Sunday, January 13, 2019

Friends from College Season 2 Review

Season 2 of the Netflix "comedy" is back and I binged watched it over the weekend.  I reviewed season 1 and you can find that link here.....
but to summarize season 1, the show was billed as a comedy and there were not many funny moments.  It was a drama in the way of 30 Something and calling it a comedy had people watching for laughs and there were not many.  Season 1 had this great cast of comedy characters and they turned them into bland, unfunny folks and I was never certain if that was the purpose.  Season 1 was inconsistent and uneven and it was difficult to either like or hate any of the characters because they were just bland caricatures.

To recap season 1, Ethan and Lisa are a married couple moving back to New York from Michigan  where all their Friends from College live.  The big secret is that, since college, Ethan and  Sam ave been having an affair and only one person, knows about it.  Season 1 revolves around each friends lives and their continued grasp at their youth as each person is closing in on forty.

Of course, the affair is revealed and friends are sleeping with each other and it all culminates at the birthday party for another friend and Lisa asking Ethan for a separation.

Season 2 picks up a year later! The pull back for all the friends is that Felix and Max are getting married and their engagement party has all Friends invited together for the first time in a year,  Ethan  has not seen Lisa in a year and Sam and her husband are still dealing with the betrayal of her affair and staying together only for their children and working through their issues in couples therapy.

The season evolves around the friends relationship post the affair reveal and their differing emotions dealing with it.  The anger and hurt from cheating is played out wonderfully through Lisa( Colbie Smothers) all season long and even tho she still makes questionable decisions, she comes off likeable and despicable all at the same time.  The show finds its groove in season 2 by settling on the drama and leaving the comedy to a minimum( on purpose) and allows the viewers better insight into each character over the 8 episode run.

I would rarely recommend this, but I would advise people interested in this show to skip season 1 and just watch the Netflix recap before starting season 2.  It will catch you up on all the major plot points in 2 minutes and you can move onto enjoying season 2.

Much better effort and hopefully we will get a season 3!!

The Producer

Young Justice #1

Back in October, DC announced their new, teen focused Wonder Line of comics.  These books would be overseen by Brian Michael Bendis as he has been known for being able to capture and make popular teens in comics with his run on Miles Morales: Spiderman and IronHeart!

Young Justice opens with a discussion of the 7 Crisses by a group of space fairing aliens called the Gemworld and how these Crisis' have become a threat to their world and Earth must be dealt with.

Back on Earth, we get the slow introduction to the team.  First up Jenny Hex, on her way to Metropolis from Texas and she is the first to encounter the police and the Gemworld when they attack.  Next up, Tim Drake as Robin as the attack begins in earnest and this Robin is clearly going to be the leader of this group of Young Justice.  Next up, Wonder Girl, but not the Donna Troy version.  She tells Robin she is not about this hero life right now, but eventually she does make her way into the battle.  We also get Impulse making his way into the book and team, along with Teen Lantern.

The battle culminates with our heroes of Young Justice running off Gemworld as they go back into their teleporter and Young Justice follows them and get sucked into different portals.  Without spoiling too much, each member Robin and Impulse are reunited with someone from their pasts.

Overall, I thought this book was ok.  It was a little uneven and the dialogue felt a bit forced; like a middle age man trying write dialogue for teenagers.  And then it hit me:  This book is not necessarily written for me; its written for a younger audience and when viewing it from that lens, I understand it a bit more.  This is a great, out of continuity book for a new reader to pick up and read.  Its fun, it has action, and is drawn beautifully. 

Even tho its not my cup of tea, I will still finish out the first story arc because I am interested in seeing how the team comes together.  Solid, but not spectacular issue from Bendis.

The Producer

The Marvel Hacks: Season 5 Episode 1

Marvel Hacks Season 5, Ep 1

The Marvel Hacks are back!! We took a long vacation for the holidays but the New Year brings a new season and podcast.  This week we late review Aquaman and The Spiderverse and talk how hyped( or not) we are for Captain Marvel.  In comics, for THATS THEY ONE, we review DC's new Young Justice title under the Wonder Banner.  Plus we review the Champions #1, Winter Soldier #1, Killmonger #1, and the Avengers reach a milestone with issue 700.

