Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special #1 Review

                                     Written for and published by Forces of Geek October 2018

Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special #1 | Writer: Mark Russell | Artist: Rick Leonardi | Publisher: DC Comics

An image of the KKK waving hello to Huckleberry Hound as they drive by his house on a Mississippi evening utterly conveys the edgier settings of the critically acclaimed Hanna-Barbera/DC Comics one-shot crossovers.

Set against the turbulent backdrop of the early 1970’s, John Stewart, a rookie in the Green Lantern Corps goes home to Earth where the political upheaval of the Vietnam War and the violence of the Civil Rights movement confronts him at every turn.

Many of us have probably wished at some point in our lives for a superhero to leap out of the comics and fix the world’s problems.

Russell examines the pros and cons of this real-world scenario as for whether Stewart, who wields the most powerful weapon in the universe should use it to stop racial atrocities.

The narrative uses a struggling Huckleberry Hound as the voice that is begging for the power ring to be used, while other plot elements argue the opposite.

Stewart’s struggle to resist smacking down those who worship evil’s might is what brings everything together to produce an entertaining and provocative story. Artwork checks all of the boxes and makes excellent use of expressive character work to convey what word balloons can’t.

It can be hard to take these one-shot comics seriously because the Hanna-Barbera side of things is a far cry from what we used to know. Putting that aside makes a pairing such as Green Lantern and Huckleberry Hound an exceptional way to approach serious issues without trivializing them while using a unique hook to provide enough of the escapism readers look for in comic books.

Rating: A-

Border Town #1 Review

Written for and published by Forces of Geek September 2018

BORDER TOWN #1 | Writer: Eric M. Esquivel Illustrations: Ramon Villalobos | Publisher: Vertigo 

What if your town has a problem with otherworldly monsters, only to bring upon its victims a most gruesome death?

Think about it long and hard.

Now, imagine the cause of that problem being blamed on those “dang illegals” because isn’t everything their fault?

Racial tensions with a supernatural twist ushers in the ongoing weirdness that ensues in Border Town’s setting of Devil’s Fork, AZ.

Part social commentary and part horror story leaves the subtlety at home as writer Eric Esquivel delivers a hyperbolic memoir of his teenage years in Arizona.

The story is told primarily through the lens of a bi-racial Mexican/Irish teen, Francisco Dominguez, who goes by Frank.

Frank is the new kid in school and finds himself in trouble rather quickly due to the complicated relationship he has with his ethnicity.

Being biracial is not as simple as some may believe. Speaking as a biracial African/Irish person, some might feel consumed by the world at large. Society will look at someone in one light while the individual will see themselves in another. Along with his straight hair, Frank’s completion is light enough where he passes as Caucasian until the other half of his ethnicity is revealed.

From there on, his confrontation with a skinhead automatically makes him one hundred percent Mexican. Socially speaking, it’s hard not to have a say in your own ethnicity. In this maiden voyage, however, Frank seems to take it in stride. We meet Frank’s new friends including…well, imagine if Sloth from The Goonies was a masked luchador.

Political themes woven with the narrative’s eerie setting is unapologetic with its staunch conveyance. “Make America Great Again” is vigorously uttered by some Alt-right types while the tear in space and time that allows the monsters to invade our world is literally on the Mexican/American border.

That is the kind of irony that slaps you right in the face.

“What kind of Mexican is that?” asks a border patrol agent, in reaction to a sombrero-wearing, green hulking monster, which encapsulates Ramon Villalobos’ esthetic throughout the book. The style of illustration perfectly matches the story. The color palette of warm orange skies and peaceful desert landscapes highlights the beauty atop the abhorrent nature of things. Some would say this is the perfect way to describe Arizona today considering the state’s political climate.

Vertigo titles tend to make readers think more than your average cape and cowl book. Eric M. Esquivel’s script is as thought-provoking as it is ludicrous.

