QUICKIE REVIEW: NBC’s “Debris”

If you’re a sci-fi fan and you’re not watching Debris, you’re missing out on a fun show. Debris is one of those weird experiments in how little exposition a show can get away with giving. The pilot episode drops viewers in the middle of the action, with Brian and Finola having been tracking debris for several weeks already. It’s a gutsy way to start such a high-concept series, for sure. But it’s honestly a breath of fresh air in a genre that usually spends an unwieldy amount of time setting premises up before anything interesting happens. It’s nice getting right to the action, especially when the action involves a new piece of Debris each week that lets the writers explore a multitude of science fiction ideas. Want a story about clones? Check out episode two. Want something involving wormholes? Episode three’s your bet. Want to see an episode where old people can become young again? Watch episode six. I’m not always the biggest fan of procedural shows, but Debris offers a nice balance between fun cases of the week and an intriguing ongoing mystery—there’s some kind of terrorist group trying to find the pieces of debris before the various governments can and they seem to be up to no good. The mystery needs some development, but it’s enough to keep you coming back each week to see the newest strange case.

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REVIEW: “Killadelphia vol. 2 – Burn Baby Burn”

The first arc of Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexander’s Killadelphia ranked among my favorite comics of 2020. It was a breathtaking, gorgeous, layered story that blended absurd-yet-scary horror with gritty, grounded character drama. So, naturally, I was pretty excited to see where the comic would go from there. That first volume ended in a way that opened numerous narrative doors for future stories. And that’s a pretty exciting place for a second arc to find itself. Now, to be fair, Barnes and Alexander certainly take advantage of those numerous avenues—but it comes at the cost of narrative coherence. While the first volume of Killadelphia was something new and exciting, the second volume feels like more of the same—with all of the pros and cons that come with that. The world is explored with more depth, but the narrative is often unfocused, with an ending that’s less of an ending and more of a beginning for another story. There’s too much going on and not enough time to explore it with. (3 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review will remain as spoiler free as possible.

Killadelphia vol.2 – “Burn Baby Burn”
Written by Rodney Barnes
Illustrated by Jason Shawn Alexander
Adams’ battle to reshape the United States in his own twisted vision might have been thwarted for now, giving Jimmy Sangster a moment of respite, but the war for a new America rages on! Now, as Abigail steps out of the shadows, she unleashes a new violent terror upon the city some have renamed Killadelphia. But this time, it’s about creating as widespread a web of fear imaginable as she rips the beating heart from the city itself.

Can Jimmy stop her or will history repeat and force him to meet the same fate as his father?

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Godzilla vs Kong”

Godzilla vs Kong gave me everything I wanted. Is it an amazing film? No, of course not. But it is a very fun one. My biggest complaint of the MonsterVerse films has always been an overreliance on human characters at the expense of the Titan characters. While Godzilla vs Kong still has a few too many human-based plotlines, the focus always feels squarely on Kong and Godzilla. By tying their plotlines into Godzilla and Kong’s respective character arcs, the filmmakers make it a lot easier to enjoy the human stuff. The movie’s not really about the humans; it’s about Godzilla and Kong—and it’s about time! It’s a simple movie. The bad guys are looking for an energy source from the Hollow Earth for ~questionable~ reasons and they need a Titan to help guide them through the Hollow Earth. So, they team up with a scientist (Dr. Andrews) and her adopted daughter (Jia), who’ve learned to communicate with King Kong, to use Kong as their guide. Meanwhile, Godzilla senses a new threat and begins attacking various human settlements while also hunting down King Kong, who he feels is a threat to his dominance.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Law & Order: SVU” and “Organized Crime” Crossover

I haven’t regularly watched SVU since Christopher Meloni’s Detective Stabler left the show, so I was pretty excited to see his long-awaited return in this two-part crossover/pilot for the latest Law & Order spin-off. And, as expected, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a lot of stuff I liked and a lot of stuff I didn’t like. On the good side, it’s nice seeing Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson reunited with Meloni’s Stabler. You can feel the years of chemistry they’ve got, mixed in with the years of tension caused by Stabler’s disappearance from her life. As a fan of those older episodes, there’s a certain nostalgic joy found in simply seeing the two of them interact with each other again. And I appreciated the way the show embraced the idea of Stabler’s sudden disappearance (he was unceremoniously written off the show between seasons when Meloni didn’t renew his contract) having weighed heavily on Benson. The scenes they shared, and the way the two episodes dig deep into that trauma, make the whole event worth watching.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” Episodes 1-3

