A few thoughts on last night’s WWE Elimination Chamber PPV

WWE put the worst elements of their booking on display last night, and the bright spots even managed to prove the rule.

Elimination Chamber was symptomatic of a bloated creative team that hides its lack of good ideas in overwhelming volume—overwriting the simplest and most compelling elements of what makes competition resonate with people.

The Intercontinental Title Match

Inexplicably this match turned into a two-on-one match, presumably because someone who doesn’t understand how sports or competitions works thought Finn Balor would look more sympathetic and more impressive going against the odds in this way. But this is the point of view of a moron, because implicit in these two-on-one rules is that Balor can (and did) win the title by pinning either member of the two-person team, even though only one member was the defending champion.

So WWE expects this to be a significant moment when Balor wins the Intercontinental Championship — which he does by pinning the defending champion’s hype man. Balor wins the title by not defeating the champion. How is that supposed to get him over? How is that supposed to feel satisfying? Right away, he’s undermined by booking that routinely broadcasts its own lack of awareness of how athletic competitions work and why they resonate with audiences. (more…)



The Doomino Effect for February 6, 2019

Let’s kick off this week’s reviews with Avengers #14, which resumes the vampire storyline that was randomly dropped in favor of the Iron Fist origin story last issue.

There’s apparently a vampire civil war going on, with a bunch of anti-Dracula vampires attacking Dracula’s castle, and Blade is in the middle of it trying to stop the anti-Dracula vampires, led by a guy called Shadow Colonel. In a scene that is basically just the “Joker gets arrested on purpose” scene from The Dark Knight, the Shadow Colonel is deliberately taken into custody by the Avengers so that he and his evil buddies can be on the inside and start causing problems with folks like Blade and Ghost Rider.

“He’s far too confident,” Black Panther says. “It would appear the Shadow Colonel wanted to be here.”

There’s something really kind of stupid about all of this, yet I find myself being uncharacteristically patient. (more…)



How a Single One-Liner Ruins Batman in The Dark Knight Trilogy

batman begins movie poster

When Batman Begins came out in 2005, there was one particular scene – one line in one particular scene, to be more specific – that bothered the hell out of me, and I have wanted to talk about it ever since.

To paraphrase John Mulaney, I know it’s kind of stupid to complain about a movie that came out 14 years ago, but I wasn’t a blogger back then, so I have to do it now.

The scene in question is the audience’s introduction to The Batman.

I’m coming in hot on this one. Let’s just dive right into it.
(more…)



The Doomino Effect for January 30, 2019

Starting off this week’s reviews is Heroes in Crisis #5, and we are now at the section of the mystery where you slosh through the dull middle-part, hoping something is going to happen soon. I for one was getting tired of the formula of “See-saw between Crazy Booster and Crazy Harley with testimonials from now-dead heroes littered throughout.”

While I enjoyed this issue more than I didn’t, there were a number of characterization choices that kind of caught me off-guard.

I don’t find Harley Quinn sexy, because she is a cartoon character and I’m not someone who turns to drawings of tightly clad women in comic books to satisfy my adolescent lust, and so prurient splash pages designed to show off the shape of her hips and breasts just feels beneath the level of storytelling that Tom King appears to be going for. There’s nothing wrong with sexuality in comics, of course, but this just feels like “Hey thirteen year old, need a little time to yourself?”

That said, this is the second issue in a row to go down this odd path, so maybe it’s not really “out of character” anymore. I don’t find Harley Quinn charming, because I don’t think “Kooky homicidal person” is any more interesting than it was in the 90s when those characters were a dime-a-dozen. Same reason I find Sanity to be probably the worst act in professional wrestling. And I honestly never realized that Batgirl spoke in nonsense like Harley does. So I really don’t find the Harley half of this plot at all engaging.

On the flipside, I used to enjoy Booster Gold, and I loved the Blue Beetle. But I find their arc in this story incredibly off-putting. Ted was such a conscientious character; I feel like they’re halfway there with his loyalty to Booster, but his nonchalance in the gravity of this situation just feels misaligned to what made the character endearing in the first place.

I mean look at this opening spread — it’s beautifully rendered (and I admit I didn’t see the “Heroes In Crisis” letters until zooming out to this degree) but a bunch of heroes have just been brutally murdered and the casual nature of this just feels jarring.

And the real tire-screecher in this issue was Superman’s speech. (more…)



The Doomino Effect for January 23, 2019

It just occurred to me how much more frequently comics are coming out these days. I’m only back to doing this blog for a month, and I’ve hit several of these series twice (or more) already. I wonder how long it would’ve taken me to figure this out if I weren’t writing about these things.