Observations, winks, nods, bloody imagery along with fun and insightful character development serves as a reminder that everyone has their fight in these politically charged times. Despite the very real message, it’s the ridiculous chronicle of events in this first issue that takes center stage. A skeleton monster demonically screaming, “…you fucked up!” made me wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into…and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Rating B+

Christopher Robin: Review

 

When I was seven years old, I had a heartfelt conversation with my Mom at the dinner table. I told her I didn’t want to grow up with tears in my eyes and that I always wanted to be a kid. The idea of not being able to play anymore made me sad.

Disney’s newest entry into their live-action adaptations, Christopher Robin is a 104-minute reminder that growing up is hard; however, taking time to smell the roses is necessary. Continue reading “Christopher Robin: Review”

Toy Masters: Review

Christmas of 1985 is one of my fondest childhood memories. Not only is it the first holiday that I can remember, but the cornucopia of presents under the tree were comprised of Masters of the Universe toys. Man-E-Faces, Hordak, Roboto, Mantenna, Leech, Mekaneck, Beast Man, Horde Trooper, Grizzlor, Spikor, and my Dad’s favorite, Stinkor. Even with the overwhelming roster of bad guys in the collection, Santa Claus had orientated me on all things, He-Man. So I naturally gravitated towards the first ever feature-length documentary on the most pivotal aspects of the He-Man franchise.

When watching Toy Masters, it’s apparent right from the start that the subject matter is a labor of love for filmmakers Roger Lay Jr. and Corey Landis. Their experience with the Power of Grayskull inspired the journey to document the origin of the phenomenon that inspired a generation. However, this fun-filled childhood adventure that generated billions of dollars comes with a 30-year battle for credit over He-Man’s creation.

Right off the bat, there is no simple answer to who deserves the credit for creating He-Man. That doesn’t stop Lay and Landis from digging to find one clear answer. Most documentaries eventually discover the mastermind behind the curtain. However, every comment, explanation, denial and/or exhibit of proof to substantiate a particular claim of creation makes a strong case that the sum of its parts is greater than the whole.

This revelation forces the film to shift its exploratory tone from finding the creator to discovering who fashioned each facet of the operation that made the franchise a massive success. Of course, all while holding out hope that a sole proprietor will be revealed.

Preliminary designer Roger Sweet believes his creation of the initial prototype figures birthed all things Eternia while production design artist Mark Taylor believes his He-Man style drawing four years before the toy line was launched spawned Masters of the Universe. Paul Cleveland, a former vice president of marketing at Mattel, believes that what he brought to the table makes him the inventor of the property.

Roger Sweet

Everyone that lays claim to the sword of power makes a good case for themselves. Then you have Roger Sweet, who presents solid facts weaved with what sounds to be head-scratching fiction. The documentary doesn’t imminently jump on what was probably a tempting opportunity to cast Roger in the light of the film’s villain/outcast.

Roger was given every opportunity to respond to any claims against him and clear up contradictions in his story. Unfortunately, he goes down the rabbit hole of negativity while making some crazy demands that make it impossible not to look at him as a quack that rules him out as the man responsible for the Thunder Punch He-Man I got for my 7th birthday.

The original 80’s Filmation cartoon, the critically panned 1987 motion picture starring Dolph Lundgren, the loathed and short-lived The New Adventures of He-Man animated series and the acclaimed 2002 reboot are all examined with everyone pointing to one principal antagonist…Mattel. Their final say over all forms of production being driven by toy sales revealed a permeating stench of greed, inevitably dooming the franchise at every turn.

The Filmation crew really had a passion for creating a quality show and believed MOTU was that show. However, being forced to put more emphasis on the Bashasaurus toy vehicle being released as opposed to the story ultimately produced a lack of quality control on all fronts. Mattel doesn’t comment on the matter, and wisely so on their part. Any carefully crafted statement could inadvertently open the door to a fleet of lawsuits and massive payouts.

