“All the world is waiting for you…” – Wonder Woman (2017)

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Monday – 05 June 2017
I saw Wonder Woman this past weekend.

I saw it Friday early afternoon, affording me the opportunity to avoid most spoilers, either in conversation or in the media.

Like many of my previous reviews, this is going to be a two-part review:

  • The first part will be more of a synopsis and spoiler-free.
  • The second part will be more in-depth.

Here we go…

Part One: Synopsis

I thought that this was a fantastic movie. Period. Full stop.

Almost eighty years after her introduction, we finally got Wonder Woman. Leading her own movie. On the big screen. And she was everything that you expect her to be: Warm, kind, and compassionate, but also a passionate seeker of truth, honor, and justice.

It’s in my Top 3 of superhero movies, along with Superman and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Part Two: In-Depth Observations

Now for the spoiler-laden deep dive…

After reading Wonder Woman Shatters Records with $200+ Million Worldwide Opening on Forbes, I had the following thoughts:

I love and hate that it shattered Warner Bros. Entertainment‘s projections of “…maybe $85 million” on opening weekend:

Love: Because it was a fantastic movie that deserves EVERY DOLLAR IT EARNED.

Hate: That WB has so little faith in the film “…because has a female lead,” or “..because it’s a female director,” or whatever thin excuse they offered that wasn’t “Our record with superhero movies over the past three years has been pretty bad, we haven’t really been true to our characters in some cases, and the fans have lost their faith in us.”

Patty Jenkins, the film’s director, struck a fine balance between drama and humor (not comedy), while also presenting elements of empathy, pathos, and tragedy. It was light in just the right places and also somber and dark in the proper places, as well. It was what I would have liked to have seen more of from the Superman side of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The locations had character of their own: Themyscira (“Paradise Island”) was lush, bright, and vibrant, London showed you why it is/was referred to as “The Smoke,” and Belgium pulled the triple duty of presenting a war-torn battlefront, a town – and its war-weary population – all too close to the front, and the lavish and the German encampment, seemingly-untroubled by the ravages of war, in a nearby castle.

The film’s first act opened in the modern day, with Diana receiving a package. She opens it to find the picture that audiences first saw in Batman vs. Superman, with her and four companions in World War I. This sends her on a nostalgic trip that leads to her upbringing on Themyscira…

The movie spent just enough time on Themyscira to show Diana not just as the Princess of the Amazons, but as a young girl – the only child on the island, a fact which was deftly noted, but not belabored. It then jumped to show Diana as a young woman, also. In these scenes, viewers saw glimpses of her impulsiveness, inquisitiveness, passion, and determination. When the veil between Themyscira and Man’s World was torn, she also received a very harsh and grim look at the face of war. Although they showed clips of the battle scenes in trailers, it was still amazing to see the Amazons in action, facing an unknown threat with no hesitation. Steve Trevor’s introduction was handled right in line with the classic version(s), his plane crashing just off the island’s shore. The Amazon’s reactions to him rang very true of a culture who was unsure of whether or not outsiders could – or should – be trusted. I was sad that we didn’t get to see the traditional contest to determine who would travel to Man’s World, but the lack of those scenes did not diminish the movie at all. Instead, Ms. Jenkins took a different, yet no less effective, route to show Diana’s resolve in wanting to fulfill her mission as an Amazon.

In the second act, Diana’s introduction to Man’s World captured the awe and occasionally doe-eyed amazement of a stranger in a very strange land. The scenes walking through London – seeing a baby for the first time and her discovery of ice cream were wonderful touches that served to make her relatable. The ice cream scenes also reminded me of similar scenes with the character in the 2012 animated Wonder Woman feature and 2015’s Justice League: War. Another callback that I appreciated, as a fan of the 1978 Superman, was Diana’s deflection of the bullet and saving of Steve Trevor in the alleyway:

 

© All Things Marvel And DC

When Diana met Steve’s superiors, she couldn’t fathom how they were so willing to sit back, rather than lead their troops into battle and victory. In meeting Steve’s other companions, she was unsure of them, as they did not appear to be the most honorable of men. She appeared to understand them and their natures a little better, as they traveled. Farther along the journey, the shock of seeing people’s lives devastated by the war was clearly visible on Diana’s face. This made for a stark juxtaposition against how Steve and his band appeared to view it as “just another day,” not that they were immune to its affect, more that that had become inured to it.

 

Then it came: Diana’s reveal/”transformation” and her march to face the German army.

©Los Angeles Times

And in that moment, we saw the warrior aspect of the “warrior princess.” Purposeful. Relentless. Strong. I was surprised and pleased at how well movie was able to keep from fully showing her costume/armor for so long. Saving the reveal of the warrior who would come to be known as “Wonder Woman” until then only served to heighten the powerful moment. The fight in the nearby village gave a couple of fine examples of just how physically strong Diana was, in ways that were not displayed on the battlefront scenes.

In the movie’s final act, Diana moves face her foe and fulfill her purpose for traveling to Man’s World. She navigates the various battlefields deftly: She blends in almost seamlessly at the gala, having… liberated… her attire from another attendee and – unable to take on her foe there – advances to the German airstrip, steely-eyed resolve in her gaze. The look distress and lack of understanding on Diana’s face, as she saw that no one/nothing had changed after her foe was defeated and her mission had been seemingly fulfilled, was saddening and a bit disheartening. Having operated under a simple and straightforward notion – no, naivete – her worldview seemed to shatter and the pieces couldn’t be resolved into a coherent whole that she recognized. She lashed out at Steve, whose role as a spy and her recall of his dodges and half-truths along their journey seemed to only further distort the picture… until her true foe revealed himself. Her mission renewed and her true purpose revealed, she rose to meet the new challenge with the same confidence and determination than she showed at the Belgian front.

