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Looney Tunes, Elmo Are HBO Max's Most Popular Shows | CBR

The latest incarnation of the venerable Looney Tunes and the talk show hosted by Sesame Street‘s Elmo are massive hits at HBO Max, leading the recently launched streaming service in terms of viewership.

According to Bloomberg, Looney Tunes Cartoons is currently the number one show on HBO Max. Parrot Analytics discerns the show drew an audience 16.5 times greater than the average program on the service’s May 27 launch day, rising to 19.4 times over the service’s first four days. Meanwhile, The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo holds strong at second place with 10 times the average show.

RELATED: HBO Max’s Looney Tunes Cartoons Does the Classic Justice

Love Life, starring Anna Kendrick, has been HBO Max’s highest-rated show aimed at an adult audience. It came in third on launch day at 8.4 times, about half the reach of Looney Tunes. It went up to 9 times over the first four days.

HBO Max joined streaming services Apple TV+, Disney+ and Quibi with new launches in the past six months. Numbers for The Mandalorian on Disney+ far outpaced Looney Tunes, drawing 46 times average over its first four days. Apple TV+’s top show, See, was just behind Looney Tunes with 16.5 times average over its first four days. Chrissy’s Court on Quibi, starring Chrissy Tiegen, reached 3.4 times average over its first four days.

RELATED: The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo Is EXACTLY What We Need Right Now

HBO Max is available now.

HBO Max's most popular shows in its first four days after launch are for kids: Looney Tunes Cartoons and The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo.

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Netflix's Betaal: The Curse of the Colonel, Explained | CBR

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Betaal, now streaming on Netflix.

Netflix’s Betaal focuses on a sinister mountain in the Nilja village in Maharashtra, India. Set in modern times, the military is brought in by a conglomerate led by shady contractor Ajay as they want to clear the village out. It’s all so politicians can build a tunnel through the mountain for a highway, but they ignore the villagers’ pleas on it being haunted.

Ajay tricks soldiers into wiping out most of the villagers, but this awakens the demon, Betaal, who sends his zombie horde after them. However, while viewers don’t see much of the undead in the early episodes which are set in the dead of the night, they do know they’re commanded by a vile overlord, Lynedoch. He’s actually Betaal’s avatar and as the episodes roll on, it becomes clear that the Chosen One has deep ties to India’s colonial past.

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Lynedoch is actually a colonel from when the British ravaged and ruled. The military finds this out the hard way as the colonel proves to be a master supernatural strategist, forcing them to team up with surviving villagers who reveal Lynedoch actually brought a battalion of troops to kill them in the late 1800s. The genocide wasn’t just about dominion over the land, however, as he heard of the demonic presence in the mountain. When young Saanvi finds a grimoire that documented the full story, it all brings everything together and gives us perspective on why Betaal has indeed possessed the colonel. More so, it wasn’t a curse as they thought; it’s a willful possession.

When the colonel and his army got trapped in the mountain, they died one by one. Some passed due to hunger, there was cannibalism and some were mercy killings. But Lynedoch didn’t mind being trapped because he really came for the power of Betaal. He found a ritualistic table and slaughtered his own son to offer as a sacrifice. The tome, written by slaves Lynedoch had, reveals the colonel actually practiced the dark arts himself and had an occult ritual that could bind Betaal to his body. They became a perfect fit for each other and Lynedoch then turned his other soldiers into beings of the night. However, they were locked into the mountain by the villagers.

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The current regiment, led by Vikram, unleashes the evil when they storm the mountain, not realizing the zombies are all colonial troops. They’re hidden in the cave’s roofs like vampires but move as quickly as Dawn of the Dead zombies. On top of that, they’re not mindless as the colonel can control each one. They spread their infection via bites, scratches and blessed bullets.

To make matters worse, Lynedoch has a powerful Dracula effect as he can mind-control people such as Vikram who’ve committed atrocities against humanity, or Ajay who lusts for power. He can get inside innocent people’s minds too, dredging up bad memories and haunting dreams. Luckily, the remaining villagers have old-school methods such as sprinkling salt, ash, or turmeric on the zombies to kill them, making protective barriers from these powders. Ultimately, the rebels end up deploying usual defenses against zombies that include placing stakes through their heads or burning their bodies, but they know they need to scour grimoire for the real key to killing the all-powerful colonel. He’s tethered to the ritualistic table and needs a virgin sacrifice to be truly freed, which gives the soldiers a window but places Saanvi in danger.

Directed by Patrick Graham and Nikhil Mahajan, Betaal stars Viineet Kumar Singh, Jitendra Joshi, Aahana Kumra and Suchitra Pilla. The four episodes are currently available on Netflix.

