Tuesday, June 15, 2021

"Invincible #5: “That Actually Hurt” - TV Guest Review

    Stepping back into the Guest Review spot is my pal Billy Hogan, who continues his reviews of the animated series based on the comic book Invincible:

"Invincible Episode #5: “That Actually Hurt”

   It's been a while since I had time to watch the next episode of this series on Amazon Prime Video, but I had taken a week's vacation, so took the time to watch the next episode. I wasn't disappointed.

   Superpowered thug Titan, who can transform into a rock-armored enforcer for criminal boss Machine Head, meets with various people who either threaten Machine Head's territory, or owe him money. The surviving Mauler Twin continues his work in his new lab, with much success.

   Mark Grayson continues to find his place as a superhero, but as the episode progresses, the double life of a hero puts a lot of stress on his relationship with Amber

   Omni-Man continues to train son Mark in superhero tactics, but wife Debbie continues to have suspicions about her husband, especially after finding demon detective's Darkblood's notebook, filled with clues about the crime against the Guardians Of The Globe at the end of the first episode. Eventually she finds a clue that makes her even more suspicious of her husband.

   Atom Eve also has drama, not only at home, but with the Teen Team, causing a lot of upheaval in her own life.

   Robot has a secret meeting where he offers a job opportunity.

   Eventually, Invincible meets a bad guy he first ran into in the first episode, who asks Mark for help to get his family out of a bad situation. Mark has to decide first whether to believe him, and second, should he help him, or should he concentrate on the big picture of protecting the entire planet.

   The episode ends with Invincible and the Teen Team involved in the biggest battle they have yet faced. Writer and co-creator Robert Kirkman crafted a twist ending I didn't see coming that might have major consequences in the future. He was a master at this with the INVINCIBLE comic book series.

   In the comic book's continuity, Titan was a minor villain, but with the animated series, he is taking his toys and playing with them in new and interesting way. The animated series is establishing itself as a strong series, able to stand on its own. It remains faithful to the spirit of the original comic book series, but continues to be its own unique story that brings me back for each episode. Even though I know how the story will develop overall from reading the comic book series, Kirkman and the animation team are playing with the characters in new ways that creates a new story in the Invincible Universe, or the Invincible of another dimension, to borrow a concept from superhero comic books.

   This episode still gets my top grade of a solid "A." This series continues to be for MATURE audiences only. If that's not an issue for you, I continue to recommend it.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Invincible Animated Series: Episode #4: Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out!

   Welcome back my pal Billy Hogan who continues his reviews of the animated series based on the comic book Invincible:

    The wife of Guardians Of The Globe member Red Rush hires Debbie Grayson, mother of Invincible hero Mark Grayson, to sell her home because she has decided to move back to Moscow. 

   Mark's relationship with Amber continues to develop as he learns how to navigate the superhero problem of having a secret identity.

   When Mark's father Nolan, aka Omni-Man, declines Cecil Stedman's offer of protecting a manned mission to Mars from the Martians, Mark decides to volunteer. His inexperience shows as the astronauts are captured under his nose, and the expedition has to make a hasty retreat from the Red Planet. The question is, did a threat to Earth hitch a ride on the spacecraft.

   While Mark is away, Nolan and Debbie take a brief vacation for some quality time after experiencing the stress of recent events.

   Throughout the episode, demonic detective Damian Darkblood has been continuing his investigation about the events involving the Guardians Of The Globe at the end of the first episode. 

   Cecil Stedman, head of the Global Defense Agency, has been conducting his own investigation, and his suspicions center on one person. But he finds a way to get Damian Darkblood out of his way so that no one or nothing can interfere with Stedman's plans. But Damian made sure his own investigation did not go for naught.

   The surviving Mauler Twin finds a place to build a new lab so he can clone another twin.

   At the end of the episode, we discover a secret about Robot.

   This episode uncovered a few hidden layers of a number of characters, revealing dimensions about them we weren't aware of before. These characters are becoming more complex and intriguing, and makes me want to hurry up and watch the next episode to see how they affect the story. 

   Robert Kirkman, writer and co-creator of the comic book series, is using the comic book series as a foundation for this animated series, but he's not afraid to continue playing with his characters and take them in different directions from the comic book story. That strategy makes the animated series new and fresh, hooking the viewer into staying along for a wild ride.

   It leaves me no choice but to also give this episode a solid A.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Invincible: Episode 3: Who You Calling Ugly? - Guest Review

   Welcome back Billy Hogan with his review of the third episode of the Invincible animated series:

    We begin with a public ceremony honoring the Guardians Of The Globe, followed by a more private one with the families of the Guardians. There Damian Darkblood questions Nolan about the case involving the events involving the heroes at the end of the first episode.

