Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the crack-shot reviewers of the Best Shots team. There might be birds dropping from the sky and snow sweeping the southeast, but your team of reviewers braved the elements to bring you looks at books from DC, Marvel, Image, IDW — even a look at NBC's The Cape. Want more? We've got tons of back-issue reviews at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's let Jennifer Smith kick off today's column, with a look at the final issue of Brian Michael Bendis's Marvel trinity bromance, Avengers Prime...
Avengers Prime #5
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and Javier Rodriguez
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Jennifer Smith
There are two Avengers Primes. One is the one that was advertised in all of the solicitations and interviews Brian Michael Bendis gave before it was released — a kind of couples therapy for Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, working out the issues that remain between them in the wake of Civil War and Steve’s death and resurrection. That’s the story that opened the mini, and that’s the story that is ultimately resolved in the last few pages of this final issue. Unfortunately, in between those two strong, cathartic, necessary scenes lies an instantly forgettable plot that has nothing at all to do with the story’s emotional core.
The problem with this story, quite simply put, is Thor. If the purpose of his presence here was to reestablish his role, and the role of his supporting cast, in the greater Marvel U, then Avengers Prime is simply too little, too late — in the time it’s taken this mini to come out, multiple Thor series (and the adjectiveless Avengers title) have picked up the slack. If the purpose was more emotional — if, as Bendis promised initially, we were meant to understand that Thor, too, had issues to work out with Steve and Tony — that’s never addressed in this story. And if the purpose was simply to get Alan Davis to draw some amazing dragons and trolls and fight scenes, well, I can’t exactly complain, because they are, indeed, gorgeous. But they service a story with an unnecessarily convoluted plot and no emotional impact whatsoever.
With Thor, Enchantress, Hela, and all the other characters of the nine realms taking up so much page space, little is left for Steve and Tony, separately or together. They fight together, and they banter a bit, and, in one odd scene last issue, gossip with Thor about sex, but they don’t have nearly enough interaction to counteract the deep emotional chasm that remains between them. Meanwhile, in a completely inexplicable subplot that eats up even more page space, Steve hooks up with an elf woman named Mageth, despite the fact that (as is repeatedly pointed out), he’s dating Sharon Carter back on earth. While I understand the temptation to give someone other than Tony Stark the random hookup storyline, this story has no greater purpose in the narrative and doesn’t fit Steve’s highly moral character at all.
The problem with this comic isn’t that it’s bad — it’s mediocre at worst. What’s disappointing is that I know Bendis is capable of so much better. Bendis is one of the best in the business when it comes to laying emotions on the table, letting his characters interact and have the emotionally vulnerable moments other writers shy away from. He usually has no problem sacrificing plot for conversation and characterization when necessary, as readers were reminded in the recent (and excellent) New Avengers #7. And I know what he can do for these characters. Bendis is responsible for Civil War: The Confession, one of the best one-shot issues I’ve ever read, in which Tony Stark openly sobs over Steve’s dead body and vents all his frustrations about Civil War. Avengers Prime could have been the sequel to that comic, and the hug Steve and Tony share at the end of this issue, after Tony’s half-apology and confession of how much he enjoys Steve’s company, proves Bendis is capable of writing it. This is the story that needs to be told for these two characters to work together again as two of the most iconic Avengers. But for some reason Bendis chose to throw a generic Thor story in the middle of it, overshadowing all else and turning my most-anticipated series of 2010 into a regrettable dud.
Written by Steve Lyons
Art by Ed Benes and Blonde
Lettering by Pat Brosseau
Published by DC Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
Ed Benes is an unbelievably frustrating artist.
He reminds me of that a certain type of athlete; you know those guys that come into their respective leagues with all the right pedigree and the full set of skills, but never put it together? The ones that have just enough talent to catch your eye, but are plagued by an abject indifference towards consistency? To me, that’s Benes. He has the stuff to be a top-flight superhero artist. He can employ a weighted line and deliver strikingly majestic poses, and he’s got an angular style that will occasionally make his work stand out. But then the weight of those lines fluctuates, the choreography loosens up, and the narrative degenerates into little more than pages and pages of cobbled-together action snapshots, with little discernible unifying vision. It paints a picture, but not a flattering one: too erratic to improve, but good enough to stay in the game.
