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: 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: 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.

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 2: Back to Blüdhaven

Published: June 20th, 2017
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Minkyu Jung, Marcio Takara, Marcus To

DC Comics, 169 Pages

Review:

I’ve heard great stuff about Tim Seeley’s run on Nightwing. After reading the first collection, I really wanted to jump into this. And while the first wasn’t great, it left me feeling as if it was building towards something solid. This, however, really took the wind out of the sails of Seeley’s run, in my opinion.

This focuses on Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing going to Blüdhaven for the first time (in this new continuity that I’ll never get used to). He wants to mark out his own path and be a hero without the support system he’s always had. He even takes a social worker job to pay his rent, as he wants no help from Bruce Wayne.

This then introduces us to a whole slew of new characters that Seeley created. Nightwing teams up with some ex-villains who are trying to redeem themselves as heroes. These ex-villains are comprised of characters that Nightwing, back when he was Robin, helped bring to justice. So he feels somewhat responsible for helping their rehabilitation and allowing them to truly have a second chance.

The problem is, all these characters seem really generic and destined to be thrown away fairly quickly.

One thing I really didn’t like about this, which I enjoyed in the first volume, was that Nightwing and Batgirl’s budding relationship is put on hold. Dick falls for the Defacer, one of the ex-villains that debuts here. Having read later in this series, past the Seeley stuff, I know that Dick and Barbara Gordon still aren’t together but it was nice seeing them explore the option. They have a moment here but it’s kind of sad, as I’m not too keen on Seeley’s Defacer character.

Anyway, this just didn’t resonate with me like I hoped it would. It’s not terrible but it also didn’t make me want to pick up the third volume. So, I guess this series is on hold for me now, as I read some other stuff in the meantime.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the ongoing Nightwing series, as well as BatgirlRed Hood and the OutlawsDetective Comics and Titans.

Film Review: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Also known as: Superman IV, Superman 4
Release Date: July 23rd, 1987 (London premiere)
Directed by: Sidney J. Furie
Written by: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Christopher Reeve
Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Music by: Alexander Courage, John Williams (themes)
Cast: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Marc McClure, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, Mark Pillow, Mariel Hemingway

Cannon Group Inc., Golan-Globus Productions, London-Cannon Films, Warner Bros., 90 Minutes

Review:

“And there will be peace. There will be peace when the people of the world, want it so badly, that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them. I just wish you could all see the Earth the way that I see it. Because when you really look at it, it’s just one world.” – Superman

Most people hate this movie or at the very least, love trashing it for sport. It’s certainly a bad film but I really enjoy it because with it’s bizarre goofiness, it’s got charm and it was made by Cannon Films.

Unlike Superman III, another bad chapter in this franchise, this film got Gene Hackman back and didn’t limit Margot Kidder to just two scenes. But where the heck was Annette O’Toole, who I adored in Superman III? Well, Superman does get another alternate love interest in this one and it’s Mariel Hemingway. I was crushing on her hard when this came out and I was 8 years-old.

Anyway, this film also adds in Jon Cryer, just a year after he touched filmgoers hearts as Ducky in Pretty In Pink. He’s basically Ducky again but really dumbed down and with a weird surfer/stoner accent. He’s like Ducky had a baby with Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But I did love Cryer in this, as Lenny Luthor, Lex’s idiot nephew and replacement for Ned Beatty’s Otis.

By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about this film as I dedicated an entire Talking Pulp featured article to it: The Politics of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

But speaking of my previous piece on this movie, it is a film that is politically heavy. It features a story that sees Superman take it upon himself to rid the entire world of nuclear weapons. Strangely, every nation at the UN cheers for this and none see it as an act of war for being forcibly disarmed.

This movie also introduces us to a cool villain, made from a strand of Superman’s hair and a nuclear missile thrown into the sun. He is Nuclear Man and he always looked badass. As a kid, I always wanted him to eventually get worked into the comics. He finally made an appearance this year in a Brian Michael Bendis Superman story but was just there to be quick fodder for another villain.

Superman IV is incredibly short when compared to the other movies. If you own this on DVD though, you will notice that there are a ton of deleted scenes and really, this could’ve been longer. I’ve actually hoped for an extended edition release of this with all those scenes restored, especially the ones featuring the prototype of Nuclear Man, who was cut from the finished film entirely. He was very much like Bizarro, even if his scenes were terribly stupid.

This is the worst film in the Christopher Reeve string of movies. I still have a lot of love for it though because in spite of it’s awfulness, it was imaginative and a little nuts.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: The other films in the Superman series with Christopher Reeve.

