Subscription Box Review- DC Legion of Collectors- Superman- Mar 2017

Once again, Funko has shipped out the next box in its DC Legion of Collectors line.  After January’s DC Legacy, Funko has narrowed the scope down to one superhero; in fact arguably the first “superhero.”  This month’s box presents the Man of Steel, Superman.  Let’s get into it.

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We see the standard box here, with a silhouette of Superman featured prominently on the box, with his S-Shield visible.  Not much to see here.

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Inside the box, the inside has comic panels featuring Superman in various action poses.  I can’t really tell whose art this is.  I want to go with John Byrne for some of them, maybe Dan Jurgens as well.  The art gives me a post 1986 vibe to it, with the size of the S-shield.  I could be wrong, though.

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Now to the actual content.  Here we see the standard pin and patch.  The patch has the classic “It’s a bird!  It’s a Plane!” line from the comics (can’t they tell?). and the pin has Superman and the Legion of Collectors logo.

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Under the flap we have a comic.  It is a reprint of Superman issue 1 from 1939 (not to be confused with issue 1 from 1986, 2001, or 2016).  This issue itself was a reprint when it first came out, reprinting the first Superman story from Action Comics #1.  So it is a reprint of a reprinted story.  No other story from that issue was included, but you do get the Pop! cover, which is nice, I guess.

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The shirt is next.  We get a light blue shirt featuring a Pop! Superman flying from the Daily Planet.  As always the shirts are super soft and is done well.  There is no variant with this month’s shirt.

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Next is a Funko Pop! key chain.  This little Superman is in a flying pose.  I have seem the Pop! key chains around but I have never gotten one before.  It is now my default key chain for my car keys.

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The next item is my favourite item in the box.  We get another 3 3/4 Funko DC action figure.  This one is of Superman as he first appeared in Action Comics #1.  The front of the card features the iconic art from that issue with Superman smashing a gangster’s car.  The back also features art, but not from this issue, but from one from the silver age that I assume would be featured on the Superdickery.com website (seriously, he can be a dick sometimes!).  I like these figures, having two Suicide Squad figures from a box last year and two more from retail.  Funko, I want more.

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Superman being a dick to Lois to “teach her a lesson.”

 

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Finally we get to the Pop!  To no one’s surprise, the pos is of Superman in is classic outfit.  The body sculpt is all new, with a more dynamic pose than previous Superman Pop Vinyls.  He stands really well and looks awesome.  The way the cape is hanging off to the side is a nice touch.

So, considering the theme, there was no real surprise that everything in here was Superman.  Some have suggested it would be nice to get a Lois or a Jimmy Olson (Turtle Boy version!)  But maybe in a future Friends of Superman box?.  I love the action figures and having figure of Superman as he first appeared is awesome.  I am not disappointed in this box.  It promised Superman and it delivered.

That’s it for this time.  The next Legion of Collectors box will be shipping in early May 2017.  The next theme is Wonder Woman, based on her upcoming movie.  You can subscribe at https://legionofcollectors.com/ in order to get your box.  The deadline is 1 May 17.  Subscribers can order any of the previous boxes, but supplies are limited.

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

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Suicide Squad is the new movie from Warner Bros and DC Entertainment directed by David Ayer.  It is the third movie in the DC Cinematic Universe after Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman.  It stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis and Joel Kinnaman; to name a few.  It released 5 Aug 16 and it is rated 14A in Ontario, Canada (PG-13 in the US).

Suicide Squad follows the story of a government agency called Task Force X.  Headed by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and led in the filed by Rick Flagg (Kinnaman), this group is composed of super powered criminals forced to cooperate with threats and promises of a reduced sentence.  They are considered expendable and deniable and if they fail, they would be killed and blamed for everything.  They are a Suicide Squad.

The squad consists of the following villians:  Deadshot (Will Smith), a deadly marksman and assassin for hire;  Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) the Joker’s (Jared Leto) psycho girlfriend; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), half man, half crocodile; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a pyrotechnic haunted by his past; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courteny), a Australian criminal who is a crack shot with a boomerang; Slipknot (Adam Beach) an assassin and infiltration expert; Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a master swordswoman and Flagg’s body-guard; and The Enchantress (Carla Delevingne) a spirit of a millennia-old witch trapped in the body of archeologist June Moone  When the Enchantress awakens a powerful entity that takes over Midway City, the Squadis sent in to rescue a High Value Target (HVT) or die trying.  But as they discover that there is more to the mission, can the Squad hold it together?

