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Saturday, October 21, 2017

New 52 Supergirl Volume 1: Last Daughter of Krypton

            You know people, I really don’t go into these things with the intent to dislike them.  I didn’t go into The Secret Service or Wonder Woman: Earth One and expect to literally hate everything about them.  I didn’t go into Lucifer and expect to be so indifferent towards it.  It just kind of happened.  And the first volume of New 52 Supergirl?  This one I went into expecting to like.  I remember liking it well enough when it first came out and I was expecting some genuine entertainment value out of it.  That’s not to say that I didn’t get any per say, but if you’re looking for a book that encapsulated everything that was wrong with the early New 52, this is it.
            Now originally this one wasn’t even on the docket.  For the return of the Supergirl TV show, I wanted to take a look at the first volume of Supergirl Rebirth.  Overall, Rebirth has been an imprint that I have heard nothing but positive things about and seems like a good place for someone to jump into the DC side of comics.  But then I found out that a character who was introduced in today’s subject matter would be a main antagonist for the new season and the decision was made for me.  Specifically, the season is set to introduce Reign the World Killer who also happens to be one of the few decent original characters that The New 52 produced.  As such, it was a volume that I was eager to revisit and one that I had high hopes for.  So, let’s shine a spotlight on just how the writers and artists managed to botch it up.
            The story revolves around of Kara Zor -El who has recently crashed on Earth and…errr…. well she just kind of starts freaking out and attacks everything that’s in front of her and jumps from one poorly paced plot point to another without any of them being properly fleshed out.  Over the course of the volume, she has private corporations try and mess with her, government agencies trying to contain her, gains new abilities that she can’t control and, at the same time, must face the truth that the world she knows is gone.  Unfortunately, they go about this in the most uninteresting way possible.  She encounters guys in mech suits and she beats them up.  She runs into Superman and gets into a fist fight with him.  She runs into some shady corporate guys and has to fight through them before finding her way back to her home city.  Then she encounters The World Killers who follow her back to Earth where she fights them off, all the while yelling and screaming about it all.  And if that sounds fast-paced but narratively shallow…well…it’s because it is.  There really isn’t much going on in the book outside of that.
            The main problem with the book is that it’s kind of all over the place with its story and doesn’t know how to properly pace itself.  It constantly jumps from one plot point to another at a rushed rate, as if someone had told the writers that they needed to include all this material but only had a handful of issues to do it.  While reading it one can’t help but notice that there is enough narrative material to full up multiple volumes that the book has instead condensed into a handful of issues for some reason.  Her initial encounter with Superman, for example, feels like it should have been its own multiple issue story arc but was instead used as a cliffhanger bookend for the first issue.  The second issue is entirely comprised of a fight between the two and during the third, he gives her a rushed recap as to what happened to Krypton and how he ended up on Earth and what he’s been doing before she runs off to the next plot point.  All of which feels like it would have fit more naturally into a story arc that was dedicated to just the two of them as opposed to being a momentary distraction.
            Likewise, we have her encounter with Mr. Tycho.  When we are first introduced to him it seemed as if they were trying to set him up as Supergirl’s version of Lex Luthor but ultimately comes off as just another gazillionaire bad guy with way more power then he logically should have who are bizarrely common in the D.C. Universe.  Once again it feels as if his encounter with Supergirl should have made up an entire volume on its own but was instead condensed into a smaller one for reasons that are probably only known to the creative team.  Heck even Reign is a character who feels like she was shoehorned in.  Everything about this character and her fellow World Killers feels like it should be big, grand and important but somehow ends up as a smaller plot point.  She only appears in the last quarter of the 5th issue and everything with her is wrapped up by the 7th and to my knowledge, she never appears in the D.C. Universe again.   Once again, it feels like as if the character was supposed to be part of a much larger story arc.  It’s as if the writers had originally intended it to be a six-issue story but was instead condensed to three.  Ultimately one can’t help but feel as if we were cheated out of a more interesting story because of whatever was going on behind the scenes of The New 52.
            Even the artwork seems to be a victim of the New 52 mindset.  For the most part, the art is pretty good and keeps everything going at a fast pace which is the only thing that keeps it readable.  But whenever a female character shows up it becomes a bit cringeworthy.  Supergirl, for example, doesn’t even wear pants.  She just wears this bizarre outfit that looks like a long-sleeved, one-piece bathing suit that is about a size too small for her.  Every time it shows her back the artists draw her butt in such a way that her entire butt crack is outlined in vivid detail and I kept finding myself looking and thinking “what the hell?”.  Likewise, Reign, our big new original character looks like something out of a BDSM themed strip club and I couldn’t help but shake my head as I looked at it.  Heck, there is even a random secretary character who pops up and has to have some cleavage showing lest the artists upset the 13-year-old demographic.  It’s just an odd series of artistic decisions that had me rolling my eyes in disdain.