The closing scenes returned us to the modern day, with one last nostalgic look at the past and a nod to the future.

Patty Jenkins did a masterful job of bringing an iconic character to the big screen. She did this without making yet another dark and forboding DCEU film and also without making a sloppy or cheesy mess of the production. The pacing was good and the movie found a good emotional balance of drama and humor. I would say that my biggest complaints/concerns were:

  1. Lack of the aforementioned Amazon contest,
  2. Not having a scene where Diana used her lasso to help calm or quiet Charlie’s demons in the camp scene,
  3. No scene where she talked with animals,
  4. The death of Steve Trevor (but I attribute this to my expectation of Steve always being around, as he is in the comics), and
  5. Some of the CGI in the third act wasn’t great. And there was a lot of it.

Gal Gadot’s Diana, Princess of Themyscira and Wonder Woman, was portrayed beautifully; she brought the character to life. Her drive and devotion to learn the truth was apparent. The lack of guile and even her naivete didn’t come off as comical, but as the result of someone who literally had an idyllic upbringing and was then thrust into situations outside her understanding. In Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #170, “A Day in the Life,” Phil Jimenez described Diana (via Lois Lane) this way:

It is a remarkable thing. She’s perhaps THE most powerful woman on the planet. Yet men INSIST on protecting her.

Even certain SUPERMEN I know– 

Last thing I see before J.L.A. Teleporters break us into energy and fire us across the world is HER SMILE… and I’ve NEVER felt more safe.

…and, later…

And THERE it is… That look, the eyes, the everything.. The STORY.

WONDER WOMAN is a MIRROR… a mirror of HUMAN TRUTH.

She reflects the contradictions of the world — of the person STARING at her — takes them onto herself… 

And gives you TRUTH, LOVE, RESPECT in return.

Thank GOD… or GODDESS… for that.

This is the Wonder Woman that Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins brought us.  Thank God – or Goddess – for that, too.

Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor was a charming rogue. Literally. He was a spy and he was charming and a little smug. He came off as a man with his heart in the right place, but willing to stray from the path of angels in order to complete his mission. He was chivalrous, in his own way, until he realized that Diana was a woman that didn’t need his protection and whose protection and help he might need, in turn.

Hippolyta, as portrayed by Connie Nielsen, came off as every bit the warrior queen I wanted to see. She watched her general training troops for a fight she hoped to never see. However, when war came to her domain, she rode fearlessly into battle alongside her fellow Amazons. We also got to see the mother who wanted nothing more for her child than that she be happy… even if that meant curtailing her daughter’s impulsiveness. The joy and pride she felt for Diana was evident, much as the sorrow was when it came time for Diana to leave.

Robin Wright (The Princess Bride, herself) was Antiope, sister of Hippolyta, aunt of Diana, and general of the Amazon army. You understood that she was dedicated to her sister and queen, her country, her duty… and to her niece. From the trailers, I didn’t realize that it was Antiope who was shot when the Germans came to Themyscira, but I loved the fact that it was her headband – not a tiara, not a crown – that Diana wears as Wonder Woman, to honor her fallen aunt.

Etta Candy, played by Lucy Davis, is a character I wish had more screen time. Etta is a staple in Wonder Woman stories; while it was good to see her, I fear that we won’t see her again, aside from possible flashbacks. I was glad that they gave her a strong backbone, a sharp tongue, and a measure of agency – these are things that I expect to see from Etta.

Danny Huston’s General Ludendorff was a proud and patriotic German. His desire for war – along with a clever script – easily made you think that he was the primary antagonist.

I was also disappointed that we did not get more screen time with Elena Anaya’s Doctor Maru (a.k.a. “Doctor Poison“). I’m mostly familiar with the Post-Crisis and Rebirth era comic book versions of the character, but would have liked to have seen a little more about “who” she was and what drove her.

David Thewlis’ Ares was proud, cunning, and manipulative. I think that Ares was a good – if not perfect – choice for Wonder Woman’s first villain. He provided an antagonist who could go blow-for-blow with Diana and also served as someone who challenged her beliefs. I, likewise, appreciated how he engineered events to his liking. As gods are wont to do. When his plans were revealed and his facade stripped away, he became even more ruthless in his drive to see them come to fruition. As one would expect from the God of War.

To conclude, I think that this was an excellent bit of cinema. It moved well, it hit the right beats, and it stayed true to the characters it brought to the screen.  In short: It was pretty much the polar opposite of what I’ve come to expect from from a DCEU movie. I’m sad that it took so long to come to fruition, but I am conversely glad that there is a movie with a strong female protagonist (who “just happens” to be a character of whom my daughters are very fond) that I will be happy to share with my girls when they are a little older.

As Gail Simone wrote in 2008’s Wonder Woman (vol. 3) #25, “A Star in the Heavens – Scene 2: Personal Effects”:

This movie was worth the wait.

Reviews from the First New Comic Book Day of 2017!

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Thursday – 05 January 2017
Happy New Year and Happy Day-After-New Comic Book Day!

