Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Clayface

Published: August 15th, 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 318 Pages

Review:

I’ve read a bunch of these Batman Arkham collections and I’m glad DC Comics is still putting one out a few times per year. If you remember those old collections like The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told or The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, these are similar and are always focused on one character: a Batman villain.

Now I say that these are focused on one villain but this installment is a bit different, as it features Clayface, which there have been multiple versions of over the years and all of them are pretty unique.

What I really loved about this is that it gives us the first appearances of every Clayface in regular Batman canon. Hell, it even gives us the story of the Mud Pack, which was a villain team comprised of multiple Clayfaces.

The Clayface that most people are familiar with is the original, Basil Karlo. He was the one featured in Batman: The Animated Series in the ’90s and has monopolized Clayface’s comic book appearances since.

However, I loved seeing all the different versions here. My favorite story and now my favorite Clayface is the third version a.k.a. Preston Payne. I knew of him but never got to read his debut until now. His look and armored suit were badass and his story was fantastic thanks to the great Len Wein. As much as I like Karlo, I’d love to see Payne make a real comeback.

Overall, this was a pretty cool collection. Most of these are stories I’ve never read but they also gave me better clarity on the bizarre history of the Clayface moniker.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections, as well as Clayface-centric stories.

Film Review: The Return of Swamp Thing (1989)

Release Date: May 12th, 1989
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Written by: Neil Cuthbert, Grant Morris
Based on: Swamp Thing by Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Chuck Cirino
Cast: Louis Jourdan, Heather Locklear, Sarah Douglas, Dick Durock, Monique Gabrielle

Lightyear Entertainment, Batfilm Productions, Millimeter Films, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Immortality? Yuck! What did you do, sell your soul to the devil?” – Abby Arcane, “More like a lease with an option to buy.” – Dr. Anton Arcane

A friend of mine thought I was harsh on the first Swamp Thing and its director, Wes Craven. But my opinions are my opinions. He was also confused as to why I remembered this one more fondly.

Well, having now seen it again, the first time in about three decades, I still have the same opinion. While this is far from a classic and a pretty mediocre comic book adaptation, it’s still a fun, stupid, popcorn movie.

What makes this one work better for me, which seems to be why others dislike it, is the added comedy element. It’s not trying to take itself too seriously. This film is pretty self-aware, so it hams it up.

I think that the first one was made in an effort to be taken seriously. Craven has only successfully achieved that with the first A Nightmare On Elm Street, his reinvention New Nightmare and his voodoo thriller, The Serpent and the Rainbow.

Jim Wynorski, this film’s director, seems like the just wanted to have a good time making something somewhat lighthearted and goofy in a charming way. The scenes with the kids in this movie are hysterical and they’re more brilliant than anything in the first flick.

I also like that this is Dick Durock’s second time playing the title character and he seems a lot more comfortable and is allowed to let his personality come through. I also liked the return of Louis Jourdan’s Dr. Anton Arcane, even though he got killed in the first picture. This is a wacky, over the top, sci-fi movie… so why couldn’t he come back?

The supporting cast was also decent. Sure, the acting here shouldn’t be used as an example for students in drama class but everyone in the movie looked like they were having a ball and there were three pretty enchanting women in this between Sarah Douglas, Monique Gabrielle and Heather Locklear, who was surprisingly the one I found least attractive. Sarah Douglas has had my heart since Superman II and Monique Gabrielle became the woman of my dreams once I saw her shooting a machine gun.

In conclusion, I guess I understand why most people like the original more but fuck it, this is a lot more fun, has extra babes, extra cheese, extra charm, better effects and two kid actors that should’ve got their own spinoff movie trying to photograph cryptids in the swamp.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the first Swamp Thing movie, as well as the TV show that came just after this film.

Film Review: Swamp Thing (1982)

Release Date: February 19th, 1982
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Based on: Swamp Thing by Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise, Dick Durock, David Hess

Swampfilms, Embassy Pictures, 91 Minutes (theatrical cut), 93 Minutes (DVD), 89 Minutes (alternate DVD cut)

Review:

“A man who loves, gives hostages to fortune.” – Dr. Anton Arcane

Other than A Nightmare On Elm Street and The Serpent and the Rainbow, I’m not a big fan of Wes Craven and actually think he’s one of the most overrated horror directors of all-time for a guy considered to be a legend.

Sure, that statement probably pisses off some fans of ’80s and ’90s horror but would you rather I lie?

Swamp Thing is another example of why I don’t like Craven.

It’s boring, dopey and looks like shit. And frankly, Swamp Thing is such a rich and cool character that this should have been a really easy movie to make even with a scant budget.

