Category: Superheroes


magnificent-seven-banner-2016

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s almost more useful to critique the critics than the new movie The Magnificent Seven, released in theaters this weekend.  You’ll find the whole lot so predictable.  The Magnificent Seven is a reboot or a remake (call it what you want) and so the best that critics are willing to do is provide the phoned-in, knee-jerk dismissal of it being something less than the original and therefore not worth the time it takes them to write a thoughtful review.  Or they will compare it to the best Westerns of all time, and tell you why it falls short.  The better reviews will point out that it’s a remake of the 1960 classic Western starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.  The smarter ones will remind you that even that version was based on the original Japanese version, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.  Paycheck earned.  Existence justified.  But that’s all too easy.

Yes, the original 1960 John Sturges version is both a great Western and quite fun (it’s on my top ten list).  The darker original Japanese film is more dramatic, brilliant in its simplicity, and not so much a rousing popcorn movie.  Is the 2016 remake among the best Westerns of all time?  Maybe not.  But is it a good Western?  Absolutely.  Do we always want to see the best picture nominee when we go to the theater?  I don’t.  I want to have fun.  And The Magnificent Seven is a blast.  In fact, critics are looking at it wrong.  It’s actually the year’s best superhero movie.

I understand the modern film critic’s dilemma, especially when Hollywood seems to have lost its imagination, churning out remake after remake.  It’s the same old song:  If you were a fan of–or better yet–love the original, you’re more likely than not to brush off the remake altogether, or at least not give it the attention it deserves.  Those who never saw the original or those who can view a remake as its own incarnation–those who can tell themselves their feelings for the remake will not “ruin” their feelings about the original–probably enjoyed the Star Trek reboot from 2009, or Always, or Assault on Precinct 13, or The Flight of the Phoenix, The Fog, The Jackal, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Money Pit, Ocean’s Eleven, RoboCop, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, or Walking Tall.  Each of these, viewed on their own merits is a great film.  They may even be good remakes.  Those who avoid The Magnificent Seven are missing out on a fun outing.  And a good remake.

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Today’s ensemble movie is mostly found in the superhero genre.  Stack up The Magnificent Seven against The Avengers, The Avengers 2, or Captain America: Civil War, or any DC Comics superhero film of the past 20 years, and it leaves them all in its dust in its success in introducing a team, getting them to work together, and MacGyver the situation into some giant climactic battles.  Each of the titular seven stars of the movie have their own extraordinary abilities, they just don’t wear capes.  It’s an ensemble piece.  A superhero team-up.  So why don’t we have a casting Oscar?  The three casting directors knew what they were doing–they created the teams for Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Sin City, and Star Wars Episode VIII.

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suicide-squad-figures

A new line of Suicide Squad action figures from the Funko ReAction line is coming soon from the toy line that has provided fans of the 1970s Kenner action figures everything from Jaws to Gremlins and Alien, from Big Trouble in Little China to Back to the Future and Terminator, and from The Nightmare Before Christmas to CW’s Arrow.  Check here at borg.com for a look back to many of Funko’s variety of licenses.

Unlike Funko’s more popular bobblehead Pop! line of toys, these 3 3/4-inch figures, which have added articulation at elbows and knees to the classic format, can be played with in conjunction with countless other toy lines from the past 40 years.  But mainly this means the many ships and environment toys from the classic Star Wars toys from Kenner.  Want to see Harley Quinn rescue the Joker on the bridge of the Death Star?  Want to see Batman take out Greedo in the Cantina at Mos Eisley?  This new collection of figures can help you make it happen.

suicide-squad-action-figure-batman-underwater-funko-reaction-ben-affleck    suicide-squad-joker-action-figure-reaction-funko

Entertainment Earth has scooped Funko’s own corporate online catalog, posting for sale seven of what may be an even wider collection of characters from the movie.  These are available now for pre-order.  The first release will feature Harley Quinn, The Joker, Katana, Enchantress, Dead Shot, and Killer Croc–plus a Batman figure.  We don’t know yet whether we’ll see Funko release figures for El Diablo, Amanda Waller, Captain Boomerang, Rick Flag, or Slipknot.

Click on any of the individual images above and below to see more detail on these figures and get your pre-order in at Entertainment Earth.

