Mickey X: The Contest Review

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Before reading this comic I had certainly never heard of Mickey X. I’d say that I’m a pretty knowledgeable Disney fan but I suppose I still don’t know all of the spinoffs. The premise for the series seems pretty interesting as Mickey runs errands in a supernatural world filled with dangerous characters. It’s a very different take on the classic characters but one that works pretty well so far and does have a lot of potential. That’s saying something since I feel like the majority of Elseworld tales aren’t very good. At the very least it’s a fun little comic.

There are two stories in this comic. The first one is the main adventure as a bunch of mystery authors are invited to a mysterious mansion. The owner may in fact have ill intent as monsters show up and begin attacking the guests. Can Mickey and his struggling author friend save the day or will monsters conquer all? One thing is for sure, someone is going to have to step up and get the job done.

I’m always up for an ensemble of mystery authors. Even Detective Conan did something similar in one arc. Goofy (Basically it’s him) can’t write so he has to bluff his way through the meeting. I’d say he does a decent job of it since he has lasted so long without anyone finding him out. Here’s my question though. Since apparently his friend was writing all of the stories for him in the first place, why would Goofy need to go to the bar to get inspiration? It’s not like it would help at all if he simply can’t write. Maybe he was hoping that he could finally write his first book which is a nice thought but I guess it just didn’t happen. Also in case you are ever caught in such a position I’d advise you to at least write something down as opposed to leaving a blank page and conceding defeat. Even if you don’t think the story is great, half a story is better than none.

While Mickey is really the supporting character here, he does a good job of keeping up with everyone. You get the feeling that he’s not in too much danger from the monsters due to his speed and reflexes. He comes across as an adventurer in training so I’m sure he’ll get more to do in other volumes. Minnie makes for an interesting ruler since she seems to have abilities here. At the very least, she has a lot of influence and can call the shots whenever she likes.

If I had a book that turned my writing into reality, I’d quickly write that my pizza made it on time and was free. I’d probably build some kind of calorie nullifier as well so that I could finally eat all the cheese that I wanted. The monsters that the authors came up with were fairly good though so I’ll give them some kudos on that. They had good imaginations and proved that they were the real deal when it came to author skill.

The 2nd story is a whole lot shorter but it’s still pretty good. Mickey finds a camera lying around but whenever he takes a picture there is a door in the background which is slowly opening more and more. He decides not to take any more pictures just in case but it may be out of his hands now. This camera could very well lead to the end of the world! That will weigh heavily on Mickey’s conscience.

I figure that behind the door is a specter who haunts the wielder of the camera for all eternity. It makes sense and adds in a lot of tension. However, theories are all that you can make as the monster doesn’t get to appear thanks to the anticlimactic ending. I was expecting a troll moment where a happy character comes out of the door or something, not for nobody to come out. Still, it was a pretty interesting story before that ending occurred. The ending didn’t ruin it or anything, but it was just a missed opportunity. It was short but who doesn’t like an evil camera plot?

The art looks pretty good throughout. All of the character designs are sleek and the pages are easy to read with the sharp colors all around. It’s light in detail which helps the overall comic be so comprehensive but naturally more details are always a good thing if handled well. The art is basic but in a good way so I’m definitely satisfied. No real action scenes to test its mettle of course but it’s not like you would expect one here. That’s why it is important that the overall comic looks good. I say the same thing about anime. If it’s not an action series then I feel like it should be very easy to have good animation since the character designs are one of the only things you are focusing on. If you still can’t have good animation then I’m not sure what to say. So Mickey X did a good job with what it was given.

Overall, Mickey X was pretty fun. It’s a very short read but one were both stories had a good premise. The first one works quite well while the second’s ending was anticlimactic but they were both solid stories. It’s always good to see more of Mickey Mouse, particularly in his modern design/personality. Hopefully the series got many more comics because I’d be interested in reading those. I’m curious as to where Donald Duck is and what his occupation/personality even is in this version. I’m sure that no matter what he’s doing, he is still the loud and confident character that we are all used to. I’d recommend giving this comic a read and enjoying the best Goofy portrayal that I’ve seen.

Overall 7/10

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Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! Review

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Pokemon is definitely a big franchise that has had a lot of hype moments and hard landings throughout. On the whole it usually has many more successes than failures though and the anime is one that can be recommended to all. The Pokemon Go game is probably the title that I’ve played the most overall as well and there’s just a lot of variety. Partially to cash in on Pokemon Go and the nostalgia for the original episodes, this film was made instead of a Alola title. That sounded good to me, but now I wish they had gone the other route instead. Not all of the films have been amazing. They range from great to fairly mediocre. However, this one went to a new direction that I hadn’t even thought to be worried about, it decided to get rather dark. This is not the Pokemon film that we had been waiting for.

It’s a reimagining of Ash’s first days as a trainer so it starts with him being late to Professor Oak’s lab. He gets Pikachu and survives a Spearow attack. The first warning bells here is when we suddenly get a massive jump to Erica as Ash wins the gym badge in an instant. The majority of the fight was skipped and what about all of the fights before this one? Sure, they were never going to be able to adapt all of it but why skip that much? Well, Ash meets up with Sorrel and Verity who decide to tag along with him. He comes across an evil Pokemon named Marshadow who wants to corrupt him and plunge the world into darkness. Can Ash stop him and any chance at this adapting more Gym Battles or will he be forced to give up on his quest?

I made sure to sit down and read something before writing this review to calm down a bit first, but the film still didn’t sit any better with me. It’s clear from the get go that the writers had a very different idea on why People liked the original season than I did. I liked the original Pokemon season because of the cool gym battles and Pokemon action throughout. Ash was a great main character and Gary was a fun rival. It could get pretty serious, but was a light hearted adventure all around. The movie went through great pains to destroy every one of those concepts.

