Comic Review: Green Arrow: The Outsiders War

Published: November 6th, 2013 – May 7th, 2014
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Andrea Sorrentino

DC Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

This is the biggest story arc in Jeff Lemire’s run on Green Arrow.

This was also pretty damn intense. But as Lemire’s run on the title rolls on, I have developed a love/hate relationship with it.

For one, I’m not entirely sure of why this version of Oliver Queen lives in Seattle as opposed to Star City and it’s never really been explained within Lemire’s stories. It’s a weird setting for a DC title and maybe trying to ground this in some sort of gritty reality is why they use a real world city but Seattle is hardly some dark and gritty metropolis like Star City has been in the past.

Also, this started bringing in characters and concepts from the TV show Arrow. I’m not sure if that’s because this came out just after the show started and was at its height in popularity but the comic doesn’t need to follow the show or be a comic book version of the show. That show is its own thing and what works on TV isn’t always what works in comics, and vice versa. This is why the show has changed some things but Lemire’s run is adopting some of those changes and characters. But it is also an attempt to make this more accessible to the fans that have only watched the TV series.

The stuff between Oliver and Komodo is really good though. I like the Komodo character, what he represents and how he’s completely altered the course of Oliver’s life.

I like the mystical elements of the story, as well, and it reminds me of old school Iron Fist comics in a lot of ways.

The best thing about Lemire’s run on Green Arrow isn’t Lemire though, at least not for me. The best thing is the art. Andrea Sorrentino has such a unique and incredible style that it breathes more life into these tales. His ability to showcase action in new and exciting ways is really refreshing.

All in all, this is fun if you are a fan of the character, whether through the comics or just from the television series.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The other story arcs in the Jeff Lemire run on Green Arrow.

Film Review: Batman Vs. Two-Face (2017)

Also known as: Batman and the Face of Crime (working title)
Release Date: October 8th, 2017 (New York Comic Con)
Directed by: Rick Morales
Written by: Michael Jelenic, James Tucker
Based on: Batman (the ’60s TV show) by William Dozier, Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, William Shatner, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Steven Weber, Thomas Lennon, Jeff Bergman, William Salyers, Wally Wingert

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 72 Minutes

Review:

“I always knew you’d make an asp of yourself, Batboob.” – King Tut

I was really happy with the first film in this duology of animated features that have resurrected the Batman ’66 universe. So when I saw that there was a second film, that it introduced Two-Face and that William Shatner would be providing the voice, I was pretty stoked.

If you are a fan of the first film, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, then this one shouldn’t disappoint. Plus, you don’t just get the addition of Two-Face, you also get Bat-villains Harley Quinn and Dr. Hugo Strange.

I love that the voice cast is comprised of the original actors. Sadly, Adam West passed away before this was released and that probably put the kibosh on a third film getting made, but this was a great final outing for him.

They also brought in Lee Meriwether, who was the original film version of Catwoman. She shares a few scenes here with the original TV Catowman, Julie Newmar. While Meriwhether doesn’t play her best known Batman character, there is a nice in-joke in the film where her character gets put into the cat suit and likes it.

One thing that is always fun about these modern versions of the Batman ’66 universe, whether in these films or the comics, is that they are able to dip really deep into the villain well and have a myriad of them in scenes together.

I was really excited to see Bookworm get his own sequence in the film, as he was my favorite villain created just for the classic television show. You also get King Tut, Egghead, the Clock King and a bunch of others.

William Shatner did a fine job as Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-Face and I liked how they handled the character in this universe and I thought his big evil scheme was pretty good and entertaining, even though it wasn’t something wholly original.

These are just fun movies and much more family friendly than the other animated DC Comics features.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The film before this one: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, as well as the 1960s Batman TV show and movie, the Batman ’66 comic and other DC Comics animated films of the last decade.

