Tag Archives: dc

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 3/14

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.

Shean

Star Wars Bounty Hunters #1 (Marvel)– In an in between story of the original trilogy, we find Boba on a protection job. As we find out that his personal history with the two other Bounty Hunters would conflict. As someone else from Bob’s past resurfaces, we find fan favorite Doctor Aphra looking for a high prized Bounty that puts her in a collision course with Boba. By issue’s end, Boba carrying some precious cargo himself decides to diverge his course, in hopes of meeting this person from his past. Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Logan

Cable #1 (Marvel) Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto give Cable #1 a really fun, swashbuckling tone beginning with single arena combat between Cable and Wolverine. This young Cable really has a lust for life and marvels at his ability to use weapons, telekinesis, telepathy, and also dating Armor and Pixie at the same time. He’s a classic “superbrat” hero, but Duggan and Noto introduce responsibility into his life with a couple, basically teasers for this storyline and maybe even X of Swords. They’re cool, and Noto uses both a thinner and a more painterly style for the pair of teases. However, they feel a little disjointed to the main story like ending a movie with a trailer for the next one. All in all, Cable #1 has an enjoyable tone, fantastic art and colors from Phil Noto, and introduces a couple of big time threats for the old, grumpy time traveler turned douchey (with a heart of gold) whipper snapper. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy

X-Men #8 (Marvel)– X-Men #8 feels like a continuation of Jonathan Hickman’s New Mutants in space arc with art from Mahmud Asrar and guest appearances from the Summers brothers and one of my all time favorite X-supporting characters, the lovable, loquacious Broo. Broo appears in this comic because the mythical Egg King has appeared in Krakoa courtesy of the New Mutants’ space jaunt and has attracted wave after wave of Brood hoard to find it. This leads to the egg getting thrown into space, but not after Asrar ably combines horror and action storytelling in big, damn fight scene as Cyclops and Magik fight off the Brood in Krakoa. Also, there’s a lot of intergalactic politics, but the thread is more difficult to follow compared to New Mutants, and I guess I need to read “War of Kings”. However, it’s nice to see a New Mutants story metastasize into an X-Men story, and Hickman flex those Avengers instead of X-Men muscles. Overall: 7.6 Verdict: Read

Adler #2 (Titan)– Lavie Tidhar’s plot starts to unfold in Adler #2 as Irene Adler and Jane Eyre begin their cat and mouse game against Ayesha (From H. Rider Haggard’s She) and Carmilla. Tidhar and Paul McCaffrey go beyond a drawing room and turn this into a sprawling Victorian crime saga, which is its strength as Ayesha takes over Professor Moriarty’s criminal empire while Adler and Eyre search for his murderer. This comic’s weakness is the MacGuffin of “papers”, which appear at the beginning and the end of the book without any real connective tissue to what’s going on in the middle. There’s no suspense because there’s no reason to care about them other than as an opportunity to trot out cameos from Little Orphan Annie (Captured in McCaffrey’s realist style.) and Madame Curie. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: Read

Aggretsuko #2 (Oni Press)– Jarrett Williams plays on one of the strengths of licensed comics and uses it to explore a character pairing that hasn’t showed up in the Aggretsuko TV show, Retsuko and her vapid deer co-worker, Tsunoda. Tsunoda is still a shallow character, but Williams teases out some of her backstory about how she always wanted to be fashionable, glamorous, and doesn’t mind maxing out credit cards to do so. Sarah Stern uses a pastel palette, including plenty of pinks, to make the flashback scenes pop. All in all, Aggretsuko #2 is a great satire of influencer and consumer culture where philanthropic events aren’t there to help people, but to gain followers and “clout”. Plus it has some high energy death metal growl scenes in the Aggretsuko tradition. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Decorum #1 (Image)– The new creator-owned SF comic from Jonathan Hickman and Mike Huddleston has god-tier visuals from a painted, silent prologue basically doing conquistadors in space to a fight scene using a painted diamond as a projectile weapon. Huddleston can go from scratchy inks to full color painted visuals at the drop of the hat while Hickman’s data pages range from the macro (Factions, planets, all-important backstories) to the micro (The makeup of noodle dish the protagonist is consuming). Like most Hickman works, there’s a lot to process in Decorum #1, but he and Huddleston keep things entertaining by having plenty of cool assassins, gangsters, and space shit to go with the granular worldbuilding. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy

SFSX #7 (Image)– SFSX’s first arc comes to a close with Tina Horn and Jen Hickman showing the surviving sex workers at Dirty Mind fighting the patriarchy and not winning any kind of permanent victory, but doing a kind of shot across the bow. Oppression and normalcy might still be the ruling party, but there is still room for kink and queerness out there. Hickman’s art and colors continue to match the high energy of Horn’s thriller plot, but there’s also a sadness to her work too. SFSX #7 is a strong end to the first storyline and leaves you wanting a little more. Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy

Hawkeye Freefall #4 (Marvel)– Matthew Rosenberg and Otto Schmidt’s Hawkeye Freefall #4 really has it all: dynamic cartooning (The Hawkeye/Spider-Man hand to hand fight is a highlight), body swap hijinks, vigilante action, and awkward interpersonal dynamics. Clint’s motivation to don the Ronin costume shines clearer in this issue as he knows that the Kingpin runs the city so instead of taking him out or the Hood, he’s going to funnel the Hood’s money into a drug treatment center. He’s trying to get to the heart of the problem instead of punching things. There is quite a lot of punching as Daredevil rustles up a task force featuring such varied characters as D-Man, US Agent, Mockingbird, Falcon, and Winter Soldier, but they mostly end up getting duped by an LMD and a Skrull that Hawkeye found breakdancing awkwardly on the subway. Hawkeye Freefall expertly juggles action, comedy, and social conscience, and is easily one of my favorite Marvel releases of 2020 so far. Overall: 9.2 Verdict: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 3/6

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


Joe Hesh

Batman #90 (DC) This book has been a breath of fresh air since the new creative team of Tynion IV and Daniel and March right from the jump. The pacing and art and story just breeze right on by The backstory in this issue with Selena explaining to Bruce the meeting between herself and the other Bat Villains and the new villain The Designer was fantastic. I definitely want more of him, he seems to be a welcome addition to the ever-growing rogues gallery. Let’s hope so. I always like when backstories can provide never before seen new facets to the mythos. The art has been great rotation between the talents of Tony Daniel and Gulliem March. I think the trade off on ever other book is a fantastic one two punch. Tynion IV has done a great job of keeping this book fresh and exciting which is not easy to do (looking at you Tom King) and keeping the Bat – Cat dialogue almost non existent. Still can’t wait to see what Deathstroke is up to in the long run and I’m already awaiting next issue. Score: 9. Recommendation: Buy.  

