Head of the Class

Typically, I would give a brief anecdote before diving head on. I’m just gonna cut right to the chase. Spider-Man Homecoming is the best Spider-Man film to ever hit the screen.

I’m sure there’s gonna be a percentage of fans that lionized the Sam Raimi trilogy (The first two films especially still hold up really well, the less said about Spider-Man 3, the better), or the Andrew Garfield mini-run of films (which nailed the Peter/Gwen romance, I didn’t like how it rehashed his origins again) are gathering their pitchforks with that statement. Allow me to explain why this gets so much right.

What sets Homecoming apart from past iterations of the character is that Spider-Man is already established from the beginning. It takes place a couple months after his reintroduction in Captain America: Civil War. It was a huge relief not having to sit through his origins yet again. It was like beating a dead horse during the last reboot. (Sidebar: I can only see Uncle Ben die before it gets redundant)

Tom Holland doesn’t just play Spider-Man, he is Spider-Man. I was sold when he appeared in Civil War. He’s every bit as lovable, courageous and hilarious as he is here and he gets a lot more to do. Initially, I was worried that the trailers featured Robert Downey, Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man) too heavily, fearing that he may overshadow Peter and make this a Marvel Team-Up type of film. Thankfully, that’s not the case. This is Peter’s story, through and through. Tony’s there for Peter to play off of, to give him the what for and it’s an important part of his arc. Peter’s biggest motivation is to become an Avenger but of course, being a good student, friend, nephew gets in the way of that. It puts the iconic words “Great power comes great responsibility” into practice. He fails a lot more than he succeeds and it makes the character so endearing.

The supporting cast also delivers the goods. Jacob Batalon quietly steals the show as Peter’s best friend, Ned. Zendaya’s awesome as Michelle, who always has an answer for anything. Laura Harrier also did a nice job as Liz Allen, a great choice for a love interest and I did buy that she’s an attainable cool girl for Peter. Jon Favreau makes a return as Happy Hogan and he did a great job as the straight man to Spidey’s schtick. Donald Glover makes a cameo as Aaron Davis, which could have some major implications down the road…Nuff said. Marisa Tomei made a very good Aunt May, too.

The common thread between the earlier iterations of the character (especially the Raimi trilogy) is that each of them condensed his high school days in about the first 40 minutes. Homecoming exploits Peter’s high school life to the max. Jon Watts cleverly masquerades this standalone story as a John Hughes coming-of-age film (there’s even a Ferris Bueller homage somewhere). It’s a huge risk that pays off handsomely.

The tone is perfect. All of Marvel’s films lean on humor and Spider-Man, more often than not, nails that. The laughs per minute is pretty high, and it enhances the action sequences throughout the film and they’re a blast. It doesn’t shy away from the heavier stuff either. The webhead at this point, isn’t a neophyte but he hasn’t mastered his powers yet. He’s growing into them. His banter with Karen, his suit’s UI à la Jarvis (voiced by Jennifer Connelly!) is awesome.

Michael Keaton avoids the pitfalls of being the shortchanged villain as Adrian Toomes, better known as the Vulture. He did a fantastic job fleshing out a C-list villain and make him sympathetic. He’s not out for world domination, he just wants to provide for his family. That motivation puts him on my Mount Rushmore of great Marvel villains (He’s sharing that with Fisk, Kilgrave and Loki). That makes the film just as street-level and grounded as the Netflix series, sans the violence or brutal subject matter (Sidebar: If I don’t see Spidey meet Daredevil one day…I will flip a table)

The easter eggs also sets this off. The references to the Spider-Man mythos as well as what’s going on in the MCU are everywhere. Peter even recorded a vlog of his trip to Germany where he makes his presence known on the tarmac.

This film grows up before your very eyes. It’s an absolute joy that swung so high that it’s in the upper echelon of Marvel’s best films and it can’t be missed. The Mickey Mouse of Marvel is back on top and Spider-Man Homecoming effortlessly makes the honor roll.

🎵 Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can🎵

 

New York Minute

“You think the four of you can save New York…you can’t even save yourselves.”

What separates this motley crew of street-level heroes is a few square miles.

