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REVIEW: Justice League

REVIEW: Justice League

Justice League should have been the super-hero film of 2017 but instead, was deemed an improvement over Superman vs Batman but not the blockbuster fans hoped for and Warner Bros prayed for. While it’s incredibly sad why director Zack Snyder had to bow out in favor of Joss Whedon coming in to handle reshoots but the finished product is a much-needed course correction from the wrongheaded approach to super-powered people. By lightening things up, Whedon helped us welcome the new heroes and formation of a team.

That the threat was incredibly boring has to be laid directly at the feet of screenwriters Chris Terrio and Snyder. He feels straight out of central casting with nary a hint of the Jack Kirby bombast that was woven into his Fourth World. There’s nothing wrong with a CGI villain (Gollum, Thanos) so it comes down to writing and performance and in both cases, they fail.

The movie, out now from Warner Home Entertainment, is worth a second look because there’s a lot to admire, starting with the easy comradery between Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck’s Batman. By picking up in the wake of Superman’s seeming death, we see the need for a team, a new for positive energy. From there, we look in on Aquaman (complete with Amber Heard cameoing as Mera, a nice tease for their film in December), Flash, and Cyborg, each approaching the notion of a team from different perspectives.

After that, there are extended action sequences that all go on too long and three Mother Box McGuffins that we all know will be united for the climactic battle so the level of suspense is low. The same with the resurrection of the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill), which should have been epic but is oddly underplayed.

All in all, it’s a fine, but underwhelming outing, not at all living up to the hype when DC belatedly launched their shared cinematic universe. The transfer to disc is equally adequate, leaving you wanting more and better.

The special features found in the Combo Pack (Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD code) are a fairly typical and unexceptional collection of featurettes.

We start with Road to Justice (14:10) wherein Bruce Timm, Dan DiDio, Jim Lee, Marv Wolfman and others briefly walk you through highlights of the team’s comic book existence. In Heart of Justice (11:52), the filmmakers and cast extol the virtues of the trinity: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The rest of the team get their due in Justice League: The New Heroes (12:24), hosted by Ray Fisher but also featuring commentary from Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller. Technology of the Justice League (8:14) looks at all the new toys that were created for the film. Ciarán Hinds tries to make Steppenwolf the Conqueror (3:03) sound far more interesting than he appeared in the film.

While we all hoped to see more of what director Zack Snyder had trimmed out of the final cut, all we get in the way of deleted scenes are tow focusing on The Return of Superman, portions of one we saw in the trailer.

There are a series of Scene Studies (15:16) that look at how different set pieces were achieved including Revisiting the Amazons (the best of the bunch); Wonder Woman’s Rescue, Heroes Park; and The Tunnel Battle.

Suit Up: The Look of the League (10:21) shines the deserved spotlight on Costume Designer Michael Wilkins, who gives us a look at how each JL member’s look was created, crediting all the diverse hands that contributed to the process.

What’s missing? Any sense that Joss Whedon was involved in the film. He’s not seen in any of the BTS material nor is there any discussion of his contributions including just how much of the finished product was his. This explains, of course, why there’s no director’s commentary. Snyder is also absent as a talking head, letting his producer wife Deborah Snyder represent the pair.

With Shazam, Wonder Woman 2, and Suicide Squad 2 all shooting this year, the DC cinematic universe seems here to stay and we can hope things improve with each subsequent film. This is a stumbling step in that direction.

Book-A-Day 2018 #71: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

A family of six flees a war-torn country, after American troops abandon it and let “invaders” from the other half of what used to be the same country conquer the portion they used to protect. The family has to sneak out by boat, crammed in with others, across an open sea, and hope for help and refugee status on the other end. They make it to the USA, the country they picked, and assimilate as best they can, working hard, living in small spaces, getting spat on by the natives.

Three decades later, one of those refugee children is a doctor; the others all productive members of society as well. The parents are naturalized citizens, and separated. And the third of those four children — Thi Bui, who was only a few years old when they fled — is becoming a mother herself, and investigating her family’s stories and history to learn more about where she came from.