Superman: Villains #1 (DC) I was extremely looking forward to this book after the Superman: Heroes one shot but this was not what I expected. It was one of those books with tons of creators and short stories from many POVs but it just didn’t work here. I wanted nothing but all of Superman’s greatest villains reactions but we only got a few and then lots of shameless plugs and set ups for stuff coming down the pipe. The writing was alright and some of the art was okay but this just wasn’t what I expected. Superman’s ID reveal is monumental to DC Universe and this fell so flat in capitalizing on that moment. More time should have been dedicated to Lex’s reaction than the few throwaway pages we got. I hope they follow up much better in Superman’s main titles. Overall this was not what I expected in the least and big time miss on my end. Score: 6 Recommendation: Pass.

Logan

Strange Adventures #1 (DC/Black Label)– In Strange Adventures #1, Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Evan Shaner deliver a deconstruction of the space pulp hero genre through the lens of (Of course) the War on Terror and 24 hour mass media as well as an intense character study of Adam Strange. Gerads handles the earth sequences, and there is vulnerability and vitality to his figure work and use of grids. On the other hand, Shaner does the Rann flashbacks and does it in his trademark clean line, classic pulp style while using a darker color palette to show that Adam wasn’t 100% a lantern jawed, upright hero or even the perfect family man. King probes at the connection between war and heroism and sets up *yet another* murder mystery plot, but takes it in an interesting direction with the series’ unlikely deuteragonist investigating Adam’s actions, both at home and abroad, and holding him accountable. Their interactions in future issues are a big reason why I’ll continue to check out this book. Overall: 8.1 Verdict: Buy

 Billionaire Island #1 (Ahoy!)– The Flintstones’ Mark Russell and Steve Pugh hit satirical gold again in this skewering of the 1%. They take things the ultrawealthy have, such as private islands, offshore bank accounts, panic rooms, and eugenics programs, and turn it up to eleven. Russell’s plot doesn’t kick in until the last few pages, but Billionaire Island #1 does a fairly good job of setting up the comic’s premise and various locales. Pugh’s artwork exaggerates the right bits and goes deadpan at the right times too with some memorable imagery. The panel of a former tax accountant drinking from a hamster cage water bottle while waiting for a billionaire to give him the time of day is one that will be seared into my brain. Basically, Billionaire Island makes class warfare entertaining. Overall: 8.7 Verdict: Buy

Spider-Man Noir #1 (Marvel)– From its opening action scene featuring pulp magazine cover-style art and monochromatic palette from Juan Ferreyra, Spider-Man Noir #1 exudes old school cool. Margaret Stohl’s dialogue stumbles at times when she tries to combine superhero platitudes with world-weary, gumshoe detective one-liners, but she nimbly shifts genres from a noir mystery to an adventure serial. She and Ferreyra immerse you in this world of violence, mystery, and conspiracy where a Nazi or a gangster is just around the corner. As an added bonus, Stohl and Ferreyra give Spider-Man Noir’s female characters agency and substantial time with Dr. Huma Bergmann basically kickstarting the plot, Mary Jane throwing punches and reminding Peter of his mission and basically to stop being mopey, and Aunt May running a community center. This comic is definitely worth picking up for fans of Into the Spider-Verse who wanted to see more of Nicolas Cage’s Spider-Man Noir or see a different visual or genre approach to the familiar environs of the Marvel Universe. Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy

Excalibur #8 (Marvel)– An issue-concluding conversation between Rachel Grey and Betsy Braddock almost turns Tini Howard, Victor Santos, and Marcus To’s Excalibur #8 from an okay to good/great comic. The Warwolves/Cullen Bloodstone storyline is wrapped with some incoherent action scenes and some flirting from Rictor and Cullen. It’s frustrating to hear about the cool things that Rogue, Gambit etc are doing from Howard’s exposition instead of seeing it in Santos, To, and way too many inkers’ art. Thankfully, she doesn’t pad out the storyline, and the aforementioned Rachel/Betsy conversation and a chat between Rictor (Love his new Druid design!) and Cullen about being gay in the Marvel Universe are the standout moments. Excalibur has a lot of potential as a series, especially when Marcus To is the artist, but it hasn’t reached it yet in issue 8. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: Read

Marauders #9 (Marvel)– This is the second straight week with good Emma Frost content as the Marauders finally discover that Yellowjacket has been spying on them via Pyro. To counteract this, Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli introduce several doses of psychic fantasies as Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos quickly try defuse the situation. The illusions work because Lolli doesn’t switch up his art style except for maybe turning up the violence a little bit when Yellowjacket shoots his way past Emma and Bishop. In the big picture, Marauders #9 contributes to the ongoing issue of Krakoa having leaks of various kinds, and the actual player aka Sebastian Shaw doesn’t even make an appearance in this issue. Marauders #9 isn’t this series’ finest moment, but it’s a solid piece of connective tissue that also tapers off the Homo Verendi plotline. Duggan and Lolli should also be applauded for their creativity with the psychic powers. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 2/29

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


Logan

 Finger Guns #1 (Vault)– Justin Richards’ and Val Halvorson’s Finger Guns #1 is the first chapter of a high concept, YA comic about a boy and a girl who have the power to alter the emotional state of people around them through, er, finger guns. The book is peppered with silent panels and almost non-verbal until Sadie and Wes interact and relies Halvorson’s highly gestural art to show Wes’ lonely, day to day existence. Finger Guns understands that metaphor that being a kid is like being in a MMO, but on a lower level, and what if you found a way to level up quickly? This comic focuses on the sweet, sad side of being a teenager, but funny shenanigans do happen along the way. Finger Guns isn’t a runaway hit, but it has a fun core concept, a couple compelling leads, and is well constructed visually. Overall: 7.8 Verdict: Read

Amethyst #1 (DC/Wonder Comics)**- Amy Reeder writes, draws, and colors this excellent revival of Amethyst of Gemworld where Amy returns to her realm for a big birthday party, but no one is to be found. So, she embarks on an epic quest through Gemworld to find her missing parents/subjects with an air of mystery and tension happening throughout the comic. Reeder’s visuals are a true treat as she plays with panel shapes and uses a candy coated, 80s Saturday morning cartoon palette. Her figures are highly emotive, especially Amethyst, who is the perfect combo of idealism and sadness. Amethyst #1 is a pastel, fantasy comic that somehow takes place in the DCU and is a wonderful showcase for Amy Reeder’s considerable talents. Overall: 8.9 Verdict: Buy

