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Comic Culture With Rafa: #008

The “Tommy Oliver Variety Hour” Coming To Comic Stands Near You!

An Editorial From Rafael Encinas

The “Tommy Oliver Variety Hour” Coming To Comic Stands Near You!

BOOM! Studios has done such a wonderful job at bringing the Power Rangers lore to new heights. I have been a devout Power Rangers fan for many years, and specifically, these past couple of years have truly been a blessing because of the talent, excitement, and respect that the comic book medium has brought to the franchise. I have been reading these amazing stories since they have come out in January of 2016, and I now have a reason again to buy single issues and to collect variant covers again without waiting, like I normally do, for the trade graphic novel. Moreover, I have especially liked the attention to detail and maturity that Kyle Higgins’ has given us in his stories and in his characterizations of the cast. Whether it be Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Go Go Power Rangers, or Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink, I have loved the new adventures and situations that these teenagers with attitude have gotten into.


However, with all good things, there is always room for improvement, and unfortunately, sometimes there is a growing frustration.  At Wondercon this past weekend, the BOOM! Studios panel revealed that starting with issue #21, the Go Go Power Rangers ongoing series would finally be introducing Tommy Oliver to the team; this in turn would begin the “Green with Evil” plot we have seen in the television program. The incorporation of Tommy into this series will coincide with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ issue #40 kicking off the new “Necessary Evil” storyline with a returning White Ranger Tommy.

So, basically, we are getting a whole lot of Tommy Oliver! This is great and exciting news if you are a Tommy fan, but Power Rangers is so much more than one single ranger.

Now, I do not mean to sound like a complainer. I mean, we have gotten some truly amazing stories these past couple of years. However, as many fans have pointed out on twitter and reddit threads, the love and focus on a certain Green Power Ranger has been at the forefront for these comics for some time now.  Afterall, this past year we have seen Tommy’s evil future doppleganger take the spotlight during the “Shattered Grid” storyline, and we even got “Saban’s Power Rangers: Soul of the Dragon” one-off graphic novel. Now, we are getting two heaping helpings of Saban’s Favorite Ranger in both the green and white variety. And honestly, this isn’t the color palette I’ve been craving.

Though I recognize the appeal for the Tommy character, after all, he is a foundation to what made Mighty Morphin Power Rangers so popular! However, I have always loved the power rangers for their team dynamics. The television show managed to change from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: teenagers with attitude in colorful spandex to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Tommy Oliver variety hour. I understand that Tommy was the cool Green Ranger, which I 100% loved as a kid; however, the shows got too focused on Jason David Frank’s character and the show was less about team dynamics and more about how many flavors of the Rainbow can Tommy fit into. Jason David Frank has probably done more for the franchise than any other ranger in the series, but at this point it is too much.

I am hoping that these stories will prove to be some powerful and engaging story arcs, after all, BOOM!Studios hasn’t failed me yet. However, it is disheartening when you see the spotlight on the same character over and over again, especially when there is such a rich history of so many awesome Power Rangers characters. But again, only the future will tell how we see these stories in tandem with their respective visions. I hope to see more Ranger variety in future stories.

Late Gamer Plays Battlefield V

A Review From Hidai Moya

At it’s core BFV does enough to uphold its franchise even if it is a step down from the stellar quality of its superb predecessor. The campaign, revisionism notwithstanding, was surprisingly emotionally moving, especially the story of the last German soldiers. The urban combat feels excellent. With a complete lack of “Run n Gun”, players must tightly round each building corner & tactfully hug the corridor walls to survive. The gunfire is unforgiving of any wayward onlooker. There is also an indelible appeal to its classic WWII era vehicles. German Panzers, Tiger Tanks, & British Spitfires all feel superb operating in battle & have excellent sound design. The visual customization however is exorbitant in it’s demands for in game credits that are more wisely used to upgrade vehicles & weapons. Pre-Firestorm, it’s a fair BF entry. Grade B

 

Comic Culture With Rafa: #007

Doom & Justice: The Redemption of Lex Luthor

An Editorial From Rafa Encinas

I want to start this editorial by stating that Lex Luthor is a piece of shit. This is a bad man who has done some truly horrific and irredeemable things. However, I cannot deny the allure and magic of comic books, specifically when they do something crazy and exciting. Sometimes, comics try things that are too wild, but at other times, it is as if the sky aligns just right, and we are given something truly magical. Specifically, there are few things on this earth that are as magical or as masterfully written as the meticulous redemption of Lex Luthor.

Luthor is arguably Superman’s quintessential villain. Basically, he is that one kid in the classroom who calls you out for being too handsome, too intelligent, or too nice. That distrustful person who is convinced there is something wrong about you and will stop at nothing to reveal you for what you really are. Basically, Lex Luthor is a dick. Who else has made Superman’s life as miserable as a man who is always plotting to turn the world against its self-appointed champion; to take down the world’s symbol of hope and justice?

