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2016 Superhero Movie Reviews!

So this dumpster fire of a year is coming to a close, which means it’s time for lists! Yes, the Internet loves best of and worst of lists and year end retrospectives and whatnot as much as it loves cats, pornography, and gorillas (for some fucking reason). So I figured I would toss my hat in the ring and give you my thoughts on all the comic book movies that were theatrically released this year (chronologically) and grade them.  Let us begin:

February 12th

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Deadpool

It’s pretty good…

Sorry, I’m not going to jump this movie’s bones like the rest of the Internet. Yes, I thought Ryan Reynolds was perfect casting. And yes, there were some fantastic jokes that landed so hard they made me short of breathe from laughter. And yes, the big action sequences (both of them) were outstanding considering the budget the filmmakers were working with. But just like the titular character’s comic counterpart, Deadpool got on my nerves after a while.

I’ve been a longtime reader of Deadpool comics and the character is always more interesting when he’s playing second fiddle to just about anyone else (i.e. Cable and Deadpool; Deadpool vs. Hawkeye). I’ve always felt like there isn’t enough well-defined pathos to really make you give a shit about Wade Wilson enough, let alone watch him carry a film by himself. But despite that sentiment, Deadpool worked and was surprisingly energetic with a romance story that didn’t make me want to bash my face against the wall of a Hallmark Greeting Cards store.

Hopefully Deadpool 2 will do a great job with Cable. I feel like that groundwork for that relationship has already been laid with all the bits featuring Colossus. So…more of that, please.

Final Grade: B+

 

March 25th

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Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

No. Just no.

Every inane “plot point” in this superhero abortion has been argued over by smarter men than I. If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of what I think about BvS, get a few beers in me and tell me you actually liked.

This movie sucks on a level I never knew existed.

Final Grade: F

 

May 6th

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Captain America: Civil war

I already touched on this movie before, and dammit, I like it. I the introduction of both Black Panther and Spider-Man felt natural and while the latter character’s presence was by no means necessary, it didn’t detract from the film. If anything, Spidey popping up felt like a nice little reprieve from the looming chaos that was about to ensue.

I don’t think this is my favorite Marvel flick thus far (that honor still belongs to Guardians of the Galaxy), but it’s definitely in the top 5. Also this cover…

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…it became real. And it was breathtaking.

Final Grade: A

 

May 27th

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X-Men: Apocalypse

Unlike most critics and the majority of my friends, I didn’t hate this movie. I actually kinda dug it. All the silly shit that made me love the ‘90s X-Men animated series as a kid was there: goofy costumes, bad jokes, lasers and shit, etc. X-Men: Apocalypse did what I never thought the X-Men movies would do, and it embraced the absolute absurdity of this franchise. But it did so without this…or this… I’m not going to say this a perfect film. Hell, there were a lot of things that were flat out dumb, but this one felt like a real deal X-Men team film and that final shot-

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Yeah that one – made me squeal in the theater. JUST LOOK AT THOSE COSTUMES! I enjoyed this movie so much, I even wrote an op-ed on it.

Final Grade: B

 

June 3rd

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

You know, as a man in my early 30s who grew up on Ninja Turtles, I was super excited to see this movie. The first film in this franchise didn’t do much for me(aside from a badass Splinter & Shredder brawl), but the trailers for this sequel promised a movie that should have knocked it out of the park.

I was getting a “live action” Boobop, Rocksteady, and Krang (fucking KRANG!) for the first time ever, Casey Jones was popping up, and the Shredder looked like he was going to be an actual character instead of some random guy who jumps inside of a giant robot. Well, TMNT: OOTS (by the way, this movie will forever be known as Oots) delivered on those promises in the same way an alcoholic parent promises to get you a new bike for Christmas but instead they bring home a Radio Flyer missing a couple wheels that they fished out of dumpster behind a TGI Fridays and they force you to take it out for a spin on Christmas morning (there’s eggnog to drink and they don’t need to be bothered by your constant crying).

Look, what I’m trying to say is this movie sucked.

Final Grade: D

 

July 25th

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Batman: The Killing Joke

This one hurt. I am a HUGE Alan Moore fan, and while I think The Killing Joke is one of his lesser works, it is an important piece of Batman history.

