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March 2016

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

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My boyfriend and I were so excited for this movie we leapt out of my car immediately after parking and practically sprinted hand in hand across the lot to get to the theater. Inside, it was apparent what camp everyone was in. Batman symbols glared neon yellow from every corner of the crowded lobby. I noticed only a handful of people wearing Superman – and as far as I could tell, I was the only one all decked out in Wonder Woman. We had to wait a few minutes for seating to begin, but once we got in, even though it was a full house, we still got good seats. Near the back, on the wall. We settled down, ordered our food, and waited impatiently for it to begin.

The film begins with the destruction of Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel from Bruce’s point of view. The fall of the Wayne Enterprises building begins his crusade against Superman. Lois Lane uncovers a plot of blackmail against Superman – but who’s doing it, and why, is something she’s determined to discover. Clark Kent is trying to write about the brutal Bat of Gotham to hold him accountable for his crimes. He is trying still to learn what it means to be a hero, to be looked on as a god. Young Lex Luthor worms his way into a Kryptonian ship wreck to learn it’s secrets. Through it all, Bruce keeps running into a mysterious woman – could they be after the same thing? What eventually pits Batman and Superman against each other? And when night and day finally do go head to head, who wins?

Forgive me for being concise, but I just don’t want to give too much away. I know what it’s like to be spoiled for something you’re really excited for! I will say, it took a while for the film to really get going. There are a lot of plot threads (as my boyfriend put it, “disjointed elements.” To each his own =P ) that didn’t start coming together until at least halfway through. They really packed a lot into it. There were still some questions that were left unresolved at the end of the movie. Some of it makes sense, because this is the movie that’s supposed to launch the rest of the DC movie-verse. Some of it was just… honestly, kinda weird.

As far as acting, I am sorry I ever doubted Ben Affleck. He was a brilliant Bruce Wayne. Jeremy Iron’s Alfred snark was ON POINT. These two were great together. Jesse Eisenberg, while not totally there yet, laid a good foundation for the cold, calculating Luthor we know and love. For most of the movie, he just seemed like an evil genius kid who inherited all his family’s fortune. I thought he was all right, but didn’t totally sell me.

 

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, though. OH MY GOD. SHE WAS AMAZING. SHE WAS EVERYTHING I HOPED SHE WOULD BE!!! I was clutching my boyfriend’s arm the entire movie, but I flipped my shit when she showed up. Probably left bruises on him, poor thing. The WHOLE THEATER applauded when she showed up during the big fight. I maybe might have screamed a little bit (this is why I can’t watch anything in company. I make too big of an idiot of myself). This was just a little teaser for her own movie (and Aquaman and Flash even smaller teasers), but I AM SO INCREDIBLY PUMPED FOR NEXT SUMMER!!!!! I don’t know how I am going to survive!!!!!

Here’s my main problem with BvS, though. Henry Cavill was a nice-looking, albeit stoic, Clark, but his performance – dare I say, his whole character, was overshadowed by everyone else. And it was his own movie! The whole palette of the film was dark and gray, not like Clark at all. Clark is not stoic, he is not broody, he is not the dark side of heroism, but this is how he was portrayed in this movie and the last. I am getting really tired of DC trying to shove Clark aside and/or into a role he does not fit in order to appeal to a specific audience, or in order to make him more popular – i.e., like Batman. Repeat after me: Clark Kent deserves better. His character seemed better written in this movie than in Man of Steel, at least, though it’s not apparent until about 3/4 of the way through. Clark Kent deserves better!!!

In a way, we need him now, more than ever. We don’t need another Batman. We don’t need another hero who broods about how he feels the light has been sucked out of his life. We don’t need another hero who beats the crap out of every criminal he comes up against because of repressed fear and anger. We don’t need another hero who is morally gray, with questionable motives and methods. There is too much of that in the world already.