 Fantastic Four: Grimm Noir #1 (Marvel)– Grimm Noir #1 is a one-shot from Gerry Duggan, Ron Garney, and Matt Milla where the Thing puts away the family bickering and cosmic threats for more of an internal struggle. Also, there’s rain, trench coats, a lovely chanteuse, and wonderful blue-meets-chiaroscuro lighting from Milla. Duggan doesn’t really provide much plot or mystery, but gives just enough frame for Garney’s composition as Ben Grimm almost literally crumbles to rocks as he deals with the nightmare being D’Spayre, who is the bad guy metaphor for his feelings of loneliness, otherness, and generally waiting for the other shoe to drop with him and his wife Alicia Masters. Duggan and Garney make Grimm Noir a true monster comic with many panels of body horror imagery like Thing’s eyeballs rolling around with rocks as he enters D’Spayre’s realm. It’s both a strong character study of one of my favorite Marvel characters and a good visual change of pace from Ron Garney and Matt Milla. Although, I wish some of the images had more of a storytelling function beyond “This looks cool.” and “Yay symbolism.” Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost #1 (Marvel)– Giant Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost #1 is an homage to famous “silent” issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s New X-Men where Jean Grey and Emma Frost go into Professor X’s brain and find an important secret. Jonathan Hickman lays down a big reveal featuring the heart of the X-Men, Storm and then leaves it up to the imaginative visuals of Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson to tell the story. Wilson’s colors truly enhance the story using more intense colors every time telekinesis is used and being flatter every time Dauterman does a big, widescreen shot to establish setting or conflict. Speaking of conflict, Hickman and Dauterman do a visually memorable job of depicting the “guardians” of Storm’s mind before getting more body horror, and well, Krakoa-y as they get deeper into her psyche. Giant Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost is a great reminder of the way clear, interesting, and character focused visuals can tell a comics story, and the superhero comics can have an interiority to them and not just be a series of external fights. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy

New Mutants #8 (Marvel)– I might have to start skipping the Ed Brisson written issues of New Mutants after yet another stereotyped-filled stinker. However, I love how straight he plays Nova Aquilla with Boom Boom, Armor, and of course, Magma interacting with toga wearing Romans in the middle of the Brazilian rain forest. What follows is a cool powers-featuring action sequence with more Sebastian Shaw wheels spinning and even more cartel stereotypes. It’s not as bad as the previous issues in Nebraska because Shaw would definitely do the imperialist thing with the cartels, but the fictional Latin America country and one-dimensional focus on drugs and assault weapons is straight out of a Chuck Dixon comic from the 90s. On the art side, Marco Failla does have a great energy to his art and definitely nails the effect of Boom Boom and Armor blowing off steam against a (For now.) one-dimensional monstrous enemy while rescuing mutant refugees. Overall: 5.6 Verdict: Pass

X-Force #8 (Marvel)– Benjamin Percy and Bazaldua resolve the Domino flesh factory storyline and escalate Xeno’s threat. There’s also a big fight scene on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and Colossus and Domino bond over shared trauma and pain even though they live in what is technically a utopia. When they leap into combat against Xeno’s “Dominos”, it’s an exorcism, not a mandated fight scene with Colossus tenderizing punches and Domino’s more graceful moves making up for the guilt she feels in the infiltration of Krakoa and the assassination of Professor X. Bazaldua’s art is truly in motion in X-Force #8 as he cuts up panels to provide context for fight scenes and adds little, interesting touches like Sage holding a four leaf clover while she discusses Domino’s luck abilities with her. The plot of X-Force #8 is all about ramping up an external threat, but the chemistry between Domino and Colossus, both in action and conversation, is why I enjoyed this book. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy

X-Men/Fantastic Four #2 (Marvel)X-Men/Fantastic Four #2 definitely has middle of chapter crossover vibes from Chip Zdarsky, the Dodsons, Laura Martin, and some other inkers they got to make the deadline.The introduction of Dr. Doom is a nice touch and a call back to the original X-Men/FF miniseries as he only wants Franklin Richards to reach his true potential. (Or does he?) Also, there’s a great stealth sequence featuring the Invisible Woman infiltrating the Quiet Council that makes this table setting chapter almost worth it before transitioning to generic superhero action. There’s all kinds of cross purposes motivations going on from the FF’s desire just to bring Franklin home to the X-Men trying to protect Krakoa and Dr. Doom’s more complex goal. Zdarsky seems to be having a lot of fun writing him as a chess player instead of an arrogant baddie, and the battle of wits between strategists like him, Reed Richards, Cyclops, and adding the personal element make this crossover worth following in the long run. Overall: 7.5 Verdict: Read

X-Men #7 (Marvel)X-Men #7 is Jonathan Hickman, Leinil Yu, and Sunny Gho’s ode to religious ritual: Krakoa style and also deals with the questions of Scarlet Witch, House of M, and if de-powered mutants can live in Krakoa. They frame it as a conversation between Cyclops and Nightcrawler, one of the most religiously devout X-Men, as well as a trial of combat called the Crucible between Apocalypse and Melody Guthrie, one of Cannonball’s siblings, who was depowered back on M-Day. As the fight rages on and violent ritual of death and rebirth ensues, Kurt wonders if the afterlife matters in a world where one can be resurrected and live on Krakoa indefinitely. He and Scott also talk about the idea of the best self and the choice of which version of “you” comes back after the resurrection protocols. Honestly, Cyclops is just happy to be happy for once after the past eight years or so of shit he’s been through in the comics and demonstrates real, blind faith even though that’s usually Nightcrawler’s role. X-Men #7 again shows that my favorite issues of the series are the ones where Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Yu delve into the ideological underpinnings of Krakoa and the new mutant nation with this issue acting as the religion to X-Men #4’s politics. Overall: 9.5 Verdict: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Underrated: The Impact Of Comic Book Television Shows And Movies

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: the impact of comic book TV shows and movies (outside of the Big Two).


Last week I reran a column for Underrated about The Death Defying Doctor Mirage as I had lost track of time Saturday morning, when I usually write the column, because I was watching the four episodes of The Boys on Amazon Prime that I had left after slowly picking away at the series during the week.

It was then I realized that adaptations of comic books in an episodic format are strangely underrated. Even the comic book movies, to some extent, also fall under that umbrella. Now, to be clear when I say these things are underrated, my tongue is not in my cheek; I am well aware that comic book movies are a multi billion dollar industry, and that some of those films are critical darlings – and rightly so. But I’m not talking about the movies per se, but rather their impact on comics. Not how the comics change over time to better reflect the movies, because that does happen, but rather the impact that the movies and television shows have in driving people to comic shops.

Yup.

Without the comics obviously these shows and movies wouldn’t exist in the same way (if at all). I mean you may end up with something like Heroes (remember that show from the mid-2000’s?), but there’d be no real guarantee that it’d take off. No, without the comics there’d be no live action adaptations.

But it’s not just a one way street.

I see it first hand when working at my LCS that the shows do drive purchases of the trades. To a lesser extent the floppies also sell, but in my experience that tends to be what people assume to be the key issues more than anything else; not always, and obviously it’s going to be different in different shops. It’s also important to note that the majority of the shows that push the comics aren’t always the ones I expected; shows like Doom Patrol and others that are also based on lesser known properties tend to generate more interest than the big ticket superhero movies. Personally, I think that’s because we all know who Batman, Spider-Man et al are, but even among comic book fans, few have read things like The Boys, Happy and Umbrella Academy.

It’s those adaptations that seem to have the higher impact on people wanting to circle back to the comics. Whether that’s because the people asking are already readers of comics, just not those comics, or because the idea of a smaller world to discover is less intimidating that trying to find your way into the X-Men (though the last few movies haven’t been great), the Avengers or Shazam comics.

