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Week of February 21st Volume 1 #635

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Jon's Righteous Comic Reviews (or you name this column chum)

Comic Review: Sideways #1

 

indexSideways #1 (DC Comics)

DC's “Age of Heroes” has had a pretty rough start. After being delayed due to its ties to Metal, the first two titles in the line, Damage and The Silencer, weren't exactly the best examples of creating new and exciting characters that the publisher was promising. Thankfully though, it looks like the third time is the charm for this new launch with Sideways, the new character (and ongoing series) from Kenneth Rocafort, Dan Didio, and Justin Jordan. With an intriguing set of powers and a somewhat similar back story to a certain wall-crawler from the competition, I'm hopeful that this is the book to really show off DC's intentions for their Age of Heroes.

Derek James is your average teenager. He's got classwork, a great girlfriend, and a pretty good home life. The only difference between him and his other classmates is that he has the ability to open rifts in time and space and teleport anywhere he wants to go in the world. Thanks to being in the right place at the right time (or maybe the wrong place at the wrong time) in Gotham during the events of Metal, Derek now has superpowers, and he's going to use them to become famous on the internet. Everything seems to be going according to plan, until he's visited by a guardian of space-time who claims that he's in violation of their rules.

I'll be honest, seeing Dan Didio's name on a book doesn't usually fill me with a lot of confidence. While Didio has been a pretty okay co-publisher for DC, whenever he tries his hand at writing a comic for the publisher the results are typically...not great. But here he's teamed up with Justin Jordan for dialogue help, and it really makes a difference. Jordan and Didio do the impossible here, making Derek James sound pretty close to how modern day teens sound. The characterization of Sideways and his fellow classmates is definitely the strongest aspect of the issue, as the origin of the character is handled in a pretty quick and off hand manner that could've been fleshed out a little more.

Another strength of Sideways #1 is the art, which is handled by the awesome Kenneth Rocafort. Rocafort made a big splash with Red Hood and the Outlaws in the New 52 launch, and while he's remained pretty quiet since then, Sideways shows that he hasn't lost any of his style. As great as the art is in this issue, I do wonder how long Rocafort will stay on the book, as he's not well known for keeping up with a monthly series.

It definitely seems like DC is priming Sideways to be their version of Spider-Man. One look at his costume and poses is all you need to see that. But there's enough in here that differentiates him from the wall-crawler, and perhaps that initial similarity will be enough to get people to try out this book. If they do they'll probably find themselves wanting to check out the next issue like I do.

Comic Review: Invinicible #144

 

Invincible #144 (Image Comics) Invincible_144-1

At long last, it’s time for the end of Invincible. Robert Kirkman’s OTHER Image series has been running for just as long as The Walking Dead, but the mainstream appeal that the Walking Dead juggernaut has appreciated has always eluded Invincible, which is a shame, since it’s been one of the best and most original comics on the stands since it began. But all good things need to come to end, and it’s time for Kirkman and Ryan Ottley to put ol’ Mark Grayson out to pasture with Invincible #144.

That’s not to say that Invincible dies in this issue. This is a spoiler free review, but the only one I’ll give you is that Mark Grayson lives a long, happy life. Of course, a horrible death was probably what a lot of people were expecting (Invincible is known for it’s pretty high body count, after all), but that’s not what this final issue is about at all. Instead, it bounces around to show Mark's life as the head of the Viltrumite Empire, and along the way we watch his daughter Terra grow up, as well as the son he leaves behind on Earth. But Mark’s greatest accomplishment barely has anything to do with Earth or his family, it's that he's able to completely change the barbaric ways of his people. In a lot of ways, this final issue serves as a great example of the impact Mark Grayson has had on the people in his life, good and bad.

If there’s one thing to knock this issue for, it’s that it’s certainly brimming with ideas that could have been fleshed out more. At 56 pages, there’s certainly a lot of room for this finale to breathe, but even still, there’s a lot of cool story ideas that are glossed over that could’ve extended the series another few issues had Kirkman decided to keep going. That being said though, Kirkman’s script gives plenty of heartfelt moments to Mark Grayson and his cast of characters. Hell, he even subverts the entire idea of the series with the final moments of the issue. Invincible was always pitched as a “teenager discovers superpowers” kind of book, but now that we’ve reached the end and seen Mark's accomplishments beyond being a superhero, it’s hard to see it that way.

Of course, I’d be making a huge mistake if I didn’t mention Ryan Ottley’s pencils, which have always been some of the best in the industry. Gifted with crafting incredible action and dramatic moments, he’s arguably the best choice for an artist for this series (sorry original artist Cory Walker), and this issue is him pulling out all the stops. Invincible #144 is full of gorgeous fight sequences and heartbreaking (and hilarious) moments. There are quite a few “dream teams” in comics, and Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley stand tall among the top of that list.


