Episode 52 – Love and Rockets: Heartbreak Soup

In this Valentine’s Day episode, Curt and Kevin discuss a tale of love, longing and murder: Heartbreak Soup (or Sopa de Gran Pena) and its prologue, Chelo’s Burden, written and drawn by Gilbert Hernandez, from the long-running series Love and Rockets, published by Fantagraphics Books.

In the small Latin American town of Palomar, a violent breakup finds dazed, drunken Tip in’ Tip in’ taken under the wing of headstrong 11-year-old Carmen. Meanwhile, Pipo, Carmen’s 14-year-old sister, is quickly falling in love with Manuel, the town’s baby-faced lothario. But that doesn’t sit well with hot-headed Gato, who carries a major torch for Pipo.

When this love triangle turns deadly, will all three live to tell the tale? Can Chelo, the town’s bañadora, survive a little competition from beguiling newcomer Luba? And can this indelible cast of characters move on up to that magnificent metropolis known as … The Comics Canon?

Things Discussed in This Episode:
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Episode 51 – Black Panther: The Client

In this episode, Curt and Kevin look forward to the highly anticipated Black Panther film with a look back at the late 90s storyline Black Panther: The Client, collecting Black Panther vol. 3 #1-5, the start of the groundbreaking run by Christopher Priest, published by Marvel Comics.

T’Challa, king of the African nation of Wakanda, leaves his homeland in the middle of a refugee crisis for an urgent mission to New York City. Accompanied by low-level diplomat Everett K. Ross, the menacing monarch and his pair of sleek, deadly bodyguards investigate the death of a young girl and corruption at The Tomorrow Fund, a Wakanda-backed charity.

But our stealthy sovereign soon discovers that he’s been duped by the murderous Reverend Achebe, who’s taken advantage of his absence to stage a takeover of Wakanda!

Can the embattled emperor survive a confrontation with the demon Mephisto and rescue his realm from the ruthless reverend? And can he gain entrance to that peerless preserve of epic exploits known as … The Comics Canon?

Things Discussed in This Episode:

Not Discussed In This Episode:

Join us in two weeks as we commemorate Valentine’s Day with a tale of longing and love (but no rockets) with the first Heartbreak Soup story from Love and Rockets by Gilbert Hernandez!

Until then, please rate us on iTunes, send us an email, or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook, and we may read your comments in an upcoming episode. And as always, thanks for listening!

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Episode 50 – Superman: For the Man Who Has Everything

In this episode, Curt and Kevin celebrate their two-year podcasting anniversary with a special birthday two-fer, as they discuss the classic Superman birthday story For The Man Who Has Everything by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons from Superman Annual #11, published by DC Comics, as well as its animated adaptation from Justice League Unlimited!

Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman arrive at Superman’s arctic hideaway to wish him a happy birthday, but find the Man of Steel immobilized by a sinister-looking plant known as the Black Mercy. Before they can figure out a plan of action, they’re confronted by the alien warlord Mongul, who reveals that Superman has been put into a coma, dreaming of an idyllic existence as a husband, father and geologist on his home planet of Krypton!

Can our overmatched heroes stop Mongul from conquering the Earth? Can the Man of Tomorrow wake up from his seductive fantasy in time to save them? And can this fearless foursome gain entry into that Fortress of Solitude known as … The Comics Canon?

Things Discussed in This Episode:

Join us in two weeks as we prepare for the release of the hotly anticipated Black Panther adaptation with a discussion of Black Panther: The Client, by Christopher Priest and Mark Texeira!

Until then, please rate us on iTunes, send us an email, or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook, and we may read your comments in an upcoming episode. And as always, thanks for listening!

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Episode 49 – Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles

In this episode, Curt and Kevin return to Gotham City to unwrap the riddle of Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles, by Tom King, Mikel Janin and Clay Mann, published by DC Comics!

The Dark Knight Detective has popped the question to his “purr-fect” match, the beguiling cat burglar known as Catwoman. But before his feline foil can answer, he must unburden himself of a terrible secret – an especially dark night from early in his crime-fighting career.

The Caped Crusader’s two most dangerous enemies, the Joker and the Riddler, have gone to war, with the streets of Gotham as their battleground. The city’s supervillain community has taken up sides, with its citizens quite literally caught in the crossfire, along with the tragic figure known as … Kite Man?

Can the World’s Greatest Detective suss out a solution to this pernicious puzzle before the entire city is torn asunder? And can this criminal conflict win top billing on that comedy club marquee of magnificence known as … The Comics Canon?

Things Discussed in This Episode:
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Comics Onscreen – Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok and More (With Allison Keene)

Warner Bros. Pictures

In this last episode of 2017, Curt and Kevin welcome Collider.com senior TV editor and critic Allison Keene for a fun, spirited discussion of the big comics adaptations from the second half of the year, including Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel’s The Defenders and Justice League!