This is The Best We Could Do . It’s an immigrant story, which is to say the most American kind of story possible. (If you disagree with me about that, the door is that way. Don’t let it hit you as you leave.)

Thi Bui had a complicated relationship with her parents — they were demanding and tough the way a lot of first-generation immigrant parents were, trying to keep up the traditions of their homeland and be more American than anyone else at the same time. She was the third girl of the four kids — the youngest was the only boy — which means her sisters, nearly ten years older, got to fight the battles so that she could have it a little easier. This book is the story of those complicated relationships, through the life stories of those parents, all the way up to the present day.

The Best We Could Do is a graphic novel that took Bui around fifteen years to make — not the writing and drawing, or not entirely, but gathering the stories of her family and writing her way into them. She had to find this story, to make it out of the materials in front of her, and that took time. This may be one of the best examples of the maxim “everyone has one great book in them” — but I don’t want to jinx Bui. She may go on to tell other stories as well, and they may take less than fifteen years. (I hope so: it would be a shame not to have other books by her, when she can make books this strong.)

But right now we have this book, and it’s an engrossing, encompassing view of the lives of one Vietnamese-American family. A book of tradition and hard work and fighting against outside forces and leaping at a chance for safety and happiness. Again, a quintessentially American story, and a great one.

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

The Law Is A Ass #430: Flash’s DA Should Have Said, “Well, Recuse Me!”

“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”

Oh great. It’s not bad enough I’m in a Godfather movie, so I probably have the life expectancy of a mayfly in a cancer ward, I’m in The Godfather: Part III. Still, even The Godfather: Part III would be preferable to where I’m actually going. You guessed it; “The Trial of The Flash.

Just in case your family took you out of school to go down to Disney World so you don’t know what we’ve been doing for the past three weeks, we’re talking about the episode of The Flash in which The Flash’s secret identity of Barry Allen was on trial for murdering Clifford DeVoe. Barry didn’t kill Devoe. He was framed.

I thought I had covered just about everything this episode had to offer. But the episode contradicted me. It was large, it contained multitudes. There are a couple of aspects I haven’t touched on. Until now. They both have to do with Cecille Horton, Barry’s defense attorney.

When Cecille was introduced, she called herself the district attorney of Central City. And that’s what her entry in the Arrowverse Wiki says she is, the Central City District Attorney. But every time Cecille ever did something, her every action made herself seem like a district attorney for the county, not Central City. I realize the show could have been indulging in shorthand. The show might not have wanted to specify the name of the county that contains Central City. So rather than say Cecille was the District Attorney of Yada Yada County, it just said she was the Central City District Attorney. But the show kept having her do things more consistent with the County District Attorney, not the Central City District Attorney.

There is a huge difference between a city district attorney and a county district attorney. So let me elucidate on the elusive state of DA differences.

Most states have cities and counties. (Two states – Alaska and Louisiana, parish the thought – don’t have counties.) The Flash takes place in Missouri, so said the episode “The Man in the Yellow Suit,” and Missouri has counties.

Something else most states have is city courts and county courts. Missouri has both types of courts. Missouri calls its county courts circuit courts, but what’s in a name other than four letters? The function of Missouri’s circuit courts, like the function of all county courts, is to be the court of original jurisdiction for the county. City courts, on the other hand, are the courts of original jurisdiction for the city in which they sit. Both city courts and county courts handle civil and criminal matters. We’re concerned with criminal matters, so we’ll leave the civil matters alone. Just as well, people tell me I’m not very good at being civil anyway.

City courts handle criminal violations of the city’s ordinances . These crimes are misdemeanors; less serious crimes such as simple theft, simple assault, or simple simonizing. County courts are responsible for prosecuting felonies. You know the big crimes like murder, kidnapping, or arson; the kind that are featured in TV shows, because no one wants to a watch an hour of someone on trial for jaywalking.

Cities have district attorney offices. So do counties. The city’s DA office prosecutes people charged with violating city ordinances in a city court. The county DA’s office would be responsible for prosecuting felonies, which are violations of state law, not city ordinances.

