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September in Review: What I Read

The month of September has been a slower month for me. Having lowered my reading goal from one hundred and fifty-six to one hundred and fifty, it gave me time to breathe and not feel like I was falling far behind. That said, I am making progress and am on track.

For the month of September, I have read four books, four comics, and one manga. Totaling out to nine books this month. These are those books and my general thoughts on them.

Epic Tales: Celtic Myths and Tales/Celtic Myths and Tales: Epic Tales by Various

This collection of Celtic tales has been sitting in my Currently Reading shelf since March. It was originally going to be the “bigger/more in depth book” that I would read in March as well as fitting into the Ireland theme I had planned for the month (Note: I will sometimes dedicate a month for a specific topic, theme, or what have you for a particular month. For instance June, I read mostly LGBTQ+ centered books in honor of Pride Month. It’s a way for me to expand my reading and maybe find a book I like that I might not have thought of previously). The only reason it took me this long was because of other books I had to read, the fact I wanted to take my time with this book, and my motivation to read it being hit or miss.

So for the month of September, I decided to sit my butt down and finish it. Overall, I would say that I enjoyed it. All of the tales were really neat and were divided into sections. It’s also a really nice collection of tales, and a number of which, if any, might not appear in the Irish Fairy and Folk Tales leather bound book I own. This book is also apart of a series of “epic tales” which include other tales from other mythologies, Mary Shelley, Black Sci-Fi stories, and more. A number of these are included on my to read list, including the Black Sci-Fi stories, Epic Tales: Norse Myths and tales, Epic Tales: Persian Myths and Tales, African Myths and Tales, and Epic Tales: Japanese Myths and Tales.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Essential X-Men Volume 11 by Chris CLaremont

I’ve been making my way through the Classic X-Men comics via the Epic Collection and their respected Omnibuses. This is the last of the Essential X-Men Collection that I needed to read before hopping into the run starting in the 90’s (Either through regular paper backs or their respected Epic Collection). I’ve been enjoying this run of the X-Men, some issues and volumes a little more, but this has been a fun run. This one was one that I enjoyed, but maybe not as much as others. However, I do think it was still worth a read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Death: At Death’s Door by Jill Thompson

The Sandman has been on my to read list since at least the beginning of 2022. I managed to get through the first two volumes before the release of the Netflix adaptation and read the Deluxe Edition of Death last month. I also ended up reading the two Little Endless Storybooks (The Little Endless Storybook and Delirium’s Party). I checked this out on a whim as well as for a quick read since I was a little behind on my reading total.

I’m kind of mixed on the story as a whole, however, it was a fun read. The art and the story did remind me of some early 2000’s manga tie ins like Kingdom Hearts 1, 2, and Chain of Memories, which were all fun and whimsical reads. If you are looking for a fun and slightly different story within the Sandman universe, I would give it a shot.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity by Devon Price, PhD

One topic I have an on and off interest with are nonfiction books on Autism. As someone who has been diagnosed with Autism (Asperger’s when it was used a little more frequently), I’ve had an interest in reading upon it over the last few years. Mostly because, like a number of people who fall on the spectrum, I had a hard time coming to terms with it due to some perceptions out there and feeling disheartened by it. These days, I am more comfortable with it, but I want to better understand Autism where I previously didn’t.

Reading Unmasking Autism has helped me. In fact, it is set up in a way that I connect with. A lot of what this book covers touches on things that I had felt when I was younger, the conflicting emotions and having to mask that side of myself in order to appear normal. This is probably the first book on Autism that resonated with me on a personal level. And for that, I appreciate it and am glad that I bought it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Ziggy, Stardust, and Me by James Brandon

This one I picked up on a whim on one of my Barnes and Noble trips. It was one I was considering, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the hardcover or wait until the paperback was released the following Tuesday (Sundays are my Barnes and Noble days since it’s a day I don’t work on and is the one day out of the weekend that right for me). Towards the end of this trip, I was looking at the LGBTQ+ section in the YA area, looking for Loveless by Alice Oseman, when I spotted it. And as luck would have it, there was one copy of the paperback copy available before it was even supposed to hit shelves (Goodreads said the paperback was set to release that Tuesday, September 13th). Which coincidentally, was the second time that has happened to me, with the first being the Essential Legends Collection release of Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, which I got my hands on the Sunday before it’s release date that Tuesday (August 2nd). And had this been on my radar in June, I might have read it along with the other LGBTQ+ books I read that month (I do wish I read one or two more fiction books that month honestly, but I digress).

Taking place in the 1970’s and right around the time the events at Waterloo broke, it focuses on a young man trying to find his place in the world, when he meets Web, a Lakota teen, who in some ways is his total opposite. This is a coming of age story that deals with how people perceived the LGBTQ+ at the time and two young men whose lives are changed forever. Note: This book does cover some sensitive topics like racism towards Native Americans and how being gay was seen as a mental disorder.

Rating: 4.4 out of 5 Stars

Wolverine Vol 2 (1980’s) Issues 45-47 by Larry Hama

These are here since I needed to read them before hoping into Essential Wolverine Vol 3. On Goodreads, I counted these issues towards the Essential Wolverine Vol 2 since, due to me not being able to get my hands on volume 2 through my library. Plus, I would rather have these issues act as one entry, so lumping it in with Essential Wolverine volume 2, I felt made sense since technically, I already read most of it with the second and third Epic Collection volumes. Which I noted when I finished.

Overall, I though these were solid enough issues. Not sure if I would go back to them, but it was neat to see Logan and Jubilee teaming up.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

X-Men Red (2018) Vol. 1 by Tom Taylor

I wanted to read this series before I inevitably get into the 2022 X-Men run. From my understanding this, X-Men Gold, and X-Men Blue, were a sort of trio run with each one focusing on the Scott/Jean/Logan trinity. Scott is Blue, Jean is Red, and Logan is Gold. I read Gold, which had Nightcrawler as a mainstay and was a reason why I picked it up. And I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I will jump on Blue, at least at this time, but I may eventually.

