SpartanNerd Thoughts…Batman and Robin Eternal (Vol. 1 and 2)

After getting every issue of Batman Eternal, I decided to skip Batman and Robin Eternal in favor of getting the Graphic Novel when it came out.  It came out in two volumes, and I picked up both at Barnes and Noble during there recent sale.

It took me about four days to read the whole story.  (I get interrupted a lot.)

This story isn’t really what I thought it would be.  I thought it would be “What happened with Damien during Batman Eternal.”  Damien was dead…and resurrected while the whole event was happening.

Instead, this story went right alongside the regular New 52 continuity, where Batman was forgotten by Bruce Wayne.  Jim Gordon was the Batman, with “We are Robin” filling that role.  I avoided the whole story, but this is important context for knowing what was going on in Batman and Robin Eternal.

I have said for a while that I wanted to see more Dick Grayson as Robin stories.  Batman and Robin Eternal delivered that, as almost each issue had a flashback to events that happened the first time DIck Grayson encountered The Scarecrow.  The whole story centers around a villain called “Mother,” and we learn that Batman caused some collateral damage through some of his deception tactics in an attempt to defeat “Mother.”

The other big thing…virtually every New 52 Batman sidekick gets a big feature, with Cassandra Cain getting a new identity.  She was raised an assassin, and I could only imagine that DC is positioning her as a love interest for Damian.  (They have alot in common.)

The whole “Court of the Owls” story revealed to us that Dick Grayson was supposed to be a Talon.  Batman and Robin Eternal goes into the motivations that Batman had in guiding Dick to be a superhero with his own ways, and elaborates this to a point for each of the Robins and sidekicks.

Harper Row.  I expressed disdain for Harper before.  This story makes her an “illegitimate Robin,” (that’s a really crass way of putting it, but I don’t want to spoil too much.)  I love how it all gets explained, and Batman’s motivations make it clear that he believes each superhero should take their own path and do things there own way.

Red Hood is in this story alot.  I just am not really a fan of the resurrected Jason Todd.  He seems part baddie and part good guy.  He wears the bat on his chest, but is a killer.  He wears the red hood.  He just doesn’t fit with Tim Drake (historically, the Robin I knew best.)

Stephanie Brown is treated like the biggest amateur.  I’d like to see more of her.

The Midnighter.  I never heard of this guy.  Pretty cool character, who can supply “Magic Doors.”  It was annoying that Tim Drake sort of suddenly had the idea of sending parties all over the world at basically “Portal” speed.  An interesting twist, but silly just the same. Oh, and Cullen Row took right up with The Midnighter…

Duke Thomas.  We don’t see Duke do too much.  Kind of like Stephanie.  But I think she got more story time because of close association with Harper Row.

If anything, reading this has just about motivated me to try out the current run on Detective Comics, where apparently Batman and Batwoman are training these Sidekick types to be better.

I recommend this graphic novel…it kept me turning pages.  My problem is….I know what happens.  When will I be motivated to read it again?  I Own “Hush,” and have only read it twice.  “War Games” is tedious.

I won’t rate this.  Just let me know what you think in the comments!

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Masters of the Universe Minicomics Collection

I reviewed the Masters of the Universe Minicomics Collection back in May, after having a tough time getting my hands on a copy.  Since then, I have slowly read through every page, and can give you more of a review of the contents rather than just the product.

VINTAGE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

First thing first.  “Miniternia” is definitely a favorite universe of mine now.  I was aware of it, and had read a few books from it.  When I was a kid, these books just confused me because they were so different from what I was used to (the Filmation cartoon.)  But reading these as an adult, there is a definite vibe to those books not found anywhere else.  There are comparisons to Conan the Barbarian, but as a Conan fan, I don’t think so.  Miniternia is a great comic story…an innocent story in a way, and in a way more pure of a story from a writers standpoint.  Mattel gave the writers carte blanche, as long as they depicted the toys.  The barbarian He-Man is awesome, and the miniternia Skeletor is more insane than his other versions.

