• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

Batman – Year Two (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.

Batman: Year Two is an… interesting read. It’s much-maligned by comic book fans, and there are a lot of reasons for that. Most obviously there’s the fact that it really doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there’s also the fact that it was published by DC as a way of capitalising on the success of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Year One is a classic comic book story, one of the greatest origins ever written, and one that endures to this day, where even Scott Snyder felt intimidated in writing over it more than two decades after it was published.

Batman: Year Two is not that sort of classic.

In fact, it’s not any sort of classic. However, divorced from context, it’s an interesting read. It feels like writer Mike W. Barr is consciously and gleefully subverting absolutely everything that worked so well in Miller’s Batman: Year One, rejecting the notion of a version of Batman anchored in something approaching the real world, and getting right down to the comic-book-y-ness of the character. Positioning it as a sequel to Batman: Year One feels odd. It would almost read better as a rebuke.

Welcome to the late eighties...

Welcome to the late eighties…

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Pacific Rim

The generic way of describing Pacific Rim seems to be Transformers vs. Godzilla, which really says more about how hard it is to sell an original blockbuster these days than it does about the quality of the film itself. There are obvious and superficial similarities between Pacific Rim and the two film series cited – giant robots and monsters from the ocean – but that cynical synopsis doesn’t do justice to director Guillermo Del Toro’s bold vision.

Pacific Rim is a punchy old-school summer blockbuster, one which remembers that characters are the foundation of drama, and which imbues its flesh-and-blood cast with as much personality as the flesh-and-blood spectacle unfolding overhead.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

Continue reading

Superman: The Animated Series – The Way of All Flesh (Review)

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

Although it was quite clear from The Last Son of Krypton that Superman: The Animated Series was going to be quite a different beast than Batman: The Animated Series, there were times when the show borrowed a trick or two from its older sibling. Particularly early in the show’s run, there were a number of “villain origin” episodes which seemed to emulate the more successful villain-centric stories from Batman: The Animated Series.

Fun and Games, the origin episode for Toyman, could easily have been adapted for the other show with a minimum of fuss. It was probably too similar, and a demonstration that Timm’s approach to Batman couldn’t be expected to work perfectly for Superman. Feeding Time and The Way of All Flesh are two single episodes designed to introduce two of Superman’s second-tier bad guys, the Parasite and Metallo.

While they retain a stronger sense of serialised storytelling than many of the Batman stories, there’s a very clear attempt on the part of the writers to humanise and almost empathise with these villains. The Way of All Flesh is probably the most successful, in part because Metallo has a great hook for writer Stan Berkowitz to mine, in part because he’s an interesting villain is his own right, and in part because it does this without seeming too much like an attempt to copy Batman: The Animated Series.

The real man of steel...

The real man of steel…

Continue reading

Justice League: The Nail (Review)

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

What would comics look like without Superman? The character is so iconic and influential and omnipresent that it’s a fun thought experiment to take him out of the DC universe and watch the narrative threads unravel. Alan Davis is a pretty incredible artist. He’s done great work with writers like Mike W. Barr (on an underrated Detective Comics run) and Chris Claremont (on Excalibur). However, he may not have been the best choice to write this three-part Justice League of America Elseworld. It’s a great concept, but the execution leaves a little to be desired.

Is somebody missing?

Is somebody missing?

Continue reading

Watch! Final Man of Steel Trailer!

Man of Steel arrives next week, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it. We’ll have a review on Tuesday, but we’re also doing a whole month of Superman coverage as well to celebrate everybody’s favourite Kryptonian. Check back every weekday evening and we should have some glimpse at one of the character’s many iterations from 1939 to present.

I like the way the trailers have been shaping up. There’s an absolute minimum of dialogue here, but Jor-El seems to be staying on point – the few sentences here suggest pretty much everything we need to know about the character. (I’d suggest there’s a deeper understanding of Superman in this two-minute action-heavy trailer than in all Superman Returns. “You can save them all” is pretty much Superman in a nutshell.) Anyway, I won’t say anything more. Here’s the trailer. Enjoy!

 

Superman: The Action Comics Archives, Vol. 1 (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.

