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This Week in Panels: Week 239

April 21st, 2014 Posted by Gavok

It’s that thing where me and some guys take comics we read and cut them down into one panel that best explains the comic! Yeah! That thing! It’s me along with Matlock, Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa and smashpro.

For the first time in forever, we got a good issue of What If. Plus TWO enjoyable Cullen Bunn comics in one week. I’m as shocked as you are.

All You Need Is Kill #12
Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Ryosuke Takeuchi, Yoshitoshi ABe and Takeshi Obata

Batman #30 (Gavin’s pick)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Batman #30 (Matlock’s pick)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

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This Week in Panels: Week 238

April 13th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to the 238th edition of This Week in Panels, the Deadpool Wedding Spectacular. The latest issue featured a bunch of backup stories by all sorts of writers from the character’s past, so I figured I’d give each one of them the ThWiP treatment for the hell of it.

My panel posse is made up of Gaijin Dan, Matlock and Space Jawa. Notably missing this week is Invincible, as I’ve finally decided to drop that series. I’m done with constant, “Oh man, how shocking is THIS?!” moments. It’s been a long time coming, but this week’s installment broke the camel’s back.

In other news, I’ve been trying DDP Yoga. It’s too early for results, but I’m definitely feeling it.

All-New Ghost Rider #2 (Gavin’s pick)
Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore

All-New Ghost Rider #2 (Matlock’s pick)
Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore

All-New Ultimates #1
Michel Fiffe and Amilcar Pinna

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WrestleMania XXX: The Feel-Good Story That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen

April 12th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Last Sunday, WWE brought us their 30th WrestleMania, which as you can guess, is kind of a big deal. It turned out to be a blast, unlike much of the last five years. WrestleMania 24 is my favorite, but the only one since that hasn’t been below average was WrestleMania 26, which wasn’t exactly spectacular. This year’s actually felt like something to be excited about going in. The writers did a great job of building up nearly all the matches, from John Cena fighting Bray Wyatt to a battle royal where the winner won a giant Andre the Giant trophy. Hell, that match had better build than this year’s Royal Rumble!

But the real story here was the undercard match of Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H where the winner got to be in the main event triple threat for the title against Randy Orton and Batista, ending in Bryan’s climactic double victory. On the surface of fiction, it’s a well-written storyline that’s been building since August. Hell, it’s one of the best main event builds we’ve seen for WrestleMania in a long time. The thing is, the real story of how this came to be is far more intriguing than what’s going on in front of the camera. This has been something built up for years between the wrestlers involved, the fans and some guys who wouldn’t be competing at WrestleMania 30.

Let’s break it up and look at some of the important players:

THE WRITERS WHO CAN’T BUILD NEW STARS

One of the major problems with WWE in the past few years is their inability to make new names. Writing isn’t long-term enough and Vince McMahon – having final say on everything – changes his mind every other minute. Wrestlers who seem like they’re catching steam all of the sudden get sidelined due to either bad storytelling or the need to feed them to John Cena. Cena is a wonderful performer and all-around good guy, but seeing him stapled to the top of the program at the expense of guys who could use a major win or two is what turns a lot of people off.

The best example is Ryback, who was getting pushed right up the card as an unstoppable and super popular face monster. They put him into the main event scene and had him compete for the title against CM Punk a few times, but they got cold feet. Sure, Ryback probably wasn’t ready to be champ, but WWE put themselves in a bad position by bringing him up so high so fast. So they had him lose. A lot. It kind of hurt his credibility, but he still had some juice. Then they turned him against John Cena, which got a great reaction from the crowd. They couldn’t have that, so they made him go out of his way to be an evil coward all of the sudden. Even though his character had a ton of legit reasoning for why he hated Cena, it was swept under the rug by Cena yelling a lot and by the end of the feud, Cena won decisively and removed what was left of Ryback’s momentum.

Last Sunday, Ryback was performing in a tag team during the PPV’s pre-show.

Other notable names to suffer from the start-stop booking style include Dolph Ziggler, Zack Ryder, Alberto Del Rio, the Miz, R-Truth, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, Damien Sandow, John Morrison and Drew McIntyre.