If Cecille were the Central City District Attorney, she would be a municipal prosecutor and her office would only handle misdemeanors. However, Cecille frequently involved herself in felony matters which would be beyond the scope of a city DA. So I think Cecille was supposed to be the County DA, but the show referred to her as the Central City DA because it didn’t have to name the county. Moreover, the show said Cecille was the district attorney, not a district attorney. That would mean Cecille wasn’t an assistant district attorney – like Michael Moriarty’s character on Law & Order – but the county DA – like Stephen Hill’s character on Law & Order.

And therein lies one of those multitudes I was talking about. Make Cecille the county DA, not an assistant DA, and neither she nor her office could have prosecuted Barry Allen.

See, in addition to being the county DA, Cecille was also the fiancée of Detective Joe West of the Central City Police Department. Yes, the same Joe West who happened to be both Barry Allen’s foster father and Barry’s current father-in-law. That means Cecille was about become Barry’s mother-in-law and his foster step-mother. I’m not sure even Albert Einstein could solve that particular theory of relativity, but what it boils down to is that Cecille is part of Barry’s family.

Cecille would have a conflict of interests and wouldn’t be able to prosecute a family member. If Cecille were just an assistant district attorney, her office could have Chinese walled Cecille so that she was insulated and never had any contact or dealings with the ADAs handling Barry’s case. But if Cecille is the county district attorney not an ADA – and she’s billed as the district attorney not a district attorney – then she’d be responsible for overseeing everyone’s work in the office and that wall wouldn’t be of China so much as it would of Jericho. If Cecille is the county DA, her whole office would have had to recuse itself from Barry’s case and the Attorney General would have appointed a special prosecutor to handle it.

Moreover, if Cecille were the county district attorney, there is simply no way she would be able to take a leave of absence from the DA’s office to handle Barry’s defense. She would have had privileged work product information of how the case against Barry was prepared. Barry may have the constitutional right to the attorney of his choice, but that choice would be trumped by the Code of Professional Responsibility. Not even the attorney of choice may represent someone if that representation is an ethical violation.

However, Cecille’s office wasn’t removed and Cecille was able to represent Barry. So maybe Cecille is just the Central City district attorney and not the county district attorney. And maybe I don’t know what kind of district attorney Cecille is, city or county. However, even if I don’t know what kind of DA Cecille is, as I’ve said before, I know what kind of lawyer she is.

A bad one.

Book-A-Day #70: The Color of Water and The Color of Heaven by Kim Dong Hwa

Once again I see that I read the first book of a trilogy nearly a decade ago (The Color of Earth, in 2009), carefully shelved the following two books, and left them there for “someday.”

Well, “left them there” is understating it: I had to move these books around repeatedly, looking at them over and over again, and somehow (I’m not sure how) saving them from my 2011 flood that destroyed so many other things I thought I wanted to read more quickly.

But every one of us has a million things we didn’t do, and far fewer that we actually did do. As we get older, focusing on the first makes less and less sense — those things are almost infinite.

So I finally did read The Color of Water and The Color of Heaven , the bulk of a trilogy by Korean manwha creator Kim Dong Hwa, retelling the story of his mother’s adolescence, nearly a century ago in sleepy rural Korea. (Dong Hwa’s note, I realize only now, does not say this is his parents’ story, so I wonder about the strapping young man who is the hero of these books, and how he relates, if at all, to the author’s actual father.)

Ehwa is sixteen, or so the flap copy tells us — the books themselves never mention her age. There’s a lot they don’t mention, though: this trilogy is set in a small village somewhere in Korea, and if we weren’t told it was the twentieth century, there’s nothing here to clue us into that. Life goes on here as it always has, in a quiet, pastoral way.

In the first book, Ehwa had crushes on two local young men — first the monk Chung-Myung, and then the orchard farmer’s son Sunoo. But this is a romantic story — Dong Hwa spent most of his career making romantic stories for young women — so we know it will end with a true love, even if there are a lot of tears and long speeches about emotions before then.

