BookBin2016: Wonder Woman ’77 Volume 1

See, denizens? I told you that, for my next reviewed book, it would be imperative that the artists made the character look like her Hollywood counterpart, didn’t I? Well, that they did…and I couldn’t be more delighted by the end result.

I admit that I was incredibly concerned when I first learned that DC Comics was going to do a comics series based on Lynda Carter’s television portrayal of Wonder Woman. Why? Because they’d assigned Marc Andreyko to pen the stories. Andreyko is the putz who destroyed Batwoman with a story line that turned disturbing in such a way that I didn’t even bother buying the final collection of her previous run. To be honest, if it weren’t for the fact that DC Comics has decided to give Batwoman a new go with her own Rebirth series, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this collection at all. I can hold a grudge like no one’s business.

Wonder Woman ’77 seems to be precisely what Andreyko needed to redeem himself (at least to me) and what he excels at creating. I was pleasantly surprised by how reminiscent the stories were to those Wonder Woman episodes that I loved so much when I was a kid (and still love, thank you very much). Not only were they reminiscent, but they were so respectful and reverential of that show. Lynda Carter’s portrayal of Princess Diana of Paradise Island was so important and influential to so many people that to do her any injustice would have been unforgivable to many fans. I’m delighted to report that, in my humble opinion, this collection paid her the respect and honor she deserves.

Also, the artwork was so impressive and such a pleasure to behold:

Artists Drew Johnson, Matt Haley, Richard Ortiz, Jason Badower, and Cat Staggs provided penciling and coloring that made Diana Prince and Wonder Woman shine in every single panel. And Steve Trevor be Steve Trevor, in all his Waggonerian glory. Plus, the celebration of all things 70s throughout the artwork and stories inspired quite a bit of uncontrollable smiling and laughter from me. That’s why they note in the collection’s title that this is Wonder Woman as she appeared in the 1977 season of her show. ABC dropped the show after one season, which they had set during World War II. When CBS then picked up the show for its second season, they decided to move it to modern times. I don’t know if DC Comics plans on doing anything in this series that might hearken back to Diana Prince’s time in the WAVES and the war, but I’m more than happy to get my paws on the next collection to find out.

Final Verdict: I’m pretty sure I just let that cat out of the bag. Again, not earth-shattering storytelling in any way, but so respectful and so fun to read and enjoy. Also, I do believe that DC Comics has done something similar for Adam West’s Batman ’66…I also believe that the next collection of Wonder Woman ’77 comics might even cross streams with that series. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the fact that they’ve just started another crossover with Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman in which she gets to team up with Lindsay Wagner’s Bionic Woman. Seriously, my heart might explode from all the love that I have for both these characters when I finally get my hands on that collection.

BookBin2016: Adventures of Supergirl

And so it begins.

This is it, denizens. This is my “head-over-heels, haven’t felt like this about a show since Voyager went off the air, OMG I can’t stop absorbing everything I can about it, I will drive you crazy if you let me because I also can’t stop thinking about it and if I’m not careful I’ll just start randomly talking about it like you know what the hell I was just thinking, absolutely don’t want to stop but trying really hard to contain myself so I don’t drive you away” crush.

Even now, I’m reeling back everything that I would love to write about the show itself, because I need to focus on just reviewing this graphic novel. I’m letting you know, though, that if you encounter me elsewhere? Don’t ask. Because I will tell. I will tell you everything I think about this show. EVERYTHING. And it just keeps coming. You have been warned.

Well then. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to the point: Adventures of Supergirl is the first volume to collect all the comics based on the Supergirl television series. It’s important to make that clarification, because these comics have nothing to do with the regular DC Comics Supergirl run. They’re solely linked to the show. However, from what I’ve read recently, the Supergirl Rebirth story line that they’ve been doing for the comics does draw some elements from the show into Kara Zor-El’s new story (including going with the Supergirl costume from the show rather than that horrible costume they designed for the New 52 Supergirl, which honestly just gets a WTAF every single time I see it). It’s pretty much the primary reason that I’m finally interested in following the comics version of the character.

