In Memoriam: Stan Lee (1922-2018 )

There are few occasions when I’ve been at a loss for words. This is not one of those occasions. Indeed, my problem now lies in deciding what words to use without forming an incoherent mass of babble. For how does one sum up the life of a man such as Stan Lee?

I could write about the history of comics and Stan Lee’s place in it. Because to write about American comics without discussing Stan Lee is like talking about American history without mentioning Thomas Jefferson. For all the controversy Lee has inspired over his treatment of his artist collaborators and the debate over just how much of his public persona as a shameless self-promoter was an act, Lee had an undeniable influence on the American landscape beyond even the world of comic books.

On that note, I could write about Lee’s status as a pitchman who could put P.T. Barnum to shame and how he made himself into the face of Marvel Comics. How many children of the 1980s still remember Lee’s bombastic voice-over introduction to every episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends or The Incredible Hulk? And who could forget his many cameos in the Marvel Comics movies?

I could write about Lee’s status as a writer from a writer’s perspective and his influence on the industry. How it was Lee (along with Jack Kirby) who hit upon the idea of writing superhero stories from a more realistic perspective, with characters who were not always perfect and superpowers that could be as much of a blessing as a curse. This led to the creation of The Fantastic Four, which would pave the way for other flawed heroes such as Iron Man, Daredevil and, of course, Spider-Man. I could also write about Stan Lee’s First Rule Of Comic Writing – write every story as if it were someone’s first comic, because it probably will be.

For the sake of human interest, I could write about the man himself and his life outside of comics. How he was a Veteran who served during World War II, first in the Signal Corps where he repaired communications equipment, before being transferred into the Training Film Division, where he worked at writing training manuals, scripts for instructional short films and, yes, a few comics. (While he did this, he had the official military classification of playwright, despite not writing a single play.) I could also write about his romance with a model named Joan Boocock, and how they shared 70 wonderful years as husband and wife.

Getting personal, I could tell stories of the many times I was lucky enough to see Stan Lee speak. I could talk about how I was there when Stan Lee was roasted at a New Years Eve convention in Dallas. I could also write about that brief span of seconds being rushed through an autograph line, where I simply said “Thank you for everything.” as he quickly scribbled his signature on a reprint of Amazing Fantasy #15.

Perhaps all that is all that any of us who have ever read a comic book and dreamed can say?

Thank you, Stan Lee. For everything.

Titans Episode Review S01: E05

It’s been an interesting road for Titans up until now. With eleven episodes planned for the season, Episode 5 — or “Together” — marks the closest thing to a “half-way point” the show is going to have. So how does that point fare? Well, it’s nothing spectacular, but it does at least continue the trend of being “potato chips” (take a look at my review for Episode 4, if that throws you for a loop). That being said, there is one major slip-up that the episode makes that could very well irreparably damage the show as whole.

Before we get too carried away, however, let’s recap. Following a series of events, which include but are not limited to both blowing up a church and meeting a fully cognizant robot, all of our main players are now in one place. Dick takes this as an opportunity for the “team” become more familiar with their own abilities. There’s only one problem: a renewed Nuclear Family is hot on their trail. Suffice it to say, the results are explosive.

So let’s start with the good. First, the show is immensely more enjoyable when it has everyone in one spot. It feels more organic when a character is allowed to focus on more than one problem, something that becomes easier the more people someone can interact with. Granted, everyone sort of gets the short end of the stick compared to Dick Grayson, but they still have different stories building at the same time. Frankly, it adds some nuance to the decidedly straight-forward proceedings.

Without getting too close to spoilers, the choreography in this episode is quite good as well. Unlike the infamous alleyway fight from Episode 1, movement doesn’t feel as jerky or sped-up here. Camera cuts are fast, but not so fast as to be confusing. There is a slight dip in quality midway through one fight scene…a dip that, at least in terms of what this point entails, doesn’t really make a whole lot of narrative sense. However, even that is miles ahead of what we’ve seen up until now, and the quality also ramps back up after a brief interlude.

