Monday, September 30, 2013

150th blog special! Spider-Man: The Death of Gwen Stacy

Hard to believe it, but this blog is hitting its 150th installment just a couple of weeks after the much older MMA blog.

As a celebration of this occasion, I want to talk about the comic I consider to be the most influential story in comic history: Spider-Man, The Death of Gwen Stacy.

The two issues that make up this arc are Amazing Spider-Man #121 ("The Night Gwen Stacy Died") and #122 ("The Goblin's Last Stand"). The trade paperback Marvel has most recently issued also showcases ASM #96-98 and "The Kiss" from 1999's Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man #1.

I actually like that they added the previous arc, as it allows for full backstory on the situation. "The Kiss" isn't necessary, and it's the only part not written by Stan Lee, but it adds depth and is pretty good, I suppose.

But as for my qualitative discussion, that will be available in the audio blog above. I'm mostly talking about Gwen Stacy and what this arc ultimately meant for Spider-Man and comics in general.

A lot of people nowadays only remember Mary Jane Watson and think of Gwen Stacy, if they know her at all, as the one girl who died. Maybe that's the reason I liked Amazing Spider-Man the movie so much: It's the first time her importance is really shown.

Gwen was, by all measures at the time of her writing, Peter's soulmate. Her death was the original "Deal with Mephisto" for a lot of fans who were reading at the time. Subscriptions were canceled and anger was abundant.

The main reason this story is still given weight, however, is that it was lasting. Gwen never came back. She's been cloned, seen in dream sequences, portrayed in alternate universes and even zombified, but she's never returned to the Earth-616 canon since this arc finished being produced. (At least in no stories I've seen.)

Gwen Stacy is one of those few deaths that serves as a crux for so much of a character's psychology. Peter Parker had never been in a position to save somebody, attempted it and failed to save the person. The fact that it was the woman he planned to marry only hits him harder.

It changed why he protects his identity. Originally, he hid it so that his aunt wouldn't constantly worry, but now he saw his identity as a possible death sentence for those around him. That all happened in this arc.

The same can be said for Mary Jane Watson. One of the reasons I argue Gwen was Peter's true soulmate at the time of publication is because MJ, for all her underlying sadness, was ultimately a home-wrecker. She went on a date with Peter, latched onto his best friend, and constantly flirted with him even when she had Harry Osborn right in front of her.

Peter treated her as a friend, but they were not a good match. Two things changed MJ, though. One was Harry becoming a drug addicted schizophrenic (which she did not help with the constant flirting with Peter), and the other was her best friend's death.

Mary Jane was a more understanding person from here. I love the Peter-MJ romance as much as any Spidey fan, but I also recognize that it's only possible directly because of Gwen's death.

As for the comics world as a whole, this was a game-changer. Most will say this story ended the Silver Age of Comics, but that is far too simple of an explanation.

This was the story that really showed that these characters had an emotional connection with fans. It showed that the stories could be taken seriously and that a high-level narrative could be told solely through sequential art.

Many people point to Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns as the books that showed what comics were capable of, but I don't think any of them would have been in a place to get published had this moment not taken place.

It's ironic that this story is such a moment in comics history considering its whole existence came about because the Marvel editors didn't want Peter Parker to get married (A problem that has clearly plagued the character since his inception up through today).

They had more single Peter stories to tell, and had no idea what to do. Common sense would dictate the two go on a break for a few years, but I guess they didn't want a character just floating around that they weren't using.

But as much as I enjoyed Gwen Stacy stories, and as much as I'd like to see an alternate Marvel book where the two are married, even I must admit that this decision has done unbelievable amounts of good for the comic book industry.

Gwen's death scene has been parodied and re-enacted in copious comics, both Spidey and non-Spidey; the first Spider-Man movie re-enacted it with MJ (as well as Goblin's death from #122); and it's almost a given for one of the new Spider-Man movies.

The influence of this arc is undeniable, and I thought I'd share my interpretation of it today. As we move closer to the ASM 2 movie, let's not forget why the director insisted on having Gwen Stacy in the story.

