Monday, October 15, 2012

The premiere of Arrow - Oct 10th

The CW has filled the fanboy vacuum left by Smallville with Arrow - a retooling of Green Arrow who was a main character for years on Smallville. This series uses a different actor and origin from its Smallville counterpart so I won't compare them.

I'm not going to go much into the plot but the tone is dark and it suits the character and the action well. The fight scenes were great and it looks like Stephen Amell does his own parkour stunts. And this isn't an Oliver Queen who pulls punches as we actually see him kill a guy in the first 30 minutes of the show to protect his secret.

The wise-cracking detective and his partner are obnoxious. I thought giving the sister the nickname, Speedy AND showing her with drugs was a little too much right away. Also, having his best friend's last name be Merlyn is a little spoilerish.

It's a lot of Easter eggs and way too much foreshadowing for a first episode. Let's get to know the sister and best friend a little before we introduce the drugs and the last name. Let's run down the story threads - Dinah Lance eventually becomes Black Canary, Speedy has a drug habit but ultimately becomes his sidekick, his mother is the bad guy, and his best friend becomes his greatest enemy. And who doesn't think Hunt was a cheap Lex Luthor?

It was okay as far as first episodes go but from here on I hope they don't cram so much stuff in so we can slow down and enjoy it unfold a bit more.

Dr Horrible on the CW Oct. 9th

If you didn't catch it on the CW, this was history. Except for reality shows that use videos from the internet (I'm looking at you Tosh.0), I don't think something filmed entirely for release on the internet has ever been played on TV. But there it was: Dr. Horrible in all its HD awesomeness and I was helpless to do anything except laugh and sing along (and curse the commercial breaks). To quote Leverage's character, Hardison, "Age of the geek, baby."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Action Figure Wish List Update

It’s been more than a year since I published my first wish list and some of the figures on it have actually come out. So it’s time to refresh the list originally published Sunday, August 7, 2011.

In this section, I got one figure on my list, Scarlet Witch. I also saw the Longshot figure I want at Comic Con which will be released with an Uncanny X-Men 3 pack which also includes Rogue who wasn't on my list but really should have been. Here is my revised list without Scarlet Witch and Longshot.


Here is a list of 10 heroes I want them to come out with in no particular order.

Scorpion (Carmilla Black): This ex-SHEILD agent isn’t just a cool character but may also be the biological daughter of Bruce Banner. And she has a cool costume.

American Dream: A female Captain America in the M2 universe. Would be cool to see the Spider-Girl from that universe too.

Rachel Grey: She’s descended from two of the most experienced and battle-hardened X-Men and possesses the Phoenix Force? Only thing better might be a Hope figure since it looks like she’s carrying it now.

Black Cat: What started out as a Spidey villain and supporting character has become a Marvel Universe staple and has appeared in many other titles.

Dazzler: I’ve always liked the character and her blue costume and New Excalibur costume are both cool.

Cloak and Dagger: They are popular Marvel staples that found a way to make a big contribution during Civil War. This would be great as a two pack.

Ares: I know he’s dead but he was a serious bad-ass and he’d make a really cool looking figure.

Deathlok: He’s never been popular enough for a regular series but if I know he’s in an issue, I usually pick it up. Deathlok is one of the most interesting looking characters in the Marvel Universe.

Professor X: Except for Black Bolt who I hear is rumored to be in an upcoming Inhumans team set, Professor X is the only member of the infamous Illuminati missing.

Dakota North: I know it’s obscure but as a private detective she’s appeared in her own mini-series and appeared in titles like Power Pack, Web of Spider-Man, Daredevil, and New Avengers. She’s been around since 1986 and deserves another shot at a mini-series or at least a bigger role in someone’s title. For now I’d settle for an action figure.

The Marvel Universe line hasn't been great about putting villains out so there is nothing on my list that is different. I think Mysterio has been announced for an upcoming wave so here is my revised list.


Here is a list of 10 villains I want them to come out with in no particular order.

Lady Bullseye: Kingpin’s main assassin these days.

