My Favorite Blockbuster “Discoveries” Of 2017

Happy New Year everyone. I decided to celebrate by compiling a series of lists celebrating my favorite films and shows of 2017. Sounds like pretty standard stuff, right? Yup, totally. However, these lists will include not just new films from last year, but new-to-me ones that I enjoyed. This one celebrates the glory of big screen blockbusters, most of which I saw on the small screen because, you know, kids.

First off, I’d just like to reiterate how much I enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) and San Andreas (2015) from director Gary Peyton.  I had a great time watching both of those movies earlier this year and highly recommend checking them out if you’re looking for big budget disaster fare. I also had a silly amount of fun watching Vin Diesel in 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter helmed by Breck Eisner. I think this will make a great weekend movie tune-in type of movie.

Continue reading My Favorite Blockbuster “Discoveries” Of 2017

DC Trade Post: Sensation Comics Volume 1, Mad Love & A Few Others

I found myself with another pile of trades from the library recently and figured I’d write about all four of them. Two of the experiences were great, the others? Not so much. Let’s start with the good!

sensation comics vol 1I’m a big proponent of anthologies in comics. At their best, they’re a great way to both test new talent and also give those with a lot more experience the chance to write or draw a character they don’t otherwise get to spend much time with. Sensation Comics Volume 1 does both and to great effect. This is one of DC’s digital-first books that allows creators to just go wild telling whatever kind of Wonder Woman story they want to from any of her many eras. It was nice to see the pre-New 52 costume so many times for this fan of that bygone era! Continue reading DC Trade Post: Sensation Comics Volume 1, Mad Love & A Few Others

Wonder Woman Trade Post: Eyes Of The Gorgon, Land Of The Dead & Mission’s End

wonder woman eyes of the gorgon Wonder Woman: Eyes of the Gorgon (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Drew Johnson, James Raiz & Sean Phillips
Collects Wonder Woman #206-213

About this time last month I made my way through Greg Rucka’s first three Wonder Woman books. It took me a little while to get the next volume from the library, but I finally did and had a ridiculously good time reading through it and the final two volumes of his run.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Rucka’s working on a longform comics story with this run and I think it’s one of the best ones I’ve read when it comes to this character. He not only had a solid take on the character, but also developed a variety of obstacles in his first few issues that all came to fruition as the series edged closer to its Infinite Crisis/One Year Later-mandated conclusion.

As you might be able to tell from this book’s title, the major obstacle this time around is the resurrected Medousa, the snake-headed Gorgon who turns people into stone if she makes direct eye contact with them (even via cameras). Medousa not only attacks Wonder Woman at the White House, but also turns the son of one of her staffers into stone before challenging her to a knock down, drag out battle for the entire world to see. In the process of defeating the inhuman monster, Diana blinds herself with hair-snake venom. The rest of this volume finds her dealing with her new condition, including a variety of tests from her teammates in the JLA.

Meanwhile, Dr. Psycho’s still causing trouble, Cheetah returns, the goddesses arrange to take over Olympus from Zeus and the United States is particularly worried about Paradise Island to the point where they won’t move their warships away.

wonder woman land of the dead Wonder Woman: Land of the Dead (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka with Geoff Johns, drawn by Drew Johnson, Justiniano, Rags Morales & Sean Phillips
Collects Wonder Woman #214-217, Flash #219

Land Of The Dead kicks off with a crossover with Flash that establishes a relationship between Diana’s longtime villain Cheetah and the Scarlet Speedster’s nemesis Zoom. These two baddies would go on to become a big part of Infinite Crisis as members of the Secret Society, specifically and the group that attacked and murdered most of the Freedom Fighters.

After that, though, the book circles back around to deal with its own problems, specifically Diana, Wonder Girl and Ferdinand traveling to Hell for Athena. This might be the shortest book in the bunch, but it does allow Diana to fix a few of her bigger problems. This is definitely SPOILER territory, so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want anything ruined. First, Diana did all this so she could bring her staffer’s son back to the land of the living. Second, she gets her vision back because Athena’s so impressed with this selfless decision. Also, Wonder Girl discovers that her dad is Zeus, which was a mystery floating around since Geoff Johns relaunched Teen Titans and seemed to be hinting that it was actually Ares.