Film Review: Desperate (1947)

Also known as: Desesperado (Brazil, Spain, Portugal)
Release Date: June 20th, 1947
Directed by: Anthony Mann
Written by: Harry Essex, Dorothy Atlas, Anthony Mann
Music by: Paul Sawtell
Cast: Steve Brodie, Audrey Long, Raymond Burr, Jason Robards Sr.

RKO Radio Pictures, 73 Minutes

Review:

“Out of every seven guys who go to the chair, six go yelling, “I’m innocent!”” – Det. Lt. Louie Ferrari

I’ve said it before (a lot more than once) and I’ll say it again (and again), I love Raymond Burr. I especially love him when he plays a slimy, evil bastard. Add in Anthony Mann as director and you’ve got a solid film-noir with real gravitas.

This was put out by RKO Radio Pictures, the real house of noir. This is one of those quickly shot, cheaply shot, B-movie pictures but RKO had a real knack for making these pictures work. And while RKO certainly wasn’t a B-studio, they could still be quick, frugal and turn out quality while pinching pennies.

Steve Brodie and Audrey Long are both kind of lovable in this and it sucks seeing them being pulled into Burr’s evil orbit, turning their lives upside down.

The story sees a truck driver get used to haul some illegal goods. The driver (Brodie), isn’t aware of what’s happening and quickly finds himself in a situation where everything goes wrong and a cop ends up dead. Burr plays a heavy that makes the driver and his wife’s life a living hell. At one point, Burr threatens to mutilate her if Brodie doesn’t play ball with him.

This is dark and desperate, pun intended. It’s a film that really show’s America’s darker underbelly in the post-war years. It’s like the big swampy beast crawled out of the muck and rolled over, exposing that underbelly for all to see.

This has good cinematography and an almost enchanting beauty to its darkness. All of this is of course accented by a nice musical score from Paul Sawtell. The film and it’s atmosphere was like a snake as it slowly slithers along but is always ready to strike with a lot of energy.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Anthony Mann film-noir movies: Raw Deal, He Walked by Night, T-Men and Side Street. For Raymond Burr noir pictures: Please Murder Me!, Pitfall, Crime of Passion, The Blue Gardenia and Red Light.

Film Review: Psycho II (1983)

Release Date: June 3rd, 1983
Directed by: Richard Franklin
Written by: Tom Holland
Based on: characters by Robert Bloch
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia, Dennis Franz, Hugh Gillin, Robert Alan Browne, Claudia Bryar, Lee Garlington, Tom Holland

Oak Industries, Universal Pictures, 113 Minutes

Review:

“Mary, I’m becoming confused again, aren’t I?” – Norman Bates

I didn’t know what to expect from a sequel to a Hitchcock classic. Plus, this came out 23 years after the original, was made by a different studio and had a completely different vibe that embraced more of the slasher side than the classic suspense side.

The thing is, this also did a fine job of building suspense and ultimately, it was a damn good story, kept me guessing and wasn’t something that had an obvious outcome.

I really liked the script, I liked the curveballs and I loved that Norman Bates was actually reformed, even if circumstances pushed his buttons and made his resistance to his killer urges weaken over time. But is he the killer in this picture? You would be safe to assume so but the answer to that question isn’t a simple one.

Now I do feel like the ending of the film was a bit sloppy, after such a good story and great build up towards the finale. The ending felt like something that wasn’t decided upon until production had already started and the producers ended up meddling with things. I don’t know if that happened, it’s just a guess, but it had that kind of weird execution in the third act of the story.

The movie was written by Tom Holland, who would later direct Fright Night and Child’s Play. Kudos to Holland for penning a really compelling, smart script that really gave respect to the original movie while also showing respect to the audience. He also had a lot of layers to his story and explored what happens when a once insane man is clinically cured but has to later deal with the social repercussions of his past actions. How will he handle the hatred; how will he respond when pushed against a wall?

