The Flash Season 2 Finale Review

The season finale of The Flash ended in a shock in that Barry Allen, as we know him, no longer exists. Follow. Our Barry went into the Future then returned to slightly before he left. It was our Barry who ran in the opposite direction, stopping the magnetic ring of doom that would destroy the multi-verse, thus it was our Barry who was disintegrated in the Speed Force.

The Barry who destroyed Zoom and also ditched Iris was the second Barry, a copy, “created” by our Barry returning to the past before he left. It was this second Barry who traveled back to the Past to save Nora, Barry’s mother.  Second Barry rescued Young Barry and his father, as well as killing Reverse Flash outright and saving Nora.

But when Second Barry did that – you’ll notice that First Season Barry, who was watching disappeared. That is because First Season Barry – the one we’ve followed through two seasons of The Flash – no longer exists. As Zoom predicted Second Barry has now destroyed himself twice, as well as Zoom and Reverse Flash. This Second Barry is the only Speedster left, assuming he also didn’t wipe himself out of existence in a paradox.

Think about it – with Second Barry destroying Reverse Flash and saving Nora, that means young Barry was raised by Nora and Henry Allen. Nora never died. Henry was never accused of and found guilty of her murder. Young Barry was never sent to live with Joe West. Young Barry may have never even met Iris West, much less fallen in love with her. And, to make things worse – Young Barry would have never been driven to become a police officer – or with Joe West’s influence to not be a cop – to become a forensic analyst, a CSI. That Young Barry probably went to college, given his parents, but who knows what he studied – or if he even returned to Central City after college. There’s no reason to assume he’d become a CSI anyway. And he never became The Flash.

But it’s worse than that – because without Barry, What would have happened. Thrawn mentions Dr. Wells Particle Accelerator happening “15 years” later and he needs for it to happen earlier. Thrawn also rigged the explosion that created both the MetaHumans and The Flash. Did this never happen? Did it happen differently? Second Barry may have created Earth 2 where Barry has no powers, Caitlin and Cisco are “evil” – Killer Frost and Reverb, specifically, as well as giving rise to Zoom in the first place.

Also, don’t forget – in the finale of Season 1, Barry goes back in time to save his mother and stop Reverse Flash. Yet, in the house – he’s warned off, by himself. In Season 1, Barry heads the warning of, well, himself, and Nora dies.  Now, we have an alternate timeline, and a second Barry goes back in time, saves Nora, and Barry (our Barry) disappears.  What is going on?

I’ve seen the animated Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, which I’ve also reviewed, but I haven’t read the 6-book Flashpoint (and World of Flashpoint) series from DC Comics. However, with DC’s new Rebirth maxi-series picking up from Flashpoint, and the fairly consistent dropping of Flashpoint hints and references in CW’s The Flash, one thing’s for sure, next season is going to be very interesting.

The Advantages of Second Shift or, I am not now nor have I ever been a morning person

Long time readers of this blog know that I completed a year-long project on Agile posting updates every week. This year my updates have been sporadic at best, and in April I was ready to give up the project entirely – I was working, things were pretty good, I felt like I didn’t need to post weekly updates. A month worth of Internet problems, and a switch of providers with the chaos that creates and I thought I would just give it up, though I was still keeping track somewhat of various accomplishments (though not as well as I should). And my writing was going well, even without the regular posts.

April, however, was also chaotic in that I was informed at the beginning of the month, that April 15th would be my last day in my department. I would then by sent to two weeks of training, and then moved to another department. I was not happy about this to say the least, especially as the HR person and even my manager were very high-handed about the whole thing. It was presented as a fait accompli – “you will go to training, you will go to the other department, you have no choice in the matter”. No one said the word, “quit”, but it was pretty much understood by all involved that that would be my only other choice, and I couldn’t afford to do that.

So off I went to two weeks of training (nice thing about training it was a 7-hour day or less schedule, but I got paid the full 40 hours per week). This was followed by a week of “observing”/testing/and live testing. Much to my shock I passed the live-call testing. Not only that, but when I checked later, I had the highest scores in my class. After finding out about passing the training class, I was given my new schedule. I’d requested second shift – specifically a “retail second shift” which ends earlier at night than what many people think of as second shift (factories work a 3:00 or 3:30 pm – 11:00 pm second shift). Over my life I’ve worked in retail on-and-off for about eighteen years or more, this includes Summer jobs, second part-time jobs, “Holiday” jobs, etc. I often thought that the hours were the best part about working retail, and that it’s a real pity that you can’t actually make a living working in retail. But the pay is low, there’s no benefits, and it’s never full-time. My first choice for a new shift was 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. I got my second pick – 12:30 pm (aka noon-thirty) to 9:00 pm. The surprise was it was a Sunday to Thursday shift with Friday and Saturday off. The job is working in a IT call center. The call center is 24/7/365. My first working week I continued on the original training schedule hours (8:30 am to 5:00 pm, ugg).