RIP Gwen.
ASM #31 (Dec. 1965)-ASM #121 (June 1973)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Legend of Korra Book 2, Chapter 4 review

Today in my review I bid adieu to the contrived plot points we ALL saw coming, look with optimism toward the episodes that will follow (because most of the predictable crap is done), and I issue a serious complaint about the humorous tone given in TV programming toward female-against-male abusive relationships.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Man-Bat #1 and Captain Marvel trades (Issues 1-12)

First off, yes I did change from the Sinestro Corps War that I was going to do on my audio blog, but I do think I have a pretty good review for you that should take precedence.

It's rare that I go into a Marvel Comics title, but after A LOT of praise, I'm giving Captain Marvel a shot. My thoughts are in the audio, but needless to say, since I'm bringing it up, there is definitely something there.

Kelly Sue DeConnick is an awesome writer and I wanted to give her due credit for what she's doing with Captain Marvel.

And for the record, even though I do say I'm not a fan of the art in the book, I'm just making it clear that it's NOT bad artwork. It's just a style that I don't feel matches the tone of the book.

Dexter Soy was a little gritty for the tone of the book, and Felipe Andrade's design's, while good for emotion, are an artistic style that I gravitate to in museums, not in sequential books, so it distracts from the narrative. Overall, though, none of them killed the quality of what was an incredible 12-issue journey.

Anyway, on to Detective Comics 23.4: Man-Bat #1!

I initially was going to skip this one. I had my fill of Villains Month and was content to move on to actual books again. However, after seeing the preview and checking out a review at, it was blatantly obvious that this was a necessary read if you've been following the back-ups in John Layman's Detective Comics title.

First off, kudos to Detective for actually writing a book that's about something useful! This actually turned out to be a nice surprise.

The artwork here is great and it felt like the back-up stories even though Layman wasn't writing it.

Granted, I'm not sure how much of a difference it would have made if Layman had written it because, as the review I linked said, this is a fast read. But it's by design, so I'm fine with it.

Kirk Langstrom has escalated the Man-Bat serum even further in order to take down his wife's rampage. And once he's done that, he decides to be a crime-fighter in Batman's absence.

Unfortunately, the addictive nature of the serum is still present, and it leads to his articulate thoughts at the start of the book to be shorter, more primal sentences by the end. That's actually a pretty freaking good idea in order to justify less writing.

And yes, by the end, you'll know why this book means so much to the back-up. If you're reading Detective - more specifically, the Man-Bat stories - you'll need this title.

Once again, easily the best Man-Bat I've seen hits hard and well in a solo adventure, and I'm looking forward to whenever this character meets with Batman again.

If you haven't been following it, I'd get started now. This book is fairly new-reader friendly thanks to the exposition and you'll want to see how this story advances.

Overall, I'd say it's one of the most important Villains titles to pick up.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Legend of Korra Book 2, Chapter 3 review

I give to you my thoughts on Korra for this week! Quite honestly, it's a better episode than the previous ones, and I'm interested about the political situation in the Water Tribe. That said, the story seems to assume the viewer knows things they have no way of knowing unless interviews with the creators are part of the canon, and it doesn't help that they are following in the comic's footsteps of introducing potentially offensive situations for characters and then hoping they can payoff the gargantuan check they write with it.

For more spoiler-filled details, check it out below.

This is just funny. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Comic Reviews: Batman '66 #3 and JLA: A League of One

I have a lot of blogs to do this week, so they're all in audio form. This week's comic is Batman '66 #3.

I'll have more in-depth thoughts, plus my promised review of JLA: A League of One in the audio, but very briefly, I will say that Batman '66 continues to prove to be the best comic out today this week.

There's legitimate fun to be had in every issue and the Cesar Romero Joker in this one is just amazing, and there are some nice Easter eggs from the main DCU in this one.

Plus there's an Egghead story. A Vincent Price Egghead story! And it's the exact amount of awesome you'd want from a story like that. Seriously, if any book is worth the money, it's this one. Get the weekly web comic if you can, but if not, this print version is just fine.

Anyway, review is above. Enjoy!

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Legend of Korra reviews: Book 2, Chap. 1-2

It's the return of the most socially awkward character on television, Korra!

This season, I want to give my thoughts on the episodes as they come out, much like I have been with the Ultimate Fighter on the MMA blog.

I'll say right now, this is the longest audio blog I'm going to do all season because I spend the first seven minutes catching up my opinions of the previous season. Additionally, it's two episodes that are reviewed, so this one clocks in as a fairly long blog.

That said, I think it'll be nice to talk about some Avatar stuff that isn't the comic series. From here on in, I also will be giving my opinions before I watch the Legend of Korra vlogs on Channel Awesome or the Dongbu Feng podcast. I do bring each up in this blog because they already have given better lines about some of the plot points than I could muster.

So yeah, if you want a massive amount of Korra thoughts, that vlog, that podcast, IGN's text reviews, and of course this audio blog will give you a nice, diverse set of thoughts.

Anyway, blog is below. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Riddler #1 and Superman: Birthright

Just a heads-up: The Birthright review is in the audio, so if you came looking for my thoughts on why this is the greatest Superman origin story of all time, click the play button and have a listen.

Now, as to the Riddler review, I may as well just say right now that NO one-shot is beating this for me. This is exactly the kind of story I'd want from my favorite villain in the DCU.

Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes put together an excellent, excellent story that shows what you can do when you take the Riddler seriously.

The story is that Gotham is still in riot mode after the events of Forever Evil #1 and Riddler has fooled a bunch of people to get upset at Wayne Enterprises for an SEC filing against them. I'm not sure how he did that given that this town is going nuts, but it must have been in the early stages.

Riddler has done this because he wanted to insert a distraction while he infiltrates the building, which is the most secure in the entire city. (It's made clear from Riddler's tone that he KNOWS why, but really doesn't care that much.)

The best part of this entire story is the first page, which is a flashback to four years before, when an Arkham guard took his contraband deck of cards. In these four panels, Riddler's narration boxes give five riddles, and you could figure all five out by really looking at the four panels of this page.

If you don't want to spend time thinking about it, though, all five riddles play out during his plan and lead to his ultimate goal in all of this, which is the goal that really defines the character that is Edward Nygma.

Zero Year is addressed only once, and there are no flashbacks to this, but I wouldn't be shocked if Nygma's time in that arc connects back to this story somehow. Can I just say for a moment how badly I want the Riddler to be Ben Affleck's first opponent in his eventual Batman solo movie? Could we get Snyder, Fawkes and Geoff Johns to supervise the writing?

Try to answer these riddles.
Anyway, Jeremy Haun is the artist and he does a great job in his DC artist debut. He's done the penciling and inking for a few books before, but this is his first chance to do lead art and his only chance before he takes over as Batwoman's artist and he does it right.

For the record, I think DC's mandate against character marriage, which caused J.H. Williams and his team to leave Batwoman, is unrealistically stupid, but if the book's new crew fails, it won't be on Haun if this is any indicator. His attention to detail is spot-on and he doesn't draw women characters like hyper-inflated blow-ups with hips that would make the person incapable of putting their legs together, so I'm good.

Oh, and the cover is by Guillem March, who is a mixed bag kind of artist, but he has easily the nicest cover of the Villains books. Between this and his lead artist duties on the Two-Face book, it almost makes me forget the unnatural amount of cheesecake he thrust upon Catwoman's readers in the first couple of issues.

This book got a pretty in-depth review because I really do have a passion for this villain and I love when he's written... and written properly. Strangely, whenever I read him, I always hear Jim Carrey's voice if he had Sean Connery's charisma. Not sure what to do with that.

Anyway, yeah, buy this book if you can find it. (If I hadn't had this book on my pull list, I'd have missed out because it sold out.) Except for maybe Lex Luthor's story, which could actually have a direct impact on Forever Evil, I don't see a book out there more worth your money.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

20th Anniversary Power Rangers All-Star Team

So a few weeks back, I was watching the latest installment of Linkara's "History of Power Rangers" on That Guy With The Glasses. His thoughts on the series up through Mystic Force have been really interesting to follow and although I disagree with him on Power Rangers Wild Force, he backs his opinions well.

