Comic Review: Aquaman: A Celebration of 75 Years

Published: October 25th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 394 Pages

Review:

I love when DC Comics puts out massive compilations like this that celebrate big moments from the entire history of a character. Being that I never really read a lot of really old Aquaman stuff made this a big treat.

This goes all the way back to the earliest stories and gives us a good selection of tales from just about every era and decade since.

There are modern stories here but this focuses mostly on the old stuff. Especially first appearances (or very early appearances) of key characters from the Aquaman mythos. We see the debuts of the original Aquagirl, Aqualad, Ocean Master, Mera and some very early encounters with Oceanus and Black Manta.

We also get a lot of cameos from Aquaman’s Justice League allies from different eras. This has lots of cameos but all the stories are very Aquaman-centric, as opposed to wedging in Justice League stories where Arthur Curry isn’t the primary focus.

This is a thick, solid volume. It’s a bit pricey but I got the digital version of it really cheap during an Aquaman sale on Comixology. I think I paid less than $5, which to me, was an absolute steal.

If you want to know more about the Aquaman character’s history, this is a great starting point.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics compilations celebrating milestone anniversaries.

Film Review: Aquaman (2018)

Release Date: November 26th, 2018 (London premiere)
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall, Geoff Johns, James Wan
Based on: Aquaman by Paul Norris, Mort Weisinger
Music by: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, Djimon Hounsou, Julie Andrews (voice), John Rhys-Davies (voice)

Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films, The Safran Company, Cruel and Unusual Films, Mad Ghost Productions, 143 Minutes

Review:

“You think you’re unworthy to lead because you’re of two different worlds? But that is exactly why you are worthy!” – Mera

People talked this movie up quite a bit when it came out but I didn’t see it in the theater because the holidays are busy for me and this is not a Tolkien movie.

But I had high hopes as several people I tend to trust told me that I’d like it. Well, they were wrong. I mean, I didn’t hate it and if you are comparing this to the other DCEU films, it’s actually the second best. However, that’s not a high threshold to try and beat.

First off, I like Jason Mamoa and I like Jason Mamoa in this movie. However, he’s basically playing Jason Mamoa and not Arthur Curry a.k.a. Aquaman. Well, at least not how Aquaman has been written for decades. And couldn’t he have gone blonde? He could’ve kept the long hair and beard, as Aquaman has had that look before but I guess Arnold Schwarzenegger did a good job of once playing Conan without brunette locks.

But the thing is, he doesn’t feel like Aquaman and he really just feels like a badass buff dude with similar powers to Aquaman.

I thought that Amber Heard was pretty on point as Mera, though. She needs a bit more confidence if she’s to be the tough as nails future queen but this was a good start, assuming they make more of these, which they probably will.

Most importantly, though, Mamoa and Heard had damn good chemistry and that’s what had to carry this movie and it was certainly a strength when everything else around it felt like aquatic Candyland.

Other than a handful of good actors, mainly Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Patrick Wilson and Temuera Morrison, the rest of the film was pretty lackluster and underwhelming.

It had action, it was fun for the most part, but a lot of the film felt too dragged out once you got to the middle. It had really good pacing for about 45 minutes but then the plot just seemed to be a mixture of different genres and this didn’t have a clear identity as to what it was. Some of these genre twists seemed like they were more in conflict with the film as a whole than being a collection of interesting ingredients there to make the dish taste better.

I didn’t like how Black Manta was handled and he’s just sort of a henchman and an afterthought in this film. He’s much more badass than that. Read Dan Abnett’s first few story arcs on his run of the Aquman comic. There, Black Manta was a dangerous terrorist that had Aquaman and Atlantis in the palm of his hand. I know that they introduced him in this film to build him up for later but I just don’t feel like they did it effectively and it’ll be hard to take him seriously as the big baddie when he was just portrayed as Mr. Laserface and then get knocked down a cliff. Plus, with his helmet on, the effect they used on his voice mixed with the actor’s line delivery, reminded me of Dark Helmet from Spaceballs.

Patrick Wilson was pretty good as the Ocean Master but the way he was written was confusing. He’s willing to do pure evil to maintain his throne but he doesn’t seem to commit to the bit and he just sort of accepts his fate when his mom shows up and tells him to love his brother.

This film is an example of something being fun and entertaining but not being good and not being something that I particularly like. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again and that goes for all the films in the DCEU. But that also doesn’t mean that I won’t watch the sequel, I probably will but I doubt I’ll see that one in the theater either.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics movies within the same shared universe.

