Vids I Dig 263: Comic Tropes: The Themes Explored In ‘Batman: The Long Halloween’

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: This episode analyzes the themes found in Batman: The Long Halloween which include family, duality, and balance. The central engine of the story is a murder mystery and trying to figure out who is Holiday, a disguised killer who attacks the mob. The book works on a number of levels and subverts some expectations by using Batman as the foil, but not the protagonist. This is the definitive story about Harvey Dent, aka Two Face.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Age of Apocalypse – The Complete Epic

Published: 1995-1996
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, John Francis Moore, Mark Waid, Warren Ellis, Fabian Nicieza, Larry Hama, Howard Mackie, Terry Kavanagh
Art by: Roger Cruz, Terry Dodson, Steve Epting, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Carlos Pacheco, Joe Madureira, Tony Daniel, Salvador Larroca, Chris Bachalo, Ken Lashley, Steve Skroce, Ian Churchill, Joe Bennett

Marvel Comics, 1462 Pages

Review:

I’ve really only heard great things about The Age of Apocalypse storyline since it started back in 1995, an era where I wasn’t really reading comics for awhile, except for Dark Horse’s Star Wars stuff.

In fact, the last major X-Men related event that I had read before this was X-Cutioner’s Song, a pretty good epic. But shortly after that, I got pretty burnt out once the top Marvel guys went off to form Image and then those comics were constantly hindered by delays and irregular schedules.

Based off of all the praise I heard, I always wanted to read this but it was such a massive story, spread over multiple collected volumes that I never really wanted to fork out the over $100 it would cost to buy the whole shebang. So, all these years later, I took advantage of a massive X-Men sale on Comixology and got the entire saga with its prelude for about $20.

Now that I’ve read it, I’m glad I only spent $20 because like Game of Thrones, all my friends and all the critics lied to me about how great this was. It’s not, it’s a clusterfuck of biblical proportions showcasing a lot of the things that were wrong with mid-’90s comic book art from the major publishers.

I’ll start with the art and just come out and say that this was mostly an eyesore to look at. The biggest reason was the colors, which relied so heavily on what I assume are digitally created gradients and overly vibrant colors that this was like staring into the asshole of a tropical fruit salad for hours. Everything is too busy, every single issue collected is made to be overly grandiose and if everything is larger than life and overly vivid, then that becomes the norm and thus, makes everything kind of boring.

Additionally, there is such a mix of different artistic styles that it becomes jarring as these collections jump from issue to issue every twenty pages or so. Some of the artists had great pencils but many of them illustrated in a style that didn’t feel like Marvel and instead felt like the artists were trying to emulate indie comics from Image and Valiant. Besides, the stuff that was illustrated well, ended up being wrecked by the primitive gradients and crazy colors that looked like a giallo film puked all over a box of Prismacolor markers.

When it comes to the narrative side of this, that’s also a mess.

This suffers from trying to be way more ambitious than it needed to be. The whole story is comprised of about seven or eight different subplots that are and aren’t intertwined. Some of them merge towards the end into the bigger story but some stuff just happens within this new timeline. But the story jumps around so much that it makes the whole thing hard to follow as a singular body of work. This is the same problem I have, right now, with all the new X-Men related titles that are tied to a bigger narrative but don’t feel connected as much as they should. But this is what happens when you have a half dozen different titles and different writers, all of whom want to explore different territory in their own way while being trapped within a common framework.

In fact, the only plot I actually enjoyed was the one that dealt with the characters that aren’t tied to the X-Men.

There was a two issue miniseries called X-Universe, which focused on what other Marvel characters were up to during this event. We check in on this timeline’s version of Gwen Stacy, some of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom and a few others. I found this more interesting and it showed me that this alternate timeline could provide the right sort of environment for cool and refreshing takes on old characters.

While I should probably feel the same way about all the X-Men related characters and their stories, it is hard to focus on any of them because of how this jumps around so much. When I got to the non-X-Men characters, it felt like a nice break from the X-clusterfuck I was pushing myself through.

Ultimately, I was really disappointed in this. I kept powering through it because I was hoping that all these subplots and characters would unify into something coherent that clicked at the end but that didn’t happen. We eventually get to a resolution but it’s not all that satisfying.

On a side note (and spoiler alert): the way that Magneto kills Apocalypse is pretty f’n badass.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossovers of the ’80s through ’00s.

Documentary Review: Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)

Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Hayley Atwell, Shane Black, Kenneth Branagh, Dominic Cooper, Vin Diesel, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Jon Favreau, Kevin Feige, Clark Gregg, James Gunn, Chris Hardwick, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Joe Johnston, Louis Leterrier, Jeph Loeb, Anthony Mackie, George R.R. Martin, Tom Morello, Bobby Moynihan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pratt, Joe Quesada, Robert Redford, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Ming-Na Wen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, Edgar Wright (uncredited)

ABC Studios, Disney, Marvel, 42 Minutes

Review:

After watching the beefy but solid Star Wars documentary Empire of Dreams, I noticed that Disney+ also featured a similar made-for-TV documentary about the making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I figured I’d check it out, as it originally aired in 2014, on the cusp of the MCU reaching its peak.

Unfortunately, this isn’t as compelling as Empire of Dreams and it plays more like a Marvel produced production used mainly to pimp themselves out and market Captain America: Winter Solider and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. But I get it, this played on ABC, which like Marvel, is owned by Disney.

It’s still an informative piece with a lot of insight into the making of the first Iron Man movie, which opened the floodgates for the rest of the MCU.

It also expands beyond that and delves a little bit into each movie up to the then still in-production Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, I think that this was the first real peek into the Guardians of the Galaxy production.

