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The Flash – Going Rogue (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

One of the more endearing aspects of The Flash is the way that it embraces the stock superhero clichés. It is a television show that seems completely unashamed of its genre trappings, occasionally basking in its cheesiness. The dialogue is occasionally corny, the set-ups occasionally forced, the plot beats a little melodramatic – but that is a large part of the appeal. The Flash feels like something of a live action comic book.

Going Rogue is an episode that basks in its pulpy four-colour roots. Not only does the episode find a bright design for Leonard Snart that hues close to the character’s roots, not only does the show bask in various “cold” puns, not only does it lean heavily on the “save the innocent or catch the guilty” moral dilemma, it even throws in a nice crossover love triangle to keep things interesting. Going Rogue is silly and goofy, but in all the right ways. Endearing and charming, it is a demonstration of how well the show can work.

Chill out.

Chill out.

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The Flash – Some Things You Can’t Outrun (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

The Flash is a show that can withstand a certain amount of cheese. After all, it is a television series about a character dressed in a red jumpsuit who can run faster than the speed of sound. There is going to be a certain amount of cheesiness baked into the premise by default. City of Heroes and Fastest Man Alive managed to skirt along the edge of the show’s threshold of cheesiness. Some Things You Can’t Outrun just jumps right on over that threshold.

Some Things You Can’t Outrun is the show’s first misfire. It’s the first time that the show has been written by anybody other than Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, and the first time it has been directed by anybody other than David Nutter. It feels like there’s something of a learning curve here, as Some Things You Can’t Outrun doesn’t work on multiple levels. The show seems to take forever to get going, is hampered by a fairly weak guest star, and weighed down by cringe-inducing dialogue.

Let's not pop the champagne that fast...

Let’s not pop the champagne that fast…

Balancing cheesiness and earnestness will by one of the biggest challenges to The Flash, as the show has to figure out how to strike the best balance between the inherent goofiness of the character and the demands of a prime-time network drama show. City of Heroes and Fastest Man Alive seemed to suggest that the show had already got a good grip on this delicate equilibrium. Unfortunately, Some Things You Can’t Outrun struggles to be light-hearted without being cheesy, and earnest without being angsty.

There is a sense that the show has hit its first speed bump.

A gas time...

A gas time…

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The Flash – Fastest Man Alive (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

In many ways, Fastest Man Alive plays like the second part of a pilot for The Flash. Like City of Heroes before it, Fastest Man Alive is written by Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns, with Greg Berlanti credited on the story. It is also directed by David Nutter, one of television’s most respected pilot directors – even if his famous “hot streak” of pilots going straight to show was interrupted when CBS did not pick up The Doctor in 2011.

Fastest Man Alive is still about building the world around Barry Allen. City of Heroes established the basics, the ground rules of the world in which Barry operates. Fastest Man Alive exists to delineate them a bit further. It defines the ensemble better, clarifying the roles of Joe West and Iris West in the grand scheme of things; it gives Barry the confidence he needs to do what he does; it imposes limits on Barry’s ability; it clarifies that Harrison Wells is not entirely heroic.

CGI flames! My fatal weakness!

CGI flames! My fatal weakness!

Given the amount of attention and effort that Fastest Man Alive devotes to cementing the foundations of The Flash, it’s understandable that there really isn’t too much room for anything else. Fastest Man Alive is about settling the cast and the writers into a sustainable status quo for the next stretch of episodes – maybe even the entire first season. It makes sure that everybody knows where everything lies and that there’s a solid base upon which to build.

So, while Fastest Man Alive might not be an especially brilliant episode of television, it does a very good job of setting up what it needs to set up.

Born to run...

Born to run…

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The Flash – City of Heroes (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

Appropriately enough for a television show based around the fastest man alive, City of Heroes moves pretty damn quickly. The forty-five minute episode tears through all the requisite superhero origin elements in forty-five minutes. It takes us two minutes to brush through the story of Barry Allen’s childhood trauma. By the ten-minute mark, Barry has already been hit by lightning. At the end of the forty-five minutes, his uniform is complete and his ensemble fully formed.

There are some minor problems with The Flash, but City of Heroes offers a pretty solid start for the series – hinting that perhaps the show has already found its legs.