Great fun and listen with your boys! Come get some and share with your friends on Soundcloud, Stitcher, and Apple Podcast!

The Producer

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Betty and Veronica #1 Review

As the Archie Forever line continues, the reboot of Betty and Veronica reboots written by Jamie Lee Rotante and pencils by Sandra  Lanz.  To recap, this Archie Forever line kicked off with Archie 700 and is continuing the foundation laid by Mark Waid when they rebooted Archie in 2015 with a more realistic storyline.

The first Betty and Veronica reboot only lasted the issues and disappeared because of massive shipping delays from the Adam Hughes creative team.  This new relaunch is scheduled as a 5 issue 5 series and hopefully can stay on a regular schedule.

This issue kicks off at the end of the summer as Betty and Veronica reflect on all their happenings away from the Riverdale Gang this summer.  There were trips to the big city and social projects as each girl helps complete the other.

My first reaction to this was, I really wish Archie comics would make the step to put Betty and Veronica together as a couple.  They are best friends, yes... but who says you cannot date your best friend?  On top of that, maybe they are better for one another than Reggie or Archie is.  Just my thought...

But there is the teenage heartbreak and reflection as the girls move into their senior year at Riverdale High School.  The girls, not wanting their magical summer to end, make a pinky pact to attend the same college as one another.  AND that neither one would pursue a romantic relationship with Archie moving forward.

The book is light and fun, as Archie books should be; however this is an interesting period to focus on Betty and Veronica.  Each looking into adulthood and dealing with issues that many high school seniors deal with: Where should I go to college? How can I afford college?  What will I study?  This is on top of the academic pressures students face, as well as the pressure parents put on their children about their future.  I think this is a rich and interesting spot for this book to live in( even only for a bit).  The ladies do visit a local college in Riverdale and attend a mixer and even though they are supposed to stay together, they get separated and Betty drunk texts Archie for help!

I do not want to spoil too much here but our book ends on a cliffhanger where our two main protagonist are each wondering what is going to happen next.

I truly enjoyed this book and I always enjoy when the focus is taken off Archie.  Plus, this book avoids something that Archie #700 did which is try to make a connection between the Archie comics and the Riverdale TV show.  In my world, the only connection between the two are the names of the characters and they should not be crossed over.

Betty and Veronica is a great book and a great jump on point for new readers to the Archieverse.  I highly recommend this book!!

The Producer

Monday, December 31, 2018

Diversity in the MCU: Where are the Black Women

MCU to be more Diverse

So Kevin Feige suggests that moving forward, Marvel movies are going to be more diverse.

"Yes, absolutely," elaborated. "Sometimes people have asked very directly, 'Is [Black] Panther a one-off?' in terms of inclusion representation and the answer is no, it's the beginning. That it worked out as well as it worked out just encourages to head in the direction that we were going to head anyway. You look at that film and the experience of the was incredible. That movie, obviously, would not have been what it was if everyone sitting around the table looked like me or you and that's actually true for all the movies."

 Werd?  This sounds like something someone would say because its the correct thing to say, but words without action are just words.  And as much as I enjoy the MCU, their track record is far from diverse and like many cultural things, diverse often means adding more white women.   Lets look at the movies thus far and we are gonna take out Black Panther because one movie out of 20 is not showing diversity.

Iron Man 1-3
* No Black women

Incredible Hulk
* No Black Women

Thor 1-3
*One Biracial/Black Female in Valkyrie

Captain America 1-3
*Black women make an appearance in Civil War but that is really just setting up world building for Wakanda.

Guardians of the Galaxy 1-2
*No Black Women ( Gamora is not Black)

Dr Strange
*No Black women

Spider-Man Homecoming
*Liz and Mary Jane...both biracial Black women

Ant-Man 1 and 2
*One Biracial/Black woman in Ghost

Avengers 1-3
*really just a rehash of characters and the only Black women are the women of Wakanda in Infinity War.  The first two movies are devoid of Black women.