            In the end, however, the first volume of New 52 Supergirl is just kind of disposable.  For the most part, it’s not really offensive but it lacks any narrative focus and keeps jumping around from one plot point to another and never allows us to settle in and get invested in what is going on in the book.  I suppose as far as introductions go for the character you could certainly do worse and it was by no means the worst start to a New 52 series but there were certainly better.  In all honesty, though most people would probably recommend Rebirth Supergirl as the best place to start and given what I’ve read of it, I would recommend that you do the same thing.
           So until next time, please Like the Nerd Hub Facebook Page, check out The Nerd Hub Facebook groupSubscribe to us on YouTube and be sure to check out my own personal blog, Trey’s Take On…as well as giving my Facebook Page a Like, contribute a dollar or so to my new Patreon Page and checking me out on Twitter.  Until then, let's hope that my next look at New 52 related material goes better.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

TNH Roundtables: Full Season Review - Lucifer

As we do with other comic book shows, The Nerd Hub sits down to discuss our thoughts on this latest season of Lucifer. What did they do right and what did they do wrong? Where have they been, and where could they be going? So, take a look at what we had to say and look for our reviews from the upcoming season, as well as, take to the comments section below and let us know what you thought about this series.

***Unfortunately Technical difficulties didn't allow us to publish this article when it was intended and by the time this can finally be released the third season will have aired, but responses were given after the second season wrapped and must be taken into account under such context.

Lucifer


           Lucifer presents a view on a character and story that isn't usually given and provides the possibility for new and boundless stories.  The show came of the gates on all cylinders and has since provided a quality consistency throughout. The show however as slid under the radar for the most part which is a crime in our book. So we are here to discuss the second season and determine where the bar is for the third season. Was it better than the first? What worked and what didn't? Was it good enough to go back and watch? That is what we sit down to determine, Usually, at this point, we would warn to jump to our conclusion for a simple recommendation if you were looking to avoid spoilers; but being that the new season has aired, I doubt anyone reading this is worried about spoilers and is just here for the discussion. So without further due, let's jump right into it.


What do you think about the girl pal dynamic between Mazekeen, Chloe and Linda?  Does it work?  What would you like to see from that dynamic in the future?

Jack - I think its a great aspect that places these women in Lucifer's life together on a spectrum of personalities and by doing so can use it as a plot device between them.  Fantastic idea.  I would like to see them go on a girls night and leave Dan, Amenadiel and Lucifer alone together.  I also think Ella would be a great addition to the crew.

Marlon - I love how Chloe and Mazekeen clicked and live together.  Linda provides balance and reason and some comic relief that really molds the three of them together quite well.  I would like to see Mazekeen work more closely with Chloe just like Lucifer works with her.

Jennifer - I love the fact that Linda is now in the whole Angel/Demon fold.  Evidently Linda believes angels and demons need psychological help too!  I would like to see them less demon and terrified doctor professional relationship and more of a friendship once Linda understands Maze is not going to hurt her.

They explored more into the relationship between Mazekeen and Lucifer.  What did you think about that dynamic this season and how they explored it?  What would you like to see from it in the future?

Jack - I want to see more into their past and just what makes them so close and loyal.  They definitely work best when they are together, but its also inevitable to have spats; I would just like see them work together more than they don't.

Marlon - I have always enjoyed the back and forth between Lucifer and Mazekeen.  True friends and allies.  But, I would like to hear more about their time in hell; I think we need to actually see why she is so devoted to Lucifer.

Jennifer - As far as Maze and Lucifer are concerned, they're like siblings and technically she's a hot bodyguard.  Nothing needs to change between them.  They have had disagreements and fights, and now they are both slowly learning what humans are like and she should continue to be his right hand.

Lucifer's mother came to town this season.  What are your overall thoughts on how they went about that plot and what happened in the end?  What do you think could possibly come of it all?

Jack - I think the plot helped shine a lot of light on the dysfunctional family that Lucifer came from and how it's much like the human life.   I'm glad he chose to save her in the end, but we never got to see what would happen if she did break open.  The kind of showcased it but not really.  How big is this really?  Also, where did she go?

Marlon - The mother was a great addition.  There are so many myths about who was actually the first women created, was it really Eve, or was it Lilith; and then out of nowhere comes gods "wife".  Oh boy, and for her to admit that she was the cause of the 7 plagues in the bible, that was a good twist in an old story.  I have a feeling she will be back one way or another.