Suit up...

Suit up…

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Geoff Johns’ Run on Justice League – Throne of Atlantis (Review/Retrospective)

23rd July is Batman Day, celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. To celebrate, this July we’re taking a look at some new and classic Batman (and Batman related) stories. Check back daily for the latest review.

Geoff Johns on Justice League should be one of the defining superhero comic books of the twenty-first century.

After all, Johns has done a lot to define DC over the past decade or so. Johns is one of the defining voices in superhero comics. He has enjoyed long and successful runs on iconic characters. His work sells well and has generally garnered positive reviews over the course of his career. Johns knows how to “centre” a character and to help cut to their core. 52 is generally regarded as a high watermark of twenty-first century DC comics, and Johns is the only one of the four authors still consistently working at DC comics.

Everybody out of the water!

Everybody out of the water!

So putting Geoff Johns on Justice League is a no-brainer. Indeed, many fans had been expecting a high-profile run from Geoff Johns on the title long before the “new 52” relaunch. Given Johns’ successful runs on Action Comics, Green Lantern and The Flash, writing all of these characters together should be a recipe for success. When it was announced that writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee would be handling the relaunched Justice League title, it seemed like a veritable worldbeater of a title.

In sales terms, Johns’ Justice League remains a success. However, it has been less satisfying from a creative standpoint. Artist Jim Lee departed the book after a year – with several fill-in artists along the way. However, even with DC drafting Ivan Reis to replace Lee, Justice League is not as satisfying as it should be. There are lots of reasons for this, but the biggest problem with Johns’ Justice League is that it always seems so fixated on what is happening next that it never appreciates the moment.

She really sweeps him off his feet...

She really sweeps him off his feet…

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Geoff Johns’ (and Jim Lee’s) Run on Justice League – The Villain’s Journey (Review/Retrospective)

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

This should be the defining Justice League book of the 21st century. Geoff Johns is something of a DC comics super star, a writer who has worked on all manner of major and minor DC characters, and helped shaped the fictional universe for the better part of a decade. Jim Lee defined the look of DC comics, particularly with the revamped “new 52” character designs. He’s a super star artist who produces iconic superhero images. So pairing the two up on DC’s flagship book, relaunched as part of a line-wide initiative, should be something to watch. If Johns can turn Green Lantern into one of DC’s biggest franchises, imagine what he could do here.

However, their first six-issue arc, Origin, seemed troubled. It was a decently entertaining big-budget blockbuster of a comic book arc, but it didn’t really provide a clear vision of these characters and their world. New Frontier, for example, remains a more thoughtful and introspective origin story for the team of DC’s most iconic heroes.

The Villain’s Journey improves a great deal on Origin, but it’s still deeply flawed, with a sense that Johns and Lee are struggling under the weight of having to make these characters “relevant” to the modern world.

He knows how to make an entrance...

He knows how to make an entrance…

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Non-Review Review: Man of Steel

There are moments of brilliance in Man of Steel. I like the golden-hued Malick-esque glimpses of Middle America, evoking the work of Norman Rockwell. (Indeed, the earliest glimpse of Clark Kent’s life on Earth seems to evoke Teacher’s Birthday.) I like the decision to cast Jor-El as a pulpy science hero rather than a stand-in for God. I like the way that the movie embraces the concept of exceptionalism, and doesn’t shy away from the American ideals embodied in Superman’s mythology. I appreciate the development of the Kents into more than generic slices of apple pie.

However, for all of these lovely moments, there’s a sense that Man of Steel resents the fact that it is a superhero origin film. It’s easy to understand why. Superman origins are a dime a dozen, and it’s hard to imagine anybody could be unfamiliar with the broad strokes of the story. However, Man of Steel does find an interesting and nuanced angle on that first crucial Superman story… only to become something radically different. A little under half-way through, the film morphs into a big budget superhero spectacle, sandwiched between the outline of an origin story and chunks peppered throughout like some form of tossed salad.

Man of Steel suffers because it’s a lot less interesting than it might have been, and it revels in that comfortable blockbuster mediocrity.

High flyin'...

High flyin’…

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