Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Top 12 Disney Animation Studios films (or my 2nd anniversary blog)

What better way to spend the holidays than by debating things angrily in online comments sections? Well, a lot of things, but nonetheless, it's time to celebrate my second anniversary producing this blog!

The First 50 films of Disney Animation Studios
As I was debating what topic to do, Frozen was being hyped for around this time of year. And it occurred to me that Frozen would be the 53rd film in the Disney Animation Studios Canon. And since last year marked the 75th anniversary of the original Disney Animated Classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I figured that now would be a good time to rank the films this studio produced over the last 75 years.

NOTE: This only will cover the 52 films before Frozen, as I have not had proper time to let that movie sink in. Additionally, I am only covering the films Disney Animation Studios spearheaded. So Pixar films, DisneyToon's direct-to-video monstrosities, and even films they corroborated on like Mary Poppins will not be ranked.

Also, I allowed a variety of people to give their opinions on the movies they thought were good. Their lists will be used here as well. If you don't agree with my or their opinions, feel free to give your thoughts in the comments.

Well with that all out of the way, let's talk about a topic I'm certain will evoke a reaction from many: the matrix of nostalgia, Disney's Animated Classics!


It's now that I'd like to note that I'll be intertwining other lists in here. Some list strictly canon films and others gave mention to films outside the canon, but in any case, I'm including them all. Thank you to all of you who sent me lists!

All that said, here are some that came close to my top 12.

Fantasia (1940) 
Why it's mentioned: Probably the pinnacle of early Disney animation worked in with expertly crafted classical music.
Why it's not on the list: It's an anthology of multiple pieces, so characterization takes a backseat. To make this work, all stories have to hit bulls-eyes, but only about half the pieces nail it. Still, even then it almost made the list, so that should tell you how great this movie gets at times.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
Why it's mentioned: Probably the best stable of characters in Disney's possession playing their roles to near-perfection. I also LOVE the fourth-wall jokes they worked in.
Why it's not on the list: Same issue as Fantasia, but more pronounced. These stories weren't meant to connect, so their attempt to make them do so feels forced.

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Why it's mentioned: It has one of my favorite Disney romances and really takes advantage of the dogs' perspective in comparison to humans.
Why it's not on the list: The main characters don't feel totally fleshed out. Even today I'd struggle to put into words what Tramp's character is.

The Rescuers Down Under (1991)
Why it's mentioned: Of all the Disney renaissance films, this one may have provided the absolute pinnacle of voice casting. John Candy, Eva Gabor, Bob Newhart all in prominent roles.
Why it's not on the list: I won't lie, this was about the point where making ranking decisions got REALLY hard. But if I'm going to split hairs to make these rankings, this movie's plot isn't as compelling as the films that surrounded it. That's mostly due to the movie burning its best effect in the first few minutes and the characters coming from one of Disney's most bland theatrical efforts, The Rescuers.

Before the my top 12, I have interspersed other lists in here. Here are two!

These are, in my opinion, the top five best Disney films. This only takes into account films I have personally seen, as I don’t feel as though I can comment on any I haven’t, regardless of their influence or popularity.

5. Mulan – I feel like Mulan is one of the first sort of unique Disney princesses. She’s not the first who isn’t Caucasian (Jasmine from Aladdin has that honor), but she’s the first who doesn’t need saving from a prince. What little Asian (or part-Asian in my case) little girl didn’t think that a Disney princess pretending to be a boy -- and being more awesome at butt-kicking than the actual boys -- was cool?

4. Tangled - Tangled features great animation, and is surprisingly witty and funny for a Disney princess movie. I love that it feels modern without any pop culture references.

3. The Emperor’s New Groove – This is the least Disney of any Disney movie, and perhaps that’s why I love it so much. It’s just weird. There’s very little plot, but there’s a lot of great action and plenty of laughs. Plus, it somehow feels more realistic than other Disney stories. Not necessarily the turning into a llama part, but who amongst us doesn’t know at least one person who is just so completely full of themselves? Also, possibly the only funny thing David Spade has ever done.

2. Fantasia – I love this Disney classic. When you consider it was released in 1940, the animation in Fantasia is simply breathtaking. The marriage of animation and classical music is beautiful and timeless; and if you don’t like Fantasia, then there is something deeply wrong with you.

1. Wreck-It Ralph – I thought about putting Fantasia as my number one pick, but decided at the last moment to be a cliché. Wreck-It Ralph is a fantastic movie that’s full of gamer culture and plenty of nostalgia. I used to play Donkey Kong all the time; my mom’s friend had the arcade machine! Not only is it a great nostalgia trip, but the film has a really inventive anti-bullying story wrapped in a hyperactive, clever, and funny story.


