Film Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2012-2013)

Release Date: September 25th, 2012 (Part I) and January 29th, 2013 (Part II)
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Written by: Bob Goodman
Based on: Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson
Music by: Christopher Drake
Cast: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Wade Williams, Michael Emerson, Mark Valley, Paget Brewster, Grey DeLisle, Michael McKean, Bruce Timm, Frank Welker, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, Tara Strong

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 76 Minutes (Part I), 76 Minutes (Part II), 148 Minutes (Deluxe Edition)

Review:

“You don’t get it, son. This isn’t a mud hole. It’s an operating table. And I’m the surgeon.” – Batman

When I see that there is a new DC Comics animated adaptation of a famous comic book story coming out, I usually don’t get too excited. The reason being, most of them take tremendous liberties and just sort of do their own thing, ignoring the story they’re “based” on and making the whole thing nothing more than a bullshit marketing scheme to sell more Blu-rays.

I guess that’s why I was pleasantly surprised by this film, a true adaptation that really captured the spirit of Frank Miller’s most famous Batman story.

I put off watching this for a very long time and I only gave it a shot because a friend of mine that actually reads comics told me it was definitely worth my time. He wasn’t wrong.

This film does a fine job of capturing the magic of Miller’s story and it also has some solid homages to the imagery of the famous comic.

I guess my biggest gripe is that even though the animation is really good, it sort of just looks like the other DC Comics animated features. DC has a specific style to its animated films and this falls in line with it. For what this project is and what it represents, I fell as if the art should have been closer to the style and tone of the actual comic. This took a big step forward from a narrative standpoint but the visual style really should have been unique, grittier and more in line with Frank Miller’s art.

I also wasn’t crazy about the length of this but that’s really my own problem, as I start to tune out when watching animation for too long. I don’t really know how this could have been edited down and because it adapts a very rich story in a really great way, I’d leave it alone. It fills the time well and there really isn’t a dull moment.

The voice actors were all superb. Peter Weller was perfect as an old Batman and Ariel Winter, who had to have been really young when this was made, was very convincing as the Carrie Kelley version of Robin.

I’ve watched a lot of DC Comics animated stuff since the ’90s and this is certainly in the upper echelon of the things they’ve put out.

If you love The Dark Knight Returns in comic book form, this shouldn’t disappoint.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other recent DC animated Batman and Justice League films.

 

Comic Review: Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe

Published: July 18th, 2018 – January 2nd, 2019
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Freddie E. Williams II, Jeremy Colwell
Based on: Masters of the Universe by Mattel, Injustice by NetherRealm Studios

DC Comics, 153 Pages

Review:

I haven’t played the Injustice video games or read the comic books. I get the gist of it though, so being a long-time fan of Masters of the Universe, I thought that the idea of seeing He-Man and his world mix it up with the DC Comics universe was a cool idea.

However, I did have to go into this with some skepticism, as most comic book crossovers of unrelated intellectual properties usually don’t leave us with great results.

This one was pretty good though. I can’t say that it was completely compelling but the story did a good job of wedging in a lot of characters while managing multiple plot threads. This had many layers to it and all of them kept me engaged.

I think the thing that I liked most about this was the art. It just felt perfect for a Masters of the Universe story, as it reminded me of the art of the old comics they used to package with the toys. It just drummed up nostalgia on a pretty high level and it was very effective.

This lasted for six issues but I feel like it could have been better if it was a bit longer. While it works well in the space it was given, I felt like some confrontations were rushed through and some of the action suffered a bit. There were just some cool ideas here that could have been explored just a little bit more than they were but I don’t want to spoil the story details for those who want to read this.

Overall, this was pretty damn good. Tim Seeley told a fun story within two very different worlds that I love and the art was perfect for what this project was trying to convey.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Masters of the Universe crossovers and the Injustice comics, as well as regular Justice League stories.

Comic Review: Batgirl: Year One

Published: September 3rd, 2000 – December 31st, 2000
Written by: Scott Beatty, Chuck Dixon
Art by: Javier Pulido, Robert Campanella

DC Comics, 203 Pages

Review:

Batgirl: Year One has been paired up in a trade paperback format with Robin: Year One in some releases and for good reason.