But do we need an adaptation? Not now, we don’t. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, adapting this very slim one-shot graphic novella into a half hour TV special would have make a huge splash and shocked audiences, but padding it out to feature length with an awkward sex scene and a boring B plot regarding gangsters Batgirl is investigating just make the whole thing a big mess that is equal parts tiring and trite. What saddens me further is that one of my favorite comic writers working today, Mr. Brian Azzarello, wrote the screenplay. I know he can write Batman well. I seen’t it!

Final Grade: D-

 

August 5th

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Suicide Squad

“Hey, Mike, was Jared Leto any good as the Joker?’

Why don’t you ask him yourself?

“Hey Jared, how do you think your Joker turned out on the big screen?”

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That’s because he was barely in the damn movie. And look, before you cry foul and tell me, “this isn’t Joker’s movie,” I know. I know. I know. I fucking KNOW. But don’t parade around a character so prominently in your ad campaign and not feature him in your movie. I don’t recall Rogue One doing that with Vader, and guess what, IT WORKED.

This movie was garbage. Not offensive-make-me-wanna-kill-myself garbage. Just uninspired, boring, dumb garbage, which is something I can deal with if it didn’t take itself so seriously.

Final Grade: D

 

November 4th

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Doctor Strange

Full disclosure: I know fuck all about Doctor Strange. With that being said, it’s hard for me to judge this on the source material (even though I am privy to the fact the character of The Ancient One was whitewashed like middle school American history text book). But I will say that as a standalone movie, I really enjoyed it. Sure, it was basically a mystical rehash of the first Iron Man film, but who cares? If a movie feels like a comfortable pair of pajama pants, you might as well wear them (guys, I’m bad at metaphors). Benedict Cumberbatch was great in the way Benedict Cumberbatch is great in everything (even when he’s playing “Kahn” in a shitty Star Trek movie).

Final Grade B+

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The work of Brian Azzarello Part 2 FUNSIZE reviews

Let’s get into it:

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Spaceman (2011-2012)

This is a weird one that a lot of folks did not seem to enjoy. I recall being in the monitory in my gaggle of comic buddies when it came to praising Spaceman. I actually thought this miniseries was a well thought out story with some really great ideas. I don’t remember Azzarello ever tackling science fiction before (as long as you don’t count Superman) and I thought he pretty much knocked it out of the park. The characters were great. The unreliable timeline was compelling. I only wish this book had lasted longer.

Final Grade: A-

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Superman: For Tomorrow (2004 -2005)

This one felt like a cash-grab. I don’t direct that toward the creators. No, no, no. That missile is aimed steadily at DC. Jim Lee was hot off of Batman: Hush and this book felt like the publisher wanted to simply capitalize on having such a superstar artist in their ranks. It’s not godawful, but fuck me, it ain’t great. I will say that the scene where Superman basically threatens the Earth was fantastic. Otherwise, this is a forgettable comic, and it makes me sad.

Final Grade: C-

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Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach (2012)

You know what. It’s fine. Not great, not terrible. Just fine. Move along.

Final Grade: Whatever.

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Joker (2008)

Goddammit, I really wanted to love this book. I remember picking the hardback up after the Dark Knight was released. Again, this sort of felt like DC just cashing in on an already established story. There were some interesting aspects to Joker, but overall, the book was more grotesque (which I’m not against, mind you) than compelling. However, the strip club scene is this graphic novel was great. It was absolutely disgusting, but great (see? I’m not a prude).

Final Grade: C+

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The Dark Knight III: The Master Race (2015 – present)

To say this series thus far has been a mixed bag would be a gross understatement. Every time Azzarello and Miller and Co. seem to add something worthwhile to the Dark Knight Universe, things just up and stall the fuck out. Look, so far, this comic is leaps and bounds better that Frank Miller’s abysmal The Dark Knight Strikes Back, but that ain’t saying much. Getting your scrotum pierced with a batarang would be a better time than rereading that fucking nightmare. Maybe Azzarello’s writing is helping elevate what should be a complete goddamn train wreck.

Final Grade: Who fucking knows?

