Album: Friend of the People: I Fight Evil (2011), a mixtape that followed up his third studio album (Lasers). Free download here.
Lyric: “They wanna be fiascoes, reproduce his failures/Emperor is his alias, but not Marcus Aurelius/This is more like Sparta: kick you down a well, kid”
With the release of 300: Rise of an Empire, we felt that this week’s “Diggin’ Through the Crates” had to be a reference to 300. Most casual fans might not know that before Gerard Butler was dining in hell, 300 was a mini-series run published by Dark Horse Comics in 1999 written by Frank Miller, the same creative genius behind Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. Not only does today mark the return of 300 to the theaters, but it also marks the return of Lupe Fiasco to “DTC.” A few months ago, Lupe made the pages of Hush for his Wolverine references. We try to switch up the artists as much as we can, but this was the best Spartan/300 reference out there – And believe me, there were plenty to choose from.
Just to catch some people up, the scene in 300 that Lupe is referencing is when a Persian messenger comes to relay a message to the King of Sparta, Leonidas. The message is this: we own you now; lay down your arms, kneel before us, and we won’t slaughter your men and enslave your children. It sounded like quite the raw deal, as Leonidas thought, and so he showed his hospitality by kicking the messenger down a giant well. Aside from being one crowd-pleasing moment, it’s also a sentiment that resonates within the Hip-Hop community.
In poor, urban communities like the ones Wasalu Jaco (Lupe) grew up in, there’s always somebody coming in to take what you and yours have. This might surprise you, but a lot of the time, that doesn’t always come in the shape of peers. The Athenians and Spartans frequently butt heads. They fought with each other for the dominance of Greece multiple times. When the Persian empire came to their doorstep, both were out-powered by the unstoppable force.
Today, gentrification and police abuse are the Xerxes and prison is the new slavery (oh yeah, I went there). Young black men are constantly antagonized by the police officers and ridiculed by white wealth. It’s no surprise that Hip-Hop artists gravitate towards being able to tell somebody to get the hell out of their home.
The line “They wanna be fiascoes, reproduce his failures” is a clever play on words, as the word “fiasco” is actually Greek for failure. Lupe also references Marcus Aurelius, a Greek philosopher that the Spartans saw as a personification for weakness. You can tell Lupe really does his homework.
The money in our bank account is limited, so how unfair is it that there are endless gadgets, collectibles and toys out there that demand to be purchased? Let us help you sift through the crap, so you don’t can save that hard-earned cash for the things that deserve it. In other words, we give you the power to go to the counter and say, “Shut Up and Take My Money!”
Item:300 Helmet Licensed Replica
What it is: What is it? IT IS SPARTA! The universally recognized headpiece from Leonidas and the 300 elite Spartans can be yours. Lucky for you, you don’t need to stab a wolf, kick a dude down a well or have a twelve pack of ab muscles. All you gotta do is put up the cash and order it online. This isn’t your average replica; it’s forged in hell itself…. Okay sorry, getting carried away. The helmet is made of steel, plated in brass and lined in leather. That last bit lets you know that this baby was meant to be worn, not put on display like some boy-loving Greek.
How Much it Costs: The retail price of this glorious headpiece is over $300. It’s a steep price for a replica, but when you think about movie and show replicas, it’s rare to find a collectible that embodies the spirit of the source material so fully. There are other options if you can’t throw down the full votive, there are tons of awesome-looking hand-made helmets that also bring glory to Sparta.
Is It Worth It?: Oh hell yeah it is. It is literally the coolest thing you can buy for the dollar amount. And you can wear it anywhere, literally anywhere. I mean, have you personally ever made fun of a Spartan helmet? No, you haven’t, because anybody that rocks a Spartan helmet is one bad mutha. Only thing is, you need some Xerxes type wealth to comfortably afford this. You could always spring for the hand-made models on eBay, but if we’re talking about a home-made model, I’d rather get my hands on a 3-D printer and make my own than spend $100 on somebody else’s work – as cool as it may be.
Bottom Line: It is almost too awesome to pass up. I can’t even imagine how cool it would be to go see 300: Rise of an Empire this weekend and find somebody in the seats wearing this. I couldn’t even get mad at him for blocking my view. All things considered, I wouldn’t mess with this collectible due to the price tag, but it is a beauty.
I don’t know how they do it, but Scott Synder and Greg Capullo have made this feel like a true origin story. While most teams exploring an updated origin tend to focus on some untold section of a chararacter’s history, The New 52 Batman has been told however the creative team damn well pleases. After taking on the Red Hood Gang in the beginning of the Zero Year arc, Batman is now facing (Dr.) Death itself and The Riddler, as well as fighting his own personal demons. The artwork from Capullo is amazing, as it captures more of an early 1940’s Detective Comics vibe than most titles in 2013, a nod to his versatility – and let’s not forget about the comeback of the purple gloves. Storywise, it’s exciting and unpredictable. DC just let Synder have full reign on this book. Even the change to Jim Gordon’s canon, as heart-wrenching as it is, is spectacular story-telling. I can’t get enough of this flagship series.