1)Snow White
Toy Story
Song of the South
2) Fantasia
3) The Little Mermaid
4) The Princess and the Frog
5) Tangled
Mary Poppins

I chose this ranking due to the film's contribution to animation history as well as the movement of the ideals of the time. Each film went with the times of that era and taught its audience a lesson. I know Song of the South is basically banned, but it was a great movie on its own even though the background was brutal. I couldn't ignore the artistry of the film and the impact it had on society.

And now... the Top 12!

12. Lilo and Stitch (2002)
Why it's mentioned: This movie did two very human plotlines and executed each about as well as you could hope. Lilo and Nani's family story is totally down-to-earth, believable and written with expert precision. Cobra Bubbles could have been written as a tried-and-true Disney villain, but instead is a good man with a long leash. He understands the tragedy of the family's situation and is very pained when he feels he has to be strict with them.

Likewise, Stitch's realization that he's alone in the universe can resonate with anyone. His arc from a destructive abomination unto nature into a caring adoptive family member is filled with both humor and real tear-jerking emotion.

Why it's not higher: The two plots do not mesh as well as they should. You have a family in Hawaii coping with the loss of their parents and an alien fugitive being chased down by the Space Dukes of Hazzard. When the two stories have to start working into each other in the final act of the movie, it becomes very surreal very quickly. It doesn't kill the movie, but I just am not sure anyone could have made these two stories mesh as well as they would need to in order to be a perfect film.

11. The Little Mermaid (1989)
Why it's mentioned: The first movie of the Disney Renaissance is fondly remembered for a reason. That reason is the music. This movie has without a doubt the best in-film soundtrack of any Disney movie. So many characters are memorable and there is a real atmosphere to the ocean. Additionally, it was a big risk to go a third of the film where the main character didn't talk, and I really respect them for that. This film is loved by many, and deservedly so.

Why it's not higher: The story itself is fairly thin, at least from Ariel's perspective. She really has no character arc. She wants to go on land, wants to get with a guy, she gets what she wants, things go wrong, she gets what she wants anyway. No growth, no lesson learned. This is a story about King Triton learning to let go of his children as they grow up... through the eyes of Ariel's story.

Oh, and Eric is really freaking bland. I'm sorry, but this guy couldn't even react with proper emotion when he realized he was dating a half-human, half-fish. Despite all of this, though, I love the movie and it deserves its ranking.

10. Pinocchio (1940)
Why it's mentioned: This is one of the first movies I ever saw, and it still resonates 73 years after it first came out. It features one of the most iconic songs in the history of Disney and it manages to produce one of the most memorable animated protagonists in the film's titular character.

I really respect the movie's decision to go dark with the characters on Pleasure Island. In retrospect, it's really surprising that a film produced in 1940 would actually turn children into donkeys and never restore them. That's a pretty heavy decision and I grant much respect.

The animation, while a little dated, actually holds up pretty well and the voice acting remains well-executed. Overall, it holds up brilliantly.

Why it's not higher: Jiminy Cricket. The character was written with no personality and if it wasn't for the "When you wish..." song sequence, I would probably forget entirely that he existed in the film when he's in about half the movie. I remember the Blue Fairy more than I remember Jiminy. (As I said, these are ultimately nitpicks, but I have to separate the top from the bottom some way.)

9. The Fox and the Hound (1981)
Why it's mentioned: This is, to me, the darkest, most somber film in the canon. It talks about how societal roles and misunderstandings can destroy the innocence of childhood and turn the best of friends into bitter enemies.

At the same time, it shows how a simple showing of kindness and kinsmanship can still bring about peace and openness. This film really sticks with me as an adult and serves as one of the main influences on my outlook on the world.

Why it's not higher: The animation isn't as strong as in past movies, a lot of the characters aren't that memorable, and it isn't bright enough in its happy moments. This film does one thing unbelievably well, but outside of that, it's just a solid film.

8. Aladdin (1992)
Why it's mentioned: The music is nearly to the caliber of Little Mermaid and the story is almost on the level of Lion King or Beauty and the Beast (both coming up later on this list). It's probably the best blended of the films and the performances (especially Robin Williams as the Genie) are some of Disney's most memorable. And kudos to it on being one of the only highly regarded Disney Renaissance movies to break from the traditional, Anglo-Saxon characters. There really isn't much to say here that hasn't been said.

