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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Movie Review – Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society (1989)
Written by Tom Schulman
Directed by Peter Weir

Dead Poets Society was undoubtedly a box office success and garnered much positive acclaim from critics. In college in the early 2000s, I met several people who loved this movie, especially fellow English majors. You might love this movie. I didn’t watch it for the first time until around 2006, and so this was only my second watch, but…this is such a cheesy ass movie, not in a good or charming way. I was astonished that Weir would direct this, and he was working towards making Green Card when Jeffrey Katzenberg reached out to him about Dead Poets Society. I find the movie to be some of the worst examples of maudlin shallow sentiment and a film that began Robin Williams’ path down, making ridiculous pseudo inspirational tripe.

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Movie Review – The Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast (1986)
Written by Paul Schrader
Directed by Peter Weir

Peter Weir was going to make a movie of Paul Theroux’s novel. Weir bought the film rights as soon as it was published in 1981 and was in pre-production when he was sidetracked with Witness. Unlike Witness, a side project for Weir, which gained massive critical and audience acclaim, The Mosquito Coast is considered a box office failure. Even critics were unsure what to make of this very different, bleak film. Harrison Ford was cast completely against type, one of the movie’s most interesting elements. But apparently, moviegoers and critics wanted something less abrasive, so Weir was dealt the first of several blows in the middle part of his career.

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Movie Review – Witness

Witness (1985)
Written by Earl W. Wallace, Pamela Wallace, and William Kelley
Directed by Peter Weir

Peter Weir was in the middle of pre-production work on The Mosquito Coast when backing fell through. He’d return to the project, but Paramount offered him the director’s chair for a picture they had trouble courting someone for. Witness, based on an episode of Gunsmoke, had been circulating in Hollywood for years. It was 182 pages (about 3 hours in movie time) and was critiqued by some executives for focusing too much on the Amish lifestyle rather than the thriller elements. Harrison Ford had already shown interest, so Weir’s first American film was a bit of a gamble but certainly helped by his star’s prominence in the industry.

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Movie Review – The Year of Living Dangerously

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
Written by David Williamson, Peter Weir, and C.J. Koch
Directed by Peter Weir

In a complete coincidence, I am currently reading The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World by Vincent Bevins. I’m just about four chapters in but am already learning a lot about Indonesia and the part the CIA played in completely destabilizing that country. However, I was completely unaware that this film is specifically about the coup attempt in that country in the mid-1960s. This immediately raised my radar, wanting to see how the picture treats its communist characters. Will they be nuanced, developed participants in the story or faceless monsters like orcs in Lord of the Rings. Is this a movie influenced by anti-communist Western propaganda or an honest telling of what was happening in Indonesia?

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