Batman Urban Legends 1: A Batman Anthology

Batman Urban Legends 1 does something I always enjoy. It brings readers an anthology issue. So, rather than just having one story in the issue, there are four tales of action and excitement here. However, not every story ends in this issue. In fact, none of them do. Three of the four stories will continue in the next issue of the series. The other story continues in a completely different series, which annoys me.

The image shows Batman jumping in the sky. His arms are spread and his cape blocks out some of the moon. The world behind him shows skyscrapers, bats, and a red and pink sky. The words Batman Urban Legends are at the top of the image.

Anyway, the main bulk of Batman Urban Legends 1 is “Cheer.” Chip Zdarsky writes, with art by Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira. Marcus To does the artwork for flashback sequences, Adriano Lucas gives us the colors, and Becca Carey kills on letters.

This story sees Jason Todd “The Red Hood” patrolling the streets of Gotham and searching for a new drug called cheerdrops. The drugs makes people euphoric to the point of ignoring everything around them. In one tense sequence, a man suffering from the drug is on a roof top. He thinks he is on a skyscraper and jumps off because he’s having so much fun. Batman saves him, but the scene works as a deft illustration of what cheerdrops does.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Batman comic, so I am not fully up to speed on the relationship between him and Red Hood in Urban Legends 1. However, the comic catches readers up quick. Bats is mad at Hood because Hood has killed people. This leads them to not working together, even as they both work toward the objective of getting cheerdrops off the street.

This chapter of Cheer explores the past relationship between Batman and Red Hood as well as their current. There are some heavy flashback scenes where Zdarsky paints the picture of an impatient Jason who idolizes Bruce. Zdarsky then uses that emotional beat to explain the nature of their adult relationship. It gives new readers everything they need to know to enjoy the story. I look forward to seeing where this goes next.

The Other Stories in Batman Urban Legends 1 Are Weaker

The second story in this issue are a Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy one that I want to read more of. However, it is the one that continues in a different series. I know that is a comics crossover thing, but I don’t like it.

The third one features The Outsiders Katana, Black Lightning, and Metamorpho fighting some sorcerers. I haven’t been following that title either, so once again I don’t know much about what’s going on. Unlike the Batman story, though, this one doesn’t have the space available to bring readers up to speed.

The final story features Grifter from WildC.A.T.S., a character I care absolutely nothing about. I read the chapter because it was in the comic I was reading, but I have no interest in how it continues.

So, Batman Urban Legends 1 brings forth an anthology series that will tell its stories in short chapters. I love this. It’s like 2000AD or Heavy Metal. I think comics in general can benefit from this style. However, this particular issue really only succeeds with the main story. The Harley/Ivy one would count because it is a good heartfelt chapter, but because it won’t continue in this series, it doesn’t pass, either.

Spooky Track Series 6: Shadowplay Uses You

Joy Division is one of those bands that I could choose many songs for spooky track series 6. But, the one that fits my bill the most is Shadowplay. From the opening bass riff, to the haunting smattering of the drums, this song oozes atmosphere. And let me tell you, that atmosphere is one of pain, fear, and isolation. The whole affair is very lo-fi, which really helps to bring about the creepiness factor in this song. It’s that bass that really does it. It drives the song, aurally assaulting the listener, creating stress and unease.

The image shows the cover to Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures, which has the spooky track series 6 song Shadowplay on it.

When the vocals enter, things go to a whole new level. Ian Curtis‘s lyrics are byzantine and nearly impenetrable, offering up impressions with some vivid images. We have a man in search of something, or at least one who’s waiting for someone. He goes to the center of the city and the bottom of the ocean where all hopes sank. And if that isn’t a harrowing line, I don’t know what is. In a single line, we know that there is death and pain in this song, as well as confusion, so much confusion.

But wait, this spooky track series 6 gets even shadier and creepier:

In the shadowplay, acting out your own death, knowing no more,
As the assassins all grouped in four lines, dancing on the floor,
And with cold steel, odor on their bodies made a move to connect,
But I could only stare in disbelief as the crowds all left.

What does the above mean? I don’t know, but it’s got death, assassins, and cold steel. Whatever it means, it’s not describing anything happy or hopeful.

