Monday, July 29, 2013

House of M (2005):

 “He... He only wanted you to be happy... Look what you've done to us, daddy.”

- Scarlet Witch to Magneto

I gotta say: I’m bored with DC Comics. It’s all about Batman vs., Superman right now, (Infinite Crisis, Batman vs. Superman movie, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Sacrifice, etc.) and they won’t even let Superman act like a hero. So, instead I’ve chosen to review a graphic novel that made me think: What would happen if Magneto suddenly got what he desired? This is the plot of House of M.

   The X-men decide they have to kill Scarlet Witch as she lost control of her powers and killed several Avengers, including her husband Vision. To stop the X-men/Avengers from killing her she uses her reality-altering powers (Amplified by a mind-controlled Professor X to create a world where her dad Magneto gets everything he ever wanted. Mutants rule the Earth, and the Avengers are outcasts. But, this is not without good effects too. Peter Parker and M.J. are happily married and successful; Uncle Ben is alive, The Avengers are alive, several of The X-Men become Magneto’s elite Red Guard. Captain America walks on the moon to broker a tentative peace between mutants and humans.

     But, beneath all that appears happy and successful and covered up by tabloids, Wolverine senses that the reality is false, because he’s had his mind wiped so many times before. He storms out on Mystique (who he’s married to.) and goes off to unite the other heroes, starting with Emma Frost, who also senses the reality is false and can convince others psychically.  Wolverine fights past the elite guards, which notably includes Rogue and Nightcrawler as part of the Red Guard.
    Eventually, Emma Frost (who’s happily married to Cyclops, and she lets him see reality.) runs into Layla Miller, a little girl who, unaffected by the reality-altering, still retains memories of the previous reality. Wolverine takes her to the Avengers’ hideout, where together they figure out this might have been Magneto’s work. See, the Avengers’ don’t have it so lucky. They are hunted by sentinels, like the X-men in the previous reality.

After that, Wolverine, Cyclops and Dr. Strange decide to crash a meeting of the world’s leaders, led by the House of M. Dr. Strange contacts Scarlet Witch, and of course, gets her to confess that she created this reality, and loses control. (With one special caveat I won’t reveal here!) But anyway, this comic just got me thinking in the midst of all this boring Batman vs. Superman stuff: How much good makes up for one evil? People were happy under mutant rule, but people were still oppressed. Is happiness really all that people seek, even under a dictatorship? What defines reality? This was some REAL philosophy to chew on rather than the old dichotomy between Justice and Revenge we see in DC Comics. It was refreshing: Of course, it all leads to a bigger plot which is a whole different beast (But, not Beast!) A vs. X! That’s how you do a vs. buildup!

Sunday, July 28, 2013



Today, I saw The Wolverine. It was okay. It didn’t really have a hook though. It was just sort of like “Oh, hey, Logan…this guy hurt a bear. Wanna go beat him up and go to Japan to visit this Yoshida guy you saved in WWII?” And Wolverine thinks a bit…and he’s gruff, but then he says “One day…”  and then flies to Japan with this girl Yuriko. While he’s there, he uncovers that Yoshida’s granddaughter Mariko is next in line to inherit the Yoshida Corporation which is actually the Black Ninja Clan. Yeah, I didn’t really follow either, but I think I got it.

What the movie lacked in hooks they made up for in cool fight scenes. See Wolverine fight: At a wedding, on a train, in laboratory rafters, in a Japanese love hotel. There are two in this movie. Overall, my sense of the movie is that in parts it tried to be Kill Bill. Weak story, good action scenes. Some funny moments. In short, a Marvel movie, but the acting is still better than The Dark Knight Rises. (Zing!)

One of the most frustrating things about this movie was (I felt.) the forced bonding moments between Mariko and Wolverine. They’re already being chased by a rival ninja clan…and those are good scenes! We don’t need to see Mariko and Wolverine having tea together or revisiting the place where Wolverine met Mariko’s grandfather that the beginning of the movie already told us about. Being chased by ninjas is enough reason to get along and make out if you want. So, that was a huge break in the action, and a huge distraction.

