Protector (Issues 1 & 2) (COMIC REVIEW)

From Image Comics: “Of all the tribes that dwell in the hot ruins of far-future North America, the Hudsoni reign supreme, but even they fear and obey the godlike Devas. When the Devas warn of an old-world demon in the conquered city of Shikka-Go, Hudsoni war chief First Knife decides to deal with the threat personally.”

Editor’s note: I received review-copies of the first two issues of the series, so that’s what I’m basing this review on. I was provided an early look at issue #2, which hits newsstands soon.

What I liked:

  • The script is tight, with sharp pacing and a lack of exposition-heavy dialog, leaving you hungry to keep with the story. Seriously, I hate when characters tell you everything instead of letting us find things out within the story progression.
  • Strong compositions highlight the energetic art. It’s like Paul Pope, Daniel Warren and James Stokoe (who drew the first issue’s cover) had a child that blended their influences and *still* made it their own.
  • Speaking of the art, the character designs are dynamic, with each “Tribe” within the book having their own look. Happily reminds me of the Legend of Zelda video games.
  • Speaking of the “Tribes”, I’m heavily interested in their cultural and geographic makeup. I love that each issue has an appendix that gives you more insight into them and their roles within the world the story creates.

What I didn’t like:

  • Even if I nitpicked, I wouldn’t be able to find anything I did not enjoy.

Overall:

Just a great couple of issues that will pique your interest enough to stick around for all 5. A well-told action comic, with a dense world and possibly even more dense story line. Purchase issue #1 digitally here or at your local comic book shop, and keep your eyes out for the rest of the series. Issue two will be released on February 26, 2020, with a cover price of $3.99.

Check out our other comic and comic book related reviews here.

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production and has been published both online and in print for Los Angeles City College’s award-winning Collegian newspaper. He is also a news writer at DC Comics News. Jose is on Twitter and Instagram, and is also currently writing his first short novel.

THROUGH LEVELS OF LOVE: How Link And Zelda Taught Me About Romance & Commitment

Editor’s note: Hi everyone! Please welcome our guest collaborator Victoria Janelle Wright, editor-in-chief over at The Feather Mag! With this collaboration, we wanted to present an alternate perspective on relationships through video games, as well as highlighting how people can interpret objectives differently. Enjoy!

There are a few reasons why I enjoyed certain video games so much growing up:

  • The challenge to win and characters often based in fantastical worlds.
  • My slowing receding yet still very real introversion.
  • And the story line, often related to a love story about a die hard protagonist embarking on a dangerous yet valiant quest to save his or her love interest.

Cliche? Outdated? Narrow-minded? Perhaps, depending on how you perceived the story lines in the games that had me hooked on their super inflated love stories. What might not be so cliche is not a young girl interested in a fairy tale love storyteller. Instead my infatuation with the game play and story line was actually a mirror of how devoted i was to my causes and the people I cared about in life, and my perpetual tendency to disallow people to do the same for me.

My first experience with this narrative was playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time with some friends one Sunday after church when I was about 10-years-old.

It wasn’t even my game – I simply was the bright-eyed passenger watching my friend drive through the game like his life depended on it. However, I wasn’t too caught up with the actual game play – my attention was focused on when Link would make it back to Zelda. To me, the idea of someone being so focused on reaching another that they would literally go through hell and back was the true definition of devotion, and I wanted to experience it further.

So I begged my mom to take me to Blockbuster (still miss it), and I rented my own version of the game. And when I tell you I was devoted to freeing Princess Zelda from Ganondorf’s clutches, there was no stopping me from leaving my seat in front of the console.

I was hooked. I had always had a big imagination as a kid, and the fantastical themes of many of the role playing games I played fit my interest. But what kept me coming back was the thrill of fighting for love. In Final Fantasy X, it was Tidus’ willingness to do anything to stop Yuna from essentially sacrificing herself to save the world. In Kingdom Hearts, It was Sora’s unproclaimed love for Kira that ultimately got him to leave his tiny island and set sail to rescue her from a literally heartless enemy.

As I got older, my responsibilities and interest began to shift and video games inevitably became less of a priority. But my focus on devoted love didn’t leave, and I began to seek that out in my external environment. I question if friends and lovers would fight for me the way I fought for them. I wonder if anyone would come to my rescue, from worst case scenarios like a late night phone call from the hospital to lighter experiences such as needing to borrow a couple of dollars for parking when I didn’t have cash readily available. I registered all these questions internally, allowing the anxiety to become heavier and heavier. Because of this mistrust, I eventually became impenetrable with sharing my emotions and needs, believing that showing that level of vulnerability would make me appear weak and needy.  On the surface I was the friend who could always help, the person who could always be there when things seemed dire. But when it came to asking for that help from others, I was stumped.

