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Justice League Annual #2 (Comics Review)

Last week’s Justice League Dark #35 presented a very interesting tale of Zatanna meeting up with her father Zatara in an alternate-reality kind of setting, following an adventure with the rest of the supernatural Justice League that split the entire team up. It was a really fun tale, and nice to see Zatanna take the lead in the title after the recent Nightmare Nurse and Deadman-oriented arcs that did a lot to flesh out those particular characters. But the big question of course was what kind of an event had split the team up, and just how it all went down.

J. M. DeMatteis’ latest issue on the title does a lot to flesh that out in its entirety and help answer some of the questions that I found myself raising after getting through Justice League Dark #35. The Justice League Dark Annual #2 is a pretty great story that explores the character relationships between Zatanna and Constantine, which segues into an exploration of how their relationship has ended up affecting the House of Mystery itself. The writing is fairly solid on this one, though I think that it moved a bit too fast and missed out on a few emotional beats, and the same kind of goes for the artwork as well.

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Arrow Season 3 Ep 4 (TV Show Review)

Last week I mentioned that Arrow is really good at keeping secrets close to its chest, until the right amount of critical mass is reached to unveil said secrets. The big mystery of who was bankrolling Sebastian Blood last year was a terrific reveal, as was the whole subplot about breaking to Thea the news that Malcolm Merlyn is her blood-father, not Robert Queen. And this season, it looks like the big mystery is “Who killed Sara?”. We’ve seen some development so far, not entirely satisfactory, but it has been a good source of background tension to the show and things look set to intensify even more.

Nyssa al Ghul made her season 3 debut on the show in this week’s “The Magician“, which also happens to be the show’s 50th episode. I’d expected some really great things from the show in this episode, but it kind of failed to deliver on that expectation. Sure, it was a fairly good episode, but it just didn’t feel like such a momentous episode, though I suppose that the detail is kind of irrelevant. Either way, I had a lot of fun with this one since Katrina Law’s Nyssa is one of my favourite elements of the second season, and she turns in a grand performance here, really charging the show with some much-needed drive and direction in the hunt for Sara’s killer.

Note: Some spoilers from the episode are mentioned here.

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Comics Picks For 22.10.2014

Slight lows on the reading this past week since I didn’t manage to finish either of the graphic novels I started this week, and generally didn’t read as many singles either, but I did manage to get through 35 of them, so that’s something, yeah?

For this week, I’d say that the surprise hits are Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 from IDW Publishing, Catwoman #35 and Secret Origins #6 from DC Comics and Predator: Fire and Stone #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The comics that win the “disappointment of the week award” are Grimm Fairy Tales: Dark Shaman #1 from Zenescope, Arkham Manor #1 and Sensation Comics #11 both from DC Comics. Ongoings like Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #8, Aquaman #35, Tomb Raider #9 and Nancy A. Collins’ prelude Vampirella: Prelude To The Shadows #1 were all first-rate comics this week, and quite satisfactory as well.

The graphic novels I’m in the middle of at the moment are Supergirl Vol.4 by Michael Alan Nelson and Diogenes Neves, and The Flash Vol.2 by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul.

Anyway, here’s another edition of “Comics Picks For…”. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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The Flash Season 1 Ep 4 (TV Show Review)

Drawing parallels between Smallville and The Flash is quite inevitable. Both shows have focused on some of DC’s most iconic characters, and they’ve done it in a way that often stays true to the spirit of the comics, though Smallville tended to play a lot with how the characters and events could be turned to fit in the mentality of a show that was about Clark Kent as a teenager in high school and later on, before he ever became Superman. Though only four episodes in as of this week, The Flash has not disappointed me at all with its promise of bringing Barry Allen and his incredibly rogues gallery and that’s what the new episode is really all about.

One of the coolest things to happen in the lead-up to The Flash was the casting of Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold aka Leonard Snart. He is one of Barry’s most iconic villains and has enjoyed a certain resurgent notoriety in recent years thanks to DC’s New 52 reboot, which brought him and his gang, the Rogues, together again. This week’sGoing Rogue” is the origin story of Leonard Snart’s transformation into Captain Cold and it is, by far, the best episode of the show in the entire month it has been on air. With a guest spot by Arrow‘s Felicity Smoak, Going Rogue was an amazing episode that sets up a lot of future stories and also provides for some great character moments.