Why it's not higher: While much of it is good, nothing it does stands out as the best of its era. Nearly every aspect of the film was done better by one of the other Disney Renaissance movies. And as a whole, it doesn't come across as strongly as most. It still does well, just not as well.

7. 101 Dalmatians (1961)
Why it's mentioned: This movie took the formula Lady and the Tramp started and amplified it to a top-flight classic. Pongo and Perdita's voices are as memorable today as ever, as are Roger, Anita, Horace, Jasper, Nanny, Rolly and Lucky. But the biggest reason this movie is great is the villain, Cruella De Vil. I love how absurdly small her plans are and how psychotically she goes to make them work.

Why it's not higher: Unfortunately, the over-the-top nature is what limits the film. Well, that and the animation. It's some of the more choppy work Disney has done. It still works when it has to, but at times it can be distracting.

6. The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Why it's mentioned: This is the studio's funniest film by far. I love how this movie is tongue-in-cheek regarding the tropes of Disney films, especially toward the end when Yzma is defeated by random chance rather than a lesson learned earlier. This came at a time when Disney was not known for addressing their own ridiculousness and was a wonderful breath of fresh air. Add in David Spade, John Goodman, Patrick Warburton and Eartha Kitt turning out excellent performances and you've got one hell of a film.

Why it's not higher: At the end of the day, the stakes aren't particularly big from a life-or-death standpoint so the story can feel very "TV level" during some sequences. Also, while this was one of the best road-trip style comedies I've ever seen, it's still a road-trip style comedy that mixes with a turned-to-animal story to create a very odd film. It's done well, but very little can be said about it.

Before the Top 5 are given, here's a few more lists!
I'm using a picture of the top film not on my list, by the way.
(I'd note if I expanded my list to 20, Bambi would've made the cut.)

12. Fantasia/Fantasia 2000
11. Cinderella
10. Beauty and the Beast
9. The Jungle Book
8. Tarzan
7. Aladdin
6. Lilo and Stitch
5. Mulan
4. 101 Dalmatians
3. Bambi
2. Emperor's New Groove
1. Lion King

1) The Lion King:  After a long series of fantastic animated films, the Lion King is the ultimate family tale.  You laugh, you cry (every time I might add), and you have beloved characters that still resonate in the Disney world.

2) Beauty and the Beast:  Everything I said above, minus the crying part.  The music and computer generated scenes help set it apart from so many of the classics.

3) Aladdin:  It's hard to top the musical elements of this movie....not to mention the character development, comical antics, and storyline.  I can still watch this movie over and over again.

4) The Emperor's New Groove: A more adult style of humor.  I loved all of the characters and I still laugh out loud at the jokes.

Again, showing the top movie on the list that isn't
on mine. (For the record, it makes my upper half.)
5) Bolt:  It's hard not to root for a super hero dog and a lunatic hampster.  Simply a fun, classic story, with a unique twist to the superhero plot line.

6) Tangled:  Quirky, fun, and Flynn Rider was a great main character Prince.

7) The Princess and the Frog:  The classic animation return for Disney.  Great film, wonderful music, and strong "Disney" characters.

8) Alice In Wonderland, 101 Dalmatians, Peter Pan, The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood, The Fox and the Hound, Oliver & Company:  My general favorite disney movies.  I enjoyed the "Animal-Like Characters" and the Fantasy elements of these movies.  I can watch these anytime.

9) Hercules and Wreck It Ralph:  A fun spin on a main character.  I enjoy the "Outside the Box" thinking in these movies.

10) Lilo & Stitch and Brother Bear:  Stitch and The Moose Characters.  Enough Said.

A few notable movies that I still enjoy.
11) The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp, Tarzan.

5. Tangled (2010)
Why it's mentioned: This took the road trip format of Emperor's New Groove and married it to the traditional Disney Princess story, and it comes across even better, in my opinion. I love that Rapunzel is given a real backstory that makes sense. I love how the wicked mother isn't really played as wicked. Instead, she's a desperate person who is going to extraordinary levels to stay young/alive. It's a real selfishness and craftiness that could be seen by a real person.

Heck, her plan is one of the best I've ever seen in a Disney movie. Had Rapunzel tested Flynn earlier, the plan would've succeeded. I was floored by how good this was when I finally saw it.