The movie, while good, does have some issues with pacing.  The first third is set up, with the movie introducing Waller, Flagg and giving us back story on most of the squad, mainly Deadshot, Harley and Captain Boomerang.  Deadshot and Harley’s story give us a cameo by the Batman and Boomerang’s gives us the best view so mar of Ezra Miller’s Flash. Once the mission starts, the action picks up and it is an enjoyable ride.

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The portrayals of these comic characters are more or less true to the source material.  Deadshot’s kid, Harely’s lack of control around the Joker and Boomerang’s abrasiveness to his teammates are close to their comic roots.  Rick Flagg’s relationship to June is also from the Suicide Squad’s 1980’s series and Amanda Waller has always been a hard ass.  I would have liked to see more of Katana as her back story and I like the costume they made for her.  Katana has been getting some more exposure recently, playing a big role in season three of Arrow and featuring in the new DC Superhero Girls property.  More of her would be nice.

One minor gripe I have is with the Joker.  Leto’s Joker is going to put some people off.  Some may have issues with Will Smith’s Deadshot (he’s fine in the role), some with Margot as Harley (she nailed it and fills those shorts SO nicely), but The Joker is off-putting.  The new look is different, but mot the strangest incarnation of the Joker (in the comic, he once had his own face removed and then wore it as a mask.)  His appearances are chaotic and have a minimal effect on the story.  But isn’t that the Joker?  Strange and off-putting?  Maybe he is not the Joker we want, but the Joker we need?  He will need a bigger role for us to really find out.

Over all I did like this movie,  I thought is was good.  I like it better than Batman v. Superman:  it is not too long, there are no parts that made be cringe and all the portrayals of the comic characters were well done, even, when it comes down to it, Leto’s Joker, for the small part he played.  Maybe it would be better if some of the characters were set up in a previous movie because their character is tied to the heroes they fight.  The movie is dark, but it has the lighter moments that BvS so desperately needed.  I do hope this does well enough to warrant a sequel, in addition to a movie starring Harley Quinn.  But, I’d watch her reading a phone book if she was in that outfit.

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Damn.

 

4/5

Graphic Novel Review: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini-Comic Collection

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As a child in the early 1980’s I remember when the He-Man toys first came out,  They were different from anything else on the shelves at that time, a strange combination of Conan and Star Wars.  At first, though, there wasn’t any cartoon to introduce us to those characters.  To do that, each Masters of the Universe toy came with a mini-comic.  Those first books introduced us to He-man, Teela, Man-At-Arms and others as they fought Skeletor and his minions over the power within the mysterious Castle Grayskull.  These pack-in mini-conics lasts the entire line, even in its sister , Princess of Power and reappears in some form in the later lines.  Now all those classic stories are collected into one book.

This one.
This one.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini-Comic Collection is a hardcover graphic novel published by Dark Horse Books, in association with Mattel and DreamWorks Animation.  The book reprints all 51 of the original mini-comics from the original Master of the Universe toy line, plus all the Princess of Power mini-comic and books from subsequent lines.  There are also interviews with various writers and artists that worked on the line.

First of all the reprinted books look amazing.  The original mini-comics were not that big but to see the art in a bigger, almost regular-sized comic format is great.  The art, for the most part, looks good in a bigger size and you can really see the details.  The colours are good too, albeit not a vibrant as comics today with the advent of computer colouring.  As mentioned before, the book is a hardcover and is fairly hefty, due to containing so much material.

