Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Illumi-Nerdi's Best of the Best in 2013-Part 2

Every year, we make a list about all the movies, TV shows, and comic books that we watched and read during the year. For the past few days, I've become aware of a few things. I TV binge way too much and most of it's crap. I don't go out and spend $12.50 to see Oscar-worthy films. No, I go to the movies to be blown away by special effects and laugh at really stupid jokes. However, I do read some pretty rad comic books. This year's review will be 95% comics. Stretch your arms, place your headphones into your ears, and fasten your seat belt. The Illumi-Nerdi plans to educate you about a year of breathtaking and awe-inspiring moments of nerd culture.


Best Creative Duo in Comics Award: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on Batman

Two years and 25 issues in Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder continue to make Batman one if the best books out there and they are showing no signs of slowing down. Fresh off the heals of their wildly successful introduction of The Court of Owls and the reintroduction of the Joker in The New 52 , Snyder and Capullo had been given the tough task of telling Batman's origin in a fresh new way. But their tale is not just a simple retelling of an origin that comic fans and non-comic fans alike know. It is a re-invigoration that boldly goes in new directions and further fleshes out the caped crusader in ways that have never been attempted. Snyder’s story continues to be multi-facetted and emotionally powerful as he continues to take Batman to new heights, while paying homage to his long and storied history. Capullo's art fits perfectly with the story that Snyder tells. From his chilling representation of the floppy face joker to his timeless rendition of the moment that Bruce Wayne decided he would become Batman. Alone they are among the greatest in the industry, but together they are the simply the best. Truly a dynamic duo.

Written by Alexander Handziuk

Comeback Character Award: Green Arrow
Published by DC Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

When the New 52 first hit the stands, fanboys were eager to read a revitalized Green Arrow. However, it was a mediocre title at best. By Year 2 of New 52 and the first year of Arrow, fans were hoping and praying that Green Arrow would re-enter DC's pantheon of heroes. There was no such luck. By the end of the year 2, Arrow's popularity was rapidly rising, and Marvel's very own archer, Hawkeye has his own solo book, and its numbers were quickly increasing. DC had to make a move before the book was canceled. Their move consisted of placing Jeff Lemire as the new writer and Andrea Sorrentino as the artist. Picture a hint of Hawkeye's book, an ounce of CW's Arrow, and fanboys receiving a breath of fresh air. All that added up to a reemergence of Green Arrow. Most readers place Green Arrow in DC's B list group. However Lemire and Sorrentino stripped Green Arrow of it's capeness, added a secret history to DC's mythology, and placed Green Arrow in a spy versus spy-genre. It's good to see Green Arrow get back the respect he deserves.

ComiXology's Newest Add to my Pull-List Award: Doc Unknown
Writer: Fabian Rangel JR
Artist: Ryan Cody

For years I refused to read digital comic books. I don't know about you, but I needed to hold the book in my hands and turn the pages with my fingers. One night the Internet was boring and Netflix failed to entertain me. So I decided to look through my inbox and I found an intriguing email for reviewing Comixology's Review Submit. One of the first titles I read was Fabian Rangel Jr's Doc Unknown. For those who haven't read it, Doc Unknown is old school noir meets Green Arrow. Doc Unknown is about a masked hero protecting Gate City from evil. Each issue is a stand alone story that explores Doc Unknown's origin. Rangel JR does a great job building Unknown's mythology in its short run, and he doesn't overload the pages with an overabundance of dialogue. Instead, the book relies on the artist, Ryan Cody, making Gate City a character within the book, and Rangel's superb job of developing the characters in a very short time. Next time you want to try a new comic book, Google ComiXology, and buy Doc Unknown. It's worth the time and cash.

Best Boyband in the Comic Community Award: Ed Brisson and his Army of Artists
Sheltered # 4

If you're an avid reader and belong to Twitter, you should be familiar with Canada's Ed Brisson and his artists: Michael Walsh, Johnnie Christmas, Simon Roy, Jason Copland, and Vic Malhotra. In the past year, Murder Book Alumni can be found in every corner of the comic book. It started with Ed and Michael teaming up for Comeback at Image Comics. At IDW, you can find Val working on Thumbprints and Michael re-introducing the world to Agents Mulder and Scully. While back at Image, Brisson bought over another Murder World artist, Johnnie Christmas, to work on Sheltered. Simon Roy can be found in Image's most recent reboot of Prophet. At Marvel, the reader can find Ed and Michael working on two separate Secret Avengers' arcs, and Jason Copland on Daredevil #33. These gentlemen are the future and they have so much to offer to the comic community.

#1 Comic Company at NYCC Award: Image Comics

Here's our open letter to Image Comics. Unlike some comic panels and booths, Image's booth is organized. Their workers are actually smiling and they're enjoying their time. The end game of this letter is to thank Tyler Shainline and his team for making new and old comic book fans feel comfortable. Whenever we or anyone else had a question, the booth team didn't guess, but they cared and searched for the answer. Even if they had no idea, they took their time, and pursued the right answer. At the end of the day, we want to thank you guys and gals for caring. Outside Shainline's incredible team, Image's creators bring in readers via Facebook and Twitter. They are not pompous or douchey. Creators like Ed Brisson, Joshua Williamson, Robert Kirkman (Met him a bar and he's super nice), Roc Upchurch, Kurtis Wiebe, Joe Eisma, Rob Guillary, Amy Reeder, Michael Walsh, and Kelly Sue DeConnick . In the past few years, we the fans have looked at these creators as celebrities. These guys and gals deal with us via social networks and in person. Even if the typical fan doesn't entirely know you, all of you are so pleasant and caring because that person bought your book.

