Property Review: Loki Season 1

Loki Season 1 unburdened with glorious purpose of multiverse

That mischievous scamp.
Loki, who slithered and slunk his way into our hearts in 2011’s Thor, has managed to somehow get looped in this illusion that we don’t love him the way we do. Naturally, he’s gone back to the beginning of his love affair with us, the Marvel faithful, and found a way to get us talking about him again. And we do it because, despite ourselves, we love him. And we love doing it because Loki’s debut season was burdened with glorious purpose and delivered.
We join our loveable narcissistic God of Mischief moments after he has teleported to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in the 2012 timeline. If you’ll recall from those harrowing and chaotic moments of Endgame, the Avengers have just captured Loki after the Battle of New York. Loki’s been Hulk smashed, knackered and silenced with a mouthpiece, and the 2012 Avengers are ready to pack it up at Stark Tower while the 2023 Avengers are skulking around trying to acquire the Space Infinity Stone. But the Time Heist engineered by the 2023 Avengers has gone sideways. Within the confusion of the Hulk entering the scene in a complete rage, the Space stone is scattered and somehow lands at Loki’s feet. He seizes his opportunity for freedom, grabs it with all his might and teleports from the scene, thus ruining the Avengers’ attempts to temporarily borrow that stone. We all know what happens in Endgame after that, but where Loki managed to get off to was the question at the time. That’s answered in the fantastical world of his summer timeslip.
In the opening moments of this vaudeville delight, we’re reintroduced to the devil. This isn’t the Loki that we’ve come to love and mourn in Infinity War. This Loki is one who hasn’t quite redeemed himself. He doesn’t know who he really is just yet. He’s still at the beginning of the journey without the lessons learned. And this is where Loki shines. The introduction of the Time Variance Authority by way of Hunter B-15 — the wonderful Wunmi Mosaku — sets the tone immediately and gives the first clue that something is different. And everything is different, because we’re not in the MCU main timeline anymore, Toto.
The first episode alone steals the beatings of the heart by showing Loki — and us the viewer, by extension — the journey he should have taken. The TVA’s ruling power over the Sacred Timeline is mighty and powerful, and the true concept of the multiverse begins here with this one storyline beat. Years of buildup have prepared us for this, and it does not disappoint. Each beat of the story — multiple timeline branches, different universes, multiple versions of each character, time branching instead of being linearly shaped — hit one after another and it’s so much to take in. But this is the rub: It’s so expertly crafted here and done with so much care and nuance that months later, we’re still talking about all six episodes and what they mean for the future of the MCU. There are so many story branches opened now because of this that the dizzying nature of the multiverse slips in unnoticed to seep into later episodes and blow everything wide open.
And yet, even with its open nature, the show also has an isolated and insular draw. One of the core strengths is its ability to be humorous and thought-provoking with in-universe gags, easter eggs and references.
Somehow, Loki managed to be a miasma of questions about the implications of time travel and free will on the MCU while hilarious. No other show could feature a biting and witty villain who jumps through disasters in time (Category 8 hurricane in 2050, what?) with a bureaucratic pseudo-governmental agency represented by a time clock with a Southern drawl, who finds out he’s got female, child, future, supreme liar and alligator versions of himself, have them work together and tie it together as a subtle discourse on climate change.
There is no shortage of eclectic shenanigans going on in Loki, and it’s hilariously on point always. As is the soundtrack, because let us state this right now: Composer Natalie Holt outdid herself. The soundtrack is phenomenal and so well done in the way that it epitomizes what it means to be Loki. The themes used here could have easily been used in any Marvel theatrical release with Loki and they would have done well.
But let us not opine that everything in Loki going beautifully according to plan wasn’t also made possible with quality performances. Tom Hiddleston, at this point, is Loki. There’s no question that the dark brat prince of the MCU has cornered the market on our hearts through Hiddleston’s portrayal. Who else could make us simultaneously hate the Asgardian fool and love him so fiercely? The delicate touches he places on Loki’s motivations will have you rooting for the character from the moment he crashes into the Gobi Desert.
And along for the ride is, surprisingly, Owen Wilson. He’s a good actor, but in the confines of Loki, he’s in another echelon: Great. Wilson’s believable skepticism bleeds through and we’re all nodding our heads at his totally in-universe disbelief of the foolishness that is unredeemed Loki. He sees it through to the end, and he is the needed pin to tone things down to a believable state of affairs. Sophie Di Martino and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are refreshing and fun to dissect, given the nature of their characters. And the Loki variants — played by the equally fantastic Richard E. Grant, Deobia Oparei and Jack Veal — are important pieces of the puzzle who raise the bar of the cast exponentially.
And, let us devote a moment of reverence for Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains. Majors’ appearance is a master class in character development through exposition and narrative, moving the story forward while reminding you where it’s come from. He needed no crazy props, just charisma and charm, to explain not just who he is, but also why he is. His appearance in the sixth and final episode — For All Time. Always — is the most pristine entrance ever done in the MCU, and quite frankly, the most exciting in television in a long time. Majors delighted and enthralled us, luring us out to the precipice and having us hanging on his every word and action. We are unfathomably excited to see where he is going with the variant Kang the Conqueror in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Loki, long known to be equally parts vexing and enthralling, will return in Season 2. We are burdened with glorious purpose to be there from the beginning. Because after all, with one of the best scripts, best casts and best in-universe introduction, the sun is guaranteed to shine on its creativity and brilliance yet again.

