Comic Review: Daredevil: Back In Black, Vol. 2: Supersonic

Published: September 14th, 2016
Written by: Charles Soule, Roger McKenzie
Art by: Matteo Buffagni, Vanesa R. Del Ray, Goran Sudzuka, Bill Sienkiewicz (cover)

Marvel Comics, 124 Pages

Review:

While I’ve praised Charles Soule’s run on Daredevil, this early stuff isn’t working for me.

I came into Soule’s run towards the end of it and I really liked the last few arcs. Here, though, he is bogged down by the writer before him, who made it so that no one knew Daredevil’s secret identity. It’s a weird plot device that comes up constantly in this volume and it’s pretty annoying.

This collection is made up of multiple short story arcs.

The first deals with Elektra showing up, looking for a daughter no one knew she had. Apparently, after about 50 pages, the daughter angle was a trick and the story ended up being completely pointless.

The second arc is all about Matt Murdock playing Texas Hold’em in Macao. You don’t know what his scheme is but it ends with him and Spider-Man hunting down a briefcase. It’s pretty dull and the dialogue was bad.

The third part of this scant 124 page collection is the Daredevil annual from that year, which has a short story revolving around Echo and another that pits Daredevil against the Gladiator.

Reading this felt like a complete waste of time. I’m sure that these stories were there to plant seeds for later plot developments but this feels like total filler.

Additionally, the art in the Elektra story was bad. And then in the Texas Hold’em tale, there is a scene where Spidey and Daredevil go parasailing behind a hydrofoil. Except they aren’t using parachutes. Um… you have to use a parachute, otherwise parasailing doesn’t work. Growing up in Florida, I understand the simple physics of parasailing. The human body is not a natural parachute no matter how fast the boat is going.

I wanted to read through the earlier Soule Daredevil stuff but man, this really destroyed my motivation.

Also, I hate the black Daredevil suit.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Charles Soule story arcs on Daredevil.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Back In Black, Vol. 1: Chinatown

Published: May 11th, 2016
Written by: Charles Soule
Art by: Ron Garney

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

I really came to like Charles Soule’s run on Daredevil towards the end. But that’s also where I picked it up, after having taken a few years off. So I wanted to go back and start from the beginning and build back up towards the end, so I could re-read the conclusion, The Death of Daredevil, with more context.

This first story arc was just okay. It didn’t blow me away and I wasn’t familiar with the bad guy, which doesn’t really matter because his whole story is basically wrapped up by the end of this.

We get to meet a character named Blindspot, that works as a sort of sidekick in training to Daredevil. He’s the second Marvel character with that name but this version was created by Charles Soule. He’s a gymnast from China and an illegal immigrant with a mother that’s tied to the story’s villain, Tenfingers. Blindspot’s story is fairly interesting but I’ll also have to see where things lead, as you barely get to know him here.

The one thing that really stands out about this comic book is the art of Ron Garney. It blends a very gritty, neo-noir style with almost Hong Kong cinema influences. I really like it, as well as how he uses vibrant colors, a heavy chiaroscuro style contrast and some half tone shading.

This is a good looking comic but the story didn’t hit the mark for me. I’m assuming that this will continue to build into something more substantial and meaningful as it rolls on beyond this volume. As I said in the beginning, I was a fan of Soule’s Daredevil work in the later stories.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Charles Soule story arcs on Daredevil.

Film Review: Red Rock West (1993)

Release Date: May 14th, 1993 (Italy)
Directed by: John Dahl
Written by: John Dahl, Rick Dahl
Music by: William Olvis
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle, Timothy Carhart, J. T. Walsh, Dwight Yoakam, Robert Apel

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Propaganda Films, Roxie Releasing, 98 Minutes

Review:

“You must be Suzanne. You look pretty enough to eat.” – Lyle

John Dahl started out making neo-noir films in the late ’80s and early ’90s. This was the second one of three and comparing it to its predecessor, Kill Me Again, I’d say that the films are very consistent.

Two of the most intense actors of the last few decades, Nicolas Cage and Dennis Hopper, face off in this film and man, it is really entertaining to watch.

These are my favorite types of roles for Dennis Hopper. I love it when he’s a murderous psycho or just a twisted bastard in a neo-noir cinemascape. It is hard to watch him here and not have your mind make connections to his roles in The American Friend and Blue Velvet.

I thought the cast in this was pretty good, other than Lara Flynn Boyle. I’ve never really been keen on her, even though I know she was popular with a lot of filmgoers and Twin Peaks fans at the time. She just doesn’t work as a noir-esque femme fatale for me. I can’t really peg why but when I compare her to Joanne Whalley’s femme fatale in Dahl’s Kill Me Again, there is no comparisson. Whalley nailed the role, Boyle didn’t. Also, Whalley looked like a goddess, Boyle looked like a small town mayor’s wife. Sure, that may seem incredibly superficial but this is a femme fatale we’re talking about. The trope is the trope and here it wasn’t convincing.