Another thing…you would expect this movie’s main villain to be Silver Samurai! No! He’s in there, but the main villainess you see throughout the movie is Viper. She can poison people. She’s basically a more hardcore version of Batman’s Poison Ivy with a snake theme instead of a floral theme. But anyway, although Silver Samurai is involved, I expected to see more of him. We are in Japan after all. Also, Viper steals Wolverine’s healing factor for a bit. (Yes, it’s one of those movies…)

Honestly, I don’t know why it’s so hard for Hollywood to make a good Wolverine movie. He’s one of the most powerful mutants there is. We don’t need to see him go through a personal crisis and wondering if he’s killing for the right reasons. Not only is that boring, but he’s BEING CHASED BY NINJAS. We know he’s killing to survive and protect Mariko! With Wolverine, I think not wanting to be chased by ninjas is a good enough motivation. Let him claw his way out!

Overall, the movie had great action! I just think the story was a little weak, and the character transformation was a little forced. Wolverine goes from being a bum with no powers, back to the way he was, and then back again. Nothing really changes or is particularly unexpected. If they would’ve played out the BEING CHASED BY NINJAS part a little more instead of turning into a character study, it could’ve been a great over the top action movie, instead of an average Marvel movie. Some characters are simple: Wolverine has claws and one-liners. That’s how I like him. He’s Wolverine!

That being said, I’m looking forward to Days of Future’s Past. But, was the Japan story really the setup you want for that huge of a sequel, based on a great comic, that unites two different X-men? I guess we’ll never know otherwise now, but I’m hoping Wolverine has no trouble killing in his next movie. Leave the ethics to the two Professor Xs! By the way, I rate this one 2.5/4 stars or a B-, but I’m biased and being lenient: I’m a Marvel guy.


Monday, July 22, 2013



    I know Beware The Batman is not something to base an actual diagnosis of mental illness off of, but part of this blog is about thinking critically about the images we receive about physical/mental conditions of the body. That said, let’s review the episode. Magpie is a kleptomaniac villianess who looks like she raided The Black Cat’s wardrobe and pasted on an avian theme. She wants to steal shiny things; chiefly Batman’s utility belt so she can steal more shiny things, but she is not quite the Catwoman replacement I first believed her to be, for she also has a memory stealing helmet, used on a guard in the first scene.

   After some investigation, Batman uncovers the Magpie was a Blackgate inmate. So far so good! The disturbing questions for me, came when Magpie’s “true identity” was uncovered…and, of course the inclusion of the moronic Lunkhead as a setup for Batman and Gordon to figure out the same things and meet. It is a kid’s show though, and to me it’s obvious that Lunkhead’s comedic behavior was the reflection of him trying to be good again…not necessarily his apparent learning disability. (Though criticism is welcome!)

 Lunkhead aside, the episode for me raised questions of identity, medical ethics, and mental health. I don’t know what real kleptomania is like, but I find it highly suspect that Dr. Ravencroft invented a memory wiping machine in the first place. Surely, the mere fact that people labelled as criminals have mental conditions does not warrant their memories being erased. Magpie soon discovers that “Magpie” is only her kleptomaniac personality. Instead of erasing it, Dr. Ravencroft pushed that identity to the front. I know this is only a cartoon, but to me it seems to give the impression that as long as criminals have a mental condition/disability, (In the case of Lunkhead.) it’s okay to play around  with  their identities and minds.
 Magpie even tells Batman after she captures him that he doesn’t need to worry about her taking off his mask because she knows the value of keeping things secret. So, why is Batman, as a higher-functioning mental case, allowed to keep his secret…while Magpie, in a desperate search for her own identity, must be the victim of some twisted correctional experiment? Because he helped Lieutenant Gordon, Batman’s own mental case is excused. Still, I am hoping that Dr. Ravencroft is revealed to be a villianess…even though I know the public prefers to keep good and evil as reflected through physical/mental appearances. I’m always there to cast a critical eye on it!