The older a property, the more chance you’ve got at picking up a crappy story.

Now this two way street I’m seeing may be a localized trend. Your shop may have noticed something entirely different; maybe your shop has seen a surge of Avengers comics after folks have experienced the MCU, or maybe there was a sudden rush for Shazam books. Maybe the impact of the adaptations hasn’t been felt in your shop, and that sucks.

The impact of comics on television and cinema is undeniable. But there is a feedback from movie goers and others who binge Daredevil back to comicdom. It’s a small, and often underrated trend, but it is there. It’s turning the folks who wander in to a shop for the first or second time on to their new favourite book that’s the real challenge (though if you’re passionate about comics and can articulate that well, it shouldn’t be a huge hurdle).


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else next week.

Recap: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow S4E11 – Seance and Sensibility

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow‘s episode “Seance and Sensibility” starts off with Nate’s dads funeral. It seems that Zari and Nate’s pretend relationship might be turning into something real. The whole team shows up to lend their support and Ray is afraid to see his bestie because everyone believes that Nora is the killer but, a cute little heart to heart assuages Ray’s fears and everyone’s favorite bromance is still going strong. Constantine is worried about the bad mojo where they are and it has nothing to do with Nora’s presence in the bathroom. While Charlie tries to help Nora deal with her monster half, a change in the timeline occurs and they discover some trouble in Bath, England 1802 and Jane Austen , and her writing, might be in trouble. Pre-mission girl talk gets raunchy in a super real way when Mona senses Zari’s attraction to Nate right before the time jump to the wedding and things get awesome when the bride to be leaves the groom at the altar for her maid and the groom confesses his love for his betrove’s mother.

Meanwhile back on the ship Ray is getting some secret alone time with Nora until Charlie interrupts. While Zari goes off to get some dirt from the handsome coachman she met earlier, Mona learns that it isn’t always awesome to meet your idols because Jane Austen turns out to be less of a romantic than her novels would have had us believe. Rory helps Nate do some digging while Constantine realizes that Nate’s dads spirit is still present and it looks like they might be able to make contact. Using Mona’s knowledge of the Sara and her blend in and get some juicy gossip and discover that the coach man they pushed Zari to get under so she could get over Nate, might just be the time fugitive they are after. Being the sharp woman that she is, she figures it out halfway through a heavy makeout session where he admits to his magical origin and reveals himself as Kamadeva, the hindu god of love.

Kamadeva, the namesake of the Kama Sutra, is more than willing to follow Zari wherever she goes , so getting him back on the ship isn’t that hard. While trying to keep Nora hidden from the rest of his team, by hiding her in his bedroom, which isn’t as romantic or passion filled as you would think for separated lovers. Constantine and Rory fill Nate in on his dad’s presence but, Nate is unwilling to hear him out which might bode poorly for Nora. Kamadeva releases his essence through the ship which helps give Ray and Nora a little boost , even if it is only in their dreams, to have some adorable and consensual sexy time and everyone else on board to have some super sexy dreams. While Charlie got David Bowie, Zari got Nate and Kama and, Sara got Ava and they were all happy about the match up, Mona got memories of her old dead love leading to an argument with an anti love Zari leading her to wolf out and go after Jane Austen.

Jane Austen gets into it with Mona/Wolfie and doesn’t back down, she admits that she does believe in love and only marrying for it. Mona decides to lay it all out for Jane and tells her that her writing will matter and, Jane in turn gives her advice about not losing control and keeping relationships equal. Zari has it out with Kamadevi who tells her his back story and tries to help her past her fear and love block and Zari is surprisingly all in and releases him to help her sort it out, leading to Zari proposing marriage. Back at the funeral Nate forgoes his plan to tell the truth about his dad and gives a lackluster and basic eulogy, his mom tells a sweet story about how much his dad loved him and how big his heart was.

In typical Legend campiness Zari breaks out in song and since they’re all still in the magic love spell, the musical turns into a bollywood musical complete with dancing. Mona shows up to put an end to the marriage madness and her girl squad backs up the deadening of the the love spell wedding, because who wants to be wife number 1001? Mona and Zari end their fighting and realize they will be okay because yeah, they might not have a relationship with the people they love, they do have some pretty kick ass female friends and it’s going to be okay because if all else fails they still have each other.

Constantine leads the seance we have been waiting for the whole episode and he jumps into Rory’s body, since Nate is still holding a grudge. Nate’s dad in his Rory suit tells Constantine that Neron was behind everything , just as Nate goes exploring in the house and finds his dad’s secret room where he sees a taped “commercial” finding out that his dad was trying to build a theme park based on one of Nate’s old drawings. Finding the tape causes Nate to forgive his dad because he realized he wasn’t being a bad guy, he was trying to do something good. Constantine is getting a little clarity too as he drunkenly fights with his taunting reflection before Neron, in his shiny new Desmond (Constantine’s former lover) suit, let’s Constantine know , officially, that he’s back and coming for him.

This episode hit all the good notes and while there wasn’t a whole lot of action, we got a whole lot of raw emotion and real feelings. Even the musical portion of the episode fit in, felt in place and made sense in the context of the episode. In a period piece with lots of drama and a little bit of song and dance, the camera doesn’t linger on bodices and beauty, even though there is much of it. Alexandra La Roche directed this awesome episode and the female gaze shows in the way things are shown and handled.

I give this episode a 9.3 for its visuals and its story.

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 7/1

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


 

Batman50CoverMr H

Batman #50 (DC) Not many times does a comic bring out such emotion but wow. I feel like this could be Tom King’s masterpiece. This was fantastic from beginning panel to end. The way countless artists and creators were woven in, was so fitting considering how they have had such an impact on Batman’s history. The simple elegance of a secret rooftop wedding was genius. In a medium where most fictional weddings are over the top fiascos this was so nice and refreshing. I loved the double story narration throughout from both Bruce and Selina. Having doubted their true connection, Tom King has made a believer out of me. If Batman is to marry anyone, it has to be Catwoman. I believe that now. There was no over the top villain showdown but a definite surprise ending. This book had me mulling and contemplating true love. Rarely does a comic bring this kind of emotion out of me. There were a couple beats that did it though. I cannot say enough good about this book. It lived up to all the hype and I am so happy it did. Overall: Incredible. Tom King pulled another miracle out of his hat and it had nothing to do with Scot Free. This was all aces from me. Still astonished how well it was done. Score: 10/10 I’d give a 20/20 If I could.

