Aquaman review and Convergence coverage

As an update to my last review, I do want to report that Swamp Thing will have his own Convergence title!  Although I am sure it will be a short lived and limited run. That being said…
   Thank goodness Aquaman is not getting quite the same chop for DC’s upcoming Convergence event. Whew.  Without giving the best parts away I can’t say enough good things about all the character building The New 52 did for Aquaman. He came out of it all smelling like roses. It is no wonder he is going to survive because his popularity is higher than it has ever been before. So I wonder why he is going to survive and Aquaman and the Others is not? That is the one sad twist to this review is the cancellation of that title which I happened to also enjoy very much. It brought even more depth to him as well as a fresh drawing board as far as back stories and aquaman relevant characters. Although the series was short lived I feel like it should have stayed as well and I can almost bet it will make its way back to having its own title sooner or later. It is worth checking out if you ask me.  Obviously the latest solo run has helped his reputation quite a bit as well and I only hope Convergence doesn’t take too much away from what has been established of him thus far.  Although rumor has part of the chop he will receive is he is going to be losing his arm again.. I have collected various Aquaman titles in the past before but never as a whole. I am here to tell you I have every graphic novel of the New 52 run as well as the most current issues.  If you have not checked any of them out do it asap! Geoff Johns kicks off the series and it couldn’t have been a more explosive of a start ! It engaged me through the very in depth writing and the art work is stellar. I have always dug underwater scenes and you can’t get much of a cooler backdrop than Atlantis. 
 
So obviously I have alot of good things to say. Normally I back off from reviewing something I already love since I am bound to merely gush about it through my entire article. However with his New 52 rebirth it almost seems to me like it is a better character than ever before. I always saw the potential but until Geoff Johns stepped I never really felt too many writers actually captured the toughness we all wanted to see out of Aquaman. There was no better super hero for me to emulate as a kid. The lack of general knowledge about him was part of creating a mystery to him that played a large part in the appeal I had for him.  That’s when my curiosity about him started it’s momentum. Essentially what is coming to light with The Convergence event is that he is going to be separated from the ocean itself? His home as well as the source of his strength and powers..  They are shooting for a dark and intense Aquaman.. Did I miss something ? I though the latest Aquaman was dark and intense?  Hell playing his character in the Video game God’s among Us will tell you that much. So I am weary despite his survival it does seem they are re-inventing him again and since I have enjoyed everything about him recently I stand concerned. Now that he is also going to be in the Justice League movie as well as his own movie haven’t they finally mined the moxie out of the character so why the need for change? Aquaman is bigger, badder, darker and better than ever before ! I can’t wait for the movie and Jason Momoa is going to be a great Arthur Curry!! 
 
 
 All this Convergence talks gives me a headache. It is not generating nearly the excitement that the Blackest Night or New 52 did. Of course this has yet to be seen. These are just my initial feelings considering I have thoroughly enjoyed the New 52.  At first glance the new art work for Aquaman it looks a little too cartoonish for me. I always had an affection for Aquaman there was not a super hero that I liked to mimic more than Aquaman while hanging out at the community pool. Now he is poised to be a major hero for the next generation and I couldn’t be more excited. However I am a bit cautious with the constant reinvention of characters. I don’t mind major plot changes but entire character changes is a bit tiresome. I know the next generation of comic book fans will have a lot more info on Aquaman and decidedly they will point him in the direction he is supposed to head.Obviously his movie his bound to generate a lot of new toys and comic titles. People are going to want more of a Aquaman and I only hope DC keeps the quality level up as high up as it has had it for the last several years.   
Hank Van Hawkins
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Obituary for Swamp Thing

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Goodbye Swampy-By Hank Van Hawkins

 Noooooo. So Swampy gets cancelled in March?!! Thanks alot Convergence. Truth be told I am distraught!  By now you have also read this head line. Personally I have refused to believe it.  It has me holding back the current issues of Swampy out of both fear and excitement. So, I have been grappling with this decision for a little while now. Then I decided to write a review about the Justice League Dark where so many of favorite axed characters (Swampy included) are currently residing and working only to discover a few days after posting that article, that it too is getting cancelled ! What is going on ??  DC, are you trying to mirror Marvel’s Disney excesses now? Who knows how long I will be blaming this Convergence event for putting out to pasture some of my favorite titles. I also dislike the choice to cancel Aquaman and the Others, but I will be addressing that in my next article. For all the success that the DC TV shows are breeding, they have also been holding their own with the brevity of many of their current comic book titles. I have no idea why they are throwing out so many babies with the bath water. 
 