Jennifer - I will admit, I got a few good laughs at the theories other fans came up with over the first two seasons.  One was that Lucifer's mother was really Chloe (someone is obviously a Game of Thrones fan also).  When she broke out of hell they made it seem like she was going to destroy the world.  I get it they needed the added drama, but I honestly feel like they could've save introducing the "big guy" until the third season, but that's just my personal opinion.  I believe we will see both mother and "dad" again this season, whether it be good or bad we shall see.

They showcased Lucifer's relationships with his brothers exposing more layers than ever.  How do feel about the death of Uriel and how it played into the bigger fold?  Was it the right move?  Would you have done it differently?  What would you like to see them do with his brothers next season?

JackI think they made what happened with Uriel inevitable and something that needed to happen, but I like that we got to see that it wasn't just Lucifer who got messed up and that he may not be the one and only big bad. I would like to see Lucifer propel his brothers more often.  Show why he is the good guy and not the guy his father made him to be.

Marlon - Sibling rivalry at its best.  Amenadiel came to talk sense into Lucifer to return to hell, but decided to stay and help him.  Uriel came to kill  him or at least force him back to hell.  Two very different brothers.  I would like to see more angels for example Gabriel and Michael who according to bible lore were the best fighters against Lucifer when Lucifer took on the throne.  So, I'd like them to come down and start battling Lucifer here on earth.

Jennifer - I will just say that Uriel was off his angelic rocker and wanted to liked so badly thus driving him mad.  He wanted to be the favorite and he didn't care if he had to murder his brothers to get what he wanted, to be the favorite and no longer overlooked.  That being said, absolutely the right thing was done.  Uriel was drunk on power and hungry for more, I absolutely would've done the same thing.  They are in fact arch angels, anything is possible and they have plenty of time to introduce more of the heavenly brood in future season.

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This season we saw a new Medical Examiner in Ella Lopez.  Did you like this addition or not and why?  Where would you go with this character next season?

Jack - Great addition that I think can help with Lucifer's secret and his dealings providing an aspect of someone being affected negatively by his actions over his intentions.

Marlon - I love Ella Lopez, she is smart, witty and cute and those are the three necessities for a comic sidekick.  I would like her to find out for herself that Lucifer is the devil, but she will keep his secret from anyone even Chloe.

Jennifer - I absolutely love Ella!  She is witty and dark and I can't wait until she finds out all about Lucifer because she will definitely be the type to be fascinated with Lucifer as opposed to terrified.  If it were up to me she would've been up to speed by the end of season 2.

Chloe and Lucifer's relationship. Big moves.  What are your thoughts on how they handled that?

Jack - At some point he has to tell her the truth or it won't work.  Bottom Line. I;m glad they made progress though, It was much needed.  I'm not really so sure this upcoming season is the best time reveal that though.  Or maybe it is.  Eventually the procedural needs to be switched for a full out drama arch and doing this may allow that to happen.  Or maybe I'm completely wrong and the procedural is the best measure being that Lucifer is an omnipotent character and the best way to write these characters are by showcasing what happens to those around them.

Marlon - Lucifer just needs to come clean, the feelings are there from both sides, so he just needs to sit Chloe down and tell her the truth, that he cares for her.  Oh, and that he is really the devil.

Jennifer - There is a lot to be said, but I'll keep it short.  Their relationship developed so slow I honestly thought Chloe and Dan would be getting back together.  It could have progressed faster and not had that much of an effect on the rest of the story lone.  Also, if god did put Chloe on earth for him, why was it such a big deal?  We get it, he hates his father, many of us can relate, but why did he automatically assume she was put there to hurt him?


Dan and Amenadiel have started a friendship as well.  Yay or Nay?  What would you like to see done with that?

Jack - Think about Dan and Amenadiel partnering together and competing against Chloe and Lucifer for cases.  Amenadiel and Chloe share a personality and Dan and Lucifer are comparable as well. Dan V Lucifer, Chloe V Dan, Lucifer V Amenadiel and Chloe and Amenadiel getting along.  Great possibilities of personalities and chemistry here.

Marlon - Both of them are great actors, however their dynamic is kind of blah.  Really, I mean, a comedy improv to deal with certain issues?  Lame.  But if they are going to hang together then their partnership should mirror Lucifer and Chloe's.

Jennifer - Yay! Dan and Amenadiel have a lot to learn from each other, even though he's essentially mortal he still retains some of his powers.  I think it would be interesting if Amenadiel became his friend and "Devil and Angel" consultant of sorts.

What are your overall thoughts on this season?  Did it pull off a recommendable season?  What would you have done differently?

