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Justice League – A Review

justice-league-posterIt’s fine. The movie is fine. It’s not great or as grand as a Justice League movie should be. It feels small, but not in an intimate way. It’s scale and tone reminded me of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. For a movie that cost as much as it did, I sure doesn’t look great. There’s a lot to dislike about the movie, but, for the first time in this non-solo Wonder Woman series, there’s some stuff to generally like.

After the face-slap that was Man of Steel and the so-dumb-I-feel-bad-for-it Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I pretty much retired any hope of ever enjoying these films. Some people like the darker tones, the hopeless characterization, the over-complicated plotting and maybe that’s a good thing. We don’t want every superhero movie to look and feel the same. I simply had to resign that, like Deadpool, these movies weren’t being made for me.

After Wonder Woman gave Warner Bros. their first great DC movie since The Dark Knight, I felt a bit better but could tell from the lead up and trailers that Justice League was going to be messy. Zach Snyder leaving for personal reasons and bringing in Joss Whedon to rewrite and reshoot seemed like a good way to mess up the joint. And messy it was! But, somehow, the worst feeling I had while watching it was boredom. The anger I used to feel has burnt out and maybe that’s due to the small amount of sunlight that’s allowed through all the sepia tone and CGI-smoke.

justice-equipo-960x480First, I suppose, the good. Ray Fisher came out of nowhere and impressed me as Cyborg. In fact, while watching his story, I kept wishing I was seeing the Cyborg movie already, because it would have to be more compelling than what I watching at the moment. I didn’t hate this version of Aquaman, despite being the bro-est bro of bro-dom. I look forward to being surprised by him in his own, solo movie. And Gal Gadot is still a Wonder Woman I would follow into battle. Oh! That reminds me! The fight in Themyscira was fun! And, when there was action on screen, it was entertaining, for the most part.

Now, for the rest. During any scene that there was no fighting, I was bored. And, hey, I’m not some action junky who needs people to shut up and punch! The conversations between these characters, Justice League members or not, felt like time killers or placeholders for the real script. There was always the element of humor laced in the lines, but nothing was able to be truly funny, except for Batman’s, “I don’t not” line.

1024x1024Ben Affleck’s Batman was less interesting this time around, lacking the fire of his previous performance. The Flash doesn’t really impress and I’m sure that’s due to the fact I’ve been watching a successful representation of the character weekly on the CW for three years now. And Superman, well, that character has been a wash since day one. They try to clean him up a bit, make him a beacon of hope and all, but it’s not enough. He’s still not a Superman I want to watch, even when using all his cool powers. These movies love showing off how strong he is, but the heart is never there.

I’ll say this, and I don’t want anyone thinking I like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice or think it’s even close to a good movie, but Justice League feels small in comparison. BvS felt like an event, albeit a dumb one. It’s tone, cinematography and over-dramatic dialog made it feel like an important, stupid moment in history. Justice League just sort of happens. A big, gray monster-man shows up and is going to make more CGI fire and smoke and some people get together. This doesn’t feel mythic or memorable. If anything, it feels like a preview for a real Justice League movie, with a full roster and characters who aren’t learning their powers or motivations.

warner-bros-2-1So, to summarize, Justice League is fine. It’s watchable and has some moments that make it worth the time. It’s not epic and it’s not a trendsetter, which is a shame. The Justice League deserve better, they deserve to have the best superhero movie, to put the Avengers to shame. This is a team with the biggest names in super-lore and I had hoped for a feeling of awe and insperation. But, that feeling never comes. Sometimes, during the movie, Batman and Superman’s classic musical scores of the past will play and I was reminded of the good feelings and pleasant memories I had for these characters. Unfortunately, I realized, nothing on screen was causing that to happen this time around.. If anything, those themes emphasize the lack of direction and identity this movie has, requiring past visions to guide the way.

I hope a Justice League sequel will be better and I hope the characters can rebuild from here. Whereas the continuity in the Marvel films feels like a boon, these DC movies suffer from it. Every time a movie comes out, I can’t shake the past these heroes are burdened with. You can lighten Superman up, but he still snapped a man’s neck. You can make Batman a team player, but he still loves his guns and shooting people. But, with Justice League, they’re now another step in a more enjoyable direction. I hope they can keep that momentum and get past this version I’ve had not interest in before. I hope I can enjoy future DC films. But, for the first time in a long time with these movies, at least I can hope.

Batman: The Animated Series and I, Twenty-Five Years Later

I was a bit too young to watch the Batman animated series as a kid, specifically on a regular basis. During it’s early years, anyway, I missed a lot of the show while it was airing. It wasn’t until its later Fox Kids years that I started catching the show after school.

6batmantaliaI remember seeing those episodes as a kid and them seeming so epic. There wasn’t a lot like it, until Gargoyles, that felt like an adult show I was getting away with watching. Those later episodes introduced me to Ra’s al Ghul and the forbidden romance between Batman and Talia, Killer Croc’s inability to reform and the Riddler’s obsessions. I still wasn’t able to watch the show on regular basis, but I knew it was out there and was telling stories that were cooler than any of the other shows I had been following. Images like Ra’s hand reaching out of the Lazarus Pit, Babydoll shooting a shattered mirror or that kiss between Batman and Talia have stuck with me for years.

When Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was released on VHS, my mom rented a copy for me. I don’t know how it all worked out but I ended up watching it alone one night when everyone was asleep. At the time, I couldn’t have been much older than seven and I knew instantly that I was getting away with something.

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As people were dying, kissing and dealing with these huge issues on screen, I kept checking to make sure no one was coming. If my mom saw a mobster getting crushed underneath a tombstone, that tape was going back to the video store pronto. When the Joker was on screen, it was terrifying but thrilling. The clown was killing people! Everything about that movie felt dangerous and it was an eyeopener for my young self. It might be one of the best movie experiences I’ve ever had.

Years later, when the show moved to the WB and became an after school block with the Superman animated series, it became something I watched religiously. That block became a refuge for me. I looked forward to getting to it on time after another terrible school day and it lasted until my parents came home and life became slightly less ideal.

pan12That rebooted version of the show, with it’s updated animation style, was the coolest show in the world for me. It introduced me to Nightwing, a Robin that I was actually jealous of and a Batgirl I would follow to the ends of the earth. Episodes like “Over the Edge”, “Mad Love”, “Growing Pains” and “Joker’s Millions” left huge impressions on me and influenced my view on all the characters. When I started reading Batman comics, starting with No Man’s Land, I was confused by any differences between the elements of the show and what was on paper. But, without the animated series, I would have never picked up the comic.

Batman Beyond and the Justice League series really deserve their own blog, as well as the Superman show. They all became important to me at different times in my life and kept the continuity started by the Batman animated series alive, as well as the character of Batman himself.

batman-the-animated-series-3I was finally able to watch all the episodes I had missed when the series was released onto DVD. Those collections were wonderful and I’ve watched through them multiple times, always excited to restart the series. It’s the easiest show in the world to binge because it’s quality is so high and the characters are so compelling. It’s also one of the few shows I watched as a kid that stands up to watching as an adult. This anniversary has given me the bug again but it’s not something I’ll fight. The show is a treasure to Batman fans. It introduced me to so much of that world and influenced my tastes in huge ways. No other Batman series has topped it in quality, even though Batman: Brave and the Bold found it’s own identity and works on it’s on level. Only Batman Begins has ever come close to being such a faithful adaptation. Twenty-five years later and the original 90s show still has all the vitality of a much younger series. It’s timeless, it’s iconic, it’s Batman.

The Death of Long Form Storytelling in Comics

26030872I just finished reading the third volume of Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange series and, so far, so good. Chris Bachalo’s art is a great fit for a Doctor Strange comic and he and Aaron made a good team while working on Wolverine and the X-Men a few years back.

But, what surprises me the most about this Doctor Strange comic is that we’re three volumes in and a fourth is on it’s way in October. While reading the first trade paperback, I assumed Aaron would be around for a least a second volume. After all, most series at least last for twelve issues to get that one-two-punch setup of two single volumes of trade paperback and, then, the later released “definitive” single edition.

Three volumes, though? With a fourth on the way? What’s with this extended storytelling? Who does Aaron think he is? Chris Claremont? (Chris Claremont is a comic book writer who wrote X-Men comics for seventeen years straight. You can get the joke now.)

Of course, I don’t really think of four volumes as an extended run but it’s not far off. Twelve issues seems to be the magic number for most series before they get the reboot and a new first issue. I’m sure that helps sales, as most people would be more willing to pick up a first issue rather than a thirty-second. But, I’ve begun to have setup fatigue.

439383-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_See, with every first or second issue, we need a setup. The writers have to explain why this new series is different than the previous series, even if it’s just one Hulk book from the next. Yes, last year’s Uncanny X-Men was about our heroes on the run in Antarctica, so we needed to reboot the series so we could place our heroes on the run in London. It’s different. And we have to spend forty four pages explaining why it’s different.

With DC Comic’s Rebirth event, it hit me harder than ever before. Wonder WomanThe Lies was fine and entertaining, but I’ve read so many first volumes and origin stories of Wonder Woman that I just couldn’t care anymore. The same thing goes for the new Justice League comic. Instead of a new story, I have to read six more issues of introductory action and be reminded who these characters are again and why Batman chooses to fight crime dressed as bat.

Team book, like the X-Men and Justice League, are the worst for this because each incarnation of the team has to have a reason to exist and a new lineup of heroes. I can’t count how many X-Men comics I’ve read that are just characters walking down halls, welcoming back Iceman for whatever new direction they’re going with. But, solo heroes still get annoying, with constant first issues of Batgirl leaping from buildings, talking about how much she loves being a hero. All reminder, no momentum.

