dc comics

REVIEW: “Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)”

birds of preyBirds of Prey is one of those comic properties that know very little about. While I’ve always been more of a DC fan, and Batman has always been my favorite of the DC heroes, I’ve rarely ventured too far outside of his main title. Of course, I’ve seen some of his various animated films and shows, so I’m familiar with characters like Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya, but I’ve never been introduced to Huntress or Black Canary. So, going into this movie I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The DCEU has a historically uneven track record, with only Wonder Woman and Shazam being particularly good and this film is technically a sequel to the atrocious 2016 Suicide Squad film, so there was certainly no guarantee of quality here. Couple that with the slightly-unusual way the film was promoted and it became quite hard to predict just what kind of film Birds of Prey would be. Luckily, the film is an utter delight from start to finish and ranks among the best entries of the DCEU to date. (Mild spoilers follow!)

Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Written by Christina Hodson and directed by Cathy Yan
You ever hear the one about the cop, the songbird, the psycho and the mafia princess? “Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” is a twisted tale told by Harley (Margot Robbie) herself, as only Harley can tell it. When Gotham’s most nefariously narcissistic villain, Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), and his zealous right-hand, Zsasz (Chris Messina), put a target on a young girl named Cass (Ella Jay Basco), the city is turned upside down looking for her. Harley, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and Renee Montoya’s (Rosie Perez) paths collide, and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.

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REVIEW: “Lucifer, Volume 2 – The Divine Tragedy”

lucifer 2Lucifer is such an interesting character, not just in The Sandman Universe, but in general, and I’m quite a fan of stories that portray the character as something more than just an ultimate prince of darkness, but one with true nuance who might actually have a point in his ongoing feud with God. This has always been what DC has done with this version of the character, originally developed by Neil Gaiman, then further developed by Mike Carey, and now written by Dan Watters. As evidenced by the previous volume, Watters has an excellent grasp on what makes Lucifer a compelling character – imbuing this version with lots of vulnerabilities to go along with his massive amounts of power. In this volume, we get a direct continuation of the previous volume, furthering the story of the Morningstar and his newly-discovered family. It’s a great continuation of that storyline and a really great comic in its own right. (Mild spoilers for Lucifer: The Divine Tragedy follow!)

Lucifer, Vol.2: The Divine Tragedy (written by Dan Watters; illustrated by Max and Sebastian Fiumara and Kelley Jones)
God is angry. Lucifer has committed an unthinkable act of sacrilege, and now the forces of Heaven have left him with nowhere to turn but the lands of the dead. Much has changed since Lucifer’s last visit to his former kingdom. Meanwhile: a cherub appears in a motel room, a witch queen walks the Earth for the first time in millennia, and Mazikeen gets to break a finger or two. Plus, things in Hell are heating up with too many potential leaders as Mazikeen prepares to fend off a usurper with assistance from an unexpected ally. But with Heaven and Hell so engrossed in their own affairs, who’s keeping track of what’s happening on Earth? Collects Lucifer #7-13.

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REVIEW: “The Dreaming, Vol. 2 – Empty Shells” by Simon Spurrier

The Dreaming Empty ShellsAs I said in my review of the first volume of this new run of The Dreaming, one of my favorite things about Neil Gaiman’s original Sandman run was the way the comic’s story was partially about the very nature of stories. Gaiman played with various structures to examine the fabric of storytelling and why it’s always been such an effective means of communication. Everything else was the icing on this theme of a cake. This examination of storytelling is one of the key things that brings readers back to those comics time and time again. Simon Spurrier continued this approach in the first volume of his run on The Dreaming, and he continues it in this next volume – a volume that helps bridge the story of The Sandman with this new story being told here. It’s a really good graphic novel.

The Dreaming, Vol 2: Empty Shells (written by Simon Spurrier, art by Bilquis Evely and Abigail Larson)
As his kingdom crumbles and his subjects search for him in desperation, Dream of the Endless wanders the Earth as an exile from the realm he is meant to embody. Here, far from the Gates of Horn and Ivory, there are wonders and horrors that even an immortal cannot imagine—until they experience them firsthand.