Mainly, this is done by the same creative team and it has a similar tone, art style and narrative structure.

This was released a year before Robin: Year One and is equally as good, if not a wee bit better. Reason being, this has a threat that feels larger, a plot that’s more cohesive over the multiple issues, as well as more characters that come into the story in ways that really help to flesh out Barbara Gordon’s origin.

Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon wrote a body of work that is close to being a masterpiece and is one of the best Batgirl stories ever produced, hands down.

Just like with Robin: Year One, which I already reviewed, I absolutely love the art of Javier Pulido and Robert Campanella. It has a pristine look while also looking retro for the time where this is set. It has a similar feel to Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman epics, also from the same time period, and it even kind of channels elements from Batman: The Animated Series, which was still very fresh in people’s minds in 2000.

If you know Barbara Gordon, this book just feels right. Contrary to a lot of her more modern stories, this is the Batgirl I want to read about. I have loved this character since first experiencing her on the ’60s Batman TV show. While that was campy as hell, Barbara always resonated with me and I always loved when she showed up alongside the Dynamic Duo.

Batgirl: Year One is a classic in my opinion. It isn’t something that I hear a lot of people reflect on but it was a real high point in the careers of all the creators involved and for the character.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Robin: Year One, as well as the Batman related books by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.

Comic Review: Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1

Published: October 10th, 2018
Written by: Bryan Edward Hill, Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV, Mags Visaggio, various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 86 Pages

Review:

I’ve stated before that I’m not the biggest fan of anthologies but this was a lot of fun and most of it was pretty good.

This came out just in time for Halloween and even though it’s given a “#1” on its cover, I’m pretty sure that this anthology of superhero and horror mashup stories is just a one-off release to celebrate the month of October and all its horrors.

With each story we also get a different creative team, so the quality varies but there wasn’t anything that I’d say was disappointing.

The only real negative was that cramming ten stories into 86 pages means that those stories are really short. I felt that there were a lot of good ideas here that needed more room to breathe. It was hard feeling like there was any tension or a legitimate build up, as everything was over almost immediately.

I thought that the Superman story probably did the most with the short space it had. I also really liked the Swamp Thing, Etrigan and Solomon Grundy tales.

If you are into these heroes and love horror, this is a fun read. Nothing substantial or all that memorable happens within these pages but it didn’t need to.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthologies but this also goes well with the current run of Justice League Dark.

Comic Review: The Flash: Rebirth

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver

DC Comics, 158 Pages

Review:

I love Geoff Johns work at DC Comics and I have always loved his collaborations with artist Ethan Van Sciver. Their work on Green Lantern got me back into comics during a time when I had sort of faded away from the medium due to no longer being as engaged by it.

Green Lantern: Rebirth was one of my favorite comic book stories of all-time. It made me love Hal Jordan and I was pulled in by Johns’ writing and Van Sciver’s wonderful art. Since I also liked Johns’ Flash stuff, I figured that The Flash: Rebirth would be something that I would also love. But sadly, it just didn’t do it for me.

The biggest problem that I have with Flash stories is the damn Speed Force. Also, in recent years, the Flash pocket of the larger DC universe is overloaded with too many characters with the same lame set of powers. There are so many damn speedsters that it’s really f’n redundant.

In an era where people are screaming for diversity, even though it has existed in comics for decades, maybe there should be a call for diversity in powers in the Flash titles. I mean, if you’re going to cram a dozen heroes and villains into a plot, why are they all similar? And why is that exciting? And to be frank, this is why I lost interest in The Flash TV show, which I loved when it started.

Anyway, the art in this is damn good but Van Sciver hits the right note stylistically speaking when it comes to how this era of DC felt. He was a premiere architect in DC’s visual style from 2007-2014 or so. This book lives up to the standard one should expect from his work but apart from that, there wasn’t much here for me to enjoy.

The premiere villain is the Reverse Flash, another f’n speedster. And really, this is all about the weird, mystical Speed Force that is capable of anything a writer needs it to do. I don’t know, Speed Force heavy stories bore me to tears and they’re hard to keep up with because it’s all pseudo-science mumbo jumbo made up on a whim to explain random ass shit. I prefer stories where one Flash takes on one of his many awesome rogues that aren’t speedsters.