As yesterday was the first new comic book day of 2017, I went to my local comic book shop and came home with new things to read. This week, I picked up:

  • Champions #4  (DC)
  • Cyborg #8 (DC)
  • Green Lantern #14 (DC)
  • Hawkeye #2 (Marvel)
  • Justice League #14 (DC)
  • Nightwing #12 (DC)
  • Scarlet Witch #14 (Marvel)
  • Shade: The Changing Girl #4 (DC: Young Animal)
  • Superman #14 (DC)
  • The Unstoppable Wasp #1 (Marvel)
  • The Unworthy Thor #3 (of 5) (Marvel)
  • The Wicked + The Divine #25 (Image)

In all, it was kind of a mixed week for my books – some good, some kind of meh, and a couple of extraordinarily fun reads. My favorite reads were:

  • Cyborg #8
    I’ve been a bit lukewarm about Cyborg after David Walker’s departure. But, there was something about John Semper, Jr.’s writing that drew me into this issue. Perhaps it was seeing Cyborg “intervene” in an instance of police brutality. Perhaps it was watching the interaction between Cyborg and Exxy Clark. Perhaps it was that the Cyborg we had been reading about for most of the issue wasn’t Cyborg. I’m not sure exactly what the special sauce was, but I not only enjoyed the read, it made me laugh at points.
  • Champions #4
    A portion of this issue dealt with the literal fallout from Issue #3. And a fight with Atlanteans. And the question of leadership. And, a very quick and well-handled discussion about mutant-Inhuman relations. From the pacing to the dialogue to the artwork, I think that this is one of the freshest – and most fun – books in Marvel’s stable these days.
  • Hawkeye #2
    Kate Bishop. Superhero. P.I. (kind of, sort of). This issue picks up right after the end of Issue #1, with Kate taking a perp from her first case to the police station. She then stops a back-alley assault – there’s a kinetic feel to the two-page spread showing how the action plays out, as well as a bit of the aftermath. That scene also includes the following bit of dialogue:

    Kate (aiming bow with nocked arrow at a mostly off-panel figure): Touch some sky, pal.
    Guy: Whoa whoa whoa. I am not with these dudes.
    Kate: Okay, then you should probably mosey on out of here, cowboy. I don’t need help.
    Guy: I buy that. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen anyone that needs help less than you in this moment.

    Our intrepid Hawkeye even has a run-in with a cultish mob. I have to admit that I didn’t see that coming, as I was reading. I look forward to seeing how it resolves.

  • The Wicked + The Divine #25
    Gillen and McKelvie continue to knock it out of the park with this book. Where to start…? Persephone is on the warpath, Woden is in her sights, and it looks like Cassandra of The Norns has been cast in the unlikely role of Persephone’s Jiminy Cricket. Readers – and Woden – are treated to an interesting look at some of Persephone’s power set – more than just *KLLK*-ing someone’s head to explode, that is – and are rewarded with this:

    Woden: Listen. We’re the clever, practical two. Baal is practical. Minerva is clever. We’re both. Who else is going to work out what’s going on? Sakhmet? Dionysus? I think Amaterasu only wears sandals so much because she has trouble with shoelaces…
    Persephone: And I am…?
    Woden: You’re the wild card Dark Arts professor who scares the shit out of Slytherin kids like me. I still have no idea how you do half the things you do.
    Cassandra: Me neither. You’re the only god who’s ever affected me. Why? You projected a performance through Owly…
    Woden: She did? That’s impossible.
    Cassandra: And… you said something happened after Lucifer died. What was that?
    Persephone: Nothing important.
    Cassandra: See! That’s the kind of enigmatic wankery we haven’t got time for when we’re all going to be dead in two years!

    And the closing pages with Baal, Minerva, and… Sakhmet (?) were a curious look at a little “family” and how they were dealing with revelations about Ananke.

  • Green Lanterns #14
    There’s a GL book on my list. Amazing surprise. But, this issue wrapped up a storyline that had an interesting premise: What if one ring could harness the entire emotional spectrum? (And, as much as I hate to admit it: I just made the “One ring to rule them all” connection. Yep, Slow on the Uptake Guy, that’s me!) While I found the character who found that ring a bit tedious, I liked the concept. What I enjoyed even more was a breakthrough for rookie GL Jessica Cruz. She has a lot of potential and want to see her live up to it. It was also nice to see other members of the Corps show up… and the reactions of Jessica and Simon’s to who it was that dropped in. Sam Humphries also left a nice little surprise to be unraveled at the story’s end.
  • The Unstoppable Wasp #1
    When talking about Champions earlier, I said that it was one of the freshest and most fun books coming out of Marvel these days. This book is another. Let me first start by saying that I’ve been reading – and thoroughly enjoying – Jeremy Whitley‘s PrinceLess titles for the past few years. (As the father of twin girls, I love the concept of a princess who didn’t need a prince to rescue her. If you haven’t read PrinceLess or PrinceLess: Raven – The Pirate Princess, do so!) When it was announced that he and Elsa Charretier – and Megan Wilson – would be doing this book, I was intrigued. And then came the wait.The wait is over…

    The Unstoppable Wasp

    …and I’m happy to say that Whitley’s Nadia Pym is an absolute delight! And Ms. Charretier’s artwork is a perfect pairing with the writing.  Nadia is unstoppable. (Just ask Ms. Marvel and Mockingbird!) She has an irrepressible spirit and drive that is a refreshing change from so much of the angst associated with so many heroes these days. And she has no pretense, just a passion to help and to do good. Oh, and she’s loves science. A lot. She’s also a total fangirl, as evidenced in this post-battle conversation with Mockingbird and Ms. Marvel:

    Nadia: You worked on one of my father’s projects? I’ve researched them all. I don’t remember a Bobbi.
    Mockingbird: “Bobbi” is short for Barbara. Barbara Morse.
    Nadia (realization dawning ): Biologist Barbara Morse? Like, “Project: Gladiator” Barbara Morse? Like, almost succesfully reproduced the Super-Soldier serum Barbara Morse?
    Mockingbird (somewhat astonished): Those are not usually the things people remember about me.
    Nadia: Like, lady adventurer scientist in the Savage Land and hanging out with Man-Thing in the Everglades Barbara Morse?
    Mockingbird: That is… weird that you know all of that.
    Nadia: You are my hero! I read your research on the super-soldier serum and you talked about all the traveling and the Savage Land and I thought– I thought “This is who I want to be when I grow up!” A woman who’s a super scientist but doesn’t stay in the lab all day. She has adventures! (reaches over and hugs Mockingbird) You inspire me.
    Mockingbird: Okay… that… that’s a lot right there, and I just… you know, I’ve worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. for a long time… and I… I don’t know that anybody has ever said that I inspire them, and… and it’s totally cool for a super hero to just cry in public… people don’t remember that I’m a scientist. They just remember that I used to be married to Hawkeye1 and I hit things with sticks. So that means a lot. Come here, kid. It’s been a rough couple of months for me. Can I have another one of those hugs?
    Nadia: Heck yes!