Why it's not higher: In the first 20 minutes of the film, the animation doesn't flow perfectly with the voice acting. The lips match, but something about them makes me aware that I'm hearing a voice instead of a character. Also, Rapunzel has Ariel syndrome in that she's not really going through an arc so much as the male supporting character is. Lastly, the final act hinges on the mother of all Deux ex Machinas to fulfill its by-the-numbers ending.

4. The Lion King (1994)
Why it's mentioned: When people say it's Hamlet with lions, they mean it literally. The movie is based on Hamlet and the strength of the plot shows it. Virtually every character is memorable and the growth of Simba over the course of the film is a joy to watch. And the music lives up to the hype as well... except for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," but you can forgive one stinker. The final sequence is expertly done and is one of the most exciting final sequences you'll see in film.

Why it's not higher: As I said, there is a weak song sequence, but there are other problems. Some of the plot points could have used more work, such as why Mufasa is forcing hyenas to starve, how a drought is Scar's fault, etc. Also, Timon and Pumbaa were great for kids and nostalgia purposes, but if you're taking the emotion out of it, geez can they become grating in that second act. They get better in the final act, but until "Can You Feel..." passes, they are shaky at best, irritating at worst.

3. Robin Hood (1973)
Why it's mentioned: This one will probably be a little surprising considering it's not widely treated with high regard, but this is quite frankly the best Robin Hood re-telling done in movie form. The music is great the characters are all likable, the villains balance threatening and humorous demeanors perfectly, and the romance between Robin and Marion is done so well. Yes, the animation is ripped from The Jungle Book and other movies, but they alter the roles enough that you don't think about it.

Why it's not higher: That said, it is an incredibly lazy step and once it hits you, it does take a few minute to stop thinking about it. There's not much to complain about in this film, but that (as well as a few pretty bland forest scenes) do keep this film out of the top line on this list.

2. Cinderella (1950)
Why it's mentioned: I know a lot of people would like to throw the classic Disney Princess movies into a dumpster of outdated society, but I am not one of them and Cinderella is an all-time great movie. Why does it succeed so much more than its colleagues (Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) did?

Well, one reason is that it's the most grounded conflict. When it boils down to it, the conflict in Cinderella is a spiteful step-mother trying to verbally abuse and berate her step-daughter. It's messed up, but it's a story that people can connect to. The conflicts in the others involve a queen who is doing things because (I'm not embellishing) Snow White is prettier than her; and a witch who is murderous because she was snubbed at a party.

Another positive is that Cinderella's animation is probably the most timeless style of any of Disney's early works. While it's clearly a 50s work, I could see the animation style working on current TV without looking out of place.

The story itself is simple, but it makes sure to make every moment count. It's truly a classic in every sense of the word.

Why it's not higher: Honestly, it really boils down to the top movie executing itself slightly better. I could nitpick about how the prince is a bore or how the Fairy Godmother is a deux ex machina, but the prince isn't playing epic hero and the story hinges on the godmother, so I can't complain much about either. It's really a matter of the top movie just topping it.

1. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Why I could drop it lower: I'll hit the negatives first: The first 3 minutes. Honestly, if you can make it plausible that an underage prince wasn't already named king because of a lack of parents or that he'd be opening his own door, then you'll be really reaching with anything else.
The other critique: the music, specifically the title song. It's possibly the weakest song Disney used between 1989 and 1994. It's ham-fisted and can become REALLY irritating if you hear it more than twice in a row.

Why it's No. 1: Point-blank best film the studio ever produced in terms of story and character. Gaston is a villain who isn't really a villain (he's more of an arrogant jerk who doesn't listen to anyone) and is just flat-out awesome in all his exchanges. The talking furniture characters are likable, memorable and play their roles beautifully.

But really, the excellence in execution comes from Belle and her relationship with the Beast. There have been some trolls hacks critics that equate this to Stockholm syndrome, but I think they entirely miss what is happening here. While she isn't being allowed to leave, she pretty much has free reign for a large portion of her time there and ultimately winds up being the one in power. Beast will achieve nothing without her love, so he's the one forced to grow as a person and change. Meanwhile, Belle is seeing a better person in him and learning there's more than just his outward looks. It's like if James and Lily Potter's relationship took place while in the Big Brother House.

Outside of the title song, the rest of the music rates from solid to good. The voice acting is on point and the animation is probably Disney's best of the 20th Century. Most importantly, the movie is prudent in making sure everyone's motives are accounted for at all times. No one is saying or doing anything that is out of line with established characteristics. The actions make sense in the world that was created.

