Summer Blockbuster: Before Watchmen

Summer means different things to everyone. For kids and teenagers, it’s a time of relaxation and pure bliss because there’s no school. For college students, it’s a time to work and maybe take more classes. For hippies it means festival season is in full swing, for water parks it means business, and for the comic book industry, it means big crossover events, and this summer DC Comics has the coolest one.

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Issue #1 covers for all seven mini-series and back-up.

As reported by many news outlets, the biggest – and most controversial – of these  is Before Watchmen, a look into the world of the Watchmen before the events of the original series by Alan Moore over 20 years ago. With some of the industry’s biggest names in writing and artwork signed on, DC is going all-out and releasing seven mini-series complete with an ongoing back-up story and a bookend epilogue at the end of the summer.

Watchmen co-creator and author Alan Moore has publicly stated his distaste with the new series, likening DC’s actions to writing a “Bible II” without consulting God. Moore’s stance reflects his feelings toward the live-action feature film version of Watchmen released in 2009 to critical and popular praise. Many of the writers and artists attached to the project have come to their own defense stating their intent to enrich the world of the Watchmen, not to sully it as Moore believes.

Each of the main characters from the original Watchmen has their own title – Rorschach, Nite Owl, Comedian, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan – as well as Before Watchmen: Minutemen which will focus on the first superhero team, the Minutemen, who operated decades before the Watchmen. The seven mini-series will be released intermittently, one issue per week, throughout the summer months until they finish up with Before Watchmen: Epilogue. At the end of each issue, a two-page back-up story featuring the Crimson Corsair will run the entirety of the event and finish up in the pages of Epilogue.

Stay tuned to “The Endless Reel” for weekly coverage of Before Watchmen as it unfolds this summer.

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(REVIEW) Superman #6

Written by George Perez
Artwork by Trevor Scott, Nicola Scott and Brett Smith

George Perez’s run on Superman has been taking it’s sweet time, creating a current-day world for Superman. While Action Comics and Justice League are focusing on the origins of characters, it’s nice to see Perez giving ol’ Supes the proper treatment of a standard storyline. And a rather good one, at that.

Last we left Metropolis’ savior, he was acting more like a dictator than a benevolent protector – martial law and a near-murder before Supergirl shows up in this issue’s opening pages. During their fight, the real Superman wakes up in orbit around Earth. Before impostor Supes can deliver the final blow to a mostly-defeated Supergirl, Clark swoops in to correct the situation. He tells his city the truth about the alien impostor and immediately leaves Metropolis before Gen. Lane’s strike force arrives.

It turns out, nanotechnology is the root of this arc’s events. From a world whose nanotech could repair any damage doled out to the planet or people, the ‘Collector of Worlds’ – who makes it into a disappointingly small amount of panel space – wanted their science to add to his own. In a narratively simple malfunction between technologies, the planet’s nanotech went berserk, leading to it’s connection with Superman (which we apparently don’t get to see until next month’s Action Comics), bringing it to Earth. Since it’s memory matrix-whosit-whatsit was damaged, it tried to ‘fix’ Metropolis, then Superman himself by creating a replica out of nanites.

And while the last few pages sort-of just fizzle out with lengthy explanations, at least there’s a Superman vs. Superman brawl to pad it out. The real value in this first Superman arc is the lead-up to the Summoning arc that’s been referred to in Stormwatch.

GRADE:
B

The Endless Reel TV Schedule

At the beginning of February, I posted an (UPDATE) outlining the next stage of ‘The Endless Reel’, which included new titles being added to the comic book monthly lineup and the addition of television shows to the mix of regularly-covered content. Starting in March, all comic book reviews – posts currently tagged (REVIEW) – will become (COMIC REVIEW)s to differentiate from the new (TV REVIEW) tag I’ll be using for television shows.

Of course, unlike the monthly schedule of comic book releases, television shows take breaks and hiatuses between seasons, during the winter, etc. As much as I can, I’ll be updating the TV SCHEDULE page of the site to let readers know when to expect a new review. As I don’t have cable, I won’t be viewing episodes as soon as they’re aired. For now, I’ll be posting each show’s episode review on the following day after it’s air date.

So, without further ado, here are the shows that will be coming soon to ‘The Endless Reel’s regular coverage!

SUNDAYS

Once Upon A Time (ABC, 9pm)
Based on Disney’s extensive pantheon of fantasy and storybook characters, Once Upon A Time is a Lost-style serial about an evil curse that has trapped these fairy tale characters in the real world, stuck in Storybrooke, Maine, a town cut off from time. If it sounds a little confusing, it is. Much like Lost before it, series creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have crafted a rather complex plot that weaves together events in the real world and fairy tale flashbacks that ‘reformat’ the classic stories into a rich, cohesive mythology that expands with each episode.