  Swamp Thing is by far my favorite title ever and with its most current run, it adds yet another stellar chapter to his history in the comic books as well as further establishing his place in the DC universe. I have never picked up a title or issue of swampy that I wasn’t thrilled and enthralled by. I have too many good things to say to be objective. In fact, that’s why I have never attempted to review it because I love it so much.
I read and heard some rumblings about Swampy being a part of the Convergence, but I have yet to hear the title under which he will now dwell. I’d be delighted if anyone could share this info with me. From the very beginning of the New 52 Swampy has been right on and has been a fantastic vehicle for a slew of awesome writers! I cannot say enough good things about the Rot World arc, because it was a difficult battle for Swampy and he had to call on a lot of friends to eventually get the dirty work done.  I find little fault in Swampy’s adventures, so I had no need to review something I already loved? Yet with the sudden developments I knew I had to do this review/obituary to indeed to not only confess my love for Swamp Thing as well as clearly express my doubts about this so called Convergence event. Which, at first glance appears to be nothing close to the success, mystery, and excitement of the Blackest Night event which accomplished a lot creatively and set the stage pretty solidly for The New 52 relaunch. 
 
 Now this is less of a review and more of an obituary. I also felt the need to share my disgust in a scathing criticism of the current state of affairs with DC. It appears to be somewhat chaotic and scrambling and for what reason? Why is DC compelled to reboot everything ? Personally I think this will work to get the smaller presses and their titles into the hands of readers and comic book lovers. Dark horse has always been  adept at doing so, thus their longevity.  Same with Boom and IDW, because they all have pretty strong rosters these days and I think they will all do even better this year than all the years previously due to all the confusion DC and Marvel have now started to seed on a weekly basis. With big promises and promotions that never really deliver on what they say they will, Over promising and under delivering is bad for any business.  It is a both a compelling and sad state for the big boys of the comic book world however we can never underestimate the power of the little guys that have now an opportunity to by pass up the big boys. Yet on the other hand, we might  have just flown past the current sweet spot comics has been in for a few years now. Alot of that success has been a byproduct of branching out and giving some of the lesser heroes their own titles. Doing so also helps to break in a lot of good writers who would otherwise never have a chance to break in with the big boys.  I also like it when the titles keep it simple. 
Swampy has always kept it simple and straightforward even when juggling different battles in different worlds, all the while sharing the pages with other DC characters. He has never gotten too busy. In fact  Swamp Thing has always been accessible and relate able in any one issue no matter where it happens to be in a particular arc. So it’s sad by all means yet at the same time it seems to be a fertile field this year where the smaller guys are set up to make leaps and bounds over the big boys.  Hopefully this will lead to a breath of fresh air in the comic world while giving birth to some new heroes and new titles.  And until then if you get a chance show Swampy some love by telling DC they are making a huge mistake by removing one of their most iconic, popular, and useful hero’s from their universe. 
 
 -Hank Van Hawkins 

Justice League Dark Review: The devils that you know

Justice League Dark Review Trades 1-4

By Hank Van Hawkins

JUSTLD_Cv20_6n9gwkxwyb_ Well, my last review was of the TV show and DC character Constantine. Strangely enough, he has a huge part in the Justice League Dark. Of course it has only been recently that I have worked through the first 4 graphic novels and I have to say that it is not only a great concept but it is enthralling and very well executed all the way through.  I saved my judgment as well as my excitement until I at least got through the most current graphic novels.  Personally I was at a loss when Deadman and Frankenstein “Agent of Shade” solo titles we’re cancelled early on the New 52. I have always found these two characters enthralling for a number of reasons. After fretting awhile I realized almost immediately that Deadman also has a prominent part in The Justice League Dark! I was excited if just for his membership alone. Suddenly I was upset for not picking this title up sooner. Then as I began to collect and really get into the graphic novels soon enough low and behold Frankenstein has also become part of the Justice League Dark team. Not to mention the fact that my all time favorite Swamp Thing has now made his appearance. I also love the fact that The House of Mystery serves as The Dark League Justice’s defacto headquarters. That is yet another title I always love to see rebooted. 
 