The stories hold up well, despite being written for a boy’s toy line 30 years ago.  The earlier stories are an especially interesting read, as it is very different from what be got with the cartoons series.  He-Man was not Prince Adam, but a warrior from a jungle tribe.  There was no Sorceress, but a Goddess, a green skinned (as first) woman that gave He-Man his “techo-vest” with gave him his super strength and invulnerability.  Man-At-Arms was not the King’s armourer, but the caretaker of lost technologies after  a cataclysm wiped out civilization, and Skeletor was a demon from another dimension, seeking the power sword to conquer Castel Grayskill and unleash his kind on the world. The comics slowly build up the mythos of Masters of the Universe, adding details to certain character’s back stories (Teela is the clone/daughter of the Goddess/Sorceress) and introduced elements from other sources like Prince Adam (originally appeared in the DC Comics mini-series) and Oroko (from the FIlmation cartoon.)  Even though some elements were dropped as the series went on to be similar to the cartoon, the mini-comics were its own entity.

The original mini-comics were more like a story book, with different takes on He-Man and the Sorceress
The original mini-comics were more like a story book, with different takes on He-Man and the Sorceress

There are interviews with some of the creative talent involved with the mini-comic, with names that would be recognizable by fans of comics and pop culture.  The first few mini-comics (which were more like mini-story books) had art from Alfredo Alcala, who worked on various DC and Marvel properties, including Conan the Barbarian.  Other names that some might recognize are writers Gary Cohn (various DC Comic books in the 80’s), Christy Marx (Jem), artists Mark Texeira (Wolverine, Punisher) and Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series and the DC Animated Universe) and even lettered Stan Sakai (creator of Usagi Yojimbo.)  The interviews go into their involvement in the MOTU series and their memories of working on the project.

Reading these mini comics gain is definitely a nostalgia trip for me.  I remember some of the stories, especially the early ones but there were some that I did not remember until I read them again.  Most of them I did not read before, as I lost interest in the toys due to the silly Filmation cartoon, but it is clear from this collection the mini-comic followed its own path.  Sure, some stories were blatant 12-panel adds for the new wave of figures or vehicles (Battle Bones really did not need an origin story!) but there are some hidden gems.  Original stories like Slave City and The Secret of the Elixir of Life introduced original characters that were not toys or on the cartoon.  Some were pretty violent, but not gory, with He-Man punching his foes or shooting them with a laser gun.  Nothing over the top, but it raised eyebrows them and would do the same (at least) today.

The book also reprints the Princess of power mini-comic which, like the He-Man ones, don’t follow the cartoon series.  the stories feature She-ra as she and here friends foil the schemes of Catra, Entrapta and others.  Only one story has the Horde in it and then, it is only Horde Troopers. There is also the mini-comics from The New Adventures or He-man (1989-1990) which has He-Man and Skeletor continue their battle in space in the far future and two retailer exclusive comics from the 2002 Master of the Universe reboot.  Finally, the book reprints three mini-comics released in the subscription-exclusive Master of the Universe Classics toy line.

Alongside The Art of He-Man book or by itself, this is a great book for fans of the various incarnations of He-Man.  As a trip down memory lane or as a way of learning more about the series, this is a great book to add to your collection.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini-Comic Collection is available online, in comic book stores and book outlets everywhere.  Check the web or your local stores for price and availability.  It is also available as a 2 volume digital edition on Amazon.

Book Review: The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

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The 1980’s were a good time for toy companies.  Some of the most memorable boy’s toys were first released in the early to mid 80’s..  Toys like The Transformers, GI Joe and Star Wars filled the shelves and inspired many kids with their plastic figure and play sets.  One of the more memorable ones was the Masters of the Universe line.  I remember characters such as He-Man, Skeletor, Teela, Beast-Man and Man-at-Arms inhabiting a world that was part Star Wars, part Conan the Barbarian.  I remember play set  and vehicles like the Battle Ram and Point Dread.  Like many toys properties, it had its tie ins:  cartoons, lunch boxes, clothing and even a live action movie.  The book, The Art of He-Man and the Master of the Universe looks at the toy lines 30+ year history covering the various toy lines (including Princess of Power) media and tie-ins.

The book is a large full color book with glossy pages and photos.  The book starts with the beginning of the line, reproducing memos, concept art and shows prototypes of what would become He-Man. Skeletor and Beast Man.  It goes into the line, showing early sketches of produced characters (and some that weren’t) and interviews with those who worked on the line.  It also goes into the mini comics, comic book adaptations and the cartoon series from Filmation, both He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power.  it even goes into the movie starring Dolph Lundgren., subsequent revivals (The Adventures of He-Man from 1989-1991 and the revived Masters of the Universe cartoon from 2002-2004) and the current subscription line from Mattycollector.com.

