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REVIEW: Krypto the Superdog: the Complete Series

REVIEW: Krypto the Superdog: the Complete Series

I am decades away from the target audience for the just-released Krypto the Superdog: the Complete Series. Ever since the Canine of Steel arrived in 1955, he has been a popular supporting player, and with all-things super-heroic now part of the pop culture zeitgeist, it made perfect sense to give him a series for the younger side of the television demographic.

All 39 episodes of the 2005 series are presented here, adapted by producer Chris Mitchell. Joining Krypto (voiced by Sam Vincent) on his crimefighting adventures are Streaky (Brian Drummond), Supergirl’s pet cat, and Ace the Bathound (Scott McNeil). They even created Stretch-O-Mutt (Lee Tockar) to round things out. And if there are going to be animal heroes, there have to be animal villains, who happen to include the pets of Lex Luthor (Brian Dobson) and Catwoman. When things look dire, they can count on help from the Dog Star Patrol.

With Superman (Michael Dangerfield) too busy to walk and feed him or even play fetch, he leaves his childhood companion with Kevin Whitney (Alberto Ghisi), a 9-year-old boy, who winds up accompanying the dog on many escapades. Conveniently, Streaky is now housed with his next-door neighbor Andrea Sussman (Tabitha St. Germain).

The animation is solid and perfect for the audience. With Alan Burnett and Paul Dini looking over everyone’s shoulders, the stories are equally strong and in keeping with the other animated fare then running on television. It makes for fun viewing with your younger relatives, children, or even grandchildren.

The DVD is perfectly fine for viewing, with all 39 episodes contained on four discs, which offer no Special Features.

REVIEW: Titans: The Complete Third Season

REVIEW: Titans: The Complete Third Season

The live-action Titans series has been flawed from the get-go by presenting us with a Dick Grayson that the writers woefully misunderstand. There is no comic book creator who ever depicted Grayson in this manner so it sets the wrong tone. Its low-budget when created for the short-lived DC Universe streaming service didn’t help.

And yet, it has staggered through three seasons, with a fourth now streaming on HBO Max. Just last week, Warner Home Entertainment released Titans: The Complete Third Season on Blu-ray (no DVD or 4K).

We pick up from the end of season two with the team mourning the death of Donna Troy (Conor Leslie), they are jarred to discover that now Jason Todd (Curran Walters) has been murdered by the Joker. The team, and yes, it’s nice to see them function as a unit for a change, journey to Gotham City to console Bruce Wayne (Iain Glen). Not long after, a new vigilante, the Red Hood, is operating and the team takes its sweet time figuring out that it’s Jason, who somehow has been leading a secret life that the ever-aware Batman missed.

A large portion of the narrative features Dick versus Jason with everyone else in supporting roles. The Red Hood is a blood-thirsty, angry teen who happens to have been trained by the World’s Greatest Detective, so he’s very dangerous. When we discover Todd has been manipulated this whole time by the Scarecrow (a wonderful Vincent Kartheiser), we finally gain some sympathy for him. All sorts of psycho games are played during their bouts, making this more of a two-hander than a team show. In between, Dick finds time to renew his long-simmerig love for Barbara Gordon (Savannah Welch).

So, what is everyone else doing? Well, Starfire (Anna Diop) is visited by her also-angry sister Blackfire (Damaris Lewis), who romances Superboy (Joshua Orpin). Oh, and Donna has her own resurrection story (of course).  Raven (Teagan Croft) and Beast Boy (Ryan Potter) don’t get to do much, wasting their talent and chemistry.

Based on a numerous stories from the comics, none make the most of super-heroes or teen angst, or good storytelling. It’s more meh than anything else.

The 1080p transfer is perfectly fine for home viewing with rich blacks and a nice color palette.

There are a handful of Special Features including Training a Metahuman; Looking the Part, which spotlights LJ Shannon, Specialty Costume Designer; Inside the Character: Red Hood; Inside the Character: Barbara Gordon; and, Welcome to Gotham.

Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears by John McNamee

Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears by John McNamee

Discovering something creative that you like is fun. Learning that it’s over is sad. But what if you’re not sure if it’s over or not?

