Another one bites the dust... sigh.
This episode is both necessary and super sad. You may have heard that the Prime Video adaptation of Paper Girls has already been cancelled after just one season. While it may not have been the best new show to drop this year, it was a solid rendering of the story and a lack of renewal is a huge loss of potential. Just another hit to comic-based TV... sigh.
You can smash everything, but can you smash your feelings
Let's face facts: the world of superheroes is majorly populated with people, good and bad, who need to receive proper help for managing their mental illness. Whether that be therapy, medication or a rigorous treatment program, many of the dangerous criminals and a good bit of the dangerous heroes in these worlds could benefit from someone just checking in with them and approaching their problems at the root. Honestly, that's what made Spider-Man: No Way Home so incredible. It approached supervillains form an angle of "how do we help them" instead of "how do we stop them." It presented a clear message of the need for healing, that people aren't damaged beyond repair if one tries hard enough, and that even the most challenging people don't need to be beat into a pulp as punishment for things not necessarily within their control. It was an incredibly progressive approach to the superhero genre, and I've been waiting for more content that approached things the same way.
In steps She Hulk Episode 7, wherein Jen is off to visit Emil Blonsky after she is contacted by his parole officer regarding a malfunction to his inhibitor. Parole officer is nervous about potential Abomination happenings and wants the comfort of a Hulk. Meanwhile, Jen is waiting on a text from Josh. The episode opened with a montage of the two of them sharing a few dates and becoming increasingly intimate before Jen finally decides to
wait for it
Anyway, Josh is ghosting her, which sucks and has her super stressed out. So off to Blonsky's ranch she goes, where she eventually meets Man-Bull and El Aguila, who promptly destroy Jen's car in a "fight." Turns out they're actually just working through some stuff, and Blonsky invites Jen to spend the day on his cell-receptionless ranch and maybe work through some stuff of her own. Jen scours the land looking for even the smallest bubble of reception before finding it in the woodhouse, where Blonsky is holding a group session. Here we again see Man-Bull and El Aguila, as well as meeting Porcupine and the Saracen for the first time. As Jen sits in the corner quietly obsessing on her phone, in walks Wrecker, who if we remember from episode 3 tried to steel Jen's blood. Jen goes Hulk and starts to fight, but Blonsky talks her down and invites her to join the group. From here, Jen not only confronts Wrecker on an emotional level, but also confronts herself. We see Jen say out loud what the show has been dancing around for the whole season so far: that she feels overshadowed by her green persona and just wants to be comfortable as Jen. While it took 7 episodes to get to this point, we do finally get a small bit of growth and resolution in Jen, as her new found friends give her some actually well constructed advice, both in regards to She-Hulk and to the whole Josh situation.
It's then revealed in a flashback that Josh (predictably) is tied to the whole HulkKing hate community. Gotta be real, saw it coming.
My favorite thing about this episode is how confined it was. There were two sequences of extremely brief action. The rest was very personal to Jen and let Tatiana Maslany really go to town on digging deeper into the character. It never got extremely emotive, but there was definite growth and healing shown. As I mentioned earlier, I LOVED the approach to supervillains in No Way Home and have been yearning for more. While done more comedically and a bit more superficially, this episode scratched that itch for me a bit. We saw Jen re-encounter a villain from a previous episode, who she accepted an apology from and moved past. We saw a Hulk confront themselves, which is typically a hyper-violent scenario, but was handled calmly and with love. It was cool, and the writers honestly did a solid job giving Jen good advice. Some of it was a bit cliched, but it was honestly decent advice for someone dealing with the issues Jen found herself in.
I do say, I find it amazing that we are only two episodes from the end here. I'm assuming the identity of HulkKing will probably be revealed toward the end and roll into season 2. Just seems like not a lot of space for an antagonist to come out of the fog. It's looking like the main villain of season 1 is just going to be Jen's own insecurity and acceptance of her new persona, which I'm good with on the whole. I think She-Hulk is doing a lot of legwork in establishing a new format for superhero content, and while it has some rough edges, I do feel like it's succeeding in breaking new ground. It feels different enough from the big set pieces and huge conflicts of most superhero media while still providing the occasional action piece to keep things feeling comic-y. I think as time goes by and we see more "sitcoms in superhero universes" be developed, we'll see the subgenre truly take form.