Ryan C

Dark Ark #8 (Aftershock)** – Continuing the recent and highly successful storytelling trope of alternating between “past” and “present” that this series has settled comfortably into, Cullen Bunn deepens the mystery considerably in this issue while offering some tasty, if not exactly surprising, revelations to balance things out while Juan Doe, for his part, offers one stunning, eye-popping image after another, including a couple of double-page spreads that will absolutely knock your socks off. One of the best books that no one is talking about. Overall: 8. Recommendation: Buy.

dark ark 8.jpgThe Man Of Steel #6 (DC)** – Ho-hum. Brian Michael Bendis “ends” the “threat” of Rogol Zaar with predictable Deus Ex Machina nonsense, the dangling subplot of the arson fires is left that way, and Lois and Jon are temporarily ushered out the door by means you’ve seen coming for at least a couple of issues now. Jason Fabok’s art is perfectly competent in a “New 52”-esque sort of way, but all I can say about this at the end of the day is “thank Rao it’s over with.” Overall: 3. Recommendation: Pass.

Cosmic Ghost Rider #1 (Marvel)** – Kinda dumb, kinda fun, but probably leaning more toward the dumb, Donny Cates goes the pure set-up route with his script here, which is fine, but the fireworks — assuming any are to be had — will probably kick in next issue when the Immortal-Spirit-Of-Vengeance version of Frank Castle starts tooling around the cosmos with Baby Thanos. Dylan Burnett’s art is fine, but in fairness he’s no Geoff Shaw. Overall: 6. Recommendation: Read.

The Grave Diggers Union #8 (Image)** – With one issue left to go, Wes Craig kicks things into high gear story-wise with pathos and family drama necessarily overshadowing the comedic elements for this installment, while Toby Cypress matches the mood with some great, horrifying, highly idiosyncratic artwork. If you’ve been enjoying the series so far you’ll find a lot to like with this one — and I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit. Overall: 7.5. Recommendation: Buy.

Shean

cosmic_ghost_rider_cover_1Cosmic Ghost Rider #1 (Marvel)– Cool concept of Frank Castle being brought back from the dead by Odin to become the Ghost Rider in outer space, pretty funny overall. The story feels like if Bruce Campbell played Groo The Barbarian met Hells Angels in outer space . Was expecting a more serious take , but hopefully the 2nd issue fulfills the promise of the premise. As far as how good this first issue is, it’s mainly alright, not great.
Overall: 6 Recommendation: Borrow

Patrick

I Hate Fairyland #20 (Image)** – The final issue of Skottie Young’s rampage through this muffin hugger. Gert faces off against Dark Cloudia with the Hearts of the Council – then faces off against the Council. Not a bad way to go out – but not great, either. If I had had my heart’s desire, it would have been that Young had used his last arc to really dig into what makes Fairyland fun and Gert’s wishes to escape. Still, I look forward to the possibility of seeing more of the adventures of Larry, Duncan Dragon, and company, and I’ll miss Fairyland. Overall: 7 Recommendation: Buy. 

The Kurdles Adventure Magazine 1The Kurdles Adventure Magazine #1 (Fantagraphics)** – This is the brainchild of artist Robert Goodin, intended to be a “kid-friendly comic magazine”. Featuring the adventures of a grumpy unicorn, a concerned teddy bear, and the star of the show, a kindly pentapus named Phineas, Goodin’s work is charming and funny – though I think my 6-year-old would find it a bit dull (so many words!). His one-page stuff is great. Guest artists include Cesar Spinoza (Pacho Clokey, a b&w cartoon in a photographed world), Andrew Brandou (with a take on Paul Bunyan and Babe that’s kind of fun), and Cathy Malkasian (the brilliant “No-Body Likes You, Greta Grump”). The book is almost worth the price of admission just for the 5-page “Forbidden to Love Him!”, starring Phineas Pentapus, an absolutely pitch-perfect 50’s romance comic. And I mean perfect on every level: the plot, the dialogue, the art, colouring, lettering, and print effects. This is a little masterpiece. Do I really have to wait a whole year for the next issue? Overall: 8 but Goodin’s material is a solid 9. Recommendation: Buy.

Logan

Catwoman #1 (DC) In one issue, Catwoman shows that it’s one of DC’s most beautiful books with art that is both grotesque and well-rendered by Joelle Jones and a palette from Laura Allred that stays in the shadows. Jones’ story isn’t too bad either as Selina is trying to reinvent herself in Villa Hermosa, Mexico, but her peace of high stakes gambling is broken up by copycats in Catwoman costumes killing cops. The initial villain is pretty freaky: kind of like a female Peter Thiel, and I look forward to more rooftop chases and gorgeous architecture and fashions from Jones and Allred. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy

Assassinistas01Assassinistas #6 (IDW/Black Crown) Sure, the final issue of Tini Howard, Gilbert Hernandez, and Rob Davis’ mini has daring escapes, sniper shots, and even retro flashbacks. But it’s also the forging of a family as it’s revealed that Dominic does have a relationship with his father, and that Octavia is still coming to terms with coming out as gay. However, by the time, the finale rolls about, his boyfriend Taylor is outwitting the series’ villain Blood Diamond, and the day is saved by an unexpected source. Assassinistas #6 has it all: a quirky family dynamic, retro aesthetic, and lively cartooning from Hernandez. Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy



Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Recap: Supergirl S3E16 “Of Two Minds”

There’s a lot to unpack in Supergirl‘s “Of Two Minds” and even more questions about the future that the Legion is trying to prevent. Pestilence is on the loose and Imra and the rest of the legion is out to kill her with their weaponized blood before she becomes Blight. Lena is still trying to find a cure for Reign using pain to induce her alien state so she can study her. A dead bird leads way to five sick city council members and there’s a mysterious mark appearing on those affected.

While the team is dispatched to the nearest outbreak site, Winn uses humor to deflect (and hit on an unimpressed doctor) and J’onn J’onzz says some foreshadowing famous last words about “not causing a panic”, which in formulatic terms means, a panic is about to occur. Imra of course, is the cause of the panic thanks to her putting up a forcefield around the building in an bid to show Supergirl just how much she doesn’t know about anything. Lena discovers new intel about Reign and the parallel universe Sam goes to when she’s not Reign.

Mon’El and Alex reach out to Imra & Supergirl ,respectively to get them to compromise. There’s a hint of everyone knowing that this rivalry is jealousy based , Imra was at the site of the their discovery of a possible Pestilence who turns up dead. Supergirl expresses her displeasure with Imra going rogue and leaving to kill the suspect without telling anyone but, their talk is cut shot by Winn coming down with the disease.

While Winn recovers Imra and Supergirl have a passionate talk about murdering WorldKillers rather than saving the human part of them and Imra storms off refusing to give up her killing objective. Sam and Reign have it out verbally in parallel plane with Reign trying to get Sam to surrender to her dark side. J’onn uses his troubles of dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s to correlate with Kara’s problem with Irma’s quest. Mon’El calls Imra on her mission statement based on her emotions and begins to question the whole League and mission with Braniac.