And there are plenty of speeches about emotions: from Ehwa; from her mother, a widowed tavern-keeper; from the men they both love; and from nearly everyone else in this small Korean town, who are all obsessed with talking about women as flowers and men as butterflies and other unsubtle metaphors. Each page is pleasant, and the dialogue is true, but a reader may begin to wonder if rural Koreans ever think of anything else, or if that’s why they are still so rural and backward in 1920ish.

I’m picking on these books, which are sweet and lovely — Dong Hwa is good at drawing expressions, and at showing character in his faces. And the dialogue, as I said, is true — it’s only that there’s so very very much of it in the six-hundred-plus pages of these books.

I suspect the natural audience for this trilogy is both substantially younger and substantially more female than I am, so my reaction doesn’t mean much. My sense is that these books are exceptionally good for their kind, and I did enjoy reading them. It’s only that sweet romances tend to bring out the Marvin the Paranoid Android in me….

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

Book-A-Day 2018 #67: Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

Children know more than adults give them credit for. They know huge things, things too big for words, things they try not to think about. As they get older, they can corral those huge things with words and tame them into the pieces of normal life. But kids can’t do that yet: the world is big and dangerous and surprising and entirely out of their control.

Louis is one of those kids: old enough to know things, too young to do anything about them. He’s eight or ten, maybe — old enough to be responsible for his kid brother Truffle (who is not really named Truffle). And he shuttles between his separated father and mother, when he wants to focus on Billie, the girl in his class who he thinks about all the time, but hasn’t quite worked up the courage to actually talk to yet.

Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault (writer and artist, respectively) tackle a different story from their first graphic novel Jane, the Fox & Me here — Louis is younger than Helene was, and there’s nothing he can do to solve his own problems. Well, there is something he can do to solve his problem with Billie, and we’ll see by the end of the book if he’s able to do that.

But Louis’s father has a drinking problem, the kind that starts with wine at 11 AM to quiet the shakes and goes on to mania and then depression from there like clockwork. Louis and Truffle seem to only live with their father on weekends, or occasionally — but this all new. Their parents were together not that long ago, and Louis desperately wants things to go back to normal.

Their mother is the one keeping things together: getting the boys to school, hiding her tears from them, working and cooking and mothering as hard as she can. She moved them from that big, now-mostly-empty house the father is still rattling around about eighteen months ago, to a small apartment in Montreal. The parents are not divorced. Nothing is final. But even Truffle knows, on some level, that something is wrong with his father.

Louis Undercover , if you want to be reductive, is the story of a family broken by an alcoholic, seen by a child, told in comics. But it’s so much more than an “issue” story, deeper and more resonant. We all worry about our parents. We all worry about our children. We all are in families that don’t work as well as we want them to. We all want to both go back to the good times in the past and move forward to new good times in the future.

Louis tells us this story: it’s all in his words, and Britt makes them cutting and true, every moment. Arsenault’s softly colored pages, with their fuzzy panel borders, draw us into that story, and make it real while keeping it from being so cutting we can’t stand it.

This is a lovely, true book. Like so many books made for younger readers, it should not be restricted only to them. And, frankly, an adult — a parent — will get a lot more out of Louis Undercover than even the most thoughtful and mature child. But that’s what great books do: they meet you where you are, and also wait for you to grow up, so they can meet you there as well.

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

Book-A-Day 2018 #65: Kaijumax, Season Two: The Seamy Underbelly by Zander Cannon

It’s taken two library systems to get me caught up on Zander Cannon’s giant-monsters-in-prison comic series, and that seems a lot more complicated than it should be. But any system that gets books you want to read into your hands is, in the end, a successful system — so I’m not going to complain.

Cannon is following the Classy Cable TV style here: six-issue mini-series, each basically self-contained, coming out about the same time each year. I expect that gives him time to do some other comics work as well, and (more importantly) time to plan the next series and promote the book of the last series, as comics is getting more and more disconnected from the just-put-something-out-in-pamphlet-form-every-month business model. (And, let’s be honest: that model was good for the companies that owned the companies and characters, but not so good for anyone else in the pipeline.)

