The Boys’ Second Season Beats The Sophomore Curse

The second season of The Boys just finished streaming on Amazon Prime a few days ago and its final episode “What I Know” was a tense and satisfying season finale. It concluded many story arcs while paving the way to new directions in the third season. Yes, there will be a deserved third season for this great TV show.

The Boys continues the storyline from the first season of a ragtag group of powerless vigilantes (led by the always-talented Karl Urban as former merc Billy Bitcher) and their struggle against the Seven, a group of superheroes, and the corporate forces that support the Seven.

Based on the comic book series of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, the Seven are actually a bunch of sociopathic and flawed individuals without any redemming qualities…except for a couple of characters. The leader of the Seven, Homelander (Anthony Starr), is the worst of the lot; basically think of him as Superman without the morality to keep him in check.

Part of the appeal of The Boys, aside from its dark and macabre humor, was seeing the desperate plight of the Boys fighting against the odds to expose the Seven and their sponsoring corporation, Vought International. As it stands the Seven are huge celebrities and revered by billions, complete with corporate sponsorships and connections throughout society.

One of the more interesting plots in the season dealt with Stormfront (Aya Cash), the newest member of the Seven, who is actually a former Nazi and a terrifying presence in the show. What made her so fearful was not how her electrical-based powers made her nearly unbeatable but her violent, racist demeanor. What is worse is that Stormfront is able to successfully hide her true self and Nazi past to the general public. After killing a supposed super terrrorist, she quickly becomes the latest media darling, which Homelander sees as a threat to his own popularity. The two eventually join forces, becomes society’s latest power couple, and start spouting dangerous messages and dog whistles about super terrorists and immigrants that echoes our current, dark events.

The paths of Homelander and Billy Butcher cross in that Homelander kidnapped Butcher’s wife, Becca (Shantel VanSanteen), years ago, raped her and forced her to bear his son, Ryan (Cameron Crovetti). Becca is imprisoned in a rural home and tries to raise Ryan to be as normal as possible because the young boy is developing his own superpowers and she does not want him to grow up to be a monster like his father. However, in the second season, Homelander takes more of an interest in his son and wants him to be more like himself. This conflict between Becca, Homelander and Butcher comes to a tense and powerful conclusion in the final episode and is heartbreaking for many reasons.

Meanwhile, Butcher’s gang is trying to expose Vought by releasing information to the public that Vought International is actually responsible for creating superheroes with a substance called Compound V, which was given to infants. The full ramifications of the expose were not as thoroughly explored as it could have been in the season. That is probably because there are only so many episodes alloted to the season, but it did lead to some terrific moments such as in the fifth episode “We Gotta Go Now” when Homelander nearly loses control in front of hundreds of protesters and imagines himself killing them with his laser vision.

homelander loses control

Contrasting the nastiness of the homicidal Homelander and Stormfront are Starlight (Erin Moriarity) and Maeve (Dominique McElligot). Starlight/Annie January is secretly giving information about Vought and the Seven to her boyfriend Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), one of the Boys, and a younger brother figure to Billy Butcher. The relationship between Annie and Hughie form the heart of the show and is fraught with danger as Annie tries to keep her ties to the Boys confidential. Meanwhile, Maeve/Maggie Shaw not only has to fight her own disillusionment with being a superhero, but she was outed as a lesbian by Homelander. Now her privacy is destroyed as she is thrust in the media spotlight. This naturally has a detrimental effect on her relationship with her partner Elena (Nicola Correia-Damude), who doesn’t have powers and Maeve knows Homelander did this to keep her in line by subtly threatening Elena.

While these personal story arcs were well done and were engaging, some characters were short changed in The Boys’ second season. Notably the other members of the Boys, Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), Serge (Tomer Capon) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara), a mute superhuman refugee. They do have storylines, notably Kimiko as she grapples with her fear of Stormfront, but so little screen time is given to them. Hopefully, they will be given more to do in the next season.

There is another percolating subplot concerning a cult, called the Church of the Collective, modeled on Scientology, that has strong sociopolitical ties. Two former members of the Seven, A-Train (Jesse T. Usher) and the Deep (Chace Crawford) become members of the church and through them we see its hypocrisy and corruptive influence. It is clear the Church of the Collective will have more screen time in the next season as will Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), an anti-superhero politician with her own agenda. 

Despite its few flaws, the second season of The Boys beats the sophomore curse of many second-season TV shows. Most of its dark humor hits the marks and its gross-out moments are truly squeamish, like the instance with the exploding heads in “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” or in “The Bloody Doors Off” where Mother’s Milk encountered a superhuman with a prehensile penis that is more of a tentacle! Needless to say the final confrontation between the heroes and Stormfront will leave everyone cheering at the top of their lungs.

