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The Noble Collection Holiday Catalog

A few years ago I bought my sister a replica of Dumbledore’s wand for Christmas, and it was one of the best things that I’ve ever done because now I get The Noble Collection Holiday Catalog delivered in the mail every November. It’s basically a catalog for movie nerds. They have replicas of props from all the movies you geek out over. Do you like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings? Well then maybe you would enjoy an Illuminating Gandalf Staff for $159, or maybe the Pipe of Bilbo Baggins for only $69 (and it says it’s fully functional). They have a bunch of stuff from The Dark Knight trilogy as well. You can get a Folding Batarang Money Clip in either bronze or flat black for $39. $395 will get you a full-sized Batman Cowl or Bane Mask… I’m not sure you could actually wear them, but I’d love to find out.

The catalog also has a few other items like a Throne Bookend from Game of Thrones, The Green Power Lantern from The Green Lantern, and the Golden Compass from The Golden Compass. But the main reason why I get excited when the Holiday Catalog finally comes is for all their Harry Potter merchandise. They have about fifty wands from fifty different characters. They even sell fancy wand displays so you can display all your fancy wands. Almost every cool Harry Potter prop is available for sale. You can buy the Sword of Gryffindor, the Marauder’s Map, Tom Riddle’s Diary, the Sorcerer’s Stone, even a goddamned Firebolt. You might think that spending $295 on a broom is excessive, but it’s a fucking Firebolt! It’s the fastest broom there is. You’d be an idiot not to buy it. I know I’m not supposed to waste money on frivolous things, but it’s hard not to with The Noble Collection Holiday Catalog.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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DC vs. Marvel (comic)

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the greatest, most powerful heroes and villains from the DC and Marvel Universes met? How awesome would that be? Well, it already happened in 1996, so you missed out. But you can relive the past and pick up DC vs. Marvel and see the two worlds collide.

There is actually a pretty coherent storyline. Writers Ron Marz and Peter David are able brings some of the biggest characters from two rival companies together in a comprehensive way. So back in the day, these two brothers/entities were controlling their own separate universes, until they learned of each other’s existence. One brother is the DC Universe, and the other represents the Marvel Universe. They decide to have a battle between their top superheroes to determine which universe will be destroyed.

Each separate universe starts to be aware that something weird is happening when heroes and villains start vanishing in a flash of light, and new, different masks start showing up. A young man named Axel Asher finds himself inexplicably drawn to an alley where a crazy homeless guy is trying desperately to keep an inter-dimensional gateway contained in a cardboard box. Axel is the Access, and he just might be the key to solving the crisis if he ever accepts his destiny.

6 Marvel characters are chosen to fight 6 DC characters in one-on-one battles to determine the mightier universe. There are some really obvious fights between similarly powered characters like Aquaman vs. Namor, Wolverine vs. Lobo, and Flash vs. Quicksilver. There are also weird, random fights like Robin vs. Jubilee and Superboy vs. Spider-man. Elektra fights Catwoman, the Green Lantern and Silver Surfer duke it out in space, Wonder Woman somehow loses to Storm, Batman and Captain America are pretty evenly matched, and Superman barely beats the Hulk into submission.

Instead of one universe getting destroyed, the Spectre and the Living Tribunal are able to temporarily merge the two universes together. This buys them some time, and has the awesome bonus of creating hybrid superheroes like Dark Claw (a mixture of Batman and Wolverine) and Super-Soldier (Superman and Captain America’s lovechild).

Access finally gets his shit together and it able to separate the merged universe back to the two separate ones. He gets a little assistance from Batman and Captain America to end the Space Brothers’ hissy fit. And now the two universes can co-exist and life is good.

Yeah, there’s a lot of nonsense about two brother universes using magic humans to end a cosmic dispute, but once you get past that you can appreciate the story. What if the superhero you depended on was powerless to stop the end of the world? What if that superhero vanished and was replaced by a stranger in tights? What if you are a superhero and you can’t simply punch your way to victory?

The art is awesome. The panels spill over into each other, they overlap, it feels very fluid. Dan Jurgens and Claudio Castellini’s drawings are bold and powerful. And it’s pretty cool to see the Hulk and Superman exchanging blows in the desert.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but it doesn’t slow down the momentum of the story. If you like DC, it’s worth checking out. If you like Marvel, it’s worth checking out. If you like comics, then you should have read this already. You’re slacking.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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Superman: Red Son (comic)

