4 Must-Reads for Marvel’s FF relaunch

4 Must-Reads for Marvel’s FF relaunch

Posted by on Aug 8, 2018 in Home, News, Source Material, Uncategorized

 

Today Marvel Comics first family returns in Fantastic Four #1 – written by former Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott and Ultimate Spider-Man artist Sarah Pichelli. The Fantastic Four hasn’t been a team since 2015’s Secret Wars. In that story, the team disbanded with Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm joining the ranks of the Inhumans/Guardians of the Galaxy while Reed and Sue Richards took their children along on their mission to rebuild the multiverse. Among Marvel Comics’ earliest superheroes, the legendary family has had years of iconic stories; however, over the last decade, the title has suffered instability in sales and readership. Some industry members attribute the FF woes to the lukewarm relationship between 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios.

Now that the team is reuniting as part of Marvel’s Fresh Start initiative, let’s celebrate this new chapter of the iconic super team with four pivotal story-lines that’ll either teach you what you need to know or get you really excited for the upcoming book in stores today. IT’S CLOBBERIN’ (or at least spotlightin’) TIME!

1. The Galactus Trilogy (Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #48-50)

The origin of this pivotal Fantastic Four story supposedly began during a brainstorming session between writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby when Kirby asked “ What if the Fantastic Four met God?”. Regardless if that story is true or who gets the credit for what, the three story arc set the standard for modern epic storytelling in comic books and became the essential Fantastic Four story. When Mr. Fantastic is warned by the all knowing Watcher about the arrival of the Silver Surfer and what it symbolizes, the Fantastic Four gathers all of Earth’s heroes to watch his master Galactus arrive and declare his intent to consume the planet and its energies. While Earth’s forces fail to derail his construction of the machines necessary to do such a thing, the Four discover a device that can could stop him: The Ultimate Nullifier. A confrontation between Mr. Fantastic and the omnipotent Galactus occurs and a truce is agreed upon although the entire situation would have repercussions for the Fantastic Four and other individuals involved for years to come. The Galactus Trilogy introduced or elaborated on characters who would become major influences in the Fantastic Four history and dozens of other noteworthy stories would continue, elaborate, or be inspired by this legendary story.

 

2. Hereafter (Fantastic Four Issue #509-513)

Writer Mark Waid and artist Mike Wieringo followed up their memorable story-line “Unthinkable” with this story of the Four in shambles after their latest battle with Doctor Doom has left them branded as terrorists, estranged from each other and grieving the death of their teammate Ben Grimm. Despite his scarred face and fall from grace, Reed Richards contacts Johnny and Sue with a crazy idea how to get Ben back. He hooks up Ben’s body which apparently still contains a glimmer of his consciousness to a machine and is able to track what remains of his soul to a new dimension. While they dance around the idea that this new dimension is “heaven”, the moment they arrive the Three are attacked by angels who warn them they shouldn’t be here and as they search for Ben, they face all sorts of obstacles that threaten or tempt to derail their mission. Along the way, the three characters address their feelings about each other and a lot of truth and pain is acknowledged. When they find Ben who initially doesn’t want to be saved but simply left to eternity, witnessing the mess his family is without him changes Ben’s mind as he realizes how much he truly misses them. Although all of this is one hell of a story, the real monumental moment is the Fantastic Four reaching the end of the realm where they meet their creator who looks like none other than Jack Kirby himself. Sitting in a relaxed studio, he discusses the mysteries of the universe, takes a call from Stan Lee, and with the help of his magical pencil he fixes Reed’s face and returns Ben to his original rocky demeanor. This story serves both as a conclusion and a soft reboot of the characters which was handled better than other noteworthy reboots at Marvel but honestly showed the famous family at their lowest point and how they overcame it together. Despite their powers, they can’t escape the feelings of anger, loss, regret, denial, sadness, and happiness that make them and more or less us human in the first place.