I remember hearing that there were fundamentalist Christians boycotting and protesting He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  I was vaguely aware of this as a child (I AM a Christian, and was raised in a Christian home.)  But as an adult, I heard people talk about it on the Roast Gooble Dinner podcasts.  I can see how, after reading over half of the book, I’d bet the word “demon” and “devil” were invoked in almost every single story!  Watching the Filmation show, this also comes up…I don’t know if that was daring on the part of the writers, or what?

 

You can clearly see transitional guidance between Miniternia and the comics that more closely resembled Filmation shows.  The stories become even flimsier sometimes, and highlighting of the products becomes central, rather than story and character development.  Then one day, out of nowhere, the Evil Horde becomes more prominent.  As a kid, the Horde annoyed me because to me, Skeletor was supposed to be the ultimate baddy.  And Hordak was apparently his teacher.  I came to love the Horde as much as anything else in MOTU, but I can see why I felt that way.  Mattel began to push the Horde in the mini comics, and there were more Horde figures on the shelves, and the commercials depicted the Horde more.  They were supposed to be another faction…which worked well in a house with three kids.  Hordes became She-Ra’s main villain, but I didn’t watch She-Ra…(yeah, right!)

I remember the Snake Men story vibrantly from when I was a child…my oldest brother was very interested in them.  My mother (and grandmother) are deathly terrified of snakes, so…I never really thought of them as another faction…just as a side team that worked for Skeletor, which is exactly how the mini comics portray them.  Throw in that Kobra Kahn and Tongue Lasher appeared on Skeletor’s team on the Filmation show working with Skeletor, and you can see why.  It was the Mike Young 200x show that really highlighted them as another team…an even deadlier team that Skeletor’s bunch.

Of all of the things about He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, I rarely ever complain. But now is my chance.  The “Three Towers” really annoy me.  It is one of the rarest toys to be found, and is therefore a valuable item.  But I don’t care.  The whole concept is STUPID.

Lets replace Castle Grayskull and Snake mountain with two smaller versions, and put a stupid lion tower in the middle.  We can connect the whole universe together with a roller coaster thingy.

There are SOO many reasons why I dislike the three towers.  It is billed as “playset Eternia.”  So the whole planet of Eternia can fit into one Playset?  This was EXACTLY how it was depicted in the minicomics.  I heard someone call it “Grayskull 2.0.”  Castle Grayskull was supposed to be this ultimate place of power.  But the Three Towers were meant to supplant all of that.

Eternia must be about the size of Spartanburg or upstate South Carolina…It seems it takes King Grayskull in the Mike Young cartoon about three days to cross the whole place.  Maybe the three towers fit that scheme?  There is a map in the He-Man art book, it came with certain characters if you subscribed to the “Club Grayskull” or whatever.  That map shows the towers stretched out across a huge central continent.  That MIGHT be plausible.  But why would they all connect together by a vehicle?  And if “Viper Tower” was meant to be Snake Mountain (It DID more closely resemble the cartoon version), and Grayskull tower was supposed to be the base for the good guys…just why?  I believe Mattel sensed that the vintage line was coming to an end, and were getting desperate.

SHE-RA, PRINCESS OF POWER

The She-Ra comics were pretty cute.   One of the interviews mentions that there were strict guidelines for drawing female characters.  That is apparent…the depictions of all those she-ra women are not sexy at all.  Sometimes they are child-like and pretty.  The She-Ra comics “de-evolve” from Minicomics format into Storybook format.  There is an incorrect footnote in the first She-Ra story, that says the Evil Horde is not mentioned in the comics ever again after the first one.  But that was inaccurate as the final two She-Ra stories have Catra mentioning the Horde, and also depict Horde troopers.

These books give you less of a sense of “the great rebellion,” and more just sweet little stories.  Catra, “the jealous beauty” is the main villain in these stories, but she can’t really do anything worse than children do to each other, it seems.  She steals a treasure box, she crashes a party by spraying everyone with water.  She spreads a rumor.  SERIOUSLY?