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art-of-jock-book-cover

One of the standout artists of the past 20 years, British artist Jock’s work has appeared on comic book covers and movie posters, and his concept art has provided the vision behind the look of movies like Dredd, Ex Machina, Battleship, and in the works is next year’s Star Wars: Episode VIII.  A new high-quality hardcover from Insight Editions available this month is showcasing some of his best images.  The Art of Jock establishes a new standard for photographic reproductions, with some of the very best color and crisp detail found in any recent coffee table edition we’ve reviewed.  It features hundreds of illustrations from a creator really only at the early stages of his career.

Born in Scotland as Mark Simpson, Jock broke into comics with the British sci-fi comic book 2000 A.D., and today is an internationally-recognized artist and Eisner Award nominee.  We’ve seen his work in DC Comics series like Green Arrow and Batman, in Marvel series like Savage Wolverine and Daredevil, in the Image series Wytches, and in Vertigo series Scalped and Losers.  Highlights of early sketches and final versions of his work on these series can be found in this book in large, full color pages.  Fans of Jock will love the many original comic book covers and interior art included.

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The Art of Jock was written by DC Comics editor Will Dennis, with commentary by Battleship director Peter Berg, and DC Comics’ Jim Lee and Scott Snyder.  But the most valuable insight is provided by the artist himself.  Jock recounts his process and critiques his own work, comparing his style between phases of his own development.

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i-am-jane-goodall

Do you remember your first book?  Was it Grover and the Monster at the End of This Book?  Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore’s Birthday?  A Child’s Garden of Verses?  De Angeli’s Book of Nursery & Mother Goose Rhymes?  The Pokey Little Puppy?  Milton the Early Riser?  Horton Hears a Who?  The Little Golden Book of Manners?  The Five Chinese Brothers?  The Ugly Duckling?  Curious George Goes to the Hospital?  I remember all of these (all recommended), but am not sure which was my very first.  A Child’s Garden of Verses was my first exposure to 3D via its magical lenticular cover.  I’ve read them all years later and they have much in common–compassion and respect for others and yourself is a common theme of them all.

Throughout the past year Brad Meltzer, noted fiction and non-fiction author and television personality (and DC Comics writer for the Identity Crisis and Green Arrow series) joined former Marvel Comics artist Christopher Eliopoulos to produce the Ordinary People Change the World series of books for young readers from Dial/Penguin/Random House.  Each of these could–or should–be your child, your nephew, niece, grandchild, or other young friend’s first book.  The latest, released this month, feature Dr. Jane Goodall and President George Washington.  As the holidays get closer, make a note of I Am Jane Goodall.   It’s a storybook written in an autobiographical style incorporating actual quotes from the noted scientist, environmentalist, and animal rights advocate, and belongs at the top of our recommendation list for today’s young readers.

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Meltzer and Dr. Goodall have gone back to young Goodall’s decisions and thinking as a child to relate to readers her influences, desires, and dreams, and how she went about carving a path to change the world.  Eliopoulos draws Dr. Goodall as an adorable girl throughout.  We meet her first stuffed chimp named Jubilee, and witness her thinking about moving to Africa to study chimpanzees at a young age, then actually saving the money to go to Kenya at 23 to visit the animals, meet Dr. Louis Leakey and eventually work for him, then to go on and live among the animals and learn more about communication and primates than anyone before her.  The story is sweet, inspiring, and beautifully written and drawn.

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skybourne001covbaltimore-600x910    skybourne001covmidtown-600x923

It’s a useful story tool when used right: The historical talisman presented to a modern character who uses the power of that talisman to do harm or save the world.  We’ve seen it throughout The Librarian, Warehouse 13, Ray Bradbury Theater, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Highlander, Witchblade, Wynonna Earp, The Shannara Chronicles–it’s everywhere, and it’s timeless.  Frank Cho uses the same method to drive the story forward in his new five-issue, creator-owned, limited monthly series Skybourne.

