Friday, January 30, 2015

X-Men Casting Questions, Part Deux

As you may have heard, there were three additions to the cast of the next X-Men film, Age of Apocalypse.  While Michael Fasbender, James MacAvoy and Jennnifer Lawrence will return as Magneto, Prof. Xavier, and Mystique, the roles of Jean Grey, Storm, and Cyclops are being filled with new faces. Grey will be played by Sophie Turner. Storm by Alexandra Shipp, and Cyclops by Tye Sheridan.  The casting of Storm has been met with the most consternation.  For one Shipp looks like this:

and is being cast to play Storm, who looks like this:


 Now the obvious logic here is that director Bryan Singer is going for a younger Halle Berry by casting Shipp, but that of course brings back the original disdain people had with Berry being cast originally.  Berry, of course, looks nothing like the character as she's drawn in the comic books.  The other problem a lot of people have is that Shipp isn't considered a good actress right now.  Her most recent role was starring in a universally panned biopic of the late pop star Aaliyah, in which her own performance was dumped on as much as the movie itself.  If you're a fan of Storm, which most people who are X-Men fans are, then this was an extra punch to the gut to go along with the one you got 15 years ago.  Do I understand?  Sure.  But........a few things:

  • These movies are their own thing.  The famed Claremont/Byrne print run is not going to be represented on film, and neither is the 1990s cartoon series.  Those are probably the two most beloved runs for the X-Men in either medium, and barring some major changes we're not going to get those on the big screen.  (The irony of ironies of course is that the cartoon series took a boatload of liberties from the print material and yet there are people who love them both)  These movies are almost more like science fiction films that feature the X-Men characters than actual X-Men films.  Singer and company have chosen to go their own way.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  If you've stuck with the movies this long, then you've probably accepted that.

  • Storm, Cyclops, and Jean aren't going to factor into the story much.  The X-Men movies are four character shows and those characters are Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, and Wolverine.  That won't ben changing either seeing as how three of the four actors are big time A-listers now.  You can count on each movie focusing on the Xavier/Magneto relationship with a major plot thread for both Mystique and Wolverine.  Everyone else is a role player.  Now of course that's going to cause a disjointed story seeing as how Cyclops is the leader of the X-Men and all, but that's what they're going to do.  With that in mind it makes sense to not put much diligence into casting anyone outside the big four.  They'll probably have a few lines each and a bunch of special effects laden action scenes.  Whether or not that's a good or bad thing probably won't be known until we actually see the movie.
So why do they continue to take such big detours from either of the forms that fans would accept the most?  Well, that's pretty easy to explain.  Here it is:

That's the worldwide gross of X-Men: Days of Future Past.  It also has an 8.1 rating on  And that's following a $353 worldwide gross for X-Men: First Class.  So they doubled up from one movie to the next, which means that people like what they're doing so they're going to keep doing it.  It's no different than the Transformers films; they have a formula and it's working so they're going to ride it until it doesn't .  If you don't like what they're doing the only thing you can really do it tap out and stay away.  Your move.

It's never organic

So here we are almost a week later and the fans ire over Roman Reigns Royal Rumble victory and seemingly inevitable WrestleMania victory over Brock Lesnar has not died down.  I've already talked about this some but I feel the need to address one more part of this.  The organic part.  What am I talking about?  Well, one of the main arguments people have had against Reigns push was that it's been forced on them as opposed to more organic ascensions like those of icons past.  And I just have to call bs on that.  Very little of what goes on in the entertainment world is organic, and last year's fan revolt that put Daniel Bryan over the top was an exception, not the rule.  No matter how hard you cheer at a pay per view or house show, you're still rooting for someone who was put in front of you by.....wait for it........Vince McMahon.  Must I run through the list of WWF/WWE top dogs to set you straight?  Apparently so, so here it is.

Hulk Hogan was already over based on his look and natural charisma, and he had name recognition beyond the wrestling world thanks to his cameo in Rocky III as Thunderlips, then he came back to McMahon's company right when he was looking to expand nationally.  That push was happening no matter what anybody said, and given that Verne Gagne had the chance to make the exact same move a year earlier and opted to stop short of putting AWA belt on him, it's pretty clear that Hogan embodied what promoters were looking for at the time and was not rising because some cool kid faction of fans pushed for it.  The character of Stone Cold Steve Austin was pitched at a time when the WWF was getting pounded by WCW on Monday nights and Vince needed a Hail Mary pass to get back in the race. The persona fit perfectly with the direction Vince was going to take the company in with the Attitude Era so it was Vince McMahon.  When Rocky Maivia did not get over a decision was made to embrace the hatred being shown by the fans and go with it.  That decision was made in a board room by Vince McMahon before any fans were clamoring for it. 

What am I getting at here?  Basically, that these decisions about who does and doesn't become a big star are rarely made in the stands, or blog posts or message boards.  There was no golden age of star picking.  The people in charge make decisions based on what they think will work, and that's based on history and sales figures.  I remember how many people were happy when Hulk Hogan lost to the Ultimate Warrior because we finally had a face champion other than Hogan, and how half of those happy people didn't support their new champion like they did the man he beat.  I remember how Bret Hart, and then Diesel and then Shawn Michaels did not draw well as champions even though it was supposed to be so great to have workers who could do more than punches, bodyslams, and a legdrop at the top.  I bet Vince McMahon remembers that too, and that colors any decision made about one Daniel Bryan just like it did with Punk.

Look, I get it.  You like Bryan more than Reigns, and you want Bryan to get a title run that explores every possible angle more than any coronation of the next Superman.  But that just isn't how the business works.  The men at the top want Superman.  It's easier to book Superman vs a parade of bad guys than the little engine that could, and Superman will always have the potential to branch out into mainstream entertainment and raise the overall profile of the company.  Daniel Bryan is never doing that, sorry.  Vince McMahon has always seen himself as a competitor to Disney, not some other wrestling company.  That was true whether the opposition was Jim Crockett, Verne Gagne, or Ted Turner, and it's true today.  Same as it ever was.

Monday, January 26, 2015

(Some) WWE Fans are stupid

Get over yourselves already

Things took a real turn for the stupid in the hours following the Royal Rumble.  It's one thing to not like the choice of Roman Reigns to win the Rumble, and you're more than entitled to boo if you're in the building.  But blocking people from getting to their cars after they worked their butts off to entertain you because you don't like the way the show they worked was written?  That's a bush league move at best.  And trying to drop your WWE Network subscription is even more stupid.  As much as I believe the booking for the Rumble match was bad I was still entertained by the show.  And that's pretty much what matters.  It's a show, not life or death.  It's not your job, where someone you didn't want getting a promotion might end up costing you money or advancement.  It's not like you applied for college or a loan and got turned down so someone you think is less deserving could get it.  Do you react this way with everything else you watch on TV or in a movie?  If you wanted Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia to get together would you have turned off the movie and never watched a Star Wars flick again after it was revealed they were siblings?    Did you leave your parents house never to return when you were 12 if they didn't buy you something you wanted?  I'm betting the answer to both is no.  You don't always get the story result you want, but what matters is that the story or the show entertains you. 

