‘Dark Nights: Death Metal #2’ review

The craziness continues in DC Comics’ current event, Dark Nights: Death Metal. Major spoilers for the first issue of Dark Nights: Death Metal and Flash Forward ahead.

The second issue of Dark Knights: Death Metal begins shortly after the events of the first issue, with Wonder Woman, Wally West (now Dr. Manhattan) and Swamp Thing. After the death of the Batman Who Laughs, the evil Batmen across the Earth are left without a true leader. The issue sees the Justice League finally reunite with the Justice Society of America. The two superhero teams will have to join forces to stop Perpetua and rebuild the multiverse. The whole issue features lots of fun moments, such as seeing the bat-dinosaur again. However, there are also a whole slew of new Batmen including Batom (an amalgamation of Batman and the Atom) and Batmobeast (the Batmobile with Bruce’s mind inside).

Swamp Thing, Batmobeast, Wally West and Wonder Woman in Dark Nights: Death Metal #2

Getting to see the Justice Society in a comic again, especially Jay Garrick, was the highlight of the issue for me. Jay’s reunion with Wally nearly brought tears to my eyes. Wally is my favorite DC character, so seeing him in an event as big as Death Metal brings me joy. It is interesting that we have not seen Wally use any of Manhattan’s powers yet. Is writer Scott Snyder saving them for a more climatic moment in the later issues?

This issue is calmer than the first, focusing more on character interaction than bombastic action. Wonder Woman talking to Batman about his recklessness in the first issue felt very organic, especially considering the torture that the Batman Who Laughs and Perpetua put them through. Bruce does not take Diana’s words well, but luckily Swamp Thing and Wally are both there to calm the situation down.

Jay Garrick reuniting with Wally West in Dark Nights: Death Metal #2

The gothic-style character designs for Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing and Batman shine in this issue, especially with the dark backdrop of the Batcave. Greg Capullo’s designs fit the absurdity while still fitting the more serious tone of certain scenes. Jonathan Glapion’s inks and FCO Plascencia’s colors further add to the craziness presented within the issue and further define the personalities of each character, especially the villains. This is expressed particularly well in the jaw-dropping reveal at the end of the issue.

Dark Knights: Death Metal is gearing up to be the most ridiculously fun story DC Comics has told in years. I could not be more excited for the rest of this event, especially after that ending. I will not be getting off Snyder and Capullo’s wild ride anytime soon.

Rating: 8.5/10

Buy the comic here: https://www.comixology.com/Dark-Nights-Death-Metal-2020-2/digital-comic/875250

Michigan State’s risky Mel Tucker hire

Photo via Al Goldis

The 2015 Michigan State Spartans were marching proudly, as they collected a College Football Playoff Cotton Bowl bid due in large part to a Big Ten Conference title and a 12-2 record.

The Spartan glamour would quickly falter to gloom, however, as their reliable defensive phalanx would implode against the Alabama Crimson Tide, 38-0.  

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was unable to rebound the Spartans’ from the loss, as in the following three seasons, the team combined to go 27-24 with two small-tier bowl victories. While the stretch was a retooling and rebuilding period, this could not be a full-blown excuse. As a Power Five program in a competitive conference with a head coaching legend, they were expected to compete for titles year in and year out regardless of an NFL Draft exodus. The period eventually caught up for Dantonio, as the 12-year Spartans’ head coach retired in February after the conclusion of the college football season. 

The retirement gave the program an opportunity to bring in a younger, more invigorated mind. Perhaps someone that would be able to bring in a high-octane offense that was lacking when compared to other mainstays and up-and-coming teams in the Big Ten, including that of Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota, among others. 

The solution to the coaching void came in the form of 48-year-old Mel Tucker. Tucker, a coach with NFL and blue-chip college coordinator experience (including time with defensive-minded teams in Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama) who just recently hailed from the University of Colorado Boulder, where he went 5-7 in his only year there. The hire, as it would seem on the surface, would be a youthful injection that would seemingly put Michigan State at an elite level once more. 

The upside of the hire looks enticing, but it is not a revolutionary one. Not one that jumps off the page with a new offensive concept that can put the program a leg up and back in the discussion for Big Ten Conference titles. After all, offense is the name of the game, and Michigan State, to put it lightly, has not been known as an offensive juggernaut (their 29.8 points per game during their 2015 Cotton Bowl season ranked 60th) recently. 

Instead, the hire looks too much like a lateral move best-case scenario and a complete bust worst-case. 

When looking at Tucker’s 2019 coaching season with Colorado when compared to Dantonio’s with Michigan State, similarities become readily apparent. On offense, Tucker’s Buffaloes averaged 388.5 yards per game (83rd in the FBS) and 23.5 points per game (100th), whereas Dantonio’s Spartans averaged 371.9 yards (95th) and 22.4 points per game (105th). When breaking down the offense into rushing and passing, the similarities continue. In the passing category, the Buffaloes averaged 238.2 yards per game (61st) while the Spartans averaged 244.8 (55th). When looking at the rushing side of the ball, the biggest difference can be noticed, as the Buffaloes averaged 150.3 yards per game (t-79th), while Michigan State averaged 127.2 (113th). 