51FM5Cut0PL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_What happens, with this setup fatigue, is I stop caring and I don’t let myself get invested. It’s partly because these stories have little overlap and almost none of them carry over. Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men comes back to mind because that lasted for a while, filling up eight volumes. That’s one heck of a run in these days. But, as soon as the series was over, almost all the work that he was doing with Wolverine as a character was ignored. Series that run for less time are even worse investments. Iron Man is obsessed with rebuilding his company’s name in one series, two months later he couldn’t care less in the reboot. Why should I care for one setup when the other is one the way?

What we lose is a sense of purpose, that these stories matter. Villains no longer have plans, they simply attack because it can fill two issues with action. Subplots are largely ignored. Not to keep singing the praises of Wolverine and the X-Men, but over the course of that series, Jason Aaron was able to tell lots of small stories throughout. There was a time, such as with Chris Claremont’s X-Men run, where you could have Mastermind working in the background for a year and still not reveal is full plan to drive Jean Grey insane.

1157943-av1Maybe superhero comics aren’t going to be that type of story anymore. Brian K. Vaughan rarely writes comics that don’t last ten trade paperbacks. Fables, by Bill Willingham, lasted for twenty two volumes and spin-off titles. Sure, Scott Snyder wrote on the New 52’s Batman for the whole run, but he’s also been writing American Vampire for years.

Times have changed and I don’t mean to sound like I want “the good old days” back (I least hate thinking I sound old). I just want good stories. Comics are episodic with many having no end in sight. But, when we’re constantly starting over, that lack of ending is getting exhausting. It has to do with the fact many comics used to run hundreds of issues, so we just went along for the ride. Imagine going on a road trip for two days and how enjoyable it could be with no traffic and some great music. Now, imagine being on that road trip and the driver keeps stopping the car every hour, turns around and goes back twenty minutes and pick a new route. You have to repeat the music too. Also, I think he keeps slamming on the brakes for no reason. Dad’s are the worst.

Batman and Harley Quinn – A Review

batman-harley-quinn-2dI haven’t written about a DC Animated Movie in a while. I liked Batman: Assault on ArkhamJustice League Dark and the second half of Batman: The Killing Joke. But everything else has left little impression on me. I miss the days of adaptations that brought different styles to each film, like All Star Superman or Wonder Woman. The new continuity driven films are stuck with boring stories and uninspired voice casting.

Considering my disdain for the Suicide Squad’s take on Harley Quinn, I wasn’t surprised by my lack of interest in this new entry. But, when I looked up pictures of Batman and Harley Quinn, I found myself getting excited. It looks like the WB years of The Batman Animated Series! They got Kevin Conroy back as Batman and they brought Loren Lester out of mothballs to play Nightwing! Wow! And Bruce Timm is involved? I’m back in, baby!

The biggest mistake I made with that excitement was actually seeing the movie.  I should have watched my dvds of the animated series or read a new Batman comic. Instead, I drove ninety minutes to the nearest theater showing the movie and saw what poison (ivy) can do to nostalgia.

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Batman and Harley Quinn doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be. Sometimes, it’s trying to be call back to the great, genre-defining show of the 90s. Sometimes, it’s wants to be the Adam West Batman show with the old cartoon’s setting. Sometimes, it wants to be a comedy. Sometimes, it wants to be a lost episode of Justice League Unlimited. Most times, it’s just bad.

As a comedy, it falls so flat you’d have to think it’s intentionally not being funny. Barely any jokes land and the ones that do are stretched out too far. Melissa Rauch plays Harley Quinn almost as a parody of the Arleen Sorkin. It’s a DOA portrayal, living in the same space of the original character but not breathing the same air. I’d be willing to accept it’s not Rauch’s fault though, as the writing is lazy throughout the whole movie.

Really, Batman and Harley Quinn is a shadow the 90s show, taking the goodwill from the past twenty years and punishing us for it. It makes me wonder if Bruce Timm isn’t as talented as I thought he was. Maybe, he needed all those other writers and artist to keep him from raveling in his inherent tackiness.

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We spend far too long in a dive bar with a bunch of extras, watching two twins sing “Don’t Pour Your Love” on stage, only for Harley to then do the same thing with “Hanging On the Telephone“. And, both songs are played in their entirety, because this movie is looking to waste as much time as possible.

The animation looks cheap throughout and closeups are worse. It really does look like a lazy episode of a cartoon from twenty years ago, if that was it’s intention, I don’t know what was. The ending is a dud, but, by then, what was I expecting? The whole affair can’t decided if it’s for adults or kids and is never fun for either. Considering that the 90s show did the whole thing better with “Harlequinade”, it’s hard to understand why anyone thought this movie needed to happen. There were no extra scripts lying around?

Look, if this is canon, I won’t accept it. I’m going to be unreasonable about this for the rest of my life. I’ve long ago said goodbye to the DC Animated Universe of old and I don’t need more of it in my life. Batman and Harley Quinn made sure of that by being the Superman: Braniac Attacks of it’s series. I won’t mourn again.

All the Books Show: Episode 93 – Wonder Woman

One more week and we’re right on schedule!