Jack - Like I said above, omnipotent characters are hard to write unless up against equally powerful beings.  They must showcase those around them and what happens to them and until now they have done that quite well, so I really don't see anything that needs to change except that it needs to be more compelling and memorable.

Marlon - This was a very good season with some good story lines.  The eternal struggle between goo and evil will always exist, I just want to see whose side Lucifer is really in.  I would have ended the season with Lucifer professing his love for Chloe and then finding out she's a fallen angel.

Jennifer - Season one was good, but the second is what really drew me in by showing more of a soft side of Satan, which is quite rare.  I would have dragged the mother aspect just a tiny bit more, but again, in my opinion we will be seeing both again in the new season.

In conclusion, Lucifer is still that show that is consistently providing the best quality possible, but slides under the radar due to aspects that seem to be an unsolvable issue for this character whenever and however presented. This show is on our "Get around to it" list, but its quite high up on this list.




Stay Tuned for our upcoming Roundtable Reviews where we will give our thoughts on Riverdale, Wynonna Earp, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and American Godz.

Be sure to Follow us on our Twitter and our Facebook Page, Join us in our Facebook Group and Subscribe to us on YouTube so you can be there for our upcoming projects.


Written and Edited by, Jack Flowers. Contributions from Marlon Ortega and Jennifer Gritten.

Hell In A Cell: Recap and Analysis

          This past Sunday, the WWE hosted its latest Pay Per View for the Smackdown Roster.  This is one of the most anticipated Pay Per Views the WWE has had since it began in 2009 and has since aired annually every October.  Each and every Hell In A Cell match since its inception in October of 1997 has been one for the memories.  Whether it was Undertaker choke-slamming Mankind through the top, Triple H and Batista beating each other to a pulp or 6 men taking the dive into Armageddon, this match has always provided quality entertainment, cheers, tears, and fears.  This time around was no different. So, today I'm going to give a quick rundown of the matches and their precedents, as well as, my opinions on how it all turned out and what may come of it.

Smackdown Tag Team Championship:  Jimmy and Jay Uso V Xavier Woods and Big E - Hell In A Cell


Image: WWE
          First up on the match card was my personal favorite from the night.  The Uso brothers looked to remind the world just who they've been sleeping on against The New Day's Xavier Woods and Big E Langston to come out champions once more.  Both teams laid everything out in the "Uso Penitentiary" utilizing an array of weapons, flying stunts, trickery, and ingenuity, as well as, pure ruthless aggression.  This was easily the best match of the night for me and probably a lot of others and The Usos deserved the win that they got.
          The Usos since rebranding themselves have become more outspoken and more ruthless.  For me, this was the best move they could have done.  Don't get me wrong I loved the Usos original act. But this type of vibe fuels the entire Tag Team division, and this rivalry is far from over.  In fact, it seems to be at its peak.  The next Pap Per View where we could see the Smackdown Roster is Survivor Series. It's hard to top a Sin City Street Fight and a hellacious Hell In A Cell, but I have an idea.  The next Pay Per View is TLC, but it will be for the Raw roster only.  I say, lets put these teams against one another in a tornado tag team TLC match and let these boys fly like Evan Bourne at Money In the Bank.  Since its survivor series its got to have that numbers aspect, so let's make it interesting and throw in a third team.


Randy Orton V Rusev - Singles Match


          This was okay.  It was a standard match.  A filler really.  A match to help an up and coming superstar grow.  Unfortunately, nothing stood out about it on my end and was probably the least favorite of the night for me.

US Championship: AJ Styles V Baron Corbin V Tye Dillinger - Triple Threat


          Personally, this stood tall as the second best matchup of the night allowing Tye Dillinger to show that he can hang with the best of them while creating some sweet justice for Baron Corbin in the win.  AJ Styles once again showing why he is the most phenomenal superstar to watch.  I'm glad they allowed this title to change hands as it's what was best for business.  These three were a pleasure to watch and definitely one to go back and catch if you are wondering which matches were worth watching.

Smackdown Women's Championship: Natalya V Charlotte Flair - Singles Match


Image: WWE
          This was a phenomenal play pitting the Hart and Flair bloodline against each other in a new generation.  Natalya has always been the sweetheart who got the short end of the stick despite her skill, so it only makes sense for her to turn heel and what better way to counter this than with a Flair coming off of a heartbreaking incident to challenge Natalya as the face.  This was a great matchup for both skill and story.  It was also a fantastic match that ignited a rivalry that we will see more of without a doubt.  Definitely, one of the matches to catch. 
          The next time we will see these two face off is sure to be at Survivor Series, and I can't think of a better match for a Hart and a Flair looking to take things to their breaking points to prove that their bloodline is superior.  If the WWE knew what was best for business they would give Charlotte Flair a rematch in an Iron Man match, or in this case an Iron Woman match.