Lex has both been that figurative and literal thorn in Superman’s side for so many years! He’s taken on Superman at both physical and philosophical levels. Lex has tortured him. He has tried to destroy his image. He’s become president just to ruin Superman’s day. And he even had the gall to try and replace him when the Man of Steel died of kryptonite poisoning.

However, Lex Luthor, to me, is a stale character. He is a bitter man whose riches couldn’t buy the respect of other people, especially in a world where Superman would forever eclipse him. Over the years, he’s just been one dimensional and an egomaniac who has aimlessly tried to murder the Man of Steel. So, the idea of caring about this character never really crossed my mind. But, then Geoff Johns came along and the seeds of redemption and interesting character development were planted.

This was hinted at with the brilliant Forever Evil (2013) story in where Luthor assembles his own team of villains to take on the invading Crime Syndicate (an evil version of the Justice League from Earth-3). The Crime Syndicate systematically took over the earth, released all the villains from jail, and chaos erupted. So, Luthor takes matters into his own hands, and in a world without heroes, he assembles a team of killers to rampage and murder through the Crime Syndicate ranks which leads to some truly wicked scenes! It takes the approach that when all of the world’s heroes are gone, you have to fight evil with evil.

I’m not going to lie. Forever Evil (2013) is one of the highlights of the New 52 era of DC comics. This comic arc is straight up rock n’ roll! We get a bunch of bad guys being Earth’s last hope against violent invaders. This was super cool and fresh, and it began to paint Luthor in a different light. He was still a killer. We still see him fuck up some bad guys.

However, we also get a refreshing look into the sympathies and possible empathy of Luthor’s cold heart. We see him create Bizarro, and we see a hilarious, albeit tragic, story of father and son; Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster. This is some of the most humanizing and most beautiful work I have seen in comics in a long time. I mean, think about it, in a world plagued by darkness and where there is death everywhere, we have subtle moments shared between Lex and Bizarro that are both heartwarming and tear-jerking. We see truly heartwarming moments between characters who rarely have these moments to begin with. It is breathtaking.

Furthermore, Forever Evil (2013) gives Luthor an out. It gives him the perfect opportunity for good PR. We see him put a plan into action that actually works, to the chagrin of Batman. The world now sees him as a hero rather than the villain. And Lex, being the opportunistic genius that he is, grabbed this sentiment by the balls and just wouldn’t let go. Lex took his first steps toward heroism, though it can still be considered to be clouded in self-serving egoism & manipulation.

This was a special time in comics because it gave me something I never knew I wanted. It gave me riveting stories where we got to see the slow evolution of Lex Luthor from villain to hero. It was a snapshot of moments that truly showcased the magic of storytelling. Watching Lex join the Justice League and have an uneasy alliance with Superman was interesting to see unfold. I mean, it was comical to see this man, who was once hellbent on the destruction of the League, create a shaky PR image of himself fighting alongside Earth’s mightiest heroes.

But, fuck, it worked!

He was still a murderous despot. He was still responsible for the Amazo Virus. He still threatened to “blow-out” the spine of the Doom Patrol’s Chief Caulder.  But seeing the shimmer behind Luthor’s eyes change. To see his demeanor and voice change as he spent more time with earth’s heroes, and having more humanistic flaws, hopes, and weaknesses fleshed and made bare; to see the things that made Lex such a jerk (like his sister Lena), it made Lex a much more interesting and relatable character. I always think back to a conversation that Lex and Diana have in Justice League #34 (2011-2016)

Seeing Lex respond to genuine and kind human emotion is such wondrous writing because we get to see the inner workings of a man who thinks he is the “Superior Superman” actually have a chance to live up to the mantel. Something that he ultimately does take seriously by physically donning the symbol of Superman and trying to actually be Metropolis’ new titan after the actual Superman had died of Kryptonite poisoning during the events of The Final Days of Superman (2016).

Luthor experiences some truly insane things during his time in the Justice League (like taking over Apokolips, fighting the Anti-Monitor, and being shot by his sister). He has some truly life altering experiences that ultimately lead to the respect of the league which, for me, culminated in the shaky respect from Pre-Flashpoint Superman.

But is Luthor’s redemption necessary? Should it happen? And can he truly be a redeemable character? After all, he has done some truly diabolical things.

Some would argue that he is irredeemable. The crimes he has committed and his overall avarice make him a disgusting and terrible human being, no matter how many times he’s helped the Justice League. But, I argue that the fact he went through this positive character change made for some interesting and unique stories. I personally never felt more connected to the character until he started his redemption, and honestly, it’s fun to see what happens next.

Unfortunately, all good things must end, and it looks like Luthor has gone back to his menacing and conniving ways, most recently in Scott Snyder’s Justice League series (2018) where Lex went full super-villain and assembled the Legion of Doom to fuck up the Justice League’s day.

