Patron Pick – The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1988)

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1988)
Written by C.S. Lewis & Alan Seymour
Directed by Marilyn Fox

I remember having the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia read aloud to me around seven or eight. It was my first introduction to C.S. Lewis’ series and immediately piqued my interest. A couple years later, this British television mini-series aired on PBS’ Wonderworks, a children’s anthology, and I was pulled in right away. While it doesn’t compare to the lavish production values of 1980s blockbusters, it did make me feel like I was passing into another world. Narnia felt very real and honestly very frightening. The series does not hold back on some terrifying imagery for a little kid. Many years passed before I rewatched it and what I found was that, while very faithful to the book, it does not hold up from an adult perspective.

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Comic Book Review – Batman: The Caped Crusader Volume One

Batman: The Caped Crusader Volume 1 (2018)
Reprints Batman #417-425, 430-431, Annual #12
Written by Jim Starlin, Mike Baron, Robert Greenberger, and Christopher Priest (as James Owsley)
Art by Jim Aparo, Ross Andru, Norm Breyfogle, Mark Bright, Dave Cockrum, Dick Giordano, and Pablo Marcos

Jim Starlin had established himself as the new main writer for the Batman title by this point following a spotty run by Max Allan Collins. While Collins chose to play loose with the timeline, setting some stories earlier and others closer to present day, Starlin shrugs all that off and firmly plants his feet in the present. Robin (Jason Todd) is about 15/16 and Batman has an established lengthy history. If you compare this to John Byrne’s work on Superman that series feels like it is starting fresh with the hero, reintroducing his villains. Starlin came from a place that all of Batman’s rogues’ gallery is well-known already. That didn’t mean he was just going to play with the toys he was given and this collection begins with the introduction of a villain who is still around today.

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Comic Book Review – Batman: Second Chances

Batman: Second Chances (2015)
Reprints Batman #402, 403, 408-416 & Batman Annual #11
Written by Max Allan Collins, Jo Duffy, and Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Starlin, Denys Cowan, Chris Warner, Ross Andru, Dick Giordano, Dave Cockrum, Kieron Dwyer, Mike DeCarlo, and Jim Aparo

Batman: Second Chances collects the issues just before and following Frank Miller’s iconic Year One arc. The stories here focus mainly on establishing a grittier tone for the post-Crisis Batman while developing Jason Todd, who served as Robin. The result is a jumble of small arcs and one-offs that aren’t brought together for any thematic purpose. Instead, this is just a means to collect some stories that would never have a place otherwise. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it as a historical artifact, a record of what Batman comics felt like in the late 1980s before other creators like Alan Grant and Chuck Dixon became the architects of a new Batman mythos.

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Comic Book Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Volume 1

Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Volume 1 (2018)
Reprints Detective Comics #568-574, 579-582
Written by Mike W. Barr, Joey Cavalieri, and Jo Duffy
Art by Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Jim Baikie, Terry Beatty, Norm Breyfogle, E.R. Cruz, Carmine Infantino, Dick Giordano, Pablo Marcos, and Klaus Janson

At the same time, Frank Miller was reinventing the Batman mythos in the pages of the titular book; very different things were happening in Detective Comics. It was a very different experience and an example of how DC Comics editorial had not thoroughly planned out the post-Crisis period, much like how the New 52 reboot wasn’t as coordinated as it could have been. Things begin messily with Joey Cavalieri penning a Legends crossover. If you have read the Legends storyline (one I highly recommend), you’ll quickly pick up that this crossover is entirely unnecessary and not coordinated with the actual event. You can see this in G. Gordon Godfrey, who looks like this in Legends and looks like this in Detective Comics. I thought there’d be some sort of editorial guidance for artists when using characters from crossovers so that they would, at minimum, look the same. 

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Comic Book Review – Batman: Year One

Batman: Year One (2007)
Reprints Batman v1 #404-407
Written by Frank Miller
Art by David Mazzucchelli

I’ve immensely enjoyed going back to older DC Comics these last few years, and every once in a while, you’re reminded of how great a particular work is after it faded in your memory a little. Batman: Year One is a comics masterpiece. One thing I’ve liked to do is go to the DC Database, search an issue I’ve read and see what else was published that same month. It can give you a great picture of what the publisher felt like at the time. Batman #404, the opening chapter in this story, hit the stands in February 1987, almost one full year after the final issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths (March 1986) was published and a month before Legends wrapped up (April 1987). This was right in the middle of DC Comics reinventing itself as a modern comics company, trying to catch up with the headway Marvel had. Year One was sharing the comics rack with Byrne’s Superman run, Watchmen was halfway through its twelve-issue run, George Perez’s Wonder Woman #1, and a handful of mini-series and other comics attempting to inject some new life into these characters. Nothing came close to Batman: Year One.