However, for the past two weeks or so I’ve been on my new shift – 12:30 pm to 9:00 pm, and I honestly do love it. The first half of my shift is very busy and goes by quick, it’s often time for my first break or “lunch” (the half-hour unpaid meal break) before I know it. The second half of the shift tends to be slower, especially on Sundays and Thursdays. But it’s also quieter in the call center (except for the cleaning guy who keeps vacuuming right by my cubicle while I’m on a call!). There’s less chatter between agents and quieter talk (less volume and fewer people talking) as call center techs talk over the phone. I like the quietness of the evening hours. And that isn’t to say there’s nothing to do – I still have customers to serve and help; I’m currently studying for my second A+ test (the 802), and I have a stack of professional development magazines to read such as from the STC, etc. I’m actually enjoying my job – I help people all day, I’m solving problems all day, I get to think instead of doing mindless drudge work, and most of my customers on the phone are really nice, and even understanding when I have system problems or I’m having trouble finding the info to help them.

But what is also cool is the shift itself and my schedule. I work 12:30-9:00 pm; so I have all morning, while I’m fresh and awake, to do stuff. I generally get up about 8:00 am, I have my coffee and watch my recorded TV show from the previous night or something off my “to be watched” DVD shelf, and since I’m reviewing my DVDs as I watch them, that leads to future blog posts. After that I generally sit down at my computer and work. And just like on a Saturday (when I worked 8:00 am to 4:30 pm M-F) I’m working – taking care of the everyday things – paying bills, filing, writing blog posts, doing research, etc. Now, instead of only doing that on the weekends – I can get that “little stuff” done every day – which means not having a mountain of receipts to file, or bills to pay on-line, or even on-line shopping to do on Saturday. Having time in the morning, without having to get up even earlier in the morning, means I can write, or research, or organize, or whatever I need to do. About 10 or 10:30 am, I leave my home office, and make myself breakfast, or lunch, or brunch, or whatever you want to call a meal that you have in the morning but that has to last until at least 2:15 pm or 2:30 pm when I have my first break. Then I change from my relax clothes to work clothes. Then I read, play games on my tablet, or this week probably, study, until it’s time to leave for work at 11:40 am. Again, I work from noon-thirty to nine, and generally walk on the treadmill (or outside if it’s nice) during at least one break during work. Though, to be fair, when working days I tried to walk on one break as well. After work, I generally head home, have an after work meal, read (or play computer games on my tablet) for awhile then go to bed.

But, here’s the thing. I’m getting a lot more done, and faster, because the stack of stuff to deal with on my desk gets looked at daily, rather than once a week. I’ve gotten through most of the backlog of receipts, credit card offers, junk mail, and even catalogs. Rule of three: everything goes into one of three piles – file; deal with; or recycle/destroy/trash. The file and destroy piles get dealt with first. That is, they are filed or destroyed (ripped up, shredded, put in recycling, or trashed, depending on what the item is). Then it becomes a lot easier to actually focus on and deal with the “deal with” pile of actual bills, or things I actually really do want to order from, or items that need follow-up. And bonus, because I’m home on working days (plus all day Friday) I can actually call businesses or doctor’s offices that are only open during business hours – something that’s hard to do when you work business hours.

But I’m also getting through projects. I recently added all my graphic novels, three boxes worth, going back to 1986 (in copyright dates) to GoodReads. Most, other than the very recent ones, aren’t reviewed, but at least I have them listed in one easily accessible place, and everything is tagged, and it’s public, so I can point my friends to it as a quick list, rather than pulling out my new Excel spreadsheet (which was also updated). That sort of thing would have taken a week or two, maybe more, when I worked days. Working mornings, I completed it in one week. I just love that.

I’ve also been able to write more blog posts. And I’ve even written posts before work. That is awesome. Working days, I’d often be too tired to do much after work. Or if I did, it was like one thing and that was it. Now, I get at least two hours worth of stuff done before work, put in a full day at work, and have time for the fun things like reading, playing games on my tablet, or watching my shows without commercials.

And best of all, I feel better. I am not now, nor have I ever been a morning person. I hate mornings. Well, early mornings. Getting up at six am, to leave the house by 7:15 am really isn’t fun and I barely have time for coffee, much less anything else. And getting up any earlier is out of the question. Plus, even with being exhausted all the time, especially right after work, I’d often find the one time I wasn’t tired was when it was time to go to sleep – so I’d stay up to 11:00 or 11:30 pm or even Midnight, even though the next day I had to get up at six. And I’d end-up drinking coffee all day, rather than just a cup or two in the morning – and thus not sleep, and the vicious cycle goes on. Plus, on the weekends I’d try to catch-up on sleep – either sleeping in to 10 am, or taking long naps in the afternoon. Now, I’m not fighting my body clock. I get up at 8:00 am, a respectable time – but the time I used to have to be at work. I can stay up to 11:00 or even later and still get eight or more hours of sleep. I can get a good two hours of work done in the morning before “work”. I have time for appointments, even fun ones. Today I had an appointment at 10:30 am, another at 2:00 pm, in between I got to the comics book store where I spent far too much money, and picked up lunch for the family on the way home. Oh, and went out to dinner with my folks too. And I still have a day off tomorrow.

