Comic Review: Aquaman, Vol. 2: Black Manta Rising

Published: April 18th, 2017
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: Phil Briones

DC Comics, 207 Pages

Review:

Since I enjoyed the first collected volume of Dan Abnett’s run on Aquaman, I had to pick up and read the second one almost immediately.

This picks up right where the previous one ended and it actually feels like it’s just the second half of the same story, which sees Aquaman have to deal with a conspiracy that is instigating war between Atlantis and the United States. Black Manta is the main force behind this plot and his appearances, thus far in Abnett’s run, shows just how great of a villain Black Manta is.

Overall, this is a really good collection of issues. It even features the old school villain the Shaggy Man.

It is a pretty long collection, though. At least when compared to more recent DC Comics trade paperback releases. So I guess you get your money’s worth. But this did feel a bit too drawn out in the middle. Then again, every comic book series need some filler issues to add context and develop characters.

A lot of that context had to deal with Mera trying to find out who was behind the conspiracy. The thing is, the audience already knows so the big reveal to the heroes doesn’t mean much for the reader. My only real complaint is that there was too much time devoted to this part of the story, which lacked tension and suspense, as we were already aware of the secret plot and the conspirators.

Regardless of that, this is still pretty action packed and it upped the ante from where this series started, which was with a big bang.

I’m loving Abnett’s work on Aquaman and Phil Briones’ art is top notch.

This is a damn good read. We even get to see the Justice League show up to assist in the Atlantean drama.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: anything from Dan Abnett’s glorious run on Aquaman, as well as the Drowned Earth crossover event.

Film Review: Superman Returns (2006)

Also known as: Superman V, Superman Reborn (working titles), Red Sun (fake working title)
Release Date: June 21st, 2006 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Bryan Singer
Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Music by: John Ottman, John Williams (original themes)
Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint, Parker Posey, Kal Penn, Sam Huntington, Kevin Spacey, Marlon Brando (archive footage), Richard Branson (cameo)

Legendary Pictures, DC Comics, Peters Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Warner Bros., 154 Minutes

Review:

“You can print money, manufacture diamonds, and people are a dime a dozen, but they’ll always need land. It’s the one thing they’re not making any more of.” – Lex Luthor

I haven’t seen this film since it first came out. There were things I liked about it but I never had much urge to revisit it. Seeing it again, twelve years later, I was reminded why.

To start, this is a motion picture that had it’s heart in the right place. It was an homage to the style and tone of the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films. In fact, this is a loose sequel to those; it ignores SupermanIII and IV.

But while this does have its heart in the right place, it was lacking a soul. It tried quite hard to pull off the magic that existed in the first two Reeve films but it lacked its spirit and its charm.

That being said, I did like Brandon Routh as Superman and I thought his Clark Kent was good. But if I have to compare him to Reeve, he is short on personality. I don’t think that’s his fault though, as he is pretty damn charming in a lot of other films and television shows he’s been in. He’s one of the shining stars of Legends of Tomorrow. But I feel like he was sort of forced to give an understated performance here. And maybe the studio was too afraid to make him too Reeve-like but if he is playing the Reeve version of Superman, there should be some consistency.

I wasn’t crazy about most of the cast, despite the fact that most of them are talented. Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane also seemed to lack the energy and spirit she needed. She didn’t have the spunk of Margot Kidder and felt less like that version of Lois than Routh felt like the Reeve version of Superman.

Kevin Spacey was okay as Lex Luthor but he also didn’t feel like the Gene Hackman version.

So are you starting to see the problem here?

This film exists as a new Superman III but the new cast doesn’t quite fill the shoes of the first two movies. I think that this comes down to the script, as none of the characters are written in the same way as they were in those Richard Donner directed classics from 1978 and 1980.

Another big issue I have with this is that the story is boring and Lex’s evil scheme is mundane. Maybe this was all done to setup something bigger in the future but since this didn’t get any of the planned sequels, all we got was a lot of drama and Superman throwing a continent into space. Hell, the scheme in the real Superman III was much better than what they came up with here.

As far as positives, I did like the score and the inclusion of the original John Williams themes. Honestly, the Williams theme immediately gets you pumped up during the credits and it actually makes this film better. Ultimately, as I said, the heart was there and the tone felt right. But then again, the tone sort of loses its essence. As the film rolls on, it doesn’t seem to go anywhere and we’re given a threat that doesn’t create any sort of exciting battle or action.

Most of the action in the film is vehicle action: a runaway car, a seaplane in danger, an out of control airplane hauling a space shuttle and Lex’s helicopter escape.

This film came out in a time when digital effects could do anything but all Superman really did was lift a large land mass. They could have had him fight Darkseid, Brainiac, Metallo, Mongul, Doomsday or any other great villain from his large rogues gallery.

I wish that this would have been a great film. I wish it would have birthed a new series of films. It just didn’t resonate with me, most critics and or the audience.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the first two Christopher Reeve starring Superman films and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.

Comic Review: Aquaman, Vol. 1: The Drowning

Published: January 17th, 2017
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: Phil Briones

DC Comics, 173 Pages

Review:

I have heard nothing but good things about Dan Abnett’s run on Aquaman. Since I’ve been loving his work on The Silencer, I thought I’d finally give his Aquaman stuff a shot.

I wasn’t expecting what I got with this first volume in Abnett’s long run, though. This wasn’t just good, it was great. In fact, it was such a fun read that even though I started it while waiting for food in a diner, my food ended up getting cold because I read this whole story arc straight through.

The story kicks off with Aquaman, the King of Atlantis, opening up an embassy to help build a bridge between land people and those that live underwater. During the opening event, the embassy is attacked in what seems like terrorism. However, it is a personal plot by Black Manta, who is trying to hurt Aquaman at his core.

There is a fantastic battle between Aquaman and Black Manta that sets the stage for this series and really makes this comic an exciting one.

Things escalate and Aquaman is eventually arrested and detained by the United States. Mera breaks him out and we end up getting Aquaman and Mera versus the U.S. military with an eventual appearance by Superman, who is trying to ease the tension between all parties.

I loved this. Abnett’s story was top notch and he really understood the aspects of Aquaman’s character and world that make him interesting. Plus, the art by Phil Briones is stellar and helped round out this book into something pretty exceptional by modern era standards.

This is definitely a recommend, especially with the Aquaman movie coming out this month. I now want to rush out and pick up the second volume.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: anything from Dan Abnett’s glorious run on Aquaman, as well as the Drowned Earth crossover event.

Comic Review: Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth

Published: Octoberber 17th, 2018 – November 28th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder, Dan Abnett, James Tynion IV
Art by: various

DC Comics, 224 Pages

Review:

This was a big crossover event that was used to give us a cool and epic Aquaman story just as his first movie was set to hit theaters. It’ts spread over multiple titles in a similar style to the recent Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour event.

The plot deals with some Atlantean deities coming to Earth and drowning the planet with magic water that turns everyone into fish zombies. No, seriously, that’s the premise.

That being said, it still plays out really cool and as bonkers as it sounds, the writers commit to the bit and the story is just as fun as it is nuts. It’s also pretty damn intense, as the surviving heroes try their damnedest to not get wet while working to save the planet.

However, there isn’t much here that seems to hold any real weight over the DC universe, apart from how it effects just Aquaman and where his comic will go, as it moves forward with a new creative team.

This will probably be remembered for its insanity but other than that, it isn’t an event that will be remembered as anything more than a cash grab and promotional tool for the upcoming Aquaman movie.

It had a solid creative staff and is certainly better than DC’s current mega event Heroes In Crisis but this massive extinction level event went down and now everyone, except Aquaman, is fine and has moved on. In fact, most of the other DC titles didn’t even seem effected by this other than a few casual mentions of people being turned into fish zombies.

I did like tracking down all these issues, nonetheless. I’ll always think of it fairly fondly, simply because it was a wild ride and mostly exciting.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Aquaman stories leading up to this, as well as the recent crossover The Witching Hour. This also ties back to Dark Nights: Metal.

Comic Review: Justice League Dark, Vol. 1: In the Dark

Published: October 29th, 2013
Written by: Peter Milligan
Art by: Mikel Janin

DC Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Since I have been really enjoying the current run of Justice League Dark, I wanted to go back and check out its roots from five years ago.

I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I have James Tynion’s work on the title, thus far. This volume serves to setup the larger story and form the team but it didn’t excite me quite the same way.

If I’m being honest, the team is a bit weak and only shares two members with the most recent incarnation. Those two being Zatana and John Constantine. And while Deadman is a member of this newly formed group in this series, he’s not officially in the current group.

This squad is made up of some obscure characters. I didn’t even know who Rac Shade or Madame Xanadu were until I read this. Also, Dove is here without Hawk. I’m not sure if he died or something but all this New 52 stuff messed up the continuity I was most familiar with.

The main antagonist here is the Enchantress and the story surrounds a girl that is sort of drawn to her or possessed by her. It’s hard to explain and the story did get a bit confusing as to what was going on. There were a lot of characters doing different things and the group isn’t a team here, so much as they are all working things out in their own way and find themselves crossing paths.

I did enjoy the art and the story isn’t bad, it just didn’t peak my interest in the way that would make me jump right into volume two. I already own that one and I’ll get to it but I hope it builds off of this in a good way and makes me want to stick around because the newer version of Justice League Dark has been spectacular.

On this volume alone, I’m not sold on the series. But it wasn’t a waste of time, either.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the volumes of Justice League Dark that follow this, as well as the current Justice League Dark series by James Tynion IV.

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 2: Back to Blüdhaven

Published: June 20th, 2017
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Minkyu Jung, Marcio Takara, Marcus To

DC Comics, 169 Pages

Review:

I’ve heard great stuff about Tim Seeley’s run on Nightwing. After reading the first collection, I really wanted to jump into this. And while the first wasn’t great, it left me feeling as if it was building towards something solid. This, however, really took the wind out of the sails of Seeley’s run, in my opinion.

This focuses on Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing going to Blüdhaven for the first time (in this new continuity that I’ll never get used to). He wants to mark out his own path and be a hero without the support system he’s always had. He even takes a social worker job to pay his rent, as he wants no help from Bruce Wayne.

This then introduces us to a whole slew of new characters that Seeley created. Nightwing teams up with some ex-villains who are trying to redeem themselves as heroes. These ex-villains are comprised of characters that Nightwing, back when he was Robin, helped bring to justice. So he feels somewhat responsible for helping their rehabilitation and allowing them to truly have a second chance.

The problem is, all these characters seem really generic and destined to be thrown away fairly quickly.

One thing I really didn’t like about this, which I enjoyed in the first volume, was that Nightwing and Batgirl’s budding relationship is put on hold. Dick falls for the Defacer, one of the ex-villains that debuts here. Having read later in this series, past the Seeley stuff, I know that Dick and Barbara Gordon still aren’t together but it was nice seeing them explore the option. They have a moment here but it’s kind of sad, as I’m not too keen on Seeley’s Defacer character.

Anyway, this just didn’t resonate with me like I hoped it would. It’s not terrible but it also didn’t make me want to pick up the third volume. So, I guess this series is on hold for me now, as I read some other stuff in the meantime.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the ongoing Nightwing series, as well as BatgirlRed Hood and the OutlawsDetective Comics and Titans.

Film Review: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Also known as: Superman IV, Superman 4
Release Date: July 23rd, 1987 (London premiere)
Directed by: Sidney J. Furie
Written by: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Christopher Reeve
Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Music by: Alexander Courage, John Williams (themes)
Cast: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Marc McClure, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, Mark Pillow, Mariel Hemingway

Cannon Group Inc., Golan-Globus Productions, London-Cannon Films, Warner Bros., 90 Minutes

Review:

“And there will be peace. There will be peace when the people of the world, want it so badly, that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them. I just wish you could all see the Earth the way that I see it. Because when you really look at it, it’s just one world.” – Superman

Most people hate this movie or at the very least, love trashing it for sport. It’s certainly a bad film but I really enjoy it because with it’s bizarre goofiness, it’s got charm and it was made by Cannon Films.

Unlike Superman III, another bad chapter in this franchise, this film got Gene Hackman back and didn’t limit Margot Kidder to just two scenes. But where the heck was Annette O’Toole, who I adored in Superman III? Well, Superman does get another alternate love interest in this one and it’s Mariel Hemingway. I was crushing on her hard when this came out and I was 8 years-old.

Anyway, this film also adds in Jon Cryer, just a year after he touched filmgoers hearts as Ducky in Pretty In Pink. He’s basically Ducky again but really dumbed down and with a weird surfer/stoner accent. He’s like Ducky had a baby with Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But I did love Cryer in this, as Lenny Luthor, Lex’s idiot nephew and replacement for Ned Beatty’s Otis.

By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about this film as I dedicated an entire Talking Pulp featured article to it: The Politics of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

But speaking of my previous piece on this movie, it is a film that is politically heavy. It features a story that sees Superman take it upon himself to rid the entire world of nuclear weapons. Strangely, every nation at the UN cheers for this and none see it as an act of war for being forcibly disarmed.

This movie also introduces us to a cool villain, made from a strand of Superman’s hair and a nuclear missile thrown into the sun. He is Nuclear Man and he always looked badass. As a kid, I always wanted him to eventually get worked into the comics. He finally made an appearance this year in a Brian Michael Bendis Superman story but was just there to be quick fodder for another villain.

Superman IV is incredibly short when compared to the other movies. If you own this on DVD though, you will notice that there are a ton of deleted scenes and really, this could’ve been longer. I’ve actually hoped for an extended edition release of this with all those scenes restored, especially the ones featuring the prototype of Nuclear Man, who was cut from the finished film entirely. He was very much like Bizarro, even if his scenes were terribly stupid.

This is the worst film in the Christopher Reeve string of movies. I still have a lot of love for it though because in spite of it’s awfulness, it was imaginative and a little nuts.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: The other films in the Superman series with Christopher Reeve.