 

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The work of Brian Azzarello Part 1 FUNSIZE REVIEWS

Even if Alan Moore would shun me for doing so, I’m finally getting around to reading some of the Before Watchmen titles, namely The Comedian and Rorschach mini-series, both of which were penned by one of my favorite writers in the graphic medium, Mr. Brian Azzarello. So I figured it’d be fun to touch on some of the books from his career that have made a lasting impression on me, good or bad. Here we go:

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Loveless (2005 – 2008)

Fuck, I loved this book. I was really bummed when DC/Vertigo pulled the plug on it. And they did it right when what started out as a western comic about assholes doing asshole things to each other was evolving into a vast, century-spanning epic about America (which would basically be a historical comic about assholes doing asshole things to each other). This comic is pretty much what Quentin Tarantino is trying to do in his movies now a days. Loveless holds up a mirror to American history’s ugly mug and makes it take a long, hard look at the horrors hiding behind its visage.

Final Grade: A-

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100 Bullets (1999 – 2009)

For ten years, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso created one of the greatest crime stories ever told. This comic is staggering in its execution (pun totally intended). Every single character is well-realized. The dialogue pops with authenticity, and the stories the series tells range from insanely intimate to monstrously epic in scale. There is no stone unturned in 100 Bullets. This is one of my go-to recommendations for my friends who don’t read comics. I tell them that if this doesn’t do it for them, I’m not sure what will (maybe Preacher?).

Final Grade: fuckin’ A+

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El Diablo (2001)

This mini-series felt like a dry run for Loveless. There are certainly some cool elements in this comic, but ultimately it just feels bland. What made things worse for me, is that I read it after reading Loveless. I can only assume it would have had more of an impact on me if I had read it before. Oh, well. All’s fair in loveless and war (thank you, thank you; I’ll be here all week).

Final Grade: D+

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Batman: Broken City (2003-2004)

You know, some people shit on this comic, and I can understand why. Killer Croc is a pimp with some sort of crazy psoriasis; The Riddler is a car thief; things are not what they should be. But that’s what I dug about it. Teaming up with Risso again, Azzarello pretty much gave Detective Comics the 100 Bullets treatment and didn’t give a fuck about continuity or staying true the already established Gotham. They knew you were familar with these characters, but why not try a little something different with them?

Final Grade: B

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Wonder Woman (2011 – 2014)

Goddammit, was Azzarello’s run on this book amazing. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if Brian’s departure from Wonder Woman was the reason DC decided to bail on the New 52 and hit the reset button again. I mean, besides Jeff Lemire’s tenure as Animal Man writer and Scott Snyder & Capullo’s Batman, I don’t think there was another title with such a high caliber among the New 52. Azzarello took a character that the entire world was familiar with and injected her story with a brand new mythos, one that worked well in the grand scheme of the DC universe and produced a cast of great supporting characters to root for. This book is fantastic. I was never a big WW fan before this, and I don’t know if I ever will be again. Azzarello may have ruined the character for me by being too damn good at writing her.

Final Grade: A

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The Walking Dead RETROSPECT

Note: This retrospect covers the first 150 issues of The Walking Dead. I will not be giving up any explicit spoilers, but some of the links lead to them. So don’t get all click happy if you haven’t read the series yet.

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Unless you’ve been living in an underground fallout shelter in the middle of nowhere (Montana, maybe?), you know The Walking Dead has become a cultural phenomenon that has wormed its way into the cultural zeitgeist like a tick in a deer’s ass.

This is mostly due to the hugely popular AMC television adaptation. But (and yes, I’m about to sound like a comic geek hipster, so please don’t close this page just yet) some of us have adored the source material for the better part of a decade, long before that first episode aired on Halloween in 2010, which makes it hard to discuss the comic series without the shadow of the show looming over any opinion us elite comic dorks might have on the show’s roots like a doomsday eclipse (too much?).

I remember sometime in 2004, a buddy of mine told me about a cool little black and white zombie comic he was reading and passed along the first trade paperback. After reading it, I scooped up the current issues until I was up to date and continued to buy The Walking Dead on a monthly basis for nearly five years. I used to keep a stack of back issues on my toilet tank. Friends and family members would spend a copious amount of time in my bathroom reading through them, long after they conducted their business (that would be pooping, by the way).

The series was all the rage in my circle of friends and we felt like the cool kids (or at least as cool as a pack of comic nerds could be) among out uninitiated fellow comic readers.