Let me take you back to the late 80s NWA.  A lot of fans wanted for Lex Luger to beat Ric Flair for the championship, and it never happened.  They didn't like it then, but years later it would all be explained.  Luger wasn't a good enough worker to be the champ and have to go night in and night out against all kinds of opponents.  Flair made him look great in their matches but being champ means you have to be the one to make people look great and Luger wasn't up to that.  Another example I'll give you is Sid Vicious, or Psycho Sid to WWE fans.  Sid was an impressive physical specimen, and as a result there was constant clamoring for him to be put at the top of the card and challenge for big things.  It never happened; Sid was constantly put in tag team matches or quick squashes and didn't get much of a chance to do anything in WCW.  Again, we found out later why that was.  When he did get to work some big solo matches in the WWF later on.....he was terrible unless he had Shawn Michaels to bump and sell for him.  Try watching Sid vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 13; if you think Roman Reigns is a bad in ring worker, you clearly have not had the full Sid Vicious/Psycho Sid experience.  In either case had the fans gotten what they wanted the results wouldn't have been so good.


Now the situation with Daniel Bryan is different.  In Bryan's case it is really just upper management (aka Vince McMahon) not feeling he is up to the standard of being Face of the Company.  He wants, and has always wanted somebody like.....Roman Reigns.  It's why he never really committed to Bret Hart or Michaels after Hulk Hogan was done, and why there were the constant attempts to go with Luger or Diesel during that time.  It's why he's clung to John Cena and didn't want to go all in with CM Punk.  It is what it is.  He could very well be making the wrong choice, but that doesn't warrant a full on abandonment by the fanbase.  If you like wrestling, and want to see the best overall product, then you have one option: the WWE.  Now if your issue is that it's not as good as it was back in the day then I've got news for you.  Go watch some WWF TV from the 1980s.  And if you're talking about the vaunted Attitude Era, if you haven't dumped your subscription yet go watch some of those awesome RAW episodes from back then.  Watch Mae Young give birth to a hand.  Go watch the Val Venis vignettes or the Oddities or the payoff to the Higher Power angle.  Watch Vince and company botch what could have been the easiest money making storyline ever - the Invasion. The good old days weren't always so good, folks.

Now that doesn't excuse the awful booking of the Rumble match on this year's show.  The fan favorites were all buried early except for Dean Ambrose and even he got dumped quickly when it got down to the final four.  There's no reason to waste two final four spots on Kane and Big Show.  Bryan shouldn't have come in at number 10 just to get dumped less than 20 minutes later.  Ziggler shouldn't have been held until number 30.  No reason to even have Curtis Axel come out just to get jumped by Luke Harper.  No point in having a faux elimination for Rusev just so he can get tossed at the end anyway.  Why even bother with Titus O'Neil?  But one badly booked match doesn't mean you throw the baby out with the bath water.  We watch this stuff to be entertained, and that doesn't always mean it's going to get written the way you want it to.  Sometimes it will be written badly.  My other big subjects on the blog here, comics and movies are perfect examples.  When a bad comic book movie gets made we don't stop asking for more.  Same with a bad issue of a comic series or a bad video game.  We don't stop listening to music because of a few bad releases or because an artist we don't personally like gets blown up.  So just pipe down a little.  You can protest by not watching WrestleMania if they don't make changes, but getting out entirely is a bit much.

Royal Rumble Recap - Oh Boy We Have a Problem

Roman Reigns celebrates his 2015 Royal Rumble Match victory.

Royal Rumble is in the books, and for the second year in a row the live crowd was not feeling the end result.  Roman Reigns did not get booed as badly as Batista did last year but he did hear it from a house that wanted Daniel Bryan to take the victory here.  And to make matters worse, Bryan came in and got tossed pretty early and once that happened the boos began to come down.  Then later on the two other guys who they could have lived with, Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose, got tossed.  When Ambrose got eliminated leaving Reigns with no-hopers Kane and Big Show it was clear what the end would be and the fans reacted accordingly.  It's not Reigns fault and he's been put in a real bad spot.  Bryan never got to see his run as champ come to any meaningful conclusion due to his injuries, and the fans wanted to get the win at the Rumble then WrestleMania so he could get that chance.  But clearly, Vince McMahon had other ideas.  My guess is that he didn't see repeating last year's finish with a man he doesn't want on top anyway as the right way to go.  When I watched the Rumble and how it shook out, I didn't think of Vince McMahon.  No, I thought of this guy:

Yes, Eric Bischoff.  Why?  Because of the way the internet fan darlings got treated.  Bischoff coined the term 'Vanilla Midgets' to denigrate certain WCW wrestlers who'd developed a pretty strong following but weren't his guys, and parked them all in the midcard without letting any of them so much as sniff a main event.  You may have heard of some of these guys; the midgets were none other than Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guererro, and a few others like Dean Malenko.  And no matter how they got themselves over in the ring or on the mic they all hit a glass ceiling.  The modern equivalents of this are Dolph Ziggler, Bryan, and it looks like Dean Ambrose.  Ziggler gets jerked around with the Intercontinental Title and usually takes an L if he's put in with a big name.  Ambrose blew up last summer but has jobbed on pay per view shows to Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt for four straight.  And Bryan, despite his successes, seems to get slapped down whenever McMahon feels he can get away with it.  Last night was no different.  Bryan came in at number 10 and wasn't around long.  Ziggler came in at number 30 but was gone in about 10 minutes.  And Ambrose made it to the final four but was the first one to go.  Reigns on the other hand is the guy who was anointed by Vince a year ago and by god he's going to make it happen by hook or by crook. So now we're looking at a potential repeat of the run up to last year's WrestleMania where the presumptive challenger to the tile is someone the fans just flat out don't want

All that being said, the show was a good one.  The pre-show tag team match and the tag team title matches were good.  The Divas tag team match wasn't bad, and the Triple Threat WWE World Championship match was freaking awesome.  Seth Rollins certified himself as a main event in ring talent last night, and the flying elbow onto Brock Lesnar on the table followed by the Phoenix splash onto Cena in the ring were two of the craziest spots I've seen in a long time.  That match alone was worth whatever you paid for it, the $9.99 monthly fee for the Network or the pay per view price.  That match is why you watch wrestling in the first place and should not be negated because you didn't get the Royal Rumble winner you wanted.  I'm sorry but I refuse to go on a "I hate Vince McMahon...I'm done!" rant after seeing that title match.  They have two months to turn WrestleMania into something all the boo-birds want to see, and guessing they will one way or another.  If you can't bring yourself to soak in he awesomeness of that Phoenix splash from Seth Rollins then I don't know what to tell you.  That doesn't mean you should accept the result of the final match going forward, though.  By all means make your voices heard and get it changed.  Hey, it worked last year.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Marvel Reboot Time!