As for the first volume of 2019’s X-Men Red, it was alright. The story itself made sense with the direction they wanted with Jean (focusing on her being a sort of spokesperson for the X-Men, the brief discussion on the Phoenix Force, and Jean seeking out alliances with Namor and T’Challa). I just wasn’t as invested/interested in this one compared to X-Men Gold. I’ll still read the second volume though. It was just kind of average for me personally.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Almost There by Farrah Rochon

Disney’s Twisted Tales are some really neat books. Acting as what if for the movies there based on, they generally have one question in mind. What if a different choice or event happened in the story? For instance, in Go the Distance, it asks, “What if Meg Had to Become a God?”

This one focuses on Tiana and Princess and the Frog. And personally, this is one of my favorites. Reflection is my favorite thus far, but Almost There is right up there with it. It was a good spin on the Princess and the Frog and it was interesting to see what direction it took. my only critiques, which I go over in my review, were one or two little things, but other than that, I thought this was a good read.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Trial of Magneto by Leah Williams

I finished off September with Trials of Magneto. I was looking for a quick read and I kind of wanted to check this one out. Mostly because of the mixed reception and it no longer being a comic on my to buy list. So I checked it out through my library and gave it a read.

Now, I don’t now if it’s because I am slowly inching my way into the Krakoa Age, or if this is something others believe too, but this story kind of felt all over the place. One minute it’s about Magneto going on trial for possible killing Wanda, the next she’s not dead and interacting with her past, present, and future selves. And there is some kind of resolution at the end.

That said, I wouldn’t say it’s terrible enough for one star. And if I can give it anything positive, it would be that the art was nice and that there was potential for a good/interesting story. Other than that though, I just didn’t enjoy it.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Conclusion

Nine books for the month of September. Some good. Some bad. Some average. What were some books you read in September? Thoughts?

Planned Reading for October.

With October right around the corner, I thought I would give you a sneak peak into what I plan to read for the month. I don’t know if I will review every book I read, though I may do a post on October in review, but I do have a few books that I would like to get done for October.

My currently reading goal for the year is one hundred and fifty books this month. It may bounce back to one hundred and fifty six if I am on track, or above, since I am a fast reader in general (however, I do try to take some books slower).

The goal this month will be for twelve books since I would have to read twelve and a half books a month to keep up with my goal. If possible thirteen. This will include books and graphic novels, the later of which I find quick reads that help me catch up if needed.

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi

I actually started reading this book in September, but since I want to take my time with this book, which is six hundred plus pages long, I didn’t want to rush through it. Because, while I am a fast reader, there are instances where I want to take my time with books. This book being one of them.

It’s synopsis on Goodreads reads as followed:

Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.
Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.
Clear is the blood of the slaves, of the crushed, of the invisible.

Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes.

Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment, by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the empire. But when Sylah and Anoor meet, a fire burns between them that could consume the kingdom—and their hearts.

Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution. And when she joins forces with Sylah and Anoor, together these grains of sand will become a storm.

As the empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn.”

This sounds like an interesting read and takes some inspiration from African and Middle Eastern lore. Which I feel might not get as much spotlight when compared to Greek and Norse mythology. I’m already about fifty or so pages in, and am enjoying it so far.

The Dawn of Yangchen by F.C. Yee

I was going to read this around the time it came out. However, motivation and the other books I had read that month got in the way. I enjoyed the Kyoshi duology by the same author, and was curious to see what they are going to do with Avatar Yangchen, the airbending Avatar before Aang.

This novel will be highlighting Yangchen’s time as the Avatar. She also finds it difficult to trust her predecessor, Avatar Szeto, due to the turbulent state of how trust and loyalty are earned in the era she is living in. When she gets pulled into the politics and corruption of the Earth Kingdom city of Bin-Er, she finds herself working alongside and befriending an informant named Kavik. Along the way, Yangchen will have to learn how to trust herself and the wisdom she has, as she embraces what it means to be the Avatar.

I’m not sure if this book will get a second one like the Avatar Kyoshi, though on Goodreads it does have it listed under the author’s Chronicles of the Avatar series tab and an Avatar Yangchen Novels tab. So it might get a second book, or maybe the Avatar Yangchen Novels tab is there to separate it from the Avatar Kyoshi novels. It might be too early to tell.

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May

In an attempt to expand my fantasy reads, this book has caught my eye. It’s a story taking place in the 1920’s where magic is rumored to exist on Crow Island.

Annie Mason doesn’t care for magic, real or faux. That is until she meets her neighbor, Emmeline Delacroix, a rumored witch, and witnesses a confrontation between Emmeline and Bea.

This sounded like an interesting read with the 1920’s as a backdrop. It’s also looks like it will deal with LGBTQ+ relationships.

The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope (L. Penelope)

Another 1920’s set fantasy novel, The Monsters We Defy, was another novel that entered my radar while looking for fantasy books. In 1925 Washington DC, Clara Johnson is a young African American woman who can communicate with spirits. A skill she had developed when she was in jail during the darkest moment of her life. Given the opportunity to be free from her debt, Clara is tasked with obtaining a magical ring from the richest woman in the district. Joined by a ragtag team including a hypnotic jazz musician and and aging vaudeville actor who can change his face, it’s up to them to find this ring while also dealing with conflicts that are seeping from the spirit world into the human world.

Where the previous book will appear to focus on LGBTQ+ characters, this book will focus on a diverse group with a black leading lady.