3.  Wolf at the Door ( Marvel Knights Issue #1-7)

Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had the daunting challenge of following up Mark Waid’s memorable run of the Fantastic Four and with artist Steve McNiven, he stepped up to the challenge with a story unlike any at that point. After the Fantastic Four celebrate Franklin Richards birthday, they are notified by their accountant that they are currently broke due to the United States cutting funding for scientific research, a rocky market and an embezzling money manager. Without the protection of the government, the City of New York issues an ultimatum that the Four must pay for the damaged inflicted on the city or turn over the Baxter Building and all its assets. Broke and now homeless, The Four manage to afford a cheap apartment and attempt to hold down regular jobs while Reed tries and fails to figure out a way out of their current situation. As the transition has mixed results with each member, the famous family do their best to make the best of their situation and that’s what makes this story one of the best and most accessible stories. We’re so used to seeing them battling foes in other dimensions or outer space that we forget that they are still human beings. They still have to pay bills, deal with relationship woes, handle rejection or struggle through hard times just like the rest of us. They can fight Doctor Doom, the Mole Man, or Annihilus to a standstill but they can’t pummel bankruptcy or taxes into submission. It’s nice seeing the Richard family give an attempt at normality with a camping trip in New Jersey although we know that something will and does go awry. Although the Fantastic Four would eventually bounce back from this rough patch, this story remains as one of their best and most grounded stories.

  1. Three ( Fantastic Four Issue 583-588)

Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four became one of the best-selling runs that the title had seen in years and Three stands as one of his most epic and most devastating story-lines. Hickman and artist Steve Epting tell an epic story with a grand scale of characters that even Jack Kirby would have appreciated. Old enemies like Doctor Doom, Galactus, and the Yancy Street Gang emerge to cause trouble along with new enemies from other dimensions who want to conquer or destroy Earth. Reed and Sue get caught in the middle of an Atlantean war. Ben Grimm reverts back to his original form and rediscovers what it means to be Ben and not the Thing. Dealing with all of this chaos causes the Four to split up to deal with each catastrophe and in the end, they suffer a defeat that would take years to recover from. Ben and Johnny face the forces of Annihilus and the Negative Zone and in order to prevent the ravenous hordes from getting to Earth, Johnny sacrifices himself  so his friends can escape. His heroic loss was devastating to his family and the Marvel Universe at whole. Although his death would be clarified years later, his loss ushered a new chapter in the Fantastic Four. The Four asked Spider-Man to join their organization as Johnny’s replacement and the group changed their name to the Future Foundation out of respect. Hickman juggled old characters with new characters and pushed this classic family to new and yet tragic lengths while making everything clear and accessible. Some of our best stories unfortunately come from loss and how we comprehend them and what changes they make to our lives moving forward

So that’s just four of the Fantastic Four stories but there are hundreds of issues and dozens of trade paperbacks to choose from characters who’ve been exploring the unknown since 1961. They’ve been through ups and downs, together or at each other’s throats but at the end of the day, they find their strength individually pales to their power as a group or more importantly, a family. I’m excited to see where this new chapter in the Fantastic Four’s lives takes them and I hope you enjoy these stories and find your favorite Fantastic Four stories in the process.

Also enjoy this panel from Hereafter where “God” gets a call from his “collaborator”. Three guesses who it is.

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Who is the Joker? 5 possible origins for upcoming solo film

Who is the Joker? 5 possible origins for upcoming solo film

Posted by on Aug 3, 2018 in Home, News, Source Material, Uncategorized

Recently at San Diego Comic Con, Warner Brothers confirmed more details about the stand alone Joker film centered around Batman’s infamous nemesis. The film starring Walk the Line actor Joaquin Phoenix and directed by The Hangover’s Todd Phillips was given a release date of October 4th, 2019 with the film title simply Joker. The film “centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen. Phillips’ exploration of a man disregarded by society is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.” Set in the 1980s, this movie will be a solo story not part of the DC Extended Universe which plans to do both a Suicide Squad Joker stand-alone film and a Harley Quinn film based on the characters portrayed by Jared Leto and Margo Robbie. While the multiple Joker movies will seem a little confusing and even unnecessary, the Joker is one of the few DC villains who’s character and mythos can support an individual film. With a screenplay co-written by Phillips and Scott Silver who worked on The Fighter, it’s amusing to consider there are multiple Joker origin stories to reference or build upon. That idea was a request from co-creator Jerry Robinson who felt the multiple origins added to the character’s mystery which has been honored by countless DC creators going forward. With that in mind, let’s look at 5 origin stories that might make an excellent Joker movie.

