Comic Review: Daredevil: Love & War

Published: 1986
Written by: Frank Miller
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel Comics, 65 Pages

Review:

This was a one-shot graphic novel that came out a few years after Frank Miller had completed his Daredevil run. However, it was a return to form, narratively speaking, while also coming off as even darker due to the haunting and beautiful visuals created by one-of-a-kind artist Bill Sienkiewicz.

The plot is fairly short and sweet but it’s important to the overall character development of The Kingpin, as well as his relationship with Daredevil.

The story sees The Kingpin try his damnedest to save his beloved wife Vanessa. He does some pretty heinous shit while trying to get her the treatment she needs. However, this all horribly backfires in a way that will effect him forever.

Additionally, there is a side story about the doctor’s wife and her situation, as she is being watched over by a violent madman that believes her to be an angel.

This has a very layered story and it taps into neo-noir and psychological horror vibes.

While this does feature Daredevil, he almost feels secondary to the majority of the story. He just sort of moves in and out of it and the real players moving the chess pieces on the board are the doctor and The Kingpin.

Ultimately, and without spoiling too much, this is really compelling stuff with exceptional art and some of Frank Miller’s best writing.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson, Vol. 3

Published: July 2nd, 2015
Written by: Frank Miller, Mike W. Barr
Art by: John Buscema, Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel Comics, 317 Pages

Review:

While this is the weakest of the three volumes that collect the Frank Miller run on Daredevil, it’s still a damn good book and it closes out the run, setting things up for a new creative team.

In the previous volume, we already dealt with the death of Elektra and the defeat of Bullseye. This one pretty much covers the fallout from that, emotionally, as well as how it effects the overall story and the primary characters within.

This collection also includes the graphic novel Love & War, which I will actually review as its own body of work at a later date.

The thing I really liked seeing in here was how Daredevil dealt with his grief, as well as how he and Black Widow sort of came back into each other’s lives after everything that happened to them previously, as well as the issues Daredevil is left to deal with after losing the love of his life.

The story also does a great job of fleshing out Foggy Nelson and giving him things to do, other than just being Matt Murdock’s best bud and business partner.

On top of that, we get a powerful moment between Daredevil and Bullseye, as well as some really interesting and character defining moments for The Kingpin.

This was definitely a worthy conclusion to the Frank Miller era, even if it wasn’t as exciting as the other two volumes. This is much more a story about human emotion and working through it than it is straight action and street level badassery. However, there’s enough of that stuff in here to keep the normie superhero comic book fan engaged.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.

Video Game Review: Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)

I never played this game and I guess I kind of missed out, as I probably would’ve really liked this, back in the day.

I was a fan of the first Sunsoft Batman game for the original Nintendo, as it came out and was tied to the 1989 Tim Burton movie.

I never realized that this one was a direct sequel to it and I guess that makes it exist in an alternate timeline than the cinematic universe of the same era. Granted, these games are very different than the ’89 movie in that they have a very sci-fi/cyberpunk aesthetic and deviate from the film’s story quite a bit.

So in this version of a sequel, the Joker has survived. They’ve also given him more of a comic book look, as opposed to using Jack Nicholson’s likeness. I’m assuming that was because the licensing fees to use his visage once again was too pricey and unnecessary in the grander scheme of things.

The game looks very similar to its predecessor; however, they’ve given Batman a larger sprite and stripped away the mechanics only to replace them with something worse. The weapons system may seem more advanced but it’s kind of confusing, tedious and annoying. Also, you can’t bounce off of walls and scale them like you could in the previous game.

This also adds in a few jetpack shooter stages that play more like a Gradius game than a normal Batman title. It’s kind of cool but I would’ve preferred having more standard levels with some good design. In fact, the levels in this game feel very small and are conquered too quickly.

Most of the bosses are just a big pain in the ass. Additionally, the first time you fight the Joker, he flies around in a pod like Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic games. It’s not cool and it’s pretty lame. The second time you fight the Joker, you basically fight a Joker-themed super computer. It’s also lame.

This game had some promise and I mostly enjoyed it but the improvements just ended up being disappointments. I would’ve rather just gotten a redesigned version of the first game with new levels and bosses.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the previous Sunsoft Batman game for the NES

Film Review: The Long Goodbye (1973)

Release Date: March 7th, 1973 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Robert Altman
Written by: Leigh Brackett
Based on: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Arnold Schwarzenegger (uncredited)

E-K-Corporation, Lion’s Gate Films, United Artists, 112 Minutes

Review:

“Listen Harry, in case you lose me in traffic, this is the address where I’m going. You look great.” – Philip Marlowe, “Thank you.” – Harry, “I’d straighten your tie a little bit. Harry, I’m proud to have you following me.” – Philip Marlowe

I find it kind of surprising that this is the first movie I’ve reviewed with Elliott Gould in it, considering the guy has done so much and I’ve already reviewed 1914 movies on Talking Pulp. But hey, I guess I’m correcting that by finally watching The Long Goodbye, which has been on my list for a long-time.