We need Superman. We need more light in the world today. We need a hero in these times of fear, someone who is good, kind, tolerant, and deals out justice truly, with the right mixture of mercy, compassion, and fairness. We need Superman to show us again how good the world can really be, how good people can really be, if we just gave them the chance. If creators are so intent upon using superheroes to show us how the world currently is, they should also use those heroes to show us how we can fix the world, too. And not by making them into something they’re not. We need Superman – not as we think he should be, but just as he is.

When all was said and done, I liked it. I have some major problems with it, as outlined above 8,D;; The rest of my issues will be resolved once more movies start coming out and the DCU starts establishing itself. I ended up owing my boyfriend a milkshake though. I lost our bet on whether or not Bruce and Diana would become romantically involved. There were plenty of hints to keep us wondering, though, which is good enough for us – for now ;D

– Kathleen

 

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Birds of Prey (Vol 3): Of Like Minds

 

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Simone, Gail, Ed Benes, Alex Lei, and Rob Lea. Birds of Prey (Vol. 3): Of Like Minds. 2004.

Finally got to read and review this one! =D

Oracle and Black Canary are at it again: this time, scaring Andrew Fisher, CEO, out of stealing the retirement funds of his employees. When he posts a suicide note, Dinah races to his home to stop him, only to be confronted by the man who blackmailed Fisher for the money in the first place. Savant subdues Canary and holds her hostage, telling Oracle he’ll let Canary go for one thing: Batman’s identity. Seeing no other options, Barbara calls on Huntress for help. Can the two put aside their differences to save Black Canary?

I had been enjoying the series so far, but this one was BY FAR my favorite. There was enough action to keep it going and enough humor to keep it fun. The dialogue between the women, though still cheesy, seemed a little more genuine, probably because it was written by a woman. The art was a huge step-up from the previous volumes, much more modern. I adored everyone’s character designs. I think I’m addicted. There are more of these reviews coming for sure.

– Kathleen

Runaways: Pride & Joy

Tagline: At some point in their lives, all young people believe their parents are evil…but what if they really are?

Geared towards teens, this graphic novel perfectly captures children’s angst towards their parents and their thoughts of how they will be better than them and their wicked ways. The story begins with six families preparing to meet for their annual meeting in which the parents gather to supposedly cut checks for charity, and the youth hangout together. The youth range in age from 12-18, and as they have gotten older this motley group no longer anticipate the gatherings. Once all the adults have sequestered themselves in the library, the six youth sneak down a secret passageway to spy on their parents. They are horrified to discover their parents are super villains, who have banded together in a group they call The Pride. They witness a murder and then need to hide from their parents what they saw. They vote if they should report the crime, but then the authorities do not believe them. This then sets them off on a journey of discovery, each discovering secrets of their origins and powers they now need to harness and understand. The six sets of parents discover that their children know the truth, and use their nefarious skills to try to stop them. The youth are forced to band together and hide, vowing they will bring their parents to justice. However, one child seems to waver, not believing that their parents are evil. So, who is the mole????

In the beginning it was hard to keep track of all the families, so here is a cheat sheet: Wilder Family- Alex is a prodigy at strategic thinking & planning and is the child of mob bosses, Yorkes Family- Gertrude has a telepathic bond with a dinosaur and is the child of time travelers, Stein Family- Chase is a jock who steals technology from his mad scientist parents, Hayes Family- Molly is the youngest in the group who discovers she has super human strength, and is the child of telepathic mutants, Dean Family- Karolina finds out she is an alien with flying ability, with her parents masquerading as movie celebrities and the Minoru Family- Nico discovers she has magical abilities and is the child of dark wizards.

Pride & Joy collects the first six issues of the Runaways series, and each section opens with alternative art of the six youth. These splash panels give a different perspective of each teen, and is done in a different art style than the novel. The series artwork is clean and attractive, and that they include the time and location at the top of some of the panels helps the flow of the narrative. In 2005 the author, Brian Vaughan, won the Eisner Award for best writer for this series and is also the author of Saga. The artist, Adrian Alphona, now draws Ms. Marvel. I love seeing writers and authors I have liked elsewhere in books I am now reading (although Runaways was written first)!