The big news coming out of Marvel yesterday was that everything ends this Spring.  The 616 Universe, the Ultimate Universe, all the other alternate universes.....gone.  OK, actually merged together, not gone.  The Secret Wars event starting in a few months will be the culmination of the Time Runs Out arc running through the Avengers and New Avengers series, where worlds are being sacrificed in something called an Incursion in order to save the main earth in the 616 universe.  The final incursion will occur between the 616 Earth and the Ultimate Earth and then it's on to Secret Wars, where everyone that's going to exist afterward (and at least one or two token sacrificial lambs) will make it to Battleworld and duke it out.  For all intents and purposes this is Crisis on Infinite Marvel Earths.  When it's over, bad plot turns will have been erased by way of retcon, some of the cooler more recent characters will get a chance to shine in the new, singular Marvel Universe (I'm talking about you, Miles Morales and alternate world Gwen Stacy), and there will probably be at least one resurrection (prime candidates are the soon-to-be killed off Deadpool, Charles Xavier, and that guy they killed off last year....I think his name is Wolverine). 

The reaction I've seen so far is mixed.  Some are excited and ready for what the event could bring, but others are having a similar reaction to the one DC received from a lot of longtime readers when they launched the New 52.  Marvel has already been catching heat from readers and collectors over their annoying habit of making new number one issues for series that weren't even being cancelled, and now EVERYTHING could possibly start over with a new number one, save the handful of series that just started within the last few months.  Let me tell you, that sucks.  A lot of people who were close to fed up over the new number one issues situation are claiming that they're done with Marvel over this.  Marvel is likely gambling that the new start will bring in new readers similar to how the New 52 brought people like me in because there was a recent jumping in point.  With the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe there is a pool of thousands of potential new customers to reel in and there are characters whose existing series have grown in popularity because of the MCU (Black Widow, Guardians of the Galaxy) or are about to get an MCU close up (Ant-Man) and have the chance to catch fire with a new title. 

As someone who is more reader than collector, the only thing that ultimately matters is good stories.  There are a few things I hope do or do not happen, though.  I really hope they keep the tie-ins and crossovers to a minimum.  That's beyond wishful thinking, of course, but there are only so many books one can buy and read.  Second, I hope they don't undo all of the new developments that happened last year.  We all know that it's only a matter of time before Wolverine is alive again, Steve Rogers is Captain America again, and the hammer is back in the hands of Odin's son.  But seeing as how those things just changed late last year it would really suck for them to get undone in mere months time.  And lastly, let's hold off on the resurrections, ok?  We know Wolverine will be back either during this event or shortly after by way of something that happens during it.  But please, no bringing back Uncle Ben or Professor Xavier for that matter.  Those deaths are crucial parts of Marvel lore and would be stupid too undo now just because you can. 

All in all, this should be pretty damn interesting.  Even though I'm more of a DC guy, I will more than likely be checking this out.  Marvel has a really good chance to polish off their current continuity and kick off a new one in pretty spectacular fashion.  We'll see how it goes.

Monday, January 19, 2015

New Day for Star Wars


The pictures in this post are a few of the variant covers from the Star Wars comic series that Marvel kicked off last week.  And while the new movie doesn't drop until this December it's safe to say that the Star Wars phenomenon is back, alive, and well.  Judging by the first issue, the comic series will be a good one; Marvel employed one of their best storytellers in Jason Aaron to work on it so they're serious about making a good comic and not just something to capitalize off of their parent company (Disney) owning the source material.  So now the first two steps in the revival (the Rebels cartoon series and the comic) have come off well, and only the worst naysayers aren't waiting with bated breath for Episode VII to hit the theaters.  And we have one person to thank for all of this: the man who gave it to us 37 years ago, George Lucas.  Why him?  Because he did the only other thing he could for all of us Star Wars fanatics:  He got out.  That's right, I'm glad he got out and you should be too.  Because quite frankly, if the franchise was going to have any further life it had to be without him at the helm.  That may sound harsh but it's the truth.

I remember when Episode I came out in 1999.  I remember going to the theater, ready for the next chapter in the first series I loved as a child.  I left the theater underwhelmed.  Now I tried valiantly to defend it against all the people who unloaded their disgust on Lucas' work, but ove r time and after repeat viewings the awfulness of the dialogue, the acting, and Jar Jar Binks was no longer deniable.  Episode II had a better story, but the painful dialogue remained.  By the time Episode III rolled around I was just hoping for a decent ending to it all.  Thankfully, Episode III mostly delivered on the initial promise of the prequels.  With the end in sight and less need for backstory most of what made the first difficult to watch was kept to a minimum.  But I don't think it's a reach to say that there weren't a lot of people walking out of the theater after Episode III ended saying 'Bring on Episode VII! We need to see what happened after the Empire fell!'  After three movies with Lucas fully at the helm it was pretty clear what that meant.  Awesome special effects, great visuals, great action scenes, a good enough overall story, painful dialogue, and wooden acting.  The plusses enticed you but the minuses scared you away.

The next big project that came from Lucasfilm was the Clone Wars animated series.  It was excellent, and no doubt much of that was because Lucas was directly involved in the creative process.  The Clone Wars series was what we were hoping for from the prequels, and that was both a boon and a punch to the gut.  Even though I have the entire series I haven't watched it all because I really wish they could have done that instead of the films that we got.  Then a few years later the announcement came that Lucas was selling it all to Disney.  While some didn't like it I was ecstatic.  Disney is about good storytelling and using good storytelling to maximize their income.  I knew they were going to put good people on any future endeavors because that's the best way to make the most money.  Done right, Star Wars is a printing press even after the so so taste the prequels left in our mouths.  But it was clear that Lucas wasn't going to do it right.  He remains a master of visuals but has not business writing a script or directing a film.  Under his direction a star studded cast of Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jimmy Smits sounded like they were reading off of cue cards with tips like "show some emotion here" written in parentheses before their lines.  And don't get me started on Hayden Christiansen's emo Anakin Skywalker.

