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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Modern Family

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The Wedding

Until recently, I can’t have claimed to be much of a TV-fan. My viewing has always been rather sparse, focused on the times when I would go home and visit two of my best friends. Avid purveyors of all the newest shows, the couple would often dictate any and all television I would watch. We meet up, they put on the newest episode of whatever they’re watching, and we would all chew the cud, and generally work our way through whatever new happenings or gossip that had arisen in our time apart.

Whilst I have always been a strong follower of shows like American Dad, Arrested Development and Doctor Who, such shows that I would end up watching as a result of my time with them include The OfficeParks and Recreation, Reno-911 and Modern Family. But for the most part, the shows they introduced me to, I would watch for a few seasons, then it would slowly whittle out.

Not Modern Family.

With the latest episode (and last, for this season), Modern Family has gifted us with an impressive pay-off to what the series has been building up to over the last twenty four episodes; the wedding of Mitch and Cam.

Although the episode starts off a little messy, with the characters dashing about from venue to venue in the hopes of achieving the wedding they have long dreamed of, the story of everyone’s favourite couple finds itself in the last five minutes of the show, when the titular act takes place. The ceremony is filled with heart-warming moments, as the series reaffirms its sense of familiarity with the audience; each and every character is a likeable one, and as a viewer, the way the scene plays out, full of love and emotion, makes you feel like a member of the family. There are few things that will bring a tear to my eye, but that scene was definitely one of them. And to see them go forward with such a big event, both for the characters and the modern day political climate is quite moving.

Connections

However, with the exception of the wedding scene, for the most part, I feel like the episode wasn’t one of the best. But in spite of this, it was still representative of the show as a whole. With Modern Family‘s vast cast mostly assembled for this double-bill special, we are reminded just how the show has won it’s success. In Jay Pritchett’s dysfunctional family, there is a member we can all probably connect to.

I’m certain of the fact that when I grow up, I will be Phil Dunphy. Nerdy. Clueless. Ordained. Fascinated by fantasy.

Part of the Family

The show also seems to strive to make its audience feel included as well. Of course, any show that doesn’t get the audience emotionally invested is doomed to failure, but having watched Modern Family all in the past month or so, I’ve watched the family literally grow into who they are today. Whilst the parents do undergo emotional growth and development, for the most part, they remain the same likeable characters who attracted us to the show in the first place.

But the kids? In the space of a month, I’ve watched them turn from children fresh out of school, to teenagers preparing for college, driving and getting jobs. Heck, I can’t even drive, so seeing them age to that stage in the space of a month is really quite bizarre and touching.

They make the basic suburban life seem more appealing than any sort of fictional setting, and reminds us the importance of having those you love around you.

If Modern Family is able to keep their likeable cast and interesting dynamics, I can see it having a long and fruitful future, and I can only hope that it knows its limits, and when it’s time comes, ends on a high. It’s all I can hope for my new favourite show.

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Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Film & TV

 

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The Legend of Arnie

Well, here at Leicester we’re well into exam period, and I’ve just got my final (and only) exam in eight days time, and as such, I’m in the mood to write as much as I can so as to neglect revision in anyway possible.

Film Reviewers

So I was just listening to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s film review podcast from last week, and am eagerly awaiting this weeks edition; due in a couple of hours; featuring an interview with Patrick Stewart. However, in last weeks piece, the guys primarily talked about Godzilla, whilst discussing other recent films such as Sabotage, starring the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger. As such, I particularly enjoyed podcast for a number of reasons; as an aspiring writer (potentially a film critic) it was interesting to hear Kermode’s contrasting review of Godzilla to my own, and listen to the depth of which he knows cinema. But it was also interesting due to his critique of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who he claimed, in his latest film, has not shown much progress as an actor since the original Terminator film.

Whilst I can’t really fault Kermode’s point, as he and Mayo go on to explain that despite Arnie’s shortcomings as an actor, he is an excellently entertaining personality, it did remind me how, strange as it may sound, Arnold Schwarzenegger remains a source of inspiration for me, despite the fact that I only got round to watching Predator for the first time yesterday. Here’s why…

Total Recall

In recent years, a lot of the reading I’ve had to do has revolved around whatever texts come up on my course, whether that be A Level English Literature, or the Literature-based modules of my American Studies degree. For the most part, I only end up reading half of a book to get it’s feel, and then perhaps finish it later if it is actually required for some sort of written analysis. What this of course means is that I don’t do much reading outside of course-books, bar comic books, but that’s a different matter.