Alex falls ill from the precursor to Blight as Winn’s condition worsens, the DNA based vaccine from the future doesn’t work on what they have because, it’s not the full disease. Winn ruminates on his relationship with his mom and having great friends , like Jimmy who dropped everything to be by his side, seems to make peace with his seemingly inevitable end. Sam goes toe to toe with Reign and it isn’t pretty, Reign plays upon her worse maternal fears causing Sam to ask for to beg for death to save her. When Pestilence is discovered the team sets out to stop her and save her human half, while Braniac alerts Imra who is ready to kill her.

Pestilence breaks in to a board room and confronts the insurance company that has been ruining the quality of patient care , using her godlike capabilities to kill people she finds unworthy. Imra decides to attempt to kill Pestilence with a sneak attack while Supergirl is trying to talk sense into her. Her interference causes Pestilence to scratch Supergirl who falls ill which sucks for the team because it gives Julia time to show up and take her away. On the upside as Pestilence fled with Purity ,she drops her needle giving them her pure DNA which is enough to secure and create a cure. Winn and Alex wake up and Supergirl and Imra finally have an open, honest heart to heart that clears to air. Imra finally seems more real than competitive, giving her a bit more of a multidimensional portrayal than the writers have given her. The other two Worldkillers, Purity and Pestilence, sense Reign’s presence and descend upon L-Corp , which sends the team there to help Lena and her secret gets out , unfortunately so does Reign.

This episode was touching, there wasn’t a hint of male toxicity in the whole episode, there was a lot of emotion and tears from the male characters showing us something that we rarely see in modern media. There’s also something nice about Sam wanting to call in her girl crew to fix her in stark contrast to what seemed like the girl fight bound Imra and Supergirl. While his wasn’t one of the best episodes of the series, it was one of the most human, emotions were toyed with and the writing was less pop culture feminism and more real life applications of feminism. It seems like the writers are veering away from the show being all about Supergirl, like Arrow or The Flash, and more about the team as a whole. This veer isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that the story is more defined and very paint by numbers heartstring storylines with real world themes.

Overall Rating: 7.9

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 2/10

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


 

Jon

DSK_Cv28Deathstroke #28 (DC): This is probably the best starting place you’re going to get on this series as Slade Wilson deals with the fallout from last week’s annual. Unfortunately it feels a bit like watching a random episode of an ongoing soap opera. Christopher Priest is one of our best writers but he’s not one to hold the hands of new readers. There’s plenty of action and a few good character bits. Diognes Neves’ art is good but not particularly remarkable. You’re better off starting with the first trade if you haven’t been reading from day one. Rating: 7 Recommendation: Buy.

Swamp Thing Winter Special (DC): I’ve never understood the appeal of Tom King and the late Len Wein. I don’t dispute that they’re good writers but they’re just not my thing. That said I love Swamp Thing so I was interested to read this especially after the attrocity that was Young Monsters In Love. It’s okay but it doesn’t come close to touching Alan Moore or Scott Snyder’s run or even Wein’s seminal work on the character with co-creator Bernie Wrightson. Nothing really grabbed me about either King’s story of Swamp Thing in a blizzard or Wein’s final script presented as he left it without dialog and illustrated by Kelley Jones (one of the few artists who could possibly hold a candle to Wrightson). It’s not bad but it’s not particularly memorable either. Rating: 6 Recommendation: Pass

Vs #1 (Image): Since there’s nothing particularly original about the concept (war as entertainment) execution is key and fortunately it’s pretty good. Ivan Brandon is a solid VS_01-1writer but the real star is Esad Ribic’s art. He delivers some really interesting, quirky designs in his signature style that give Vs the feeling of a Euro-comic or a Heavy Metal feature. Letter Aditya Bidkar completes the illusion with square balloons and some night digital effects meant to simulate the pop up text that appears on screen during a broadcast. There’s a lot of fun to be had here and a lot of potential for more as the series progresses. Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy.

Twisted Romance #1 (Image): Reading Twisted Romance is a bit like visiting a modern art museum. It’s so defiantly different from what mainstream comics are that just looking at what Alex DeCampi, Katie Skelly, and Sarah Horrocks put on the page challenges your perception of what comics can be. There’s also a text feature by Magen Cubed. This isn’t a comic for everyone but if you like the idea of a horror romance comic with LGBTQ themes rendered in the visual tradition of Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon then it just might be for you. Rating: 8. Recommendation: Buy.

X-Men: Red #1 (Marvel) Whatever bad taste might have been left in my mouth from last months end of Phoenix Resurrection this first issue has pretty much purged. Tom Taylor does a great job of wrapping the newly restored Jean Grey up in the trappings of a messiah for mutant kind and it only makes sense seeing that she’s come back from the dead not once but twice. More importantly he understands how these people should talk. I’m really looking forward to where this one is going especially once the identity of the shadowy villain of this first arc is revealed. Mahmud Asrar’s art is great as usual.
Rating: 7 Recommendation: Buy.

 Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock (Marvel) With Avengers: Infinity War part one opening in a few months it only makes sense that Marvel would prepare for another Infinity themed event in the comics. Surpassing the original Infinity Gauntlet is a tall order but writer Gerry Duggan has me intrigued with this first one shot leading up to…something with a series of time hops engineered by Kang. Mike Allred is so perfectly matched to the character of Adam Warlock that it’s surprising he hasn’t more with him in the past. Rating: 8 Recommendation: Buy.

abbottElana

Abbott #1 (BOOM!) is such a great example of a comic that lives in a genre I’m hungry for in the medium— a bi black woman doing investigative work in an urban fantasy setting. And it does it one better: it’s in Detroit in 1972, and deals with all the sociopolitical context surrounding that moment in time. Ahmed is one of the most exciting new voices in comics and he’s done his homework here. Kivelä’s art has page compositions that fit in the retro genre setting and his 1972 works for me (a major 70s obsessive even if I didn’t live it). Wordie’s colors are soft but saturated— extra painterly, warm like vintage film.
Rating 9 Recommendedation: Buy
For more on Abbott listen to our podcast interview with Saladin Ahmed: https://graphicpolicy.com/…/saladin-ahmed-podcast-abbott/

Ryan C

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #2 (DC)** – Another fine issue from Mark Russell and Mike Feehan that seems a bit confused and disjointed from a story standpoint at first — but all comes together brilliantly by the end. Not really sure what purpose Brandee Stillwell’s backup strip serves, but it’s more “okay” than it is “bad,” and the main feature is strong enough to carry the weight with or without it. As good as “The Flintstones” was, this is shaping up to be even better. Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: BM_Cv40Buy

Dastardly & Muttley #6 (DC)** – Garth Ennis and Mauricet wrap up their six-parter with a genuinely surprising and smart finale that will give the best of Grant Morrison’s mind-benders a run for their money in the “meta” department, and while this comic won’t blow you away with its art, truth be told it’s been solid, if unspectacular, throughout, while the scripts have been uniformly clever and funny. A really solid conclusion to a really solid series. Overall: 8. Recommendation: Buy

Batman #40 (DC)** – Tom King pulls back from the idiotic idea his last cliffhanger flirted with, but he’d put himself in such a “no-win” situation with it that backing off feels like a cheap cop-out. Better just to not have even gone there. As for the rest of the issue? It’s pretty slight, and the choppy dialogue style is seriously starting to grate. Seriously, everyone sounds almost exactly the same. Joelle Jones’ art is lush, dynamic, and captivating, though, so the whole thing’s not a total loss. Overall: 5 Recommendation: Read. Or at least look at.