KEEP READING: Betaal: Netflix Releases Trailer for New Blumhouse Horror Series

Netflix's Betaal holds some dark secrets regarding its sinister Dracula-like overlord as he becomes tethered to a demon.

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Venom: Every Easter Egg for Eddie Brock's Horrific Future | CBR

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Venom #25 by Donny Cates, Mark Bagley, Ryan Stegman, Andy Owens, JP Mayer, Frank Martin and VC’s Clayton Cowles, available now.

Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote have barely gotten the chance to take a break since the newest volume of the Lethal Protector’s ongoing series began. The duo has faced one threat after another, including the massive Grendel dragon, the symbiote god Knull, the Ultimate Universe’s Maker, War of the RealmsAbsolute Carnage and most recently, “Venom Island.”

Each story arc has added a new layer to the Venom mythos while tying into other sections of the Marvel Universe in surprising and creative ways. The end of “Venom Island” in Venom #25 closes out the first phase of Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, Frank Martin and Clayton Cowles’ run with a two-page spread teasing what’s to come.

From the return of Knull to mysterious new threats looming on the horizon, we’re taking a closer look at how each of these Easter eggs paints a dark future for Eddie Brock, Venom and the entire Marvel Universe.

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The first image we see is a character that has already been teased for the next Venom story arc. Virus, a hybrid of Venom and Iron Man, was originally going to debut in Marvel’ Free Comic Book Day 2020: Spider-Man/Venom issue. With FCBD being postponed this year, it’s not clear if or when this issue will be released or if its intended contents will show up elsewhere. However, Venom writer Donny Cates provided a little bit of background on this new villain, who debuts on the cover to Venom #26.

Absolute Carnage is a prelude to a larger thing, and we’ll see the opposite of what that is coming very soon,” Cates said. “With ‘Venom Island’, we’re looking back at his history, revisiting certain things from Venom’s past. With ‘Venom Beyond,’ all I will say is that we will be looking into the future.”

Since we know “Venom Beyond” will tap into Venom’s future, it’s safe to assume that Virus will have some message from or connection to the future, possibly bringing a warning or a message to the antihero. While the first thought is the person piloting the Virus armor is Eddie Brock, it could also very well be an adult version of his son, Dylan. All we can see when Virus begins to pull off his helmet in Venom #25 is the lower half of his face, so his identity is being kept a secret for a reason. Another possibility is Virus is the original Iron Man, Tony Stark. Eddie appears to join the Avengers at the end of Venom #25’s main story, so Tony could be coming from the future for a very specific reason.

The Reed Richards from the Ultimate Marvel Universe is known as the Maker. He’s one of the few characters to survive the collapse of the multiverse in 2015’s Secret Wars and arrive in the Marvel Universe. Though he’s found himself at odds with superhero teams like the New Avengers and Ultimates, he has now set his sights on Venom. Venom #20 revealed how Eddie’s symbiote plays into the Maker’s evil scheme, with it all tying back to the villain attempting to return to his original universe.

Venom #20 ended with Maker having a holographic meeting with the Council of Reeds, which is a gathering of Reed Richards from across the multiverse. The Maker has intentions of joining the group, but he must first find a way to restore the Ultimate Universe. In order to safely travel between universes, Maker is gathering symbiotes to repair the symbiote from his world. Dylan’s display of power in Absolute Carnage put the young boy on Maker’s radar, and our two-page spread displays evil Reed standing in front of a multiversal portal with a symbiote slithering around his body, which means at some point in the future he succeeds in his mission.

RELATED: Venom: Donny Cates Teases ‘HUGE’ Plans For Issue #200

While some of these future visions are known threats, two stand out as being completely new, and thereby all the more dangerous. The middle top of the image features either a symbiote or a pack of symbiotes taking control of a piece of Celestial armor while the Grendel dragon soars around it. We know that Knull and the symbiotes have been around since before the birth of the Marvel Universe and even decapitated a Celestial with his Necrosword, the All-Black. Of course, fans will recognize this floating Celestial head as the Guardians of the Galaxy’s pitstop known as Knowhere.

However, an even more intriguing figure is revealed at the bottom-right of the symbiote Celestial. Whoever this person is, they are sporting a red logo of the Grendel on their chest, with a mask, armor and cape covering their body. The character has long black hair and appears to be walking on top of red mist bubbling up from the ground. Similar to Virus, the character’s identity is kept a secret.