Deadpool Samurai Volumes 1 and 2 by Sanshiro Kasama

Lumping these two together since they are two parts of a series. This was a series I went back and forth on until I ultimately decided to purchase it. And while maybe not what I had in mind when looking for a new manga to try, it sounded fun. Essentially, this manga series seems to drop Deadpool in Japan where he builds a team called the Samurai Squad. And while it seems that the Merc with a Mouth will be doing what he does best, he will be going up against characters like Loki and Thanos.

These will be quick reads that I can have done in a day or two (I know I can get through books pretty easily, but manga are the books I get through the quickest).

Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault and Feather and Fire by Livia Blackburne

Lumping these to together since, much like Deadpool Samurai, these two books are part of a series. But unlike DP Samurai, these are part of a young adult series called the Queens Council. This series seems to be set up in a way similar to the Twisted Tales series, where each book is about a particular Disney movie/story. But instead of it being a twist on the movie it’s based on, each book blends the movies they’re based on with historical events of the time and original stories they were inspired by. With each picking up after their “happily ever after”.

Rebel Rose is based on Beauty and the Beast and focuses on Belle after breaking the curse. Set in 1789 France, Belle is trying to grapple with becoming royalty and her life as a commoner. The revolution is looming over her provenience, and when she finds a magic mirror with a dire warning, it is up to Belle to protect everyone she loves and become the queen she was born to be. Feathers and Fire focuses on Mulan. After saving her country, she is brought to the emperor, who decrees that she will be his heir. As she prepares for this new challenge, she finds that not everyone is thrilled with her new stature, and trust is called into question as treachery creeps it’s ugly head. It’s up to Mulan to use the strength and wisdom of those before her to protect her kingdom.

When I saw Feathers and Fire I knew I was going to check it out. Especially since Mulan is one of my favorite princesses. Beauty and the Beast is also one of my favorite Disney movies, and since Rebel Rose is the first book, I felt it will be worth a read. Even if they don’t need to be read in order and can be read as standalones. There is a third book that will be focusing on Jasmine, though I am uncertain as to when it will be released.

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

If I get the chance, I will try to have this book done in October. Much like The Final Strife, this is a bit of a doozy page wise. Totaling at seven hundred and thirty-nine pages, Empire of the Vampire tells the story of a nearly three decade long darkness where vampires rule. Gabriel de León is the last silversaint, someone tasked with defending the realm and church from vampires. And when the Silver Order falls, he is imprisoned by the very creatures he was tasked with defeating. This is his story.

I do not know if I will finish this book before the end of October, but I will try. If I start it early enough I might. But if I don’t, it could be finished in November.

Essential Wolverine Vol 3

Similar to the Classic X-Men runs, I have been reading quite a bit of Wolverine’s comics. I’m slowly but surly making my way through the Essential Collection, I just need to read issues 45-47 before I can jump into this one. That’s mostly due to the fact that I am checking out the Essentials through my library and the second volume wasn’t available, so I had to use the second and third Epic Collection volumes that correlated with this Essential volume. Unfortunately, those two Epic volumes only included issues 17-44, but I do have Marvel Unlimited, so I can use that for the three issues I need.

This will be one of my comics for the month. And the one I will be taking a bit more time with (I tend to take a little time with epic collections and omnibuses). It covers issues 48-69.

Sabretooth (2022): The Adversary

This five issue limited run will be released in a singular volume on October 4th. I already have it preordered, so it’s a matter of waiting. I didn’t know that it was even a thing until I was working on a Wolverine centered TikTok that I found out. That said, I’m intrigued. Though I would consider Magneto as my favorite X-Men antagonist (if he even counts as one currently), Sabretooth would be a close second. Plus I really enjoy the dynamic he and Logan have.

In summery, The Adversary will be telling Sabretooth’s story after he was banished to the pits of Krakoa for his crimes. What he has been up to might not be what everyone expects.

Loveless by Alice Oseman

I had binge read Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series back in June. It was a series recommended by a few librarians, so I thought I would check it out. Loveless I caught when it was returned I want to say in July or August. It wasn’t a top priority read when I checked it out, so I ended up buying it (that way people could check it out if they wanted to).

Taking place in the same universe as Heartstopper, Loveless tells the story of Georgia, a young woman who had never been in love. She didn’t even had a crush. But when she goes to university, she believes now is the time she’s ready to change that. However, when things don’t go as planned, she wonders why it’s so easy for other people to fall in love and what exactly Asexuality and Aromatic means. And what does it all mean for her?

I have a feeling this will be a book that I enjoy. Not only because I enjoyed Heartstopper, but because it sounds like a coming of age story from the perspective of someone who might have these questions about themselves.

Conclusion

As you can see, my plans for October are pretty all over the place in terms of genre. This is one of those months that I don’t have a set theme for. What are your reading plans for October? Do you have any new releases you can’t wait to read? Will you be doing a theme or genre you may plan to read in October?

Sandman (2022): A Review

For the first time in a long time, I found myself enjoying a new series. That series being the recently released The Sandman series on Netflix. Going into this series, I was pretty hopeful. And having read the first two volumes, which this season covers, I can honestly say it was a pretty faithful adaptation.

Since this show is still relatively new, I will avoid spoilers as much as possible. But in any case, POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Synopsis

When Morpheus, better known as the Sandman and Dream, is captured in an attempt to resurrect a man’s son, he spends the better part of a century (one hundred and five years to be exact) trapped and without his tools. Upon his release, Morpheus is on a mission to retrieve what was stolen from him and get revenge.

Along the way, he will return to his home in the Dream World, meet Matthew, his new raven companion, and visit Lucifer Morningstar as he retrieves what was once lost. And as the dust settles, he will be reunited with his sister, the ever charming and insightful, Death and learns of someone known as The Vortex, which could prove catastrophic if not approached accordingly.

This first season covers the first two volumes of The Sandman series, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Dollhouse.

Positives

When it comes to positives, I think there are quite a few. The most significant for me being, the story, the characters, the casting, and how it translated as an adaptation.