Kingpin: He’s the reason Daredevil has a mental breakdown every few years.

Flag-Smasher: This Captain America villain once used his organization, ULTIMATUM, to take a group of Americans hostage. In order to save them, Cap has to do the unthinkable. Wondering what the ‘unthinkable’ is - check out the cover of Captain America #321. If you have no idea who Flag-Smasher is, check out Captain America #348.

The Hood: The Hood has a kick-ass origin story and has been a huge villain lately, especially during the Dark Reign.

Dr. Octopus: There is a 3 ¾ figure in the Spider-Man series but I want Doc Ock to look like the comic book version.

The Marauders: These villains kicked off the Mutant Massacre and Arclight, Blockbuster, Harpoon, Riptide, Scalphunter, and Vertigo would make a great six pack (like the Giant-Sized X-Men set).

Omega Red: Another great X-villain.

Jack O’Lantern: While there’s been a few to wear the pumpkin, the one in the new Venom mini-series isn’t just cool looking but deadly too.

Ghost: Before he was a Thunderbolt, Ghost was an Iron Man villain in the 80’s. I want the version in the white armor (not the weird Thunderbolts version).

Beyonder: He’s the omnipotent being who kidnapped Heroes as powerful as Thor and set them against villains as powerful as the Molecule Man just to see what would happen. Then he took human form and tormented the Marvel Universe in a horrible mini series with scores of tie-in titles. The worst was when Spider-Man had to explain to him how to use the bathroom (it was handled off panel but 20+ years later I’m still screaming WTF).

Of the 10 alternate versions of the figures that have already been released, the only one they've released is the Angel figure with real wings. He was in the TRU exclusive X-Factor set and I've heard he's going to be single packed in an upcoming wave (maybe in 2013). Here are the figures I still want with a new figure to replace Angel.


Of the figures that have already been released, here are 10 alternate versions of figures I’d like to see in no particular order.

Kitty Pryde (as Shadowcat): The blue outfit was Kitty’s main costume in the 80s and some of the 90s.

Cosmic Spider-Man: From Amazing Spider-Man #326-329, Spectacular Spider-Man #158-159, and Web of Spider-Man #59 (1989): Acts of Vengeance was an event in many Marvel titles where villains trade heroes and try to take them out. Spidey found himself imbued with Captain Universe’s powers in time to take on Gravitron, The Hulk, Magneto, and a Tri-Sentinel. Although he didn’t wear the Captain Universe costume much, Spidey in full cosmic garb is a playable character in “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.” Oh, and the Cosmic Crusade Spider-Man from the Spider-Man series is a super cool looking figure but it's no substitute.

Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch): In 1990, Marvel introduced Danny Ketch, a new Ghost Rider who wore a leather jacket, spiked gloves and gauntlets.

Ultimate X-Men: There has already been a lot of X-Men characters released but none have been given the “Ultimate” treatment yet.

Joe Fixit (Grey Hulk in a suit): In the 90’s, Peter David gave the Hulk a few different personalities but, as Joe Fixit, Hulk wore a nice suit and worked as a casino enforcer.
 Joe Fixit and the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider would make my New Fantastic Four collection complete

Punisher (in Captain America costume): From Punisher: War Journal #6-11 (2007): When someone is disgracing the memory of the recently killed Captain America, Frank dons a version of Cap’s costume and goes after them.

Storm & Black Panther as Queen and King of Wakanda: They married in 2006, Black Panther #18 and while I don’t have a specific costume in mind, they have both made appearances in more ceremonial type outfits. This would make a great comic pack.

Nightcrawler (in Pirate outfit): From Nightcrawler #1 (1985): While the costume is in the Nightcrawler mini-series, it isn’t the first time he appears in a pirate outfit. Plus, Kurt Wagner is a HUGE fan of Errol Flynn and dreams of being a swashbuckling hero.

Daredevil (in armor): From Daredevil starting in 1993: Scott McDaniel was a hot artist who drew a lot of people to Daredevil with his stunning artwork and Daredevil’s new armored look.

