Sunday, 11 December 2016

Zod! Show Me Magic Podcast - Episode #8: Luke Cage, "The King is Dead, Long Live the King"

Long Live The Chief
Here it is, the eighth episode of the podcast presented by me and my friend Rhys L. Griffiths! It's aimed at fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe who fancy dipping their toes into the comics. The set up is that we both discuss superhero movies and TV, while I also explain aspects of the comics to Rhys. It's all done (hopefully) in a fun, accessible way for the new or casual fan, and can be enjoyed by hardcore fans too.

It's called Zod! Show Me Magic.

This episode is about the recent Luke Cage Netflix series, but we also find time to discuss Neil Gaiman's 1602 in Zod's Super Book Club, the ethics of teleportation, elves with guns, and Brian Conley - the King of Saturday Night Light Entertainment.

It can be found on Itunes:

Zod! Show Me Magic on Itunes

And also on Soundcloud:

Also, join Zod's Super Book Club! I've made Rhys read Warren Ellis & Lenil Francis Yu's Wolverine: Not Dead Yet by next month and we'll be discussing it in Episode 9.

If you've read it or are going to read it let us know what you think of the story via Twitter (@ZodShowMeMagic)Facebook, or here on my blog!

Spread the word for the love of Zod!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Best Stuff of 2016 (according to me)

(Click here for The Best Stuff of 2015)

Best ongoing comic series of 2016
Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason's Superman

Fair play, there have been a lot of great comics to choose from this year, and thanks to DC Rebirth most of them were by DC Comics. But my personal favourite has been Superman, and not just 'cos he's my favourite character.

If you'd told me a couple of years ago that Superman would be married to Lois Lane again and they'd be raising a Super-son together I'd have dismissed it as twee fan-wank. But this series has everything. Yes, this Superman is much more of a pure-hearted farmboy than his New 52 counterpart, and he and Lois are instilling traditional, heroic values into their son Jon. But Tomasi and Gleason aren't afraid to explore the darker aspects that are naturally inherent in the story of a young boy suddenly discovering that he has inherited massively destructive powers from his alien father, and that both his parents are from a parallel universe. Also, some of the enemies Superman and Jon have faced during this series have been downright creepy (for example The Eradicator). As a result of this, the lighter, more heartwarming aspects of this story feel well-earned and are hugely effective. All of this, combined with the compelling ongoing mystery of this Superman's place in the DC Rebirth Universe, make this series the best of a great year for superhero comics.

Runner Up
Green Arrow

Benjamin Percy has given us the ultimate Green Arrow series. The best of every era of Green Arrow is represented. Ollie is beginning a relationship with Black Canary and they're fighting for social justice, just like in the O' Neil/Adams stories of the 70s! But their relationship (as well as their adventures together) have the sophisticated, mature feel of the Mike Grell era. John Diggle is there, representing the Arrow TV series, and Ollie's sister, Emiko from the New 52, is also present. Artists Otto Schmidt, Stephen Byrne, and Juan Ferreyra have been making sure it all looks amazing.

Most underrated comic of 2016
Gene Luen Yang and Viktor Bogdanovic's New Super-Man

I'm sure this series has been well received (most of DC Rebirth has been), but I'm not hearing nearly enough praise for New Super-Man as I feel it deserves. This tale of China's answer to the Man of Steel, Kong Kenan, is a fun super-hero origin that feels almost classic. However the Chinese setting gives it a fresh spin and stops it from feeling too familiar. Yang's knowledge of Chinese culture gives the book an authentic voice, and he manages to make a flawed central character with a lot of growing up ahead of him come across as incredibly likeable. Bogdanovic's cartoony and expressive art is also a large part of the book and it's protagonist's charm. If you love super-heroes do yourself a favour and check out this book.

Best limited comic series of 2016
Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's The Vision

Androids trying to be human is such a tired, old sci-fi cliche, particularly in the world of superhero comics. It's surprising then that the most innovative and original superhero comic of 2016 was about exactly that. King and Walta tell the old story of an android trying to be human in a new, dark, sad, scary and beautiful way. They discuss humanity, superheroes, good, evil, family, death, the concept of a soul and whether it's truly possible to be normal. It's obvious that both writer and artist are in perfect synch with each other, and along the way they use (among other tools) repetition, Marvel comics history, and Shakespeare to suck the reader completely into this world. Believe the hype. I cannot recommend this series highly enough.

Best comics event of 2016
DC Rebirth

DC Rebirth has something for everyone. The best elements of the New 52 have been retained and the best aspects of past incarnations of these characters have returned. It's all moving forward in a mysterious and compelling new direction involving characters that we've never seen interacting with the DC Universe before. I feel as if every aspect of DC Rebirth has been planned out and that all the creators are singing from the same hymn sheet. Perhaps this isn't the case, but DC have successfully given the impression of a company that knows what it's doing (finally!) and so I feel safe investing in this story and in these characters. I liked the New 52, but DC hasn't felt this focused and exciting since the build up to Infinite Crisis in 2005.

Most disappointing comic of 2016
Brian Bendis's Invincible Iron Man & International Iron Man

I had high hopes for Bendis' Iron Man as I'm a massive fan of his work on Spider-Man (which is still consistently brilliant, check it out). Sadly however all of Bendis' worst excesses as a writer are on display here. Story moving at a glacial pace? Check. Completely ignoring established continuity and previous writers' work? Check. SHIELD crowbarred into every aspect of the character's life? Check. 

To be fair, International Iron Man wasn't bad. It offered an intriguing look into Tony Stark's youth, an absorbing backstory for Tony's real mother and a touching reunion between mother and son. But it was also about three or four issues worth of story stretched out to seven. Invincible Iron Man was even more drawn out. It really felt as if Bendis was treading water until the events of Civil War 2 (the most contrived, unappealing Marvel event ever) were played out and he could properly introduce his new Iron Man/Girl, Riri Williams. Bendis has also replaced Pepper Potts with former Spider-man supporting character Mary Jane Watson, and yet inexplicably he's given MJ exactly the same role and personality as Pepper. It's a bafflingly pointless move. 

I've got nothing against Riri Williams and I genuinely hope the character takes off, but I was reading the book for Tony Stark, and it's far from Bendis' best work so I'm out.

Best Comic Book Film of 2016
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

2016 has been a good year for comic book movies, and BvS was my favourite of the lot. It was the bane of the critics however, and I'm aware that it has it's flaws. The extra scenes from the Ultimate Edition that made the plot more coherent should have been kept in and the fun but the pointless set-up scenes for Justice League should have been removed. But it's still an ambitious, gorgeous looking, gloriously over the top, huge, operatic thrill ride with a magnificent cast who bring their A-game. I absolutely loved it.

And I especially loved the "MARTHA" scene, so there! :P

Best non-comics related film of 2016
The Nice Guys

I had high hopes for director Shane Black's latest effort and I wasn't disappointed. It matched and maybe even surpassed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang for charismatic lead performances, humour, plot twists and action. I love this film.

Best TV show of 2016
Luke Cage

No Doctor Who this year so Luke Cage gets the top spot for TV shows. It's as gripping as Jessica Jones and as viscerally thrilling as Daredevil. Simone Missick's performance helps make Misty Knight the best character in a whole series full of great characters. The only flaw this series has is Erik LaRay Harvey's Diamondback. After the standard for sophisticated, multi-layered villains set by Vincent D'Onofrio in Daredevil and David Tennant in Jessica Jones, and indeed by Luke Cage's own Mahershala Ali and Alfre Woodard, Harvey's swivel-eyed, metaphorical-moustache-twirling, "I kill my own men", revenge motivated, walking cliche just doesn't cut the mustard.

Best things I discovered in 2016 that everybody else already knew about

I watched New Zealand vampire mockumentary, What We Do In The Shadows. It was hilarious and it's made me really excited for Taika Waititi's upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.

I finally got around to reading Marv Wolfman and George Perez's New Teen Titans and John Ostrander's Suicide Squad and they're just as groundbreaking and brilliant as everyone says.

I also checked out Warren Ellis' ongoing James Bond comic. It's staggeringly excellent stuff. I would love to see the first arc, VARGR adapted into the next film.

Best things I did in 2016

I moved to Bristol with my partner, Jenny and got a wonderful new job that I love loads. I received a fantastic and amazingly kind gift of hundreds of Silver Age DC Comics from an old friend and as a result I now own some truly legendary old comics. I also started a podcast with my friend Rhys that I enjoy doing immensely and that you should all check out!

As for 2016 as a whole, it began with David Bowie's death and went down hill from there. The UK has voted to leave the European Union, leaving our future a lot more scary and uncertain, and our country a lot more divided. The United States of America has voted for a President who is openly racist and misogynistic, has admitted to assaulting women, and who has proven himself to be a petty, childish, spiteful, vindictive, ignorant, greedy, corrupt and abusive bully. It's heartbreaking and terrifying and I genuinely don't know what kind of world we'll be living in next year.

Donald Trump: Horrible Bastard

Still, there's some good films out in 2017, including Wonder Woman, Spider-Man Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor Ragnarok, Logan, Lego Batman, Justice League, John Wick 2, and Star Wars VIII, so at least Western Civilisation will be going out in style.

What have been your geeky highlights and lowlights of 2016?