Comic Review: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Issue #134 – First Appearance of Darkseid

Published: December 2nd, 1970
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Neal Adams (cover)

DC Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

Man, this was a weird ass comic book! But it was also done by Jack Kirby during his stint at DC Comic, where he did some really outside of the box stuff that led to the creation of his Fourth World universe within the larger DC Universe.

This issue of Jimmy Olsen was tied to all of that, as this is the first appearance of Darkseid, one of the greatest villains in the entire history of DC Comics.

I wanted to read this, as I’ve been reading a lot of the first appearances of some of my favorite villains. That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this comic but it was pretty insane.

This issue is trippy as hell! I’m not sure if that was normal with Jimmy Olsen but I really dug it, even if it was hard to make sense of the proceedings, as I don’t have the issues around this to give it more context.

Superman even shows up in this but he was a pretty regular fixture in this title. Sadly, we don’t get to see Supes square off with Darkseid. In fact, we only get a peek at Darkside in one panel. That’s it, his big debut was just in a single panel where he was a talking head in a TV set, giving commands to one of his minions.

This is creative, kind of nuts and it flew by. I can’t say that it’s a solid comic as a standalone issue but reading it was interesting, as it was a quick, small sample of Kirby’s earliest work at DC.

For Jack Kirby fans, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: any of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World titles at DC Comics.

Comic Review: Doom Patrol, Vol. 2: The Painting That Ate Paris

Published: 1989-1990
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Richard Case, John Nyberg

Vertigo Comics, 228 Pages

Review:

I’m really digging the Grant Morrision run on Doom Patrol.

While the first volume was better overall, the first half of this collection was probably the high point for me, thus far. The second half of this is mostly filler and comes off at a slower pace but there are still some things of importance within it.

The first half is the story arc that gives this volume its name: The Painting That Ate Paris. And while the name may sound metaphorical, it isn’t. This is Grant Morrision’s Doom Patrol and a painting literally eats Paris. And with that, the Doom Patrol has to find a way into the painting in an effort to save the city. All the while, the Justice League shows up and stands idly by, staring at the painting, confused by the whole ordeal.

I feel like the Justice League here represents the more casual comic book reader, who would probably be baffled by the insanity, absurdity and surrealism of Morrison fully and creatively unleashed.

Richard Case’s art is some of my favorite from the era and man, it just lures you in and is a perfect compliment to Morrison’s writing. Case’s art is clean, crisp, colorful and fluid. I love his character design and the life his style gives every person in these stories.

This was just a really exciting comic to read. It loses steam with the second half but it is still entertaining and serves to setup what’s to come after this.

If you’ve never given Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol a shot, you really should. It’s a superhero team book but it is so unique that you really should experience it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol.

Documentary Review: The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015)

Release Date: April 30th, 2015 (limited)
Directed by: Jon Schnepp
Written by: Jon Schnepp
Music by: Frederick William Scott
Cast: Nicolas Cage (archive footage), Tim Burton, Kevin Smith

Super Skull Ship, 104 Minutes

Review:

Superman Lives was a film that never happened but I have always been intrigued by what it could have been.

Years ago, there was a picture of a long haired Nicolas Cage in a Superman costume with his eyes half shut; it looked really bizarre. Most fans of superhero films have probably seen this famous picture at some point or another. But that really set the stage for what this bizarre interpretation of Superman was.

Hearing that Tim Burton was working on the movie and that Kevin Smith had written a script for it, made this project even more bizarre. Burton had a falling out with the studio after issues arose during the production of what would have been his third Batman movie and Smith was a comic book fanboy that was mostly known for his stoner comedies that featured Jay and Silent Bob.

No one seemed to know much else about this strange project though. So once I heard about this documentary, I had a very strong desire to check it out, especially since we got to hear the details from the mouths of Burton and Smith.

On one hand, this was a truly strange motion picture but on the other hand, it wasn’t as insane as one might think if they saw that photo of Nic Cage.

This documentary was pretty solid and it covered a lot of ground from a lot of different angles. Everyone has their own version of the events and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle but this was an interesting story, nonetheless.