Released this month from BOOM! Studios, Skybourne has what every comic book reader could want–Cho created the covers, the interior art, and scripted the story for a brand new action heroine.  The title character Grace Skybourne has been compared to James Bond–she has Daniel Craig’s Bond’s lightning reflexes and ability to level a room with her little finger.  And she’s an agent every woman wants to be and every man wants to be with.  So the Bond comparison rings true.  Cho used covers originally intended for DC Comics’s Wonder Woman series for this series, and it may very well be true that Grace Skybourne–and Cho’s series–is the Wonder Woman series we all wish he’d write.

grace-skybourne-frank-cho

In Issue #1 we meet Grace Skybourne and witness her abilities firsthand as she eliminates one baddie Terminator style and gracefully slips through a cover-to-cover fight scene straight out of John Carpenter’s They Live.  And because this is a Frank Cho project–being tough doesn’t mean she can’t be gorgeous and feminine along the way.  She’s searching for the story’s MacGuffin: King Arthur’s sword Excalibur.  Be prepared for some surprises.  Most of her foes take her for granted, but not all.  Cho’s choreography of combat and layouts are clean, simple, and as superb as you’d expect.  And his humor is back as well.  Color work is nicely rendered by Marcio Menyz. Continue reading

gotham-court-of-owls

When we last saw Gotham, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) was returning to the series to lead a group of denizens from Indian Hill, a motley band of “enhanced” people created by Dr. Hugo Strange (BD Wong).  Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), no longer with the police force, is still working with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), but he’s now in bounty hunter mode, investigating the Court of Owls.

Gotham dials up more villainy in Season 3, beginning next week, with The Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel), Poison Ivy (Maggie Geha taking over from the younger Clare Foley), Calendar Man from The Long Halloween, a Bruce Wayne doppelganger (David Mazouz), and more of Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) and his rise in power, Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and his downward spiral, Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), Barbera Kean (Erin Richards), and Fish Mooney.  Morena Baccarin is also back as Gordon’s girlfriend Dr. Leslie Thompkins, along with Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth and Michael Chiklis as Nathaniel Barnes.

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Check out these previews for Season 3 of Gotham:

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Max Steel

Not to be confused with Steel starring Shaquille O’Neil or Real Steel starring Hugh Jackman, Max Steel is a new “coming of age, family, superhero” movie due in theaters next month.  In a world of big budget superhero movies based on 75-year-old characters like Superman and Batman, how can a relatively unknown superhero compete?

With a new trailer that plays a bit like *batteries not included or Explorers, there may yet be room for a Max Steel.  Is there a young audience being missed by the violence and language of movies like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Deadpool?  Maybe a film for kids with a plot less complicated than Captain America: Civil War?  Or a movie for audiences looking for the next Sky High?

Max Steel is the combination of angsty teenager Max (not Mark) McGrath and Steel–a smart-alecky alien tech robot drone.  Does “organic armor” make Max Steel a new cyborg?  A plus for the character is its source in Mattel’s large-sized action figure line based on the format and marketing of the original, classic 12-inch G.I. Joe action figures, as well as an animated series.  Will that draw in viewers?  Max Steel apparently has a large following in Latin America: While Mattel’s Big Jim 12-inch action figure series died out in the U.S. in before the 1980s, it was thriving there.  Original Max Steel figures wore Big Jim clothes and were packaged with the same accessories.  In the 1970s Big Jim was sold in Latin American countries as Kid Acero, or “Kid Steel”.

Max Steel figure

Will Max Steel usher in the eagerly awaited return of Hasbro’s Mike Power, the Atomic Man?  That would be a fun blast from the past.

Check out this trailer for Mattel’s theatrical release of Max Steel:

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KCCC 2016 Mystique and Beast    KCCC 2016 Predators and Liv Moore

The third day of Kansas City Comic Con wrapped with attendees making last-minute purchases, obtaining remaining autographs and photos with celebrities and cosplayers, and picking up sketches and comic books from the hundreds of creators on site throughout the weekend.  No doubt the weekend was a success for vendors, and visitors had a great time.

And as promised yesterday, we have more photos from the weekend.

It wouldn’t be a Kansas City Con without a merry duo of those Nausicaan cousins, the Predators.  As with prior years Elizabeth C. Bunce (above) hunted them down, this time as iZombie’s Liv Moore (seriously, this keeps happening–check this out).

What makes for great cosplay?  Surprises.  Characters that are classic or iconic that you’ve never seen before are a real treat.  Like this spot-on Beetlejuice cosplay–Wynona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz:

KCCC 2016 Beetlejuice and Liv Moore cosplay    KCCC 2016 Joker and Liv Moore cosplay

Superb!  And while we’re in 1980s mode, wait ’til you get a load of this:  We spotted the very best Joker cosplay we’d ever seen, Jack Nicholson’s Joker from the 1989 Batman movie (above).

The rest of the cosplay we singled out mainly followed the superhero genre.  Like the dynamic indigo X-Men duo pictured under the headline above.  We’ve seen Mystiques before but this was the best constructed outfit and Beast’s make-up was excellent.