1. Detective Comics Issue #168 (1951): Until that time the Joker had just been a smiling silly criminal clown with gimmicks a plenty until this story titled “ The Man Behind the Red Hood” by co-creator Bill Finger and illustrators Lew Schwartz and Win Mortimer attempted to give him an origin story a decade after the characters debut. Batman decided to teach a class in crime fighting and as a challenge, he presents them with an unsolved case involving the Red Hood. When the Red Hood remerges and continues to elude the Caped Crusader and Robin, a clever trap ensnares the foe but they discover him to an imposter who tied up the real Red Hood so he could use his costume. The imposter leads them to the shed where the true Red Hood is revealed to be the Joker! The Clown Prince of Crime reveals himself to be a former Ace Playing Card Company worker who decided to steal 1 million dollars and retire but when the Dynamic Duo decided to show up, he took a chance in a chemical bath and managed to escape. While his helmet helped him survive, the chemicals transformed him into a new terrifying person and he took the name Joker as tribute to his formerly employer.


2. The Killing Joke (1989): This Alan Moore and Brian Bolland story is considered the pinnacle Joker origin story partially inspired by The Man behind the Red Hood story-line. While Joker famously cripples Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl, in an attempt to drive her father Commissioner Gordon insane, the story also parallels the story of the Joker’s origin story. The man who would become the Joker was a failed engineer who quit his job at the chemical plant to become a stand-up comedian. Stressed by his failure at comedy and the needs to support his pregnant wife, he agrees to take a job with two criminals to rob the playing card company next door to the chemical plant. The title of Red Hood appears to be a revolving door position for the criminals and the man is simply a fall guy in case Batman should show up. Before the heist can go down, the modest man is devastated to learn his wife and unborn child have both died in a household accident. He attempts to bail on his commitment but he is strong-armed by his new “friends” into withholding his agreement. The night of the heist, they are interrupted by security and Batman. The two criminals are killed during the shoot out and the Red Hood takes a chemical bath in order to escape the Dark Knight. When he remerges, the mixture of chemicals and the loss of his family has driven him completely insane. We see the Joker for the first time and this story has been referenced by many other storylines and is considered one of if not the definitive Joker origin story.


3. Batman Confidential: Lovers and Madmen (2007): Many Joker stories have made reference to Joker being involved with the mob usually as an enforcer. In this story by Michael Green and Denys Cowan which takes place early in Batman’s career, the Joker is simply a man named Jack who doesn’t feel his current career  provides him with any real excitement. That all changes when he and his crew meet Batman which does indeed put a smile on his face. With a note pinned on a corpse about “making his day”, the storyline details a crime spree that pits Jack vs. the Batman. When Jack injures Batman’s current girlfriend, Batman lets his emotions get the best of him and cuts Jack’s face with a Batarang leaving him with a permanent smile. Batman also contacts Jack’s employer Maletesta with Jack’s location and they attempt to torture and kill him in an old Pharmaceutical plant. Due to a bizarre set of circumstances, Jack emerges from the incident reborn as the Joker.  Batman has little time to regret his hand in Jack’s transformation before they are thrust into conflict once again.


4. Batman Black and White: Case Study (2000): Few people write the Joker better than Paul Dini and this story with breathtaking artwork by Alex Ross provides a Joker story unlike any other told in a report suggesting both an origin for the Joker and an explanation for his behavior. The Joker is depicted as an unhinged gangster who becomes bored with the lifestyle and power he has accumulated. He creates the Red Hood in order to commit petty crimes. After his encounter with Batman and transformation into the Joker, the story suggests that his methods are to commit sane crimes under the guise of madness thus suggesting he is completely sane and aware of his actions. Although this story convinces the doctors who read it, it is revealed it was written by none other than Doctor Harleen Quinzel prior to her life changing sessions with the Joker. The report is dismissed as being just another Joker prank but nonetheless as a short story, it serves as an original and interesting take on the Clown Prince of Crime.