This episode we talk about the history of Wonder Woman, her comics and media representations. It’s a geeky episode, but Wonder Woman is cool so it’s all good!

ww1chiangI really did end up loving the Brian Azzarello run of Wonder Woman comics. It started off rocky and the weirdness of all it put me off. I think the problem was, when it was released, it was so different than the other stories being published in the New 52 and I was looking for anything to make sense during that terrible time. But the second volume really won me over and now I think it’s one of the best series they’ve done and my favorite run of the character. You just have to read it like a Vertigo title, or an Elseworld story.

Did we leave your favorite Wonder Woman story out? Favorite episode of the old Justice League cartoon? Let me know!

You can follow us on Soundcloud, Youtube or iTunes and even Twitter! I’m sure there’s another, cool platform I’m forgetting but you can follow us on that too!

See you next week, podcats!

Wonder Woman – A Review

wwposter5It’s insane to me that Warner Bros. and DC Comics took seventy-five years to make a Wonder Woman movie. In that time, they’ve made movies for Steel, Jonah Hex, Catwoman, Supergirl, Constantine, the Suicide Squad and yes, I chose the bad ones to point out. I mean, they had a Lobo film in the works before they had a final script for their premier heroine.

But, the movie is here, so we can (but probably not for long) move on from that fact. Let’s focus on the film instead.

I had hesitancy about the movie leading up to seeing it. After all, Man of Steel made me rage until I had destroyed all the love in my life. (old blog, please come back to this one). Batman V. Superman was so dumb I just felt bad for it. And though Wonder Woman was a highlight in that movie, anything remotely NOT dumb would have been a relief during that two and a half hours.

But I was pleasantly surprised. For first two thirds of the movie, Wonder Woman is the film I wanted for years. The first third, which takes place in Themyscira, is great and the island itself feels exactly right. The Amazons have a Spartan vibe, without the machismo, and feel like a real society, even if our time with them isn’t that long. The action scenes that take place there have a 300 vibe, but those scenes are done with confidence and not in way that wears our patience.

Steve Trevor, as played by Chris Pine, is likable and charming, but he’s got an edge to him and also comes across as more progressive than his World War I society. The chemistry between him and Gal Gadot is on point and there’s some great interplay between the two early on.

The action is great. I think, like Captain America, we sometimes forget how strong Wonder Woman really is. But, unlike the First Avenger, Wonder Woman’s powers are big league. She can topple buildings, toss trucks and wreck through soldiers as she goes for jog. When her full powers are on display, such as the terrific charge through the front lines that ends the first half of the movie, she really is a full blown super hero.

ww-11802rv21But Wonder Woman is more than just a set of powers and lassos and bracelets. Gal Gadot is, and I don’t want to understate this, fantastic. For years, I thought Wonder Woman would be one of the hardest characters to cast, but I can’t imagine anyone doing the job better than her. There are times when I could of sworn the character walked right out the comics. She’s inspiring, she’s dangerous, she’s funny, smart, naive, she’s stubborn but for the right reasons. When she speaks, you believe her. When she charges into battle, you want to follow her. Gadot embodies the character in such a defining way that it feels iconic before the movie is even over.

wonder-womanAnd now, with all that praise, here comes my critique and my struggle to not spoil anything. And that’s hard, because my problem with the film, is in the third act and might qualify as a twist. For a long time, the movie seems like it’s going one way and it works. Characters are learning lessons, humanity is getting called out for being the worst species to ever walk the earth and it feels right. But, they need a big action scene to end with and after we’ve seen what a tank Wonder Woman is, the stakes have to be raised. The final confrontation is so fantastical and out there, it almost feels like it’s betraying the rest of the excellent movie that came before it. Actually, the excellent animated movie with Keri Russel might have hurt the live action’s take on the confrontation. It’s not a deal breaker, it doesn’t make the movie a bad film, but I feel like a stronger third act could have put this movie up there with Spider-Man 2, X2: X-Men United and Batman Begins.

But, please, don’t take my issues with the finale to indicate I don’t like the movie. It was great, should be seen and I look forward to watching it again. To meet expectations seventy-five years in the making is a daunting task, but Patty Jenkins was up to the challenge and delivered. This was the first live action DC movie I loved since the Dark Knight way back in 2008.

 

Batman and Robin Volume 6 – A Review

I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Batman and RobinThis is the first time I’ve read this title and actually enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because Damian is only seen as a corpse, which means he’s silent. I think a big part of it is that I’ve always liked globe-trotting Batman tales, and I like the guest stars we have in this volume. What comes across as a pleasant surprise, though it shouldn’t, is that Batman isn’t a jerk to everyone he meets. Sure, he’s his normal Batman-self when it comes to people telling him what to do, but he almost seems cordial when talking to Aquaman or Frankenstein. The latter is just fun to see any day.

Ra’s is up to his old tricks again, which is fine, but I wish he would go back to doing some big villain plotting again and give us a break from the Lazarus Pits for a while. Batman is out to find the bodies of his son, Damian and his ex-girlfriend/villain Talia. He’s focused, as he is wont to be, but it’s not a focused that makes him insufferable. He’s downright relatable.