Though he is a less-known member of Marvel’s cosmic corner, Wraith will play an integral role in Cates’ Venom stories. Wraith is a Kree gunslinger who has his body covered in an alien parasite known as Exolon, which Knull had a hand in creating. He guest-starred during Cates’ run on Guardians of the Galaxy as a part of Eros’ Dark Guardians, who were hunting down Gamora. They believed Gamora was going to be a vessel for a reincarnated Thanos, with the twist being that Eros was the vessel all along.

Wraith will star in a Web of Venom one-shot later this year that Cates promises will introduce “a brand-new concept that has never been hinted at or talked about in the Marvel Universe.” While that remains a mystery until the comic comes out, Venom #25 shows him battling the massive Grendel dragon. With Wraith being so important to upcoming storylines, expect to see a lot more of him over the next few months.

Last but certainly not least is Knull, the god of the symbiotes. Knull has been the boogeyman of this most recent volume of Venom, lurking in the shadows ever since he was imprisoned back on the planet Klyntar. Cletus Kasady and Carnage succeeded in getting Venom to release Knull from his prison in Absolute Carnage, which means the god is on a collision course with Earth.

Eddie finally came clean to the Avengers in Venom #25, telling them everything he knows about Knull and the threat he poses. Battlelines will soon be drawn as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will stand alongside Venom to fight back Knull and his army of invading symbiotes.

KEEP READING: Venom: Marvel Reveals The Name The Lethal Protector ALMOST Took

Venom #25 offered a glimpse of Eddie Brock's future, which features the return of Knull, his first encounter with Virus and a mysterious caped figure.

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Supergirl: Kara & Lena Making Up Shows How Silly Their Fight Was

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Season 5 of Supergirl.

After a season at odds, Lena and Kara finally made amends and restored their friendship in the Season 5 finale of Supergirl. However, their reconciliation showed just how silly their feud was in the first place.

Their fight was a result of Kara keeping her biggest secret — the fact that she’s Supergirl — from Lena, her closest friend. Though Kara clearly kept this from Lena as an act of love and protection, Lena did not see it that way. While Lena is incredibly intelligent, she apparently lacked the emotional intelligence to comprehend why her friend did what she did, and spent the entire season trying to get revenge on Kara for her supposed transgression. Let’s take a look at why this drawn-out argument felt so contrived.

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While Lena is very bright, she’s emotionally stunted and has major trust issues. She even informs Hope in the third episode of Season 5, “Blurred Lines,” that she doesn’t trust people. It makes sense — after all, her brother is supervillain Lex Luthor. Her past is haunted by the betrayal of close friends and family members, and Lena’s resulting mistrust of humanity is prevalent throughout Season 5.

Yet, while her past trauma is an understandable reason for having trust issues, it doesn’t make sense for this specific argument between Kara and Lena. First of all, Kara was truthful with Lena in Season 5’s premiere episode — she told her that she is Supergirl and apologized for keeping her superhero alter-ego a secret. Tearfully, she divulged to Lena that she realized what she did was selfish. She said she had convinced herself she was doing the right thing by protecting her friend from the truth. Lena at first is shocked — understandably so — but then went on to act like she and Kara were good, when they definitely were not.

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This episode ends with Lena revealing that she wants to get back at Kara, and make her now “frenemy” feel as awful as Kara made her feel. She then sets out to invent technology that “fixes” human flaws, and vows to use it to take revenge on all the people that hurt her. This whole storyline — Lena’s invention and her plot against Kara — played out in the background of other more important storylines until Lena realized her mistakes.

This caused Lena to stop with the evil plots, and she and Kara finally made up. They have a conversation where both are honest, which is what should have happened at the very beginning of this season when Kara first came clean. If Lena had been honest about the fact that she was hurt and had given Kara the benefit of the doubt, it could have saved them both a whole lot of trouble — and saved the audience from enduring a ridiculous storyline for an entire season.

The fight between Lena and Kara felt incredibly contrived because it was clearly manufactured for the show. It may have moved the plot along, but didn’t feel organic to the characters. Maybe Season 6 will bring us a more emotionally mature Lena — and less trivial drama.

Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers, David Harewood as Martian Manhunter and Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers.

KEEP READING: Supergirl: Benoist Says to Expect a Slow Burn Romance in Season 6

The feud between Kara Danvers and Lena Luthor on Supergirl should have ended in the very first episode of Season 5.

Sega’s Game Gear Micro Is Extremely Disappointing | CBR

Sega recently announced that it will be releasing the Sega Game Gear Micro in Japan this October. The news comes after a Japanese gaming journalist teased that the company would be making a revolutionary announcement. While the Famitsu tease was in reference to a different announcement, many fans were excepting more from Sega.