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Comic Book Review – Suicide Squad Volumes Five and Six

Suicide Squad: Apokolips Now (2016)
Reprints Suicide Squad v1 #31-39
Written by John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and Robert Greenberger
Art by John K. Snyder III, Luke McDonnell, Grant Miehm, and Geof Isherwood

Suicide Squad: The Phoenix Gambit (2017)
Reprints Suicide Squad v1 #40-49
Written by John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and David M. DeVries
Art by Geof Isherwood, Luke McDonnell, and Mark Badger

Suicide Squad had an interesting conceit that allowed it to shift the narrative focus every few issues. It was also easy to drop new characters into the book and toss them out when needed, as they were primarily supervillains going through Belle Reve’s revolving door or getting killed on the missions. For the first two and half years of the title, that was how things were, but in the wake of The Janus Directive, it appeared John Ostrander was interested in dramatically shifting what the Suicide Squad would be. Before he can head off in a new direction, though, he has to wrap up loose ends from previous years.

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Comic Book Review – Suicide Squad Volumes Three & Four

Suicide Squad: Rogues (2016)
Reprints Suicide Squad v1 #17-25, Annual #1
Written by John Ostrander (with Kim Yale and Larry Ganem)
Art by Luke McDonnell, Graham Nolan, Peter Krause, Keith Giffen, and Grant Miehm

Suicide Squad: The Janus Directive (2016)
Reprints Suicide Squad v1 #26-30, Checkmate #15-18, Manhunter #14, Firestorm #86, and Captain Atom #30
Written by John Ostrander (with Paul Kupperberg, Kim Yale, Cary Bates, and Greg Weisman)
Art by Grant Miehm, Steve Erwin, Rick Hoberg, John K. Snyder III, Pablo Marcos, Doug Rice, Tom Mandrake, and Rafael Kayanan

The first year and a half of Suicide Squad had writer John Ostrander figuring out what the book would be. This means several cast members rotate in and out, never having clear arcs. By this point, the core members of the group were established. Amanda Waller. Rick Flag. Bronze Tiger. Deadshot. Nightshade. Captain Boomerang. There were recurring team members like Nemesis, Shade, Duchess, and others, but they didn’t quite reach the level of development seen in these characters. “The Nightshade Odyssey” brought some science fiction dimension-hopping to the book, but Ostrander pulled back on that quite a bit and decided to center his stories in the global political sphere.

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Comic Book Review – Suicide Squad Volumes 1 & 2

Suicide Squad: Trial by Fire (2015)
Reprints Secret Origins #14, Suicide Squad v1 #1-8
Suicide Squad: The Nightshade Odyssey (2015)
Reprints Suicide Squad v1 #9-16, Doom Patrol/Suicide Squad Special, Justice League International #13, Secret Origins #28
Written by John Ostrander (with Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Paul Kupperberg, and Robert Greenberger)
Art by Luke McDonnell, Bob Lewis, Erik Larsen, Keith Giffen, Al Gordon, and Rob Liefeld

In the wake of Crisis on the Infinite Earths, the DC Universe was changed. New doors were open, and the kinds of stories the company wanted to tell weren’t like what had come before. The 1987 mini-series Legends served as a sort of table setting, spotlighting the characters who would be central to the next two decades. Writer John Ostrander, new to DC Comics, plotted Legends and used it to introduce the Suicide Squad. This team was an old name repurposed into a new, exciting concept. Previously, the Suicide Squad were special agents sent on dangerous missions in a short-lived The Brave & The Bold run from the 1960s. Ostrander retroactively introduces a World War II-era group in the pages of Secret Origins to set the stage for the modern team’s grand debut.

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Movie Review – The Seventh Continent

The Seventh Continent (1989)
Written by Michael Haneke and Johanna Teicht
Directed by Michael Haneke

Human existence has clearly reached a terminus point. The current world order is ending, and it’s scary not knowing how things will shape up next. In the face of climate collapse, social disorder, and a nightmare pandemic, it’s near impossible to see anything substantively hopeful in the future. My personality is not often turning and burying myself in escapist fare. Yeah, I read comic books regularly and am not averse to a dopamine-inducing video game, but ultimately I need to look into the void and see what lies within. Michael Haneke has been a filmmaker that has never hesitated to show us the worst of humanity, particularly the comfortable aloof middle class. He views them as both perpetrators of horrendous evil and victims of their own cruelty. For Haneke, an exploration of modernity and the senseless violence that accompanies it links us to our history and points to a dark future should we remain on this path.

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Comic Book Review – Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 4

Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 4 (2022)
Reprints Superman #16-22, Adventures of Superman #439-444, Action Comics #598-600, Superman Annual #2
Written by John Byrne, Paul Kupperberg, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern
Art by John Byrne, Ty Templeton, Karl Kesel, Jerry Ordway, Ross Andru, Curt Swan, Mike Mignola, John Statema, Ron Frenz

So it seems this will be the last volume in The Man of Steel collections which makes sense. These issues mark John Byrne’s final contributions to the Post-Crisis Superman, and the series title comes from his mini-series that rebooted the origins and supporting cast of the character. Volume Four manages to reintroduce some more elements from Superman’s mythos, updated for the 1980s. On reflection, this does not seem like a radical reimagining as it may have when the issues were first published. It’s very evident that Byrne is a fan of the Silver Age Superman but also wants to modernize the icon per his directive from DC Comics. This is also the first volume of reprints where Marv Wolfman was gone from Adventures of Superman, and thus Byrne was writing all three Superman titles monthly, plus penciling two of them.

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