New York, NY — The Marvel’s Wastelanders adventure continues! Marvel Entertainment and SiriusXM announced their latest original scripted podcast series, Marvel’s Wastelanders: Hawkeye, will premiere on Monday, October 4.
Marvel’s Wastelanders: Hawkeye is the second installment in the Marvel’s Wastelanders audio epic. The 10-episode original scripted podcast series is written by J. Holtham (Jessica Jones), directed by Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown), with original sound design by One Thousand Birds, and an original score by James Harrison Monaco and JJJJJerome Ellis.
The series stars Stephen Lang (Avatar) as Hawkeye, Sasha Lane (Loki) as Ash, and features performances by Jess Barbagallo (Max), Michelle Hurd (Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird), Bobby Moreno (Junior), Joe Morton (Ringmaster), Tracie Thoms (Kate Bishop), with Lea DeLaria (Raven/Mystique).
Thirty years ago, the villains of the world rose up and killed all the heroes. Well, all the heroes that mattered. The sole survivor of the Avengers, Hawkeye (Lang) is now a sideshow freak, re-living the worst day of his life for paying audiences. He’s surly, broken, and losing his sight, but there’s still that fire in him to be a hero, to avenge his friends. And he’s ready to do what needs to be done: killing every last person responsible for the deaths of those he loved the most.
When the Brotherhood Traveling Circus, Carnival and Ringmaster’s Road Show arrives at the Kingdom (in the territory formerly known as the southwest desert), Hawkeye gets an unexpected visitor, his estranged 17-year-old daughter Ash (Lane). On her own mission for vengeance after losing her best friend, Ash insists on following Hawkeye on his secret mission. In a world without heroes, Ash learns what a true hero can really be. Listen to the series teaser here.
“I’m thrilled for this next series set in the Wastelands! We were lucky enough to work on the show with a top-notch creative team, writer J. Holtham and Tony Award-winning director Rachel Chavkin, along with actors Stephen Lang and Sasha Lane to name a few members of the incredibly talented cast,” said Jill Du Boff, Director of Audio at Marvel. “This show is such a fun and wild ride, and we can’t wait for everyone to hear it!”
The series will be available exclusively on the SXM App and Marvel Podcasts Unlimited on Apple Podcasts. Episodes will be widely available two weeks later on Pandora, Stitcher, and all major podcast platforms in the U.S. Learn more at siriusxm.com/wastelanders.
Marvel’s Wastelanders: Hawkeye follows Marvel’s Wastelanders: Star-Lord,the first installment in the multi-part original scripted podcast series set in the Wastelands. The audio series featured a star-studded cast including Timothy Busfield (Peter Quill), Danny Glover (Red), Chris Elliott (Rocket), and Vanessa Williams (Emma Frost).
BURBANK, CA (September 23, 2021) Due to a slight delay in production, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) has pushed back the release of Superman: The Complete Animated Series by two weeks – the fully remastered Blu-rayTM box set now arriving October 26, 2021.
WBHE and DC are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Superman: The Animated Series with the remastered release of the acclaimed series. The box set includes several hours of bonus features headlined by an all-new documentary detailing the creation of one of the most beloved animated Super Hero cartoons in history.
Produced by Warner Bros. Animation (WBA), the Emmy Award-winning Superman: The Animated Series was the perfect follow-up to the landmark Batman: the Animated Series. Producers Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett elevated The Man of Steel’s animated presence with an imaginative, heartfelt look at Superman’s adventures in Metropolis alongside Lois Lane and opposite the villainous likes of Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Darkseid and more. Premiering on September 6, 1996, the series continued WBA’s dominance in Super Hero animation, once again setting new standards for storytelling, art direction and acting performances – and garnering 11 Emmy Award nominations and two Emmy Award wins, including top honors as the Outstanding Special Class Animated Program of 1998.
The remarkable Superman: The Complete Animated Series box set features more than 19 hours of entertainment spread over six Blu-ray™ discs, including all 54 exciting episodes, an all-new series-defining featurette entitled Superman: Timeless Icon, a special video commentary episode and three specially selected episodes with audio commentaries by the showrunners.