Despite the enormous ground that the film covers, Toy Masters is aptly named because it was the toys that drove all things, He-Man. Lay and Landis do an efficient job of detailing the facts and accounts while never losing sight of the task of discovering a creator, even with some detours along the way. While we don’t get one definitive answer, we do get several admissions of contribution that takes the viewer on a journey within a journey, which is equally as satisfying. Truth tends to be stranger than the fictional adventures of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

 

***Reportedly, problems behind the scenes along with the release of the Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, has stalled out the release of Toy Masters. The movie was sporadically screened at various film festivals and pop culture conventions, beginning at 2012, with the intent of a hyping a future full release.

I saw the movie a year ago, and my review was shelved since the release of the film was pushed back once again. After making some of my inquiries on the matter, all roads point to the Toy Masters being locked in the toy box, permanently 

Speaking as a lifelong Masters of the Universe fan, it’s a real shame that Toy Masters will apparently never get the audience and recognition it deserves. Publishing my review is my own small way of paying tribute to a lost labor of love.***

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story tells the tale of a young Han Solo who finds his footing as a smuggler in the midst of a journey that includes friendship, betrayal, and adventure. Solo is a fun ride that connects outside cannon material (books, animated series, and comics) more than any other Star Wars film to date. Still, despite all the positives, the negatives weigh the movie down past the point of no return.  Continue reading “Solo: A Star Wars Story – Review”

UFC 225: Whittaker vs. Romero II Review

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Photo by Esther Lin of MMAFighting.com

Over the last couple of years, I have found MMA, and more specifically, the UFC to be a complete bore. The lack of stars and divisional relevance along with the oversaturation of events has made the majority of the fights a standard affair as opposed to something special. That all changes, at least for one night, as UFC 225 from the United Center in Chicago, produced meaningful fights from top to bottom. Continue reading “UFC 225: Whittaker vs. Romero II Review”

Will Thanos Deliver in Infinity War?

Ten years and eighteen movies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have led us to the moment fans have been waiting for as Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters this weekend.

The trailers have revealed glimpses of all-out war, hence the title, along with the powerful infinity stones and the big purple bad guy who has been the looming threat over everything that has occurred in the MCU. Thanos is coming, and he is the ultimate evil in the universe.

However, Marvel has only produced a small handful of compelling antagonists. That can’t happen with the extraterrestrial warlord; Thanos needs to be the villain of the ages.

The entire column is up at Forces of Geek.com

Does Krypton Soar?

Krypton debuted on the SYFY channel this week with a family story where the past and the present collide to dictate the future. Superman’s grandfather, Seg-El, learns of an impending threat to destroy Krypton, all to prevent the birth of his future grandson.

When I first learned of this new series, I wondered if it would only appeal to die-hard Superman fans.

I’m a die-hard Superman fan, so that wouldn’t bother me. However, for this show to succeed long-term, it can’t just rest on the laurels of its mythology.

Continue reading “Does Krypton Soar?”

Retrospective of The Last Jedi

I absolutely loved The Last Jedi. I saw it three times in the theater, and I’m going to buy it on Blu-ray next week. I listened to the audiobook of The Last Jedi, which expands the film’s narrative. I didn’t like it, and you can click here to read my review.

One thing that listening to the audiobook did was cement my stance on the film’s most divisive moments. I understand why some people are disappointed with the finished product. However, after two years of rampant fan speculation and there are still unanswered questions.

Let’s discuss the most divisive moments of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Continue reading “Retrospective of The Last Jedi”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Non-Spoiler Review)

A distressed Luke Skywalker’s words of warning to an unwavering Rey: “This is not going to go the way you think” impeccably sets the tone for the Rian Johnson-helmed Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Stunning visuals, a fantastic story augmented by old, returning, and new characters, along with a plethora of impactful moments, hurl the audience on a journey that they will never forget, regardless of how they feel about the film.

Continue reading “Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Non-Spoiler Review)”