Archives for 2013

Mary Poppins (50th Anniversary Edition): Review

Mary Poppins 50 BD art

Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition – Available Now

by Aaron Einhorn
We all know the classic Disney film of Mary Poppins. Even if we haven’t seen the film in its entirety, it’s pretty much impossible to live in 21st Century America without having seen clips from the film, or at a bare minimum, being familiar with the songs “Supercalifragilisticexpalidocious,” “A Spoonful of Sugar” or “Chim Chim Cheree.” But most of us have seen the film, and have been enchanted by P.L. Travers’ enchanted nanny who comes to save the Banks family, and we are lucky to have done so.

Now, just in time for the release of Saving Mr. Banks the film based (loosely) on how Walt Disney acquired the rights to make Mary Poppins, Disney has released Mary Poppins for the first time on Blu-Ray. We were lucky enough to be given a review copy of the Blu-Ray, and we were all-too excited to rip the shrink-wrapping off the case and throw it into our player.

And how is it? Read on.

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Official Synopsis
Released from the Disney Vault in celebration of its 50th Anniversary, this beloved classic shines like never before on Blu-ray with an all-new digital restoration. Winner of five Academy Awards (1964), including Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”) and Best Special Visual Effects, Mary Poppins is a movie experience your family will enjoy over and over again.

“Practically Perfect in Every Way” Mary Poppins flies out of the windy London skies and into the home of two mischievous children. With the help of a carefree chimney sweep named Bert (Dick Van Dyke), the spirited nanny turns every chore into a game and every day into a “Jolly Holiday.” Share the music, the magic, and the joy of Mary Poppins with a whole new generation for the first time on Disney Blu-ray.

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The Feature
I’m not going to waste time recapping the tale of Mary Poppins here. Either you’re familiar with the tale of Mary Poppins, Bert, and the Bankses, or you’ve been living under a rock. I will, however, say that if you haven’t seen the film yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. We shared the movie with Cordy and Mira for the first time on our way down to Walt Disney World last year, and they were so in love with it that they insisted that they had to make sure to visit Mary “along with all of the other Princesses” when we went to the parks. Sadly, due to a freak rainstorm, they didn’t manage to see Mary Poppins when we were in the England section of Epcot, but we’ll be correcting that next time we visit.

All that said, you may have seen Mary Poppins before, but you haven’t seen it like this – unless you’ve been fortunate enough to see one of the restored 35mm prints. The digital restoration of the movie is absolutely breathtaking, and it almost feels like you’re watching a brand new movie when you watch this Blu-ray.

Mary Poppins

Bonus Features
Disney has never been one to skimp out on the Bonus Features, and thanks to the depth of the Disney Vault, each new release manages to have something new attached. In this particular case, we get a “Making of” documentary titled “Supercalifragilisticexpalidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins,” which is fun, but is fairly standard fare. We also get “A Magical Musical Reunion With Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman” which is astonishingly fun. It may have been fifty years since the making of the film, but these three show how they really managed to capture magic in a bottle when this movie was made. In addition, we are treated to the deleted song “Chimpanzoo.” It’s a fun song, but there’s no reason why it needed to be included. Still, Disney fans will enjoy it.

These features have been presented in previous releases, but they’re still pretty great.

In terms of new features, we get “Becoming Mr. Sherman” which contains a conversation between Richard Sherman and Jason Schwartzman, who plays Sherman in Saving Mr. Banks as Sherman discusses the process of writing the songs of Mary Poppins, along with an all new “Mary-Oke Sing-Along.”

The one thing I miss is the Second Screen experience which seemed like it was becoming the new standard for Disney’s releases/re-releases. On the other hand, the Second Screen might have just distracted me from the joy of seeing Mary Poppins, Bert and the Banks children all over again, so perhaps they made the right call.

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The Look
Mary Poppins won the Oscar for visual effects when it was released, and the beauty of the film and the seamless blending of animation and live-action actors has been apparent in all of the previous releases of the movie. But the digital restoration of this Blu-Ray brings the film to visual life in an all new way. If you are especially eagle-eyed, you can find some legacies of the transfer and restoration, but for the rest of us, what we end up with is a beautiful re-release of a film that most of us have seen, but have never been able to see in its full glory.

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The Sound
The music of Mary Poppins is well-known and full of classics, but just as most of us have never seen Mary Poppins in the same vivid splendor that the original theatrical experience presented, we also haven’t experienced the music in the same way. Until now. The soundtrack has received the same tender restoration as the print, and the music is crisp and clear and beautiful in Dolby 7.1 sound.