Anyway, it seems that Doomsday is back on the hunt, and this time he’s... doomier.
This Steel one-shot spends most of its time reminiscing over the origins and heretofores of steel-drivin’John Henry Irons. Lyons’ script doesn’t exert much energy on flavor. It instead moves each page along with efficient exposition that presumably is meant to serve as a primer on Steel, Doomsday, and the original Death of Superman storyline. Were this a showcase of a top-tier artist flexing greatness, it would be adequate. Barring that, it would have been nice if readers were given a new outlook on either those old stories or the superhero in focus. Neither surfaces.
For whatever reason, Doomsday is even more powerful than before, and his power set has evolved. This serves as a ready reminder to readers that Doomsday’s real-life origin was one of storytelling necessity demanding invention first, and character plausibility and authenticity a distant second.
From the mini’s outset, Reign of Doomsday does serve as a nostalgic callback to the first days of Doomsday, Steel, and the Super-Reign, but not in the way one would hope. Instead of reminding us of the innocence of a bygone era, or the earnestness of those stories, or even the pure joyous potential of the new characters that sprung from Superman’s demise, it reminds us that the entire Doomsday narrative was nothing but an exercise in crass commercialism.
Maybe these are unfair expectations for episodic adventure comics. Maybe a book being produced is enough. Maybe this installment serves only as an opening salvo to something broader, or something with the potential for greatness. Or maybe it reminds us that enthusiasm cannot spring forth from a void.
Either way, Doomsday is coming.
Who Is Jake Ellis? #1
Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Tonci Zonjic
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
"No, it's more serious than that. They waited for the train to start so they would have you trapped. They were waiting for you." — Jake Ellis
Having grown up loving the James Bond movies, my favorite being Goldeneye, and classic TV shows like The Saint and The Avengers, the spy genre holds a very special place in my life. Also, having said that, I went on a recommendation and jumped into Image's Who Is Jake Ellis?. With the opening scene actually being showed twice, you get a grip on what the story is dealing with, but at the same time you don't. Jon Moore barely escapes with his life after a deal with Spanish mob dealers goes sour. His one defense? A shadowy figure named Jake Ellis that only Jon can see and hear. The Al Calavicci to Jon's Sam Beckett.
From the start, Tonci Zonjic's (Marvel's Heralds) art leaps at you. The minimalist style reminds me of Chris Samnee, with flashes of Cliff Chiang. Heavy use of shading really captures the suspense and feel of the book. I kept on having flashbacks of Powers and Chase. Keep in mind that Zonjic is a one-man-band here, doing pencils, inks, colors, and the cover. In today's atmosphere that is becoming more and more uncommon.
Nathan Edmondson certainly sets the stage here, but for what? Is Moore a spy, or a crook? Why are the Americans after him? I suppose the big question should, of course, be who is Jake Ellis and what is his relationship with Moore? You feel as though you've walked right in the middle of a movie that's been going on for about thirty minutes, but the rest of it is so enjoyable, you really don't mind it. I'm sure that is the point, to build the mystery and fill in the blanks later. Works for me, because the first issue is properly executed.
This book isn't for anybody who likes their stories fully explained to where there is no story, but narration. I found it something interesting and rather unique. I'm not that too familiar with either writer or artist's full bibliography, but I'll definitely keep an eye out for this one. If you dug Archaia's The Killer or a fan of Jason Bourne, I would easily recommend this to you.
Avengers: Children's Crusade #4
Written by Allan Heinberg
Art by Jim Cheung, Mark Morales and Justin Ponsor
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
So — what is Avengers: Children's Crusade about?
Yes, I understand the continuity expectations of this series — it's about the Avengers, the Young Avengers and Magneto finally having that crucial confrontation with the Scarlet Witch, who's more or less been on hiatus as a character since 2005 (wow, can you believe it's been that long since House of M?).