First lets talk about how they ruined Ash. He gets corrupted by Marshadow and starts acting mean to everyone. He bad mouths Charmander behind his back for losing and says that he would have won with Pikachu. He tells Pikachu that he wishes he got a different Pokemon and distances himself from everyone. This leads to a scene of him being in a normal school and finally making it back to the real world where he gets over it. Sure, Marshadow was manipulating him, but why is there even such a scene in the first place? If it had to happen, give it to one of Ash’s forgettable partners. Ash’s character shouldn’t be sacrificed for such a small plot that had no actual bearing on anything. Take away those couple of minutes and not a thing changes. Then it’s also annoying how Ash loses to Cross because he didn’t have any strategy. Telling Charmeleon to use the same attack multiple times when it was clearly not working was also very annoying. Then getting suckered by Cross into losing his feather by the end makes you shake your head. Ash just looked terrible at many points throughout this movie and is certainly nowhere near his TV show counterpart. He has his moments, but at the end of the day he’s not the great trainer that you’ll remember from the old days.

As the show is condensing a long season into a movie you at least want the big fights, but we don’t get very many action scenes in the film. Most of the ones that we do get are over in 1-2 hits as Pikachu zaps someone or tackles them away. It was clearly not a priority for the film. The fact that Sorrel never gets to fight at all aside from getting one shotted and likewise for Verity just shows how the fighting was pushed to the side. I wanted actual trainer fights and good battles against the Wild Pokemon. This just never happened and the action in this film is quite limited. It’s something that most of the other films did with a lot more success than this one.

Instead, the show focuses on the dark/somber plots from the anime. Butterfree leaving is one of the plots that they choose to keep. Now, it’s not a bad scene in the anime. Ash still got to spend a lot of time with him and we had about 20 happy episodes before and after it. The film is already short so why are we jumping to such a sad scene already? Keep in mind that the film also keeps in the dark Charmander plot where he is abandoned and nearly dies before Ash saves him. The film clearly wanted to be darker and sadder than Pokemon is supposed to be. Those two scenes were already enough, but then the movie really jumped the shark. This is the scene that really wrecked the film beyond repair and what makes it worse is that this scene was absolutely and completely 100% pointless.

Sorrel reminds the audience why he is such a terrible character as when he was a kid he snuck out in the cold. He then fainted so the family’s loyal dog Pokemon had to follow him. Instead of picking the kid up and going home, roaring so people could come help, zapping the kid awake, or making a fire, the Pokemon dies. It just dies for no reason and it’s a very sad moment for no reason at all. The film just wanted to get grim dark to establish Sorrel’s character, but what did it really establish? It didn’t change him in any real way. It’s just a passing line and then the film goes back to trying to be happy in the next scene. I can’t stress enough how pointless this scene was and just how terrible it was. With Pokemon Alola also apparently bumping off Pokemon, it’s just a sad state of affairs that the movie would pick this scene to include in the film. There was no way Sorrel could save himself from this scene of course. Moreover, he talks a good game about being friends with his Pokemon, but does nothing to try and stop Cross when he shows up. He does nothing throughout the film.

Verity at least has some more personality. I was a little annoyed that her fight with Ash was interupted since we could have had an actual battle Ash should have been able to win that one with the type advantage. Her sob story also doesn’t really have a point as she seemingly had some kind of fight with her Mom but then decides to go home and talk it out. More unnecessary drama, but at least it’s not randomly grim so I’ll take it. The film barely acknowledges it after that one scene so that’s for the best. I’m not the biggest fan of Brock and Misty, but I think I would have taken them over these two. At least I think they would have been more ready to help Ash while these two kids simply watched with astonished looks on their faces the entire movie.

Cross is the mean rival and the film does what it can to make the guy as mean as can be. He kicks Charmander and gets away wit it. He beats up Ash and beats up Charmeleon quite a bit and again gets away scot free. While it’s all build up for Ash eventually winning, even that feels negated as he still knocks Ash away and gets the feather. Then he actually turns good which is more of an insult to the cast than anything else. You can’t really convert a character like that in such a short amount of time. While Sorrel reminds Ash that t hey have to respect this guy’s power, they can also respect the fact that they can take him down and bring him over to the cops for Pokemon abuse. Again, I don’t know what the writers were thinking with this film.

As for some actual positives, the graphics are good. Everything looks pretty shiny and modern. This way you at least have something to look at the whole time. When the Pokemon fights happen they look pretty good. Take a shot of water every time a fight is interrupted or ends off screen though. It’ll be good for you. The character designs are on point except for an annoying old man who pops up out of nowhere to contribute nothing to the story. That guy just didn’t have a purpose in the film.

The soundtrack’s not bad. Most of it’s pretty generic and never comes close to the actual first season. The remix of the opening is pretty good. Not as good as the original of course, but it’s more a case of the singer than the remix. The remix sounded pretty identical to the original to be honest which was good. That’s always been the most iconic Pokemon song for a good reason. The new singer did a fine job as well and it was a good way to kick things off. I would have liked a battle theme to accompany it, but since we didn’t really get many of those, I guess that’s why they didn’t bother.

Marshadow is one of the new Pokemon to show up, but I didn’t like him. He was seemingly portrayed as a villain from the start so it was odd that he wasn’t treated like one from the beginning. Unless he wasn’t actually mind controlling Ash and Ash was actually just being super unlikable, but I’m going to just assume it’s the former. He doesn’t even seem that strong and wouldn’t last very long in a real fight. It was cool seeing all of the Legendary Pokemon show up. I was glad Entei basically wiped the floor with everyone although I think Pikachu could give him a good fight 1 on 1. Entei was just running around too much and Ash couldn’t dodge the fire well enough. If he could, Pikachu would eventually take Entei down for the count. Team Rocket is also in this film by the way but seeing as how they just keep getting blasted away over and over again adding nothing to the film, there’s no need to give them their own section. They’re literally just here as cameos for the fans so the writers didn’t really have to think too hard about how to handle them.