We saw two great Wonder Woman outfits, first from the new movies and then a classic comic book variant:

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Uhura Nichols    EP5_KEY_266_R-store

This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday thousands of sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero fans will converge on Kansas City as Kansas City Comic Con returns to the Bartle Hall.  The show again has booked the very best comic book and fiction writers and artists in the U.S. as well as some great movie and TV guests.  Kansas City Comic Con features one of the largest assemblages of nationally known as well as local writers and artists, with more than 300 creators featured.

Headlining this year’s show as part of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek is Nichelle Nichols, well known for her groundbreaking role as Uhura in three seasons of Star Trek and six major motion pictures.  Star Wars fans can meet Billy Dee Williams, best known as Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and Brian Herring, the puppeteer behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ lovable new droid BB-8.  Motion picture and TV star Ksenia Solo, star of Lost Girl, Orphan Black, and Black Swan, will be in attendance Saturday and Sunday.  And fans of classic TV can meet the original Bo and Luke of Dukes of Hazzard, John Schneider and Tom Wopat.

BB-8    Ksenia Solo

Nationally known comic book creators featured at KCCC include legendary writer/artist Mike Grell and artist Michael Golden, as well as current Star Wars writer and Eisner winner Jason Aaron and Star Trek writers Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward, Star Wars artists Joe Corroney and Bryan Fyffe, and DC Comics artist Ant Lucia.  Plus fan favorite writers and artists including CW Cooke, Sean Von Gorman, Ande Parks, Nicholas Forrestal, Damont Jordan, Arie Monroe, Thaddeus Nowak, Bryan Timmins, and Darryl Woods.  But that’s only scratching the surface–check out the full list of national and local creators here.

Green Arrow by Michael Golden    Grell GA BC

Costume contests, a cosplay wedding, a Friday night concert, gaming room, live art, panels, photo ops, autographs, collectables, toys, comics, a scavenger hunt, video games, and an offsite movie screening for Star Trek fans.  It will be a full weekend for anyone who is a fan of comics, movies, TV, superheroes, sci-fi, and fantasy.

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Deadpool Negasonic

What Ant-Man was for Marvel Studios’ Avengers franchise, Deadpool is for 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, proving that a good story and good delivery can outperform big budget, team-up blockbusters.  Ant-Man stepped away from the standard superhero movie tropes to give us a flawed human trying to do right by way of some good tech, and Deadpool went to the next step and took the superhero story that much further away from the norm.  As the #1 box office success of any Rated R film, it also proved you cannot predict what will fail and what will succeed.

But all the press that distinguished Deadpool as something completely new and different was really just feeding into the marketing hype.  Seemingly collectively shocked by the impending change-up of “the first Rated R superhero movie,” press and critics ignored so much.   From an over-the-top action standpoint was Deadpool that far different from RoboCop, The Crow, or V for Vendetta–all also carrying the R rating?  And from a crude humor standpoint, is Deadpool any different from the similarly hilarious Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, or if darkness is your thing Sin City or Watchmen–also Rated R?

The reality is that the success of Deadpool can be found in the melding of all the elements you need for any good superhero movie.  If you skipped this one or only watched it in the theater, now is a good time to revisit it on Blu-ray or DVD.  You no doubt missed some great elements during your first watch, and the special features that accompany the home release point out plenty that will likely elevate whatever view you already have about this release.

Colossus Angel Dust

The Blu-ray we reviewed included both the Blu-ray and DVD as well as a digital Ultraviolet code for viewing on your Vudu or Flixster account.  Deadpool includes the best behind the scenes coverage of any Blu-ray we’ve reviewed this year in its “From Comics to Screen… to Screen” segment.  Who knew how much stunt work was required for all the elaborately choreographed action sequences and how much was actually CGI?  Sure, we knew star Ryan Reynolds was in the “Deadpool red” supersuit for part of the film, but his two stuntmen really carried a lot of the film with one stuntman tearing his ACL for one of the less-involved sequences.  And like the movie’s in-joke, the two other X-Men that appear may well be lesser characters when compared to the team in X-Men: Apocalypse, yet the fact we get to focus on far fewer means we got to know Colossus that much better.  Plus director Tim Miller and costume designer Angus Strathie made sure Negasonic Teenage Warhead wore the classic X-Men yellow supersuit.

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