The Defenders is the culmination of the Marvel/Netflix series. The 8 episode crossover miniseries brings the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, A PI who’s worth every dime…when’s she’s sober, a hoody-wearing ex-con with unbreakable skin and a dude with a glowing fist together to face off against the Hand and their mysterious leader, Alexandra (played by the incomparable Sigourney Weaver).

Just because this is a crossover, that doesn’t mean each character’s ongoing arcs are getting put on the backburner. I, for one, hope that each arc gets some progression across the eight episodes (as opposed to the usual 13). Let’s get up to speed on what each of these characters have gone through.

Warning: Full Spoilers for all four seasons (Jessica Jones S1, Daredevil S2, Luke Cage S1 and Iron Fist S1) will follow. Read at your own risk.

LAST CHANCE…

Gandalf

Still here?

Okay. Let’s go.

Better the devil you know…

Matt Murdock’s single-minded pursuit of the Hand has taken it’s toll on the people in his circle. Nelson & Murdock have gone splitsville (for now…), he’s reeling from Elektra’s death (more on that in a second). Wilson Fisk, despite being behind bars, vows to make his life hell when he gets out and he made a confession to Karen by saying these two words:

I'm Daredevil

Matt, more alone than ever, has to reach out if he’s got a shot to stop the Hand and they’ve got a secret weapon…

Tonight’s forecast suggest a Black Sky…

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Elektra came roaring back into Matt’s life and she brought the Hand nipping on her heels. At the end of season 2, Elektra died an honorable death in the war against the Hand and it was revealed that she’s the Black Sky. Now, with her impending resurrection, Could she lead the Hand to the promised land?

Business booms for Alias Investigations

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It’s been 18 months since we’ve last seen Jessica Jones. Alias Investigations has taken off in the wake of her killing Kilgrave. After giving the hero gig a shot, it’s gonna be much harder now to stay under the radar with her phone ringing off the hook. Being mind controlled for months left her with some massive trust issues. It’ll be interesting to see her start to move past her self-loathing and learn to trust three other men as we head into her Season 2, which is filming right now. (Sidebar: There’s a lot of baggage between her and Luke. The jury’s out if they can move forward)

Sometimes backwards to move forward…Always.

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When we last left Harlem’s favorite bulletproof son. Luke had to return to Seagate to continue his jail sentence. How he will get out early is anyone’s guess. The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen going down to Georgia to bail him out? Make it happen!!

K’un L’un gone?

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Danny Rand, one in a long line of Immortal Iron Fists, has discovered that the mystical city that gave him his gifts has mysteriously disappeared. After spending much of his first season stumbling his way back to New York trying to reclaim his birthright after being gone for 15 years. While that show did have issues (not enough mysticism, fight scenes are hit and miss, iffy writing, etc), I do think that putting Danny under a different creative team (it’s got Marco Ramirez, who along with Doug Petrie, were the showrunners on Daredevil S2) will go a long way to making him stand out amongst his fellow Defenders. Seeing him getting paired up with Luke Cage (Heroes for Hire!) has the potential to redeem the character.

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Penny (or dime) for your thoughts?

Punisher

The Punisher came in like a force of nature and grabbed the criminal underworld by the balls, much to Daredevil’s dismay. As you can see, Frank detached his old life and he’s running around doing God-knows-what. After stealing the show constantly in season 2. Frank’s gonna get the spotlight this fall (I think, around SDCC ’17, we could get a date announcement) in the Punisher spinoff. Could we see a cameo in the Defenders? Start saving your pennies and dimes…

Way down in the hole….

Any guesses what lies in the bottom of Midland Circle? What could be lurking underground that’s gonna bind these four together….

Who else will join the fun?

The supporting cast is an all star line-up. In addition to Karen. The supporting casts across all four shows will pop up during the Defenders including Stick (Scott Glenn), Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), Foggy (Elden Henson), Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville), Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick).

Daughters of the Dragon

Daughters of the Dragon!

This is shaping up to be one hell of a celebration. It all comes to a head on August 18th!

Summer TV Preview

As the current TV season comes to an end. The spring/summer period is a lull between the crop of summer programming. This summer looks to be as stacked as last fall from returning series to new series. Let’s break down some of this summer’s heavy hitters.