It’s interesting to look back that the early Superman stories in Action Comics. Given that Superman has picked up a reputation for being boring or predictable or safe or conservative, it’s amazing just how radical and inflammatory some of these very early Siegel and Shuster adventures are. These early Action Comics strips were undeniably and overtly political, presenting a strong-willed and proactive version of Superman completely unafraid to impose his will on the citizens of the world.

It’s a dramatically different take on the character than the version we’ve come to accept in popular culture, the benign and well-meaning boy scout who plays by the rules. Even Grant Morrison’s affectionate throwback to these early adventures can’t quite capture the same sense of subversive radicalism which presents us with a version of the iconic superhero who does just flaunt the authority of law enforcement or legislature, but often directly challenges it.

Smashing!

Smashing!

Continue reading

Watch! Gravity Teaser Trailer!

Warner Brothers just released the teaser trailer for Gravity, from director Alfonso Cuarón.  Cuarón has developed his own unique sensibilities. He’s responsible for the most visually distinctive of the Harry potter films, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and produced and underrated and oft-overlooked science-fiction masterpiece with Children of Men. I am very eager to see Gravity, which looks to be a rather wonderful change of pace.

 

Watch! Marvin the Martian in “Yule Be Sorry”

This was apparently posted two months ago, but I’m only seeing it now. Plus, you know, it’s Christmas themed.

Director Alex Zamm uploaded test footage for a Marvin the Martian film, and you can see the clip below. Blending CGI versions of classic cartoon characters and live action is always a risky venture (given that it produces things like Alvin & The Chipmunks and The Smurfs), and I’ll concede that I am a little wary of the child actor (and character) in the below short. I’m not sure I’d rush out to see a movie featuring “Marvin the Martian and a kid.” However, I also have a fondness for Marvin the Martian as a character and it’s great to see the little guy up and about in some form or another. He doesn’t need a sidekick kid. Or to be reduced to the sidekick of a kid.

Still, the test footage isn’t about the script, although his characterisation is quite decent. It’s about the ability to render the character in the real world, and I think Marvin looks fantastic. Then again, I’ve always loved his design. All the movie would need would be the right script, as unlikely as that would seem to be. The fact that Zamm felt comfortable sharing this means the project is probably dead. While I’m not sure I’d love to see this short extended to a feature-length film, it would be great to see Marvin on the big screen and the short demonstrates that we have the technology.

Warner Brothers seem to have stopped producing those new Looney Tunes shorts that we saw last year, and it’s a bit of a shame – while the CGI might take some getting used to, it was great to have those characters back in some shape or form. Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think. I can’t seem to embed it, so click the picture below of the link here.

marvin

 

Non-Review Review: The Dark Knight Returns, Part I

Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns might just be the most influential Batman comic ever written. It offers a glimpse an alternate future where Batman has retired as Gotham’s protector, and where a new wave of violence brings him back out of that retirement. It is also, and perhaps more notably, a study of the character’s psychology. It’s notable for suggesting that Bruce Wayne’s obsessions might be ultimately self-destructive and that there’s a primal conflict between the “Batman” part of his persona and Bruce Wayne. Like Watchmen, it’s generally recognised as one of the comics that represented a maturity in the medium.

Warner Brothers have produced an animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s classic, and I can’t help but admire it a great deal. While Alan Moore’s Watchmen was a novel that never really lent itself to film, Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns always had a cinematic quality that I think director Jay Oliva captures remarkably well.

A dark and stormy knight…

Continue reading

Batman: The Animated Series – Perchance to Dream (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.

Given how much care Batman: The Animated Series put into crafting and caring for the Caped Crusader’s iconic selection of bad guys, it’s often easy to overlook just how skilfully the series handled its central character. Batman has frequently been accused of being far less interesting than his costumed adversaries – particularly in Batman and Batman Returns – so it’s reassuring to note that Bruce Tim and his stable of writers had a very firm grasp on the character of Gotham’s Dark Knight. Perchance to Dream is one of the stories that offers perhaps the greatest insight into who Bruce Wayne is and what he wants. And, perhaps, why he could never have it.

Sweet dreams…

Note: This review contains spoilers. Given the episode aired twenty years ago, I consider it fair game. If you haven’t seen it already, please feel free to come back when you have. It is very good.

Continue reading