Streaming some DC Animated Movies

Recently added to Netflix, or at least recently noticed by me, were a trio of animated movies based on DC comics. In the past these animated movies have been very good. They in large part retained the tone of the DC animated shows of the 90’s and early 00’s, but often retold stories based on some great comics. Most of the first dozen or so were very good. Things changed at about the same time that DC realized they could only sell movies with Batman or Justice League in the title. The three that appeared on Netflix, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Justice League War and Son of Batman, were collectively very disappointing. Some of the problem comes from adapting inferior material, but there is something missing from these movies.

Flashpoint the comic was already a strained read. It seemed to be a story that started as merely a big Flash story that morphed into a line-wide crossover that then became the story wherein DC buried the real DC Universe and gave birth to the Nu52. But the story itself was not responsible for that. It is just a not too unusual alternate reality story. While the movie makes a few improvements, including removing Zoom as the killer of Barry’s Mom, it doesn’t stand up to any sort of scrutiny. The Flashpoint Universe combines some genuinely interesting ideas, like the Superman test subject and Batman as Thomas Wayne, but the central conflict between Wonder Woman and Aquaman fails on every level in both versions of the story. It has to change the Amazons into murderous savages and makes Atlantis much more powerful and warlike than they were before. Also, it requires believing that Wonder Woman wouldn’t wipe the floor with Aquaman in a fight. The big problem is that all of these changes supposedly stem from Flash saving him Mom something like 20 years in the past. That just doesn’t work. Those are all story problems, the animation and character designs are likewise awkward. Things just don’t look good; it looks cheap and off model. On top of those complaints are the just absurd levels of violence. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox takes a bad story and somehow makes it even worse.

Justice League War does the opposite; it takes a terrible story and greatly improves it. Still, that doesn’t actually make it any good. I still have complaints about the look of the movie, though it doesn’t look as cheap as Flashpoint. But it makes some effective changes to the original story, which is easily the worst thing Geoff Johns has ever written, which turns the story into something that is not completely embarrassing. Still, the biggest fault of the original is still there; in attempting to write the Justice League as young they end up coming off as unlikeable assholes. That characterization works for Green Lantern, but it doesn’t for Superman or Wonder Woman. It quickly becomes a showcase for superpowered violence with nothing of the story or characters worth caring about. The few moments of delight that exist are more than drowned out by the garish and the stupid.

If the first two movies were damned by their inferior source material, then the third should have bucked that trend. Son of Batman is based on the first part of Grant Morrison’s epic Batman arc and is easily the best of the three movies, but it still isn’t any more than simply good. The adaptation strays pretty far from the source, in events if not in the emotional context. Some of it would need to be elided from Morrison’s sprawling story, but losing large parts of the Batman family from the story really hurts it. Replacing Tim with Dick makes a certain amount of sense knowing what is coming next, but it mostly just shrinks the world. The bigger problem is how it opens with an action sequence with the League of Assassins that merely gives an extended and uninteresting fight scene and keeps Batman off the screen for an extended time. I don’t know that it looks much better than the others, this time adopting a style that I would call “straight up anime.” It works for the story. Actually, the more I think on it, the less I am disappointed with Son of Batman. It loses a lot in the adaptation, but that feels inevitable with the sort of story it is based one. Similar things happened with All-Star Superman, though that movie did a better job maintaining the heart of the original.

The problems with the first two do mostly lie at the feet of the material. Flashpoint and that Justice League stories are just not very good. No matter how much they work them up, they remain not very good. Son of Batman, though, highlights the greater problem. The Morrison Batman run strongly embraced the more fun or weird parts of Batman’s history, and the adaptation scrubs that out to realign it with the usual grim take on the character. The disappointment with Son of Batman is more mourning a missed opportunity. Together, these three movies sapped a good portion of my goodwill toward DC’s animated movies. It has been a long slow fall from the heights of the DC animated universe to these tepid New 52 adaptations and I’m no longer interested. It looks like they have a Justice League Vs Teen Titans movie coming up, which doesn’t appear to be based on any story I know and then they get to scrape the bottom of the barrel to do The Killing Joke. There was a time I was eager to see what new animated movie they had coming out, but now realize that I no longer care.

Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox **

Justice League War **

Son of Batman ***

Comic Reviews from late March

These comic reviews are about a week later than I wanted, but my comics came about a week late. Still, there was plenty of good stuff in this half of last months releases.

  • All-Star Western 7: Palmiotti and Gray get Hex out of Gotham for a while, and it mostly works. Nighthawk and Cinnamon are fun characters and the new villains, the August 7, have potential. The only problem is that the back-up story is nowhere near as good as the previous one. A-
  • Aquaman 7: This books is back on track after a somewhat too heavy handed previous issue. Reis’ art is some of the best superhero work around, and Johns is on his game with his Other League he is starting. Its too bad he has to fall back on having his villain kill one just to prove how dangerous he is. Still, a solid issue. B+
  • Batman 7: This is something of a comedown from the rest of rest of this series so far. Not that this is a bad issue, but it is certainly lower key than most that have come before it. There are finally some explanations, but at the expense of not having that much actually occur in this issue. B+
  • Captain Atom 7: This continues to be one of the most underrated books DC is putting out. This take on Cap. Atom has drawn comparisons to Dr Manhattan, which is accurate, but Nate Adam is neither as intelligent as he was nor as distant. Here we get his origin, as well as a little more inside Nate’s head. Another solid issue in what has been a solid series. B
  • Flash 7: This continues to be one of the best looking books out of DC, and is also one of the least dark. While Captain Cold’s powers have changed, his character really hasn’t. There is also an effective superhero love triangle, or maybe more of a pentagon, at work here. This is just a really good traditional superhero book. A
  • Flash Gordon Zeitgeist 4: Maybe it is just because I am still new to being a Flash Gordon fan, but this series has been really entertaining so far. While it is using all the same parts as the classic 1980 film, the only version I am familiar with, it still feels remarkable fresh. I would be outright gushing about it, except that near the end there is a page with the wrong speech bubbles on it. It really breaks the reading experience. C
  • Green Lantern Corps 7: While I have largely been a fan of Tomasi on this title, even since the relaunch, but this is an issue that didn’t need to happen. It is almost entirely John Stewart returning the body of the lantern he killed to save to corps home, and being really heavy handed laying on the guilt. Plus, the art is nowhere near as good as it usually is. C-
  • John Carter: The Gods of Mars 1: The previous Marvel Barsoom mini was very good, and this one starts out on the same level. This biggest change is in the art. Perez’s art is a big change from Andrade’s and while they are both excellent, I thing Perez is a better fit. This is just an all around great issue. B+
  • Justice League 7: I have to say that I like Gene Ha’s work much more than Jim Lee’s. Otherwise, this is more of a slice of life issue than the rushed adventure of the first six issues. Johns is building tensions between the League, the government and the populace, as well as doing more interesting with Steve Trevor than anyone in at least 25 years. The best issue yet. B
  • My Greatest Adventure 6 of 6: This anthology title sadly comes to its end. I think I am only of the only people reading this, but it is really good. The Robotman story is poignant, and Garbage Man is a not quite as good take on the same story. Tanga’s story is completely different, but not especially original. Still, there were some good weird stories with really good art. B
  • Supergirl 7: This is one of the best issues that is mostly a fight scene I’ve seen in a while. Kara is out numbered and trapped, but she fights smart. Asrar’s art is still really good. The world killers are some interesting new villains, they feel like a match for someone of Supergirl’s power and are connect to her, not Superman. B+
  • Superman 7: Giffen and Jurgens get Superman. There is plenty in this issue about boring Wildstorm villain Helspont, but the parts about Clark and Superman are really good. If The writing team can maintain that tone when they get to tell their stories, then this title should move up to be among DC’s best. B-
  • Wonder Woman 7: This has been one of my favorite titles since DC relaunch, but this issue is just a miss. It is a well written, well drawn miss, but a miss nonetheless. This issue answers a question that no one ever asked because it doesn’t make any sense to ask. Where do immortal warrior women get their children? It has been long established that they don’t have children, so there was no question to ask. I hope they quickly put this frankly stupid misstep behind them and get back to the great story they were telling. C-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comic Reviews for Late February