Monstro Mechanica #3 (Aftershock)** – Paul Allor’s take on Leonardo da Vinci is certainly unique — seldom is he portrayed as a calculating and entirely unsympathetic asshole like he is here — but the supporting characters, including our ostensible protagonist, are considerably less developed, as is the historical setting itself, replete as it is with intricacies that are never even close to fully explained. Chris Evenhuis’ art is nice and sleek and reasonably crisp, but not enough in and of itself to keep me hanging around at four bucks a pop. I think I’m out after this one. Overall: 4. Recommendation: Pass

Logan

X-Men Red #1 (Marvel)– Another day, another superhero hit for Tom Taylor. With Jean Grey back from the dead, Taylor and artist Mahmud Asrar portray as filled with empathy and ready to make mutants a player on the global stage not through battle or isolation, TwistedRomance_01-1but integration. It’s cool watching her get T’challa and Namor to back her play for mutant nation. The team assembled around her is fantastic blend of heart, ferocity, and comic relief from Nightcrawler, Wolverine (Laura), and Honey Badger (Gabby) respectively. Toss in some wide screen and occasionally touching visuals from Asrar and a great surprise villain, and it’s strong launch for the new team. Overall: 8.6 Verdict Buy

Twisted Romance #1 (Image)– Katie Skelly, Alex De Campi, and Sarah Horrocks do genre in a very indie way in this mini-anthology. Skelly and De Campi’s incubus story is sleazy and jazzy like the clubs Mackie prowls and is chased nicely by Magen Cubed’s prose story about human and vampire monster hunters in love. It’s easily the best of the trio with its sexual tension, queer romance, and Stevie Nicks karaoke. The CW should cancel Supernatural and option it immediately. Horrocks’ Red Medusa is the weakest narratively of the three, but her art drips with anguish and impotency. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy

Shean

Black Panther: Sound and the Fury #1 (Marvel)– This last year, Comics fans have had their share of great books about Black Panther to choose from, as the bar of excellence had been set. So when I heard that the House of Ideas was giving us a new book right before the movie comes out and it is written by the co-screenwriter of the movie, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Unfortunately, this book spends a good amount of BLACK PANTHER SOUND AND FURY #1time reintroducing readers to who T’Challa is and who Black Panther is as a hero, which in its delivery, feels vacant and insincere.This debut issue falls flat on its face, I hope the second issue takes readers somewhere. Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

Rise of the Black Panther #2 (Marvel) – We get deeper into the abductions of Wakandans from two different points of view. We see all the trouble Syan, T’Challa’s uncle dealt with while he was the Black Panther, including the abductions that were rampant during his rule. Fast forward, to when T’Challa has taken the mantle, and the abductions have become worse which leads T’Challa into a confrontation with the Sub -Mariner, as he searches for the traitors, where both men forge an uneasy alliance. By issue’s end, T’Challa and Namor find what they are both looking for, in a neighboring country nation, where Wakandans gain their freedom and The traitors who tried to overthrow Namor are punished. Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy



Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Movie Review: Justice League

Justice League posterIt’s hard to think of a time recently when a film has had so many expectations riding on it. 

And Justice League will undoubtedly fulfill many of those for a lot of fans of the source material. If you’ve been a fan of what Zack Snyder has done with the DC universe so far, you will continue to enjoy this. If you enjoyed Joss Whedon‘s work on The Avengers but have been “meh” so far on Man of Steel or Batman v. Superman, then you may enjoy yourself here, as the best explanation of Justice League is “Joss Whedon meets Zack Snyder.”

Unfortunately, that also means the film also embodies many of their respective weaknesses, too.

It’s no wonder this feels like a mishmash. Zack Snyder finished principle photography on the film and then had to step away from the project due to family issues. He entrusted finishing the film, including some reshoots and a script polish, to Whedon. Both of their fingerprints are evident in this film. Snyder’s stylized action is key and brings a bombasticity to the fights Whedon has never been capable of. Whedon brings some humor and teases out character elements in little asides that are key to enjoyment of the movie. In a lot of ways, this is a marriage that makes sense. In others. . . well, let’s say it’s easy to tell which parts of the film who was responsible for. It’s sort of like listening to The Beatles’ White Album — Lennon and McCartney were credited for all of their songs together, but it was very clear who took the lead on which track as the two partners styles started to diverge more wildly.

THE SETUP

Superman is dead. (Spoiler alert!) Sensing a moment of weakness and hopelessness, intergalactic conqueror Steppenwolf has returned to Earth to try to conquer it. Yes returned, because apparently he tried this schtick before and was repelled by the combined armies of Amazons, Atlanteans, and men. So he’s going back after them and artifacts he left behind that he needs to conquer the planet.

Batman (Ben Affleck), wracked with guilt over the death of Superman, is trying to put together a team to fight what he sees as this oncoming storm even before he’s aware of Steppenwolf’s presence. When Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) informs him the threat is already here, they redouble their efforts to find new teammates.

This includes Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Barry Allen aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher). While Bats and Diana get top billing, make no mistake that the other teammates are not sidekicks. Indeed, each gets their due and gets their own fun moments and character arcs.

Yes, Aquaman is really f*#king cool. You would’ve told me 20 years ago I’d be saying my favorite part of a Justice League movie might be Aquaman, I’d have laughed in your face. You’ll believe a man can swim. . . and kick all sorts of ass. Momoa’s comedic skills are put on full display here as well, delivering some of the best lines in the movie.

Speaking of comic relief, The Flash has always been the Justice League’s jokey conscience. In this version, we get a much younger, greener version of the character who is only barely discovering his powers. This is a double edged sword, as it gives the character room to grow and a great story arc, as well as giving Batman a chance to play superhero mentor. Ezra Miller does a great job and tries to steal every scene he’s in, which can sometimes be a little overbearing, but is overall really fun.

Unfortunately, we also get a wildly uneven powerset and skillset. At one moment Flash is literally tripping over himself, and not ten minutes later must perform a demanding run to deliver a static electricity bolt at a precise moment. Characters can be layered and be able to grow and have varying degrees of competence, but we can’t expect someone to be so bad at something one minute and five minutes later perfect at it (without even the use of a sports training montage!) That’s not showing growth and nuance, it’s just sloppy storytelling and characterization.

Speaking of, this brings us to Cyborg. It’s a good thing most audiences aren’t familiar with the character, or else they may have expectations about his powers. Apparently, Cyborg’s main superpower is exposition. He also has the ability to pull a Deus Ex Superhero at any given time. Need your jet to take you from Gotham to Russia in under 2 hours? Cyborg can “hack” your plane and make it happen!  Need to prevent Steppenwolf from assembling his doomsday terraforming machine to conquer earth? Cyborg can “hack” it!!