So, as far as Pokemon films go this is definitely one of the weakest. I was hoping that a call back to the original Pokemon films would result in this being one of the better ones, but I suppose that just made the flaws more evident. I don’t often like Elseworld stories so I suppose that overrode the nostalgia. The whole thing just didn’t feel right and honestly it just should have had a completely different cast if the plot was going to be so different otherwise. Rename the main character as Stephen or something and then it’s less annoying. I don’t think the score would be any better since it still has the Pokemon death which is effectively an animal death, but it would certainly be less personal. At any rate, I hope this one doesn’t get a sequel and we just go back to the main Pokemon movies.

For an actual list, from what I remember of each film here is how it all ends up. 1. Genesect, 2. Pokemon Destiny Deoxys, 3. Mewtwo, 4. Entei, 5. 2000, 6. Giratina, 7. Heroes, 8. Darkrai, 9. Kyurem, 10. Black n White, 11. Lucario, 12. Hoopa, 13. Arceus, 14. 4 Ever, 15. Volcanion, 16. Zoroark, 17. Jirachi, 18. Diancie, 19. Ranger, 20. I Choose You. The list is a little rough towards the middle. My recollections of 4Ever, Lucario, Darkrai, Jirachi, and Ranger are spotty at best. The Top 5 are pretty well set by this point and will be rather tough to surpass, but not impossible. It’s probably fitting that Sun and Moon, the weakest season in all of Pokemon contains the weakest Pokemon film. If you count it as an Alola film at all, but it’s in that era at any rate.

I can also see why People didn’t like the climax to this film. It just feels all over the place and not really focused. Mind controlling all of the Pokemon and starting a big fight could be good..if the fight actually happened and we weren’t in the final minutes of the film. Ripping off Ash’s famous statue scene from the first movie is also rather shameless and it’s not even handled all that well. After all, this character hasn’t even been through much at all so it’s not as big a moment as it could have been. You can’t do a scene like that so early. The first movie’s scene was also epic as well as sad while this one is just adding yet another sad scene into the mix.

To save this film, it should have just been an adaption of season 1. Why even give Gary a cameo if he isn’t going to do anything? I was expecting him to show up, but it simply never happened. Why give us the Erika fight and mention the Pokemon League if it’s never going to happen either? I suppose these teases are supposed to be fun as you decide to watch the show again, but it just makes you wish for those moments instead of what you’re actually watching. Following the show and having a bunch of Gym Battles would have been a blast. I’d love to see a Pokemon Kai of sorts that does the first season all over again with new animation and I wouldn’t mind if they cut out the filler episodes so it focuses on the main plot. It could have been a blast. Then we would also get a bunch of cool action scenes as well.

Well, aside from the animation and soundtrack, a positive for the film would be that Pikachu looks good. While he did leave Ash pretty quickly once Ash entered into dark mode, he looked good in all of his fights. You never enter a fight thinking Pikachu will lose since he looks so impressive here. His speed is on point and he definitely is one of my favorite Pokemon at this point. Top 5 for sure and since there are over 700 Pokemon that is definitely an impressive feat. It would have been nice to have seen more of Ash’s Pokemon, but Pikachu is always the really important one anyway. I like to think he really gave Ho-Oh a great fight as well.

Overall, This Pokemon film just didn’t feel like Pokemon. That’s the biggest problem with it. It’s very sad and dramatic throughout. What the writers didn’t understand was that it’s okay, or at least not terrible to have sad and grim scenes in a show because you can have dozens of happy episodes between them. You can have a grim plot if handled right as well. However, in a movie, you have a limited amount of time so adding in even just a few sad scenes can change the tone of the entire movie. By having a very cruel rival, death, and permanent farewells in one movie, there’s no chance for a happy moment. The happy scenes in the film instead feel rather hollow, especially as Ash is sharing them with complete strangers who aren’t even that likable. Verity isn’t a bad character, but not a particularly great one either and Sorrel is just bad. you want a Pokemon film to be a fun one, especially if it’s an anniversary film. Instead, you’ll walk away from this film being pretty upset and I’m sure the feeling would have been even worse if you had seen it in the theater. Take my advice and skip this film, it’s just not worth it. I’ll still look forward to the next film though as I’m sure it’ll catch itself and start climbing up again.

Overall 5/10

Dragon Ball Side Story: The Case of Being Reincarnated as Yamcha Review

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The manga trilogy has finally ended so it’s time for the review. This mini series only got three chapters so it’s pretty short. That’s too bad because the premise just had a whole lot of potential in it. The basic plot is that a kid in the human world is a big fan of Dragon Ball. Unfortunately in the real world he’s just a really unlikable guy who has no redeeming qualities. One day, he decides to fall even lower on the moral totem pole when he falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his neck. It’s surprisingly a happy moment since he felt like the main antagonist. Instead of dying, the kid wakes up as Yamcha in the Dragon Ball series. He must now find a way to become a better character and avoid dying. Since he knows the events in advance he has a real shot here, but can he do it?

You can probably see why the premise has potential. There’s so much you can do with this kind of story since you know what is going to happen and can take steps to avoid it. Yamcha may not be able to do much against the final threats like Cell and Buu but even those are things that he can get past if he knows the origins. For Buu, just eliminate Spopovich and the other ally before they can get Gohan. For Cell, attack him in his first form or tell everyone where he is and that should be easy enough. You can escape almost any scenario.