My real interest in this is due to it being an adaptation of one of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels. Also, I’m a big fan of classic film-noir, as well as neo-noir, especially from the ’70s. From what I understand, this is one of the best ones I hadn’t seen yet.

That being said, this did not disappoint, as I was immediately immersed into this version of Marlowe’s world and I enjoyed it immensely.

Elliott Gould is incredible in this and while this statement may come across as really bold, I don’t know if he’s ever been better. On paper, he seems like an odd choice to play the super suave Marlowe but he nails it and gives the character a certain life and panache that we haven’t seen before this. Sure, Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum are masters of their craft but Gould, in this iconic role, shines in a very different way making the character even cooler and more charming. While my assessment of Gould’s Marlowe is certainly subjective and a matter of preference and taste, seeing this film truly made me wish that Gould would’ve played the character more than once.

I love this film’s sense of humor and its wit. Gould really brings all this out in a way that other actors couldn’t. There is just a certain charisma he has that worked perfectly here and the end result is the greatness of this picture, which may be the most entertaining neo-noir of its decade.

Additionally, the rest of the cast was good and I especially loved seeing an older Sterling Hayden in this, as he was involved in some of the best classic film-noir movies ever made. Nina van Pallandt also impressed and it was neat seeing Henry Gibson and an uncredited Arnold Schwarzenegger pop up in this too.

The craftsmanship behind the picture also deserves a lot of credit from Robert Altman’s directing, Vimos Zsigmond’s cinematography and the interesting and instantly iconic score by John Williams.

One thing that really adds a lot to the picture is the locations. Whoever scouted out these places did a stupendous job from Marlowe’s apartment setting, to the beach house to the Mexican locales. It’s just a very unique yet lived-in environment that sort of makes the locations characters within the film.

In the end, I can’t quite call this the best noir-esque movie of the ’70s but it might be my favorite and it’s certainly the one I’ll probably revisit the most, going forward.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other neo-noir films of the ’70s, as well as any movie featuring Philip Marlowe.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson, Vol. 2

Published: March 5th, 2015
Written by: Frank Miller, Roger McKenzie
Art by: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson

Marvel Comics, 314 Pages

Review:

This is the second of the three large collections of the Frank Miller run on Daredevil, this is also the volume where the heaviest shit goes down. Primarily, the return of Bullseye, the death of Elektra and the first time Daredevil meets the Punisher.

I can’t speak on the third volume until I revisit it but I always remembered these string of issues as being the high point of Miller’s run and re-reading it now, I’d say that’s probably true.

This builds off of what Miller established already and it takes things to the next level, cementing Daredevil as one of the most intriguing heroes in Marvel’s lore. It also helps cement The Kingpin and Bullseye as real sons of bitches.

What’s really great about this, is that Miller, despite not yet having a lot of mileage under his belt, was able to write a really emotional and heartbreaking story. Binge reading through this, the overall Elektra arc goes by pretty fast. Still, you get emotionally invested in her and Daredevil’s relationship just as deeply as you would Spider-Man’s with Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane. It’s a tremendous feat to write something this captivating and heart-wrenching but Miller truly achieves greatness here.

For fans of The Gladiator, this is also where he redeems himself and it’s also a sad tale but really satisfactory despite his overall arc not being too big.

Beyond the story, the art is still fantastic and the work of Miller and Klaus Janson gets better with nearly every issue, as both men find their stride and put just as much care into the visuals of these stories, as Miller put into the writing.

If you are a fan of Daredevil and you haven’t read the Miller run, you’ve done yourself as real disservice.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 4: The Case of a Cup of Joe

Published: January 25th, 2017
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill

Oni Press, 143 Pages

Review:

This fourth and final volume of Stumptown was definitely a step up from the fairly mundane third chapter. Granted, I still wasn’t as engaged by this story as I was the first two.

The plot here is more interesting than the previous book but there doesn’t feel like there’s any real danger here for the characters, as the heavies in this are inexperienced hipsters from the coffee scene and not legitimate, dangerous criminals and brutes that have actually gotten blood on their hands.

In fact, this felt more like a comedy than a neo-noir crime drama.

Maybe Greg Rucka wanted to go out on a lighter note with this one but it lacks the gravity of the earlier stories and certainly pales in comparison to the darker, grittier and more realistic neo-noir comic book tales by Ed Brubaker.

I didn’t think this was a waste but it didn’t hit the mark and just didn’t pull me in and hold onto me like the first two volumes did.

There’s really not much else to say. This is just about a bunch of rich eccentrics and hipsters trying to acquire some magic coffee beans.

The end.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson, Vol. 1

Published: March 6th, 2014
Written by: Frank Miller, Bill Mantlo, Roger McKenzie, David Michelinie, Marv Wolfman
Art by: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson

Marvel Comics, 326 Pages

Review:

I recently got to scratch off one of my comic book bucket list items. That item was the completion of the entire Frank Miller Daredevil run. I now own all the single issues and it feels good. So to celebrate, I thought that I’d re-read through them all, as they were collected in three beefy volumes that I also own.