House of Cards

The battle for the White House is heating up in the fifth season. The Underwoods have their back to the wall after scheming their way to the top over the past four seasons. Their grip on America’s safety continues to be tenuous. Also, it’s the first season without Beau Willimon at the helm. New showrunners Melissa James Gibson & Frank Pugliese (who joined in season 3) will be taking control. See it May 30th. (Next Tuesday!)

Orphan Black

It’s been a long, winding road for our sestras as Orphan Black heads into it’s fifth and final season. Everything’s gonna come to a crescendo as Sarah/Alison/Helena/Cosima (played by the multifaceted, Emmy-winning Tatiana Maslany) find the answers to the ongoing conspiracy. It’s back on June 10th.

Preacher

The journey to “Find God” begins in earnest as Preacher returns for it’s sophomore season. Based on the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon comic series. Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy leave Annville behind as they begin their quest. It’s blend of dark comedy and character drama will be intact. As well as some good music choices seen above. Season 2 airs June 25th.

GLOW

From the team that brought you Orange is the New Black comes GLOW. A struggling actress in 1980s LA gets thrust into the larger than life world of pro wrestling as part of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling series. It stars Community’s Alison Brie and Marc Maron. Viewers can take it to the mat on June 23rd.

Castlevania

Based on the long-running gothic, vampire-slaying side-scroller by Konami. This animated series geared towards adults follows the last remaining member of the Belmont Clan and his clan’s blood feud with Dracula. It’s written by Warren Ellis (Moon Knight, Karnak, Transmetropolitan) and created by Adi Shankar (Dredd). The jury’s out on if it’ll break the stigma that’s come with video game adaptations. I like it’s chances. Stock up on holy water, stakes and whips on July 7th.

Suits

After spending the last six years walking on eggshells because of Mike’s secret. Pearson Spector Litt is in a good place in the upcoming seventh season. Mike Ross is finally practicing law without any secrets, How will things be different in the firm with this weight finally off their shoulders? Tune in on July 12th.

Game of Thrones

The endgame is in sight in the seven kingdoms. HBO’s juggernaut series returns for a 7 episode long seventh season. All roads are heading to King’s Landing. There’s no going back now. Who will take the Iron Throne? Winter arrives July 16th!.

Marvel’s The Defenders

It’s been a long time coming for these four! The culmination of the Marvel/Netflix series finally brings Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist together for this crossover extravaganza. I wanna go into even more detail but that’s gonna be for another post. Take a look at the security footage for when you can see these four wreck shop in the Kitchen.

Rick & Morty

In a move that won April Fool’s Day. Adult Swim pulled a Beyonce and aired the premiere episode of Season 3. It’s out there now but the rest of the season won’t air till sometime this summer. Stay Schwifty.

In the meantime, there’s still a few shows that are currently ongoing to make this wait for the summer rush bearable:

iZombie (Tuesdays on CW, Wednesdays on Netflix Canada)

American Gods (Sundays on Starz)

Twin Peaks (Showtime)

Gotham (Mondays on FOX)

12 Monkeys (S3 On demand, Syfy)

Ronin. Out of Time.

Note: The following is based on the first two episodes of Samurai Jack

There’s something about a series that gets taken off the air at it’s peak.

September 25th, 2004. That was the last time Samurai Jack was on the air. Frustration, confusion and speculation justifiably ensued. It was taken off the air without ever getting a real ending…until now.

I thought this day would never come but Samurai Jack is back after more than 12 years for one last hurrah!

This season takes place 50 years later and it has taken his toll on Jack. After being stymied again and again by Aku’s trickery, Jack is a shell of what he used to be. Staying in the future has caused him to stop aging and he’s been haunted by his constant failures to return home. An Aku-worshipping cult has produced seven “Daughters of Aku” that have one purpose in life: Killing the Samurai.

This is a different show from when it was on the air. The signature minimalist, stylized art style remains intact but it looks even better. The action is just as cinematic and intense as it ever was. The audience that watched Samurai Jack during it’s original run are much older so moving the show to Adult Swim is an act of complete creative genius, it’s more violent and mature than ever and the pathos gets turned up a notch.