What is important is that after watching The Boys’ second season, you are left wanting to see more, and thankfully we will. 

José Soto

 

The Movie Drought Hits The DCEU

The films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) hit a severe snag thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. As everyone knows the MCU films are now delayed and there won’t be any films released in 2020. Comic book film fans took some solace with the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) upcoming slate. But now they too, are being delayed.

Whereas, 2021 had three films scheduled (The Suicide Squad, The Batman and Black Adam), now Warner Bros. announced that two of those films will no longer come out next year, with The Suicide Squad being the sole DCEU offering from the film studio. In other words, the most highly anticipated superhero film of 2021, The Batman, will now debut in March 2022, well over a year from now. At this point, the film was only about 25 percent completed before the pandemic shut down film productions earlier this year. What added to the delay was that when production started again for The Batman, the film had to shut down again because the film’s star Robert Pattinson tested positive for COVID-19. 

As for fans of Black Adam, that film is now officially in limbo without a release date. Bear in mind this film was announced back in 2014. Expect it to die a quiet death in development hell.

Films scheduled for 2022 have also being shuffled. The Flash, a film forever in development (as well as Black Adam), once scheduled for summer 2022, will now come out in November of that year. Meanwhile, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, the sequel to last year’s Shazam!, has been bumped all the way to June 2023. By the time they get to filming it will the young kids in the first film be too old to reprise their roles? That would be a shame since they were so wonderful in Shazam! There isn’t any word on the sequel to Aquaman, the biggest DCEU hit, and is scheduled for December 2022. But do not be surprised if it winds up in 2023. Let’s hope Jason Mamoa will still be interested in the film.

The only thing keeping fans going is that Wonder Woman 1984 is still slated to come out in December of this year. But do not be surprised if the Amazonian warrior will have to move to 2021 by the way things are going (the same goes for The Suicide Squad). It’s maddening because Wonder Woman 1984 is already finished and in fact we could have had the film last year if Warner Bros. had not moved it out of its original slot in lat 2019 for a more coveted summer release date. Of course, this is not the fault of the film studio since no one could have predicted this pandemic. Still, this is frustrating. 

On the other hand, the DCEU at least released a film this year, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) was released this past February. It was not the best comic book film but it was at least a decent offering for starved fans. 

The best option for the DCEU is to fast track TV shows for HBO Max, in the same way many MCU fare will stream on Disney+ next year. HBO Max will have TV shows featuring DC heroes like Titans and Doom Patrol, but those shows are not set in the DCEU, and the only confirmed DCEU program coming out next year is the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League. A Green Lantern show is coming out on HBO Max but it is still in development. 

Another thing these film studios could do is greenlight lower budget comic book films that do not need to earn hundreds of millions to break even. That way with today’s lowered box office earnings, the films could quietly earn their budget back and perhaps a small profit. Plus, it would keep fans happy. Still the core of the problem is that most people rightfully do not feel comfortable going to theaters and that will not change without a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, which is not expected well into next year. 

For now, there is not anything we can do except hope our situation changes, film studios feel comfortable enough to release big budget films and we can safely see our favorite heroes on the big screen again. 

 

 

In Memoriam: Chadwick Boseman, Forever The Black Panther

King T'Challa

We are still in shock and grieving over the death a couple of days ago of actor Chadwick Boseman. Most of us in the geek community best knew of him from his playing the Marvel Comics superhero, Black Panther, in a few films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Of course, Chadwick Boseman contributed much more to acting besides King T’Challa of the fictional African nation Wakanda. He became prominent in the acting role for his breakout performance as Jackie Robinson in 42 and had distinguished roles such as portraying Thurgood Marshall in Marshall and James Brown in Get On Up. Boseman achieved superstardom when he was cast to play Prince (later King) T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War and in his own film Black Panther in 2018.