Now after all the Lucas bashing let me say this.  I am eternally grateful to George Lucas for giving us Star Wars.  Going to the movie theater to see that on the big screen when I was all of three years old changed my life.  But I am equally grateful that he felt comfortable enough to hand things over so that some new stories can be told.  Lucas is a pioneer in special effects and  through his production company changed the way movies are made.  The things we take granted in science fiction/fantasy films today would not be there without his work.  Being a not so good director or script writer does not nullify all of that.  But it does mean that, at this point, the product is better without his involvement.  So bring on Episode VII, more comics, and more animation. The foundation that he laid is ready to be built on and taken to a new level. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

We're number one! (Again and again)

We have numbers in for the top selling issues of comic books for last year.  Marvvel dominated the top ten, and in from a character standpoint it was once again a Spider-Man/Batman year.  But there's something else that you hear about in chat rooms, Facebook rooms and the like that is driving a lot of reader and collectors nuts: the preponderance of number one issues.


By my rough count 29 of the top 100 were #1's of some kind (series starts/re-starts, first issues of special event series, or special one-shots), and 100 out of the top 500.  One-shots are no big deal, and new series starting are actually a good thing since it's bringing in some new material.  But the re-starts of existing series are nerve-wracking.  Marvel was the egregious here - in 2014 we got #1's from the following long established character and titles:

  • Amazing Spider-Man
  • Thor
  • Spider-Woman
  • Wolverine
  • Hulk
  • Daredevil
  • Silver Surfer
  • Fantastic Four
  • The Punisher
I really hope this doesn't become a thing, but it looks like it will be.  DC re-started Suicide Squad and Teen Titans almost immediately after "series ending" issues.  Now in both cases there were new directions taken and new creative teams coming onboard, but they recently switched teams and tones on Batgirl and Green Arrow without starting over with new number one issues.  I just don't find it necessary to start all over with a new number one issue unless you're doing a full-on New 52 style reboot of everything.   Of course the real reason to do these new number one issues involves a different kind of number:  sales.


Like I said at the top, number one issues make up a major chunk of the top selling issues.  Whether it's a new series or the next chapter in an existing one, a number one issue always gets more attention and often sells well.  But if you're a serious collector it flat out sucks.  The one argument I'm sympathetic towards when it comes to people bashing the New 52 is that the long running legacy titles (Batman, Superman, Detective Comics, and Action Comics) could and should have been continued with their existing numbering.  Every time you start over with a new number one it devalues the previous number ones.  For collectors who put real time and effort into putting together a collection of a series it's a real deflater.  Unfortunately the only way to put an end to the practice is to stop buying these number ones, and as the sales numbers show that's not going to happen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How I saw Randy Savage

If you were watching RAW Monday night you saw the announcement that Randy "Macho Man" Savage would be posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  You saw several WWE wrestlers pay tribute by giving their version of Savage's trademark "Ohhh Yeahhh!"  And you may have seen Savage as a member of the NWO in the late 90s.  But if you weren't watching back during the 80s, you just have no idea how great he was.  So what did Randy Savage mean to people like me?  If you started watching wrestling during the Monday Night Wars and the Attitude Era, you really have no idea.  By that point Savage was living off his name more than his current in ring work.  If you really want to see what he was about you need to go back to 1985, when he first landed in the WWF after leaving Jerry Lawler’s Memphis territory.  In the ring he was captivating.  It was hard for 11 year old me to tell whether he was a good guy or bad guy because the reactions he got were that favorable.  His matches on the Saturday morning shows, which were chock full of squash matches against professional jobbers with promos for house shows in between, were the highlight of the show.  The top dogs at the time (Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant) did not wrestle on these shows so an appearance by someone with the in ring repertoire of Savage was must-see TV.  Vince McMahon and his top men knew they had something special because they put him in main events against Hogan for the title within months of his arrival and put the number two belt, the Intercontinental Title, on him after he’d been around for just eight months. 

The way he came out of those matches with Hogan was pretty telling.  Save Roddy Piper, Hogan’s opponents usually went out like action movie villains in that by the end of the program they were vanquished in such fashion that there wasn’t any real desire to see them challenge for the belt again.  Not so with Savage; he came out smelling like roses to such an extent that some fans actually preferred him as a performer.  And this was in 1986 at the height of Hulkamania, not 1991 when it was on its last legs.  It was like a guest rapper or duet partner outshining the main artist in a performance, and part of the audience wanting them to stay on while the star exited stage left.  For the next few months he carried George “The Animal” Steele, a comedy act and rudimentary performer at best, to some decent matches for the I-C title before striking gold in a program with another great in-ring worker, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.  The two put on an epic series of matches culminating in a show stealer at WrestleMania III that outshone the once in a lifetime main event of Hogan vs Andre the Giant.  For fans of good technical wrestling, Savage was a breath of fresh air compared to the majority of the WWF roster. 

When Savage turned good guy in late 1987, he again brushed up against the threshold of being as popular as Hogan, and it was proven when he was chosen to win the WWF Championship at WrestleMania IV in order for the company to have a champion while Hogan was off shooting a movie.  But from there, it was largely downhill.  Unlike 11 year old me, 14 year old me was able to discern pretty quickly that Savage’s title win was a set up for Hogan to get the title back at WrestleMania V the following year.  For all intents and purposes he was a high level plot device in the ongoing Hogan story.  When the two formed the tag team the Mega Powers it was fairly obvious that Savage would turn on Hogan in time to set up a big match at WrestleMania V.  Once that was done, he would reach those heights again.  He spent the year after WrestleMania V losing rematches to Hogan while winning the Crown, a pseudo-title the company made up largely to have something else to have contested in matches that didn't involve the World or I-C titles.  Under the moniker Macho King he spent whatever days he wasn't busy jobbing to Hogan carrying limited and/or older workers like Hacksaw Duggan and Dusty Rhodes in the main event of B-level live shows.  A seemingly final program with the Ultimate Warrior saw him carry another limited worker to some great matches culminating in a loss in a retirement match at WrestleMania VII.  

There was a last WWF hurrah of sorts when he came out of retirement to take on Jake the Snake Roberts and work a program against Ric Flair that saw him capture the title again, this time without Hogan around to overshadow him.  But even with the Hulkster gone the company still would not make him the number one guy.  By this point, in 1992, the company was looking to move on so Savage's second run with the belt wouldn't last very long.  Flair would regain the title from him a few months later in order to transition it to the new big name, Bret Hart.  The less said about his time in WCW the better.  He spent those years living off his name and putting in the occasional good match here or there but was a shell of his former self.  It was too bad, really.  Had there been an internet in 1986 his career, as great as it was, may have been even greater.  With YouTube videos for the world to see his Memphis work before his WWF arrival, a schedule of live television and pay per view events (where he could have riffed his way through promos in a way that Hogan's cookie cutter act wouldn't allow), and fans that were willing to head to these events and rain boos down on any  events they didn't approve of, Savage very well could have shared or overtaken Hogan on the WWF totem pole.  The men compared the most to Savage, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, were able to ride all of those and force the company to give them the spotlight and victories over the Hogan of today, John Cena.  But Randy came of age about 25 years too early to capitalize.  