For these comics, though, you don’t need to know anything more than what you’ve seen on the first season of the show, and even that is mostly character-dependent. The story itself doesn’t really have anything to do with any of the show’s plots, although it does pull in some tangential elements (but nothing that would cause problems if you didn’t know the show). Writer Sterling Gates does well in giving us a story arc that respects the essence of the show, with ample parts bubbly and cute mixing with the darker (though not too dark) and more serious moments. It’s definitely the sorbet to my last reviewed graphic novel, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Interestingly, most of this collection’s artists chose not to make these characters look like their Hollywood counterparts. I know that a lot of times, the comics will make this choice as a way of distinguishing the character from the actor, allowing the character to exist in a manner that isn’t dependent on one person representing them (also, it might have something to do with needing to pay the actors for using their likenesses? I don’t know). I’ve seen them do it with the CSI comics and, to some degree, the Star Trek comics. I point it out in this instance, though, because of the next review I will be doing here at the lair. For that collection, it was critical that the artists drew that character according to how her Hollywood counterpart looked.

Ooh, whatever could be my next review?

Anyway, the artwork for these comics is very light, very G (slightly PG here and there, I suppose), very flowy and…dare I say it?…girly. Supergirl more often than not looks waify with large eyes and pink cheeks and a blindingly bright smile (which, to be fair, does sound very similar to her television representation, but ultimately comes across as lacking when compared to Melissa Benoist’s go as the Girl of Steel). Oh, and pink nail polish. Because girly:

(Seriously, I have a huge problem with Supergirl wearing anything like nail polish or even earrings. You’re supposed to be trying to keep Supergirl your secret identity, so wearing anything that could link you back to Kara Danvers? Just seems a little dangerous to me.)

Clearly, the marketing is on-point for the younger female audience who watches the show. It’s admittedly a little disappointing to someone who is used to bigger, bolder, stronger artwork, but even I can concede that it works for its focus.

One of the delights that I took from this collection, however, comes in the appearance of one character in particular: Alex Danvers. Created specifically for the television show, Agent Danvers appears in this collection for the first time in comics form:

(P.S., I really like how this artist handled the artwork for this section; I believe it was Emanuela Lupacchino, who is working on the Rebirth Supergirl.)

I’ve read that Alex might even end up becoming part of actual comics canon, if the Rebirth creators decide to add her to Supergirl’s world. Since they’ve already brought in the DEO, National City, and Cat Grant to the Rebirth world, it might be possible, but I don’t know. One can only hope, I suppose.

Another high point from this collection is one of the stories that shows Supergirl in a dream world in which at one point she is riding an armor-plated cat (cannot make up this shit, denizens; also, there’s a fanfic-inspired Freudian slip if I ever saw one) and at another point cycles through several different iterations of herself, including this one:

I love the way the costume morphs from the show version to the Bombshell version designed for Kara Starikov (although there does seem to be an imminent structural issue about to happen with that bustier).

Final Verdict: It’s cute and quick and provided a lovely few hours’ respite from reality. Also, I’m all about supporting this show, so I will happily keep this volume and check out any other volumes that might come along in the future.

BookBin2016: Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year One

I’ve been on a comics bender lately. It’s kind of a combination of reasons, really. I’m having technical difficulties with one aspect of reality at the moment. My response to such problems has always been to pull away, to sequester myself away from whatever it is that’s bringing me down, usually within the safety of one of my many geeky obsessions. Healthy? No, probably not. Enjoyable? More so than what’s bringing me down. Also, when I do finally reconnect myself to reality, I feel a little better and a little more clear-headed.

Other reasons? Well, I’m sure I’ll write about it later (read: in my next book review), but I’m totally crushing on a new geek obsession. Crushing hard, denizens. Like Star Trek-level crushing. Like “probably (definitely) driving people who know me in other realms on teh Interwebz crazy” crushing. And it’s connected me back to one of my earliest geek obsessions: comics. Believe it or not, I used to be quite the comics nerd (no, Loba, we could never imagine you being EVEN NERDIER THAN YOU ALREADY ARE!). Not like Comic Book Guy-level, but I started down a comics obsession path around the same time as my Star Trek obsession started. Turns out, though, that I only had enough focus for one critical-level obsession at a time. Star Trek won. Comics simmered on the back burner.

Until the past few years. I have several friends who are hard-core comics fans. Their knowledge drew me back out of curiosity. Reading what they were writing elsewhere about certain comics piqued my interest and showed me pathways that I hadn’t known existed previously. Pathways that greatly appealed to me. Plus, there have been some…interesting changes to some characters (coughcough Batwoman coughcough) that lured me deeper into the darkness.

Darkness has always drawn me in. But then there is Darkness.