Speaking of things that take a long time to learn, let’s start with Guardians of the Galaxy #1. Longtime readers of this blog will know that Doom DeLuise and I were massive fans of the Abnett y Lanning relaunch of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Back then, it would’ve been ridiculous to imagine that these characters would become household names. Once those characters did become household names, Marvel seemed ironically confused as to what made the characters so interesting in the first place, and the comics evolved into Brian Michael Bendis trying to compete with James Gunn on the page, and it all fell quite flat. They inexplicably brought in some Spawn character, made Iron Man a member, and I don’t even remember how long ago that was but I can tell you I stopped caring about one of my favorite teams completely.

I decided in recent months to start following the Infinity Wars series, including that miniseries that led up to it, Countdown to Infinity Wars or whatever it was, and the series quite endearingly felt like it was existing under the radar of Marvel’s Hot Properties. The story was delightfully weird in an uncontrived way, and it reminded me of what made the 00s series so lovable. It seemed to almost delight in the fact that not many people were buying it, and that was liberating!

So anyway, the Infinity Wars thing happened, people died, and now there are pieces needing to be picked up, including but not limited to Thanos’ body, the team formerly known as the Guardians of the Galaxy, hammers and shards of Groot.

As you might predict, from such clues as this being the launch of a new series and other clues like Marvel’s solicitations, this issue is the story of how the new team comes together. (more…)



The Doomino Effect for January 16, 2019

In week 3 of the Return of the Doomino Effect, I will set the stage by telling you that we’re going to experience some high highs and some low lows, my friend.

Speaking of high-high, I’ll lead with The Batman Who Laughs #2, because “high-high” is kind of like “ha-ha,” and also because you have to start somewhere.

I have to tell you, I was largely disappointed by the Metal miniseries, in spite of how much I loved Scott Snyder’s run on Batman, and how much I generally appreciate stories with long-term builds. There’s just something about “ooh, scary versions of the good guys we know!” that always falls pretty flat with me. Snyder’s horror feels so intimate and personal, so the widescreen monster attack just didn’t grab me in the way I’d hoped.

So I honestly didn’t really expect to read The Batman Who Laughs, because that Joker Batman was probably my least favorite of the new spooky Batman versions from that storyline. It just felt too easy, almost. Fortunately for DC’s bank account, it came out on a week when I was otherwise light, so I picked it up to fill out the stack.

And man, I’m so glad I did; so far this series is everything I loved about Snyder’s Batman run. Rather than something exploitatively shocking and dark (and it does have its shocking and dark moments, mind you) this is at its core a psychological horror mystery. And having just recently re-read the “Court of Owls” storyline (more to come in a future blog post), that’s something I think Snyder does as well as anyone in the superhero comics world.

Snyder can write a Batman who’s on top of anything—but then villains who are even a few steps ahead of that—in a way that never manages to feel contrived. He can retcon Gotham history and plant convenient plot devices in ways that might elicit eyerolls from lesser writers.

I do think it’s his horror touch that allows him to pull it off. By creating an atmosphere so off-kilter and uncertain, these plot devices he employs feel symptomatic of a chaotic experience, giving them the cover they need to land emotionally rather than just feeling like part of a formula. Like at one point it’s literally raining aged Bruce Wayne corpses. Can you imagine how stupid that would be if Tony Daniel were trying to write that? (You can tell I’ve been out of this game for a while when I’m still picking on Tony Daniel as a Batman writer.) (more…)



The Doomino Effect for January 9, 2019

Hey Doomies, it’s two weeks in a row for the first time in almost 10 years. Look at us go!

First up is Avengers #12. I have always been kind of biased against Jason Aaron ever since he stole Van Jensen’s Wolverine story idea and then tried to make his case by denying what his story was about. Then I didn’t really care for him because he wrote the terrible Original Sin event.

His writing has always felt to be the voice of the insecure—never quite confident to stand on its own, so it’s protected by the emotional safety net of knowing winks and chuckles.

So I don’t know if he’s matured or if I’ve just softened, but I’ve overall enjoyed his run on Avengers. While talented people like Jonathan Hickman are capable of retconning beautiful elaborate histories, Aaron’s training-wheels kiddie version in this series has been earnestly endearing, with these ancient versions of modern avatars casting an interesting shadow over the relaunch of the series, no matter how unreasonable.

The last few issues have been a little scattered, what with the rise of Angry Namor (I missed how he grew his head back after he lost it during the incursions a few years ago) and the cameos of Squadron Supreme (I haven’t paid attention to what they’ve been up to since they beheaded Namor a few years ago). It’s all led to some general Avengers distrust toward the U.S. government. In this issue, we find Black Panther assembling a ground team to be his eyes and ears around the world.