American Dad! (FOX, 9:30pm)
Of all the Sunday night animated shows that FOX airs, American Dad! is consistently the funniest and most overlooked. Stan Smith is a conservative CIA agent who lives with his family in fictional Langley Falls, Virginia. His wife, Francine, is the epitome of a trophy wife while his kids, Haley and Steve, leave much to be desired in Stan’s eyes. Joined by an effeminate, costume-obsessed alien named Roger and a fish with the mind of a man named Klaus, American Dad! might have been little more than a Family Guy rip-off for it’s first few seasons, but since 2008, it’s been better than Family Guy or the deplorable The Cleveland Show. I mean, they did a whole episode with My Morning Jacket.
MONDAYS
Being Human (Syfy, 10pm)
Based on the UK series of the same name, Being Human is the story of a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost who all live in a house together. Sounds kitschy, right? Well, the vampire and werewolf work together at a hospital and they rent a house – in an effort to lead a more ‘normal’ life – that just so happens to be haunted by a ghost, so it’s not like they’ve formed some supernatural team. The first season followed it’s British forefather pretty closely, but the current second season has taken it’s own, fantastic course.
TUESDAYS
New Girl (FOX, 9pm)
Zooey Deschanel is a controversial person. Some people hate her because of her ‘twee’ attitude and acting style, while others love her for her work with M. Ward as She & Him and their subsequent albums. Or vice-versa. In New Girl, Deschanel is allowed to let her character, Jess, nearly explode with happiness and positivity, a natural exaggeration of her public persona. What makes the show great is how Jess’ quirks affect the three guys she’s come to live with. While the premise is rather flaky, the jokes are solid and the storytelling is fun.
WEDNESDAYS
Modern Family (ABC, 8:30pm)
I’ve yet to meet someone who’s seen Modern Family and hasn’t enjoyed it. Set up in the loose mockumentary style like that of The Office, ABC’s take on a current-day extended family is loads of fun. Starring heavyweights like Ed O’Neill (Married With Children) and Julie Bowen (Ed, Boston Legal, Weeds), Modern Family gives us a glimpse into the lives of the Pritchett Families. This minimal premise sets the stage for amazing family interactions and multi-story narratives. This show has been the favorite at the Emmy Awards two years in a row now and looks to make it a hat trick at next year’s ceremony.


Happy Endings (ABC, 9:30pm)
If you haven’t watched Happy Endings, do yourself a favor a go find a stream of it somewhere on the internet. The 2010-11 TV season was rife with shows that focused on a group of friends, all in different places relationship-wise. Only one survived the wrath of Neilsen, and it was the best one, by far. Happy Endings is a Friends-style show about six friends living in Chicago. What makes this series different from all the others is it’s rapid-fire joke style couples with increasing attention to detail and character development. Every week, it gets better and I just don’t know if there even is a plateau.
THURSDAYS
Community (NBC, 8pm)
Rejoice! After a cancellation scare followed by a three-month waiting game, NBC finally announced the return of Community for Thursday, March 15. Seriously one of the best shows on TV right now, Community tells the continuing tales of a study group at a community college in fictional Greendale, Colorado. It’s never really been about college, though. The show itself is a metacommentary on the television medium, ranging from sitcom satire to full-on theme episodes and alternate timelines. It’s never received the ratings it deserves, but critics and fans alike know it’s the smartest, wittiest, most metafictional show on TV, possibly in history. Watch it. It’s on Hulu Plus and the discs are available from Netflix. Seriously, check it out.

Parks and Recreation (NBC, 8:30pm)
Originally derided as a fairly lackluster The Office copy, Parks and Recreation hit it’s stride in Season 2 and hasn’t stopped. Amy Poehler’s mockumentary about Pawnee, Indiana’s Parks and Rec. department gets better every season. Similar to The Simpsons, show producers and writers have created a whole world in Pawnee, one populated by some of the weirdest, dullest, most proud, normal citizens in the country. It’s so much fun to have your favorite minor character that only pops up every ten episodes or so with a one-liner that’s just too funny to handle. Also starring funny man Aziz Ansari (30 Seconds or Less), Rashida Jones (The Muppets, The Office), and Aubrey Plaza (Funny People).

