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: Marvel’s What If? (2018 Minieries)

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – October 31st, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Marvel has had several different runs with their What If? title. I have always been a fan of it, as it gives us new and different takes on Marvel characters. Usually, they show what happens if characters made different choices or if a major event had a different outcome. I couldn’t read enough of these when I was a kid and in a lot of ways, when I first came into comics, it was What If? that pinpointed the moments throughout Marvel history that were the most pivotal.

This 2018 miniseries was only six issues and all of them were unfortunately released over just five weeks. I wish they would make this an ongoing series again or at least spread them out more.

Like the X-Men: Black miniseries, which also came out weekly over October, this had different creative teams with each issue and it showed.

The six stories in this series were What If Flash Thompson Became Spider-Man?What If X-Men? (not a clearly defined title), What If Peter Parker Became the Punisher?What If Marvel Comics Went Metal with Ghost Rider?, What if Thor Was Raised by Frost Giants? and What If Magik Became Sorcerer Supreme?

Out of the six titles, the only ones I really enjoyed were the Magik and Punisher ones. Thor and Flash Thompson were okay but the X-Men one was a mess and the Ghost Rider one was one of the worst comics I’ve read in several years. I mean, it was beyond atrocious and getting through it was a hell of a chore.

Marvel could rectify their problems with this series, if they don’t rush them next time. If this was a regular monthly series like it was at its peak, the stories would probably have more time devoted to them.

Some of the art even felt rushed and half assed.

Ultimately, I liked a few issues but I can’t really recommend the series over all.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: old school What If? comics, many of which have been re-released for $1 under the True Believers imprint.

Comic Review: Mister Miracle (2017-2018 Series)

Published: August 9th, 2017 – November 14th, 2018
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Mitch Gerads, Nick Derington (covers)

DC Comics, 320 Pages

Review:

I’m done with Tom King. So fucking done.

Mister Miracle finally broke me. And if I’m being frank, my experience reading this was a damn tragedy.

I have collected every issue since it started coming out well over a year ago. I loved the covers by Nick Derington and Mister Miracle is, hands down, my favorite Jack Kirby creation under the DC Comics banner.

Just seeing Mister Miracle usually lifts my spirits, makes me incredibly happy and makes a comic worth the cover price just because I get to spend some time with one of the coolest and inspiring DC Comics characters there is. Mister Miracle is for me, what Superman is for many others.

For those who don’t know, Mister Miracle is a guy that was figuratively raised in Hell and spent his entire childhood trying to escape. He failed, again and again, but he never stopped trying, crawling through Hell itself just to escape. Eventually, his ability to never give up, to never quit, finally saw him escape and reach Earth where he started a new life, a much better life. Mister Miracle persevered, conquered his demons and achieved the American Dream, even as an alien from another world. That is who Mister Miracle is!

But apparently, if Mister Miracle is written by Tom King, he’s none of those things. Instead, he’s just a sad, depressed bitch that starts this series by slitting his wrists and bleeding out on the bathroom floor. A guy who finally had everything, after escaping a true Hell, now decides to quit.

The thing is, this isn’t Scott Free under the Mister Miracle mask, it’s Tom King. Yes, King put himself in the role of Scott Free a.k.a. Mister Miracle and showed us exactly what not to do when you are given a beloved character to write. King does not understand Scott Free in the slightest, just as he doesn’t understand Batman and has also turned him into a complete pussy.

So Tom King, the most depressing high profile comic book writer I’ve seen in ages, has gone on to completely misrepresent two major DC characters because he apparently is working through his own demons through his art. Art which really doesn’t belong to him. It belongs to Warner Bros. and the millions of fans who have supported these character for decades. But not in Tom King’s eyes. He would rather bring all of us down to his level, strip away all the positivity and inspiration while shitting on us and the great creators before him.

Tom King’s Mister Miracle is a gross bastardization of this incredible character created by Jack Kirby, one of the biggest legends in comic book history.

Tom King needs therapy and he can afford it, at this point. He needs to get professional help and not project his inner terror and depression on his audience. I mean, is he a creator or a destroyer? And while he needs to pay for some therapy, he also needs to pay me back the $48 I wasted on this terrible series. Plus, the price of gas I needed to drive 45 minutes to my comic shop 12 times.

And I’m not being insensitive. I have battled major depression my entire life. I’m adult enough, however, to know that it’s not my place to take a beloved intellectual property and transform it into an extension of my darkest thoughts. No one wants to read about my depression, they want to read something that is heroic escapism and leaves them inspired or at least, a little bit happier than they were before they picked up the comic.