I’m really going to miss Invincible. While it wasn’t a series that I actively collected, I made sure to keep up with it and always enjoyed the world and characters that Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley,and Cory Walker created. Of course, like all things that come to an end, I didn’t fully appreciate the series until this final issue was announced. But if you’ve been holding off to read this, know that it’s a fantastic finale to an even better series, and if you’re going to start it up, know that you’re in for a pretty wild ride.

THE WAUGH BAG REPORT

Waugh's Bag, Volume Seven, Issue Six!

 

Waugh's Bag

 

Volume Seven, Issue Six!

 

Movie Review: Black Panther

 

MINOR SPOILERS

 

 

Ryan Coogler's Black Panther has a lot to live up to. As not only the first Marvel Studios movie to feature an African-American lead, but also the director's first major tent pole movie, there's a lot to expect from the film. But amazingly, Black Panther lives up to the hype, presenting a movie that's not only worthy of the character, but also one that could (and should) start a movement similar to the one Wonder Woman started last Summer.

 

 

Picking up after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe finds T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning to his native Wakanda to engage in the ritual to become king after his father's death. However, heavy is the head that wears the crown, and many want to rule the nation of Wakanda for their own ends, including Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), who believes that he has a rightful claim to the throne.

 

 

What follows is a a pretty basic and refreshingly smaller focused film than other Marvel movies, as a good chunk of the run time of Black Panther takes place in Wakanda. What Doctor Strange did for magic and Guardians of the Galaxy did for space, Black Panther does for the technological and spiritual side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's truly a sight to see Wakanda presented in such a creative way, and I really don't think Marvel could have pulled this off at any other point in their movie history. A nation that is both steeped in culture but also several years ahead of the world technologically, the dichotomy between the huge, futuristic skyscrapers and the beautiful African countryside is amazing. Wakanda is as much a character in Panther as the main character himself. It's one of the most fully realized fictional locations in comic book films. In fact, I don't think a fictional location has been recreated for the screen this well since Tim Burton's Batman.

 

 

Of course, as good as a fictional world is, it's nothing without some characters to fill it in. Luckily Black Panther is stacked to the brim with fantastic actors, with Chadwick Boseman leading the pack as T'Challa. If you were worried about Boseman's ability to carry a film on his own, you shouldn't be, as he more than delivers on the promise from his debut in Captain America: Civil War. Boseman gives T'Challa the exact right balance he needs to be effective: noble, charismatic, fair, and also playful. He's got extremely great chemistry with everyone in the film, but the notable standouts are his scenes with his younger sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, who's sure to become a new favorite for fans of the MCU.

Also standing out is Danai Gurira's Okoye, who is arguably the biggest bad ass in the whole movie. As the head of the Panther's royal guard the Dora Milaje, she not only casts a commanding presence, but also kicks some serious ass multiple times in the movie. Of course, Gurira has some ass-kicking experience from playing Michonne on The Walking Dead, but Okoye should push her into an entire other stratosphere, and it's awesome getting to see her on the big screen whipping her spear around and beating people to a pulp.

 

 

But of all the performances in Black Panther, the one that stands out the most is Michael B Jordan's Erik Killmonger. The MCU's villain problem has been covered time and time again, but it seems like they've finally found some answers to it, and Killmonger stands as one of their best. Jordan is one of Hollywood's best young actors, and Black Panther is a brilliant showcase for him. In fact, he's so good that at times you forget he's the villain of the movie, as his charm works so well that you end up kind of rooting for him, even though you know that he's technically in the wrong.

 

 

As director Ryan Coogler's third film, the fact that Black Panther is so ably and confidently made is pretty staggering. Coogler made a big splash with his debut Fruitvale Station, and an even bigger one with Creed (which also starred Jordan), so it's not too surprising to imagine that he'd do a good job with Black Panther. But the fact that this film is such a slam dunk is what makes it so special. Coogler handles every aspect of this film, from the opening exposition, to the emotional beats, to the giant battle sequences, like a seasoned pro, and it just shows you how much promise he has a filmmaker and how fantastic a choice he was for this film. Marvel Studios have shown with Phase Three that they're not afraid to let directors make their own marks on their films (within reason), and like Thor: Ragnarok before it, it's lead to a film that's fresh and unique in their now 18 film deep catalog.

 

 

At the surface, Black Panther seems to be just another Marvel Studios origin movie. But when you dig deeper, it's a movie about race, culture, globalization, and how sons live in the shadows of their fathers. Both T'Challa and Killmonger have differing views of their homeland due to the stories their fathers told and their different life experiences, but at their core, they both want to see Wakanda flourish. It's that struggle that makes their battles so compelling, and what makes the finale of the film so interesting. The world may not be at stake, but a nation and a family is, and with that comes a film that not only stands as one of the best Marvel Studios films, but also one of the most important comic book movies as well.

 

 

Long live the king, indeed.

 

 

Verdict: A

 

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