The cultural impact Black Panther had was revolutionary thanks to Chadwick’s measured and dignified performance. Even during his debut in Captain America: Civil War, Boseman exhibited a quiet sense of royalty and gravitas as his character was conflicted over the killing of his father. He also projected natural leadership and honor when he starred in Black Panther and later MCU films. As we know, Black Panther was a huge box office hit and reverberated in the cultural zeitgeist in that it was a wildly successful superhero film that featured Black characters in prominent roles. This was remarkable given the hesistancy of the head of Marvel Entertainment (Ike Perlmutter) to greenlight MCU films starring people of color and women, because he believed they would not be successful. That struggle to bring Black Panther and his futuristic kingdom to life was justly vindicated by the mammoth success of Black Panther.

black panther at wakanda

Boseman appeared again as T’Challa later in the year in the MCU epic film Avengers: Infinity War and last year in Avengers: Endgame. A sequel to Black Panther was announced last year but its production status was unknown because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the film was expected to be released in 2022; in the meantime, Boseman provided voice work for the same character in the upcoming animated series What If…where his episode would examine what if he became Star-Lord instead of Black Panther. At this point, it is unknown if a sequel to Black Panther will ever happen. It probably will with either T’Challa recast or with another character assuming the role of the Black Panther. The Marvel comics and the MCU films established that other people assumed the mantle of Black Panther.

The sudden news of Chadwick Boseman passing away hit many of us hard because of his young age (43) and the fact that he passed away after battling colon cancer for four years. Boseman looked healthy and fit in his appearances, which is why his death was so shocking. His burden as he portrayed the mighty T’Challa in Black Panther and other MCU films was truly remarkable in that he was able to continue his role while he underwent treatment while none of us were aware of his battle.

As we mourn his death and ponder what might have been, it is important to commemorate the man for his contributions and honor his memory. Another may take over the mantle of the protector of Wakanda but Chadwick Boseman will never be forgotten.

tchalla wakanda forever

Wakanda Forever.

 

DC FanDome Brings The DC Universe To Fans

 

We were robbed of Comic-Con this year thanks to the ongoing pandemic (the less said about their virtual convention, the better). However, comic book and DC fans were entreated to the virtual event DC FanDome which showcase all that is going on with the DC Universe in comics, film, TV, video games and much more.

There were many highlights in the virtual event and many avenues for fans to explore. Visiting the website, one could see there were different sections to view such as the Hall of Heroes, WatchVerse, KidsVerse, InsiderVerse, and so on. The most talked about highlights of course were the exclusive looks at the upcoming DC films and TV shows seen in the Hall of Heroes. For example, we were treated with a new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 and a glimpse at Wonder Woman’s chief villain, the Cheetah (a bit too CGish but that’s fine). Other clicks revealed the first look at the re-designed Flash suit for the upcoming film of the Scarlet Speedster. Looking at the sleeker suit, it is obvious the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) version of the Flash was clearly inspired by his brief encounter with The CW version of the Flash as seen in his cameo in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” TV crossover event. Frankly, the new suit is a great improvement as it looks more aerodynamic and befitting of the character.

There also was a lively panel of The Suicide Squad hosted by the film’s director, James Gunn. For the first time the roster of supervillains was revealed and what a motley crew! Leave it to Gunn to pick some of the most obscure and goofy villains for The Suicide Squad. Comic book speculators and collectors will have their hands full trying to hunt down the comics that debuted the likes of the Polka-Dot Man or the Weasel. The panel itself was quite funny and gives fans who were disappointed by the previous Suicide Squad that the sequel will be injected with James Gunn’s humor and be reverant to the original comic book as he promised in the panel.

The suicide squad panel

Director Zack Snyder presided over a presentation of his original vision for Justice League. Featuring appearances from the film’s stars like Ben Affleck (who made news recently when it was revealed he would reprise his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming film, The Flash) and Henry Cavill, who looked really buffed out–a hint that he will return to the DCEU as Superman? After taking questions from fans who championed for his original cut, Zack Snyder unveiled a teaser trailer for Justice League. What stood out is the huge amount of original footage including a new and better version of Steppenwolf, Darkseid and Superman in his black suit. With a running time of four hours, the original vision of Justice League promises to be a true superhero epic.

The other big movie news was the premiere trailer for next year’s film The Batman. What can be said that has not already been written online about this first look at the new Batman film? As it has been said everywhere, this film looks awesome. Easily one of the most anticipated films next year, The Batman seems to be a spiritual successor to the Christopher Nolan Batman films, especially Batman Begins. The film looks gritty and promises to be more of a crime thriller peppered with intimidating scenes with the Caped Crusader.

Aside from giving us previews and first looks at upcoming property, DC FanDome was a celebration of all things DC. The event showcased brilliant and imaginative fan art and cosplayers, which captured the spirit of past conventions. Visitors got to see how influential and widespread DC was as videos showcased fans and creators from all over the globe. The Celebration of DC Pets was really cute, by the way. It was impressive to see how DC captured our imagination. DC FanDome also took time to celebrate the rich and vast history of DC with clips and images from past incarnations of its superheroes and villains.