Venom (Flash Thompson version): The government has possession of the symbiote so they recruit Flash Thompson, a decorated and loyal veteran to use it to go on missions. Not only is this one of the coolest things Marvel’s done with the symbiote, the Flash Thompson version looks awesome.

Okay, I did get a She-Hulk (2 if you count the single pack and the TRU exclusive 2 pack) and Nova has been announced for an upcoming wave, but I'm still going to leave this list the way it is because it's mostly unfulfilled.


The New Mutants (original and modern): Cannonball, Mirage, Karma, Wolfsbane, Sunspot, Magma, Cypher, and Warlock
One of my all-time favorites and not one character has been given a figure. Kitty Pryde did get a figure but she’s not a founding member or a long-standing member. I don’t know how you would pull of a Sunspot (maybe a variant where he’s all black?) or a Wolfsbane (would it be human and wolf in the package or the werewolf state she sometimes takes on).

Lady Liberators: She-Hulk, Valkyrie, Thundra, Hellcat, and Tigra
The Lady Liberators were a concept that isn’t new to the Marvel Universe, they first appeared in Avengers #83 in 1970. A few years ago, She-Hulk brought together her own team to fight the Red Hulk. I left characters off the roster above that have already gotten figures (Spider-Woman, Invisible Woman, Black Widow, and Storm). Plus, Hulk #9 had a great cover shot of them courtesy of the always amazing Arthur Adams.

I should mention that Mirage has a Pegasus named Brightwind and Valkyrie has a Pegasus named Aragorn. It would be awesome for Hasbro to release ‘Mirage with Brightwind’ and ‘Valkyrie with Aragorn’ packs – they could use the same mold for both mounts. They would even make great convention exclusives.

Exiles: Blink, Mimic, Morph, Nocturne, Sunfire, Sasquatch, and Magik
Exiles was one of the best books on the stands and introduced us to a lot of alternate worlds and versions of the characters we know and love. Other members of the team included Magnus, Thunderbird, Namora, Sabertooth, Longshot, Spider-Man 2099, Shadowcat, and more. There are a lot of possible characters from this series that can be created.

New Warriors: Night Thrasher, Nova (not Kid Nova), Justice (not Marvel Boy), and Namorita
Firestar has already been released as a Toys ‘R Us exclusive figure (the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends three pack). Except for Nova, the rest of the characters are a little obscure (but since Hasbro gave us a "Masters of Evil" 3 pack that no one was asking for, why not the New Warriors). Justice and Firestar dated for a long time and did a brief stint on The Avengers together. Namorita is the Sub-Mariner’s cousin.

Young Allies: Nomad, Gravity, Spider-Girl, and Toro
Again, Firestar has already been released. The Spider-Girl on this team is the former Arana and has a costume that hasn’t been released. Nomad is from the Heroes Reborn universe. Gravity is a newer character who has already helped the Fantastic Four save the universe and come back from the grave. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Marvel Universe action figure review: BEAST and KRAVEN THE HUNTER

Beast and Kraven aren’t two characters that I’m passionate about but the figures, both in the 18th Marvel Universe wave, were too awesome not to take pictures of. Both figures look fantastic and, unlike many other Marvel Universe figures, these aren’t repaints of Spider-Man or another version of Iron Man.

Here is my review: They look awesome, there aren’t any different versions of these figures in any of the waves, and BUY THEM.

Review: Harbinger #1-3 by Joshua Dysart, Khari Evans, and Lewis Larosa

I'll be honest, I don't remember the original series that came out over two decades ago but I remember being a fan. I remember that, before eBay, the pre-Unity issues of all Valiant titles were unaffordable so I couldn't go back to the beginning on anything. But I'm a fan of the universe so as eager as I was to review X-O Manowar, I was eager to review this as well.