The final issue, with Batman sneaking into the Justice League Watchtower and going to a big, bad place is fun and it was nice to see him to so without coming across better than all heroes on Earth. For once, while reading this book, I want the next volume. And maybe I’ll go back to the books I skipped. Am I just a sucker for fun art? Maybe, but I think Peter Tomasi actually has stepped up his game.

Gotham Academy Volume 1 – A Review

I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gotham Academy I’m all over the place with this book. It’s fun, moody and has a much-needed playful tone that Gotham City lacks. On the other hand, there seems like some missed opportunities and undefined character work.

Olive Silverlock is the best part of this book because she legitimately comes across as a worldly teen. She has a great design, a cool back story and I’d like to follow her story more. I hope DC doesn’t screw this up and make her into a Justice League sidekick that gets killed someday.

Gotham Academy is an interesting place. Looking right at home in Gotham city, it feels old and not the best place for kids to be sleeping. It almost comes across as a refurbished Arkham Asylum. Sure, it’s a prep school, but it’s extra creepy when we get inside the walls.

The story itself is akin to Harry Potter and might just appeal to the same crowd. Powers aren’t really on display here, but you get some weirdness anyway. There’s a few other characters, plus Gotham’s own Batman, that are likable, but not all the characters shine. Olive’s ex-boyfriend comes across as empty and more of a plot device than a person, and the faculty are missed opportunities.

Not the Ridller

Not the Ridller

Which is where my gripes come into play. Sure, we should have new characters and histories, but I wanted some Bat-related elements. When I read the first page, I thought the headmaster was Ra’s al Ghul and then I was swiftly corrected. But it keeps happening! The librarian looks like the Riddler but he isn’t and all I could think was wouldn’t it be cool if this was some sort of school where the Riddler was your librarian, where the Scarecrow is the school counselor and where wood shop is taught by the Ventriloquist. Obviously, it would be a completely different book, but I think it would have done it for me.

Either way, this is an interesting new title for the DC universe and it’s especially welcomed in Gotham City. We already added it to the library’s collection and I’ll be interested to see how well it does with our patrons, teens especially.

DC Universe Animated Original Movies

I’ve been planning to do this for a while and since I finally sat down and watched Justice League: War, I figured now is as good of time as any to review all the DC Universe Animated Original movies. There have been a lot of good and not-so good moments in this line, so let’s see how they all stand up.

Superman: Doomsday
Considering how jarring this was to watch at when it came out, it being the first DC animated project outside of the DC Animated Universe, I was surprised by how much I liked the movie. Once I got past the different (but still miscast) voices, I found this an enjoyable, action packed Superman story. It has four villains and never feels crowded (a skill these movies actually share), strong animation and condenses the long, complicated Death of Superman story into a short seventy minute movie.
Filed Under: Good

Justice League: The New Frontier
This movie wants to work but the elements never quite come together. I love the concept and the setting, the designs of the characters and even the voice acting. But the plot and final act seem to collapse on themselves. When the main villain shows up, the movie loses all momentum, which is too bad since that’s when the big fight happens and the action kicks into gear. I suppose it would be hard to make an evil, living island compelling, so I’ll give the producers some slack. If the movie had the same nostalgic, retro feel throughout, it would be better. But in reality, it is not to be.
Filed Under: Meh

Batman: Gotham Knight
The first Batman movie in this series and the first bad one as well. I was excited for this before it was released, but it doesn’t work at all. You have six, unconnected stories, set in the Dark Knight movie universe, all with different anime styles and every one seems to be as boring as the next. Many of the stories have the “been there, done that” feel damaging them, especially with the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini show still in memory. It might be that western attempts at mimicking eastern animation result in boring material, it might be that Christopher Nolan’s universe doesn’t translate to animation, it might be a lot of factors. But this movie was a let down and one I’ve yet to rewatch.
Filed Under: Bad

Wonder Woman
This is one of the best DC Animated movies. Focusing on Diana’s origin and first encounter with Man’s World, the story is a tightly plotted action movie with more humor than the previous installments. Wonder Woman’s warrior skills are on full display here as she kicks mythological butt and battles Ares, who is perfectly cast as Alfred Molina. Actually, the whole movie is the first of these films to feel like it nailed the voice acting. unfortunately, the DVD sales were slow at first, so Warner Brothers canceled any chances of a sequel. In hindsight, I wonder if they realize how stupid that move was since it’s gone on to be one of its highest selling movies, above all their Justice League offerings.
Filled Under: Good

Green Lantern: First Flight
This, along with the live action movie, really hampered my getting into the comics. While this DVD doesn’t suffer from repeated stories like Gotham Knights, it is bland. There’s nothing really interesting about this story, which is too bad given its Training Day comparisons. The characters never pop, the actions never sizzles, and the only moment that really works is when Sinestro turns at the beginning of the last act. This is disappointing, since Lantern really needs as much positive exposure as he can get after Ryan Reynolds.
Filed Under: Meh