Episode 8 premieres October 6th. Just two more to go!
You can't kill the metal...
Briar #1 (w: Christopher Cantwell, a: Germán Garcia)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cantwell's strength has always been his ability to look at narratives from a creative, often unexpected angle, and Briar is a perfect example of this. This book is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty wherein the princess was never awoken by love's true kiss, or whatever fairy tale nonsense. Instead, she is left in perpetual sleep as her family's kingdom falls to ruin. When the shattered remains of her castle are raided by a lone thief a hundred years later, the thief decides to steal a smooch in addition to stealing her necklace, which awakens Briar Rose into a horrible, twisted new world full of danger. She soon meets a Norrish woman who calls herself "Spider," and the two women are thrust into a campaign of survival. Dripping with style and Cantwell's brand of subtle humor, this book is an absolutely fascinating tale beautifully rendered by the softness of Garcia's art. Incredible book and easily the next big thing.
The Roadie #1 (w: Tim Seeley, a: Fran Galán)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cringe lyrics and bad takes on music aside, this is a pretty fun book. It comes in with a very Tim Seeley premise: A Heavy Metal roadie who is the son of a warlock and travels around with bands so he can banish the demons they inadvertently summon with their gosh dern devil music. Mixed in is a commentary on the evolving nature of the music industry and what it's like being those that have been left behind. Now, it's possible that said commentary could go in the "thems was better days, darn this hip hop music" kind of direction, and while we see two characters dunk on rap music, it's possible that line of thinking is just limited to the characters themselves and establishing their POV instead of that of the creators, which I'm hoping is the case. Time will tell. Anyway, our lead man Joe is living a mostly boring life as the tide of Heavy Metal has slowed in recent years. He works at a car shop and lives modestly - until he is contacted by a demon and drafted into saving the world from a rising demonic power out to assassinate a daughter he never knew he had. It's old school heavy metal versus MAGA vs pop music. It's weird, but I dig it.
Many Funerals and A Wedding
I need to get something off my chest right off the jump here: I really am NOT a huge fan of humor derived out of everyone around the main character being a delusional asshole. It always just makes me cringe. It's just needless douche-baggery for the sake of making the protagonist have to navigate impossible hurdles, inevitably falter and then we all point and laugh. That said, this episode hit me right in the annoying bone fairly hard, but I still had a good time overall.
In this episode, Jen is invited to be a bridesmaid at a wedding of someone she went to highschool with. She is honored despite the whole thing being awkward since she has barely kept touch with the individual. Meanwhile, Nikki holds down the fort with Mallory in Jen's stead as the two tackle the case of Mr. Immortal, who likes to unalive himself instead of dealing with marital issues. At the wedding, Jen confronts Titania who has weaseled her way into the wedding specifically to mess with Jen, she meets a nice guy named Josh, she dances and drinks a lot, and she experiences a lot of horrible mistreatment at the hands of the bride and bridal party. The episode wraps with Nikki and Mallory discovering a thread called Hulk-King hosted on a terrible hate site where a bunch of people make death threats and dangerous comments about She-Hulk. We get a glimpse that this "Hulkking" person might be more than just an internet troll as scientists prepare something for probably episode 7.
The bride and bridesmaids characters were incredibly hard to deal with for me. I get that everyone hates weddings, like it's one of those "what is the deal with airline food" kind of jokes at this point. I myself have never really had a bad experience at a wedding, but I know plenty of people have, whether it's dealing with a bridezilla or difficult family members or some sort of complication in the event itself. It sucks, truly, but watching someone just get absolute battered back and forth by a wedding party consisting of some of the most grating characters ever committed to the screen does not make for entertainment for me. My biggest issue is that writing like this rarely leaves room for a point, which is ultimately what held this episode down as I'll explain later. When the people you're main character is challenged with are so delusional in their terrible nature, it presents little message at the end of the narrative beyond "avoid bad people," which isn't much of a message at all. I'm not saying all comedy needs to be preachy, but comedy built out of conflict should be able to have more of a resolve than just "hooray, the main character can leave now."