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Final Thoughts
Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition is a masterful release, and if you don’t already own a copy of the film, it’s a splendid addition to any Disney fans’ library. If you already own the previous DVD release, you don’t need to rush out to replace it with this version, but you certainly won’t be disappointed if you do. Cordy and Mira couldn’t explain why the film seemed so much more alive this time than the last time they saw it, but they could tell that it was “better.” Christina and I could describe the improvements once we stopped to think about them, but this is honestly a hard movie to be a critic of when it simply demands that you throw yourself into the experience.

I am overjoyed to be able to add Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition to my library, and I think you’ll feel the same way.

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Weekly Comic Round-Up, December 11, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

astrocity7_c01Astro City #7
There are a lot of things to like about Astro City, but one of the things I love most about the series is the ability to use it to explore tropes with the Astro City-expies of the characters that I would never want to see done with the “original” versions of the characters. Samaritan and Winged Victory aren’t Superman and Wonder Woman, but their romance allows me to explore the idea of a Clark/Diana relationship in a way I would never want to see with them.

This issue gets to the core of Winged Victory and the idea that she gets her power because of her ability to be a symbol to women everywhere, and to see what happens when she loses the ability to be that kind of symbol. As is typical, the story is told mostly from the point-of-view of an observer – a young man who comes to Winged Victory’s training center in defiance of all tradition.

It’s nice to see some of the tender moments between Samaritan and Winged Victory, and the appearance by the Confessor at the end of the issue sets the tale up to be a beautiful counterpoint to DC’s Trinity of Superman/Wonder Woman/Batman. This is only part one of a three-issue arc, and I cannot wait until the next two issues arrive.

cataclysm_spiderman2_c01Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man #2
The longer that Cataclysm goes on, the more certain I am that this may actually spell the death knell for the Ultimate universe, and that ultimately we’ll see a few elements from that universe survive into the 616 world, but that the line has finally wound down. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is anyone’s call, and largely a matter of opinion.

But the good news is that the characters from Ultimate Spider-Man seem to be poised to wrap things up in a fairly satisfying matter. Unlike the other Cataclysm tie-ins, this title really feels like an issue of the core book, and this issue allows us to see how Cloak & Dagger, Bombshell and Spider-Woman all deal with the arrival of Galactus and Gah Lak Tus, as well as giving us a “flashback” to how each member of the cast dealt with the previous destruction of New York.

The individual stories are of varying quality – Cloak and Dagger seem largely ineffective, and their fights remind me of the same futility we saw when Ultraman flew into the Anti-Matter Wave in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. Bombshell’s nascent heroism is pretty cool, and if I’m wrong and the Ultimate Universe survives, I’m looking forward to seeing her develop. But the meat of the story is, of course, Miles and his dad, and that looks to be wrapping up in the most human and heartfelt manner. Kudos to Bendis once again for cutting to the heart of the characters.

cataclysm_ultimates_2Cataclysm: The Ultimates #2
There is, of course, a flip side to every coin. And this issue is the other side of “how well crossover/event books” can work. If the Ultimate Spider-Man tie-in manages to show well a crossover/event book can tie into its main title, this one manages to show how they can fall completely flat and feel completely disconnected.

To begin with, for all that it’s in the title, this is not the Ultimates. There’s no Thor, no Captain America, no Iron Man. What we have is Fury, Stature, the Punisher, Hercules, the Hulk and the Falcon, along with a non-Ghost Rider Danny Ketch and… some other characters who haven’t made an impression.

So, Gah Lak Tus has infected the Hulk, and by issue’s end, Hercules has gotten into it with him, while Punisher and Stature have also both been infected, while Falcon is onboard a floating monument to death dedicated to the World Eater, run by a lunatic who wants to become Galactus’ herald.

It’s a mess, and all it does is reinforce my belief that the Ultimate universe may be on the chopping block. I absolutely can’t recommend this title, which is a bummer because I wanted it to be good.

uncannyxmen15_c01Uncanny X-Men #15
Sometimes you have an issue of a comic that doesn’t move the plot very much, but does spend time with characters and exploring who they are, and what their relationship to one another is. Sometimes those are the best issues of a series, and that has often been the case within the X-Men books where the characters can’t really have a personal life outside of their team dynamic.