Pie Comics was (is?) a strip by John McNamee. It used to be on GoComics . It used to update regularly on Tumblr . The Tumblr page mentions a website that doesn’t resolve. But there have been three collections of the series, all of which seem to have come out after the last update to the Tumblr page.

My theory – which is mine, and what it is too – is that McNamee did this strip regularly in the mid-teens, and collected it mostly after it ended, and that there will be no more. But I’d be very happy if that theory were wrong.

(I also can’t find anything else by McNamee since the last Pie collection in 2020, so I hope he’s working on a bigger story that will come out very soon and make us all happy and laugh and rejoice.)

I’m thinking all this because I recently found the first collection, Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears , semi-randomly in my library’s digital-reading app and just read it. (The other two, unfortunately, are not also in the same app, so I’ll have to search for them elsewhere.)

So: yay! This is funny and neat, in a vaguely Tom-Guald-ian way – McNamee’s art style and his tone are both in the same vague space that Gauld has been working – and collects a hundred or so comics, mostly single-pagers (with a few epic two-pagers), mostly four-panel, and entirely about fairy-tale, folkloric, and other fictional creatures.

(Note: the Judeo-Christian God does show up a few times. I stand by my immediately previous statement.)

McNamee has a simplified, fun style that makes everything more amusing, and his writing is zippy and smart, too. I am happy that there are two more books to search out, and mildly optimistic that McNamee (who seems to still be pretty young – he references being in college in the Aughts) will do more Neat Stuff in the near future. If you, too, like funny comics about fairies, wizards, Godzilla, zombies, dragons, demons, Death, unicorns, Superman, and their ilk, you’ll want to check it out.

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

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy by Jeff Lemire, Tonci Zonjic and Steve Wands

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy by Jeff Lemire, Tonci Zonjic and Steve Wands

Nigrum Malleoleum est omnis divisa in partes tres.

Some Black Hammer books have numbers in the title: those are the main series. Before the book I’ll be complaining about today, there’s been Secret Origins , The Event , Age of Doom 1 , and Age of Doom 2 .

Some Black Hammer books have the words “Black Hammer” in the title, but no number: Streets of Spiral , the Justice League crossover . These are side stories about the whole team.

(Black Hammer ’45  is deeply confusing in this schema, but it actually fits in the next category. The “Black Hammer” referred to in the title is not the same as the other books, for maximum what-the-fuck-age.)

And some Black Hammer books are about other people in the same world, whose stories may intersect the main gang of mopey superheroes or may not obviously do so. (This is superhero comics: all stories intersect in the Grand Summer Crossover eventually.) Before this book, there was Sherlock Frankenstein , Doctor Andromeda , and The Quantum Age .

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy , as the title implies, is in the third group. For those who weren’t counting along on their fingers, it’s the eleventh collection. It is written by Jeff Lemire, creator and co-owner of the whole shebang, with stylish gritty art by Tonci Zonjic (often breaking into double-page spreads, which are gorgeous and well-designed but made me wish I wasn’t reading the whole thing on a tablet) and lettering by Steve Wands.

Skulldigger asks the superhero question: “what if the Punisher instead used a metal skull on a chain to kill people, instead of guns? Wouldn’t that be totally awesome?!” It is perhaps the most ’90s idea ever to have been thought up twenty years later, and would have fit comfortably into either DC or Marvel’s mid-90s grim and gritty eras – which, of course, is the point of all of the Black Hammer comics: they’re meant to seem like that stuff you read long ago while at the same time being new stuff you can buy on Wednesdays.

(The argument about how all superhero comics have been doing this more and more consistently for roughly the past forty years is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Now, in any realistic universe, Skulldigger would be shot dead extremely quickly, but so would Batman, so he gets the same dispensation. At the time of the 1996 of this story, he’s been around for maybe a decade, and is seemingly the preeminent crimefighter in Spiral City.

So he’s not-Punisher. There’s also Detective Reyes, who is not-Rene Montoya (literally: tough female detective, lesbian, always fighting with her captain, olive skinned – I do wonder if Lemire does that on purpose or just can’t be bothered to change the details), one of the other viewpoint characters.