To conclude, the whole ambiance of this spooky track series 6 is one of oppression, danger, and fear. What do you think?

Spooky Track Series 5: Whole Day Off Is A Wild Ride

Welcome to spooky track series 5 brings you Whole Day off by Oingo Boingo. Boingo has tons of spine tingling songs to choose from, and I might discuss another one at a future date. However, today I am talking about Whole Day Off because it hits all the cylinders.

Seriously, the opening heaviness of the bass, then the addition of the xylophone(?) and saxophone really gets the fear flowing. Using these instruments in this fashion sets the stage for the listener, informing them they are about to enter a strange and wild world. There’s almost a circus feeling to music, or at least some kind of twisted carnival.

Later in the song, when the 80s’ synth comes in, that feeling of being at some kind of reject carnival from Something Wicked This Way Comes shifts to a more industrial feeling. Instead of imagining a circus and all that weirdness, my mind calls forth a nightclub. Someplace seedy, with lots of smoke and mirrors. So sure, still a carnival, just a different kind.

But the music is only part what places this on the spooky track series 5 train. The lyrics are the other part, and howdy are they some weird and wild stuff. Elfman comes in on the vocals with his signature high pitched voice, providing a haunting melody. But then, when you listen to what he’s saying, your mind goes aghast at the images.

First, he’s singing about his lost girlfriend, asking if anyone’s seen her. He then tells us she lives in a pigpen and that he thinks maybe she’s hiding under a blade of grass. Then he just wants to take the whole day off because really, all of this is too much. And who can blame him?

Spooky Track Series 5 Whole Day Off Lyrics are terrifying nonsense

On the surface, the lyrics seem like nonsense. Or like they were written by someone who’d done too much acid and saw some shit. And who knows? Maybe they are nonsense words written by a drug addled mind. Or, maybe they speak to the near universal sensation of feeling overwhelmed. The narrator in the song goes through a litany of weird and terrifying situations. He is often confused, but like a carnival barker is always asking if people have seen something. Have you seen my girlfriend? My garden? My new house that looks like a dog house?

These are weird questions to ask listeners, which adds a sharp edge to the freaky nature of the song. This edge gets freakier when he starts describing the things he’s looking for. His girlfriend, as noted above, lives in a pigpen an can apparently hide under a blade of grass. Unsettling, this mental image is, even as it makes me smile at its absurdity. But I think that’s kind of the point of the song, and what really makes the terror sing in this spooky track series 5 entry.

And the absurdity continues. His house walks into the ocean and someone describes it as an ivory boat. It’s easy to read these as lyrical nonsense, word salad, jumbled. However, I still think they serve the purpose of presenting us with a stress addled man. Here is a person who seems to be slowly losing his mind because of one bad day. Nothing has gone right for him, and he just wants to take the whole day off. The refrain of taking the day off speaks to needing downtime, a reset of sorts, but he’s never going to get it.

Searching For Things That Don’t Exist Drives You Mad

This song, as ridiculous at the things described in it, bares forth a horrible truth. The modern life is killing us, and we can drive ourselves mad if we go searching for things that don’t exist. It’s an existential style of horror and its insidious.

This is evident in the bridge section when he describes his day. In this segment of the song, which is when the music leans hard into the synth styling of its time, we hear a man unraveling. He wonders if this is a bad dream but he knows it isn’t. Then he goes to a payphone on a bathroom wall but forgets who he wanted to call. It’s okay, buddy. Happens to us all.

The image shows a line of three payphones, which is what the narrator of Whole Day Off sings about in spooky track series 5

Then we finally get to the garden, and some real horror. Of the monster variety, not the oppression of the universe kind. See, his garden is a fucked up place. It has thing that grow in it, but they don’t look like plants, and he can hear their voices.

That is creepy stuff. Change my mind.

So that’s it for spooky track series entry 5. What did you think of the song? Of my thoughts? Let me know in the comments if you feel like chiming in and suggesting a song. Stay happy and healthy out there, dear readers. All three of you.

Johnny Lawrence Is Not Cool Rather He’s a Total Dick

Cobra Kai is on Netflix and it is awesome, but I have to say Johnny Lawrence is not cool. The show goes to great pains to paint Johnny as a true blue asshole. However, it also paradoxically attempts to make him sympathetic. Now, this latter point is understandable. After all, his is the main viewpoint of the show.