With Tucker and Dantonio both coming from a defensive-oriented background, it is no wonder that defense would be what they would primarily attempt to build their team around. When looking at the defensive comparisons, Tucker’s Buffaloes’ struggled, as they allowed 441.9 yards per game (104th). Dantonio’s squad, meanwhile, allowed 321.6 yards per game, which ranked 18th in the FBS and was ahead of other notable teams including Alabama (20th with 324.5), Oregon (22nd with 329.1) and the 2019-20 National Champions in LSU (31st with 343.5). The disparity lengthens when looking at passing and rushing yards allowed, as Michigan State’s 207.8 passing yards allowed and 113.8 rushing yards allowed both ranked inside the top 40 (37th and 16th, respectively). Colorado’s 288.3 passing yards allowed and 153.1 rushing yards allowed ranked 123rd and 61st, respectively. 

In Tucker’s defense (no pun intended), he was in his first-ever year as head coach and was instantly thrown into the fire of a Power Five Conference in the Pac-12. 

While Tucker is getting a hefty pay jump (five years and $14.8 million to six years and upwards of $30 million), he is heading into a more scorching fire pit that is the Big Ten. 

Let’s look at the statistics once more. While the Pac-12 offensively possessed the same number of teams in the top 50 in points per game as the Big Ten (six each), the Big Ten absolutely trounced the Pac-12 when looking defensively at total yards allowed. When looking at the top 50 teams in total yards allowed, the Big Ten had eight teams (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State and Indiana) excluding Michigan State, while the Pac-12 only had three (Utah, Oregon and Washington). 

While Tucker comes from a defensive background, he is not only raw as a head coach, but unknown as an offensive-minded play designer. In his only season as Colorado’s head coach, his collective offense was weak. He now must take over a program that is part of a conference that puts more emphasis on defenses clinching deadly chokeholds on opposing offenses. While Tucker’s defensive prowess could eventually shine, the offense is too much of an unknown and could be feasted on by stingy front-sevens and lockdown defensive backs. 

While it is true it takes several years to build up a roster with recruiting unique to what the head coach envisions, will several years at the minimum be able to put Michigan State back into the Playoff hunt? Are Spartan fans willing to wait several years to maybe see a one-year head coach’s plans possibly pan out? 

The variables are too much of a mystery. While Tucker could definitely make a Spartan defensive formation reminiscent to Dantonio’s Spartan teams, the offensive outlook is that much cloudier and bleaker.

Tucker has a new contract, and the Spartans are willing to give him time to implement what is needed. Even still, when wrapping the entire package together, Tucker does not seem to be the answer to bring the Playoff luster back to the Spartan faithful. 

‘Strange Adventures #3’ review

Strange Adventures continues to be my favorite book from DC Comics. The story Tom King, Mitch Gerads and Doc Shaner are crafting within each page of this book is enthralling. Additionally, if you are a Justice League fan, you will not want to miss this issue.

The third issue picks up shortly after the end of the last one. Mister Terrific has finished his interview with Adam Strange and his wife Allana, and from their reactions, it did not go well. The split story between the Justice League’s investigation into Adam Strange on Earth and Strange’s past intergalactic escapades help endear us to him. Seeing everything he has fought for to achieve his notoriety across the galaxy paints the image of a hero who will do anything to help those he loves. However, this same reasoning is why the Justice League is so skeptical of him. How far would Strange go to protect his wife’s people?

Superman and Adam Strange heading towards an alien ship in Metropolis from Strange Adventures #3

Seeing Strange’s various interactions with the Justice League, particularly his conversation with Superman, paints a good picture of how the other heroes of the world view Strange. Superman is the gleaming beacon of hope in the DC universe, so if he says you are a good man, you probably are. However, with everything Strange has gone through after returning to Earth, I imagine he is not inclined to agree with the Big Blue Boy Scout.

The artwork from both Gerads and Shaner is fantastic. Gerads artwork of the morally ambiguous present paints a mysterious and uncomfortable picture of the stress Strange and Allana are enduring. Between protecting Earth from an oncoming alien attack and being scrutinized by the League and the ambiguous Mister Terrific, Strange has his hands full. The distraction by the press is only making things more uncomfortable for the space adventurer.

Adam Strange facing a Hellotaat warrior in Strange Adventures #3

To contrast, Shaner’s artwork presents a classic space adventure, full of strange worlds and the creatures that inhabit them. To help protect Rann from war, Strange and Allana seek the aid of the Hellotaat Tribe. To prove they are worthy of the Hellotaats, Strange must battle their strongest warrior in single combat. The fight is brutal and Shaner does not shy away from it. The morality of the fight is clear as day, and the art shows this with clear color contrast, as opposed to the more moody colors in Gerads’s panels. King’s writing is intriguing, but it is the art that truly sells this story.

Strange Adventures contains everything I want in a comic book story. Dramatic tension, intriguing character interactions and entertaining space escapades. King’s writing balances the two stories well, and the stark contrast in Gerads and Shaner’s art styles illustrate this perfectly. I am excited to see what they have in store for the next issue.

Rating: 9.5/10

Buy the comic here: https://www.comixology.com/Strange-Adventures-2020-3/digital-comic/875255?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy