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Aquaman #25 Review

I never thought that I would say this, but wow, Aquaman is a total badass, and with his awesome new looks, artist Stjepan Sejic has my questioning whether or not this is the dawning of the age of Aquaman. And that’s not mentioning that actor Jason Momoa is the new on-screen Aquaman. As it stands, all signs are pointing to yes.

Forget everything that you know about the King of Atlantis because, with this issue, Aquaman feels like an entirely new series. I’m not convinced that writer Dan Abnett has changed course, per se, but I do think that he has changed his approach to elevating Aquaman to that next level, where, might I add, he deserves to be.

In Aquaman #25, Arthur Curry speaks directly to the reader and not only references Batman but praises him, making it clear that he (Aquaman) is fond of Bats’ whole ‘stick to the shadows’ and ‘inspire fear’ shtick and is plans to give it a try in one of the deepest, roughest parts of Atlantis. That’s right, Aquaman is taking a page from Batman’s book, and the result is awesome. If this is how the story is going to go from here on out, I am going to keep reading.

I’m really enjoying the new look and change of direction and think that readers who weren’t too fond of Aquaman will be too.

8.5
Score
Aquaman #25
The Bottom Line
Aquaman is back, and better than ever. I'm aware that aside from the artist, not a whole lot has changed here, but this issue feels wildly different than its predecessors.
Yes!
Brilliant artwork and an awesome new look
Aquaman takes a page from Batman's book

All-Star Batman #11 Review

It should come as no surprise that All-Star Batman #11 is an amazing comic book that I highly recommend, because as of late, Scott Snyder’s work has been second to none, and in an issue like this, where he is teamed with an artist, Rafael Albuquerque, whose artwork brings scripts to life, Snyder soars miles above his competition. But that’s enough love for Scott Snyder (for now), you’re here to read about what of think of his latest work, so here it is…

This, the second part of The First Ally, was worth the wait, and thanks to yet another helping of Alfred’s backstory – as we were promised – I’m looking forward to seeing what dark corner of Alfred’s past All-Star Batman #12 will illuminate. Alfred, I believe, is a character that is often overlooked, or, taken for granted by Bat-fans, so placing his history at the forefront of this story is an interesting choice. Regardless, Alfred’s story is one of intrigue, and thus this book works well.

Batman comes face to face with a new adversary in this issue, and their clash is short but intense. To avoid spoiling the book I won’t say too much, but I will say that this issue’s ending has me feeling quite concerned about the Dark Knight’s well-being.

Man, I can’t wait for the next issue.

9
Score
All-Star Batman #11
The Bottom Line
Part 2 of the First Ally story arc illuminates some of the darker corners of Alfred's past. Action-packed and emotional, this issue is yet another must-read from Scott Snyder.
Yes!
A relatively Alfred-centric issue that entertains
Action-packed

The Old Guard #5 Review

Fast moving and smart, this is one title that sustains the excitement from issue to issue. The Old Guard is constant and gripping on every page. Regardless of how or why they got to be the way they are I am with them every step of the way. Eternal warriors are nothing new, but these seem entirely believable. World-weary and philosophic, but deadly and unremorseful, except when it comes to family, as it should be. I want them to win. I cringe when they bleed and their treacheries are mine as well.

This badass actioner never slacks, never relents, and never gives up. The pain of living with the affliction of near immortality vies against the need to find something worth living for and after thousands of years, the conflict is crushing.

The life of violence and destruction is met with a betrayal from one of their own, but after retrieving the rest of the crew Andy does the worst thing possible the un-killable traitor: she exiles him. “Life means nothing if it isn’t worth living.” This is one comic worth reading.

9
Score
The Old Guard #5
The Bottom Line
A non-stop thrill ride with intelligence and heart.
Yes!
Firepower.
No...
No complaints here.

Royal City #4 Review

The ponderous reflections of a self-doubting writer return in the fourth issue, this time with some character growth. Pat seems to be able to leave the ghost of Tommy behind, though his mother is still incapable of doing so and his other brother is falling deeper into his self-inflicted chaos.

This soft and moody story maintains the unease of growing older and captures the heartbreak of family in crisis, but does anyone want to read about it? Is there a story there? Well, yes and no. Stories about real people and the ghosts of the past can be interesting and compelling, but this one borders on sentimental and self-indulgent.

Whether the intention is to tell a supernatural or psychological tale, some of the components are there, but they just don’t land with enough power. I’m not easily scared or sufficiently compassionate I guess.

The problem is that although the story appears to be moving it never seems to get anywhere. It doesn’t have to come to a massive climax, but it does have to come to a point.