Injustice: Gods Among Us? That’s some serious darkness, my friends. Surprisingly dark, to be honest, from what I expected to be a fun but empty introduction to a video game. That’s what this is: a graphic novel written as a companion piece to a similarly named video game. I don’t even remember how I ended up learning about it, but when I read the description, it sounded like something I would enjoy for its welcome escapism.

I did enjoy it, but for much deeper reasons than I ever anticipated. This is one of those alternate universe stories in which recognizable and (overly) familiar characters take paths that skew far afield from what we know them to take in “reality.” For this, the primary AU character is Superman. I’ve spoken at length about my feelings about where they’ve gone in recent years with Superman: making him emo and (IMHO) whingy about being all-powerful. Oh, and funky dark. I don’t like funky dark. However, for this novel, they take Superman down a dark and twisted path that…honestly? It works. It works shockingly, brutally well. You have no doubt that the catalyst they use would absolutely work the way it did to cause Superman’s…change. Which actually isn’t a change of personality but instead a change of approach.

As you can tell, though, I don’t want to give away a whole lot about the story. It’s full of enough surprises and twists that I would hate to ruin this for anyone. I will say that it was great to see so many DC Comics heroes used throughout this first volume. Some I know a lot about. Some I know a little about. Some? Some I’m getting to know better right now, so it’s interesting to see this take on them in comparison to who they are where I’m seeing them elsewhere.

The heart of Injustice is the DC Triumvirate: Superman, Batman, and (to a lesser degree) Wonder Woman. I have mixed feelings about Wonder Woman’s role in the story. I’m hoping that her role will shift with time. Batman, however, is surprisingly…sane. And while still intrinsically grave and untrusting, he’s also likeable (in his own way). Likeable, too, is the relationship built between Superman and Batman in this story. It’s far more complex than I was anticipating from this novel. Obviously, I greatly underestimated writer Tom Taylor. Also? The artwork is exquisite throughout. Jheremy Raapack and Mike S. Miller provided artwork that could rival Williams, Perez, Ross. Fantastic.

Final Verdict: Definitely keeping. Definitely checking out Year Two. Apparently, they’re all the way up to Year Five now? I don’t know if I will stick it out through the whole series, but this hooked me tightly enough that I’m antsy to see where it will go next. If you are a DC Comics fan, then I would highly recommend you give Injustice a proper go. I have a feeling you, too, will be pleasantly surprised.

BookBin2016: DC Bombshells Volume 2: Allies


I’m still digging the DC Bombshells series, although I have to admit that Volume 2 didn’t captivate me quite as much as the first volume did. I’m not sure what the problem was this time, but I found myself struggling to stay focused on the stories. The pacing is a bit slow, I suppose, but I attribute that to the fact that there are so many different threads weaving their way through the story. There are quite a few Bombshells whose stories must be told. That causes some delay. Plus, this volume contained a side story that tangentially tied in with one of the Bombshells, but rather stiltedly. I personally could have done without the story at all, but I’m assuming that it might tie in more solidly at a later time.

I do like that the threads are now coming together and the team is starting to solidify. I love that Batwoman remains a strong member of the team. I’m so excited that DC is going to resurrect her solo line with the Rebirth series they’re doing. I can’t wait to get my hands on the first graphic novel collection (ditto with Wonder Woman and Supergirl)…in the mean time, though, I find Kate Kane’s story arc in the Bombshells universe to be an adequate filler until the main event returns.

Ooh, that almost sounds like I don’t really like these stories beyond their delivery of Batwoman to me. It’s not true, I promise. I love the way Marguerite Bennett is playing with each of the Bombshells’ backstories, keeping them intrinsically true while enjoying the play space that this alternate universe has granted her. Admittedly, Wonder Woman’s story hasn’t really fluctuated all that much from her original story, but I neither expected it to nor wanted it to since she is the only one of the Bombshells to actually originate during WWII. It’s with the others’ stories that I’m finding the most enjoyment. I especially enjoy the thread for Kara Starikov and Kortni Duginovna, Supergirl and Stargirl, respectively. They are heroes of Mother Russia, in a Splenda-light version of what I suspect the Red Son series must be like (a novel that is high on my list of novels to acquire in 2017…after I tend to some Crises that I’ve had my eye on for a while). Still, even lighter storylines can pack quite a gut punch, and our Russian roulettes were no exception to this rule. This volume pretty much belonged to Supergirl and Stargirl by the end. I know virtually nothing about Stargirl (there are only so many hours in a day and so many geeky pastimes to which I can dedicate myself, so some superhero obsessions never get a chance to start). After reading this volume of Bombshells, I kind of want to learn more about her. Maybe as time permits…

I’d also like to learn more about Big Barda and Doctor Light. Let’s just say that their appearance in this volume…piqued my interest.