    That all being said, and with unbridled enthusiasm, I totally dove right in and it’s getting pretty safe to say it is one of my new favorite titles now. As always, I had my doubts at first despite having so many favorite characters of mine. Also seeing how I have never really read much of the Justice League title itself because it always seemed to be so busy to me with our heroes constantly coming and going. Yet, now I understand the appeal of a title like Justice League Dark, even though it sounds like an overly busy idea. They keep the story line flowing right along with the character appearances, which are sometimes brief but, always poignant in tying together the stories. I have been introduced to characters I never knew of before as well. It is great how DC has brought together all of these darker more supernatural figures in their universe into one team. This title generates and maintains excitement from issue to issue. I guess one of the cool factors about the regular Justice League title is having so many heroes in one place on one team fighting a common foe. Now with the Justice League dark, the other characters who are not quite heroes can come together on their own as well as with their Justice League counterparts. 
  
JUSTLD_v4-DC-Cv_534dd4e1608ee3.95157135The art work is sharp and the covers of the comic books have been very eye pleasing, which is a large part of their appeal on the newsstand as well. The aesthetics work great and the characters not only fit with one another, they strangely relate easily since they are indeed all outcasts. The directions and liberties they take with my beloved characters is great. A part of the arc has the team getting separated for a bit from one another and the direction it takes is awesome and constantly refreshing. I am a comic reader that so often times will put the book down when it gets to a critical  or exciting point to save the excitement for later.  Despite having the Graphic novel, I still try to read one issue at a time. The action is lightning fast and non-stop and makes it hard to refrain from the issues because the complexity of what is about to happen next. It literally keeps me on the edge of my seat. One could read it so fast, but I choose not to, to savor these moments. I don’t think a title has covered so much ground and brought such engaging characters together like this before. The shadowy grey area between this world and the next is explored in grave detail. It is a very complex title but one that pays off in sure fire adaptions and suspense-holding arcs. I know I am going to sound like a blushing fan boy but this is a serious title that will enthrall readers for years to come. I can’t wait for the movie to hit the big screen either! I can’t wait to see that day. In the mean time I will stay up to date with the comic books. Justice League Dark is a winner.  
 For more about DC comics, stop by DCcomics.com

Gotham- a rebuttal on the criticisms

Gotham

A few words on the criticisms of Gotham

 snitches I felt it was about to time to review the new Television series Gotham on Fox. I wanted to hold back my enthusiasm and try to give a somewhat subjective review of the show and also  not to be in too big of a hurry to either praise or scorn it myself until at least several episodes in.  Also, the reviews I have read online  immediately after each episode have been scathing and very critical so far,  which I find somewhat perturbing. I say that because the TV shows of our comic book characters are going to take different liberties than the comic book.  This is prevalent in any major comic book character that finally hits the live action big screen whether TV, movie or cartoon for that matter.  It gives us yet another angle/story arc of the characters we love.  They should take these liberties and I am glad they do.  

How can you not like that? Much less be super critical of it? There is a method to the madness.   Granted, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But it is a risk and a liberty that I feel must be taken.  ( Side note: case in point personally for me Jonah Hex’s debut on the big screen should have been closer to the comic book character. Because if you ask me in that instance they took way too many liberties and it didn’t work. There is a fine line. )

Hank and Richard discuss some of the criticism about Gotham and discuss their opinions about the show on their podcast SOBS. You can listen here.