The Pablo Picasso Comic Book Award: The Red Ten
Published by Comix Tribe
Writer: Tyler James
The Red Ten #5
Artist: Cesar Feliciano 

It was Pablo Picasso that said "Good artists copy, great artists steal." Tyler James, the creator and writer of The Red is re-imagining DC's Big 7 with drastic changes to the characters and killing them off one by one. Instead of Batman being a man, the cape crusader is a woman and Comix Tribe's Flash-esque character is a pill popper. The Red Ten's major villain is a Joker-esque character but with a unique twist. The villain is named Oxymoron and kills anyone that self-contradicts their personality and/or values. With James' pen and Cesar Feliciano's brush, Comix Tribe transports a cape book into the murder-mystery genre. Usually fans cry because the cape-genre has been done over and over again. However, Tyler and Feliciano took the cape-genre to whole other level of creativity. They deserve recognition for taking an old idea, performing CPR on it, and refurbishing it into something brand new.

Best one-shot from the next generation of comic creators Award: PULP
Writer: Jeremy Holt
Art: Christopher Eric Peterson.

Once again, Jeremy Holt delivers a hit, but this time teaming up with the artist of Dark Horse's Grindhouse: Doors Open at Mightnight #1, Chris Peterson. PULP tells a story about a writer chasing his dream of publishing a piece of literature. However, this isn't a heartfelt tale about the ups and downs of achieving your dream. No, it is just more than that. PULP follows a creator's delusional dream and his bloody path to isolation. Holt and Peterson deliver a Memento-esque story that merges horror and noir.


Best Live Action Birth of a Superhero Award: CW's Barry Allen

When Arrow launched, just over a year ago with it's grounded, no powers shtick it seemed like a bit of a lost opportunity. So much of what makes superheroes distinguishable are their powers and the apparent lack of such properties made Arrow feel a bit short of its potential. Thankfully Barry Allen had other plans. From the moment he stumbled in, a few minutes late to the crime scene it immediately became clear that he was something special. From his mannerisms to his look, Barry Allen live action birth was done right. Grant Gustin plays Barry Allen exceptionally well and it seems that all the fuss over whether he was a good fit to play Barry was for naught. The future of The Flash is bright and 2014 looks to be an action packed one for the likes of Barry Allen and it is a future that fans can look forward to.

Written by Alexander Handziuk


Most Tiring Fanboy Outcry Award: Anything to do with Man of Steel 

One of the most polarizing comic book movies in 2013 (also of all-time) was undoubtedly Zack Snyder’s reboot of Superman “Man of Steel.”  It seemed as if fanboys either absolutely loved or despised his take on the classic American superhero.  Whether it was the collateral damage and absolute loss of innocent lives, the fact that Lois Lane figures out Kal El’s secret identity with too much ease or Jonathan Kent being somewhat cold when it comes to his adopted sons “different” talents (who could forget the discussion of the bus accident).  All in all it was one of the most talked about films among fanboys in a long time. 

P.S.With the casting of Ben Affleck as the caped crusader in the next installment of Zack Snyder’s reboot and the reaction to it, its safe to say in 2015 Superman will bring verbal fisticuffs among fanboys all over the world.

Written by TJ Kiss 


Comeback Band Award: Jesse and The Rippers

If you could find one theme in 2013, what would it be? My answer would be the "Return of the 90s." Cable, Bishop, talk of Doomsday appearing in MOS 2, the beginning stages of a X-Force movie, and the return of Jessie and The Rippers. If you're a fan of Jimmy Fallon then you know his passion and obsession for anything 90s. This summer, NBC hand-wrapped a present for my girlfriend, and when she opened it she found a mini-Full House reunion. Not only did we get the original - yes, the original Rippers cast, but John Stamos had the mullet and fashion sense that belonged to Jesse Katsopolis. Don't stop reading because it only gets better. In the crowd, the viewer found Danny Tanner doing a wacky dance and Jessie's wife, Becky, cheering him on. In the end, Becky arrived on stage along with Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy had the audacity to touch Jesse's hair which of course Jesse put a stop to it. It will be a night that will live infamy for the children of the 90s.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Illumi-Nerdi's Best of the Best in 2013- Part 1

New Title of the Year-
Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Grey (Image Comics)
Writer: Frank Barbiere, Artist: Chris Mooneyham

          Too many times have I read a premise for a story and said that sounds phenomenal only to be disappointed by the actual product. Something is almost always lacking; the art doesn’t fit the story or is just crappy, the writer came up with a good idea for a story but writes hacky, predictable dialogue. It is so difficult to make the jump from great idea for a comic, to producing a great comic based on that idea. So many times well established veterans come up with boring, it’s-all-been-done-before stories and get to see them made only because of who they are. This makes the story of Five Ghosts all the more impressive. It’s made by a couple of guys who have very few credits under their name yet somehow produced one of the most shockingly original ideas in recent memory.
           I love traditional-type stories “with a twist”. I’m sick of seeing your standard cape story or boring, by-the-numbers procedural crime story. Five Ghosts takes on a tried American art form, a pulp serial, and turns it on its head. The writing is absolutely fantastic and it tackles everything from giant spiders to evil Chinese mages. It is a true page turning adventure with a backstory that has you demanding answers and an ongoing story that renders you unable to wait for the next installment. The art by Chris Mooneyham completely captures the spirit of the genre. I can’t picture another artist doing it nearly as well and don’t really want to (Issue 6’s art by Garry Brown was more than serviceable but I look forward to Mooneyham’s return ). It was originally only slated for five issues, and thank god it got picked up for more. 