I’m actually glad that the film didn’t get made and that we got Superman Returns instead of this, even if it’s far from a perfect film. Superman Lives wasn’t really in tune with what Superman is. It could have been an insane and awesome motion picture in its own way and maybe the creators should revisit this concept as a movie for a new character that isn’t one that already comes with 80 years of his own lore built in.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about superhero filmmaking or films that never materialized: Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four or Jodorowsky’s Dune for instance.

Film Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2012-2013)

Release Date: September 25th, 2012 (Part I) and January 29th, 2013 (Part II)
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Written by: Bob Goodman
Based on: Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson
Music by: Christopher Drake
Cast: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Wade Williams, Michael Emerson, Mark Valley, Paget Brewster, Grey DeLisle, Michael McKean, Bruce Timm, Frank Welker, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, Tara Strong

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 76 Minutes (Part I), 76 Minutes (Part II), 148 Minutes (Deluxe Edition)

Review:

“You don’t get it, son. This isn’t a mud hole. It’s an operating table. And I’m the surgeon.” – Batman

When I see that there is a new DC Comics animated adaptation of a famous comic book story coming out, I usually don’t get too excited. The reason being, most of them take tremendous liberties and just sort of do their own thing, ignoring the story they’re “based” on and making the whole thing nothing more than a bullshit marketing scheme to sell more Blu-rays.

I guess that’s why I was pleasantly surprised by this film, a true adaptation that really captured the spirit of Frank Miller’s most famous Batman story.

I put off watching this for a very long time and I only gave it a shot because a friend of mine that actually reads comics told me it was definitely worth my time. He wasn’t wrong.

This film does a fine job of capturing the magic of Miller’s story and it also has some solid homages to the imagery of the famous comic.

I guess my biggest gripe is that even though the animation is really good, it sort of just looks like the other DC Comics animated features. DC has a specific style to its animated films and this falls in line with it. For what this project is and what it represents, I fell as if the art should have been closer to the style and tone of the actual comic. This took a big step forward from a narrative standpoint but the visual style really should have been unique, grittier and more in line with Frank Miller’s art.

I also wasn’t crazy about the length of this but that’s really my own problem, as I start to tune out when watching animation for too long. I don’t really know how this could have been edited down and because it adapts a very rich story in a really great way, I’d leave it alone. It fills the time well and there really isn’t a dull moment.

The voice actors were all superb. Peter Weller was perfect as an old Batman and Ariel Winter, who had to have been really young when this was made, was very convincing as the Carrie Kelley version of Robin.

I’ve watched a lot of DC Comics animated stuff since the ’90s and this is certainly in the upper echelon of the things they’ve put out.

If you love The Dark Knight Returns in comic book form, this shouldn’t disappoint.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other recent DC animated Batman and Justice League films.

 

Comic Review: Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe

Published: July 18th, 2018 – January 2nd, 2019
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Freddie E. Williams II, Jeremy Colwell
Based on: Masters of the Universe by Mattel, Injustice by NetherRealm Studios

DC Comics, 153 Pages

Review:

I haven’t played the Injustice video games or read the comic books. I get the gist of it though, so being a long-time fan of Masters of the Universe, I thought that the idea of seeing He-Man and his world mix it up with the DC Comics universe was a cool idea.

However, I did have to go into this with some skepticism, as most comic book crossovers of unrelated intellectual properties usually don’t leave us with great results.

This one was pretty good though. I can’t say that it was completely compelling but the story did a good job of wedging in a lot of characters while managing multiple plot threads. This had many layers to it and all of them kept me engaged.

I think the thing that I liked most about this was the art. It just felt perfect for a Masters of the Universe story, as it reminded me of the art of the old comics they used to package with the toys. It just drummed up nostalgia on a pretty high level and it was very effective.

This lasted for six issues but I feel like it could have been better if it was a bit longer. While it works well in the space it was given, I felt like some confrontations were rushed through and some of the action suffered a bit. There were just some cool ideas here that could have been explored just a little bit more than they were but I don’t want to spoil the story details for those who want to read this.

Overall, this was pretty damn good. Tim Seeley told a fun story within two very different worlds that I love and the art was perfect for what this project was trying to convey.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Masters of the Universe crossovers and the Injustice comics, as well as regular Justice League stories.

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.