Posts tagged superheroes

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Book Review: Jackrabbit

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Book review: Jackrabbit by Ian Healy

Review by Prof. Jenn

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Ian Healy has delivered again in this next installment of superhero novels in the Just Cause universe. As I have written before, I have and continue to enjoy Healy’s ability to embody the coming-of-age voice, as well as the voice of the “regular Joe,” whether they are superpowered or not. (Sorry, “parahuman” is the correct term in his universe.) In Jackrabbit, though, we run into a new kind of parahuman–that of the Herald. The cheeky rabbit god and his buddy the frog god run into a new, insectile god in God’s Land–and it is revealed that this new god isn’t one invented by humans. This is a big deal, and not a good thing, at all. So (as it so often is) it’s up to our trickster god Leporidus to save the day. He begins his rescue plan by choosing a Herald–that is, a human who will embody the god on Earth. He selects hapless nerdy teenager Jay and, as it turns out, he has made an excellent choice.

Since I know Ian personally (we grew up together through Talented and Gifted programs in junior and senior high school as well as the theatre programs in said schools), I can slap him a virtual yet hearty high five in glorifying the nerd in this world. Even with today’s “geek chic,” nerds are still the victims of bullying today, and actually the nasty insect takeover of Earth event in this novel is connected directly to the theme of bullying. What Healy does very well is illustrate real human beings, whether it’s the coming of age type of Jay/Jackrabbit here or Mustang Sally in his earlier works, or “normal” folks trying to deal with the extraordinary, as in yet other novels in the Just Cause universe. And I love that the female hero is adorably annoying–it’s so great that she’s not flawless, but we still love her. Thanks for the realism and the joy amid the tense action. Also, thank Heaven for an African-American protagonist hero.

Usually I adore Healy’s Just Cause books without question, but I had a couple minor reservations about this one: a) why does Jay have to get all buff and huge when he transforms? Isn’t he a better Rabbit god herald by staying slight and quick? b) Bunny, Jay’s best friend, smacks of the stereotypical Gay Best Friend. In fact, he reminds me of the gay dancer friend in the 1984 movie Breakin’. maybe it’s the dance studio thing. Anyway… c) Jay turns real cheeky once he becomes Jackrabbit. he was pretty meek before. I’m not quite buying his snarky transformation. Maybe if he were already getting in trouble because of his wit and cheek, before he transformed? That way we can see exactly why Leporidus chose him, and his personality later would fit, etc. d) I hate to say it, as I love the ending, but I think it was a little too easily achieved. All of you, go out and read it and come back and tell me what you think.

Bottom Line: Jackrabbit is a fantastic novel and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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Young Justice: Dangerous Secrets

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A lot has been happening since we last heard about this little band of crime fighters. In the recent DVD release (), Dangerous Secrets, we’re given a full two-disc set of superhero fun.  There’s so much going on in this volume that it’s a little difficult to pare it down without giving anything away. So hold on tight – there may be small spoilers, but we’ll certainly keep the best of those dangerous secrets hidden.

First of all, we join the team after they’ve been attacked by Red Tornado and his siblings, and have also been told by Sportsmaster that there is a traitor in their group (all from the last volume).  Instantly, we see team member against team member, questioning motives and keeping a close watch. The dissension that is sown amongst these junior heroes is palpable, just by planting the simple idea that there may be a traitor.  Expect to explore most every team member’s personal views on their mates while they decide on this issue.

That’s not the only tactic used in this volume to get you closer to the characters. Just about every main character on the team, including their former watcher, Red Tornado, gives  at least one huge reveal. It seems everyone has a secret, and is hell bent on keeping it from their teammates. For a while at least.  We already know a couple of them; for instance, we know Artemis is not actually Green Arrow’s niece, and more to the point, that she has a sordid family history. But can she trust her teammates with this information? Will they trust her after they find out? Unfortunately for these heroes, having ties to the wrong side of the law can often lead to suspicion, no matter how great your own motives are.  If you’re brave enough, let’s take a look at this clip from the episode “Usual Suspects,” which highlights three of our heroes’ weakest moments:

 

 

We also get to see a few new additions to the team. Namely, Zatara and Zatanna – the father-daughter magician team made famous from the old Batman comics, going into the 90s cartoon show, Batman: The Animated Series. Zatara is starting to show promise as a young, budding magician, but we’re left to wonder through much of the series if her father will let her join the team. We also see the return of Doctor Fate and Red Arrow.

However, there is one thing about this volume that has been really disappointing in many ways. That is the Batman villains. Early on, we see the infamous Injustice League – a culmination of criminal masterminds bent on taking down the Justice League.  A lot of these criminals include classic Batman villains such as the Joker, Poison Ivy, Ra’s al Ghul, Klarion the Witchboy, and Bane. I really have to say.. as an avid Batman fan, this was greatly dissatisfying. This incarnation of the Joker has been, by far, the worst I’ve ever seen – and that includes John DiMaggio’s lifeless voice inflection in Under the Red Hood. Not only was the character design sub-par, but there was nothing intrinsically Joker-like about this classic villain. The voice acting was boring, the writing was uninspired, and that iconic laugh you expect to hear from the Joker just falls completely flat. The other villains in this category barely got enough screen time or dialog to even make an impression. The one exception possibly being Klarion the Witchboy – who actually did carry over the irritatingly chaotic and childish nature of the character.

Over all, the writing for this volume was pretty outstanding. The character development within the Young Justice League, and even, to an extent, in the actual Justice League, was phenomenal. We learned an awful lot about the young heroes we’ve grown to love. I also found it quite encapsulating to see that the second disc basically followed one, solid story arc. I do wish the Batman villains were much more better executed, and will hopefully be better developed in future seasons. However, that aside, this set was a thrilling ride that really has a way of reeling you in.

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Comic Review: No More Heroes #1

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Issue: No More Heroes #1
Release Date: March 2012
Writer: Gordon Mclean
Artist: Caio Oliveira
Colorist: Goran Kostadinoski
Letterer: Kel Nuttal

When I was approached to review this comic, the premise instantly appealed to me. I’m a big fan of superheroes, even moreso when they’re flawed in some capacity. In No More Heroes there’s a lot of flawed characters. First you’ve got Dark Justice, whose death kicks off the whole thing. A random nobody, Sid, gets a text message asking whether the mysterious person on the other end should commit suicide. Thinking it’s a joke, and egged on by his buddies, he says yes. Turns out, the superhero Dark Justice was on the other end of the phone. Thus begins the heavy weight that Sid has to carry. Did he really convince a superhero to die? The truth isn’t so straightforward. He gets tangled up with Dark Justice’s unnamed sidekick, who has gone off the rails after his boss’ death, and Jack Slaughter, a lowlife who is actually at fault for the death of the hero. The storyline is just beginning and we will have to wait and see how deep Sid gets pulled into it.

 

For a beginning comic, this was actually done quite well. I wasn’t a fan of the few times the panels were colored, which is surprising to me since I tend to prefer color comics over the stark nature of black and white. However, the simplicity of the color absence helps to heighten the storyline for me. And it is a simple storyline, though not simplistic. For almost the entire first half the plot is carried mostly by action rather than dialogue. That’s a sign of good visual storytelling and one that will serve the creators as they embark on a future in the industry. There were some rough spots, such as the diner scene. Focusing on the mouth seemed to be wasted space to me. The panels are better expressed when layering is present. And the dialogue, in certain scenes, was not as smooth as it could have been. That doesn’t endear it to a more mainstream audience, but since it’s targeted toward the independent comic industry the standards are a bit more lax. Despite these rough-around-the-edges bits, the overall comic has potential and I’m interested to see where the storyline goes.

 

Check out more on this four-issue arc at the official website and keep tabs on these creators. I think they have a positive future in the comic industry.

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