So without doing the math and just using the eye test, the MCU, outside of Wakanda, has no Black women( and other women of color) in it and, as an aside,  the entire universe is devoid of LGBTQ characters.  This is not in dispute unless you want to "what about Wakanda.." me to death.  Yet there is no shortage of white women characters, both heroes( Lady Sif, Black Widow, Wasp) and supporting roles( Pepper  Potts, Agent Carter(2x), Jane Foster, etc).  Those roles do not exist for Black women in the MCU and no matter what they say, it still feels like Black women and LGBTQ characters are just being pushed aside for more white women.  Case in point....

Phase four of the MCU kicks of Captain Marvel, another white female hero.  Granted, there has been a hint of showing a Black woman who may actually speak with Photon but its suspect until it actually happens.  The other Phase four movies allegedly are Black Widow( another white woman), Black Panther 2( a given), Dr Strange 2, and Shang Chi.... an Asian character who are also horribly underrepresented in comic book movies.

Maybe, MCU is going to put all the Black women in the Fox Universe but their record there is not strong either.  Storm and Angel the only Black women in all those X-Men movies and both are played by light skinned Black women.  Fantastic Four... well Kerry Washington played Alicia Masters, right? Don't that count for something?

Its really just sad how two groups of people, who are passionate about these movies and characters are really just a forgotten group and cast aside as if their fandom does not matter.  We constantly are preaching that representation matters and MCU and other companies should know this by now.  2018 fully proved that if you make a quality movie with diverse cast members, people will show up and throw money at your projects.

I can hear fanboys already with the excuses.... "You got Black Panther, stop bitchin"! "Or there are not that many Black women or LGBTQ characters to put in the movies" Really?  Isn't that really the problem then?  The industry has catered to male fan boys and the male gaze for 50 plus years and has constantly looked over heroes of color; especially women heroes of color.

Give us Misty Knight! Give us Storm( a dark skinned one)! Give us Shard!  Make sure Photon shows up in Captain Marvel!!!  Hell give us RiRi Williams and Moon Girl!!!  The characters are there and I hope phase four introduces MCU to them!
I see better than I hear tho!

The Producer

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1 Review

Something that often gets lost is that modern comics are often driven by the movies.  While the comics may drive the stories in the MCU and other comic book movie universes, the movies often serve as a jumping on point for new fans and the comics often respond in kind.

Case in point,  Enter the Spiderverse focuses on Miles Morales as Spider-Man and shortly before that, we get a relaunch of the Miles Morales Spider-Man comic, written by Saladin Ahmed and art by Javier Garron.

Miles Morales and his Spiderman comic that came out in 2016 was cancelled a few months ago as Miles creator, Brian Michael Bendis left for an exclusive deal with DC.  At the time, there was speculation as to what and where Miles Morales was going to go; especially in light of Peter Parker coming back to full time Spider-Man duties.  Miles was still in champions but there always felt like a need for a full time Miles comic and a relaunch ahead of Enter The Spiderverse was inevitable.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man serves as a great jumping on point for those not familiar with the character of Miles Morales.  Issue one primarily serves as a get to know you issue as it explains Miles live as Spider-Man and the important people in his life.  While it does not dwell on how he got his powers, it does reference it and points out the subtle power differences between him and Peter Parker.

The book also looks at Miles live outside of school with his family, as well as his life at the school he attends in Brooklyn.  Focus is given to how his parents actually know his secret identity of being Spider-Man, but not all of his friends( except for Ganke).   Ahmed does a great job of blending the groundwork laid by Bendis, but also giving a twist and adding subtext to Miles' complicated dual life.

We do get introduced to a new character, Barbara, who is a love interest for Miles and our main plot as Barbara is hosting her nephew, whose father had been deported.  Ahmed, much like Coates has done in Captain America, placed an emphasis on using modern day politics as a point of reference to guide this plot line.

When we finally do get a bad guy to show up, its a classic Spider-Man villain in the Rhino, but all is not what it seems and we have a shocking reveal to end issue 1.

Overall, and I have written this here before, I am a huge fan of Miles Morales.  My son is half- black and half-Puerto Rican so I see my son in Miles Morales and I am hugely protective of the character.  This book was a solid entry for the creative team and has the potential to continue to move Miles past just being "Black Spiderman" or "Puerto Rican Spider-Man".  As Peter Parker is now a grown up( sort of), Miles is allowed to be that Peter Parker that most of us grew up with- fun loving, teenage Peter Parker.  The character is not burdened with all the angst of Peter, even though his life has complications.  The character and the book are fun and I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out over time.