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Gotham Season 1 Ep 6 (TV Show Review)

One of the subplots running through Gotham so far has been that Gotham City is a city corrupt to the bone and that even the high and mighty Wayne Enterprises might not be so overboard as we’d like to believe. Last week’s episode Viper was ample proof of that, that there may have been certain goings on at the multinational that Thomas and Martha Wayne may not have known about. It was a really great twist to the story, something that I can see leading eventually to Bruce’s transformation into Batman. But of course, the show revolves around Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock as well, and they were pretty good in the previous episode, though the villain was rather unmemorable.

The new episode, “Spirit of the Goat“, is definitely one where the writers have upped the weird and supernatural quotient of the show. Ten years ago Harvey and his then-partner Dix nabbed a serial killer who claimed to be possessed by the spirit of a supernatural entity and who ritually murdered his victims. Now, somehow, the killer is back and Harvey is on the case once again, this time with Jim. One of the best things about this week’s episode was the look at Harvey’s past and the kind of man he was then, setting up a great contrast with who he is now. Nothing really on the Falcone-Maroni silent war this week, but we do get to see Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot be utterly badass, which was extremely satisfactory.

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Constantine Season 1 Ep 1 (TV Show Review)

And… that’s it. All the new and recurring shows that DC Entertainment was going to be putting out this Fall are finally here. We started off with Gotham, continued on with The Flash and Arrow, and now we have Constantine. My previous experiences with John Constantine extend only to the 2005 movie with Keanu Reeves and the recent New 52 comics, specifically Constantine and Justice League Dark. As such I’m not a long-time Constantine fan since I’ve never read Hellblazer, but I do like the character, and seeing him get adapted for live-action television is a great feeling after the failure of the previous adaptation.

Debuting Friday night on NBC, Constantine‘s first episode did a lot of apparent heavy build-up of the character and his supporting cast, but it failed to make a lasting impression on me. The premiere feels like a bunch of random scenes strung together without any real payoff. Yes, the show has some really cool moments and nods to various other comics characters, but it simply not as strong as DC’s other recent shows, all of which have been much more memorable from the get go. It simply feels like a stock horror/demons show rather than something uniquely DC.

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Catwoman #35 (Comics Review)

Truth be told, I don’t have much of an experience with the Catwoman title, apart from a couple issues I read as part of a couple of mini-events at DC. Ann Nocenti’s much-maligned run has put me off quite a bit from checking out her run from the get go, but with some recent changes in Selina’s status quo, particularly the fact that she currently stars in Gotham as her younger self, means that I’m much more interested in Catwoman than I ever was before. I’m generally familiar with her from various animated appearances, but that’s really it. And I think it is great that as of this week Catwoman has a new creative team.

With writer Ann Nocenti moving off to the new series Klarion, Genevieve Valentine is brought in to take the reins of Catwoman and shepherd the titular character to a new phase in her life, where she is no longer Catwoman but is instead Selina Kyle Calabrese, the heir of the Calabrese mob-family, given that her father is its patriarch, Rex Calabrese. Much of this was told in some recent issues of Batman: Eternal, and Valentine takes all of that and just runs with it, delivering a really great story. And the art by Garry Brown and Lee Loughridge is just as exciting as you can expect.

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Justice League Dark #35 (Comics Review)

After the end of the 2-parter arc in late summer that focused on Deadman’s past, last month we got to see a future vision of the Justice League Dark, a future in which The Demon has joined the team and Zatanna is fighting some of the biggest battles of her life. It was a fairly good issue, but it didn’t really satiate my desire to read more of the JLD in the present DC timeline, since the current team dynamics are really excellent and writer J. M. DeMatteis has been dong some great work on the series, focusing on particular characters every few issues, and the art has never been better either.

In this week’s Justice League Dark #35, J. M. DeMatteis presents a story where Zatanna and Constantine have cast a really powerful spell that has torn the fabric of reality and sent the entire team hurtling through the multiverse. Separated from the others, Zatanna ends up on a world unlike any she has seen with monsters unlike any other either. And she meets someone completely unexpected, setting off a great story that explores Zatanna’s past and provides some great emotional moments. Tom Derenick and Scott Hanna are the guest artists on this issue along with Chris Sotomayor and they absolutely knock things out of the park.