    See, unabashed science-loving fangirl. And superhero. And, from the look of the last page, ready to take on the world.

    If there is one book that I’d recommend reading from this week’s new titles, this is it. Buy it. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

And that’s a wrap!

1 – Clint Barton, not the aforementioned Kate Bishop

Luke Cage: A brief look at Marvel’s newest series

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I shouldn’t have to become a bulletproof-Luke Cage just to feel safe as a black man in America.
Jay Whittaker
30 September 2016

This comment sparked an interesting – and introspective – thread on the Facebook account of my friend, Jay Whittaker.

Like me, Jay is a long-time comics fan. Also like me, he was eagerly anticipating the release of Luke Cage on Netflix this past weekend.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage

I’ve been a comics fan since the mid- to late-70s. Most of the heroes wore capes and tights (and their underwear on the outside). It was pretty easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. “Representation” wasn’t really a watchword when I started reading comics, but there were some signs of change and inclusion around the time the 80s rolled around. Today, you can find heroes of all colors, genders, belief systems, and/or sexuality. And they aren’t just in comics. They are also on TV, in books, and in major motion picture releases.

I’ve come to appreciate Black heroes more in the past fifteen years. For me, it really started with John Stewart, the Green Lantern on the Cartoon Network Justice League series. (My affinity for the character isn’t something that I’ve ever been shy talking about.) But, I have taken the time to become more familiar with Static, Black Panther, Cyborg, Nick Fury (MCU/Marvel Ultimate Universe version), Black Lightning, and many others.

Friday, Marvel’s Luke Cage joined the list of Black characters who have reached out from comics into other media. Who is Luke Cage? He’s:

  • A man framed for a crime he didn’t commit.
  • A man who wants to help his community.
  • A man who never wanted to be a hero… but became one.

I’m only about halfway through the series, but I am enjoying it. In bringing the character to the small screen, a few changes have been made, but nothing that makes the character unrecognizable. Something that I found interesting was what I can only assume was a rather conscious choice on the part of the show’s staff: Dressing Luke in an outfit that has become associated with many Black shooting victims in America today – a hoodie and jeans. Part of this is because Luke is trying to maintain a low profile and a hoodie affords a bit of anonymity. But, I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t a couple of underlying messages in that choice:

  1. A hoodie doesn’t automatically make someone a criminal, in the same way that a suit doesn’t mean that someone is respectable.
  2. Anyone can be a hero.

The series has also depicted something that doesn’t often get seen on the small screen: Glimpses at and inside the Black community. No, parts of it aren’t always pretty nor clean, but I don’t know of any community that truly is. But, you see the community – what brings them together, what tears them apart – and not just a caricature of it.

For a more personal connection to what made this series so special for so many people, I’ll defer to Jay once again:

Cage has always been the character I’ve truly identified with. Yes, I know you’re thinking, “But, what about Falcon?” [For those who don’t know him, Jay’s been a vocal fan of Marvel’s Falcon over the past few years, even cosplaying as him at Salt Lake Comic Con.]

Put it this way: Falcon, War Machine, Black Panther have always been the brothas I’ve wanted to BECOME. Falcon & WM are both respectable service members AND CAN FLY! Black Panther is a damn king. The same can be said about John Stewart as Green Lantern. But Luke Cage has and always will represent who I’ve BEEN and probably always WILL BE. He’s an experienced man of the streets, who’s seen and done things he’s not proud of. His dark past is shrouded in mystery and difficult for him to talk about, but in the end he’s an everyday guy who just wants to do the right thing. He’s more realistic than a high-tech brotha that can fly. That’s why this show is so important right now.

You don’t have to soar through the skies to be a successful black man. You can stay on the ground, make a difference in your community and push forward…ALWAYS FORWARD.
Jay Whittaker
September 30 at 3:31pm

After reading that, I messaged Jay, asking if he’d be alright with me quoting him. I also noted that his summary of what Cage meant to him was “perfect.” Why? As I told him:

…your POV is a great one – not only for people who know the characters, but also for people who just know the movies/Netflix series.

It humanizes – and personalizes – the character in a succint but very poignant way. Pointing out that the others are (ex-)military, given your background, and that Cage is still the most similar to you and the core of your being…? That adds a level that anyone can relate to.

The Washington Post called Luke Cage “…the blackest thing that Marvel has ever done.” Whether or not that’s true can be called into question, but it’s definitely about time that people – everyone – has a chance to see something like this.

Check it out.

 

Salt Lake Comic Con 2016: Coda

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Saturday – 03 September 2016
Salt Lake Comic Con
2016 has come to an end.

This was, quite possibly, my most fun time at the con to date. I had a great time seeing friends, reacquainting with others, meeting new people and being a panelist for the first time! (Hopefully, I’ll get to do it again next year!) There were some things and people that I did not have the opportunity to see, but I really can’t complain about this year’s con experience.

This morning, Sara and I took Team DiVa to the Con (ahem… “the costume party”), so that they could see people in costumes. We found “a few” Captains Marvel, to Diana’s glee, but we had a hard time finding a Ms. Marvel for Vanessa. I was hoping to see the young lady (also pictured below) that I saw on Friday; she was nowhere to be found today. Sara managed to find both a Captain AND a Ms. Marvel – at the same time – who were both happy to take pictures with the girls. This happened while I was having a brief meet-and-greet with Phill LaMarr (Pulp Fiction, Mad TV, the voice of Green Lantern John Stewart on Justice League). WHEW!

We left Comic Con, so the girls could have lunch and some down time. I realized that I needed some recovery time, as well.

I returned to the Con a little after 5 PM… to find that the main floor was closing at 7 PM. Fortunately, I had managed to check off most of the boxes on my “To Do” list during the earlier visit. I visited with the Dr. Volt’s crew and managed to get more than three pictures of cosplayers today. I wrapped up the evening attending a panel with three-fourths of the lovely ladies from the Hello Sweetie Podcast, and three other panelists.

I think that Salt Lake Comic Con 2016 was fantastic convention and hope that it was a great success for all involved. I’d also like to thank and congratulate the staff and crew of Salt Lake Comic Con for putting on a great event… and for letting me be a part of it this year! I look forward to what SLCC 2017 brings.

And here are the pictures…

 

 

 

Review – Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Tuesday – 12 April 2016 Monday – 18 April 2016 Monday – 27 April 2016
I finally saw Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice earlier this last week two weeks ago. I’ve been trying to write this summation of my thoughts since then. More or less. At times, it just felt like too much drudgery to finish. But, here it is.

I managed to avoid most spoilers, either in conversation or in the media, before seeing the movie. There was one nominally big one that slipped through the cracks, but I thought it might have been a misinterpretation. (It wasn’t.) I will most likely pick up that thread later in this post.

Like my Man of Steel review, this is going to be a two-part review:
The first part will be more of a synopsis and spoiler-free.
The second part will be more in-depth.
Consider yourselves duly warned.

Part One: Synopsis
I mostly enjoyed this movie.

It appeared to draw from the following sources, among others:

Some would contend that there were too many moving pieces in this film and that never works. I’d counter with a look at X2: X-Men United. That story took four storylines from over 20 years of X-Men lore and wove them into a compelling story. This, however, threw a lot at the audience in its two-and-a-half hour runtime and there’s still (at least) thirty minutes of footage that will be seen on the DVD/Blu-Ray release.

And, seventy-five years after her introduction, we finally got Wonder Woman on the big screen. She was introduced with an air of mystery that I hope will be expanded upon in her feature film, due out next year. For the in-costume screen time that she did have, I was pleased with how she was presented: She was a warrior and one, it seemed, who enjoyed a good fight.

I give this movie five SuperBats… possibly six:

Superman BatmanSuperBat!SuperBat!SuperBat!SuperBat!   (SuperBat! )

Part Two: In-Depth Observations
Now that the niceties are out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter.

This was a dark movie. Granted, Batman is in it, but I expected a Superman with a much lighter tone to juxtapose against the Dark Knight’s… darkness. That was not what audiences got.

This Superman was still rather aloof and somewhat removed from the people. Yes, there have been stories around that concept, but for the most part, Superman has seemed to enjoy not only being a role model, but also just being with and around people. Well, more people than just Lois Lane and Martha Kent. There was talk of – and a little lip-service towards – him being a symbol of hope for people… but it seemed more like they were just trying to convince the audience of that than anything else.

The Batman we saw could have been lifted directly out of The Dark Knight Returns: Older, world-weary, hardened. He perceived Superman as a threat to be negated and he also gave action to the growing sentiment of wariness and fear… even if he was pushed into this action through Lex Luthor’s machinations. That point, I’ll come back to in a few paragraphs. While I can understand Bruce’s rage-filled dream about Superman taking over the world, what I cannot fathom is why he would have any notion of parademons, the firepits of Apokolips, or Darkseid at this stage of the game. Hell, he shouldn’t even really have an inkling until Lex started ranting at the end of the movie… if even then.

Lex Luthor. There are many ways to get him wrong. Richard Donner didn’t do it. Bryan Singer didn’t do it. Hell, even the writers on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman didn’t do it. But, this Lex… I don’t know. The genius was there, but there was something missing. Perhaps it was in the way that he came off as a bit manic in some/many scenes. Perhaps it was an attempt to show the smartest man in the room, whose mouth literally couldn’t keep up with all of the lines of thought going on in his mind. I don’t know. I think that he did morph a bit from a less manic Lex and more of the cold, calculating Luthor that I was used to seeing in scene on top of the LexCorp tower with Superman.

Once again, I found that I enjoyed Amy Adams’ Lois Lane. She was tenacious and willing to fight for the stories that she felt needed to be told. You could see that she truly cared for Clark, with his best interests at heart, but also saw the dangers in the shadows that he didn’t – or wasn’t willing to – see.

The brightest spot, in terms of characterization, was Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. To be honest, I was worried about what we would get. This, they got right. We didn’t get a lot of backstory – that’s being left to next year’s movie. While I would have liked to have known a little more about what she does for a living – she’s an antiquities expert/dealer, a fact I discovered from the packaging of a Wonder Woman figure for the movie – I was happy that Snyder got the “warrior princess” part right. And that was done very well. I loved the fact that, once she got into the thick of the fight, you could see that she was enjoying it, almost reveling in the ability to cut loose.

A friend pointed out something that I hadn’t considered: Snyder used Diana to effectively stop the plot (or at least put it on “Pause) while she “…watched trailers for the next movies.”  True. For those who aren’t following: After Bruce Wayne decrypted Luthor’s file on metahumans and sent it to her, the story got derailed to show clips of the three unknown metas.