Now, what about the bad? Well perhaps the most pressing is that, at this point, the show seems to be meandering quite a bit. After Episode 3, it felt like we were on the cusp of getting some sort of answers, and I forgave the slow build-up to that point because of course you can’t have everything all at once. Yet, two episodes later, and we really don’t have any new knowledge in terms of the larger, overarching plot. On top of that, it doesn’t seem like the show even knows how or when it’s going to divulge something critical. The whole affair is somewhat of a confusing mess, and it feels like the writers are just going to keep stringing us along until Episode 9.

And as for my not-at-all-hyperbolic position of the show being in ruins due to ONE decision? Well, depending on who you ask, it may not be as doom-and-gloom as that, but it is indicative of a larger problem in terms of character-building. There is one interaction between two characters that, if you know anything about the source material, is not exactly a surprise, but is also done so haphazardly and hastily that you might get whiplash from seeing it. This is something, that if played right, would have been an easy home-run — something so expected yet hoped-for that it wouldn’t have mattered if it didn’t have the best lead-up. Instead, the writers opted for NO lead-up whatsoever. It’s a nonchalant rush to the finish, and it makes about as much sense as that phrase.

So, yes, Episode 5 is a glimpse at what the entire show is leading to — a fully-functioning Titans squad — and that’s very exciting. Despite all of the show’s problems when it comes to its script, CG, or just acting in general, it still knows how to relish in the fun of finally throwing all of its heroes together (sorry, I couldn’t resist). However, it still can’t seem to get past its extremely lacking writing quality and character development. In earlier episodes, it was just something to hopefully chalk up to growing pains, but as we approach that 60%-mark, the show desperately needs to find something to give us that’s more worthwhile than just, “These are the Teen Titans you know…with a twist!”

6/10

Titans is released every Friday only on DCUniverse!

Comic Review – The Green Lantern #1

The Green Lantern #1 Cover

When you think about it, Green Lantern is one of the more awkward superhero ideas in existence. It makes a little more sense if you consider it in the context of the first Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who was originally going to be Alan Ladd as a modern take on Aladdin. (His name became Alan Scott after it was decided they couldn’t risk a lawsuit from a screen actor with that name.) From there we get the idea of magic rings and magic lamps and suddenly the idea of a ring and lantern that allow you to wish whatever you want into being makes perfect sense.

It became somewhat stranger in 1959, when the concept of Green Lantern was revamped with a science-fiction twist, to capitalize on the increasing popularity of science-themed comic books. In the wake of The Space Race and the increasing emphasis on science in the schools at the time, the comic publishers flipped the arguments of censors who said that comic books encouraged juvenile delinquency and started marketing comics as educational material.

While one could make a case for the “Flash Facts” in The Flash teaching some basic scientific principals, Green Lantern was not quite so scientifically minded. Though his ring was now powered by alien science instead of magic, the basic principal of a ring and a lantern that enable its wielder to create whatever they willed into existence remained the same. Hal Jordan’s greatest contribution to the efforts to teach science were largely limited to inspiring kids to look to the stars and acting as a role-model to those kids who wanted to fly as a test pilot rather than a superhero. Of course the idea of a group of alien space cops was pretty awesome, even if it wasn’t all that educational.

I mention all this history because I found myself pondering the origins of Green Lantern as I read The Green Lantern #1 and how writer Grant Morrison said that he was going back to basics. No more of Geoff Johns’ mythology regarding a whole spectrum of Lanterns who drew power from emotions! Say goodbye to Peter Tomasi’s sprawling military epics! The Green Lantern would be a police procedural in space, with a thin green line separating law from chaos as Hal Jordan found himself trying to be a lawman in a cold, indifferent universe, while Morrison explored just how a simple Earthman could enforce local laws that he couldn’t even understand because of his inherently limited viewpoint.

Such ideas are bread and butter for Grant Morrison, who has a reputation as a brilliant writer when he can carry his ideas off. It remains to be seen if he will be pulling this one off in the end, but this much can be said after a single issue – I want more!

