Tag Archives: Comics

Review – Batman: Assault on Arkham

If I’ve learned anything during my adventures in DC and Warner Bros.’ bizarre catalogue of straight-to-DVD animations, it’s that you can never trust the title. You hardly need to be the World’s Greatest Detective to figure out which of these things are most likely to shift an acceptable number of units. Batman or Superman in the title? Classic story being adapted? Then you’re probably onto a winner.

But a film like Batman: Assault on Arkham, which is based on an original story focusing on the Suicide Squad and set in the continuity of the Batman: Arkham video game series, needs to finesse things a little more. So Batman is there in the title, and he’s technically there in the film (voiced by Kevin Conroy, no less), but this is by no means a film about Batman. It’s a deliriously scuzzy crime thriller that revels in its explicit amorality, giving DC’s oft-neglected second-string villains their own time in the Bat-signal.

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Review – Son of Batman

For all his high-tech gadgetry and countless millions, Batman (Jason O’Mara) forgot the one thing that was sure to guarantee him a comfortable, stress-free life: Condoms.

Yes, after a late-night tryst – which, it’s implied, involved Batman being date-raped – with Talia al Ghul (Morena Baccarin), the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul (Giancarlo Esposito), the Caped Crusader went and made a sprog. Raised by Talia and Ra’s to be the eventual head of the League of Assassins, Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan) is an arrogant, worryingly competent little twerp who finds himself dumped unceremoniously in Batman’s lap after another of Ra’s students, Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke (Thomas Gibson), assaults the League’s headquarters.

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Review – The Defenders Season 1

I’ve spent the last few weeks moving into a new home. It’s a lot like the old one, but bigger and more expensive and thus more difficult to keep clean and tidy, but there is a park over the road, which is a great place to meet single mums. Not that I can speak to them, obviously, because despite many failed schemes to leave her behind, my partner continues to accompany me. This might seem like a travesty, but I did get to marvel at her superior organisational ability. It only took her a week to realize that the furniture would need to be transferred from one property to another.

I’ve been doing a lot of marvelling, lately. I marvelled at how long it took my internet provider to transfer the service to my new address, and at how much they continued to charge me in the intervening period despite neither my old home nor my new one actually receiving the service I was paying for. I marvelled at the staggering ineptitude of the racist engineer who arrived to install my new phone line, and who left several hours later leaving a pile of amber brick dust on my new carpet and no working internet. As I had nothing better to do than read, I marvelled at the shoddy state of the contemporary novel. I marvelled at the cost of a new fridge-freezer, at the state of an old washing machine – which, naturally, managed two cycles before sputtering into uselessness – and at my phone’s mobile data usage, which I’d been using to conduct my various professional endeavours at a rate of charge that was almost twice my rate of income. What I wanted to be doing was Marvelling, with a capital-M. While I was busying myself with berating various lowly customer service personnel, Marvel and Netflix’s The Defenders, the long-awaited get-together of their street level superheroes, had been released in my absence.

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Review – Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

What’s this?

As I’ve noted before in this very series, the idea of alternate timelines and universes and all their attendant paradoxes is largely what has prohibited me from becoming what one might describe as a “fan” of comic books, which some would consider a rather egregious oversight given my line of work. When I reviewed Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, another direct-to-DVD feature courtesy of Warner Bros. and DC, which also concerned a superhero team who ventured into a mirrored dimension to battle their doppelgangers, I expressed concerns about the futility of the endeavour, which I still hold. That movie surprised me, though, and it must be said that this one, which is based on the 2011 comic book crossover event “Flashpoint”, by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert, surprised me just as much, if not more so.

Why’s that?

A couple of reasons. The first, rather obvious one is that a standalone feature-film is a very different proposition from a concerted effort to mangle and merge a dozen characters’ established continuities. In comic books, these events are permanent – until, that is, the next one happens, or the whole line is arbitrarily rebooted, though even then the ostensibly clean slate still contains the sticky residue of versions past. It’s a nightmare. Something like Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox has the distinct advantage of having no obligation to a broader continuity. You can enjoy its hypothetical rearranging of DC’s stalwarts secure in the knowledge that by the time the credits roll, none of it will have mattered.

The second reason is that, unwieldy title notwithstanding, it isn’t a movie about the Justice League.

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Review – Superman: Unbound

What’s this?

An adaptation of Superman: Brainiac, a better-titled miniseries by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank that reimagined Brainiac, one of Superman’s most iconic villains, as a cybernetic alien who boasts the knowledge of 10,000 worlds – accumulated, it’s worth noting, by pilfering those worlds’ most developed cities, miniaturizing them, and cataloguing them aboard his giant, tentacled skull-ship in little glass jars.

That sounds like hard work.

It does. I was compelled to ponder the logistics of this endeavour, but I gave up once I was reminded that a building full of investigative journalists still haven’t managed to determine that Clark Kent is Superman, despite him working in that very building and making no effort to disguise himself. In fact, I should really applaud Superman: Unbound, which is the sixteenth movie in DC’s animated line, for introducing a boorish Daily Planet employee who makes a point of noticing and commenting on Clark’s secretive behaviour. Admittedly he thinks that Clark sneaking around and being in good shape means that he’s a homosexual, but that’s still the closest anyone has come to putting two and two together.

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Review – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1

What’s this?

Another delve into the addled imagination of Frank Miller, whose definitive Batman origin story, Year One, I recently declared one of the worst adaptations to yet be churned out by DC’s generally-excellent collaboration with Warner Bros.

Well… I guess we’re off to an awkward start.

Fear not, though, because Miller didn’t just reimagine Batman’s beginning, but also his end; The Dark Knight Returns is another iconic, seminal work in Batman’s long and storied history, and the first part of it, directed by Jay Oliva and adapted for the screen by Bob Goodman, is easily the best Batman story since Under the Red Hood, and stands alongside that movie, Wonder Woman and Superman vs. The Elite as some of the best superheroic shenanigans yet committed to film.

Hold on… part 1?

Yes, indeed. It seems that the original story’s vaunted place in the comic-book pantheon didn’t lend itself well to an abridgement. For the first time, instead of trying to compress a multi-issue arc into a single, short movie, DC and Warner have taken the scalpel to the source material and delivered two feature-length halves of Miller’s four-part classic.

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Review – Superman vs. The Elite

What’s this?

An adaptation – although, if we’re being completely honest, an expansion – of a story from Action Comics #775 called “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and The American Way”. The original appeared in 2001, and was written by Joe Kelly, who also adapted the screenplay. The issue served more as a discussion point than a real story. It dealt with the moral quandaries at the heart of vigilantism: the question of whether power could – or should – position one above the law; the reality that some evil cannot be reasoned or negotiated with; and the dilemma of how a hero can quash villainy without sacrificing what makes them heroic. It was a poor story that contained potent ideas, and they were made even more so just a few months after its publication, when terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners and flew three of them into buildings.

What’s the set-up?

The Elite – Manchester Black (Robin Atkin Downes), Coldcast (Catero Colbert), The Hat (Andrew Kishino) and Menagerie (Melissa Disney) – are characters that were initially intended to serve as analogues for a certain breed of violent superhero team (particularly The Authority) who were popular at the time. They show up making a big deal about how they’ll fight injustice with lawless abandon; how they’ll go where others won’t, and do what needs to be done to keep people safe, including stepping over (and well beyond) the lines that Superman is so prickly about. This brings on one of Supes’ trademark moral crises, wherein he begins to question whether his aversion to murder is too old-fashioned for the modern world and for a society who are getting justifiably sick of villains breaking out of prison to wreak more havoc in their city.

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