This story was apparently planned early in the Disney movie plans, but was shelved for decades. Honestly, I'm glad they did. It allowed animation to catch up for more elaborate movements and

What else can I say? It's No. 1 on so many lists for a reason. Check it out if you haven't already. And for those who are comparing Frozen to it... I haven't seen Frozen yet, but you've set my expectations pretty high.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Nightwing #26 and Justice League #25

Ok, so with the next string of comics coming next week, here are the last looks at this past week's comics. (NOTE: In the audio I not only do reviews, but I give speculation on what books I'm considering keeping around following Forever Evil. Share your thoughts in the comments.)

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #26 and Blue Beetle #11

Today in the audio, Batman: Zero Year hits its midway point and Blue Beetle enters the arc that will take it into its halfway point.

Batman is the must-buy it always is, though today is more a discussion of some of Scott Snyder's new retcons than anything else. Meanwhile, Ted Kord meets the New Teen Titans as he gets in the middle of one of their missions. For more information, check out the audio below.

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Arrow Season 2, Episode 9 review

We have entered the midseason break for Arrow and man am I frustrated that I have to wait a month for this!
Heck. Yes.

This was freaking awesome. If you have been waiting for a point to jump on, this month off is a good time to get caught up. Check out my review below.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Arrow Season 2, Episodes 7-8 review

Just in time for the last episode of the first half of this season, here are my thoughts on Barry Allen's debut on Arrow, among other things that happened. (Also, episode 7 doesn't seem to be anywhere, that review is the second audio. Sorry about that.)

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Action Comics #26 and Green Arrow #26

Well here are two books that I'm going to have to add!

Yeah, Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder have made Action Comics into a legitimately good Superman title. It's a great jumping-on point, so give it a look.

Meanwhile, my first ever look at the Green Arrow book was last month, and now I'm drawn into the Jeff Lemire-Andrea Sorrentino book and their now-started Outsiders War arc. I'd get on the train now before you have to wait for the next arc to start.

My full thoughts are in the audio above.

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Comic Book Reviews: Detective Comics #26 and Blue Beetle #10

As John Layman moves ever closer to the end of his time as Detective Comics writer, he has provided a one-shot featuring the Man-Bat and She-Bat to fill the month before Gothtopia.

I've got quite a few blogs in store this month, so the comic reviews will mostly be in audio this month, but I will say that this is a good book to buy. It's not one that you NEED to go read because it has very little connection to what is about to happen in Gothtopia (I think), but it's a solid read nonetheless.

Now would be a good time to mention that I'm working on a 0-10 scale to start grading issues in January. So be excited!

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Flash #25, Catwoman #25 and Blue Beetle #9

Well what a difference one writer and one artist can make! (As always, Blue Beetle is audio-exclusive.)

After dreading the Catwoman #25 Zero Year tie-in, I came to understand that John Layman (who writes the unfathomably good Detective Comics title) was given the reigns for this book. Yes, Ann Nocenti's supernatural-based, completely out-of-its-element Catwoman was not present this month.

In her place is a Catwoman that actually seems to fit in better as a cross between Anne Hathaway's and Arkham City's. I'm also fairly certain that her origin has gone from "depressed girl who gets brought back to life by magic cats" to "golden-hearted kleptomaniac who practices her way to greatness and doles out vigilante justice while stealing."

And I am REALLY OK with that.

Additionally, Aaron Lopresti and Art Thibert teamed up to produce the art, and not only is it far more tasteful and classy than every other New 52 Catwoman, but it actually added to the story and had a great attention to detail.

I really can not say it's totally worth a buy because next month, the book returns to its borderline insane story arc, but hey, a good Catwoman story is rare! Take advantage!

As for Flash #25, it's a solid outing from the writing and art team that will be taking over Detective once Layman and Jason Fabok leave.

The detective work is nice and the art is fun to look at. It's biggest issue is that it is a really small-time story arc among the ocean of madness that is the Zero Year. It feels really tangential and Barry Allen's bland personality doesn't help matters.

I like Barry, but he's not the guy you go to for an interesting story. Especially this one, who is so idealistic and by-the-numbers that you will wish he had the Speed Force just so an interesting effect will happen.

One thing that worked, though, was the first meeting of Barry and Iris West. I kind of wish that had been the whole issue.

Anyway, the detective work is good and it's a nice taste of what kind of writing and art you'll get once Layman and Fabok are gone. But there's no urgency to buy it.

We're back to normal next month! Woo!

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman '66 #5 and Samurai Jack #2

Easily the two best books this week had nothing to do with the DCnU, and that's somewhat unsettling.

Eh, who cares? It's good reading material.