The main character actually does do quite a bit of this at first. He trains hard so he is able to actually help against Frieza and the foes before him. He basically gives up on doing this by the Cell arc and decides to just watch which is fine I suppose. He knows he’ll come back to life anyway. You just can’t explore this concept as much as you could have if this was an ongoing series. Additionally, the series throws in the twist of having another human being warped into the series and the lead has to find out who he is. Naturally, this character is evil so they have a fight but the power of being a DBZ fan wins him over. This is all so rushed and unnatural that you have to wonder exactly why it was added.

Again, this could be a really interesting concept especially when you find out that if you die you get to retry your time in the universe. It could have been like a Groundhog Day where they explore many different avenues. Instead the whole second human plot is finished in one chapter. The ending was certainly an interesting twist as we at least get a reason why the human got into the world. Unfortunately, even the ending is wrecked as the main character immediately goes back to his old shady ways of being a creep. I thought the whole point was that he was going to learn a lesson…not that he would use his newfound abilities to be even worse in the real world.

Really, this manga is only held back by the main character. Otherwise, it’s pretty solid. The art is quite good and really does resemble DBZ at some points. It isn’t as consistent and has some flaws in that respect, but I would say that the art is quite good. It’s certainly a lot better than I would have anticipated from a short title like this one. I wonder how many people even know that this manga exists.

Overall, it’s a fun concept but you can only do so much with it. I’d recommend checking it out as many fans have always wanted a fun little alternate universe story like this one. You can even argue that the story could be cannon and wouldn’t make a difference. It would raise a lot of questions of course, but it could work. Hopefully we get more Dragon Ball spinoff mangas. Despite its overwhelming popularity we haven’t gotten as many titles as I’d like. We need to keep it rolling and get the Saiyans in a bunch of different adventures. Just resist the urge to add a human original character to the mix and then we’re golden. If you do add one, just keep in the death from the first chapter without actually bringing him back, now That would be funny.

Overall 5/10

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Homura’s Revenge! Review

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It’s time to check out another Madoka Magica manga title. I wasn’t crazy about the first two because the art wasn’t so good and the plot wasn’t the best. This one has a much better premise and the artwork has certainly improved, but it feels like the author is worried about doing anything too drastic. The series ends up feeling like a cop-out for several reasons and while the ending is mostly satisfying, there is one element that holds it back. That’s enough foreshadowing though, lets get into the review.

The series starts with Homura failing to save Madoka yet again. She’s been through this point in time on many occasions, but no matter what Homura does differently, it all ends up being futile. This time, she decides to take Madoka back in time with her. This way Madoka will remember everything that is going to happen as well as Homura so their chances to change the future should be drastically increased. Theoretically, this plan should be foolproof right? Unfortunately, Homura made the mistake of also bringing Kyubey into the past so he knows what is going to happen as well. It’ll be a battle of wits between them and being witty has always been one of Kyubey’s strengths.

Honestly I don’t think that Kyubey should have come along for the ride. This is where the cop-out part happens. The whole point of the series is that Homura and Madoka are going to try and change things so that they can save the future this time right? Well, they fail at every turn. Mami is still murdered by the demon, Sayaka is still turned to a witch, etc. They really didn’t change anything except for at the very end with Kyoko. They did beat the monster which at least made the future a bright one, but it wasn’t good enough for Homura or for myself. What’s the point of a what if story where only the ending is changed? I was expecting more drastic changes all around, but the heroes let Kyubey mess with them the whole time.

He was constantly messing with them and tricking all of the side characters. Everyone was unreasonable which ensured that nobody listened to Madoka or Homura. I also find it a little suspect how Mami was beaten twice. Surely she would have kept her guard up after almost being eaten the first time right? Mami is supposed to be super tough and all so she really shouldn’t have lost this battle. The manga even gave her some hype as usual by giving her the edge over Homura. I still say that Homura should be able to defeat her with time hax, but Mami’s abilities are certainly better when in close quarters combat.

The other iffy part was the ending. Homura explained that even though she saved the world and Madoka this time, she would go back in time because Madoka turned into a magical girl. That seems a little extreme since she actually managed to save the day after such a long period of trying. It seems to me like she would have been content to stay this time. Ah well, it was still a good ending though. For a while there is looked like the ending would have been another failed attempt and then Homura would have to head home by her lonesome.

As mentioned earlier, the art is definitely a lot sharper this time around. It feels more like how you’d expect the show to look in manga format. The fight scenes are a lot more engaging and it was fun to see some fights that never happened in the show like Kyoko and Sayaka vs Homura. Both of their battles were pretty fun and their plan actually wasn’t half bad. Overwhelming Homura with speed is the only way to really neutralize her time stop ability and preventing her from leaving is another good strategy. Of course, Homura could have stopped them easily if she was using fatal methods, but she couldn’t since she is technically a hero. The others never gave her much of a chance to explain herself though.

I have to say that Homura and Madoka’s plan wasn’t really well thought out. They should have approached Mami together as allies instead of allowing Mami to see Homura as an enemy. Their reasoning was that they should try to get everything to happen the same way so it’ll be easier to know when to diverge, but this reasoning didn’t make sense. It was an excuse for the author not to go down a very different path. The whole point of this manga is to try and go a different path so the series should have embraced this.

You can probably tell that I was less than pleased with how this was executed. Still, missed opportunities don’t make up the whole story in this adventure. It’s still a well written title on its own and the plot is engaging. It has some pretty good action scenes and the characters are likable enough. At the very least, I’d say that Homura and Kyoko are good. Mami comes across as a little arrogant and Sayaka is just gullible. Madoka isn’t all that helpful either the whole time and Kyubey makes for a good villain with how he pushes everyone around. At only 2 volumes long, the series goes by in a flash. The pacing is never a problem and the series gets from point to point with ease.