This first collection starts with two issues of The Spectacular Spider-Man, which featured Daredevil and had art by Frank Miller. Getting into the start of his run on Daredevil itself, the first handful of issues aren’t written by Miller but he does do the art. But once Miller fully takes over and Klaus Janson comes in to do Miller’s inks, this book really takes off in a new and exciting way, as it becomes grittier and almost has a noir vibe to it.

In this collection, we see the Bullseye character evolve more into the lunatic he actually is. We are also introduced to Elektra, as she makes her first appearance here.

Now nothing is truly wrapped up in this volume and it mainly just lays the foundation for the rest of Miller’s tenure on the title. But it sets things up nicely, really changes the landscape of the title, as long-standing love interest Black Widow moves on with her life and Daredevil is pulled into two new romantic directions.

This also establishes the real tension between Daredevil and The Kingpin.

As the first of three collections covering this run, this book is damn stellar. It’s also a great jumping on point for fans that want to read some of the best years in Daredevil’s long history.

Frankly, I’d read all of Miller’s run and then follow it up with the Ann Nocenti era.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.

Film Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

Also known as: John Wick 3 (unofficial title)
Release Date: May 9th, 2019 (Brooklyn premiere)
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Written by: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams
Based on: characters by Derek Kolstad
Music by: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, Ian McShane, Robin Lord Taylor, Jason Mantzoukas

Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, 87Eleven, Thunder Road Pictures, 131 Minutes

Review:

“John Wick, Excommunicado. In effect, 6:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.” – Operator

This is where the film series really jumped the shark for me. Granted, that happened in the finale of the picture but even taking that out, this is the weakest and worst entry in the John Wick franchise.

Let me start by saying that I really dug all the big action sequences and that the physicality of these movies is top notch. And since this is an action franchise with big, epic showdowns, the film doesn’t disappoint in that regard.

My real issue with the film is that the story and the mythos that the writers have been building up for three pictures has devolved into a big, shitty mess.

These films only really work if they follow a theory I have about them but I’ll get to that theory at the end of this review.

I mostly only really like the first movie. The second was decent and carried by its action. This third film, even with great action sequences, was just hard to get through as someone that wants to try and understand the world that these characters inhabit. It’s just become superfluous and overly complicated.

All you really need to know about the story is that an assassin’s guild with specific rules is pissed off at their top guy who has broken those rules. What we get instead is a story that is trying so hard to be larger than it needs to be. There is a guild, a side guild other entities playing a game to increase their political power among their peers and all the while, they are all trying to be so cool that they fail at it and just come off as pretentious, pompous shitheads.

It’s hard to follow what the hell is happening in these movies and when it comes to action pictures, the audience shouldn’t be required to think too hard and remember all these lame, uninteresting details.

The vocabulary of these movies is also ridiculous with words like “excommunicado” and “Adjudicator”. It’s like the writers had a thesaurus next to them and they were competing to see who could write the most pretentious ways of saying dialogue. No one talks like the people in this movie. In fact, John Wick is about the only person that sounds fucking human.

Additionally, almost all the characters other than Wick and the two guys from the Continental are deliberately crafted to be cool. But when everything is made to exude coolness, nothing is cool and everything just looks like shit and as if it is trying too hard to convince the audience it’s awesome.

The biggest example of this is the main antagonist, which is the Adjudicator, played by Asia Kate Dillon. Now while I only know Dillon from her role on Orange Is the New Black, I thought she did a good job on that show. Here, her character is made to act cool and calm to the point where she is essentially lifeless. Now there have been lifeless, emotionless, blank characters in movies before, they aren’t typically very exciting and this is no different. In fact, it makes her stick out like a sore thumb when everything else in the picture is audibly and visually boisterous. I can’t really blame her for it, as it seems to be more than likely an issue with the writing and the overall direction. Needless to say, the Adjudicator character is excruciating to watch and really puts a halt on any excitement or momentum that previous scenes have built up.

The one moment that really broke this film for me was the finale, which saw Wick get shot and then fall off of a very tall building, smashing into fire escape railing and metal awnings on the way down. Somehow, he fucking survives this and we’re supposed to except that because he’s a badass. Unless the dude is Wolverine, he’s fucking dead. I don’t care how good he is with a gun and his fists.

But this circles me back around to my theory and that’s that these movies only really work if John Wick is a character within a video game world. It would fix a lot of the movie’s problems and it would be easier to overlook the fact that nearly everyone in these films survives brutal deaths. Maybe he’s so good and doesn’t even feel in control of his own hands, feet and weapons because he isn’t. He’s actually controlled by some twelve year-old on Xbox sitting on a couch in Amarillo, Texas. Hell, maybe some of these characters can just respawn as long as the game is still going.

As crazy as my theory may sound, it’s less crazy than Wick surviving a fall like that.

In the end, I loved the action sequences and that was really about it. Do we really need to do this for a fourth time? No… but as far as there being another movie, signs point to yes, considering he’s not dead or paralyzed.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other two John Wick movies.