Another person I have to give major kudos to is Vera Mills. She really kills it in this, pun intended. Also, she truly committed to this picture and the slasher style killings. She does get taken out in this and that moment is one of the best in the film. Vera goes out like a friggin’ champ and it was cool to see her do that scene.

Meg Tilly was adorable in the film and it was hard to not crush on her character, just as Norman did. She is not who she seems to be at first glance but she develops mutual feelings for Norman and wants to genuinely support him. Sadly, she gets pulled into his chaotic orbit.

Even though a few things I’ve said here may be seen as spoilers, they are very minor ones, as Holland’s script isn’t as simple as it may first seem on the surface. Plus, just because someone dies in this, doesn’t mean that they’re just some victim. In fact, this feels more like a Clue whodunit mystery than a straight up serial killer thriller. And just when you think you’ve got the answers, you realize that you don’t.

It was great seeing Anthony Perkins return to his most famous role. Even within the context of his past crimes, Perkins is so good in this role that you feel for him emotionally. You know he did horrible things but you also get the sense that he is trying his damnedest to move forward and to truly be a good person. When he’s poked and prodded, you get angry for him. I just don’t think anyone else could have made this work quite like Perkins did.

On paper, Psycho II is a film that should have never been made. The original should have been left alone. But this is a very rare gem, as it’s better than it has a right to be.

The film isn’t as good as it’s predecessor because really, Psycho is a perfect film. But this is a damn good examination of psychological rehabilitation and it somehow makes you care for a man that was once a cold blooded murderer.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Psycho films.

Comic Review: Green Arrow: Shados

Published: July 3rd, 2013 – October 2nd, 2013
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Andrea Sorrentino, Marcelo Maiolo

DC Comics, 85 Pages

Review:

This is the second story arc in the Jeff Lemire run on Green Arrow. What I’m reviewing here is the Shado story, as well as the couple single issues right after it that lead into the next big arc. The issues reviewed here are numbers 22, 23, 23.1 and 24 of Green Arrow (2011-2016) a.k.a. The New 52 run.

So reading these issues made me a bit confused over what The New 52 is to DC Comics continuity. Reason being, Count Vertigo is a new villain in the way that this story is written and the event within brought me to the realization that Oliver Queen a.k.a. the Green Arrow is really friggin’ young here. Clues to his age were in The Kill Machine but I guess it didn’t dawn on me fully until his interractions with Shado in this book. Or maybe Lemire is just writing him so that he comes off as a twenty year-old.

Ultimately, this Lemire run feels much more like it is in the tonal vein of the television show. I mentioned in my last review of Lemire’s run that this is pretty gritty and very different than what Green Arrow has been in the past. Sure, he’s had some darker, serious stories but Lemire has brought Oliver into the modern gritty reboot age with gusto.

I really like this run. However, this string of issues wasn’t as badass as the ones that preceded them. This isn’t so much filler, as it is more about fleshing out Lemire’s vision for the series.

The bulk of the story here is about Oliver going to a small European nation to find the next “dragon”. He rescues Shado from the lair of Count Vertigo, who is a dictator over the small country. We also get an origin story for this incarnation of Vertigo, which was pretty interesting.

So far, I’m happy with this run and can’t wait to get into the story arcs after this one.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The other story arcs in the Jeff Lemire run on Green Arrow.

Comic Review: Green Arrow: The Kill Machine

Published: February 6th, 2013 – June 5th, 2013
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Andrea Sorrentino, Marcelo Maiolo

DC Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

I like the stuff I’ve read from Jeff Lemire and considering that I have heard good things about his run on Green Arrow, I figured that I should check it out.

What stands out most about this is that it has a vibe closer to the show Arrow. This is dark, gritty and much harder than a typical Green Arrow story. I guess gritty reboots are all the rage the last decade or so but for a character that is dealing with street level crime, it fits the character of Oliver Queen a.k.a. the Green Arrow.