I made it through all of the She-Ra books, and rather enjoyed them.  But they are far too shallow.  I enjoyed the way they usually depicted She-Ra with the mask and Adora with the headband…A device you never saw on the cartoon.  And I thought the story of “Crystal Dimension” was interesting, where Swift Wind was transformed into a crystal version of himself.

I never really got a sense that The Crystal Castle was a She-Ra’s place of power?  It seemed to be a place where she and her friends lived instead.  The enchanted forest was there.  But Catra seemed to be homeless.

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HE-MAN

As a child, I was just getting “too old” for toys as New Adventures came out.  My oldest brother wasted no time in getting a few toys, but I don’t think I ever saw a single episode of the cartoon.  I DID remember reading the comic, however.

I wasn’t aware that there were only four comics ever produced for that toy-line.  I DID know that it was short lived.

Basically, the vintage He-Man and Skeletor characters translated smoothly over to the futuristic versions, with Skeletor getting burned badly while witnessing Adam transform into He-Man, and having to “fix himself” with bionic parts.  The only idiotic thing is that He-Man’s sword is already a “techno sword.”  They should have been able to draw the classic sword in those few panels.  I always thought it was kind of stupid that the power of Grayskull had to be transferred into that starship…Really?  The art and the storytelling in these books is good, but different from the earlier ones.  As we read through all of these, we really see Bruce Timm’s art style mature up.  Once, He-Man even looks like we would see Batman on the nineties cartoon!  (Not in a New Adventures book…one of the final vintage comics.)

200x COMICS

I almost forgot!  The singular “pack-in” comic is included here.  With Val Staples and Emiliano Santalucia forming the bond that would become MV Creations, (and eventually break apart into the saddest schism maybe in the whole brand.) There are two comics here, one that never made it to print.

These are similar to the 200x comics that Image and Cross Gen would publish, but shorter and having a lot less content.  The art is just about exactly the same.  Emiliano is great!  (The second book was drawn by someone else, who somewhat emulated Emiliano’s style.)

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS MINI COMICS

Before the collection, I had no opportunities to read these stories.  I heard fans complain about them because they leave out a lot of story details that should be filled in.  The first one is a modern retelling of the first vintage Preternia book, and the following two pull together the entire story to include even the New Adventures.  An interesting detail, this story portrays He-Ro as the originator of the Power of Grayskull when he passes the Sword of He over to King Grayskull in death.  Funny how it ended, with a remark about building a castle and naming it after He-Ro.  (It would be named Castle Grayskull!)

I also thought the twist where Skeletor gets the techno virus from Bionatops in order to transform into his New Adventures form was also fun!  I was confused about King Grayskull, King He-man (he makes an appearance!) and King Miro.  What was that all about?

The art on these books are terrifically modern, and yes, they COULD have gave us more story.  I see how these serve the same purpose as the earlier mini comics…justify more toys.  They even introduced members of He-Ro’s team that have never been produced, simply to spark interest.  Ultimately, mini-comics aren’t the best vehicle for telling a grand story…they are a place to jump off and use your imagination.  And since Scott Neitlich was the guy in charge of these, that statement sounds exactly like something he would have said.

EXTRAS

The Mini-Comic collection contains lots of interviews…most of them seem to have come directly from Roast Gooble Dinner podcasts.  Maybe the DID actually re-interview some of the people…and maybe these are redacted and edited versions of those interviews.  I enjoyed reading them all, thought they didn’t teach me much of anything new because I had already heard it from the mouth of the person being interviewed.

So, just when I think James Eatock has astounded me with his intense Fanhood and knowledge of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, he surprises me yet again!

James “Bustatoons” Eatock apparently is the owner of a discarded and never produced mini comic, which is published at the back of this book.  It apparently never made it to the coloring stage.  I wonder if more stuff like this is out there?  And what a find…AND how does someone like him find all this stuff?  The comic is apparently the supposed pack-in with Flying Fists He-Man…it has some details issues, which might be why it was scrapped.  But it is a terrific read.

And finally we have an outline of a never-produced mini comic, which would have featured Faker prominently.  It is cool to read over, and I wonder if any fans who are good artists have made this book as fan art?