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies: After five movies of having to adjust to new voice actors, they finally threw a bone to long time fans and brought back Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy. It really did add a lot to this movie, which is great on its own. The animation style is hard to take seriously, and Power Girl is the stupidest character to use, especially in a world with Supergirl. But without those quibbles, the rest is a fun, action powerhouse with great back and forth between the heroes and a perfect Clancy Brown chewing the scenery as Lex Luthor. I watch this when ever I need a pick me up because it just puts a smile on my face.
Filed Under: Good

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
The second Justice League offering and it’s not a winner. CoTE comes complete with uninspired voice casting, bland animation, one heck of a boring story and completely unforgettable action. The one redeeming quality that keeps this from going into the ‘bad’ listing is James Woods as Owlman. His nihilism caused by the knowledge of the multiverse is perfectly translated through the actor and his moments against Batman work well. Maybe if this had been used as a bridge between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited like planned, it would have been better.
Filed Under: Meh

Batman: Under the Red Hood
I did not expect to like this movie. It’s based on a comic I don’t love, the last Batman animated movie was terrible and they Bender Bending Rodriguez doing the voice for the Joker. So, color me surprised when I finally watched the movie and found that it was great. It improves upon the original comic by changing the most problematic elements, it has multiple villains with enough room to breathe, terrific action and the final act is just boiling over from all the pressure. The first animated Batman movie to show that there’s life after Bruce Timm.
Filed Under: Good

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Considering how much I enjoy(ed) the first Superman/Batman movie, I had high hopes for this one. unfortunately, those expectations were not to be matched and this film falls under apart quickly. They somehow made Supergirl a boring character, made Doomsday a non-threat and spent WAY too long on Apokolips (that’s just a ridiculous spelling). I don’t know why they bothered calling this a Superman/Batman story as the Bat is barely in the movie and Superman isn’t much better off. The last fight that is Superman and Supergirl vs. Darkseid is overlong and pointless and is only there to satisfy action junkies. Too bad, considering the first film.
Filed Under: Bad

All-Star Superman
I’m willing to except that this movie isn’t for everyone. It’s weird and it draws from Superman’s entire history, as well as focusing on his most bizarre scifi elements. But I love this movie. To be fair, I loved the comic as well but this movie did a great job at adapting the story. All the little moments in the film are great; from the date between Supes and Lois to the tour of the Fortress of Solitude. This Lex Luthor is great as he goes on an evil, superpowered journey to finally kill Superman. This isn’t an action packed take on the character but a thoughtful look at one of pop culture’s greatest icons. Not to be missed, even if you disagree with me on the greatness of the movie.
Filed Under: Good

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
It may have taken a horrible live action movie to make this, but it’s almost worth it. Emerald Knights is the first good Green Lantern movie (and maybe the last). With a slightly anime style and a frame setup, we get a look at all the different aspects of being a Lantern. This movie proves that the Green Lantern Corps could be on equal footing with Star Wars if it was ever handled right. Laira’s story is probably the best of the bunch and it’s a shame she isn’t a prominent character in the comics. A lot of these stories have an epic feel to them and the action feels like a full blockbuster. It’s fun and huge in scope and should win over those who aren’t so sure about Green Lantern.
Filed Under: Good

Batman: Year One
This was a strange choice to me, though I understand wanting to cover the landmark comic. But, in almost every way, Batman Begins is an adaption of this story and Mask of the Phantasm showed a lot of this as well. I would think, post-2005, we’d move past Batman’s origins. But Bruce Timm loves Miller’s work and it’s not a bad story if you’re going to revisit it. The results are faithful, though redundant, hourish movie. Everything is decent in the film, from the animation to the voice acting, but nothing ever jumps out as incredible and I’m not sure how many people would be interested in this anymore.
Filed Under: Meh

Justice League: Doom
I was actually excited for this movie. It had the old animated series crew coming back for voices and it was based on the Tower of Babel story from the Justice League comics. But then they recast Ra’s al Ghul with the bland Vandal Savage, took out Aquaman for Cyborg (a tactic that would come up again) and made the movie more like a version of the Superfriends. All of Batman’s plans for taking out the League pale in comparison to his comic book contingencies. The rest is boring, with Savage having neither motive (they League might be a problem, someday, maybe) or method (oh no, a rocket). It really is a shame, because the source material was ripe for an adaptation but the end product wasn’t up to the task. Another wasted Justice League attempt.
Filed Under: Meh

Superman vs The Elite
You know, from the previews and the awkward character designs, I was sure this movie was another dud. And for the first act or so, the movie doesn’t do much. The Elite are a bunch of losers with powers and Superman seems to be the butt of a joke. But then the Elite go too far and the movie becomes an intelligent character study as well as a discussion on Superman’s place in modern comics. Should all superheroes be written as seriously as the Ultimates, Authority and Watchman? Is there any room left for heroes who don’t believe in killing? In a world like ours, with movies like Man of Steel, this animated movie makes strong cases for old school, super ethics and shows what a Superman with no rules really looks like and why we don’t really want heroes like the Elite. Unless you loved Man of Steel. Then I have no help to give your poor, lost soul.
Filed Under: Good