So I guess I’m doing comic reviews again. We’ll see if I can keep this consistent or if it is doomed to be a sporadic thing. Not too many titles this week.

Justice League #6: The new Justice League’s first story comes to its cacophonous conclusion. I’m not jumping on the rapidly filling up hate train for this title, but I would say that this story didn’t quite come together as well as it could have. In the end it is all empty noise and confusion. Lee’s art is as explosive as usual and John’s has a strong handle on the team’s various personalities, so its not all bad just a touch incoherent and soulless. C+

The Flash #6: The art in this titles remains as impressive as it has been since Manapul took over drawing it at the start of the previous Flash title. The story, while less exceptional than the art, is solid. The Flash is one of the few books on the shelves that actually lets the hero’s out of costume life actually play a part as of late. The love triangle among Barry, Iris and Patty is as entertaining as the quite good superheroics, even though I am fairly certain that Barry will end up with the woman who was until recently Mrs. Flash. A-

Aquaman #6: Prado does finishes over Reis breakdowns instead of just inking this issue, but it is not that significant a departure other than some wonky faces. Aquaman takes an issue off as we focus on his wife Mera. Johns really needs to turn the volume on this issue down. In big hero v villain fights his eschewing of subtlety is often a plus, but this issue could stand to be much less bombastic. Mera breaking the wrist of a handsy pervert would be more effective than her crushing all of the bones in his arm. For all its overloud warts, this is an effective if blunt bit of character work for Mera. B-

All-Star Western #6: This issue reinforces that Jonah Hex is an awful bastard. He is cowboy Punisher, a man the reader can only root for because his enemies are even worse than he is. The highlight of this issue is the extended gunfight between Hex and some child slavers, where Palmiotti and Gray step back and let Bernet tell the story with his art. Which he does beautifully and gruesomely. The back-up story is just as good as main one, bringing this story about the Barbary Ghost to a close, but leaving the door open for her to return in either another back-up or in the main story. This is an excellent comic. A

The Ray #3: This series has been a bright spot amongst a sea of darker titles. A ray of light, if you will. This issue turns a bit darker, but is still primarily fun, classic superheroics. The villain is a man who makes reality his own movie, a fitting villain for a book set in Southern California. I’m sad that this is only a four issue series. Good stuff here. B

The Shade #5: This is one of the best books on the stands. Robinson, teamed with a variety of excellent artists like this issue”s Javier Pulido, has recaptured the magic of his Starman run from a decade ago. His work since has been hit-or-miss, but he has yet to go wrong when writing the Shade. Here we meet La Sangre, the Shade’s adopted vampire daughter, and have an adventure in Barcelona searching for a vial of the Shade’s blood. The art is beautiful and the writing is intelligent and highly literate. A

New Mutants #38: Marvel’s double shipping policy means a change of artist, but it is not that big of a problem. This series is on the verge of being as fun as it should be, but for some reason I’m just not engaged. Maybe it’s the cast. I’m a fan of the classic New Mutants, I like Doug, Dani and Bobby and I’m okay with Amara, but I just don’t care for Warlock or Nate Grey. Warlock is supposed to be a joke character, but even with his goofy way of speaking he isn’t that funny and Nate is just aggressively boring. Plus, this issue tries to bring back Bird-Brain, one of the worst characters in X-Men history, which is saying something. C+

Voodoo #6: This title always seems to be just on the verge of taking off and being truly good. But it never quite gets there. Still, at the end of every issue I’m eager for the next one, ready for everything to fall into place so I can proclaim this series truly excellent. Basri is a terrific artist with a clear, fine style. With Williamson taking over for Marz the title has shifted from being a Sci-Fi tinged spy story to a spy tinged Sci-Fi story. Hopefully soon Voodoo will get it together and give readers some answers. B-

Next week look for the next VGA and for my reread of The Dragon Reborn, as well as some musings on my present video game playing and lack thereof.