I also like the darker fantasy tone it had. As someone who enjoys fantasy, it’s always nice to fins a good series, book, or what have you in this genre. And The Sandman does that really well for me.

Its also worth noting that Neil Gaiman, the creator of The Sandman comics. So while I do think they did really well adapting it, it’s neat that Neil Gaiman did have a hand in the production. So I would hope he enjoyed how the show came out.

The Story

As a story, The Sandman is an intriguing one. The idea of the personifications of things like dream, death, desire, despair, delirium, destiny, and destruction living among us is a concept that can certainly create some interesting and philosophical story. And it was.

In general, what I think this season did really well was the approach and set up. It sets up the world and characters well. It knew what it wanted to do with it’s story and setting and did it in a way that I felt was well executed.

As an adaptation of the first two volumes of the comic, I think it did really well. While Neil Gaiman had a hand in it’s production, it was able to, not only tell the story pretty accurately, but have necessary changes and additions that worked.

The Characters

The characters were also interesting. Each one having their own story to tell. There’s Rose, who’s looking to find her brother after they were separated when they were younger, Doctor Destiny (a.k.a. John Dee), who, after escaping an Asylum, wants “everyone to live with their truth” and for a “more honest” world, and Corinthian, who wants to be his own person and prevent Morpheus from stopping him. Though not all of the characters we get to see outside of The Endless, these are just a few examples.

While only four of the seven Endless (the group of entities that Morpheus is apart of) appear in this season, they were all unique and fit what they personify well. Morpheus takes his job as the ruler of dreams very seriously, knowing how it effects the waking world and how destructive the lose of it can be.

Desire, though not appearing as often as Morpheus, makes a great impression and sets up what to expect with their relationship with Morpheus. As well as their twin Despair, who does make a brief appearance. Should a season 2 get green lit, which I’m confident will happen, I feel that these two will get a lot more attention and development.

And then there’s Death, the oldest Endless introduces thus far, and the second eldest over all. She was the one that Alex Burgess was looking to capture when he got Mopheus instead.

Casting

I do believe that the casting choices were great. I know casting can cause debate on initial reveal and sometimes after, but I think that the casting choices were good. Some of my favorites include Mason Alexander Park as Desire, David Thewlis as Doctor Destiny, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, and Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer. Tom Sturridge also pulls off Morpheus really well. Not only in appearance, but in voice too. He sounded how I would expect Morpheus to, so I really enjoyed his portrayal.

And of course, there are other casting choices I thought were really well too. Even in voice work like Patton Oswald as Matthew the raven and Mark Hamil as Merv Pumpkinhead.

Overall, I do think that the casting choice was good. It’s also pretty diverse, which I think is pretty cool. I also think it works. For instance, with Desire being very ambiguous as far as their identity (in the comics Desire is often referred to as sibling). So casting Mason Alexander Park (They/Them) in the role, I feel was a good choice. Plus, I really think they bring a real charm to the character, and I can’t wait to see how the character develops from here (Death too, because I really want to see more of her too).

Critiques

I don’t really have that many negatives for this season. However, while I might think this show is really good and a great adaptation, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s flawless. That said, my critiques are very minute.

One being that I feel like it could have been an episode or two longer. It might not need it, but I feel like another episode or two would be a nice way to help develop things a little further. That’s not to say I think it’s rushed, which I don’t. I just feel that there could have been an episode that made helps explore Desire a little (without giving too much away), and maybe an episode that explored Rose and Jed Walker past a little more. Again, not exactly necessary, but something. Plus, Desire will probably get more development and screen time in later seasons.

That’s all I can really think of as far as critiques. I suppose upon a rewatch, I might find something else. However, I don’t really have many critiques of the show at this time.

Conclusion

I would give this show a ninety percent. I do think they did a great job adapting the first two volumes of Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic. The casting and characters were great, the story was told really well, and it has an aesthetic that really fits this gothic, horror fantasy. The effects were also really good too. And while it might have one or two flaws in the form of maybe being a little longer, overall, I think this is a really good show and I would recommend it.

Of course, I know it might not be a show for everyone, which is fine. The comic and the Netflix adaptation are a bit dark (I’ve heard that the diner scene was kind of unsettling for one or two people), so I wouldn’t expect it to be for everyone. However, if you are looking for something a little different and/or a dark fantasy, I would recommend it.

With that said, I leave you with the following questions: Have you seen the show yet? If so, what were your thoughts? Are you planning to watch it? Since it’s pretty much a guarantee that a second season will be made, what are some of your hopes going into it? Do you think it will, or should, cover the next two volumes (Dream County and Seasons of Mist)? If you have read the comics, do you think it was a good/faithful adaptation?

My Hopes/Expectations For Netflix’s Sandman Adaptation

What if I told you I only recently got into Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series? Much like Watchmen, Sandman was a series I always know about, but never got into it when I was younger. It wasn’t until I finally started getting into graphic novels/comics and after I was given a recommendation that I checked out both. Watchmen has become one of my favorite comics and I am steadily making my way through Sandman (I’m currently two volumes in and own the first six with plans to get the entire series) and I am enjoying it.

With Netflix’s adaptation coming up fast, I thought I would take a moment to discuss a couple of hopes/expectations I have going into the series. Three to be exact. I plan to watch the series when it’s released, since I am interested in it and it’s one show I am excited to watch. Whether I watch a few episodes a day or binge the entire season in one, we’ll see.

Following the Comic as Closely as Possible, While Still Adding Its Own Flair

When it comes to adaptations, creative liberties are expected and usually fine. Sometimes things get cut or added for the sake of adaptation. And sometimes somethings are tweaked.