I enjoyed reading the Minicomics collection, and recommend it to anyone who is a fan of He-Man…a great value at under $30.  Reading this kept me from purchasing other comics for awhile…I always had something new to read, and this will make its way to my office at work to read in my “spare time.”

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…GI Joe 50th anniversary “Shipwreck” and “Cobra Commander” two pack

I picked up these at Toys ‘R’ Us in Spartanburg yesterday.  I’ve had my eye on them for awhile…some time back I saw them there and a larger assortment of Fiftieth Anniversary GI Joe products in the “adult collector” section.  They were a bit pricey, though cool enough for me to stare at for awhile and consider a purchase.  I saw them get marked down a few weeks ago, and finally decided Shipwreck and Cobra Commander were a cool enough deal for only $9.99.  Longtime SpartanNerd readers know that I already reviewed a couple of GI Joes, though I am certainly not hardcore.  In fact, I’m not even close to as awesome of a fan as some other reviews of this I’ve read on the internet already.  So I’ll be offering my humble opinion on what isn’t really an impulse buy, but something a little different for me.

First of all, the packaging.

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The package appears as a simple cardboard back and a blister.  The back has text in four languages.  Not sure what the “52501” over Snake Eyes is.

It is a good package, but when I carefully opened it at home, I made a discovery that really got me going!

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Using my nifty Father’s Day pocket knife, I separated the plastic blister edge and saw that the cardboard becomes a kickstand for MOC display.  This was SO BEAST!  I was opening this at 11:15 at night…It was my intention to photograph the next day, but I went ahead and broke out my photography stuff when I saw this!

I’m not a Mint on Card collector.  But this is notable, and I’ve seen no other reviewer mention this.  SO “NYA Nya nya!”

Anyways.

Opening the box reveals this.

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Multi-lingual bio cards and just the blister with everything you’ve already seen!

Back when the SpartanNerd was a kid, you would purchase GI Joes, and then cut off the bio cards from the back of the package and keep up with them.  Maybe.  If you didn’t destroy the package too badly, and could find some scissors.

These two bio cards reveal the name, and other details of the character, but the little story provided leaves alot to be desired.

(I later discovered that this set of toys is based on a comic called “The Hunt for Cobra Commander.”  It sold for 25 cents, and I will have to see if I can find that to complete the display.  The bio cards evidently depict events from the story, Cobra Commander escapes on a boat, and Shipwreck pursues him in his own boat.)

I’m not sure If I find it more annoying that it is printed in four languages or not.  Why not make four different packages, one for each language, and then you have more space for cross sells and better bio cards.

Next.  Tragedy.  When I tried to get the little silver knife out of the blister for Shipwreck, the pressure caused it to launch from the package across my kitchen.  And I haven’t been able to find it!  I didn’t really care for it…it was all silver, and reminded me for of a knife without a handle.  So sorry, guys.  No bland boring silver knife in my review!

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Here is Shipwreck with all the pieces I extracted without incident.  I removed the tactical jacket, and was surprised with he classic “NAVY” tee shirt underneath!  This is a great sculpt with lots of details.  He has glued-on details, like the holster for the pistol, which also comes with a SILENCER!  This is stored on the holster as well!  There are ammo packs and little details sculpted on, and the paint is gorgeous!  This is a small scale figure, and the paint apps rival most of my beloved six-inch figures!  Shipwreck comes with a couple of other guns, described as M4’s by the SpartanTeen, (who knows way more about guns than I do.)  And he also comes with his iconic parrot.  I don’t remember if I owned Shipwreck as a kid.  It seems like I must have.  I really remember this parrot, though.  And finally, there is a great GI JOE stand with pegs…this time with his name on the base.

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Here is Shipwreck up and ready for action.  I had a hard time getting the weapon in his hands.  His hands are small, and the handles just don’t seem to want to cooperate.  Notably, this was the case in the vintage toyline as well.

But look at this figure.  Isn’t it incredible!  He appears absolutely intense holding that rifle.  He will make a proud addition to my nerd closet, and later my music classroom!  Below is a more casual pose with Shipwreck.