One of the interesting elements that Rucka played with in this book is comparing Diana in all her righteous, fair-headed glory to the machinations and overall pettiness of the gods themselves. This aspect is showcased in this volume, especially given Diana’s desire to fix a problem she saw herself as the source of and do the right thing by the people she cares about.

wonder woman mission's end Wonder Woman: Mission’s End (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Cliff Richards, Rags Morales, David Lopez, Ron Randall, Tom Derenick, Georges Jeanty & Karl Kerschl
Collects Wonder Woman #218-226

This is it folks, the one where everything comes to a head! We find out the truth about Jonah (the entryway character from the first volume), Diana fights a brainwashed Superman and does what she thinks is right to stop him, she goes on trial and an army of OMACs attack Paradise Island.

Alright, so let’s break this down. More SPOILERS ahead for the next two paragraphs. As it turns out, Jonah was a Checkmate spy. I don’t remember there being any indications of this up until the previous book, but that’s where that is. Rucka also wrote the OMAC tie-in mini as well as the Checkmate comic, so maybe there’s more of that character in those books that I’m forgetting.

When Wonder Woman fought Superman it was because former Justice League backer and Blue Beetle murderer Max Lord was controlling the most powerful person on the planet with relative ease. As Lord went on about how he’d never stop coming back to take over Superman, Wonder Woman believed him and snapped his neck, which just so happened to be broadcast everywhere. From there, she turned herself in, intending to go on trial, but that all got scuttled by the OMACs attacking Paradise Island. Their leader, Brother Eye was all bent out of shape because Wonder Woman killed Lord and made her public enemy number one. A massive battle ensued that only concluded when Athena decided to leave that plane of existence and take all of the Amazons — save Diana — with her.

It’s interesting looking back at this run as a whole because, for the most part, it was a Wonder Woman story that would occasionally cross over with other characters when it made sense. But, as it wrapped up, this was fully a DCU story. Infinite Crisis rewrote some chapters in the DC book and Rucka was one of the architects involved at the time. I had forgotten some of the timeframe going into this, so that was something of a surprise, but overall I think it was all handled really well.

Above I mentioned that all of the balls Rucka got rolling felt like they were well paid off in this series, but that’s not entirely true. I realized while going back through these books for this post that Veronica Cale wound up a bit on the backburner. I think she’s a super interesting character, but probably got pushed to the side as the more major players revved up towards the series’ finale. She does show up in 52, though, which might help fill in some of the questions I have about her character.

Anyway, aside from a bit of a rushed feel at the end and the fact that I wish Drew Johnson had drawn the entire series — the multiple changes in artist per volume in these last three books is kinda crazy — I’d give this entire run of comics a huge, enthusiastic thumbs up. This is what a great example, not only of a fantastic Wonder Woman comic, but a long form sequential storytelling work that shows how solidly a writer can use the long game when plotting out his work.

Wonder Woman Trade Post: Guts & Iron

wonder woman vol 2 gutsWonder Woman Volume 2: Guts (DC)
Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang with Tony Akins
Collects Wonder Woman #7-12

While ordering the first batch of Greg Rucka Wonder Woman comics from the library, I realized I’d read the first volume of Brian Azzarello’s New 52 Wonder Woman series, but hadn’t gone on beyond that. So, I looked around, requested the second and third volumes and started reading. But before that, I went back and gave the first volume a re-read because my memory is deteriorating at an alarming rate.

The major information points from the first book involved Diana discovering that she’s not made of clay, but instead Zeus’ daughter, meeting a young woman named Zola who’s carrying another child of Zeus and some of the family drama and politics that come from being a member of the Greek god clan. But all of that was really set up for these two volumes. The great thing about all three of these books is that Azzarello finds fun and interesting ways of giving the heroes what they want and then almost instantly taking it away in a way that shuffles a lot of characters around.

In the case of Guts, Wonder Woman teams up with Lennox, Hermes, Eros and Hephaestus figure out a way to get Zola back from Hades who wants her as his bride. Basically, these are the good members of the gods who feel sorry for this poor girl who happened to fall for the wrong guy. Without giving too much away, Diana ensures Zola’s safety, gets herself out of Hell and essentially saves the day, but things don’t go well for Zola’s baby by the end when it turns out that one of the people in their camp is a traitor.

wonder woman vol 3 iron Wonder Woman Volume 3: Iron (DC)
Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang with Tony Akins, Dan Green, Goran Sudzuka, Amilcar Pinna & Rick Burchett
Collects Wonder Woman #0, 13-18

As you might expect given what I said above, Wonder Woman’s new goal in the third book is getting Zola’s baby back to her. She’s still got most of her crew with her as well as Hera who adds a great deal of comic relief, but also a new comrade in the form of Orion of the New Gods. Along the way we also get to meet more of Diana and Lennox’s half brothers and sisters as they are all modern illegitimate children of Zeus. As with the previous volumes, there’s plenty of trickery going around on all sides, but at the end of the book we get something of a happy ending, but with another looming danger, which is exactly what comics should have.

