Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Moloch

Published: November 7th, 2012 – December 19th, 2012
Written by: John Higgins, J. Michael Straczynski
Art by: John Higgins, Eduardo Risso, Trish Mulvihill
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 52 Pages

Review:

I’ve finally gotten to the end of the Before Watchmen series. They didn’t need to be read in a specific order, so I started with the ones that I really wanted to read and then worked my way through the rest of them. I actually didn’t even know there was one for Moloch, as it was tacked on to the end of the volume that collected the Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan’s stories.

So this was kind of a pleasant surprise, as I wasn’t expecting Moloch to be given any sort of character development beyond how small his role was in the original Watchmen.

This, like the other volumes, delves right into Moloch’s backstory and gives him a good origin. You understand why he is the way he is and how he became a criminal and eventually was used by Ozymandias, who exploited his desire to reform.

I really liked Matt Frewer’s portrayal of Moloch in the Watchmen movie and if they were ever going to adapt the Before Watchmen series into a live action format, I’d love to see him get to return to tell this story. In fact, I didn’t much care about Moloch until I saw Frewer play him, giving him more life than the original comic did.

And that’s also what I liked about this story, is that it gives the character merit and a purpose. I’ve yet to read Doomsday Clock, which is a Wathcmen sequel, but I hope aspects of this story carry over into that.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan

Published: August 22nd, 2012 – February 27th, 2013
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski, Len Wein, John Higgins
Art by: John Higgins, Adam Hughes, Laura Martin
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 103 Pages

Review:

I’m almost through all of these Before Watchmen collections. While they’ve all been pretty good, this is one of the ones that fell just a bit short for me.

I still enjoyed it but it was slow and just wasn’t as interesting as the origins of some of the other characters. But Dr. Manhattan, as a a literal god, isn’t that interesting of a character.

My hopes for this were high though, as I’ve typically dug the comics written by J. Michael Straczynski and this also had the assistance of Len Wein and John Higgins, who did a lot of the art.

The problem with this story is that it didn’t feel like it had enough meat and potatoes to fill up four issues. But I guess they wanted to give Dr. Manhattan a story that was long enough to be equal to the other main Watchmen characters.

This was just lacking the depth and the intrigue I got from some of the better stories like Silk Spectre, The Comedian and Rorschach’s.

Still, for the Watchmen completist and for those who want to understand the characters better, this is certainly not a waste of time.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Nite Owl

Published: June 27th, 2012 – December 26th, 2012
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski, Len Wein
Art by: Joe Kubert, John Higgins, Bill Sienkiewicz
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 110 Pages

Review:

I’ve only got a few of these Before Watchmen stories left but, for the most part, it’s been a fun ride so far, as this series has added a lot of context and depth to these characters. And while I was initially against this series when it was announced, I’m actually glad that it was made and was superbly handled by the creative teams involved.

The Nite Owl story is no different and this is one of the better ones. It focuses on Nite Owl as the title implies but it also has a lot of its focus on Rorschach and his history and relationship with Nite Owl.

Written by J. Michael Straczynski, who penned one of my favorite Thor runs, as well as the great Len Wein, we are given a story that understands these complex characters and presents them in a new way with great respect for the source material. It’s a rare thing to see modern comics have respect for the foundation and layers that have been built up before this decade.

The art in this is damn good too and it goes to show that DC Comics were really putting their best people on these books.

While these have been criticized as being cheap cash-in attempts, I don’t see it that way. DC wanted to do more with these characters that they own and they wanted to set up a richer mythos going forward, which would eventually lead to the Doomsday Clock event that merges the Watchmen universe with the regular DC canon.

I think fans of the original Wathcmen will always be split on whether or not these modern stories should exist but I think that they’ve certainly justified their existence.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Documentary Review: Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle (2013)

Original Run: October 8th, 2013 – October 15th, 2013
Directed by: Michael Kantor
Written by: Michael Kantor, Laurence Maslon, J. David Spurlock
Music by: Christopher Rife
Cast: Liev Schreiber (host), Mark Waid, Stan Lee, Adam West, Joe Quesada, Grant Morrision, Lynda Carter, Jeph Loeb, J. Michael Straczynski, Geoff Johns, Zack Snyder, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Tim Daly

Ghost Light Films, National Endowment for the Humanities, PBS, 3 Episodes, 55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

A few years ago, PBS did this three part documentary series on the history of comic books. It was hosted by Liev Schreiber, which was really cool, and featured a ton of creators, as well as notable celebrities who have played some of the iconic comic book characters in television and film.

The history of comic books is incredibly vast. Narrowing down what to cover in three episodes, each of which ran just under an hour, couldn’t have been easy but the people behind this did a good job of focusing on the important stuff. I wish there was more time given to the challenges of the Comics Code Authority but that’s probably boring subject matter to most modern fans.

Superheroes spends a lot of time talking about the creation of Superman, Batman and the early heroes that would be at the forefront of DC Comics. They then spent some time talking about Stan Lee and his creations, which helped to put Marvel on the map. To my surprise, even though they didn’t spend much time on it, they covered some of the story that lead to the formation of Image Comics in the ’90s, which was the biggest thing in comic books during my most formative years as a comics fan.

I wish that this would have been bigger than it was. Three episodes just weren’t enough. This could have easily been one of those 10-part Ken Burns style documentaries with two hour episodes and they still wouldn’t have run out of material. I’m hoping that someone does do a comic industry documentary like that at some point; it’s long overdue.

But at least we live in a time where this wonderful medium isn’t considered low brow shit. It’s become a respected art form and format for storytelling. A lot of that has to do with the success of comic book movies the last few decades but at least fans don’t have to feel like they need to hide their fandom when out in public anymore.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics and recent comic book documentaries Chris Claremont’s X-Men and The Image Revolution.