Best Brian K. Vaughan Title that ISN’T Saga-
The Private Eye (Panel Syndicate)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan, Artist: Marcos Martin

          It would be really, really easy to give practically every award this year to Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' sci-fi/romance/comedy/drama/epic/story-that-makes-me-weep-pretty-much-at-the-end-of-every-issue comic. Everyone’s top comic list of 2013 NEEDS to include this title. That’s exactly why I chose not to include it (although I think I sort of just did?). That being said, Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin have created an amazingly unique story with The Private Eye.
          Had this story been written any other year and had the creator’s chosen to market this story differently (I absolutely agree 100% with how it was made, by the way), this could easily be in competition for Title of the Year. Unfortunately, it is slightly overshadowed by Vaughan’s contemporary probable-magnum opus, Saga, and could be easily missed by some of the less avid comic book readers because of the way it is being published: by relative unknown Panel Syndicate, and exclusively online in a “pay what you can” format. I simply love that Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin chose to publish it this way. They could have charged absolutely anything they wanted (as far as comic book prices go) and people would have paid if only for the fact that it was made by two giants in the industry. But, let’s not gloss over the fact that it is one of the most original and captivating mystery/sci-fi stories to be written for the comic book medium. We’ve seen noir done before in comics. We’ve seen the future societies where shit has gone south before. But never before have the two genres come together quite as well as in The Private Eye.

The “What Were They Thinking and How Did it Work so Damn Well” Award-
Afterlife with Archie (Archie Comics)
Writer: Robert Aguirre-Sacasa, Artist: Francesco Francavilla

          I read Archie when I was a kid. I used to ask my mom to buy me the Double Digest at the Waldbaum’s magazine stand. Of course, she’d oblige (being a good mother), owing to the fact that Life with Archie and the Jughead Double Digest and Betty and Veronica were generally tame, safe choices as far as comic books go. It was a series inexorably connected to the 50’s and a more (perceived) innocent time. How Archie got Betty and Veronica to slobber all over him when Reggie was right there next to him, I’ll never know. But writer Robert Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla decided to take a daring risk with Archie and the gang in 2013 and ask the question: what if zombies came to Riverdale? Chaos instantly ensued.
           The comic is f***ing fantastic. It took two tried and true, yet wholly opposite forms of comic books and combined them in a way that revitalized both. I for one was kind of sick of the zombie genre. But when I heard that it was being brought to the Archie universe, I could not have been more excited. It almost felt logical. The two types of stories had been around for so long separately, why not bring them together? And the fact that Sabrina the Teenage Witch was in the Archie Universe made the next step in this ridiculous sounding pitch seem completely logical, if not necessary. The best part is, this comic is actual horror. It is by no means corny or tame or soft which some people may associate with the relatively light early Archie stories. It is straight up, balls to the wall, horror. The blood and gore and violence depicted by Mr. Francavilla is surprisingly appropriate for the story. It would have been easy for both writer and artist to have taken that pretty cool “zombies-meets-Archie” pitch and find a way to keep it PG rated. But this story is genuinely terrifying and I cannot wait to see where the duo take it going forward. 

The “How the Hell Did They Make Mermaids Scary” Award-
The Wake (Vertigo)
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Sean Murphy

          What in the world is going on in this story? When I first started reading this I have to admit, I was only interested because of the creative team. Scott Snyder hasn’t written a dud yet and Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus may be the most unique comic of the last few years. I didn’t think the initial pitch sounded all that great. But when you get a collaborative team together like this, you just have to give it a chance. And goddamn it, I’m glad I did. Every single issue takes the story in a different direction. 
          Mermaids are not scary. Period. Yet somehow, someway, between Scott Snyder’s writing and Sean Murphy’s unbelievable art, they made mermaids terrifyingly creepy. My absolute favorite part is the heavy integration of folk tales. Every time a new folk tale is mentioned I jump online and see if any of it is true. Funnily enough, every single word figures into some civilizations’ folk tales. I have no idea how they integrate so many different civilizations’ fascinating histories into a story about freaking mermaids. If you aren't reading this then I don't know what the hell has you interested in comics this year. The end of issue five has me hooked more than ever and I cannot wait for more in 2014. 

The “I Did Not See That Coming” Award-
Ghosted (Image Comics)
Writer: Joshua Williamson, Artist: Goran Sudzuka

          Ghosted is another one of those truly unique stories by a writer I can’t wait to get more out of. I think it’s pretty clear that I am a big fan of horror comics, as pretty much all of my picks have fit into that genre. But Ghosted takes the cake. This is one of those rare stories where the art and writing really truly complement each other. They really work so perfectly together. When reading the end of issue five I found myself really, really disappointed. Not because of where the story went, how the writing was done, or any of the other factors that go into readers hating the end of comics. I was disappointed because I felt Williamson and Sudzuka wrapped the story up too well. It really was a perfect end to a story. All the different characters went their separate ways, and it was completely satisfying. Unfortunately, we want more out of this story. We are not satisfied with hearing the end of Jackson Winter’s creepy criminal history. That’s why I was ecstatic to see the end of the issue promising more Ghosted. I just hope the creative team can find a savory way to bring back Jackson’s Ocean’s 11 of Paranormal Activity in a satisfying way.  

Lifetime Achievement Award-
Locke & Key (IDW Publishing)
Writer: Joe Hill, Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez

          Tears. Just- tears streaming down my face. It was so difficult to say goodbye to one of the best series that has ever hit the shelves. There are certain titles that you simply demand more of. Locke & Key did not come out on a regular basis. It wasn’t forced to the shelves once a month. It came out when it was fucking ready. I think that says a lot about a title. Despite the masses clamoring for more, it came out when it was ready to be read, and not a second before. Whenever I attempt to get someone into comics I point them in the direction of Locke & Key. I think it is one of the most captivating stories (not just comic books mind you, but stories) ever written. People weren’t waiting as eagerly when Dickens’ published Great Expectations once a month. Now, I’m not comparing Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez to Dickens. Actually, hell, I am. This comic was just that good. It’s one of those books that has so much going on, you get something new out of each time you read it. The best part is that Keyhouse has such a rich and storied history, more one-shots will inevitably be produced. And if I can never read another comic book again apart from these one-shots, I think I’d be okay.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Superpowers Officially Enter the World of Arrow: Season 2 Mid-Finale

Off the heels of last week's cliffhanger, Arrow continues to impress with a mostly great mid-season finale. Last week, Barry Allen was introduced and a huge amount of developments occurred. This week there were even more and it set up for a great second half to what has been an improved second season.

