Comic Book Review – Wonder Woman by George Perez Volume 2

Wonder Woman by George Perez Vol. 2 (DC Comics)
Written by George Perez and Len Wein
Art by George Perez and Bruce Patterson, various others
Collects Wonder Woman v2 #15-24, Annual #1

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Following the first year and a half arc of the Wonder Woman reboot, Perez settled nicely into his own pocket of the DC Universe. In this volume, Wonder Woman’s fame makes her the target of cybernetic villain Silver Swan, a visit to Greece puts her into direct conflict with the sorceress Circe, and Themyscira opens its gates to the people of Man’s World leading to disastrous consequences. The Maid of Might struggles with the identity the world has assigned her and her own developing feelings for fellow superhero Superman. Her host family, the Kapatelis mother and daughter, Julia and Vanessa are both going through their own personal upheavals. Julia toys with one relationship and ends up with a teacher at Vanessa’s school. Vanessa becomes jealous of Diana when her crush becomes infatuated with Wonder Woman and finally ending up with another girl entirely. She also experiences the sensation of sudden popularity when she and Julia become the first visitors to Man’s World since Steve Trevor.

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Comic Book Review – Justice Society of America (1992)

Justice Society of America (1992-93)
Written by Len Strazewski
Art by Mike Parobeck & Mike Machlan

jsaComics about youth are very popular at the moment. There are your old standards like Teen Titans and newer titles like Runaways, Generation X, Champions, and more. As a kid, I felt myself drawn more to the past titles and characters. I loved the books that introduced me characters that have been around for decades but never got the spotlight. It was no surprise that when I saw issue 2 of this short run on the racks at Kroger, I snatched it up without a second thought. Not until now have I been able to go back and re-read the all 10 issues of the run and fall back in love with these classic characters.

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Comic Book Review – Wonder Woman by George Perez Vol. 1

Wonder Woman by George Perez Vol.1 (DC Comics)
Written by George Perez, Greg Potter, and Len Wein
Art by George Perez and Bruce Patterson
Collects Wonder Woman (1987) #1 -14

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With the release and overwhelmingly positive response to the Wonder Woman film, I thought it would be interesting to go back to a run on the comic book that has always felt definitive to me. When I was first collecting comics, I would eagerly save up $10 and purchase one of the grab bag boxes offered up in the Sears catalog. They were typically split by a company, DC Comics or Marvel, and I have always had a soft spot for DC when it comes to the periodicals. In one of these random assortments, I ended up with three issues from writer-artist George Perez. I can’t say I was a huge fan of Wonder Woman beyond seeing her on Saturday morning cartoon appearances, but Perez’s reimagining of the character had me captivated.

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Comic Book Review – Red Hood & The Outlaws Vol.1

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If you haven’t checked out the Hoopla app, I encourage you to do so. Hoopla is a service library systems can subscribe to as a way to offer digital content to their patrons. Hoopla happens to have a magnificent library of DC Comics titles, and I plan to use to explore some of the DC Rebirth titles I may have overlooked when the relaunch occurred. This will be the first of a series of post, length undetermined.

Red Hood & The Outlaws Vol. 1: Dark Trinity
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Dexter Moy and Veronica Gandini

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Red Hood aka Jason Todd aka the Robin who got killed by The Joker is back in Gotham going undercover as a criminal to infiltrate the criminal empire of Black Mask. He’s given a warning from Batman about making sure he keeps things non-lethal, a warning Jason begrudgingly follows but is tempted to break after he sees the sadistic evil Black Mask is capable of. During a mission where Jason is to prove himself to Mask, he runs afoul of Artemis, an Amazon from an offshoot of Wonder Woman’s people. They form a tenuous alliance to stop Black Mask, but all that changes when they discover what weapon he is after: Bizarro!

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The Revisit – Supergirl

The Revisit is a place for me to rewatch films I love but haven’t seen in years or films that didn’t click with me the first time. Through The Revisit, I reevaluate these movies and compare my original thoughts on them to how they feel in this more recent viewing.

Supergirl (1984)
Written by David Odell
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc

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Kara Zor-El (Helen Slater) lives in Argo City, a hidden haven for Kryptonians…under water…in another dimension? Um, okay. Well, she has a friend in the elderly artist Zoltar (Peter O’Toole) who has…stolen the city’s energy source? It’s called the Omegahedron, and he’s using it to make…art? Kara is playing around with, screws up and it goes hurtling out across space and time. As everyone panics at their impending doom with the Omegahedron missing, Kara launches herself out across a 2001-style psychedelic space tableau. Arriving on Earth, she mimics her famous cousin’s fashion style to become Supergirl and seek out the MacGuffin that can save her people.

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Movie Review – Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman (2017)
Written by Allan Heinberg
Directed by Patty Jenkins

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Diana has spent her entire life on the hidden island of Themyscira. She has been raised and trained by the Amazons of myth, yet her mother, Queen Hippolyta fears for the day her daughter will desire to leave the safety of the island. That day finally comes when American pilot and spy Steve Trevor crashes off the shores. From him, Diana learns of “the war that will end all wars” and feel compelled to get involved. She believes that Ares, the Greek god of war is behind this and if she can defeat him humanity will be spared. Gathering her trademark armor and weapons, Diana heads off into Man’s World.

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Movie Review – The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Written by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, John Whittington
Directed by Chris McKay

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Batman (Will Arnett) is living the life. He fights villains every night, drives and flies around in amazing machines, and hangs out in his comically huge mansion. Everything changes at Commissioner Gordon’s retirement party when the new police boss has plans to phase Batman out of the picture. Bats also meets orphan Richard Grayson (Michael Cera) who, through a series of misunderstandings, ends up Bruce Wayne’s adopted son. Alfred the butler (Ralph Fiennes) is concerned about his employer’s lack of personal relationships and hopes Grayson can remedy that. Meanwhile, the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) has big plans to solidify his reputation as Batman’s greatest enemy.