I didn’t think I’d like this show. At all. The trailers made it look indistinguishable from the rest of the MCU’s normal fare. But, honestly, I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying this show. It’s not as creative and risky as WandaVision, but The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is no less fun. If you told me to imagine a somewhat standard MCU story, I’d probably reply with something that sounded similar to this. To be fair, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve seen other reviewers describe Falcon and the Winter Soldier as reminiscent of the second Captain America film, and they’re right. This show is a character-driven political thriller. Its plot is kind of weak, but the character moments are fairly strong. This is the most character development Sam and Bucky have ever seen, and fans of them should be pretty pleased by how the characters are handled—Bucky in therapy was something I didn’t know I needed to see until I saw it. The way the show explores Bucky and Sam—their backstories, their trauma, and who they want to be—is a pretty compelling reason to watch the show, and the show mostly gets their characterizations right (though it stumbles a bit in the third episode).

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REVIEW: “Tales From the Umbrella Academy: You Look Like Death” by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, and I.N.J. Culbard

One of the best things about the first season of Netflix’s adaptation of The Umbrella Academy was the way it developed Klaus. In the comics, he wasn’t depicted as much more than a troubled drug addict who could talk with the dead. But the show dove deep into his past, expanding upon the trauma he undergoes by exposing himself to these unrestful spirits, and giving him a heartbreaking love story and an unhealthy amount of Vietnam PTSD. The show turned a character who was merely quirky in the comics into a character that was multi-layered and deeply complex. So, in the wake of this, the announcement of a Klaus-centric prequel comic was exciting. What kind of a past would the character’s creator, Gerard Way, (and co-writer Shaun Simon) give him? How much would it differ from the show? What happened to eighteen-year-old Klaus after he was expelled from the Umbrella Academy? As it turns out, these aren’t really the questions at the front of the comic’s mind. While it does explore some of Klaus’s trauma and psyche, You Look Like Death is more of a fun romp with a fan-favorite character than an intimate character study. But honestly, it’s so much fun that that’s not much of a problem. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: I was provided an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss and Dark Horse Comics. This review may contain mild spoilers, but will mostly be spoiler free.

“Tales From the Umbrella Academy: You Look Like Death”
Written by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon
Art and Colors by I.N.J. Culbard
When 18-year-old Klaus gets himself kicked out of the Umbrella Academy and his allowance discontinued, he heads to a place where his ghoulish talents will be appreciated—Hollywood. But after a magical high on a stash stolen from a vampire drug lord, Klaus needs help, and doesn’t have his siblings there to save him.

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“American Gods” Season 3: What Worked, What Didn’t, and What’s Next?

The third season of American Gods came to quite an explosive ending last week, with Shadow holding Wednesday’s vigil on the World Tree. It’s an ending that was well prepared for, concluding a season that spent ample time building up Shadow’s struggles with his divinity, his desire for power, and the cyclical nature of him trying to escape Wednesday’s shadow, only to be drawn further into it. On the whole, it was the most consistent season of American Gods to date. While it might not have reached the same heights of past seasons, it maintained a level of quality that ensured the show never reached the same lows of past seasons. Now, with the future of the show in flux, it seems like a good time to revisit the third season, looking at what worked and what didn’t.

NOTE: There will be full spoilers for all three seasons of American Gods. Read at your own risk.

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REVIEW: Dark Horse Comics’ “Norse Mythology – Volume 1”

Characters from Norse mythology remain a popular facet of modern pop culture. These days, most people are probably familiar with the Marvel comics/film versions of deities like Thor, Loki, and Odin, but elements of Norse mythology frequently pop up all over the place. Famously, Neil Gaiman borrowed heavily from Norse mythology for his 2001 novel, American Gods (which got adapted by Dark Horse Comics as a comic series in 2017, so it’s only appropriate that he published his own retellings of Norse tales in 2017’s Norse Mythology. And now, Dark Horse is bringing these closer-to-authentic Norse tales to the world of comics—where the Marvel versions of these characters got their start. The first volume of this series—adapted by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by Russell, Mike Mignola, Jerry Ordway, Piotr Kowalski, David Rubín, and Jill Thompson—is a very faithful adaptation of Gaiman’s source material. Like Dark Horse’s American Gods adaptation, very little is changed here—but it works very, very well. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: Thanks to Edelweiss and Dark Horse Comics for providing a digital ARC of this title. All thoughts are my own.