For example, Peter Jackson removing the scenes Tom Bombadil when making the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While a case could be made that he should have been left in the movie, since he was where the Hobbits got Bill the horse, I don’t think cutting Tom Bombadil was a bad call. Especially since he didn’t really return after his appearance in Fellowship of the Ring.

Back to Sandman, I do think it should follow along with the comic. Not to a tee perhaps, but still following along as close as possible. It would appear that the first season will follow the first two volumes (Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll House) and is planned to be a faithful adaptation with a few tweaks (ex. the series taking place in 2021 as opposed to 1989 and Morpheus/Dream being imprisoned for 105 years as opposed to 75). And with Neil Gaiman having a hand in this series, I’m sure he will approve of the direction this series takes.

All and all, I am hopeful that this will be a pretty faithful adaptation with tweaks and creative liberties taken as needed.

Good Special Effects When Needed.

Special effects and CGI are things that can be either really good or really bad depending on the execution. For instance, The Mummy Returns is known for its dated CGI, specifically when it came to the Scorpion King, while Lord of the Rings, which used practical and special effects, would be considered a good use of special effects and CGI.

While I may not be trained in using CGI and the like, as a viewer, I do know how bad effects can ruin or diminish the quality of a property. Put it simply, I would hope for good special effects as well as it not being overly used. I know that the series would need special effects given the nature of the series, but that doesn’t mean it needs to rely too heavily on it. So long as it’s presentable and not too heavily relied on, I think that will be okay.

A Good Time Viewing

As odd as it might sound, so long as it’s a fun/enjoyable time. Granted, the series does tackle some grim/dark topics, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed. So long as it is done well and in a way that can be enjoyed, that’s all I can ask for.

I know some of it’s topics won’t be for everyone, which is okay. I wouldn’t expect it to be. I would just hope it tackles everything in a good and tactful way.

And even if it is dark, I think that’s something that should be explored. Not every show will have themes and stories that are positive. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be good or positive moments (I do feel like Death will have a few of these), just that it shouldn’t be afraid to tackle some of the darker themes and stories from the comics.

And even though I think this can, and likely will, take a darker tone thematically, that doesn’t mean it won’t have positive or good moments. Shows can mix positive and negative traits. Some shows just might lean on some more than others, with sprinkled in aspects of the other, while other shows balance the two. So long as it is well written, it can be enjoyable.

Conclusion

I know open the floor up to you. Are you excited for The Sandman? Are there any expectations you have for the show? Is there a character, or characters, you can’t wait to see brought to life? Are there any series you’d like to see get adaptation into a televised/animated series?

Sources

Teen Titans (2003) vs The Judas Contract (2017): Teen Titans Most Divisive Arc and How the Animated Series Did it Better.

For anyone who is familiar with Teen Titans, this is a notorious arc. Acting as a sort of climax for Slade get revenge on the Titans for the death of his son Grant (who’s death was caused by trying and failing to mimic the experiment that gave Slade his enhanced abilities), The Judas Contract would go down as an iconic and controversial arc. This is an arc that has been adapted three times (three and three quarters if you want to include Jericho and Slade’s backstory in Titans and Terra having traitorous/evil tendencies in Teen Titans GO!), in Teen Titans (2003), Young Justice, and the 2017 animated movie of the same name.

I want to discuss the Teen Titans adaptation of this story that took place over the course of its second season as well as the 2017 animated movie. Both tell the same story, but one was geared more towards a younger demographic and the other rated more so for adults. However, I would argue that the 2003 adaptation was a much better than the 2017 movie. But before I do, allow me to take a moment to discuss what made The Judas Contract controversial as well as my general thoughts on the story and how these adaptations where different.

Why So Controversial?

The reason that this particular arc has garnered it’s questionable reputation was for the relationship between Terra and Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson. Mostly the fact that a grown man was having a relationship with a teenager. While I cannot speak in depth about the reasons behind it, I know that Wolfman and Pérez (rest in peace) did decide to go with it to shock readers. They did want to go with Terra as the traitor of the group, which I can understand. Some of the choices made with it, like the relationship and her appearance when with him, not so much.

My General Thoughts on The Judas Contract

While I certainly agree that the Terra and Slade relationship was questionable at best, to put it mildly, I don’t think it was a completely terrible story. And while I would consider Deathstroke as one of my favorite DC villains, Ra’s al Ghul being my all time favorite DC villain, I won’t defend the relationship between him and Terra. I don’t think it should be, and I assume Wolfman and Pérez wouldn’t either (even if they have said it was meant to be as shocking as possible). I definitely think it’s one of those arcs that has historical importance in some ways, even if it isn’t a good story.

What I liked about Judas Contract was the fact it was Nightwing’s debut, it expanded on Deathstroke’s backstory and family, and introduced one of my favorite comic book characters in the form of Joey “Jericho” Wilson. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that Nightwing is iconic and a fan favorite, who needed a proper introduction, even if it was here. And Jericho is an LGBTQ+ character (currently bisexual), so I wouldn’t want to scrap this story and potentially scrap what would become representation later on (the thought about making Jericho gay, but ultimately didn’t due to him potentially coming off as a stereotype). Because of that, I don’t think Judas Contract was a total loss.

Teen Titans vs The Judas Contract: What Were the Differences?

The biggest differences these adaptations had, was the target audience. Teen Titans was created for a much younger audience, as such, a lot of the more mature aspects of Terra and Slade’s relationship had to be censored. Instead of making her a traitor from the get go, she was conned into going to Slade for help controlling her powers and betrayed the Titans because of him manipulated her into becoming his apprentice.

The Judas Contract movie was more so geared towards an older audience, as it had a PG-13 rating. It tried to follow the basic structure of the comic, but in the animated universe where Damian was Robin, Dick was already established as Nightwing, and the Titans consisting of Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, Blue Beetle (Jamie Reyes), Terra, and the aforementioned Nightwing and Robin. It also mixed in the rivalry between Robin and Deathstroke, which had been established in Son of Batman, which is one thing I was never really a fan of, but I’ll get to that later. The only thing it didn’t include from the comics was Grant, Slade’s eldest son who died, and it heavily reduced Jericho’s role.