Ahem.

Oh, the artwork once again is exceptional. There’s nothing more disappointing than lackadaisical art. It will yank me right out of a graphic novel and leave me unable to enjoy the story, even if it’s the best writing imaginable. Marguerite Sauvage, Laura Braga, and Mirka Andolfo are all solid illustrators, though, proving that they can provide strong and satisfying visuals to support Bennett’s stories. Plus, when you get powerhouse panels like this one, what is there not to love?

Yes, please.

Final Verdict: Still in it to win it with the Bombshells. I’ve already marked the third volume for acquisition.

BookBin2016: The Sandman Series

So here it’s been all this time since I last visited the lair, and how do I fix that? With what will undoubtedly be a disappointingly brief review of a series of graphic novels that deserve way more written about them. However, my desire to dive into the depths of this particular ocean are severely tempered by my more pressing desire to encourage you to do your own diving, denizens.

Seriously, if you are a comics fan and you have not experienced Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, then what the hell are you waiting for?

Okay, that was a little harsh considering this is my first time reading the series as well. I’ve wanted to read it for years, but I couldn’t bring myself to commit to buying the whole series (because in my mind, some things are all or nothing; never mind that I could have just bought them novel-by-novel…that’s just not how I roll). Then my local library blew my mind by all of a sudden producing all 10 of the original graphic novels, plus two standalones that came after the original run.

This was a dense amount of reading and artwork to absorb. Gaiman packs an extraordinary wallop into this series, with levels of creative intricacy and beauty that are breathtaking to behold. His worlds are so thorough and so startlingly encompassing that they are one of those rare delights that truly does allow you to disappear for hours into their existence. They also possess intricate layers that require way more than one or two full readings. They are embellished with mythology and history and art and culture and literature and originality and religions and all manner of delights. There is no way to simply sum up The Sandman. How exactly would one summarize Dream the Endless? He extends even beyond the realms and tales captured within each of these pages. These are stories to be pondered and perused through extended sessions. While I’m delighted that I finally got the chance to read the novels, I was deeply disappointed when I had to return the books to the library. I was nowhere near finished with them.

Final Verdict: See? I told you that this would be disappointing. However, my ultimate goal is to provide just enough of a tease to lure you all into Morpheus’s realm. I know I definitely want to save up to purchase the two-volume special editions of the Sandman series that they recently released. This is more than deserving of such a collection.

BookBin2016: Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine

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I am still reading, denizens. I don’t have nearly the same amount of time I used to have for one of my favorite pastimes, but I scrape together what time I can and make the most of it. I’ve also been working my way through a large series of novels, which I decided to review all together rather than separately. Sneak preview on that? It’s going to be a highly positive review.

Spoilers.

In the interim, however, I recently found myself spending a significant amount of time stationary. I love flying for many reasons, one of which is the fact that I literally have nothing more pressing to do with my time than read and cat nap. In between copious open-mouthed snoring sessions (yeah, I’m that passenger) I made my way through Tim Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine.

I learned of Hanley’s book through an Amazon recommendation a few weeks after I purchased another recently released book on Wonder Woman’s history (a book sitting patiently next to my night stand). Amazon wanted to offer me the Kindle version of Hanley’s book for something like five bucks at the time. Who can pass up such an offer? Clearly not me.

I’m delighted that I couldn’t refuse this offer. Curious history, indeed! I already knew a great deal about how Wonder Woman came into existence. Even a passing knowledge makes for fascinating conversation. However, Hanley goes much deeper than cursory facts and provides a compelling examination of Wonder Woman’s debut and her evolution through the Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age (the book released in 2014, so it’s a relatively holistic history, to be sure).

I honestly wish I had read the other Wonder Woman book first, to be able to answer the question of is this book worth reading if you’ve already read the larger recent publication. I can’t, unfortunately, answer that question. However, regardless of which provides the most information, I can state emphatically that this book is a marvelous resource for all things pertaining to Princess Diana of Paradise Island (she didn’t come from Themyscira until the late 1980s). Wonder Woman is quite the curious creation, her impact resonating with generations of women who grew to embrace the character as one of the penultimate feminist icons (even as her male writers tried to rein her back “under control” during the 70s when real women had the audacity to expect things like equal rights), while mainstream comic fandom never really latched on to her with the same tenacity that those “other” DC Comics legends enjoy. Whereas Superman and Batman are stalwarts within the superhero pantheon, their stories replayed again and again with mind-numbing frequency, Wonder Woman skirts the perimeter (perhaps she should step out of the invisible jet so more people notice her?), never really rooting herself into fandom mythology. We know of her, but we don’t know her.

