Teen Titans: Earth One by Lemire and Dodson – A Book Review

Jeff Lemire is always hit or miss with me, but when I saw that Teen Titans: Earth One received positive criticism and when I found it at my local library, I had to give it a shot.

I’m glad I did.

The Earth One concept is an interesting one at DC Comics.  They’ve had success with both Superman and Batman under the Earth One banner, and the idea is basically that these heroes are debuting in modern times in the world we live.  The biggest advantage is that they are completely free of any previous baggage.  Anything goes with the Earth One titles, but honestly, Superman and Batman remained largely unchanged and didn’t take enough risks.

Teen Titans, on the other hand, made a very large break from their original incarnations, and, in my opinion, it’s a positive one.

Lemire has a very good handle on Starfire, Changeling, Cyborg, Raven, Jericho, and Terra.  The plot is that Starfire has been held captive since her arrival as a baby on Earth.  Scientists used her DNA to run experiments, and those experiments resulted in a certain group of teenagers developing amazing abilities that are largely beyond control.  Raven looks on from afar at her Navajo reservation, connected to the group for reasons we don’t fully understand, but always prepared to intervene when necessary.

This book is definitely a case of familiar names in very different situations.  In my open, Lemire has done a fantastic job of keeping these characters’ essence the same while remaining unpredictable.  In an industry that sometimes becomes stifled by its own intricate serialization, Teen Titans finds a way to be fresh and exciting.

Terry Dodson, as always, creates fluid, beautiful images that rocket the story forward.  His perspectives and layouts are always masterful.  It’s a fun book to read, but it’s even more fun to view.

Near the end of the book we are introduced to a favorite Teen Titan and the groundwork is laid for even more to appear in the future.  Teen Titans: Earth One is a satisfying origin story, and it certainly leaves the door wide open for a sequel.

Traditional Teen Titan fans will find this unusual angle interesting, and the casual fan will have no trouble getting to know these characters and joining in the adventure.  I look forward to seeing where Lemire and Dodson go next.

Wytches by Snyder and Jock – A Book Review

The hype for this book may have set it up to disappoint.  After all, MTV News called it, “The most terrifying comic you’ve ever read” and USA Today said, “Dark and brutal, Wytches are like nothing horror fans have ever seen.”

I’m a Scott Snyder fan.  I enjoy his work on Batman, love American Vampire, and hold his short story collection, Voodoo Heart, in the highest regard (seriously – read it).  But, to be frank, the blurbs on the Wytches back cover exercised such hyperbole that it created impossible expectations.

Is this a good book?  Yeah, it’s okay.  To be honest, it’s not great, nor is it the scariest thing I’ve ever read.  Personally, I didn’t even find it all that original.  For me, the best part were Snyder’s notes at the end explaining the idea’s origination.

The idea is that Wytches are a primal force of nature, inexplicably advanced horrors that wear no clothes and incessantly click their teeth.  They live underground, eat people, and come out through trees.  People can sacrifice other people to gain power from these monsters, though it’s never remotely explained how or by what means this “advanced” technology unfolds.  In the end, this story is about a troubled teenager hunted by these creatures and her troubled father’s attempts to save her.

I generally love Jock’s artwork.  Though his angles and layouts are not groundbreaking, they are always pleasing to the eye, dynamic, and they progress the story well from panel to panel, page to page.

Matt Hollingsworth’s colors were a controversial aspect of the book for me.  On the one hand, I’ve never seen coloring like his.  At the core of each panel, you have traditional coloring.  However, each panel or complete page is overlaid with splotches of colors.  I can only describe it as sort of a “trippy” lens flare.  I love the concept, the daring, and the originality of this method, but I can’t say I love its practical application.  It proved really distracting from the overall tone and story.

I appreciate Image Comics because the publisher is willing to try out titles like Wytches, and I hope they continue to do so.  And, had I not read the overzealous blurbs before reading the book, I could have formulated a different opinion.  As it stands, though, Wytches is an entertaining read that, for me, did not live up to its hype.