The Sandman and the Eartha Kitt Catwoman made their debuts this week (and no, they give no explanation why Julie Newmar is suddenly Eartha Kitt, and it's hilarious because of it).

The art is bright and is perfect for setting the mood of the Silver Age and the TV series. The writing feels perfectly in-character and is constantly funny.

This book was very clearly written with love of the old TV series and with the intent to entertain, and that's what makes it so good. It's not trying to be deep; it's trying to tell a good story within the world that has been created and be fun, and it's doing its job to the letter.

Samurai Jack is the book trying to tell a real continuation of a deep universe, and it's doing the job unbelievably well.

The writing and art feel exactly like the series and I feel like I'm having the voice actors doing a reading of the storyboard of an episode.

This is a very quick read, but less is more with a series like Samurai Jack and it is quickly rising up to being a book I count the days for each month.

I highly recommend both titles to you and hope we can get these numbers to spike up. If any two titles deserve to move up 20 spots in the buyrate rankings, it's these two.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman and ... #25 and Blue Beetle #8

Batman & Not Robin has been much less fun since Damian has been removed, and the truly great issues have been few and far between ever since the silent Issue #18.

This arc hasn't been bad, but I certainly haven't been wowed by it. And with a whole bunch of quality books on the market, it needs to pick up its pace and fast. What specifically went on? Take a listen to the audio and find out.

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Comic Book Reviews: Batwoman #25, Birds of Prey #25 and Red Hood & The Outlaws #25

I was as surprised as anyone to find out that there was a Batwoman Zero Year tie-in. Why is it here? Because the creative team quit and this was the only thing they could do to fill time.

How did it hold up? Well... it was a book. That's about it. Nothing special that would make you think the new creative team is going to make the book great; nothing so outrageous fans of the book should feel the characters are being bastardized.

It's a cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers plot that will most likely do nothing to add an audience to the character. The art has been greatly downgraded, but it's not bad. It's just... a generic Batwoman title. And I'm not sure that's a good thing for it.

Birds of Prey was solid, but nothing you'd jump up and dive at. The Black Canary origin set-up here is more jarring than anything for those who were used to the old origin, but it's executed well. The art is solid enough.

Ultimately, it's not strong enough on its own to make you want to see what is going on in BoP, and considering it's in Gothtopia's crossover in January, next month's book probably isn't new-reader friendly anyway. But it's good enough to get me interested in the Gothtopia tie-in, and if that goes well, I could see myself picking up the book.

RHATO is the best title this week for sure in terms of tie-ins. It's still not a must-buy, but it does plenty to add intrigue to Jason's origins with the All-Caste, sets up his time with Talia al-Ghul and introduces a Joker who is between identities at the moment from the looks of it.

The art is almost as good as the BoP art and the story itself is the best of the three, if for no other reason than Tynion had plenty to go on from the Scott Lobdell era. He appears to be good at understanding the characters, just really awkward when it comes to advancing a plot.

Anyway, none of these books are pick-ups you NEED to make, but none of them will outright upset you if you buy them, and depending on your tastes, you may actually be glad you picked them up. As for me, I have better books to recommend to you over the next two comic review blogs.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #25 and Nightwing #25

I have Zero Year tie-ins backed up all over the place today! Let's talk Batman and Nightwing. Mostly, it's in audio, but I'll leave brief thoughts below as well.

Batman #25 is an excellent elevation from where the last issue left off.
It chooses to focus on Dr. Death of all people instead of Riddler, but the villain surprisingly holds his own. I also now feel intrigued as to what happened between Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon. The art is amazing and it is definitely the best book this week.

Nighwing #25 is a colossal disappointment and comes off feeling like filler. There's nothing wrong with the story told. It's just astoundingly generic and has no true tie-in to the Batman story. None of the three this week really do, but at least you're dealing with the psychology of the people in Gotham. Here is a story just about Dick and nothing of real consequence at that (save maybe the relationship between the Maronis and the circus being started). Nothing terrible, but nothing worth buying or even glancing at.

Arrow Season 2, Episode 6 review

This week's Arrow wasn't as good as last week's, but it was still the most addicting thing on TV. And on that note, I give you my review!

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Search Part 3 review

Better late than never for a review of this comic... and better this comic than any of the prior Avatar: The Last Airbender books.

In spite of the fact that I strongly disliked the last two parts of this story, the conclusion did as well as it could given the framework it was given. It's kind of like Revenge of the Sith in that sense. Yeah, the two prequels before it were awful, but what followed turned out to be as good, if not better than what should have been possible.

