>It’s not a trade secret that one of the elements of being a movie/television critic is taking notes during your viewing so that you have a guideline to go off of when you write your official review. Most critics do this, I myself included — I’ve done it for just about every substantial review that I’ve written, but tonight, while watching the 5th season dual-premiere of AMC’s Comic Book Men I had my Note Pad app open on my Galaxy S5 as I always do, and at the end, it remained blank. In this instance, this a very good thing – from its first episode, Comic Book Men has always been a relatively self-explanatory series, and for the most part, its content has spoken for itself.
Last season, however, was received with a fair and justified backlash from fans of the series as it deviated from what the show was about – comic book nerds talking and trading comic books – and tending to shift more towards bringing the gang out of The Stash and taking them adventures. This wasn’t an entirely ludicrous concept, as the show has always had its fair share of outside gags and ventures, but when the execution turned out to be the Stash employees (and Brian) riding around Red Bank in an ice cream truck with Ernie Hudson and handing out comic books to disappoint little children, there was a clear indication the concept has been taken too far.
So it goes without saying that fans were expecting, or at the least, hoping for a return to the show’s original format this season, and it unquestionably delivered. This dual-premiere found the gang doing what they best – looking at, talking about, and engaging in commerce with comic books. It was refreshing to see Comic Book Men go back to basics and shifting its primary focus back to its series roots instead of diddling around with random, mostly cringe-worthy shenanigans, and it’s going to continue to be refreshing to see more of this in the coming episodes, assuming it keeps up.
There was some diddling, of course, but not enough to make one want to turn away or give the episode a thumbs down. The first episode “Wookie Fever” found Walt, Ming, Brian, and Mike having a costumed ‘Wookiee-Off’ to see who can make the best Wookiee call, in a contest judged by none other than Chewbacca himself, Peter Mayhew, with Brian winning the contest. This absurd and cheesey, but it was amusing to watch and it ate it the time nicely. The second episode was much more delightful – “Holy Zap Copter!” consists of more of your standard Comic Book Men fare, but also, as the title so eloquently hints it, Mike Zapcic getting to ride in the original 60s Batman Bat-Copter as a surprise gift from Walt and Ming as a celebration of his 15th anniversary at The Stash. This really was a great moment in the episode; Mike has always been a likeable guy, and it’s nice to see him get sucked back into his childhood and fly around the sky pretending to be Batman. You can almost see the passion and nostalgia ooze out of him on screen, and it’s bound to inspire some smiles, and maybe even some jealousy in the viewer.
“Wookie Fever” and “Holy Zap Copter!” were excellent returns to form for Comic Book Men. Part of the reason my notepad was empty by the end of the episodes was because I was simply enjoying too much to want to deter myself, which was a nice change of pace, with the overall presentation this time around not being so much of a scrambled mess. Comic Book Men is a simple show with a simple formula and that’s how it should stay. That’s when it’s good. So let’s raise our Infinity Gauntlets in hope that it stays that way.
OVERALL RATING (BOTH EPISODES): 8/10
Dylan Brandsema is a staff writer for Pop-Break specializing in film and television. When he isn’t writing reviews or spending too much analyzing the medium, he’s writing and directing his own independent films as well as drinking way too much soda. Currently at full-time film major at Full Sail University, Dylan eats, sleeps, and breathes everything related to the cinema. You can follow him on Twitter @SneakyOstrich69.