Ant-Man: A Movie Review

I’ve got to be honest, I think Ant-Man may have more heart than any other Marvel movie to date.  It touts itself as a heist movie, and it is, but this movie is mostly about fathers and daughters.  You’ve all seen the trailers by now – Scott Lang is recruited by Hank Pym to be the new Ant-Man.  Lang is a recently released master burglar, and he wants nothing more than to reconnect with his young daughter.  Hank Pym has a daughter, Hope, in her mid-thirties, who wants to don the Ant-Man suit, but Pym can’t bring himself to put her in harm’s way due to a tragedy in the past. With Hank’s secret Pym Particles about to be outed, both men must look deep within to save the world from chaos.

Ant-Man found a perfect balance of comedy and action.  I wouldn’t call it a comedy, yet I found myself chuckling, even laughing, throughout.  There is action galore, and the special effects are mesmerizing, especially when Ant-Man enters the world of miniature.  Yet, for me, the best parts of the movie arrived when Michael Douglas (Pym) finally revealed the fate of Evangeline Lilly’s (Hope) mother.  Also, every time Paul Rudd (Lang) interacted with this daughter, it just brought a smile to my face.  These well-acted, subtle, emotionally authentic moments don’t happen often in Marvel movies, and they were played perfectly.

Rudd is that kind of actor who can make any character likable, so I thought he was perfect for Scott Lang.  And Michael Douglas, man, I forgot what a great actor he is.  There’s no doubt that this would not have been the same movie without him.  He definitely brought a gravitas to Hank Pym that was very much needed.  Don’t get me wrong, he had some great one-liners as well!  Lilly also found the sweet spot of her dynamic with both Douglas and Rudd.  These three brought real emotional depth and fun to a movie that could have become all spectacle.  I won’t spoil anything, but I’m particularly excited to see where Lilly goes in the Marvel movie universe from here.

And Lang’s crew, led by Michael Pena, killed it.  Pena was an absolute riot.  He stole every scene he entered.  He’s been getting a lot of accolades for his acting in this movie, and he deserves all of it.

Truthfully, when I heard they were making Ant-Man, I cringed.  But then I heard Edgar Wright would direct, and I saw infinite possibilities.  But then Wright left, and I, like everyone else, figured Ant-Man would sink.  I’m here to tell you, director Peyton Reed took the existing script and nailed it.  This movie exceeded my expectations in every way.

Because of the fun, the father-daughter dynamics, the comedy, the special effects, the action, and the acting, I have to consider Ant-Man one of my favorite Marvel movies thus far.

Dr. Nekros Is Dying For Your Readership

Between 2011 and 2014, I published a bi-monthly electronic serial exclusive to the Kindle called Dr. Nekros.  I’m dead serious when I say he came to me in a dream and wouldn’t rest until I wrote his tale.  I won’t lie, I started the serial without really knowing where it would lead.  I had the first six episodes figured out, but the last twelve were an utter mystery.

During a horrendous bout with the stomach flu, his story’s end came to me.  Honestly, it’s an ending I didn’t ever expect, but it fits perfectly to both Dr. Nekros and his ample cast of characters.

Frankly, this serial is one of those rare moments when I felt as though I merely acted as the conduit.  These characters were in complete control.

Though Dr. Nekros dances in the world of the occult, it primarily occurs in the world we know and features very real people.  There are husbands and wives, mothers and sons, uncles, aunts, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and friends only death could separate.

They deserve your readership.  They want you to experience their plight.  They will make you laugh, they will frighten you, they will make you despair, and they will reaffirm your faith in hope.

If you have a Kindle, you can download all 18 episodes now.  Don’t have a Kindle?  The App is free for your computer or mobile device.  Find all the episodes HERE.

Thanks so much for your time.  I hope you enjoy reading Dr. Nekros as much as I enjoyed writing it.

CoverMashUp

My Opinion Regarding Go Set a Watchman (Having Not Yet Read It)

I’m excited there is so much conversation happening lately regarding literature.  When Go Set a Watchman finally released the other day, my social feed went nuts.  In fact, just in the last two days, I’ve had at least three separate conversations about the novel.  I love books and I love reading, so these are glorious moments for me.  I don’t remember this much anticipation and excitement about a book since the last Harry Potter installment.

I’ve also noticed some professional literary critics already claiming the book is not great, and there seems to be some disappointment among people about these negative reviews.