I am happy to report that this issue is one of the good ones, as the ladies of the team (including Emma, Jean, the Cuckoos and Kitty) head out to go shopping. Of course, being X-Men, this doesn’t go smoothly and they are interrupted during their shopping trip by the arrival of a newly Terrigan-transformed Inhuman. This sets them up for a battle against Hydra, and makes the X-Men confront the question about whether these new Inhumans share a cause with mutants or not.

But before we get to the “plot,” we also get a lot of good moments – particularly between Emma, Jean and the Cuckoos. The whole issue of Jean Grey being alive, representing all of the potential that we know Jean can grow into, yet being a less powerful telepath than the Cuckoos (who are, oddly enough, currently more powerful psychics than Emma) has a lot of depth to mine, and it looks like Bendis is happy to take us there.

I don’t know that I care about “Inhumanity” as a whole, and I don’t know what, if anything, I want to see in terms of X-Men involvement in the Inhumanity issue. But I do know that I love seeing this kind of character development, and I really enjoyed this book this month.

Meanwhile, A+X #15 has a tale involving Beast and Dr. Strange where they are both dismissive of each other’s disciplines in a way that is very cute but disrespects both men’s willingness to acknowledge that others have great minds in the first part, and continues the story of Cyclops and Captain America tracking down Skrulls with a fun tie-in involving Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos, and Thunderbolts #19 is an interesting, though ultimately dismissable story revealing that the Leader is still very much who we remember him being and that he wants to destroy the Thunderbolts and return to his previous ways – but that he won’t actually act on it.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

Our First Look at the Newly Restored Miracleman!

by Aaron Einhorn
I wrote about it when they originally announced it, so you shouldn’t be surprised to know that I am terribly excited about Marvel’s reprinting of Miracleman. And now Marvel has given us a look at the first few pages of the comic.

And wow.

See, not only has this comic been out of print forever, but as great as the comic was, I was never thrilled with the final art. The colors were… just off somehow.

This looks as good as my memories of the original comic are (which are better than the actuality).

The full press release from Marvel follows, but if this doesn’t have you excited for the release of this comic come January, I don’t know what will.

The Wait is Over! Your First Look at the Remastered Miracleman #1!

The series that changed comics forever finally returns in 2014, and Marvel is proud to present your first look at the remastered MIRACLEMAN #1! Long out-of-print, these timeless, groundbreaking stories injected a new sophistication into the super hero genre still felt today.

“When these stories were originally colored, the artists were never consulted – and it shows” said Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. “The coloring methods used at the time really hurt the finished product. But through close collaboration with all the artists, we’re proud to now present these stories in a manner that matches their creative vision.”

Working in closely with the original series artists, Miracleman has been remastered using the original artwork in every instance possible – and the most advanced restoration methods available applied to ensure the most authentic reading experience based on the artists’ original visions for the series.

“You’ve never really seen Miracleman, until you’ve seen this Miracleman,” said legendary Miracleman artist Garry Leach.“I’m positive this will rapidly be recognized as the all-time, definitive, Miracleman series. It’s simply looking that ridiculously sharp!”

In addition to material originally published in Warrior Magazine, Miracleman #1 also includes character designs, pencil sketches, original art, an article chronicling the history of Marvelman/Miracleman, an interview with Miracleman creator Mick Anglo, as well as a Mick Anglo’s first Marvelman stories. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience the most popular comic few have ever read when Miracleman #1 makes it’s long overdue return to comic shops this January!

Jingle Bell Walk/Run For Arthritis 2013 (Columbus)

by Aaron Einhorn

The Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis is an annual, national event put on by the Arthritis Foundation, and for a second year in a row, the Heroes Alliance Ohio team was thrilled to be able to come and out support the event. Despite the well-below freezing temperatures and snow and ice on the ground, Batgirl, Dr. Fate, Iron Man, Supergirl, U.S. Agent and Wonder Girl came out to support the runners as they raised funds for arthritis care and research, and also to take part in the Snowflake Run with the children.

The event managed to raise over $190,000 in funds for the Arthritis Foundation.

Many thanks to Stephen Blanzaco for out-of-costume support, photography, and braving the cold temperatures!