Norse Mythology: Volume 1
Adapted by: P. Craig Russell
Illustrated by: P. Craig Russell, Mike Mignola, Jerry Ordway, Piotr Kowalski, David Rubín, and Jill Thompson
Gaiman and Russell team with a legendary collection of artists to take readers through a series of Norse myths, including the creation of the Nine Worlds, the loss of Odin’s eye and source of his knowledge, the crafting of Thor’s hammer and the gods’ most valuable treasures, the origin of poetry, and Loki’s part in the end of all things—Ragnarök.

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S03E10 – “Tears of the Wrath-Bearing Tree”

And with that, another season of American Gods comes to a close. Tonight’s episode caps off what’s been the most consistent season of American Gods so far—and what an episode it is. If last week’s episode felt more like a traditional season finale, then this week’s episode acts as a beautiful coda to the season, bringing many of the character arcs to a conclusion while throwing the narrative door wide open for the show to go in any number of directions. It raises more questions than it answers, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. It straddles a nice line between faithfulness to the book and faithfulness to what the TV adaptation has become and I feel it works very well—even if there are some developments I’m not entirely sold on just yet. (4.5 out of 5 wands.) 

NOTE: This review features spoilers for episode 3×10 of American Gods. Read at your own risk.

American Gods: Episode 3×10: “Tears of the Wrath-Bearing Tree”
Written by: Laura Pusey and Ryan Spencer
Directed by: Russell Lee Fine

Teetering on the edge of war and peace, the gods gather to mourn a loss. Bilquis’ divine journey brings her to an unexpected revelation, while Shadow finally embraces a destiny that could bring him either greatness or death.

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REVIEW: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (The Snyder Cut)

Three and a half years after the release of the maligned theatrical cut of Justice League, Zack Snyder’s original cut of the film is almost here. It’s been a long time coming but thanks to the support of many fans and the desperation of a streaming service in need of new content, the world can finally see Snyder’s full take on the Justice League. The biggest question on everyone’s minds is whether this new cut is better than the theatrical cut. The answer is both simple and complicated. In many, if not most, ways, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is miles better than the theatrical cut. However, even with all the extra content and context, this new cut provides, several of the theatrical cut’s problems remain. And they’re joined by some new problems exclusive to this version. It’s not a bad movie or anything—it often borders on being a good one. But it’s a too-long film that suffers from bad pacing, a lack of focus, and characters that still feel more like archetypes than three-dimensional people. Long story short, it’ll please those who adore Snyder’s movies, annoy those who hate them, and leave the rest of us in a middle ground of partial pleasure and partial displeasure. (3.5 out of 5 wands.) 

NOTE: This review will generally be spoiler free. There may be references to plot points that are shared between both cuts of the film, but most of the newer stuff will be hinted at instead of spoiled.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League
(written by Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio; directed by Zack Snyder)
Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) enlist a team capable of protecting the world from the impending threat of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his Parademon army, who are scouring the universe for three hidden Mother Boxes that would enable Steppenwolf to transcend worlds, lay waste to all enemies, and restore his good standing with his master, Darkseid (Ray Porter). Though most of Batman and Wonder Woman’s initial efforts are met with resistance, they ultimately recruit Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and The Flash (Ezra Miller). But in order to help preserve the future of mankind, first they must each overcome their own demons.

After Steppenwolf secures two of the boxes buried deep within Themyscira and Atlantis, the superheroes are forced to take advantage of Cyborg’s unique connection to the one remaining. Harnessing the box’s capabilities to resurrect a final team member (Henry Cavill), they inadvertently provide Steppenwolf with an opportunity to obtain it – setting him up for imminent domination. With DeSaad and Darkseid waiting in the wings and posing catastrophic threats of their own, can this unique band of heroes dismantle the Mother Boxes before Steppenwolf’s synchronization is complete?

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