“Oh, you haven’t read this?” we’d scoff as we slapped a stack of (hopefully poop-free) singles in front of them. “For shame!”

This went on for some time…until the comic began to spin its wheels. Shortly after the whole “Battle of Woodbury” story arc, I fell out of the series like an epileptic baby in a crib without guardrails.

It wasn’t until several trade paper backs later, that a co-worker of mine discovered the book and asked if it was any good. I told them it was, at least the first 50 some issues or so were, but I had no idea if the series picked itself up by the zombie skull-crushing boot straps. It turned out the series had. It got good again. Like really fucking good. And about twenty issues later, it began to lose steam…until it got good again.

And that’s the deal with The Walking Dead (and with most monthly comics). There are lulls, and at times they feel like bottomless pits of boredom that make you wonder why you ever enjoyed reading the title in the first place. But unlike most ongoing monthly books, the TWD has zero supplemental material to tide you over until your flagship book gets its shit together.

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**Guess I have to deal with this shit for a bit.**

I mean, you can read Detective Comics until it gets shitty, and then easily jump ship to one of the other ten Batman comics on the newsstands and find one that’s worth a damn. TWD doesn’t afford the same luxury. If the comic isn’t good, tough shit. You have to deal with it if you want to know what happens next. You have to deal with characters talking in circles and spitting monologues that are so tiresome you wonder if they weren’t the regurgitated rally cry of a long dead character from years before. You have to deal with the artwork becoming repetitive and the story beats growing benign and cheaply punctuated with character deaths.

There is nowhere to hide from The Walking Dead when things take a nosedive. Shit, even the TV show has Fear of The Walking Dead as a companion piece.

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**There are no tigers in either show, though…so, I guess the comic still has the upper hand.**

There is good news, however. That aforementioned nosedive does not occur too frequently when you consume the series in large chunks. The trade paperbacks, which come out twice a year, do not have issue breaks and read like single chapters of a larger piece. This works to the series’ benefit. We’ve all read novels where things slow down for a chapter (or several chapters if you’re George R.R. Martin – Fuck A Feast for Crows) and most of us can power through until the next.

I’ve read the first 150 issues of TWD and two thirds of them have been in graphic novel form. I can’t image buying this book month-to-month (but honestly, I don’t buy any comics month-to-month outside of the occasional mini-series & Heavy Metal Magazine).

Now as far as story goes, it’s often difficult to tell where creators Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (and I guess Tony Moore in the first six issues) are going with things, but they always find their way to something interesting and often times shocking. Now, these things don’t always work. In fact, there have been shocking twists and deaths that have left a bad taste in my mouth (ref: the death of REDACTED from issues 100). It’s not that I have a weak stomach for excessive violence. Hell, I think this may be the only book where I kind of chuckled when an infant gets blasted with a shotgun (I know, I know, but go look at that page again; you know you don’t have anything invested in that baby or the person holding it so get off your high horse).

Even with all its shortcoming The Walking Dead is never godawful, and it’s usually enjoyable and even occasionally brilliant.

Kirkman might be a genius for crafting this thing so well. He’s made a soapy drama about the zombie apocalypse and it sells well every month. I don’t know of any other comic book that sells trade paperbacks in Wal-Mart or Target. I’m sure most of that has to do with capitalizing on the success of the television show, but shit, man it works. Kirkman and Co. have television-watchers and comic-readers eating out of the palm of his hand and now those two factions are cross pollinating.

Look, go read The Walking Dead. You can actually buy compendiums that collect the series in 48 issue chunks. And trust me, that first chunk is awesome. The second, not so much, and the third gets back to form.

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**Hey! New people!**

Many of the characters are likeable. Our hero of the book, Rick Grimes, gets put through the wringer so often, you wonder if the shred of humanity he still holds on to is even legit. The supporting cast is very hit or miss. There are some characters who seem like they get killed because Kirkman doesn’t know what to do with them, which is unfortunate. But there are other characters, who are snuffed out, that make the book devastating and actually add gravity to an already dire situation (I’m looking at you, REDACTED my sweet, sweet prince).

But when it comes to problems with characters, my biggest complaint might be with the villains. The series has really only produced three honest to god villains, and just one of them has been truly fascinating. Yes, I’m talking about Negan. And before anyone gets their panties in a twist, I like Alpha and the Governor just fine, but Negan is the closest thing we have to a filthy mirror version of Rick. Also, he’s super charismatic.

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**Ladies…**

According to the creators, we’re about halfway through this series. That’s both a relief and a disappointment. If they would have said we were 50 issues away from the end, I’d be doing back flips (I can’t do a back flip, BTW).

I don’t know what Kirkman has in store for us. He says there are tons of big things on the horizon, but he’s said that before and has delivered a mixed bag. But I’ll call his bluff. I’ll keep reading. And so should you.

Mid-term Grade: B

*Footnote: All images are property of Image Comics.

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Batman: Earth One REVIEW

Note: This review covers Batman: Earth One volumes 1 and 2.

 

Let’s talk about Batman.        

It’s pretty much an inarguable fact that superheroes, especially heroes like the Dark Knight and Superman, are so omnipresent in pop culture and that they have become humanity’s New Greek Mythos. Hell, several writers of comics and film utilize this in their storytelling to the point to where it’s downright annoying.

These characters are more than just their names. They are symbols. They represent the best (and worst) in us. People across the globe know their origins and back stories. They know their weaknesses and victories. They know their deaths and rebirths. These heroes have been dissected to pieces by children, comic nerds, and academics alike (in some cases, this is the same person in different periods of their life). It’s amazing how something as simple as a guy in a cape or a woman with a magic lasso can wiggle their way into the mindscape of the general populous and stay there for the better part of a century.

But of all the titans that have made such a splash, the one hero of our pop culture pantheon that is truly immortal, both within their own fictional universe and in the real world, is Batman.

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*See? Everyone loves this dude.*

Hear me out. Batman is truly a symbol… yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you’ve heard that one before. And I’m well aware other heroes are symbols, too, but here’s the thing:

If you kill Clark Kent, guess what? No more Superman.

You kill Diana Prince? Adios, Wonder Woman.

But if you kill Bruce Wayne? Fuck it! Who cares? We got a backup Batman, son!

Oh, and if you kill Dick Grayson? No worries, we got another one, yo…and another one after that and another after that, because it doesn’t matter who is under the cape and cowl; it just matters that there is a cape and cowl.

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#squadgoals 

Now, I know that comics have toyed with this exact character principal in the past (i.e. Danny Rand as Daredevil, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson as Cap, etc.), but I feel like no one has been able to reach on the same levels of overbearing iconography as ol’ Bats (maybe it’s just because he’s been around longer, I don’t know).  But Batman is important. Not Bruce Wayne. BATMAN.

Everyone agree? Good. So now with that being established, the question is how many times can we retell the origin of Batman before the audience gets completely fucking sick of it? The answer to that probably varies depending on your age. I know, I’m tired of it.

I’m in my 30s and I grew up watching the Tim Burton Batman movies, which led to Batman the Animated Series, then those god awful Schumacher flicks, followed by Jeph Loeb’s comic work, then Frank Miller’s Goddamn Batman, then Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and finally the utter shitfest that was BVS. All told, I’ve must have seen Martha and Thomas Wayne get gunned down in an alley followed by a training montage dozens of times.

Gunshot! Pearls! Crying! Training! Crime fighting! We get it!

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**This old chestnut**

That’s why I find it impressive when a comic book can make that tragic story interesting again. Enter: Batman Earth One.

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*WEEEEEE! OW! Fuck!*

This is a simple retelling of the Batman mythos that blends previous incarnations of the caped crusader and then homogenizes him to the bare essentials of what makes Batman Batman.

Writer, Geoff Johns and artist, Gary Frank present a Batman tale that exploits the shortcomings of the beloved character and humanize Bruce Wayne in a way very few writers have done before (at least not as affecting). Bruce isn’t likable in this story, but he’s not supposed to be. He’s a goddamn nut job. And with the help of the coolest version of Alfred ever, his nuttiness is cultivated into a weapon, one that doesn’t work in every situation.

This version of Batman is kind of a dipshit, too. He’s self-righteous. He’s overzealous. He makes bad calls. He’s the most believable on-page version of Batman I’ve read since Batman: Year One.

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*What a dummy…*

But what makes Earth One work is the remix of supporting characters: all the faces are familiar, but their stories and motivations differ from what we’re used to, and it’s quite refreshing.

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*Some things never change.*

There are elements that don’t always sing, however. There’s a interesting character gender swap that sort of petters out. And the Earth One version of Jim Gordon is basically standard Jimbo. Nothing really new or appealing, .

I don’t know if Johns and Franks have plans for a third graphic novel. Volume 2 ended rather abruptly with a lot still on the plate. I’ve never been this hungry to learn more about an already established character, but when the preparation is so fresh and unique (while not diverging from what makes the character work in the first place) it whets my comic palate like a son of a bitch.

These books are worth your time, especially if you’re a Batman fan (I mean, who isn’t?).

Final Grade: B+

 

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40 Bullets: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice **SPOILERS!**

I’m just going to come out and say it: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was an unbridled pile of shit that made me want to burn every DC comic I own. Now, there are a FEW things I did like about the film (see if you can pick them out below), but overall, the movie was an incoherent mess. Here are 40 random thoughts about the film.  SPOILERS! Lots and lots of SPOILERS! If you actually want to see this train wreck without being tainted by “plot” details of the film, stop here…or don’t. Save you $10 and go to Chipotle or something instead. sup

  1. Who was that in Wayne Tower in Metropolis at the beginning of the film? It sounded like Bruce was calling him “Dad” or “Jack.” I couldn’t tell. Does Bruce have a step-dad? If not, why should we care about him?
  2. Why did it take a phone call from Bruce to evacuate the building? Um, hello…Kryptonian slug fest happening outside: GET THE FUCK OUT!
  3. What was with all the horses in this movie?
  4. So, wait, does Superman kill people now? He totally killed the mercenary dude by flying him through a brick wall. Does Superman not understand how humans work? Was this some sort of flesh bag durability trial he was conducting?
  5. Why was the whole Lexcorp bullet thing so important? Was it just a dumb plot device to give Lois Lane something to do?
  6. Wait, was that Jimmy Olsen as the CIA operative? Holy shit, it was. What?
  7. So is Lex just mad because he’s not Superman? Seems petty for a villain who is supposed to be cool and calculating.
  8. I am not okay with this Lex Luthor. I kept trying to convince myself that Jesse Eisenberg was doing a good job…but I’m not sure he was. Maybe he just went nuts without any sort of direction. It just goes to show that Zack Snyder sucks at making compelling villains. He even fucked up Ozymandias in Watchmen, a character that should have been insanely easy to bring to life. Snyder only thinks in absolutes when it comes to antagonists.
  9. What does Lexcorp do? I mean, I get the whole weapons thing, but the office looks like something you’d see in HBO’s Silicon Valley. What is Lexcorp’s front?
  10. Batman kills people. Like, a lot of people. I’m actually okay with this. He has become Frank Miller’s “The Goddamn Batman” (or just Michael Keaton’s Batman, who killed SO MANY people; seriously, go back and watch Batman and Batman Returns).
  11. I actually like this 20-year veteran Batman not giving a shit about mutilating and murdering criminals. Honestly, I feel like this would be the natural progression of Batman.
  12. Why was the “bat brand” a mark for death in prison? That was not explained at all.
  13. I like drunk Alfred.
  14. So I guess Alfred is playing the Lucius Fox role, too. Okay…why?
  15. Batman is pretty dumb for being the world’s greatest detective.
  16. How did Bruce not know Lex was sending him all the nastygrams?
  17. Is Bruce Wayne that easily shaken that he’d go to war with a god because someone was being mean to him?
  18. Why didn’t Bruce follow the whole “oh, wow this Diana Prince lady is over a 100 years old” thing further? You’d think it’d be important for Batman to know what her deal was before picking a fight with Supes.
  19. Hey Chris Pine was in the 1918 Wonder Woman picture. Cool.
  20. What the fuck was the Flash saying to Bruce in the Batcave? “Am I too early?” What does that mean?
  21. That dream sequence Bruce had was kinda cool, but I had no idea what was going on.
  22. What happened to Wayne Manor? Why was it burned to a crisp?
  23. Jeremy Irons voice is amazing…this has nothing to do with the movie, but I just wanted to comment on it.
  24. Lex’s plan was incredibly dumb…so was his backup plan. If Batman didn’t kill Superman, Lex was going to let Doomsday off his chain, right? Okay…then who would take out Doomsday? Even if Batman did slay The Man of Steel, would Doomsday still be let out of his weird birthing sack? It seemed like Lex was planning to execute these two schemes concurrently, which made no damn sense at all.
  25. Wonder Woman looked cool and I like how she fought. But that was about it. They did fuck all with her character.
  26. The Justice League cameos were laughably out of place.
  27. However, Aquaman looked pretty rad.
  28. Why aren’t these movies playing into the DC TV shows?
  29. We get it: Superman is Jesus and the Kryptonite spear is the Spear of Destiny. Yes, he’s the messiah…he had to be a martyr, yadda yadda. If that shit was any more ham-fisted, they would have buried Superman in a cave and then had a title card read “three days later.” Subtext should never be TEXT.
  30. The actual Batman/Superman fight was boring (just like most of this movie).
  31. “Martha!” Fuck off… That was the single dumbest way to bury the hatchet between rivals I have ever seen.
  32. Doomsday looked terrible. Like, really bad.
  33. It seemed like Wonder Woman would have eventually taken care of Doomsday by herself.
  34. Doomsday had no dick. Maybe this was why he (she?) was so angry.
  35. The Zod/Luthor hybrid/test-tube love child backstory of Doomsday works for the sake of movie continuity, but it was still pretty dumb. Doomsday had a badass backstory in the comics (which, honestly, was the only interesting thing about his character). Batman rescuing Martha Kent was pretty awesome. The way he fought a room full of people was exhilarating to watch, but it was too little, too late.
  36. Batman really had nothing to do during the last fight.
  37. Why didn’t Wonder Woman impale Doomsday with the Kryptonite spear? Oh, right…Superjesus had to do it.
  38. Wonder Woman questioning Bruce about why they should form the Justice League was the only rational thing any character in this movie said.
  39. Superman’s coffin was pretty.
  40. And finally, fuck this movie.
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Batman v. Frank Miller: Dawn of Callousness

So Frank Miller is (sort of) writing Batman again. This calls for cheer and jeers for myriad reasons. Thus far, DC Comics has only published 3 (out of 8) issues of the third installment of the Dark Knight Returns series, The Dark Knight 3: The Master Race (yes, I shuddered when I ready the bit after the colon, too).

Before we dive into my thoughts on TDK3 (which are not fully developed since the series hasn’t even reached its halfway point), there are a few things I want to bring to light regarding my love/tainted-love/hatred of Mr. Frank Miller and his body of work. Here goes:

I know at this point anyone who sites The Dark Knight Returns (TDKR) as being one of those books that changed the way they looked a superhero stories and comics in general, like, forever, sounds like a broken record, but that doesn’t make the sentiment any less true. Especially in my case.

For some people the moment of realization that masked vigilantes would actually be stark-raving lunatics if they were integrated into the real world was presented to them by Alan Moore and David Gibbon’s brilliant Watchmen; for me, I caught that sucker punch from TDKR.

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*source unknown, but from somewhere probably awesome*

The library across the street from my house actually had a paperback copy of the trade. I recall walking there at the age of 15 and checking out the dogeared trade and tearing through it one summer afternoon. I also remember returning it and then going home to chastise my other comics for not being as good.

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Get your shit together, Chris! 

A couple years later, it was announced that there was going to be a sequel. I was elated by the news.

The day of its release, I picked up the first issue of The Dark Knight Strikes Again (TDK2). I read it with the same fervor I had when I first devoured its predecessor. But did TDK2 have the same shattering impact on my comic psyche? Not so much.

But how could it? I wasn’t expecting it to be. I was, however, expecting something slightly better than this:

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Gentlemen, indeed. Hopefully one of them is a chiropractor.

What made TDKR so great was its dark underworld and dystopian society; its self-referential satirical tone that never traveled to cuckoo land territory, but instead embraced the lunacy without making if feel like a cartoon. All of that was gone in its little-loved follow up.

The work Miller churned out in those three grueling issues (especially the post-9/11 ones) made me wonder if he lost a bet or maybe lost his mind. The latter appeared to be more likely after the releases of the jingoistic Holy Terror graphic novel and that god-awful-what-the-fuck-am-I-watching? Spirit movie. It was then that I wondered if Frank Miller was just a shitty artist (and shitty dude), and what I was reading was the first time he was blatant enough to drag his unmasked shittiness into his art…

…I’m gonna go with yes.