Part of what has been so charming in Aaron’s run is that he seems to be reaching for and normalizing some of the most fantastic and even silly parts of the Marvel Universe, but embracing what makes them ridiculous. For example, the Avengers live inside the corpse of a Celestial; their head of security is now a talking gorilla.

It sure helps that Ed McGuinness is illustrating the thing (for the most part); he is one of the few artists who can execute a cartoonish style without compromising the gravity of a story, and his style is perfect for a story that reaches for and bear-hugs comics’ sometimes “wouldn’t it be cool if..?” ambitions. Unfortunately Ed wasn’t able to deliver this whole issue, and a backup crew of lesser artists supported him.

The tough part of Aaron’s act here is that it’s difficult to stay on the good side of the line he’s walking, and the ending was a laugh-out-loud attempted “cool” moment that made me immediately think of the Dwayne McDuffie classic (In)Justice League #13. (Seriously, read that for one of my favorite rants ever.)

Surprise! (more…)



Rated ‘D’ for Doom: A Look at Superhero Movies in 2019

spider-man far from home movie posterHello, and welcome to another installment of “Rated ‘D’ for Doom,” my annual look at the year’s upcoming superhero movies!

It’s been a couple of years since I wrote one of these, but that’s only because we haven’t had any new superhero movies come out lately. I guess they’re just not that popular with general audiences anymore.

But fear not! It’s a whole new year, and it looks like several of the major film studios in Hollywood are going to risk it all once again and roll the dice on a few of these properties. Hopefully they don’t lose their shirts!

No, but, for real, the stakes have never been higher than they are right now – last year, three of the top five highest-grossing superhero movies of all-time were released. At the domestic box office, six of the top ten highest-earners on the year were superhero movies.

Studios have a lot riding on this fad, and they’re determined to milk it for all it’s worth.

You thought Solo was a gross cash-grab in the Star Wars Universe? Well wait until you see the TV spin-offs for Scarlet Witch, Loki, and the Winter Soldier!

Drain ‘em dry!

But this year, we have more superhero movies coming out than ever before (don’t, uh… don’t fact-check me on that), so we don’t have any time to waste on looking back or talking about TV spin-offs.

Let’s get right into it!
(more…)



Doom & Doomer: Aquaman

aquaman movie posterDOOM DELUISE: Hello, and welcome to the latest installment of Doom & Doomer, where Jim Doom and I sit down for a back-and-forth conversation about the latest superhero movie releases of the day.

Today, we’re here to discuss the latest of the surprisingly successful Justice League spin-offs: Aquaman!

Overall, big picture, what did you think?

JIM DOOM: I loved it!

And I really only went to see it so we could review it. I thought it looked comically bad (no pun intended) since the very first trailer. I hated Aquaman in Justice League. I hate Roman Reigns. So I was going into this trying to have an open mind, but fully expecting to hate it.

And for a while, I felt pretty justified in thinking I was going to hate it.

But then it won me over, somewhere in the first act.

DOOM DELUISE: Do you remember the specific moment where you were won over? Or was it more gradual?

JIM DOOM: There was one pivotal moment in the movie that set me on a course of enjoying it.

DOOM DELUISE: Was it the octopus playing the drums?

Because that ALMOST got me on board. (more…)



The Doomino Effect for January 2, 2019

I forgot to do this column for the past 200 or so weeks, and I tried several new series this week, so let’s get back into it, shall we?

We’ll start with Uncanny X-Men #8. It’s really hard to make a quality weekly comic book, and Uncanny X-Men is sure doing its best to prove the rule. Doominator dropped in a few weeks ago to share some thoughts on the series, but my general feelings tend to be “This is the kind of mess I’d expect from the Chuck Austen era, and not any kind of grand return of the team worthy of a restart to the numbering.”

One of the drawbacks of doing a weekly series is that it’s nigh impossible to have consistent art. And for me, inconsistent art styles equate to basically the storytelling equivalent of watching a movie and suddenly everyone is speaking in a different accent.

On top of that, the story really revolves around the petulance of four X-Men understudies, validating the fact that they’re treated like kids by acting like kids. It also ties into the Age of Apocalypse storyline from the 90s, which essentially every surviving homer blog tries to convince you was good, but was actually terrible.

So you’ve got this all-star crew of reunited X-Men, and the story focuses on some D-listers. Magneto is playing a marginalized supporting role. Apocalypse is in this story in order to spend the majority of it tied to a chair (though he is actually out walking around in this issue). I keep reading in the solicitations that after this storyline, Wolverine and Cyclops have to clean up after the decimation of the X-Men, and I’m like “sweet.”
(more…)