-Nancy

The Image Revolution

This movie just fell into my lap, literally. I happened to be walking by the circulation desk when a patron was dropping off this movie and it fell off the desk, so I caught it, took a look, and knew what my next blog post was going to be about!

I am familiar with Image Comics, as I’m a fan of The Walking Dead and Revival, and most recently Alex + Ada. But I was not aware of how Image Comics got their start in the early 1990’s. During that time I was a huge devotee of ElfQuest, and my trips to Graham Crackers consisted of me heading straight for EQ, and also browsing in the Star Trek area. I was rather oblivious to the superhero genre, so the Image line of comics was a non-issue in my world at that time.

The movie The Image Revolution is a documentary that details how seven artists who were working for Marvel decided to break away and start up their own comic book publishing house, as to have more creative control and to retain rights to what ever characters they designed. The seven men were: Todd McFarlane (Spider Man & Spawn), Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy), Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon), Whilce Portacio (X-Factor), Rob Liefeld (Deadpool & The New Mutants), Marc Silvestri (Wolverine) and Jim Lee (X-Men).

All seven of the founders of Image Comics were interviewed, in addition to other professionals in the comic book industry, to share how these artists became dissatisfied at Marvel and decided to strike out on their own. All seven were extremely talented, with their art being progressive and fresh, and had become well known in comic book circles. Them leaving was covered in the national news, and Rob Liefeld was even on the Dennis Miller show (I vaguely remember this). They experienced huge success with their first issues, with the Youngblood comic flying off the shelves.

But just because you are creative and gutsy, doesn’t mean you have the business acumen to run a publishing company. There were growing pains within the company, and infighting began. Some of the artists started to move away from the drawing board and spent more time on marketing and business issues. Jealousy arose among the factions, and eventually some of the original seven left for various reasons. It took several years to balance out, after their initial success, with The Walking Dead being a boon to the struggling but now stable company.

The documentary was extremely interesting, but uneven. Some of the founders had too much interview time (Liefeld!) and there were inconsistencies in the narrative and time line, notably regarding Whilce Portacio. WP left relatively soon after founding Image, but there is no mention of that at all. I understand in a documentary only so much can be covered, but adding a few minutes to explain why he went missing would have added to the flow of the story. It would also have fit with the narrative of growing pains, and that they left out his bio at the end, to me was disrespectful and a glaring omission. The movie only clocked in at 83 minutes, so there was definitely time to flesh out more of the founder’s stories. Another add in, would have been to explain why the 1990’s was the right time to break away from the big houses of Marvel and DC.

While I DO recommend this documentary,  it would be only to the niche of comic book/graphic novel book lovers. But if you are reading this blog, then I’m guessing this movie would be right up your alley…

-Nancy

I just can’t resist posting this site mocking some of Liefeld’s artwork–  although he’s really quite talented, despite the snark of this post!

Picture found on Why so Blu? review website

 

Nightwing: The Lost Year

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Wolfman, Marv, Jamal Igle, and Jon Bosco. Nightwing: The Lost Year. 2008.

Nightwing is injured and left in a coma after the Crisis. When he wakes up, a year has gone by. Barbara Gordon is there when Dick wakes up and is tasked with being his physical therapist. But their time together proves ultimately too painful for both of them, and Dick leaves after his recovery. Back on the streets of Gotham, Nightwing stops a kidnapping attempt on someone he used to know. Liu visits Dick at his work, wanting to see him after being released from prison. Dick already knows he can’t trust her, but especially after she tells him she’s working for “Metal” Eddie Hwang, the leader of a gang Dick used to run with. Liu swears he’s clean now, but Dick isn’t so sure. For one, it can’t be a coincidence that Liu comes to see Dick Grayson the night after Nightwing rescues her. And Vigilante has shown up, swearing revenge on the seemingly reformed Eddie. What’s the connection? What does Liu want? Why does Dick want to trust her even though he knows he can’t?

This one is smack in the middle of the arc, so it was hard to get my bearings at first. I adored how elements of Barbara and Dick’s relationship were recounted in the beginning. They’re just so cute! Their first date was incredibly funny. Get ready for the feels though after that.

