well, there’s that squabbling and moping, which takes up a lot of pages, then the inevitable Reveal of the Mysterious Someone, which is played up big but is one of the few obvious candidates and doesn’t really lead to anything, then, finally, as the play-date is ending, all of the dolls need to go back into their respective boxes separately, so they can stay in mint condition for the collector’s market. Lemire does throw out what may be a hook for another story, but it would need to be another DC Crossover, so let’s hope he gets good grades in school and does all his chores, so maybe there will be another play-date.

At the end of the book, we get what seems to be thirty pages of variant covers for the five issues of this miniseries, and I have nothing coherent to say about that.

I cannot take a single thing about Black Hammer seriously for a second, even while reading it. It is so deeply pastiche that there’s nothing substantial about it. If you are less cynical about superhero comics than I am, you may enjoy this on a more normal level. But it’s well-done – the characters talk like human beings and are drawn in a solid modern style – so it amusing on whatever level you can connect to it on. Black Hammer is not bad; it’s never been bad. It’s just deeply pointless and creepily incestuous.

[1] Black Hammer was a guy; he’s dead now. His daughter later becomes the new Black Hammer, and another woman who looks very much like her becomes another version a hundred years later. And I think there was one before the main guy, but Lemire hasn’t told any stories with the old dead one yet. This is superhero comics; names are just trademarks, and trademarks have to be used or they will be lost.

The team, on the other hand, has no trademark, no identity, since they’re drafting on the Black Hammer name and it’s far too late to create something new now, ten books in.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Bionic by Koren Shadmi
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Bionic by Koren Shadmi

Victor is a geeky teenager, mildly bullied by the jockish types at his high school – but also smart and skilled enough to be rebuilding old game consoles to make a serious side income. He’s obsessed with Patricia (Patty), who is gorgeous and rich and blonde, in the way of a million boys before him, and has about as much chance as they do.

Maybe less of a chance, since I’d estimate nearly 5% of the panels of Koren Shadmi’s graphic novel Bionic  are of Victor looking at something, usually Patty, and if he’s not gaping open-mouthed and frozen every time, well, he’s close to it. This is very much a book from the point of view of a tentative young man who doesn’t know what to do, what to say, or even what he actually wants. It’s full of moments of Victor’s confusion and indecision and longing and desire: those moments are the core of the book.

There’s more to Bionic than that, of course, as the title and cover imply. Victor and Patty have an almost-relationship: they sit together for at least one class (this isn’t clear) and he adopts a pet from the shop where she works. That’s probably where it would have stayed, with Victor whining to his friend Gus about his crush and Patty getting deeper into her relationship with probably-not-as-much-of-an-asshole-as-he-seems Brian.

But then something happens.

Patty’s father is CEO of a tech company, and…you see that cover? That’s Patty, after the something that happens. Hence the title. She’s suddenly not as popular as she was: Brian isn’t interested in a half-robot girl, and her former BFF is now a queen bee angling for him and being casually cruel to Patty. But, then: these are all teenagers. They are casually cruel in any case, all of them, almost all of the time. Maybe they will outgrow it eventually, some of them.

There are other layers, but that’s the core: cruel teenagers, body transformation, sexual desire, with a bit of technological and capitalist paranoia lurking around the edges. Victor and Patty are both difficult people to like: Victor is horribly passive and whiny; Patty is oblivious before her change and horribly moody afterward. This could have been the story of how two imperfect people helped each other, but that’s not the story Shadmi wants to tell here: it’s much more conventional than that, with Patty as the figure of lust (in spite of her bionics? or, for Victor, even more so because of her bionics?) and Victor as the perpetually yearning horny teen boy.

There are a lot of conventional elements here, I have to admit. I haven’t even mentioned Patty’s relationship with her father, which checks off a couple of clichés by itself. The SF elements are equally as shopworn as the teen-crush plot, though both are handled subtly and well. But if you think you’ve seen this story before, you probably have – it’s that kind of story.

Shadmi has a soft art style, mostly mid-range colors (maybe with colored pencils?) over mostly thin, not overly dark lines. His people are a bit cartoony: the boys, especially the geeky boys, more so than the girls. Or maybe I mean the attractive people are less cartoony.

I don’t think Bionic is as new or different or interesting as perhaps it wanted to be, or thought it is. But it’s a solid story, set in the intersection of teen-drama and SF, that uses its familiar elements solidly and has a lot to admire.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.