I also just enjoy the Madoka universe so seeing the characters was fun. The atmosphere was pretty tense and the characters were all pretty serious. I could definitely see this being turned into an anime or maybe some kind of OVA. I’d take it, even if just to see Homura wreck Kyoko and Sayaka. We really needed that fight in the anime, but there’s only so much you can do in 12 episodes.

After reading the manga, it’s safe to say that the power levels are: Madoka>Homura>Mami>Kyoko>Sayaka. Now, Homura and Mami are debatable I suppose since Mami does have a lot of experience and her abilities are a nice counter to Homura’s, but they only work if she is able to land a hit before time is stopped. I don’t see that happening. Meanwhile, Kyoko’s abilities are just a poor match up for Mami’s to start with and Sayaka is just the weakest by far. She doesn’t have a lot of experience and while her regeneration is great, it does consume energy so she can’t keep it up. Each member is pretty strong in her own way though which is what makes the team so formidable. What I really want is a series where we can see the whole group team up against an enemy. That’s what I need to see and that’s why we need a manga that introduces Dark Magical Girls. The other manga title came close, but didn’t go all the way. (I’m sensing a trend here eh?) Bringing that in could make for a definitive Madoka Magica series someday.
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Overall, It’s a clear improvement over the last manga. There aren’t any new characters this time around, but the TV show was already interesting enough where a What If story is certainly welcome. There are many ways that the show could have gone after all even if this one didn’t actually step into any of those paths. I’d definitely recommend checking this out if you want to read a nice little action story. If you haven’t watched the TV show then you may not really get what is happening at some points, but you should be able to understand enough. If anything, the added mystery could help make the series more enticing to you. At this point, we just need a season 2 so there will be more material and these spinoffs can think up more adventures for the main cast. It’s been quite a while so there is no excuse not to have a second season by now.

Overall 7/10

Superman Red Son Review

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It’s time to look at a classic Superman title that takes place in an alternate timeline. What if the Americans had not found Superman? That’s a question that many people ask themselves and this comic is essentially an interpretation of that concept. Being American is a rather large part of Superman’s character if you ask me so the character would definitely be pretty different, but his actual character should still be very heroic and just. Nature vs Nurture after all and his good heart should win out. This book starts to have him jump the fence a little towards the end, but for the most part he is portrayed well.

So, the soviets find Superman and he grows up to be their nuclear deterrent. Russia becomes a super power and nobody dares to mess with them. Eventually, every country falls in line with the Soviet Union except for the good ole USA. We’re not exactly team players after all and the USA will never bow to any other country. America hires Lex Luthor to put a stop to the Superman problem, but can his genius pull it off? Meanwhile, can Superman truly create a utopia as long as humans exist? Within Russia, the Man of Steel has managed to eliminate just about all crime, but a lot of bad things still happen constantly over in America. Free Will vs Security is the debate that he must wrestle with here.

As mentioned earlier, the comic is fairly well written and ends up being very engaging as a result. It’s always fun to read a good Superman story and this was a nice take on his origin. Seeing the Superman and Lex debates were certainly fun…even if the Lex hype may have been a little too much at certain points. Really just one in particular. Before Lex can verbally debate Superman, Brainiac quickly shoots the genius because he estimates that Lex would have talked him into suicide in a few seconds. (or minutes) This is essentially meant to be taken as fact and Superman was getting crushed in every single debate he was in, but I like to think that his strength of will would be a little better than that. At least it showed how Superman knew that he was getting to be in a dicey spot.

At first, Superman acted like his normal self. He saved people in Russia and protected the country without actually harming innocents or destroying anyone. He defeated his share of villains and also took out the fake Superman and other opponents who popped up. (I did feel bad for the fake Superman though) Once he saw the poverty in Russia and assumed command…that’s when things got pretty dicey. The power went to his head and the change was rather fast. He started walking into traps and he turned Russia into a complete police state. The way he sacrificed Wonder Woman for his plan also wasn’t a very Superman-esque move as he didn’t show a whole lot of remorse afterwards. At least he made the right call in the end, but it certainly took him long enough.

I suppose that the situation will always be tough for Superman after a while. Since he can hear everything across the world, there will literally always be someone who needs to be saved at some location. There will always be criminals and he really wouldn’t have any time for a secret identity. That part of the plot was also interesting since he didn’t have to bother with one in Russia. If he didn’t have to worry about being Clark Kent in the current comics, he could certainly save a whole lot more people. It would be at the expense of his daily life though and that could mentally burn him out a lot quicker than necessary. There is a big plot twist in the final page of the comic as well and it’s certainly a pretty cool one. I certainly like this time paradox and it adds another layer to Superman’s origin. It’s not one that actually matters, but it’s still cool all the same.

Lex Luthor was certainly a very good antagonist to have here. He’s not completely off the rails evil as per usual this time. He still wants to stop Superman at all costs and he is hired by the government to work officially which likely helps to temper him. If Superman had been on the US side…well we know how that turns out. It just ended up being convenient for Lex that Superman chose the wrong side. Lex’s intellect was certainly shown in its full force here as his elaborate plans were quite great. Of course, you can make the case that Superman’s intellect is roughly on par with how he did a lot of predicting of his own. The only facet of Lex’s character that wasn’t very good was his relationship with Lois. For some mild shock value, they were married in this comic and the pairing doesn’t really make any sense.

We are never given any reasons as to why Lois would go with him. He never has any time for her since he is obsessed with Superman and even randomly tries to divorce her at one point. I believe that they stick it out, but they’re essentially acquaintances by the end as opposed to a couple. Lane’s role is rather small beyond this so she didn’t get a chance to stand out. Batman gets a mild role here as well and he is a much more extreme “VIVA LA RESISTANCE!” vigilante than the Dark Knight that I am used too. It was a fun take on him I suppose even if I’m not sure why he changed so drastically here. Regardless, he did a good job of standing up to Superman and was a good mini boss although he didn’t get a whole lot of hype this time. He was a difficult antagonist to stop, but he doesn’t get too much screen-time. It was a fun little cameo in a way.