On a technical level, there were the usual technical glitches that we are all experiencing these days with our Zoom meetings and other video calls, but for the most part, the event went off smoothly and was slickly produced. Their online store, there should have had more variety of merchandise because the only thing on sale were different kinds of t-shirts. But fans were able to read online comics and check out all the things related to DC, whether it be the latest with the DCEU or the thrilling video game Gotham Knights.

The DC FanDome was a great success and was actually better than what could have been done at Comic-Con. For a long while, Comic-Con was too exclusive as tickets to the yearly event were rare and expensive and frustrated nearly all of the fan community who were not privy to view first looks at trailers or concept art. We were forced to scour online for amateur videos taken at Hall H for just a glimpse or an upcoming film. The way DC FanDome was done should be continued in the future and can be done by other companies (hint, hint Marvel) as a way to better reach fans.

Farewell To Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The final episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that aired last night marked the end of an era in Marvel Comics-related television fare. The show was the last TV show produced without the involvement of Marvel Studios guru Kevin Feige. Of course, there are a couple of other shows that are coming soon like Hellstrom and some animated fare, which are not spearheaded by Feige. But with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s conclusion a chapter has been closed in a time of shows not directly related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Early Missions

When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. debuted in 2013, there was a lot of anticipation for it. After all, Joss Whedon, the director of the hit film The Avengers, created it and directed the pilot episode, but more importantly it was supposed to be set in the MCU. It did star Clark Gregg, who played S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson, a recurring character in the MCU films. The complication was that Coulson was killed off in The Avengers so a big mystery in the early episodes was how he was resurrected. There were numerous other connections to the MCU such as guest appearances by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Jaimie Alexander as Sif, Maximiliano Hernandez as Agent Jasper Sitwell, Powers Boothe as Gideon Malick and a few other actors that appeared in the MCU films. Not to mention, the early seasons of the show were directly connected to MCU films, notably Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World.

However, many viewers came away disappointed with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in that many episodes were bland, unimaginative and did little to satisfy the cravings for the MCU between films. That was not entirely the fault of the show’s producers. It turned out the show was the victim of a turf war between Kevin Feige and the head of Marvel Entertainment, Ike Perlmutter. The two men often clashed over the direction of the MCU and while Feige was in charge of the films, Perlmutter handled the TV shows and other media. As we all know, Feige ultimately was allowed to directly control Marvel Studios and the MCU without having to report to Perlmutter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. began its slow divorce from the MCU.

Tenuous Connections

Even before the schism fans complained about how the show was never referenced in the MCU films. Meanwhile, for a time it seemed as if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. namedropped whenever it could every single MCU character or incident. It was clear any connection to the MCU was a one-way street.

Still, despite its missteps, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did find its legs and made the most of its tenuous connection to the MCU. This was best seen during the latter half of its first season which tied-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and that film’s plotline of the S.H.I.E.L.D. spy organization revealed as having been infiltrated by the terrorist organization Hydra. Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), one of the core characters in the show, was revealed to be a Hydra agent and the show fully dealt with the ramifications of the film’s events.

A major story line that was supposed to be carried over into the films was with the Inhumans. Originally, Ike Perlmutter wanted a film made based on the characters since he wanted these superhumans to fill in the role of the mutant X-Men. At this time, Marvel Entertainment did not have the film rights to the X-Men and Permutter did not want to promote them in the remaining media. Thus, characters who were Inhumans popped up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and took on prominent roles. It went so far as to retroactively make another major character, Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennett), to be an Inhuman (the Marvel superhero Quake). But once Feige was allowed to go his own way, he dropped any plans for an Inhumans film and the show was left holding the bag.

While this was frustrating, this gave the show the opportunity to find its own voice. It wholeheartedly embraced the Inhumans plot point and then embarked on season-long arcs that allowed the show to shine. It introduced other characters from the Marvel Comics such as Ghost Rider, Mockingbird, the Hive and the Aborbing Man, and they were well received by fans. At one point, Ghost Rider was to be spun off into a new series but those plans were cancelled.

Arguably its best arc was during its fifth season when Coulson’s team was hurtled into a future where Earth was destroyed and the remnants of humanity were slaves of the alien Kree. A new character Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) a scruffy, goofy, Peter Quill-type character was introduced and became part of the team after he and the agents returned to the present to prevent Earth’s destruction. Another interesting character that joined the team was Enoch (Joel Stoffer), a Chronicom anthropologist (a race of alien androids). He was perpetually fascinated with humanity and the actor’s befuddled and whimsically befuddled mannerisms were often the highlights of episodes.

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