Peter Stanchek is a 'psiot' or someone with powers. In Peter's case, his telepathy and telekinesis allows him to read minds, alter thoughts in others, and physically effect things. He's on the run from a hospital he escaped from with a friend of his when he decides to hide out in the last place anyone would think to look for him: Pittsburgh - the city the hospital is located in. Peter is going through a rough time - in addition to running, he's also robbing pharmacies to get pills that dull his power so he isn't burdened with other people's thoughts and help his schizophrenic friend. When Toyo Harada, who is a psiot in addition to running the largest corporation in America, reaches out to him with an offer of training and protection, Peter cautiously accepts.

Dysart gives us plenty in Peter Stanchek to like and dislike. He's sympathetic to readers because you can feel his desperation and exhaustion but when he forces an old friend to fall in love with him, he crosses the line. When I was a kid you'd have all kinds of arguments with your friends about what you'd do with superpowers and we used to come up with all kinds of irresponsible or immoral answers - "I'd rob a bank - they'd never catch me cuz I'd be invisible," "I'd date Heather Locklear (hey - it was the 80s okay?) because I'd have mind powers," "I'd fire optic beams at the school bully from a roof - they'd never know it was me," etc.

After forcing a girl to fall in love with him and presumably sleeping with her (they are in bed together at one point), which would not have been consensual if she'd been in her right mind, he releases her from his control. But he doesn't absolve himself of taking control of her. Peter's usual move is to tell the person under his influence not to remember him but he simply releases her in a way that she can remember everything she experienced and she's angry as is reasonable. I think by not glossing over it, he's taking some kind of responsibility for it. But I think it would have been kinder to make her forget about the whole thing. This is an emotionally complicated way to introduce a character that we're supposed to like.

And once Peter's safely at Harbinger Foundation, he shows he has a little bit of a temper and the power to back it up. Even before his outburst the other students dislike him or fear him because of how powerful he is. Dysart isn't afraid to make Peter deeply flawed, disturbed, and really put him through his paces. After all, if the Bleeding Monk's vision of the future is correct (the name is literal which is kind of gross and I could have done without that character even if he doesn't appear much), Peter destroys the world. How's that for high stakes?

The thing I loved about the original Valiant Universe is that it had fantastic characters who had powers but weren't superheroes. The first three issues of Harbinger do what the first three issues of X-O Manowar did, which was to establish the character, the problems, and the universe Peter Stanchek inhabits. It's a great introduction to the characters and a great foundation to tell more stories from. Although I do wish the artwork were a little tighter - sometimes it's hard to make out what's going on or the ethnicities of the characters. This will be well worth picking up the trade paperback. While we're on the subject - X-O Manowar's first TPB is offered in Previews this month for $10. This is two great titles right out of the gate for Valiant Comics.

Casting Joss Whedon's upcoming SHEILD TV show

The SHIELD television series is still months (a year?) away and we've been salivating at any update. On ( they announced that ABC is casting for a few parts and gave quick character descriptions for each.

I wanted to get in on all of the excitement by casting these roles. First, lets see the character descriptions that gave us.

SKYE: This late-20s woman sounds like a dream: fun, smart, caring and confident – with an ability to get the upper hand by using her wit and charm.

AGENT GRANT WARD: Quite the physical specimen and “cool under fire,” he sometimes botches interpersonal relations. He’s a quiet one with a bit of a temper, but he’s the kind of guy that grows on you.

AGENT ALTHEA RICE: Also known as “The Calvary,” this hard-core soldier has crazy skills when it comes to weapons and being a pilot. But her experiences have left her very quiet and a little damaged.

AGENT LEO FITZ and AGENT JEMMA SIMMONS: These two came through training together and still choose to spend most of their time in each other’s company. Their sibling-like relationship is reinforced by their shared nerd tendencies – she deals with biology and chemistry, he’s a whiz at the technical side of weaponry.

Okay - now for my candidates.

Paula Garces as Skye.
Paula is a young woman who started as a child actress and did a number of films before ending up on one of the most intense television shows ever: The Shield (huh...a cast member of The Shield starring on SHIELD? Nice right?). Paula can play "fun, smart, caring and confident" and brings a lot of acting experience to the role. Plus, she was in the Harold & Kumar movies so she knows former Whedon alum, Neil Patrick Harris (Is he an assassin? Is that why he has three names?)