Wonder Woman and Green Lantern also appear at different points. GL’s appearance certainly wasn’t his greatest, but he seemed fairly decent. He just didn’t get a chance to do much and taking down Superman is a little above his pay grade. Wonder Woman looked good as she helped Superman out until he went over the deep end. With the friend zone intact, they made a good team. While Superman could have handled the situation a lot better, I don’t really get why she was so upset with him though. As far as I could tell, he did his best to make sure that her recovery was smooth and I don’t believe that he absolutely knew what effect the ordeal would have on her. Maybe he did though since he is a genius in which case I suppose she should be upset. She ultimately did decide to perform the deed though….lets not go in circles here.

Brainiac also shows up for a little while and he had a fun role. His final moments will be sure to please his fans since Brainiac would have not looked very good otherwise. He’s always been a solid villain even if he is less interesting than most of Superman’s other foes. The Man of Steel just has too many good villains to choose from at this point. There were some other side characters like the traitor, Pyotr, but they’re not all that important in the grand scheme of things.

I’d say that the first half of the comic is certainly better than the second. That’s probably because the concept is still very fresh and unique at the beginning and Superman still feels like himself through and through. That being said, it never jumps the fence and even though Superman may have not totally stayed in character, he didn’t go over the top for no good reason like in Gods and Monsters or even Justice League the animated series. Justice Lord Superman had been in character for a while, but deciding to destroy the Flash for kicks? That’s a “Jump the shark” moment for him. The ending of this comic has a lot of great moments to help keep it close to the first half.

The art was quite good in this comic. I liked Superman’s new design and the whole atmosphere is slightly darker, but not in a gritty sense. It’s more like a dark timeline where everything is a little sandy, but still light. Even when it’s day time, the comic makes it feel more like the afternoon. It does a good job of capturing the political element along with the action and solid dialogue. You can also see how Superman and the other characters age throughout the comic. Art plays a big role in any comic and it really helped this one live up to its potential.

Overall, Superman Red Son is definitely a very good Superman story. It’s certainly not his best as Superman Unchained still takes that title (as well as the title of best comic of all time) but it’s up there. I haven’t read a great deal of Superman comics to be honest so this is probably in my top 5 by default. I really need to check more of them out considering that he’s my favorite comic book character of all time. Of course, I have read quite a few JLA stories so I suppose that they count. I definitely recommend this comic. It has a good amount of action as well as political drama, which makes for a good mix.

Overall 8/10

Puella Magi Oriko Magica Review

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Well, it’s time to take a look at a short Madoka Magica What If story. Since Homura went back and forth in time to save Madoka so often, it makes sense that sometimes things would turn out very differently. This manga plays out like that as this universe has a new magical girl who can see the future and she decides to do something about it. Unfortunately, while the plot/concept are fairly good, the manga really fumbles the ball with the poor dialogue and really bad art. What should have been a home run knockout instead turns into a manga that just barely breaks even.

The plot involves three new characters who were made up for the series. Yuma is a girl whose parents were destroyed by a witch. Kyoko was able to vanquish it, but not in time to stop Yuma from being an orphan. As a result, Yuma tags along with Kyoko for a while and eventually becomes a magical girl with healing abilities. She makes for a good support fighter to have on the battlefield. Unfortunately, Kyoko then hears that someone is going around destroying magical girls so she sets off to stop this.

Meanwhile, Mami is actually the one who gets in on the action as she does a lot of sleuthing so Oriko deems her as a threat and sends Kirika to dispose of her. This will be a tough fight for Mami, but luckily Homura is also around and Kyoko manages to enter the fray as well. Can the classic Magical Girls defeat this pair of evil fighters or are they doomed in this timeline!?

Everything about this manga is a little off. Let’s go back to the art first since that’s probably the biggest issue here. It’s incredibly hard to see what’s happening during the fights. The art is all over the place and the character proportions don’t have any consistency. The facial expressions are downright crazy like one that I attached to the bottom. Homura’s face just makes no sense considering that she just blocked Kirika and is poised to win the fight. This is an issue that affects all of the characters throughout this two volume series. It’s so chaotic that it’s actually a lot clearer to read the series online since it is just one page at a time on a white canvass so everything is a lot easier to read through. Of course, this should never be necessary for a manga and still doesn’t make the actual quality any better. This is certainly a contender for worst artwork in a manga.

The pacing is also very odd. The first volume focuses almost completely on Kyoko and Yuma as they bond and fight witches together. It’s even mentioned by Kyoko that there are no other magical girls around since they’ve all been destroyed by the Magical Girl hunter. Then we cut away to Madoka’s town where there are Magical Girls everywhere. Mami just shows up out of nowhere and instantly becomes the main character for the second volume. Timeline-wise, this basically gets us to the start of the TV series except that Kyoko and Mami already know each other and Homura is a lot meaner than usual. In this timeline, Homura decided to be Madoka’s friend right from the get go and threatens anyone who even gets near them.

The tragic backstory for Yuma was also pretty unnecessary. She had bad parents which traumatized her as a kid so now she feels like everyone is going to abandon her. Yuma does a good job of coping with her powers and becoming a dependable ally at least. She ends up giving the heroes the pep talk that they needed to continue the fight. That being said, only having healing abilities is definitely a pretty big liability in a fight and I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of her design. Nonetheless, she’s not a bad filler character I suppose.

On the other hand, Kirika is a fairly underwhelming villain who isn’t really likable. She really wants to please Oriko and doesn’t really care to think about anything else. She forgets all other details because they apparently take up too much space in her mind. As a result, she’s the perfect killing machine for Oriko to use. Her abilities aren’t bad as she can slow down an opponent and has a lot of magical knives to use against her opponents. She nearly defeated Mami so that’s definitely a pretty impressive feat. It’s not enough to make her a good character though.