Somehow this book won an Eisner Award for writing and art. Well, the Eisners are a joke, at this point. They’re pretty much like the Oscars and just hand out awards for social justice virtue signal points. Here’s the kicker, no one is actually keeping score of those points because they’re not real. And that game is more about “What have you done for my social justice, lately?”

But this won an Eisner for art as well. So how was that part of this series?

Well, as I said earlier, the covers are mostly great. However, beyond that, this is one of the laziest comics I’ve seen in awhile for being heralded as being so artistically impressive. I really don’t know what these Eisner people look at anymore.

Every page of Mister Miracle is the same. I don’t recall a single splash page because nearly every page is just 9 panels. 3 across, 3 down, all panels being the same shape on every single page. It’s like flipping through a binder of someone’s baseball card collection. The book looks like it was made in InDesign by a first semester graphic design student.

Additionally, there is barely any action in any of the 12 issues and it’s just basic bullshit of Scott Free lying on a couch, buying a birthday cake, joking about veggie trays and sitting on the couch again, because watching a lazy millennial be a terrible father is more interesting to Tom King than the vast mythos that comes with a character like Mister Miracle.

And the whole time, there is a major war going on between New Genesis and Apokolips. Mister Miracle and his wife, Big Barda, are both drafted into this war as generals but we barely see any of it. In fact, we don’t see them do any sort of action until issue 6 and then, once we get action, it’s bogged down by them talking about how to arrange furniture in the house. And that goes on for several pages.

On top of that, the action in this sucks. Did Mitch Gerads never read How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way? I mean, I know that this is DC Comics but Stan Lee and John Buscema wrote the original bible on this art form. Gerads, at least in Mister Miracle, doesn’t seem to understand the importance of dynamic motion. All his action panels look like a 2D side scrolling Nintendo game from the ’80s but drawn as boring as possible.

Plus, Big Barda has never been more unattractive than she is in this series. Big Barda is a tall, athletic, badass woman that has melted the hearts of boys and men for decades. Gerads’ Big Barda looks like a pale version of the modern jacked up She-Hulk, with a man bod and facial expressions that look like half a turd is creeping out in her tiny spandex shorts.

I love Mister Miracle but I absolutely loathe this series. I’m done with Tom King. He was the first person to make me cancel Batman from my pull list and now he’s ruined another favorite character of mine.

Also, murdering Funky Flashman quite violently, a character that was based on Stan Lee (granted, as a jab by Kirby), was pretty grotesque and uncalled for. But I guess he’s really not dead as he reappears and then this whole thing is just a death dream anyway. But Tom King, as a comic “creator”, needs to check his fucking privilege. He’s not a modern legend and I don’t know why he keeps getting these high profile gigs.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: anti-depressants, flavored vodka and runny mascara.

Comic Review: X-Men: Black

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – October 31st, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 160 Pages

Review:

Part of me wanted to be excited when I first heard about X-Men: Black, an anthology of five issues, each of which showcased a famous X-Men villain, along with a sixth story that was broken up over the five issues.

However, I knew that it would probably miss the mark, as X-Men comics, outside of Old Man Logan, haven’t been good for quite some time. I did have a little light of hope though, as Chris Claremont returned to pen the Magneto issue.

But unfortunately, this did miss the mark almost completely.

Most of the stories were beyond awful. The Apocalypse tale was the best one and the Juggernaut story was pretty darn good. Now Claremont’s Magneto issue was okay but it didn’t really cut the mustard and didn’t live up to the great standard that Claremont set in the X-Men‘s heyday.

The Mojo issues wasn’t completely terrible and it was entertaining and certainly not a bore. But it still felt out of place and didn’t work in the grander scheme of things.

Now the Mystique and Emma Frost issues were atrocious.

Mystique was a terrible person, doing terrible things and didn’t act like Mystique at all. The book read like a violent and vindictive fantasy of the author without any real purpose other than to make you hate the character, hate the author and hate the issue. This chapter alone really drags this entire series deep down into the muck.

The Emma Frost story wasn’t that different from Mystique’s and also didn’t do this series any favors. Plus, Emma looked like an anorexic college freshman and felt more like Emma Roberts from Scream Queens than Emma Frost, the voluptuous blonde that’s almost naked and has melted boys hearts since 1980.

Overall, this had potential but only two writers even seemed to actually try to write something worth anyone’s time. The rest phoned this in and obviously didn’t give a shit.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: modern X-Men schlock.