One of the really interesting things Azzarello does in this book is doing something new and different with the Greek gods. These are characters who have been around forever and been interpreted in a myriad of ways, especially if you read Wonder Woman comics. I’ve seen them as the robe-wearing gods of myth, human-like business people and just about everything in between. Azzarello mixes some of that old mythology with his own new ideas and makes a family that’s often as interesting as the title character herself. Plus, there’s the addition of Diana’s fellow Zeus progeny and the connection to the New Gods that I assume gets fleshed out in later volumes.

As much as I liked these volumes there were a few odd sticking points for me, though I will admit right away that I might have just missed these points in Azzarello’s rapid fire dialog. I didn’t think the fact that Zeus had gone missing was very well conveyed. There was also the matter of Diana removing her gauntlets and being super powerful. Why didn’t she do this earlier when she was in danger? It was a cool move, but it kinda felt like something added in just to be a cool move. I also personally miss the majesty that used to come along with the character that’s basically gone in these pages, but were all over the place in Rucka’s run. Basically, these are two different takes on the character and each writer is doing or did their own thing which is great.

One thing that did surprise me is how completely separate this feels from the rest of the New 52 DCU. There’s next to no mention of any other heroes or villains, which is an interesting choice. Orion and Highfather of the New Gods show up, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t appearing anywhere else at the time. This is good and bad for various reasons. On one hand, this is a great story that should just do its thing. On the other, what’s the point of being part of a shared comic book universe if there’s no sharing? It’s a similar concern I have with Scott Snyder’s Batman, which is the other New 52 book I really love. As with Batman, I’m pretty much onboard for everything Azzarello wants to do with this character and I’ll keep checking in to see what’s going on in that particular book.

Wonder Woman Trade Post: The Hiketeia, Down To Earth & Bitter Rivals

wonder woman the hiketeia Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by J.G. Jones

Back in my Wizard days one of the editors was a huge Greg Rucka fan. I was familiar with his Batman work at the time, but not the variety of other comic and novel projects he’d worked on. Over the years I’ve become a big fan myself, both of his comics and the man himself. A few weeks back I was thinking about Wonder Woman comics and remembered that he did a pretty substantial run and headed to my library website to see if the books were available. As it turns out they all are, so get ready for a few Greg Rucka Wondy posts in the next few weeks. The Hiketeia, a 2002 graphic novel drawn by J.G. Jones is a pretty simple story that bridges Rucka’s Batman and Wonder Woman work by having a murderer from Gotham asking for sanctuary and offering her servitude (a ritual known as The Hiketeia) to Wonder Woman which she accepts. Having given her word, Wonder Woman is compelled to protect this woman even against her trusted ally and friend Batman as the Furies keep watch. I really enjoyed Jones’ artwork in this book. I didn’t enjoy him as much on something like Final Crisis, but in this case, he really nails Wonder Woman’s power, even when she’s wearing jeans and a tank top. He’s got a lot of dynamism too that works as easily when drafting the dark Batman and the light-loving Diana. I also like that we’re dealing with an established version of Wonder Woman. I don’t want to rag on the New 52 too much — especially because I like Brian Azzarello’s take on the character — but there’s just not as much history there. This book comes from the era of DC Comics I’m most familiar with and was most interested in, so it’s cool to see how well Batman and Wonder Woman respect each other, even if they don’t get along particularly well in this story. The Hiketeia acts as a great sampler for what I’ve read of Rucka’s Wonder Woman run so far. It’s appropriately steeped in Greek mythology and custom, which is exactly how a person built of clay from an island filled with mythological Greek women should be. You also get a sense of the majesty that surrounds Diana, which is a huge part of the upcoming run.

Wonder Woman Down to Earth Wonder Woman: Down To Earth (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Drew Johnson
Collects Wonder Woman #195-200

Not long after The Hiketeia, Rucka took over as the regular writer on Wonder Woman. If you’re picking this book out of the blue, here’s a few things you need to know. 1) Wonder Woman was a goddess for a little while, but isn’t any longer. 2) Her home island of Themyscira is known to the world and has declared itself a country. 3) Wonder Woman is not only a solo hero and part of the JLA, but also the ambassador for Themyscrira to the United States.