RANDY ORTON

For a while, Randy Orton was the secondary, more intense John Cena. He wasn’t quite as popular, but he was still a major deal. Since at the time, WWE had split Raw and Smackdown into two sort of exclusive shows with their own top belts, that meant that they basically had their own “Cena” for each show. Edge was the top name on Smackdown, but he had to retire due to injury. At the following PPV, they had his best friend Christian face Edge’s previous challenger Alberto Del Rio for the vacated title. Christian won, which was well-deserved and seen by many hardcore wrestling fans as a long time coming.

They taped the next Smackdown two days later. In it, Orton, who had just joined the Smackdown roster, was granted an immediate title match against Christian and beat him. Yes, not only did Christian’s feel-good title reign last two whole days (five in terms of kayfabe, since the show aired on Friday instead of Tuesday), but we weren’t supposed to feel bad about it because Randy Orton! Yay! In turn, they eventually made Christian turn heel over this and get his ass handed to him for his troubles.

While Orton lacked the charisma of Cena, he at least was more likely to put people over, which made him more likeable at times. Then his star started to slowly fizzle over time and he was no longer really on Cena’s level. He was still fairly popular, but just kind of there. He won the big Money in the Bank PPV match that earned him a title shot whenever he wanted, which led to the events of Summerslam…

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This Week in Panels: Week 237

April 8th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Welcome back to another ThWiP. It’s a bit delayed because of my WrestleMania overload. In relation to WrestleMania XXX, I watched sixteen and a half hours of WWE television from Saturday night to Monday night. WWE Network can be addicting if you let it. Speaking of, I wrote an obituary for Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak after his big loss against Brock Lesnar the other night.

You know the drill. I have Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa, Matlock and a rare appearance by Was Taters. In the end, I read an excessive amount of comics this week. Highlights include Batman ’66, Moon Knight and Ultimate Spider-Man.

What If: Age of Ultron #1 is a hot mess.

All You Need Is Kill #10
Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Ryosuke Takeuchi, Yoshitoshi ABe and Takeshi Obata

Aquaman and the Others #1
Dan Jurgens and Lan Medina

Batman ’66 #31
Jeff Parker and Jonathan Chase

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This Week in Panels: Week 236

March 31st, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Lots of Avengers stuff this week. Holy crap, there are a lot of Avengers comics that came out. Between Matlock and I, I think we have them all covered. I’m also helped out by Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa and Dickeye.

At Den of Geek US, I’ve written some neat stuff. Here’s a lengthy look at all of Hulk Hogan’s appearances at WrestleMania over the years and here’s a review of Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher, which has very, very little to do with the Avengers.

Three of us read the latest Deadpool, which was just lovely. The very first page is a blatant reference to Downfall, the film about Hitler’s final days that’s been used to fuel a couple hundred YouTube videos about Hitler ranting about any given thing to be outraged about.

I couldn’t help myself and had some fun with it. Enjoy.

With that out of my system, here are some panels.

A+X #18
Gerry Duggan, David Yardin and Matteo Lolli

All-New Ghost Rider #1 (Matlock’s pick)
Filipe Smith and Tradd Moore

All-New Ghost Rider #1 (Gavin’s pick)
Filipe Smith and Tradd Moore

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This Week in Panels: Week 235

March 23rd, 2014 Posted by Gavok

It’s panel time! I’m joined by Space Jawa, Matlock, Gaijin Dan and a rare entry from Dickeye. Jawa has double the panels due to some screw-up from his shop last week.

Writing-wise, I went back to the old What If well for old time’s sake by writing about 20 Uplifting What If Stories for Den of Geek US. It felt like coming home.

This week brings us the end of Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man and to be honest, I feel like it wasn’t worth my time. I don’t mean the issue, but the entire run. Despite being one of the must-read comics from the beginning of the New 52, it led to a big arc that went on for far too long, killed off his son (when the most beloved take on the character went out of the way to explain why this was a bad idea) and then meandered until its finale. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is still well-written enough, but it feels so pedestrian as it reaches its big climax.

I’ll probably start picking up Superman/Wonder Woman because Charles Soule has been rocking my socks off on everything else he’s written, but I feel my interest in DC dwindling by the day.

All-New Invaders #3
James Robinson and Steve Pugh

All-New Invaders #3
James Robinson and Steve Pugh

All You Need Is Kill #8
Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Ryosuke Takeuchi, Yoshitoshi ABe and Takeshi Obata

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This Week in Panels: Week 234

March 17th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Ahoy, my friends! Another week of panelingus begins with me and Gaijin Dan and Matlock and Space Jawa! Jawa is inconsolable due to what appears to be the final installment of Batman: Li’l Gotham. Meanwhile, Matlock only sent me DC panels for whatever reason. Ah well.