The Arthritis Foundation is the largest national nonprofit organization that supports the more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. Founded in 1948, with headquarters in Atlanta, the Arthritis Foundation has multiple service points located throughout the country. We’re also the largest private, nonprofit contributor to arthritis research in the world, funding more than $450 million in research grants since 1948. The Foundation helps people take control of arthritis by providing public health education; pursuing public policy and legislation; and conducting evidence-based programs to improve the quality of life for those living with arthritis. Learn more at http://www.arthritis.org/

To learn more about the Heroes Alliance, check us out at http://www.heroesalliance.org

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela – 1918-2013

by Aaron Einhorn

It is my privilege to be able to run a website where I talk about fictional heroes. Today, we honor the passing of a real hero. According to ABC News, Nelson Mandela has passed away today at the age of 95.

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Weekly Comic Round-Up, December 4, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

amazingspiderman700_1_c01Amazing Spider-Man #700.1
So, Otto-as-Spider-Man isn’t for everyone. I entirely understand that. Furthermore, I get that we all know that, eventually, Peter Parker will be returning to his proper body and place. So, in theory, I don’t have a problem with “out-of-continuity” stories that involve Peter Parker.

That said, I have no idea what was going on in this story. We don’t get any clues as to when this is taking place, other than that Peter still seems to be working at the Bugle. We don’t have any idea what’s going on in this story, with absolutely no explanation given about the “cold” Peter is feeling.

The storytelling is just off. The pictures don’t have enough life to them, and the plot is disjointed. I wanted to like this, but there was nothing about it that I enjoyed.

amazingxmen2_c01Amazing X-Men #2
This is another title that I wish worked for me, but sadly isn’t. First off, I’m sorry, but X-Men, you have enough adjectives already. “Amazing” belongs to Spider-Man. You’re going to have to give that one up.

Ok, that one was a joke. The rest of my dissatisfaction is sadly less so.

Part of the problem might be simply that I wasn’t reading any X-Men titles when Azazael was introduced, so I honestly don’t know enough about the backstory there. I don’t know if there is any actual connection with the Infernal beyond Kurt’s appearance; I don’t know where the Bamfs come from; and the truth is that I don’t care.

Anytime you start to cross the Judeo-Christian Heaven or Hell directly with comics, it risks losing a lot of the audience, and in this case, I’m one of the folks who was lost.

I didn’t read X-Men when Nightcrawler died, and right now, I’m having trouble figuring out a good reason to keep reading this title through his resurrection.

cataclysm2_c01Cataclysm: The Ultimate’s Last Stand #2
This is starting to get really interesting. I wasn’t the biggest fan of seeing Galactus go into the Ultimate Universe, and I was really unsure how I felt about the Gah Lak Tus swarm merging with the Cosmic Devourer.

But seeing where we’re headed? This is kind of cool.

Iron Man realizes that the Universal Signature of Galactus matches the 616 universe, so he contacts Mysterio to see what he knows. They discover that Reed Richards (our version, not the omnicidal maniac from the Ultimate Universe) is the only one who has ever stopped Galactus, and despite mistrusting anyone named Reed Richards (because, you know, omnicidal maniac), decide to go get him to help. Miles, being the only one who knows he can safely go to that world, agrees to go, and then the Ultimate Reed shows up to be a part of the team as well.

Of course, I have the feeling that this is all part of the lead-up to possibly eventually destroying the Ultimate Universe but saving Miles Morales in the 616 Universe. And I don’t know that I would have a problem with that.

earth2_18_c01Earth-2 #18
From the beginning, I maintained that if DC was going to do a reboot, then that was what I wanted to see – an actual reboot and a chance to do something new and different with the characters. So far, there have been very few titles that have lived up to that.

Which is why Earth-2 is one of the only books still on my pull list from the publisher.

Here, we say the Darkseid-influenced Superman come back to Earth to terrorize humanity, while a superhumanly powerful Batman works through the headquarters of the Defense Organization, alongside Red Tornado-Lois Lane, and the Flash tries to distract Superman.

It’s different. It’s interesting. And I am totally loving it.

It doesn’t feel “real” to me, in the same way that the Ultimate Universe doesn’t feel as “real” as the 616 Universe, and as such, massive destruction doesn’t get to me in the same way, but it’s still really good and one of the best titles coming from DC Comics today. Check it out.

inhumanity1_c01Inhumanity #1

I didn’t know what to expect after the explosion of Attilan and the mass reveal of Inhumans among mankind, but I’m pretty sure this was it. Hickman does a surprisingly solid job here of letting us inside of Karnak’s head and having him reveal how the Inhumans came to be among us.

