Saturday, June 28, 2014

Legend of Korra Book 3, Chapters 1-3 review

I think it's safe to say the ship has officially been righted.

Those were candidates for Korra's best episode right off the bat. They aren't, but there are only about 3 I'd put above and not by much.

Here are my ratings for the episodes:

A Breath of Fresh Air - 8.6/10
Rebirth - 9.0/10
The Earth Queen - 8.9/10

Here is a rough legend for how the scores are interpreted:

0- Completely failed. Nothing was accomplished the way it was meant to be.
1- Terrible. Maybe one sequence worked and it's really only worth watching if you REALLY want the full collection.
2- Same as a 1 except it provides some plot worth noting for future issues, or has something that redeems it.
3- Bad. No one would defend it, but fans of the character may enjoy it simply because it's their character.
4- Sub-par. Certain tastes may find it enjoyable, but it's not something anyone can just pick up and enjoy.
5- Average. Some will like, some won't. I'd advise researching first.
6- Decent. Fans of the character will rate it as good while casual readers would probably be turned off.
7- Solid. At the very least it's worth keeping up with what happened.
8- Worth seeing. Customers won't feel short-changed, it should be seen, but it won't be a fan-out glorious moment.
9- Must-see. Absolutely worth the price of admission. A satisfying watch all-around.
10- Must-own/Perfect episode. Belongs in a class all its own. I RARELY give something this mark. (Looking back on the MANY animated series I've watched over my life, I'd only say there are 19 or so candidates for this mark across six of the shows.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Legend of Korra Book 2, Chapters 11-14 reviews

Almost Korra time again! And I just realized a review of the final episodes never went up last year.

Not much time for text, so enjoy my thoughts on video!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #32, Batman Eternal #12 and Green Hornet #13

It's sad to see arcs and series I've followed for so long come to an end, but for Green Hornet, it's been long enough. For Batman Zero Year, I think it's time this story takes its place among the great Batman origin stories.

Green Hornet ended on a solid note and even had some of its best art for the series. Its biggest overall problem is the same problem much of the series had and that is that it tried to do so much that the story felt overly complex.

It felt like Mark Waid was trying to hit us with a couple more twists before dropping the mic, but none were super-unpredictable and by the end, I'm not sure I agree with the assessment that the Hornet should be continuing his career.

Maybe it was just my perspective, but I felt like this Hornet had been in a position where he needed to stop. I do like the idea that once he went in, he was in all the way, and it's a good sentiment that he's needed, but it didn't come together right for me.

Overall, it's good but not as good as it should have been. I'll give it a 7.8/10.

Batman's Zero Year arc was the strongest entry of anything this week and was just awesome from a writing, and art and a coloring standpoint.

Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and FCO have been owning it this story and they were in sync again this issue.

You can here my fan-gush in the video, so here I'll just go over why it isn't more than a 9.0/10. The first page was clearly a setup for a payout scene in the final issue. It wasn't bad but I didn't really see a reason why it had to be there now.

This book is also shorter than usual by a couple pages and the whole DC charging $4 for the book is hurting its value. And of course, this book is a cliffhanger. A setup issue cannot be outright perfect because it has to pay off in another issue.

All of that said, I love this Riddler and how competent he is. I love that Batman can make mistakes and not only acknowledge them, but recover from them and still have success.

I love the message to Alfred and I love the detail in the art. Nothing else to say really.

Batman Eternal is an afterthought after those two books, but it recovered nicely from a bad issue last week. Harper Row hacking Tim Drake was the highlight for sure and I laughed harder at that than anything this week.

That said, Tim proved kind of dumb by yelling across Wayne Manor later on. And I'm still not sure how to feel about the Red Hood-Batgirl team-up.

But what did work was the plot by Gotham police (the non-corrupt portion) to get control of the city back in the hands of real heroes. I like Gotham PD being competent so this was a treat.

Overall, the book got scored with an 8.0/10.

Comic Book Reviews: Batman '66 #12 and Cartoon Network Super Secret Crisis War #1

How did two books miss their hype SO badly?