We’ve also got Oriko, who is the main villain here, but she’s no better either. She saw the future and immediately pulled a Bruce Wayne from Batman V Superman, but takes it to the next extreme. “Everyone has to die!!” is basically her view as all magical girls are far too dangerous since they can turn into Witches. I’m assuming that after she destroyed them all, she would end up destroying herself and Kirika as well. She’s very unhinged as the manga shows. Her power is basically precog and she has some exploding energy balls as well. She’s certainly not that great in a fight. I also don’t get why she encouraged Yuma to jump into the fray as that just adds another target for her to destroy, but maybe she just has fun this way.

As for the real characters, Madoka and Sayaka don’t really get to do anything in this version. Neither one of them has powers after all as Homura has gone to great lengths to ensure that they never get them. At least Madoka realizes that Homura isn’t helping the other heroes out and is only protecting Madoka so the heroine calls her out on it. This doesn’t work all that well though and then Madoka just walks into the battlefield to help out. This wasn’t her greatest plan, but she was a solid character as always. It’s certainly in character for her to try and help out.

Kyoko gets a rather large role as you would expect. She looks pretty good. Unfortunately, Kyoko never really gets to test her mettle against the villains, but I’d say that she would have held her own quite well. It’s definitely hinted that Mami and Homura are stronger, but being the third best isn’t all that bad. Getting depressed for a few pages after learning about the Witch revelation felt rather out of character though. It was pretty forced in there. While Kyoko isn’t good at being a nice person, at least she tried with Yuma.

I didn’t care for Mami in the TV show because she cracked under pressure and tried to murder the whole cast, but she did a good job here. As always, she also got depressed towards the end, but at least she was just willing to let her friends die and didn’t actively expedite the process. I know that strength shouldn’t really affect how much you like a character, but it really did help her case a lot when she was able to defeat Kirika. If she had lost that fight, I definitely would have been a little upset. As it stands, she did a good job of using strategy to claim victory and proved to be the second best character in the manga. The franchise really loves to hype her up as one of the strongest fighters, but I’d definitely say that Homura deserves the number 1 spot.

Naturally, Homura was my favorite character in the manga. She got a lot of hype from the villains since she already knows the truth about the Witches and has seen the end of the world multiple times. To Homura, this predicament is nothing new as she’s been through a lot over the years. Homura’s time stop ability is still super useful as well and I dare say that she probably would have been able to beat both villains on her own. I was hoping for more of a direct win without any help, but the end result was fine. This version of Homura definitely doesn’t mess around as she goes for the kill shot the instant that she sees the two villains and even tries to trick them by pretending to negotiate. Homura was really handled well although she was a little too drastic when Mami just tried to talk to her. Seriously, Homura spends about 90% of her time threatening or trying to destroy someone in this manga.

Unfortunately, the ending is quite bad. It’s not horrendous in part due to the fact that Homura is here so the ending has no real stakes. Had the series been longer or Homura was not in the equation, then I think the ending would have hurt the manga more. As it stands, it just doesn’t make much sense and I don’t like how it allowed Oriko to get one last laugh. There’s no way that this plan should have worked to even the slightest degree. Even Kyubei wasn’t too thrilled with how things played out and usually he’s grinning from ear to ear.

On the bright side, since this manga is only two volumes long it has to move at a very rapid pace. Volume 2 in particular feels like an abridged series as all of the characters just quickly meet up and get ready to rumble. It’s a lot better than the first volume if you ask me and if the series had kept going on for a while maybe it could have redeemed itself. Of course, the pacing may have been slower so the whole thing could have backfired instead.

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Overall, This manga spinoff wasn’t very good. There have been several titles that have come out for Madoka Magica and this one technically has one of the cooler sounding plots. Hopefully the others are better at the actual execution of it. Some of the other manga out there definitely sound promising and it wouldn’t be hard to top this one. The art is just so bad for this manga and the writing was sub par as well. Throw in the aspects that are Yuma’s random tragic past and the only thing that really keeps this manga together are the characters from the TV show. They’re still a lot of fun to follow and the action scenes were fun/hype even if they were hard to read at times. If you’re a big Madoka fan then I recommend this title since it’s great to see the cast in anything since the show was so short. It makes titles like this a lot easier to swallow since you’ll jump at anything. It’s why I want a big Madoka fighting game to help fill in this void. Ah well, just don’t go in expecting anything too good or you’ll be gravely disappointed. Keep your expectations tempered and you will have some fun with this manga.

Overall 5/10

Justice League Gods and Monsters Review

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It’s time to check out the latest DC film. The company has started to become a trainwreck with their animated films, which is unfortunate since they used to be so good. Yet another thing for us to blame the New 52 on I suppose. Unfortunately, this is actually the worst one yet and it’s horrifically bad. The climax helps it save some dignity as well as a possible choice that could help the sequel, but it’s safe to says that Gods and Monsters is dead before it ever got a chance to truly begin.

The story takes place on an alternate world where there aren’t really any good guys left. Superman was raised by Mexican Immigrants who taught him how to live under a harsh government. Superman has no qualms with murdering all those who stand in his way and will do anything necessary to secure his planet’s safety. Batman is not Bruce Wayne, but Kirk Langstrom and he is a vampire who loves to murder his victims by drinking their blood. Certainly not the heroic figure that you would expect. Wonder Woman is probably the least changed in that regard as she always murdered her opponents while in battle. She is similar to Thor from Marvel from that respect as war takes no prisoners. That being said, the film balances that out by having her flirt with everyone and be willing to allow everyone to be with her at times. It’s a terrible part of her personality.