Morrison is well-matched in this endeavor by Liam Sharp, whose work was most recently seen in the DC Rebirth Wonder Woman series. Sharp’s artwork is simply amazing, managing to be smoothly streamlined yet heavily detailed without feeling at all cluttered. Steve Oliff’s colors provide the perfect vivid finishes to Sharp’s pencils and inks, making this one of the most beautiful books in recent memory.

The only real weakness to The Green Lantern #1 is that it doesn’t quite live up to the reputation of its writer or the pre-release hype. We were promised Grant Morrison doing things with the concept of the Green Lantern Corps that would be wholly inconceivable. Not only was most of The Green Lantern #1 conceivable but I can tell you precisely where some of the wilder ideas in this book (such as X-Ray Lanterns and Microwave Lanterns and other Lanterns for wave-lengths of light that do not have a color) originally came from.

It is entirely possible, however, that Morrison is merely establishing a world for the sake of the newcomers before he starts to rebuild it. And even if his talk about redefining Green Lantern was just that, Morrison still spins a perfectly serviceable story here. Couple that with Liam Sharp’s art and there’s plenty of reason to give this series a shot for a few months to see how it develops. Whether you’re a newcomer to the world of the Green Lantern Corps or an old hat when it comes to the ring-slingers, this book is guaranteed to light up your life.

8/10

The Green Lantern #1 releases on November 7, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #1

Doctor Who The Thirteenth Doctor #1 Cover

There is a long history of comic-book tie-ins being poor-quality products. For every amazing series like Tom Taylor’s Injustice: Gods Among Us that perfectly captures and expands upon the world of the television series, movie or video game it is based upon, there are a dozen like Malibu Comics’ Street Fighter or the Family Guy comic from Devil’s Due Publishing that fail to exist as anything other than a cheap cash grab.

Thankfully, Titan Comics has avoided this since taking over the license for Doctor Who in 2014. The publisher created a number of series and mini-series set at different points in the story of Doctor Who, crafting a complex mythology that easily grafted onto that of the show. Now, one month after the start of the newest season, Titan has released the first issue of a new series based around the 13th incarnation of The Doctor.

At this point, a quick explanation may be needed, for those who don’t know the show.

Doctor Who centers around the adventures of The Doctor – an alien time-traveler who wanders the universe in an intelligent machine called a TARDIS – Time And Relative Dimension In Space. A natural hero at heart, who dislikes bullies and tyrants, The Doctor frequently engages in battles to help people in need, from lost children to oppressed societies. The Doctor also frequently adopts companions, who travel along with The Doctor and enjoy exploring the wonders of reality.

While The Doctor appears to be human, The Doctor possesses an amazing alien power to regenerate the body after moments of great stress or injury. When this happens, The Doctor’s physical form and personality will change, literally creating a whole new person with all The Doctor’s memories and knowledge. Currently on Incarnation Number 13, this is the first time (that we know of) that The Doctor has regenerated in a woman’s body.

The title page of the book explains all this and more, as well as introducing us to The Doctor’s current companions – aspiring mechanic Ryan, rookie cop Yasmin and retired bus-driver Graham. The action of this first issue is largely concerned with setting up a larger adventure, as The Doctor and friends encounter a mysterious portal and a figure seemingly stuck inside of it.

Thirteenth Doctor Issue 1 Preview 1 Thirteenth Doctor Issue 1 Preview 2 Thirteenth Doctor Issue 1 Preview 3 Thirteenth Doctor Issue 1 Preview 4

(Click To View The Full Image In Another Window.)

Writer Jody Houser, best known for her work on Faith for Valiant Comics, Mother Panic for DC Comics and various Star Wars books for Marvel Comics, proves a perfect fit for telling a new series of tales for The Doctor. Houser knows how to spin a strange sci-fi yarn like few others and the story she starts here is an intriguing set-up that evokes the spirit of many a classic Doctor Who episode, in which we were introduced to a whole new world and new characters before The Doctor arrived to start stirring things up. The only point in which the script falters is that we don’t get much of a sense of personality from the companions, with the high-action quotient of the issue not allowing for the moments of introspection the show often takes.