I’m now on a schedule that fits my body clock and my own circadian rhythm, rather than being forced into someone else’s idea of when I should be working. My drive in to work is busy, but not the bumper-to-bumper nightmare of working a quote, “normal”, unquote shift. I actually, much to my surprise and shock like my new position at my job. Both the people working on second shift, and the people I talk to on the phone are nicer, kinder, and quieter. The IT Helpdesk Call Center is a national call center, so I talk to people all over the country, which is awesome and fun. I like solving problems and helping people. And I’m much, much happier with this schedule – and I’m not so tired and exhausted all the time. That is just an awesome feeling!

And Agile – I definitely need to pick-up on tracking my accomplishments again. I’ve joined the “fitness club” at work, thus the tracking of my steps on my Fitbit. I’m getting back on track with my professional development goals. And my blog post writing is getting back on schedule.

Superman Doomsday

  • Title:  Superman – Doomsday
  • Director:  Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery, Brandon Vietti
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2007
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Animation, Drama, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters, John Dimaggio, Tom Kenny, Swoosie Kurtz, Cree Summer
  • Format: Widescreen, color animation
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray 

“Just look at him, so sleek, so powerful, so beautiful, like some great golden god made flesh. Of course, any sensible god would demand absolute obidence in return for his favor. But no, our Man of Steel protects us and keeps us with no strings attached. And the people, hum, they practically worship him anyway. Enjoy your reign while you may, Superman, for as surely as night follows day, there comes a time when even gods must die.” – Lex Luthor, prologue

“The subject in question was biologically engineered to be the ultimate soldier: precise, clinical, unstoppable. But its creators came to realize it could not distinguish between friend and foe, thus this Doomsday machine lives to extinguish any and all life forms. Because it must.” Superman’s robot in the Fortress of Solitude

Luthor has a group of scientists and miners digging to the Earth’s core in search of a new energy source that Lexcorp can sell. However, they get more than they bargain for by freeing Doomsday, a biological killing machine. Luthor will later have his assistant Mercy eliminate all trace of Lexcorp’s involvement in freeing Doomsday, and to cover his tracks further, Lex cold-heartedly murders Mercy.

Doomsday escapes and wrecks havoc. Lois and Superman had been having a romantic get away to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, when Superman’s robot informs him of Doomsday’s attacks on Metropolis. They return. Superman fights Doomsday, and they both cause havoc. Lois and Jimmy Olsen cover the story. The fight between Superman and Doomsday wrecks buildings, causes havoc, and ranges all over Metropolis – city streets, subway tunnels, city streets again. But in the end, Superman does the only thing he can – he grabs Doomsday from the back, flies straight up to the stratosphere, then crashes to Earth. He and Doomsday land in a huge impact crater. Doomsday is stopped, but Superman is also killed. Superman crawls out from beneath Doomsday’s body, and dies in Lois’s arms. Jimmy Olsen takes a picture of the dead Superman, and of Lois with tears streaming down her face.

Martha Kent, who had been watching the fight between Superman and Doomsday on TV, collapses off her chair, tears streaming down her cheeks. In the wake of Superman’s death, Clark Kent is missing, though Perry White is convinced he’s “fine” just incommunicato in Afghanistan (where Kent had gone as a war correspondent). Lois decides she has to talk to Clark’s mother, and drives to Smallville to see her. At first, Martha is suspicious, but when Lois talks about being “in love with him” and “being loved by him” the two go inside to talk.

Lois returns to Metropolis and covers a story of Toyman threatening a schoolbus full of kids. She sneaks inside to rescue the kids, and all of them get out but one little girl. Lois and the girl are also threatened by a “Chuckie”-type living doll/toy with a big knife. Lois defeats the toy/doll, but Toyman pushes the bus off the building. Lois and the little girl are rescued by “Superman”. At first, Lois is overjoyed to have Superman back – but then she notices things – like he doesn’t know where her apartment is, and his attitude towards her is cold and clinical not romantic. Lois tries to figure out if it’s a result of Superman’s trauma, or if this Superman is perhaps not really Superman.

Lois becomes even more suspicious when Clark Kent still doesn’t return or make contact, and Martha calls her and says that even though “Superman” has returned – Clark hasn’t contacted her, he hasn’t even called.

The new Superman goes to confront Luthor, but he’s trapped in a room filled with red sunlight, and Luthor beats him up with Kryptonite brass knuckles. We then learn two things – this new Superman isn’t Superman, he’s a clone made by Luthor and under his control. And Luthor actually missed his enemy Superman so much after his death, he made the clone but a clone who would work for him. Luthor also has Superman’s dead body in status.

Lois tries to get Jimmy to help her investigate, but Jimmy, feeling his mortality after the huge Superman – Doomsday fight in Metropolis, has quit the Daily Planet, and taken a well-paid job as a Paparazzi photographer for a tabloid. Jimmy refuses to help the first time Lois asks.