The Office (NBC, 9pm)
Though it meandered somewhat through the first half of this eight season, The Office is starting (finally) to get back on track after Steve Carrell’s exit last May. With James Spader and Ed Helms now – somewhat – filling the hole that the ever-needy Michael Scott left, producers and writers have been finding it difficult to balance the show’s other characters and feature them more prominently. While still a great show, it hasn’t hit the highs we saw with Michael.





FRIDAYS
Grimm (NBC, 9pm)
Along with Once Upon A Time, NBC’s Grimm attempts to bring fairy tales into the modern world of storytelling. But while OUaT takes the serial approach, telling one massive story over the course of a season, Grimm is told in the procedural format with each episode’s story coming to completion before the 43 minute mark. In Portland, Oregon, Detective Nick Burkhardt is told by his aunt that he is a Grimm, a descendant of the Brothers Grimm who wrote the seminal ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’. Now able to see the monsters around them for who they truly are, Nick must balance his work as a detective against his clandestine title as a Grimm.

Portlandia (IFC, 10pm)
Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag) have an interesting take on America’s chillest of cities. To them, Portland is a unique place, populated by the hippies, the bourgeoisie, and the yuppies. With skits that connect and characters that don’t become overbearing or annoying, Portlandia is one of the freshest and most addictive sketch comedy shows in some time.



SATURDAYS
Young Justice (Cartoon Network, 10:30am)
Last year, Cartoon Network started airing Young Justice, then put it on break for six months before brining it back for a few episodes then putting it on hiatus again. Without even a full first season finished, Young Justice will start airing new episodes as part of CN’s “DC Nation” block of programming. Based (really) on an incarnation of the Teen Titans, this show’s Young Justice team is comprised of Robin (Dick Grayson), Kid Flash (Wally West), Superboy (Conner Kent), Miss Martian, and Artemis (Artemis Crock) with Red Tornado as their liaison to the Justice League. Excellent animation style and a solid writing staff make this a series any DC Comics fan should watch.

Green Lantern: The Animated Series (Cartoon Network, 10am)
Back in November, Cartoon Network previewed Green Lantern: TAS for their “DC Nation” block of shows that would start in January 2012. Obviously, CN missed the original mark, but Green Lantern: TAS is indeed coming back on Saturday, March 3. With Bruce Timm (Batman: TAS, Superman: TAS, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited) as Executive Producer, old-school DC Animated Universe fans should look forward to a similar art style (albeit in CGI) and narrative flow.
I hope you all like the choices I’ve made for coverage and I look forward to reading your comments!

(REVIEW) Teen Titans #6

Written by Scott Lobdell
Artwork by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

After five issues of their new origin story, the Teen Titans still aren’t a coherent team and it’s becoming a bit frustrating. Why did the first issue feature Superboy – front and center – when he isn’t a part of the team and doesn’t it look like he will be in the near future? And while Teen Titans may have coasted along on momentum for the first few months, the past few issues have been disappointing.

This trend continues with issue six. Now that Superboy has beat all of them down without breaking a sweat, it’s time to move on to some awesome new storyline, right? No. Instead, we get more of a one-shot story about how Kid Flash was sped up too much by Superboy’s telekinetic powers, so he’s in danger of going so fast that he literally phases out of existence. SNORE! This exact story has been used in speedster stories more times than DC is willing to admit. It’s a staple of speed-having superheroes, but in 2012, it’s a total and unwarranted cliche that should have been avoided. Since they’re not important enough for the Justice League to answer their call, the Titans call Virgil Hawkins, a.k.a. Static, though no one seems to know he’s a superhero. After some scientific mumbo-jumbo, Virgil and Red Robin go to work trying to fix Bart Allen. And the payoff isn’t even great! In the end, Virgil develops a suit to keep Bart’s erratic speed in check. That’s right comic fans: Kid Flash must wear his suit or he will die! It’s such an annoying plot twist that I almost rather Lobdell had simply left Bart alone and let him keep wearing Red Robin’s old costume.

Elsewhere in Titan world, we get some seriously awful dialogue between Wonder Girl and Brick Boy (alright fine, Bunker) wherein Miguel reveals that he is gay in the most blunt and unnatural way possible. It’s honestly hard to read – like those moments in TV shows that are just simply too embarassing and you can’t help but cover your eyes. Also, the villain for the issue was terribly unoriginal. I mean, Grymm? Seriously, it’s not that hard to think up names.

So, in conclusion, we get an issue that basically revolves around getting Kid Flash a new costume and putting the kids up against a foe that isn’t Superboy. Unfortunately, the issues persistent over the past few months have stuck with Teen Titans, making it more of a chore to read than fun.