All 54 episodes have been remastered from the original 35mm Interpositive sources, giving special attention to extensive color correction, dirt and scratch clean up, and adding a grain reduction pass to create a pristine picture, all while making sure not to affect the original lines in the artwork of the animation. The audio was retransferred from the original audio masters, and the series is presented in its original aspect ratio (4×3).
BURBANK, CA – An unthinkable tragedy propels Superman into a dangerous new mindset, ultimately pitting Justice League members against each other in Injustice, an all-new DC Animated Movie. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the feature-length animated film is set for release on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack (USA $39.99 SRP; Canada $44.98 SRP), Blu-ray (US $29.98 SRP; Canada $39.99 SRP) and Digital on October 19, 2021.
Inspired by Injustice: Gods Among Us, NetherRealm Studios’ popular video game, and the best-selling DC graphic novel based on the video game, Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year One by Tom Taylor, the animated film Injustice finds an alternate world gone mad – where The Joker has duped Superman into killing Lois Lane, sending the Man of Steel on a deadly rampage. Unhinged, Superman decides to take control of the Earth for humanity’s own good. Determined to stop him, Batman creates a team of like-minded, freedom-fighting heroes. But when Super Heroes go to war, can the world survive?
Justin Hartley (This is Us, Smallville) and Anson Mount (Star Trek Discovery, Hell on Wheels) lead the Injustice all-star cast as Superman and Batman, respectively. The massive cast also includes Janet Varney (The Legend of Korra, You’re The Worst) as Wonder Woman, Brandon Micheal Hall (God Friended Me) as Cyborg, Kevin Pollak (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) as Joker & Jonathan Kent, Anika Noni Rose (The Princess and the Frog, The Good Wife, Dreamgirls) as Catwoman, Reid Scott (Veep, Venom) as Green Arrow & Victor Zsasz, Edwin Hodge (The Tomorrow War, Mayans M.C.) as Mr. Terrific & Killer Croc, Gillian Jacobs (Community, Invincible) as Harley Quinn, Oliver Hudson (Rules of Engagement, Nashville) as Plastic Man, Laura Bailey (Critical Role, Avengers Assemble) as Lois Lane & Rama Kushna, Faran Tahir (Iron Man, Star Trek) as Ra’s al Ghul, Derek Phillips (Friday Night Lights, 42) as Nightwing & Aquaman, Yuri Lowenthal (Ben 10 franchise, Young Justice, RWBY) as Mirror Master, Flash & Shazam, Zach Callison (Steven Universe, The Goldbergs) as Damian & Jimmy Olsen, Brian T. Delaney (Fortnite, Batman Unlimited) as Green Lantern, Fred Tatasciore (Family Guy, American Dad!) as Captain Atom, and Andrew Morgado (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) as Mirror Master Soldier.
Matt Peters (Justice League Dark: Apokolips War) directs Injustice from a screenplay by Ernie Altbacker (Batman: Hush). Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) is Producer and Alyessa Ornelas (Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge) is Associate Producer. Producer is Rick Morales (Mortal Kombat Legends franchise). Sam Register is Executive Producer.
The Injustice 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc in 4K with HDR, a Blu-ray disc featuring the film in hi-definition, and a digital version of the movie. The Blu-ray features a Blu-ray disc with the film in hi-definition and a digital version of the movie.
Catch a sneak peek at Injustice whenDCFanDome, the ultimate global fan experience, returns on Saturday, October 16 at 10 a.m. PDT, with an all-new, epic streaming event. The free virtual event will once again welcome fans from around the world to immerse themselves in the DC Multiverse at DCFanDome.com and celebrate the stars and creators of their favorite feature films, live-action and animated television series, games, comics, home entertainment releases and more. DC FanDome 2021 will also be available on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, giving fans more ways to watch the events unfolding in DC FanDome’s Hall of Heroes.
