Comic Review: Gotham City Sirens: Book Two

Published: May 5th, 2015
Written by: Tony Bernard, Peter Calloway
Art by: Andres Guinaldo, Jeremy Haun

DC Comics, 288 Pages

Review:

Well, losing Paul Dini as the series’ writer was a bit of a blow to Gotham City Sirens, as this second book doesn’t live up to the pretty solid first one.

Still, this is mostly a decent read and it carries on the story Dini started. Although, it does feel like it knew it was going to be wrapping up, as the bond between these three women seems to dissolve just as fast as it gelled.

I guess the most interesting parts within this are the ones dealing with Harley Quinn and how she’s processing her issues with The Joker and their very abusive, one-sided relationship.

But I’m glad that this presents Harley well unlike the more modern comics with her that have turned her into a one-dimensional joke character that has evolved into DC’s half-assed attempt at trying to make their own Deadpool.

Compared to the first book, this is almost forgettable other than the Harley stuff.

The art is really good, however, and it helps carry this series as it quickly loses steam and sort of just whimpers away because DC Comics had to reboot their universe for the umpteenth time.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the first book in the Gotham City Sirens series.

Vids I Dig 324: Filmento: ‘Birds of Prey’: The Impostor Deadpool Jack Sparrow

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn Birds of Prey movie is the first DC film of the new decade, and by the quality of it it seems DC is up to its old habits a’la Suicide Squad/Batman v Supeman/Justice League. But the interesting thing about Birds of Prey’s failure is that its pretty much a copy paste of other successful movies: Pirates of the Caribbean and Deadpool. The character of Harley Quinn is a straight ripoff of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, whereas the narrative and the wonky world of Birds of Prey is a straight ripoff of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool. But despite copying cinematic greats, Birds of Prey still manages to fail, because it completely misses the point of what makes Pirates and Deadpool great. So, in today’s episode of Anatomy of a Failure, lets see how that happened and how DC/DCEU looks once again to be taking a backseat to Marvel/MCU.

Film Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Also known as: Birds of Prey (unofficial title), Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (re-branded title)
Release Date: January 25th, 2020 (Mexico City premiere)
Directed by: Cathy Yan
Written by: Christina Hodson
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor, Steven Williams

Clubhouse Pictures, LuckyChap Entertainment, DC Entertainment, Kroll & Co. Entertainment, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“Here’s the thing, Romy baby: your protection is based on the fact that people are scared of you. Just like they’re scared of Mr. J. But I’m the one they should be scared of! Not you, not Mr.J! Because I’m Harley Fucking Quinn!” – Harley Quinn

This movie’s title was so bad that they actually changed it after it was in theaters for only a week, where it didn’t perform up to expectations. But I don’t think that the stupid, pretentious, cutesy pie title was the only problem with the movie.

To start, I’ve never seen a motion picture be so self unaware. It tries so hard to be edgy, cool and original all while being a poor attempt at making a Deadpool movie for girls. It’s pretty obvious how blatantly this is trying to channel the Deadpool mojo that it deflates anything good within the picture.

Additionally, while this is visually stunning, overly vivid with a giallo style color palate, the choppy editing and amateur shot framing makes this feel like a 109 minute music video. And like all big studio movies that are trying to be cool, the music isn’t even that good, as it recycles exactly the same type of tunes you’d expect from yesteryear while also sprinkling in awful modern covers of classic hits that don’t really work. In short, it’s predictable as fuck.

When it comes to the characters, other than Harley Quinn, this film doesn’t really understand any of them. Who the fuck wrote this? Have they read a comic about any of these characters? I’m supposed to believe that this Cassandra Cain will eventually become a Batgirl? Not to be an asshole but they made her look like Rose Tico cosplaying as Short Round. That’s not the actresses fault, just like it wasn’t Kelly Marie-Tran’s fault that Rose Tico looked like a frumpy baked potato with the dumbest, most unappealing haircut in Star Wars history.

But look at this film’s version of Roman Sionis a.k.a. Black Mask, a villain I have always loved. This is absolutely not who that character is. Granted, I enjoyed Ewan McGregor in this, as well as the character, but he didn’t need to be Black Mask, he could’ve just been an eccentric Gotham City mob boss. There is nothing about him that even resembles Black Mask, other than he puts on a Black Mask for about ten minutes before taking it off again.

Ewan McGregor was the best thing in this film, which is funny when you think about it, as this had a very clear agenda. But I’ll get to that further into this review.

On top of that, Victor Zsasz wasn’t Zsasv, Black Canary wasn’t Black Canary, Renee Montoya was only about halfway there and the Huntress was sort of accurate but completely unlikable and awkward.

Beyond that, this is a movie that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to say. Well, it is very clear that it wants to communicate that all men are pieces of shit, as every single man in this movie are portrayed as pieces of shit, even the fatherly old Asian guy that lets Harley live upstairs.

So the man hate is clear, which is odd because no matter how hard this movie tries to appeal to women, it’s audience was still mostly men. But this is typical of the agenda-driven Hollywood nowadays. But hey, maybe this COVID-19 shit will be a wake up call for studios to actually give a shit about what their audiences want. Probably not, though, as their heads are so far up their ass that they are on a steady diet of their own shit.