If you haven’t seen Cobra Kai, rectify that as soon as you’re done reading this post. It’s an excellent show, but I am not going to go into details about it. Suffice to say, it tells the story of Johnny and Daniel 30+ years later.

The Image shows Johnny Lawrence, who is not cool with the words Cobra Kai printed across them.

Since the show came to Netflix, I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter about how cool Johnny Lawrence is, but he is not. He’s a toxic man with toxic behavior. Johnny lives in the past, is it’s prisoner in fact. And his story is a tragic one, but that doesn’t give him an excuse. It might help make viewers sympathetic toward him a bit, but he’s still an unrepentant asshole.

“He tells it like it is,” I hear people say. “Johnny’s no pussy, he calls pussies what they are,” is something else I hear. This embrace of the worst qualities of Johnny indicates the sad obsession people have with dickheads. Look no further than the current POTUS of the US. People who support him say they like him because he tells it like it is. They like him because he helps them ‘own the libs.’ He comes off as strong, but is ultimately weak and cowardly.

Johnny Lawrence is not cool, and it may be unfair for me to compare him to Trump. However, the fact that some people give for liking Johnny are the same given for liking Trump.

What do you think?

Watch Cobra Kai!

Rise of Skywalker Review: Overstuffed With Fun

So, I saw Rise of Skywalker and here is my review. Overall, I enjoyed this movie, but that isn’t to say it didn’t have its problems. In fact, it had tons of problems. However, I felt they were fun problems to have, rather than dumb or uninteresting ones. I do think, though, that the ideas presented in The Last Jedi were more interesting in total, but that’s okay. This is a different movie.

For the curious, I will try to keep my Rise of Skywalker review as spoiler free as possible. If you’re reading this its presumably because you want to see the movie. To that end, I don’t want to spoil things for you.

I will say that the movie starts off in frantic fashion and never really slows down. Director JJ Abrams has a lot of ground to cover, and it shows. The first quarter of the movie just feels like a bunch of jump cuts and table setting. Not that there aren’t some cool things there: good action, humor, exotic locales.

Unfortunately all of this kinetic screen time kept me from investing in the film. At least right away. While the pace doesn’t really slow down much, it does offer a few points to catch your breath. And those are important beats. Star Wars, at its core, has always been about character and heart. Sure, epic space battles and laser swords are great, but it’s character that matters. This movie seems to forget that at first, but remembers in time. Or at least, it remembers enough in time.

Rise of Skywalker Review: Not Quite a Nostalgia Factory

Surprisingly, this is not the nostalgia engine I expected it to be. Yes, it has a lot of nostalgic elements in it. And yes, it makes callbacks to itself, to other movies in this trilogy, and to the other movies in the saga. However, I rarely felt annoyed by the callbacks. That might change after subsequent viewings, but this time all was good.

The image shows a First Order Stormtrooper, the bad guys in Rise of Skywalker, which this blog post offers review of
First Order Stormtrooper Statue in the theater here in China

Aside from the pacing, I have a few other complaints, but they verge on spoiler territory, so I won’t mention them.

I will mention, that John Williams’ score was fantastic, as always. And there were a few twists and turns I enjoyed. I think the main conceit of the movie is a little silly, but that’s okay. Star Wars has always been a little silly, so it’s only fitting that the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga follows suit.

While this isn’t my favorite Star Wars movie of the new ones (hello Rogue One), I did like it. There are some things I wish hadn’t happened. And there are some pacing issues. Still, it felt like a Star Wars movie, and that’s a argument for it.

Your mileage may vary, but if you check it out, I hope you like it. And let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading my Rise of Skywalker review.

Dryvember Day Twelve Still Not Chugging Along

Dryvember day twelve was probably my best day so far this month. What made it so good? I’m not sure I can explain it, so I won’t even try. Suffice to say, it was good and for that I am grateful. One thing that probably helped was the fact that all my classes went well, which is always nice. Another thing that made today good was laughter. Not that I was laughing at anything in particular, but I did have quite a few good laughs today. It’s as if it were some kind of weird mirror image from Saturday when I couldn’t stop crying for no reason. In case you were wondering, laughing for no reason is better then crying for no reason.