I mentioned Bruce Wayne’s buttons getting pushed by Lex Luthor above. Here’s where I come back to that point. I’ll grant you that Lex is traditionally considered one of the most intelligent characters in the DCU. What I would love to know is how did he figure out the identities of two of the most guarded figures in the DCEU?! Granted, if you watch Lois Lane’s movements enough, pick up on the fact that “where goes Lois, so too goes Superman.” Put that together with the fact that she started dating a guy – roughly Superman’s size and build – about the same time he showed up on the scene and it’s arguable that you could deduce that Clark is Superman, given enough time. In fact, Lex figured that out in comics in the second issue of Superman (1987), but rationalized it away, thinking that no one with Superman’s powers would waste his time pretending to be… just human. But, figuring out that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Nope. Can’t see it. And, being able to lead “the world’s greatest detective” on a snipe hunt for a man who not only doesn’t exist, but there’s a ship in the harbor that he’s been staking out with the exact same name and he can’t figure it out?! Nah, man. You lost me there.

Then there’s Zod Doomsday. I’m amazed at how quickly Lex not only wrapped his not-yet-bald head xenotechnology and took control of the ark/Fortress of Solitude, but let’s also give him a hand for mastering xenobiology in about 10 minutes. “Lex E. Coyote, super genius…

And the death of Clark Kent was handled even more ham-fistedly than in the comics. And that’s saying something.

I was struck by something that Christopher Tapley wrote in his review of the movie for Variety:

… given that Snyder is obsessed with iconography, a visualist more than a storyteller. 

That phrase triggered something for me. After reading it, I considered some of the movies that Snyder has directed: 300, Man of Steel, Sucker Punch, and Watchmen. While I enjoyed all of those films – and even purchased three of the four – I realized that Mr. Tapley was right. Snyder has a keen ability to make something look visually stunning… but, unless he is (more or less) directly adapting something – 300 or Watchmen, for example – the story is kind of thin. And this movie was no exception to that rule.

As much as I enjoyed Man of Steel for the things that it did differently with the character, I just couldn’t muster that same satisfaction out of this movie. Wonder Woman pulled a lot of this movie’s fat out of the fire for me. I am not disappointed that I paid to see it (in IMAX, even) for the spectacle, but I’m on the fence whether I’ll be putting down money to buy the DVD/Blu-ray… unless the extra footage seriously helps the story. And that’s a pretty strong statement, coming from the guy who saw Green Lantern in the theatre twice(!) and bought the movie on Blu-ray.

Worlds’ Finest: Supergirl and The Flash

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Monday – 28 March 2016
Fans Supergirl and The Flash have been hoping for some kind of team-up between the heroes since Variety ran an article with Greg Berlanti – along with this picture, featuring Supergirl‘s Melissa Benoist and The Flash‘s Grant Gustin – last October.

Picture (c) Variety

Picture (c) Variety

But, there were a number of obstacles:

  • Supergirl had not been given a full season order,
  • The Flash had already scheduled their Season 2 episodes,
  • The shows, were on different networks1.

Then, something happened: Supergirl got picked up for a full season. Fans’ hopes got a little higher. But, The Powers That Be said that there was no time and that it couldn’t happen this season. Maybe something could be worked out next season.

On February 3rd, an announcement came out of CBS:

Supergirl’s world just keeps getting bigger—and more exciting.

CBS and The CW Network announced Tuesday that two of their respective shows will collide this spring. The Flash will appear in an upcoming episode of Supergirl, combining the two superheroes into one action-packed hour.

Fan reaction, not unexpectedly, was ecstatic. And then, the fan speculation started. Slowly, CBS released a few details: The episode title. Villains. The circumstances of Barry meeting Kara. And there were social media pushes, not just from the shows’ official sites, but also from the stars of the shows.

Just a couple of superheroes in the park... no big deal.

Just a couple of superheroes in the park… no big deal.

The episode aired tonight and it was fun. It was also reflective of the tone of both shows: Heroes doing the best they can, in both their heroic and civilian lives. It was also refreshing to see a hero team-up that didn’t involve the stereotypical trope of: heroes meet – heroes fight – heroes make up and resolve to fight bad guys trope.  It was just heroes helping heroes.

Oh, the episode had villains helping villains, too; I shouldn’t forget that part.

Livewire and Silver Banshee Picture (c) CBS

Livewire and Silver Banshee — Picture (c) CBS

Something that added to the fun of the episode was being able to watch it with – and explain it to – my daughters. To say that they are “big fans of superheroes” would be something of an understatement. (One daughter may or may not have been named for Wonder Woman…) They know a fair number of the DC heroes, with Supergirl being pretty high on their list. I’ve wanted to let them watch Supergirl, but it’s a bit mature for them – they’re four-and-a-half. They came down to the family and started watching with me… so I decided to see how they dealt with it. They had a lot of questions:

  • When is The Flash going to run fast? (They started watching after Barry had changed into civilian clothes.)
  • Why is Supergirl not wearing her costume? (Civvies, again)
  • Who’s that and why is she being mean to Supergirl? (Cat Grant)
  • Is [person] a good friend or a bad friend?
  • Did that bad friend break out of jail? (When Livewire escaped DEO confinement)
  • Why does Supergirl have blood on her fingers? (After being shrieked at by Silver Banshee)
  • Are they going to race?
  • Why can James not hear Supergirl? (Near the end of the episode)
  • Can all those people not hear either?

…but they took the episode in stride – it was easy enough for them to follow (mostly) and came down to a heroes putting the villains in jail, a concept they understand. As an added bonus for me, I got to watch them as they watched a show featuring heroes they know.

Thank you, CBS and The CW for giving viewers a fun show that didn’t feel too weighted down by the story arcs of either character’s respective show. It was enough of a one-and-done that someone who didn’t watch “the other show” regularly could enjoy for the sake of what was presented.

Now, how about renewing Supergirl for Season Two and getting Kara onto either The Flash, Arrow, or Legends of Tomorrow2?