Maybe this upcoming movie will change all that. Maybe it will finally bring Wonder Woman the populist acclaim that she more than deserves after 75 years of mainly merely being Wonder Woman, the first major superheroine. Maybe. Whatever it brings, be it pleasure or pain, at least it won’t have Batman or Superman in it. That’s always a bonus.

Final Verdict: Definitely saving this on my Kindle. It was a pleasure to read and definitely made me want to read that other book. Guess it’s time to move it closer to the top of my pile. Maybe it can even be next…after the series I’m reading at the moment.

BookBin2016: The Concise Guide to Hip-Hop Music

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One of my favorite playlists on my iPod is one that I named “Old Skool Happy.” It contains music from Eric B. and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Flash, Doug E. Fresh, Salt N Pepa, Queen Latifah, Biz Markie…all the songs that I once had committed to a memory that slips and sloughs away with time. However, whenever I fire up this playlist, those beats and lyrics bring me right back to hours spent pressing these songs into my mental journal so that I could spit lyrics on the playground like I was something other than a chubby white tomboy looking awkward in a dress. Those were my happy moments. Those were the moments when I lost myself in the beats and words of songs that remain just as powerful and precious to me today as they were back then. I love all the songs I used to listen to and all the artists who made them.

It wasn’t surprising, then, that I immediately scooped up Paul Edwards’s Concise Guide to Hip-Hop Music: A Fresh Look at the Art of Hip-Hop, from Old-School Beats to Freestyle Rap when I discovered it at the local library. I loved the music but realized that I didn’t know a whole lot about its birth and transformation.

For the most part, I believe that Edwards provides a solid and certainly concise history of the birth of hip-hop. Furthermore, he does so through the words of the artists who helped craft the genre from its inception. He interviews numerous artists who even appear on my Old Skool Happy playlist, which of course made me quite the happy camper.

I suppose my only complaint would be that he’s a little too precise–or rather a little too narrowly focused. I noted a distinct lack of female representation in particular in his timeline and discourse. True, early hip-hop belonged mainly to the men, but there were several strong ladies representing both early and throughout the golden age of hip-hop. It would have been nice to have heard more from and about them.

Also, the book ends in an utterly abrupt way. It honestly took me by such surprise that my first thought was “Damn, this book is missing its ending.” A little work on a soft descent would have been nice, is all I’m saying.

Final Verdict: I think I’d like to add this to my collection. It would make a nice reference guide and a happy reminder of the days when I used to spit mad lyrics.

Yeah, I’m laughing right now, too, denizens.

BookBin2016: The Dark Knight Returns

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I’ve had a copy of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns on my shelf since, I think, Christmas 2009. While I knew that this was one of those “must reads” for anyone who even dabbles in comic fandom, as I do, my feelings toward Batman have dropped precipitously in recent years. I loathed Christian Bale as the Dark Knight and I loathed the influence that those movies had over other superhero reboots. Dark and dismal affairs, the whole lot of them.

See, I grew up with the 1960s Adam West television show. My Batman was benevolent and odd. A quirky rich man who liked to dress in a onesie and fight cartoonish villains with his young ward. Plus, there was Eartha Kitt. And Julie Newmar. And Yvonne Craig.

My Batman was fun.

Then Tim Burton came along, and while his Dark Knight was decidedly darker than those campy capers of the Caped Crusaders, there was still a level of hilarity and silliness, mingling with the darkness. Because Burton.

Apparently, though, Gotham needed to lose all that because modern audiences are far more sophisticated and serious. We need the Dark Knight to be DARK. Even in the New 52, he’s moody and volatile, almost to the point of some kind of mental instability. I suppose that this take on Batman wouldn’t be that far off if you really considered the origin of the character. Seeing your parents murdered is bound to leave you with some serious issues. Why Alfred didn’t just get the boy into therapy is beyond me. Instead, he let him faff about with bats, feeding some kind of hero delusion until, older and reveling in the kind of privilege that stinking rich provides, he begins to build the ultimate cosplay fantasy world for himself.