When you get a chance, if you have the WWE Network (still only $9.99!) go check out some of his best work.  You won't be disappointed.  He was truly one of the best ever. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hey, I watched that Transformers movie

OK, so in a previous post I went on and on about why I chose to tap out instead of watching Transformers: Age of Extinction.  Well, last week I decided to take a crack at it, finally.  And like I expected it wasn't terrible but was too long and a convoluted mess.  It wasn't as messy as the second or third installments, but that's not saying much.  There were some improvements over the last two films, and if Michael Bay can just trim some of the fat then the fifth chapter could actually be a good film.  I'm not holding my breath on that, though, since the box office returns will more than likely be seen as a sign that what they're doing is the right way to go.  It looks like the public is happy with the action, special effects, vehicle modes, and toy tie-ins to such a degree that they don't mind the running times and tangent-filled plots.  I am not one of those people, but my almost lifelong fandom of all things Transformers will always keep me interested.  Based on what I saw with chapter four, if by some miracle they bring us a shorter movie next time around I'll probably give in and go see it.  Yes, this installment gave me enough foolish hope to come back into the fold a little.  I probably should have just left it alone.  So what's my assessment of the fourth chapter?  Here's what I liked and didn't like.

The likes:

Better cast, better acting

Mark Wahlberg in the lead was a huge improvement over Shia Lebouf.   Wahlberg was way more believable as a human who could help the Autobots against both the Decepticons and corrupt humans. It also helped that they mostly kept the human action to realistic stuff; the skyscraper dive from Dark of the Moon and the trip to robot heaven from Revenge of the Fallen were a bridge tooo far and then some.  And the female lead was an improvement as well; going from a Victoria's Secret model to an actual actress in Nicola Peltz was a good idea.  Yes she mainly looked hot and ran from danger, but being able to deliver one's lines competently is good for something.  Lastly, they kept the number of big names to a minimum; besides Wahlberg, all you had were Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci so you were able to give everyone the screen time they warranted without crowding everyone else out.

More Robot Personality

It wasn't much, but more than we've gotten since the first movie.  Again, limiting the number of characters helped here.  Before the big finale we had five Autobots to deal with: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Drift, Crosshairs, and Hound.  And of the quintet we got to see some real personality traits from three of them.  It may sound trivial but considering that the previous chapters had a dozen or so Autobots and half as many Decepticons and didn't do anything on this front beyond Optimus' stoic John Wayne act it matters.  We got a fed up, angry Optimus who was fed up with humanity's BS and was ready to crack some human skulls for a change.  And Bumblebee getting pissed off at the suggestion that newer, human engineered transformers were an upgrade over him was more than he'd done in three movies combined.  The main bad guy, the robot bounty hunter Lockdown went beyond the banal villain stuff.  Having a mission besides generic world domination helps.

And now the dislikes:

The logic of humanity

So let me get this straight.  In a few years time there have been three major battles on our planet between two armies of robots.  One of these two armies was trying to take over the world and enslave all of humanity.  The other army was trying to stop them.  When the most recent battle ended, there were still some of the would-be conquerors at large.  So what do we do?  We declare the protectors persona non grata, force them into hiding with a false promise of asylum, and then go into cahoots with an alien bounty hunter to take them out.  And while we're doing this we give a major corporation scraps from previous battles to work on creating our own robots.  Why not just keep up our partnership with the guys who helped us?

Clearing the deck

An early scene in this chapter showed the death of two Autobots, Ratchet and Leadfoot, and mentioned the deaths of several other robots  from the previous films.  There was also the introduction of several new robots on both sides.  Combine that with the wipeout of pretty much every Decepticon in Dark of the Moon and it looks more and more like these movies are two and half hour toy/car commercials.  The real life Camaro that Bumblebee transforms into has been a big seller, so of course he's kept alive throughout the series.  Obviously given the nature of the story, two armies at war, there are going to be casualties.  But the deck clearing strategy both during and between movies becomes a chic and egg thing with the lack of robot character development.  We don't get any development because what's the point if they're just going to get killed anyway, but without any development the deaths don't mean anything.  It would be really nice if the new Autobots we got introduced to made it to and through the next movie, and if whoever emerges to serve Galvatron doesn't get chopped in half during the final battle.

The tangents (again)

They didn't come as early this time, but they still came.  The first was when Wahlberg's Cade Yeager and family escaped with a repaired Optimus Prime and hooked up with the other Autobots.  With Lockdown and the CIA on their backs, they opt for an industrial espionage attempt to expose the company that's working on new robots.  Then later on there's a whole chase sequence between Tucci's CEO character and the main goon working for Grammer's CIA director character.  And then there was Optimus getting captured by Lockdown before the other Autobots rescued him, Galvatron becoming sentient and bringing a new army to life, Lockdown coming back to reclaim Optimus after the Autobots rescued him, the freeing of he Dinobots and convincing them to join up with the Autobots, the big battle between the Autobots and Glavatron's new Decepticons, and the final battle between Optimus and Lockdown.  But wait there's more.  In addition to all of that there's another isubplot involving something called the seed and the Transformers' creators, who we will meet in chapter five or six. The end result was feeling like the movie should be wrapping up while realizing that there was still an hour to go.  This could have been real simple.  While the Autobot reunion happens, Galvatron wakes up, raises the army, and the Autobots go to stop him.  Needing reinforcements they go to the mythical hiding place of the Dinobots and recruit them to help.  The battle ensues, Lockdown comes for Optimus and they fight.  The other Autobots take out the new Decepticons save Galvatron and a few others who escape.  Prime beats Lockdown, movie over. 

In conclusion, despite being better than previous installments this chapter of the Transformers movie saga  still suffers from the same problems.  But until they change Optimus Prime to a pink and purple minivan we're at least going to check in on it and end up paying some amount to see it. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

About this Ant-Man movie

The Ant-Man teaser trailer came out to a very unimpressed response this week.  Now it is just a teaser trailer, but some people were acting like Marvel showed a clip of some ants walking across the screen with the movie title emblazoned at the bottom.  The knives are definitely going to be out for this one if what we've seen so far is any indication.  And when it doesn't make as much as Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy did last year you can expect a lot of "Marvel's first misstep" and "It looks like we've reached peak superhero" pieces.   If the commentary we've seen so far is any indicator, Ant-Man could very well get the Amazing Spider Man 2 treatment, where people just flat out ignore the facts on the ground to find ways to call it a failure because they really just didn't want the movie to happen in the first place.  ASM 2 made well over $700 million worldwide yet people were finding all kinds of ways to parse the numbers to call it a flop, and I believe that's largely because a lot of hardcore comic book movie geeks want Spider Man back with Marvel studios and just don't want any Spider Man films made by Sony.  Well, I can say with a lot of confidence that there isn't any real clamoring for an Ant-Man movie.  Ant-Man doesn't have any sizable fan contingent and does not have any of the name recognition that Iron Man or Captain America had leading into their movies.  In my opinion we're getting an Ant-Man movie for two reasons: 1) he's a key member of the Avengers in the comics and 2) they need a seat filler between Avengers: Age of Ultron and the meat of Phase 3.  This does the job.