Injustice – Special Features
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray and Digital
Adventures in Storytelling – Injustice: Crisis and Conflict (New Featurette) – The storytellers behind the new Injustice animated film discuss how all the intense drama and unabashed action was brought to life.
DC Universe Movies Flashback
The Death of Superman
Reign of the Supermen
From the DC Vault
Justice League – Injustice For All, Part I
Justice League – Injustice For All, Part II
Looking for a refresher course on animated Super Hero entertainment before seeing Injustice? HBO Max has a rich catalog of DC Universe Movies and DC-centric films and series.
Injustice will also be available on Movies Anywhere. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can access all their eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere account with their participating digital retailer accounts.
I don’t have tags for either video games or sharecropping, since I don’t read enough books in either category to make those useful, but this book would have both of those tags, if they existed. I’m also not 100% sure the “for kids” applies: the CIP data on the copyright page says these books are “Ages 8+,” but so are a lot of other things. The Minecraft graphic novels are at least not not for kids, if that makes sense.
Most people will be reading this book, and the burst of other Minecraft graphic novels that Dark Horse has been publishing under an arrangement with Mojang over the past couple of years, because they like the video game Minecraft: maybe the building/crafting elements, maybe the grinding/fighting mobs elements, maybe something social about being on a server with friends. But I only played Minecraft a very little bit myself, way back near the beginning, so I’m one of the few people here because I’m following Kristen Gudsnuk’s career.
(Sidebar 1: said career consisting, as far as I’ve seen, of the awesome Henchgirl graphic novel, mostly for adults, and two books in the Making Friends series for middle-grader readers. Those also contain awesomeness, but said awesomeness is more finely tailored to an audience of tween girls. A third Making Friends book has just been published; I haven’t seen it yet. I recommend adults start with Henchgirl: as previously mentioned, it is awesome, and I will keep saying so until everyone admits it.)
(Sidebar 2: I think I liked what I played of Minecraft. It’s just that I think I want to play building/crafting sims – I spent decades thinking I really really wanted to play Sim City or Sim Universe or whatever, but never got around to any of them, and did buy The Sims but left it moldering in my Steam folder after setting up two separate households in one evening – but, on the evidence, I actually want to do some crafting/building in my RPGs, as evidenced by nearly 3k hours in Fallout 4 to date. So nothing against Minecraft, and I may get back to it someday. But I bet it’s totally different than my vague memory.)
I say that to orient you the reader: the Minecraft stuff here is vaguely familiar to me, and I have definitely played other video games. But I may misunderstand some pretty basic stuff, and I apologize ahead of time if I do.
Anyway, Kristen Gudsnuk, of previous awesome comics fame, is in the middle of a trilogy of short graphic novels set in the world of Minecraft, the popular video game. I recently read the first two: as far as I can see, the third is not yet scheduled to be published, but my guess is that it should hit in mid-2022. The series is called Minecraft: Wither Without You, and Volume One was published in April of 2020 and Volume Two followed this May.
So this is an incomplete story, obviously. It’s set-up and middle, but the ending is not available yet. But each of the two books to date has an arc of its own – as all trilogies should – so I think I can say coherent things about the two of them.
We’re in a fantasy world that will be very familiar to Minecraft players and deeply weird to anyone else: the world is made of blocky elements than can be mined for materials used to build other things, and monsters run around randomly. Some of the people are rounded, but most of the villagers (whisper NPCs whisper) are blocky just like their world and creatures. Adventurers fight monsters to save villages, but even more so to get experience orbs and rare materials and probably some valuables the monsters have themselves.
Cahira and Orion are twin teenage monster hunters, traveling with their mentor/teacher Senan the Thorough to learn the ways of monster hunting and get epic loot along the way. In the first book, a Wither – a big nasty flying monster – attacks them when they trigger a trap in some monster-filled castle they’re exploring. It swallows Senan, and the twins chase it across the landscape, thinking they can save their mentor from its belly if they can do it quickly enough.
They are correct, though they need the help of Atria, a teen girl they meet along the way: she’s been cursed to attract monsters, and ends up both luring the Wither to them and figuring out what the Wither really wants.