Batman '66 I can understand. They hadn't pushed issue #12 as much and they were due for a weak issue. But the Cartoon Network crossover seemed content to rest on its laurels and not push itself.

None of the characters really felt in character besides Aku (I can't speak to Ben 10's characters as I never watched it) and they spent no time setting up the villains. They got one page after the plan was already in place.

Isn't it Crossover 101 that you give the moments the characters meet each other before you get into the plot?

Well apparently Cartoon Network is trying something new. And by new, I mean worse. The art was passable, but nothing special and a lot of characters looked slanted or thinned out.

To the positives, though, they knew to have the villains trash-talk each other (though they only used two villains' henchmen despite all of them having them at times) and the sheer spectacle of what was happening is a great accomplishment. Heck, they even made it so that Ed, Edd and Eddy didn't feel forced into the story.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the heroes bounce off each other, but only if the writer starts to hone in on the characters' speech patterns. I give this issue a 7.4/10.

As for Batman '66, the two stories had very similar plots and neither was done that well.

The art was only solid for one story, though the other had a great old costume callback dating to the movie serials.

(Does that make the movie serials canon with the show?)

In the video, I gave the book 7.3, but I'm thinking I overrated it.

My true score for it is going to be 6.9/10.

Here's hoping for better next month from both.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

March of the Ponies: Season 4, Episodes 24-26/Final Conclusions

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (MusicDoctor WhoovesFriendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series, Fanfictions), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 1, Season 2Season 3Magical Mystery CureSeason 4], Part 8 - Top Main CharactersTop Supporting Characters

As promised, I was going to give my thoughts on the season's final 3 episodes, and here you go!

Well, that's out of the way, let's talk final conclusions on the franchise and its fandom.

For all of my frustrations with a lot of the episodes, this actually was a fun trip. Once I got into the franchise's in-canon stuff I was actually really impressed with what I saw.

Additionally, the amount of fan works reminds me a lot of the Harry Potter and Airbender fandoms that I already work within. And they actually had really good premises for both characters in the show as well as in the background. Granted, I didn't enjoy many original characters, but they're fine in minor roles.

Yes, there is a LOT of crap in the fandom, and I can honestly say that when I saw a story with a description that had... less-than-family-friendly content... I cringed a little. What I find enjoyable about the show is that it doesn't need to go with R-rated material or 'shipping' in order to sell itself. It makes it on character interaction and psychology and succeeds with it much of the time.

That's not to say that all 'shipfics' are terrible. When kept innocent, I can handle one every once in a while, but they're definitely not what I see as the pinnacle of the world.

Now this theme-limiting I have does keep me from enjoying stories other people really like. Fallout: Equestria has a huge fanbase but I'm not hugely into it. I never cared for Fallout and trying to shoehorn its style into MLP borders on the absurd in a bad way.

Seriously, read this fic!
I much more prefer crossovers (The Third Generation), alternate universes where character interaction in over-the-top crazy situations are the norm (Doctor Whooves), emotional stories (My Little Dashie) or character/episode analyses (Her Own Pony).

And that reminds me: I LOVE the analysis community the show created. Tommy Oliver, Antony C, DigiBrony, MysteriousMrEnter, Silver-Quill, Fiery Joker/Firebrand, Voice of Reason, KP and AnYPony are all really solid at their jobs at reviewing the show from VERY different viewpoints. Additionally, I think the reaction videos from Soundspeed, CobaltSky7, SirFrogFinest and MrAwkwardReviewer are hilarious yet insightful.

Overall, I think what the fanbase likes (as do I) is that the show has a very "Superman" comic feel to it. It chooses to display the aspects of humanity that make the world great and shows what their strength is when at their best.

It does so with a mythology that (feels like it) has a rich history and gives people an ideal to shoot for. But it also makes it OK for the characters to fail, so its audience doesn't feel bad for not being able to always live up to the lessons.

This show is good for helping people get in tune with their emotions, and as long as the fanbase is looking to the show for that purpose, then by all means, go ahead and enjoy it.