This isn’t the first time Sega fans have been disappointed by the iconic gaming company. Sega has a history of dropping the ball when it comes to planning and marketing new products. The failure of the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast can be attributed to Sega’s poor business decisions. Even when Sega has the best intentions in mind, the company always seems to be one step behind.

Related: What Made the PlayStation 2 the Bestselling Console of All Time?

Remaking the Sega Game Gear is, in itself, a great idea. Many have fond memories of playing Sega’s first handheld console during the early 90s and loved having the option to play their favorite Sega games on the go. However, the new Game Gear Micro isn’t the way to bring back this amazing system. Redesigning the Game Gear into a smaller device is fine but its new Micro design is extremely flawed.

One of the biggest, and most obvious, complaints about Game Gear Micro is its incredibly small design. The system is minuscule, with a screen that is just 1.15-inches. This tiny design will likely hinder the player’s gaming experience. The screen is so small that users might have issues seeing everything onscreen. Sega seems to be aware of this, as it’s offering a larger attachable screen specifically for the system. Plus, the size will make it uncomfortable for those with larger hands, and it will likely result in cramping and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Related: 5 Video Game Systems (Virtually) Everyone Forgets

Sega is also facing backlash for separating the Game Gear Micro’s games onto four different devices instead of including all of them on one. The four color variations of the system each contain four games, meaning players who want to have them all will need to buy all of them.

The Sega Game Gear Micro has disappointed even the most devout Sega loyalist. Its tiny design and limited games will likely hurt its sales. The good news is, Sega always seems to make up for its mistakes down the line. It has recovered from worse disasters than this in the past and could do something big to improve the microscopic system in the not-so-distant future. If anything, Sega has proven that it shouldn’t be underestimated, as it has overcome many obstacles in its history.

KEEP READING: The Best Video Games to Play During Pride Month

Sega announced that it will be releasing the Game Gear Micro in Japan later this year. Here's why the system is extremely disappointing.

REVIEW: Surreal Thriller Dreamland Is an Incoherent Mess | CBR

Character actor Stephen McHattie and cult director Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo, Hellions) are both icons of Canadian filmmaking. However, they rarely get the chance to showcase their talents on a wider scale. McDonald’s latest film, the bizarre, impressionistic thriller Dreamland, isn’t likely to reach a mainstream audience, but it does at least provide a rare leading role for McHattie.

Actually, Dreamland provides McHattie with two leading roles, both mysterious characters who seem to have no relation to each other despite looking exactly alike. Shot mainly in Luxembourg and set in a surrealistic alternate universe (small print in the end credits claims the movie was “shot on location in Dreamland”), the movie sets McHattie’s characters on a collision course with each other thanks to various shady underworld figures. The Countess (Juliette Lewis) has hired an unnamed trumpeter everyone simply calls Maestro (McHattie) to perform at her brother’s wedding. Meanwhile, nightclub owner and human trafficker Hercules (Henry Rollins) has hired hitman Johnny (also McHattie) to remove the Maestro’s finger in retaliation for a petty slight.

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That’s a fairly straightforward way to describe the largely elliptical plot, which eventually focuses on Johnny’s efforts to save his underage neighbor from being forced into marriage with the Countess’ brother (Tómas Lemarquis), who is a vampire. Yes, an actual bloodsucking vampire, which everyone simply takes for granted despite the absence of any other supernatural elements in the story.

The Countess (the countess of what, exactly, is never explained) and the vampire (who, like the Maestro, never gets an actual name) don’t even show up until nearly halfway through the movie, after the Maestro has spent time wandering around the city looking to score drugs and to liberate his beloved trumpet from a local pawn shop. He and Johnny have their first showdown at a café, where they speak mostly in cryptic references, although Johnny agrees to forgo mutilating the Maestro, at least for a little while.

McDonald previously worked with screenwriter Tony Burgess (who co-wrote Dreamland with Patrick Whistler) on the 2008 cult classic horror movie Pontypool, which also starred McHattie and also took some strange turns, although its odd detours came with more satisfying payoffs. Dreamland coasts almost entirely on atmosphere, which carries it for a little while when it seems like it’s mainly riffing on film noir (complete with a smoky, jazzy musical score). Once the Countess and the vampire enter the picture, though, the atmosphere becomes as muddled as the story, and the second half of the movie is tonally and narratively incoherent.

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McHattie still holds a lot of it together with his grave intensity, although there isn’t much aside from an awkward wig on Johnny to set his two characters apart. The actor gives both characters a world-weary sense of resignation, and Johnny’s decision to go against his bosses to save his young neighbor from the clutches of the vampire recalls any number of gunslingers or detectives who are roused from their cynicism to protect the innocent. The people in Dreamland are more archetypes than characters, in keeping with the movie’s exaggerated stylistic approach.