 

Comic Review: Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham

Published: March, 2007
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Art by: Mike Wieringo, John Severin, Nick Dragotta, Skottie Young, Jim Mahfood

Marvel Comics, 25 Pages

Review:

I read this while eating a ham and cheese omelet and a side of bacon at the diner by my house. I kind of feel guilty in retrospect but I guess it helped me have a greater appreciation for Spider-Ham in some weird, twisted way.

Spider-Ham is a parody character but his best stories are the ones that cross over with the real Marvel heroes. This one issue book is a parody of the events of Civil War but it features the real Captain America, Iron Man and Doctor Strange, who has the largest cameo.

Spider-Ham is a little disturbed over the fact that he doesn’t have thought bubbles like the comics of old. This is to poke fun at the modern style of comics that usually present inner dialogue in boxes. Spider-Ham just wants his old school thought bubbles, so he goes on a quest in search of them.

Our porky hero crosses paths with the Avengers battling each other and finds himself sucked into the void with Doctor Strange, who was unaware that Spider-Ham was right next to him when he cast a spell. Spider-Ham then finds himself bouncing around different realities and one is even a parody of Apocalypse Now. In the end, we get a hilarious and glorious twist.

This is an incredibly quick read and a fun one at that. I love Spider-Ham when he pops up in stuff and reading his own comic, which I haven’t done since I was a kid in the ’80s was a blast.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Amazing Spider-Ham: 25th Anniversary Special and Spider-Gwen, Vol. 0: Most Wanted?

Film Review: Thor (2011)

Release Date: April 17th, 2011 (Sydney premiere)
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne, J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Protosevich
Based on: The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Music by: Patrick Doyle
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Colm Feore, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, Jaimie Alexander, Clark Gregg, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner

Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, 114 Minutes

Review:

“I never wanted the throne, I only ever wanted to be your equal!” – Loki

As I am reworking my way through all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films in preparation for Avengers: Infinity War, in about a month, I was really looking forward to revisiting the first Thor.

While I thought that Thor: Ragnarok was maybe the best Marvel film to date, a part of me wanted to go back and watch the two Thor pictures before it. Sure, I knew they wouldn’t be as good as Ragnarok but I absolutely adore Hemsworth’s Thor more than any other hero in the larger Avengers franchise. And yeah, I’ve been a massive Robert Downey, Jr. fan my entire life.

It’s not just Hemsworth’s Thor that makes these films a really fun experience though. A lot of credit has to go to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who is, by far, the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Granted, he’s not a total villain and may be more of an ally in the films now but he was certainly an evil force in the early films. No other villain has had his presence, his charisma and his longevity. Every other villain is essentially a one-off castaway. There’s a reason as to why Hiddleston doesn’t simply disappear like all the others.

The Thor movies also have an incredible ensemble of people. But then they also have Natalie Portman, who I’ve never been much of a fan of and frankly, she didn’t really enjoy doing these movies anyway and more or less didn’t want to do the second one and got herself written out of the third. But the loss of Portman also caused Kat Dennings to be written out. Really, she was more entertaining and probably would’ve worked better as Thor’s girl because the banter between the characters would have been more fun than the boring and lazy Portman.

Anyway, we see Thor banished from Asgard because he pissed off Odin, his father. He has to prove himself and his worth in order to be allowed back into his home realm. He meets Jane, a scientist, and her crew. Thor’s first mission is to retrieve his magic hammer, Mjolnir. He then must fight Destroyer and eventually confront his brother Loki, who has deceived him throughout the events of the story.

We get the return of Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, as well as a cameo by Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury and the debut of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

This feels like a smaller film than what Marvel puts out now. But I like the smaller feel. The world of heroes hadn’t yet expanded to where it would, a few films after this one. This is a cozy origin tale and really is a stark contrast to what we would all see in Thor: Ragnarok. Plus, the Asgard side of the story is broad enough to not feel like you have cabin fever sitting in a small desert town the entire movie.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Thor: Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok. Also, The Avengers, as that’s the next time that Thor would show up.

Film Review: World War Z (2013)

Release Date: June 2nd, 2013 (Empire Cinema premiere)
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Matt Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, J. Michael Straczynski
Based on: World War Z by Max Brooks
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, Peter Capaldi, David Morse, Ruth Negga

Skydance Productions, Hemisphere Media Capital, GK Films, Plan B Entertainment, 2DUX², Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

“Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.” – Jurgen Warmbrunn

I didn’t have much urge to see World War Z when it came out. The zombie craze has been out of control and nothing about it seemed too terribly interesting. Granted, the zombies ran with lightning speed, had the behavior of ants trying to reach food and would destroy themselves in the process of hunting humans. Still, we had fast suicidal zombies with Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake over a decade ago.

While there wasn’t seemingly anything new here, I did enjoy the film. Brad Pitt knocked it out of the park and the appearance of Peter Capaldi (the next Doctor on Doctor Who) added an extra level of awesomeness.

The plot was okay enough, as Brad Pitt had to travel the zombie infested world, figuring out what the cause of the outbreak was and how to stop it. The conclusion doesn’t quite answer the question but it is still as happy as a happy ending can get in a film where practically everyone is eaten.

The film is intense, which kept me engaged and the added mix of different geographical locals brought some contrast to each sequence throughout the film. The zombie outbreak on the airplane though, that’s probably the high point.

This isn’t what I would call a great movie by any means. It wasn’t very inventive and didn’t bring much of anything new to the zombie genre other than world travel. I still enjoyed it though.