Yeah, if you think about it, Batman should be bat-shit crazy. But that doesn’t mean he needs to be moody and boring, too.

What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, Frank Miller’s graphic novel. It’s not bad. It’s dark, but I kind of like his take on what would happen if Batman retired and tried to live a normal life. It was kind of prescient. It’s like when Michael Phelps retired but then was all like, “Hey, I kinda miss all those medals.” So he came back with a vengeance.

So did Batman. But not for medals. Just criminals. Which I guess are kind of like superhero medals.

I have no idea what I’m writing anymore. Clearly, I have forgotten how to blog.

Final Verdict: I liked the graphic novel. I’m keeping it. I’m also going to try to get back in the blogging game.

Cravenous: Scream 4

I’m having a really difficult time with this final post, denizens. Watching Scream 4 really brought home the fact that this truly is it. This was the final film of Wes Craven’s career. It’s a painful truth to assimilate on many levels, least of which is the reopening of the sorrow that I have felt ever since learning of his untimely death. I’m not going to lie: When I saw “Directed by Wes Craven” pop up in the credits, I teared up as it hit yet again that we will never see that for another new movie. It feels like we have lost so many incredibly talented people recently. To mourn each and every one of them as thoroughly as I have with Craven would pretty much become a full-time career. However, let it be known that the creative space within this existence has a lot of vacancy signs in the windows at the moment. We desperately need to see these vacancies filled. The world can be an ugly, cruel reality. Those who provide us with the safety of escapism, no matter how brief, are invaluable.

So, let’s get this final show on the road, shall we?

Scre4m

Let’s just address the elephant in the room right away: I severely panned Scream 4 when it hit theaters. I won’t rewrite that history for this review. I did not enjoy this movie at all on first viewing.

[Loba Tangent: I also haven’t been back to a movie theater since going to see this in 2011. And I am perfectly okay with this fact.]

I also didn’t really like the movie on my second viewing either. Even after reading a book that convinced me to give the fourth movie another try, I ended up writing elsewhere that I still found this to be a “shockingly bad movie, particularly for this franchise.”

Like I said, I won’t rewrite history. However, I also wrote of my second viewing that “the movie puts forward some truly salient points regarding what happened to us as a society, not just in horror but in general culture, within the more than 10 years between the third and fourth movie. And the author of the book I read even gives a convincing defense of what I felt on original viewing was a tacked-on cop-out ending. I still feel as though it’s a bit of a cop-out…but viewing it with the author’s defense in mind helped me to see it as the castigation against remakes and reboots that he proposes it to be.”

See? Value.

Re-watching this film twice for this series (yes, Craven gifted us one final director’s commentary) made me realize further that this movie shouldn’t stand with the original trilogy at all. That trilogy is a complete telling of the nightmare that Sidney, Gale, and Dewey endured and survived. That book is closed. This fourth film truly kicked off a new book completely—one that relies on the first book for frame of reference only. Only a handful of characters within this new film could possibly remember the events of the original films. For the younger characters, they were removed enough from the brutality of those events that, as Sheriff Riley points out, “One generation’s tragedy is the next one’s joke.”

[Loba Tangent: Although I don’t think this movie depends on the original trilogy for much in regard to actual storytelling, I think it does rely heavily on it for self-referential purposes, which I have already pointed out multiple times.]

As for my evolving thoughts on this fourth film, let me finally give kudos to Craven and Williamson for something that I rather backhandedly praised them for in my first review (spoilers ahoy-hoy): Their successful obfuscation of the main killer was utterly on-point. Even all my follow-up viewings of this film after the fact leave me continually surprised at how little Craven or Williamson offers the viewers in regard to this truth. While the secondary killer wasn’t a surprise (IMHO), guessing the main killer eluded me completely. I’m pretty sure I was irritated by this fact when I first saw the reveal, but now? I concede to the brilliance of both writer and filmmaker that they were able to surprise even an old horror hound like myself.

Secondly, and this is a concession that only could come now (although it makes me a bit uncomfortable to call it a concession, because it only can come at the hands of some truly disturbing and vile shifts in the reality in which we now live): I can sadly attest that Williamson and Craven possessed an upsetting prescience regarding the “new rules” of streaming murders online and craving fame without effort so badly that you would kill to attain it. We’ve seen both within the years between the debut of this film and now through some deeply disturbing crimes. What I once admittedly rolled my eyes at now threaten to become cultural banalities as we devolve deeper and deeper into our conscienceless mire of contempt and indifference toward each other. Could Craven and Williamson have seen this all coming? Was this their attempt at warning us? Our Woodsboro Cassandras, showing us what might happen if we didn’t check ourselves?