There is really a lot in this book.  There are pages from the mini-comics that I haven’t seen in years  and art work of characters that I have forgotten about or never knew existed.  The authors of this book, Tim and Steve Seely really delve into the history of the franchise, bringing sketches and artwork to light that would have remained forgotten.  Interviews with people who worked on the toys, the various cartoon series and the comic books really go into detail about their experience with the line.

The Art of He-Man and the Maters of the Universe is a great book for anyone that was or is a  fan of the property.  There is so much information about the toy line and  the cartoon, you are bound to learn something new.  The only thing missing is full reprints of the original  mini comics but you will have to get another book for that (and there is no room in this book anyways.)  I highly recommend this book.

As they say on Eternia, “Good Journey”

Graphic Novel Review- Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench

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Aquaman is one of the characters that not one really gets.  Created in 1941, he had already been beaten to the page by Timely/Marvel’s Sub-Mariner by a few years.  He wasn’t actually from Atlantis in his origin; he was just genetically modified by his father using recovered Atlantis technology.  It wasn’t until his revival in the 1950’s that he truly started to mimic Namor:  half human/Atlantean, and heir to the throne, but without the surly attitude and the ridiculous ankle wings. He was super strong and could survive on the ocean floor (imagine the pressure.) He could talk to  (command, really) all sort of aquatic life.  But still he seemed like a lesser character.  The comics tried to make him a more rounded character, adding a half-brother/arch nemesis and even  had another villain kidnap and kill his son.  The 80’s saw his origins tweaked along with Atlantis’ history and even saw a short-lived black and blue camouflage costume.  The 90’s saw him go extreme, with long hair and a beard and even had him lose his hand and replace it with a hook.  Even with a successful run in his own book and with the Justice League, things wound down for him.  Returning to the orange and green outfit, he eventually was replaced, killed off and eventually returned to life.

What does all that matter when it comes to reading Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench?  Not much as one of the directives of the New 52 was to keep both new readers and veteran ones on equal ground by confusing the hell out of them on continuity (do I sound bitter?).  But the new series seems to follow-up Brightest Day thematically by having Aquaman try to lead a quiet like away from Atlantis with his wife, Mera and reconnect with his human past as Arthur Curry.  But being a public hero (and wearing the costume everywhere he goes) he sticks out in the small town of Mercy Reef and the townsfolk don’t know what to make of him.  Helping out only elicits comments like “what can Aquaman do?” and snide comments about talking to seafood.  Even the cops seem to disrespect him.  This frustrates Arthur and infuriates Mera, being used to being respected under the waves and amongst Arthur’s superhero colleagues.  But when underwater creatures from a dark area called the Trench start attacking the surface, it is up to Aquaman to show the town what he can do.

Six issues of the 2011 launched Aquaman series are collected in this volume, all written by writer Geoff Johns.  Responsible for the revival of the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern and the Barry Allen version of the Flash, Johns makes a compelling case that Aquaman is more than the “talks to fish” guy.  Arthur, while preferring a peaceful life, wants to be respected by the residents of Mercy Reef and trusted by law enforcement.  But he deal with attitude that somewhat reflect  those of the average comic reader about the character. He shows that in every way he is a hero, saving the eventually thankful people from danger..

The book is illustrated by penciller Ivan Reis (Blackest Night, Green Lantern) and inker Joe Prado.  Long time collaborators with Johns, the art team really sells the story, giving the book a strong look.  They did really good with the looks of the monsters of the Trench.

The Trench storyline covers four issues, with the remaining stories featuring. Aquaman lost in the desert, seeing mirages and the other about Mera trying, and mostly failing to fit in with the townsfolk.  Both are good stories to get to know the characters better.  Also the book introduces us to a new supporting character, Aquadog!  No, he is just a normal dog.