The second book begins with our four heroes seeing that same Wither fly over, which it should definitely not be doing given the end of book one. (Trying to be at leas slightly vague here.) They’re on their way to Whitestone City to resupply after their epic battle, and they decide to also consult the great sorcerer Lucasta while they’re in town.
Unfortunately, Lucasta is also Senan’s great rival, so there’s some tension there. She also farms monsters, and is most interested in setting Atria up in a room with some monster death-traps to harvest their stuff – which is not the most pleasant thing for Atria. And there’s a self-proclaimed great monster hunter, Elvicks, in Whitestone, and his arrogance and attempted thievery leads to a zombie infestation, as it sometimes does.
So most of the back end of book two is devoted to getting rid of the zombies and working out the other problems. But they all end the book newly geared up and ready to go out and stop that Wither…which I presume they will do in the final book.
These are both fun and zippy in Gudsnuk’s usual style: her people have big emotions and reactions, which is excellent for slightly goofy melodrama where the reader knows it will all end well eventually. You probably do need to be a fan of Minecraft or Gudsnukto want to read them, unless you’ve got a thing for books-based-on-video games. (And maybe you do: I don’t judge.) But both of these books are very good at what they set out to do, and what they set out to do is be vaguely positive but silly entertainment.
Since 2001, long before Tony Stark got shelled, a kinetic shared universe was quietly taking shape and across the last two decades, the Fast & Furious franchise has become a homegrown phenomenon. This testosterone- and diesel-fueled series has become increasingly popular worldwide but has grown like kudzu, uncontrolled and able to entangle all who come near.
The series has suffered from the lack of a blueprint despite the obvious need to tend to the growing roster of characters and interrelationships. As a result, the series feels as chaotic as its stunts, as characters come and go, relationships merge and evolve, and all are in service to a complicated series of stunts with a thread of plot to tie them together.
Needing to top what came before, each film has grown in challenging stunts that rock your understanding of physics. Whereas the bar is raised by Tom Cruise in each Mission: Impossible film, you never shake your head in disbelief. Instead, it’s wonder.
F9: The Fast Saga opens with a signature stunt but one that tells you right from the start that reality is something to wave at in passing. This is not a film for newcomers as it is entirely dependent on what came before. What the film, written by director Justin Lin and Daniel Casey, does nicely is let the characters age and have lives between films.
But old grudges die hard and once again, the fate of the world is at stake thanks to Ares, a device that can access any computer system in the world, this film’s MacGuffin.
All your familiar faces are back along with cameos from others from throughout the preceding films including one specific surprise appearance. We even get flashbacks allowing us to see key players at earlier stages of their lives.
It’s frantic and frenetic, the stakes ever higher, and the jokes just as lame as before. The stunts make the films worth watching with its core stars—Vin Diesel, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez—having fun despite how tired some of the material has come to feel. It should be noted that the regulars made room for new faces including Michael Rooker, MMA Fighter Francis Ngannou, Ozuna and Cardi B. Even the creators know it’s time to make a final pit stop with the franchise ending after the next two films.
Universal Home Entertainment has released the movie on a variety of formats including the now-standard 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD code combo. The 1080p transfer is very sharp, nicely capturing the colors and shadows. For a movie built on sound, the Dolby Atmos audio tracks are superb. The 4k Ultra HD 2160p is just that much sharper.
For fans of the series, the extras certainly deliver some fine entertainment including both the Theatrical (2:22:52) and Director’s (2:29:55) cuts. The extra six minutes is more mayhem. Additionally, there is the requisite Gag Reel (3:34); F9: All In, a nine-part behind-the-scenes piece, The Family Returns (3:19), New Breed of Bad Guy (6:12), Building the Land Mine Chase (5:42), A Woman’s Touch (5:10), Vin, Helen, and the Queen (6:07), Growing the Family (4:27):, Controlled Chaos (9:10), Tokyo Drift Reunited (2:48), Raising the Bar (3:22), Practically Fast (7:52), Shifting Priorities (3:59), Justice for Han (3:37), A Day on the Set with Justin Lin (10:00), and John Cena: Supercar Superfan (4:36). The disc is rounded out with Audio Commentary from Justin Lin.
