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: Aquaman/Suicide Squad: Sink Atlantis!

Published: August 8th, 2018 – September 19th, 2018
Written by: Rob Williams, Dan Abnett
Art by: Jose Luis, Vicente Cifuentes

DC Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

Did you ever want a crossover that features the Suicide Squad and Aquaman? Well, you’ve got one! And while it didn’t start off all that strong, it ended up being a lot of fun and I enjoyed this short four-issue crossover.

The story takes place in Suicide Squad issues 45 and 46, as well as Aquaman issues 39 and 40.

The Suicide Squad team is a bit different after a key member has died, as well as a slight roster shakeup. The important members in this story are Harley Quinn, Deadshot and Killer Croc. We also get Lord Satanis, who ends up being a villain with his own agenda. On the Aquaman side, we get action from him and King Shark. Mera is also heavily involved in the story.

The real highlight of this entire event though, is the battle between Killer Croc and King Shark, a fight I never knew I wanted.

For the most part, this turned out better than the first issue led me to believe. The story was a bit weak and the threat, while somewhat large, was perpetrated by a very minor villain that most people won’t even remember.

I thought the art was good and most of the dialogue was decent.

Now had Harley become Queen of Atlantis, that would have been more entertaining.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The Suicide Squad and Aquaman story arcs that led up to this.

Comic Review: Suicide Squad: Constriction

Published: May 9th, 2018 – July 11th, 2018
Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Adriano Lucas, various

DC Comics, 103 Pages

Review:

I haven’t read a Suicide Squad comic in awhile but the idea of Batman teaming up with Deadshot peaked my interest. I’ve also liked DC Comics much more than Marvel, as of late, and their titles that deal with former or reforming villains have been really solid. The other comics I’m referring to are Deathstroke and Red Hood and the Outlaws and maybe even The Silencer fits in there, as her backstory doesn’t paint a heroic picture.

The premise for this is great. Batman breaks Deadshot out of Amanda Waller’s prison. The two then go on a road trip in an old pickup truck in an effort to stop a snake cult that has abducted Deadshot’s daughter. Also, the Suicide Squad is in hot pursuit. What’s not to love?

I liked the art and the character design in this arc. I also thought that the story was well-written and it made some good connections between the characters of Batman and Deadshot. Mainly, Batman, whose son was raised by a cult, doesn’t want to see the same fate befall Deadshot’s daughter, who the Kobra cult are trying to use to be a vessel for their dead leader.

Amanda Waller is pissed about the prison break and knows Batman was involved, even though there is no proof of it. She unleashes Harley Quinn, Captain Cold and Captain Boomerang to bring him in dead or alive.

My only real complaint is how the comic portrays Harley. She is made to be a dumb character for comedic effect and while I don’t blame this specific writer, I blame DC for downplaying her actual intelligence all the time. It was fine for Batman: The Animated Series but in the comics she shouldn’t be a goofy caricature. The Joker is a clown but he’s not an idiotic buffoon, he’s super intelligent and that makes him scary and formidable. This version of Harley Quinn would never be put on some special forces task force used by the government. I mean, she doesn’t even know the difference between a helicopter and a submarine. I haven’t really read anything with Harley since the DC Rebirth started but I had hoped that she was more like her live action film counterpart and less like her cartoon version. It’s time to make her something better than DC’s version of Squirrel Girl. I mean, she was a professional psychologist for fuck’s sake.

But moving on!

This was an entertaining and badass read. I hope this means that Deadshot is going to continue down some sort of path to redemption. DC is doing this with Deathstroke and I like how that’s gone so far. I wouldn’t mind seeing Deadshot also evolve into a character that isn’t just a throwaway assassin type to toss randomly into a story whenever one is needed.

After reading this arc, I had Suicide Squad added to my pull list at my comic shop. So we’ll see how it goes moving forward. But if the quality dips too far below this, I’ll cancel it and move on.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The current runs on Deathstroke, The SilencerRed Hood and the OutlawsNightwing and Batman.

Comic Review: Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles

Published: December 19th, 2017
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Mikel Janin

DC Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

I haven’t been too keen on modern comics from the big publishers: Marvel and DC. I’m not wholly opposed to reading them, as there are a few titles I still like. However, modern writers seem to be trying to reinvent and alter things too much. Then there is the whole SJW movement in comics that are forcing change in a bizarre and unnecessary way, as oppose to creating new characters that can stand on their own.

The Batman Rebirth stuff doesn’t seem to be full of SJW meddling but it does make some drastic moves and alters the narrative in ways that don’t feel organic.

