Sunday, August 28, 2011

DC NEW UNIVERSE

 
This Wednesday, the DC Comics' "New 52" begins with the launch of Justice League #1.  The New 52, named after the 52 alternate universes said to comprise the DC universe, is a line-wide relaunch of all of DC's primary books with brand new #1s and continuity stemming from their Flashpoint event of the last 5 months.  However, with the exception of Action Comics which will focus on Superman's early years, the books will not all be starting from the beginning.  They will all continue on as if things had been going for quite some time, but the DC universe will have only aged 5 comic-years (as per the sliding timescale that allows characters to remain young despite existing for many years in real time).

This is DC's most radical relaunch since Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which a great deal of Silver Age continuity was either eliminated or revamped for the purposes of streamlining and unifying things.  The decision is also most likely a hasty one in the face of dwindling sales, as indicated by an interview with Grant Morrison about being approached by DC to work on Action back in March.  An issue of a comic usually has at least 3 months of lead-in time from production to publication.  The result was many of the ongoing DC books had to have their stories modified in order to wrap-up by August, leading to some obviously rushed or disjointed conclusions.  Other books, such as Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors were left to flounder with nothing but fill-in stories to wrap up their runs with the inability to do anything meaningful.  New books just started, like Xombi, had to conclude after their first story arc. And series that are under a decade old, like Blue Beetle, are getting a new start. Then there were those few books who were able to adapt to the shift and go buck-wild, like Teen Titans, who had a massive Superboy battle that destroyed much of their base, Titan's Tower.

The question on most reader's minds is what counts and what doesn't?  What is the same and what is totally different?  For instance, both the Justice League and the Teen Titans are said to be the first incarnations of those teams, effectively eliminating the prior membership of any character from their continuities and histories.  It has already been revealed that Superman's human parents, Jon and Martha Kent, will have both died early on in his life, leaving him more of an alien outsider than an adjusted human.  Supergirl will also be playing the alien card, having a huge chip on her shoulder in regards to the Earth.  And Lois Lane?  Unmarried and not even dating Clark Kent. Bruce Wayne is back to being the only Batman, which will be interesting to see considering Batman: Incorporated is still said to exist.  Dick Grayson, after a two-year stint as Batman, will be returning to his Nightwing persona, while Tim Drake will be keeping his Red Robin identity and Damian Wayne will be staying on as Batman's Robin. Batgirl will also once again be Barbara Gordon, who has been Oracle since she was crippled in 1988's The Killing Joke.

Success or failure?  The coming months will decide.


Friday, August 5, 2011

THUNDERCATS, HO!



Wildstorm's ThunderCats update.
Continuing the wave of recent nostalgia and reboots comes ThunderCats, Cartoon Network's latest series that provides an update to the original from 1985-90.  As with most reboots, significant changes were made to the characters and settings in order to make it more appealing to modern audiences while also providing reminiscent fun for older fans. A previous attempt at resurrecting the franchise was done in 2003 by DC Comics' Wildstorm imprint. They launched several mini-series and one-shots taking place both during and after the run of the show, the latter complete with updated looks for the 'Cats.



1980s.
2011.
The show is set on Third Earth, where Thundera is now a kingdom on the planet rather than a separate world the ThunderCats have to escape from. The ThunderCats cling tightly to the old ways, only prince Lion-O (Will Fridele) acknowledging the existence of technology (unlike the original series where, in a Star Wars-esque fashion, technology co-existed alongside medieval weaponry and battle tactics). That ultimately proves their undoing when the ThunderCats are betrayed by one of their own, who leads their enemies, Mumm-Ra (Robin Atkin Dowens), Slithe (Dee Bradley Baker) and his Lizardmen, to the destruction of Thundera using technology. Only Lion-O, Tygra (Matthew Mercer), Cheetara (Emmanuelle Chirqui), WilyKit & Kat (Eamon Pirrucello & Madeleine Hall) and Snarf (Satomi KĊrogi) survive and are sent after the Book of Omens by Jaga (Corey Burton), basically turning this into a quest show.

The series is now two episodes in. After a solid and engaging premier episode, the follow-up felt like a filler story thrown in where Lion-O's quest for revenge against Mumm-Ra is called into question after meeting Captain Tunar and taking part in his obsession to kill the creature that stole his people's water (ala Moby Dick, or Jaws for you non-literary types).  Of course, that makes Lion-O realize he was behaving foolishly and resumes his quest for the Book of Omens.

Some other things to note: Larry Kenney, the original voice of Lion-O, rejoins the franchise as Lion-O's father, King Claudius. Snarf, a cowardly nursemaid to Lion-O, is reduced to just a pet. Panthro has yet to be featured in an episode, appearing only as an illusion in the pilot so far (but, considering he's got an action figure based on the new design one can assume he'll pop up eventually). Also, like many shows these days, there's no proper intro beyond a brief title graphic and a few notes of the original theme song ending with the episode title (much the same way as Friedele's previous series, Batman Beyond). One also needs to wonder what the deal is with the blank orbs on their clothing, besides eventually (hopefully) bearing the ThunderCats logo.




How will the new ThunderCats ultimately compare to the old?  We'll just have to wait and see.