I think they may have lost me these past couple of issues. I think this series may have leapt over the proverbial Hammerhead. Are we really supposed to believe that they’d kill off Black Widow? This smacks of a publicity stunt and nothing more. In a story involving a Cosmic Cube, wherein everything can be put back to right at the end, do they expect any of us to believe it? I was willing to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt with this one. I found them turning Captain America into a Hydra agent, aka a Nazi, as distasteful as the next guy, but I figured they had a plan to wrap it up in a satisfying manner. Now I’m not so sure. When I saw that Steve Rogers, presumably the REAL Steve Rogers, was still alive but trapped in some other dimension or timeline or wherever the hell he is–and according to the Red Skull it IS Hell, literally–I breathed a sigh of relief. Now I’ve lost it again. This series is really starting to feel like it has gone off the rails. I think it might just turn into another case of “Clone fever,” wherein a story gets away from its writer, the writer paints himself into a corner, and there is no way to satisfactorily finish it. The only solution is to throw the whole thing out and start fresh.

If Marvel does choose to leave Natasha “dead” for a while, what you wanna bet we’ll get a NEW Black Widow who is a minority character? Just so Marvel can have another one. That’s another area where Big M is seemingly off the rails.

Enough. Get it together, Marvel, lest I become strictly a DC man. It could happen.

When I was a kid, I always hated when they’d start running the back-to-school commercials on TV. Today the deluge seems to hit right about the same time it did during my childhood–after the Fourth of July–even though they’ve shortened summer vacation to two instead of three months. I feel bad for the kids of today. By the time this article posts, many of them will already be back in school, and it’s the middle of freakin’ summer!

Anyway, have you seen the new commercials from Walmart featuring kids with their superhero-inspired backpacks and other accoutrements transforming into their heroes of choice? We see Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, as well as certain Transformers and Power Rangers. It’s cool, and provides a little twinge of nostalgia, bringing back memories of my own childhood, and the search for such epic clothes and supplies. I mean, if I HAD to go, I wanted to go in style.

Here’s something else that’s cool. Stan “The Man” Lee getting to hang out on the set of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and being paid homage by stars like Robert Downey Jr. (who told Stan “I owe it all to you”), Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Holland. Stan’s wife of almost 75 years recently passed away, and it’s nice to see him gifted with such light, love, and respect. He is more than deserving. And yes, we DO owe it all to him.

Last week I made a prediction that Ben Affleck would not be reprising the role of Batman in Matt Reeves’ upcoming movie. Turns out I wasn’t alone, as headlines started popping up all over the Internet that Affleck was going to be “phased out.” THEY claimed it was because of his age–the dude’s only 45, whereas Robert Downey Jr. is in his early 50s and still playing Iron Man–whereas I felt it was because Reeves had decided to scrap Affleck’s script for the movie and start over. I and all the other online prognosticators may have been wrong, as Affleck confirmed at the San Diego Comic Con his intention to still play the role, calling Batman the greatest part any actor could ever want and stating that he was enthusiastic about working with Reeves. At the least, then, we can say that if Affleck is ousted as the Caped Crusader, it won’t be HIS decision. I’m kinda glad. I’d like to see the guy have a chance to redeem the role. I came to appreciate his half-psychotic “burnout” Batman in BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN, but it WASN’T Batman. Not the Batman of the comics. Not the Batman we all know.

Ima make another prediction, then. Given the concerns over Affleck being older than the other members of the Justice League, and given the bad taste his portrayal in BVS left in some fans’ mouths, I predict the new Batman film, and perhaps new trilogy, will take place BEFORE the events of BVS. That they will be prequels, featuring a younger, saner, more familiar Batman. How can they make him younger? Easily. Just a little hair dye to cover the gray around the temples. Affleck is in hella good shape. He looks terrific. He could have years of playing Batman ahead of him. I hope he does. But I predict it WON’T be the Batman from BVS we’ll see on the screen.

Director Matt Reeves has got the chops. His WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is magnificent, as was its predecessor. LET ME IN was fabulous. CLOVERFIELD was great. In short, it’s a good thing, a very good thing, that he is the guy now in control of Batman’s cinematic future. He hints at a potential new trilogy. We NEED a new Christopher Nolan to take the reins, and this guy might just be it. I’ll go out on a limb and say that he IS it. He’s the writer/director Gotham needs, Gotham deserves.