The artwork, however, is simply astonishing. Rachel Stott was rightly acclaimed for her previous work on Titans’ other Doctor Who comics but has also worked on DC Bombshells and IDW’s Star Trek comics. Beyond capturing the likenesses of the actors from the show perfectly, Stott is a tremendous choreographer and the many moments of action in this book are well-blocked. The colors by Enrica Eren Angiolini are simply brilliant, perfectly chosen and guiding the eye easily as the story progresses.

If you’re a Doctor Who fan who has never read the comics, this is the perfect time to start. If you’re a comic book fan who never got into Doctor Who, this book will smoothly guide you into one of the greatest fictional universes in existence. Either way, this is one book newcomers and old fans alike are sure to enjoy.

9/10

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #1 releases on November 7, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Titans Episode Review S01: E04

Titans is quickly becoming the television equivalent of potato chips; there’s no substance and it’s not very good for you, but it’s pretty tasty and I would definitely eat two family-sized bags in one sitting if DC let me. To that end, while Episode 4 of the series — titled “Doom Patrol” — is still good, it does feel like it somewhat wastes the momentum the show had coming out of Episode 3.

Jumping in, Rachel has just blown up a convent (subtle, eh?) that was holding her captive and is now running through its backyard-forest. Soon, she’s intercepted by Gar Logan, a.k.a. Beast Boy, who takes her to his home to hide out. It’s here where we’re introduced to a ragtag bunch of misfits who are hiding out to avoid persecution for their physical abnormalities. Those who know better will recognize these characters as Robotman, Negative Man, and Elastic Girl.

I really enjoyed the banter and lighter tone that this partial Doom Patrol lent to the episode, and I think Geoff Johns (the episode’s sole writer) did what he could to keep it enjoyable while very minimally pushing the narrative forward. And while, yes, there is very little of consequence that occurs throughout the hour-long run-time, I get why it had to happen this way. At least while nothing was happening, most of the dialogue (that wasn’t coming out of Dick Grayson’s mouth) was fun. It seems fairly obvious that the Doom Patrol series that’s slated for 2019 will most likely take a few cues from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films (honestly, what ensemble-driven media isn’t?), but hey, if it works — which in this case, it does — I say go for it.

Jokes and unlikely companions can only do so much, however, and that’s a lot of heavy lifting for, admittedly, fairly weak concepts. No matter how effective such tertiary details are, any problems with the primary events are going to somewhat overshadow them. That’s not to say that this episode is bad — far from it. It has a decently intriguing plot and it’s probably the best episode in terms of “pace” so far. However, much of it is just sort of “fluff”. Rachel feeling confident enough to voluntarily use her powers is certainly an interesting development, but that 30-second exchange is essentially the biggest take away from the episode until the VERY end. Even that ending borders on amounting to nothing because it’s something that anyone who has a passing understanding of the property, or even someone who has only ever seen Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, knows is going to happen at some point.

Additionally, the show-runners are going to have to come up with different things for Rachel to do other than the same thing she’s be doing for four episodes now. Her entire narrative up to this point can be summed up by this sequence: girl is upset and skeptical of new person, girl learns to trust, girl shows kindness despite being literally possessed by Evil incarnate, girl finds herself restrained or in a situation in which she must now use her dark powers, girl learns that maybe you shouldn’t trust EVERYONE. Lather, rinse, repeat. Thankfully, it does look like we’ll be switching gears starting in the next episode, but for the good of the show, this formula needs to go away for a very long time.

When it’s all said and done, however, I do think the show has finally hit its stride. While it’s not as bombastic and tense as the previous episode, Episode 4 is still very enjoyable even when nothing is really happening. As long as these chips keep tasting this good, I’ll keep stuffing my face.

7/ 10

Titans is released every Friday only on DCUniverse!