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.
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.
Continue reading Review – Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
If you need me to tell you, there’s a strong chance you and I won’t get on. Still, allow me to direct you to my review of the first half of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which contains all the blathering about artwork, animation and voice acting that you could ever hope to read. All that stuff’s more or less the same in this half, so I won’t bother reiterating the points. Much more to discuss, this time, including old Miller’s unsurprisingly simplistic view of America’s Cold War foreign policy.
All in good time, folks. Until then, the story so far: Batman’s using his state pension to fund a return to vigilantism, despite the national government having implemented a ban on such activity. In Part 1, he wrested control of Gotham City back from a gang of studded, visor-clad street-punks known as “the Mutants”, mostly by tricking their leader into a muddy puddle and punching him repeatedly. Here, in Part 2, Miller’s story is irradiated by the fallout from Batman’s resurgence, and starts to sprout new, unexpected appendages. A previously-institutionalized Joker (Michael Emerson), Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime, has joined the media circus, using the pretence of a talk show to butcher the host and the entire studio audience; the Sons of Batman, a well-meaning unofficial fan club, have taken up arms to help clear Gotham of its criminal dregs; and in the Oval Office, a satirised Ronald Reagan despatches his pet steroidal Superman (Mark Valley) to bring Batman to justice.
Continue reading Review – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2
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.
Continue reading Review – Superman vs. The Elite
Like most of DC’s original animated movies, Superman: Doomsday is based on a popular story arc from the comic books or graphic novels – in this case the iconic 1992 storyline The Death of Superman, which was recently butchered in live-action by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s an admittedly loose adaptation, but if you have even a passing familiarity with the character you’ll recognise most of the major dramatic beats: Superman apparently meets his demise at the hands of Doomsday, Metropolis is forced to adapt to life without him, and then he eventually returns, as Superman always must.
Full disclosure: A “passing familiarity” is all I really have with Superman and, for that matter, all of DC’s and Marvel’s superheroes. I didn’t grow up reading comic books, I couldn’t give a single discount fuck how you or anyone else thinks any given character or story should be presented, and I’m approaching these movies the same way I approach every other comic-book adaptation: as an ignorant, oblivious outsider. And from that perspective, Superman: Doomsday kind of works.
Continue reading Review – Superman: Doomsday