This is probably really good if reading about a dozen speedsters and Speed Force stuff is your thing. For me, it numbed my brain and made it hard to get through.

And fuck… this had so many damn cameos. I felt like it partially existed just to wedge in as many characters as possible.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: The Geoff Johns era of The Flash, as well as his era of Green Lantern.

Comic Review: Green Arrow: Broken

Published: June 4th, 2014 – September 3rd, 2014
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Andrea Sorrentino

DC Comics, 123 Pages

Review:

Broken followed up the Green Arrow story The Outsiders War. It is also the last big story arc from Jeff Lemire.

While many people thought that Lemire’s run on Green Arrow was spectacular, I’ve felt pretty lukewarm towards it. I thought it started out well and was building towards something great but it just seems to move a long with a whimper.

It just continues to feel like it is trying to be more like the show Arrow, as opposed to the comic book series that has come and gone for decades. It’s almost too dark, too serious and just lacks the character and charisma of years of Green Arrow stories. This sort of falls victim to the gritty reboot trend in the worst way.

It sucks because I generally like Lemire’s writing but as his Green Arrow tenure ran on, it also ran dry. I’m not sure what people see in this, unless most people only really know this character from the more serious and dark television show.

Anyway, this closes out most of the big plot threads from Lemire’s time on the series.

The only real highlight of this is the artwork. Andrea Sorrentino has a real talent for capturing action in a unique and refreshing way. This guy should get more work on action heavy titles from the major publishers.

In the end, the Jeff Lemire run was a disappointment for me, especially after I heard people rave about it for a few years.

While it sounds like I’m being hard on this, it isn’t terrible. It’s decent, for sure, but it’s hardly as iconic as the hardcore Lemire fans claim.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other story arcs in the Jeff Lemire run on Green Arrow.

Comic Review: Dark Nights: Metal

Published: June 12th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Greg Capullo

DC Comics, 204 Pages

Review:

I didn’t read this as it came out. I also was much more frugal about how much I spent on comics at the time. I’m less frugal now, as I’m spending more time reviewing them. And to be honest, while this is $30 for the collected edition at my local comic shop, I found this on a brief Comixology sale for $5.99. So at that price, I figured I’d give it a go. If I ended up really liking it, I would’ve gone back to buy the single issues. But I didn’t really like it all that much. I’ll explain.

To start, I typically like Scott Snyder’s writing, especially in regards to anything with Batman in it. As far as Greg Capullo goes, he is one of my favorite artists of the last few decades. So seeing them reunite for this was definitely a selling point, even if what I knew about the project’s story didn’t peak my interest.

The biggest problem with Metal is the same problem with most mega events in comics, it is chock full of so many characters that the plot loses fluidity and the story seems to placate more to wedging in as many cameos as possible, as opposed to keeping the train on the rails.

This wasn’t a bad idea for a story but it should have been kept fairly simple. People just kept showing up on nearly every page, though, and it becomes distracting. New twists and turns are thrown in as often as characters and this just loses its focus. It also introduces a whole horde of villains, most of whom will just be one-offs in this story anyway. But this reads more like a sketchbook than a coherent story. What I mean by that, is that this feels like Capullo trying to fit in every cool design that he wasn’t able to wedge into Spawn throughout his run on the book in the ’90s.

Another thing I didn’t like was how wordy this was. While there are good action scenes, sometimes these characters felt like they weren’t surrounded by villains but instead, were surrounded by word balloons, trying to wedge their way into the panels and asphyxiate the characters. The word balloons were the real villains of the story. At least, that should be a twist whenever this gets a sequel.

I did like how the ending looked into the future as a way to tell you what stories would be coming out from DC Comics over the following year. But, at the same time, this was disappointing to some degree, as a main reason why I picked this up was to see the introduction of DC’s “New Age of Heroes”. I always see mentions that this is where they debuted but their appearance here is limited to one panel where we see into the future.

Anyway, this at least kept my attention over the six issues, even if they felt like twelve due to the dialogue and having so much detail to drink in. I wouldn’t say that this is a waste of time and I can see where this will be a lot of people’s cup of tea. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, really. But I also don’t regret reading it simply because I liked seeing Capullo have fun and get really creative with the art and character design.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other DC Comics mega event of the last decade or so.