But I'm going to ask the question again: What is this book really about? What's the premise? What's the point? I don't ask to be flippant, I ask because, reading this particular issue, the answers aren't forthcoming. And while Avengers: Children's Crusade looks pretty slick, it's focus on continuity rather than the emotional core of storytelling robs this comic of what could have been some pretty spectacular fireworks.
Let me back up here a second. Any reader of superhero comics knows that continuity can be a double-edged sword: On the one hand, backstory can create investment, and set up key character beats that can be followed upon years down the road. (Avengers Prime, at least on paper, was supposed to be an example of this, tying up threads laid back in Civil War.) But in this case, I think Allan Heinberg gets swamped in that morass. Don't get me wrong, he does an excellent job recapping the exceedingly convoluted backstory of the Scarlet Witch, which makes this bimonthly book more understandable, if not more accessible, than it has any right to be — but his main problem is that he doesn't go too far past that.
Instead, yes, the various chess pieces are moved towards their inevitable conflict — debating whether or not to kill the Scarlet Witch, as well as whether or not to potentially cause an international incident with Doctor Doom — but I'm not seeing much character development or examination besides telling us what's happened before. Part of this lack of forward movement has to do with a lack of focus — the Scarlet Witch, given her history as a misunderstood villain, has a lot of teams that would be just "right" to have a resolution with: The Avengers, the X-Men, the Young Avengers. But I think shoving all three together means that precious pages are being spent just reminding us, "yes, the regular Avengers are in this book," when it doesn't do much to move the plot ahead.
That all being said — there's no out-and-out loud missteps to Heinberg's writing of this book, and Jim Cheung's artwork shows he's still just as A-list as many of Marvel's other top-flight talent. The opening page is one of those images that Wiccan fans will likely be using as desktop backgrounds and mini-posters, it looks that striking (particularly with the hot reds from colorist Justin Ponsor). And a double-page spread of Wolverine lunging at an enemy? Somebody put Jim on an X-Men book, stat.
But the thing that I've noticed with Cheung's work that is less hard-hitting is his layouts — for reasons that are likely due to Heinberg's pacing as much as his own, a lot of Cheung's pages feel a little blocky, a little stop-and-start as far as how the eye is drawn across the page. It seems like there's an obvious "big" image on almost every page, but typically it's followed by a bunch of smaller panels — oftentimes, thin "letterbox"-style panels — which break up the speed and flow of the reading experience, rather than keeping the tempo smooth. In other words, Cheung has still got some heat up his sleeves, but he has done better work in the past.
Ultimately, this is a lot to say about a book that, well, doesn't seem to have a bigger reason for being other than "check out this mondo Marvel team-up." Don't get me wrong, that's an appeal in and of itself, and continuity fans will almost assuredly pick up this book — either in single issues or, more likely, in trade collections — just to see if this is the final chapter in a troubling six years (!!) for Wanda Maximoff, and a potential return to heroism for the Scarlet Witch. And perhaps if that theme was more played up, more defined — Is violence and bloodshed a hereditary trait? Can you come back from that sort of terror and redeem yourself as a hero? — this story might resonate a bit more. Without that, this Children's Crusade feels more like an action figure slugfest.
Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #3
Written by Chris Yost
Art by Scott Wegener, Patrick Scherberger and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Scott Cederlund
Matching the success of the new cartoon show, Chris Yost, Scott Wegener and Patrick Sherberger are keeping the comic version of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes enjoyable telling great stories featuring the Avengers. So far, this title has been a fun complimentary piece to the cartoon, telling smaller, more character driven stories that look to fit in between episodes of the television series.
The first story in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #3 features two of Marvel’s great and recently underused cosmic characters, The Collector and the Grandmaster, two of the Elders of the Universe. Anyone familiar with 1970 or 1980’s era Marvel should recognize this pair, cosmic beings who play their own little games with the universe. This time. to amuse themselves and put a bit of the other’s power on the line, they place a bet to see who’s stronger- The Hulk or Thor. Yes, the Elders of the Universe have nothing better to do than play fanboyish games of who can beat up whom. I bet they spend a large chunk of their days memorizing entries in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, too.