Now reflecting as an adult, what I learned from playing these games is that I wasn’t enamored with the how a character was being rescued, but instead the games mirrored how devoted I was in love. But I was too scared to ever let those feelings surface, so I kept them buried.

Of course, building those fantasies in your life eventually leads to the scenarios you so desperately are trying to avoid in the first place. Eventually the weight of keeping my vulnerabilities locked up became harder than the quest itself, and I let go and shared my trust and heart for the Zelda’s in my life.

We hang on so tight to control our lives, but it’s a fallacy. Life isn’t a video game – there is no cheat sheet, no do overs when you die – it’s the “here and now” that matters most. And when that sinks in and you allow things to flow to you, including help and love, it does make things a bit more fantastical. Even at times, magical. It might not always be easy to do so, but then again, what game have you played that you really enjoyed and was super easy? It is the hardest quest that is the most rewarding when we see how far we’ve come, how many levels we’ve beaten to get the thing we were most devoted to from the start.


Victoria Janelle Wright is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Feather Mag, a digital publication that explores how self-care, self-discovery on culture intersect. You can read more of her musings on the human experience and other stories at
www.thefeathermag.com

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Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn MOVIE REVIEW

From IMDb: “After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord.”

Editor’s note: The studio actually officially changed the title of the movie to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey after the movie’s not-good opening weekend box-office.

What I liked:

  • Places female empowerment at the forefront, but not in a cliched or heavy-handed “message-y” way.
  • Touches on toxic relationships but also never gets cliched or heavy-handed.
  • Fun and inventive action sequences, with some of them being quite violent and gruesome.
  • FINALLY, Gotham City returns to the streets of L.A.! Los Angeles has not been home to Gotham since the 60s Batman tv show. I see you, Santee Alley!
  • “The Booby Trap” is the most fun and unique set I have seen in a looooong time.
  • The soundtrack is full of energetic tunes that really add to the vibrancy of the movie. I haven’t listened to the full album yet, but the Doja Cat track is my favorite so far.
  • Great cinematography. This movie has some strong compositions and the color palette is amazing.
  • The script’s dialog (and narration) by Bumblebee’s writer Christina Hodson is quite witty, and had me laughing. Please note that this movie is not a comedy, I’m just a fan of quippy dialog.
  • I’m not familiar with director Cathy Yan‘s work, but I thought she did a kick ass job blending feminism, heart, crime and super-heroics into one movie.
  • Man, the posters for this movie were so unique. This one is my favorite.
  • Really dug the modernization of the costumes. Hopefully we could see some action figures down the road.
  • [SPOILER ALERT] (highlight the text to read) SO….Black Canary (the only super-powered person in the Birds of Prey team) shares a power with my favorite X-Man Banshee (and his daughter Siryn) called the “Sonic (or “Supersonic”) scream”. It’s one of my favorite powers AND I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE IT. When Canary finally gets to release her “Canary Cry” upon some goons IT MADE ME SO HAPPY seeing it on the big screen that I teared up. I’M NOT KIDDING. No one will feel the same way I do and that’s ok, but man it got me PUMPED.

What I didn’t like:

  • The movie jumps around the timeline a lot in the beginning, and I was starting to get a little lost.
  • [SPOILER ALERT] (highlight the text to read) This isn’t much of a “Birds of Prey” origin story, and really only borrows the title from a popular DC Comics all-female team. This is Harley’s movie, and because of that we don’t get to spend much time with the other “Birds”. They could’ve kept them in there to set up their own movie, but made the title of *this* movie “Harley Quinn’s Fantabulous Emancipation” or “the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn”. Either would’ve made more sense.

Editor’s notes: These next points have nothing to do with the actual quality of the movie:

  • It sucks that it didn’t make good money opening weekend, and people are already considering it a bomb. (SAD FACE EMOJI). We probably won’t see a true Birds of Prey sequel featuring Black Canary, Huntress, Renee (and also maybe Oracle), which makes me more sad because those three actresses KILLED it.
  • Hopefully it gains “cult classic” status. The movie kind of reminded me of Scott Pilgrim vs the World, a fantastic film that also unfortunately did not make the money that the studio had hoped but had a great shelf-life on home video.

Overall:

My favorite film within the “DCEU” so far. Original, wild, vibrant; And it definitely earns it’s R rating. A “Girl Gang” movie with swagger, humor and the best breakfast sandwich you will ever see. A total blast of a film.