Though I won't be a fully involved member of the fandom, if I see trades, from time to time I may give them a read and review them here, and I'll probably allow the show to join Arrow, Doctor Who and Korra as shows where I review the episodes (YouTube exclusive. Don't expect them here.). Who knows? Maybe my viewpoints will draw someone in the fandom to review the show (or get them into comics).

So if you want a final assessment, I say give it a look and try to see it from the perspective of a Superman comic fan. That's probably the viewpoint I'd advise if you want to come at it from an angle where you can understand the show's popularity. But it is a high-quality animated show and at least deserves an honest assessment.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Comic Book Reviews: Samurai Jack #9 and Batman Eternal #11

Just a heads-up, the last 8 minutes or so of the video review is me talking about future stuff to check out on this blog, so just know that.

Heads-up #2: While waiting for the video to upload, I discovered that Cartoon Network and IDW's Super Secret Crisis War crossover event starts next week. Yeah, I'm obviously going to give it a look. Be ready!

Anyway, what occurred this week was a rare anomaly, a story with great art and a limited plot teamed with a story with solid plot and terrible art.

Samurai Jack continues to be a tremendously solid title, scoring an 8.9/10 for this week's issue. In the video, I praise the great art and ambitious layouts.

It's main fault tends to be that it's the second straight issue with nothing but a fight sequence, and this one just feels like a less compelling fight compared to last month's. May just be my perspective, but it hurt the book for me.

Seriously, what's with the eye style here?
Batman Eternal continues to have a lot of positives: Stephanie Brown, spreading across all of the Batman universe, real emotion from Catwoman, Alfred getting a plot, Stephanie Brown.

However, it does have weaknesses. I feel like Alfred's storyline is a little easy to predict and I've never really seen the style of story being done with him done correctly.

That doesn't mean it can't be, but this crew will need to be on its 'A' game.

I also felt that Catwoman's scenes were poorly placed and didn't really connect. But the biggest hindrance for the issue was the artwork.

It's rare that art actively distracts me from enjoying a story, but this caused me to stop a few times. Maybe it was the weird way in which the eyes REALLY didn't work or the random smile on Jason Todd's mask, but I found myself really getting frustrated with this issue.

I gave it a 7.2/10. It's still a good story, but this was definitely the worst of the first 11 issues.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

FIFA World Cup picks

Yeah, there was no way I wasn't going to make picks before this started.

My actual thoughts on the groups and teams are in the actual video, but if you want a summary of my World Cup picks, below is the picks with no analysis.

Group A: Brazil wins, Croatia 2nd
Group B: Spain wins, Chile 2nd
Group C: Colombia wins, Ivory Coast 2nd
Group D: Italy wins, Uruguay 2nd
Group E: Ecuador wins, France 2nd
Group F: Argentina wins, Iran 2nd
Group G: Germany wins, USA 2nd
Group H: Belgium wins, South Korea 2nd

Round of 16: Brazil over Chile, Spain over Croatia, Uruguay over Colombia, Italy over Ivory Coast, Ecuador over Iran, Argentina over France, Germany over South Korea, Belgium over USA

Quarterfinals: Uruguay over Brazil, Spain over Italy, Germany over Ecuador, Argentina over Belgium

Semifinals: Uruguay over Germany, Spain over Argentina

3rd Place: Germany over Argentina

Final: Uruguay over Spain

Those are my picks, but what are yours? Leave them in the comments below or in my YouTube video's comments!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Comic Book Reviews: Batman Eternal #10, Detective Comics #32 and Superman/Wonder Woman #9

I think I've got my 300th blog topic already in place: Why do modern writers grasp Batman so much easier than Superman?

The Batman books seem to be more capable of crossovers because DC seems to have a good core of writers in the group who have a similar understanding of the character. Case in point: Batman Eternal is producing constantly strong issues despite having so many writers collaborating.

Issue #10 was another strong installment despite really just being more setup. There was a solid multi-layer kidnapping when Carmine Falcone traps Catwoman, only to be caught by a livid Professor Pyg.

There were a couple of laugh-worthy moments within Gotham's police force and between Bruce and the pair of Pennyworths in his mansion.

I have no complaints with the art besides Catwoman's jawline. There seems to be a set of artists that can't seem to draw any jaw shape besides square in action shots, and it is a little distracting.

Nonetheless, it's becoming clear in this story that there's a bigger villain at play than simply The Roman, so let the speculation begin!

As for the issue itself, it's a "Solid B+." (Get it, WWE fans?) 8.7/10

By contrast, Superman's crossover event is suffering from different writers approaching the plot way too differently and having two distinct ways of showing Clark's thought processes.

It's actually the biggest frustration with the story. I don't feel like I'm reading the same Supes from one part to the next.

My second biggest frustration is the random shoehorning of the Red Lantern Corps into this story. If this is how Supergirl is getting a tie-in, count me out for that entry.

The art is standard Tony S. Daniel awesomeness, but it's constantly being undercut by Superman's random head convo with Doomsday and Wonder Woman somehow feeling less active in this story than in Action Comics.

It's decent enough, though, and I give it a 6.8/10 if you want to judge for yourself.

As for Detective, it's the strongest entry of the bunch.

I love what I'm getting from Det. Harvey Bullock in terms of characterization and the idea of giving him a solid two-page spread of his apartment was a nice touch.

Batman's conversation with the murder victim's daughter was also a good way to show the softer side of the Dark Knight, and it served as a nice contrast for when Batman electrocuted an octopus in an aquarium to catch some henchman. (Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds.)

My only gripe with this story is that the villains so far feel really off. When I look at the gorgeous watercolor art that seems to be coming into its own now, these are not the villains I would picture. That said, they're at least funny and that's a plus.

It's a definite must-buy and it gets a 9.2/10 from me.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Voyage through the Doctors: A Look at the First Doctor's episodes

Where else can you begin with Doctor Who than with William Hartnell?

The man who originally played The Doctor for slightly more than three full seasons laid the basic foundation for what kind of character The Doctor was going to be.

And lucky for the current fan base, he nailed it.

The Doctor created by Hartnell was able to have fun and had a sense of humor, but it was only visible after time was spent with him. When first meeting him, Hartnell's character could be seen as short-tempered, cantankerous and intolerant of B.S.

And it made him awesome. I love how this Doctor took no flack from people and made certain people understood he knew what he was doing. If he was vague, it was because he felt time would only be wasted trying to explain the concepts and engaging in what he saw as a useless debate.

He was not a fan of direct interference but knew when he had to get involved. He didn't take human rights violations well and called people out on their issues, but in most cases not until he had a full strategy planned out from start to finish.

I seriously enjoyed how much of a groove Hartnell got into with this character as the series went.

As for the season itself, one major detraction was slow action. There was not a great level of stage direction and people would just have long, drawn-out conversations that were continuously interrupted by walking and bouts of silence.

That said, when action sequences came (usually at the end of the arcs), they were great, if not way too short. The lone true exception what "The Myth Makers" where the fight lasted a nearly a full episode.

Black-and-white were a big help to the show in this early stage, as the costumes and effects definitely felt more intimidating when the over-the-top color schemes weren't visible. It also gave the show some much-needed sophistication in the early stages.

The last thing I want to note is the theme song. I've heard all the themes before and it's hard for me to say any has beaten the original mix. It's just a perfect build of tension and I think the cleanness of it really adds to its mystery and intrigue. Just my opinion, though.

Anyway, here are my top companions of the First Doctor. Keep scrolling if you don't want to see the video reviews of the companions:

RankingCompanion (First Story-Last with First Doctor)
10Sara Kingdom (Daleks Master Plan)
9Katarina (Myth Makers-Daleks Master Plan)
8Dodo Chaplet (Massacre of St. Bart's Eve-War Machines)
7Polly (War Machines-Tenth Planet)
6Steven Taylor (Chase-Savages)
5Ben Jackson (War Machines-Tenth Planet)
4Susan Foreman (Unearthly Child-Dalek Invasion of Earth)
3Barbara Wright (Unearthly Child-Chase)
2Ian Chesterton (Unearthly Child-Chase)
1Vicki (Rescue-Myth Makers)

Honestly, I enjoyed all these characters in at least one storyline, so kudos to the crew for making really strong characters that all had moments of awesomeness at one point or another.