My biggest issue with this story, is that the Riddler, one of the main characters, is pretty much a murderous, blood thirsty psycho that carves question marks into his flesh and plays more of a mob boss with a penchant for green suits than the classic villain we all know and love. Also, he has sideburns, looks attractive and wears his dress shirts wide open like some sort of douchebag.

The Joker seems pretty much normal, even if he is drier and more bland than what one is used to. But his story starts with him not finding anything funny anymore. Sort of like the kid that takes his ball and goes home because the bigger kid keeps tackling him to the ground. The Joker has no energy here but I guess that’s the point of the story and how it plays out. Still, in no situation whatsoever, can my mind even imagine this sort of version of the character.

Then there is the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, which sees Batman turning a blind eye to Catwoman’s crimes as long as she grinds on his junk once in a while. Besides, she’s not a “sick” criminal. Regardless, Batman’s code seems to be thrown out the window as long as he gets to play “hide the churro” every few dozen pages or so.

And speaking of Batman’s code, he tries to kill the Riddler in cold blood, unprovoked in the moment, with a machete to the face. No, seriously. This is something that happens in this tale.

The problem with this story arc is maybe the same problem I have with modern comics. The writers and the creators either don’t have respect for the source material and want to put their own spin on things or they just don’t understand or know the source material. I’ve been reading Batman comics for over thirty years and this is the most un-Batman story I have ever come across.

The writer doesn’t understand these characters, tries to throw way too many into the story and then doesn’t even weave a good or engaging enough plot to give this any sort of point. The entire plot revolves around the Joker feeling gloom. The big reveal at the end shows that this was all an elaborate ploy by the Riddler to solve the biggest riddle of all: why won’t the Joker laugh.

I’ll tell you why the Joker won’t laugh. It’s because he’s lived for nearly eight decades and never has he been in a story as dull and as dumb as this one.

I really wanted to like this because it has been a long time since I’ve cared about Batman. Yes, I still read older stuff on a regular basis but the series has just been lost to me ever since the end of the Grant Morrison era.

On the positive side of things, the art is pretty damn good. I don’t like some of the new character designs but the book still looks nice.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Probably other Batman stuff in the Rebirth line but I doubt I’ll read anything else from this era.

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham Origins (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2014.

*I played the PlayStation 3 version. The game is also available on Xbox 360, Wii U, Windows and OS X.

Having beaten Batman: Arkham City last week, I immediately wanted to jump into the next game in the series, Arkham Origins. This game is a prequel to the Arkham series of Batman video games and the third title, with the fourth to be released next year.

This game is incredibly consistent with the previous entries in the series and that consistency is why these games are so great. The first game worked so well, that they haven’t deviated from it too much and only tweak a few things here and there. When playing these games one after the other, the transition is seamless and it all meshes perfectly together like they are all just big beefy chapters of one big interlocked tale. In essence, that is what they are.

The thing that sets this game apart is the fact that it puts a lot of emphasis on some of the lesser known villains in the Batman mythos. Black Mask and Anarky are two villains that are a major part of the story. The Riddler is simply known as E. Nygma, which was a nice touch. Deathstroke, Deadshot, Firefly, Shiva and a bunch of other characters show up that aren’t as recognizable as some of the more famous villains. To whet the palate of the less initiated Batman fan, there are appearances by the Penguin, Bane and the Joker. Mr. Freeze also shows up in bonus content and the Mad Hatter takes Batman on a psychedelic Wonderland adventure.

Additionally, half of the massive Gotham City map is the same as the map in Arkham City. In fact, all the landmarks are still there except being that this is a prequel, they are pristine and nice and not completely overrun by henchmen and street trash.

This game gives the player a unique backstory on the Arkham series and establishes how Batman met the Joker and how the Riddler started out. It also gives one a sense of how things were when Batman was still a newbie and the bigger villains hadn’t shown up in Gotham City yet. It is a very mob driven town, a little less crazy than what it becomes but the introduction to the Joker brings a serious tonal shift to the game and pulls the player back into just how insane this ride would become for Batman.

I don’t know which game in this series I like most. They are all like really stellar seasons to a really amazing television show. They are different yet they are the same. Each is almost devoid of weakness and they all have their own unique strong bits that set them apart but make them all equally spectacular.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

Release Date: August 1st, 2016 (Premiere)
Directed by: David Ayer
Written by: David Ayer
Based on: Characters from DC Comics
Music by: Steven Price
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller

DC Entertainment, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Warner Bros., 123 Minutes (theatrical), 136 Minutes (extended cut)

suicide-squadReview:

Let me start by saying that I am really glad that I didn’t pay to see this movie in the theater. From the awful trailers, I expected this to be pretty bad. Well, it somehow managed to exceed the negative expectations I had for it.