Acting: 9.5
Story: 9
Production: 10

Overall score: 28.5/30 or 9.5

HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Property Review: The Boys Season 1

The Boys are back in town

Amazon, 2019

In your face. Gruesome. Over the top. Raw.

That’s how we’d describe the visceral reaction we had to The Boys in its inaugural season on Amazon Prime. We were familiar with the Garth Ennis graphic novel from many years back, and we were eagerly anticipating the adaptation once it was announced.

It did not disappoint.

Opening the story, A-Train, a speedster like Marvel’s Quicksilver, literally runs through protagonist Wee Hughie’s (a phenomenal Jack Quaid) girlfriend Robin accidentally while hopped up on drugs. Him barreling into her at superhuman speed causes her to explode instantly, traumatizing Hughie as he was holding her hands when the collision happened. Hughie can’t find solace in Robin’s death and the aftermath of receiving compensation for his loss. Wandering aimlessly in grief, he finds like-minded individuals starting with Billy Butcher, played by the breathtaking Karl Urban, who advises him to get his hands dirty and get revenge on the Seven because it’s the right thing to do and it’s “diabolical.”

Spreading the diabolical is the omnipresent Homelander, played brilliantly by Antony Starr. If you ever wonder what mixing Superman and Captain America with a side of Bizarro would create, you have Homelander. Homelander, with his all-American good looks and charm is, in reality, one of the most depraved super beings in the history of super beings. In his capacity as the leader of the Seven, a corporate sponsored superhero group, Homelander keeps the subordinates in check but thinks nothing of murdering a plane full of people twice (!) to achieve his own goals or keep the Vought International name clean.

The twists and turns and discovery of Homelander’s devious fakeout of the general population is equal parts engrossing, fun, gruesome and, well, diabolical. Everyone in the Seven has some sort of issue, but Homelander is the cream of the crop. Or so he says. By the end of the season, you will come to love and hate Homelander enough that if you haven’t read the graphic novel, you will hunt it down just to get the unfiltered version of the super menace.

Everyone plays their role to perfection, just nice enough on the surface but nasty enough on the other side that you know the mass marketing appeal of the characters isn’t going to last long. The story moves along at a nice pace, getting you to know the Seven and their impact on the world around them, and their counterparts in Butcher’s gang. It’s a fun, solid ride that makes you question everything you know about superheroes. What if they weren’t benevolent do-gooders and did stuff like participate in an orgy — the upcoming third season Herogasm arc? Who keeps them in check and how is that accomplished when they have powers that can literally change the world but they’re incompetent and amoral? The Boys aims to understand all of that in the goriest way possible. Season 1 ends on a cliffhanger and sets up future goodness in the already-released Season 2 and the coming Season 3. Expect more diabolical fun because this brilliant sendup of comic book follies is fantastic at judging those who save us.

Like the comics: 9

Acting: 8

Story: 10

Total: 27/30 or 9

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Top 5 on the Strip: Comic book TV edition

1. Spawn — HBO, 1994
If you didn’t read the comics, chances are this was your first exposure to the hell-spawned entity Spawn. We’re ignoring the ridiculous movie in favor of the animated masterpiece featuring vocal legend Keith David. Spawn was gory and brooding and just the right mix for teenagers to learn about the comics legend.

2. Luke Cage — Netflix, 2016
Perfect casting made this show what it is, and we’re sad to see it gone. Luke Cage was great in the execution as well and has a phenomenal soundtrack. GI hometown boy Mike Colter sizzles in the title role and Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi and Mahershala Ali absolutely steal the show every time they’re onscreen.

3. Daredevil — Netflix, 2015
Tight writing, brutal fight scenes and good casting made this a hit on Netflix. The first two seasons were superb with emphasis on the casting of Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin. Daredevil, like all Marvel Netflix shows, has been canceled, but it’s worth getting a subscription just to see the magic of a competent Matt Murdock.