1 – Okay, yes, CBS does have 50% interest in The CW, but they are still different networks.

2 – Legends of Tomorrow would provide an easy (re-)introduction of Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Just putting that out there.

Breaking the Radio Silence

comics, creators, movies, reviews No Comments

03 August 2015
Let’s look at comics and comics-related things!

Let’s get a few random items out of the way first.

Okay with those out of the way, let’s talk comic books…

For me, one of the bright spots in comics is the writing and art of Thom Zahler. He first came to my attention for Love and Capes, which billed itself as “The heroically super situation comedy.” And that’s exactly what it was. But, while serving up romance in a world where costumed heroes exist is nothing new, Love and Capes made the romance the focus of the book, rather than superheroics. This doesn’t mean that readers never saw heroic feats; but the real story followed the growth of the relationship between Abby Tennyson, owner of a small bookstore, and Mark Spencer, accountant by day/superhero by… well… night and day, really. The dialog was crisp and the situations in which Mark, Abby, and their friends found themselves felt believable. And, the comedic timing – after all, it did call itself a ‘situation comedy’ – worked in a way that didn’t feel forced. Check out the website, linked above, or pick up issues or trade paperbacks from IDW Publishing.

Mr. Zahler’s latest offering is the four-issue mini-series, Long Distance:

Long Distance #1 by Thom Zahler

Long Distance #1 by Thom Zahler

The description for this series:

From the creator of Love and Capes, Thom Zahler! While stranded in an airport, Carter and Lee meet and hit it off immediately. Problem is, he lives in Columbus and she lives in Chicago. Can they manage to have a relationship separated by three hundred miles, a time zone, and the entire state of Indiana?

As someone who has been in a couple of long-distance relationships, the dialog and the situations feel realistic. Zahler manages to find the proper balance of the giddiness that accompanies a new romance along with the added tensions of distance, work, commentary from friends, and time. Because of the care that he puts into all of that, Carter and Lee go from being “just characters in a comic book” to a couple of people to whom you can relate.

Issue #3 of Long Distance hits stands this Wednesday. I highly recommend picking it up – along with Issues #1 and 2 – as part of your comics haul.

“Hooked on a Feeling”

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Monday – 07 July 2014
A few days ago, there was a notification on Facebook that people could attend a screening for Guardians of the Galaxy:

GotG

#GuardiansOfTheGalaxy

Anyone who’s known me for more than eleven minutes knows that I’m a comic book fan. It’s something of a given. And I am also a fan of well-done comic book movies. And maybe a few not-quite-as-well-done ones, too. As this movie is squarely rooted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve been looking forward to it for “a while now.” So I clicked the link and decided to roll the bones (Ha! I worked a Rush reference! Go, me!) and see if I could get to a theatre in time to catch it.

What I neglected to pick up on, thanks in equal parts to not reading the notification past “YOU CAN SEE THIS ON MONDAY!!!!!!!!” and what I’ll attribute to some clever marketing/writing on the part of the company who sent out the invitations, was one key piece:

It was only 17 minutes of the movie.

Yep, didn’t suss this out until I reached the theatre. *sigh* But, I was there. I will admit that the whole “Bag it, I’m going home” thing did cross my mind. More than once…

I decided to stick it out and see what they had to offer. I’m glad that I did. The seventeen minutes that they showed were fun, witty, well-written and definitely well-cast. This last part might give people more ammunition to say that Vin Diesel is a “wooden actor.” I don’t have beef with the man’s chops, after all: He’s the one on-screen and I’m in the seat watching. It was nice to see a little more of what’s going on with some of the characters and how they interact.

There’s been a lot of talk that Bradley Cooper’s Rocket is going to steal the show. That speculation might not be too far off base. He might also have some competition from Diesel’s Groot.

It was good to hear Dave Bautista’s Drax have some dialogue – even if it differs quite a bit from his speech patterns in comics. His origin seems to be different, as well, but that’s something we can just set aside for now.

Zoe Saldana’s Gamora was also given a bit of screen time and showed herself to be a formidable woman. That’s a “good thing” since she’s known as “the most dangerous woman in the universe.”

And there’s Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord. He’s already been the “face” of trailers and other media, so it didn’t feel like he was given quite as much time as the other Guardians, although tonight’s  footage did expand on the headphones scene in the prison. It plays out even more amusingly than it does in the trailer.

So, what did I think of what I saw? I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed that we didn’t get to see the full movie. On the other hand, it was great fun – the seventeen minutes went by far too quickly. If the rest of the movie is as tight as what we got to see this evening, Marvel/Disney has another hit on their hands and has added a fantastic new area for expansion and exploration to their growing Cinematic Universe.

Now all I have to do is wait for another three weeks…

#GuardiansOfTheGalaxy

Salt Lake Comic Con: The Recap

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Tuesday – 10 September 2013
This past weekend, Salt Lake City hosted its first Comic Con, the aptly named Salt Lake Comic Con:

saturday-only3

The event was originally scheduled to take place at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah. When the organizers realized that tickets for the event were selling faster than they anticipated, they expanded to another hall in the Expo Center. When sales continued to exceed expectations, the venue changed from Sandy to the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City. I haven’t seen official final numbers, but I have heard that over 70,000 tickets were sold for the event:

slcc-numbers

This places Salt Lake Comic Con in the top five cons of 2012-2013* in its inaugural year.

After a good deal of deliberation, schedule planning and adjustment, I decided to attend the convention. It would be the first Comic Con – or any other non-train or car show, for that matter – that I attended. I went for two of the convention’s three days: Thursday and Friday.

