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Non-Review Review: The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie is – as one might expect – a wonderfully well-constructed family film. Following a construction worker repeatedly described as “normal” or “average” – but, one colleague hastens to add, “not normal like us” – named Emmet, the movie is structured as a conventional “special one” narrative. However, veteran directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller stir things up just enough to keep it interesting.

With a wry sense of humour and an acute awareness of the clichés of a typical “hero’s journey” narrative, Lord and Miller have actually managed to tap into the core essence of Lego – if a massive multi-platform brand name empire can be distilled to a “core essence.” It’s a story about the magic of playing with toys and the necessity of throwing away the instructions every once in a while.

The ensemble fits together perfectly...

The ensemble fits together perfectly…

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Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore (Review/Retrospective)

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

Comic book nostalgia is a funny thing, particularly when it comes to dealing with continuity. There’s a tendency to suggest that modern comics have lost their way, to suggest that modern reboots – both “hard” and “soft” – represent a break from the past and a gimmicky attempt to fix problems that are greatly exaggerated. However, while past reboots might not have enjoyed the same publicity as Flashpoint or Crisis on Infinite Earths, it is interesting to note that comic book creators have been reworking a retooling their creations for quite some time.

Indeed, almost every comic book character has been reimagined a couple of times before settling on their most successful portrayal. Sometimes those changes happen gradually – Superman’s evolution from a man who could leap tall buildings to a man capable of juggling planets – but others were quite sudden. The issues collected here, under the title Kryptonite Nevermore, represent one shift and decisive attempt to consciously “reboot” or “retool” Superman as a character, recognising that sometimes it’s necessary to do some radical reworking to update an existing concept.

A Superman story with bite!

A Superman story with bite!

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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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The Death & Return of Superman Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

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

The Death & Return of Superman stands as one of the most influential and iconic Superman stories ever told. It was certainly the best-selling, even if that doesn’t necessarily make it the most-read, due to the nature of the nineties comic book speculation market. Read today, separate from all the hype and publicity and novelty items, it’s a very interesting part of the character’s lore. It’s certainly an ambitious tale, epic in scope. However, it’s very clearly disjointed and oddly paced and often demonstrates a strange disconnect with its own subject. A story with the title The Death & Return of Superman should probably offer some profound insight into its lead character. This just feels like a series of plot twists peppered with some casual observations.

Death of a hero...

Death of a hero…

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Infinite Crisis: Justice League – Crisis of Conscience (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.

Crisis of Conscience exists of something of a bridge between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis. Of course, other tie-ins (like Villains United) have already explored that fertile ground, but Crisis of Conscience is very much about exploring the implications of that earlier crisis crossover. After all, how can the heroes trust one another, or themselves, when they’ve been tampering and playing with memory and personality. Ultimately, Crisis of Conscience doesn’t necessarily resolve anything. It really just lines up all the final pieces before we jump into Infinite Crisis proper. However, it’s an interesting exploration of just how far these characters have come since the innocence of the Silver Age.

Holding out for a hero…

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Infinite Crisis: Rann-Thanagar War (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’ve always been a fan of the “hokey science-fiction” corner of the DC Universe. Adam Strange is perhaps my second-favourite Silver Age DC hero (behind the Flash). I loved Alan Moore’s trip to the stars during his Swamp Thing run. While many thought that Stars my Destination, the penultimate mega-arc of James Robinson’s Starman, went on far too long, I loved every page. Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern is one of my favourite modern comic book runs. I confess all this so that my bias is upfront, when I admit that Rann-Thanagar War is one of my favourite Infinite Crisis tie-ins, even though it’s one of those least directly connected to the event itself.

All the Strange, Strange heroes…

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What Bond Learned From Batman: The Dark Knight & Skyfall…

I really liked Skyfall. I think it’s the best “Bondy” Bond movie in quite a while. It has a fantastic cast, beautiful cinematography, a solid script and a very human heart. However, it also owes a very conscious debt to director Christopher Nolan. In particular, it seems to have learned a great deal from the director’s recently completed Batman trilogy. There are certainly worse role models for a big blockbuster to have, and Mendes has been quick to acknowledge the influence that Nolan’s films had on his work here. That strange synthesis works surprisingly well, perhaps a testament to just how much the two franchises have in common.

The long dark knight of his soul?

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Tomb of Dracula Omnibus, Vol. III (Review/Retrospective)

Darkness spreads across the land like a bone-chilling evening mist. It swirls, boils and froths.

Then, at the moment when midnight madness is at its greatest, the darkness takes form and substance and becomes a thing of hell-born horror.

This is… THE TOMB OF DRACULA.

Pray you can avoid its deadly embrace…

Sometimes classic movie monsters just look better in black and white, eh? Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan told pretty much a complete Tomb of Dracula epic in the seventy issues of the main title produced in the previous two omnibus collections. This third gigantic tome collects a lot of what might be considered “a Tomb of Dracula miscellany”, collecting various odds and ends from Marvel’s Draculacomics during the seventies to sort of expand and enhance the story told in the main title. It isn’t as consistent as that seventy-issue run, with a variety of weaving story threads, one-shots, text stories and a variety of artistic and authorial talent, but it’s still an interesting look at Marvel’s horror comics during the seventies.

Feed your Dracula addiction!

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Batman Beyond – Rebirth (Parts I & II) (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.

Batman is one of the very few of DC’s major superheroes who faces his own mortality. Superman knows that he inspires the Legion of Superheroes, and his alien physiology could allow him to live forever. Wonder Woman is an immortal. Green Lantern comes from an entire deep space police force. Even Hawkman and Hawkgirl live through a perpetual cycle of reincarnation. Bruce Wayne is just a man, and – as such – he will eventually die. Due to this simple fact, a lot of people have wondered what might happen if Bruce Wayne were confronted with his own mortality.

Batman Beyond explores that potential future.

A flying start?

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Justice League Unlimited – Panic in the Sky (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.

Panic in the Sky is an interesting episode, essentially serving as the climax of the conflict between the Justice League and Cadmus. Divided We Fall would focus more tightly on the League confronting Brainiac and Luthor, with an after-thought given to the question of their authority to wield such power. Panic in the Sky, as such, feels a bit torn between positioning all the players (“the big seven”) for that final confrontation, while offering the inevitable conflict between the Justice League and the United States government. As such, it’s really one big extended fight sequence, allowing McDuffie to avoid some of the more complex and compelling issues he’d raised. Still, it’s an effective episode of the show, a fun confrontation, and an illustration of just how skilled McDuffie is at structuring these gigantic arcs with so many plots and characters in the air.

Power Girl Power…

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