Down To Earth is basically the first third of a movie that you don’t get the end of until later in the run. Rucka’s playing a long game here and gets a lot of balls rolling that pay off in various ways. Our entry character here is Jonah, a new embassy worker joining the team as Diana’s book, a collection of essays and speeches, hits the world. What they don’t know, though, is that a woman named Veronica Cale is gunning for Wonder Woman, going so far as to bankroll a slander campaign against her that involved right wing-esque complains of her Amazonian heritage, killers and Dr. Psycho.

This volume also sets up Ares machinations amongst the gods, Diana’s more nature-based sense of heroism, the return of the Silver Swan and the near-destruction of Paradise Island. If you’re looking for a one-off Wonder Woman book to read, this is not the one for you, but if you want to invest yourself in a classically plotted run of comics, this is for you.

wonder woman bitter rivals Wonder Woman: Bitter Rivals (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Drew Johnson, Shane Davis, Steve Sadowski & Linda Medley
Collects Wonder Woman #200-205

Bitter Rivals basically carries over all of the elements from the previous book, adding a few more pieces of information — like Cale’s origin story and why she has a mad-on for Wonder Woman — to the mix while also keeping the larger mysterious interesting enough to keep me along for the ride.

With Wonder Woman’s deck shuffled pretty heavily in the previous volume with the uproar against her, the murder of one of her opposers, Circe teaming up with the Gorgons, Silver Swan’s potential recovery and Paradise Island being nearly destroyed.

In this one, Wonder Woman goes to Cale’s partner for help in figuring out what’s wrong with Silver Swan. Batman also shows up to let her know that Dr. Psycho had something to do with the death of the aforementioned opposer. The book ends with a fight between everyone and Dr. Psycho and the return of Medusa which basically makes it the mid season finale of the run.

Another chapter of Rucka’s overall story, Bitter Rivals is, again, not a good entry point book. It’s part of a larger whole. You could probably jump in here and figure out what’s going on, but that’s silly. We’re used to doing that as comic readers, but when it comes to Rucka’s Wonder Woman run, you’re dealing with five books and 30-some comics. It’s not such a big deal to track them all down and read the whole thing. That’s my plan, assuming I can ever get my hands on the third book from my library (I’ve got the other two sitting right here).

Before signing off here, I want to say a few words about Drew Johnson’s art. He’s not an artist that I had an opinion on going into these books, but I’ve got to say, I found his pencils to be really solid and majestic. Sometimes, things feel a little slight, which is a misstep when you’re dealing with a character like Wonder Woman who is supposed to be surrounded by a sense of majesty, but overall, he really got the hang of things as these first two books got going. His Dr. Psycho is super creepy, but I think his Veronica Cale is the best of the bunch because she’s supposed to have her own majestic quantity, but housed in a human form that’s got a darker interior than Diana. He nailed her right off the bat and I’m really excited to see how things go from here.

Never Forget: Wonder Woman Is Awesome

JimenezFinaleWall

Guys, Wonder Woman is awesome. She’s been holding her own in the DC Universe for decades alongside the likes of Superman, Batman and Green Lantern and even become one of the more iconic heroes of the 70s thanks to her TV series. Unfortunately, aside from some brief (but rad) appearances in Justice League, JLU and the Wonder Woman straight-to-DVD animated feature, she’s been out of the public eye for a while. People all over the internet have been calling for Warner Bros. to get off their butts and bring Princess Diana to the big screen.

We here at Explosions Are Rad fully support the idea as does Fast & Furious 6 and Haywire star Gina Carano. It’s a subject the real life fighter-turned-actress recently talked to ComingSoon.net about:

That’s the ultimate superhero for a woman. No matter what, no matter who ends up being Wonder Woman someday, I just hope it’s something that is done correctly. I know it’s there and that it could definitely be done correctly. It’s just a matter of getting the right people and having the right vision come together. A director and producer and writer have to see the beauty in it and make it real.

For what it’s worth, we fully support the idea of Carano playing Wonder Woman. Someone needs to make that happen.

Meanwhile, for a cool, but different look at the character, check out the three shorts created by Robert Valley (Aeon Flux) for Cartoon Network’s comic-centric DC Nation block of programming.

Finally, if you’re interested in hearing what Grant Morrison has planned for the Amazon in his Earth One graphic novel with Yanick Paquette, download Kevin Smith’s Fat Man On Batman Episode #44 and give it a listen. Sounds like he’s got a great handle on the character, one that might translate well to the big screen, even.

[Via The Mary Sue & The Mary Sue]