   During the episode, Atom Eve discovers a secret about two of her teammates on the Teen Team.

   After the success the Teen Team had with the Flaxan invasion last episode, Cecil Stedman, head of the Global Defense Agency (GDA) tasks Robot, leader of the Teen Team, with putting together a new group of heroes to become the next Guardians Of The Globe. 

   After a series of auditions, some with humorous results, the heroes chosen along with the Teen Team are Monster Girl (who appears to be a pre-teen girl who can transform into a hulking monster, with an interesting twist to her power), Shrinking Rae (a female hero who can reduce her size), and Black Samson (an early member of the Guardians Of The Globe who left the group when he lost his powers but now wears a special suit that gives him powers).

   Meanwhile, Mark discovers some of the challenges of having a private life while being a superhero, when he begins a relationship with a girl from high school. He has to respond to an emergency alert from Cecil, along with Atom Eve, without revealing his secret identity to his new girlfriend. Invincible and Atom Eve face Doc Seismic at Mount Rushmore.

   The Mauler Twins, who were introduced at the beginning of the first episode, escape their GDA prison with a little inside help. The source of their assistance, when it's revealed, is a surprise. One question I have is how it is able to be hidden from Stedman, but maybe we will learn more details in later episodes. This plot twist is the first major one that significantly differs from the comic book. It shows that co-creator and writer Robert Kirkman continues to play with his concept of Invincible, and not just make what amounts to a “motion comic” of his comic book hero.

   The episode ends with demonic detective Damian Darkblood questioning Debbie about her superhero husband.

   This episode had more humor in it than the previous two. It continues to build an interesting mystery about what is going on with Nolan Grayson aka Omni-Man, as we continue to follow his son Mark's development as a superhero. 

   Nolan continues to give Mark some valuable advice about what it takes to be a hero, both as a public figure and someone with a private life and how to protect it. The ways the animated series differs from the original comic book don't stray from the spirit of the series, but makes readers familiar with the comic book, like me, feel like we're watching an entirely new story.

   I can't wait to see where Robert Kirkman, the creative team of animators, and the vocal cast will take us. 

   Once again this episode deserves a solid A.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Invincible Episode 2: Here Goes Nothing - TV Guest Review

   Back with a follow-up review of the animated series Invincible is our man Billy Hogan:

   The episode begins where the first episode ended, at the headquarters of the Guardians Of The Globe


   Mysterious troops enter to carry away the heroes, and Mark and his mother Debbie are informed of Nolan's injuries. Mark discovers that his superhero father was not only a member of the Guardians, but they also worked for the secret Global Defense Agency (GDA), headquartered under the Pentagon. 

   As Nolan recuperates, Mark, as Invincible, meets the Teen Team (think DC Comics' Teen Titans) and begins working with them, and discovers one member actually attends his high school. They are tapped by the GDA to replace the Guardians.

   During the episode the Teen Team attempt to fill the gap left by the absence of the Guardians Of The Globe. They are severely tested by the inter-dimensional invaders called the Flaxans, who attempt three separate invasions of Earth. 

   During their first invasion, Invincible is almost overwhelmed by the chaos of the invasion, and slowly takes his first steps in building his confidence as a superhero. With each invasion, the Flaxans become a greater challenge until the Teen Team is almost defeated by the Flaxans during their third attempt, when they receive a helping hand in turning the tide.

   As this is going on, literal demonic detective Damian Darkblood, voiced by Clancy Brown (who voiced Lex Luthor in the Superman Animated Series), begins an independent investigation about what happened to the Guardians Of The Globe. (I'm trying to keep these reviews as spoiler free as possible.)

   Also, as Nolan recovers, the GDA discover an old threat that Omni-Man faced in the past has returned, and Mark has to face him alone. The encounter is one of the most original I've ever read in a superhero comic book.

   Just like in the first episode, events in this one are familiar to readers of the Invincible comic book series, but are tweaked so that it doesn't feel like an exact recreation of the story onto the screen. 

   Mark is thrown into the deep end of the pool as a superhero a lot quicker than in the comic book, making his learning curve a lot steeper in the animated series.

   We get to know the other members of the Teem Team very quickly, and they soon become very familiar. They are led by Robot, who is able to analyze any situation and formulate a strategy to overcome the challenge. Atom Eve is able to manipulate matter and energy. Dupli-Kate, as her name suggests, can make multiple copies of herself very quickly. Rex Splode, like the X-men's Gambit, is able to touch anything and make it into a bomb he can hurl at his opponent.

   Watching this animated series adaption of one of my favorite comic book superheroes is like the story was boiled down to its essence, into a more intense story. 

   Pieces of the plot are familiar, but are tweaked enough that it's like watching a brand new story. 