My full audio review is below, but much like the Korra episodes I've been reviewing, I'm leaving some SparkNotes-style bulletpoints below.

-- Aang was written much better this go-around than he has been. The character - who last issue was taking a beyond cold, 'screw your family and identity crisis. I need you to possibly defy Fire Nation law and lead the country regardless of your blood status' stance - has finally remembered that he needs to respect spirits, fight for the downtrodden, and be a friend to Zuko.

-- Sokka and Katara, while still only providing incidental dialogue to the plot (seriously, why are they even here?) were much better written and Sokka even got in some decent lines.

-- I find it interesting that the Mother of Faces crafts every face in existence with great care and feels insulted that people want to alter them. But with the one request thing, it's whoever asks first and not what the group wants? So she's basically Shenron in Dragon Ball Z? [SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT].

Still, it was nice that once Koh was revealed as the one who took away the brother's face, and we found out the MoF is related to him, she very graciously agrees to both favors and even offers Ursa her memories back.

-- I have two HEAVY complaints with this story. One is the fault of Parts 1 and 2 of this story because it set up this terrible situation.

Ursa basically pulls a Peter Parker in Spider-Man: One More Day, voluntarily giving up all her memories of her children to a spirit. And why? Because she can't handle knowing them, and obviously, leaving two children without a mother randomly won't affect their psychologies or leave them on a lifelong search for answers.

Heck, I was going to say this is worse than OMD because at least Peter did his stupid move to save his aunt's life. This wasn't a necessary part of the deal. This was a 100 percent selfish move.

BUT... Ursa does recover from this situation at the end when her memory is restored and she is apologetic to Zuko. Let this be a lesson to all parents: If you leave, fine, but you owe your children an opportunity to confront you later.

-- My other complaint is discussed at length in the audio blog. Let me get this straight: The MoF puts her full efforts into every face she crafts, but then tests Ursa by offering her a face that is 'more plain' than her current one? So all faces are equal, except when the spirit decides that some are better looking than others.

This raises so many rage-inducing issues. 1. If this spirit has beauty standards, why don't all the faces look like Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry? 2. How does the spirit decides who gets the beautiful faces? Is it random or is she trying to figure out who will do best with it?

And 3. Avatar: TLA is a show that pretty much lives by the 'don't judge a book by its cover' mantra. Toph is small and blind, but also the toughest person on the show. Azula's a better firebender than Zuko, and he has a scar, but he's the better human being by far. Even though the Earth Kingdom sided with Aang's side, plenty of people in the Earth Kingdom were corrupt, and plenty of Fire Nation citizens were good people.

The reason I bring all this up is because this plot point not only reinforces superficiality to the kids and adults reading this book, this world actually writes it into the universe as established fact. The spirits outright have a set idea of what is good-looking when the faces are designed. There is literally a universal pretty and ugly.

And don't tell me she only makes the new faces. She says specifically that she is insulted when people ask to replace her "precious gifts" and tell her that her "work is inadequate." Well if you submit that you make faces better looking than others, OF COURSE PEOPLE WON'T BE HAPPY!

In our world, we are all equal in the eyes of the Lord. In Aang's world, spirits decide which men and women look good and which look ugly. And there is a right answer. Beauty is only skin deep, but there is a right answer.

Seriously, between all the people in The Promise Part 3 using all the "fat guy gets pretty girl" jokes King of Queens didn't burn, and this spirit setting forth a universal formula to beauty, Gene Yang is beginning to rival Frank Miller in terms of sheer superficial objectification. It's a good thing all the female characters already had backstories

-- All that aside, though, the sequences in Ursa and Ikem's family home made this comic a must-buy. From Zuko simply being happy knowing his mother is happy, to Ursa's apologies to Azula and Zuko, to those final panels where Zuko asks to know his mother's story, everything is done to perfection.


-- Well, there is still the whole "Ozai thought Zuko wasn't his kid" thing. Admittedly, the damage was minimized, but there is still an additional layer to the original story that now leaves me with an unsavory taste in my mouth. I'd rather Ozai just not like Zuko because he is weaker in his mind. I don't need this convoluted situation where he is mean to Zuko out of spite to his wife.

(Speaking of, Eminem once wrote, "Even if I hated Kim, I'd grit my teeth and I'd try to make it work with her, at least for Hailie's sake." How hard would you read a comic in which Slim Shady busts into the Fire Nation throne room and goes ballistic on Ozai?)