This is also the first Green Arrow arc that I have read within The New 52 era of DC Comics. I kind of checked out for a bit before this, as I was growing tiresome of DC always doing soft reboots of their universe. But since this is one of my favorite characters, written by one of my favorite modern writers, I needed to give it a shot.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed and this arc set up the rest of Lemire’s run nicely.

We are introduced to the villain Komodo, who has gone on to be featured in the TV show, as well as a new group called The Outsiders. They are very different from the group that used to hang out with Batman in the ’80s. This Outsiders group is an ancient organization that Ollie’s father was a part of.

As this story unfolds, Ollie learns about his father’s big secret and must continue down a dark path, trying to understand this organization and his father’s secret legacy within it.

All the fights between Oliver and Komodo are really well done and Komodo feels like a pretty formidable opponent. I love stories like this where Oliver is pushed to his limits and has to rely on his gut and an almost primal sense of survival to best his foes.

Lemire did a really superb job with the writing and at generating interest to keep the reader invested going into the next arc.

I also enjoyed Andrea Sorrentino’s art. It really gave this story a dark feel that complimented the tone of the plot and was a good departure from the standard look of the Green Arrow comics before The New 52.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The other story arcs in the Jeff Lemire run on Green Arrow.

TV Review: Black Lightning (2018- )

Original Run: January 16th, 2018 – present
Developed by: Salim Akil
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Kurt Farquhar
Cast: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, Damon Gupton, James Remar

Akil Productions, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 13 Episodes (so far), 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what I thought about Black Lightning over the first couple of episodes but as the first season rolled on, I grew to like it.

It’s a CW show, so it is guaranteed to come with a certain level of cheesiness. However, this isn’t bogged down by the cheesy nonsense like The FlashSupergirlLegends of Tomorrow and sometimes Arrow is.

While the show does have some romance and it focuses on a family dynamic, it doesn’t beat you over the head with love dovey sentiment, it feels genuine and the love shared between characters is more organic than what we’ve seen from the other CW superhero shows. That doesn’t mean that it won’t get cheesy, as it continues into the future.

I really like Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce a.k.a. Black Lightning. It’s like he was born for the role and he plays both the man and the hero, exceptionally well. I’m also a massive fan of Krondon’s Tobias Whale, as the character is fleshed out better than his comic book counterpart, who I always just saw as a poor man’s Kingpin.

The one person I absolutely love on this though is James Remar. He plays Black Lightning’s mentor and partner, even if there is a lot of tension that develops between the two. Ultimately, he is a part of the family and he is there to fight the good fight when the chips are down. I loved Remar when I was a kid because I liked him in The Warriors and then I went on to have a different appreciation for him when he played Dexter’s ghost dad on Dexter. Remar is one of those guys that is a clutch hitter but doesn’t always find himself on a good team. I think he’s found a nice roster spot on the Black Lightning team.

One thing that makes this story work so well, is that it feels smaller in scale. While Freeland is a city that’s come under siege due to powerful gangs, the world this is set in doesn’t feel as grandiose as the other CW superhero shows. It feels more like it all takes place in a smaller area, sort of closed off from anything beyond its borders, as the problems in Freeland are just too serious and real. This could totally fit in with the Arrowverse without needing to acknowledge it, which probably will happen in the future, as both Cress Williams and Arrow‘s Stephen Amell want to crossover. My two cents: I’d sneak Deathstroke onto the show to introduce the larger world. We don’t need aliens and shit.

It’s hard to tell where Black Lightning plans to go beyond season one but I hope that the producers build off of what was established in just the first 13 episodes and don’t sort of fall into the same traps when the other CW shows ran on beyond their rookie years.

Also, this did a good job of not being too political. It dealt with social issues well and didn’t beat you over the head with it like the comic book medium tends to do. Well, the big bad white villain in the show had to say, “Make America great again!” twice in the season finale but hopefully that’s it for the sociopolitical cringe.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: All the current DC Comics shows on the CW.