I don’t know. All I know is that, sadly, this movie has become possibly the truest of all the Scream films, and therein lies its most unsettling strength.

I mentioned that once again, Craven did a commentary for this film. Rather than being joined by technical contributors, this time he brought along actors Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere, with Neve Campbell joining the conversation briefly via telephone. I was fascinated by his interaction with the actors. Mostly, I was fascinated and utterly delighted by their appreciation of and respect for Craven as their director. Listening to Campbell in particular, I was struck by how clearly connected she felt to Craven. This man helped solidify her fame throughout the 90s. His faith in her ability to bring to life one of the most iconic heroines from his body of work was so wonderfully obvious in her appreciation of him, not just as her director but as her friend. It made me wish that they had done a commentary with the original three actors and Craven. I’m sure that would have been quite the reminiscent foray.

As for what I just stated about Sidney Prescott? I think it’s true. I think Sidney might actually be Craven’s most iconic heroine. True, Nancy Thompson gets pride of place for being Craven’s own masterpiece and for being his first iconic horror heroine. However, there are two significant differences between Nancy and Sidney. The first, of course, is longevity. Sidney is, hands-down, the winner there, which connects directly to the second way in which these two iconic warrior women differ: Whereas Freddy Krueger was the linchpin of the NOES series, always the same while his defeaters almost constantly rotated, for the Scream world? It was always a rotating cavalcade of killers beneath the Ghostface mask, all trying to dispatch the linchpin of this series: Sidney.

As far as I know, Sidney Prescott is the first protagonist of any gender to anchor a horror franchise (do not come back with Ash as preceding her because I would qualify only the first Evil Dead film as a horror movie; the second was an unnecessary remake of the first and the third was just asinine). Laurie Strode technically could qualify before Sidney since she was in the first and second Halloween movies, and then returned for Halloween: H20. However, Michael Myers was always the same as well, so those two are forever linked as sharing the spotlight.

That all being said, Sidney ranks as one of the more unique “final girls” of horror history by dint of reason that she’s the ultimate survivor, and while we have Kevin Williamson to thank for penning her into existence, we have Wes Craven to thank for bringing her from the page to the screen and for casting the perfect actress to portray her. Neve Campbell stated it simply and beautifully in her tribute to Craven after his death:

We lost a great deal of magic yesterday. I’m devastated to hear of Wes’s passing. My life wouldn’t be what it is without him. I will be forever grateful for his brilliant direction, his wicked sense of humor, and his consummate kindness and friendship. He has entertained us all for decades and inspired so many to follow in his path. I loved Wes dearly and will miss him always. Thank you, Wes!!!

Little did we know that our few months in the sleepy little town of Santa Rosa, California, would give birth to one of the highest-grossing films of that decade and bring about a resurgence in a genre that had been deemed dead for years. Little could we comprehend the great success each of us would be gifted from having the opportunity to make Scream with the great Wes Craven.

Rest in peace, Wes! We’ll continue to watch your films and not sleep peacefully at all.

Many of the things that Campbell wrote of Craven could be repeated by Heather Langenkamp and Emma Roberts. Both of these women saw incredible boosts to their careers thanks to their work with Craven. With Jill Roberts being her first foray into the horror genre, Emma Roberts has gone on to make quite the (blood red) splash in other horror offerings such as American Horror Story and Scream Queens. And Langenkamp has parlayed her turn as Nancy Thompson into a somewhat self-appointed role as the Historian of Elm Street. Her documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is one of the most thorough and entrancing records of a movie franchise to date. And, again, listening to her interaction with Craven during their commentaries for NOES and New Nightmare, you can hear the sincerity of her devotion to Craven as a creator and a friend.

You can read more tributes from others in the Scream family here. The primary things you will read from all of those who worked with Craven and honored him after learning about his death were tributes to his kindness, his intelligence, and his gentleness. Not things you would anticipate hearing about such a Master of Horror. However, it’s a testament to his power as a creator of such legendary horror that he could give himself permission to go to such dark depths and resurface each time with his gentle spirit still intact.

I continue to mourn Craven’s death. I am forever indebted to him for gifting me and my generation (and, sweet prophets, I hope many generations to come) with some of the most iconic, inspiring, game-changing horror movies ever. He was brilliant in so many ways and, as far as I’m concerned, there never would have been a “right” time for him to leave this realm. However, his departure was far too soon. Leave it to the Master of Horror to spring a twist on you right at the end.