Meanwhile, Superman’s robot steals Superman’s real body from Lex Luthor. The robot takes the body to the Fortress of Solitude where it turns out Superman isn’t dead – his pulse had slowed down to a rate of once every 17 days to allow him to heal. It had taken the robot 17 days to detect it, and another 17 days to pin-point the location. The robot tells the still injured Superman he retrieved him from LexCorp.

“Superman” takes on Toyman, and, after learning the villain had killed a young child at a day care center, takes him from police custody, flies up high with Toyman, then drops Toyman to his death on top of a police car. Jimmy takes a picture of the bloody and very dead Toyman. It becomes very apparent this this is not the Superman we know – he’s cold, threatening, and scary. Plus he’s still very, very powerful. When the police commissioner asks Superman to come in for questioning – Superman simply refuses because he has “better things to do”, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop him.

At the Fortress of Solitude, the robot continues to treat Kal-El, the real Superman.

Back in Metropolis, “Superman” goes into a beauty shop and looks into a mirror. With his X-ray vision he finds a lead ball in his head containing Kryptonite. He uses his laser heat vision to remove it.

Lex Luthor hits on Lois when she confronts him. Lois lets Lex kiss her – and knocks him out with a hypo. She, and Jimmy search Lex’s office.  Lois and Jimmy use Lex’s unconscious body on a retinal scanner. They find Lex’s bank of cloned Supermen.  Lex arrives to kill Lois and Jimmy, then Superman arrives. Superman destroys the clone bank. Superman locks Lex in the red room and takes the entire thing into the stratosphere then throws it to the ground.

Meanwhile at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman weight-lifts and exercises to tone his body. He hears the news reports of Lex Luthor’s death. The army is mobilized in Metropolis to take out “Superman” for “killing” Lex Luthor.

The real Superman, in a solar suit, armed with a Kryptonite gun, flies to Metropolis to confront the clone “Rogue Superman”. Superman tries to use the Kryptonite gun, but it goes flying. Superman and Rogue Superman fight. There is a lot of destruction during the fight. Lois grabs the Kryptonite gun, but when she fires at Rogue Superman – she misses. Rogue Superman beats up Superman. However, Superman is able to get the Kryptonite into Rogue Superman’s chest and it explodes – destroying him. Superman is also weakened by the blast but survives. He kisses Lois Lane as proof that he’s the “real” Superman. At the end he reveals himself to Lois as Clark Kent.

Luthor also is reveal to be not as dead as he appears.

This animated film adapts the Death of Superman storyline from the regular weekly Superman comic books. The blu-ray is accompanied by three excellent documentaries – especially the one on the public and press reaction to the Death of Superman (Superman # 75), as well as trailers and sneak peeks for other films in the DC Animated Universe series of films. However, this film also has some changes and unique features that differ from the original printed story. First, Bruce Timm, who co-wrote, produced, and co-directed the film with others introduced Luthor both as a narrator for the story and as the cause of Doomsday’s escape. I thought that made the film stronger – if someone’s going to kill Superman – it should be his well-known enemy. Second, though, simply for time limitations, many of the vignettes of the one to two-year long story arc of the death of Superman and his return weren’t used.

Also, this story, like many Superman stories, is a slug fest. Yes, it’s a slug fest where Superman loses, and he has to sacrifice himself to stop the threat, but it’s still a slug fest. The second half of the film -the world without a Superman, and Lois, Perry, Jimmy, and Martha all coping with there grief in their own ways, was better than the opening and closing fight scenes. However, I wanted to see more of that human story – especially Lois and Martha. Specifically, when Lois goes to see Martha at the Kent family farm, and Martha invites her in – I really wanted to see what happened next.

The animation in Superman- Doomsday was incredible. It was gorgeous and at times I forgot I was watching an animated film. It was that good. I haven’t seen a DC Comics / Warner Brothers Animation film that looked this good since Batman: Under the Red Hood (which, yes, I realize chronologically came after this – but I saw it first.) The realistic animation style and the seriousness of the subject matter also reminded me strongly of Batman: Under the Red Hood.

I will say though that this animated film from several years ago handled Doomsday and the Death of Superman better in many ways that a certain live-action film that is probably still in theaters.

Recommendation:  See It – especially  if your a fan of Superman or good animation
Rating: 4 Stars
Next film: I have several new films to choose from, but probably Spy

Free Comic Book Day 2016

Last Saturday I went to Free Comic Book Day at my local comics shop, Vault of Midnight, and I really enjoyed it. I hadn’t been to a FCBD before so I was a bit nervous, but the store handled things really well – crowd control, vendors, and they even had some line entertainment to give everyone something to do and watch while waiting, in line, for awhile. The weather cooperated for a change, it was nice, sunny, warm but not hot. The store had tents outside along where the line formed, with various organizations such as Girls Rock, a local convention GrandCon, and the local 8-bit gaming society (who had tube TVs set up with old console games for kids to play). Most of the vendors were set-up for the kids in the crowd – but considering the wait, that was a good idea. In the line, however, it was mostly young adults and adults, patiently waiting and everyone being nice.

Once inside the store, crowd control was very good – I did not feel crowded or claustrophobic which was a good thing. I did still have to wait to get to the back of the store for my choice of three free books, but after I made my choices I still had time to shop – and I even bought some new graphic novels.  Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience, Vault of Midnight did a great job hosting, and it made me want to buy my graphic novels and comics at the store rather than other more convenient and/or cheaper venues much stronger (because yeah – I need to go back this Friday or Saturday and pick up one of the Doctor Who graphic novels (from Titan Comics) that I missed when I erroneously thought I already had it).

So what did I get for my “freebies”?

“DC Comics Previews – DC Universe Rebirth”

This is in a very real sense an advertising circular / catalog of DC Comics for the Summer, especially May and June. But the articles are exactly what I needed to know having been outside the loop for a bit, especially on the monthly titles from DC.  Here’s the thing – I was reading DC Comics in the late 80s/early 90s on a regular basis – even walking to my local comics shop every week to pick up that week’s releases that I wanted. Then I moved – to an area that didn’t have a convenient comics shop. For awhile I ordered via paper catalogs (remember those!) but eventually that got expensive and I lost interest and moved on to other things. I’d periodically buy graphic novels, and especially with the Nolan Batman Trilogy in theaters, and watching and absolutely loving Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano’s DCAU and follow-up Dc Animated films, I started buying graphic novels again – mostly on-line through retailers like Amazon, or occasionally in person at Barnes and Noble. Yep, I got dragged in again (not that that’s a bad thing).

Then DC did New 52 – which I tried out through several graphic novels (Batman, Batman the Dark Knight, Justice League, Nightwing) but I just did not like New 52 at all. My analysis of New 52 was – “Hey, DC – if we wanted to read Marvel, we’d read Marvel – DC fans read DC because we like DC!”. If that seems confusing, the DC I grew-up reading was very character-based. Justice League International, which later became Justice League America and Justice League Europe was a character-based book that was just fun to read. There were characters in the Justice League with virtually no powers at all (like Booster Gold and Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle) who tended to sit in the Hall of Justice cafeteria commenting on what was going like a modern Greek Chorus. Other characters had single powers: Fire, Ice, Black Canary, etc. And when something major did go down – the League would work together as a group to beat the supervillain or bring aid after a natural or man-made disaster. Plus with all the character interaction – there was good-natured humor too. there was also a lot of diversity – ethnic, gender, aliens, etc. All the heroes in the DC Universe belonged to the Justice League – like a professional organization of heroes, both minor heroes and major ones, and the League worked together in what they did. And the League was a home to some minor heroes who couldn’t really have their own books.

New 52 in contrast gave us flat, carbon-copy “heroes” who didn’t like or trust each other. It gave us “heroes” who didn’t want to be heroes – all of them, even traditionally very happy characters like The Flash were re-written to be grim and in a sense boring. Plus New 52 really dumped the diversity. Oracle, Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl, but before New 52 the leader of the Birds of Prey and Info-Central for all the DC Heroes, especially the Bat family – was killed off, and then Batgirl was re-introduced as “Batgirl”. Oracle has been one of my favorite characters – this is a woman who was, famously, paralyzed after being shot by the Joker in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. But rather than disappearing, or becoming a villain herself, or even just becoming bitter and mean – Barbara Gordon showed real strength – she returned to collage and got her MLS – Master’s of Library Science, which is not small or easy feat in and of itself. She then got a job at the Gotham City Library (again, not easy, considering the prejudice against disabled people in America), and finally she became Oracle – running the Birds of Prey with just her voice, and providing Batman and other DC heroes with the information they needed to do their jobs. Oracle, in short was awesome, and an example of how having diversity in one’s line-up means, introducing interesting and real characters – not some sort of imagined “government forced PC” as the Conservatives accuse Diversity of being (especially over at Marvel, and ESPECIALLY at Marvel when they started as a walkout of ex-DC employees who didn’t like having female, African American, and diverse heroes in the DC books in the 1960s and 1970s). Oracle was a great character who happened to be in a wheelchair, female, smart, educated, computer-literate, and used her wits and intelligence to be a hero not her brawn. And Oracle was by far not the only one – throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s DC continuously introduced a large and diverse cast of modern characters who were still heroes. What did New 52 do? Got rid of Oracle and brought back Batgirl – another character who was simply a young, female version of a major character with not a whole lot special about her. In short, Batgirl became bland – whereas Oracle was strong, intelligent, and independent.

New 52 was a failure for DC. In less than 6 months – half of the books were cancelled due to poor sales, including books that had been long-running in the past. Reprints of older collections of 1990s-era DC Comics sold well (well enough that additional volumes came out). DC admitted their error with Convergence – a universe-spanning multi-issue maxi series to fix the issues. I admit, I haven’t read Convergence yet. Hopefully, the graphic novels will come out sooner or later and I can catch-up. But now, according to DC Previews, this Summer DC is doing “Rebirth” and they are bringing back the traditional DC – with more characters, diverse characters, excellent writing and art, the more traditional approach to story-telling (e.g. fun and character-based) and combining both the traditional heroes of DC (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, The Flash, Justice League, Aquaman, etc) and new characters (Teen Titans including Cyborg, Doctor Fate, etc.) And I’m honestly excited to at least try single-issue releases of Rebirth, even though I prefer graphic novels and graphic novel collections.

Also in my free comic book stack was:

Doctor Who – Four Doctors (Four Stories) Titan Comics FCBD 2016 special

First, this isn’t to be confused with Paul Cornell’s excellent Four Doctors series then graphic novel. It’s a separate series of four short stories: 12, 11, 10, and 9 presented in reverse-chronological order (that is 12 first, then 11, and so on). The short stories are meant to give a feel for the various Doctor Who series (which are collected into graphic novels periodically). The stories are short and stand-alone, but they do give a feel for what Titan has to offer. I also liked that the Doctor Who free book gave the readers stories, not simply advertising. There were also single pages with lists of all the graphic novels (as well on-going series) currently available or planned – this gives you a reading list, something very helpful when just starting or even for keeping up. (The DC Previews free book also had a catalog in the back, with release months, to help in planning and organizing purchases.) I enjoyed reading the Titan Comics book.

Finally, I picked up the FCBD issue of Suicide Squad, expecting something to tie-in to the upcoming movie. This book had a lot of advertising – some totally off-base (Why would someone reading Suicide Squad want to even know about Scooby Doo or Johnny Quest? And if the reader was that young as to be interested in kiddie books – Why would they be reading something as adult as Suicide Squad?) In between the ads, there was a story, mostly for Deadshot, with a few interludes with other characters that in the very last few pages proves to be a prequel to the new film coming out this Summer. So, overall, it was a good choice.

Again, I had an excellent time at Free Comic Book Day at Vault of Midnight. The weather was perfect. I enjoyed the three books I choose. And I picked-up several additional graphic novels which should keep me busy for a little while. I review completed graphic novels on GoodReads, so look for reviews there in the coming weeks.

Hot Fuzz

  • Title: Hot Fuzz
  • Director: Edgar Wright
  • Date: 2007
  • Studio: Rogue Pictures, Working Title, Universal Pictures
  • Genre: Comedy, Action
  • Cast:  Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighty, Edward Woodward, Ron Cook, Martin Freeman, David Bradley
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • Video Format:  Blu-Ray

But the fact is, you’ve been making us all look bad.” – Met Chief Inspector
“I’m sorry, sir?” – Nicholas
” ‘Course we all appreciate your efforts but you’ve been rather letting the side down.” – Met Chief Inspector
“It’s all about being a team player, Nicholas.” – Inspector
“If we continue to let you run around town you’ll continue to be exceptional and we can’t have that. You’ll out us all out of a job.” Met Chief Inspector

“You can’t switch off, Nicholas.” – Janice

“I just feel like I’m missing out sometimes. I wanna do what you do.” – Danny
“You do do what I do. Why on Earth do you think you’re missing out?” – Nicholas
“Gun fights, car chases. Proper action and shit.” – Danny
“Police work is not about proper action! Or shit! It you’ve paid attention to me in school you’d understand. It’s not all about gun fights and car chases.” – Nicholas

Nicholas Angel is an excellent police officer – excelling in training, as well as academically, and has an arrest record 400 percent better than his fellow officers in the London Met. He is completely dedicated to his job and extremely good at what he does. But that becomes his problem as well. His girlfriend tells him he “can’t switch off”, and his fellow officers find his talent for policing annoying because he “makes them look bad”. So the Met comes to a decision – Nicholas is promoted to sergeant and transferred to the quaint English village of Sandford. Nicholas protests – but to no avail. So he and his Japanese Peace Lily plant head for Sandford.

In Sandford, Nicholas has trouble fitting in, though he gradually becomes friends with his new partner, Danny. But Nicholas also begins to suspect something strange is going on, as a series of fatal accidents occurs in the quiet village. Nicholas suspects these accidents are murders – but everyone from the villagers to the other police officers insist they are accidents. It’s obvious the murders are murders, and Nicholas can’t understand the reluctance the police have to investigate them as such. Slowly Nicholas even suspects the random acts of violence are linked.

Nicholas investigates, and also becomes acclimatized to the village and it’s rather odd inhabitants. But soon his investigations turn up a vast conspiracy – of actions and silence, that even reaches into the police itself. Nicholas is forced to leave.

However, he soon returns, and with the help of his partner Danny, he cleans-up the town in a symphony of violence and action.