This is a good example of the inner struggle a hero faces. Dick wants to see the good in Liu, even though she’s hurt him before. He knows he can’t trust her, but wants to give her the benefit of the doubt anyway, even if it means he has to get hurt again. I suppose much of a superhero’s fights are internal more than external. This was definitely an internal book. I enjoyed it, but probably wouldn’t pick it up again. The rest of the book after Dick and Babs just wasn’t interesting to me??? Idk if that speaks to how much I love those two or how the book actually was.

– Kathleen

Alex + Ada: Volume 1

Set in the near future, Alex receives a gift of a realistic android from his grandma as a birthday gift. As Alex is still reeling from the breakup with his fiancé a few months ago, his grandma feels that the android will cheer him up and bring him fulfillment, as a male android has done for her. At first Alex is freaked out by this beautiful female robot, and considers returning her, but ultimately keeps her. The year anniversary of a massacre between humans and androids that had become sentient looms throughout the narrative, and new stringent rules are in place to block any androids from gaining real emotions. As Alex becomes attached to the android he names Ada, he longs for a more “human” connection with her and he eventually seeks an underground group of androids that have gained sentience. Through an illegal download she gains self awareness, but as this is against the law, she needs to mask her new abilities in public. The two of them face a very uncertain future, and this sci-fi romance has strong connections to the movies Blade Runner and Her. As this story feels current in time, it did make me think of the imminence of artificial intelligence, and what rights and laws will be appropriate if this story’s technology become feasible in our future.

The cover of this graphic novel stands out, as the wrapping that Ada was packaged in is draped over her head, and with her white clothing, it is an obvious symbol of a woman being offered as a bride. The art is very sparse, with an earth tones color palette. Black borders surround a standard layout, with some full page panels. However, the simplicity of the art lets the complexity of the human emotions shine through. Nothing distracts from the character-centric narrative, and the story is able to breathe.

The story continues for two more volumes, with a definite conclusion in Volume 3. I have read Volume 2 and have Volume 3 on hold. I look forward to seeing how the story will wrap up, and wonder what the future holds for Alex +Ada!

-Nancy

Luna, Jonathan & Sarah Vaughn. Alex + Ada. 2014.

Get Pumped: Batman v. Superman!

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Are any of you totally pumped for Batman v. Superman??? Because I DEFINITELY AM!!! >:D

Here’s what we know so far. It’ll be a sequel to Man of Steel and kind of a segway into the whole rest of the DC movie-verse. Henry Cavill will reprise his role of Superman, and Ben Affleck has taken up the mantle of the Dark Knight. Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa will appear as Wonder Woman and Aquaman, respectively.

From the trailers, it appears that after the desctruction of Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel, Batman goes up against Superman because he doesn’t trust him and thinks he has too much power. Typical Bruce. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has cooked something up to pit against the heroes, Doomsday, just because he’s Lex Luthor. The threat is enough to bring Wonder Woman to Metropolis to stop them. It’s a little fuzzy where Aquaman comes in, though, unless someone can clear that up for me =P

This movie has hit some pitfalls already, mostly with casting. No one (including me) wanted Ben Affleck as Batman when he was first cast, because of the awful Daredevil movie. Fans seem to have warmed up to him after the first trailer, though. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor seems questionable, especially seeing him in the trailer. He seems not to have the cold calculation of Lex’s character. Then again, it is still early in the franchise, and his first appearance in the Man of Steel franchise, so perhaps we’ll see that develop later after he loses his hair.