Rather than create an immersive world, though, McDonald just throws a lot of random, inexplicable elements together. Why is Hercules’ nightclub called Al Qaeda? Why does he employ a gang of children dressed in suits and ties? Why do the Maestro and Johnny keep having seemingly prophetic visions? And why is there a vampire in the middle of all of this? Dreamland doesn’t have to make complete linear sense, but by the time it gets to the climax at the vampire’s wedding, it’s completely incomprehensible, almost a parody of Lynchian abstract storytelling. McDonald is talented, but he’s no David Lynch, and Dreamland is pretty far from Twin Peaks.

At least the actors are having fun, and aside from McHattie, Lewis and Rollins both luxuriate in their villainous roles. Lemarquis plays the rat-faced vampire more like Max Schreck’s iconic Count Orlok from Nosferatu than the debonair, suave vampires more commonly seen onscreen, and he’s never sexy or seductive. Marrying him is clearly a horrible fate, for anyone of any age. McHattie makes the most of his rare top billing and extensive screen time, and even if the movie doesn’t hold together, it puts forth a strong case for casting McHattie in roles that capitalize on his talents.

The costumes and sets are stylishly designed, and the relatively rare movie location of Luxembourg contributes to the dreamlike feel, since it’s not a setting frequently shown onscreen. But rather than immerse the audience in this peculiar world, the movie languidly drifts from one ill-defined plot point to another before climaxing in a meaninglessly violent shoot-out and ending on one more inscrutable, pseudo-philosophical musing. McDonald may have set out to create a visionary head trip, but what he’s produced is more of a tedious headache.

Starring Stephen McHattie, Henry Rollins, Juliette Lewis, Lisa Houle and Tómas Lemarquis, Dreamland premieres Friday on VOD.

KEEP READING: How Twin Peaks Burned Bright, Fizzled Out – and Transformed TV

Dreamland coasts almost entirely on atmosphere, which carries it for a little while, but the second half is tonally and narratively incoherent.

The Last Airbender Theory: Uncle Iroh's Love of Tea Has Profound Meaning

For most fans, as well as most of the characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Uncle Iroh is one of the most endearing and beloved people in the cartoon. As the brother of the Fire Lord, he was easily set up to be another antagonist; however, even in Season 1, when he was helping a not yet redeemed Zuko pursue the Avatar, it’s clear there is more to Iroh than meets the eye.

He is a bit wacky at times, and his priorities do not align with those of his nephew’s, but he consistently grounds Zuko, sees beyond the propaganda of the Fire Nation and provides life advice for anyone in need of help, regardless of how they align themselves. He’s got a good heart, clear mind and broad perspective, which could partially be credited to him trying to enter the Spirit World after he lost his son, Lu Ten, to the war. Iroh is also the biggest tea aficionado in the show.

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While initially this seems like another quirk of his, with him risking his life by making tea from a potentially deadly plant, nearly exposing Zuko and him as firebenders in the Earth Kingdom to heat his drink and bickering with Zuko on several occasions over his nephew’s disrespect for tea, Iroh’s love for the drink, according to pat_speed 3 on Reddit, may have a deeper meaning. Tea is the perfect drink to represent all four elements coming together for the better, and Iroh knows this.

As the theory explains, clay made from earth makes the cups that hold the tea, water acts as the primary base of the drink, fire hits the water, as well as helps extract the flavor of the leaves and the air cools the tea, so people can enjoy it. Without one of these elements, the tea cannot be consumed, nor can it fully exist. Similarly, without all four elements in the world, the balance is set off, so tea to Iroh represents the balance he wishes to preserve, as well as being a relaxing drink.

While originally a respected general, who fully believed in the Fire Nation’s propaganda that depicted other elements as lesser, after Lu Ten’s death, Iroh went on a spiritual journey of his own, realizing how crucial each element is. He even uses waterbending techniques to redirect lightning, something no one else in the Fire Nation, aside from Zuko later on, can do. Iroh also betrays his nation when Zhao reveals his plan to kill the Moon Spirit. While the Moon Spirit is tied specifically to the Water Tribe, Iroh knows that killing a spirit and blocking waterbenders from their power source is detrimental to the world at large.

