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New Escapist Column! On “Wonder Woman” and What It Means to Be a Hero In a World Where Men Are Not Always Good…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Wonder Woman celebrated its third anniversary this weekend, and Wonder Woman 1984 was originally scheduled for release this weekend.

Wonder Woman is a fascinating film, in large part because it manages to feel like a decidedly old-fashioned story of heroism that reflects the anxieties of a modern world. Too many modern superhero films divorce themselves from even the idea of heroism, embracing the power fantasy of superheroism as an end of itself. In contrast, Wonder Woman asks what it means to try to be a good person in a world that is not.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

31. Wonder Woman – This Just In (#213)

Wonder…

Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney are joined by special guest Marianne Cassidy for This Just In, a subset of the fortnightly The 250 podcast looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.

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Non-Review Review: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is an impressive piece of work, one worthy of its central character.

Wonder Woman is an impressive blockbuster from director Patty Jenkins. In many ways, it is an archetypal superhero origin story. It hits many of the Joseph Campbell beats expected of it. Superficially, the film looks to be a hybrid of Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and Superman, which is quite the pulpy cocktail. Jenkins plays into that, delivering her action set pieces with great skill and hitting all the requisite beats.

To the wonder.

However, the most interesting aspects of Wonder Woman are happening under the hood. It is too much to describe the film as a superheroic deconstruction in the style of Logan or The Dark Knight, but it is a film that has put a lot of thought into what it is doing and why it is doing it. The movie’s best beats are cheekily subversive, in an unobtrusive way. Wonder Woman is aware of the weight pressing down upon it, as the first female-led superhero film of the post-Iron Man era, but it never breaks its stride.

More than that, Wonder Woman is pure and unadulterated fun. It is a movie that is very clever and astute, but which never lets those attributes crowd out its sense of adventure and momentum. Wonder Woman is a sprawling period piece superhero fantasia, executed with deft skill and an engaging attitude.

Waiting for Gadot.

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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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52 (Review/Retrospective)

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

If you are looking to get a taste of the shared universe that DC have created, a glimpse at the diverse characters and their overlapping worlds who have been cultivated as part of the publisher’s comic book line, then it’s very hard to go wrong with 52. A weekly series set in the wake of one of the company’s line-wide “everything changes” events, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the workings of the minor characters dealing with their own problems and issues in a world without Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman.

Published as fifty-two weekly issues, it serves as something of “a year in the life” of this fictional world. Written by four of the best writers in contemporary comics, each of whom has made outstanding contributions to the company’s output in the not-too-hazy past, 52 might not be the best or most consistent comic book that DC ever published, but it is one of the most insightful, original and fun.

Falling from the sky...

Falling from the sky…

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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?

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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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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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Infinite Crisis (Review/Retrospective)

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.

Infinite Crisis is a fantastic concept with a somewhat muddled execution. The idea of reflecting on the way the DC Universe has evolved since Crisis on Infinite Earths is a fascinating hook for an event miniseries, and writer Geoff Johns does an effective job of exploring how times have changed. However, the original Crisis on Infinite Earths had a tendency to seem too vast and too all-encompassing for its own good, randomly jumping between a cast of hundreds lost in a maelstrom. Given that Marv Wolfman had twelve issues to tell that story, and still occasionally ended up a little confused, it seems a little unfair for Geoff Johns to attempt a similar effort in only seven issues.

There are times when Infinite Crisis feels less like one cohesive story and more like a series of vignettes based around a theme. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of interesting stuff going on here – or that Johns doesn’t have something compelling to say about modern superhero comics – it just means that Infinite Crisis is a bit of a mess. A bold and ambitious mess, but a mess nevertheless.

A smashing success?

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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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