So: here is Kaijumax, Season Two: The Seamy Underbelly . Electrogor, the nice guy who looked like our main character back at the beginning of the first season, has broken out of prison with Green Humongo, and the two of them are hiding out with Red Humongo, who is Green’s brother despite their having completely different origins. But the cast of characters is much wider than just our two fugitives, and they’re scattered all over the place — I’d say “around the world,” but one of them spends substantial time on what I’m pretty sure is the moon.

Cannon has backed his way into something like a racial allegory, though he has an afterword where he denies that was the point, and explains that the parallels came as he turned “giant monsters in prison” into something more than just a joke idea by trying to take it seriously. I found it an interesting strand of the story — kaiju as a minority group, dispossessed and discriminated against, and the family dramas between the cop kaiju brother and the criminal kaiju brother. I’m not part of the racial group that the kaiju mostly reference, so I can point to that element and note it, but readers who are closer to a real-world version could have very different responses.

Anyway, there’s a big cast, sprawling around the world and elsewhere, of cops and criminals, jailers and jailed, corrupt and honest, and those who cross all of those categories. It’s a fairly dark moral universe for both the kaiju and those they call “squishies.” (Cannon plays it monster-movie style, but there has to be a lot of death in the background of Kaijumax. Every monster in prison represents at least a few thousand dead humans, maybe more.)

And it’s a noirish cartoon version of every monster movie ever, too: giant piloted robots and giant self-aware robots, lizards from the depths of the ocean and Lovecraftian beasts from between the stars, demons and mad scientists and scheming sons. It’s only because the monsters are so apt to get addicted (to nuclear power, to fictional monster-drugs) that this world even still exists.

Season Two is darker than the first one, almost paradoxically, since this is the storyline taking place almost entirely outside of prison. But prison is where things are relatively simple, right? You follow the rules (official and unwritten), you keep your nose out of places it shouldn’t be, you keep your head down, and you do your time. There’s no place to keep your head down in the wider world, and everywhere your nose is could be a place it shouldn’t be.

You have to be able to take Kaijumax seriously to enjoy it — to accept the premise, admit the science is severely bent at best, and appreciate the models. If you can do that, it’s a fine comic about loyalty and friendship, good and evil, what you have to do and what you can do, and, as the first book put it, terror and respect.

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

Book-A-Day 2018 #64: Brief Histories of Everyday Objects by Andy Warner

If a webcomic is intended all along to become a book — if it’s being created as a book, and put up online as a teaser or buzz-builder along the way — is it somehow less of a webcomic? I’m sure there are webcomics purists who will insist it is: there are purists for everything, and we’re probably all purists for something. But, realistically, what difference does it make?

I discovered Andy Warner’s Brief Histories of Everyday Objects before the book came out, when he was serializing the individual pieces online . I read it like a webcomic, was happy when I heard it would be a book, and (eventually) found and read the book. That looks like success, from an ex-publishing hand and still-marketing professional. That looks like the way it’s supposed to work.

Warner’s introduction here doesn’t quite say either way: he developed Brief Histories as “an idea for a comic.” I think I’ve seen elsewhere that he had the book deal in place ahead of time…but maybe I’m making that up. (I like people to have book deals; it makes them happy, pays them for their work, and gets stuff for me to read. Win/win.) However it happened, Brief Histories was on the web, and it is now a book.

Warner gives the history, or a history, of forty-five random common objects, from toothbrushes to bicycles. Each one gets four pages, three and a half of them telling one main narrative, plus a few panels of “briefer histories” at the end for random fun facts that Warner presumably couldn’t fit into the main story.  These are not all necessarily the entire history of these objects, or even their original creation — it tends to be a funny story that’s reasonably close to the modern day, meaning a lot of 19th century and early 20th century inventors.

It’s all true, as far as I know, and it’s all pretty funny. Warner is an energetic cartoonist who uses a lot of blacks and tones, giving his pages vibrancy and depth. And, of course, they’re often about obsessed people talking about their creations in semi-anachronistic dialogue from Warner, which adds to the humor. (And will probably annoy purists, again — though purists are not likely to enjoy four-page quick takes on anything.)