RELATED: Avatar: The Last Airbender – Why Uncle Iroh Was the Best

Iroh is a character who champions balance in the world, as well as in people. Throughout Season 2, he tries to help Zuko find balance within himself, so he can finally know peace. He also takes the time to get to know others, and one of his favorite ways to do so is over a cup of tea. Whether it’s with Toph on the mountain side, where Iroh gives her advice about accepting help; with the mugger in Ba Sing Se, where Iroh convinces him to pursue his real dreams instead of a life of crime or with one of the many customers at the Jasmine Dragon, Iroh finds the good in people and helps them on their path to self fulfillment, with tea often finding its way into the mix.

“Sharing tea with a fascinating stranger is one of life’s true delights,” Iroh says to Toph in Season 2, Episode 8, “The Chase.”

Along with being a pleasant drink to accompany an interesting and enlightening conversation, tea represent exactly what Iroh stands for: balance, unity and peace. As a member of the White Lotus, a secret society that looks past the boundaries of the four nations in the name of philosophy, beauty and truth, Iroh has dedicated his life to preserving balance in the world, whether it’s through a counter-attack on an occupied Ba Sing Se or sharing a cup of tea with a stranger at the Jasmine Dragon.

KEEP READING: The Last Airbender: Combustion Man, the Series’ Weirdest Villain, Explained

Iroh's love for tea also connects itself to his desire to maintain balance and peace in the world as a member of the White Lotus.

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Bleach is the Best Gateway Shonen Series – Here's Why | CBR

In the 2010s, the anime world enjoyed a surge in popularity and content, and this threw open the gates to many new anime fans, but they need a hook to get started. Bleach can be that gateway series for shonen anime.

Shonen anime are aimed at school-aged boys, often but not always focused on action, and nearly all emphasize virtuous ideals like courage, strength, conviction in oneself, helping others, loyalty to friends and much more. They’re designed to teach good values to young viewers, and the best examples of the genre have wide appeal far beyond just the target demographic. If a newcomer to shonen anime wants a quintessential beloved series to get started with, the Bleach animecovers practically all the bases.

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Some shonen anime series catapult the viewer right into a deep, complex sci-fi or fantasy world, which can be disorienting for some casual viewers. Naruto is set in a world where ninjas, magic/jutsu, and talking animals are the norm, and Attack on Titan is an action/horror shonen with steampunk technology and monstrous Titans. By contrast, Bleach gradually phases in its fanciful elements, and begins on a small scale.

The hero is Ichigo Kurosaki, a (mostly) ordinary high school student in a fictional Japanese city named Karakura Town. He can see ghosts, but that’s nothing too exotic. Later in the first episode, a petite back-robed young woman goes on the prowl at night, and she and Ichigo come face to face. She’s a Soul Reaper, and she’s hunting an evil spirit called a Hollow. Ichigo ends up borrowing Rukia’s powers, and defeats the hollow. Now he’s a proper action hero, complete with cool robes and a sword.

From this point on, the supernatural and fanciful elements are smoothly phased in, as Ichigo starts fighting a variety of Hollows and recruits new allies, such as the spirit archer Uryu Ishida. Along the way, Rukia explains to Ichigo (and the viewer) all about spirits, swords and the Soul Society. By the end of season 1, Rukia is arrested and taken back to heaven, the Soul Society, and Ichigo swears to go after her and rescue her. The Soul Society arc is one of the series’ best, explaining what makes this world tick. After that, the series moves to Hueco Mundo, the white desert world of the Hollows.

The stakes are upped when Rukia is arrested, and Ichigo storms the Soul Society (and faces its many dangers) to save her. Many battle scenes ensue, aand Ichigo faces not evil Hollows, but trained swordfighters with unique skills (as do his allies, like Uryu and Chad).

The plot shifts yet again when Captain Aizen outs himself as a traitor, and he schemes to conquer the world with the aid of unmasked Hollows. This, and Orihime Inoue’s abduction, sets Ichigo on a course to storm Hueco Mundo, the Hollow world. This isn’t just a rescue mission anymore; Ichigo is tasked with taking down Aizen in battle, for the sake of the entire world. The Soul Reapers are now his allies, and powerful unmasked hollows are his enemies. By the time Ichigo has triumphed over Aizen, Bleach has totally reinvented itself multiple times, always doing so in a smooth, successful manner.

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Bleach not only introduces anime newcomers to new worlds and animated monster fighting in style, but also features a massive cast of characters with nearly peerless diversity. There is a character for just about any viewer to identify with, from the bratty adolescent anti-hero Ichigo to his cheerful classmate Orihime Inoue to his bookish and high-strung rival Uryu, not to mention Ichigo’s goofy father Isshin and his little sisters. And that’s just a few of the human characters!