It sucks, because on paper, this is a movie I should have loved. I really wanted it to be great. But ultimately, it goes to show that DC has no idea how to make a movie unless Christopher Nolan is in charge of it. I mean, between this, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel, I already want DC to start over.

I watched the extended cut of the film, as I heard that it fleshed things out and made the story more coherent. It did? Because what I got was a very disjointed clusterfuck that made little-to-no sense at all. The film was hard to follow due to its inconsistent pace, awful editing and never really being able to explain what is happening on screen in any sort of intelligible way.

The biggest issue with this picture isn’t that it is a giant mess that plays more like a series of vignettes. The biggest issue is that it is trying so damn hard to be cool and edgy.

First is the music. Yes, there are great and iconic songs in this movie. However, they’re all songs already used in other films, in other iconic scenes. It’s like David Ayer made a Pandora station called “cool music from cool movies” and then just used the first twenty tracks that played. It was really a piss poor use of those songs and their usage doesn’t make much sense, for the most part, except to establish, “Look how cool we are using this cool song that everyone knows is cool! Aren’t we fucking cool?! C’mon, we’re cool, right?!”

Apart from the pop tunes, the score of the film is boring and generic. Suicide Squad is another movie, in a long line of blockbusters, that can’t give us any memorable themes to sink our teeth into. Long gone are the days of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme, John Williams’ Superman theme and a slew of others.

Then you had Will Smith’s Deadshot, in 2016, dressed like a cool character from a 70s blaxploitation flick. Killer Croc only cared about having BET in his cell, El Diablo had to play up the Mexican gangster card to the max and everyone else was too uninteresting to matter.

Harley Quinn was tolerable but pretty one-dimensional. The film does nothing really to show how she falls for the Joker. There are just a few flashbacks but they aren’t even that important. Sure, she proves her love by jumping into a vat of chemicals but why? Where is the build to that? How did she go from a presumably normal psychiatrist to Harley Quinn? I mean, I know, because I read the comics. But it is obvious from Suicide Squad that the people behind the movie never read them or just didn’t care enough about the character to give her life.

The Joker was awful. You had him covered in juvenile tattoos unfitting of the character. The Joker also had fronts in his teeth while being some sort of nightclub owner that cared about supercars and living in opulence. The Joker was also more of a wannabe punker trust fund kid than anything that felt Joker-like, at all. It was like some angry rich emo teen saw the real Joker on television and did his best trying to emulate him, all while never actually understanding the character. Wait, this is Jared Leto playing the Joker, so this is exactly what happened in real life.

The villain is the Enchantress. She is a boring villain. Granted, she is super powerful but that just makes me wonder why this “suicide squad” of extremely dangerous villains, mostly without superpowers, is sent to take her down. Where is Batman? Where is Wonder Woman? Aquaman? The Flash? Superman is “dead”, if this fits in the timeline after Batman v Superman. But seriously, wouldn’t any of those people be more capable and experienced? And the leader of this squad is a guy who has an emotional attachment to the villain? So the one good guy holding it together and trying to control these villains, is an emotionally unstable wreck?

The writing in this film sucks. The dialogue sucks and just serves the overall point of this whole film, “Ooh, ooh! Look how cool we are!”

The movie is also over two hours, which was too long. It should’ve been 90-100 minutes. 105, max. There was so much useless garbage scene-wise. Maybe the problem is the fact that they don’t even set off on their mission until 43 minutes into the picture.

What really sucks, is that the Suicide Squad was already on the CW show Arrow. They were handled really well and their story was building good momentum. Then because of this film being made, DC told the producers of Arrow to nix those characters. So a really good live-action version of the Suicide Squad was sacrificed to give us this shitty film.

David Ayer made a really bad movie. But that doesn’t seem to matter, as DC is letting him make a spin-off called Gotham City Sirens. That film is supposed to feature Harley Quinn and other female Batman villains.

It takes a lot for me to really hate a film. I hate this film. Comic book films have jumped the shark and at this point, it feels like exploitation of the original creators’ characters for a quick buck. DC Comics has yet to make a film that has any sort of soul. Suicide Squad is the worst of them, so far. I want to give Wonder Woman and Aquaman a chance but man, am I losing faith. Not that I had much since Man of Steel.