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Notably, the bird doesn’t really fit anywhere.  It didn’t come with a stand.  Shipwreck can only hold him on the tips of his finger, and even this is dubious.  The parrot could probably sit on the “bar” on the back of the military vest, but I think that is supposed to serve the purpose for mounting an oxygen tank, or am I wrong?

So shipwreck has an incredible sculpt and paint job, and I played with him for a good thirty minutes to get good pictures of him.  He has some trouble holding his weapons, and the can’t even hold the little pistol with silencer, at least not firmly.  But still, for display purposes, I could make it work.  I don’t won’t to dock any points because the aesthetics of the thing are so doggone incredible!

So what about the other figure…the one that really caught my eye?  Growing up, I was always the evil Cobra guys when me and my brothers played GI Joe.  So Cobra Commander was why I bought this set, though Shipwreck turned out so incredibly well.

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No incidents in getting Cobra Commander out of the blister.  I was surprised to find that his head has a round silver painted piece that the helmet fits over…I expected it all to be one piece.  Cobra Commander isn’t meant to be displayed without the helmet, so I’m not bothering to show that to you.  But nevertheless, that is an extra piece!

The black and red color scheme for Cobra Commander…I had never seen this, and yet it feels so right!  He is usually blue, with the blue hood.  Red and black are reminiscent of the VIPER soldiers prominently featured in the cartoon…(if my memory serves me right!)

He comes with a Cobra stand.  A cape.  A hood.  A knife that sheaths to the side.  A pistol.  A futuristic looking machine gun.  And two…grenades?  Bombs?  Vials of chemical?  Really, when I first saw them in the blister, I thought they were shoulder pauldrons!  Nope.  They appear to be red canisters of what is probably toxic.  I vaguely remember “plasmatox”…”Chemical Z” or something like that.

Cobra Commander’s sculpt is every bit as impressive as Shipwreck’s, but the black paint hides some of the details.  He has some silver and gray accents.  It’s the red that makes this work.  The red shoes remind me of Ronald McDonald!  And yet, they work here because he is Cobra Commander.  A guy who builds underwater bases that rise above the sea!  A guy who is feared for his ego because of his style.  Destro even comments often about Cobra Commander’s excesses.  So he can get away with Black and Red.  It will make him look better flying the Night Raven!

Oops.  Got carried away!

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I found in posing Cobra Commander, he has more problems than Shipwreck.  His ankles are weak.  Not usually a problem for small scale figures that don’t weigh all that much anyway.  But it matters here when you are trying to get him to stand like you want and are fiddling with getting the guns in his hands, which are even worse than Shipwreck’s.  Cobra Commander can’t even hold his knife, nor the two red bomb things, which are extra bummers.  He can barely hold the pistol.

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He looks great with his hood and cape on.  I have to point out that the hood snaps on tightly to the ball joint, but the way it hangs down and touches his shoulders prevents you from articulating his head any.  AND THEN I had trouble removing it.  I was really afraid of breaking the peg.

But look how menacing he appears!  I can see him appearing on every channel around the world now, making his demands and waving that pistol!

Overall, I am going to award these figures a 5/5.  While there are some problems, I’m not entirely sure they aren’t just the SpartanNerd’s impatience with 2.5 inch figures.  I’m used to the larger scale.  But compared to the Star Wars Black Series Rey, the sculpt is better.  The paint is better.   And this is by the same company.  (Hasbro.)  What gives?

So the SpartanNerd awards 5/5 to GI Joe Fiftieth Anniversary Shipwreck and Cobra Commander.  Do you agree or disagree?  Would you like to see more reviews of GI Joes from the SpartanNerd?  Let me know that as well!  I don’t collect Joes.  But these two are incredible, and the two I reviewed from Dollar General a couple of years ago were also pretty good.  I am in a place where I am wondering what to do with this burgeoning blog.  I am running out of room for my items.  Maybe GI Joe will give me a shot in the arm.  Lego really hasn’t done it.