Skye isn't AGENT Skye so Paula is believable playing a former cop or soldier or intelligence agent who is a trainee or recent graduate of SHEILD. Paula Garces is the total package for this project and I've met her at Comic Con so I can tell you she's a sweetheart who is always nice to her fans.

Michael Kenneth Williams as Agent Grant Ward
He's played Roberts on "Alias," a Harlem Bystander in "The Incredible Hulk" and was Professor Marshall Kane on "Community" and those are just the roles I remember seeing. Michael's also done work on a lot of fantastic films and television shows like "The Road" and "Boardwalk Empire."

We need someone who "sometimes botches interpersonal relations" and has "a temper" but is " the kind of guy that grows on you" and Michael fits the bill perfectly. What makes Michael great is that he can make you feel physically threatened or comforted in the same scene. I don't want to make a direct comparison to Mr. T but Michael is the kind of guy whose glare can make you wet yourself but whose smile is infectious. And he has a big scar on his face that screams 'bad ass' and can be a great part of the character's backstory.

Gina Carano as Agent Althea Rice
Gina Carano was Mallory Kane in the film "Haywire." But more importantly, before that she was a successful MMA fighter. If you haven't seen Haywire, check it out - the fighting is amazing. If you have seen Haywire, you know Gina Carano can pull off the description of the character: "Also known as “The Calvary,” this hard-core soldier has crazy skills when it comes to weapons and being a pilot. But her experiences have left her very quiet and a little damaged."

Gina's charisma and natural fighting ability would serve the character. She wouldn't need fight training, just the way she moves tells you that she could take you down in a few seconds. And with her on board, the fight scenes would have less stunt doubles and look more realistic.

Craig Horner as Agent Leo Fitz
Craig Horner was the main character, Richard Cypher on the short-lived show, Legend of the Seeker. As the title character, Richard got to fully develop a character - from going from an immature young man to being a champion, falling in love despite the many obstacles, defeating the big bad, and having to play second string as someone else inherited the champion title. He's very versatile and he can pull off being nerdy in a support role.

Genevieve Padalecki  as Agent Jemma Simmon
Genevieve was Ruby on "Supernatural" and was the main character, Kris Furillo on "Wildfire." Genevieve has also had the opportunity to completely develop a character and has shown great range in doing so. She's also equally good on a family show like Wildfire and a genre show like Supernatural. Genevieve can play nerdy when called upon and I can see her and Craig Horner having a sibling-like relationship.

Despite the face that Agent Leo Fitz and Agent Jemma Simmons are presented together and seem to have support-only roles, remember that SHIELD agents aren't helpless and both Craig and Genevieve are believable fighting back. These are actors who can play unassuming roles and believably take down the occasional bad guy if called upon.

Quick Reviews

Homecoming #1
Writer: David Wohl
Emilio Laiso - penciler, inker, cover
Michael Turner - artist, cover
[Michael Turner co-created this series]

Hunter is an average teenager who has just had a close encounter. But instead of an alien, Celeste, a teenage girl lands in his backyard – a girl who had been kidnapped/abducted eight years before – but she’s come back sporting powers. While Hunter is trying to help her fit into high school, aliens come for her and Hunter’s friends end up in the crossfire. Fortunately (or unfortunately…it’s too early to tell), Celeste can help heal them.

This title, co-created by the awesome Michael Turner (who also supplied a cover) is written by David Wohl. The story is a bit silly with a girl who doesn’t seem too phased by a faulty memory, having people in her house, or having powers. The story is all a little unbelievable and we don’t get to really like any of the characters in it. The artwork a little cartoony but it suits the story. Maybe this title has an inherent charm that will be easier to see a few issues down the road but for now I’m not coming back for #2.

Hawkeye #1
by Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (art)

When he’s not fighting Ultron, Thanos, or (lately) the X-Men, he’s hanging out with his neighbors and standing up for them when his landlord triples the rent on them.