So towards the end of last (school) year, when I found Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography half-price in WHSmith, I was compelled to buy it. By this point, I hadn’t seen many of his films; I had only just seen Terminator, and I had yet to watch Total Recall, the film his book is of course titled after. So this purchase was more of a spur of the moment thing than some sort of self-fanservice. I thought it would be a humorous read, and something I could laugh about with my friends at a later date.

But then I started reading, and I became hooked. What I’ve since come to learn is that many people don’t actually know much about the former ‘Governator’. Yes, he worked in politics. Yes, he’s a movie star. Yes, he’s known for his physique. But after reading his book, I can admit to having spoken to people who did not realise he was a former body-builder, knowing him only from his days as an action hero.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in poverty in Austria in the 50s. Following the war, conditions were grim for the man who would eventually become Mr. Olympia.

From his teens, Arnie became focused on achieving perfection, and by the age of 16 had arms that were probably thicker than my waist. As was expected, he joined the army, and became a frickin’ tank driver! I mean, how awesome is that? If you ever watch Epic Meal Time, you may be aware that he still owns his own tank, which again, is pretty awesome.

From there on, the book details his ascent to become the body-building champion of the world, before breaking into the movies. From there, you of course know the basics, but the book is filled with interesting facts and stories that prove that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the living embodiment of the ‘American Dream’. As an American Studies student, that’s something that I personally find very interesting indeed.

Arnie of the 21st Century

Lets just look at that progress for a second, he’s gone from living in a small house without water, to having run one of the largest economies in the world, starred in countless movies, owned multiple real-estate properties, whilst having two handsome sons, and two gorgeous daughters, and those are just the one’s who share his name!

I jest, obviously, because although he may have made some mistakes along the way, if you read Total Recall, you can see that this is a man who is committed, and the book rightly ends with Arnie offering valuable life lessons that he has amounted in his 60+ years.

In short, in recent years, Total Recall is one of the few non-course-related books that I can have claimed to read from cover to cover, alongside books like the Hobbit. It’s a thoroughly interesting read, full of joy, achievement, and a love of stogies, and just reaffirms that Arnold is the man!

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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Film & TV

 

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The Goyer Scandal: It’s Not Easy Being Green

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What Happened…

On the latest scriptnotes podcast, the presenters were joined by several screenwriters, including David S. Goyer (writer of Man of Steel), Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (writers of Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Andrea Berloff (writer of the upcoming Legend of Conan). In said podcast, the team chose to play a game wherein each writer would take a card on which the name of a fictional character was written. From here, they would each have to describe how they would reboot the character in their own upcoming film franchise.

In the back-and-forth that ensued, such ideas came up as a mentally deficient Hulk and a Seth Roger spider-hybrid.

However, what most seem to have taken away from it were Goyer’s comments about She-Hulk being the equivalent of a porn-star and the Martian Manhunter being a ‘goofy’ character.

The Problem…

Admittedly, Goyer was out of line in what he said; insulting two long-standing characters; accusing one of being obscure and suggesting anyone who know about him is a loser, and just being downright sexist about the other. But such a large reaction such a small little thing is getting seems a tad unnecessary. The whole podcast is the group joking around with one another, and none of it is meant to be taken so seriously, and the way I got from it, Goyer was being more demeaning to himself than anything, revealing his true misplaced thoughts on the matter.

But I don’t really want to get into the whole debate, seeing as you can find people’s opinion of it covering Google, if you just type either characters name (for instance, there’s a rather interesting article written by Alyssa Rosenberg on the Washington Post). Instead, what this really made me think about just how careful people have to be in the modern age, where someone in charge of a property like Superman can say something that to him, seems highly insignificant, but gets a highly emotionally charged outcry from fans.

As someone who wouldn’t mind becoming some sort of screenwriter myself (although I realise a lot more practice would have to come before I ever reach that goal) I find it daunting that everything you say in public can (obviously) be held against you. Of course, a lot of reporting now is done to get a bad story on whoever their article features, but it also feels disheartening to know that the career paths I want to follow could put me in a position where the public is calling for my head.

I like to think that won’t be the case however, as Goyer doesn’t seem to have the best streak in being popular with the fans, and I could never see myself throwing out unnecessary sexist comments, or purposefully belittling a fan-base.

What Does it Mean..?

(Apart from People Continuing to Think Goyer’s a Douche)

First of all, if the casting of Cyborg didn’t make it clear enough, I think this highlights that the Manhunter isn’t going to pop up in the 2017 Justice League. Kind of a shame; when I used to watch the JL cartoon (as did pretty much everyone), the Martian was probably one of my favourite characters. Apart from Batman. Because Batman.