I won't say that Marvel I taking a gamble here, but they are leaving themselves open for some potshots, even if they aren't deserved, because people just don't care about Ant-Man beyond a few diehards.  I'll even go as far as to say that if Marvel had the movie rights to Spider Man and the X-Men there would be no Ant-Man film.  (You could say the same about a lot of the Phase Three movies, but that especially applies here.) There aren't many real points to be scored with any segment of the fanbase, save the small constituency amongst Marvel die hards who think it's absolutely necessary to give every charter member of the Avengers their own film.  And there's no hook like a talking raccoon to get the masses roped in like they were with Guardians.  At the same time, the casual moviegoer may be very inclined to go see it simply because Marvel makes good movies and this one will probably be good as well.  That will ultimately be the salvation or damnation of the movie; whether or not the goodwill Marvel has built up over seven years and  dozen movies will spur us all to go see this one.  And while I suspect Kevin Feige and company have a realistic expectation on what kind of returns this one will have, they can't control the troll army that's ready to pounce. 

This isn't the first time we've been given a film that seemed going in to be a necessary step rather than something we desired; you could say that's what the first Cap and Thor films were about.  And both of those turned out t be very good films.  So I wouldn't be too worried about this one.  You might not be thristing for this one, but that doesn't mean it won't satisfy you.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Changes, changes

Soooo.....on your left is the original Power Girl aka Kara Zor El from Earth 2, and on the right is Tanya Spears the new Power Girl.  The internet has been hot today over this, mostly because this week's slate of DC Comics has a last page feature about it.  But the seeds for the switch were planted last fall in World's Finest #23 when Tanya found out about her new abilities moments after Kara went home to Earth 2.  The range of reactions has been somewhat predictable; there are enthusiastic supporters who love the move along with the usual change haters who despise any alteration to any existing character.  The funny thing is that they didn't really change the character.  Kara Zor El is still the same person she's always been with the same blonde hair and ample cleavage, it's just that the moniker she used on Earth 1 is being used by a different person.  This isn't much different than Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing and Jason Todd taking over as Robin.  (Or Tim Drake taking over Todd, or Damian Wayne for Drake, etc).  And Power Girl is a third tier character at best.  She usually has some presence in some DC title but it's not like she's Wonder Woman or even Batgirl.  What she is, and has been for decades, is something else:  major eye candy.  Power Girl was one of a few characters that appear to made for the sole reason of appealing to horny dudes who read comic books.  She doesn't have the detective skills of Batgirl, she isn't the icon of female empowerment like Wonder Woman, and she isn't a sultry, sly manipulator like Catwoman.  She also isn't a super spy type like Black Widow.  She's been an easy on the eyes, super-powered woman with a fun personality.  And some folks are wed to that.

By contrast the new Power Girl is a teenage girl genius, which seems to suggest that there isn't much chance that she's be played up as any kind of gratuitous sex symbol.  Her costume is decidedly different; she wears pants and a jacket vs the skimpy one piece, leg baring outfit that Kara is known for.  And the Kara's infamous "boob window" will not be replicated on Tanya's suit, which makes sense for a teenage character.  This is definitely a nod to a segment of the comic reading audience that is ripe for more representation; more girls and women are reading comics, and that includes women of color.  So we're going to see more characters like Tanya and the new Ms. Marvel and fewer 'thirst trap' kind of depictions like what was done with Starfire when the New 52 kicked off.  Some people are not going to like that, but it's due.  When the original Power Girl was drawn up, the creators admitted later that they kept making her breasts bigger every month to see how long it would take for one of the bigwigs to notice and say something to them about it.  That kind of thinking flew in 1976, but not so much in 2015.  Ultimately, the character will succeed or fail on how well she's written; she's starting off with the Teen Titans but that could all change if she takes off, or if she nosedives.  But it's a cool first step in my book; it will be nice to have a new character that my daughter can look at and see herself.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Casting Questions


So we have a some casting news, and not the kind that makes people jump for joy.  A lot of Gambit fans had their fears realized when it was confirmed that Channing Tatum would be filling that role, while some fans of Anime film Ghost in the Shell have been beside themselves with the announcement that Scarlett Johansson would be starring in an American adaptation.  Now the consternation with each one is for different reasons.  With Gambit, the problem seems to be that Tatum isn't considered the right type of actor to play the role; Tatum's best stuff has a comedic bent to it so what is likely to be a serious action film with maybe a little snarky humor doesn't look like a good fit.  That an the absolute zero confidence anyone has in his ability to pull of the pronounced Cajun accent that the character had on the beloved X-Men cartoon from the 1990s.  I understand the bit about the accent, but other than that....not really.  He's an actor, people.  If the script is good and the directing is good, it should be fine. 

It is pretty remarkable that the Gambit character is drawing that much concern.  I didn't really know anything about him until I watched the cartoon, and his profile and popularity is very much a result of that show versus the comic book.  In print he's not high enough on the X-Men totem pole to warrant a solo film ahead of Storm, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, or several others.  There was even a hit piece written on a fictional character here.  But hey, it is what it is.  The movie's being made, and is scheduled to drop in 2016.  I'll probably end up seeing it and I'll give it a chance to be good before I dump all over it.  And you should, too, unless you're still holding out hope for a X-Men-based film that doesn't take major deviations from the source material.  Fox's X-universe does that and will likely continue doing it.  If you've accepted that then you should be able to ride with this.

Now as far as the Johansson casting, well.........that one is much more worthy of disgust.  Ghost in the Shell is a Japanese anime production so casting Johansson in the lead role means that one of two things is going to happen here, either a full blown Americanization of the story or a dropping in of a decidedly American actress to a story where the other important characters are Japanese, and changing her character from being Japanese like the others to a Westerner of some kind.  There's a shorter way to describe that; it's called whitewashing.  If you're the studio, why do risk that kind of backlash?  Money, of course.  Johansson carried last year's Lucy to a pretty big windfall, so for the time being if you have an female-led action movie that isn't well known to the masses but has the potential to do good business if things break right, she's an obvious choice.  Does that warrant changing a whole movie around and risking a backlash from said movie's more ardent supporters?  They're gambling that it will. 