The part of the message that isn’t clear is that this can’t decide between whether or not women should stick together or fuck each other over and go solo. I guess teaming up is all fun when you’re sticking it to the patriarchy but once the men are out of the way, they just act like the men they were trying to beat. It’s childish, boring, predictable and lame.

And like all things in entertainment that have this sort of pro-feminist agenda, the story wants to preach self-confidence and self-reliance but then it constantly has its characters telling each other that they’re cool and how much they are all each other’s besties. Is this what women are? Not in my experience but what do I know, I have a penis.

Anyway, confident, self-sufficient and badass women don’t need constant reassurance that they’re cool and likable. That’s not what confident, self-sufficient and badass is. But that’s what this movie is teaching the young girls who may see this picture.

For the first third of this film, I was really happy with its pacing and thought that it was flying by. But then, once you get to the part where the story starts jumping around in the timeline (another way it was trying to be Deadpool), things just went off the rails and the film became sloppy. There was no reason to do this and frankly, it’s one of the things I didn’t like about Deadpool. After this whole section of the film, the pacing didn’t pick up or recover and everything became a slog to get through.

I think that a lot of the problem with this movie is that it hired an inexperienced director. This is something that had the potential to be a massive franchise, featuring a big star playing a character that is one of the most popular in all of pop culture. But the studio didn’t take this seriously enough, so why should any of us?

It also didn’t help that the director, before this came out, was bragging about the heroes not using guns (they do) and just kicking the patriarchy’s ass. She also admitted to not being a fan of comics.

Maybe it’s time for these companies to start hiring creatives that know the material, are passionate about it and thus, want to make the best representation of what these characters and stories should be.

And they wonder why box office numbers were already decreasing before COVID-19.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the other lackluster DC Comics movies of recent memory.

Comic Review: Batman: War Games: Book Two

Published: 2004-2005
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 628 Pages

Review:

While this does read better than the first volume in this two part epic series, it is still kind of a mess in that it jumps all over the place and doesn’t seem to follow any sort of logical narrative path. In short, it’s hard to follow and it’s not all that exciting to begin with.

I’m not sure why some people have made a big deal about the War Games epic. Sure, most of the art is solid and I mostly like the parts written by Ed Brubaker but this is such a mixed bag as a total package that the low points and drastically different art styles just pull you right out of the story.

This is overloaded with characters, which typically isn’t a bad thing for a large Batman story. However, this reads more like a massive DC mega event in that it’s so overloaded that there isn’t anything that one can fully connect to. Even if you’re interested in a certain plot thread, sometimes you get distracted for a really long period of time before coming back to it.

This was pretty poorly organized and executed.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.

Comic Review: Batman, Issue #386 – First Appearance of Black Mask

Published: August 7th, 1985
Written by: Doug Moench
Art by: Tom Mandrake, Adrienne Roy

DC Comics, 24 Pages

Review:

While I’m a fan of Doug Moench’s writing, especially on Batman, as well as being a fan of the Black Mask character, I had never read his first appearance, which also serves as his origin story.

Recently, I bought the comic, graded and slabbed to add to my collection, but I wasn’t able to read it due to it being near mint and inaccessible in its sealed case. So I bought the issue digitally, so I could at least enjoy the story inside.

While I know the gist of Black Mask’s origin, I was glad to see it fleshed out. While his backstory is pretty unique, it’s also overly complex and it’s kind of strange.

This shows how he has ties to Bruce Wayne and in some ways, Black Mask’s childhood association reminded me of Hush’s even though this came out nearly two decades before Hush’s debut. And Black Mask also doesn’t know that Bruce Wayne is Batman.

The story here is a multi-part arc, which is continued in Detective Comics before bouncing back to the following issue of Batman.

I didn’t read the whole arc, as I mostly just wanted to read his debut issue. Plus, all of this will most likely be collected in Black Mask’s Batman Arkham collection, which is slated to be released in a few months. And since I plan to buy that and review it, I’ll read the whole story there.

In the meantime, this was a pretty impactful debut, enhanced by the art of Tom Mandrake and Adrienne Roy.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Batman stories by Doug Moench.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Killer Croc

Published: June 28th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 291 Pages

Review:

Killer Croc is a Batman villain that I have dug since I first read a story with him in it in the late ’80s. I’m glad that he has had staying power and is now pretty close to being an B+ level villain in the Batman and larger DC mythos.

This collection, like the other Batman Arkham villain compilations features a dozen or so stories focused on this specific character, all from different eras with a slew of different writers and artists.

But in the case of this book, that kind of hurts the overall compilation.

Now most of the writing is good with stories by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Tim Seeley and others. It’s the big style variance in art that damages the overall presentation.

The problem is that most of the stories featured here are from the ’90s. At the time, DC Comics had a lot of artists that experimented with a lot of different art styles. Most of the stuff here looks like ’90s indie stuff that is trying way too hard to be edgy and extreme. A lot of it comes off like massive eye sores and the strong contrast in style from chapter to chapter is kind of jarring. But this is a compilation and these things happen when you’re wedging a dozen or so stories into the same book.

