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REVIEW: Audible’s “The Sandman”

Making an audio adaptation of The Sandman seems like a great idea. There’s a lot of ways to convey fantasy settings using just sound and it feels like the perfect medium for The Sandman. I mean, it’s a series about the power of stories and what better way to experience the story than to close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you, right? And, in all honesty, that’s basically what Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman is – though, I’d argue it skews a bit closer to an audiobook than a true audio drama, but for most people, that’ll be just fine. For me, I enjoyed the adaptation but I wish it embraced the power of audio dramas a bit more than it does and relied less on narration to explain the “missing” visuals. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: Mild spoilers may follow.)

The Sandman (written by Neil Gaiman, adapted by Dirk Maggs)
When The Sandman, also known as Lord Morpheus—the immortal king of dreams, stories and the imagination—is pulled from his realm and imprisoned on Earth by a nefarious cult, he languishes for decades before finally escaping. Once free, he must retrieve the three “tools” that will restore his power and help him to rebuild his dominion, which has deteriorated in his absence. As the multi-threaded story unspools, The Sandman descends into Hell to confront Lucifer (Michael Sheen), chases rogue nightmares who have escaped his realm, and crosses paths with an array of characters from DC comic books, ancient myths, and real-world history, including: Inmates of Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum, Doctor Destiny, the muse Calliope, the three Fates, William Shakespeare (Arthur Darvill), and many more.

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SCRIPT REVIEW: “Sandman” by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio

I don’t normally review screenplays – and I especially don’t normally review screenplays that were never produced. But I am making an exception here. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman has had a long road to being adapted for another medium. A film version languished in development hell for 20-some years before finally getting turned into an upcoming Netflix TV series and an Audible audio drama. One of the writing teams attached to the film was Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, most famous for writing Shrek and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. In 1996, they wrote a draft of a Sandman film. That draft is publicly available for reading on their website, Wordplayer. It is for this reason that I feel comfortable reading and reviewing the script – the writers have put it out there and, at that point, it’s fair game to be looked at. And, in all fairness, I actually think their attempt at adapting The Sandman is a relatively good one. Obviously, those comics are better suited for a TV series, but as far as film adaptations go, it’s pretty solid. (3.5 out of 5 wands.)

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REVIEW: “Doomsday Clock”

doomsday clockI really wish Doomsday Clock was better than it is. I love Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen and I really enjoy the DC Universe; I even thought much of the lead up to this series was very good – or, at least, intriguing. But then the actual series came out and it was plagued by so many delays in its publication that it genuinely became difficult to follow the story as it went on. Unfortunately, rereading the whole series upon its completion didn’t really make it much easier to follow. But, I suppose, that’s in line with the original Watchmen graphic novel. (This review covers all twelve issues of Doomsday Clock and may contain mild spoilers.)

Doomsday Clock (written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Gary Frank)
Seven years after the events of Watchmen, Adrian Veidt has been exposed as the murderer of millions. Now a fugitive, he has come up with a new plan to redeem himself in the eyes of the world. The first step? Finding Dr. Manhattan. Alongside a new Rorschach and the never-before-seen Mime and Marionette, he follows Manhattan’s trail to the DC Universe, which is on the brink of collapse as international tensions push the “doomsday clock” ever closer to midnight. Is this all Dr. Manhattan’s doing?

Spinning out of Watchmen, DC Universe: Rebirth,  and Batman/The Flash: The Button, Doomsday Clock rewrites the past, present, and future of the DC Universe.

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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: “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: “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: “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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