    In all honesty, I can’t say it was a bad episode, just a little disturbing in the ways that they portray treatment of those with mental conditions. In one scene, when looking at an inkblot test, Batman sees his parent’s murder, but tells Ravencroft he just sees ink on paper. A subtle hint that Batman might suspect the doctor of trying to uncover Batman maybe. In any case, Dr. Ravencroft could be a really good villainess, and if they don’t make her one…it’d be an unsettling message to say that “good doctors” can mess around with memories. We’ll have to see! Until next time! By the way, my rating for this episode was 6.0/10 or C+, just due to the disturbing nature of disability here. Batman never has had a good track record dealing with mental health issues and mental disabilities! But, I can hope!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Comic Review: Batman: Court of Owls Vol. 1

 "Beware The Court of Owls, that watches all the time, ruling Gotham from a shadow perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed, speak not a whispered word of them or they'll send The Talon for your head."

  - Gotham Nursery rhyme    

                                       (There's a 90's memorabilia store just outside this closeup.)

Who owns Gotham City? Well, if you read Batman comics, you probably think Batman knows the city like the back of his hand even in the dark. But, as it is revealed when Bruce Wayne announces plans to help rebuild Gotham, the city is very old and has legends of its own out of a Victorian darkness predating Batman. Owl dressed assassins attack Bruce Wayne and the Mayor-in-waiting after Batman discovers a message that threatens Bruce himself.

    The art throughout the comic is pretty good for the New 52. It’s nice to see Grant Morrison was at least recognized as Professor Pyg is shown in Arkham in the opening scene, and all the former Robins are there. Also, the book (and I’m not saying this as a joke.) does a good job confusing things and making them topsy-turvy, particularly when Batman is drugged, and the pages keep changing which way you go…as he makes his way through the labrynrinth in the Owl’s Nest, that was a nice touch, but did get annoying when I kept losing my place!

   The nursery rhyme here indicated  works on several levels. First, it establishes that the Owls are older than Batman. Second, it introduces The Talon, the head assassin. Third, it provides a link to Batman’s origin story and scientific methodology as a detective. When at first he hears about the owls, Batman keeps  insisting they don’t exist; despite being attacked twice directly by them. Artist Greg Capullo does a wonderful job keeping you on your toes. Everything is so dark and confusing that (at least for volume one.) you actually wonder if Batman is beat by The Talon.

    There is a huge plot twist which I won’t reveal, but one of the worst scenes in the comic was paradoxically what made the confusion so effective. Specifically, when Batman is drugged in The Talon’s underground lair. The comic keeps changing which way is up, so that sometimes when you flip forwards, pages seem to repeat. And then, finally, after a defeat…the Talon’s identity is revealed. I’ll just say it’s a Frankenstein moment!

   All in all, it is a good comic with the main villains trying to steal Batman’s story and mythos. They were here longer than him, they were the night, they hide in every place in Gotham. And as the owls are connected to Batman’s childhood, it begins to invoke terror and confusion in even the world’s greatest detective, who keeps saying the owls are a myth. The childhood fear of his parent’s murder is re-awakened. Owls are natural predators of bats!

    Highly recommended as a read. Scott Snyder is a good writer, and I kept thinking that Batman taking out a thug near a 90’s Memorabilia store was somehow a tribute to the dark deco style of Paul Dini. But, that could just be me! The Animated Series influenced everything! Anyway, by introducing a villain that makes even Batman question his abilities, it makes me eager to read the conclusion to this new series! It was a real HOOT to read...if you can find your way out of the labyrinth.

                                                      (It's enough to drive Batman bonkers!)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

X-Men: Children of The Atom Review

X-Men: Children Of The Atom Review 

My favorite types of videogames are beat-em-ups and fighting games. Very disability friendly. There are no complex puzzles (aside from maybe Special Moves.) to solve. You just jump right into the game and start being awesome. My favorite types of these games are often X-Men games. While browsing the Internet recently, I  came across a list of the so-called top 10 X-men games. I won’t do that, since I can’t really think of 10 good X-Men games that weren’t crossovers with Capcom. In my mind, there are only two real contenders for good X-Men games. X-men Arcade and X-men: Children of The Atom.
X-Men: Children of the Atom was so good with character animation that they used the same sprites for games as recently as Marvel vs. Capcom 2. I already reviewed X-men Arcade, so now I’ll review X-men: Children of The Atom. Now, the game has like 10 characters. And for some reason, one of them is Ice Man. Ice Man wasn’t even in the 90s cartoon that much. At least, not regularly. The game also used the original voice actors from the 90s cartoon, which is cool.