Phil LaMarr, who voices Jack, is as good as ever. The newer, more mature tone gives him a chance to tap into something the last 52 episodes haven’t touched on: Jack’s psyche. The standalone nature of the first four seasons didn’t allow much character development. After seeing both episodes of the new season gives a more serialized character arc. Jack’s been a broken man for the last 50 years and it shows, this is a different character.

It’s not completely dour, the show still knows how to have fun. The first episode especially had a scat-singing robot and Aku returns voiced by Greg Baldwin (who replaces Mako Iwamatsu, who sadly passed away in 2006) and he’s just as funny.

It took two episodes to quickly cement the fact that Samurai Jack, even with a 12 year absence, hasn’t lost a step. it is, quite simply, a gift. It’s so gratifying to see a payoff to fans’ patience and it’s a triumphant return for Jack.

Logan’s last ride

Where do I even begin…?

The X-Men franchise has had it’s share of ups and downs, when it’s good, it’s fantastic. when it’s bad, it’s frustrating. There has been one consistent bright spot and that’s Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

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Logan is the end of Jackman’s 17-year stint (that’s something no one else in Hollywood, with the exception of Robert Downey Jr, can claim.) as the titular character and to sweeten the pot, it’s rated R! (More on that later). The film takes place many, many years in a mutant-less future where a much older, world-weary Logan is a shell of what he used to be. His healing powers aren’t as potent, even popping his trademark claws hurts him, he’s making ends meet as a chauffeur while taking care of former Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, who also returns for his final outing) who’s once great mind is barely hanging together. During one fare, Logan meets a mother who’s daughter Laura (Dafne Keen) needs to go to a safe haven called Eden where other mutants are located. Logan, Laura and Charles go on a road trip to find it with a clandestine organization hot on their tail.

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Logan, from the first frame, comes out of the gate with a berserker rage. Right away, this is a Wolverine film that truly lives up to it’s name and then some. The opening sequence is grounded, intimate and unpretentiously brutal. Faces get stabbed, legs get lopped off and exit wounds are on full grisly display. The gore in the action sequences, at some points, makes Deadpool look like a maiden. It’s an act of genius to give the film an R-rating. I’m sorry, kids, you’ve had your fun.

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Speaking of kids, while it’s great to see Wolverine finally let off the leash. Laura is even scarier. Dafne Keen, does stuff that a girl her age that’s unfathomable, she’s quiet most of the time she’s onscreen but she’s downright nasty during the action, she threatens to steal the show from the lead and she succeeds time and time again.

The gory, relentless action is balanced with a strong story, nuanced, emotional acting and a sun-bleached, Western-like setting. The world that James Mangold created is a world that’s not too far from where we are now. The best way to describe the tone is that it’s a Western with few superheroes in it. It’s not completely dour, there’s plenty of humor especially where Charles is concerned. Patrick Stewart clearly looks like he’s having fun, seeing him cuss out Logan is hilarious.

Hugh Jackman, while he’s always delivered, hits a grand slam. Logan is as badass as ever but there’s a world-weariness to him that made sense. He may be older, but that animalistic fury hasn’t wavered. He put his heart and soul into this film and this is something he can be proud of. There were times that I nearly teared up. Also, Stephen Merchant also turns in a nice performance as Caliban, a mutant tracker and Boyd Holbrook delivers a slimy villain as Donald Pierce.

Logan is many things: It’s vicious, unrelenting, funny, heartbreaking. It’s the perfect swan song for a legendary run. Those words won’t do this justice but I’m pretty sure that this sentence will do the job:

It’s the best Wolverine film ever made. 

For old times…

😭

 

 

 

 

No Jedi. No Sith. No Problem.

The Star Wars films follows a formula: The iconic opening sentence, the John Williams score, the opening crawl getting you up to speed on what’s happening and away you go.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes this formula, pours it down the drain and adds it’s own, unique formula to tremendous results. No Jedi, No Sith (except for one 😉) and no opening crawl. It’s a Star Wars film that strips the fairytale wonder of the series for something harsh, nuanced, on-the-frontlines and singular in focus.

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The story takes place prior to A New Hope. It follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelson) was captured by the Galactic Empire to finish creating the Death Star. She soon encounters a band of rebels and along the way they discover that Galen has secretly created plans to destroy the Death Star.