Something else that was good about today was the fact that at no point did I feel like drinking. Sure, I’ve had that before, but it’s nice to feel again. I’m almost halfway through the month, so to have a day where booze wasn’t occupying my mind feels good. Hopefully typing those words out won’t jinx me on Dryvember day twelve.

In other, less happy, news: I still haven’t cleaned my room. Also, I still haven’t finished a short story I want to submit for publication on Friday. I am about halfway done, so that’s good. What’s no so good is I this is the third time I have written the story. The first time, it was too long. The second time, I wrote it by hand. That time, it wasn’t too long, but there was too much navel gazing. Hopefully, third time will be the charm. I would really like to have it done so I can submit it. Even if the result is a rejection letter.

I leave you with this signage from my university.

The image shows a picture from my university, where I taught today and had a wonderful Dryvember day 12

Birds of Prey Trailer Reaction: I Don’t Hate It

Here is my Birds of Prey trailer reaction. I watched it last night and again today. Anyone who knows me knows that I dislike the movie version of the Suicide Squad for a multitude of reasons. And, anyone who has seen that movie should agree that Harley was the best part of it. So, I am glad to see Margot Robbie reprise her role here in this movie, despite it’s unwieldy full title.

Anyway, onto the trailer. At first blush it looks like it’s carrying on the aesthetic of the Suicide Squad. Fine, if that’s what DC wants to do. Beyond that, I am happy to see that Harley is distancing herself from Joker. I know we need a little bit of that relationship because it is what defined the character for so long. Still, I hope they don’t spend too much time on it in this film. Get in, establish she’s left him behind, and move on. Easy peasy, giant hammer to your facey.

The image shows Harley Quinn form the new Birds of Prey trailer kissing a hyena.
Harely has a new Pudding!

Difficulties abound when judging a movie based on its trailer, and this one is no different. The sorrowful song playing over the whole thing makes it feel generic. Seriously, so many movie trailers do this nowadays it’s become boring. At least this one is a little different thanks to the song choice. Beyond that, though, it looks like there will be some good action, and comedic beats. Again, it’s truly difficult to tell because we don’t get much dialogue, though we can get a sense of the plot. Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask is apparently a new player in town, and it’s up to Harley and the rest of the birds to take him down.

Birds of Prey Trailer Reaction–Fans are Hard to Please

Even before the trailer dropped, people were complaining about the Black Mask not wearing a mask. And yeah, I get that. After all, it is kind of the character’s whole schtick. It would be like Joker looking like a gangster rather than a clown. Oh, wait…. Man, I dislike Suicide Squad so much.

Another fan reaction I have heard since the Birds of Prey trailer dropped is “This isn’t my BoP team!” Again, I can understand that. Everyone has characters and teams they love, and I am no different. While it’s true that Harley hasn’t traditionally been part of the team, movies are different. Plus, she’s the most bankable character in the movie, so of course they’re going to go with her. Why couldn’t they just make a Harley movie? Good question, and one I don’t have an answer for. Furthermore, I don’t really care.

In closing, I think this movie will be all right. Will it be a masterpiece of cinema? Doubtful. Will it have at least a few good performances and action sequences? I really hope so. Am I more excited about this than Joker? Definitely.

So, what’s your reaction to the Birds of Prey trailer? Let me know in the comments. And as always, thanks for reading.

The Boys E01 Superheroes Suck

The Boys e01 (The Name of the Game) introduces us to a world full of superheroes patrolling the streets and fighting crime. Only, these heroes are dicks, rapists, and criminals. Think of The Watchmen mixed with Squadron Supreme, and you may have some idea of what to expect. The series is based on the comic series co-created by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. I haven’t read the comic, and I don’t know if I will. This review refrains from spoilers by not describing events, but rather providing overall general impressions.

The Picture Shows the Seven, a team of superheroes in The Boys E01

Watching this series opening episode, I kept wondering what the joke was. The set up is straightforward enough: The Boys e01 exists in a world where people with super powers are part of daily life. From this premise, the show extrapolates that people with powers would be greedy dickheads. On one hand, this is always a fun idea. On the other hand, it’s only fun if there’s a punchline beyond Ha superheroes suck!