  Anyway, the critics are not wrong in saying this, but so far I think the writing on the show has been solid if somewhat sparse. That doesn’t bother me for keeping it less is more is favoring those who may not be familiar with every character or many comic books in general.  The shows and movies are more or less about promoting the comic books. That’s why the Easter eggs have been somewhat obvious.  It is stunning the amount of characters Gotham harbors and always has. It is a critical epicenter in DC’s Universe.  It’s a great idea for a show.  None the less, it is being kept  intriguing week in and week out and I can’t say enough good things about how phenomenal the characters are. I love the casting and every one is doing more than a solid job of filling these characters proverbial comic book shoes. The never ending twists and turns of Gotham’s history  is a fertile field of episodes and outlandish bad guys with their sordid back stories.   

The future of Gotham

Hank likes me, he really likes me
Hank likes me, he really likes me

The future of this show excites me.  I am looking forward to every Monday from now on. The continuity of the stories and characters is closely tied to enticing the viewer’s curiosity.  Making it a easy hook so to speak because  I am known to plead for those folks that are not comicbook geeks to check into shows like Gotham that can give them a glimpse of the magic that is within the pages of comics. It’s a good starter kit and it’s not just a show about when Batman was a kid. I hear that lot. Even if it was, how great is that? Tune in to find out. Basically what I’m saying is that I like to write and review things without giving too much away. Because part of the fun of getting to know a series or a particular arc in a comic book is about coming to know the characters and the details within each one by getting excited  by it and then going out and buying it and having fun reading it for yourself. That is the beauty of reading and lending an open ear to some imaginative wonder that always leads you to wonder a little more about the world that we live in.

Gotham is a very overtly corrupt place, and when you see that candidacy in the show and you can also take a  closer look at the world we live in see the same type of callousness in the very cities and states that we live in.  I’m not saying it’s outright social commentary, but comics have always had their finger on  the pulse of popular culture and I am glad to see them continuing the tradition on TV now. I figure it’s a great master plan to get more people reading comic books again.

What do you think of the Fox hit Gotham?  Leave a comment or let Hank know through the contact form, or even his Facebook page here.

Hank has reviewed several of the DC TV shows. Please follow the links below to read them.

Hank’s Flash Review

Hank writes about Green Arrow

‘The Flash’ on CW review by Hank Van Hawkins

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The FLASH TV show review

  Ok, here I go with another review about a Superhero that not everyone may be so up to date on. I know I wasn’t at all familiar with the Flash short of his appearance in the Justice League movie. He was a super hero that  I never really ever got around to knowing before. Of course alot more attention is being brought to the character thanks to his new CW show. Which I have thoroughly enjoyed and I would have never guessed the endless crime fighting possibilities for the world’s fastest man would be so plentiful and engaging. Just for the record DC is killing it on the TV scene as of late.  Of course it was the TV show that set me up to buy a few issues from my local brick and mortar to further my research for this review in particular.  I was far from disappointed because the comic fed my curiosity as I waited for the next episode to air this week. It also proved to be serendipitous because one of my personal favorites Deadman made an appearance in the comic issue I bought. Which again pushed my curiosity further. The same curiosity that keeps me wanting to find out more not only about the hero himself but all of his battles with his more than formidable enemies.

    The TV show does a stellar job of summing up Barry’s back story in what I consider well timed flash backs much like they do in the Series Arrow. So regardless of where you pick the series up at a back story is sure to be dropped in by some sort of flash back or dream sequence and again the writers are making these moves flawlessly thus far. Barry Allen is a engaging character himself  even before becoming the Flash. His back story is awash with injustice and it is a large part of what propels him to use his powers for good once they are bestowed upon him. With this chip on his shoulder he makes fighting crime look easy as he anxiously awaits the next clue to the mystery of who it was that killed his mother when he was just a child.  Which is well established as his main priority albeit constantly being sidetracked by the constant discovery of Central City’s next rogue meta-human as his first prioritized task at hand.

  A fantastic thrill ride that can be enjoyed by anyone whether you are a comic book nerd or not. I feel like all these TV series DC is doing are a great introduction to heroes you may have never explored before. Watching them on the old boob-tube is a good way to find out if you would enjoy the comics or not.  It’s nice to find out some info before actually purchasing the books. Personally I tend to lean towards the bad guys because it seems that every one of them carries as big a chip on their shoulders as Barry does.  So it always makes for a great episode when another villain is introduced and Barry and his team have to figure out on the fly on how to stop them dead in their tracks. The Flash proves to be very worthy of the mainstream TV audience. Because if main stream TV needs anything it, needs super heroes and it could stand to take more general direction from the world of comic books in doing so.  DC is more than up to the task. It seems that they took enough notes from The Walking Dead’s TV success to try and replicate it for itself and its own heroes. So if you haven’t watched the Flash already I bid that you do so soon!