Red Rock West seems a bit more refined than Dahl’s previous picture but I preferred the story of the first one better. This excels because of the scenes with Cage and Hopper playing off of one another. While I thought Val Kilmer and Michael Madsen also had a good rivalry in Kill Me Again, the two male leads here take the cake.

Overall, the two films are very similar and pretty much equal. Where one lacks, the other gains. It’s almost as if you could cherry pick the good bits of each and make one incredible movie out of them.

I can’t yet compare these two films to Dahl’s The Last Seduction, as I haven’t seen it yet. But it is on the docket and I’ll probably review it very soon.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: John Dahl’s other neo-noir films: Kill Me Again and The Last Seduction.

 

Documentary Review: The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics (2009)

Release Date: July 21st, 2009
Directed by: Eric Matthies
Cast: Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Zack Snyder, Gerard Way, Dave Gibbons, Len Wein

Eric Matthies Productions, Warner Bros., 29 Minutes

Review:

I believe that this was originally included on the DVD release of Watchmen back in 2009 but I never owned the original DVD so I’m not sure.

This documentary is very tied to the movie, however, as most of the interviews are with the actors from the film, as well as its director, Zack Snyder. But we also get to hear from some comic book personalities, such as Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, as well as Len Wein and Gerard Way.

Cast aside, this is not a documentary about the film adaptation, it is about the original comic book, which many consider to be one of the all-time masterpieces in comic book history. Carla Gugino even refers to this as the Citizen Kane of the comic book medium. She might not be wrong there and frankly, I’ve found few people that weren’t moved by Watchmen in some way.

This is a shorter documentary than it should be, as this great work deserves to be explored for more than 29 minutes. But still, it is informative and really gets into the messages within it, its philosophy, its style, the art and its cultural impact.

I’m not sure if there is a longer and more comprehensive documentary on the Watchmen comic but this is fairly satisfactory until one eventually gets made. Maybe HBO will do it, as they are now coming out with a Watchmen TV show.

If you love the comic, which you should, this is definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the 2009 Watchmen movie and other recent comic book documentaries.

Film Review: The Spirit (2008)

Also known as: Will Eisner’s The Spirit (poster title)
Release Date: December 25th, 2018
Directed by: Frank Miller
Written by: Frank Miller
Based on: The Spirit by Will Eisner
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Dan Lauria, Paz Vega, Jaime King, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson

OddLot Entertainment, Lionsgate, 103 Minutes

Review:

“I’m gonna kill you all kinds of dead.” – The Spirit

I really wanted to like this. I really did. But alas, it was as bad as everyone has said. That doesn’t mean it’s all bad but even the positives couldn’t save it. I’ll explain.

To start, I really liked the visuals for the most part. It’s very similar in style to Sin City. In fact, it feels like a spinoff of it, even though it has no real connection to it, other than the visual style and the director, Frank Miller, who directed some of the scenes in Sin City. However, in the previous film, Miller also played third fiddle behind all-stars Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.

The opening to this movie was really strong. The scenes of The Spirit running from rooftop to rooftop during the credits was fantastic. Initially, I also liked the score. It did, however, sound like it was trying really hard to channel the feel of Danny Elfman’s work on the 1989 Batman score.

That being said, the score did end up being a problem for me, though.

While it started off cloning Elfman, it was inconsistent throughout the picture. It would get jazzy at times, like it was trying to accent the noir look of the picture and then it seemed like it was mimicking Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western scores, primarily those used in the Sergio Leone films of the ’60s. The score just had multiple personality disorder and none of it seemed wholly originally, it just seemed like homages to other things that don’t necessarily fit well together.

Then there is the plot itself. I do like the origin story of The Spirit and how it ties to the villain, The Octopus. But apart from that, everything else seemed overly stylized, ridiculously hokey and nothing was fluid. The film felt like a bunch of scenes sewn together without any regard for pacing or a consistent tone.

Humor was used a lot in this movie and most of it just doesn’t work. Everyone feels like a caricature and therefore, is lacking any real depth. Without depth, you don’t care about them, can’t relate to them and don’t even find them to be all that interesting. Sure, The Octopus changes his look in nearly every scene and he usually looks cool but when doesn’t Samuel Jackson look cool? Also, when doesn’t Scarlett Johansson look stunning? Here, she always looks great but she delivers her lines like she’s dead. I don’t blame her for that, I blame Miller’s script and his direction.

The only actor I actually liked in this was Dan Lauria. His role here felt tailor made for his personality. But I’ve always loved Lauria since The Wonder Years and I thought it was cool seeing him essentially play the Commissioner Gordon of this movie, even if he felt more like Harvey Bullock.