The episode revolves around Oliver struggling with hallucinations which he thinks are brought on by his encounter with the man on the mystery drug, Cyrus Gold. These hallucinations are of Slade, Shado, and Tommy. They urge him to stop his vigilante ways and tell him that he has failed them. It turns out that these hallucinations were not caused by Gold, but instead Oliver's mind. Oliver has to overcome these demons and does so with the help of the Tommy hallucination, who tells him that he is doing good and that he's proud of Oliver. Speaking of Slade and Shado, the flashback scenes reached new heights as Oliver was forced to choose between the lives of Sarah and Shado. He chose Sarah and as a result Shado took a bullet to the brain. That came as a big shock to me and there doesn't seem like there is anyway to bring her back. However, last episode it was Slade that died and somehow survived to free Oliver and Sarah. Maybe Shado can come back somehow.

In the middle of the episode, Roy is captured by Brother Blood and drugged just as Arrow tries to save him. He ends up saving Roy but doing so he also possibly revealed his identity to him. Although, when Roy awakes he showed no memory of Oliver's secret. For now it's a wait and see type of thing.

Grant Gustin's Barry Allen was my highlight of the episode for the second week in a row as he continued to provide an awesome and accurate portrayal of the DC comics character. His interaction with Oliver is great and it transitions from Oliver being mad that Barry knows who he is, to an accepting him as a friend and ally. The best part of Barry related screen time was definitely his origin. Barry is shown working in his lab late at night as he was too late to make it to see the quantum accelerator in person. However, something goes wrong and the power goes out throughout Central City. Then it happens, lightning strikes Barry and the shelf besides him, which holds tons of chemicals, he ten collapses, and his skin dances with red and yellow energy. With that bolt, superpowers officially entered the world of Arrow. As great as Barry was I do have to question how. A police scientist is so gifted in healing people and it seems like getting Barry to save Oliver was a bit forced.

The other major part of the episode was the last moment reveal that Slade is alive and is in fact Brother Blood's boss. When asked who Arrow is to him, he responds by saying "my friend" but then goes on to say that he will strip him down to the bone and take away all those that he cares about. I certainly didn't see that coming and am very happy to see the people from the island adapting to life in the city.

In the end the entire Arrow team, featuring special guest Geoff Johns further demonstrate that they have indeed found a way to capture lightning in a bottle. 3 Ghosts is an episode that succeeds on virtually every level and serves as a very deserving of the mid-season finale hype.


Barry Allen continues to impress

The Flash's origin is true to the comics

Oliver's fight with his hallucinations is powerful

Island scenes finally reach payoff level

Reveal that Slade is Alive
Written by Alexander Handziuk

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

T.I.N Soldier's Review of Arrow-Season 2, Episode 8: The Scientist

Ever since Arrow started, just over a year ago, there has been a noticeable lack of superpowers. Instead it has taken a very grounded and real approach. It seemed as if the world of Arrow would be forever powerless. Enter Barry Allen. The announcement that he would appear in Arrow was welcome news to me. As a DC comics fanboy, I was over the moon at the inclusion of superpowers courtesy of my favorite comic character of all time. Going into the episode, I was cautiously optimistic as I wasn't exactly thrilled with their choice of Barry Allen. Thankfully it exceeded my expectations by a long-shot.

When Grant Gustin's Barry Allen appears on screen for the first time, talking fast and showing up late to the crime scene, it immediately became clear that the Arrow team made a great decision in their Flash casting. Gustin's mannerism is so spot on and is very similar to it's comic book inspiration. The episode is all about a series of strange robberies. Barry Allen is called in from Central City to investigate these robberies because of parallels with a case in his hometown. The buildings broken into are all owned by Queen industries and as a result Barry works hand in hand with Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle to figure out the case. As a result, he gets close to Felicity and they really hit it off. I can honestly say that they have the potential to become a really awesome couple. Also, there is an amazing scene in which Barry is moving chemicals, he remarks that they could be dangerous if they spilled and then is a lightning flash. It was a moment of will he transform now, but I'm glad he didn't at that point because sets it up to be even better opportunity when it happens. Meanwhile, Oliver throws a party for his mom in in order to try to improve her image. It turns out to be a big failure as only a handful of people show up. However, the big moment involving Moira happens after the party and involves her sticking it to Malcolm Merlin. She gets rid of him for the foreseeable future and she does it like a bad-ass. As always the island scenes are solid. Oliver and his group of three find the sub and the secret weapon drug that is hidden in it. But by the time they get in, Slade is on the verge of death, so they are forced to give him the drug in hopes of saving his life. It doesn't go well and the flashback ends with Ivo and his soldiers entering the sub. Back in the present, it is revealed that Barry isn't what he says he is. He is in fact an intern and not a police scientist. After being confronted he reveals he is searching for his mother's killer, even though his father has already been convicted. He described it as a blur entered his house, and in it he saw a person. That person killed his mother not his father. So as a result he keeps an eye out for strange cases in hopes that he can find the man that murdered his mother and save his dad. This origin, like his mannerism is straight from the comics and is done to perfection. A big part of the reason is the fact that this episode is co-written by the man that brought Barry Allen back from the dead, Geoff Johns.

The comic book connection in this episode is the strongest it has been this far in the series and the great thing is that it sets up an assortment of other possibilities. But this show is about Oliver too and as such he confronts the guy who made all the break ins and losses. He is found by Felicity and Diggle, close to death, they can't save him, and they need Barry's help. Barry was all set to go back to Central City but in typical Barry Allen fashion he missed his train and is intercepted by Felicity and Diggle. Oliver's identity is revealed to Barry, and the episode ends with him being asked to save Oliver. This episode was truly something special and is easily one of the best episodes of the series to date. If you are not watching Arrow I urge you to start, you won't regret it. It's a Flash fact after all.

