Film Review: Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons – The Movie (2020)

Release Date: August 4th, 2020
Directed by: Sung Jin Ahn
Written by: J.M. DeMatteis
Based on: Deathstroke by Marv Wolfman, George Perez
Music by: Kevin Riepl
Cast: Michael Chiklis, Chris Jai Alex, Sasha Alexander

Berlanti Productions, Blue Ribbon Content, DC Entertainment, 87 Minutes

Review:

I was a bit stoked when I saw that there was an animated Deathstroke film on HBO Max. It came out a year ago and I’m assuming it was initially on DC Universe before that got swallowed up and absorbed by the newly launched HBO Max, which is sort of a central hub of all the content Warner Bros. associated streaming services hosted before converging into one thing.

Anyway, I was pretty underwhelmed by this. That’s not surprising, as DC animated features are a mixed bag. Some are really meh but some are very, very good. Most of them meet somewhere in the middle but this one does fall closer to the meh side of that pendulum.

While I liked that Michael Chiklis voiced Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke, the film was kind of a bore. It featured a couple C-list villains for Deathstroke to tie-up with but it also leaned into his personal life and his family, which I feel like has been explored to death in comics and other mediums already.

Frankly, I just kind of wanted Deathstroke in his anti-hero role, going up against impossible odds to take down a serious baddie. I wanted some dark, black-ops shit. While I guess this does send him on shadow missions of some degree, it just never really grabbed me.

There’s a television series of Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons, so I’m not sure if this is a sequel to it or a prequel. Maybe this is just a condensed version of a larger story. Either way, it’s kind of sloppy and boring. 

Rating: 5.25/10

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 3: False Starts

Published: January 5th, 2016
Written by: Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson
Art by: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story

DC Comics, 290 Pages

Review:

This collection of Nightwing issues from Chuck Dixon’s legendary run started off with a bang, as it started with the Nightwing and Huntress miniseries that saw the two vigilante heroes work together on a more intimate level.

Additionally, this picks up the stories that have been stretching over Dixon’s entire run and it keeps the momentum going with gusto.

I liked the stuff that involved the Huntress, a lot. The miniseries was actually written by Devin Grayson but it ties directly to Dixon’s run and lines up with the solo Nightwing stories, here.

This also features appearances by Deathstroke and Lady Shiva and that section of this beefy collection was probably my favorite, overall, following the Huntress miniseries.

Additionally, we get more of Blockbuster, as his large arc continues on, seeing him as the kingpin of Blüdhaven.

This is my favorite volume, so far, in Dixon’s Nightwing era. It’s just a badass series with great art and it keeps things flowing in a great direction.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s Nightwing and Batman comics.

Comic Review: Batman: A Death In the Family

Published: 1988
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, Adrienne Roy

DC Comics, 142 Pages

Review:

A Death In the Family was one of the biggest Batman stories to happen around the time that I was getting into comics as a serious reader and not just a casual one, who just occasionally picked up stuff other than G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

When I was in elementary school, this is a story that all the kids talked about and I remember trading my hardcover copy of Arkham Asylum for this and The Killing Joke. I felt like I definitely won in that trade and it’s mainly because of this story.

I was the rare Jason Todd fan. Sure, nowadays other people like him because of how he came back as the Red Hood and carved out his own legacy. Before that, however, people pretty much hated Jason. I think I mainly liked him because he was Robin when I started paying attention and I saw through him being a prickish pain in the ass and knew that there was something deeper inside him that was needing to come out. The problems Jason presented Bruce/Batman with were different than Dick Grayson’s, the original Robin. He simply made things more interesting, as you knew his attitude and temperament would somehow come to a head in a big way.

While I love this story and I really liked how it altered the Batman series going forward, I always thought that Jason died too early and that they missed out on exploring him more. I guess that’s why I really gravitated towards his stories when he finally did return, nearly two decades later.

In regards to this story, it’s exceptionally well written and presented with great care and a respect for the character, even though the fans called a hotline and actually voted for Jason Todd to die.

This is still one of the best, all-time classic Batman stories ever written. It also has great art by Jim Aparo.

I liked that this takes things out of Gotham City and that the story is kicked off by Jason Todd discovering that his biological mother is out there, somewhere. He goes in search of her and while that’s happening, The Joker is off selling a missile to a Middle Eastern tyrant, which brings his story and Jason’s crashing together in a tragic and emotional way.

Jason does find his mother but what he finds with that costs him his life and turns Batman into someone that wants vengeance against The Joker for what he did to the child that Batman was supposed to raise and protect.

This is a pretty heartbreaking story that has stood the test of time and is still emotional, even if you are aware of what actually happens to Jason Todd after his death.

If you are a fan of the Caped Crusader and haven’t read this, you probably should.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Batman comics of the late ’80s/early ’90s, as well as the early Red Hood stories from the ’00s.

Comic Review: Batman: The Complete Hush

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Jim Lee

DC Comics, 298 Pages

Review:

Batman: Hush is highly regarded as one of the best Batman stories of its era and honestly, it doesn’t disappoint. I hadn’t read it for over ten years but after recently watching the animated film adaptation, I wanted to give the source material a read again.

I’m happy to say that this lived up to my memories of it, as it’s just a great, well-layered story, where even if you figure out the big mystery, it doesn’t wreck the plot because there are so many surprises still woven in.