WWE Championship: Jinder Mahal V Shinsuke Nakamura - Singles Match


          I found it extremely odd that their major title was less interesting than the minor, the tag team and the women's.  This matchup was a valiant effort to continue Jinder Mahal's reign and start Shinsuke's rise, but the match was just boring.  Jinder is a heavy grind and pound type of guy and Shinsuke is a heavy striker.  None of their moves even sold me in their own specialty.  I felt this entire matchup to be a waste of time and comes second to last for the night.
          I'd like to see the two in a match that raises the stakes.  In survivor series let's see these two go head to head in a Punjabi Prison, or let's see four others join them in an Elimination Chamber and let these two lock sights through everyone and start a rivalry worth watching.  Otherwise, I say just leave them out of the event altogether.  An Elimination Chamber would be a good way to change hands without reason as well.

Dolph Ziggler V Bobby Roode - Singles Match


          For a match that was used as a filler, I found this to be one of the better matchups.  Another case of a veteran allowing an up and coming superstar to get put over, but unlike Orton and Rusev, these two are a perfect fit and I sense the possibility of a rivalry of which I have not seen since Randy Orton and Wade Barrett.
          I would definitely like to see these two go at it in Survivor Series.  I have two ideas.  One is to put them into an Elimination Chamber for the WWE championship and bring this rivalry to the forefront and allowing a more interesting matchup to take hold of the title.  The other is to see these two in a Falls Count Anywhere.

Kevin Owens V Shane McMahon - Hell In A Cell, Falls Count Anywhere


Image: WWE
          The final matchup of the night was one that took a heavy turn at the end and teased you until the inevitable end.  Altogether, I didn't find this matchup to be one of the top matchups for me.  I would put it at three or four, but it was a Hell In A Cell so you know it was good.
          I'd like to see a Tag Team in Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn and have them be the third team up for the titles in the tornado tag match I proposed earlier.

          All in all, this was a pretty entertaining Pay Per View that is going to bring quite a few rivalries into the New Year.  Definitely worth at least watching 5 of these matchups.  Not the best Pay Per View I've seen, but definitely not the worst and I think the Uso's stole the show and must become a center point for the WWE. 


Let us know your thoughts on these matches as well as the event as a whole and the possibilities it could all lead to in the near future in the comments below and stay tuned for our Recap and Analysis of TLC and Survivor Series.

Be sure to Follow us on our Twitter and our Facebook Page, Join us in our Facebook Group and Subscribe to us on YouTube so you can be there for our upcoming projects.