Score 9.7/10


Grant Gustin is a perfect fit for The Flash

The way in which Moira deals with Merlin

The interaction between Barry and Felicity

The faithfulness to the Flash Character

Island scenes still amazing

Written by Alexander Handziuk

Monday, December 9, 2013

Preview to Batman #26

Why did Lucius stab Bruce? Who is Doctor Death? Has the creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo reached their peak? We have the answer to the third question. No, they have not. These are the questions that will be answered this Wednesday in Batman #26. This is the final issue of 2013 and you can expect greatness to leap out and hit you in the face every time you turn the page. Go find your wallet, count your cash, and make sure you have enough to buy Batman #26. Thanks to the Nerdist, we have a preview for this week's issue.

Click to enlarge the cover and pages

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Social Media Reacts to Amazing Spider-Man 2 Trailer

Thursday was supposed to be Amazing Spider-Man 2's day, but it was stolen by X-Men: Apocalypse and then by the death of Nelson Mandela (rightfully so). However, neither death nor Apocalypse will stop the public from loving, bashing, or being insightful about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer. Even though the movie looks fun and has villains galore, I have two important thoughts to share with you: Rhino looks like a Transformer meets the Triceratops Megazord and Harry comes off a tiny bit like Gollum.

Here are some fun and insightful social media reactions to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Behind the Writing: 617, Part 1

How did we get here? It was a question that Brian asked while we were attending a screening for Roman Polanski’s “Weekend of a Champion.” It got me thinking. How did I here? Don’t worry, I’m not being selfish. If you’re interested in knowing how we got here, I need to tell our story first.

For those who haven’t been following The Illumi-Nerdi, we are a blog that helps break nerd stereotypes. Originally, we created the Nerdi to create a fanbase by discussing everything geeky and trick them by turning them into fans of our book. While creating our first book, Shepherd, we created a post entitled, “Behind the Writing”. Even though our book was unable to make it anywhere near final production, we did something that’s rarely been done before. We opened our creation process to the public. Even though we are amateurs, we wanted to do something that our fellow fanboys and nerds would love.

One cold night, I picked up Brian, and we drove to my house for Comic Con (My parents like to call our comic writing night comic con). Anyway, I mentioned my idea for a one-shot to Brian. Here’s the premise: A plane crash happens over a mountaintop. 99% of the issue is about survival as they trek across the forest and mountains in hopes of finding civilization. However, there is a twist.

Brian didn't like it as an one-shot, so the story was shelved. One week later, I was enjoying myself a very hard tasty Porkslap. Suddenly, my phone exploded with text messages. Right away I thought something happened. Did the Mets win a game? Did we sell the Illumi-Nerdi for one million dollars? So many questions went through my head. It turned out to be Brian. While I was out drinking, he was watering the seeds and hoeing my airplane crash concept.

One year and several months later, we are announcing the “Behind the Writing” of 617. Here’s the synopsis.

A plane collides with another in midair and the group of survivors crash into the Rocky Mountains. From there, it is something of a road story; the group trying to get back to society and what happens when they get back to “civilization” (it’s extremely crucial that "civilization" is in quotes). As they are attempting to trek down the mountain the group splits apart and comes across survivors from the other plane as well as many characters who know much more about their predicament then they are letting on. It’s sort of a mix of Y: The Last Man meets Christian and Norse mythologies. It is also (perhaps most importantly) a literal clash of Technology vs. Religion. You’ll see Valkyries, The Four Horsemen (who are evil/questionable historical figures you’ll certainly recognize who are attempting to earn their way back into God’s good graces,) Fenrir the Wolf, a few choice Angels and the good ol' Antichrist makes an appearance (who may not appear as you might typically think about the Anti-Christ). We blend a lot of different mythologies and attempt to find the answer to "Life, the Universe and Everything" (hint: it's not 42).

Cover teaser art by Jacob Eguren
For here on out, we plan to show to you the evolution of our cover, characters, and pages. After a very painful search, we found an awesome artist in Jacob Eguren. At this very moment, the cover is being colored and lettered. Hopefully by next week, the cover's final product will be unveiled for the internet. For now, here's a little tease. Enjoy!

Image Comics' Saga #14: Review

Saga is good. It's damn good. Screw that. It's fantastic, amazing, emotional, heartbreaking, and in my opinion the best book out there right now. The dynamic creative team of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue to work in harmonious motion, balancing killer plot and magnificent art that needs to be seen to be believed. For the past few issues, Saga has been flashing back from one moment, filling in the gaps that lies in between. This moment being the arrival of Prince Robot IV to the lighthouse in which our protagonists are hiding. The infamous last page of chapter twelve is where Robot IV is shown talking to Dr. Heist while Alana, Marko, and co. are huddled under the stairs trying not to make a sound. By the end of this issue, we reach a point at which we are finally caught up, or at least damn close to that cliffhanger from weeks past. Fans of The Will can sort of breathe a sigh of relief as Gwendolyn stops Sophie from killing him. In an extremely sad turn of event, Lying Cat attacks Sophie because she is killing The Will. Although, Gwendolyn stops the feline from hurting Sophie, it hurts to see the relationship between Sophie and Lying Cat be possibly undone in a matter of seconds. Even though The Will is not killed, he is left in critical condition, and the only person that can save him is Marko.This issue seems to be the issue before the long awaited intersection of all the plot lines present in Saga. Needless to say, next month promises to be action packed. Speaking of action, Fiona Staples can sure draw some good action.  Staples's art continues to be amazing and I've had not seen a dip since this series began.She has such a clear, succinct, and unique style that perfectly complements the world of Saga. Her biggest skill though is being able to make emotions so clear and obvious. From aliens to humans to cats it's simply breathtaking. This creative team is something special and the series certainly owes much of its consistency to the fact that the creators are able and willing to take time off in order to keep Saga running at its full potential. Sure as a fan it can be a bit disappointing that we had to wait a few months in between issues, but keeping Vaughn and Staples together is certainly worth it. Saga is amazing and Chapter twelve is no different. It effectively sets up all of the story threads for collision and continues to be an engrossing read. Definitely a must buy.