If you like ScarJo, and like her in action roles, then unless you're a Ghost-devotee you're going to at least think about checking this out.  I'm not an Anime guy so I got no dog in the fight here. Race-bending already created roles is always a tough topic and is guaranteed to offend people on all sides of it.  My take is that sometimes it's ok and sometimes it isn't, but that it's best to leave things as they were originally written.  I talked about it here, and here.  The studio is doing this for financial reasons and little else; there are Asian-American actresses who could play the title role, but they clearly don't believe in the ability of any of them to sell the movie.  ScarJo gets you some mainstream press during production and close to the premiere date and will get you some box office on opening weekend.  I don't run a studio so I don't have to make those calculations, but I'm willing to bet that their number crunching is correct on this one. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Why I quit on Transformers

                           The Transformers: The Movie (1986) Poster

I was a huge Transformers fan growing up.  I watched every episode of the 1984-87 cartoon series, read a lot of the Marvel comic series, collected a bunch of the toys and went to see Transformers: the Movie on opening night.  Like a lot of you I was beside myself when Optimus Prime died in the movie.  And then it all came to an end right around the time I grew out of playing with toys.  There were a few attempts at reviving them, mostly through bad new cartoon series.  When they announced a live action film that would be hitting theaters in 2007, I was nostalgic, hopeful, and skeptical all at the same time.  It seemed more like a 'we go nothing else to try' kind of move than anything else.  So I went to the theater with low expectations, figuring it would suck but holding out some hope that it wouldn't.  And I was pleasantly surprised.  It wasn't perfect, but I felt it was mostly good.  The robots looked good, there was a plot to follow, and despite some cheesy attempts at humor it mostly stayed in its lane and delivered.  So life was good, and I was ready for more.  And then we got.....Revenge of the Fallen.  Oy.....

Transformers (2007) Poster         Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) Poster 

What should have been a chance to pick up where the first one left off, introduce some new Autobots and Decepticons, and keep it moving was instead a bloated mess with stereotypes (the Twins - don't ask me, ok?), a ridiculous overstuffed plot,  too many subplots, you name it.  It was by all accounts a bad movie.  But it made a boatload of money so that meant we were going to get a third one.  And we got it.  After enduring the mess that was Revenge of the Fallen, I was in no real hurry to see Transformeers: Dark of the Moon.  I didn't go on opening weekend like I did with the first two, but I eventually made it to the theater to catch it on the big screen before it's run was finished.  I didn't expect much this time around, and that proved to be the right way to go.  Dark of the Moon was better than Revenge of the Fallen but it had all of the same problems.  Too long, too many subplots, too much failed humor, and we also got to deal with Megan Fox's so so at best acting being replaced by a Victoria's Secret model.  No offense to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley but anybody that makes Megan Fox's acting skills look great by comparison shouldn't be cast in any movie, ever.  The movie was just kind of there to me, but it made another boatload of money which meant we were going to get more.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) Poster      Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) Poster

By this time I was just about ready to check out.  After a bad sequel and a mediocre third chapter both killed at the box office there was zero incentive for director Michael Bay to change anything.  With realization, I decided I was done.....until I saw the trailer at the Super Bowl.  Bay had to know a lot of us were at the end of or rope with him because he dug deep and gave us the Dinobots.  So of course, I was back in.  That is, until I heard the running time: 165 minutes.  After two 150-plus minute monstrosities, 165 minutes meant we were just going to get more of what dragged down the second and third films.  So I finally pulled the trigger...and bailed.  And I don't regret it, either.  From what I heard it as exactly what I thought it would be.  And it made another boatload of money, so we're going to get even more in 2016 or 2017.  But I'm done.  You guys got it.  I'm not going there with you anymore.  What went wrong?  Here's what I think:

Too much humanity, not enough robot talk

If you were to make a top ten list of the problems with all of the movies after the first one, this would could occupy numbers one through five.  We get almost aero insight into any of the Transformers personalities through four movies each lasting over two hours.  And that's even worse when you consider that in both the original  cartoon series and the recent Transformers: Prime series (which was very good, by the way) they were able to do so.  The Starscream-Megatron-Soundwave relationship is one of the most important elements of the series and got zero attention.  Starscream the openly jealous would be usurper, Megatron the leader so arrogant that he keeps someone like that around instead of just blasting him, and Soundwave the ever reveren and loyal follower - that's Shakespearean level angst and drama at play that cartoon creators were able to portray onscreen but big budget filmmakers decided wasn't worth exploring.  The Autobots had their share of varied personalities as well - there were reluctant warriors mixed in with gung ho action junkies, young punks and old veterans, straight and narrow types and wild ones - but all we really got was Optimus Prime's Superman-Captain America act, which is fine but come on. 

At the same time we got lots and lots of screen time and dialogue for Sam Witwicky, his girlfriends, his parents, and the various government-affiliated characters that we really didn't need.  Yes there needs to be some interplay between the two species but the humans are supposed to be there for a few minutes and get out of the way to let the robots do their thing.  After all, we came to see giant robots that turn into things fight each other and not people talking about it.  I understood dwelling on that in the first movie to set everything up, but once we had the principal humans identified and in place we didn't need to see Sam's college life, his overbearing parents, etc.  I don't need to see all the internal bickering and territory marking going on between the government and the military types.  That's the kind of thing you do in episodic television and not a movie, which is basically a one shot that place over a couple of days and is the culmination of things and not a buildup.  There's way too much buildup going on around humans which gets us all the ridiculous subplots, and even though the closing battle scenes were the huge blowouts we were hoping for, they could have saved us a good 20 to 30 minutes waiting for that.  Of course all of the 'too much people stuff' is connected to what I think the other big problems are...

The movies are too long

The first film was 144 minutes, which is pretty long for a movie to start with, and it only got worse.  The second and third films were in the 150s, and the fourth one was over 160 minutes long.  That's ridiculous for anything that's not an adaptation of a previous story.  The sequels should have been shorter, not longer.  You give the two groups something to fight over, have some small skirmishes, and the close with the big battle at the end.  It's not that hard really.  That's why the first one worked fairly well.  You had the Allpsark, which the both factions were able to determine was on Earth somewhere.  The Decepticons had been in hiding and the Autobots were just getting there.  They both narrowed things down to Sam having the clues to where it was and sought him out.  The government got hip to it and got involved, and you end with the big blowout final battle.  But the sequels were doing too much. They needed a reason to keep Sam heavily involved so you had the ridiculous subplots with him being infused with visions about where some important things are, which meant the Deccepticons had to chase him down again and the Autobots had to protect him again.  And then they threw in the Optimus Prime 'death' to add drama and provide yet another thing for Sam to do.  And oh yeah, they had to revive Megatron but give him a boss, the Fallen, who jobbed (wrestling term for taking a loss) in short order to the revived Optimus at the end.  And that's just the second movie.  This and the first problem are fed largely  by my last issue...