We’ve already established that the characters are all warped versions of themselves. Don’t worry, if this wasn’t clear to you from the cover, the first scene makes sure to show this off as the heroes brutally murder everyone inside of a building. Their justification is that the people who were murdered were all villains and villains basically have no rights to keep their lives. The Justice League naturally has a very strained relationship with the government and it gets worse when they are framed for killing a bunch of scientists. Can the Justice League clear their name and do we even want that to happen?

As this is an alternate universe story, it allows the writers to kill off as many actual characters as possible since it has nor repercussions on anything else. So, expect a lot of cameos before the characters are blown up in various ways. This film was really a train wreck because it committed just about every big negative that a film could really add, which was quite sad.

First stop on this train is the excessive violence problem that has plagued DC for quite a while. The very first scene with Batman has him immediately snap someone’s neck and then he goes on to do the usual vampire sucking bit. Characters are ripped apart, dismembers, and burned into oblivion. The violence just keeps on coming and a lot of it is just there for the gritty vibe that is unnecessary. DC is basically just trying to counter Marvel’s Daredevil and while this is an improvement, it’s really not saying much.

Another reason why I wouldn’t be able to like this film was the fact that Batman is a vampire. If you recall from some of my earlier reviews, I really don’t like vampires. There are very few vampire films that I could even call good at this point and I’ve never liked the concept of blood sucking. It’s just gross and never adds anything to the story. Batman tries to pretend that he is a hero through it all, but he doesn’t resist the urge to suck blood at all so I really don’t believe him. Even in the end, he is the voice of doubt.

Before I go into more negatives, it should be noted that the characters are all pretty terrible here. I definitely disliked Batman from the start and Wonder Woman’s alternate version is essentially what could have happened if she was introduced to the comics nowadays without an established history. Superman is as far removed from the character as possible. His only good moment is the fact that at the end of the film, he mentions that maybe they shouldn’t kill people anymore. Batman quickly doubts the idea, but If Superman goes through with it, he’ll instantly be a better character. That being said, he’s still not a likable one so he’ll need to improve. Even insulting Lois behind her back just felt really petty.

For the side characters, Lex was decent at least. He was probably the most true to character, which is a good thing. He’s let himself go over the years and he probably won’t last much longer, but at least he was cool. He was constantly one step ahead of the other characters. The main villain was pretty cheap once you find out who the mastermind is. His origin story about how he became evil is terrible to be frank and he never became a cool villain to root against.

The three androids had cool designs and made for good villains. Their final form was certainly powerful and made for a good end boss. That was good because the film had basically had no good fight scenes the entire film. We had a brief scuffle with Batman vs the Robots and that was it. Certainly less action than you would expect from a so called “Justice League” film. The end scene definitely helped to alleviate that. Also, now’s a good time to talk about why the ending gives the sequel some slight hope.

Superman mentioned how maybe they shouldn’t be killing people and that could be a plot for the sequel. If the heroes go through with it, then that will certainly be a good thing. The question is “Will they?” and another one follows. Will this this be enough to save the film? I doubt the latter, but if they do follow through, it would certainly make that one an improvement as these alternate versions would be less of a mockery of the originals.

It should also be noted that there is some unnecessary animal violence here. The film just really wanted to push my buttons didn’t it? A miniature horse is seen getting eaten by a wild animal and we also see some test mice die because the humans were using them as guinea pigs. It’s certainly not an heroic act and it just made Batman look even worse for me. There’s some mild language, but it’s been cleaned up a little since the last film so that’s definitely a good thing. Hopefully the films continue to improve in that area.

This film really should have been called the Justice Lords. In effect, that’s how the team operates. They don’t like to reason and they destroy whoever gets in their way. I’d also like to point to that two part episode in Justice League to show how an alternate universe should be. The team was evil, but they still acted like their original selves and you can see why Superman made the critical choice. It was a dark world, but the show explored that without being over the top with violence and grit. It felt more natural and was much better handled.

Gods and Monsters was treated more like an AU that really had no purpose. A good example of how the movie just doesn’t care is when the scientists are all getting murdered. Once all of them are finished off and Batman is about to be taken down, the Justice League arrives and then the hero music plays. Hero music after literally every one of the targets were killed while Batman was on duty? It just didn’t make any sense and that’s just how the film operates. It doesn’t matter how many innocents die, as long as the League lives, it’s all okay.

On a slight bright side, the soundtrack was good. It had a lot of fast paced themes that helped make the scenes a little more bearable. The animation was also solid although it didn’t get to show us what it could do until the fight scenes finally arrived. More battles with the androids would have been a lot of fun. After all, Androids are just made up of parts and such so the film would have a tough time making it gritty.

Overall, Gods and Monsters is horrifically bad. It’s the kind of film that I actually have less fun seeing than Pixels. At least Pixels gave you a lot of laughs. It’s a slightly better film on a technical scale though and I’m giving it an extra star thanks to the soundtrack/final fight and the promise of the ending. The ending gave the film a glimmer of hope and now I can say that the next movie has potential although I don’t see it being that much better. Hopefully DC steps up its game as Batman Unlimited really looks like the only decent DC film coming up at this point. Maybe the next Justice League film will be good, but I’ll have to see some screenshots or a plot summary before I start getting my hopes up. Until DC’s movies start shaping up, at least I have the classics like Sub-Zero and Starcrossed to keep me busy!

Overall 2/10

Justice League Gods and Monsters Chronicles

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DC’s animations continue to underwhelm and sink down into the ground with their new online series. When I heard that this series would be online, I knew that it was doomed. At 5 minutes an episode, it’s practically a fan series and naturally, it was going to be very dark and have characters who were as unlikable as possible. This is definitely a series that you will want to skip and I’ll have a review for it when they finally stop making episodes at some point.

Overall 1/10