Universal City, California – Take a thrilling trip from the mind behind The Sixth Sense (1999), Signs (2002) and Split (2016) in M. Night Shyamalan’s OLD, available to own on Digital October 5 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™ and DVD on October 19 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Take a seat behind-the-camera with never-before-seen deleted scenes and bonus features that offer a deep dive into this mystery of a family vacation that quickly turns sinister.
Starring an impressive international cast including Golden Globe winner Gael García Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle), Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread), Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist, A Knight’s Tale), Alex Wolff (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Thomasin McKenzie (JoJo Rabbit), Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Jupiter Ascending), Ken Leung (‘The Sopranos’, ‘Lost’), Eliza Scanlen (Little Women), Aaron Pierre (‘Britannia’), Embeth Davidtz (Schindler’s List, Matilda) and Emun Elliott (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens). OLD is directed and produced by critically acclaimed filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan.
This chilling, mysterious new thriller follows a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly … reducing their entire lives into a single day.
BONUS FEATURES ON 4K Ultra Hd, BLU-RAYTM, DVD and digital:
SHYAMALAN FAMILY BUSINESS – We look at what Night’s two daughters, Ishana and Saleka, contributed to the film and how collaborating with family made filming outside Philadelphia still feel like home.
ALL THE BEACH IS A STAGE – Shooting a film in a wide-open space is challenging because angles have to be created, much like theatre. Night explains the significance of his camera movements and the cast discuss the unique experience of filming without coverage.
NIGHTMARES IN PARADISE – When making a film like OLD, finding the right shooting location is everything. Hear the story of why Night took the production to the Dominican Republic and how Mother Nature both challenged and helped the production.
A FAMILY IN THE MOMENT – Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff recount one very special, emotional night of filming that brought them closer than they ever imagined.
OLD will be available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-rayTM, DVD and Digital.
4K Ultra HD delivers the ultimate movie watching experience. Featuring the combination of 4K resolution, the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR).
Blu-ray™ Combo Pack includes Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital copy.
Digital lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can buy or rent instantly.
Four key characters – Ben (voiced by Dulé Hill), Barbara (Katharine Isabelle), Judy (Katee Sackhoff) and Tom (James Roday Rodriguez) – get the spotlight in new images released today from Night of the Animated Dead. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will distribute the animated remake of George A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic on Digital starting next Tuesday, September 21, and on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on October 5.
The four new images from the film are:
Barbara’s journey opens the film – in an ominously quiet graveyard with her brother Johnny – and the intensity ramps up from there in Night of the Animated Dead. Scream queen Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) takes on the iconic role of Barbara in the film.
Ben discovers quickly that zombies are not fond of fire in Night of the Animated Dead. Dulé Hill (The West Wing, Psych), whose new series The Wonder Years premieres on ABC on September 22, provides the voice of Ben.
Attempting to escape from their boarded up house, Judy, Tom and Ben try getting their truck to an abandoned gas pump in a key scene from Night of the Animated Dead. Katee Sackhoff (The Mandalorian, Battlestar Galactica) gives voice to Judy, playing opposite the Psych tag team of James Roday Rodriguez and Dulé Hill as the voices of Tom and Ben, respectively.
Escaping their fortified house, Tom leaps behind the wheel of a truck – with zombies hot on his trail – in a frightening scene from Night of the Animated Dead. James Roday Rodriguez (A Million Little Things, Psych) provides the voice of Tom in the film.
Names come with expectations. If a biker gang has members named Trash, Jocko, Bonecrusher, and Fluffy, you’re going to expect there’s a story there. And if the names are references, you’ll already have preconceptions based on the originals.
So when a major character is named “Sherlock Frankenstein,” you’re going to expect a detective who is a monster – or, maybe, if you’re more of a purist, a detective who creates monsters. If you’re told this Sherlock Frankenstein is a villain, that might be a little confusing at first, particularly the “Sherlock” bit, but you assume the creators know what they’re doing.