GRADE:
C-

(REVIEW) Green Lantern: New Guardians #6

Written by Tony Bedard
Artwork by Tyler Kirkham, Batt, and Nei Ruffino

It’s just another day for the Rainbow Rangers. After last month’s rather weird foray into the…artificial solar system…this issue is all about the fightin’. At the end of issue five, we see a priest incur the wrath of Invictus, some sort of guardian god. I’ll argue that they should have thought up a better name – maybe not one used as the title of a rather recent hit movie. Nonetheless, Invictus is a beast. And while us loyal readers are still nowhere near anything resembling a plot, it’s fun to see the Rainbow Rangers together, slinging rings and kicking ass.

Invictus shows up to bring the pain to the ring-bearers, who he claims are “Sinners!” whose darkness can be defeated by his light. As the fight plays out, he doesn’t seem to be wrong. One by one, the Lanterns fall to Invictus’ power as he lays waste to their constructs. The only hint of a storyline still lies in Glomulus and his orange tint acting as a spark for violence. Invictus sees Glommy and immediately starts babbling about the orange beast and his power.

I really wish there was more to write about, but that’s pretty much it – Invictus beatin’ up on Lanterns. By the looks of it, next month might give us some insight as to what’s going on, but for now, it’s still a mystery and damn frustrating one at that. Art-wise, things are still a clean and crisp as ever. I noticed some weird coloration in Kyle Rayner’s hair from time to time, but other than that, things were looking good.

(REVIEW) Aquaman #6

Written by Geoff Johns
Artwork by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

Most characters throughout DC history have some sort of world built around them. While each publisher’s universe mostly exists as a coherent setting for a majority of their books, individual characters bring their own villains, their own back stories, supporting cast and their own, unique set of problems to solve. Aquaman’s “character world” is one of the most interesting. Atlantis, as a comic book idea, exists as a world removed from our own – much like aliens, only living under our oceans.

Aquaman #5 is all about the disconnection between the sea and the surface. Instead of focusing on Arthur, Geoff Johns chose to highlight Mera, Arthur’s wife. In the ‘New 52’, Mera has never ventured into human civilization, which gives Johns a whole world – literally – to play with. Unfortunately, he chose to talk about sexism. Now, I’m all for tackling social issues in comic books. DC has a long history of making social and civil issues a part of their stories. But in this case, Johns misses the mark and it comes off as paltry. It’s a bit disconcerting, on her first visit to actual human society, that Johns would immediately put her in a situation to be objectified. It’s pandering to an idea that Atlanteans must have a bad impression of surface-dwellers due to bad experiences. Honestly, I’d hoped Johns would have taken a more experimental route with his Human-Atlantean relations.

All in all, it was still a great issue. Mera’s show of force is so much fun to read, and Ivan Reis’ artwork is fantastic in conveying the action. The water looks like it’s moving and has more density than normal, facial expressions are rich and textured, while the lanscapes are subtly shaded and colored. Unfortunately, exceptional art can’t save the story from being a tad boring. I’ll wait patiently to get back to Atlantis’ origins…until next month.

GRADE:
B-

(REVIEW) DC Universe Presents #6 "Challengers of the Unknown"

“Challengers of the Unknown” – Part 1

Written by Dan Didio and Jerry Ordway
Artwork by Dan Didio, Jerry Ordway, Ray McCarthy, Andy Lanning and Marlo Alquiza

Last month, DC Universe Presents finished up with Deadman’s story, which was quite a satisfying one. This month, the book’s second arc begins, highlighting the Challengers of the Unknown, a rather old DC trademark that has made a few appearances through the decades, but hasn’t made much of a dent. Dan Didio – who’s been working on O.M.A.C. up until now – does a great job reintroducing the mythology behind the Challengers and reinterpreting it for the modern age and the ‘New 52’.

With it’s new origins as a reality show gone wrong, Challengers of the Unknown (the show in the book) sends six celebrities and an archaeologist out with the show’s host to brave the wilderness while simultaneously attempting to outwit the other players and ‘win’ the competition. Even from this first issue featuring the revamped Challs (as they’re nicknamed throughout DC history), there’s an obvious sense that the reality show premise is simply there to get these characters out into the unknown.

The story features Nanda Parbat – the mystical place where the revamped Jason Todd trained – as well as a giant ice monster that attacks the team as they attempt to escape the icy mountains via helicopter. It’s action-packed and fun to read, both qualities of which have been exemplified by Didio over on O.M.A.C. The only problem with this introduction to the Challs is that we get very little actual background information of any character. Of course, Didio and Jerry Ordway have months ahead of them to establish this team as a part of the new DC universe.

GRADE:
B-