What I Feel The Judas Contract (2017) Did Wrong

I’ve narrowed down what this movie did wrong to two main reasons: The Deathstroke and Damian rivalry and the reduced role that Jericho played. While I’m wasn’t expecting a frame for frame replication of the comic, and am perfectly okay with taking creative liberties as needed, these are just two reasons that I felt hindered the movie. The latter a bit more so since the movie could have gotten away with telling Jericho’s story in a PG-13 setting when compared to the 2003 animated series.

The Rivalry

Starting off with the Deathstroke and Damian rivalry, I was never really a big fan of it. Granted, it only really appeared in Son of Batman and Judas Contract, but it’s something I felt wasn’t needed and put a bit too much focus on Damian. An issue I feel isn’t one that only I had.

For some movies, I could understand that, like Son of Batman and the Justice League vs the Teen Titans. Others, not so much. This and Batman vs Robin especially. The latter, I feel like should have been focused on Dick more since it dealt with the Court of Owls, which Dick had familial ties with. There’s also the issue of Jason and Tim not being in these movies at all despite the first and fourth (fifth if you include Stephanie) Robin, but that is a completely different issue.

Basically, all the attention Damian was getting was kind of annoying. I know I thought it was, and I kind of doubt I was the only one given how much some people disliked Damian around this time. And maybe still do.

Circling back to the Judas Contract, the reason I found this rivalry’s return bothersome, was for a couple of reasons. Deathstroke feels better suited to be a Nightwing villain and by extent a Batman and this rivalry with Damian, a child (ten to fourteen year old), feels shameless and/or unnecessarily problematic.

Though Deathstroke did start off as a Teen Titans antagonist, with characters who were in there late teens early twenties, once the New Teen Titans came to an end, readers did get to see him make a gradual change to becoming a Nightwing antagonist. And while I wouldn’t necessarily say antagonizing a group of late teens and young adults is much better, the reason why he didn’t like them wasn’t because he felt like a kid showed him up. It was because he blamed the Titans for his son’s (Grant) death.

Shifting from a Nightwing antagonist to a Batman antagonist I can let go for the most part since becoming a Batman antagonist isn’t unfathomable and makes sense. I just think keeping him as a Nightwing rogue just would have been better for Nightwing with his solo picking up in the nineties and Deathstroke feels like he fits into Dick’s rogues gallery.

My issue is with making him an antagonist for Damian. I can see Deathstroke being at odds with the League of Assassins as well as having brief ties to them. However, if DC wanted to have him at odds with the League, I feel like it’s better for him to antagonize Bruce, Talia, or even Ra’s than Damian.

Ra’s because he is the head of the League, both literally and in name (yes, I know Slade killed him in Son of Batman, but given how often Ra’s comes back, I doubt having him and Slade at odds makes sense). Talia, because she is one of the higher members of the League, despite not being next in line due to Ra’s feeling he has to be succeeded by a man (he respects female fighters like Cass Cain, Shiva, and his daughters, so I wouldn’t say he’s sexist so much as he has a traditional way of succession). And Bruce because he is who Ra’s considers as a worthy successor, even if Bruce doesn’t accept the offer.

All three of these characters are adults. And while I wouldn’t say Damian can’t fight Deathstroke, having Deathstroke as an antagonist feels off when you consider Damian in these movies is a tween to early teen. It feels odd that a grown man would be fighting a character around that age because he felt like this tween showed him up and feels like defeating him would give Slade the honor of leading the League.

I also felt like having the two at odds in Judas Contract takes away from the main story. It’ll be going through the motions and then it gets to a scene where it wants to bring up this antagonistic rivalry because Deathstroke wants to get Damian taken care of first and reveal that Terra’s the traitor here.

Jericho

With that said, allow me to jump into Jericho. First by saying, while I don’t mind that they took a few liberties with why Deathstroke was working with Brother Blood and H.I.V.E. I don’t think nixing Jericho’s role should have been one of them. After all, this was Jericho’s origin just as much as it was Nightwing’s and is just as important to the story as Terra’s downfall.

If they didn’t want to throw Grant in the mix, or just forgot about Grant (forgetting about him isn’t hard since he was dead after the first arc of New Teen Titans and never really got the resurrection Jason did) that’s fine. Not being able to work in Slade losing his eye from his now ex-wife Adeline because Damian did, that can be altered as necessary. If they had to alter it so that maybe Slade was working for H.I.V.E. to protect Jericho, that is works.

Do you know what they did? Had Jericho make a brief cameo and never brought up again.

Without writing the entire plot of Judas Contract, I want to take a minute to discuss what made Jericho so important. From who he was related to, what happened to him that caused his parents to split, how important he was to Slade despite the separation, and why they could have used him in the movie.

Jericho was introduced in the Judas Contract after all of the Titans but Dick were captured by H.I.V.E. (Deathstroke assumed Dick wasn’t worth perusing and potentially dead after attacking him while Dick was in retirement). Adeline had managed to get into Titans Tower with her son with the intent of revealing what Deathstroke did, revealing Terra as the traitor, and allowing her son to help rescue the Titans with a now Nightwing Dick Grayson.

During this exchange, readers are introduced to Joseph “Joey” Wilson, Slade’s second son, also known as Jericho. He could not speak, after an accident involving his father (He does use ASL). It’s revealed that Joey was abducted by the target Slade’s client wanted killed. And rather than giving his captor the name of his client due to honoring the integrity of the contract, Slade decides that he can save his son. He does, but because his reaction time was a second slow, Joey’s throat was cut. And while the hospital was able to save his life, it would render him permanently mute (He does get it back when he is possesed by the souls of Azarath and when he is revived in the Geoff Johns Teen Titans run, but it has been permanent with every relaunch). Because of this, and the anger she had towards Slade, Adeline tries to kill him, only being able to shoot his eye out because his reflexes caught on in time.