Someone should have told Tommy it was Red Ranger day.
The next season he'll have to write on is Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive (occasionally dubbed Overkill for its just awful existence), and one episode in particular that will probably be noted is "Once A Ranger," a two-parter where the Morphing Grid is damaged and a team of all-star rangers from the past has to come in and help.

While I love the concept, it kind of falls over on itself. When they say 'Power Ranger all-star team,' what they actually meant was 'Disney Power Ranger all-star team with an MMPR added for credibility.'

Seriously, they go with Adam in the old Mastodon Black Ranger suit, and then a representative from Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, S.P.D. and Mystic Force. If they could have gotten away with using a Wild Force representative over Adam, they totally would have.

It was a nice effort, but one that Disney squandered in order to try to push their own seasons over the original Haim Saban work. And since seeing this, I have sometimes though about who I would put on an all-star team of Power Rangers.

It seems to be particularly well-timed since the 20th anniversary of the Power Rangers is this year. And given that the source material for this season crossed over with previous Sentai seasons, we're getting old rangers this year!

That's what I'm listing today. I do have a few rules for how I'm going about this. One is that I'm only letting characters compete for colored suits they've already worn in their series. None of this "Oh, Bridge got promoted to Red Ranger, so..." crap.

Second, the character is primarily judged by what they did while wearing the color up for grabs. Third, the Nickelodeon seasons are too new, and therefore will not be competing just yet. Finally, I am NOT allowing multiple representatives per season. There are more than a dozen ranger teams and see no reason to have repeat members.

Let's knock out the obvious one now:

Tommy Oliver

Who OK'ed the silver trim on the Dragon Suit?
While I don't agree with the basic oversimplification that Tommy is the best ranger EVER, I do agree that the sheer number of seasons he's been on makes him the most battle-tested and his character the most developed.

Any list not utilizing Tommy is severely flawed, but the question remains as to which ranger he should go in under. You could argue he should be in his Black Ranger suit from Dino Thunder because it's when he was most recently seen, but he also kind of accomplished the least personally, so it's hard to buy this as his best effort.

I could definitely understand him taking the leadership role as Red Ranger, but his time in Turbo sucked, and while his time as Red Zeo Ranger was his most powerful and most successful, it's probably the role he's remembered for the least, and given that his whole character has existed for Power Rangers marketability, that just doesn't feel right.

Besides, he wasn't all THAT great of a Red Ranger and the one I go with, I feel, deserves it even more than Tommy does. So that leaves us the Green Ranger and White Ranger. I'm going with Green Ranger Tommy because I see him at his most lethal in that role.

Don't believe me? Watch the special in Season 2 where Green Ranger/Dragonzord kick White Ranger/Tigerzord's ass. It's the ranger that got a lot of people in and it feels only right to have the Dragon Ranger on an all-star team.

That said, having him as Green limits my options in a way White wouldn't, so I'll give my picks in both situations.

Moving on.

Red Ranger

The roles of Red and Blue Ranger are two of the toughest to fill because a lot of really legit rangers have taken on these two roles. Red, Blue and Yellow have been in every season, but while yellow has occasionally taken a back seat to Pink Rangers, red and blue generally get great character development and are given plenty of chances to shine.

Most would assume I'd be upset that Tommy's selection eliminated Jason and Rocky, but honestly, Rocky failed A LOT in the role and while Jason was solid, he never won with the stakes at their absolute highest because he left as quickly as he did.

Carter Grayson would be a great pick from Lightspeed Rescue by sheer virtue of his desire to shoot crap, but in the end, he ended up taking a back seat to the man who should be, by all accounts, THE standard of success as a Red Ranger: Andros, from Power Rangers in Space.

What? You don't think so? Look at his record. He was single-handedly fighting the United Alliance of Evil before the rest of his team came along. Although he initially struggled in a team environment, he adjusted quickly. And most importantly, he destroyed every villain of the first six seasons in one fell swoop.