This features a lot of characters from both sides of the law but it doesn’t become bogged down by it and everyone truly serves a purpose with how they’re all tied to the main plot.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is good, simply because Jeph Loeb wrote it and he teamed up with the great Jim Lee, who provided some of the best and most iconic art of his career for this tale.

Hush is a solid comic book on every level. Saying too much about the plot might ruin things and this is a book that I definitely recommend. I’d rather people read it and discover its greatness for themselves.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other major Batman story arcs from the late ’90s and early-to-mid ’00s.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 1: Gods of War

Published: June 23rd, 2015
Written by: Tony Salvador Daniel
Art by: Tony Salvador Daniel

DC Comics, 125 Pages

Review:

I enjoyed Christopher Priest’s fifty-issue run on Deathstroke, which just ended a few months back. I recently went back and read The New 52 era stuff at its beginning because I wanted to delve into more of the character in recent history.

That series was pretty shitty and a letdown, especially since I was interested in seeing Rob Liefeld’s take on the character due to his most famous character, Deadpool, being a parody of Deathstroke.

Where this series takes place is wedged between The New 52 and Priest’s era, which makes it the most recent run on the Deathstroke character before Priest took over.

Overall, this was a badass read and I really liked this story and how it sets everything up for the three other volumes that follow. It’ll also be interesting seeing how it sets the stage for Priest’s lengthy stretch.

This series is written and drawn by Tony Daniel, a guy who is pretty good at both. Honestly, I’ve always dug the guy’s work and out of everything I’ve read and looked at over the years, this is in his upper echelon.

The story focuses on Deathstroke’s family, which is a major plot point that carries over into the Priest run. In addition to his kids, however, this arc features his father and delves into Deathstroke’s backstory, filling in some blanks and letting you know the type of man he was created by.

Deathstroke’s father is the primary villain of this story but there are other characters who all seem to be on their own side and ready for a double cross at any moment. It’ll be interesting to see how some of these threads resolve themselves over the later chapters.

In the end, this was a really enjoyable and invigorating start to this Deathstroke run. I put off reading it because The New 52 run bored me to tears. But I’m glad to see that the Deathstroke title seems to be in good hands for this specific series.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the rest of the 2014-2016 Deathstroke run, as well as the Christopher Priest era that followed.

Film Review: Batman: Hush (2019)

Release Date: July 19th, 2019 (SDCC)
Directed by: Justin Copeland
Written by: Ernie Altbacker
Based on: Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Cast: Jason O’Mara, Jennifer Morrsion, Geoffrey Arend, Jerry O’Connell, Maury Sterling, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Sean Maher, Peyton List (I), Peyton List (II), Vanessa Williams, Tara Strong

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Riddle me this – “The less of me you have, the more I am worth”… what am I? Answer – A Friend.” – The Riddler

The DC Comics animated films are really hit or miss for me.

Mostly, I enjoy them but there are usually things that don’t click in the right way or the films claim to be adaptations of a famous story but then take tremendous liberties and are really only those stories in name only. Look at Gotham by Gaslight for an example of that.

For the most part, this takes a lot of liberties while still holding on to the spirit of the original Hush story.

The biggest difference here, is that Hush is not Thomas Elliot like in the comics but is actually someone else. Thomas Elliot appears in this film but he’s just a red herring. I won’t spoil the plot and tell you who Hush is though but I thought it was worth mentioning for those who would prefer a beat-by-beat adaptation.

I thought that the animation was some of the best DC has had, thus far. A lot of care was given to the character design, the actual motion in the film, as well as the visual tone.

The film also benefits, in my opinion, by not being cast with more well-known stars. Sometimes famous voices can be distracting in these films. Here, the main characters weren’t played by famous distinct voices. The more famous actors who were in this actually just blended in nicely and didn’t detract from the proceedings.

Overall, this is in the upper echelon of DC’s animated features. It’s not perfect but it’s definitely got a lot more positives than negatives.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics animated movies.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 3: League of Shadows

Published: October 10th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Fernando Blanco, Christian Duce, Marcio Takara

DC Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

This was a better volume in James Tynion’s Detective Comics run than the previous one. However, it’s really overcrowded with characters that mostly don’t connect for me.

I’m sorry but no matter how hard DC tries to push Orphan and Batwing, they’re just not that great. I don’t even really like Azrael that much, despite his popularity amongst many. And now that Spoiler is gone, I really only give a shit about Batman and Clayface.

In fact, Clayface is the most interesting character in these stories but he doesn’t get enough focus. I hope that changes, as I work my way towards the end of Tynion’s run.

This story is kind of a generic League of Shadows tale where Shiva is in charge and trying to screw with Gotham. Ra’s al Ghul does show up and his appearance severely effects Orphan but this all felt pretty forgettable.

I feel like this should’ve dealt more with the fallout after losing Spoiler and the death of Red Robin but it’s more focused on Oprhan’s mommy issues and Batwoman’s daddy issues.

All that being said, the art is f’n great!

Ultimately, I like Tynion but his Detective Comics run is pretty meh, if I’m being honest.

But I’m also a person that prefers Batman working alone or with just one or two people, preferably a Robin or Batgirl.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.