Comic Review: Aquaman, Vol. 2: Black Manta Rising

Published: April 18th, 2017
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: Phil Briones

DC Comics, 207 Pages

Review:

Since I enjoyed the first collected volume of Dan Abnett’s run on Aquaman, I had to pick up and read the second one almost immediately.

This picks up right where the previous one ended and it actually feels like it’s just the second half of the same story, which sees Aquaman have to deal with a conspiracy that is instigating war between Atlantis and the United States. Black Manta is the main force behind this plot and his appearances, thus far in Abnett’s run, shows just how great of a villain Black Manta is.

Overall, this is a really good collection of issues. It even features the old school villain the Shaggy Man.

It is a pretty long collection, though. At least when compared to more recent DC Comics trade paperback releases. So I guess you get your money’s worth. But this did feel a bit too drawn out in the middle. Then again, every comic book series need some filler issues to add context and develop characters.

A lot of that context had to deal with Mera trying to find out who was behind the conspiracy. The thing is, the audience already knows so the big reveal to the heroes doesn’t mean much for the reader. My only real complaint is that there was too much time devoted to this part of the story, which lacked tension and suspense, as we were already aware of the secret plot and the conspirators.

Regardless of that, this is still pretty action packed and it upped the ante from where this series started, which was with a big bang.

I’m loving Abnett’s work on Aquaman and Phil Briones’ art is top notch.

This is a damn good read. We even get to see the Justice League show up to assist in the Atlantean drama.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: anything from Dan Abnett’s glorious run on Aquaman, as well as the Drowned Earth crossover event.

Comic Review: Aquaman, Vol. 1: The Drowning

Published: January 17th, 2017
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: Phil Briones

DC Comics, 173 Pages

Review:

I have heard nothing but good things about Dan Abnett’s run on Aquaman. Since I’ve been loving his work on The Silencer, I thought I’d finally give his Aquaman stuff a shot.

I wasn’t expecting what I got with this first volume in Abnett’s long run, though. This wasn’t just good, it was great. In fact, it was such a fun read that even though I started it while waiting for food in a diner, my food ended up getting cold because I read this whole story arc straight through.

The story kicks off with Aquaman, the King of Atlantis, opening up an embassy to help build a bridge between land people and those that live underwater. During the opening event, the embassy is attacked in what seems like terrorism. However, it is a personal plot by Black Manta, who is trying to hurt Aquaman at his core.

There is a fantastic battle between Aquaman and Black Manta that sets the stage for this series and really makes this comic an exciting one.

Things escalate and Aquaman is eventually arrested and detained by the United States. Mera breaks him out and we end up getting Aquaman and Mera versus the U.S. military with an eventual appearance by Superman, who is trying to ease the tension between all parties.

I loved this. Abnett’s story was top notch and he really understood the aspects of Aquaman’s character and world that make him interesting. Plus, the art by Phil Briones is stellar and helped round out this book into something pretty exceptional by modern era standards.

This is definitely a recommend, especially with the Aquaman movie coming out this month. I now want to rush out and pick up the second volume.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: anything from Dan Abnett’s glorious run on Aquaman, as well as the Drowned Earth crossover event.

Comic Review: Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth

Published: Octoberber 17th, 2018 – November 28th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder, Dan Abnett, James Tynion IV
Art by: various

DC Comics, 224 Pages

Review:

This was a big crossover event that was used to give us a cool and epic Aquaman story just as his first movie was set to hit theaters. It’ts spread over multiple titles in a similar style to the recent Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour event.

The plot deals with some Atlantean deities coming to Earth and drowning the planet with magic water that turns everyone into fish zombies. No, seriously, that’s the premise.

That being said, it still plays out really cool and as bonkers as it sounds, the writers commit to the bit and the story is just as fun as it is nuts. It’s also pretty damn intense, as the surviving heroes try their damnedest to not get wet while working to save the planet.

However, there isn’t much here that seems to hold any real weight over the DC universe, apart from how it effects just Aquaman and where his comic will go, as it moves forward with a new creative team.

This will probably be remembered for its insanity but other than that, it isn’t an event that will be remembered as anything more than a cash grab and promotional tool for the upcoming Aquaman movie.

It had a solid creative staff and is certainly better than DC’s current mega event Heroes In Crisis but this massive extinction level event went down and now everyone, except Aquaman, is fine and has moved on. In fact, most of the other DC titles didn’t even seem effected by this other than a few casual mentions of people being turned into fish zombies.