I liked the book.  Despite my misgivings about the whole New 52, Johns is a good writer that can restore any characters reputation.  Granted, I did not find Aquaman interesting until his 90’s makeover and subsequent use in Grant Morrison’s JLA, I did not like DC’s practice of killing off their heroes in the mid 00’s (though Elongated Man can stay dead, for all I care).  Though I did not realize that Aquaman was killed off until he showed up a Black Lantern in Blackest Night #1, I thought there was more to tell about the character.  This book sets him up good for that and as of this writing, Aquaman is still being published monthly.

I recommend this book to anyone that wants to know more about the character.  WIth his series going strong and a leading role in the recently released Justice League: Throne of Atlantis on DVD/Blu-Ray  character’s exposure has been better than ever.  I am sure more interest will be drawn by his appearance in the upcoming move Superman/Batman: Dawn of Justice, played by Jason Momoa (Games of Thrones, Conan),  So, despite being mocked on the Big Bang Theory as a joke by Raj (who is so that group’s Aquaman, by his own reasoning), it is not a bad time to be Aquaman, right now.

Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench is available at most comic book stores and retail stores.

Book Review: For Valour by Andy McNab

(For a change of pace and to show I have other interests besides video games, This week I will review a book.)

For Valour is an action thriller by Andy McNab (Author of Bravo Two Zero, Red Notice, and Battlefield 3: The Russian, amongst others.)   The 16th (!) book in his Nick Stone series, it follows mercenary Nick Stone back to Britain, where he is trying to distance himself from his girlfriend and newborn son from the danger and chaos that seems to follow him around.  Called on by a friend, he learns that the son of a dead squad mate is in trouble, charged with the death of a fellow SAS member during a routine live fire training exercise.  His friend suspects that there is more to this, that the son is covering up for something that happened in the mountains of Afghanistan and he was framed to keep him quiet.  Any doubt that Nick had was quickly shattered as his friend is killed by a sniper and he finds himself in danger.  Not knowing who to trust, he carefully makes contact with some old comrades in the SAS, trying to find out the truth.  That journey takes him to the Balkans, Spain, Cyprus and into the heart of a conspiracy.

For Valour, like all of the Nick Stone books, are written from the perspective of the protagonist, former SAS soldier, deniable operative and current mercenary for hire, Nick Stone.  The writing gets you into his mind, letting you see the world through his view, warts and all.  Unlike, say Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan or Ian Flemming’s James Bond, Stone is definitely a blue collar hero, surviving on his wits (and dumb luck).  The character has gotten into some money in this series, but he is always about the basic, store bought equipment and most of his weapons are acquired off of his friends or enemies.

This is the 16 book in McNab’s Nick Stone series son the author is fairly consistent with the character’s voice.  I have read all of this series to date and I still find these books to be a fun read.  Andy McNab has real experience to draw from, from his days in the British army and SAS to his job as a body guard and security consultant. Unlike Clancy who had no military experience to speak of and Flemming, who was British Intelligence but never served on the front lines, McNab has actual combat experience.  He served in various places around the globe.  He was even captured and tortured by the Iraqi Army in the First Gulf War.  These experiences helps him to create a thrilling realistic story.

Another this I like is that the story is more personal.  There isn’t  any “God, Queen and Country’ pomposity.  I’ve read other books that have a decidedly “America: Right or wrong” vibe to it and been put off.  While this book does not hide it’s Britishness, there is more of a down to earth feel.  This is about a man who is trying to do what he believes is right.  In the older books, it was about making money, enough to provide a decent life.  Usually, he ended up worse than when he started, with some part of the mission would have him break his personal code of honour.  Many times he barely wins, if you can call it a win.  Lately he has been more successful, but eventually his path in life costs him something dear.

Being the 16th book in the series could put someone off reading this if they are unfamiliar with the series.  The book is pretty much self contained and not hard to get into.  I do wonder how many books Mr. McNab  can get out of this character as he always starts the book off with a look into Stone’s past.  He has other books with similar subject matter (one book, Red Notice, has been optioned for a Movie) but still, I have enjoyed these books for years.  I recommend this book for fan of action thrillers who are looking for something less flashy than something with Tom Clancy’s name plastered on it but with some depth.

4/5