Until you realize they mean “Sherlock” in the kid-insult sense: this guy is kinda smart, but it implies no more than that. And they mean “Frankenstein” at about the same level: it sounds cool, and he’s old, like the Frankenstein story. Both words here signify “vaguely 19th century dude,” and the man with those names is a tinkerer-type supervillain with a silly circa-1900 origin (hero! villain! random transatlantic journey! long years as an always-failing villain! hero once more many decades later!) and no motivation other than “a sad thing happened to me, and so therefore the world is horrible and I will make it worse.”
Well, that’s disappointing. But superhero comics traffic in disappointment as much as they do in punching: it’s in the top five ingredients on the label. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that “Sherlock Frankenstein” is much duller and more generic than his name implied. That’s how superhero comics work.
And then we come to Sherlock’s big story: Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil! You can’t even say it out loud without adding a “bwa-ha-ha!” on the end! Surely this will be an epic story of villainy (presumably thwarted, but maybe not if he’s the title character) full of epic battles with do-gooders and prominently featuring the battle aftermath we see on the cover. If we like superhero stories – and why the hell else would we be reading Sherlock Fucking Frankenstein and the Motherfucking Legion of Evil if we don’t? – we’re keyed up for it.
Reader: that scene appears nowhere in the book. There isn’t a plotline that could lead to that scene. It presumably depicts some old battle of Sherlock against whatever the hell the WWII superhero team is called in this universe, in which some other superhero then came in from off the cover to save the day, hurrah! It’s purely a bait-and-switch, which sadly is also in the top five label ingredients of superhero comics. 
No, Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil (bwa-ha-ha!) is actually a story that would more honestly be titled Black Hammer II: Lucy’s Quest or something along those lines. It is a sidebar to the main Black Hammer storyline – this phrasing implies there is a main Black Hammer storyline, and I’ve seen very little evidence of that in the firsttwo
volumes, but I’m willing to be generous – in which Sherlock is the McGuffin, not the main character. He’s the guy the narrative circles, and eventually shows up onstage at the end for an extended talking-heads sequence, but engages in exactly zero world-conquering plots and at no time uses an insectoid mechanized thing to defeat Golden Gail and whoever the hell the rest of the people on the cover are.
In the main Black Hammer story, a small band of heroes were transported to a farm on the outskirts of a rural town – which itself is in a pocket universe or something, so they can’t get out – a decade ago, after defeating not-Darkseid in the not-Crisis. The hero actually named Black Hammer was physically disassembled attempting to cross that pocket-universe border and get back to Spiral City, main venue for all the punching. Everyone in Spiral City believes all of the heroes were killed in “the event,” but the rest of the main cast is sure only Black Hammer is dead. (And we the readers realize he’s only as dead as any superhero character ever is: until his triumphant return.)
Black Hammer had a young daughter when he “died,” Lucy Weber. In the Black Hammer comics, we saw her, now a reporter in her early ’20s, do the spunky-reporter thing, find a way into the pocket universe, and take up her father’s hammer to become what has not yet been inevitably named Black Hammer II . None of that is surprising or new.
This Sherlock Frankenstein series tells more of Lucy’s story: some of the things she did to learn about her father’s life before the final success we’ve already seen. Yes: it’s yet another fucking flashback. At this point, the entire Black Hammer saga is a loose tapestry of flashbacks held together by the thinnest possible “present-day” (probably actually mid-90s) story.
I’m half-expecting the gang will never leave the pocket universe, that every Black Hammer story will flash back more and more to tell smaller and smaller stories about things we really don’t care about. How Abraham Slam found boots that are comfortable and long-lasting! Barbalien’s first epic love story on earth in the 1950s! Talky-Walky’s brief spin-off, The League of Super-Robots! Mildly Unsettling Tales, hosted by Madame Dragonfly! All of them with titles that imply much more action and punching than we actually get.