    As per usual, the game is obsessed with combos, and you can do super jumps, and meter-dependent “X-Moves” similar to Marvel vs. Capcom’s super moves. On my Dingoo system, these attacks are triggered by pressing L+R at the same time. No doubt in the arcades it was HP+HK. Other things I like about this game are that you can knock people to different parts of certain stages, which later X-men fighting games would follow. I love Ice Man’s cheesy lines like, “When I say chill out, I mean it!” and the fact the Colossus’s stage is besieged by sentinels. Spiral’s stage spirals downward! Little details like that are fun to me.
 The game has two boss characters and unique endings for each character. One boss is Juggernaut. Magneto is the other one. (Both would show up later as playable characters in Marvel Super Heroes!) I do know that Ice Man, in his ending, stands around on a beach making ice sculptures to impress babes. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Rogue wasn’t added until X-men vs. Street Fighter! Wasn’t this based on the cartoon?

    Anyway, with it’s attention to details, cartoon sources, modern combo chains, and two-button super moves, this might be my favorite X-men fighting game! In my mind, there can’t be a top 10 because the rest of the games just aren’t that good, and/or are way to easy to get stuck in. Children of The Atom basically invented the modern fighting game before Killer Instinct or any of the Marvel-Capcom fighters.

And yes, I know Ice Man’s moves are cheap, but “cheap” is also accessible. The modern button-mashing in fighting games has it’s genesis in a game based on the Fatal Attractions comic storyline. If they had gone one step further, and added fatalities, Magneto might’ve been able to rip out Wolverine’s metal spine! Truly, this game was ahead of it’s time.
 What do you think? Did I miss any good X-men fighting games/crossovers? What other games are there? Let me know. Comment away! Until next time…I think next week I should have some new comics to review. Mostly DC! Although I’m a Marvel guy! Stay tuned!

                                                                        Arcade Art
                                                                Spiral vs. Psylocke!                                                          

                                                                   Cyclops's X-Move!
                                              With Colossus's stage, you end up on a boat!

Monday, July 15, 2013



    Watching the first episode of Beware The Batman reminded me of playing Arkham City. Especially in the opening scene. It was nice to see they tried to keep the “dark deco” atmosphere of Paul Dini’s Batman, 3D aside. The inside of Wayne Manor reminded me of how it looked in Tim Burton’s Batman. Especially because of that scene where he sleeps upside down. But, here he does not. The interior just has that blank posh look. Batman is a little more of a rookie in this version.

Happy to see Alfred right off the bat (Ha!) training Batman. He’s like James Bond/Splinter. He seemed to be doing a Michael Caine routine though, which I thought was a bit cheap. But, Batman Begins was in 2005, so I suppose by now it’s fair game. I didn’t like how Pyg was portrayed…they tuned him down quite a bit in terms of violence and just made him an animal-themed villain. Though a major part of that character is animal rights, I suspect people unfamiliar with him will be turned off by the goofiness. He does after all, still speak in limericks. But, I was happy to learn that Mr. Toad, Pyg’s sidekick, is voiced by the legendary Udo Kier!

     In regards to Batman, this version he’s a little more like Sherlock Holmes’s recent interpretation. He logically works out how to take down his opponents. It was a nice touch. He has to save Alfred in this first episode, who Pyg thinks is Bruce Wayne at first. Batman wasted no time tracking down Alfred. It’s unclear what Batman’s public reputation is at this point, but I like that Batman and Alfred help each other out. That felt good. Katana being hinted at in the end was also nice. I have to say too, this is the best bat suit I think. Overall, I give the episode 8/10, though Pyg’s mildness and goofiness on top of that was…a huge reminder that it is a kid’s show.

    In conclusion, Beware The Batman seems to walk a fine line. It is a kid’s show, but it recalls, to me Batman Begins, and Batman: The Animated Series with it’s seeming commitment to “dark deco” style (a.k.a. making things dark.) even in the 3D. I even though the plot structure was similar to The Animated Series because Pyg and Toad were trying to stop people from building on animal reserves…just like Catwoman and Red Claw in their first outings in The Animated Series. And yet, The Animated Series never particularly felt goofy.