Spoilers are (mostly) avoided in this non-canonical episode, which also touches on the CW’s Crisis on Earth-X crossover event; whether Black Panther will continue Marvel’s recent trend toward the comedic (probably not); Thor: Ragnarok’s similarities to The Empire Strikes Back; waiting for The Punisher to get exciting; the engaging cast of Runaways; The Gifted’s similarity to The O.C.; Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in space; and The Tick.

As if that weren’t enough, there’s also a discussion of what we’re looking forward to in 2018, including the CW’s Black Lightning, the second season of Fox’s Legion and X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

Other Things Discussed in This Episode:
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Episode 48 – Archie Meets the Punisher

In this episode, worlds collide as Curt and Kevin take aim at Marvel’s the Punisher and the hit CW series Riverdale with a discussion of the epic 1994 crossover Archie Meets the Punisher (or The Punisher Meets Archie), published by Archie Comics and Marvel Comics!

Written by Batton Lash (Supernatural Law) with art by comics legends John Buscema and Stan Goldberg, this most unlikely of mashups finds Marvel’s mass-murdering vigilante in the idyllic small town of Riverdale on the trail of drug dealer “Red” Fever – who just happens to bear a striking resemblance to Riverdale’s most popular teenager, Archie Andrews!

After their first meeting almost ends in disaster, our dubious duo tracks Archie’s deadly double to Riverdale High’s 1950s dance! But the Punisher’s not the only one after Archie’s dastardly dopplegänger – and these homicidal hitmen don’t care if Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and the rest of the gang get caught in the crossfire!

Can America’s favorite teenager and the Marvel Universe’s avenging antihero join forces to thwart the mob and rescue Veronica from Archie’s lethal lookalike? And can they win election to that homecoming court known as … The Comics Canon?

Things Discussed in This Episode:
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Episode 47 – Runaways: Pride and Joy (With Matt Goldberg)

In this episode, Curt and Kevin take the midnight train going anywhere, joined by Collider.com senior editor Matt Goldberg, as they mark the debut of Hulu’s new Runaways series with a discussion of Runaways: Pride and Joy by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, published by Marvel Comics!

All kids think of their parents as villains on occasion. But Alex Wilder and his adolescent friends have just discovered that their well-to-do parents are actual supervillains – members of a criminal cabal called the Pride! Stunned, our hormonal heroes steal away into the California night, determined to expose their felonious fathers and murderous mothers! Along the way, superpowers are discovered, secrets are revealed, superheroic identities are (briefly) adopted … oh, and someone gets a pet dinosaur!

Can these pubescent powerhouses stay a step ahead of their evil elders and avoid the most severe grounding of all time? And can our teen titans find placement in that home for wayward young Avengers known as ? The Comics Canon?

Things Not Discussed in This Episode:

  • Runaways editor C.B. Cebulski’s new job as editor in chief of Marvel Comics (mainly because this was recorded before the promotion was announced)

Things Discussed in This Episode:
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Despite Heroic Efforts, Justice League Fails to Rescue the DC Extended Universe

Review by Curt Holman

Warner Bros. Pictures

One of the main things that struck me while watching Justice League, and that stayed with me afterward, was how bad the villain is.

I don’t mean the relative evil of Steppenwolf, an ancient warrior space god bent on finding three artifacts to remake the Earth. I mean how thinly he’s written and how terribly he’s rendered as an all-CGI character. Respectable actor Ciarán Hinds provides an utterly generic voice performance, the character has scarcely more than one facial expression – the most threatening thing about Steppenwolf is that you’ll see him and die of embarrassment for the cast and filmmakers.

But it’s not like Justice League botched a classic character. Steppenwolf is an obscure sidekick to Darkseid, one of the most powerful and iconic villains in DC history. So why isn’t Darkseid the villain in Justice League, the theoretical flagship film in the DC Extended Universe? Good question: it seems as though the filmmakers wanted to use Justice League to gather the team and drop hints about Darkseid, who’ll show up in a sequel, when things will supposedly really pop off.

Which is the problem with nearly most of the DCEU movies to date: They’ve been so intent on setting up an Avengers-like franchise down the road while ignoring terrible decisions about the movies right in front of them. Justice League attempts an obvious course correction from the joyless murk of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but still proves ugly and sloppy, despite some saving graces.

Snyder returned to direct Justice League, but left in the spring following a family tragedy, and Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon came aboard for reshoots and rewrites. (Whedon shares screenplay credit with Chris Terrio, suggesting extensive revisions.) Justice League tries to lighten things up, but you may not notice those efforts for almost an hour. An early sequence conveys how the world has lost its hope since Superman died with a sadness montage set to a Leonard Cohen cover.