Look: Jeff Lemire is an excellent writer. His people talk like human beings and have understandable motivations, which is rare in comics about punching. But this whole Black Hammer thing is a two-finger exercise that he seems to be doing in his sleep. There is nothing surprising or new or exciting about any of it; it doesn’t even have the usual energy and forward momentum that’s one of the major draws of the superhero comic.
It all also looks very nice: for this story, David Rubin provides full art and colors, and his dynamic layouts mostly hide the fact that this is a superhero story entirely about people talking to each other.
But I just don’t get it. I gather the appeal here is the “superhero universe” thing, to see Lemire spin out more variations on (mostly) DC Comics history, but there’s a gigantic actual DC Comics universe out there, with probably thousands of issues of comics (admittedly, written and drawn much more for socially maladjusted pre-teens of the 1970s, but with stories that actually go places and include vastly more of the punching that superhero fans crave) that people could be reading instead.
And naming this Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil instead of Black Hammer, Vol. 3 leaves a bad taste in my mouth. This is not a standalone, it’s not about Sherlock, and he’s nothing like what “Sherlock Frankenstein” would imply to begin with. Frankly, it all feels like Lemire is trying to build an entire superhero universe out of the avoidance of finishing a single story.
But maybe it’s just that I don’t get how superhero universes work these days. Maybe this is all the point. It’s confusing, it doesn’t go anywhere, the character names are deliberately misleading, you have to follow the thinnest thread of story through a dozen books with confusing and changing titles, and you never get the big scene on the cover. Maybe Lemire is either just really good at doing what usually takes a whole Big Two bureaucracy or the whole thing is a deeply meta piss-take.
I doubt it. But maybe.
 What are the other two ingredients in the top five, you ask? Let’s say “silly costumes” and “problematic social attitudes,” today. I reserve the right to pick five entirely different ones tomorrow. Well, except for punching. Punching is like sugar in kid’s cereal: people who know better will always point out how unhealthy it is, but it’s the whole point of the thing.
 I think she will actually be the third, but I’m calling her Black Hammer II in all my Black Hammer posts because otherwise it’s just too damn silly and confusing. (Although “too damn silly and confusing” is roughly my take on nearly all superhero comics nearly all of the time.)
I could pretend that I did it on purpose: that I skipped The Hidden Witch because this book is newer, maybe as some kind of comment on how commercial fiction, especially for younger readers, is so trope-ridden and bend-over-backward accessible that any reader can jump in anywhere and figure out everything important.
I could. But I shouldn’t: it’s not true. So I won’t.
I did read The Witch Boy, the first book in this series of graphic novels by Molly Knox Ostertag (who also, apropos of nothing, is the artist of the great Strong Female Protagonist series). But I missed the second one, and maybe got The Midwinter Witch from the library thinking it was the second one. (I had them in the wrong order in my list there, so that’s my excuse.) Whatever: I read book one three years ago, and now I read book three.
There are secret families of magical people – large, extended clans spread across the world, several families, each with slightly different traditions and skills and abilities. As far as we’ve seen, they’re almost entirely good, nurturing people, though, like anyone else, they can be close-minded and unwilling to want change. 
Aster is a boy, and in his family, boys are typically shifters – they transform into animals – and girls are witches, casting spells. In Witch Boy, Aster was able to show that typically does not mean must always be, and was able to start training publicly as a witch.
I think Hidden introduced Ariel, a girl about the same age – maybe ten? I’m not clear how old these kids are, but they feel early-middle-schoolish, just prior to the pairing up and worrying-about-sex years – who has witchy abilities, but was adopted, so her heritage was somewhat unknown. Ariel is now part of the same cluster of kids that learn magic (and maybe other things? there may be a Hogwarts-education issue in this world as well) in a homeschooling environment, along with Aster.
This book is about the runup to the big Midwinter Festival, in which Aster’s family (Vanisen) gathers together for a combination family reunion and competition. The shifters (just the kids, as far as I can see) compete in one contest, the witches in another. And the drama in this book is about whether Aster and Ariel will compete.