Written and Edited By, Jack Flowers

Friday, October 6, 2017

Comic Book Spotlight: Lucifer Book One

            As a critic of various forms of media, I’ve often found that the most challenging things to critique are those that fall into the “good but not great category”.  You see a bad book, movie or videogame is relatively easy to tackle.  You just simply point out what is wrong with it and explain why it is that does or that doesn’t work in a clear and creative manner.  Additionally, if the work offends you in some way it is equally important to convey why this offends you and not sound like a raving lunatic with a platform.  Similarly, when you’re looking at a great work discovering ways to properly convey why it is it works so well is easy enough so long as you approach it in a cool and rational manner.  But something that is not objectively bad but still inspires little positive passion in you?  That’s a challenge and Lucifer: Book One is absolutely one of those challenges.
The best way that one can describe the Lucifer comic series is by comparing it to a successful spinoff of a landmark television series like Star Trek: Deep Space 9 or Frasier.  Sure, they were good shows that garnered their own number of fans and accolades but they could never hope to escape the cultural shadow that the preceding series cast.  Yes, DS9 was a great show with its own incredible plot and a great cast of characters but it never had a chance of challenging the cultural impact that The Next Generation left on the franchise, television and science fiction in general.  Likewise, for as much as we might like Angel it never had a chance of surpassing Buffy the Vampire Slayer in sheer originality and cultural impact.  And Lucifer is without a doubt one of these spinoffs.  It is to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman what Better Call Saul is to Breaking Bad and it’s never going to escape that shadow.  Especially when the book itself seems to openly invite comparisons with its predecessor.
For those of you who are wondering what the hell I’m talking about, the original Lucifer was a comic series written by Mike Carry that ran from 2000-2006, spanning 75 issues, a single one shot and had its foundation set up in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. Specifically, the character was introduced early on the series as a temporary antagonist before having his own book’s foundation Volume 4, Season of Mists which, coincidentally, is my favorite comic book story arc of all time and I highly recommend checking it out before continuing with this article.  In any case, the story of Lucifer: Book One takes place sometime after the end of the Sandman series.  Lucifer has quit his job as lord of the underworld, opens a nightclub in LA and seems to be done with Gods, Angels, and Demons.  Unfortunately, it quickly becomes clear that they aren’t done with him and he finds himself needing to adapt to new circumstances in order to survive.  And, as you may have guessed, we decided to take a look at this book in order to cash in on the return of the Fox television show of the same name, but honestly you can pretty much take everything you know from the show and set it on fire because it has next to nothing to do with the original graphic novels.
Now the thing about Book One is that it’s a very peculiar specimen in that it doesn’t entirely work as a 382-page story arc.  When it does work, however, it’s because it’s more or less ripping off The Sandman’s formula.  Not in the rehashing of themes and lore kind of way but in the story structure kind of way.  You see both The Sandman and Lucifer are books that feature extremely powerful protagonists who could make most of their problems go away with a simple wave of their hand which makes more narrative tension nonexistent. To counter this both books either put our protagonists in situations where, for some reason, they can’t make their problems go away like this or focus on entirely original, usually human characters as the protagonist for the arc.  Usually, these arcs end with the titular characters showing up as last-second deus ex machinas to help them out of whatever circumstances they find themselves in, usually tying into the larger mythos in some way.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  But when it does I can honestly say that it works almost as well as when Neil Gaiman did it.
          In total, the book has six story arcs and of them four focus on everyday people as the main protagonists who just happen to get caught up in Lucifer’s schemes.  Their environments are all well-established, the characters themselves are very well developed and tie into the mythos in interesting ways.  The best example of this comes in the third story arc titled Born with the Dead which focuses on a young girl named Elaine who sees dead people and attempts to solve her best friend’s murder with said friend’s help.  Within the story they quickly establish her personality, her abilities and what their apparent rules are, all the while tying it together with a nice little murder mystery story seen through a child’s eyes.  Then Lucifer shows up at the end to rescue her for reasons that are only explained later in the book but never hinted at in the story itself, (more on that later).  In another story, we get a number of characters in a city whose lives are irrevocably changed because of events that Lucifer sets in motion.  Sometimes it’s for the better but usually not so much and when the book focuses on characters like this it’s pretty good.  Not necessarily an “I NEED TO READ THE NEXT ISSUE NOW!” good but still a solid read all the same.  Unfortunately, the rest of the time we have to spend it with Lucifer.
Now, I won’t go so far to say that he’s a bad protagonist per say but he is not exactly the most compelling character to follow.  The main problem is the way they characterize him as he comes off less as The Price of Darkness then he does a Constantine rip-off who turned out better than he had any right to be.  What do I mean by this?  Well just look at the way he’s characterized and written.  He’s a well-dressed, too clever by half man with blond hair who always seems to be on the verge of disaster but manages to avoid it due to some last second trickery and/or impossibly well-placed guards or traps.   All the while, he maintains a demeanor that says he’s on your side and may, in fact, have the same goal as you but is, in reality, a selfish scheming monster who is only out for himself.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing and it’s kind of hard to imagine another way to characterize the literal Devil but…I don’t know.  While reading this book it felt like I had seen a few too many stories with a protagonist like this a few too many times before.  Maybe it was fresher back in the early 2000s but now it just feels a little stale.
It also has to be said that the overall story of the book doesn’t entirely work.  It is nice to see all the pieces come together in its final arc but what Lucifer’s end goal in all of this is kind of comes out of nowhere. There isn’t any real build up to it and gives the impression that the writer thought it up halfway through writing it or something.  Once again, the best example of this comes in the story Born with the Dead.  The story in question ends with Elaine solving the murder but poisons herself by accident in the process.  As she is literally dying on the killer’s floor Lucifer shows up out of nowhere to revive her for reasons that are never explained in the story itself.  It’s only during the final story arc when we get our answer as to why he did this but by then it just feels as if the writer retconned her to this role as opposed to always having her in it and things like this happen in every story arc.  Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention but the end result of it all prompted a lot of “where the hell did that come from?” reactions from me.
Of course, it does have to be said that the artwork is consistently good.  The designs are cool.  The coloring works really well and the panel layout keeps everything well-paced.  It’s just good artwork.  But it’s not enough to make it a must read
  In the end, Lucifer Book One is just good but not great.  Its individual stories work well but its overall narrative?  Not so much and lacks the kind of narrative foresight that its predecessor had.  Beyond that, I really don’t have much to say about it.  It’s just okay and things that are just okay are the hardest things to critique.  Maybe the later books are better but this one can be put in the “I’ll get around to it” section of your bookshelf.
So until next time, please Like the Nerd Hub Facebook Page, check out The Nerd Hub Facebook groupSubscribe to us on YouTube and be sure to check out my own personal blog, Trey’s Take On…as well as giving my Facebook Page a Like, contribute a dollar or so to my new Patreon Page and checking me out on Twitter.  Until then, may you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you're dead!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Comic Book Spotlight: The Secret Service