Trust me – it’s funnier than it sounds. Hot Fuzz combines a satire of American action thriller films (such as Lethal Weapon, Point Break, and Die Hard), an English Village horror story (The Wicker Man, which starred a very young Edward Woodward, who also appears in this film), and a surprisingly sensitive story of a man’s coming into his own. Simon Pegg is the main character, Nicholas Angel, but he plays the role as the Straight Man. It isn’t Angel who’s the comedian – what makes the film funny is how Angel reacts to the outrageousness around him. And Nicholas also grows, not simply learning “to switch off” but to embrace his inner nature, but to take the time to form friendships as well. The arc of the relationship between Nicholas and Danny is well told, and parallels many classic American buddy cop films.

Yet it isn’t simply Nicholas’ story that Hot Fuzz tells and tells extremely well. Danny’s favorite passtime outside of work is watching the American action films that Hot Fuzz will ultimately parody, especially in the action-packed final sequences. A central scene in the film has Danny talking Nicholas into a real night out at the pub, with the two both drinking lagar, rather than Nicholas having his one cranberry juice then leaving. After several beers, the two head to Danny’s for an action movie binge night. Danny however grows as well, learning self-confidence and ultimately stepping out of his police inspector father’s shadow.

Yet this film, for all that it borrows and parodies from American action thrillers, is also quintessentially British, in that the actual plot that Nicholas discovers is that of the “perfect English village that gets it’s perfection from weird cults and strange sacrifices or conspiracies”. It’s a story that’s been around for awhile (the film The Wicker Man is a prime example, but I’ve seen versions of the story on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (2000), Torchwood, and even the Neil Gaiman novel American Gods, and I’m sure there are more examples.) But Hot Fuzz combines an insane amount of violence, lots of action, including a bit pulled from Lethal Weapon with Pegg and Frost firing two hand guns each while moving diagonally through the frame, car chases, confrontations, explosions, and just lots and lots of gunfire and sight gags. It’s hard to describe how such over-the-top action scenes can be funny – but because they are so over-done they are. Yet the film never loses sight of it’s characters or the characters unique points of view (even the villagers’ conspiracy, as misguided as it is – makes sense to them). Throughout the story the characterization rings true – even when the action and violence hits the ludicrous level (which makes the film funny). Nicholas Angel isn’t someone the audience will laugh at in this film. He’s someone the audience will sympathize with, especially as some of the other police officers, especially at the beginning, bully him,  and ignore his knowledge.

In the end, Nicholas gets to the bottom of things, and not only is all well – but the trio of inspectors from the beginning of the film arrive in the village to ask Nicholas back to the Met. Nicholas declines, deciding he likes his little village.

Hot Fuzz is a great movie, full of wonderful bits, great acting, and a top-notch cast. The films blends genres effortlessly and showcases the talents of Nicholas Pegg, who really is the central character of the film.  I highly recommend it.

Recommendation: A must see!
Rating: 5 Stars

All-Star Superman

  • Title:  All-Star Superman
  • Director:  Sam Liu
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2011
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Action, Fantasy, Drama, Animation
  • Cast:  James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony La Pagulia, Edward Asner, Alexis Denisoff, John Dimaggio, Robin Atkins Downes
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color
  • DVD Format: R1, Blu-Ray

“Lex Luthor, you’re under arrest for attempted murder and crimes against humanity!” – SWAT Captain

All-Star Superman opens with a group of scientists in a spaceship that’s about to crash into the Sun, in no small part due to evil goings-on by Lex Luthor. Superman flies near the Sun and rescues the scientists but soon finds out that he suffered and overdose of solar radiation and he’s dying. Essentially, the theme of the story is Superman with cancer. You would think that would be depressing, but this animated film has a wonderful tone to it. The story is very episodic, but in a very real sense we’re seeing Superman actually fulfilling the items on his bucket list.

Superman, tells Lois Lane he’s Clark Kent – something she barely believes, and brings her to his fortress of solitude. There he gives her a serum that gives her his powers for a day, and the two have a romantic day playing superheroes together. They even stop a fight between Samson and Atlas and intelligent dinosaurs from the center of the Earth. When Superman brings the creatures back where they belong, he’s goaded into a fight with Samson and Atlas. However, he ends-up besting them with his intelligence solving the Riddle of the Ultra Sphinx. The riddle is what happens when “the irresistible force meets an immovable object”, Superman answers, “They surrender”, and rescues Lois. He then bests Samson and Atlas in arm wrestling.

Meanwhile, the Daily Planet has exposed Luthor’s water crisis scheme, and Luthor’s been charged by the International Court of Justice. Not only is Luthor found guilty he’s sentenced to die in the electric chair even though it’s been banned for years.

Clark goes to interview Luthor in prison, and Luthor states he likes Clark Kent but he hates Superman – and he’s happy that even though he will die, Superman will die first. The Parasite escapes during Luthor and Kent’s discussion and starts a riot in the prison, killing guards and prisoners alike. Luthor escapes.

Superman, in his fortress with her, tells Lois he’s dying. Lois insists he will figure out an answer.

Superman takes the bottle city of Kandor to a planet that they can safely colonize. Two months later he returns to Earth.

Two Kryptonians show up and prove to be spoiled, superior, colonials bent on cultural imperialism. Superman discovers, however, they have been poisoned by Kryptonite. In the end, they are sent to the Phantom Zone.