To sum up: Brief Histories is funny, enjoyable, and, if you don’t watch out, you just might learn something.

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

REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is funny, bright, colorful and imaginative. Clearly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s cosmos is a brilliantly lit place and a lot of fun to visit. The 2:10 movie, out on disc now from Walt Disney Home Entertainment is a joy to rewatch because of director Taika Waititi’s imaginative approach to the now-familiar characters.

The blending of the prophesied Norse end times with the beloved Planet Hulk storyline is made to work but only by giving each story short shrift and robbing the former of its power. As much fun as it is to see Thor (Chirrs Hemsworth) shorn of hair, robbed of his enchanted hammer Mjolnir, and subjected to appearing in a remake of Gladiator, the film doesn’t pause long enough to make audiences feel anything for the end of the Norse way of life. Early on, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is revealed to have replaced Odin and allowed his prejudices to reshape life in the fabled kingdom. It has also allowed events to bring back Thor’s heretofore unknown sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), who is determined to force Ragnarok’s early arrival.

Thor and Loki seek the All-Father (Anthony Hopkins) with the aid of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and once they find him, watch his demise. Once he fades away, Thor and Hela vie for inheriting the throne and once he loses, the movie is kicked into high gear. But Odin’s passing, like that of Asgard itself, is never truly dwelt upon so feels like a rushed plot point. We see refugees board a starship but never know them or understand their plight.

Hela is fascinating, all sensual moves and snarling hatred for being banished from the Nine Realms so is quick to make her mark. However, much of it happens quickly and is then off screen for too long. As a result, the Warriors Three are dispatched so fast you barely register them and no dialogue accounts for the absence of Sif.

Instead, Waititi and screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost spend more time with Thor and the Hulk on Sakaar, in the clutches of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). We feel far more for the Hulk’s two-year exile from Earth thanks to the screen time and Mark Ruffalo’s moving performance.

Neither is not particularly happy of being trapped and help foment rebellion, which had already been brewing thanks to Korg (voiced by Waititi). Along the way they redeem a fallen Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), kick ass, and have a bromance that is a delight to watch. The laughs come at the expense of the gravitas the passing of Asgard and Odin deserve.

The film is out in various additions including a Multi-Screen Format (Blu-ray, DVD, Movies Anywhere Digital HD code). The high definition transfer is superb, capturing every shade in the rainbow and making things pop. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack is strong, not perfect.

Like the film itself the Special Features are short, fizzy, and avoids depth in favor of light-hearted affection for one another.

Things kick off with the Director Intro (1:44) as Waititi talks taking on the project; Getting In Touch With Your Inner Thor (6:39); Unstoppable Women: Hela & Valkyrie (5:58); Finding Korg (7:34); Sakaar: On the Edge of the Known and Unknown (8:24); Journey Into Mystery (5:47), which gives Jack Kirby his due for creating the original look; Gag Reel (2:18); Team Darryl (6:08), the latest short with Thor’s hapless roommate, now hosting The Grandmaster; Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years – The Evolution of Heroes (5:23); Deleted Scenes (5:43); 8-Bit Sequences, claiming to be pre-film tests for certain sequences but they look like they were done for fun:  Sakaar Spaceship Battle (0:58) and Final Bridge Battle (2:17). There’s an entertaining Audio Commentary from Waititi.

The Law Is A Ass #429: If At Flash You Don’t Succeed, Try, Trial Again

Where do I begin? Oh, right, I began two columns ago, because this is column three in my series discussing the “The Trial of The Flash” episode from the The Flash TV show. (And there’s a sentence that’ll drive proofreaders crazy.)

Okay, I’ll actually begin with a SPOILER WARNING. If you’re not caught up on The Flash, I’m about to reveal a couple of episodes worth of endings. Now, with the warning out of the way, like a college professor dressing for his twenty-fifth graduation ceremony, I have to recap.