Aster wants to compete: wants to be seen as what he is. Ariel is reticent: she’s good at magic, but not good at family, and this is all really new to her. Aster’s mother Holly wants Aster to take a pass this year (for what seem to be mostly not-making-waves reasons) and Ariel to compete (since that would help cement her place in the larger family).
Meanwhile, Ariel is having dreams of a powerful older witch who claims to be a living real relative of hers, and trying to drag her into a very different, much nastier kind of magic.
Who! Will! Win!
This is a YA graphic novel series, so obviously it all turns out fine in the end, with all of the good people hugging and being friendly, and everyone winning to at least some degree. I tend to prefer stories with slightly harder choices, but this is fun and positive and affirming: I expect it, and the whole series, are big confidence-builders for all sorts of kids who are odd in one way or another, particularly those whose oddities run up against the gender norms in their families.
 This has been a series for pre-sex kids so far, so how people pair up isn’t as clear. I’m hoping there are pan-family gatherings at least partially for teens to meet and match with each other, or else each family is going to get really unpleasant genetically.
Since her introduction in Iron Man 2, the Black Widow has been the most human of the heroes (yes, more than Hawkeye). It was fitting that it was the non-powered Avenger to actually shut down the device in the first Avengers film and for her to make the ultimate sacrifice that led to the restoration of half the life in the universe. So, it’s fitting that her one and only solo film is also one of the most emotional in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Screenwriter Eric Pearson neatly weaves in bits and pieces from the other films to provide background and context for who Natasha Romanoff is, making us all the sadder for her loss. In the hands of the skilled Cate Shortland, the movie is as much about Natasha as it is saving the world (again).
We discover that she was recruited as a Widow at a very young age, raised in the dreaded Red Room to be the ultimate espionage agent. We learn what happened in Budapest. And we learn what it cost her to chart her own path.
As it turns out, she had a “sister”, Yelena and a mother, Melina, and a father, Alexei, a faux family embedded in Ohio for three years. When they leave, in a hurry, the family is separated and do not reunite until 20 years later. We then get a series of set pieces that slowly build backstory as the sisters first reunited with their fists and then with their words.
After breaking Alexei out of his prison exile, they reunite with Melina and the scene set at the dinner table is priceless as they settle back into their old roles while simmering tensions and old wounds are revealed.
Yeah, this is all done in service to bringing down the Red Room and its airborne master, Dreykov (a weak Bond villain despite Ray Winstone’s efforts), freeing the mind-controlled current generation of Widows. His ace in the hole is Taskmaster, a silent warrior who can mimic anyone’s moves, forcing Natasha to change her game. Unfortunately, Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) is way too similar to Ant-Man’s Ghost with similar tragic backgrounds, another example of Marvel repeating itself.
There are some lovely action sequences and fights along the way, but the thrills come from the interactions between the characters. Here, Shortland’s work is superb as is the acting. Much has been made about Florence Pugh stealing the film as Yelena, but this has more to do with the fact that we have known and loved Scarlett Johansson’s Widow since 2009 and Pugh is something fresh and different. Yelena is like her “father” as she and Alexei hold nothing back while Natasha is more like Melina, quiet and reserved. The contrasts are well defined here.
David Harbour is having the time of his life as Alexei, the one-time Red Guardian, leaning into his aging, overweight condition, a sharp deviation from Rachel Weisz’s Melina, who remains Russian to the core, until motherly love wins the day.
The movie, out today from Disney Home Entertainment, is available for streaming and in an assortment of disc combinations (4K, Blu-ray, both with Digital HD code). The 1080p transfer on the Blu-ray is very strong, preserving the rich textures of the international locations, which adds another Bond-like element to the film. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is equally good so the at home experience is a solid one.
The film comes with a brief introduction for Shortland. The special features are fairly basic starting with Sisters Gonna Work it Out (5:24), focusing on Natasha and Yelena and Go Big if You’re Going Home (8:50), a catch-all behind-the-scenes piece, and a Gag Reel (2:54). There are nine deleted scenes (14:10), with several nice beats.