Superman even goes to his father’s grave, leaving a Kryptonian flower there. He says hi to his mother, Martha Kent, but doesn’t stay long.

Lex Luthor is “executed” but he doesn’t die – he’s stolen some of Superman’s serum to give himself super powers for 24 hours.

Superman records his final journal entry in the Fortress of Solitude.

Luthor’s next stratagem arrives – Solaris a living, intelligent sun eater who will poison the sun and turn it blue. Luthor thinks he’s gotten Solaris to turn the Earth’s Sun red, which will leave Superman helpless – but Solaris betrays even Luthor and poisons the Sun to turn it blue.  There’s a classic fight scene.  Superman has his pet sun-eater attack Solaris, but Solaris rips it to shreds. Superman then faces the super-powered Luthor, including firing a gravity gun at him. The gun eventually speeds up Luthor’s personal time, so just as Luthor is beginning to see the real meaning of things, and that everything is connected, he collapses because he’s burned through the serum.

But Superman is also dying. As his face cracks with light, he kisses Lois then flies off to the Sun to “fix it” and reverse the poisoning done by Solaris. The film ends with Lois sitting in a park. Jimmy Olsen drops by and asks her if she’s “going to the memorial”. Lois says no because she knows that Superman isn’t dead, he’s fixing the Sun and he will be back.

All-Star Superman has a wonderful 50s/early 60s quality to it. It has innocence and sweetness without being saccharin. The story is episodic, but underlining the individual bits is the very real threat that Superman is dying, essentially from cancer, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. You’d think that would be depressing, but Superman takes the news in stride and does take the time to do the things he wants or needs to do. It’s even Clark Kent who writes the “Superman Dead” newspaper story then collapses at his desk. The animation style also has a wonderful retro look to it that works wonderfully with the story.

There are some lovely special features as well, including interviews with Grant Morrison who wrote the original graphic novel. Overall, it’s an enjoyable and feel-good Superman story that doesn’t get bogged down in just fight sequences but shows the audience a human side to the Man of Steel.

Recommendation: See it, especially if you’re a fan of Superman or Classic DC Comics
Rating: 4 Stars
Next Film: Hot Fuzz

Lois and Clark Season 4 Review

  • Series Title: Lois & Clark The New Adventures of Superman
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 6
  • Cast: Dean Cain, Teri Hatcher, Lane Smith, Eddie Jones, K Callan, Justin Whalin
  • Original Network: ABC
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers

The fourth and final season of Lois and Clark opens with a two-parter that wraps-up the season cliffhanger, with the result that Clark leaves New Krypton (he never quite gets there, but does see the palace in the sky), and returns to Earth and Lois. In the third episode of the season, Lois Lane and Clark Kent finally get married. Most of the rest of the season is single self-contained episodes, with the occasional two-parter that’s self-contained from the episodes around it.

Lois and Clark’s relationship as newlyweds takes center stage and is very well written. The series does not change focus to be completely domestic, though, but returns to it’s roots with Lois and Clark both working as investigative reporters for the Daily Planet. In between investigating and reporting on stories, they discover and talk about issues common to new couples – such as should they buy a house?, meeting in-laws and celebrating holidays, and finally, as the season winds to it’s conclusion – thoughts on children.  The discussions between Lois and Clark about children become more and more frequent as the season and series get closer to its end. Finally, Superman sees Dr. Klein at STAR Labs to see if Superman can have children with an “Earth woman”. Although early tests seem promising, in the end Clark tells Lois – he can’t have children. He and Lois aren’t biologically compatible. Lois breaks down in tears – in an extremely impressive, well-written, and beautifully handled scene. Lois’s inability to have children with Clark is not written off with a one-liner or a bad joke, and the writers and series creators must be given their due.  Clark mentions adoption on more than one occasion – pointing out he’s adopted and it worked out OK for him. However, the scene between Lois and Clark and an adoption pre-sceener is awful. Lois is given a very low score – because apparently smart, intelligent, professional women can’t be mothers. (Yeah, really – they did that. So sad.) However, in the final moments of the last episode of the season – a baby is left with Lois and Clark.

Overall, I enjoyed watching all four seasons of Lois and Clark. The series is fun and light – even in it’s more serious moments – there’s a sense that everything will work out – eventually. Teri Hatcher is simply brilliant as Lois and has both great comic timing and wonderful romantic chemistry with Dean Cain. Dean Cain is sweet and very good-looking and plays Clark perfectly – not as a nerd but simply as a very nice guy, who’s maybe even a bit naive. Cain does a great job as Clark and a very good job as Superman. The rest of the cast is very good – and I really liked seeing Clark’s parents, Jonathon and Martha Kent, on a regular basis, and played by excellent actors.

The effects – well, they did what they could on a 1990s TV budget – but it’s still pretty impressive and never distractingly bad. The effects don’t over-power the human story, while at the same time they aren’t so bad or out-of-date as to throw the viewer out of the story. I recommend this series, especially if you want to watch a lighter Superman story.