Vicki is easily my favorite as I feel like she provided the excellent support and had solid, natural dialogue with The Doctor. To me, she is Susan done right.

Susan really should have been more interesting than she was, and I'm holding out hope that they find a way to work her back into stories.

Ian Chesterton was the obvious top male companion. He had some of the best action sequences and was capable of being of use in the science department.

Anyway, if you want more information on what I think about the companions, check out the video. Anyway, time to talk about the stories themselves.

For my full rankings of the serials, check out the video above. But here are my top 3 and bottom 3 arcs:

Top 3 (in order): Space Museum, Sensorites, Tenth Planet
Bottom 3 (worst first): Keys of Marinus, Gunfighters, Planet of Giants
Top 5 individual episodes: The Space Museum (Space Museum Part 1), The Dead Planet (Daleks Part 1), Tenth Planet Part 4, An Unearthly Child (Unearthly Child Part 1), Horse of Destruction (Myth Makers Part 4)

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Comic Book Reviews: Batman Eternal #9 and Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet #1

Batman Eternal has been doing a better job of Batman-based detective work than every other title on the market. This issue stars Batman going to Hong Kong to get more information on Carmine Falcone.

The B story features 'The Roman' and his new commissioner looking to take out Catwoman. He has a grudge with Catwoman to settle (which incredibly ties back to the Catwoman Zero Year issue. Kudos to John Layman for setting the groundwork so far in advance!)

Catwoman feels like she's being written more in-character here than at any point in the New 52, and I'm having fun with it. I am still fascinated to see how she ends up where she was during that sneak peek issue in Batman #28.

Though I will admit, it was a little surprising to see Catwoman be so arrogant as to just be waltzing into vaults without more of a scouting job, but it's a nitpick in the grand scheme of the story.

Back to the A story, Batman teams up with his Japanese counterpart, who has also come to Hong Kong to help with the gang war. I honestly wish that Cassandra Cain hadn't been wiped from continuity because this would have been a golden opportunity to see her again, but what's there is good.

My biggest issue is that the resolution to why The Roman left was pretty freaking obvious, though it does leave an interesting implication that we'll be seeing Yakuza and Triad members in Gotham. I'm also interested in whatever prospects were presented to Falcone and how it ties into the mind-controlling nanobots and supernatural weirdness going on with Joker's Daughter (mostly because I have yet to make sense of those creative decisions).

As for the art, it's not out-of-this-world but it's solid enough, and it gets points for not going cheesecake on the female characters, which reminds me, the character reveal at the end was an unexpected twist, but I honestly don't know how OK I am with the character yet. She seems to be a cool addition, but I've only had one scene with her conscious to make a judgement.

Overall, the issue is an 8.8/10. I think it could have been stronger but it's good for what it is.

Now to the book I've been eagerly anticipating. If you know this blog, you know I'm a big fan of the 60s Batman and Green Hornet. I watched both shows as a kid and have read each of their comics since they each debuted around a year ago.

This is the first crossover joint-produced by DC and Dynamite Comics and they go all out. Kevin Smith was a great pick for this storyline and he immediately captures the feel of both sets of characters.

Their first crossover on TV was fascinating because the two shows had such drastically different tones, but it was made to work and work well. This one appears to follow in the same vein, making Britt Reid and Kato wise-crackers but ultimately serious, while Bruce and Dick remain their campy 60s selves.

The manner in which they upgrade General Gumm was not as grotesque as advertised, but I certainly won't complain about that. This is exactly the kind of wild villain scheme you'd expect from a 60s villain who suddenly wasn't bound by TV budgeting.

Bruce and Britt's interactions were great as they tried to impress the other, and I laughed at seeing Bruce actually look a little flustered.