It’s an ensemble effort, cast-wise. Diego Luna had a great turn as rebel spy, Cassian Andor, who shares just as much screen-time as Jyn. Donnie Yen’s so cool as the blind Shaolin Monk-esque Chirrut. Forest Whitaker has a captivating performance as Saw Gerrera. Alan Tudyk steals the show as K-2SO, the imperial droid with a scathing sense of humor and the cherry on top was James Earl Jones returning to voice Darth Vader and he’s used brilliantly. There are cameos from prequels and originals, too. Tonally, it’s less about Jedi vs Sith, good vs evil, It’s a straight-up war film and Rogue One makes no bones about what it is.

The cinematography is astounding, the amount of planets this film goes to in the first 20 minutes is far beyond than any of previous films. ILM has never looked this good seeing the Death Star destroying a planet is jaw-dropping. It’s a real testament to see how far visual effects have come in the last 39 years. “You may fire when ready” has never sounded so terrifying

The action set-pieces are fantastic. It’s a real nostalgic treat seeing Stormtroopers, TIE vs X-Wing fighters, even AT-ATs!. Especially during the third act, seeing archived footage from A New Hope juxtaposed with the current battle gives the film a real sense of cohesion.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a film that fills that sweet spot that Episode VII occupies where it tells it’s own story and respects the lineage of the original trilogy. Equal parts fan service and a standalone story. I put this in the same breath as The Empire Strikes Back.

I am one with the Force, the force is with me…

 

 

 

 

Front street on Hell’s Kitchen

The superhero identity is a Pandora’s Box of secrecy. The hero’s inner circle are usually the ones who are in the know about the delicate balance of a dual life. Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev busts this Pandora’s box wide open on his tenure on Daredevil.

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This four and a half year run, collected across three trade paperbacks, is tremendous. Bendis took the noir, street-level tone that Frank Miller brought to the book that made it a best-seller and gave a contemporary, sophisticated spin.

This story, spanning 55 issues, is The Godfather, part II meets The Wire written by Aaron Sorkin. Bendis plays a lot with the pacing in the first arc “Underboss” spanning a three month period features a coup against the Kingpin. The book used the superheroics sparingly. The narrative is in the vein of a serialized, episodic crime drama.

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Stop the presses!!

Celebrities these days are heavily monitored by social media, paparazzi and tabloids. Their private lives being put out for the whole world to see. Bendis decides to conduct this social experiment on Matt Murdock/Daredevil by putting his secret identity on front street. Bendis, more so than Miller, pushes Matt to his breaking point and beyond. Having your secret identity being put under the microscope is a different animal and it affects Matt, the people in his orbit and by extension, the Marvel universe. The decisions he makes throughout the story will have you guessing if he’s doing the right thing.

There are twists and turns aplenty and it’s got appearances from Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and the Black Widow, who has a four part story arc of her own.

Alex Maleev’s art is impeccable. It’s bitingly moody in it’s depiction of Hell’s Kitchen. Take the single panel above. It conveys a sense of realism without losing sight that it’s still a comic book. Seeing Maleev’s moody art with a photorealistic New York backdrop gives it a unique look and it coalesces beautifully with Bendis’ snappy writing. Maleev really shines on issue #28 where there’s not a single line of dialogue. He also makes some gorgeous double page spreads!

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Other artists fill in for, such as David Mack, Terry Dodson and Manuel Gutierrez in the first TPB. The “Wake Up” story arc is a trippy, watercolored fever dream. Mack’s artwork, at times, echoes the work of Bill Sienkiewicz.

I can’t say enough good things about this series of stories. Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev escaped from Miller’s shadow to deliver a masterclass of artwork and narrative. This is something you can hand to someone’s who’s into crime dramas and they’ll see the medium’s potential. It’s the best Daredevil run I’ve ever read.

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The devil’s work is never done.

Gotham is…

 

The popularity of DC’s Dark Knight has never been higher in recent years. Between Ben Affleck’s performance in Batman v Superman (one of the bright spots of that film) and Rocksteady’s Arkham franchise. This volume of Batman in DC’s New 52 lineup ranks among the best Batman runs ever. Here’s an arc-by-arc breakdown of what makes Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run so great.