The best part about this short feature is the interviews with the stars and filmmakers who helped bring this universe to life. I especially liked hearing the enthusiasm that Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau had with the early Iron Man pictures.

Overall, this isn’t a must watch but it’s worth your time if you are a big MCU fan.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other filmmaking documentaries about blockbusters. Empire of Dreams, immediately comes to mind.

Comic Review: Vampirella Master Series – Omnibus

Published: September 20th, 2017
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Mike Carey, Warren Ellis, Jeph Loeb, Mark Millar, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, James Robinson
Art by: Amanda Conner, Gary Frank, Joe Jusko, Louis LaChance, Mike Lilly, Mike Mayhew, Tim Sale, Mark Texeira

Dynamite Entertainment, Harris Comics, 545 Pages

Review:

I’ve kind of dug Vampirella my entire life, even if I hadn’t read many of her stories until more recently. She always looked like a cool, badass character and I’ve always enjoyed horror, especially vampire fiction.

Being that this is the 50th anniversary of the character and because I’m stoked for the new series that Christopher Priest is writing, I wanted to dive deep into Vampirella lore.

This gigantic omnibus was put out recently by Dynamite but it collects stories from the ’90s when Vampirella was being published by the now defunct Harris Comics.

What makes this collection special, is that it is a compilation of Vampirella stories from a ton of A-list creators in a time when comics were allowed to be harder, sexier, edgier and darker: all things that make Vampirella who she is.

Overall, most of this was entertaining. The only low point was the Kurt Busiek story because it was a bit slow when compared to the pacing of the others. I did like Busiek’s tale overall but it was also the largest and kind of took the wind out of the sails for me.

I wish that some of the other stories were larger or expanded on more, though. There were a lot of cool ideas tossed around and a lot of what was considered Vampirella canon was experimented on and retconned. Typically, I’m not big on retcons but with Vampirella having a rocky history, as far as being published regularly and with any sort of long lasting narrative, it doesn’t bother me. Plus, by the ’90s, a little reinvention wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In the end, I was glad to have finally read these stories and they’re certainly better than what was the standard in the early to mid-’90s.

I also loved most of the art.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella stories, as well as comics featuring Red Sonja and Dejah Thoris.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Blue

Published: July 27th, 2011
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

Marvel Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

Other than the Hulk one, I’ve really loved the color themed series of titles that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel. This is the last of the four that I have read and am now reviewing.

Spider-Man: Blue was damn good. It really captured the spirit of classic Spidey and even though it had a good amount of action and superhero fun, the focal point of this story was Peter Parker’s love for Gwen Stacy but also his blossoming love for his eventual wife, Mary Jane Watson.

This throws a good array of villains at the hero and all of them serve more than a superficial purpose. Kraven the Hunter is the big bad by the end of the story and his threat and how it grows throughout the pages of this miniseries flows really well with the narrative surrounding Peter Parker’s personal life.

Loeb and Sale are just a spectacular team and their talents are on full display here. While I still prefer their Batman work, all of which are real classics in the medium, these Marvel books are some of the best works to come out of the publisher in the last decade or so.

These stories understand the characters, their motivations and the art style makes them feel like you are going back to yesteryear.

Spider-Man: Blue is a fine read and it may even hit you in the feels.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.

Documentary Review: Jack Kirby: Story Teller (2007)

Release Date: June 5th, 2007
Cast: Neal Adams, Jim Lee, Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, John Romita Sr., Alex Ross, Tim Sale, Walter Simonson, Bruce Timm, Len Wein, Barry Windsor-Smith, Marv Wolfman

Marvel Studios, Sparkhill Production, 20th Century Fox, 64 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been watching through a lot of comic book documentaries on YouTube, lately. I came across this one that discusses the work and legacy of Jack Kirby.

I’m not sure if this was made as a special feature on a DVD, as it was produced by Marvel and 20th Century Fox. Maybe it was included on one of the Fantastic Four DVD releases a decade ago.

Anyway, if you appreciate and admire the great work of Jack Kirby, this is a really engaging documentary.

It is rather short, considering the long career of the man but it does cover a lot of ground. It also interviews a lot of other comic book greats that worked with Kirby or were inspired by him.

This feels like a quickly thrown together low budget fluff piece and if I’m being honest, Jack Kirby deserves a proper documentary or a real biopic. As much as this does talk about how much Jack did, I still don’t feel like it captures the real importance and scale of it all.

But this is still a worthwhile watch because there really isn’t anything better… yet.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other comic book industry biographical documentaries.

Comic Review: Captain America: White

Published: February 17th, 2016
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

Marvel Comics, 150 Pages

Review:

I’ve really been enjoying these color themed Marvel books by the dynamic duo of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.

What made this one really cool was that it was a Captain America story from World War II, which featured Bucky, a slew of other heroes in cameos as well as Red Skull as it’s big baddie.

While I’ve always enjoyed Sale’s art style, his use of colors and inks in this book make it feel like it’s a comic from the era it was set in. Well, at least visually. The narrative style by Loeb feels modern, even if the setting isn’t. But it all comes together quite nicely and this was a stupendous read.

The central focus of the story looks at the relationship between Cap and Bucky. Unlike the films, Bucky was the smaller, weak sidekick and not the badass that Cap looked up to. In this story, Bucky looked up to Cap and was always trying to please him like a little brother searching for approval. You really felt the emotional weight of their relationship and what they mean to one another.

The story is action packed and there are several high points. The biggest for me, though, is the final showdown that sees Cap try to save Paris and Bucky, who is held captive by Red Skull.

Hands down, this is solid work from Loeb and Sale and one of my favorite Captain America stories ever put to paper.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.