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production and has been published both online and in print for Los Angeles City College’s award-winning Collegian newspaper. He is also a news writer at DC Comics News. Jose is on Twitter and Instagram, and is also currently writing his first short novel.

Big Chicken in Glendale, CA (FOOD REVIEW)

From the Big Chicken website: “Bok Bok! Big Chicken is serving up some of the best chicken sandwiches with the BIGGEST flavor of all time.
With taste at the forefront, Big Chicken delivers a menu that fuses home-cooked childhood favorites with bold new flavors. Come try our signature dish Lucille’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese, just the way mom made it – but with a crispy Cheez-It® crust! Now with two locations. Big Chicken Las Vegas is located just off of the Las Vegas Strip and Big Chicken Glendale is across from The Americana at Brand. Big Chicken aims to create a fun family haven that both comforts and delights.”

Fried chicken sandwiches have become very popular over the last year.

 

Everyone remembers the chaotic demand for the Popeye’s chicken sandwich, and places like Chick-fil-A have their own devoted consumers. Then we have the independent places like Howlin’ Ray’s, Dave’s Hot Chicken and Phat Birds, three businesses that can feature high demand.

Enter Big Chicken, a fried chicken sandwich shop established by NBA Hall of Famer, actor, commercial spokesperson, entrepreneur, etc., Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal.

I went on a FRIGID Tuesday Night to the Glendale location, and the place was pretty full. There’s plenty of room to sit, as well as a “bar” area in case you’re by yourself like me. Sitting at that bar pits you either in front of the pickup area or the open kitchen, which was quite loud and chaotic since it was the second day after opening.

But even with all the people there and the hysteria of “opening week madness”, I didn’t have to wait long for my food. I ordered the “M.D.E.”, which is their basic / default sandwich (btw, M.D.E. stands for “Most Dominant Ever”, a nod to Shaq’s playing days in the NBA).

The fried chicken filet within the sandwich was a decent size and had some flavor. Rounding out the sandwich were Brioche buns, pickles and the tasty “Shaq Sauce”. The size of the sandwich runs about the same as the Popeye’s chicken sandwich, but is almost $4 more expensive and doesn’t have as strong a flavor. But that’s just my opinion. Some will prefer this over any other fried chicken sandwich, and that’s fine.

There are three drink dispensing stations: one featuring two types of lemonade, the new Pepsi Spire digital fountain (which is Pepsi’s version of the Coke’s Freestyle digital fountain) and a Stubborn Soda fountain, which is what I chose.

My least favorite item I had that night was/were(?) the fries. They were thin cut steak size, which was fine. They were greasy and quite soggy, which was not fine. Occasionally, grease would drip from the fries, and because they were so soggy, I’d have to hold them over my mouth and drop them in, like a fish catching a worm. Also, they had very little flavor. There was no seasoning on them, which was disappointing. There was a nearby condiment station, where you could pickup external packets of basic salt and pepper, plus a few sauces to dip your food in. I nabbed some extra Shaq Sauce and Honey Mustard to give the fries a spark.

I want to end talking about the service. Even though the crowd was big and the tension was bigger, the service was quick and friendly. As I mentioned earlier, I was seated in front of the pickup area, which was being run by the Head Chef. At one point, he looked over at me and sincerely apologized for me having to witness such craziness.

Big Chicken, M.D.E., Shaq, Glendale CA

Overall: A good sandwich, but pricey for its size. The fries could be better but that won’t deter me from trying it again. There are plenty of other sandwich and side-order options. Shout-out to the quick service and friendly staff.

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production and has been published both online and in print for Los Angeles City College’s award-winning Collegian newspaper. He is also a news writer at DC Comics News. Jose is on Twitter and Instagram, and is also currently writing his first short novel.

Moonlight Fox (2020) (YouTube Short)

Gonna try something a little different with our latest review…

Moonlight Fox is a character created by Jordan Gibson. From what I understand, the character is inspired by the Tokusatsu genre in Japan (Godzilla and the Power Rangers would be the most famous example to those of us who are unfamiliar), but particularly inspired by the Shōwa era within that genre. There’s also a late 70s early 80s manga/anime vibe pulsing through the marvelous design.

Back in January, a studio named Smallbu Animation Studio decided to create an opening animated sequence to a Moonlight Fox cartoon. Unfortunately, the cartoon is not real but this intro certainly (and thankfully) is:

I’m deciding to review it because it works so well, and I re-watch it a few times every couple of days. Sure, it’s only 7 seconds long BUT what an excellent 7 seconds it is!