When an ill-fated romance collapses, Dream is vulnerable to exploitation by sinister forces. And when the heart of an Endless breaks, worlds break with it. Meanwhile, as the Dreaming’s abandoned inhabitants hunt their absent sovereign, the realm’s reluctant new ruler strains against the confines of its throne, threatening to undo the very reality that supports it. What happens to a fairy tale’s inhabitants when their author goes missing?

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REVIEW: “Watchmen” (HBO TV Series)

m8rWq3j73ZGhDuSCZWMMoE9ePH1Watchmen is one of those properties that has proven notoriously difficult to adapt to other mediums, so it only seems fitting that it would similarly be difficult to review. Normally, I either review a TV show episode-by-episode, or I review it in chunks, or I review it after the finale ends. For Watchmen, the trick was deciding whether I’d review it three episodes at a time or whether I’d wait until the end of the season and just review the whole thing. As the third episode aired, it became clear that it was going to be impossible to judge this show until the ending was known. Like the graphic novel (written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons), every episode/chapter of the story was clearly building to a climax that would either answer (most of) the questions posed by the story or would completely drop the ball, and the quality of the story would largely be determined by how well it executed its ending (even if individual “chapters” were excellent – episode 6 of the show and the chapter of the comic detailing Manhattan’s past). And, let’s be clear, every episode of the series was extremely good. There was a point to every episode, and they followed a very similar pattern to that of the comic (one episode would be devoted to furthering the plot along, the next would be devoted to exploring one of the key characters’ backgrounds (thus moving the emotional arcs forward) and they’d alternate back and forth like this until the climax. But with this style, it is very important that the landing pay off all of this development in a meaningful and satisfying way. Luckily, that’s exactly what the show managed to do. (Spoilers for all nine episodes of Watchmen follow. You have been warned.)

Set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, WATCHMEN, from executive producer Damon Lindelof (Emmy(R) winner for “Lost”; HBO’s “The Leftovers”) embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name, while attempting to break new ground of its own. Nicole Kassell directs the pilot from a script written by Lindelof. WATCHMEN is produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television; executive producer/writer, Damon Lindelof; executive producer/director, Nicole Kassell; executive producer, Tom Spezialy; executive producer/director, Stephen Williams; executive producer, Joseph Iberti. Based on the iconic graphic novel co-created and illustrated by Dave Gibbons and published by DC.

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REVIEW: “Joker” (2019) (Spoilers!)

mv5bzwfinzbkyjetmmy4my00mdfjltg2ntutmzi2odzlzjbjyzc3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_As if enough things haven’t been written about this movie, here comes another one. Ever since the announcement of this movie, I’ve been skeptical. The Joker is a character who has, historically, never had a definitive origin story – nor has he ever needed one. The entire point (and fun) of the character is that he has no origin. Various stories have hinted at one (The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight) but all have shied away from suggesting any of those origins is the definitive one. So, this movie being entirely about how the Joker became the Joker worried me a bit, though that worry was squashed a bit when they made it clear this movie wouldn’t tie into the larger DCEU and would be the cinematic equivalent of one of DC’s Elseworlds stories. With that context, it was a bit easier to get on board with a film like this. Then came all of the controversy surrounding the film – the articles about how it was irresponsible, the security concerns, etc – and the whole thing began to get a little messy. It was difficult to know what the film was actually saying versus what people were accusing the film of saying. The big question, now that opening weekend has come and gone without much incident, is whether Joker is a good movie that gets across all that it is trying to say. The answer? Yes, mostly. (NOTE: This review will contain some light spoilers for the movie, but this is one of those films where you pretty much already know how it ends; it’s not filled with surprises, but the enjoyment comes from the journey it takes you on.)

Joker (written by Scott Silver and Todd Phillips; directed by Todd Phillips)
“Joker” centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen. Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night…but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.

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REVIEW: “Books of Magic”, vol. 1: Moveable Type

791348._sx1280_ql80_ttd_I never read Neil Gaiman’s original 4-issue run of Books of Magic, nor did I read any of the subsequent runs, so, naturally, of the four titles initially announced for the first wave of Sandman Universe series, this one was the one I was least interested in. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in the premise – I love a good story about people learning how to do magic – but it was more the idea that, due to my lack of knowledge of any of the previous stories, I’d be totally lost going into this comic and find myself unable to enjoy it for what it is. Thankfully, that’s not what happened. Unfortunately, it is still my least favorite ‘volume 1’ of the three in the Sandman Universe that I’ve read so far. (Mild spoilers follow!)