Yost’s story gives a nice introduction to the Collector and the Grandmaster and sets up potential further plots, much the same way he’s structured the television show to be building the world of the Avengers to give it a huge, epic scale. A fight between the Hulk and Thor is always an entertaining time. Mixing the cosmic scope with a knockdown fight, Yost expands the scope of the Avengers from being protectors of the earth to protectors of the universe.
The second story is a much smaller, character driven story as the Wasp battles the Wendigo, a man-eating monster, in a snowstorm while protecting Captain America. In this story, Yost shows the determination of the Wasp as she proves that she’s big enough to handle any threat and proves that she is indeed one of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
The art in both stories works with the character designs of the TV show but takes them in different directions. The main story is drawn by Scott Wegener of Atomic Robo fame. He actually stays fairly faithful to the look and feel of the show, aided heavily by Beaulieu’s flat, animated cell-like coloring. If you like the look of the cartoon, you’ll love the look of Wegener’s take on the Avengers. Scherberger uses the character’s designs but fit them completely into his own artwork, creating a story that looks cross between the cartoon and Humberto Ramos. Scherberger’s approach creates a more dynamic and visually exciting story.
And if like me you’ve ever wondered what are all of those displays that Tony Stark’s actually looking at whenever they show his face inside the helmet, there’s a handy-dandy Avenger’s File page showing you just what everything is, not that it makes any sense if you’re not actually Iron Man. For anyone who’s enjoyed the cartoon and, maybe more importantly, for any kid who’s enjoyed the cartoon, Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes #3 is a great comics book to give them.
Adventure Comics #522
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Geraldo Borge, Marlo Alquiza and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Sal Cipriano
Published by DC Comics
Review by George Marston
It seems kind of strange that, with an issue that is part of a movement to attract readers to titles they have yet to read, Adventure Comics #522 is so inaccessible to anyone not following both this title and Legion of Super-Heroes. Don't get me wrong — if you have been following their ongoing adventures, this book reads fine. If you were hoping that the inviting and stripped-down cover belied the introduction to the Legion that you were hoping for, however, you might as well leave this issue on the shelf. With a current slate of continuing plots no less labyrinthine than any in the much-tangled maze of 50 years of Legion continuity, DC continues to do its best to elude new fans of this franchise even when they're supposedly making an effort to reel them in.
This issue primarily follows newly appointed Green Lantern (and, unbeknownst to him, newly-elected Legion leader) Mon-El as he attempts to stop a big fat guy named Sun-Killer from freeing the recently captured Saturn Queen. Meanwhile, Wildfire and Tellus are still at Dawnstar's side, as doctors try to revive her from the coma she's been in for a couple issues, and the mystery of Professor Li deepens. I have to say, while I am enjoying Levitz's Legion titles, it often feels like pages are missing, somewhere. I understand the pacing he's setting up, but sometimes the jump in events between issues, and the off-panel plot developments leave me scratching my head. That said, now that Adventure Comics has matched the continuity of it's sister title, I hope that the extra pages will alleviate some of the hastiness in the plotting.
All of the threads this issue touches on are interesting; it's cool to see Mon-El struggling to decide which of his power sets to rely on, and trying to remember that he now has the ring and its resources. Seriously though, Mon-El's Green Lantern uniform is the worst costume I've ever seen. Penciller Geraldo Borges renders it fine in this issue, but man, is it ever awful. From the dumb cape attachments, to the cape itself, and on to the puffy sleeve/short gloves combo, it's a study in bad choices. How do you take all the most ridiculous elements of two super-hero costumes, mash them together, and still have it look like a boring pair of footie pajamas? Mon-El will show you.