And on the topic of Batman, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. What’s with that title? Bit of a mouthful. Another strike to an already wavering film franchise.

All-in-all, it looks like DCs quest for a cinematic universe is going to continue to go downhill in public opinion until they can prove it’s worth watching. The struggles of comic book fans, eh?

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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“They Call Themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy”

“This might not be the best idea”

When I initially heard the plans to make a Guardians of the Galaxy film, I had my doubts. I’d read the comics, and whilst they were great, I didn’t think a talking raccoon and tree would translate over to the big screen as well as a man in a suit of armour or a Norse God.

My suspicions weren’t eased when the second film about that Norse God was released. For one, I think out of the nine films released so far, Thor: The Dark World was definitely in the bottom three, which is a shame, because he’s my favourite character in the comics. And then they ended the film, which I already wasn’t enjoying, with a mid-credits scene which was just too weird a note to end on.

Now, I understand that this film is meant to be weird, obviously; it features a talking tree and a gun-totting raccoon. But that scene, when I first watched it, filled me with doubt. Ophelia Lovibond and Benicio del Toro’s character’s seemed like they were more focused on putting flamboyancy into their performances than they were acting ability.

I’ve since warmed to the scene a little bit, but I’m still not overly pleased with the Thor sequel, although that’s a post for another day.

Likewise, having been a big fan of Star Wars when I was a kid (I mean, who wasn’t), it also started to bother me that pretty much everyone in the film looked human. The Marvel Comics have a wealth of aliens they could have used, and they made all of them look human? It didn’t sit well with me. Thus far, most of the alien-looking creatures seen in the trailer were prisoners, and so it stands to reason that they won’t get much screen time. I was really hoping Glenn Close and John C. Reilly’s characters would look a bit more ‘otherworldly’, but alas, it was not to be.

“I’m Star-Lord man, legendary outlaw..? Guys..? Forget it”

But then I saw the first trailer, and I was ‘Hooked on a Feeling’, as it were. I’ve loved Chris Pratt in everything I’ve seen him in, and so for me, his was going to be the ‘make-or-break’ role in my opinion. I mean, despite a fully loaded cast, Pratt was the only one that seemed to make sense. The aforementioned Glenn Close and John C. Reilly only have side-roles, after all, same as Michael Rooker.

Arguably the two biggest name’s in the core cast, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, won’t actually get any face-time, due to the fact they’re a tree and a raccoon, respectively, and their voices seem to have been practised in a way that they’re not instantly recognisable as those actors.

Likewise, hiring a wrestler in an acting role rarely fills anyone with confidence, and so far, Zoe Saldana’s character hasn’t actually been seen to speak.

Everything about this film was made to fail.

But Chris Pratt’s natural charm has clearly captured the hearts of audiences everywhere in his portrayal of Peter Quill, and the more we see of the other characters, the more I’m coming to understand that each and every one of them is perfect for the role. Up until recently, I didn’t know Vin Diesel was also the voice of the Iron Giant, Bradley Cooper seems to have got everything spot on, and from interviews and such Dave Bautista seems to be having the time of his life, which gives me hope.

I think I’ll need to see more of Zoe Saldana before I can make a proper judgement on her acting/character/casting, but every other character so far is a-okay in my book.

“So here we are; a thief, two thugs, an assassin and a maniac”

Of course, this film could still tank like nobodies business. The only other films I’ve seen directed by James Gunn are the Scooby Doo flicks, and of course, those lose their appeal once you reach a certain age. But so far the casting seems sound, the tone seems pretty well managed, and all the things crammed in..?

Like a giant decapitated head which doubles as a space-station. I’m just hoping a certain telepathic Russian dog shows up. Yes, that might push things a bit too far from reality to insanity. But they’ve already done this much, right? Only two and a half more months to go.

And I imagine Marvel is pretty confident those months will be worth the wait, considering that the films catchphrase is…

Guardians of the Galaxy

You’re Welcome.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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Film Review – Godzilla

A Warner Bros. Film, Directed by Gareth Edwards

Released: 8th May 2014

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston

Review: All-American heroes, clandestine organisations, strange romances and monster death matches. The latest outing from the king of monsters had it all. Having just sat down and watched the newly released Kaiju epic, I remain unsure about whether the film I just watched was an exciting and powerful film, or an awkward and slightly stupid disaster flick.

The film starts off with a flashback that speeds through the history of things related to Godzilla, from ancient cave drawings to its first human encounter in the 50’s. After that, the focus switches to follow the Brody family over a fifteen year period, as it becomes evident that Godzilla is not the only creature that has been living below the earth as disaster begins returning from the depths.