The third viewpoint character is Matthew. He’s twelve, and we see his parents get murdered in front of him in the first scene, with a particular overhead view that will make you think they just came out of a Zorro movie. (Black Hammer is many things, but it is never, ever subtle.)

Anyway, the story here is: random thug kills Matthew’s parents. Skulldigger arrives, kills random thug. Matthew becomes non-verbal at witnessing his parents’ murder, doesn’t respond to any questioning by cops including Reyes, is institutionalized. Reyes is obsessed with finding and stopping Skulldigger; her boss literally says “he’s killing the right kind of people, don’t waste time on him.”

Look, do I need to give all of the story beats? Skulldigger gets a sidekick. If you’ve been paying any attention, you know who that is. It’s not a good idea, but he at least seems to be devoted to training the kid so he doesn’t die immediately.

Oh, and meanwhile, an ex-superhero – formerly the Crimson Fist, now civilian Tex Reed – is running for mayor, on a “let’s get back to happy superheroing” platform. (He’s an unpowered guy, maybe a bit more Moon Knight than Batman, and now fiftyish and retired for ten years or so.) The Crimson Fist’s old nemesis Grimjim – who is not anyone in particular from another superhero universe, but is deeply in the Batman Villain template, something of a mash-up of Joker and Ra’s al Ghul conceptually and Killer Croc visually  – has to break out of not-Arkham Asylum to cause trouble.

Tex and Grimjim and Skulldigger have hidden connections, of course. Every superhero story is about the same people tripping over each other over and over again; there’s never anyone new.

It is grim and it is gritty and it is violent: this is supposed to be a 90s-style story, from the dark and decadent age of superheroing. We are meant to deplore that at the same time we revel in it.

Frankly, this is one of the most successful Black Hammer stories to date, in my mind: it tells a specific story, beginning to end, without getting caught up in extraneous crap. It isn’t burdened with the core series’ weird reluctance to move from the initial premise, and has the strengths of the whole series to date: Lemire’s naturalistic dialogue and strong plotting, and great storytelling art.

It’s still a pastiche grim-n-gritty Punisher/Batman comic that has no good reason to exist, mind you. But it’s successful at the things it sets out to do.

One last point: the descriptive copy for this book describes it as a tragedy. It is not. Not in any traditional sense, not in any way. “Tragedy” here seems to mean “a story in which sad things happen,” but that’s most of them. This is not a tragedy, not for Skulldigger or Skeleton Boy or Det. Reyes, or even for Grimjim. And a tragedy has to be a tragedy for the main character.

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

REVIEW: Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons

REVIEW: Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons

In the 1960s, Mort Weisinger ran more than a few stories speculating on what would happen had Superman and Batman married and had offspring, although no two stories were connected. Under Murray Boltinoff, World’s Finest Comics in 1973 began a series of stories about Clark Kent, Jr, and Bruce Wayne, Jr., which had its following. More recently, Superman and Lois had a son, Jonathan, while Batman met Damian, his biological son, grown in a test tube by Ra’s al Ghul. Once they established themselves, it was inevitable the youngster would be paired up and a series of entertaining Super Sons stories ran, mostly in the capable hands of writer Peter Tomasi.

Now, Warner Animation has paired them in a brand-new animated feature, Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons. This is one of the most consistently satisfying offerings from the studio in some time and was fun to watch, despite some obvious beats.

Interestingly, for the second time in a few years, the threat comes from Starro the Conqueror, although in this telling, it came to Earth from Krypton and is an evolving visual, unlike the original Mike Sekowsky design. One by one, Starro takes over Earth’s super-protectors, keeping them all aboard the JLA Watchtower, slowly infiltrating the humans around the globe.

As this story develops in the background, the first two-thirds of the film deals with Jonathan Kent (Jack Dylan Grazer) discovering first his powers, then that his father (Travis Willingham) is the World’s Greatest Super-Hero. Bringing Jon to the Batcave for an examination, Batman (Troy Baker) introduces them to Damian (Jack Griffo), who is as arrogant and self-confidant as he was initially in the comics. The boys are even more diametrically opposed as their fathers once were, and it takes time for them to find a way to work together.