    Nothing will compare to The Animated Series, obviously. It was so influential to Batman’s modern take. Beware The Bat has it’s own 70s buddy cop dynamic with Alfred/Batman going on…and it’s only the first episode…we’ll see where it goes. Maybe Robin will appear? Several have commented to me already that this is like Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. I don’t see it. Year One was more about Batman figuring out how to put the fear of God into the scum of the city. True, Batman in in training, but this reminds me much more of Batman Begins or maybe the upcoming Arkham doesn’t take the same risks with mature content (As Paul Dini did, with The Animated Series.) but it’s a nice buddy cop show for kids! I’m definitely up to watch more.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Beware The Batman: Thoughts and Previews


“To those that would hurt the innocent. I give you this one warning: Beware my wrath.”

- Beware The Batman teaser clip

    Beware The Batman premieres tomorrow on Cartoon Network as part of the channel’s DC Nation Saturday morning cartoon series. I thought I’d record some of my initial thoughts and expectations here. I was initially excited that the series will be based on Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin run. But that for me raises a really big question: how the heck do you do that for a kid’s cartoon, being that Professor Pyg rips peoples’ faces off, and surgically replaces them with doll faces!?
    To be frank, I think the answer is they won’t change much beyond the names of the villains. Mr. Anarky is basically Joker. I predict Magpie will be a replacement Catwoman. Guess who Tobias Whale is a template for? Ugh…the one development I am happy to see is that Alfred will be more action-oriented, and an ex-MI6 agent. That would be like if James Bond was butler to Batman! And that sounds cool! Though I have to be honest, I’m leery about the show being CGI. It worked for Green Lantern though.
        I don’t have high expectations for the series. 3D animation notwithstanding. I got a preview comic on my iPad. It was okay. It introduces Alfred, Tobias Whale, and Mr. Anarky. I wonder how Professor Pyg will come in. Will it have The Red Hood? Being that the violence is toned down, and it’s 3D, and a kid’s show, how much action can they show! But, Batman is always good!
    I’ll probably be watching in the spirit of reserved hope. Maybe I’ll like this new one. Grant Morrison sure did some awesome Batman comics! How will they translate to CN? I’m excited to know! I just hope the villains aren’t just mockups of the originals! Plus, it’s always disappointing not to hear Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman. Beware the Batman? Or just don’t watch? We’ll see! Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cool World (1992) Review:

Cool World (1992) Review:

Okay, so I know this isn’t really disability related, but this is also a sci-fi blog. Cool World is sort of sci-fi, with the portals between the real and animated world. The plot is paper thin held together by sex appeal and bright colors in Ralph Bakshi’s nearly signature style. The trippiness sort of glues the film together. Sort of. If I would’ve seen this as a kid, it would have screwed me up, I’m sure. So, we move on to the plot: A cartoon wants to have sex with her animator to become real, but it tears apart reality, and it’s up to a cop from the 1940s to stop her. What?

    Yeah, it’s weird. But, I thought, as an amateur animation geek, I’d give it a shot. No real surprises, though. It’s mainly a ploy to get Kim Basinger to strut around pretending to be a naughtier Jessica Rabbit while Brad Pitt is a hotshot version of Eddie Valiant. The animation is absurd, trippy, overcrowded…sometimes entertaining. Well, it’s enough to make you forget the plot. Temporarily. So, this cop, Frank, is a dead human, actually who got transported into the Cool World via the traumatic death of his mom. So far this movie is about sex, death, and cartoons. Got it? And not too much in-between. 

    So, Holli Would…(Kim Basinger) I apologize for the bad innuendo…concocts a plan to seduce her cartoonist once he’s finished drawing her with a magic pen that sucks him into Cool World, which is some sort of cartoony skid row 1940s, and not at all Toon Town. Well, maybe if Toon Town had pimps and gangsters. Frank’s love interest is another toon, but he knows unlike Jack Deebs (I apologize so sincerely for that innuendo!) her cartoonist, that having sex is a no-no (with a human as a toon.) in Cool World. 

     Well, the plan goes off, and reality starts to blend between animation and reality; phasing in and out. Holli (Now played by the actual kinda sexy Kim Basinger.) starts dancing around in clubs and such but in weird moments which I’m sure terrified many people, myself included, she phases into a clown. It’s just terrible! And yes, I know it’s supposed to be an “adult comedy”. Or at least, I know that now! 