Too many name actors

Movies like Transformers are not for cast full of big name actors, or they shouldn't be at least.  Why?  Because big name/well respected actors and actresses have to be put to use or else there's no point in bringing them in to start with.  The first movie had JonVoight and John Turturro, who have been around for a while, and Shia Lebouf who at the time was an up and comer with a few hits under his belt..  The rest of the cast, save Tyrese and Josh Duhamel weren't particularly well known.    By the time we got to third movie you had John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Ken Jeong, and Patrick Dempsey along for the ride and cameos from Bill O'Reilly and Buzz Aldrin.  Can you say overkill, ladies and gentleman?  This is not the Avengers, where you have big, iconic roles that require actors and actresses of stature and presence to properly fill them.  You could very easily cast mostly no names or people with a niche following with a big name or two sprinkled in.

Every last one of those people has to have something meaningful to do for the time they are on screen, which means concocting some scene and some dialogue for them that takes away a few minutes here or there that could be spent better developing more important things. Dempsey and McDormand had key supporting roles that could have been downsized or not included at all.  And shifting to Mark Wahlberg for the lead role in the fourth movie meant that you had an A-lister in the lead role.....which means that he's going to dominate the movie with his story instead of what we want to see (hint: the fighting robots).  Remember, the humans are supposed to b the background noise here.  They run from the robots, try in vain to fight the robots, and a few of them help the good guy robots win.  That's it.  We don't need half the movie or more spent on their quest to find meaning for their lives.  But of course, that's what you have to do when you aim your casting net too high.  This ties into problem number one, of course.

So there you have it folks.  That's why I quit on the Transformers franchise.  I'll get around to watching Age of Extinction sooner or later but when Transformers: We Make too Much Money to Stop hits the theaters in 2016 I won't be there.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Robin has risen



OK, so the Robin rises story arc has come to a close and Damian Wayne has returned from the grave to reclaim his position as the sidekick to his father Bruce.  It was a year and a half ago that Damian was taker out by one of Talia al Ghul's minions, sending Batman into somewhat of a spiral that was pretty bad even for him.  To pass the time between his death and return we got a series of team-ups between Bruce and several different members of the DC Universe.  First there was a "stages of grief" arc of sorts where Bruce paired with each member of the Bat Family (Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl, and then Nightwing with a Catwoman issue thrown in for good measure), then we got a run of Batman and Two-Face stories where the two adversaries found themselves on the same side for once.  Then it was back to another series of team-ups after Bruce paired up with Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and the Frankenstein in pursuit of Ra's al Ghul and Damian's body.  Finally, with Damian's body taken to Apokolips by Darkseid's subjects Bruce went in pursuit to retrieve and hopefully revive his dead son.  Which he did of course.  He is Batman after all.  So now Damian is indeed back, but like with a lot of comic book/fantasy series resurrections he came back different.  Instead of being a normal kid with exceptional intelligence and fighting skills, he now has super strength which adds a whole new dynamic to the story and the partnership with Bruce.  With this chapter wrapped up and a new one to begin, there are some questions ahead.

Was all this necessary?

I'm sure that's what a lot of people are thinking right now.  Damian was killed in Batman Incorporated #8 back in 2013, much to the chagrin of readers who'd finally gotten to like him a little.  And like most comic book deaths, the number question immediately afterward is whether or not they will stay dead.  Darn near every major character in both companies has either been killed or presumed dead at some point or another and they always find a way back to the land of the living.  We just went through a farewell to Wolverine that lasted several months and had tie-ins and crossover with what seemed like a zillion other titles, and no one really thinks he's going to stay dead.  Damian's passing didn't go anywhere near that far.  All of the Bat-related titles the following month had some kind of reflection on it, including a pretty riveting 'silent' issue of Batman and Robin.  Once that was done it was back to business as usual; Damian's death affected the storylines of the books he was involved in, but that was it.  Keeping it relatively low key like suggested that it just might stick.  That and the introduction of Harper Row, who was shaping up to be the sidekick in waiting, gave us enough to think that Damian would be gone for good but once Ra's al Ghul stole his body from the grave it was clear something was afoot.  So within a year and a half or so we got a death and resurrection of an important character.  Was it a good idea or a waste of time?

I say yes it was a good idea.  At the end of the day these are stories and as long as they are good we should be happy.  If you ask me they handled it right.  The death and immediate aftermath were pretty gripping, we got some good stories n between, and the return was insane, over the top, and really cool.  We got to see the full range of Bruce Wayne as a character, and seeing the whole crew back together to rally around bringing Damian home after they'd been at odds for over a year was good stuff.  We got to see the true devotion of Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, and Alfred to Bruce and each other and the lengths to which Bruce was willing to go to save his son.  This kind of year-plus long journey is why we read these stories in the first place.  And that they were able to do it within the regularly scheduled books with a minimum of money grab special issues (just two, Robin Rises: Omega and Robin Rises: Alpha) helps even more.  In essence, it was a major event series without all the Special Event bells and whistles, and we should applaud that.    And it was just good storytelling.  We got to see full on crazy Bruce 'I'm effing Batman and don't you forget it' Wayne, willing to face off with Darkseid of all people even if it killed, and a Batman arc that ended on a happier note for once with father and son back together to take on the bad guys.  The Dark Knight does deserve to win sometimes, after all.

So what comes next?

That's the real fun part isn't it?  Damian has powers now, so the entire  dynamic has changed.  Bruce referred to Damian's newfound abilities as a problem, even though they ultimately saved everyone's bacon.  But in Bruce's mind, Damian having powers is a problem because now it changes the one thing that control freak Bruce has over everyone else in his crew: they can't take him.  How Bruce deals with that variable will be a major point going forward.  Then there's the matter of Dick Grayson.  Right now Bruce is the only one who knows Dick is still alive.  Even Alfred believes that he died when Crime Syndicate took over the world during the Forever Evil storyline.  What's Bruce going to tell Damian when he asks about him?  Will he keep the lie going like he has with everyone else or he will tell his son the truth?  And when truth does eventually come out what's going to happen to the Bat family, including Damian?  And lastly, where in the current timeline will Damian's return fit in?  Right now there are several storylines going on without him, so where exactly they choose to drop him in will be very intriguing. We shall see.   I think there's going to be plenty of excitement  to come here.