6
Score
Royal City #4
The Bottom Line
Lemire tells a good story and these characters are recognizable, but I’m caring less the deeper he goes.
Yes!
Intelligent and thought provoking.
No...
A little self-absorbed. The bleakness of the art.

Spencer & Locke #3 Review

The thrilling tale of the hard-boiled detective trying to track down the killers of his childhood sweetheart continues with our hero captured and tortured, but somehow, our plucky gumshoe prevails. In a similar fashion Spencer & Locke triumphs against all odds. The seemingly unconquerable difficulties of the premise fall away with each issue. As unlikely as it may seem, and contrary to reasonable expectations as it truly is, this is an excellent story and exciting comic. The struggle is riveting and the protagonist is insane (probably).

Not only is Locke more fractured than we knew, there are reasons for his behaviors. The nonsensical and fantastical elements of Spencer & Locke are starting to make sense. The detective is damaged, and we are seeing the beginnings of his madness. Guilt and rage drive him and he really is delusional. How would he have survived otherwise?

Yet, despite the drugs and trauma, we get scenes from Spencer the stuffed animal’s point of view. He has agency and problem-solving skills and he is loyal and brave. How is that even possible? This high concept noir detective story inspired by the funny pages continues to surprise. There is depth and psychological complexity in a story about a boy and his stuffed animal and after three issues, beyond any reasonable expectation, the unreal pastiche has not fallen apart. It holds to its internal logic while still delivering on an action packed and thrilling story.

9
Score
Spencer & Locke #3
The Bottom Line
I keep expecting this unique story to fail under its own weirdness, but instead it gets better.
Yes!
The daring and originality is unparalleled. How can anything so dumb come off as so smart?
No...
Is it getting too dark?

Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 2 “Clutch of Greed” | Review

I have to admit I was disappointed that P.T. Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie) was revealed to be an actual person and not a head in a jar. I may still hold out hope as I am not convinced that the dapper man who claims to have known Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is who he claims to be. One thing we’ve learned from this episode is that no one can be trusted. Even the sestras are at odds with each other. They are all compromised and in peril in one way or another. Manipulation by the Neos threatens their solidarity as well.

The tension is palpable. Far more questions have been raised than answered. The most interesting is what is Ferdinand going to do next? He is a loose cannon now an enemy of everyone and clearly meant to be the embodiment of all that is evil. Any support he might have garnered with his charisma and charm are wiped away and can never be recovered. One thing we do know is that Helena’s bebes have the same healing properties as Kira (Skyler Wexler). (Which is a surprise to no one).

The team up of Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) and Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) looks promising. There has always been more to them than we have be allowed to see.

 

8
Score
The Bottom Line
The threads of this twisted tapestry have been knotted in such a way that the truth is more obscured than ever and I suspect that the body count has only just begun.
Yes!Kira has agency. In many ways it has all been about her from the beginning and it is nice to see the focus returned.
No...MK deserved much better.

Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 10 “The Eaters of Light” | Review

Bill claims to know more about the disappearance of the Ninth Roman Legion and almost proves herself right. If not for the inter-dimensional light eating monster, she might have been. Nevertheless, she gives the Doctor a run for his money in all things. She is intelligent and brave and charming and self-sacrificing. She’d make a good Time Lord herself.

The episode has great elements to it. We have Romans who are always welcome, Scotland which is awesome, a dimensional rift and a fairly terrifying monster. The Doctor, of course, walks into the maximum danger with the confidence that things will sort themselves out.

As Bill considers her experiences in the TARDIS and understanding of the Doctor we get a better understanding of him as well. Not just for Capaldi’s version, but rather with an overall sense of perspective on them all. It is easy to see how, to this nearly immortal and all-knowing god-like alien, everybody just sounds like children.

Bill’s assumption of the leadership of Legion survivors is compelling too. Her line “you won’t all die in a hole in the ground” is so Doctor-ish. She’s learned so much and mostly for good. I really hope she is around for next season.

8.5
Score
The Bottom Line
The episode is tense and spine tingling what at the same time another social commentary about communication and uniting in the face of a common and ruthless enemy.
Yes!Bill. Pearl Mackie just owns this character and has created one of the best companions ever.
No...Nardole is either goofy comic relief or a vehicle for scolding exposition. I was hoping that he would be a better balanced character.

American Gods Season 1 Episode 8 “Come To Jesus” |Season Finale Review

This season ending episode brings the series to more of a turning point than a conclusion. Instead of resolution, we get a meeting of the participants in the ultimate conflict before the war actually begins. It is a pause in a story that has already been about preliminaries and the audience is given more of a sense of theater than of battle. The stage is set and the performance is about deliberate posturing, where statements are made, bravado occurs and sides are drawn.