As the first episode, The Boys e01 delivers on establishing the world, characters, and tone. That world, however, is brutish and horrible. It is a world where costumed Supers, sponsored by the Vought corporation, can murder and rape and steal at will.

There is fridging and superhero on superhero rape, and it is all played seriously, which is good as these are serious topics. But, the episode doesn’t really explore these topics, rather treating them like the tropes they are. So, instead of providing viewers with something fresh, the episode leans heavily into traditional superhero conventions. I suppose I was looking for a bit of a bigger twist.

Did you watch The Boys e01? Are you planning to? If not, why are you even reading this? If you have, comment and let me know what you think.

The New Joker Trailer is Stylish but Boring

I am a huge fan of the Joker as a villain. I really dig his craziness, and he puts forth the contradiction of silly and violent. Plus, clowns are freaky, so he’s got that going for him. However, it is difficult to make a story that features him as the main character. He works best as a villain, a response to the insanity of the world, or the harsh rigid control of Batman. In order for him to stand on his own the audience has to see him as sympathetic. And while that may be possible, it is also misses the point of the character. We should never root for the character, which is what the new Joker trailer clearly wants us to do.

The whole look and feel of the trailer wants to remind us of a 1970s flick about a man whose life is in the toilet, and suffers one too many grievances at the hands of society. In the trailer, goons attack him several times. One time they steal his sign and hit him over the head with it when he gives chase. In another scene, they beat him up on the subway. All of this takes place with his voice over about how the city is going to hell. The call backs to Taxi Driver are blatant. Of course, these comparisons make sense, considering Scorsese’s name came up quite a bit surrounding this movie when DC announced it.

Look, Scorsese has made some good films, and people like his aesthetic, especially his 70s aesthetic. However, I don’t think we need this kind of movie right now.

That’s Not Joker in the New Trailer

Sure, they call him Joker, and he wears a clown mask, and later suit reminiscent of Joker’s style. But really, the character looks to be the Clown Prince of Crime in name only. Joker is a psychopath; a sinister murderer, and rapist. We should never feel sorry for him, or have sympathy for him.

The image shows Joker in the new trailer as he walks down a hall. He is in a stylish suit and wears clown makeup.
Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker. I like his suit if not much else. Click image to enlarge.

In The Killing Joke before he turns into Joker, he’s a chump and a stooge who we don’t feel too sorry for. He maybe deserves our sympathy at that point, but not once he turns into Joker. And how does that happen? He gets pushed into Acme goo and it breaks him. He doesn’t, however, becomes the resident psycho clown of Gotham because he was picked on too much.

Maybe there is some catalyzing event in the film that the new Joker trailer isn’t showing us, but even if there is I don’t know. I don’t need to see another movie about the white guy pushed to him limits and them goes crazy. We’ve seen it in Falling Down (one of my favorite movies, BTW). We also saw it in Taxi Driver. It’s happened in Death Wish, and a variety of other films, and is old hat by this point.

It’s Not a Small Movie

Plus, as arthouse as DC want this movie to look, we have to keep in mind this is a mainstream flick with a wide release. It’s not some indy film that will release in 20 theaters and blow our minds with its choices. It’s a part of a multi-million dollar juggernaut that will just reinforce the white man’s vengeance tale yet again. I am a white dude who tends to enjoy these types of stories, but I don’t need any more of them.

It isn’t necessary to tell a movie where Joker is the hero, or to try to make the audience relate to him. He is the boogeyman, an agent of chaos, insanity in an already insane world. The only Joker stories we should tell are the ones where he gets his comeuppance. Batman handing him his ass? I want to see that. Jim Gordon blowing his kneecap off? Sign me up! Barbara Gordon breaking his spine? I’ll see that movie twice in the theater. Joker is there to hate and despise, not to emulate or adore.

I am not saying audience members will fall in love with Joker in this movie, nor am I saying that’s what DC wants us to do. However, I do find it ambiguous and a little dicey that they have decided to present the new trailer for the Joker movie in this way.

On a positive note, it does have Zazie Beetz in it, and she’s spectacular. Also, Joaquin Phoenix is a good actor, so the performances should be good. It might end up being a good flick, but I won’t be holding my breath.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.