Barry (The Flash) Allen was on trial for murdering Clifford DeVoe. In reality, DeVoe, a super genius whose hyper brain was literally sapping the vitality from his own body, transferred his consciousness into the body of another man. Then he put his lifeless body in Barry Allen’s apartment and framed Barry Allen for murder.

The trial followed the Constitutional principle of a speedy trial, it barely took up half of the forty-two minutes a one-hour TV episode lasts when you use your DVR to skip the commercials. My writing about the trial has taken a bit longer. Okay, more like a terabit longer. But take heart, the trial’s reached the closing arguments and instructions to the jury stage.

Which I’m not going to write about.

Not because closing arguments and jury instructions are boring – although they are – but because the episode didn’t actually show either to us. About three sentences into defense counsel Cecille Horton‘s one-law-degree-short-of-being-ept closing argument, Barry received a Troubalert that the villain du semaine was wreaking havoc in Central City. Barry told the judge there was an emergency and he was needed. Cecille added that nothing required the defendant to be present during closing arguments and the judge let Barry leave the trial. You might wonder whether the defendant can actually leave a trial while it’s still going on. The answer is yes.

Defendants don’t normally leave their trials, because that tends to make juries think the defendants don’t care about the trial, so why should the juries care about the defendant? But they can leave while trials are going on. And case law says that if a defendant voluntarily absents him or herself from the trial, it can proceed without the defendant.

So Barry left the trial to help Team Flash. Not to mention helping us. As I said earlier, we didn’t have to watch the trial’s boring parts.

It took Flash less than one act to defeat the baddie. It took the same amount of time for the lawyers to finish closing arguments, the judge to deliver the jury instructions, and the jury to reach its verdict. Right before the act break, the jury found Barry guilty.

Some people have complained about the verdict coming in that fast. But it happens. It’s what we call in the legal game a flash verdict— no pun intended, that’s really what they’re called. When juries retire to the deliberating room usually the first thing they do is elect a foreperson. Then lots of juries will take a vote on the verdict just to see where they all stand. If that initial vote comes back with a unanimous guilty verdict, the jury deliberations could be over as quickly as the episode indicated. So I have no problem with how fast the verdict came in. I do have a problem with the jury instructions, however. Those things are never fast.

After the verdict, the prosecutor delivered a speech that he hoped Barry would receive a life sentence given the brutal nature of the crime. Which was grandstanding on his part. Barry had been convicted of murder in the first degree. In Missouri, the mandatory sentence for murder in the first degree is life without the possibility of parole.

Before the judge delivered Barry’s sentence, he delivered a speech about how in all his years on the bench he had never seen a defendant who was more unmoved or had such a lack of regard for human life. You know, the usual shtick.

Also grandstanding, but I can forgive the judge his grandstanding. Judges lay it on thick at sentencing, so they can show the voters they’re tough on crime. It tends to get them reelected. When prosecutors lay it on thick and show that they don’t even know what their state’s mandatory sentence laws are, they tend not to be reelected.

Which brings us to the end of “The Trial of The Flash,” but not our column. See while Barry was serving his sentence in Iron Heights Prison, Warden Wolfe discovered that Barry was The Flash. So three episodes later, in “True Colors,” Warden Wolfe made a deal to sell Barry and some of the other super villains in Iron Heights to Amunet Black, a super villain who trafficked in the super-powered people black market. When Barry and the other super villains learned about Wolfe’s plan, they attempted an escape during the course of which all the super villains and Warden Wolfe died. Team Flash told Barry that he should finish the escape plan so that he could be free and help Team Flash defeat Clifford DeVoe. Barry refused.

He was willing to help the others escape to keep Wolfe from selling them on the black market, but that was no longer a possibility. Barry was going to stay in prison until Team Flash could find a way to get him out of prison legally. That would be the only way he could ever feel truly free.

And later that episode, Team Flash did figure out a way to get Barry out of prison. The Elongated Man used his stretching powers to make himself look like Clifford DeVoe and appeared in court. “DeVoe” told the judge that he hadn’t died, he had been in some weird state of unconsciousness. The judge didn’t think to ask any questions such as how DeVoe survived the autopsy which would certainly have been required on his body before Barry could ever have been brought to trial, and ordered Barry released.