Talking Pulp: Stan Lee is Gone but His Legacy is Immortal – How He Impacted Me

It’s been a few days since Stan Lee passed away. The Internet is full of tributes to the man but I really needed some time to process it and to reflect on his life before writing about what Stan meant to me.

Stan Lee had an immense impact on me and to be honest, that’s an understatement. Alongside George Lucas, Lee was responsible for creating a vast mythos that was instrumental in shaping my life. I would say that Lee had an even larger impact than Lucas’ Star Wars, which was the biggest thing in the world to a kid of the ’80s.

Lee eclipsed Lucas because by the time I discovered his creations, Marvel had already expanded into a universe much larger than what Star Wars was or would ever be.

Stan the Man created more characters and things that I grew to care about than any other great creator throughout the history of time. Maybe that’s because of the time I grew up in or because I was just drawn to comics, being that I’ve been an artist and a writer since I could hold a pencil.

My very first Marvel experience came in the form of television, as I became a huge fan of the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon, which ran from 1981 to 1983. I was four years-old in ’83 and I probably discovered the show right at it’s end but it would go on to be replayed beyond its cancellation.

I remember vividly, the day that I saw the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode that featured the X-Men. I immediately fell in love with those characters and it wasn’t long before I had issues of The Uncanny X-Men in my hands. Then there was The Amazing Spider-Man and my first mega event, Secret Wars. Everything branched out from that but it was the foundation of Stan’s creations that brought me to a fantasy world where I could escape and spend my time.

Marvel was the first comic book company I discovered and even though I loved DC Comics’ Batman more than any other comic book character, I spent 90 percent of my time reading Marvel over DC. I was fascinated by the X-Men, I loved Spider-Man and his large rogues gallery. I really got into Captain America, dug the hell out of Iron Man and followed all versions of the Avengers teams from the mid-’80s and onward.

I was very aware of who Stan Lee was, as he was always a prominent figure in comics and his name was in the credits of nearly every Marvel book, if not all of them back then. When I would see Stan do interviews or pop up in other places, it was always a treat. He had charisma and an infectious personality. He was wise, creative and fatherly but in a way that was way cooler than any dad on Planet Earth.

When the Marvel Comics trading cards came out my first year of middle school, all the boys I knew were trying their damnedest to collect the full set. This was my first experience in trading cards with friends and a lot of the sixth grade boys at my school started becoming a bit of a club or community. Collecting these cards educated us on Marvel history and led us down new avenues with new characters and major stories to check out. We started trading and lending out comics. It was a really cool time to be a kid, especially for one that loved superhero comics.

By the way, my favorite Marvel trading card was always the Stan Lee one from the first series.

When you think about all the things that Stan Lee created and then take into account the scale of what those creations have become in pop culture, he may be the most prolific, successful and inspiring writer of his generation. Most of his creations are beloved and many of them have become big business in film, television and video games. Not to mention toys, trinkets and just about anything you can throw the Hulk or Thor’s mug on.

Stan Lee’s work has generated billions of dollars in revenue. It’s damn near impossible to find anyone who doesn’t know at least one of Lee’s creations.

I’ve seen Stan Lee in person but I never got to speak with him. But regardless of that, I always felt close to the man, as did many fans. He seemed accessible and he always seemed to love the people as much as they loved him. He always had his best face on, publicly, and I’ve never met a fan that had a bad experience in meeting him.

Stan Lee’s passing wasn’t unexpected. I think that everyone knew it was coming in the near future based off of the loss of his wife and the terrible things he went through since then but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hit me like a dagger to the gut.

I don’t usually get down or upset about celebrity deaths. Sure, there are people that I know I’ll miss and dwelling on their deaths is a downer but Stan’s death was different. Stan was a major part of my life.

Without Stan, I might not have discovered comics in quite the same way and I probably wouldn’t have such a passionate love for them that didn’t just end in childhood but has carried over into adulthood.

Without Stan, I probably wouldn’t have ever drawn my own comics as a kid. By the time I was in 7th and 8th grade, I had formed my own company with some friends and we were putting out comics regularly, first selling them to other school kids and then kids from other schools we didn’t even know. I loved that time in my life and it was Stan that guided me to that great place. Plus, his book, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way was my bible during this period of creative exploration.

Without Stan, I may have walked away from comics. However, he was always a presence in the industry and every time I saw him trucking along, putting out new projects and popping up in movies, it always brought me back to that place where I always felt most comfortable. Stan Lee was like a piece of home for me, a dear relative that lives far away but pops back up into my life every so often.