Exciting, sure, but it lead to a number of problems.

First off, the tone was hard to pin down; the film starts off following Bryan Cranston’s character Joseph Brody, in a raw, emotional story as he searches for the truth behind some ‘natural disasters’. In this section, Edwards directs the actors exceptionally well, making it hard to believe that this is only his second feature film. The characters are all moving and relatable, and as an audience, you want them to succeed in the face of the danger you know is edging slowly closer.

Unfortunately, the film then switches to follow Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and whilst I don’t agree with what some have been saying about Johnson giving a bland performance, I do believe that it seems as though less effort overall has been put in to the film at this stage. Johnson’s character Ford Brody is more interesting than others would have you believe; he’s heroic, devoted and caring, following the basis for all the classic American heroes. But even his devotion to his family isn’t enough to keep the film on track, as once again, the film seems to flip everything on it’s head once more.

With the reveal of these giant monsters now known to the general population, the film then becomes a race against time to defeat the creatures before they cause any more casualties. This is of course impossible, as the sheer destruction caused by them simply travelling from A to B is astronomical. There is also the problem that by this point, the audience is just clamouring to see Godzilla himself, something which has been withheld for most of the movie. At first, this may seem like a smart tactic, but when the full shot of Godzilla is revealed sooner than expected, only to be pushed back into the shadows once more, things start to get a little irritating.

From here on, the audience is given a series of events in which Godzilla arrives, prepares to engage his enemies, but then is thrown out of sight just before anything happens. Instead, the fights are seen in news clips or covered in smoke, all of which would have helped build excitement had the reveal not already been blown. Any tension that has been built up by Watanabe’s character describing Godzilla as a heroic god that will save mankind is thrown out the window, as without the air of mystery surrounding the creature, the denial of his full appearance becomes an irritant we are forced to deal with in our own way.

This is not helped by the soundtrack. At the start, the grandiose themes make the film seem like some sort of epic outlandish fantasy, before swapping between suspenseful, yet eerie horror type tunes, only to be replaced once more by the exaggerated overbearing tension-building songs, which as previously pointed out, have lost their appeal. In short, the whole ordeal with the soundtrack is rather off-putting.

Similarly, some of the actors share this sort of fluctuation in tone. Despite his stellar performance, some of Cranston’s lines seem out of place at times, and my personal favourite, Ken Watanabe, plays his wise scientist, full of belief that Godzilla will save the day, in a way that pushes on the boundaries of making the film seem overly melodramatic.

However, there are good points too. I think my problem, in all honesty, was that I set my expectations to high. After waiting months for its release, I was initially disappointed when I saw some poor early reviews, and having read them, became more aware of the flaws in the film. But the sheer immensity of the creatures is a highly redeeming quality of the film. Every time Godzilla roared, it would make me shiver with excitement. Overall, with some occasionally shaky yet impressively grounded performances and brief sparks of monster fights which build up to an epic pay-off, this is a film that once you give yourself to it, will not let you down.

Godzilla is back on the big screen, and although his story may falter at times, he looks magnificent.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Film & TV

 

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Distractions: Batmen and Kaiju

“The Arrogance of (Students) is Thinking (Essays) are in our Control, and Not the Other Way Around”

It’s that time again. The year is winding down, and about this time next month, I’ll be preparing to get on a plane and fly off from rainy Wales to sunny California. I can’t wait. Between now and then? A few parties, saying goodbye to friends, moving all my belongings between various houses… and completing an essay and an exam.

Obviously, out of all that, those last two are the least appealing to me. However, for once, I’m actually on top of things. Although I didn’t do any work over the Easter holidays, I’ve still managed to work at a relaxed pace, yet complete essays before the deadlines hit. I can’t claim that these essays are the best quality work I’ve ever done, but frankly at this stage, with too much time on my hands, my mind has been elsewhere.

Primarily in the world of contemporary American Cinema.

First up, there’s the new Batman costume reveal.

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I for one think it looks great. As much as I love Christian Bale’s Dark Knight trilogy (I used to religiously watch The Dark Knight nearly every week) I think this is the first time Batman truly looks like Batman. As a comic book fan, I love that they’ve chosen to take his appearance in a way that sticks much closer to the source material; it gives him the intended weary look, makes him look capable of brutalizing criminals, and strongly differentiates from what’s already been seen on the big screen.