A lot of parallels have been drawn between the artistic direction and storyline of the movie and the critically acclaimed comic, The Dark Knight Returns. Affleck’s Batsuit is unquestionably based the suit of the comic: the short, stubby ears and the Batman symbol on the chest are dead giveaways. In one of the trailers, there is a shot of Batman clinging to the side of the building as lightning strikes behind him. It’s an impressive piece of cinematograpy, and it is also a classic panel from the comic. Affleck’s Batman is also an older Batman, though it is unclear yet whether Affleck’s Batman is coming out of retirement to fight Superman, like in the comic. Have I mentioned y’all should read the comic? It’s really good and it might prepare you for the movie =P

This movie is being set up to be a blockbuster, as well it should be, because an extended DC movie-verse is looong overdue. I still have some reservations about it, mainly those of Affleck as Batman, and also the suit (I hate the DKR suit!!! The ears are too short!!! I know I’m petty and I don’t care). I’m warming up to him, but I still have my doubts. I’m also concerned about Superman himself as a character, as I don’t think Man of Steel did him justice at all. Superman isn’t grimdark like Batman is, they are total opposites. They went in more of a Batman direction with him and still I don’t know how to feel about it.

However, most of this is made up for me by the fact that Wonder Woman will be in it!!! Gal Gadot looks so freaking amazing!!! And the marketing is not leaving her out at all, which is super important for her fans and for young girls who love superheroes!!! Yes I am pumped for this movie mostly because of Wonder Woman but I DON’T CARE I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will be coming out next Friday, March 25th. Advance tickets are on sale, so be sure to get yours if you haven’t already! My boyfriend and I will be seeing it that Saturday. We’re betting frozen yogurt on whether or not Bruce and Diana get romantically involved ;D Look out for my review in a few weeks!

– Kathleen

Birds of Prey (Vol 2): Old Friends, New Enemies

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Dixon, Chuck, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Greg Land, and Drew Geraci. Birds of Prey, Vol. 2: Old Friends, New Enemies. 2003.

The Birds of Prey series continues in this volume. Black Canary and Oracle are working together to fight crime around the globe. The adventures outlined here take us from Gotham to Rheelasia to investigate the disappearances of important people, to Minnesota, where a vacationing Canary stumbles upon a Kobra plot… and the Loch Ness monster? Meanwhile, the Army is tracking the digital signature of a hacker who broke into their computer system – and it originates from Gotham City!

Oracle and Black Canary are still testing the boundaries of their relationship in this volume. It’s as much about the development of their friendship as much as it is about fighting crime. There is also an emphasis in the early issues on Barbara and how capable she is even though she’s in a wheelchair. Even though she isn’t Batgirl anymore, it’s hard to deny that she’s still a superhero. Canary, of course, is the woman on the ground, but it was great to see Barbara get some field action as well.

This is the last of the Chuck Dixon run, and the fan favorite Gail Simone series is coming up next! I’m sooo excited to read it finally =D

-Kathleen

Beautiful Darkness

Macabre.
Unsettling.
Gruesome.
I loved it.

This seemingly sweet graphic novel starts out with a lovely young woman having tea with a prince, and it is going splendidly well, that is until great globs of red stuff starts falling on them. As everyone runs for safety, the view shifts away for a long shot, and you see little creatures pouring out of the orifices of a dead girl. What?!

Aurora takes charge and finds food and shelter for all the little doll like creatures, and tries to befriend the woodland animals. They all work together and it seems like utopia (well, except for the decomposing human girl in the woods) for awhile. But all that shines is not gold. Soon the veneer of politeness starts to wear off, and what at first seemed like a fantasy story slips towards horror.

Another doll Zelie emerges as a leader, with many catering to her every cruel whim. Zelie’s manipulations lead to many of the tiny beings turning on one another to stay in her favor and some accepting their deaths willingly. Even Aurora falls prey to her for a bit, turning against her friend the mouse, when in actuality she is upset on how she fell for Zelie’s deceit.

Only a few besides Aurora survive outside Zelie’s influence- Jane, who is independent and moves away, and an unstable doll who hides in the skull of the girl eating maggots and slipping into insanity. Aurora eventually follows Jane to a mysterious woodcutter’s cottage, whom you will wonder about- what is his connection to the dead girl? When Zelie and her dwindling entourage arrive at the cottage, Aurora then makes a radical decision.

Allegories abound in this book- make of it what you will. Of this I am certain, you will leaf through it several times, reading even deeper meaning into the story each time you look carefully at the watercolor panels. Enjoy….

-Nancy

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