Score 9.5/10  

Written by Alexander Handziuk

The Walking Dead- Season 4, Episode 8: Prison Riot

The days of the prison are over, the Governor's dead and the episode we TWD comic fans have all been waiting for finally came and it did not disappoint! Since the Governor character has been introduced we knew this showdown was coming. It was the destiny of the two leaders to collide. Reason had to clash with madness at some point. Even though the Governor had tried to convince himself he was a good moral leader in the end he inevitably chose the dark side. Standing on that tank, the man had a personal realization like that of an ancient Babylonian demi-god. All Philip Blake really wanted was blood. This dark clarity manifested itself in the death of not only Hershel, but himself and damn near everyone who had the misfortune of crossing the Governor's path.

Before all the chaos happened we finally got to see Daryl's reaction to Carol's banishment, which in hindsight was a blessing. Daryl finds out and goes to tell Tyreese who has I think found the twisted science project of Lizzy. Just before Rick tells Tyreese, destiny comes knocking in the form of the Governor's tank blasting away a guard tower. They drop all their drama and run out to see the Governor and he means business because he has Michonne, Hershel and is asking for Rick. I want to point out really quick how bad-ass the scene was with Rick walking up to Philip with a dozen people pointing automatics at him and a freakin tank barrel starring him down.

Here Rick gives a great speech that clearly shows the distinction between him and the Gov. I think that no matter what Rick would have said Philip was going to start a war. Rick's speech hadn't meant nothing, it gave Hershel peace to know that his wise words had meant something. I think he smiled because he knew that in the end he did impart something, there was a plan, and true good could still exist in this world. But like the duality of man, good will exist alongside destruction, and Hershel met his graphic end which was lifted right out of the comic. The only difference is it was someone else who was on the chopping block.

The Governor delivers a flawless victory to Hershel, decapitates him and all Hell breaks loose. Bullets start flying and the inevitable war begins, but not before the writers deliver some more fan service with the iconic "kill em' all" line from the Gov. The tank rolls over the gates destroying what our heroes fought so desperately to maintain in mere seconds. All the while, the tank is blasting holes in the sanctuary and the main group starts fleeing in every which way. What I really loved about this episode was that it let the tension build and build. From the opening monologue the Governor has you sense the doom clinging in the air.

While all the chaos unfolds, we are left with Lilly and Megan. After Lilly pleads with the Gov to call off the attack, she is left behind with her daughter. Unfortunately after playing in the mud, Megan meets her end with a pretty sweet zombie attack scene. As morbid as it sounds, Megan had to die. Megan's death was all Philip's fault. He could have been there to protect the family, but instead he let his ego take control and nothing else mattered to him.

Glenn ends up taking off with the bus, Maggie, Sasha & Bob take off together, and Daryl flees with Beth. The battle was epic and while we didn't see the giant CG horde we saw in the past episode its clear the prison belongs to the walkers now. In this bookend to the prison arc, we also got the final showdown between the leaders, and the Governor bested Rick. He was about to choke the life out of Grimes no doubt and it was intense seeing Rick on the brink of death, and inches from meeting his end with his arch enemy's hands around his throat. However, Michonne finished him like she promised she would. I like how the Gov died in the series. In the comic it was by Lilly, but she was a stranger and had no relationship with Phil, but here we got to see Michonne seal his fate, and Lilly end him.

So in the end Philip is reduced to an absurd man who not only killed a ton of innocent people, but ruined a perfectly good sanctuary and hopeful community and got himself killed in the process. This was the end to the prison chapter that the long time fans have been waiting for and it was worth it. They dragged out the Governor's story a bit but I think it was for the best. They had a lot of build up to this episode and I think it would have been less climactic if we saw it all end at the end of Season 3. Although I still think the 3rd season finale was weak, but it at least bought us some more time, and we got to see this prison grow into a community and that of course makes it all the more tragic when we see it burn. This episode was packed with shots and references taken from the source material. I have to say as a huge fan of that material, seeing the shot of a defeated Rick & Carl climbing over that hilltop with the burning, war torn zombie infested prison in the background brought to life on screen after seeing it on the page years ago, it gave me chills.

I loved this episode. It demonstrated everything this series is and has the potential to be a dramatic and gory sprawling epic. After being well past the prison story in the comics, I can promise you the story of Rick and his group is just getting started. There's many more chapters in this saga. I am dying to find out where they are going to take this and from checking out the sneak preview of the 9th episode, I think all of us comic book fans have an idea. It's going to get even more wild, dark, and dangerous. For the first time these people are split up and alone. The world outside is no less cruel or scary, and again it will be proven that in a world plagued by the undead, other desperate humans are what these people should fear the most.

Overall, I'm satisfied after this episode. I'm curious if they actually killed Judy, because she didn't make it in the books. After seeing that empty bloody car seat, I don't think she will make it off the prison. So all in all, I'm giving this episode a 10 out of 10. The Walking Dead has hit a major mile stone in the story and they did not fuck it up. Gimple & writers you've done it, you showed the whole world ya got balls. I am dying to see where this show goes next. The stage is set for a whole new adventure and now all we have to do is wait till Febuary to find out what happens next. See you then!

Written by Isaiah Mueller

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Walking Dead-Season 4, Episode 7: Mr. Blake's Neighborhood

Awww man, as a fan of the comics this episode was a bit stressful. It played out like a game of chess. In this episode the Governor truly returns. As hard as Brian Hariot tried he just couldn't keep Philip Blake & his Governor persona at bay for long. After being saved by Martinez Philip, the Governor and his lady squad get ushered into his former left hand man's group. Although I appreciate that this episode didn't drag it's feet (screw it, pun intended) I did think the plot was a bit too convenient at times, but we'll get to that in a bit.