All that whining out of the way, there was a decent bit of clever writing that did revive the wedding segment for me a smidge, as well as the just continued charming performance that is Tatiana Maslany in every single episode. There was one moment where the bride asked Jen how she was doing, to which Jen laid out how great her new career is and having super powers. The bride responds that she doesn't care and meant more does Jen have a boyfriend, to which the answer is "no." The bride immediately jumps on the pity train, Jen says it doesn't bother her, and the bride responds with a backhanded "good, you've got a little bit of time left." While painful, it was the small subtle moments like this that changed the tone just enough to be palatable. Ironically, it's when these moments become more real that there is actually something to be gained from this. Moments like the bride being angry that Jen makes a big, green entrance or the bride chilling out after the wedding is over (and admittedly having a few drinks) ground the whole thing more in reality and honestly provide the message that was needed, which I suppose in this case is don't let people judging you or trying to treat you unfairly dictate how you choose to present yourself. I do think this episode could have been a good moment for Jen to gain more confidence as Jen, and it's possible that the runoff of this episode is still going to provide that, but overall it was a fun episode and felt less chaotic than the prior episode did. I hope we see more of Josh, as I think his teeny bit of screen time was a delight.
As for the "HulkKing" stuff, I do think it is very ballsy of the creators to constantly make their very IRL critics into the in-universe villains. A few episodes back, they had a bunch of people on the media complaining about "why do we NEED a girl hulk?" and the like. In this episode, we see that the website the HulkKing stuff is posted to has a STRIKING resemblance to reddit, where many and many pitchforks have been strewn about over the past few months. I've honestly avoided talking about it in previous write-ups out of an uneasiness that I just couldn't put my finger on. There was a part of me that worries about shaking up any beehives or invoking the ire of this group of shitty people, but honestly - I say go for it. I'm so very tired of irrationally hate-filled and bigoted fans, that I am fully on board with making them the enemies. Call them out. Make media exclusively against them. I don't mind if someone doesn't like this show, it truly doesn't bother me; but it's naive to think that 100% of that dislike is just casual distaste and then ignore the very clear misogyny and bigotry that does exist in these fandoms. So hoorah, She Hulk Team, you got my vote.
Just a very, very real quick shout-out to the inclusion of Mr. Immortal. Excellent choice. All of the Great Lakes Avengers should make an appearance on this show. They are absolutely perfect for it tonally and making Mr. Immortal into a grifter who fakes his death instead of dealing with marital conflict was just absolutely
Episode 7 of She-Hulk premieres on September 29th. Will we get more Josh? Will we find out who HulkKing is? Will Titania have new veneers? Stay tuned and find out!
Any excuse to get into spooky season!
Creepshow #1 (w: Chris Burnham, Paul Dini & Stephen Langford, a: Chris Burnham & John McCrea)
Publisher: Image Comics
I love me some good B-Horror. This book is honestly nothing revolutionary and that's mostly what I dig about it. Creepshow is like coming home. It's that cozy, warm fireplace with a snuggly blanket in the middle of a dilapidated house wherein all your friends and loved ones were just devoured by a monster of their own design.
The book consists of two stories from different teams. First up is Chris Burnham doing the words and pictures of a story titled "Take One," wherein three douchey teens come across a bowl overflowing with full-sized candy bars on Halloween night. However, the bowl comes with ominous orders from the unknown in the form of a cardboard sign that reads "Take One." The boys of course do NOT and what follows is a predictable and silly traipse through gore and mayhem. It is seen coming from a mile away, but not all good things have to be surprising. If you're waiting for a bus, would you rather have it arrive exactly when expected or do you want it to surprise you. Like I said, b-horror is comfort horror. It's the full-sized candy bar after a long day of trick-or-treating a getting nothing but raisins and those unbranded strawberry candies. It wasn't a super creative story, but I didn't necessarily hate the shock value of it.