All Roads lead to Helldorado

I have a treat for readers today! Since the late 80’s DC Comics have labeled many of their intentionally out of continuity stories as “Elseworlds.” While great deals of these stories, like all comics, are crap, there have been some standouts. Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come is a true classic, and Batman Year 100, Gotham by Gaslight and The Golden Age are all good. (Some are probably clamoring for Superman: Red Son, but I’m not a huge fan of that one.) However, the best Elseworlds that DC ever published has to be Justice Riders.

Written by Chuck Dixon with art by J.H. Williams III, Justice Riders re-imagines the Justice League as cowboys. While the high-concept is good, it would have been easy to just crank out a passable but forgettable story with little effort. Nevertheless, Dixon wrote a western that if stripped of its Superhero trappings would still be compelling, if overly supernatural, tale.

It may come as a disappointment to some that the Justice League in Justice Riders does not feature Superman or Batman. There is a simple reason for this: in the 90’s they were most often not part of the Justice League. The exception being Grant Morrison’s spectacular run on the title that started the same year that this comic was released. No, the League used for Riders is most of the rest of DC’s big 7¾besides Superman and Batman, the big 7 includes Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter¾plus some favorites from the very popular, and also spectacular, Justice League International. The star of this book is Wonder Woman, re-imagined here as Sheriff Diana Prince.

After leaving her town, Paradise, to catch some horse thieves, she returns to find it destroyed. With the dying words of her faithful deputy, Oberon Sheriff Prince vows revenge on the people who destroyed her town. So she goes recruiting. The first gunslinger to joiner is Kid Flash, the fastest gun in the west.

Young Wally West, who still has his super speed, quickly agrees to join Diana, though he does question her recruiting a man with his reputation. She also turns down Booster Gold, a gambler who looks exactly like Bret Maverick, preferring to decide for herself who joins her posse.

Her next target is Katar Johnson, a Native American who joins no questions asked. All he needs is his gear, which includes hawk wings, a loincloth and a shotgun. Honestly, Native American Hawkman may be the best Hawkman.

Meanwhile, still wanting to help, Booster enlists the eccentric Beetle to give him an edge over the speedy Flash. The possibly insane Beetle has just what he’s looking for.

We also get our first look at the villains, of this tale, the murderous railroad kingpin Maxwell Lord, the otherworldly Faust and their army of killer robots.

So perhaps I oversold how true of a western this is. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Justice Riders is a comic where the Cowboy Justice League fights an army of killer robots. All beautifully drawn by the great J.H. Williams III. It is terrific. I simply can’t emphasize enough how great the art is, as the included pictures should attest.

There aren’t many true surprises in this book, and there doesn’t need to be. Aside from the plethora of supernatural and science fiction elements, Justice Riders is a straightforward revenge western. Sheriff Prince and her group, who eventually number 7, chase Max Lord across the Southwest before the final showdown in Helldorado. There are several sumptuously drawn gunfights, and some inspired appropriations of Superhero concepts into the western framework.

There is one more wrench thrown in, one that is what puts it over the top. Kid Flash is wanted for murder in Texas and there in only one man who can track him down. The incomparable Kid Baltimore, the bowler wearing Pinkerton Detective Guy Gardner. As is always true, Guy Gardner is awesome. And his appearance in this book is just a glorious cherry on this delicious, western sundae.