Superman’s death seems to have more consequences than mass psychological trauma. Batman (Ben Affleck) has detected an incursion of winged goblin creatures, which he suspects are scouts ahead of an alien invasion of the defenseless planet. Batman reaches out to his new ally Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to help track down new super-powered individuals, following clues left in the previous film. Boozing biker-type Aquaman (Jason Momoa) seems more interested in protecting the oceans than the surface world. Socially awkward speedster the Flash (Ezra Miller) is eager to sign up and make friends, but deeply phobic about fighting. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is a young prodigy given a mechanical body due to otherworldly technology (which proves directly connected to Steppenwolf).

Not only does the film introduce new heroes, they each have at least one supporting character, serving to clutter up an already choppy, overcrowded story (that reportedly had a mandate to run no more than two hours). You can be simultaneously pleased to see, say, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and annoyed that he’s only in a couple of scenes. Even a grieving Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Ma Kent (Diane Lane) are on hand for wearying speeches that take the fizz out of Adams’ signature effervescence.

Justice League delivers plenty of action scenes, including Batman hunting a “parademon” in Gotham, Wonder Woman foiling terrorists in London and Steppenwolf wreaking havoc on Atlantis and the Amazons’ home. Most feel perfunctory – the ones with Steppenwolf look like videogames – but once the team assembles, the filmmakers allow themselves to have fun. In one scene, a character proves able to see The Flash running at super-speed, and the Flash is shocked to see them SEEING him – it may be the most delightful moment in all five DCEU films that doesn’t involve Wonder Woman.

The actors gamely take on the film’s whiplash changes in tone between Snyder’s gloom and Whedon’s snark. Gadot’s poise may be her greatest superpower, and she never seems caught by the gravity that weighs down Affleck, who plays an effective, understated Bruce Wayne but never seems sure of himself as Batman. Miller sells the Flash’s rabbity comic relief pretty hard, but his snappy patter is always welcome. (The super-speed effects never match the Quicksilver set pieces from the recent X-Men movies, though.)

It’s public knowledge that Henry Cavil, who played Superman in the past two films, is on hand here. I won’t spoil the nature of his appearance, but Justice League draws out far more of his charm than its predecessors.

Despite such saving graces, Justice League falls to earth more often than not, particularly during a headache-y finale with overly familiar action beats and CGI landscapes.

And while Justice League is more significantly enjoyable than Batman v Superman, the latter seemed like the film that Snyder wanted to make. It may have been a grueling betrayal of beloved characters’ comic book origins, but at least committed to its ideas. Justice League feels like a film that nobody really wanted to make – at least, not in the compromised form that arrives in theaters. A lot of people put heroic effort into the production, but the effort is almost all you see.

Justice League. C.  Directed by Zack Snyder. Written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon. Stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot. Rated PG-13.

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Episode 46 – Kingdom Come

In this episode, Curt and Kevin prepare for the long-awaited release of Justice League with (what else?) a discussion of a kinda/sorta Justice League story: the acclaimed 1996 battle-of-the-superheroes miniseries Kingdom Come, written by Mark Waid, painted by Alex Ross, and published by DC Comics!

In the not-too-distant future, a new generation of super-powered beings has taken the place of the Justice League. But these reckless “heroes” are even more of a menace than the villains they face, and millions of innocents pay the price when one super-battle results in the devastation of the American Midwest!

Wonder Woman coaxes a reluctant Superman out of self-imposed exile to reunite the Justice League. But Batman refuses the call, and the heroes clash over differing ideologies. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor and the U.N. have their own ideas for how to deal with this growing crisis – and one of them involves a nuclear bomb!

Can these costumed crusaders put aside their differences, end the threat of these metahuman miscreants, and avert atomic annihilation? And can they win the keys to that kingdom of caped champions known as … The Comics Canon?

Things Discussed in This Episode:
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Asgardians of the Galaxy: Thor: Ragnarok Takes Comedic Jaunt Across the Cosmos

Review by Curt Holman

If you’re an amateur scholar of Norse mythology; if you’re a longtime follower of Marvel comic book continuity; if you’re a fan of the supporting players in the “Thor” feature films – be aware that Thor: Ragnarok might rub you the wrong way.

But if you’re cool with filmmakers taking liberties with source material in the name of humor, excitement and crazy creativity, you’ll have a blast with the third Thor movie. What We Do in the Shadows director Taika Waititi shows more allegiance to laughter than serious themes or narrative consistency, but also delivers a deliriously kitschy space adventure that’s like a jazz riff on comic storylines like Planet Hulk and Ragnarok and Roll. Continue reading

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