The Court of Owls/Night of the Owls:

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Batman’s always had a deep connection to Gotham City. This bond is what drives The Court of Owls storyline. Bruce Wayne returns to the cowl after Dick Grayson’s turn in Grant Morrison’s long, winding run (which ran in tandem with the New 52 core series, events in Morrison’s run bleed into Snyder’s run). Way back when Bruce was a kid, the Court of Owls were an urban legend/secret organization that controlled Gotham for centuries.

Dismissing them as a myth, Batman quickly realizes that he may not know his city as well as he does. Issue #5 is a massive standout. Batman, deep in the heart of the Court of Owls’ hideout, is pushed to his limits and the rest of the issue flips the story sideways and upside-down. I was stunned as I was turning the book like a steering wheel.

The best thing about this story and this run as whole is how accessible it is. It doesn’t need you to know everything about the lore for you to enjoy it. The Night of the Owls arc also brings the rest of the Bat-family including Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, Batwing, Red Hood and Catwoman, each tie-in title enriches the story by showing different perspectives at different times during one long night in Gotham. An explosive start to the series.

Death of the Family

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A sick, twisted love affair

The Court of Owls story felt like a summer action blockbuster. The Death of the Family arc is a straight-up psychological thriller. It features the Joker returning after a year-long absence and he’s not taking any prisoners. The Joker made his presence known to Gotham which prompts the Dark Knight to stop his longtime foe. Instead of going after Batman, Joker decides to go after everyone in Batman’s orbit, especially the Bat-family. The title is a nod to another Batman story “A Death in the Family” where Joker kills then-Robin, Jason Todd (now known as the Red Hood). Greg Capullo makes the Joker look every bit as terrifying as the character himself. Joker’s stapled-face with his iconic smile gave me goosebumps. I had no clue what he was gonna do next, the tension is non-stop. It will have thinking how Batman and company will get through this nightmare. This story will grab you by the balls.

Zero Year

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When I heard about Zero Year, there was a lot of trepidation and concern because Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman Year One is the definitive origin story. Scott and Greg effectively buried all the fans’ fears with Zero Year, a retelling of Batman’s origin in the New 52 and a love letter of all things Batman. Bruce Wayne in this arc isn’t the cool, calm billionaire genius that’s familiar to fans. This is a Bruce that’s brazen, bullheaded and angry. Batman Year One is a major influence but Zero Year does divert from being a carbon copy. It is, in many ways, the anti-Year One. Snyder made it a point to stretch his origin across the eleven issues. It’s a decompressed arc as opposed to Year One’s four issues. Miller and Mazzucchelli drench the hero in shadows and it grounded the character in realism to an extent. Greg Capullo does the opposite as he bathes the art in yellows, pinks and warm colors. It gives the book a distinct look. Gotham during this story is a constant vegetative state. It echoes The Last of Us of how vegetative Gotham City looks.

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Snyder’s love of Batman is all over Zero Year. It features plenty of nods to Batman’s debut appearance (seen above), The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns and Year One, too. Plus, each part of this story features short back-up stories that follows Bruce between the ages of 19-24 as he travelled the world honing his mind and body prior to his return to Gotham. Zero Year succeeds on giving readers a different Bruce Wayne. It doesn’t try to replace Year One, so whatever concerns you may have toward this will wash away once you read it. It’s a new beginning that embraces the past but it paves the way to the future and it’s also serves as a greatest hits. Terrific story.

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Imitation…

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…is the sincerest form of flattery (Hi, Frank Miller!)

(52 weekly issues later….)

Endgame

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If Death of the Family was the set-up. Endgame is the punchline. The first issue of this arc has Batman take on the entire Justice League in a Tower of Babel-style showdown, it was all window dressing to set the stage for the Joker’s return! It’s billed as the ultimate showdown between Batman and his greatest enemy. Joker unleashes a deadly virus that will bring Gotham to it’s knees. This arc is deeply connected to Death of the Family and Zero Year which featured a possible origin for Joker. If those stories were acts 1 and 2. Everyone remembers the third act the most and this confrontation will change both Batman and Joker forever. It’s a thrilling cap to Snyder’s Joker story.

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Will Joker get the last laugh?