As I previously mentioned, that could have been altered given Damian was the reason for it. The same thing happened in Arrow with Oliver shooting Slade’s eye out, but I wasn’t not a fan of how they approached Jericho in Arrow for other reasons. In Judas Contract, they could have said that Adeline tried to shoot him, but missed completely or left it at Adeline and Slade divorcing before Jericho left the hospital and Adeline, Joey, and Grant were briefly put into witness protection while they moved.

Jump to the present and Adeline states that she and Joey wish to help. Adeline gives Dick the information he needs while Joey joins Dick as Jericho to help rescue the Titans. It’s also here that readers get a taste for Joey’s powers, which involve him being able to possess and take control of others, as he possess Nightwing to prove it.

They go off to save the Titans, but do end up captured. When they are brought before Slade, Terra, and Brother Blood, Slade is disturbed. This is the first time in years that he had seen his son, who he still loved, and is troubled by the fact that his son as been put into a nostalgic situation. Terra starts to realize that Jericho is Slade’s son, having seen photos of Slade’s family previously.

Jericho, upon regaining consciousness, possesses his father to help free himself and Nightwing as well as working on freeing the Titans. It around this point that Terra, in a deteriorating mental state, starts falling apart and attacks Slade and the Titans. She would ultimately die with Slade surviving and the Titans getting a new member. There is also a brief moment where Jericho feels guilty for hurting his father, who he still very much loved, despite knowing that it had to be done.

Because of this Jericho was crucial to the story. And while Teen Titans 2003 didn’t include Jericho in their Judas Contract arc, it mostly has to do with it being a show geared towards children and wouldn’t have covered half of what the comic did in this arc. Jericho also appeared later in the show and, had they continued, maybe viewers would have gotten something about Jericho and Slade’s relationship.

The Judas Contract movie doesn’t have the same excuse. It was a PG-13 movie and considering that they slipped in the comic version of Slade and Terra’s relationship, they could have easily gone over Jericho’s story. Even if they had to bump it up to an R rating because of the violent nature of Jericho’s accident, it would still be possible.

Keeping Jericho’s appearance to a minimum in the movie undercuts important elements of the comic. I remember seeing a discussion mentioning how both Terra and Jericho were a Judas in the arc. Terra is the Judas of the Titans while Jericho was a Judas against his father. Note: If I happen to find the post I will link it. And again, with Judas Contract being Jericho’s debut, he should have had a bigger role in the movie.

Because of that, I don’t think Judas Contract should have limited Jericho. I feel like including him could have worked if they had to cut some of the Damian and Deathstroke scenes and/or had a longer run time. If run time was an issue than that’s fine, but if that were the case, I do feel like they could have reworked or tweaked the movie a little bit to make it work out.

The character of Joey “Jericho” Wilson shouldn’t have been cut due to how important the character was to the source material it was adapting. It also had the rating to tell Jericho’s story. So I don’t know why they wouldn’t have included it.

With all of that said, allow me to jump into the Teen Titans version of the Judas Contract and what it did better.

What I Feel Teen Titans (2003) Did Right

When it comes to the Teen Titans animated series there a a few things to remember. That is was geared to a younger audience and as such, certain aspects had to be changed. Of course it did have mature moments, like the entirety of the episode Haunted, but there were certain things that they had to censor for the targeted demographic. Some that sound kind of silly in hindsight, like going with Slade instead of Deathstroke (because Deathstroke wasn’t kid friendly), and some censoring that made sense, like the whole relationship between Terra and Slade. That said, Teen Titans 2003 has gone down as a classic Cartoon Network program. As well as one of my favorites. That doesn’t effect why I felt it did the Judas Contract better, as there are episodes and such I can critique like Things Change and Every Dog Has His Day, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t one of my favorite CN shows then and now.

What I felt season two, the season that focused on Terra and the Judas Contract, did right comes down to three factors: How they approached the Terra and Slade dynamic, Terra’s arc being a refreshing take on the character, and how it approached loss and betrayal.

The Slade and Terra Dynamic

One thing I think I can say most people appreciated is how the dynamic between Slade and Terra was changed. Granted, I never knew about the creepy romantic side of it until I was in my teens, years after the show had ended. That said, knowing that now, I think it was for the better. Not only because it wasn’t appropriate for a younger audience, but because they could still approach Terra joining Slade without it.

Despite it being a “kid’s show”, it was able to approach this dynamic well. It went with the apprentice route from season 1, but with Slade conning Terra into believing he could help her control her powers. And while that might have helped, he also talked her into joining him without much trouble, unlike Robin, who he had to threaten to destroy his friends if he didn’t do as he said.

Slade basically gave her what she wanted while manipulating her into thinking the Titans were her enemies. And even though she agreed, Slade did have a contingency plan if she decided to defect. That being his ability to control her through her suit.

It wouldn’t last as she did regain control and sacrificed herself in order to save the Titans and kill Slade. Slade may have learned from season one, but he still failed to get an apprentice in season two.

Terra’s Character Arc

This is probably one of if not the only time Terra wasn’t pure evil. Unlike in New Teen Titans, the Judas Contract movie, Teen Titans GO!, and the comics (the Young Justice animated series also had a Judas Contract arc, but I haven’t caught up), Terra wasn’t inherently evil. She just wanted to find a home and family while also learning to control her powers.

Whether or not viewers liked Terra will depend on the viewer, and whether or not they like to ship them another issue entirely (shipping when someone pairs two characters romantically). However, this version of Terra is different than most, if not all of her other versions/adaptations. She wasn’t always a villain, looking for help wherever she could, and was redeemable.