The second story was certainly more creative and definitely went more for the silly. In this story by Paul Dini and Stephen Langford, title "Shingo," we see a mother at her wits end trying to find a performer for her daughter's birthday party after her ex-husband dropped the ball. Her prayers are answered as she receives a mysterious card from a performer named Shingo, a large costumed character with a huge gaping maw. Shingo arrives and plays and laughs and sings and starts devouring things and sings some more and where did Joey go? and dances some more and has anyone seen my sister? This story has a lot going for it in a short time. It is self-aware, genre-aware and very tongue-in-cheek. It takes a look at the nature of the "oblivious character" trope in horror, wherein terrible things are happening to one or a few characters and other closely connected characters seem just absolutely unaware of any danger or supernatural happenings at all. This trope often happens in kid-focused horror, in which the parents and adults are the oblivious ones. Think all the parents in Stranger things minus Hopper and Joyce. This short tale analyzes just how silly that trope has to be as the kids are fully sold on the danger basically from the jump and all the adults just faffing about, waist deep in their own drama and a few glasses of wine. This one gave me strong Pooka vibes for obvious reasons but had it's own thing going, and I respect it.
Eternus #1 (w: Anastazja Davis & Don Handfield, a: Karl Moline)
Publisher: Scout Comics
This book is "Created by Andy Serkis and Andrew Levitas," but I can't help but notice they don't have a writing credit, so what does created by even mean? Anyway, here we have another comic pushed thanks to connection to a celebrity, which is becoming quite a common things these days, to varying degrees of success. This one, however, is an absolute hit. It is just all around a really, really cool book. I'm guessing it exists because a movie will eventually, which is the reason for most of these celeb tied books. I'm down with that.
Eternus is a mythological tale that takes place during the rise of Christianity. In this world, the myths and gods of ancient Greece are very much real and are struggling to find their place in the new world as the Christian God assumes control over more and more of the modern world. In the wake of Zeus's death, the gods struggle to find what power they can as all their energy and life force comes from belief. When both Hera and Athena's temples are sacked by a rogue centurion, it is up to Heracles and the help of a blind child to find the man who may have murdered the father of the gods. Also, Dionysus gets people wasted and meets Caesar. It's a crazy good read and definitely a file add.
Crashing #1 (w: Matthew Klein, a: Morgan Beem)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
This book has a lot happening and every time I thought I understood where the thrust was, it took another twisty turn. I loved it.
Crashing follows Dr. Allison Osler, a doctor a Mass General Hospital who loves some caffeine and has a history of struggling with addiction. We follow her as she takes control of an ER suffering from the fallout of a super-powered conflict at a government building. Allison kicks ass, saves some lives, gets chewed out by her boss and gets offered drugs from a coworker, all before going home to be "on call." What we soon learn is that "on call" may not be what it seems, and Allison's history comes back to haunt her and challenges her very morals. On the surface, this is an interesting take on the hospital drama genre set in the backdrop of a superhero universe. Dig a little deeper, and we instead have a very clever piece on the nature of addiction, the nature of good and evil, and an analysis of what it means to save a life at any cost. It's a fresh super story you don't want to miss.
Episode 184 - REEL EXTRA: Revealer
We got to review a HORROR film and we're really excited about it.
Grab your pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween soundtracks - it might only be September, but we're going full spooky season with this Shudder original, Revealer. Released with a comic promo/tie-in from Vault, get ready for an apocalyptic romp through the 80s, packed with religious zealotry and exotic dancers. This movie was super fun and we are REALLY hoping Shudder does more titles like this!
Sometimes you gotta lose to win...
As I mentioned in last week's episode synopsis, the best thing She-Hulk brings to the table is balance. Having a super-powered person in an otherwise normal person space backdropped on the weirdness of the MCU provides an incredible bevvy of storytelling potential - and I feel this show has solidly tapped into that potential. That said, episode 5 is a bit of a lull in quality for me, wherein that balance goes a bit extreme and causes some pretty severe pacing issues.
After watching this week's episode, I was trying to reflect on why I felt like so much and yet so little occurred. The episode focuses primarily on She-Hulk's brand battle with Titania, who we learned in the previous episode had trademarked the "She-Hulk" name. Titania is using the name to sell less-than-legit cosmetic products and is making absolute bank while doing it. She-Hulk takes her to court and is forced to prove that despite not inventing the name "She-Hulk" and initially rejecting it, she has come to accept it and become one with the identity. How is she going to prove this? By parading out her failed dates from the previous episode as witnesses, a moment of incredible cringe and light chuckles. While this storyline is happening, we are also following Nikki and Pug as they hunt down a stylist who specializes in superhuman clothing, a connection that Pug gets through his hook up named "the Drip Broker." Jen eventually links up with designer Luke Jacobson and he fashions her some suits and "something special." The episode ends on a cheeky little Daredevil tease.