 
          When it comes to the work and persona of Mark Millar it’s next to impossible not to have strong reactions to the man’s work and the man himself.  On one hand, he has written some truly great works over the years.  Superman: Red Son, for example, is a book that I’ve heard nothing but good things about as well as his work on Superman in general.  It’s also arguable that he, along with Brian Michael Bendis, were the people who made Marvel’s Ultimate Universe work as well as it did at the start even if it did go off the rails later on.  Old Man Logan, as we’ve previously established here on The Nerd Hub, is easily one of if not THE greatest Wolverine storyline ever written and remains one of the highest praised comic books ever published by Marvel.  The man does, in fact, have a great resume is what I’m getting at and he might very well be one of the better writers working in the comic book industry today.  But he also happens to be one of the most problematic.
            Despite sharing an initial premise with the popular Captain America film, Civil War, for example, is a book that tends to be very divisive among fans and I’ve always been hard pressed to find anyone who has anything positive about it.  His work on the Trouble miniseries is some other kind of horrifying that has to be seen to be believed.  And then we have his Millarworld where literally every single one of Millar’s insecurities and less than politically correct views come out in full force.  From the Kick-Ass comics to Nemesis, they all display a huge amount of cynicism, misogyny and a general hatred of not only the industry that Millar has been so successful in but of the very people who made it so successful.  And today we’re going to be talking about the book that highlights every single one of these things.  This is Comic Book Spotlight shining a light on The Secret Service or Kingsmen: The Secret Service as it’s currently printed.
            Now before I go any further I have to make a few things clear. I have never met Mark Millar and I don’t know what his political/sociological views are and quite frankly they’re none of my business.  But when looking at the man’s independent work and to a lesser extent, his hired work you start to notice certain reoccurring themes and troubling views.  While it is very possible that the man has some of these views this is article is not meant as an attack on him or his character.  Anything that might be perceived as such an attack is intended to be directed at his work and the themes implicit and explicit within it.  But with that having been said the man’s works have a reputation for a reason and its next to impossible to properly critique his work without making assumptions about the man.
            The story takes place in Millar’s Millarworld and kicks off when a large number of celebrities go missing for reasons that no one can explain.  Leading the investigation is Jack London, MI6’s (or The Kingsmen in more recent printings) top agent who finds himself distracted by family problems, mainly with his nephew Gary.  After a long streak of legal problems, Jack decides to send his nephew to MI6’s boot camp while he continues to investigate the disappearances which turn out to be related to a massive conspiracy to stop global warming.  And the whole thing is one giant middle finger to nerd culture, intellectualism, brains over brawn and those who prosper in it while giving a thematic blowjob to golden age James Bond and the more troubling themes that were always an implicit part of that franchise.
            You see the thing about Mark Millar’s independent work that people find troubling is that it’s full of what can only be interpreted as personal insecurities on Millar’s part and a complete contempt for people who unironically enjoy comics and nerd culture and possibly himself for being an icon in it.  All of which is very prominently shown in both Kick-Ass and today’s subject matter.  The main antagonist of the book, for example, is quite literally an offensive, left-oriented, obsessive stereotypical nerd character.  He made billions in the tech industry at a young age, is a fanboy for anything science fiction, believes that global warming is a problem and is actively trying to do something to fix it.  The problem is that the character is presented in a light that indicates that none of these things are good and are synonymous with all the negative traits that are associated with people of these interests.  He gives his henchmen insensitive nicknames that highlight their handicaps for no other reason than they sound cool while they actively tell him that they find it hurtful.  He’s socially inept and can’t seem to satisfy his girlfriend physically or emotionally because according to this book you can’t be a nerd and have a healthy relationship with a woman.  And of course, all of this is highlighted by the fact that our protagonists come off as high school bullies, constantly calling the villain a F$#&ing nerd and sees all of his geekier traits as a weakness to be taken advantage of.
            Additionally, the book is clearly unaware of how hypocritical it is about all of this.  You see, our protagonists and MI6/Kingsmen are all direct or indirect lifts of the Connery era of James Bond.  It has its own version of Q, M, it’s main car is directly lifted from Goldfinger and the main character Jack London pretty much IS Sean Connery James Bond in appearance and mannerisms and it does all of this with zero irony.  As you continue to read the book and think about it, the message becomes quite clear.  According to the books worship of a post WWII avatar of British Imperial Supremacy and masculine martial overcompensation is okay but if you like other nerdy stuff you’re just a dork who deserves to get beaten up and taken advantage of by the REAL MEN of the world and the book is never aware of how hypocritical all of this is.  On one page, you have our main antagonist geeking out over the fact that he’s about to meet Ridley Scott displayed as a negative thing and yet on another, you literally have a protagonist who IS Sean Connery James Bond.  It’s a very bizarre decision for the writers and artists to make and ends up coming off as if they’re saying “The stuff I like is better than your stuff you like” more than anything else. 