Mr. Wednesday has been a liar and manipulator throughout, and it was never about whether to trust him, but it was about believing in him. He comes to Easter’s celebration and collection of Jesuses to win an ally in Ostara (Kristin Chenoweth) and reveal himself as Odin.

The bigger reveal is that Wednesday put the hit on Laura and Mad Sweeney was the one to do it. Left with Shadow’s new belief, Odin’s hijacking of Spring, and Laura’s need to talk to her husband, there is a lot to sort through, but with nothing resolved, it feels like the season has come a long way, but hasn’t arrived yet.

So, in other words, the finale is a bit of a letdown, not for the episode itself (which is great), but for the season (which is too short). For example, Bilquis could have been more of a player in the game to come. We don’t know enough about where she stands and little about what the other gods think about her.

9
Score
The Bottom Line
Great episode and important reveals
Yes!Mad Sweeney had become a much more interesting and conflicted character than he originally appeared.
No...The Season should has ended with at least the arrival in Wisconsin.

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 7 | Review

Laura Dern in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

The wild eyed Jerry Horne begins this chapter of Twin Peaks: The Return as a spiritual surrogate for the audience. Literally lost in the woods, he is frightened and confused. He mirrors how many of us have felt over the first third of The Return. Things have changed, however. Part 7 reels back the crazy and lands us in more familiar territory among cherry pie and Douglas fir. This is the most conventional part of the show so far stretched to the point of absurdity. We are spoon fed the explanation of the pages in such a way as to make sure the audience is grounded in the reality and in the continuity of the narrative from the original series.

We also have full disclosure on Major Briggs, Yankton Prison and Diane. We even get Good Coop acting like an FBI agent, his muscle memory of his Quantico training taking over when the spike-less Ike tries to kill him by running at him with a gun.

The Great Northern Hotel is revisited as is the Sherriff’s Office (complete with log activated computer monitor). We even get to see Deputy Andy (sporting a Rolex) act like a Deputy. I expect he’ll stumble on important clues in as is his practice. Lynch hasn’t abandoned his out-there style, but has thrown a lifeline to those who feel at sea.

9.5
Score
The Bottom Line
The connections to Coop are drawn. Act two of the story has begun. It is only a matter of time where everything converges at the Great Northern. I am amazed and delighted with each installment.
Yes!Diane exceeds every expectation. Our “interesting cross between a saint and a cabaret singer” has arrived and does not disappoint.
No...Don’t mind me, I’m totally hooked.

Book Review: Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

“But as ages slipped like grains through a sieve, the borders failed. Dragons, the fearsome spawn of the Maker, Steppe, were the first of the other races to reach the Land of Anon. Thus, like ants drawn to ripened fruit, Man, the race created by Jah, arrived. Men stumbled, parched and pitiful, from the desert sands and washed ashore like drift from the ocean.”

Epic Fantasy should stay with you, just as the feculent odors of the town of Dung cleave to its residents in J. Kyle McNeal’s debut Birthrights. But in Book One of The Revisions to the Truth series, the fantasy dissipates a little too quickly.

From the opening scene on a bloody battlefield, where decisions are made that will affect generations to come, I hoped to be pulled in deeply. The storyline, which revolves around two young men “entangled in a world of treachery” who must question all they know to be true and forge a path into the unknown, is well thought out but lacks the dramatic and emotional intensity necessary for the subject matter.

Instead, the novel reads like a young adult novel, with more focus on the two main characters’ identity issues (how they fit in, how they can prove themselves, whether they will get the girl), than the immediate crises at hand. And while that may be understandable taking into account the young lead characters, other older characters are treated similarly. For example, when the most powerful figure in this world, the First Lord of the Council of Truth, visits the Cache, a top level brothel, he is practically giddy with anticipation.
McNeal writes “When the knock finally arrived, Artifis tensed, his fingernails scraping rhythmically against the ridged bed cover. The first moment of introduction was his favorite of the experience. “Come in.” His voice cracked like a teenager’s.”

Other love scenes were equally awkward.

What I desperately craved reading this novel was grit. I wanted to be lost completely in this world and feel for these characters, but their lack of complexity and individual voice prevented a stronger connection. What kept me reading were the eloquently written and beautifully detailed background history and lore at the start of each chapter. Here was evidence of McNeal’s skill as a world-builder. My hope is that as these characters mature in the following books in this series, McNeal becomes more consistent. Bring the tension and the grit.