A world without Stan Lee just doesn’t seem like a world I want to live in. I don’t mean that to sound depressing but he was always a beacon of light and enthusiasm, exuding positivity and imagination. The world is truly missing something great without Stan Lee in it.

But we all have to do what Stan Lee would want us to do. Move forward, live life and try to be the best version of ourself, everyday.

Comic Review: Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – October 31st, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: various

DC Comics, 145 Pages

Review:

This picks up right after the recent Justice League Dark arc The Last Days of Magic.

This was a big crossover event that was stretched over five issues: Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark – The Witching Hour #1, Wonder Woman #56, Justice League Dark #4, Wonder Woman #57 and Justice League Dark/Wonder Woman – The Witching Hour #1. The way it was organized was a clusterfuck but it was worth hunting down all five issues, all of which came out over the course of October.

In a way, this felt like Wonder Woman starring in her version of the X-Men‘s famous Dark Phoenix story arc.

The reason I say that, is that Wonder Woman has essentially been possessed by this powerful force that takes control of her body and makes her evil and incredibly powerful. However, this doesn’t quite commit to the bit like Dark Phoenix did, as she doesn’t really cause that much damage overall and she also sort of wills herself good again with the help of her friends and allies.

The force in this is Hecate, an ancient witch that actually came into contact with Wonder Woman when she was still a child. So, essentially, this Hecate thing has been in her this whole time. This seems incredibly ambitious and somewhat suspect but I have really enjoyed James Tynion’s writing, so I went with it. Plus, DC’s continuity is incredibly confusing at this point.

The biggest highlight of the previous Justice League Dark story was the cast of characters coming together to fight magical evil. While those characters are here and even more are added, this put more emphasis on Wonder Woman’s journey and lacked the great camaraderie I enjoyed before this. I hope that comes back in the next story arc. The Detective Chimp and Man Bat stuff was great in The Last Days of Magic.

In the end, this wasn’t as iconic as the Dark Phoenix tale but it didn’t need to be. However, the build up made this feel like it was going to be a darker, bigger event than it turned out to be. It really didn’t have any effect on anything in the larger DC Comics universe.

This could have been a good mega event, as it had a much better premise than the current one: Heroes In Crisis.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the current Justice League Dark series.

TV Review: Cloak & Dagger (2018- )

Original Run: June 7th, 2018 – current
Created by: Joe Pokaski
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Cloak & Dagger by Bill Mantlo, Ed Hannigan
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Olivia Holt, Aubrey Joseph, Gloria Reuben, Andrea Roth, J. D. Evermore, Miles Mussenden, Carl Lundstedt, Emma Lahana, Jaime Zevallos

Wandering Rocks Productions, ABC Signature Studios, Marvel, Disney-ABC, Freeform, 10 Episodes (so far), 42-49 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I watched this right after I quit watching Runaways in the middle of its inaugural season. Sadly, this is pretty cringeworthy too and I couldn’t finish it. But at least I got further before my body couldn’t physically hit the “play” button around episode 7 or so.

Cloak & Dagger is lame as hell. Where is the superheroing? 7 episodes into this and they’ve barely explored their powers. This is just teen drama crap that feels more like it belongs in the Twilight franchise than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where it is supposed to take place.

The acting isn’t terrible but it’s nothing to praise. I mostly like the characters but if I’m being honest, they do not feel like the Tandy Bowen or Tyrone Johnson that I’ve gotten to know in the comics over three decades.

Also, why is this in New Orleans? I mean I love New Orleans but these characters are from New York City and often times cross paths with Spider-Man, Daredevil and other street level heroes of the Big Apple. Honestly, this feels completely separate from the larger universe it is supposed to be a part of.

The writing is slow, dull and I don’t care about the story one friggin’ iota.

The writing is also the biggest source of this show’s cringe. The dialogue is rough, unrefined and sounds like it was written by an intern that won’t get hired by the studio after graduation. Also, this gets pretty sociopolitical, not that that’s a bad thing but the show tends to hit you in the face with Mjolnir when trying to make those statements.

I have no urge to finish this or to watch a second season. I doubt that the show will last much longer and this is just further proof that the MCU is stretching itself way too thin, regardless of each project having its own filmmakers or showrunners. It’s just becoming so tiresome and this put me past the point of exhaustion. I wouldn’t call it “superhero fatigue”, as some people have called this market over saturation of superheroes, I would just call it a lack of the right people to steer these multiple ships.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Marvel’s Runaways, as both are mind numbingly bad and nearly unwatchable.