Where does this leave Ben Affleck? Reeves has scrapped Affleck’s script altogether and is starting from scratch. I’m gonna step out onto another limb here and make a prediction: I think we’ve seen the end of Ben Affleck as Batman. I think his half-crazy burnout version of Batman will retire after the Justice League movie. I think we’ll see a new actor cast in the role. And I think the final result, the final film, will be better for it. Affleck is a talented writer and director himself, and I would have liked to see what he would have done with the project. I have confidence, though, as to where Matt Reeves is going to take us, that it will be a good place. As to what this means for the future of the DC cinematic universe overall, and the Justice League franchise in particular, that’s a really interesting question, isn’t it?

After two initially successful but ultimately failed Spider-Man franchises, hopes were high, maybe impossibly high, for the new SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, the wall-crawler’s first film as a part of Marvel Studios wildly successful multi-piece box office juggernaut. How’d it do? Just fine, thank you. This is the Spider-Man movie we’ve all been waiting for. It works as a standalone film and it fits in perfectly with the overall tone of the Marvel cinematic universe. At last Spider-Man is where he belongs, where he should have been all long.

I’ve only read one critic who bashed the film, and this dweeb admitted that he hates superhero movies. Why, then, was he given the task of reviewing one? There’s a reason I don’t write for a sports website–I hate sports. It would be disingenuous of me to take money from somebody to write negative things about a subject I know next to nothing about. That’s crass and indicative of a lack of integrity. Ignoring the idiot in the room, then, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING has been nigh universally praised by both critics and audiences alike, and deservedly so.

The numerous departures from comics canon didn’t even bother me, probably because this IS the third iteration of the character onscreen. Sure, in the funny books Aunt May is anything but young and hot and we have a Mary Jane instead of a “Michelle.” I’m okay with it. This is a mythology, and mythologies are fluid. Provided the core characters aren’t altered beyond recognizability–and granted Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May is pushing it–it still floats. The Vulture is a doting father in this version, but he’s still the Vulture. We get two Shockers and one of them is black, but they both still basically act like the Shocker should act. Future Scorpion Mac Gargan is appropriately slimy. And by far the most important depiction of them all, that of Spider-Man himself, is the closest we’ve seen yet to the Spider-Man of the comics, the young, early Spider-Man, Stan Lee’s Spider-Man. Overall, I’ll take it.

The new storyline playing out in the Batman comics promises to be interesting. In particular I’m curious to see how the writer manages to make the Riddler even noticeable when he has to contest with the Clown Prince of Crime. Despite being one of Batman’s signature foes–I’d argue he comes in third behind the Joker and the Penguin–the Riddler has never really done anything for me. I’ve never been able to see him as anything but a second-rate Joker. He can either be played for comic relief, or, if they want him to be taken seriously, he has to come across s scary-crazy–and let’s face facts, where scary-crazy is concerned, nobody touches the Joker. Granted, the Joker has been played as a silly buffoon, too, on plenty of occasions. But the members of the Batman rogue’s gallery are at their best, I believe, when they are depicted as dark as the hero they are pitted against. They SHOULD be frightening. With the Joker it’s easy. With guys like Riddler and Penguin, not so much. I’m not the only one to see things this way. Even the writers have had a hard time figuring out what to do with the Riddler. They even tried making him a good guy a few years ago.

Joker’s gonna steal the Riddler’s heat. That’s unavoidable. But the first issue in the storyline makes a valiant effort at giving us a scary Riddler. Maybe they’ll use the fact that Riddler plays second string to Joker as a story point. Maybe his insecurity will be a motivating factor for whatever he does therein. At the end of the story, Joker’s still gonna be cooler. But Riddler can perhaps raise his stock a bit with this one.

I’m kinda excited about this. Maybe it’s pure gimmickry but I dunno, it looks to have the potential to be awesome. There are going to be seven–that’s SEVEN–parallel universe versions of Batman–but they’re each and every one EVIL! We haven’t seen what they’re gonna look like yet, just shadowy outlines. But those outlines look sweet! There’s going to be a Batman with a Green Lantern ring (In brightest day, in darkest knight…?) called “The Dawnbreaker,” and a Batman who has The Flash’s powers called “The Red Death.” (Personally I wish they’d named him “The Red-Hooded Death.”) The Cyborg Batman is called “Murder Machine,” the Batman with Wonder Woman’s powers is called “The Merciless,” and the aqua-Bat-man is going to be called “The Drowned.” Hey, I’m detecting a theme, here. There’s an evil Batman for each of the primary members of the Justice League! Except…where is the Super-Batman? That one could be called “The Bat of Steel” or “The Bat of Tomorrow.” We are gonna get some joker called “The Batman who Laughs,” though. (See what I did there?)