4. Arrow — CW, 2012
We must give it to Stephen Amell: He certainly turned Oliver Queen into a credible superhero. Arrow has seen its ups and downs (everything post season 4, anyone?), but it’s still a decent story and the early twists and turns are enough to entice you to stick around and invest in the Queen family and their exploits. Arrow was one of the first successful comic book TV shows and it’s paved the way for others like it. It has earned its props.

5. Smallville — CW, 2001
One of the first comicbook shows before the recent craze and takeover of Marvel television, Smallville had folks talking about Superman like they were comic book experts. Tom Wellington did an excellent job portraying the Man of Steel in his younger years, but the true shout out goes to Michael Rosenbaum as the scene-stealing Lex Luthor.

Property review: TMNT Vol. 1 (1987 animated series)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1

Lionsgate Home Entertainment, 2004

Turtles fight bare bones DVD

True children of the ’80s will tell you that one of the things imprinted in their memory is what they watched on television. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were important then, and children soaked it up. So, imagine GI’s surprise when the DVDs were finally released for public consumption. Spanning nine seasons, some of the most important establishing material is found in the first season, and the DVDs provide a look at the opening five-part miniseries that launched the show. But, if you’re looking for a quality introduction to the Turtles, keep looking because this version isn’t all that great.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

The quality of the presentation is terrible for starters. While it’s obvious this is a show from the ’80s and broadcast quality isn’t going to be as good as say 2004, when the disc was released, it still should be better than what’s here. Then, add in quite a few graphical errors, a lack of extras on the disc and the confusing inclusion of several episodes from the 10th and final season and you have a poor mess of a DVD.

Great voice acting and a killer soundtrack help, though. It’s something when a series can draw you in because of its soundtrack and perfect casting, and the first season of the show managed that greatly. Practically speaking, the first season’s merits save the DVD from most of its negative traits.

And, we can get around it all because it’s the Turtles, and having the series on DVD greatly increases the amount of problems we’re willing to put up with just to have the series in our collection. We can’t complain that much as children of the ’80s and as superfans of the series. We just wish the quality was a little better and some of the behind-the-scenes material had been added here. That would be have tubularly awesome.

Plot: 8

Like the comics: 3

Casting: 10

Total score: 21 out of 30 or 7

What to watch

The five episodes here are the five-part miniseries that introduced the Turtles in animated television.

1. Turtle Tracks: The introduction and origin story of the Turtles. Keep in mind that this origin story greatly differs from the comics and film.

2. Enter the Shredder: The introduction of Krang and Shredder, and also the creation of Rocksteady and Bebop.

3. A Thing About Rats: Baxter Stockman is introduced and joins with Shredder.

4. Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X: Krang’s partial backstory is given and Dimension X is named. Michaelangelo gains a love interest.

5. Shredded and Splintered: Shredder and Splinter switch bodies, and Splinter’s bond with Turtles is fleshed out.

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 and 30 overall.

Animated property review: X-Men The Animated Series

X-Men the Animated Series Vol. 1  |  Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2009

X-Men origins told correctly

If there ever was a quintessential property in the 1990s of comic book origin, it’s X-Men the Animated Series. The Fox staple in the early part of the decade was a great excuse to get up on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons. It also was a great learning tool for those who didn’t know much about the X-Men and wanted an introductory course to the famous mutants.

What we love about the series is the fact that it takes itself seriously. It told stories just as the comic book version told them 10 years before, and it’s pretty close to the origin stories with only minor changes. Our only gripe with some of the episodes in the first volume is the brevity of the story arcs. Sagas such as Days of Future Past and The Cure are told in one or two episodes, something that isn’t normally be done in the comics. However, some are revisited in later seasons of the show, so that can be forgiven.

The production values of the Animated Series, for its time, were top-notch. The writing was superb, and the coloring and drawing were extraordinary for a cartoon production. Few series, with the exception of fellow Fox production Spider-Man, could match what the Animated Series brought to the table in terms of visuals and storytelling. The first volume sets the pace with Night of the Sentinels, and it’s obvious that care is taken with characters and their backgrounds. Most characters are true to their history and those who have been re-established for the Animated Series are well done and not out of place (i.e. Morph).

The voice acting is another standout established within the first volume. The characters all sound like they should, and it is this first set of episodes that established the standard for future X-Men voice acting projects for the next 17 years. The best example: All X-Men characters used in Capcom’s versus series through Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were voiced by their Animated Series actors.

The first volume of the Animated Series hit DVD in 2009, a welcome addition to any X-Men fan’s collection. The first 16 episodes encompass the two-disc set and were only $20 at the time of purchase. That’s a bargain for well-crafted X-Men stories in a series known for its technical prowess that seemed to take forever to come to DVD.