What he fails to do, however, is give us a sense of what it means for mankind. Are we now outnumbered by Inhumans? Are Inhumans going to become the next Mutants? Are they effectively Mutants anyhow?

This isn’t a bad comic, as a set-up, but it’s entirely unsatisfying as a stand-alone issue. I need to know more, and the glacial pace that we’re getting information is just not good enough for me.

I’ll be buying the next issue, because I am invested in Marvel in a way that I’m currently not in DC, but I think it may be time for Marvel to take a short break from their event stories – or at a minimum, it may be time for me to take a break from purchasing them.
superiorspiderman23_c01Superior Spider-Man #23

This book is reminding me that I really wish I had been reading the Venom title starring Flash Thompson, because the interplay between Otto/Peter and Flash, in both their costumed and non-costumed identities, is really quite fun. It’s amusing to see Otto struggling without Peter’s memories as he encounters people he should know, and it’s really strange to see a Venom who we can outright state to be heroic and a Spider-Man we know isn’t.

The side and background stories continue to progress well too. MJ dealing with Carlie’s abduction and Peter coming under suspicion shows us how Otto’s house of cards will hopefully collapse. The continuing Goblin saga gives Otto a villain he can’t possibly hope to face on the same even footing that Peter did, and the personal life story of “Peter” dealing with Aunt May and especially with Anna Marie is really awesome.

Incidentally, that’s the one thing I’m not looking forward to seeing when Peter returns – the heartbreak of Anna Marie.

Next week shows us an Otto possessed by the symbiote, and that will certainly be interesting. It’ll be even more interesting to see if Flash is able to get anything from the symbiote about who “Spider-Man” is, when he gets the symbiote back.

All in all, a really good read this time around.

Meanwhile, Avengers Annual #1 has the team off celebrating the holidays while one of Shang Chi’s students causes havoc at the Mansion, Guardians of the Galaxy #8 is the obligatory “Infinity” crossover and brings Angela back to help the team, Indestructible Hulk Annual #1 is a surprisingly cool story that lets Banner and Stark understand each other a little better, Secret Avengers #12 starts the process of bringing Mockingbird back from AIM Island, and Young Avengers #13 completes the story arc of “Mother” although it leaves a lingering question about Loki.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

Gal Gadot is Our New Wonder Woman

by Aaron Einhorn

Well, DC and Warner Brothers certainly aren’t being gunshy about casting unpopular choices for their upcoming Man of Steel sequel. First there was the announcement that Ben Affleck would be Batman in the film that is already being called Superman vs. Batman in most fan circles. And, of course, the internet went into a rage over that bit of casting.

Yesterday, DC announced that Fast and Furious star Gal Gadot would be appearing as Wonder Woman in the film. Ladies and gents, I give you our next on-screen Wonder Woman.

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And, of course, the internet has once again gone nuts.

“She’s too short!” “She’s too skinny!” “She doesn’t act like Wonder Woman!”

And so on, and so on.

I have to say that I am, once again, in the “wait and see” camp. Would Gadot have been my first pick for Wonder Woman? Absolutely not – but that is in no small part because I’ve never seen her act. She has quite an impressive list of Israeli films that she’s been in, but in the U.S., I’ve never watched any of the Fast and Furious franchise (and am unlikely to), nor have I seen her on Homeland or Entourage.

Which brings up an important point.

I also was not in the room when she auditioned.

Casting directors, as a general rule, don’t want to make bad casting choices. They know that their jobs are on the line if a multi-million dollar film fails and it can be blamed on a bad casting choice. They’re looking for something in the audition room, and presumably, Gadot delivered. Have we ever seen Gadot “act” like Wonder Woman? Well, no. But she also hasn’t been playing Wonder Woman, so we shouldn’t have.

gal_gadot_jacketww_alexross Gal-Gadot_dress

“She’s too short! She’s too thin!”

Yes, Gadot is definitely on the slender side. This makes a certain degree of sense – she has a background as a model and former Ms. Israel. And it’s certainly true that Wonder Woman should have a sense of physical power and musculature to her. But here’s a pre-Superman Henry Cavill, a pre-Wolverine Hugh Jackman, and a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth.

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Not exactly muscular powerhouses. After a few months of diet and exercise with a personal trainer…

EXCLUSIVE: Henry Cavill On The Set Of 'Man Of Steel' hugh jackman shirtless wolverine

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And that’s only three examples. You can find similar before and after images for Chris Evans, Toby Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Ben Affleck and others.