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Arrow Season 3 Ep 3 (TV Show Review)

In the wake of last week’s episode of CW’s Arrow, I find myself a bit disheartened. With Sara’s death and the introduction of noted master-archer Simon Lacroix making his television debut, having been introduced last year in comics by creators Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, I was all ready for a big archer-off between Ollie and Simon, but I guess that’s not really going to happen. So the mystery remains of who killed Sara and why. Trust Arrow to play cards close to the chest. But then, that’s one of the reasons why I love the show so much anyway, and this week’s episode wasn’t too different.

The new episode this week is titled “Corto Maltese” and as per last week’s teaser at the end of “Sara“, we know that this episode deals with Ollie going to Corto Maltese to find Thea, who has been training there with her blood-father Malcolm Merlyn, to get over her emotional troubles from the second season. It is a fantastic episode in almost every way that matters, and I loved seeing the new Thea on the show, a Thea who is much more confident of herself now, and who really can take care of herself. And with everything happening with Laurel, things are really looking to be on the up and up for the show’s female cast.

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The Flash Season Zero #4 (Comics Review)

With three great episodes in the bag so far, CW’s The Flash is powering on to some really great things, especially since next week is going to see the debut of one of Flash’s greatest villains, Leonard Snart aka Captain Cold in all his parka glory. Fun yeah? And to go with that, the current Season Zero comics are also doing their bit to expand Barry’s villains roster. The previous issues have all been leading up to this particular one, out a few days ago, and the journey to this point has certainly been great, with a nice simplistic villain like Strong Man leading the charge on that front.

Previously we’ve seen that there’s a criminal mastermind at work within Central City, who is targeting the “enemies” of a local traveling circus, and that Barry has already gone up against some of the circus workers. Team Barry manages to suss out the identities of these new villains, leaving it to the hero to confront the big bad, and it is a great moment filled with some wonderful stuff that can only be possible in comics and not in television. The writing is mostly consistent with what we’ve seen already on this title, and the art is as great as it has ever been, so The Flash Season Zero #4 is a good installment altogether.

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The Flash Season 1 Ep 3 (TV Show Review)

Just before The Flash’s third episode debuted this week, CW went ahead and gave a season order for the show, meaning that The Flash will go on for a full season of 23 episodes. This is great news since The Flash is a really great show and I would dare say that it is even better than Arrow was in its first season. The show is living up to its claim of the most comic book show on air, and I’d say that it is starting off even better than CW’s previous big hit, Smallville did. Some really cool villains have debuted so far, with more to come, and the cliffhangers certainly have been quite jaw-droppingly amazing.

Things You Can’t Outrun” introduces the villain known as Mist to the audiences, and it proves to be another great episode, though the mist isn’t as cool or as awesome as either Weather Wizard or Multiplex. Barry faces a huge challenge once again, still getting used to his powers, and one of the other reasons that this episode was so good was that we get to see flashbacks to the explosion at the STAR Labs particle accelerator, finally debuting Robbie Amell’s Ronnie Raymond as well, the future Firestorm. Lots of things happened this week and it was all fantastic.

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Secret Origins #6 (Comics Review)

The Secret Origins is one where each issue contains three short stories, each about a different superhero and supervillain in the DC universe and their respective origins. I’ve been fairly interested in the series for a while now, though I haven’t really gotten into it as yet. There’s already so many titles I want to read every month that just managing any more is a super-task. But still, the concept of the series is a good one and it really does seem to give you a brief taste of different characters and titles in a single package, so why not check it out yeah? Least, that’s what my thinking was when I picked up this week’s issue.

Secret Origins #6 is the origin stories of Wonder Woman, Deadman and Sinestro, from the respective creative teams of Wonder Woman, Justice League Dark and Sinestro, with some changes. Each story deals with the earliest days of the respective characters, and each story is executed well with enough callbacks to later events in the characters’ histories or even their respective ongoing titles. There is a right crazy mix of creators here, and I can definitely recommend this one, for it is a great standalone issue given you a great brief look at three of DC’s greatest characters.

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