The biggest disappointment was the missed opportunity at showing more of Dick Grayson's date. I know it's not something the show would do, but I feel like there could have been some real humor if one more page was dedicated to it. It probably would have been more welcome than the dialogue between Gordon and O'Hara, though I'm not angry I got that fun piece of back-and-forth.

Probably the highlights of the book were the opening scene at Wayne Manor (where Bruce and Dick were spot-on perfectly written) and the closing scene reminiscent of the old-school Batman cliffhangers. I really hope we get a "Same Bat-time, Same Bat-channel" reference before this is all said and done.

Overall, it's a 9.6/10. This is going to be hard to beat for Book of the Month and it's a clinic on how to debut a series. I'm looking forward to buying this over the next 5 months. If you want to read it early, grab it in multiple parts online, but if you want to save a little and get a great comic to flip through, wait for it to be printed as a full comic each month.

Comic Book Reviews: Action Comics #32 and Green Arrow #32

While the Batman universe seems to be nailing its crossover events, Superman's has been struggling to find its footing. Superman: Doomed feels like it tried to tie into all the Superman titles' active storylines regardless of if they made any sense together.

I think the first month of this crossover can be seen as a critique of the Superman group editor's job in keeping things coherent. Or it could just be seen as the group leaving the Lobdell era behind and transitioning to a new, stronger one.

The good news is that Action Comics seems to move a step in the right direction. The story went back to going into Superman's head and saw what his thoughts were during all this. His struggle felt more real for the process.

Additionally, it finally set up the roles for the supporting female characters. Lana Lang appears to be set to solve how to fix Superman; Wonder Woman is going to be the most powerful person in the world, which means we'll get Wondy vs. SuperDoom at some point; and Lois Lane is going to be written out of character and make no real sense.

Seriously, was this a plotline of Scott Lobdell they're stuck with? Someone please explain to me what is the deal with Lois' character! I feel like it makes sense to someone but having only read Unchained and Action, I'm at a loss.

This issue has a backup artist, but he matches Aaron Kuder well. And the coloring hasn't changed, so the issue felt as strong art-wise as ever.

Overall, I grant the issue 7.8/10. It's a good issue, but took a lot of time in simply repairing the story. It's a necessary issue, to be sure, but being worth $4? Hard to justify.

Meanwhile Andrea Sorrentino was the star of Green Arrow #32. Jeff Lemire may have crafted a great story, but that art is what's going to stick with me.

She took her spreads to a whole new level this month with a pair of flashback sequences that were done in this style that reminded me of a 1970s spy film. To say the least, it was impressive.

That's not to take away from her more normal pages, which are still very gritty and grounded. She did a nice job of varying the number of panels as well, and the final full-page spread was a great reveal.

As for the story itself, it's a little bit of an afterthought and much of it is told in flashback, but it's all great stuff that I'm sure will pay off later in the arc. I like Richard Dragon's backstory and the prospect of his trainers moving into the Arrow-verse.

I also thought the Red Dart was a cool villain and I hope they do more with her later on. And Diggle is awesome as always.

The biggest downfall is that the story is all setup and very little really happens outside of a couple twists near the end of the book. As such it's an important issue to pick up, but it's probably the least ambitious.

As far as a rating goes, it's a 9/10. It's still a must-buy if only for the brilliant artwork, but I firmly expect this to be the weakest issue of this arc when all is said and done.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #31 and Superman #31

Batman's Zero Year storyline and Superman: Doomed are both approaching their ends, but only one seems to be heading in a proper direction.

Zero Year continued its run of awesome issues with its third-to-last installment. I gave it a 9.0/10, but you don't have to take my word for it.

Actually, you do, but as a quick aside, if you can donate to the new Reading Rainbow kickstarter, please do so. It's a great cause.

Anyway, Superman... this issue was weak. It was absolutely the worst of the crossover so far. I gave it a 4.8/10. All my issues with it are in the video above.

Since this was so delayed, expect a rush of comic reviews over the next few days. I've got five books coming this week (assuming Green Hornet concludes) so be ready.