 Unlike some people I did enjoy the fact that we were getting a second installment to the Governor saga. Not just because it added a bit more dimension to his character and the people who are unknowingly caught up in his war path. It also broadens this world, giving it a bit more of a sweeping epic sorta feel. So the Gov and his group get used to their new life in the camp & Tara has even found herself a girlfriend (man interracial couples & gay couples TWD literally gives zero fucks and I love it), so things seem to be going good for the family. With the Governor around things inevitably go south!

This is where I found things to be a bit convenient. I thought it was kinda weird that Martinez embraced the guy, after everything he saw him do, slaughter innocent people, and fall off the deep end. I thought it was a bit out of character that he would not only completely let his guard down around him but also offer him to be in charge of another group of people, because the last time just went so well. But never the less he gets too comfortable around the guy and pays dearly for it. After passively mentioning they should share the leadership responsibilities, Phil goes all Tiger Woods on the him and uses my boy Martinez's head as a golf ball! This honestly surprised me, if anything I expected the Gov to silently plot a take over or figure out a way to slowly manipulate the guy, but nope! He clubs him, then feeds him to the walkers. Just as a small nitpick, I would have liked to see Martinez's death be a bit more graphic. He was a memorable character and he deserved a more gruesome death. C'mon Walking Dead, I wanna see more guts being used as tooth floss here!

So Martinez is out of the picture, it was a bit convenient but it made for good TV, and was a welcome sign that we weren't going to have to see them try and turn the Governor good. But what started as a single murder became a strategic coups d'etat. Pieces were moved through the course of this episode and as the stage was being set for a coming war, bad omens were peppered throughout. As for fans of the comics,we now know for sure the sh%t is hurtling towards the fan. No more wondering if the writers were going to go down the comic book route or if they were going to meander down some water'd down path. Thankfully it seems we're headed for comic book territory!

 Through this episode the Gov has been taking out the key leaders of the new group and in record time too! I mean you gotta hand it to the guy, hes totally mental but when it comes to becoming a charismatic leader for a group of survivors the guys like a fish in water! So it doesn't take long for him to K.O. Peter and then manipulate his brother into becoming his second in command putting himself at the top of the pyramid. And this is the other problem I had with this episode. The fact that the guy was so passive about this stranger coming in murdering his brother in cold blood and then taking control of the group was a bit far fetched to me. Yes, he did have a gun on him but still that's your brother I'd expected a bit more anger and distrust rather than immediately becoming a loyal servant to the guy.
But like I said, this episode doesn't drag it's feet, it moves things into place, and is preparing us for what's to come. And if you keep up with the comic then you know that next episode is going to be the episode we were expecting at the end of season 3. For some people, including me there is a lot riding on next episode. It has to deliver. Gimple, you've proven yourself a worthy show runner so far, now it's time to nut up or shut up! All I can say for people who haven't read the comic is buckle up because if they pull this mid-season finale off like they should, it's gonna be epic. Personally, I would like to see not only something similar to the comics in terms of character development and major story arcs coming to a crescendo, but I also want to see that giant horde of walkers Daryl and his group ran into a few episodes ago come back into play. I don't think they showed all those zombies for no reason. I think with a horde that size wandering around not too far from the prison and gunfire going off, it could be the perfect storm for the prisoners AND the Governor's group. Things have been set in motion rather nicely and this could be the episode we fans have all have been waiting for since the pilot episode!
I don't mean to hype it so much but things are getting really interesting and there some big events this story is heading towards. So overall I dug this episode and the two-part Governor story as a whole. This episode I thought was a big step up from the last one and it brings this villain full circle. So I'm going to give this episode an 8 out of 10. The drums of war are beating and by the end of the mid-season finale, I don't know if these characters will be the same. We gave this show a pass when they fumbled the ball at the end of the last season. So writers I ask you, do you have the guts to do what must be done for the good of the story as a whole, and push these characters further into the next chapter of the zombie saga? We're all eager to find out, don't choke.

Written By Isaiah Mueller

Monday, November 25, 2013

JFK, Magneto, and the (Formerly known as the Magic Bullet) Bent Bullet

Last Friday was the 50th anniversary of JFK's Assassination. In Watchmen lore, The Comedian was the grassy knoll shooter. However, Marvel theorists believe they have evidence to prove otherwise. The Warren Commission has argued that the trajectory of the Bent Bullet (Renamed by Marvel theorists) was created by the world's evilest mutant, Erik Lehnsherr, also known to his fellow mutants as Magneto. You can find articles, pictures, and more at The Bent Bullet. 

DC's Harley Quinn #0

Writers: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Charles Adlard, Art Baltazar, Becky Cloonan, Darwyn Cooke, Tony S. Daniel, Sam Kieth, Bruce Timm, Jim Lee, Stephane Roux, Tradd Moore, and more
Release Date: November 20, 2013

In Harley Quinn # 0, DC Comics brings in something new, something that has been all but absent in The New 52. Fun! The stellar writing group of married proportions, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti deliver comedy and fun in spades. It is easily one of the  funniest books currently published today (The other that comes to mind is the always hilarious Quantum and Woody). The story revolves around Harley Quinn trying out artists for her new comic book.Through out the comic book, Quinn interacts with both the writers and the readers. It's a great piece of going beyond the fourth wall and it is done hilariously. I am curious to see if they can and will keep it going. Oh and ya here's other thing, this book is illustrated by a total of seventeen artists. Seventeen artists trying out to illustrate Harley's new on-going, and they certainly are not D-listers. The artist pool features the talents of Jim Lee, Darwyn Cooke,Amanda Conner, Sam Keith, Becky Cloonan, Adam Hughes, Tony Daniel and Bruce Timm who gets to draw a page of the character he created. Those aren't even half the artists in this book and they all are A-listers. There honestly wasn't one page were the art was bad or dipped even a little. It was amazing throughout. Also present is the page from the the winner of the talent search, Jeremy Roberts. He draws a page in which Harley Quinn is pretty much trying to commit suicide. Out of context it caused an uproar from fans, media alike, and for good reason as suicide is no joking matter, but the way it's presented in this book is tactfully and respectfully and nothing like it sounds.For someone who reads DC comics, and knows these artists this book is especially great, as Conner and Palmiotti use the histories and tendencies of the artists to incite hilarity,

Like when Harley who likes Adam Hughes's art asks if he can keep a monthly schedule and Palmiotti and Conner respond with a chorus of umm... and well... Also an extremely funny scene involved a reprint of Jim Lee's work and a crack about his pay check. Although these references take the book to new levels for longtime readers, people who do not have an extensive knowledge of these creators will no doubt miss out on a lot of these references. The story takes a big u-turn in the last couple of pages and sets up her adventures in issue one, although it seems a little forced. All in all, Harley Quinn #0 is a great comic that longtime fans of DC comics will love, and even those who don't have that knowledge will get something out of it thanks to the truly magnificent art on display. I highly recommend it as a buy.