The anime also boasts a wide variety of Soul Reapers who cover many classic shonen tropes, from the brutish Kenpachi Zaraki to the insidious scientist Mayuri Kurotsuchi to the aristocratic and stern Byakuya Kuchiki. Many of these characters shift from villain to ally, and just in time for the real villains, the Arrancars, to show up. Inbetween juggernaut characters like Byakuya Kuchiki or Ulquiorra are lovable secondary cast members, such as the flirty and fun Rangiku Matsumoto and the sheepish Hanataro Yamada. Bleach‘s cast has it all: humans, Soul Reapers, evil spirits, heroes, villains, quirky loners, comic relief (like Kon) and more. This is a great way for any new anime fan to familiarize themselves with how anime likes to portray just about any character type, all in one series.

As a whole, Bleach offers a bit of everything anime is capable of, from comedy and drama to swordfighting, monster hunting and exotic new worlds, all in one package. That makes it an ideal starting point for any curious viewer who wants to see what the world of shonen anime can offer to action/adventure fans.

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Newcomers to shonen anime are encouraged to start with Bleach, since it's a staple of the genre and covers many of its best tropes.

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Batman Is BETTER than Superman – And He Knows It | CBR

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Shazam #12 by Jeff Loveness, Brandon Peterson, Mike Atiyeh and Rob Leigh, available now.

While Batman and Superman are close friends, there’s also an unspoken rivalry between the two. One is the most feared superhero on the planet, and the other is one of the most respected figures in the DC Universe. Superman and Batman represent two sides of the same coin: one is the bright hope meant to inspire the world from Metropolis, and the other is the Dark Knight who works in the shadows of Gotham City. While their methods and stories are usually as different as night and day, they also both fight to make the world a better, safer place.

This rivalry has been the source of many confrontations between the characters, both for fun and on a more serious note. The respect they have for one another makes them the World’s Finest — but they are also known to poke fun at each other. And such is the case in Shazam! #12, when Batman admits, once and for all, that he is better than Superman.

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Shazam! #12 takes a break from the current “Seven Magiclands” storyline to feature a special story taking place before the events of Shazam! #1. Here, we first find Billy Batson’s powerful alter ego, Shazam, taking on a villainous anthropomorphic Crocodile Man named Herkimer, which prompts Freddy Freeman to recognize that Shazam doesn’t really have good villains outside of Black Adam and Doctor Sivana — not like Batman, who has Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Bane and many, many more. Therefore, in an attempt to prove he’s ready to take on bigger villains, Billy flies to Gotham City.

Once he’s there, it doesn’t take him long to learn that Scarecrow is once again planning another attack on Gotham City. Shazam finds Crane in an abandoned warehouse, but the villain gets the drop on him and infects him with a dose of his fear gas.

Thankfully, Batman soon arrives to break Shazam free of the compound’s effects, and the two superheroes then join forces to take out the Scarecrow. Once the villain is defeated, Batman warns Billy that what he did was reckless. Billy understands that he messed up, and he apologizes. He explains that he just wants to help. And Batman then does something he rarely does: he goes easy on him, and tells him to take his time to become the superhero he wants to be.

RELATED: Shazam: How Did The DC Hero’s Greatest Foes Fuse Into Black Sivana?

Then, before they part ways, Billy says: “So… this count as a team-up?” Naturally, Batman answers that no, it isn’t a team-up. “Okay. sure,” Billy says in jest. “I get it. Fine. You only team up with Superman.” “Don’t be stupid,” Batman answers. “Superman teams up with me.” And with that, he jumps away.

The line is obviously meant as a jab at Superman, but it also highlights how Batman perceives his relationship with Superman. While the two of them are friends and Superman has all the superpowers of a Kryptonian, Batman still sees himself as the dominant force in their relationship.

It’s also worth noting that Batman is well aware that Shazam is really a child, and Batman seems to draw on his years of working with young heroes like Robin with this interaction. By telling Billy Batson this, Batman lets him in on a secret and validates Billy’s status as a trustworthy peer in the process. Even if Batman wasn’t being totally sincere, Billy Batson can still say he joked around with Batman, which a rare feat within the DC Universe.

The Dark Knight may just be a man, but moments like this show why so many — including Superman — consider Batman to be the greatest superhero in the DC Universe. And if his comments in this issue are any indication, Batman agrees.

KEEP READING: Batman Vs. Green Lantern: The FIERCE Justice League Rivalry, Explained

In Jeff Loveness and Brandon Peterson's Shazam! #12, a team-up between Billy and Batman leads the Dark Knight to say what he thinks about Superman.