However, this collection also brings to light one of my biggest gripes about the Killer Croc character and that’s that everyone draws him differently. Sometimes he’s just a jacked dude with scaly skin and other times he’s the size of the Hulk with an actual crocodile looking head, snout and all. I’ve never been a fan of his inconsistent look and some of these artists go too wild with it.

Being mostly a product of the ’90s we also get some over the top violence in one story in particular, which sees Killer Croc literally chomp a woman in half. While that stuff doesn’t bother me, it seemed out of place in the book and just reminded me of a time when DC Comics seemed like they were trying too hard to fit within what they thought were the times.

I did enjoy this collection, despite my gripes about it. They could only work with what they had in their library but I can’t believe that some of these are considered the best Killer Croc tales. Maybe someone needs to step up and do the character some justice, treat him with care and give us something with more meat.

I also found it odd that none of his Suicide Squad stuff was here, as some of those stories really build up the character in interesting ways.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Year of the Villain: Black Mask – One-Shot

Published: August 21st, 2019
Written by: Tom Taylor
Art by: Cully Hamner, Dave Stewart, Mitch Gerads (cover)

DC Comics, 37 Pages

Review:

I’m not really into this Year of the Villain megaevent that DC is doing right now but I am a fan of Black Mask, so I figured I’d pick up this one-shot and see if it peaked my interest in the larger event itself.

It didn’t.

And this was mostly a mediocre read.

I guess I needed more backstory to the event itself to grasp some of what was going on but that’s not a great approach, creatively, if you’re trying to get people invested into the thing.

Black Mask is doing typical Black Mask things but then Lex Luthor shows up and tries to convince him to think bigger and to become a more prominent criminal, as opposed to some third tier Batman baddie.

That’s really the gist of the story.

So in the end, I still don’t give a shit about Year of the Villain but at least the art in this one-shot was good.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Year of the Villain tie-ins.

Comic Review: Deathstroke/Teen Titans: The Terminus Agenda

Published: March 6th, 2019 – May 15th, 2019
Written by: Christopher Priest, Adam Glass
Art by: various

DC Comics, 160 Pages

Review:

I really enjoyed the Batman Vs. Deathstroke story arc from last year, which was really a plot that tied Damian Wayne a.k.a. the current Robin together with Deathstroke, as there was the question as to who was Damian’s real father: Batman or Deathstroke.

This story builds off of Damian and Deathstroke’s relationship and issues from that previous plot but it also pulls in the rest of Damian’s Teen Titans teammates in a way that vilifies Damian in their eyes.

Here, Deathstroke gets captured by Damian but you soon learn that it’s all part of Deathstroke’s plan, as it exposes Damian’s fascist nature and his secret prison that he is keeping to hold other supervillains. The other Teen Titans don’t know about it but this blows the door wide open, making them distrust Damian and splintering the team.

What’s best about the story is that this isn’t resolved and Deathstroke succeeds in his plan.

Additionally, people may remember the recent Civil War II event by Marvel where the young Ms. Marvel was unconstitutionally imprisoning people and how there was backlash because her tyranny was never properly examined and certainly didn’t come at a cost to her.

This storyline is similar but it looks at the truth of the matter and there are actual repercussions here. I’m not sure if this was done intentionally to screw with Marvel or not but Christopher Priest and Adam Glass penned a much better story than Civil War II and it also shows that DC cares about their characters… or at least these two writers do. But having read Priest’s entire run on Deathstroke, I’m already convinced that he is, by far, one of the best comic book writers in the business today.

I dug the hell out of this story. It actually even made me interested in the Teen Titans title, which I haven’t read in years. But then this is followed up with a Lobo story and I’m not too keen on Lobo.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent Deathstroke and Teen Titans arcs, especially Deathstroke Vs. Batman.

Comic Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Dark Trinity

Published: May 2nd, 2017
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Dexter Soy

DC Comics, 150 Pages

Review:

Man, I really dig this series. Unfortunately, I came into it a bit late. But now that I’ve read this first story arc, it’s added a lot more context to the three main characters and how they are actually very similar to DC’s “Trinity” of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

Here, you have Red Hood: a former Robin under Batman, Artemis: an Amazonian warrior like Wonder Woman and Bizarro: a clone of Superman. While they aren’t together at the beginning of the story, this arc shows you how they came to be a unit.

The story also focuses on Red Hood trying to take down Black Mask. He infiltrates his gang, wins over his trust and must wait for the perfect moment to bring the crime boss down. He also has to do all of this without breaking Batman’s rules or else he will have to answer for it.

Scott Lobdell really penned a good script and the art of Dexter Soy is fantastic and gives this fine story a lot of life. It’s vibrant and colorful yet it is still as gritty as a story about Gotham’s criminal underworld needs to be.

Red Hood and the Outlaws has been a favorite series of mine over the last few years. I came into it just after this arc but I am now going to revisit all of it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Red Hood and the Outlaws collections post-Rebirth. Also, the recent Bat-family titles: NightwingBatgirl and also the current runs on Suicide Squad and Deathstroke.