Overall, if you've been reading Adventure Comics and Legion of Super-Heroes, you won't want to miss this issue. It's a great chapter in the ongoing story that Levitz and co. have established in the last 8 months, but if you're looking to try the Legion on for size, you'll have to at least go back to the beginning of this run of the title. Levitz has done his best since starting the new volume of the Legion to tell stories that are done-in-one while still advancing the looming threads at play, and he's done his job well. It's just that the single-issue stories won't mean much to those without the background in modern Legion lore to appreciate them.
Written by Peter David
Art by Valentine DeLandro, Pat Davidson and Jeromy Cox
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Jennifer Smith
More than any other X-book on the stands right now, X-Factor is about a family. In the five years that have passed since the debut of its first issue, the roster has stayed remarkably consistent — characters who have left have always returned, certain stalwarts have been in every issue, and new characters who joined the team later have quickly become part of the X-Factor family. These characters bicker and fight and go through traumatic experiences both together and alone, but ultimately they are saved by the bond they share with each other. And it’s this familial nature, this dedication to one another no matter what, that makes the conclusions of two different storylines in X-Factor #213 feel so very satisfying.
The first storyline, the wackier, plot-based Las Vegas storyline, came to a climax last issue when Darwin, he of the ever-adapting survival powers, took on Hela’s power as a death god to defeat her. In this issue, Darwin finds himself struggling with those powers, which have not yet faded and which, in Spectre-like fashion, are causing him to judge and punish those whose sins he’s suddenly able to read. When he decides his best option is to leave the team until he can figure out his powers, the other characters react with despair (and Jamie, who ordered the attack on Hela, with guilt). None of them want to see him go, and they find themselves trapped between their desire to protect and take care of him and their desire to let him live his own life. Both impulses come from their deep love and affection for Darwin, a character who has not spent much time in the book at all, and the depth of the characters’ worry brings home just how quickly Darwin has become an integral part of the X-Factor team. Since the day he decided to take Layla Miller, the deus ex machina of House of M, and make her a main character, writer Peter David has used X-Factor as a showcase for his unmatched ability to take characters with little personality and make them interesting and important in new stories. Darwin, in his short X-Factor tenure, has been no exception. Though he’s leaving the team, I have no doubt that we’ll continue to see more of him, and I look forward to seeing how his X-Factor family reacts to him in the future.
After this resolution, we move on to the second storyline: that of Rahne’s return to the team and the realities behind her pregnancy. When Rictor discovers that Rahne’s baby is not actually his, as she implied (and when the others confirm that it actually belongs to Hrimhari, the Asgardian wolf prince), he’s justifiably angry and hurt. But the others quickly convince him that Rahne, traumatized and afraid, meant no real harm — and he agrees to give her another chance. The scene where they finally have an honest conversation is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, harkening back to the very first page of X-Factor #1, when Rictor was ready to jump off a ledge and Rahne convinced him to live. Rahne, in her own misguided way, has still been trying to help and protect Rictor, and now he and the others want to do the same for her. When Rictor claims that all the men on X-Factor can take turns being the baby’s father, and that the women can be its “weird aunts,” I find myself absolutely believing in that potential future scenario. The men and women of X-Factor care about their teammates, even the Johnny-come-latelies and prodigal daughters, and it’s that emotional core that makes this book so worthwhile.
Other selling points abound. The humor is laugh-out-loud funny, especially when Longshot or Pip the Troll is involved. Jamie’s narration is distinct and well-utilized as always. Rictor’s growing comfort with his sexuality is well-handled. And the art, by Valentine DeLandro, is expressive, with some especially well-executed background sight gags. But ultimately, it’s X-Factor’s dysfunctional-but-loving family nature that’s most likely to make readers come back next month, and all the months to come.
Written by Harrison Wilcox
Art by Ryan Stegman, Michael Babinski and Guru eFX
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
There's only one adjective I can use to describe She-Hulks, and it's about as appropriate as it gets: smashing.
A little bit of Mean Girls, a little bit of Incredible Hercules. A little bit of Jeff Parker, a little bit of Ed McGuinness. A little bit of humor, a little bit of heart. Those people talk about "fun" comics all the time? They're talking about books like She-Hulks.