Books of Magic, Volume 1: Moveable Type (written by Kat Howard, illustrated by Tom Fowley, colors by Jordan Boyd) 
While Tim’s trying to study and attract the cutest girl in his class, there are cultists who want to kill him, believing his magical powers will eventually corrupt him, turning him into a merciless mage that will bring upon the end of magic forever! But when a mysterious new substitute teacher for his school called Dr. Rose wants to mentor and educate him in the magical arts so that he can discover the secrets behind the Books of Magic, Tim believes he has the tools to find his missing mother. Is this sudden guidance too good to be true, and what connection–if any–does Rose have to the disappearance of Tim’s teacher Mr. Brisby?

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REVIEW: “Lucifer, Volume 1: The Infernal Comedy” (The Sandman Universe)

91qts0qrbulAs I’ve previously said, I love Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. It’s one of my favorite long-running comic series and it had such a perfect ending as written. I didn’t read any of the spin-off material that came out during the original run of the series – such as the original Book of Magic miniseries or Mike Carey’s Lucifer run. But with the launch of The Sandman Universe, it seemed a perfect time to hop onboard the Lucifer train and see what his comic was all about. I gotta say, this first volume of the newest Lucifer series turned out to be a pretty great first Lucifer story for me to read. (Slight spoilers follow.)

This is the one true tale of what befell the Prince of Lies, the Bringer of Light–Lucifer. The blind, destitute old man, who lives in a small boarding house in a quiet little town, where nothing is quite what it seems and no one can leave. He’s trapped, you see? Trapped in a bizarre prison with no memory of how he got there or why. As the Devil soon discovers, the answers lay in wait with his estranged son, Caliban… too bad Lucifer can’t find him. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Detective John Decker is drawn into a shadowy conspiracy whose widely varied members share a single common purpose: to kill Lucifer Morningstar.

From crime and mystery author Dan Watters (The Shadow, Deep Roots) with art from Max Fiumara and Sebastian Fiumara (Abe Sapien, The Amazing Spider-Man, All-Star Batman) bring us the next chapter in the story everyone’s favorite son of God.

This is the first Lucifer comic I’d ever read. I was familiar with the character from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, but I’d never actually read any of the character’s solo stories. So, as this volume began, I did feel a bit confused as to what was going on. Watters definitely throws readers into the deep end in this story, but it quickly becomes clear that he has a well-thought-out masterplan that proves to be very accessible for new readers – and very rewarding, I suspect, for longtime readers.

In this story, Lucifer has had a son and has abandoned that son in the past – a fact that was alluded to within “The Sandman Universe #1” one-shot (also included in this volume). To right this wrong, he seeks to reunite the son with his mother. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan and Lucifer ends up in a prison he can’t escape from, being held hostage by someone from his past with an ax to grind. And when you’re the literal devil, that’s a lot of people.

The story unfolds in a very interesting way. As I said, it starts off right in the middle of everything, with Lucifer lost in this other world, missing his memories and trying to unravel everything. As the story goes on and the characters all figure out what is going on, the audience is clued in with a series of flashbacks – and a B-plot that ties in directly with the A-plot – and everything unfolds in a very interesting way and ultimately leads to a pretty climactic finale that perfectly sets up the next arc in this ongoing series.

Watters’ writing isn’t the only highlight of this book, however. Accompanying his writing is artwork from Max Fiumara and Sebastian Fiumara. The artwork from these two definitely elevates Watters’ script into something befitting of the devil. The art perfectly builds off of the established features of the Lucifer character – a character designed to be reminiscent of David Bowie – while also adding some new things and perfectly fleshing out the world with gorgeous settings and interesting characters. Watters’ script and Max and Sebastian Fiumara’s art is a match made in heaven – or, perhaps, in hell.

All in all, this first volume of Lucifer is a great start to this ongoing season. It’s a great jumping on point for readers new to the ongoing story of this character and it appears to be a great return to the character for preexisting fans. The story told within this volume is delightful, mixing Christian mythology with The Sandman Universe’s narrative flair. It’s equal parts moving, suspenseful, and bloody. It’s a great book for a great devil.