Superman is an American icon. But what if he wasn’t? Mark Millar’s story puts a simple twist on the Superman legend… what if baby Superman was twelve hours late and crash-landed into the Soviet Union instead of America? In this alternate universe, Superman lands in the Ukraine and comes to embrace Communism. Instead on an S on his chest, he sports a hammer and sickle. He makes the Soviet Union the dominating world power, while the US goes on the decline. The story is presented in three acts. The first act is establishes who this different Superman is and what he stands for. He is still a hero, he wants to help people, he is selfless, but he embraces the Soviet ideals instead of American ideals. The first act also introduces the other key characters, like the brilliant American scientist/genius Lex Luthor and his beautiful wife Lois “Formerly Lane” Luthor. There’s a Russian version of Batman who is leading a rebellion against the Soviet dictatorship. There’s a version of Wonder Woman that is also familiar and yet different. The second act is about Superman taking control of the Soviet Union. He doesn’t do it because he wants power, he does it because he feels obligated to help because he can help. Russian Batman is continuing to fight back against a dictatorship that’s headed by an all-powerful alien. With the help of Lex Luthor he lures Superman into a trap and nearly defeats him, but Wonder Woman saves Superman, even though it costs her a lot in the process. The last act finds Superman facing off against Lex Luthor, who is now the President of the United States. Lex is able to bring the US back from the point of total economic and social collapse, but it’s just the first step in his plan to destroy Superman. President Luthor uses Hal Jordan, Wonder Woman, and other tactics to wage war on Superman. I don’t want to give away anything major, but there is a great twist. So here is a spoiler alert – in this alternate universe, Lex Luthor saves mankind and sires a long line of brilliant descendants, one of which is named Jor-L who sends his infant son into the past, where he crash-lands in a field in the Ukraine. Mark Millar does a great job of reimaging Superman as a Russian. He is recognizable, but his upbringing changes aspects of his being. The best part of this story is how they use familiar characters in different ways. You’ll recognize a lot of DC characters, from Oliver Queen to Brainiac. You’ll even appreciate the historical figures that pop up, like Stalin or JFK and his Hollywood lover named Norma Jean. The artwork is great, but it’s the story that stands out. It’s just a cool take on a character that everyone knows. Superman is the most important character in the DC Universe. He affects everyone and everything. You will like this book, even if you’ve never read a Superman comic before, but you’ll appreciate it more if you have a greater grasp of his origin. Critically Rated at 13/17

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Green Lantern (film)

The Green Lantern is an iconic DC comic. The Green Lantern Corps is an intergalactic police force that patrols the DC universe. Each Green Lantern has their own sector to protect, and each Green Lantern gets a power ring and power lantern that lets them harness their willpower to control over the physical world. There are a bunch of different Green Lanterns, but this movie is about Hal Jordan. Sorry Guy Gardner. Ryan Reynolds plays Hal Jordan and Martin Campbell directs.

Most superhero movies really play up the origin story. As if you can’t enjoy Superman until you see Clark Kent growing up for an hour. This movie doesn’t do that. They give you a little background on the Green Lantern Corps, and you spend a little bit of time with Hal Jordan, but it jumps into the main plotline pretty quick. An evil alien named Parallax fought a Green Lantern named Abin Sur. Abin Sur escaped to Earth and passed his lantern and ring on to Hal Jordan. Parallax somehow comes back and takes infects Hector Hammond’s brain and makes him the antagonist.

Hal and Hammond fight a few times. Hal quits the Green Lanterns for a little bit. Hector Hammond gets more and more powerful. Hal has a change of heart and rejoins the Corps, just in time to beat Hammond and save the world from Parallax.

Hollywood likes to make big blockbusters. But just because you have a $200 million budget and an established character with a built-in fan base doesn’t mean you will have a hit. A decent script is way more beneficial for box office success. The special effects in this movie are sometimes slightly awesome, but they don’t mean anything. It’s just eye candy. And you actually feel bad because everything looks great but sounds stupid because of the half-assed script. It’s not a terrible as you might think, but when you have good comic book movies like the Dark Knight and the Avengers it makes this translation seem even worse.

There is a decent supporting cast. Blake Lively plays the love interest. Peter Sarsgaard plays Hector Hammond. Angela Bassett and Tim Robbins also show up unnecessarily in supporting roles for some reason. Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clark Duncan lend their voices to a couple of CG Green Lantern aliens. Ryan Reynolds should stick to comedies. He’s just not cut out to be an action star.

This movie had a lot of potential. And it was pretty shitty. It’s not the worst superhero movie ever made, it is just really disappointing. You wonder how they blew $200 million to make such a mediocre movie. There are no memorable moments that stand out. No director will ever look upon this shit for inspiration. It’s just a really expensive exercise in futility.

Critically Rated at 8/17

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Identity Crisis

Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis is a “who-done-it?” murder mystery involving superheroes. Someone is targeting family members of the Justice League. What lengths would you through to protect your family? Especially if you have superpowers and actually do something?

Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man, is mysteriously killed. But how? And by who? How did someone discover who she was and kill her without leaving a trace? A few Justice League members suspect Doctor Light. There was a little incident a few years earlier where he snuck in JLA headquarters and raped Sue. The Atom, the Elongated Man, Hawkeye, Green Lantern, Black Canary, Flash and Zatanna walk in on it, and decide to erase his memory and alter his personality. Is it ethical to do mind-wipes and personality alterations? Eventually more family members of JLA heroes are attacked and more mind-wipes are revealed. Shit goes down.

There is a very clear story being told. I know a lot of DC loyalists are mad that some characters are changed drastically or killed off, but if you are somewhat new to comics you can follow the story. It’s the most welcoming, least confusing of the Crisis storylines (Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis). It’s a good detective story, and the final reveal was pretty shocking. There’s more of a focus on lesser known heroes like the Elongated Man, the Atom, Tim Drake a.k.a. Robin, and their civilian family members that they care about.

I like the Elongated Man’s quick backstory about how he and Sue got together. She was around heroes all the time, big ones like Superman, Batman, and the Flash. But she chose him. “That’s why ice cream stores don’t just sell chocolate and vanilla. Every once in a while someone walks in and orders butter pecan”. Yeah, that’s corny, but it makes the heroes relatable.


Great artwork by Rags Morales and Michael Bair. An intriguing and comprehensive plot by Brad Meltzer. Identity Crisis is a good read.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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