His backstory involving his sister is tremendously relatable and helped develop his internal fortitude. I wouldn't have any other ranger leading if I had to pick one.

Blue Ranger

Much like the Red Ranger, this is a hell of a competition. Disney had used Tori from Ninja Storm, and honestly, it's not a terrible call. She was really good in the role and could easily be a top 3 candidate.

However, as much as I like Tori in the role, there was no Blue Ranger done better than Sky Tate in Power Rangers S.P.D.

Sky was around in a season where the suits were actually numbered, implying that Red was the leader, Blue was 2nd-in-command, etc. He was also in a season where he was on the B-Squad of rangers, only seeing notable time when the A-Squad goes missing early in the series.

When Sky gets passed over for the leader's role, he has to deal with a second-place concept on multiple fronts while learning to correct the arrogant behavioral flaws that cost him the role in the first place.

By the end of the season, Sky has the leader's mentality but is humble enough to know that leader or not, it's still a team. He can fill any role by the end of the series and is by far one of the most competent fighters and strategists in the franchise.

I don't think there's much contest here, but hey, I could totally be wrong and I wouldn't be surprised if a debate started up here. I would understand if people did think Tori was the best, so consider her the understudy if you'd like.

3rd Color Male Ranger (Black/Green/etc.)

Here's where going with Tommy as Green Ranger opened up a slight logistical problem for this spot. Adam Park was originally going to be my obvious selection, but I wanted him in his Zeo Ranger IV Green suit. That can't happen with one Green Ranger in place. (So Adam only works with White Ranger Tommy.)

Adam is one of the true veterans of the show and his battle experience is invaluable, but alas, I need to find myself a third male ranger that isn't green for the Dragon Tommy team.

I could use Adam in the Black Ranger MMPR suit, but while the networks seem content to pretend the whole "Black Ranger is a black guy" thing never happened and just keep Adam in the role, I still consider Zack the true MMPR Mastodon Ranger.

But Zack is not all-star caliber, so I'm left with a pretty weak set of Black Rangers. So I'm expanding to every third color male ranger to fill this last role. (Note: This only includes teams where multiple rangers were added. Sixth Rangers do not count.)

And after looking long and hard, I've found who I think is the clear pick: Trent Fernandez, the White Ranger of Dino Thunder.

Trent had tremendous development into the kind of self-sacrificing hero you'd want in a ranger, and that's because - like Tommy - he started evil and now has a better understanding of the opposing mindset. He also knows that most villains have a motivation for their actions and that the ones who have more depth than simple Machiavellian conquest can be reasoned with.

In either Adam's or Trent's case, I think it's a solid pickup.

Yellow Ranger

The logistical issues of the Dragon Ranger team will continue the rest of the way, sadly.

Without a single doubt in my mind, the best Yellow Ranger in PR history is Kira Ford of Dino Thunder. She had a Sonic Scream civilian power that made her as dangerous as DC Comics' Black Canary, and she helped take out one of the series' most lethal villains: Mesagog.

However, I just used a Dino Thunder ranger for the Dragon team, so she is limited to Tiger team. So who can I use for the other unit?

I'm going to have to go with Katie Walker, from Power Rangers Time Force. Time Force was one of the better-written seasons in hindsight, and I'm glad I went back and checked out some episodes, as it had some of the best female characters in the franchise.

Walker isn't anywhere near as good as Kira, but she showed excellent fighting prowess over the course of her season. Admittedly, though, she's the weakest pick on my entire list, as all the best yellow rangers came from seasons already burned.

Screwed by the rules. Sorry!
Ashley from Power Rangers in Space is the only yellow ranger to compare to Kira, but her season was burned and I don't consider her time in Turbo to be worth the selection. Likewise, Trini and Aisha from the original would be considered, but their series was burned already.

Katie Walker, as such, is my fifth choice, and once Mia from Power Rangers Samurai can be considered, she'll fall to sixth. But she's still solid enough to warrant being on this team.