First off, let’s talk about the design. I’ve hinted at Gibson’s design of Moonlight Fox in my intro, but let’s take a closer look. The costume is SLEEK, with only two colors and the utility belt plus weapons. The look of the mask holds great mystery, and let’s praise that cape! Overall, just a design that really pops.

The combination of seeing him run, flip and stand dominant (to that music too!) in such a wonderful sequence is quite wondrous. The animation of his movement plus the cape’s is so fluid and dynamic, and the entire thing has some killer composition. I have seen some big-budget studio work that doesn’t reach the level of precision that this short does.

Also, I love love LOVE that it looks like it was created on film. If you don’t know what I mean, watch the piece again; You’ll see little black specs occasionally appear throughout, as well as a subtle “flicker”. MOST things produced nowadays for both theater and tv are made digitally, which is just easier. BUT, it really bugs me when productions are trying to create something within an era but don’t make it look like it was actually made within that era. Yes, it’s a nitpick of mine, but whatever, I like what I like. The Aviator and the Lighthouse did it gloriously, using different film stocks, lenses and lighting techniques to convey that we were in a different time period while watching those works.

They made us FEEL like we were there.

Smallbu’s ambitious attempt to give their piece those specs and that flicker thankfully solidifies that this could’ve been discovered from an animation studio’s vault in the late 70s/early 80s and for that, I am ever so grateful. Feels like I’m there, man.

My only issue with it is that it isn’t a real show that we could watch. That gives me many sad emojis. Booooooooo. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’d watch THE HELL out of it.

Anyway, watch the short. And then watch it again. Follow Jordan Gibson and Smallbu Animation Studios. Show them love for something they made with even more love.

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production and has been published both online and in print for Los Angeles City College’s award-winning Collegian newspaper. He is also a news writer at DC Comics News. Jose is on Twitter and Instagram, and is also currently writing his first short novel.

Sym-Bionic Titan (2010) (TV)

From IMDb: “Three young alien beings with the ability to form a giant robotic warrior attempt to blend into suburbia, all while battling the tyrannical forces that ravaged their home world.”

What I liked:

  • A forgotten gem from master animator Genndy Tartakovsky, who I’ve mentioned before when reviewing his latest show, Primal. Paul Rudish and Bryan Andrews, who worked with him on his masterpiece Samurai Jack, co-created the show along with him.
  • I didn’t enjoy the show very much during its initial 2010 run and I lost also lost track of it before it was initially canceled by Cartoon Network. But that last episode (Episode 10) that I did watch had one of the best uses of pop-music and animation I had ever seen, which stuck with me. I remember it resonating as something deeply beautiful. Now that it’s on Netflix, I decided to re-watch it on the strength of that sequence. Watching it now with different eyes had me fall in love with its takes on teenage life. Social issues, school hierarchy, vapid popularity, etc., are all touched upon. The show even touches on mobile device addiction, before it was even a thing that people actually suffered from nowadays.
  • This show is basically if John Hughes and Jack Kirby mashed the Breakfast Club, Voltron & the Iron Giant together in an anime studio back in 1982, thus creating two perfectly balanced tones for the show: One tone is positioned as the action “Monster of the Week” / Scooby-Doo concept, but the other is an emotional one, spinning fun characters with poignant, teenage drama.
  • Unlike traditional cartoons, some characters actually change their clothes!
  • Any show with Genndy and his team involved always produces fantastic compositions & framing, and this show is no exception. There are even some fun Ren & Stimpy-esque extreme closeups.
  • Stakes, stakes, STAKES. People forget that stories (whether presented through animation or live-action) need stakes, no matter the genre. There need to be events and consequences that affect the livelihood of the protagonists, and thankfully this show remembers and nails them.
  • Oh hey, it’s a Paul Dini written episode!

What I didn’t like:

  • I have commitment issues when it comes to television, and love when a show can knock out a whole story in a single season or two (like Over the Garden Wall and Gravity Falls, for example). This show was canceled after one season but left us with an incomplete story and some important questions to ask. It would be nice if Adultswim (or even Netflix) would let them do one final season, much like they thankfully did with allowing Samurai Jack to close out its epic tale.
  • Is there really a “Wazzuuuppp???!!” reference? Eh, the show is from 2010, so….I GUESS.