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The Best All Ages Comics for Pride, from Lumberjanes to The Backstagers

In recent years, all ages comics and graphic novels have proven to be some of the best LGBTQ stories in the industry. Several of the most heart tugging and captivating titles are written or drawn by LGBTQ creators; meanwhile, other artists and writers have improved on queer representation, pulling away from tokenizing depictions and addressing LGBTQ stories in a more respectful, organic way. Whether queer kids want to see themselves in comics, parents wants to educate their childrens and themselves on LGBTQ matters or someone, regardless of age and sexuality, is in need of a good read, these stories will satisfy anyone.

One of the most popular all ages comics in recent years is Lumberjanes, and its positive reception is for good reason. Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types is not the average summer camp, with cryptid beasts and supernatural mysteries around every corner for the characters to uncover.

RELATED: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Set a New Standard for LGBTQ Rep

With a premise like this, the comic easily appeals to kids who adore the likes of Scooby Doo, Gravity Falls and Adventure Time. Furthermore, along with the characters being tons of fun, the cast includes several LGBTQ members, like Jo, who is the de facto leader and a transgender girl, Molly and Mal, the later two making an adorable couple. The creative crew behind this series, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke Allen, deliver on capturing the wonder of camp while also proving that accepting queer identities should be the norm for children and adults.

For Disney fans, this graphic novel captures the scale, romance and style of movies like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, but Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker has a queer twist. While Prince Sebastian’s parents are searching for a bride for their son, Sebastian is looking for a dressmaker for himself, and he meets Frances. Together, Frances helps Sebastian become Lady Crystallia, who is an overnight, fashion sensation.

RELATED: For Good LGBTQ Comics Rep, Look to Indies

Sebastian bounces between identifying as a girl and boy, and he finds empowerment and confidence in his femme identity of Crystallia. Sebastian is a genderqueer character, who challenges the gender binary, making him a role model for kids. His struggle to come out to his parents is relatable, and the end of the book, without spoiling it, is an excellent lesson for parents trying to better understand how to support their children’s identities. The comic is also a successful romance by developing the two characters as individuals first, and, in turn, their relationship is more engaging.

Bouncing back and forth between the past and present, the main timeline follows Mia as she becomes part of an intergalactic crew that repairs abandoned architecture throughout the stars; however, the past focuses on Mia’s romance in boarding school with another girl, making it the perfect graphic novel for space opera fans. Tillie Walden blends science-fiction with fantasy, creating a lore that leaves readers wanting to explore the deepest corners of this colorful galaxy. Furthermore, the writing endears fans to the crew of characters, making them feel like a part of this found family by the end of the book.

The comic also features only LGBTQ people, treating them as the norm, the same way many mainstream comics have treated straight people for decades. Along with this, the graphic novel addresses the microaggressions within the queer community with a supervisor invalidating Elliot’s non-binary identity. While the story shows how harmful misgendering someone can be, it also shows how important it is to stand up for those being invalidated, with Elliot’s friends standing up for them and explaining why misgendering someone is harmful, making it an educational and tear jerking read.

RELATED: Crowded: Why You Should Be Reading This LGBTQ Crime Comic

For a nostalgia trip, Heavy Vinyl delivers, making it perfect for The Powerpuff Girls and Totally Spies fans who want to share similar stories with their younger relatives. Carly Usdin’s writing captures the fun antics and embarassing moments of childhood, and Nina Vakueva’s pencils, Irene Flores and Lea Caballero’s inks and Natalia Nesterenko’s colors capture the youthfulness, puppy love and excitement of being a teen with this rock-n-roll girl gang.

Following a group of girls working at their local record store, readers can find a character that speaks directly to them, whether it’s the hyper femme Maggie, the goth hacker D, the music expert Kennedy or one of the others. Furthermore, the comic is full of love, with protagonist Chris trying to navigate her crush on Maggie, D attempting to play it cool around her local hero Carmen and the unfoldings of two long term relationships with Irene and Simone, as well as Kennedy and Logan.

After transferring to an all-boys school, Jory finds his home amongst the stage crew. While this comic acts as a great coming of age story with plenty of found family, as well as love, it also captures the magic that happens behind the scenes in theatre, literally. James Tynion IV blends realism and fantasy in a way that emulates the magic of friendship, love and theatre many techies find in real life.

Meanwhile Rian Sygh’s art and Walter Baiamonte’s colors show boys from all sorts of backgrounds being proud of who they are, regardless of looks or identity. The art work also embraces boys showing emotions, breaking away from the toxic masculinity depicted too often in popular media. The comic is perfect for the tech kids who feel unseen, as well as the D&D players who are able to create magic out of thin air.

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All age comics and graphic novels have seen a boom in amazing LGBTQ stories, and here are a few of the many greats to check out this Pride.