   Invincible co-creator and writer Robert Kirkman continues to adapt his comic book superhero to fit the strengths of the animation medium, and I give this episode a solid A.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Guest Review: Invincible Animated Series


      My pal Billy Hogan sends along this guest review about the newest superhero-based animated series:

   When I learned almost two years ago that Amazon Prime was going to create an animated series adaption of the comic book series INVINCIBLE, I was very excited. 

   The comic book series, published by Image Comics, had ended earlier in the year, so I looked forward to watching the series. 

   The wait ended this past Friday, March 26, when it premiered. Right now three episodes are available: IT'S ABOUT TIME, HERE GOES NOTHING, and WHO YOU CALLING UGLY, and eight episodes are scheduled for the first season altogether. 

   The animated series was written by the comic book writer and INVINCIBLE co-creator Robert Kirkman. It is rated for MATURE audiences only because the superhero violence is very explicit at times.

   The star of both the comic book and animated series is Mark Grayson, son of Nolan Grayson, who is the superhero Omni-Man, and a member of the superhero group Guardians of the Globe (think the Justice League or Avengers, depending on your favorite superhero group). His father's superhero career is no secret to either Mark or his mother Debbie. Mark hopes to develop superpowers someday, but it hasn't happened yet.

   In the animated series Mark Grayson is voiced by Stephen Yeun, Sandra Oh is Debbie Grayson, and J. K. Simmons plays Nolan Grayson and Omni-Man.

   The first episode begins with an attack on the White House by the blue-skinned muscle bound Mauler Twins. Their attack is resisted by the Guardians Of The Globe. 

   Then we see what home life is like for the family of a superhero. We get plenty of tender family moments in this episode. When Mark finally begins to develop superpowers as a part of going through puberty, he learns that practicing them is a lot like learning to ride a bicycle; you fall down a lot. 

   Mark has to deal with some other issues that all superheroes do, like how do you come up with a good hero name, and where do you get a cool costume from. At the end of the episode we see the members of the Guardians in their private lives, until they are summoned to Guardians headquarters to face a surprise opponent.

   This episode takes scenes from among the first twelve issues of the comic book series to do an excellent job of introducing and establishing the characters, developing the plot, and laying the foundation for the rest of the episodes to build on. 

   The art style in the animation is a good match to the drawing styles of original INVINCIBLE comic book artist Cory Walker and his successor, Ryan Otltey. All of the voice actors did a great job of bringing a lot of emotion to their roles. 

   We get a great balance of humor and action as we watch Mark's struggles as both a high school student and a superhero. The end of the episode is guaranteed to hook you and make you want to watch the next episode.

   So I will have to give this first episode a solid A. If graphic violence and some mature language doesn't bother you, then you should enjoy this excellent adaptation of one of the greatest comic book superheroes I've ever read. 

   It doesn't hurt that Robert Kirkman is adapting his creation for animation, so I'm looking forward to seeing how INVINCIBLE translates to video.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Taking a Break

    Apologies for the lack of posts, gentle readers - your pal Chuck has been overwhelmed by some family issues (it's all good stuff, but very time-consuming), so I've had to take a bit of a break from the blog.

   I hope to get back to it soon - and welcome guest reviews, if anyone wants to contribute - but for now, the real world intrudes.

   A couple of quick comment / reviews to tide you over:

   - WandaVision was a lot of fun. Not perfect, but mighty close.

   - Zack Snyder's Justice League on HBO Max has been welcomed by many fans and is apparently better that the Whedon version of the film. I have no interest in devoting four hours to another grim DC film, no matter how sumptuous the visuals. It's a hard pass for me.

   - The new Justice League comic from Brian Michel Bendis is promising. So far.

   - Why are so many of Marvel's titles such grim slogs? Do the writers and editors not see the success of the films and their balance of humor, character and action?

   - Fire Power is an excellent series, well worth checking out.

   Let's be safe out there!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

WandaVision (Episode 4) - TV Review


   Well, I thought I had WandaVision figured out. 

   Each episode would be based on sitcoms from different decades - the first episode was the '50s, the second was the '60s, the third was the '70s - you get the idea.

   I figured we'd slowly get clues about the secret behind the story - but the fourth episode, happily, took an unexpected approach.

   We still don't have all the answers, happily, but the episode linked the storyline directly into the Marvel movie continuity, touching on events from the last Avengers movie.

   We also see some familiar faces (or names) and run into the organization known as S.W.O.R.D.

   It's an excellent change-up for the series, and makes it even more of a must-see event.

   We still don't know what's going on with Wanda and the Vision - but the suspense is wonderful! 

   (And to those complaining about having to wait a week for each episode - welcome to my childhood! It's also works for The Mandalorian!)

Grade: A