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Non-Review Review: Aquaman

Aquaman is not a disaster on the scale of Justice League. It is perhaps closer to Green Lantern.

This comparison makes a certain amount of sense. Both Aquaman and Green Lantern are defined by the influence of writer Geoff Johns. Johns is an interesting figure, having broken into the entertainment world through film. He famously worked as a personal assistant to Richard Donner. However, Johns is best known for his work in comic books, particularly at DC when he enjoyed long character-defining runs on properties like Justice Society of America, The Flash and Green Lantern. A controversial figure, Johns is a strong writer with a great sense of a property’s core appeal.

Sink or swim time.

However, Johns’ skill with comic books does not translate to cinema. Green Lantern was largely influenced by Johns’ own work on the title, which remains a highlight of DC’s twenty-first century output. The feature film employed Johns’ characterisation of Hal Jordan, ported over a lot of his revamped mythology for the character, and even employed one of his own creations as the primary villain. However, a good comic book run did not translate to a good film. Green Lantern was more focused on being a faithful adaptation of the comic than a satisfying film in its own right.

Aquaman suffers from the same fundamental issue. The movie is packed to the gill with continuity references, particularly to Johns’ reworking and reimagining of the character, which has been repackaged as an omnibus collection to mark the release of the film. Aquaman features an incredibly dense mythology that is often delivered via awkward exposition dump, with characters bouncing between long tiring world-building dialogue scenes and epic computer-generated spectacle. Ironically, there is no room for any of this to breathe.

A Mera mistep-a.

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Absolute Superman: For Tomorrow (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

As a Superman story, For Tomorrow leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a disjointed narrative that rapidly shifts through a variety of scenarios, while characters drift in and out (and back in again) in a way that feels convenient at best. There’s hardly the most logical of progressions here, as we move from one story into another. For Tomorrow feels like it has the ingredients for at least three Superman stories that would be quite interesting on their own, instead of being forced to fit together as one plot.

On the other hand, as a meditation on some of the themes and implications and characteristics of Superman as a character, For Tomorrow becomes something far more fascinating. Writer Brian Azzarello would hardly be my first choice to write a Superman story (indeed, he’s almost too cynical to write Batman), but he very clearly has some fascinating ideas about the character and his world. Truth be told, For Tomorrow is often more intriguing than satisfying, which makes it hard to recommend, but is still worth a look for those willing to excuse a somewhat hazy plot to get to some meaty ideas about Superman.

The doves are a nice touch...

The doves are a nice touch…

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Geoff Johns’ (and Jim Lee’s) Run on Justice League – Origin (Review)

It has been a year since DC revamped their whole line, cancelling all their on-goings and launching 52 new series each with a shiny new “#1.” Okay, technically the first in the line, Justice League #1, was published at the end of August, but I figure it’s appropriate to look back on DC’s flagship book and reflect on that first six-issue arc that served to launch the new DC universe (which is being affectionately referred to as the “DCnU”). Putting Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on the Justice League title just seems like common sense.

Johns has, after all, written pretty much all the characters already, and Jim Lee is respected as one of the greatest artists of his generation. However, Origins is far from the perfect reintroduction to DC’s iconic superheroes. While both writer and artist are doing solid work, there’s a sense that these first six issues are simply trying to do too much.

Chains that don’t quite bind…

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Bob Haney & Neal Adams on The Brave & The Bold – Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

In his introduction to this volume, Adams suggests that Bob Haney is one of the most “overlooked” writers in comic book history. “Though they have not gotten the recognition they deserve,” Adams argues, “Bob Haney’s stories are classics of good old comic-book drama, and dense in plot, incident, and twists.” I actually really agree with that summary of Haney’s work, and I think it’s a shame that he’s not included among Denny O’Neil and Steve Englehart as one of the writers who shaped Batman as comics entered the Bronze Age. His stories were ridiculous, but they had a sense of pulpy energy and dynamism to them. Idle folly like reason and logic are subdued to rapid-fire high-concepts, a no-nonsense Batman and a sense that literally anything could happen.

So this collaboration should be epic. Bob Haney is – to me, at least – a definitive Batman writer; Neal Adams is – widely accepted, I hope – as a (if not the) definitive Batman artist. However, combining the two doesn’t work quite as fluidly as one might hope. The stories here are solid, highly entertaining and beautifully rendered, but they’re nowhere near as effective as either creator would be working with a later collaborator. Still, even if not quite at the peak of their powers, Haney and Adams make for a powerful creative team, and there’s a lot to enjoy on their collaboration on The Brave and the Bold.

Wall-to-wall excitement…

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Grant Morrison’s Run on Justice League of America – The Deluxe Edition, Vol. 3-4 (Review/Retrospective)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. With the review of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths later on today, I thought I’d take a look at Grant Morrison’s graphic novel which inspired it in someway. However, I figure – given that large debt that the entire Justice League cartoon owes Morrison’s iconic tenure on Justice League of America – it’s time to take a look at the latter half of Morrison’s run on the title.

We have no powers, there are millions of them and there’s a child in there who needs us to save the world. Let’s go.

– another day at the office for Superman

I remarked in my review of the first two deluxe hardcovers collecting his work on the series that I was perhaps a lot less impressed than most with Morrison’s work on the title. It was grand and bombastic, but it ended up feeling more than a little hallow, especially measured against some of his bolder efforts within the superhero genre. Although time and a few re-reads have softened my perspective quite a bit, I will concede that I don’t measure this as the writer’s best work. It’s epic and smart and fun, but never really becomes anything too much more.

But, then again, they are the Justice League. If I want deep characterisation of philosophical meanderings, I can check out a different book.

It actually looks quite peaceful when you're not saving it...

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Leonardo DiCaprio Planning to Make a Splash as Aquaman?

Well, it’s been a busy week for Leonardo DiCaprio. First his production company snaps up the rights to make a Twilight Zone movie. And now the word on the street suggests that his company, Appian Way, has picked up the rights to develop an Aquaman movie with Warner Brothers. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, it does indicate that DiCaprio may be interested in taking up the mantle of the character. Even if he isn’t, it does mean that an Aquaman movie is coming closer to happening.

aquaman

Somehow I doubt it's smooth sailing ahead...

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