For Den of Geek US, I had some stuff go up. The main course is a review I did on the WWE/Scooby-Doo crossover movie that just came out. Then I also wrote little fluff pieces on the live-action Street Fighter web series and the preview of the upcoming Deadpool wedding issue. The backups of that issue will feature stories by every single major Deadpool comic writer. From Priest to Waid to Simone. Sounds awesome.

Batman #29 (Gavin’s pick)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Batman #29 (Matlock’s pick)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Batman: Li’l Gotham #12
Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs

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This Week in Panels: Week 233

March 11th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

It’s time again for This Week Panels. It’s time again to take every new comic that Matlock, Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa and I read over the last week and cut them down into a panel that best represents the issue. Sounds like fun? Great! Join in if you’re ever interested. My email’s on the side.

I’m posting two Bleach panels this time around, mainly because I forgot to post one last week. Sorry, Dan.

Awesome comics this week. Afterlife with Archie was absolutely astounding and I can’t recommend it enough. The whole thing was heartbreaking, other than the interlude about how the Blossom siblings are totally incestual. That’s not me joking. That’s an actual plot point. In an Archie comic. The guy who wrote it is now in charge of the company. No fooling.

Magneto is cool because someone at Marvel realized that the best part of X-Men: First Class was the stuff near the beginning about Magneto being a super-powered Inglorius Basterd. It’s like that, only in the present and he’s bald.

Burn the Orphanage was really strange this week and not exactly in a good way. Easily the weakest of the trilogy.

Afterlife with Archie #4
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla

All You Need Is Kill #7
Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Ryosuke Takeuchi, Yoshitoshi ABe and Takeshi Obata

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Rift Part 1
Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

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The WWE Network: Two Weeks Later

March 10th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

It’s been two weeks since WWE released the WWE Network. An idea that’s been around for years, WWE’s been wanting to find a way to make money off their extensive video library and the DVD releases just haven’t been cutting it. Originally, the Network was going to be an actual television channel, but cable providers told WWE to go fuck off, turning the entire concept into a running gag amongst the fans. It kept getting delayed over and over to the point that nobody really expected it to ever happen.

Then they changed the concept and made it a Netflix-like streaming channel. After the press conference to announce how it worked, I must have seen a record number of people posting that image macro of Fry yelling, “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” I had the same mindset.

The sell is that the WWE Network is $10 a month (you have to agree to six months at a time) of streaming video that you can access via computers, game consoles, phones, tablets, etc. You get every single WWE/WCW/ECW PPV, lots of old shows, replays of more recent shows, original programming and every live PPV in HD. There would always be something playing on the feed, but you can check out pretty much anything on demand. That’s an insane deal. So how has it stacked up?

It went live two weeks ago and experienced the expected rough beginning. For the first day, it was extremely difficult to sign up for the service. While the live streaming worked out fine, it was nearly impossible to get an entire show when watching the on demand material. That appeared to be a fault in their setup, which they’ve since fixed. After the second day, things have mostly run smoothly.

Mostly.

The Xbox 360 app has famously been a disaster. For a week, nobody was able to log in. Now you can log in, but it’s missing the search function as well as a ton of PPVs. You can’t access any of the WCW or ECW PPVs, as well as any Wrestlemania that isn’t 29. Hopefully they fix this soon, especially considering I like to have this on in the background on my TV.

Although they claimed that all their PPV stuff would be uncensored, that’s mostly a lie. Sure, Booker T still accidentally drops the n-bomb back in that 1996 WCW PPV, but lots of nudity and curse words are taken out. For the most part, it’s understandable. A lot of shows were already prepared due to the now-defunct WWE On-Demand service and they were all cleaned up for that. That’s why WWE is totally allowed to play old footage of people calling the company “WWF” now, but a lot of clips blank it out anyway because they were prepared years back when that embargo was in effect. Also, there’s the music issues, especially with ECW. I’ve heard that most of New Jack’s matches have been removed, mainly because he’d spend the ENTIRE match with “Natural Born Killers” playing.

Then there’s the problem with NXT ArRIVAL, the PPV put together for WWE’s developmental promotion. As an early stress test, they did the show live to see how the servers would handle it. With 20 minutes left, things went to hell and there were serious issues. Considering Wrestlemania is coming up in a few weeks with no major live shows ahead of it, it’s iffy on whether or not that show will actually be watchable via the Network on the first go.