4 out of 5 wands.

REVIEW: “The Dreaming, Volume 1: Pathways and Emanations” (The Sandman Universe)

the dreaming vol 1One of the most appealing parts of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series was that it was one of those rare long-running comic books that had a definitive end. It ran for a total of 75 issues and, for a while, that was it. Over the years, Gaiman had returned a few times to the universe in order to pen a short spin-off here or a short prequel comic there, but there had never really been anything major that expanded on the world of The Sandman – aside from Mike Carey’s equally long-running Lucifer series, spun off from the character’s few appearances in the main Sandman run. So, when it was announced that Gaiman would be teaming up with Vertigo to launch The Sandman Universe, a collection of four series inspired by and expanding upon the original Sandman run, I was a bit skeptical. Of the four titles that were revealed, there were two that interested me the most: Simon Spurrier’s The Dreaming and Dan Watters’ Lucifer. As The Dreaming was the first of the four books to launch, it’ll be the first of the four that I’ll cover here. In volume one of The Dreaming, Spurrier takes us back into the realm of the Dreaming where Daniel, the current Lord of Dreams, has disappeared just as things are going wrong. And it only gets crazier from there.

The Sandman Universe – The Dreaming, Volume 1: Pathways and Emanations 
Written by: Simon Spurrier, illustrated by: Bilquis Evely, colors by: Mat Lopes 
Lord Daniel’s absence triggers a series of crimes and calamities that consume the lives of those already tangled in his fate. Until he is found, his realm’s residents must protect its broken borders alone. But the most senior storytellers are tormented by invasive secrets, the warden Lucien is doubting his own mind, and beyond the gates, something horrific awaits with tooth and talon. Only Dora, the monstrous, finds opportunity in madness, stealing dreams for the highest bidder. But she has no idea how deep the danger lies. Meanwhile, in Daniel’s gallery, something new is growing…

Written by fan-favorite author Si Spurrier (Motherlands, Suicide Squad) with breathtaking art by standout artist Bilquis Evely (Batman, Wonder Woman). The first book in The Sandman Universe kicks off with fireworks as The Dreaming literally tears itself apart!

The Sandman Universe is a new series of books curated by Neil Gaiman for DC Vertigo. Conjuring epic storytelling and immersing readers into the evolving world of the Dreaming, The Sandman Universe begins anew with four new ongoing series, existing in a shared universe, building upon Gaiman’s New York Times best-selling series that lyrically weaved together stories of dreams and magic.

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REVIEW: Shazam!

shazam posterWho would have thought that Shazam, of all movies, would end up being not only one of the best DCEU movies in years but one of the best superhero origin films in quite some time? Perhaps it’s down to my lack of familiarity with the character and, subsequently, my lack of any real expectations for the film, but I was pleasantly surprised by Shazam. It’s not particularly unique, or anything, but it is the most fun I’ve had with a superhero movie since Thor: Ragnarok, and that’s worth celebrating. Combining lots of humor, great visuals, solid acting, and genuine pathos, Shazam is a superhero movie that will bring out your inner kid as you watch it. It’s a whole lot of fun. (Mild spoilers for the film follow.)

We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, by shouting out one word–SHAZAM!–this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart–inside a ripped, godlike body–Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong).
(Written by Henry Gayden, directed by David F. Sandberg)

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REVIEW: “Aquaman”

aquaman posterI’m not afraid to admit that Aquaman was one of my least anticipated films of 2018. It’s a movie about a character I’ve never been interested who was also deeply uninteresting in his previous big-screen appearance in last year’s Justice League. None of the trailers released for the film ever looked particularly good. The visuals were incredible, but the acting from Jason Mamoa (Aquaman) and Amber Heard (Mera) was wooden and boring to watch. So, to say I wasn’t excited about the film would be an understatement, but I love DC and I want the DC movies to succeed and to be good, so, I still saw the movie. And, to be honest, my initial impression was correct. For as innovative as the visuals were, the storytelling and acting were not. (Mild spoilers may follow) 

From Warner Bros. Pictures and director James Wan comes an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas, “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa in the title role. The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime–one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be… a king.

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