So that was Team Flash’s plan to get Barry out prison legally? Committing a fraud upon the court? If that’s the kind of “legal” method they were willing to use, why didn’t they just bribe the jury during Barry’s trial? It would have saved them a lot of time and us a lot of grief.

Book-A-Day 2018 #61: The Best American Comics 2013 edited by Jeff Smith

As you might be able to tell from the year in the post title, I’ve gotten more than a little lackadaisical about keeping up with this annual series of the best in comics created by North Americans. (I reviewed 2006 at the beginning of 2007, 2007 later in 2007, 2008 in 2008, 2009 in 2009, 2010 in 2011 after the next book was published, 2011 in 2012, 2012 in 2013,  2014 in 2014, and have so far missed 2015, 2016, and 2017. If it were still my job to keep up with things being published, I would probably be deeply ashamed of myself — but it hasn’t been for a decade now, so I’m not.)

But I’m still interested in good comics, as always. So here I finally am with the Jeff Smith-edited The Best American Comics 2013 , only four and a half years after it was published and six-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half years after the work in it originally appeared.

This is the point where one is supposed to say “better late than never,” but I don’t want to tempt anyone. “Best of” volumes always have a problem with age: even in the best of times, the beginning of the year they celebrate is about eighteen months before publication, and sometimes it can be even longer. The Best American Comics has an idiosyncratic September to August “year” to begin with, which makes it more convenient for their publishing schedule but can be confusing to someone trying to keep track of when things were published. (Although there’s no real reason to bother to do that, if you’re not running a media outlet or reprinting books for a living.)

Anyway, in this fine book are full stories and excerpts (more of the latter, as usual) from comics works originally published from September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2012 and made by people either currently resident in North America or “North American” (whatever that means). Translations would be OK as long as you’re French Quebecois or Mexican, I suppose, though I don’t recall seeing any of either in this series so far. (Too bad the old Yiddish publishing industry died out: it would be fun to see that in the modern comics world.)

The usual suspects are represented with the expected work: Alison Bechdel with an excerpt from Are You My Mother?, Craig Thompson with one from Habibi, Leela Corman with a bit from Unterzakhn, Eleanor Davis with “Nita Goes Home,” Derf Backderf with some pages from My Friend Dahmer, and stories from Laura Park, Kate Beaton (who also provides the cover), Gabrielle Bell, Vanessa Davis, and Paul Pope. There’s something of a tropism to cartoonists over teams, which is probably mostly a reflection of what the literary/artistic end of the comics world is like.

More obviously commercial work is represented, too, of various kinds: Faith Erin Hicks is here with an excerpt from Friends With Boys, Tony Puryear with a piece from Concrete Park (before it became a series, I think), and Terry Moore with some of Rachel Rising. All in all, there are 30 comics stories here from 33 creators, with Evan Dorkin showing up twice, as writer of a story with Jill Thompson and cartoonist of a collection of his “Fun” gag strips from Dork!

Some people you might expect are missing: the Hernandez Brothers, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, and Charles Burns are ones I thought of. But, without doing tedious research, I’m not sure what they published in that time period, if anything. And anyone interested in a book like this is going to know who they are to begin with — making room here for Sophie Goldstein and Sammy Harkham and Jeremy Sorese is probably better, if we’re making judgments like that.

As always, it’s a kaleidoscope of very different kinds of comics. I tend to check to see if the guest editor has tastes wide enough that there’s at least one story in the book that I don’t like or get at all — paradoxically, that’s what makes the best editors. Smith doesn’t manage to do that, which means either my tastes keep getting wider or they’re very in tune with his to begin with.

Any book in this series is worth reading, if you like comics and want a sampler of what’s good out there. I found 2013 a little less adventurous than some other years, but it’s always impossible to tell if that was the year or the editor. Libraries have a lot of these books; check ’em out there. It’s what I do, these days.

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