Now I don’t think everything Miller has created since Strikes Again has been awful. I’m a fan of some of the Sin City stories (That Yellow Bastard in particular) despite some of the blatant sexism that rides a dangerous line between social commentary and perhaps Miller’s own vision that all women as either damsels in distress or whores. Oh, wait…it just occurred to me That Yellow Bastard came out five years before TDK2. Soooo…Never mind. Everything he has created since then has been garbage (maybe even since Sin City: Hell & Back, which was a huge let down for me, too).

But I digress.

It really does feel like The Dark Knight Strikes Again was the turning point in Miller’s career: before SA and after SA. Before we had great works like Ronin and his run on Daredevil (although it fell victim to some of the same trappings as Sin City) and after SA…well, we covered that. Oh, wait, did I mention this happened too?

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*source: DC comics (they might deny it, though)*

That’s right. Soak it in.

But now we have a new goddamn Batman. Or the return of an old goddamn Batman or some goddamn thing…I don’t goddamn know. Let’s just say the Internet shit its collective pants when DC officially announced that Miller was returning to his Dark Knight Universe with The Master Race. The title alone raised a ton of red flags. This is completely understandable since the words “Master Race” have a certain connotation that’s pretty hard to escape. And given Miller’s 21st Century work, one can only strike up an image like…

oh no

*source: history we wished never fucking happened*

Yeah, that.

Now, I know Miller is no stranger to evocative subject matter (even when he was killing it in the 70s and 80s) so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and decided to buy The Master Race as it is released month-to-month (something I DO NOT like doing). So how is the comic? Is it super racist and insulting? Is it just plain boring? Does it suck? Does Wonder Woman still need a spinal realignment?

Well, no… the book so far is actually good. It’s no Dark Knight Returns, but it doesn’t make me want to set every Batman comic I own on fire either. It’s somewhere in the middle. The dialogue is good, not great. The story seems to be ramping up to something big. The art it tight and easy to follow. There isn’t a lot wrong with the book other than it isn’t super engaging or challenging.

I’ll say it: this comic seems safe. But I don’t know if it will stay that way. Like I mentioned before, we’re not even halfway through this thing.

I think the reason for this sterile version The Dark Knight is because of Miller’s involvement, or lack thereof really. The book appears to be spearheaded by writer Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Wonder Woman) and artist Andy Kubert (all the X-Men comics I loved in the 90s), leaving Miller as the backseat driver of the project. Azzarello, whose work I absolutely love, seems to be trying to imitate Miller’s voice to a certain degree and Kubert’s art is much cleaner than I’m used to.

It’s as if Frank Miller jotted down some story points and just handed everything over to the new team, but the new team was too scared to make it their own. Instead, it seems like they want to relive the glory days of The Dark Knight Returns and slap Miller’s name on it so jaded comic nerds like me can maybe admire the guy’s work one last time.

Now I don’t know if that’s true or not (I try to shy away from behind the scenes stuff about media development until I’ve consumed it). But damn if what I’ve read so far doesn’t make me believe that’s the case.

Look, I wish TDK3 all the best. I want it to be good. Hell, I want it to be great. I can forgive that shitty Superman cover Miller drew for the mini comic in the first issue since his pencils for the interior pages were fine. I can (almost) forgive the $6 cover price DC is charging per issue and the $12 per issue hardback version. I can forgive the stupid layout and awkward mini-comic being glued to a piece of card stock making the whole book a pain in the ass to read.

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I let THIS slide, Miller! Do me a solid, man! 

But I don’t think I can forgive Miller for all his previous artistic transgressions. At least not yet, anyway. But hell, he doesn’t need it. He doesn’t need forgiveness from any of us. He’s given us some great work, some of comics’ finest. And as much as I want nothing more than to love Frank Miller once again, I don’t.  And maybe, just maybe everything he gave us before The Dark Knight Strikes Again should be enough to outweigh any negative views we have of the man and his late career work.

This isn’t the Frank Miller was want, but maybe it’s the Frank Miller we deserve.

 

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