I think, for me at least, one of the most overlooked qualities in comics, at least as far as a sales perspective goes, is a sense of humor. Bendis rocks the market for quips in the Avengers books, but to be honest, he feels like the exception to the rule. But writer Harrison Wilcox warms you up remarkably quickly with a great sense of humor, introducing our three main characters: "Amelia Hopkins: The Shocked-To-Be-Alive Sophomore. Lyra Walters: The Savagely Stubborn She-Hulk. Jen Walters: The Sensationally Pissed Off She-Hulk."
It's that sort of faux-seriousness that makes you grin in spite of yourself, and it helps inform the tone of the rest of this book. She-Hulks is the kind of book that can put square-headed robots and masters of sound alongside the strange rituals of high school allegiances and prom dress shopping. It's that normalcy, pitted alongside comic book weirdness, that makes for an engaging story and, perhaps even more importantly, some extremely likeable characters.
Case in point: "There's more here than I can go through in an entire year!" Lyra shouts, after a long day of shopping. Jen's weary response: "Remember the talk we had about wearing the same thing every day?" Conversations like these show so much about our heroines, and it's a kick to read.
So how about the artwork? I said last month that Ryan Stegman is putting out the work of his career in this book, and it struck me in this issue how much he's synthesizing the styles of several previous Hulk artists, including Ed McGuinness and Salva Espin (as well as bringing some of the design chops of David Lafuente). There are a few hiccups in this book, where there is one big distance shot where two close-ups would do, but ultimately, the expressiveness of the artwork (and the sheer muscle behind the colorwork of Guru eFX) makes you forget about any missteps pretty damn quickly.
The idea that Marvel originally thought that this was ongoing series material seems more and more like a no-brainer — and, considering She-Hulks is now a miniseries, a missed opportunity. Seeing madcap action with two — count 'em, two — sensational superheroines feels like one of those books that could and should be marketed for that elusive female comics audience. But this isn't just a comic I'd pick up for my sister — this is a comic I'd also borrow from her to read myself (maybe after she's done. Maybe). This is truly a fantastic read.
Choker #5 (Published by Image; Review by Brendan McGuirk): Welcome to the dark and twisted monster-drug cop fantasy of Bens Templesmith and McCool. The story's trail of corruption has almost been tracked to its end, but not before some heads get popped off like common dandelions. Ben Templesmith is at his best when his searing art style can keep readers off-balance. From 30 Days of Night, to Fell, Groom Lake, and now here with Choker, Templesmith's work reads like the photographic negative of traditional mainstream comics. His imagery always seems to be light cut from a black page, which fosters a sense of paranoid psychosis that goes a long way to forge the identity of Shotgun City. Choker seems to have a clear mission statement; there just aren't enough $*%#@**-up comics out there, so let's get to filling that void. Each page is an exercise in the grotesque, which contrasts perfectly with Jackson's steeled, stoic demeanor. The violence in Choker is cartoonish, but not in such a way that the exaggeration makes the threat harmless. There's plenty of room in the world for bright and shiny. That's where primetime network TV lives. That's where human interest stories are regurgitated over and over. That's where plenty of comics reside. But there are other parts of the world. There are corners of moral degeneracy and drug-addled desperation. There are places beyond recovery. There's room for comics that should be enjoyed with stiff drinks in smoky bars. Choker makes that point; there's plenty of room for grown-folk-comics.
go the longest without vomiting?
Yeah, that's kind of how I felt watching The Cape.
Typically, it takes a lot for me to get really worked up about a review — missteps are missteps, and it's rare that someone's creative choice would ever actually get me to the point of being offended. But clearly The Cape has inspired something in me. Bile.
Looking at this episode, it reminds you — for better or for worse — how much better off we were when NBC was just airing Heroes. At least Heroes had a killer, if somewhat derivative, first season. The Cape, however, is so naked with its ambitions to either be a comic — or at least generate revenue from its audience — that it doesn't realize how badly it panders. There's no suck-up job like a bad suck-up job, and this first episode bounces from cliché to unintentional-self parody, hoping desperately to become a small-screen version of The Dark Knight but is unable to conquer its never-ending wave of cheese.