It shouldn’t be hard to track a copy of Justice Riders down; I highly recommend you do so. You can get it for about $10 on Amazon. I found it for less than 5 at a local comic shop. It is bound like a paperback, so it will sit perfectly on a bookshelf. Really, go get it.

Significantly Delayed by the 4th Sunday Comic Book Review

The week of the 4th of July has really messed up my ability to get together posts for my fledgling blog, but this week I plan to review at least one more season 1 episode if Futurama and the new episode, with a mention of last week’s new ep.  Also at least one more installment of 25 Years of NES and one movie review.  There are many other things near completion that I hope to get out, but we’ll see.  On the the comics.  It was a big week for me buying comics and all in all a good one.
Flash 3:

Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Francis Manapul and Scott Kolins.
The new Barry Allen Flash series continues to be one of the best books coming out.  This issue continues the Flash’s struggles with the Renegades, doppelgangers of Flash’s Rogues from the future, and with the resurrected, original Captain Boomerang as he escapes from prison.  The art is distinct.   I do not possess the vocabulary or knowledge to accurately describe it, but I do know that it is unlike most other comics.  Johns is also doing a good job of setting up Barry and Iris Allen.  I would agree with the complainers that so far there is no reason the series could not have starred Wally West, but it doesn’t.  There have been 20 years of Wally stories, if the man who writes the best of them wants to write some great Barry stories more power to him.  And these have been 3 really good issues.  Barry is a hero through and through.  Instead of focusing on all of the implications that paint him as a murderer, he is helping someone else who has possibly been wrongly imprisoned.  Iris is helpful and equally busy.  Yes, so far, Barry has acted like Superman, but since DC has Superman doing other stuff, maybe Barry can become the moral center of their universe.
Green Lantern 55:

Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Doug Mahnke.
It’s big, loud, dumb and almost perfect.  Hal, Carol, Sinestro and Atrocitus fight with Lobo.  The leaders of four of the seven color corps throw power ring constructs all over the place in an over the top fight with one of superhero comic’s most over the top characters.  Lobo is a character, much like Marvel’s Deadpool, that is great in small doses but is easily over used.  His one issue appearance here is definitely a good thing.   Mahnke’s art is as over the top as the story.  This issue is just pure fun.  And the ending with the origin of Dex-Starr is both silly and somewhat touching.  While I was not a huge fan of Blackest Night, the Green Lantern book has come out of it still being great.
Justice Society of America 40:
written by Bill Willingham and drawn Jesus Merino.
This is the rather lackluster end to what has been a pretty good alternate reality story.  Obsidian returns and the JSA beats the bad guys.  I really do not know what to make of this issue.  It seems like it is either the last couple of pages of epilogue from the previous story extended to a full issue or 3 issues condensed down to one because after this James Robinson is taking over for three issues for a JLA/JSA crossover and Willingham could not set up the next story or fully finish this one.  So what is here is a few fun moments and lost of Obsidian monologue telling the reader what happened.  Everyone knows how this was going to end, so the least I expected was to be shown it in an interesting way, not having is flatly recited to me.  Not a good issue.  I’m growing increasing shaky on what is my favorite superhero team, especially since most of the interesting characters, Power Girl, Star Girl, Liberty Bell, Hourman, are going or gone.
Justice League of America 46:
written by James Robinson and drawn by Mark Bagley.
Robinson’s JLA/JSA team-up ramps up.  The story itself is actually pretty good.  The Starheart, a chuck of which is the source of Green Lantern‘s (Alan Scott) powers and through him powers his children Jade and Obsidian, is on Earth and driving many super powered individuals crazy.  It is an interesting start to the team up and a good way to involve both teams.  But his dialogue is terrible.  Jesse Quick, up until recently known as Liberty Bell, only thinks of her dad.  All the time.  Donna Troy rambles idiotically in what I believe is supposed to be funny dialogue.  Mr. Terrific talks down to Power Girl and she takes it.  Any of the instances could be forgotten, but they pile up enough to leave a bad taste in the reader’s mouth.  I’m sticking with this title through the team up out of love for the JSA, my interest in the line-up Robinson has for the JLA and my previous enjoyment of Robinson’s writing in Starman and JSA.  After that, I may drop both Justice team titles.
Thor 611:
written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Rich Elson.
This is my attempt to get back in to Marvel after a series of terrible events, culminating in the horrendous Dark Reign, thoroughly destroyed most of my interest in the line.  But the “Heroic Age” sounds good, so I’ll look.  And seeing how Thor is the best Marvel hero, I started here.  Not bad.  The Asgardians mourn Loki; they question the leadership of Balder and the Desir plot to destroy the dead Asgardians.  I do know of the bulk of the events from Siege even though I did not read it and I read most of JMS run on the title, so I’m not completely lost.  This issue is not great, but it is pretty good.  If the next issue pays off the set up in this one I’ll be happy, but this is not getting me too excited.
Wonder Woman 600:
So to cap off the month we get Wonder Woman’s big anniversary issue to go along with Superman’s and Batman’s.  It is also the start of Straszynski’s run on the title.  The first story is written by outgoing writer Gail Simone and drawn by the person responsible for Wonder Woman when she was the best George Perez.  It starts with a team up of numerous super heroines to defeat the “Cyber-Sirens.”  It shows how all of them look up to her and how Wonder Woman is the greatest.  Then she skips out on the President to attend Vanessa Kapatellis’ graduation.  I really liked this story.  Perez is one of the best artists in the business and Gail Simone has few misses on her record.  I can’t help but see the end of this as a bit of delayed backlash against the writers who came after Perez (Messner-Loebs and Byrne used other characters, Jimenez destroyed them) that ignored the great supporting cast he set up.  To see Vanessa recovered from the indignities put upon her in bad stories that made both her and Wonder Woman look bad feels great to those who read and loved Perez’s WW.  The next story is written and drawn by Amanda Conner and is the best thing in any book this month.  Power Girl, (I love me some Power Girl, especially drawn by Amanda Conner) Wonder Woman, and Batgirl beat-up Egg-fu (basically super villain Humpty Dumpty) then PG and WW go to PG’s place so WW can tell her what’s bothering her cat.  It’s cute, funny and gives me hope for more WW PG team ups.  Next is Louise Simonson and Eduardo Pansica’s story where Superman and Wonder Woman team up to take down a terrorist who stole Zeus’s lightning.  It’s adequate.  I had to reread it even after taking some review notes to really remember it.  It is followed by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins’s pointless lead-in to JMS’s story.  This was the most disappointing story because I really wanted to see Johns write Diana.  No writer is better at distilling why a character is cool into one sentence that can be used for years worth of stories.  Sure, his takes are often simplistic, but they lay great groundwork for other he and other writers to build on.  When he’s used Wonder Woman, it was generally in stories that were not about her and she did not feel right.  There was not enough to this story to even get that feeling.  Though the panel of young Diana staring out to sea wanting to see what else was out there was great.  Also in the issue were some great pin-ups by Adam Hughes, Francis Manapul and Phil Jimenez and one truly horrible one by Jock.
Then there is JMS’s highly anticipated debut.  I don’t like it.  The story could have potential.  It is going to end with the majority of her history restored to normal, maybe all of it, but the how could be intriguing.  The marketing is turning me off, as is the new costume.  WW old costume was just as messed up as Superman’s and Batman’s.  They are Superheroes; they are inherently ridiculous.  That is the fun of the stories.  And WW wears a patriotic one-piece bathing suit.  She looked like some sort of magical hooker.  DC decided to change this by making her look like an actual hooker.  They did not take out the suggestive part, they took out the magic that makes it okay.  And it’s not like this an original story.  Writers since Perez, except Simone, have destroyed Themyscira and the Amazons, only to return them with their version.  I see no reason to believe that this will be different of better.