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
The last Bruce Timm effort in these original animated movies and he goes out with a bang. Adapting one the most classic Batman movies and going all out for it, DKR is a massive story. Originally, the movie was split into two parts, but patient people like me waiting for the release of a supercut combining the films. It’s now as long as a live action piece and as meaty as the comic, though without the narration. With an excellent, 80’s score and appropriate voice casting, the movie looks and sounds like something from both the past and the future. This might not be for everyone but it’s one of the most ambitious projects out of these movies and a fitting end for Bruce Timm’s involvement.
Filed Under: Good

Superman: Unbound
Oh boy. This was is DULL. I don’t know how they did it, but this movie failed to entertain completely. I don’t understand how Superman is unbound in this either. Brainiac has never been less interesting, Supergirl underused and Superman’s voice actor forgettable. This is one of those movies you have to think really hard about afterwards just to remember it exists, like something out of The Graveyard Book. There is far superior interactions between Superman and Brainiac elsewhere so skip this if you’re someone who can skip these kinds of things. People like me? We get stuck enduring crap because of some personal defect.
Filed Under: Bad

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.
And so, the New 52 breaks into film, joining DC’s comic book continuation and leaving the old world and reality behind. But, where Flashpoint was an unimpressive comic borrowing too much from Age of Apocalypse, this movie feels bigger and far more interesting. The action scenes are huge and full of characters not seen since the JLU ages. It’s also nice to see the first Flash centered movie, even if he has to get paired with Batman to do so. It’s sometimes too gruesome for its own good, as if it’s trying to prove something but the action is impressive. I wish Barry’s mother was a bigger part of the story rather than just the reason, but the emotion isn’t completely lost between the characters and the climax is exciting. Too bad it brought about the New 52.
Filed Under: Good

Justice League: War
And now we come to the first New 52 adaptation. It doesn’t look like classic stories that have stood the test of time are up for movies anymore but instead we get to watch animated version of mediocre comics that haven’t even stood the test of this time. The first Justice League story in the New 52 was shaky and lacking, focusing on big action scenes and characters that are more jerks than heroes. The movie is about the same, with lots of repetitive fighting, character being mean to one another for no reason, and a completely wasted Darkseid who goes from would-be conqueror to JL punching bag. There are moments when the movie is funny and I almost wish they had gone for complete comedy over what we got. I’m sure there’s plenty that liked this, but it’s not for me; weak voice acting, animation that can’t make up its cultural mind (just pick a coast) and characters who are just too cool and mature to be taken seriously.
Filed Under: Bad

So, there you have it, a complete rundown of all the DC Animated Original movies, and my own personal commentary on all of them. I’m sure plenty will disagree with me as taste will vary. I found half of them to be good, six to be dull and uninspiring and four to be downright bad. I don’t know what the future holds, but if Justice League: War is any indication, I’m not too thrilled to find out. Batman and Son does not look like something I want to watch since I hate Damian Wayne. And the idea of more Justice League movies does not do it for me anymore. I don’t know if they’ll ever go back to non-New 52 stories like The Long Halloween and Sinestro Corps War, so I guess I’ll keep checking their next release plans with hope in my heart.

Eric’s Favorites!
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Wonder Woman
Batman: Under the Red Hood
All-Star Superman
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

The Comics that Made Me a Marvel Fan

Having just talked about the differences I see between Marvel and DC comic books, I started thinking about what comics helped form my fandom. I didn’t just start out as a Marvel fan and go from there. There were certain books and characters that brought me to where I am today. These comics were the ones that won me over!

Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men
31526These were the first comic books I ever read. In 2000, the X-Men movie was coming to theaters. I had only ever seen a few episodes of the old animated series in the 90s, but I remembered enjoying them. My library had a small, but respectable graphic novel section back then and they had the first three volumes of Essential X-Men, each including about two years worth of issues. I devoured these books. Claremont’s run on the X-Men still stands as my favorite era of the X-Men. I know fans like to point to Days of Future Past and The Dark Phoenix Saga as the best parts of his time on title, but I don’t think the other stories get enough credit. Wolverine and Nightcrawler going against the Wendigo, the Brood Saga, the first few fights between the new X-Men and Magneto, Proteus and Alpha Flight, these tales are what got me into comics. Back when I started, I knew nothing about these characters and I was discovering things as I read these early issues. After a few years, when I had searched across the internet and encyclopedias, I had learned all the stories and secrets and the older stories had less appeal, but I never stopped loving this run. With Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Kitty Pryde and Rogue as the main cast and my favorite team, these brought me into a whole new world.

I could go on forever about the X-Men, but I’ll hold myself back. To get back to my main point, this series and run got me into comic books and that was the first step to becoming a Marvel fan.