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 1: Better Than Batman

Published: January 31st, 2017
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Javier Fernandez

DC Comics, 164 Pages

Review:

I’ve been reading Nightwing for about a year now but I was behind on all the Rebirth era stuff because I was tired of DC Comics hitting the reboot button every few years. But I heard pretty good things about this series and started reading them. Now I want to go back and get all the previous stories in the Rebirth era to help give context to the newer chapters.

This collection has two story arcs in it but they’re both very connected, as they deal with the character of Raptor and his relationship with Nightwing a.k.a. Dick Grayson.

Also, this story starts on the heels of Dick leaving the Spyral organization where he was known simply as Agent 37.

This first arc sees Dick become Nightwing once again, as he is pulled into the Parliament of Owls to help protect Damian Wayne, the current Robin and son of Batman. Nightwing is forced to work with Raptor but the two have their own agenda and we see them work towards defeating the Owls. The story also brings in the Kobra organization and deals with their rivalry with the Owls.

I’m not as versed on the Court/Parliament of Owls stuff as I should be but I did enjoy the story and what it meant for all parties involved. However, the real emotional weight and the real story doesn’t happen until the final two issues collected in this volume. This is where Raptor’s intentions become clear and where Dick discovers that the two men have personal ties to one another.

I’ve enjoyed Tim Seeley’s work for quite awhile. I was an avid fan of his Hack/Slash comic series and I’ve reviewed all five omnibuses already. He just seems to be having fun writing Nightwing and he understands the difference between Dick Grayson and Batman, as well as all the other Robins.

One of my favorite parts about this series is the evolution of Nightwing and Batgirl’s relationship. Seeley does a fine job of working in the romantic stuff without it being in the way of the story. This may actually be one of the best handled romances in modern comics, even if the two can never seem to get together or be on the same page at the same time. It’s certainly more interesting than whatever the hell happened with that Batman and Catwoman wedding fiasco.

I’m glad that I’m working my way through this series and anticipate picking up the second volume as I catch up to where I am now, around issue 50 or so.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the ongoing Nightwing series, as well as BatgirlRed Hood and the OutlawsDetective Comics and Titans.

Comic Review: Batman: White Knight

Published: October 9th, 2018
Written by: Sean Murphy
Art by: Sean Murphy

DC Comics, 224 Pages

Review:

Spoiler alert: this gets a perfect score.

The reason why this gets a perfect score is that you just don’t read comic book stories this great anymore. It almost feels as if we don’t deserve something this good in this day and age. And, I guess, one could say that maybe its greatness is magnified by an industry that is struggling to put out exceptional work but I don’t think that it is. I think that White Knight, regardless of what era it came out in, is a true masterpiece of the comic book medium.

Sure, time will tell how this holds up over the years but I don’t need time to tell me that this most certainly will be held in the same regard as Batman classics The Long HalloweenThe Dark Knight Returns and Year One. In fact, I would say that this beats two out of those three.

Sean Murphy weaved a tale that exists in its own continuity but at the same time, he wrote a Batman story that was respectful to the franchise and all the characters within it. I love when someone can find a way to utilize all the major villains and Murphy did just that, without having this become a convoluted mess. His idea in how to include them all here was actually kind of genius.

This also does a fine job in breaking down the dichotomy that is Batman and the Joker and asks the question, “Is there even a dichotomy?” Delving deeper than just that, this examines the Joker, Batman and Harley Quinn’s psyche in new ways that really make this book smarter than the average bear while making these old characters feel fresh. Basically, Murphy found a way to explore these well-known characters and brought something new and intriguing to the table.

Finishing the story, it’s hard to pinpoint who the big bad is here. Is it the reformed Joker? Is it Harley pulling strings? Is it the new villain: Neo Joker? Is it Batman? Is it the GCPD? Is it Gotham City itself? There is a lot to interpret here and there isn’t a clean answer any which way you could go.

Murphy also gives back a lot of fan service in including certain characters from other mediums and beloved Batmobiles of yesteryear, among other things. But it’s never fan service just to get brownie points, he created the right sort of situation where all of it just works really well.

I loved the idea of the GTO (Gotham Terrorist Oppression Unit) and how Nightwing and Batgirl were used. I loved how the story worked for the entire Bat-family, especially the stuff regarding Alfred. All the Mr. Freeze material was also wonderful. There is just so much to digest and dissect here but all of it is good.

Sean Murphy also did the art and I loved his work. All in all, this really is his creation and it’s a damn fine creation at that.

This limited comic series is pretty close to perfect. There’s nothing I would change or alter about it and frankly, I want to read it again.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the best of the best classic Batman stories: The Long HalloweenDark VictoryYear OneThe Dark Knight Returns, etc.