This is some exciting stuff because even though I am against Luthor’s return to villainy, there are moments in Snyder’s run where we see just how much Luthor’s turn surprises the League, especially Batman (Justice League #4). The fact that Batman was fully on board with Luthor’s reform, so his inevitable betrayal (all while inside Superman’s body by the way) was profound and chilling.

The redemption of Lex Luthor was a truly unique and interesting time in comics that I appreciated and enjoyed. Hopefully, once Lex is done breaking bad again, we will see something new. The fact that he returns to villainy because he believes it is within our nature to be evil (especially after the events of Dark Nights: Metal) and he honestly believes his time “playing” hero was all for naught is interesting, and I am excited to see what the Legion of Doom continues to bring to the table.

Maybe Lex Luthor can never be an actual hero. Maybe he will never be a Superior Superman, but none of that matters to him at this moment.  Luthor made his choice. He chose to embrace his true self. Fuck justice. He sided with doom.


Chris’ Comic Book Corner: Uncanny X-Men #14

A Review From Christopher Franey

“The faster the end comes, the more everything seems to slow down.  I am watching my life’s work slip away in slow motion.”  There is that opening narrative in red box with black background.  Now my money is on it being Scott Summer’s words, but it would be interesting if they did belong to someone else.  So here we are talking about issue 14 of Uncanny which is part 4 of This Is Forever.  This story arc has been very dark and dramatic, with action that has consequences.
The issue starts off with cops in pursuit of a mutant (who is later revealed to be Reaper) and while that is playing out we have cuts to Scott and Logan having drinks with Valerie Cooper at Harry’s Hideaway, new HQ to the X-Men.  Madrox winds up finding Reaper after he shakes off the cops, but then Reaper does manage to get away from Madrox who decides to let he “Spooky Kids” get him; those kids being Magik, Wolfsbane, and Mirage.  The meeting between Val, Scott, and Logan does go good as they all realized they can use each other for beneficial times later on, despite being Mutant or Human.  Reaper is captured and taken to the X-Men where they learn he has invited to join the Mutant Liberation Front by Hope herself, they figure they can use him to find out more about the group later.  

I do like the humor that is injected into the serious moment, gives that “Never say die” attitude back to the X-Men.  Yet that only last for so long as we come to find out the X-Men are using Dark Beast to work on a secret project.  Luckily Dark Beast does help the team by giving up the whereabouts of the Marauders.  The team does teleport over ready for battle to an empty warehouse.  Scrambler is in the warehouse and uses his powers to effect Wolfsbane and her TO Entity to go wild, which does get in the way and helps Scrambler escape.  Wolverine doesn’t care and tells Havok to make a hole, then jumps out from the fourth floor; and then we are treated with this:

Now we know Callisto and the Morlocks are on the scene as well.  Turns out that Scrambler and the other Marauders have been hunting Morlocks and killing them in the tunnels.  Turns out no one is safe, even from other Mutants.  Chamber (aka Jono) calls out Cyclops and the X-Men on how no one is safe even after Scott’s promise, but this time Scott does plan to make it right.

We are now taken to Chernayan’s Northern Border and we see the fruits of Scott, Logan, and Val’s conversation.  The area is willing to help but does have some issues with a coup since the bad guys have lots of tech from S.H.I.E.L.D. and Latveria.  The X-men take down some of the rebels and it looks like the X-Men are back at it, old school style:

After the battle Scott lets the Morlocks know they can find safe refuge there and should be able to live their new home.  Small Victory but at least more Mutants are safe.  The X-Men are finally celebrating when Captain America comes to talk with Scott…looks like the party is over…
Once again I can’t say enough great things about this arc.  I love the fact that the X-Men are back to being heroic and I also enjoy their shadowy style too.  This reminds me of the 90’s show first two episodes.  The X-Men are going to do the right thing, but sadly most of the time the villains in their story are Humanity or the Government, but that won’t stop them, they are fighting for their survival in this world.  I enjoy their tactics and I wonder how things will come out in the end; like what is Dark Beast working on and what will they do with him?  Next issue should be something…Scott vs Cap again…AVXII?  Probably not that big, but it’ll be interesting since Steve is having his own issues with the Government as well.  I rate this issue 5 out of 5 Morlocks and recommend you join the team asap!  As always read on and Excelsior!

Late Gamer Plays Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4

A Review From Hidai Moya

The omission of a campaign is a mixed blessing in the latest Black Op’s installment. Though a story would’ve been appreciated & added a necessary context to it’s various modes, in its stead we’re given by far what is one of the most polished & addictive Battle Royale modes to date in “Blackout”. As the World’s premier FPS franchise it was only fair that CoD got it’s say in the Battle Royale subgenre & it hit it out of the park. It’s truly a ton of fun & the bulk of my hours went into that. The other modes however feel very basic, as if they were created for the sake of being featured as a fictional video game in a movie & they just went ahead & made it for real anyway. Their kitschy visual style & lighting fast firefights make it feel a bit jarring. “Blackout” mode is the reason why this game warrants a purchase. Grade B