What made this Terra unique, and possibly enjoyed more, was the fact that she could be redeemed. She wasn’t too far gone to realize she she messed up, even if it did take a while to realize that. She also wasn’t always evil. Of course, her actions while she was working with Slade aren’t excusable. However, she at least recognized that she was in the wrong and tried to make up for it however she could.

This came in the form of Terra sacrificed herself. It wasn’t because she had a vendetta, but because she wanted to protect the people who truly mattered (the Titans and Beast Boy especially) and reverse the damage she had caused.

Though she can still be critiqued for her decisions, I do thing that this version of Terra is one of the better ones. She was a character that wasn’t looking for chaos, but help, and unfortunately found it in the wrong place while in a state of naïveté. I’m sure that if they wanted to go with the ‘always evil’ route, they would have figured out a way to do it. I don’t think they would have wanted to for the sake of the show’s demographic and the fact she was a member of the Teen Titans, unlike Slade who was always the villain, but they could have. However, I think that by not doing it, Terra’s story was pretty effective.

Betrayal and Loss

It also addressed betrayal and loss in a fairly reasonable way. It almost feels like the five stages of grief with everyone approached her betrayal differently. Denial could be seen with how Beast Boy refuses to see that she is completely lost. Bargaining could be seen when Robin fights Terra, using his own time as Slade’s apprentice to try and reason with her. Anger was a common sentiment. This is seen the most when Raven fights Terra. Depression can be seen with Beast Boy after she defects in Betrayal. And acceptance can be seen after she thinks she destroys all of the Titans and it seems that even Beast Boy believes she isn’t realizing her situation and accepts that she has to be stopped.

As for loss, while viewers don’t get to see how the Titans are effected much. However, they do get to see how the Titans honor and grieve over her sacrifice. And when she returns in Things Change, Beast Boy tries to bring back Terra’s memories in the hope of having her become a Titans again, which unfortunately does not come to pass (which may or may not have been explored more in a sixth season if the show got one).

Those are three ways that I feel that Teen Titans 2003 did Judas Contract better.

What About Jericho?

For those of you who might be wondering why I’m not critiquing Teen Titans for including Jericho, the answer is pretty simple. Target audience and missed opportunities. Because of the target audience, Teen Titans did have to censor some aspects of what the show was based on. Sure, episodes like Haunted and the entirety of season 4’s Trigon arc were dark, but there were some things that were avoided.

Including the odd reason behind the whole Slade instead of Deathstroke name change, Teen Titans didn’t cover Grant’s death, which was a big reason why Slade was so dead set on destroying the Titans, and the sensitive nature of Starfire’s slavery and Blackfire’s role in it. It certainly wasn’t 4Kids levels of censorship, but I can understand why they would censor those aspects. With that in mind, I don’t see Teen Titans covering the nature of Jericho’s injury. At least to the same gravity as the comics did.

As far as missed opportunities, Jericho does show up towards the end of season 5. Why that late, I can only really speculate. I believe that was either because, it might have felt odd to throw a new character in at the same time as Terra, Slade’s son at that, or with the final showdown with the Brotherhood of Evil, he wasn’t the only new face to be with the Titans, and fit in with the Titans expanded team.

In the case of the former, I feel it is more excusable for Teen Titans as opposed to the Judas Contract movie since it was adapting the story over the course of a season and had to take some liberates due to what they had to cut out. Judas Contract 2017, on the other hand, was a straight forward adaptation with tweaks needed to fit into the DC Animated Movie Universe. Much like Hush and how Justice League War being an adaptation of the first few issues of New 52’s Justice League. So Judas Contract 2017 had the ability to stay closer to the original story as possible, unlike Teen Titans, which had to censor quite a few things in order for it to get to it’s target audience.

Plus, Teen Titans had a habit of having seasons focus on a specific character. There would be episodes that would focus on the team, but, the season would focus on a specific character for the season’s overarching story. Season one focused on Robin and his obsession with Slade, concluding with the Apprentice two parter. Season two focused on Terra. Three dealt a lot with Cyborg, H.I.V.E., and Brother Blood. Trigon was the center of season four’s conflict, which put Raven at the center stage. And five focused a lot on Beast Boy, his Doom Patrol roots, and the Brotherhood of Evil.

Which brings me to my next point. The nonexistent sixth season. While Teen Titans was ultimately cancelled after five seasons and given a movie to give it a proper conclusion, a number viewers would have liked a sixth season. This sixth season could have addressed how Terra came back to life and the creature they were fighting in the finale. I also like to think that season six could have addressed Jericho being Slade’s son.

Cancelling it did leave some questions and plot points unanswered. And while it briefly lived on in tie in comics titled Teen Titans Go! (not to be confused with the comedic reboot), but to my knowledge, they never addressed it there. Rose, Jericho’s sister, however, did show up in it, which might explain why she appears in the Teen Titans Go! series.

Conclusion

Teen Titans’ second season and The 2017 animated adaptation of The Judas Contract both told the same story. One had to be a bit more censored to fit a young demographic, while the other had the rating to explore elements that the other didn’t. Even so, how Teen Titans approached it was better. Because, while the 2017 Judas Contract was able to cover ground that Teen Titans couldn’t, focusing time on the Deathstroke and Damian rivalry and not including Jericho hindered it. More so than Teen Titans, which didn’t bring up the character until later for whatever reason the showrunners had. Teen Titans, though censored, was able to tell the Judas Contract story in a way that felt compelling and it was a refreshing take on Terra.

I know turn it over to you. What are your thoughts on the Judas Contract story? Did you like the 2017 adaptation? Why or why not? What were your thoughts on Teen Titans adaptation in season two? What are your thoughts on Terra, in general and/or in either adaptation?