           There is also a very strange undercurrent of hatred for lower class families going on as well.  A number of characters of the story are of England’s underprivileged and the book portrays all of these people as either bums cashing in on welfare checks, criminals or both.  Additionally, the book goes out of its way to show these people as ignorant trash who deserve what’s coming to them, openly mocking their tastes in entertainment and lifestyles.  On the other side of this, you have the upper-class members of society who are shown to be intellectually and physically superior to their lower-class counterparts in nearly every way.  Every time Gary tries to use his street smarts or skills acquired growing up, for example, almost always ends in disaster and only seems to be successful whenever he discards his skills and mannerisms from his old neighborhood and fully embraces the culture of the British Aristocracy.  Yet once again, they can’t help but be hypocritical about all of this.  Despite all of the books worship of the British Aristocracy and disdain for all things lower class, the book seems to forget that its main characters both happen to be from the slums and turn out to be the best in the secret agent business and the book never finds a way to reconcile these two contradicting ideas.
            It’s not at all helped by the fact that Millar felt the need to throw in additional themes regarding civil service and how wealth isn’t any key to happiness.  If we are to go by what the book says we must abstain from worldly wealth and possessions and dive into civil service.  Apparently, the only way to live a fulfilling life is to give our all to Queen and Country, other careers and lifestyles be damned.  Once again, it’s very hypocritical given its worship of the wealthy and of the entitled British Aristocracy.  And I hate to be this person but given the fact that Millar has, to my knowledge, never served in any military branch and that he’s had seven films based on his comics released over the past ten years, he’s the last person that I want lecturing me about the nobility of a spartan lifestyle and the fulfillment of civil service.

           Now all of this was stuff that I found infuriating.  It just showed an unconcealed contempt for the kind of people who literally made Millar’s career while being unaware of its own hypocrisy in its blatant worship of Connery era James Bond.  But you know what the worst part about it all is?  It’s actually a very well written, well-drawn book.  Despite all the horrible, hypocritical themes the book has, I can’t deny that its storytelling is actually pretty good.  Millar and artist Dave Gibbons do a great job of making antagonist Dr. James Arnold into an even more evil and unlikeable version of Sheldon Cooper.  Our two main protagonists do have arcs that are fully realized and it’s hard not to feel some emotion when a major character bites the dust.  Gibbons artwork is consistently good and keeps things visually appealing even as the writing remains consistently ugly.  It’s well paced, knowing when to take its time and when to move things along quickly so you’re never bored and does have some genuine entertainment value.  It’s just a shame that I was so blinded by rage while reading it to have fun with it.
            In the end, The Secret Service is just one nasty mean-spirited book.  It’s just a giant middle finger to nerd culture, intellectualism and the people who have an unironic apricating for them, but it doesn’t seem to be aware of how hypocritical it is on this position given its worship of Connery era James Bond.  It seems to hate the lower class but its main characters were born and breed in it.  It preaches the value of a spartan lifestyle full of civil service from a man who has never served in the military and just sold his company to Netflix for God only knows how much money.  I’m not entirely sure why Millar thinks writing like this is okay or why people actually buy and like this stuff.  But after reading this I can honestly see why Millar has garnered such a bad reputation in recent years and this is a book that encapsulates all of the man’s negative writing traits.  Skip this one and just watch the movie again.  It is a far better way to spend your time.

So until next time, please Like the Nerd Hub Facebook Page, check out The Nerd Hub Facebook groupSubscribe to us on YouTube and be sure to check out my own personal blog, Trey’s Take On…as well as giving my Facebook Page a Like, contribute a dollar or so to my new Patreon Page and checking me out on Twitter.  Until then, rest assured that given Netflix’s recent purchase of the Millarworld I’m pretty sure this won't be the last time I’ll have to wad through this man’s insecruities.