Despite all of that, the Network is AWESOME. It is so goddamn awesome and if you ever enjoyed wrestling, get on it. As mentioned, you get hundreds of PPVs at your fingertips and a lot of random shows from the past. They put more stuff up by the day, but right now it’s mostly old Raws from the first year of its existence, Madison Square Garden house shows from the 70′s-to-early-90′s, WCCW shows, ECW Hardcore TV and that Smackdown where Arnold Schwartzenegger showed up to beat up Triple H. They’ve also been putting up the documentary stuff from the DVDs they’ve been releasing, like a biographical look at Steve Austin or a lengthy interview where Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels clear the air about their old real-life hatred for each other.

They also have Legends Roundtable, a show where a bunch of old wrestling personalities would sit around and discuss whatever topic for an hour or so. One of the ones listed now is about Mean Gene, Michael Hayes, Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes and Pat Patterson discussing the worst characters in wrestling history. It’s wonderful. For the first time in my life, I’m able to watch the Shockmaster’s tragic debut in great quality and it completes me.

The original programming is fantastic so far. I mean, the Raw and Smackdown pre and post shows I can take or leave. A half hour before and after the shows, you can see a roundtable discussion about what’s going on mixed with backstage interviews. Usually these interviews would only be hidden on WWE’s YouTube page, which is a shame, since a lot of them are really good.

Wrestlemania Rewind is a show where each week they spotlight a different Wrestlemania match. They’d spend about a half hour in documentary style, explaining the lead-up, then they’d show the match itself. So far they’ve only done the main events for Wrestlemania 1 (Hogan and Mr. T vs. Piper and Orndorff) and Wrestlemania 3 (Hogan vs. Andre).

WWE Countdown is basically your average VH1 talking heads show ala I Love the 80′s, only counting down a topic voted on by the fans. So far we’ve had Top 10 Catchphrases and Top 10 Entrances. One of the highlights is Daniel Bryan showing confusion over John Cena’s, “You can’t see me!” catchphrase because, no, he CAN see him. He’s standing right there and wearing bright colors! He is in no way invisible!

One of the shows coming down the pipeline is Legends House, where a bunch of old wrestlers do a Real World deal. It will feature Roddy Piper and Hillbilly Jim LARPing. Lord have mercy.

All the newer footage is in HD, including the live PPVs. They’ve also been using the Network as a way to see NXT, which is something I’ve been meaning to do on a regular basis to begin with. The ArRIVAL show was pretty amazing.

The whole thing is a radical concept and I really hope it works out for WWE. Sure, their insistence of a Batista vs. Orton main event on the biggest show of the year puts a bad taste in my mouth, but at least I can go rewatch this year’s Royal Rumble where the crowd verbally shits all over Batista for ten minutes straight. Their booking has been scattershot, but this strategy should be rewarded.

If you have even the slightest interest in wrestling, join the bandwagon because it’s pretty sweet and the price is a steal. I’m finding a lot of people are using it as an excuse to relive the utterly fascinating and laughably terrible final years of WCW and I really can’t blame them.

Meanwhile, my buddy Bearnt! uploaded a clip from one of the MSG shows. Here’s Roddy Piper delivering the weakest chair shot I have ever seen in my life.

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This Week in Panels: Week 232

March 4th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

It’s a super-late edition of This Week in Panels, brought to you by me being stuck on the phone/chatting with customer support people for the past few days because practically every piece of technology I touch has a tendency to not work. But hey, at least I have the WWE Network working now and that’s a good time.

Elsewhere, at Den of Geek US I was asked to post some preview pages for the upcoming Deadpool vs. Carnage miniseries. I went a little bit further by writing up a Tale of the Tape between the two. Also, I have a comprehensive guide to the death and return of CHIKARA Pro Wrestling.

But really, I barely wrote anything last week due to the WWE Network. By God, it’s great.

Helping me out this week are Matlock, Gaijin Dan and Space Jawa. Jawa’s panels reminded me that I totally forgot to read that Utrom miniseries going on with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

All-Star Western #28 (Gavin’s pick)
Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Staz Johnson and Fabrizio Fiorentino

All-Star Western #28 (Matlock’s pick)
Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Staz Johnson and Fabrizio Fiorentino

All You Need Is Kill #6
Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Ryosuke Takeuchi, Yoshitoshi ABe and Takeshi Obata

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