Overall: Sometimes we need to revisit something in order to fully appreciate its brilliance, and Sym-Bionic Titan was better than I had remembered. Maybe I didn’t give it much of a chance when it originally aired, or maybe the nine years that have passed have changed my perspective. Maybe it’s both. But thankfully, it’s a show that gave me characters that felt real, and had emotion and heart. It not only reminded me why I love Genndy Tartakovsky’s work so much, but it also reminded me that heart is the focus of everything even when you’re a kick-ass action cartoon. Watch it on Netflix.

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production and has been published both online and in print for Los Angeles City College’s award-winning Collegian newspaper. He is also a news writer at DC Comics News. Jose is on Twitter and Instagram, and is also currently writing his first short novel.

Dollface (2019) (TV – Season1)

From IMDb: “After breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, a woman tries to reconnect with the friends she lost during the relationship.”

What I liked:

  • What an extremely funny and smart commentary on modern day relationships, feminism, friendship and sex.
  • Each character is delightfully comedic, and situations are wonderfully setup and paid off.
  • Smartly nuanced, with each of the 10 episodes being a wholly satisfying experience; Especially episode 9, which is a fantastic take on the Wizard of Oz.
  • Kat Dennings is an all-time top-5 celebrity crush for me, but if she wasn’t in it I’d still love the hell out of this show.
  • Shout-out to my friend Katy G, who made a brief appearance in the first episode (which I didn’t know before watching).

What I didn’t like:

  • There was nothing in this show that I did not enjoy.

Overall: I wish all comedies were as intelligent, engaging, funny and quick-witted as this one. I’ll happily watch season 2.

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production and has been published both online and in print for Los Angeles City College’s award-winning Collegian newspaper. He is also a news writer at DCComicsNews. Jose is on Twitter and Instagram, and is also currently writing his first short novel.

Victorious (2010 – 2013) (TV – Full Series)

From IMDb: “Aspiring singer Tori Vega navigates life while attending a performing arts high school called Hollywood Arts.”

What I like:

  • I first caught a rerun of Victorious in 2014, the year after it had ended. I was in a different phase of my life and trying to shy away from “Hard-R” rated material that had suddenly start to make me feel uncomfortable. While flipping through the channels, I stumbled upon the show and was immediately hooked by the tween-centered humor, which lies right between family-friendly and mild innuendo. It was exactly what I needed at that time, and it help carry me through my Dad’s eventual passing away within the year. Its light-hearted laughs, awkward characters and catchy tunes carried me through the roughest part of my life. I don’t have cable anymore, and I hadn’t watched it in almost 5 years until Netflix just added it to their service. Thankfully the show is still great, still making me laugh and feel good so many years after missing it.
  • Well-written characters are the main focus of the show. Most of them don’t really have “arcs”, but the overall story line doesn’t need them to have one (if you watch the show, you’ll understand).
  • Those characters that do have arcs service that overall story line. One of those characters is a pre-super-mega-star Ariana Grande. There’s also a couple (that the fans lovingly nicknamed “Bade“) within the context of the show that goes through a story arc that spans all of the seasons, resolving itself toward the very end of the series.
  • Grammy winning producer Leon Thomas III is also one of the main cast members.
  • Shout-out to Daniela Monet for the amount of great physical comedy she performs throughout the series.
  • You can definitely see the evolution of the show throughout the seasons. The humor gets sillier but better while the main premise of “Teen Stardom” gradually shifts. This works within the universe the show established, with the final season being the most developed and funniest. It also had the best clips during the intro song, more focused on everyone instead of mostly just rando-kids dancing around. I’ve included that later intro below, instead of the usual trailer.
  • Speaking of the final season, certain aspects of the show that were pretty much only reserved for lead Victoria Justice‘s character were now allowed by other cast members, such as their use of “The Slap”, a Twitter-ish social media platform.
  • Occasionally breaks the 4th-wall in the most subtle ways.
  • It kinda’ makes me miss high school.

What I didn’t like:

  • Because of the expansion of the main characters, certain characters like Lane the guidance counselor, Andre’s grandmother and Tori’s dad had their roles severely reduced.

Overall: Re-visiting it has been an absolute treat. Not only was I able to see episodes that I had missed before, but I was able to take in the whole journey of these characters I love…especially Jade (played by the Dynasty reboot’s Elizabeth Gillies). Heart-eyes emoji FOREVER, Jade! But anyway, don’t be deterred just because it’s a show aimed at teenagers; Adults CAN enjoy shows that don’t have sex/nudity, violence and drug use. If you’re looking for fun characters in episodes and situations that will make you laugh away life’s monotony, then watch Victorious on Netflix.

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production and has been published both online and in print for Los Angeles City College’s award-winning Collegian newspaper. He’s on Twitter and Instagram, and is also currently writing his first short novel.