** I will say this, tho….as someone whose wife is Puerto Rican and who speaks Spanish.  There is no way that Rio would only say two Spanish words to Miles when speaking with him and they certainly would not be Buena dia( more than likely bendicion in the morning) and loco.

The Producer

Friday, December 28, 2018

Chuck Clayton, Racism and Archie 1941

I wrote a review of issue #1 and you can find that here.

Archie 1941 #1 Review

Before I get into all of this, let me say that I am very protective of Black characters in white led comic books; especially when the writer( and artist) is not Black.  Often times, well intentioned moments can come off tone deaf  to the reader or paint the writer into a corner that they will solve by using a white savior trope which takes all the focus off the Black character to paint the white character as the hero.  This ignores any historical significance of the moment and places the Black character in debt and often deference to the white character.  So when white writers ( and artist) are dealing with Black Characters, I am often looking at their hair, their dress, and use of vernacular, language, and slang.  You see, white writers will often write what they THINK a Black person will say and they have no idea.  This also includes hairstyles and clothing.  This also includes context of the moment through racial and historical lenses.

In issue one, at the high school graduation, Mr. Weatherbee calls Chuck Clayton name at graduation.  Chuck is not seen on camera, but they establish that he attended and graduated from Riverdale.  However, this is 1941 in America. No matter what non-descript town Riverdale is set in, Chuck Clayton was not attending that school because the school and neighborhoods would have been segregated and Chuck and Nancy would have been attending the Black school near them.  The thought behind this was to establish that Chuck graduated and its a part of Riverdale for a moment that happens in issue 3 which I will deal with later.

Additionally in issue 1, there is a beach scene after graduation where the entire Riverdale gang is hanging out.  Nancy is there with the rest of the crew.  Again, there is no historical basis or backing for this because in 1941, beaches were highly segregated and Nancy being at the beach with a group of white kids would have caused an incident because it was illegal for her to be there.  Again, establishing the character but no context to the event or the historical significance.

Which leads to the events of issue 3 with Chuck. As a point of storytelling, the book is dealing with how the people of Riverdale are dealing with World War 2.  It mostly focuses on Archie and at this point, he has enlisted in the Army.  Well, apparently Chuck is also interested in enlisting and is met with some resistance.

Right off the bat, notice the subtle red hat... a clear nod to the MAGA folks.  Secondly, Chuck is addressed as, "kid" when in 1941 the common reference would have been "boy" or "Nigger".  As the confrontation escalates, the language begins to match what woulda been close to 1941( minus nigger).

In panel 2, after Chuck decides to square up, he catches a beat down.  A fairly brutal one too and in 1941, chances are Chuck does not survive this encounter with 3 white men.  He'd either be dead or been thrown in jail for striking a white man.  Again, context is important in these situations and Waid is using this moment to get to the reveal in panel 3...which is also problematic

So Moose comes in as the white savior.  Not surprising and he immediately takes the focus off what happened and Waid attempts to excuse it through Chuck by saying "these guys are not from around here".  And Moose doubles down with his "We don't put up with that stuff in Riverdale"?  Huh? Really?  In 1941?  Yeah, this is terrible.  It passes off a hate crime to "well they are not from here?" And? Its still a hate crime!  But bigger than that, a moment to speak about segregation and racism is lost to make Moose look like a good guy.  And Moose is a good guy historically in Archie( except to Reggie) but if you are going to center this book on 1941 and the war and the society that surrounded it, you need to focus on the ugly shit that was happening in America at the time.

I hope, if Chuck does wind up in the Army, it deals with the segregation that he is going to experience there.  While many Black soldiers wanted to fight in the war and did, often times they were sent in support roles for white troops.  And less to say about Black troops treatment when they came back to the United States after the war and were treated like second class citizens in a country where all men were allegedly created equal.

Look, its Archie. I get it. I know its not real and its not meant to be.  But, they chose to center this book around a historical moment in time.  If you are going to do that, then take the time to focus on aspects of that time that may be uncomfortable.  It does not have to be the focus of the book, but to not acknowledge it does a disservice to the characters and the readers.

The Producer