Now, women’s bodies are different than men’s, but do you think that Warner Brothers won’t be throwing a ton of money and trainers and dieticians at Gadot to prepare her for this role? Of course they will. I do like that Gadot is Mediterranean (Israeli instead of Greek, but at least the right region), because while Wonder Woman is rarely drawn that way, she should have a bit of that swarthiness about her. I also like that Gadot has experience in the military and from other action films, so I’m sure she can handle herself in the action sequences.

As for her height? Well, Hollywood has been working around the height issue for years. And she’s hardly short. Gadot stands 5’9”, compared to Cavill’s 6’1” and Affleck’s 6’4”. Put her in heels and do a little forced perspective, as I am absolutely certain they will (because they probably don’t want Batman to be taller than Superman), and I’m sure that the relative heights will even out.

Like I said above, Gadot would probably not have been my first choice. But I’ve also seen no reason to think that she will be a terrible one. Would I have liked to see Jaime Alexander or Gina Carano? Sure thing (incidentally, both of these actresses are the same height or shorter than Gadot). But I think the only fair thing to do is to wait and see. It is far too early to say that she’s going to be the death of this film.

Especially since there are plenty of other areas where DC/Warner Brothers could drop the ball. I remain plenty skeptical of this film for reasons totally unrelated to the casting of Gadot or Affleck, but entirely related to my belief that the company no longer understands the emotional heart of their characters and what makes them resonate with audiences (as I described in my previous post regarding the casting of Ben Affleck).

So, I’m ready to give her a chance. And rest assured, if I’m dissatisfied, I will be quick to say. But it doesn’t seem like the time to criticize her casting is now – before we’ve seen anything of her performance.

justice_leagueBut it’s also possible that her casting could help turn the Man of Steel sequel into the beginnings of a Justice League film. And if that’s the case, we should all be excited as fans – not criticizing an actress who we shouldn’t be ready to judge yet.

I’m not advocating blind fandom. I’ve ripped superhero films apart in my critiques, even ones that I really wanted to like. I think we have an obligation to ask that our favorite characters be adapted to film well. But we shouldn’t start that criticizing before we see what we’re going to get from the studio. Fans hated the casting of Keaton as Batman, of Evans as Captain America, and of Heath Ledger as the Joker. Fans were excited about the idea of Halle Berry playing Storm and Kevin Spacey playing Lex Luthor.

Judging at the time of the announcement is just too soon, that’s all I’m saying.

 

Weekly Comic Round-Up, November 20, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

batwoman_25Batwoman #25
This is the first issue from the new creative team, and I want to find good things to say about it. Marc Andreyko is a heck of a writer, and in another world, I would have been overjoyed to see him writing Batwoman.

Sadly, we don’t live in that other world, and the one we live in had the previous creative team depart under unfortunate circumstances that poisoned me on the idea of the book, and this issue simply wasn’t strong enough to make me decide to stick around.

The problem is that instead of giving us a solid Batwoman tale, we instead get a Year Zero story of Kate Kane engaging in vigilantism during a power outage in Gotham. And we have seen so many retreads of “Gotham before Batman” that this was probably one of the weakest ways to introduce the new creative team to the book – especially for those of us who aren’t big readers of the other Bat-family titles.

The art is good, the storytelling is serviceable, and if I hadn’t been such a big fan of the title from the start, this issue would have been moved to the “Meanwhile” category. But things being how they are, this issue had to convince me to keep the book in my pull list, and it didn’t succeed for me.

dd_33Daredevil #33
Sometimes you can have a book that is almost totally devoid of connections to the greater comic universe and have it absolutely succeed. I am happy to say that Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil is one title that this is normally the case for.

With almost completely ignoring the goings on in Infinity, Daredevil’s story of his battle against the Sons of the Serpent has been consistently entertaining and fun, even while the stakes have been high. And they have been high. Racial violence and tension aren’t “light” topics, nor is having Foggy fighting (and possibly dying of) cancer.

But Waid has kept this book really fun, and the art has been spot-on.

This particular issue brings Matt into contact with Jack Russell (the Werewolf by Night), Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Living Zombie and Satanna. And it is hilarious. But also still high stakes, as anything involving getting pages from the Darkhold should be.

Check it out.

superior_spider_annualSuperior Spider-Man Annual #1
So, much like last week’s issue of Superior, I think I’m missing something because of being unfamiliar with the character of Blackout. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to matter all that much in terms of being able to enjoy the issue.