In fact, so far my excitement for the Man of Steel sequel has remained pretty high. I’m fine with the casting of Ben Affleck, especially after watching Argo last year. I even don’t mind Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor; I think it’s an interesting new take, especially when you remember Eisenberg is the same age as Henry Cavill. The only issue I have so far is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

It’s not that I have anything against Gadot; she looks stunning. But unfortunately, she also looks a bit too dainty for an Amazonian warrior. But whatever; I initially thought the same thing about Affleck, and he’s proven everyone wrong with his impressive muscle gain. I have hope for this franchise, even if I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan.

The other thing my minds been pretty focused on is the latest Godzilla movie.

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I’ve watched the trailers over and over and scoured the net for reviews. However, to my disappointment, the first couple I read weren’t very positive. Describing the film as a misleading disappointment, these reviews have left my conflicted, as the epic Kaiju flick maintains high ratings on both iMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps it’s for the best; with my hopes lowered exponentially, chances are that I’ll now enjoy the film far more when I see it tomorrow.

But more on that tomorrow night…

 

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Comic Books, Film & TV, Life

 

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Amazing.

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Let’s talk about Peter Parker. Don’t know the guy? Does whatever a spider can. He’s Spider-Man.

Supposedly, it’s a pretty good time to be a Spider-fan. A new series and a new film. It’s great stuff.

Or so it should be. I pre-ordered my copy of the new Amazing Spider-Man #1 months ago, and although I didn’t end up getting the cover I spent weeks searching for (the Marcos Martin variant), the one I did get my hands on was better than expected (the Pop Mhan variant).

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Pretty nice right? And its visual appeal only get’s better when it’s actually held in your hands. And then you open it.

Don’t get me wrong, Amazing Spider-Man #1 was a good read, just like I loved the Amazing Spider-Man 2, it was a really entertaining movie. But after all the hype, I feel like they both could have been a little better. With over a year of the so-called ‘Superior Spider-Man’ swinging about, I couldn’t wait to get Peter Parker back in the drivers seat. I enjoyed the antics of Otto Octavius, but I’m a fan of Spider-Man for a reason. And to me, Peter Parker is the only real Spider-Man. Kaine? He’s pretty cool. Ben Reilly? Alright I guess. Miles Morales? Not too shabby. But none of them have anything on Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

And so, when I opened my new comic book and sat down to read, or when I got comfy in the cinema, twice, and the title credits rolled, I prepared myself to be wowed. And in both instances, to an extent, I was left fairly satisfied. But now that I think about it, in hindsight, I realised that in both cases, I wasn’t truly wowed by either story. In the comic book, the main story was alright, but it was the back-up teaser-tales that seemed more interesting, and whilst the film was visually spectacular, some things just seemed unnecessary.

Another issue I have is that although a lot seemed to happen, at the same time, not much really happened. In the comic book, Spider-Man swings round mostly in the buff, fights some D-List villains and tries to figure out what has gone on in his life whilst he’s been absent. Each storyline left off from ‘Superior’ is edged forward ever so slightly, but none of them in a significant way until the last page. After claiming he will no longer “work with” Spider-Man to the general public, Peter once again neglects his responsibilities as the head of ‘Parker Industries’ to go web-slinging, so not much progress on that front. The Avengers, whose intellect had been wildly played down in ‘Superior’ are still unsure how to react to him, so not much progress on that front either. And although it could be argued that severing the ties between Parker Industries and Spider-Man could be a big step, really the only progress I was interested in in the whole issue was Anna Maria’s reveal that she knows his secret at the end.

Likewise, in the film, Peter and Gwen’s relationship, whilst moving forward, doesn’t actually progress much further forward from the first film until the last 30/40 minutes when Peter promises to follow Gwen wherever she may go, shortly before she bites the dust. Big things, sure, but the whole on-again-off-again romance up until that point seems pointless at times in my opinion, and I already knew she would die at the end anyway.

And then there’s my favourite part of the films, the villains. Unfortunately, Jamie Fox’s Electro spends half the film bumbling around or incarcerated, Paul Giamatti’s Rhino only shows up for a few minutes to bookend the film, and Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin gets taken out pretty easily (which I suppose makes sense, considering he had been a villain all of ten minutes, but regardless).

All-in-all, I feel like whilst April 30th provided a good helping of Spidey-filled fun, none of it really met my expectations. That’s not to say I’m not excited for what’s next; I have faith in both Dan Slott and Marc Webb to tell a good story. It’s just that after the rather mediocre ending to the Superior Spider-Man #31, I’m still waiting for Spider-Man to once again prove himself to be truly Amazing.

On a side note, that Shazam preview of the Sinister Six? Pretty awesome. It’s the promise of things to come that keeps me interested.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Comic Books

 

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