All the Evil Batmans/Batmen are going to get one-shots in September. Will you be reading them? Which one sounds the coolest to you? Me, I’m going for the last one on the list. Remember when Prince combined himself with Batman and the Joker in the video for “Batdance”? I’m betting this will be even cooler than that. I wouldn’t expect the Joker-Batman to sing, though, or be able to bust a high note without bustin’ a string.

When I was a little kid, I didn’t have any understanding of “camp.” They used to run the old BATMAN TV series every weekday evening, and I never missed an episode. When Batman and Robin would get into the fisticuffs with the bad guys of the week, I’d jump around and shadowbox and help them fight. As I got older, I began to have a negative view of the series, though. Batman is the darkest of all the superheroes. Why would anybody, then, think it was a good idea to make a joke out of him? Batman should be treated with the gravitas he deserved, dangit!

As the years have passed, I’ve come to appreciate the television show anew. I take it as it was meant to be, as parody. And as an example of such, it was brilliant. And Adam West played the part to cheesy, sincere perfection.

They lit up the Los Angeles City Hall with the Batsignal to honor Mr. West after his death this past week. I know that, somewhere, West’s Batman, to the accompaniment of that classic, cornball theme song of his, answered the call.

Some Middle Eastern countries hostile to Israel are refusing to let WONDER WOMAN be shown there, because star Gal Gadot is of Israeli descent. This will deprive Warner Brothers of about three dollars and thirty-five cents of revenue, which it will more than make up for in providing free publicity for the film, and also by driving the black market price for copies of the movie over there, when it comes out, into the stratosphere. It isn’t just foreign governments who are a-hatin’ on the movie, though. There’s at least one PC dillweed squawking that the movie is racist, that it is, and I quote, “Dangerous for [her] black feminism and liberation.” (Yeah, I laughed when I read that, too.) And her complaint is for the same reason: the lead actress is Israeli. (I actually suspect, based upon her own words–and she almost says as much–that this person’s real complaint is that the actress is Caucasian, period, and that the only thing that would really satisfy her would be for the studio to have cast a black woman in the role. And I ask you, how racist is THAT?)

Then there was that theater somewhere–I think it might have been Texas (I could google it but I really don’t care)–where they held a women’s-only showing, and a few insecure males got their tighty-whitey knickers all twisted about it–thus providing even more in the way of free publicity. Then there were some thirteen-year-olds who were complaining on the Internet (’cause nobody would listen to them in real life) that the actress’s boobs weren’t big enough. It’s embarrassing from a sociological/anthropological standpoint that this griping by said teenyboppers (no grown man would be so childish, surely; this bitching must have been the work of little boys in their early teens) got mentioned at all. But the fact that it DID get mentioned only served to–you guessed it–provide more in the way of free publicity for the film.

Let’s review, then. We’ve got nitwits clucking that the movie is sexist, racist, political, and that the actresses’ boobs are too small. Just laugh, my friends. Just laugh to keep from crying. The stupid, it overwhelms us!

The fact that everybody is talking about the film, however, even if they’re bitching about something, constitutes SATURATION. This is what it means to be OVER. (Wrestling term, in case you didn’t know. It means to be accepted by “marks,” or fans, to get the desired reaction from them. The term suggests that the fans are buying into what is being sold.)

It’s nice to see a movie good enough in terms of its quality to deserve this level of OVER. You go, Gal!

Faulkner once said that the only thing worth writing about was ‘the human heart in conflict with itself.” Or in other words, the human-ness of a story is what makes it or breaks it. Not the “plot” but the “what,” to again quote Faulkner. I loved both BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD, but I will concede that both of them tended to skew more towards the onscreen action, leaving less time for the characterization, the “what” Faulkner spoke about. They had to, to fit in all the plot and action sequences they needed, but if those films had weaknesses, this was the source. A truly perfect film manages to get the balance just right, leaning more in one direction or the other depending on the type of film in question. Action and genre movies must by necessity lean more towards the flash over the fleshing-out. Again, though, a perfect film manages to include just the right amounts of both. WONDER WOMAN manages to achieve that perfect balance.

To put it another way, WONDER WOMAN has enough heart to go with its heroics to satisfy Faulkner’s requirement. It’s old-fashioned and beautiful. It’s as dark as any of the other DC films, but achieves enough lighthearted moments, or at the least stresses the need for the seeking of that light, to keep it from becoming depressing. WONDER WOMAN, the character, is a beacon of hope personified. And so is this movie. By all means, if you haven’t already, go see it!