There are certain kinds of entertainment that will make you up and shout while you're engaged with it. There was that one issue of 28 Days Later, with the mannequin, that was so effective with its dread that I was saying, "no! No!!" was I read it. The Cape is sort of the same, but the opposite: Every time I noticed something new, I was shouting "aw, Hell no!!" — just not in a good way. Let's ignore the lack of logic (or originality) in the script for a second — there were just details, artistic choices (I guess I'm using the word "artistic" loosely) that just hit you in the face with just being terrible decisions.
The bad guy — a masked gangster named Chess — has contact lenses in the shape of chess pieces. (When he kidnaps people, they also wake up in front of chess sets.) There's a blogger named Orwell that can hack into your home PC to drop exposition bombs, and who is connected apparently with organized crime. (But doesn't blog about incoming weapons shipments, only dirty cops.) There's a major metropolitan American city that would actually have a citywide privatized police force. Hell, you see Mini-Me and Keith David in the same scene, a scene which involves (presumably for laughs?) midget punching. A military helicopter shows up, pretty much out of nowhere, about 30 seconds into a chase scene. To quote Stewie: "Oh God oh God why didn't anybody tell me BLLLLLAAAAAAGH!"
So let's look at overall plot construction a second. "Lazy" might be too strong a word. It's certainly... "convenient." And I do mean everything is convenient — or strongly ripped off of another series. (Movies that rhyme with "Schmatman.") "I have to send him a message... It's not all corrupt, one man can make a difference!" There's a bank robbery that strongly evokes the opening bank robbery from The Dark Knight, mixed with a criminal circus gang that wants to be Heath Ledger, but seems more inspired from Batman Returns. This isn't just Keith David slumming it — judging by how grating and cheesy this whole production is, I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is Mini-Me slumming it.
The all-too-convenient, logic-leaping story doesn't end there. Orwell contacts our hero? Why? Because. Our hero rolls underneath a truck of gasoline, and manages to find a deep (yet somehow almost barrenly clean) sewer drainage pipe to roll into before the truck explodes? Just because. And why does the media think our hero is really Chess? Is it because he has a mask stapled to his head? Does Chess typically come out in broad daylight with a mask? Because his accent is pretty hard to miss. (And why does Chess have a framed picture of another cop's family on what seems to be Chess's desk? That's just weird, even if you are threatening the man.)
But this wouldn't be complete without the lackluster casting. And let me tell you, almost everyone involved seems straight out of Central Casting, not diverse enough visually to make a strong impression and delivering such flat performances that they couldn't hook you if they tried. There's no subtlety, no nuance, no going against the grain in these performances — they are telling you exactly how they feel, as they try to artificially make our hero (jeez, how bad is it that I can't even remember the guy's name? Farraday, Vince Farraday, that's it) likeable.
You know what makes a character likeable? Make some choices with his direction, instead of making him a shallow everyman. The premise of "The Cape" as a character is already pretty vague — it's about one step removed from just calling him "The Superhero" or "The Vigilante" — so why shackle that to an alter ego that doesn't have any purchase? Vinnie Jones gives it some B-movie, I'm-the-Juggernaut-bitch enthusiasm about two-thirds of the way through as a Killer Croc ripoff, but at that point, too little, too late, son.
Combine all that with some terrible production values — I mean, yeah, the training sequence looks decent, but seriously, if you're going to print out a fake comic called "The Cape" and have your lead character read it to his son, shouldn't you give it some word balloons? And let me tell you, Vince's "cape-dance-fighting" is absolutely abominable — and it's hard to sit through the entirety of The Cape. But that said, when people have asked me, I'll tell you true: You should watch The Cape, only because it is an experience, that's for sure. If you're a fan of quality superheroes — if you loved consuming movies like The Dark Knight — get ready: Because The Cape is your small-screen Ipecac for your superheroic hunger.What was your favorite comic of the week?