So yeah, most of the flaws are just a byproduct of bad writing in the previous parts and are done as well as you could imagine given the circumstances. A new layer of the Avatar universe was added that I despise, but it's small enough in terms of this story that it doesn't hurt it too badly.

I can honestly rate this a must-buy and must-own. When the writing staff added that "Where's my mother?" scene into the finale when it could have easily been left out, I firmly believe they knew it would elicit a reaction. It ultimately led to people buying Avatar comics, and them making more money.

And for what it's worth, even if I hate certain elements in the writing, I love the art. I love the universe. And I'll gladly keep supporting the product.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batwing #25 and Blue Beetle #6

And at long last, we have come to an end of the parade of comic reviews this week. Incredibly, I was not disappointed by either issue. (That may be due to a lack of expectation, but still... )

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Comic Book Reviews: Detective Comics #25 and Green Arrow #25

It's time for part 3 of this week's comic reviews. Batman is finally in a book with his origin story! Granted, it's only for a few panels in each book, but here we are.

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Forever Evil #3 and Green Hornet #7

Part 2 of my very busy weekend of comic reviews are here! Let's talk a couple of limited series: one very good (Green Hornet) and one that's... eh (Forever Evil).

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Legend of Korra Book 2, Chapter 10 review


That's one way to ensure your episode works out. Needless to say, I was thrilled with what was put in front of me with this most recent Korra episode. Audio is below, but my brief bullet point thoughts are below.

-- After a rough start in Beginnings, the last two episodes have been to form animation-wise. Last week's was on par with the best of Book 1, and I'd say this episode was the best of the series.

-- Bumi has led a fleet of United Forces. He's clearly a good strategist and should have good hand-to-hand combat skills. Do Tenzin and Kya really think so little of non-bending fighting capacities that they'd only be able to think of "positive attitude" as his only ability? Uncle Sokka would be ashamed.

-- Every instance of the Spirit World in A:TLA was in this brown river area. When did the place become more colorful than the physical world?

-- Korra is back to "something is in my way. IMMA PUNCH IT!" mode. I feel like Korra was turned into Kid Korra because she was acting too immature for her age so she aged down. When she grew up mentally over the episode, she grew up for real. Not sure if I'm accurate, but I'm really hoping that this is the end of Loose Cannon Korra.

-- IROH AND WAN SHI TONG! I knew the spirit would be back, but I was amped when I saw Iroh. I've never been so glad I watch this on DVR and can pause until my geek-out moments phase out.

-- So Iroh decided his work was done and so he Quantum Leaped his way into the Spirit World? If people could do that, why aren't more of them around?

-- Jinora is basically Penny from Inspector Gadget here: Doing all the legwork to solve a problem and yet being made into bait for the main character. To be fair, though, Jinora is still much younger than the main cast and this is a good baseline for her. If they work her in more in later seasons, this could be seen as her first steps toward true badassery.

-- I REALLY don't like that the Spirit World is effectively powered on Good Vibes. Further, I DESPISE that this spirit bending thing is being treated as good spirit therapy instead of evil spirit mind control. Their wills are being affected by everyone but themselves.

-- I will say that Wan Shi Tong played a great bitter, psychotic spirit here. When he suddenly let Jinora browse the library, I thought it was out of character, but that's why you wait until stuff plays out before you critique.

-- However, if Jinora was SO knowledgeable about the library to the point that she knew how people used to access it and the name of the dead professor, HOW ON EARTH did she not think Wan Shi Tong might be a little peeved at the Avatar and his descendants for what happened that day?

-- Much like how I thought Beginnings Part 1 was better than Part 2 because it let the characters breathe and process what was happening, The early part of this episode was better than the end. It's like we went from 10 mph to 70 mph in a matter of seconds.

-- How did Korra escape the Spirit World from the air like that? If she could do that, why couldn't Jinora? Does she have to go unconscious first? Why did we burn an episode in the Spirit World and not use any of the spirits we were introduced to in Beginnings? If the Harmonic Convergence needed both portals opened, why did they go into the Spirit World at all? If it was to close the other portal, would she have known how to close it anyway? Why does every episode of Korra need the Val Kilmer, "It just raises too many questions" clip?!

Anyway, outside of the flaws I mentioned, this was a solid episode, and one that may compete for best of the Korra series. Should we be concerned that a character from the previous series was needed to put it over? Maybe, but the story has finally become something worth anticipating, so I'm more than happy with what I'm getting here.

Stay tuned this weekend for my review of "The Search Part 3," where I will have to eat some crow.