Pink Ranger

Lastly, we come to the Pink Ranger competition. Yes, I know everyone on Earth will only think of Kimberly Hart in this role, but her season's been used, so get over it!

Besides, easily the best ranger in this contest is the one who effectively led her team due to an inexperienced, not-that-incredible Red Ranger, and that is Jennifer 'Jen' Scotts, from Time Force.

If any Pink Ranger has done more in her time on a team, I don't know who. Jen was competent to a level no Pink Ranger has really ever been before or after. And she will easily join the Tiger team.

... THAT... SAID... I've burned a Time Force ranger already and I am NOT going any farther down the line with Yellow Rangers. Thankfully, one season provided the Dragon team with not one, but two legitimate choices: Power Rangers Lost Galaxy.

Both Kendrix Morgan and Karone could easily go into this role. Kendrix is the most intelligent of all the former Pink Rangers, and Karone provides a depth into evil even greater than Trent because she wasn't just evil for a time, she was the Best. Villain. In. The. Series.

As Astronema, she was the only person to ever conquer the entire universe. If anyone gets the evil mindset better, they aren't in this franchise.
Honorable Mention, Kendrix

I really feel like I should go with Kendrix considering she held the role longer and proved to be the most noble of all rangers, being the only one to ever sacrifice herself. (Don't worry. She somehow comes back.) But Karone not only defeated the main villains of the series and not only proved to be nearly as competent as Kendrix, but her intel is just too tempting to pass up. It's a tough call, but Dragon Team gets Karone.

Final Teams

Dragon Team:
Tommy Oliver, Green, MMPR
Andros, Red, In Space
Sky Tate, Blue, S.P.D.
Trent Fernandez, White, Dino Thunder
Katie Walker, Yellow, Time Force
Karone, Pink, Lost Galaxy

Tiger Team:
Tommy Oliver, White, MMPR
Andros, Red, In Space
Sky Tate, Blue, S.P.D.
Adam Park, Green, Zeo
Kira Ford, Yellow, Dino Thunder
Jen Scotts, Pink, Time Force

A legacy that will never be forgotten by generations.
I think one thing you can probably tell from this list is which series I hold in the highest regard. And that's not to say that there aren't other good ones; heck, Lightspeed Rescue, Ninja Storm, and (soon) the two Samurai seasons are definitely worth watching.

But the seven series who got on one of these teams provided some of the best characters in Power Rangers history, as well as the best villains. They're the reasons I love the franchise and will be watching this year's Megaforce season.

Let me hear your opinions. Which of these teams is better? Who would make your team? Leave them in the comments below, on my Twitter @seantherebel or at my Facebook,

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Forever Evil #1, Joker and Two-Face reviews

September is Villains Month over at DC Comics, and honestly, I'm not all that interested. There are 52 villain books and I'll be checking out four at most.

In any case, here are my thoughts on the comics I checked out this week.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

NFL Preview 2013: A surprising kind of predictable

Ladies and gentleman, it is time again for the NFL to begin. And I leave with you... my full predictions!

I leave some best and worst values on the Las Vegas futures board, and I go into why I picked playoff games a certain way as well as every team's record. For those who want a taste, below is a summary of my picks:

Top Overall Seed: Denver Broncos (West, 13-3)
No. 2: New England Patriots (East, 11-5)
No. 3: Indianapolis Colts (South, 11-5)
No. 4: Baltimore Ravens (North, 9-7)
Wild Cards: Houston Texans (10-6), Cleveland Browns (9-7)

AFC Championship: Denver beats Indianapolis

Top Overall Seed: Green Bay Packers (North, 12-4)
No. 2: New Orleans Saints (South, 12-4)
No. 3: New York Giants (East, 11-5)
No. 4: Seattle Seahawks (West, 11-5)
Wild Cards: Atlanta Falcons (11-5), Minnesota Vikings (10-6, winning tiebreaker over 49ers and Redskins)

NFC Championship: Seattle beats New Orleans

Super Bowl (East Rutherford, N.J.): Seattle beats Denver

Feel free to leave your picks in the comments below, on Twitter at or on Facebook at