Justice League #25 (DC Comics) – A
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Batman was evil? Thanks to the re-introduction of The Crime Syndicate into the DC Universe and the magnificent writing of the legendary Geoff Johns, you don’t have to wonder. Justice League #25 focuses our attention on Owlman, the Earth-3 alternate universe version of Batman, and his origin story. Recreating the infamous Crime Alley Haley’s Circus scenes where Bruce and Dick Grayson’s parents are murdered, we get a disturbing look at Owlman’s persona. Oddly enough, he has a soft spot for our world’s Dick Grayson, as he tries to win him over. Even with the world controlled by the Syndicate, as long as it’s written by Geoff Johns, I wouldn’t have it any other way
Batman: Black & White #4 (DC Comics) – A
Batman: Black and White is a collection of stories from 6 different writers. Can I begin with stating that the art work is phenomenal? The book starts off with “Ghosts of Gotham” by Nathan Edmondson and Kenneth Rocafort. This pairing is perfect. I wish their story went on for an entire book. Batman is hunting a killer in a graveyard. He is in full gumshoe mode until coming face to face with a menacing figure. Dustin Nguyen is a one man army. He tackles both art and story for “Long Day.” Although the story lacks any depth, the artwork more than makes up for it as Batman gets ready to begin his work in Gotham. Sean Galloway offers his bold animation style to end the book. It will remind you of the old WB animated series. You will love this collection. Black and White was easily my favorite of the week.
Superman/Wonder Woman #3 (DC Comics) – A-
This is a perfect opportunity to jump into a series that is has just begun. Only three issues in, Superman/Wonder Woman has started off with a real bang. What seemed like a cheap way to capitalize on a love story from their individual series is shaping up quite nicely to be an awesome story by itself. These two superheroes are powerful enough together to go up against some of the more powerful enemies in their prospective rogue galleries. It will be interesting to see what challenges are thrown at them whilst they try to cultivate a meaningful relationship amidst the chaos. This will also be a welcome change of pace from the traditional Clark Kent/Lois Lane relationship as well, giving a woman who can fully understand him a chance in the spotlight. The real question is….. What would their baby be like?
The Amazing Spiderman #700.2 (Marvel Comics) – B
New York is in a deep freeze, and our Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman is swinging from rooftop to rooftop to protect his city. He is trying to get to Aunt May, but is sidetracked by the emergencies the weather has created. He does everything that he can, from saving people in a burning building to pulling an ambulance from falling off the Queensboro Bridge. Peter is obligated to doing all that he can to save lives. He would risk everything he loves to do the right thing, but will he get to Aunt May in time? The story is a little slow, but it’s appreciated. We haven’t seen a human and vulnerable side of Peter Parker in quite some time.
Batgirl #26 (DC Comics) – B-
This whole Wanted arc has had me in a glass case of emotion. This twisted love triangle between Batgirl, her dad and her new boyfriend has had readers on edge for issues, thanks to the great writing of Gail Simone. When Barbara finds out that her dad is now the target of a up and coming group of villains, she comes to his rescue. This isn’t the climax, however, as Batgirl is finally ready to show Commissioner Gordon just who is under the cowl. The epic cover illustrates the scene perfectly. However, Gordon refuses to look at her when she lays it all out in the open. You can almost feel the pain and disappoint of Batgirl, which is a gift and a curse, because you find yourself wanting it to happen, especially after a reveal about her psycho brother. How long have they done this dance? Batgirl gave me enough to want to keep reading the series, but I can’t help but feel disappointed that it didn’t turn out how I wanted it to.
Captain America: Living Legend #4 (Marvel Comics) – B-
Living Legend is a four-part series that follows what seems to be a pretty standard Cap formula – take something that happened to him in WW2 and have it come back to haunt him today. For a guy who was frozen for fifty years, he sure has a way of having his past continue to catch up with him. Don’t expect any real character development here, with just four issues to tell a story, expect only plot pieces essential to the direct story to be told. This is really a shame because there was a chance for some interesting development with the main villain and supporting cast. Still, the artwork is amazing and is a must read for any Cap fan.
Marvel Knight: Hulk #1 (Marvel Comics) – C+
Dr. Bruce Banner is once again on the run. He finds himself in Paris pursued by a clandestine agency. Before he can change into The Hulk he is chased down by two huge Gamma induced monsters. Piotr Kowalski’s art in this issue is just what I needed. It seems odd that an artist with such a soft touch for subtly would be involved with a story arc about a violent uncontrollable beast. His panels are bold, yet subdued. I know Sherif is a big fan of his Sex series, I have yet to pick up an issue, but may have to start reading the series now.
Justice League 3000 #1 (DC Comics) – C+
When news broke of Justice League3000, not much of the actual storyline was revealed. We knew the story took place 1000 years in the future, and we knew that these would be familiar characters, but that’s about it. This debut can be summed up in one awesome word: CADMUS. Project Cadmus is originally a 1970’s Jack Kirby creation also called the DNA Project, has a history of splicing DNA with new clones – from Superboy to Bizarro. So you have futuristic clones with no context of how they came to be. Throw in the Wonder Twins, and you’ve got one confusing issue. 3000 is full of potential, but it’s story-telling will have to carry the series, as the panel-by-panel writing and art only show glimpses of greatness.