To be fair, [Minor Spoiler] Cyborg’s origin in the film is tied in to one of the artifacts Steppenwolf is using, but it’s still incredibly convenient. You know what else is incredibly convenient? The Kryptonian spaceship containing all sorts of technology (for the THIRD. MOVIE. IN A ROW.) whose main purpose, again, is to move the plot forward. Equally convenient? Another alien would-be conqueror who wants to terraform the earth.

It’s almost hard for Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and The Flash to shine under the weight of all of this– but they do. It’s just unfortunate that they have to.

WHEDON v. SNYDER: DAWN OF “JUST US” LEAVE

Getting back to the description of the film as “Joss Whedon meets Zack Snyder”– Note that in this description of the film, nowhere is a mention of Patty Jenkins. And that’s with good reason. Jenkins’ Wonder Woman still stands head and shoulders above all other DC movies, including this, as Princess Diana herself does among her teammates. Nowhere here do we match the spirit and fun of Wonder Woman, but we get occasional glimpses of it.

And Wonder Woman is the best part of Justice League. Her mere introduction on screen elicited cheers and applause from the audience, and her opening intro is masterful and fun. No small amount of credit should be given to Whedon, whose trademark handling of “strong female characters” is basically a cliche at this point, but it’s still missing some of what Jenkins brought.

Indeed, the film’s best analogue is Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. That film nearly collapsed under its own weight of trying to move Marvel’s franchises forward, but forgot to really ever be or say anything in and of itself. Justice League sometimes feels that way– an obligatory team up sequel because that’s the next step in the movie franchise plan.

Another apt comparison might be to Superman II, which famously had Richard Donner fired from it and the rest of the film was completed by Richard Lester. The seams are clearly visible on that Frankenmovie where Donner ends and where Lester begins. So too is it clear how much of Whedon’s sardonic essence was brought into this film both in its script and reshoots which he oversaw.  While Snyder stepped away due to family issues (and I’m not going to give him any hard time about that) and entrusted Whedon to finish his movie, the end result is more Donner-Lester than Lennon-McCartney.

But perhaps this is best seen in the film’s most glaring flaw: Steppenwolf is a boring villain. The only thing remarkable about him is he’s big and powerful and he wants to conquer the earth, so we need an equally awesome team to work together to defeat him. In this, he’s a lot like Ultron. . . and, come to think of it, Zod. Unfortunately you don’t have as interesting an actor portraying Steppenwolf as Terrance Stamp, Michael Shannon, or James Spader. He’s not bad, he’s just lackluster. He can join Malekith from Thor: The Dark World as the least interesting superhero movie villains of recent memory.

And yet, both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Superman II are incredibly good, enjoyable films. You might invoke an aphorism about how great power brings great responsibility, and so maybe we should expect even better than this, but that’s a completely different guy– and he has his own track record of mediocre movies he’s trying to fix (and largely succeeding).

A STORY ABOUT SUPERHERO MOVIES

My son is 9. He is a frequent companion of mine to press screenings, especially when superhero movies are concerned. His first movie in the theater was The Avengers in 2012. He liked Batman v. Superman ok, but mostly just the final battle. Fast forward to 2017: He liked Guardians 2, but not as much as the first one. He was not a fan of Spider-Man: Homecoming — let’s be clear, that was a teeanagery John Hughes movie with superheroes in it, so give him a few years. He was not a huge fan of Wonder Woman —ugh. Girls. (His father is hugely disappointed in him for this)

He gave Thor: Ragnarok a “13 out of 10” and begged to go see it again as soon as possible.

He gave Justice League a 9 out of 10. Because if you can just enjoy this movie for its jokes, its iconography, its action, and its broad characters, you can have a great time with it. Truth? It made my inner 9 year old pretty happy, too– the same 9 year old who taped Superman II off of tv and watched it over and over not at all aware of the film’s flaws. It was simply “Kneel before Zod!” time, and everything else was just fine.

There are also moments of sheer brilliance in this movie, some of which we can’t get into without spoilers. DC fans will be happy, though, as other characters are referenced or implied.

And there are some sweet moments. In a flashback that opens the movie, little kids interview Superman for a podcast they’re doing. A sign of the type of hopelessness Steppenwolf and his parademons feed off of are a white skinhead hassling a Muslim shopkeeper and kicking over his fruit stands. Wonder Woman signs autographs for some little girls and I triple dog dare you not to tear up a little at how much it matters to them.

And then there are the after credits scenes. Yes, two of them. So make sure you stay. The one at the very end of the credits made me want a direct sequel as soon as meta-humanly possible.

It’s unfortunate these moments only checker the film rather than deeply permeating it like a piece of finely marbled kobe beef. Instead it adds extra sizzle to the steak, but doesn’t leave the whole thing as tender and juicy as it might otherwise be. But when you’re dining at Snyder & Whedon steakhouse, this is the meal that we expect. And at the end of the day, it’s still a pretty good steak.

3.5 out of 5

Underrated: (The Concept Of) DC’s Earth One Graphic Novels

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: DC’s Earth One graphic novels.


Because I’m currently reading Batman Earth One Vol. 2, this week I wanted to take a look at DC’s standalone graphic novel series Earth One. The series started with Superman in 2010, followed by Batman and a sequel to Superman in 2012, Teen Titans in 2014, two more sequels (Batman and Superman) in 2015, with Wonder Woman and a Teen Titans sequel in 2016. There will also be more released in 2018 and beyond, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.

Batman-_Earth_One.jpgEach book in the Earth One brand is, as far as I am aware, unconnected to the others aside from the sequels which means that they’re not bogged down by decades of continuity and the ever present worry of making sure the events in one don’t contradict another.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read them all, or even most of them, so don’t expect this to be an all encompassing review type Underrated. The reason I wanted to shine a light on these books is that in the current comics climate where there’s almost too much to keep track of month to month for some of these characters the Earth One books are a breath of fresh air.

It doesn’t hurt that these hundred and forty odd pages were never written as individual issues so there’s a different flow to the stories as the graphic novel format allows the creative team a little more freedom in building their stories. For the reader this means that you get a full and complete story in one read without having to worry about the other Earth One books (yes, obviously the sequels are designed to be read in order as the story follows the characters on their respective journeys).

And books they are.

The two Batman: Earth One books that I own have a slightly embossed dust jacket free hardcover that look and feel fantastic, but that’s not why I wanted to spotlight the series today. The reason I sat down to write about them is that I had forgotten how wonderful it is to read a self contained story about a character you love without thinking about where it fits in the character’s life.

Sometimes all you want is a story that isn’t weighed down by the constraints of continuity and history – I think that’s why the Elseworlds and What If series are so appealing to fans – so that you can lose yourself in a hundred or so pages of your favourite characters.

There we have it. A much shorter Underrated than usual, but hopefully no less enjoyable.

 


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else comic book related next week.

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