But honestly, did anyone expect the book to be great?  Now, please do keep in mind I haven’t yet read the book, but the book’s promotion clearly communicated that this novel is essentially comprised of those parts of To Kill a Mockingbird that didn’t make the final cut.

We probably shouldn’t expect too much from Go Set a Watchman due to this fact.  Instead, I think we should be celebrating the author herself.  I don’t believe any of us thought Harper Lee would ever release another book, so this moment is a grand one due to that fact alone.  Why is Lee now deciding to publish Go Set a Watchman when she hasn’t published anything (by name) in several decades?  Was it actually lost to time as they claim?  Honestly … who cares?  Harper Lee is aging, and I personally believe we should simply be happy to have one more work from this author – an author for whom virtually every American student is familiar.  We will have a blast comparing and contrasting her two novels, written together but published lifetimes apart.  How cool is that?  I’m so happy Lee decided to share one more work with us.

Will I read Go Set a Watchman?  Of course!  But not for a few months.  I want the hype to die down.  I want the critics to have their say and then move on to something else.  I want to pick up the book and read it for what it is – the work of a very young author released very late in life.

DC Movies, String Theory, Parallel Worlds, and You

Ezra Miller confirmed on MTV News that he will indeed play Barry Allen and The Flash in 2018’s film.  This troubles some because the CW already has a very successful, much loved television show of the same name starring the same character played by Grant Gustin.

Of course, if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll realize that television already has versions Deadshot, Katana, Amanda Waller, Alfred, Bruce Wayne, and Jim Gordon (to name only a few), and all of these characters are due to appear in film within the next few years.  Furthermore, the upcoming Supergirl TV show is said to have a brief appearance by Superman himself!

But do not fret.  DC Comics publishes these characters – Superman since 1938 and Batman since 1939 – and parallel worlds featuring characters of the same name is all part of the lore.  In fact, at present, I believe there are 52 distinct worlds within the “DC Universe.”  Most of these worlds have some kind of a Superman, some kind of a Wonder Woman, and some kind of a Batman, but they may not necessarily be the mainstream characters for whom you are familiar.

Of course, as a kid in the early 1980s, this sort of thing sent my imagination into overdrive.  Seeing two men named Flash from different worlds teaming up … man, it influences me even to this day.  Little did I realize back then that the comic books were making use of String Theory and ideas concerning parallel dimensions.  As is so often the case, science fiction leads the way in those things that will one day be considered conventional.

I’m personally heartened to hear Ezra Miller say that they are not shying away from this bastion of the DCU – it even sounds as though they are embracing it.  To love DC is to love the fact that you are allowed to have Christian Bale, Adam West, Michael Keaton, and Ben Affleck all  inhabiting a world where they are the one, true Batman.  Christopher Reeve will always be Superman on his world, just as Henry Cavill can be Superman on his.  The TV show Gotham can exist in its own reality, just as CW’s The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow do, and it can be distinct from Batman v Superman’s Gotham City.

I believe the viewing audience is astute enough to accept these different planes of reality concerning these beloved characters.  Why should we hinder ourselves to only “one” version of a character when multiple actors and productions can do that character justice in different, distinct ways?

East of West: Volume 4 by Hickman and Dragotta – A Book Review

East of West continues to be one of my favorite series.  In this fourth volume, HIckman and Dragotta continue to expand their complex world, even going so far as providing maps and timelines.  This series is a little bit western, a little bit alternate history, a little bit science fiction, a little bit near-apocalyptic dystopia, a little bit social, political, and religious commentary, and a whole lot of action.

The United States is not united in this story.  The South, Texas, the Native Americans, and the Chinese all have a territory and do not get along. In fact, all-out war festers due to political and religious conflict.  To complicate matters, Death rides the plain, separated from his Horsemen because they want to destroy one of the only things he cares about – his son.

Each volume reveals new depths of story, and characters become more and more complex as the series progresses.  Though there is a multitude of characters, each is given a moment to shine, and each is fascinating.

The artwork is surprisingly simple, yet always dynamic.  Each character has a distinct body language and “look.”  Death, in particular, always jumps off the page.  The action flows from panel to panel, yet their is also a nuance to the scenes.  You’ll find little details in the most unexpected places.

This is a must-read series.