While I understand and appreciate the purpose of the stylist plot, this episode felt incredibly chaotic with very little gain at the end. We have already seen Jen come to terms with her new identity, more times than one would think necessary only five episodes in, and the trademark battle just seems like we're hulk-smashing a dead horse. I feel like I keep ending these episode reviews talking about my excitement for the greater push of this show, but at least at the moment it seems a bit stalled on rehashing situations wherein Jen accepts her hulkiness. That said, I still think this episode kept a lot of the charm that has been established, especially in the scenes of Nikki and Pug hunting down Luke. We have more examples of normal, everyday people being confronted by weird situations and just sort of accepting them. The idea that some guy is out there calling himself "the Drip Broker," a clear nod to the very real and very dangerous Power Broker, is just the kind of absurdism that would be commonplace for actual citizens of the MCU. Does the Drip Broker know of the existence of the Power Broker? Do Nikki and Pug get the reference? It's things like this that I love to think about, this sort of heavy air around certain references. I can only imagine as a normal MCU civilian there would just be this weird tingle around things like this. This biting "I feel like I'm supposed to know more about this and yet I don't, it's just a Drip Broker, right?" I love the idea that they exist in this swirling pool of references, crossovers and callbacks and are forced to just lay back and let the tide take them. I will never stop praising this show and any after it that let the absurdity of MCU life stand to the forefront. It's 2022; it's time people accept that superhero universes are freakin' weird...
So, you know, kind of a weak episode overall. I am glad that Jen got her wardrobe hookup, I am glad we got more time with Pug's handsome face, I am glad we got more MCU weirdness, but overall I am ready to either move on past the "Jen accepts the Hulk" arc or honestly give it more attention and time to actually have a message behind it. Currently, it's just "oh no, I have to accept the She-Hulk thing" and then either a green smirk or a Jen Walters shrug and the world moves on. I'm absolutely fine if that needs to be the main story. Jen's own internal battle with her identity being the main antagonist would be absolutely wonderful, and, hey, the Hulks have a long history of successful identity driven stories. It just hasn't been given enough time to feel strong enough to take center stage, and yet we are now five episodes in with probably 50% of screen time dedicated to the topic of Jen coming to terms with her Jolly Green second half. It's time to either move on or take some time fleshing it out.
No stinger this time around, so you guys will need to do your own twerking.
Our next episode premieres the 22nd of September. Catch you then!
Back to school... with shadow gremlins?
It's back to school season, so we thought we'd pick up a family-friendly graphic novel this time, and BOY did it deliver! A story about new schools, bullies, magical glowing wisps and evil shadow monsters, this book might be a little scary for the smallest of readers, but it offers a lot of joy and beautiful graphics for a younger age group.
Smoother than a vodka yak milk...
For better or worse, the MCU is tonally diverse. There have been serious moments, a la the fight between Tony, Steve and Bucky in Civil War. There have been funny moments, a la the fight between Peter, Bucky and Sam in Civil War. And there have been downright silly moments, a la basically everything that is Thor recently. It's been expected that every movie outing will have some variety of these across a spectrum, with different characters filling in needed tones to bounce things around as the filmmakers see fit. However, with the development of the MCU shows on Disney+, we've seen an interesting trend of each show having a more centralized tone. In recent examples, Ms. Marvel has presented more of the fun, direct comedy, while Moon Knight stuck to a darker, more serious tone.
And then in marches She-Hulk in glittery parachute pants holding a rubber chicken. (This doesn't actually happen in the show, I'm saying it's going for the silly tone...)
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was always going to be a goofier, more humorous show. Whether you knew this from the comics that were being used as source material, or you just paid attention to how the people behind the scenes were constantly saying "this is going to be a goofier show," it was expected basically from day one. While we've seen some of the tongue-in-cheekiness of the show, it had so many details that needed establishing in the first three episodes that it had yet to reach it's full sonic-clap power of silly. Episode 4, titled "Is This Not Real Magic?," finally hits the full tonal stride. The episode is festooned in 4th wall breaks, Wong being out of touch, hammy characters and chuckle-worthy gags. If this be the reservoir of silly, then the Megan Thee Stallion twerk stinger was the dam.