I’m not a Hawkeye fan. When he died I didn’t care and when he came back I didn’t care. I like the character but I’ve never been a fan of his stories. If he wasn’t a New Avenger or an Avenger I don’t think it would change the texture of those titles much.

But after this issue I’m rethinking my position on Clint Barton. After a terrific showing in this summer’s Avengers film, I was definitely interested in a fresh take on the character and Matt Fraction delivers. It’s heartwarming to see him bonding with his neighbors and a dog who saves his life and then is hit by a car. And we get to see that he’s just as dangerous with a playing card or a coin as he is with his bow. The artwork is gritty and makes everything look dirty and dangerous. The story does a little bouncing back and forth between right now and the past so it can be a little jarring at times but it’s so worth it. I might be collecting Hawkeye from now on.

Idolized #0-1
David Schwartz writer
Micah J Gunnell artist

Joule is looking for revenge. But first she’ll have to win Superhero Idol to get a spot on the world’s premiere superhero team: The Powered Protectors. Then she’ll have a clear shot at the villain Stasis who is responsible for her parents’ and sister’s deaths.

Idolized #0 does what any great, cheap primer issue is supposed to do – it introduces the concept and the main character and lays in a little look into the future to get us interested. Then #1 shows Joule’s actual tryout and completely fleshes out her backstory and why she wants revenge on Stasis.

While I found the reality show angle pretty boring it had Victoria Secret Supermodel Rachel Clark on the cover and…I’m only human. The story is actually really well told and the story promises that we’ll get to see Joule’s journey for a while before she’ll have her shot at Stasis. The artwork is a perfect companion whether it’s a conversation or a massive superhero battle. I think I’ll be back for a while.

Scarlet Spider #8
Story by Chris Yost
Art by Khoi Pham, Tom Palmer

When the Rangers respond to an incident at Roxxon Tower, Scarlet Spider finds himself dodging them while trying to prove Roxxon is dirty.

I haven’t seen the Rangers probably since West Coast Avengers #8 or since the “Handbook of the Marvel Universe” days so I was excited to see them on the cover. To be fair, I thought their names were The Texas Twisters but it has been decades since I’ve seen them in anything.

I tried Scarlet Spider #1 back when it was released and was less than impressed. But if this issue is any indication, Chris Yost has built this title into something special. This issue was fun to read and the art was excellent. I might have to get #7 to read the first part of this arc and see this arc through.

Avengers vs X-Men: Versus #5
Writer: Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu

While Matt Fraction delivers on the fantastic Hawkeye #1, this story is confusing and doesn’t end in a clear victor. I’m not even sure of the stakes – is one trying to catch the other? I Hawkeye trying to capture Angel or escape from him? And Betsy’s a ninja – I’m sure she could have caught or dodged Hawkeye’s arrow.

On the other hand, Jason Aaron delivers one of the best stories I’ve read in some time. It’s written from both Storm and Black Panther’s points of view. The fight is fierce and heart wrenching and leaves wounds that look pretty permanent. I can’t wait to see what their relationship is like going forward.

Fantastic Four #610
by Jonathan Hickman & Ryan Stegman
AIM has purchased the island nation of Barbuda with the capacity to launch a nuclear strike on the United States. With so much at stake, the president assigns Reed Richards as America’s ambassador to Barbuda so he and the Fantastic Four travel to the island to…negotiate.

Jonathan Hickman is an outside the box thinker. AIM taking over an island might have been a good idea years ago but in the current Marvel Universe, the president would have sent the Avengers and the FF (who were with the president at the beginning of the issue) to stop AIM and arrest as many of them as possible. We just had World War Hulk, a superhero Civil War, a Secret Invasion, and loads of other stuff. And I know that Spider-Man’s spider-sense probably would have warned him about poison in the food in the commissary but he didn’t sense the FF were about to get ambushed. Or maybe there was a constant low buzz of danger but how did he know that didn’t mean his sandwich was poisoned?

The artwork was really good. It’s the first book I’ve picked up with Human Torch in it since he returned so I especially liked seeing him. I’m glad Spidey is still on the team. But I don’t think I’ll be picking up more issues.