Hell, you’ve got Ray Wise, Adrienne Barbeau, Louis Jourdan and Dick Durock, who would at least become a great Swamp Thing once the television show debuted in 1990.

I mean, this motion picture had the benefit of fascinating and marvelous source material, as well as a more than capable cast. But it just kind of sucks and the few things that should be somewhat endearing just don’t hit their mark in a way that lets them rise above the muck. Hell, I’m a sucker for nostalgia, even stuff I didn’t necessarily like from my childhood but revisiting this Craven flick was something I kind of put off and dreaded. But I had a friend that wanted to revisit it, so I got lured in.

And with that being said, many consider the sequel to be worse but I’m actually kind of looking forward to rewatching that one because from memory, there was more that I liked in that one.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel and the original Swamp Thing television show.

TV Review: Swamp Thing (2019)

Original Run: May 31st, 2019 – current
Created by: Gary Dauberman, Mark Verheiden
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by: various
Based on: Swamp Thing by Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Crystal Reed, Virginia Madsen, Andy Bean, Derek Mears, Henderson Wade, Maria Sten, Jeryl Prescott, Jennifer Beals, Will Patton, Kevin Durand, Ian Ziering

Big Shoe Productions, Atomic Monster Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 10 Episodes, 52-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

At the time of this writing, only two episodes have aired and the show has already been cancelled. Honestly, that’s kind of infuriating, as this is a damn good show from just the small sample size I’ve seen, thus far.

Where Titans got off to a pretty rough start, between Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing, it looks like the DC Universe streaming service has quickly righted the ship and is making some damn good television.

At this point, I’m pretty sure that the service is in serious trouble and it is close to coming to an end, as it isn’t selling enough subscriptions and this solid show, only the service’s third, had its production closed down early, midway through its tenth out of the planned fifteen episodes. Additionally, it was then cancelled just after the pilot aired. Then DC Universe claimed it had something to do with North Carolina taxes, the State of North Carolina said that wasn’t true and then someone who worked on this show said that Warner Bros. (DC’s parent company) was sold to AT&T and they didn’t have faith in Swamp Thing.

Whatever the reason, DC Universe has been managed like a bastard child and everything surrounding it seems like a big corporate clusterfuck.

So I was really looking forward to this show, as I love the character and have fond memories of the Swamp Thing movies of the ’80s, as well as the old television show that used to air on the USA Network, back when I was in middle school.

Additionally, this show assembled a solid cast with Crystal Reed, who I thought was stellar as Sofia Falcone on Gotham, as well as Derek Mears as Swamp Thing, Virginia Madsen, Will Patton and Jennifer Beals. Also, a nice surprise in episode two is the addition of Ian Ziering, as the man that becomes another DC hero, Blue Devil.

What really makes this show work is that it commits itself to being straight horror, at least in these earliest episodes. We have some scenes that are very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing and it is actually quite glorious and impressive.

The show also is very dramatic but thus far, it’s all pretty good, the story is compelling and I’m already invested in the lives of the main characters. So much so, that it’s kind of depressing that I will only ever see ten episodes.

It’s hard to do a proper, thorough review and I usually wait until a new show has at least given us a full season but maybe if more people express their excitement and enthusiasm over this show, more people will give it a shot and maybe, just maybe, Warner Bros. could find a way to save it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other DC Universe shows: Doom Patrol and Titans.

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.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre

Published: July 13th, 2012 – November 28th, 2012
Written by: Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, John Higgins, Len Wein
Art by: Amanda Conner, John Higgins, Paul Mounts
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 126 Pages

Review:

This wasn’t one of the Before Watchmen books that I was anticipating when compared to the ones featuring the characters I like more: The Comedian and Rorschach. But man, I was pleasantly surprised by this and that has a lot to do with the writing.

Silk Spectre’s story was penned by Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, John Higgins and Len Wein – a pretty solid team. But a lot of times, this many writers can create a clusterfuck. This wasn’t. It had a nice flow to it and it made Silk Spectre a richer character than she was if all you’ve ever read with her is the original Watchmen.

I also really dug Amanda Conner, John Higgins and Paul Mounts art. It fit well with the story and did the proper job of reflecting the era where this tale primarily takes place.

As much as I like Alan Moore’s original Wathcmen, this gives both Silk Spectre characters a deeper exploration and in fact, makes them more interesting. It’s also cool seeing how the Comedian is involved in a very pivotal moment in the younger Silk Spectre’s life.

This story is kind of tragic but it helps build more context to the character and her life. Granted, this wasn’t written by the character’s creator but I don’t think that it, in any way, diminishes Alan Moore’s overall vision. And this, like most of these Before Watchmen comics, seems to truly respect the source material while building off of it in a great way.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.