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2016: My Favorite Comic Books

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My Top 10 Favorite Comics I Read in 2016

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The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez-Walta – Without a doubt the best take on The Vision since his creation and arguably one of the best comic runs we’ve ever had. From the first issue to the twelfth the story was tightly plotted and centered around characters. It ended up reading more like a wonderful HBO drama than a traditional superhero comic. Check out my review of the first trade here.

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Batman: The Killing Joke (2016, dir. Sam Liu, Bruce Timm)

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Batman: The Killing Joke is an adaptation of the 1988 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The original text tells the story of a possible final showdown between Batman and his arch-nemesis, The Joker. The battle hinges on the sanity of police commissioner Jim Gordon after The Joker shoots his daughter Barbara and tries to drive Gordon mad by taunting him over the randomness of the act. As this battle of ideologies rages on, we get distorted memories from the Joker about what his origin as a horrific villain could have been. The emphasis is on the idea that one bad day can destroy a normal person. Due to the short length of the comic, the writer of the film added an additional thirty minutes of content to flesh out Barbara Gordon’s career as Batgirl.

I first read The Killing Joke as a freshman in college in 1999. I had never encountered writer Alan Moore up until that point and I did find it a captivating read. This is mainly due to the way it turns the Joker into a tragically pathetic figure. The book also leaves the final moments up in the air as to what Batman does to the Joker. I’ve probably read it a half dozen times in total over the years. A valid point has been made in recent years about its treatment of Barbara Gordon. She is shot early on in the comic and pops up one more time for a doctor to declare her paralyzed. Essentially, Barbara is treated as a plot device to motivate Batman and torture her father. There’s no humanity in what happened to her and it took a few years before other writers redeemed the character. In retrospect, Alan Moore even views the comic as too violent and cynical. I can’t help but retain some love for the text due in part to what I find an interesting exploration of the Joker’s psyche, but I still recognize the mistreatment of Barbara Gordon.

The film has some huge problems in its attempts to “fix” this slight of Ms. Gordon. The thirty additional minutes of story focus on Batgirl pursuing the nephew of a Gotham City crime boss. Francesco is attracted to Batgirl despite her attempts to take him down and attempts to drug and force himself on her, which she dodges by locking herself in a vault. There’s also a subplot where she talks about her relationship with Batman, describing him as a yoga instructor, to a coworker while commiserating on her love life. This eventually escalates to Batman and Batgirl having sex on a rooftop. This is not something I was expecting to see happen as in the comics there has never been a relationship between the two. She’s closer to Robin’s age and has been more involved with him when they were adults. But here, Barbara is in her early 20s so it’s not illegal, but still cringey. Later in the film, she reaches out to Batman and he brushes her off and she realizes it’s connected to their sexual encounter. I understood Batman’s motivation of not wanting to become too close to anyone lest them become compromised, but the only sequence read very awkward and completely unnecessary.

The added Barbara material works even less in the final two-thirds of the film after she is shot. Just like the original graphic novel she fades into the background and it becomes a Batman/Joker story. The Joker doesn’t appear until about 40 minutes into the film which is another odd structure piece. The Joker’s dialogue is lifted straight from the original text and while, for the most part, it doesn’t play awkward there is one moment where he puts Gordon on a hellish ghost house ride and it is way too wordy and overbearing with philosophical content. It doesn’t feel like the Joker would say this out loud, particularly the voice of Mark Hamill as the Joker. On the page, it’s not bad, but page to film translations of comics are never a great idea.

The animation is a very mixed bag. There is a concerted effort to make the iconic moments from the original text pop on screen and it looks alright. The rest of the animation comes across as very cheap and continues the trend with so many of DC’s animated feature films looking subpar. There was a featurette released a few months ago where the creators explained that original artist Brian Bolland’s style was too hard to emulate in animation so they looked at other artists, including Kevin Nowlan. I didn’t see much of Bolland or Nowlan in any of this animation. It just looked very poorly done.

I can’t really recommend Batman: The Killing Joke animated film. There are just so many technical and narrative missteps that add up to make a mess of a film. I had high hopes for this one. DC Animated had surprised me with its Dark Knight Returns and Year One adaptations but really missed the mark here. I would still say the graphic novel is worth reading if you haven’t, but the philosophical study of the Joker has been covered elsewhere, particularly The Dark Knight Returns in a much more interesting way than this animated film.

Comic Book Review – Omega Men by Tom King

Omega Men (DC Comics)
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Barnaby Bagenda, Toby Cypress (#3)
Omega Men: The Complete Series will be released August 30th, 2016

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You’re meant to be disoriented when you start Tom King’s Omega Men. You’re tossed into the midst of war, specifically a military strike on suspected terrorist outpost. Even if you had followed previous incarnations of the Omega Men, you will feel just like the soldiers on the dropship: jostled around, anxious, not exactly sure what happens when the door drops down. Omega Men follows the titular outlaws of the Vega System, composed of Karna, Hy’nxx, Voorl, Ogyptu, and Changralyn. You will explore these planets in light touches over the course of the series but never truly know them. In the same way, you will explore aspects of our characters’ pasts but never really know them. In fact, the protagonist of the series, former Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, won’t even come to the forefront til the third issue. Omega Men subverts expectations you have about “superhero” comics at every turn, mainly because it is not about superheroes.

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