Superheavy

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The events of Endgame left Gotham without a Batman to protect it. So the GCPD had to fill the void. Commissioner Gordon has been recruited to fill Bruce Wayne’s shoes to protect Gotham. We also see Bruce resurface in Gotham, but this is a different man, he’s…happy. Even with Bruce on the sidelines, this arc proves that it can move forward. Gordon earns his stripes as the new Dark Knight, we see a Bruce Wayne that’s finally at peace, but I can guarantee that it’ll be short-lived.

While DC’s New 52 lineup wasn’t an overall success. Every series in that lineup had creative team shake-ups. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman became the one, good constant of the New 52. It’s simply the best.

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Layin’ in the cut long enough

“There’s something powerful about seeing a black man that’s bulletproof and unafraid”

People of color wearing hoodies have been perceived with suspicion and fear by law enforcement. In particular, the Trayvon Martin tragedy from 2012, sparked the “Black Lives Matter” movement. With what’s been going on this year with gun violence, Luke Cage came at the right time to provide an escapist experience but at the same time, it comments on what it’s like to be black in America.

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Movin’ on up…

The show takes place sometime after Mike Colter’s (Luke) stint on Jessica Jones. Luke moves shop to Harlem to start fresh and to stay out of sight while getting by at Pop’s Barbershop and Harlem’s Paradise. Moving uptown presents a new set of challenges that make it very, very hard for him to keep a low profile.

Harlem is a different animal than Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a melting pot of music, history and politics. It gives Luke Cage a different voice than Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Pop’s Barbershop is full of witty banter between the barbers and customers. Harlem’s Paradise gets plenty of clientele such as Jidenna, Raphael Siddiq, Faith Evans, etc. There’s a real sense of place very much in the vein of The Wire being set in Baltimore. It scores a lot of points for authenticity. Speaking of music, each of the thirteen episodes are named after a Gang Starr song. 90’s hip hop is the driving force behind Luke Cage, in the same way that 80’s rock is in the DNA of Guardians of the Galaxy. Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad handle the score. The traces of 70’s blaxploitation are scattered throughout the score. It even complements some of the action sequences.

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The casting is top-notch. It’s mostly people of color. Mike Colter improved tremendously as Luke Cage. He’s carries himself with such a cool, confident disposition and it shows during one particular sequence set to the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Bring da Ruckus”. It’s refreshing to see a character that isn’t as burdened as Matt or Jessica.  Mahershala Ali (House of Cards) delivers a dynamite performance as gun-running club owner Cornell Stokes/Cottonmouth. Alfre Woodard is also captivating as Mariah Dillard, a councilwoman who’s sole mission is to “keep Harlem black” as Cornell is doing the dirty work to run guns on Harlem’s streets to financially support her campaign. I loved Simone Missick’s turn as cult favorite Misty Knight. She’s got agency, conviction and sex appeal to spare. Her chemistry with Luke just sizzles. Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy) portrays Shades, a face from Luke’s past, who’s making moves in the shadows and Frankie Faison also has a fun turn as Pop, Luke’s father figure. My only gripe with the cast is Erik LaRay Harvey’s portrayal of Diamondback. While his first few episodes were solid, he fell pretty short to the Mariah/Cottonmouth duo. I wished his arc was handled with the same care as the aforementioned duo. Rosario Dawson, the one good constant, returns as Claire Temple.

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What’s great about this show, well, every show from the Marvel/Netflix umbrella is that each show tackles real-world themes. Daredevil dealt with justice, Jessica Jones dealt with the psychological trauma of rape, Luke Cage tells the story of where black people stand in 2016. Especially with the “Black Lives Matter” movement, it’s able to convey a message without going overboard. Some of the imagery is a little on-the-nose but it’s effective nonetheless. It’s still a Marvel show at it’s essence, so expect plenty of easter eggs faster than you can say “Sweet Christmas”.

“No one is untouchable, no man is bulletproof/We all must meet our moment of truth…”

Luke Cage is another victory for Marvel/Netflix. It’s an unapologetic, thought-provoking look at Black America. Cheo Hodari Coker said it best that “the world is ready for a bulletproof black man”.

I say he came just in time.