The Spirit lures you in with its credit sequence and its overall look but after about twenty minutes, you grow tired and bored of it. The humor is bizarre, the tone is confusing, the music is distracting and the actors deliver their lines like they’re in a film that should be lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

It’s no wonder why there was never a sequel to this, even if the ending leaves things open for one.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: the Sin City and 300 films.

Film Review: Watchmen (2009)

Release Date: February 23rd, 2009 (London premiere)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: David Hayter, Alex Tse
Based on: Watchmen by Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore (uncredited)
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Stephen McHattie, Matt Frewer

Warner Bros. Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lawrence Gordon Productions, 162 Minutes, 186 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 215 Minutes (Ultimate Cut)

Review:

“None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me!” – Rorschach

When Watchmen first came out, I was super excited just based off of the trailer alone and having just come off the greatness that was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. However, once seeing the film, I was pretty disappointed. Because of that, I never watched it again until now, ten years later, shy of two months.

I really wanted to give this another shot but if I was going to watch it, it had to be the Ultimate Cut. I needed to see the director’s complete vision and adaptation of the comic, which I have loved since first picking it up in the early ’90s.

I don’t know if it’s because I finally watched the Ultimate Cut or because all those years ago, I saw this three hour epic at a midnight showing and grew dead tired but this was not the same experience. This was something much greater and even closer to what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ great comic was supposed to be. I’ve been hard on Zack Snyder before and while this isn’t perfection, it’s still a stupendous adaptation that hits the right notes narrative wise and tonally.

I think that one major issue I had with it initially, is that it is almost a panel to shot recreation of the comic. I thought that it should have taken a bit more creative license but seeing the complete version, I’m glad that they didn’t and my initial assessment was wrong.

It’s been so long since I saw the theatrical version, so it’s hard for me to tell what wasn’t in that one and what was added to this version but the most notable addition is the inclusion of the animated bits, which tell the story of The Black Freighter, which had its story sprinkled throughout the original comic. The movie felt like it was missing that in the original version and the way that they use it here is really cool. Also, the animation was incredible and also matched the tone of the comic quite well.

The only big difference between this and the comic is the omission of the giant kaiju monster that wrecked New York City. It’s replaced here with a more realistic threat but I felt like the kaiju thing was always really cool and I feel like it would have worked in the film. But it’s exclusion doesn’t really hurt the movie. I’m just baffled as to why it was changed when everything else is so damn close to the source material. Plus, kaiju make everything better.

I thought that the acting in the film was exceptional and as great as it is, there are two people who really stole the show: Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian. These two guys had an incredible presence when they were on the screen. This was also the first time I noticed Morgan and I’m glad to see him carve out a fine career since this picture.

Malin Åkerman and Patrick Wilson carry the bulk of the acting duties, as the story seems to feature them the most, even though it balances all these characters very well. I thought both of them put in solid performances. But I can’t really knock anyone in the movie for not carrying their weight and doing the source material justice.

This was and still is the greatest thing that Zack Snyder has ever directed. I’m not trying to knock his more recent work but I feel like he’s always trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that he had here and it just isn’t working on the same level for him.

The Ultimate Cut is very long, almost four hours. However, it moves swiftly and a lot of ground is covered in that time. As I get older, I don’t have the attention span to sit and watch long movies like this in one sitting but the length didn’t bother me here. I was glued to the screen and sucked into this universe.

I’m glad that I finally got to revisit Watchmen and that I went with the Ultimate Cut. This should be the version that everyone watches and the only one that exists.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s pretty damn unique but I guess if you needed to pair it with something, Blade Runner or The Dark Knight.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Yellow

Published: June 15th, 2011
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

Marvel Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t super keen on Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s take on the Hulk, which I read before this. However, I was really impressed with this story, as it seemed much closer to what made me love this pair and that’s the Batman story The Long Halloween.

This just felt right, looked right and hit all the notes perfectly.

First off, I love that this takes Daredevil back to his early era with the yellow suit. It works really well with this story and it made for a beautiful use of colors throughout the book.

The narrative is told in the form of Daredevil writing a series of letters to the deceased Karen Page. Each issue of the six that make up this arc are fairly self-contained, even though they are all sewn together with a common thread.

In some ways, this goes through a summarized retelling of Daredevil’s early years. In that regard, this reminds me of the fantastic X-Men: Grand Design comics.

We also get all sorts of cameos in this, as it is a story told through flashback and recollection. We get to see Daredevil meet the Fantastic Four, as well as his first meetings with The Owl, the Purple Man and Electro. Plus, it is refreshing reading a Daredevil comic that isn’t centered around the ongoing war for Hell’s Kitchen between Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk.

If you really loved The Long Halloween, then this is definitely something that you need to check out. This is also, I would assume, very much the type of story and style that Marvel wanted out of Loeb and Sale when they brought them on to do four projects: this, Hulk: GraySpider-Man: Blue and Captain America: White.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.