Wolverine #12 (Marvel Comics) – C+
Wolverine’s appeal in the Marvel universe has always been his willingness to leap into danger no matter the consequence. But what we’re finding out is the result of what happens when an alien virus takes Logan’s healing power from him; SPOILER, it’s not a good look. In a show-down that’s been building since the beginning of the series, Wolverine is coming face-to-face with the Hand (no relation to the Foot) and the Silver Samurai, led by Sabretooth. It’s a bit of a struggle of an issue, as Wolverine is slashed and battered throughout the issue. With his fate left in Sabretooth’s claws, I was left feeling excited for the conclusion to the Killable story arc.
Nighwing #26 (DC Comics) – C
Dick Grayson has had the displeasure of living in Batman’s shadow for too long. Since moving to Chicago in Nightwing #19, he has flourished as his own character. The writer, Kyle Higgins, is actually a Chicago native himself, which has given the city more life. It may not be Blüdhaven, but it’s Nightwing’s home nonetheless. With bad guys of his own, such as The Prankster, Tony Zucco, and the Marionette, Nightwing has been far removed from the Bat-family, and this story is no different, chasing down a thief with quite the creepy alter-ego, leading to a reveal at the end that… well let’s just say that you can take Nightwing out of Gotham, but you can’t take the Gotham out of Nightwing. As is typical DC fashion, there is nothing pertaining to the events of Forever Evil in the episode, contrary to the cover; I felt misled, but I still enjoyed the issue.
Three #3 (image Comics) – C
If you are expecting Three to be anything like Frank Miller’s 300, I am afraid you will be very upset, I know I was. It is however, a decent story in its own right. While it has initially been slow to start, it shows promise with the way the author depicts everyday Spartan life. This book is about more than just the Spartan warrior, it is about the politics and class struggles of the everyday Spartan. The series’ writer, Kieron Gillen, has gone to great lengths, including contacting some of the foremost experts in the field, to make sure that his depiction is as accurate as possible. Despite this being less about war and death, and more about life, the book hasn’t completely forgotten about battle and the violent nature in which the Spartans lived their lives. This book shows promise for what it is, however, if all you are looking for is more of 300, I would give it a pass.
The Amazing Spiderman #700.3 (Marvel Comics) – C
Joe Casey picks up the Amazing Spiderman 700.3 where David Morrell left off. Peter Parker has just saved his dear Aunt May from a New York blizzard. Not shortly after, as Spiderman, he finds himself in a life or death fight with Firebrand. He suffers nearly fatal wounds and is rescued by a shadowy ambulance. He awakens to find himself bandaged in a creepy hospital desperately trying to figure out how he arrived in a mysterious infirmary that seems to be for criminals only. I didn’t care for the art in this issue, there is a shot of The Thing fighting Rhino that looks too simple to be in an Amazing Spiderman book. I’m just not a fan of Timothy Green’s pencils in this issue at all. I was also excited about the simplicity in the story behind issues 700.1 and 700.2, and this issue took that right away in the first pages. Hopefully 700.4 takes us in a clear direction and our wall-crawler can get out of the web he now finds himself in!
The Walking Dead #118 (image Comics) – C-
There has been a lot of death in The Walking Dead, some impacting, others ostentatious. I mean, it’s a post-apocalyptic soap opera (George Romero’s words, but true), so we’re expected to see death around every corner. However, the death of a beloved character came so unnecessarily and with such gratuitousness that it just plain pissed me off. Sure, there was a pretty sweet battle cry from Maggie at the beginning to let readers know she’s still that chick “that rode in like Zorro on a horse,” but the momentum carried by #117 is completely lost in telling the story of a death I feel no connection to, but by all means should. To be honest, I’m beginning to feel that way about the series altogether.
Justice League of America #10 (DC Comics) – D
When JLA launched almost a year ago under the helm of Geoff Johns, I thought that this ragtag team of superheroes had found a home together as a B team to the original Justice League. However, after ten issues, it’s become apparent that this book is little more than a drawing board for the Forever Evil arc. There has been little to no exploration of obscure characters such as: The Martian Manhunter, Catwoman, Green Arrow and (our favorite) Simon Baz. In this issue, we get a jumbled together, after-thought of a backstory of Stargirl, one of the lamest heroes I’ve seen in The New 52. There is also a reveal at the end that has to do with the end of the world, but I could have found out from a Facebook status with the same amount of entertainment I had reading the comic.
Funniest Panel of the Week:
Epic Panel of the Week:
Cover of the Week:
That about wraps it up for our reviews this week! Look for next week’s previews coming soon. Any comic books you didn’t see reviewed that you want reviewed? Any grades you didn’t agree on? Let us know in the comments!
All images taken from ComiXology app and the credit for them goes to the respective publishers; thanks to IDW Comics, image Comics, Dark Horse, DC and Marvel for putting out great books.