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NB: By the time you’ve read this blog, you’ve already binged this. You won’t have to stare out the window wondering when your next fix will be. Iron Fist drops on March 17th!

Fall TV Preview

It’s that time of the year again as summer starts to move on and TV’s back in season.

Here’s a peek at what’s coming after the jump:

Atlanta

Where: FX

When: Tuesdays

What’s it about?: Created by and starring Community’s Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino). Atlanta is a dramedy where it follows a dropout from Princeton who becomes a manager when he discovers his cousin’s newfound potential as a rapper.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Where: ABC

When: September 20th at 10pm

What’s it about?: So much has changed in the lives of Agent Coulson and his gang. The Sokovia Accords have torn the Avengers apart, Daisy has gone AWOL, the Inhumans are being hunted down and there’s a new director at S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s airing at a new timeslot which could mean that the show may be going to slightly darker avenues. The biggest addition to the mythos, and by extension, the MCU is the reintroduction of Ghost Rider. Trust me, hell’s coming with him.

Westworld

Where: HBO

When: October 2nd

What’s it about?: Based on the 1973 film on the same name. Westworld is set in a futuristic theme park where the rich get to indulge in some Old West fantasies. Deep within the theme park are filled with lifelike androids that question life as they see it. It’s created by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy and it’s got a loaded cast featuring Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden and Jeffrey Wright.

Marvel’s Luke Cage

Where: Netflix

When: September 30th

What’s it about?: As we inch closer and closer towards The Defenders. Marvel’s going uptown to Harlem in Luke Cage. Mike Colter returns as the unbreakable title hero, who made his debut in Jessica Jones. The show picks up months later and Luke goes into hiding to start anew until gang lords, dirty politicians and thugs force him to enter the spotlight. Expect his backstory to explored even further. It also features Mahershala Ali (House of Cards), Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy) and Alfre Woodard. Sweet Christmas is just around the corner!

The Flash

Where: The CW

When: October 4th

What’s it about?: Barry Allen just can’t seem to leave well enough alone. The third season will adapt the famous “Flashpoint” storyline where Barry goes back to the fateful night and he prevents his mom’s death. It leads to massive, unexpected changes in the Scarlet Speedster’s life. Wally becomes a speedster himself (Kid Flash!), Cisco becomes the richest man in Central City and here’s the kicker: Joe and Iris West don’t remember him, at all! Everything you know is about to change.

Arrow

Where: The CW

When: October 5th

What’s it about?: The show that kicked off this shared universe on the CW has lost a bit of it’s identity. The fifth season looks to go back to basics: protecting Star City, street-level fight choreography, a slightly darker tone and of course, no superpowers. Stephen Amell also hinted a one-take action sequence this season (taking a page out of the Daredevil bible). It remains to be seen whether Arrow can reclaim the goodwill lost in season 4 and or how Flashpoint will affect the new season.

Supergirl

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Where: The CW

When: October 10th

What’s it about?: The Girl of Steel now has a new home and a new season on the CW. What’s new this season is that after seeing only intermittent glimpses of her more famous cousin. Superman makes his debut this season, he’s gonna be in the first two episodes. Supergirl, now that it’s on the same network as Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow could very well join the shared universe (Flashpoint, anyone?)

Legends of Tomorrow

Where: The CW

When: October 13th

What’s it about?: The time-traveling companion series to the Arrowverse is back for a second go-around. This show features characters who were at one point on The Flash and Arrow. The Atom, White Canary, Firestorm, Heat Wave and Rip Hunter have been forewarned of their impending death by Rex Tyler, from the Justice Society of America. Vandal Savage, the big bad of the first season, wasn’t the best. The new season brings us the Legion of Doom (Malcolm Merlyn, Captain Cold, Reverse Flash and Damien Darhk).

The Walking Dead

Where: AMC

When: October 23rd

What’s it about?: Eeny…meeny…miny…moe. The season 6 cliffhanger left us in total suspense after Negan’s violent debut. Who’s life will Lucille take…only one way to find out.

The ones for the calendar:

Gilmore Girls : A Year in the Life (November 25th, Netflix)

Supernatural (October 13th, CW)

The Mindy Project (October 4th, Hulu)

Comment below for what you’re excited for the most 👍🏾