Written by Alexander Handziuk 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Arrow-Season 2, Episode 7: Soapy Goodness

Count Vertigo 
Pros: Plot-lines juggled masterfully, solid and captivating reintroduction of Merlin. Bigger emotional connection than in previous episodes, short but good island scene.

Cons: Count Vertigo reduced to villain of the week status, Oliver killing, and soap opera feel at times.

Score 9.1/10

Arrow has certainly been picking up steam in the last couple of weeks. There seems to be a shocking twist every episode and to this point it has worked really well. Episode seven blows the previous episodes out of the water, in terms of shock value and scenes that leave you screaming at your TV. Thankfully these added moments and reveals do not overload the episode into a cheap bag of tricks, but instead create one of the best episodes of Arrow to date. Count Vertigo is back and he's spreading a drug around the city that causes people to become sick but the only cure to it is his patented drug Vertigo. Things get personal when Diggle is exposed to the drug and Ollie goes out to get Vertigo. Meanwhile Ollie's mom is not doing so well on the court front as she is unquestionably losing in the proceedings that will either leave her a free woman or end up with her death. Just when the Assistant D.A. finishes his statement against Moira he collapses, an obvious victim of The Count's new drug. As he's sped away in the ambulance it turns out that the driver is Count Vertigo. He kidnaps him and forces him to plead for the relief that vertigo will bring to his drugged up self. But Ollie saves the assistant D.A. while at the same time nailing home his new anti murder stance.

Now going into this episode I have to say that I love that he has this whole new lease on life. He can't just kill people,  he's not above the law and it gave me renewed hope for DC's rumored TV and movie worlds possible connection. But alas things are never easy. During this week's flashbacks, Ollie is taken to the island in order to locate the Japanese Sub. When they get there Ivo asks rather aggressively where the necklace is which locates the hidden submarine. Ollie full well knows that his friends have it but is mute on the matter. That's when his friends save the day and rescue Ollie. In the confusion, he grabs Sarah and takes her with them, escaping successfully. They learned that the coordinates on the pendant tell the subs location and that there is something of great power on the sub. This is very important as Slade is not doing to well after getting half his face burned and it is imperative that they reach the sub for him. Although the flashbacks weren't long this week, a lot happened and they continue to be one of the highlights of each episode week in week out. Back to the court proceedings, Moira is forced to testify herself or concede defeat but the new prosecutor, who is none other than Laurel Lance. She informs Moira that they have some sensitive documents and if she testifies they will be forced to use them to bring her down. Laurel doesn't like having to prosecute Moira and she was not well even before the proceedings. It is made clear that she feels secluded and alone with no way out. They don't show her taking pills like in previous episodes, but it is clear from the tone that she needs help but none comes this episode. Moira decides to get away from all these secrets and deception, tells her kids and then the whole world that she had a brief affair with Malcolm Merlin. In that moment, I finally felt something other than disinterest to Moira, I actually gained respect for her because she finally cut out all the lies and just told the truth, something that came at a great personal price to her. As the jury makes there final decisions, Ollie learns that Felicity has been kidnapped by Count Vertigo. He leaves his mom's court trial to save her and Thea can't believe that he would leave. I am impressed that Ollie has actually kept his identity secret from his sister and I think it adds to the anguish of being a hero. The battle with Vertigo is pretty anti-climactic. Ollie breaks in, Vertigo shoots at him and puts Felicity in danger. He cites the fact that Ollie won't kill him and Ollie proves him wrong. He kills him with three arrows to the chest. Ollie saves Felicity but loses something. Something that made his adventures in season two special and for my money better than season one. Immediately after killing him there is obvious remorse on his face, stemming from his failure to honor Tommy. It was disappointing to see him fall back and if this change is permanent, I believe it's a real step backward for the series.

Having saved Felicity and finding a cure for those affected by Vertigo, Ollie returns to the court knowing that there's a really good chance that his mom will be condemned to death. He's faced with a sense of helplessness. He can save the world from a madman or beat up a super-villain but is powerless to save his mom. However in a shocking twist, Moira is found not guilty.. Much to the surprise of almost everyone in Starling City. Everyone but one man. Moira's driver takes her to a remote part of town and tells her to step out of the car only to come face to face with Malcolm freaking Merlin, the one person in Starling City not shocked by the court verdict. Why? Because he arranged it, he got Moira acquitted.I mean if he can return from getting an arrow stuck through his chest then I guess he can swing a jury's votes. But there was still one reveal left and it was easily the biggest one and most soap opera-e of them all. Malcolm reveals that he took a genetic test and found out that Thea was his and Moira's daughter.I certainly didn't see it coming and although it seems like a lot of twists, they all complemented each other well.

In this episode, my dreams of a shared DC universe took a hit, Ollie went back to killing,Vertigo was nothing but a generic villain of the week and the constant reveals seemed a it soap opera-e. However, it pulled off a resounding and positive reaction from me. The episode seemed to take a step back, but only because it was building up steam for a charge forward. Arrow continues to be great and different against all odds and I definitely recommend that you watch it.

Written By: Alexander Handziuk