I did like tracking down all these issues, nonetheless. I’ll always think of it fairly fondly, simply because it was a wild ride and mostly exciting.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Aquaman stories leading up to this, as well as the recent crossover The Witching Hour. This also ties back to Dark Nights: Metal.

Film Review: Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018)

Release Date: March 23rd, 2018 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Alan Burnett
Based on: Suicide Squad by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, John Ostrander
Music by: Robert J. Kral
Cast: Christian Slater, Billy Brown, Liam McIntyre, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Gideon Emery, Tara Strong, Vanessa Williams, C. Thomas Howell, Greg Grunberg

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, DR Movie, 86 Minutes

Review:

“I know I’m going to Heaven – anyone who can put up with Mr. J deserves a break.” – Harley Quinn

It seems as if these DC Comics animated movies are getting better and better. Pretty much most of the stuff that Sam Liu produces and directs is top notch. Also, I love that these are for an adult audience.

While I pretty much hated the live action Suicide Squad movie, I’ve been a fan of the comics for some time. This animated feature does a pretty good job of capturing that magic in a way that the live action film completely missed.

The voice cast in this was really good too and I especially enjoyed Christian Slater as Deadshot. I hope he plays the character more in the future and if this spawned its own series, I’d watch the followups.

This movie is violent but it works, as this film is presented in a grindhouse style. Now the look of it is crisp and clean like other DC animated films but it has that modern grindhouse edge to it in it’s credits sequences, editing style and musical score. While the modern grindhouse thing really peaked with Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse movie over ten years ago, it’s interesting seeing that style in this format.

The story is also good and it sets up a situation where these characters have a sort of loophole to work around the protocols the government has in order to control these villains forced to do good. There is a lot of back stabbing, twists and turns.

This also features a ton of villains whether they are members of the Suicide Squad or not. And while a lot of characters are crammed into this 86 minute picture, everything flows well.

This is solid. It’s one of the better DC Comics animated features to come out.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC animated features for adult audiences.

Comic Review: Dark Nights: Metal

Published: June 12th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Greg Capullo

DC Comics, 204 Pages

Review:

I didn’t read this as it came out. I also was much more frugal about how much I spent on comics at the time. I’m less frugal now, as I’m spending more time reviewing them. And to be honest, while this is $30 for the collected edition at my local comic shop, I found this on a brief Comixology sale for $5.99. So at that price, I figured I’d give it a go. If I ended up really liking it, I would’ve gone back to buy the single issues. But I didn’t really like it all that much. I’ll explain.

To start, I typically like Scott Snyder’s writing, especially in regards to anything with Batman in it. As far as Greg Capullo goes, he is one of my favorite artists of the last few decades. So seeing them reunite for this was definitely a selling point, even if what I knew about the project’s story didn’t peak my interest.

The biggest problem with Metal is the same problem with most mega events in comics, it is chock full of so many characters that the plot loses fluidity and the story seems to placate more to wedging in as many cameos as possible, as opposed to keeping the train on the rails.

This wasn’t a bad idea for a story but it should have been kept fairly simple. People just kept showing up on nearly every page, though, and it becomes distracting. New twists and turns are thrown in as often as characters and this just loses its focus. It also introduces a whole horde of villains, most of whom will just be one-offs in this story anyway. But this reads more like a sketchbook than a coherent story. What I mean by that, is that this feels like Capullo trying to fit in every cool design that he wasn’t able to wedge into Spawn throughout his run on the book in the ’90s.

Another thing I didn’t like was how wordy this was. While there are good action scenes, sometimes these characters felt like they weren’t surrounded by villains but instead, were surrounded by word balloons, trying to wedge their way into the panels and asphyxiate the characters. The word balloons were the real villains of the story. At least, that should be a twist whenever this gets a sequel.

I did like how the ending looked into the future as a way to tell you what stories would be coming out from DC Comics over the following year. But, at the same time, this was disappointing to some degree, as a main reason why I picked this up was to see the introduction of DC’s “New Age of Heroes”. I always see mentions that this is where they debuted but their appearance here is limited to one panel where we see into the future.

Anyway, this at least kept my attention over the six issues, even if they felt like twelve due to the dialogue and having so much detail to drink in. I wouldn’t say that this is a waste of time and I can see where this will be a lot of people’s cup of tea. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, really. But I also don’t regret reading it simply because I liked seeing Capullo have fun and get really creative with the art and character design.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other DC Comics mega event of the last decade or so.