     I guess I went in thinking it would be a “cooler” Roger Rabbit. Back in the day, there was a videogame about this movie, and the commercials made it look cool, but really, I suggest the vastly superior Who Framed Roger Rabbit? If you want a wacky blend of animation and reality with some innuendo.
 Usually I like Ralph Bakshi’s stuff, but this is just his poor imitation of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As I watched I kept thinking, “Who was this movie made for?” But, ultimately, again, it’s just Bakshi’s attempt at a “more adult” Jessica Rabbit-like story, which comes across as both bizarre and juvenile. Though, I should add, it is trippy…so maybe the confusion is intentional? Or just to disguise the thin plot…? I don’t know. It’s a mind-bender. Definitely not for the kiddos. But, maybe 90s teens?

     To summarize: Dead people become cartoons. Cartoons want to have sex with humans, so that they become real…but can’t because it tears apart reality. Yeah, it was messed up. I usually enjoy escapism, but this went too far, and Kim Basinger was trying way too hard to be the real Jessica Rabbit! Definitely glad I didn’t see it as a kid, but now I’m just wishing I never saw it! If you played the SNES videogame as a kid, and wonder what it was you missed (Like I did…) the answer is: Well, a lot of dirty jokes. Thumbs down. Go watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.  

                                                            (A lot of this.)

                                                 (The horror...the horror...)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Lone Ranger (2013)

The Lone Ranger (2013) Review:
    First off, I know next to nothing about the original Lone Ranger, beyond various pop culture references, so I can’t compare it to what came before. That being said, I liked the movie. The action scenes were great, it had good humor, and at the same time dealt with a serious subject: the annihilation of indigenous cultures by huge corporations.
  At first, it looks to be as if one greedy bandit (Butch Cavanditch; played by William Fichtner, who has a wonderful make-up job!) is behind a plot to make it look like the Comanche attacked a railroad, so that it can expand and leave his gang with all the silver mines. This is where Johnny Depp comes in, who takes on the brother of the slain Texas Rangers (After some funny dialogue with a white“ spirit horse”.) under his wing. He becomes The Lone Ranger…in this version, he’s a lawyer commited to the Law and Justice. They come up with unique ways for him not to kill…mostly with trains crashing! Yes, a lot of trains crash, and it is beautiful!
   Johnny Depp is there mostly for comedic relief. But also, they had real Native Americans in the movie, who explain that Tonto is a bit of an idiot. I found it telling that Tonto was never with the real Native Americans, as if to be respectful of their culture. By the way, the Native Americans didn’t speak pidgin English. I thought them writing off Tonto’s antics was well-played as a show of respect. There’s also bits of African-American, Irish, and Chinese culture, which reminds us that the West was built by immigrants. It was nice to see such multiculturalism!
 There are plenty of gunfights, horseback and afoot. But, The Lone Ranger never kills, so committed is he to justice. There’s a nice assortment of characters from all walks of life including an oddball prostitute played by Helena Bonham Carter with a rifle in her wooden leg. Did I mention all the gunfights are outrageously over-the-top? Yeah, they are. They got horses jumping off roofs like it ain’t no thang. But, to me, that’s a good thang! 

  Overall, it was a great movie. People in the theater laughed, I laughed at Tonto and that “stupid horse” (Tonto seems to be, to me, an amalgam of Depp’s Hunter S. Thompson in voice, and in performance, Jack Sparrow!) Anyway, it’s got good action, a good moral, and some good storytelling and jokes. Armie Hammer (The actor who plays the Lone Ranger.) is a likeable guy. I can easily see him as the next Batman, or some other masked hero. He’s got a very clean-cut heroic face. It was also nice to see that they used the Lone Ranger’s classic theme to good effect…twice at least! (Superman take note!) 

     Two thumbs up from me, and I’ll be looking forward to Armie Hammer’s next role. Though I’m betting it’ll be a superhero. The next Batman, maybe. Or The Flash. I don‘t know; from Lone Ranger to Batman seems like a logical step to me. Some Justice League guy, I’d like to see him as! (Again, Superman, take note!) Or maybe he’ll just do The Lone Ranger 2. I’d be happy with that!