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Non-Review Review: Superman Unbound

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

Superman Unbound is a little disappointing. These direct-to-video animated films can offer brilliant and energetic takes on established comic book characters and stories. The recent two-part adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns and the animated version of New Frontier come to mind. However, Superman Unbound seems to be just treading water, offering a fairly generic Superman story with no real insight into the character and his world.

Up, up and away...

Up, up and away…

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Superman: The Animated Series – Ghost in the Machine (Review)

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

Ah, Lex Luthor. Luthor is, in the right hands, an absolutely fascinating character. The arrogant, ruthless, egocentric hero of his own story – the man who resents the world for not acknowledging his genius are recognising his boundless compassion. He’s a crusader against the alien threat that has lulled his city into a false sense of security, and he’s willing to make untold sacrifices in order to expose Superman as the menace that Luthor knows deep down that he is.

Well, not really. Luthor is a greedy and manipulative sociopath with delusions of grandeur and a ruthless streak a mile wide. However, there’s something quite intoxicating about the romantic mythology he’s created from himself. Ghost in the Machine is really the first time we’ve focused on a character taken in by that mythology, somebody won over by Luthor’s propaganda and his alpha male charisma.

Mercy Graves was never the break-out character that Harley Quinn was, but she’s another valuable addition to the DC universe made by Bruce Timm and the rest of DC animation. Ghost in the Machine is as much her story as Superman’s or Brainiac’s, as she finds herself caught in the middle.

Another day in the body shop...

Another day in the body shop…

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Infinite Crisis: Superman – Sacrifice (Review)

This month I’m taking a look at DC’s massive “Infinite Crisis” Event. Although it was all published in one massive omnibus, I’ll be breaking down the lead-in to the series to tackle each thread individually, culminating in a review of the event itself. Check back for more.

I can see how Infinite Crisis earned its reputation as an overly-convoluted event. Even its tie-ins had tie-ins. In this case, the Superman: Sacrifice story, an arc spread across Superman, Action Comics and Wonder Woman, serves as a tie-in to Greg Rucka’s The O.M.A.C. Project, which was itself part of the lead-in to the big event. As you can imagine, it’s a rather strange trail of continuity to follow, as events here play out as a subset of a story that is itself a subset of something larger. While that is a problem of itself, the biggest problem with Superman: Sacrifice is that it takes an interesting enough central concept and reduces it to an over-extended four-issue arc about characters hitting each other really hard.

There’s blood on his hands…

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Justice League Unlimited – Divided We Fall (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

Divided We Fall makes for a fond farewell to the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. At the time the show was produced, the creators did not know that they’d get another season, and the season finale that followed Divided We Fall was dedicated to wrapping up the entire DC animated universe from Batman: The Animated Series through to Batman Beyond. So, appropriately, Divided We Fall focuses on the “original seven” members of the Justice League, offering one final climactic confrontation between the Justice League and combined forces of Lex Luthor and Brainiac.

Heroes for higher purposes?

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Superman: The Animated Series – Stolen Memories (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

Superman: The Animated Series gets a bit of a hard time among the Bruce Timm “DC animated universe” shows. I think it’s fair to say that the show never reaches the highs (or even the average consistency) of Batman: The Animated Series, and it never matches the scale of Justice League, the pace of Justice League Unlimited or the ambition of Batman Beyond. However, it actually does a fairly wonderful job working with a character who has proved quite difficult to handle. I think Superman: The Animated Series was at its strongest when it distinguished itself from its direct predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series, and I think that Stolen Memoriesis the perfect example of that.

He’s got the whole world, in his hands…

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Paul Cornell’s Run on Action Comics – The Black Ring (Volumes I & II) (Review)

LEX LUTHOR!!! — Kneel before GRODD! You have walked into my ambush! And I have brought my biggest combat spoon– to eat your tasty brains!!!