I’m kind of unsure where Dan Slott and company are headed here, to be honest. They seem to keep going back and forth between having Otto utterly fail in his ability to keep up the charade of being Peter, and then to having him be, as he claims, the Superior Spider-Man.

And ultimately, that may be the case. Otto may be better at being Spider-Man, but far worse at being able to actually take care of the people in Peter’s life.

We see here a case where someone targets May Parker because of Peter’s known affiliation with Spider-Man. But we also see where Otto than utterly decimates that opponent – complete with torturing him to the point that the underworld is warned away from the Parker family. It seems like it’s working (for now), but it seems like it might drive a deeper wedge between Otto and May Parker – at least as long as “Peter” is working with Spider-Man.

On the other hand, we’re still seeing Norman Osborn and the Goblin Empire maneuvering behind the scenes, and from the get-go, Osborn has known the true link behind Parker and Spider-Man. How that dynamic will be changed the first time that Goblin faces the Superior Spider-Man is anyone’s guess, but I’m looking forward to it.

I’m not quite ready for Peter Parker to come back yet, but I’m also ready to see the signs of it coming down the line. And I think that Norman will, in the end, be a big part of that.

uncanny_xmen_14Uncanny X-Men #14
The exact timing of this issue and where it lines up with the end of “Battle of the Atom” is a little unclear. But you know what? Who cares?

What we get this time around is a really nice, fun exploration of New Mutant Benjamin (who has no code name yet), and what his more subtle powerset actually can mean. It’s interesting that, much like Cypher, one of the powers that would be the most useful in the really real world is totally unsuited for combat. And it’s very, very appropriate that Emma would be the one to recognize that.

But what Bendis does so well here is make sure that this is still a really fun issue, with clever, playful banter from Emma, Illyana, Benjamin, and even from Scott. And it comes with a plot element as well, with Emma using the new mutant to send a strong message to S.H.I.E.L.D.

It’s not the best comic on the stands. It’s not even my favorite comic written by Brian Michael Bendis this month. But what it manages is to remind me how much I used to love the X-Men, and it makes me glad that I’ve started reading X-titles once again.

xmen_7X-Men #7
I’ve never considered Lady Deathstrike to be one of the most compelling enemies in the X-Men’s roster. Heck, I’ve never even considered her to be all that exceptional as a member of Wolverine’s solo rogues gallery. When she died, I didn’t care.

Along those same lines, the characters of Monet St. Croix and the Omega Sentinel are both characters who came into the X-Men while I was studiously avoiding anything involving Marvel’s Merry Band of Mutant Misfits.

So, this issue should have fallen flat for me.

It didn’t.

I don’t know if it’s the redesign and new origin for Lady Deathstrike (which has potential), or if it was watching Jubilee realize that she was going to be legally Shogo’s mother, but what I do know is that by the issue’s end, I was super excited to see the team ready to go after Deathstrike and her new partner.

Meanwhile, A+X #14 continues the “Cap & Cyclops vs. the Skrulls” storyline in one half, while giving us an odd story of Magneto and Superior Spider-Man in the other, Avengers #23 continues “Infinity,” mainly focusing on the space battle and watching the alien leaders decimate one of Thanos’ minions, Batman Beyond Universe #4 brings us to the end of the Live Wire story, and sets up the ending for the Superman Beyond in the Phantom Zone storyline, Cataclysm: Ultimates #1 has the B-List Ultimates dealing with a Gah Lak Tus doomsday cult, including a potentially really bad ending involving a gamma-powered behemoth, Indestructible Hulk #15 concludes Hulk in Time, Secret Avengers #11 is part two of our newly-discovered Inhuman agent as she helps the team put down one of her own and finds herself unsuited for the work, Thunderbolts #18 has the Thunderbolts kill a bunch of mobsters in a storyline that might have been interesting in a Punisher comic but left me utterly unsatisfied with a “hero” team book, and Young Avengers #12 manages to use its unconventional format so well that I was unable to follow the issue, other than to see that the team of young heroes was fighting off Mother and her minions and that Mother might be Loki.

University of Dayton Dance Marathon

by Aaron Einhorn
For fifteen years, the students at the University of Dayton have participated in a 15-hour Dance Marathon to raise money for the worthy and needy children who are patients at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Students participate in a variety of fund-raising activities leading up to and during the Dance Marathon. Each hour of the marathon has a theme, and this year Heroes Alliance Ohio were invited to be a part of their “Pop Culture” hour.