Short episode synopsis time! Wong is mad that a cheap magician named Donny Blaze (yes mhm uh-huh) keeps using things he learned at Kamar-taj to rake in that sweet-3-shows-a-week-at-4-different-venues-for-a-10-person-audience money. So, he's suing him. With the help of their key witness, perma-drunk Madisynn, Jen and Wong take Mr. Blaze to court to middling success. Blaze eventually releases some bat-demon things into the world, Jen and Wong fight them, and then Jen intimidates Blaze into agreeing to their cease and desist, which I don't think the Bar Association would appreciate, but whatever. Also, Jen dates in this episode, finding much more success in her green mommy-dommy form than in normal, attractive, successful lawyer form - a situation that we can only truly blame the internet and possibly Capcom for.
As I said earlier, the show has finally found it's true form. It feels incredibly traditional, as an episodic sitcom should. The humor and irreverence is amped up at this point, as we focus in on Jen moving through different wacky situations with the help of her wacky friends and wacky acquaintances and sometimes just wacky drunk ladies that like froyo. This episode provided more than a few laughs while keeping the pace fairly consistent, moving from scene to scene seamlessly. There was also a nice bit of action, with Wong and Shulky cleansing the Bat-Demon horde, which visually looked incredible, so props to the team for that.
The inclusion of a full action segment is where She-Hulk will truly shine against the backdrop of other sitcoms. Setting a show in a super hero world and featuring a super hero character gives the creators room to do things that other sitcoms can't. Jen as a protag can not only do things that most standard sitcom leads can't do, she can experience things that they can't either. With this in mind, the showrunners and Tatiana Maslany have given us a Jen that isn't phased by much of the Marvel Universe weirdness. She is an incredibly believable citizen of a world, where Gods and Monsters fly around daily. In fact, most of the characters react ho-hummedly to even the most fantastical things being presented around them. This show existing alongside the citizens of the MCU gives it an incredible stage to truly analyze just how strange being a normal person would be. What would life be like and how desensitized would John Q Public be in a world where billions of people were once poofed out of existence by a cosmic Grape Ape?
It's an amazing show so far with a lot of potential to explore a ton of stories there just isn't room for in other MCU titles. As we move into the next story that brings back Jameela Jamil's Titania, I hope we continue to see just as much of the world around these characters as we do the characters themselves.
She-Hulk episode 5 premieres September 15th. See you then.
(Also, when will we get "Wong: Multiverse of Madisynn?" I hope soon.)
This is not your father's Oogie Boogie.
Boogeyman #1 (w: Mathieu Salvia, a: Djet)
Publisher: Ablaze Publishing
This book absolutely went a direction I wasn't expecting. What started as a seemingly run of the mill boogeyman story with a scared kid and unbelieving parents turns into a dark kid + monster adventure story. The boogeyman we originally hear about turns out to not only be real, but some sort of elder being known as Father Death. We are thrust into a war between elder entities and lesser entities, a war that didn't seem to turn out well for father Death and his ilk. There's action, murder, mystery and horror. It's a really cool ride.
Ninjettes #1 (w: Fed Van Lente, a: Joseph Cooper)
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
It's like Sucker Punch meets Battle Royale in an art style reminiscent of a gritty Archie story. Ninjettes features 11 young women dropped into the desert in order to fight to the death all because they failed a personality test designed to weed out mass shooters from society. It's an incredibly dark way of handling the issue of gun violence in this country, and yet oddly believable since we seem to want to do everything aside from actually regulating guns and gun violence. This book follows one specific Ninjette who failed her test because she decided to doodle her teacher hanging instead of actually taking it, an action she claims is innocent but honestly makes me more concerned for her than the people that actually took it and failed organically. It's bloody, violent and a little silly, all presented in a moderately pastel art style that gives the whole thing a bit of an arthouse-feel. It definitely walks the line of exploitative, but what do you expect from Dynamite? A fun romp for fans of the "teens fight to the death" genre.
Cover B Podcast
Chris & Tee host this weekly comic-focused show, providing insight on new comics, entertainment news and more.