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BookBin2016: Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood

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I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t regularly read Wonder Woman. I love Wonder Woman. For some reason, however, I have never dedicated myself to following her comics run the way I did with characters like Batwoman or Batgirl. A little while ago, I decided I needed to rectify this, so I took the first step and purchased Blood, the first volume of her New 52 run. I already had misgivings about this choice, however, given the creative team assigned to restart her series. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang received the assignment to revamp Diana of Themyscira for the New 52 reboot. I’ve already voiced my disdain for Azzarello’s handling of Joker in his eponymous graphic novel, and I’m not really a fan of Chiang’s blocky art style that he too often uses for comics. I know he can do solid art. I’ve featured it here before at the den. However, for this run, he chose to go with this unimpressive, somewhat unfinished, rather juvenile art style, which is wholly unfitting for Greek royalty.

However, it’s the changes that Azzarello made to Wonder Woman’s origin story that ultimately twigged me off completely. There are certain things that are fundamental to Wonder Woman’s existence. Not physical things, like her invisible jet or lasso of truth or bullet-deflecting arm bracers. No, more elemental than that. More important. More significant.

One of the most significant points of Wonder Woman’s origin story was that she was never born of man. At all. Period. She was the purest form of woman to exist, formed by her mother’s hands from the clay of Themyscira and granted life and her powers by the gods themselves. No man played a role in her birth or upbringing. No man interfered in her existence until the unanticipated and jarring arrival of Steve Trevor to the island of the Amazons.

Clearly, this is not something that’s a big deal to Azzarello, but it’s a huge deal to the character. Yeah, the “man” in question is a god, but this change matters. You’ve taken away Wonder Woman’s uniqueness and basically made her the unanticipated end result of a one-night-stand. That’s a big deal. Just like changing her “weapons” are a big deal (for all her strength, Wonder Woman was always a pacifist; yeah, she could do damage to you if she really wanted to, but rarely did she ever want to harm). Just like changing her association with WWII is a big deal.

Okay, this is a total tangent, but humor me for a moment here. World War II was a huge turning point for women, both in the military and in the general workforce. It was finally women’s chance to move into professional roles traditionally reserved for men and show our viability as workers as well as (or, for some, instead of) wives and mothers. Women played an incredibly significant role during the second World War, across all the military branches. My grandmother served during this time, in the U.S. Navy WAVES. Just like Diana Prince, when she came to “man’s world” to help defeat the evil that was raining fire and horror down upon Europe.

Wonder Woman is so intrinsically linked with World War II that changing this part of her origin story would be as sacrilegious as saying that Superman’s world didn’t explode or Bruce Wayne’s parents weren’t murdered when he was a boy. In fact, I would argue that it’s even worse, because the representation embedded in Wonder Woman’s WWII connection is based in reality (sorry, Krypton and Mr. and Mrs. Wayne, but you simply are not real). Her role in WWII was emblematic of the real roles of all the women who served, who similarly stepped out of the familiarity of their previous lives to serve a greater purpose, even while facing opposition from the very men they were trying to help…and in so doing, learned more about the depths of their own strength. This wasn’t the case with WWI. It makes no sense to now change Wonder Woman’s storyline for this new movie. The only reason that I can assume why they really made the change? Because Captain America is associated with WWII. Well, so what? Just because everyone dragged their feet on greenlighting a Wonder Woman movie until after Captain Übermensch hit the big screen, that doesn’t mean that you have to rewrite one of the most important aspects of Wonder Woman’s introduction to the human race.

Changing Wonder Woman’s association with the war that helped women open doors that previously showed no signs of budging and changing her birth origin are moves made by people who fail to see the importance these elements have to feminism itself. There was a reason she was on the cover of the inaugural issue of Ms. magazine, FFS.

Then again, I guess feminism doesn’t sell movie tickets. Or comic books.

I can see from the reviews I’ve read of Azzarello and Chiang’s first novel that most people loved it. Most were happy that Azzarello had finally brought some action to Wonder Woman’s world. I’m not most people. All this collection did was make me sad that Wonder Woman was altered so un-impressively. Same feeling I have about the screenwriters altering her history for the movie.

Final Verdict: I will hold on to this volume, but I don’t really see myself buying any further collections. I’m sorry, Wonder Woman, but I need someone else to take over your story before I can give you another go.