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Stan Lee’s Amazing Spider-Man
The same library that had the first three volumes of Essential X-Men also had six volumes of Essential Spider-Man. While I was really only interested in the X-Men, I figured I’d give Spider-Man a try. Where as Chris Claremont’s X-Men was during the late seventies, Stan Lee’s Spider-Man was at the dawn of the Silver Age in the early sixties. It didn’t have the large, ensemble cast of the X-Men, but it had superheroics at it’s early best. Spider-Man was a constant drama that kept me interested in Peter Parker’s social life as much as his hero career. It was fun seeing all his villains come into their identities and seeing the best of superhero cliches form on the page.

The X-Men tend to hang out on the fringe of the Marvel universe, but Stan Lee’s Spider-Man introduced me to it properly. This was the series that not only introduced me to the title character and his supporting cast, but also to the Human Torch and the Avengers. This showed me there was a world beyond the X-Men, and one even beyond Spider-Man.

Frank Miller’s Daredevil
20912I started reading Frank Miller’s legendary run on Daredevil a few weeks after I saw the movie. At the time, I really enjoyed the film. It was only the fourth Marvel film I had seen back in February 2003, so standards were still being formed. But it did get me reading the character and Daredevil became a quick favorite of mine. Miller introduced me to a a darker side of the Marvel universe; one that was grittier and street level. This wasn’t the world of super powered mutants or the skyscraper battles of Spider-Man; this was the life of a blind superhero who’s villains were above the law and hid in the shadows. Daredevil’s problems weren’t social, they were psychological and the women in his life were out to kill him. At times, he felt like Marvel’s answer to Batman, but he was different on many levels that he stood strong on his own. I read every thing Frank Miller wrote with the character and loved the worst of them.

Daredevil was the beginning of my alliance. He was another character that I enjoyed, in the Marvel universe, and the world was getting bigger all the time.

21243Joe Kelly’s Deadpool
I almost decided not to mention Deadpool because, when I started reading him, he was still considered a character that belonged to the X-Men line. He’s since ventured out to have his own place in the Marvel universe and he brought me along with him. I bought the entire run of Joe Kelly’s work on the character in one purchase and I read the whole thing in a week’s time. Spider-Man was funny, but Deadpool was hilarious. This was the first comic that made laugh so hard that I cried. But it was also dark and treated Deadpool like a real character who was trying his best to be a hero, even though he would never reach that rank. The character has since become more of a joke machine than a real person, but Joe Kelly made Deadpool a layered, flawed and laugh out loud character.

Deadpool showed me that the Marvel universe was goofy at times and not afraid to make fun of itself. I still haven’t read a DC comic that can make laugh as much as Joe Kelly’s Deadpool did.

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Dan Slott’s She-Hulk
I started reading this run on the character because of the rave reviews and I kept reading it because they were right. This book had the humor of Deadpool with the Silver Age flavor of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man. Taking place in a superhuman law firm, Dan Slott made me a fan of She-Hulk, who was fun, strong and and smart enough to win her cases in court. With guest stars from every reach of Marvel, I also discovered some Z-list characters I had never heard of before.

This was another series that expanded my view of the Marvel universe, showing me the scope of characters as well as tone, and helping me understand the difference between camp and fun.

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Fabian Nicieza’s Thunderbolts
This was the first time I read a comic book based off of characters I had no connection to; Deadpool was from X-Men, Spider-Man is known by all, and She-Hulk is the cousin of my favorite Jade Giant. But the Thunderbolts were made up of a bunch of villains I hadn’t heard of before! Blizzard? Atlas? Songbird? A non-Simpson’s Radioactive Man? But the first year of Nicieza’s rebooted run on the Thunderbolts was classic in tone, with the heroes finding themselves with their backs against the wall. What I loved back then was that they were villains trying to make good and the concept was new to me (since I had yet to read Suicide Squad).

Thunderbolts proved that I could enjoy a variety of Marvel comic books. Not only about superheroes, but the bad guys that inhabited the universe. Thunderbolts (with the help of She-Hulk) gave me a foothold for the weirder concepts of Marvel, for less than popular characters and for the tone and atmosphere of the modern Marvel landscape.

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Mark Millar’s Civil War
Up until this comic, I was still very selective about which comic books I was reading. But after the Marvel Civil War, I was trying to read everything. This was the first major comic book crossover that I read, outside of the X-Men line. It introduced me to the modern versions of Iron Man and Iron Man, got me reading series like the Punisher and Moon Knight, made me interested in Black Panther and Thor, and got me picking up titles I had dropped like Spider-Man and the New Avengers. The concept of Marvel heroes going against each other over identity rights changed everything and set the universe up for a very focused story arch. When the smoke cleared, I was ready to expand my horizons to characters I had never heard of and try new things. I was in the trenches of Marvel.

Unfortunately, I can’t get into every comic that helped make me a Marvel fan. I didn’t mention The Ultimates, which got me into the Avengers cast, or Ultimate Spider-Man, which grew with me, or any of the Hulk, Exiles, Runaway, Doctor Strange or Young Avengers  comics I was getting into, or the mini-series like Infinite Gauntlet, Annihilation, Age of Apocalypse or Marvel 1602. The point I tried to make is there are certain, landmark titles that helped create the Marvel fan inside of me, and many more that kept me that way.

Make Mine Marvel!