This has to be the most entertaining Super Sons story not written by Tomasi. Jeremy Adams, who also writes for the comics, does a fine job with the characters. It is marred by a predictable final third that lacks suspense or surprise.

Visually, the new CGI tools at their disposal provide some nice panoramic backdrops for the story and nice character motion, with a smattering of hand-drawn animation. (Note: The opening visuals, silently recapping the origins, is from comics veteran Michael Golden.)

We can fully appreciate this thanks to a brilliant 2160p/HDR scan, coupled with a fine DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix. Together, it is a terrific home viewing experience.

The Special Features (only on the Blu-ray disc) are perfunctory with Rival Sons: Jonathan and Damian (14:41), featuring the hammy producer Jim Krieg, DC creative director Mike Carlin, supervising producer Rick Morales, director Matt Peters, Adams, and a clinical psychologist.

Additionally, we have From the DC Vault – Batman: The Animated Series’ two-part “The Demon’s Quest”.



I have to give Jordan Peele credit for original thinking. His stories tackle interesting ideas and premises, but each one comes with a shortcoming in narrative or structure. I wasn’t as impressed with Us or Get Out as I was with his BlacKKKlansman. I do give him credit, though, for always trying something different.

This summer’s Nope, now out on disc from Universal Home Entertainment, is almost an homage to Steve Spielberg as it once more delves into science fiction, similar to his foray into the Twilight Zone with a dose of M. Night Shyamalan’s paranoia.

It’s grounded by the story of two siblings— OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Em (Keke Palmer)—struggling to keep the family farm after one debacle after another threatens to derail them. After a series of unfortunate occurrences, it becomes clear that a UFO and its occupant have been behind it all and have malevolent plans. This is a far more engaging SF Western than Cowboys and Aliens ever was.

Peele, who wrote and directed, handles characters marvelously and gets strong performances from his lead, ably supported by Keith David, Brandon Perea, and Steven Yeun.

The film is available in the usual assortment of packages, including the 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray/Digital HD Code. The 4K has a solid, if unspectacular, 2160p/HDR scan, letting you admit the countryside and details. Interestingly, the 1080p is slightly better, crisper with the subtle details.

Both come with an excellent Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

The Special Features are adequate. Included on the 4K are five Deleted Scenes (9:25); Gag Reel (5:29); Shadows: The Making of Nope (56:05); Call Him Jean Jacket (14:22); Mystery Man of Muybridge (5:30). These are also on the Blu-ray, but many are at 480p not 1080.

If you like Peele’s brand of filmmaking, this is for you.

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

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).

Marvel Celebrates Disney’s Centennial with Variant Covers

Marvel Celebrates Disney’s Centennial with Variant Covers

New York, NY— October 13, 2022 — Across The Walt Disney Company next year, Disney 100 Years of Wonder will honor and showcase the rich legacy of storytelling and immersive experiences that have been a hallmark of Disney since its founding on October 16, 1923. Disney’s 100th anniversary will be celebrated around the globe, and Marvel Comics will be marking the occasion with a special monthly DISNEY100 VARIANT COVER PROGRAM featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and more.

The variant program in honor of Disney100 will celebrate Marvel’s past, present, and future through the classic “What If” lens with a fantastic reimagining of Marvel’s most classic comic book covers. These first-of-its-kind art pieces will see Disney’s iconic characters immersed in the magic of Marvel storytelling as they pay homage to legendary moments in the Marvel Comics mythos, including Captain America assembling Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in Avengers #4, as well as the groundbreaking debut issues of Fantastic Four and Incredible Hulk.

With 12 covers in total, fans can look forward to a new Disney100 variant cover (also available in Black and White versions) hitting stands each month of 2023 at local comic book shops. The variant covers will be found on select upcoming issues of Amazing Spider-Man starting with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #17 on January 11.

REVIEW: Sweet Tooth: The Complete First Season

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

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.