Thursday, I left work early and spent a little more than three hours at Comic Con. The hall was full of attendees, guests and vendors, all of whom were there to share in their common love of comics, science fiction and… just plain fun. The crowds weren’t bad Thursday evening. There were a lot of people in costume, which is to be expected at a convention catering to a comic-centric crowd. This young lady was quite possibly my favorite cosplayer of the day:

IMG_1208

She was passing by in a wheelchair, when I noticed her. I asked her if she’d mind if I took a picture of her and her costume. She gave a quick look at her father, who was pushing her chair. He gave her a smiling nod of approval. She gave a quick smile, stood up and posed… sans smile, just as you’d expect from Raven, especially from the Teen Titans and/or Teen Titans Go! cartoons.

After talking with the guys from Dr. Volt’s Comic Connection for a while, I walked around and looked at various exhibitors’ booths and displays, including a great The Hobbit-themed booth from WETA:

IMG_1212

Friday, I was only able to attend for a few hours, but I decided to go in costume, in my Nick Fury outfit:

IMG_1239

Attending in costume was a slightly different experience than going in street clothes. I was approached by people – including a number of young children (or their parents, in the case of shy kids) – asking if they could take my picture. When I was trying to decide whether or not to go in costume, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about that. After the fact, I can say: It was actually quite a bit of fun, especially when I saw the kids’ faces light up when I said that I’d take a picture with them.  And let’s face it, when a trio of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents and Captain America ask if they can get a picture with you, you say “Yes.”

IMG_1241

I wasn’t able to attend on Saturday, but heard about the chaos of the day from a few people. It seems that the bulk of the con attendees came on Saturday. This wasn’t surprising, as it was the only day that surprise guest Stan Lee was going to be at the Con. The number of people attempting to enter the convention center was so great that the Salt Lake Fire Marshall came and limited the number of people able to enter at one time. As people left, they had to get back into the growing line if they wished to get back in.

There were a few points of contention, from what I’ve learned. Most of the complaints seem to stem from a lack of communication and dissemination of information between staff members on Thursday. This led to some confusion about things like where panels were being held and who would be available for guest signings at what time. I also heard that the lines of communication were greatly improved on Friday and Saturday. I’d chalk most of the issues up to “first year growing pains.”

All told, I had a fun – though abbreviated – time at the first Salt Lake Comic Con. As my time was limited, I didn’t attend any panel discussions or stand in line for any autographs/photographs from the celebrity guests. With a bit more advance planning, perhaps I’ll do those things next year. From the attendee point of view, I thought that Salt Lake Comic Con was a good event. If the bumps and scrapes from this year are addressed and corrected for next year’s Comic Con, I expect that it will be even better.

The gallery of pictures I took can be seen here. I wasn’t able to get many pictures on Friday, due to both time constraints and being stopped by people wanting to take my picture. Hopefully, next year, I’ll be able to get more.

* – As of 08 September 2013

DCnU: The New 52 – Week 1

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I decided to pick up all fifty-two of DC Comics’ new #1’s, so that I could attempt to get a better feel for what they were doing with the DCU DCnU. I was not planning on continuing to read all 52 of the new books, but I figured that I’d give them a shot and see if there were any new/different titles that I might want to add to my subscription at my local comic shop. There were a number of hits, some misses and a fair bit of “that was a decent read, but I don’t think that I’ll be adding that title” along the way. In this post – and the three to follow – I will point out what I feel were some of the highlights of the past four weeks of DC’s releases.

  • Action Comics #1 – This was the book that started it all for superheroes and for DC, sorry… “National Comics,” back in 1938. With this reboot/reimagining, Grant Morrison brings us a Superman who’s a little less… well, “super.” Faster than a speeding bullet? More or less. More powerful than a locomotive? Well, he’s at least as strong as a tank. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Depends on the building. This Superman is still new to the game and, from first appearances, operating well outside the auspices of the law. But he still seems to be the Superman that we all grew up with at heart. We are also (re-)introduced to familiar faces such as Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, General Sam Lane and, of course, Lex Luthor. All in all, it was a fun read and I’m curious to see what Mr. Morrison does with this version of the Man of Steel.
  • Animal Man #1 – I started reading this book in its last incarnation, when… surprise, surprise… Grant Morrison was writing it. And it was a very good read. This time, it’s Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Superboy) at the helm. And his take on Buddy Baker seems to be that of a man who’s at peace with who he is and who he was — as a man, a hero and an activist. He also appears to be a man who’s willing to put the costume back on when there’s someone in need. Again. What’s different about this version is that Lemire seems to be introducing more of a horror bent to the story. While it’s a little too early for me to make a “Keep” or “Trash” call on this series, I’m intrigued enough to stick around for a few more issues to see where it’s going..
  • Batgirl #1 – It’s not Cassandra Cain under the cowl. Nor is it Stephanie Brown. It’s Barbara Gordon. The original Batgirl is back. We do know that it takes place after The Killing Joke. We don’t know how Babs got the use of her legs again. That, I guess is a mystery for another time.
  • Detective Comics #1 – Wow. This one hit the ground running. At a full sprint. And it didn’t slow down. It appears to take place early-ish in Batman’s career and among his early encounters with The Joker, an adversary whose motives have long eluded the Dark Knight… and it seems that The Joker has plans in the works. Big ones.
  • Justice League International #1 – The United Nations looks to assemble a multi-national superhuman team… and have it led by… Booster Gold?! YeahbuhWHAT?! Are they serious!?  (And I’m a Booster Gold fan.) There seems to be much more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. And Batman. Always Batman.
  • Static Shock #1 – Static is back… but this ain’t Dakota. The teen hero has moved to the Big Apple. And, he appears to have gotten a few new toys, courtesy of Hardware. And he’s already caught the attention of some people whom it seems have something to hide. I never read Static back when he had his Milestone series, but I am appreciating the way that Scott McDaniel is writing him — as an intelligent young man… who… happens to have superpowers. I’ll be sticking with this for a few issues, at least.

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