– the moment I fell in love with Paul Cornell’s Action Comics

I adore Paul Cornell. He’s just a fantastic writer. His most notable work to date has probably been two episodes of the televised Doctor Who (Father’s Day and Human Nature/Family of Blood), but he’s also made a rather fantastic addition to the stable of writers at DC comics. If you wanted proof of up-and-coming new blood at the company, Cornell’s increasing contributions over the past few years certainly make a case for it. I think his Action Comics might be one of the most shamelessly “fun” runs in modern comic books, an adventure that rejoices in the sheer ridiculousness of comic books, without sacrificing character or depth for cheap spectacle. It helps that Cornell manages to take one of the most fascinating characters in comic book history and craft in insightful look at his protagonist’s personality in a single year-long storyline.

This is Lex Luthor’s time to shine. And not just because he’s bald, although the glare on that thing must be something.

The power of the world in the palm of his hand...

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Superman – New Krypton (Vol. I-IV), Last Stand of New Krypton (Vol. I & II) & War of the Supermen (Review/Retrospective)

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way.

In fairness, it was too great an idea to ever ignore. At some point in the character’s publishing history, it was inevitable that Superman would be reunited with his people – the long dead planet Krypton. This storytelling opportunity forms the basis of the whole New Krypton saga, which crossed through the Superman line of comic books for well over a year. Unfortunately, despite having a rather wonderful core idea, it’s a ll a bit of a waste.

Up in the sky...

Note: This review contains what might be considered spoilers. But the title of the second sets of books in the header kinda give the game away.

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Possible Villains for the Zack Snyder Superman Reboot…

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way.

This being a month dedicated to Superman and all, I thought I’d put together a “rogues gallery” of Superman foes that Snyder might possibly consider using for the upcoming Superman reboot. After all, Luthor and Zod are the only Superman foes to really get a shot at a big-screen adaptation so far, so there’s a whole range of choices out there. Superman might not have as deep a selection of foes as Batman or Spider-Man, but he’s not exactly short on major threats, either.

A viable threat to the Man of Steel?

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Justice League – Twilight, Parts 1 & 2 (Review)

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. Earlier today, I looked at Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, so I thought I might explore a Justice League episode which was heavy on Superman, Darkseid and Batman…

One of the things that Bruce Timm and his talented bunch of writers found when producing Superman: The Animated Series was that the Man of Steel simply didn’t have as strong a supporting cast of bad guys as Batman had. Without such a recognisable and eclectic collection of rogues to act as foils to their lead, the guys at the DC Animated Universe decided to co-opt in some outside help. In particular the creations of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. Sure, these characters had been related to the Superman mythos all along (first appearing in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen of all places), so it wasn’t a stretch. Although Twilight certainly isn’t the last appearance of the New Gods (as Kirby named them) within the DC Animated Universe, it is perhaps the climax. And, quite possibly, the best.

You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry…

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Richard Donner & Geoff Johns’ Run on Action Comics – Last Son, Escape from Bizarro World, Superman & The Legion of Superheroes & Brainiac

In light of the recent announcement that the villain of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot will be General Zod (brought to the screen by Terrence Stamp in Superman II), we thought we might take a look at the run which reintroduced Zod to comic book audiences (written by the director of the first two films).

You kinda figure that Geoff Johns would be the perfect fit for Superman as a character. I mean, no character needs to re-engage with his roots while seeming fresh and renewed quite like the modern Superman. Despite his iconic status, the character hasn’t really registered on global pop culture since Richard Donner brought him to life in Superman, the first of the modern superhero films. Fittingly enough, legendary director Donner joins Geoff Johns as co-writer for the first half of the run – if you needed any more indication that this was a pairing to be excited about, consider the fact that Donner gave Johns his first “in” in show business, working as the director’s assistant. If you needed any more, take a look at how perfectly illustrator Gary Frank draws the Man of Steel, making him look like Christopher Reeve. However, although the run is entertaining and engaging, it can’t help feeling a little incomplete – as if Johns is spending more times aligning the pieces on his board rather than playing with them. Still, it’s a pretty damn good collection of Superman stories that Johns and Donner have put together here.

Superman is adrift no more...

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