 

Hank Van Hawkins 

Someone drop a lady? Someone drop a lady?
Someone drop a lady? Someone drop a lady?

Review of Green Arrow-introducing Hank Van Hawkins

One of the many incarnations of Green Arrow.
One of the many incarnations of Green Arrow.

    

Well, I want to start off by saying I love doing reviews and I couldn’t be more excited to take part and share my take on many things creative week in and week out. I am starting off by reviewing The Green Arrow. Not necessarily a particular issue, arc, or the CW TV show. I am reviewing Green Arrow as a whole in general.  That being said, the world of superheroes and comic books is an ever expanding universe and can sometimes overwhelm a newbie or first time reader. Simply sometimes by not knowing where to start or which hero to start with. As for myself ,I have many titles and arcs that speak to me and peak my interest, and they are in turn compelling me to buy the newest issues directly off of the stand every Wednesday. (Of course I will make more notes of these in the future!) So I always say/suggest to go exactly for what you like and what stokes your own curiosity. From a collector’s standpoint maybe it doesn’t have a lot of dollar value per se. But, if you enjoy the story and the art work and it respects and satisfies your curiosity then that is all that really matters, Therefore it is valuable to you and it makes it that much more easier to pass the fascination on down the line to the next generation.

   That being said I am going to review some lesser known and or out of the normal heroes as a whole sometimes, if not only to discover their stories for myself but to help the general comic connoisseur to have as much information about a title/hero (without giving away spoilers of course) before simply buying it blind.

I started my Green Arrow journey by playing his character on Injustice God’s Among us and I totally enjoyed having his skill set at my disposal. I actually won a few battles. Woo hoo! That in itself kindled an interest in the character for me and low and behold, with a trip to the comic shop, I went ahead and thought there was no better place to start than with this year’s Future’s End Green Arrow one shot. I picked it up upon seeing the cool cover art and once I started reading it I was drawn in and immediately wanted more.  Sure Oliver Queen follows DC’s magic formula for super heroes where they take a wealthy man who turns vigilante at night much like their greatest success Bat Man, but that is where the similarities end. It is following the formula, albeit with Green Arrow’s very own sense of identity far removed from Batman. Not to mention a whole other host of foes he ends up coming to blows with.  I can never get enough of the back story of any villan/enemy/arch-nemesis. I find the bad guy’s back story is always fascinating, and The Green Arrow always delivers this in abundance. 

     I also love the wealth of plots and back stories that not only come along with Green Arrow, but his true identity Oliver Queen and his company Queen Industries. It is a fail safe method of always having another source of corruption or criminal influence to keep the character’s battles ongoing and constant, thus giving these characters a long running saga that can carry itself for years on end. I find it very easy to just jump right into the story line regardless of where it is at to the plot or arc as a whole. That is especially so with his TV show Arrow. Which I had never seen at all until this year and I think this is either the third or fourth season. It has been seamless. In fact, if anything, it compels me to go ahead and catch myself up on the previous seasons and episodes I have missed thus far. My fascination keeps pollinating with the more info I get. With the flashbacks and the constant building blocks of the current plot, it’s almost hard to miss the story line, much less the moral to the story. Green Arrow also relies on a staff of others who help him both on location and behind the scenes. Behind every great hero is a whole set of unheralded sidekicks there for support and help. Characters that not only add to the plot but to the legend of The Green Arrow himself. So, I say don’t be scared off by the similarities here. Embrace them if you haven’t already. Green Arrow is a bad ass and I have loved everything I have read, watched, and played so far.  I will continue to do so since it has indeed touched on all the hallmarks of a super hero that appeal to me. 

   Hank Van Hawkins

Co-host for SOBS