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Voice acting: 10/10

Plots: 8/10

Like the comics?: 8/10

Overall rating: 26/30 or 8.6

Strip Talk #05: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were animated heroes, advertising juggernaut all rolled into one

Lyndsey Mosley, editor-in-chief

The Teenage Mutant Turtles have dual personalities, quite frankly. They are among the few, if not the only, animated characters to have multiple versions within the consumer’s grasp that make them seem like the same old Turtles dressed up in the same old stories with different looks to them.

No one can dispute the juggernaut that was and still is the TMNT. Sure, they’re nowhere near as prevalent as they once were. Nowadays, you can’t walk down the street screaming “Cowabunga, dude!” without getting laughed at or possibly being evaluated for Bull Street or Patrick B. Harris. No, you can’t say you love being a turtle anymore without accusations of being stuck in a 1980s timewarp. But there was a time in America where it was hip to be a lean, green, turtle-loving pizza-eating machine. Those were the days when TMNT was king.

The franchise seemingly came out of nowhere with the comics book in 1984. It was as if there was nothing and then there were the Turtles. They were serious, starkly drawn characters who would fight and kill just as soon as they would be teens on the streets of New York looking for a little action. These are the classic times of the TMNT, where you could get a little blood mixed in with the culture of a gritty 1980s New York City scene rife with crime. And then it all exploded.

Cheesy on the one hand, wildly popular and inappropriate on the other, the 1987 animated show hit the scene and made mincemeat out of nearly every other franchise. The Turtles gained individual characteristics and with them came an increase in popularity that hadn’t been anticipated. The show took off with witty writing, superb voice acting and plots that made a lot of sense. The show worked hard to establish a base with children, though the seemingly innocuous writing is even risque for cartoons these days. Where else can a villain call a heroine of the show a bimbo?

Both pieces of the TMNT tale left a lasting impact. There’s a generation of grown folks that sang along with the opening theme of the ’87 show. Millions of “children of the ’80s” sink back into a coma of nostalgia now and then as they remember getting home from school, throwing off an acid-wash denim jacket, fixing a snack and plopping down in front of a TV to watch the four green dudes from Brooklyn take on a ninja master who “never has to look for a can opener” before tackling multiplication and long-division problems.

I am a child of the ’80s and I was once upon a time a pre-teenage mutant ninja turtle.

Lyndsey Mosley is editor of Gaming Insurrection and one of the biggest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans on the planet. She can be reached by e-mail at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com.

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Strip Talk #04: ’80s and ’90s themes are the soundtrack of my life

Lyndsey Mosley, editor-in-chief

I don’t throw the title “child of the ’80s” around often. The definition is someone, like myself, that was born between the years 1975 to 1986 that remembers the pop culture of the era because they lived through it. Myself? I am a quintessential child of that time. I remember WWF, Transformers, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Rainbow Brite, Jem and the Smurfs well. I got up on Saturday mornings to watch most of those shows and when I got home from school it was TMNT, Ducktales, Darkwing Duck and the USA Cartoon Express all the way. So, why are we rehashing all of these titles? Simple: They had some of the best intro themes of all time.

Don’t get me wrong, the ’90s had some great stuff, too. X-Men the Animated Series, Fox’s Spider-man, Doug, Goof Troop. All are great shows with excellent introductions. So what is it about this these two periods of animated television? Was it because I was young and in-tune to music through chorus at school? Possibly. But more likely it’s the fact that this was the golden age of animation, a time when good cartoons were routinely introduced with flair, savvy and a well-sung introduction that told you everything you needed to know about the show.

That’s the crux of why this was such a good time for animated television. Take, for example, Transformers. Everything you ever needed to know about the Autobots and Decepticons, their battles and their affiliations were told in 30 seconds through singing. Same thing with Ducktales, Powerpuff Girls and TMNT. Sometimes you didn’t even need singing to tell the story. X-Men’s instrumental intro famously showed the principal cast and the fight of mutant kind.

As a child of the ’80s it was hard not getting up to see many of these shows every morning while getting ready for school. Now, it’s hard as an adult not to tear up when I hear the instantly recognizable themes of my childhood past. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve found I’m not the only one wishing for the return of the golden age of cartoons. The ’80s and ’90s were the gold standard for hooking an audience into a show that may or may not have shapeshifting robots, teenage mutant ninja turtles or racecars, lasers, airplanes to spin in Duckburg. I look forward to the day when I have a child old enough to understand and appreciate the era that mom learned about good animated television.

Lyndsey Mosley is editor of Gaming Insurrection and a proud self-proclaimed child of the ’80s. You can contact her via email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

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