Superman, Batman, Wolverine, Iron Man and Rogue all came out to meet some of the patients of the hospital and to support the dancing students in their endeavors. And ended up getting pulled out onto the Dance Floor as well!

This was, without a doubt, one of the more unusual events the team has ever done. There were very few kids there, and most of our hour of attendance involved seeing us dance. And to be honest, it’s not bad that I play Superman, because I dance like a white boy from Kansas.

Still, through the efforts of the students, over $55,000 were raised for the hospital, and the team was more than happy to have been able to support them.

Special thanks to Wiccy and Manuella Galvan for photography and out-of-costume support.

To learn more about the UD Dance Marathon, visit http://uddancemarathon.kintera.org/

To find out more about the Heroes Alliance, check out our web page at http://heroesalliance.org

Weekly Comic Round-Up, November 13, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

astrocity6_c01Astro City #6
It would be a lie to say that Astro City is a perfect title. There are individual issues, and in fact, sometimes entire storylines that have fallen flat. But when it is on, it is on.

This issue? Was on.

I wasn’t thrilled with the first part of the story last month, but seeing it all brought together in Issue 6 showed us exactly when Busiek and Anderson are at their strongest – when dealing with the fantastic next to the mundane. The set-up story of the hustler and “union manager” didn’t capture me, but seeing him grapple with a device taken from the Ambasador that grants super powers? That was what made it perfect.

And what made it even better was the ultimate conclusion. Real-life, being married and making that work, is as great an adventure as any superpowered hijinks. Well done, once again.

allnewxmen18_c01All-New X-Men #18
This is a hard title to review, but I didn’t want to throw it done into the “Meanwhile” section, because I really, really enjoyed it. I suppose the best thing to say is “Go finish reading Battle of the Atom first.”

Done?

Ok.

Seeing the “First Class” come together at the Charles Xavier school was kind of awesome. The kids are really starting to distinguish themselves from their contemporary counterparts, and it is wonderful seeing Kitty growing into her role as “Professor K.” As we’ve grown used to from Brian Bendis, the story is at its best looking at the personal moments – the discussion between Jean and Hank, the reunion of Kitty and Illyana, the “confrontation” between Beast and Magneto.
And you know what? I really dig the new uniforms for the kids. The classic “First Class” uniforms will always have a special place in my heart, but the new costumes just look awesome.

cataclysm_spiderman_c01Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man #1
I have a slight fear that the presence of Galactus in the Ultimate Comics universe may actually be the end. Marvel has made noise about killing the line before, and I believe that sales aren’t as strong as they once were.

Since we already know that there is a Miles Morales in the 616 world, it wouldn’t be that much of a sacrifice to their corporate bottom line to do so, and it would simplify things.

I really hope that they don’t, of course.

That said, these fears didn’t bother me in the slightest while reading Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man #1, because it barely felt like a part of Cataclysm, with Galactus not appearing until the final page. What it felt like was another issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, with Miles and Ganke at school, Cloak and Dagger discovering who they were and what they wanted to be, Bombshell walking away from her parole officer, and Jessica Drew telling the Ultimates that she wants to investigate Roxxon.

In other words, it’s a really solid issue of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, and the tie in to the big “event” is entirely incidental.

superiorspiderman21_c01Superior Spider-Man #21
Yet again, Otto is managing to succeed as Spider-Man, perhaps even surpassing Peter, but not really through any merit of his own.

What we are seeing is that while Otto may have superior technological skills to Peter (debatable, but a point I’m willing to concede), his ruthlessness is ultimately going to be his downfall, which is exactly as it should be. Otto is a genius, but he simply isn’t capable of nurturing any sort of relationship on a long term basis. He isn’t trustworthy.

I’ll confess that Otto’s girlfriend Stunner is a character who made her appearance when I wasn’t reading Spidey books, so I don’t have much of an opinion about how she was handled, but I do think it was interesting to see how Otto deals with both her and Anna-Marie, as was Otto’s handling of his doctoral thesis defense. All in all, a very solid read.

Meanwhile, Avengers Arena #17 brings us closer to the end-game for Arcade, as we see several of the kids cross that final line and kill, including an explosive ending for one hero, and World’s Finest #17 shows us an out-of-control Kara while Helena fights a villain so generic that I can’t even remember her name.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!