5. Batman Brave and the Bold Issue #31 (2010): In this issue by John Michael Stracyznski, Chad Hardin and Justinano the Atom has to go into the Joker’s mind in order to cure him of a rare disease. Once inside, Atom experiences a bombardment of memories that suggest Joker’s life was already heading down a dark path before he became the Man who Laughs. We see him as an unstable and unpredictable child who you would not want to get angry. We see him killing his parents in a fire simply because of their discovery of his penchant for killing animals. We see him killing an accomplice after robbing a store simply because the man questioned his murder of the store’s employee. The overall experience in Joker’s mind almost drove Ray Palmer insane and even after the Joker was cured, you could see the traumatic experience would remain with the Atom and its left open that what the hero saw might have not even been the true story after all.

There are of course many other Joker origin stories out there such as Snyder/Capullo’s new 52 story that Joker is an immortal whose numerous resurrections is linked to Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit or Azarello/Bermejo’s Joker graphic novel which depicts an origin more aligned with Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight that upcoming film could reference or find inspiration from. The homicidal clown enjoys creating new origins for anybody who would believe such stories as he sees them as tools he can use to manipulate people for his own agenda. As Batman said “Like any other comedian, he uses whatever material will work” and it’s that unique characteristic that has made the Joker an iconic fan favorite over the years and works to this films advantage. If the material and talent behind the film is strong, the fans will accept and love this interpretation. If it fails, the film will just be ignored and filed away in the bargain bin of comic book history. Although I do not completely understand the need or desire for such a film to exist, I am intrigued to see what risks and direction this forthcoming film takes. Until then, keep smiling.

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New Venom Trailer Review

New Venom Trailer Review

Posted by on Aug 1, 2018 in Home, News, Opinion, Source Material, Uncategorized

 

When Sony announced they were going forward with a Venom movie, we had a right to be skeptical. When considering all of Spider-Man’s iconic villains over the years, Venom is easily one of the most memorable and popular adversaries of the ol’ Web Head. Half alien symbiote that was once bonded to Spider-Man and half disgraced journalist Eddie Brock, their combined hatred of Spider-Man created an monstrous vigilante/anti-hero with considerable powers who continues to cross paths with Spider-Man to this day. One of the few Spider-Man foes to successfully carry their own series, Venom continued to make appearances in comics and television alike until his big screen debut in 2007’s Spider-Man 3. Although the movie and actor Topher Grace tried, the performance failed to capture the charm and danger that Venom represents to Spider-Man and future discussions of a Venom solo film were shelved. Discussion of the solo film returned in 2012 as part of the Amazing Spider-Man series to be directed by Chronicle’s Joshua Trank but that idea went nowhere once again. Finally in 2016, discussions of a Venom solo film were finally moving forward with Tom Hardy cast as Eddie Brock and Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer directing a film outside of the current MCU continuity. The first trailer was an teaser that didn’t really show much of Brock’s alter ego and the second trailer is infamously known for creating the debate around the proper pronunciation of symbiotes. Today the 3rd trailer for Venom was released to the public although I remain skeptical, the content inside has definitely peaked my interest for its premiere in October.

One of the films biggest criticisms already has been the removal of Spider-Man from Venom’s origin overall. Tom Hardy shows an Eddie Brock who isn’t afraid of dealing with scandals or blows to his professional reputation while in pursuit of the truth, but Spider-Man was the main reason for Venom’s creation. Once rejected because of its abuse of its host and his powers, the symbiote lay dormant in a local church until it came across a depressed and vengeful Eddie. Eddie Brock lost everything when his lead on a prolific serial killer turned out to be a red herring while Spider-Man caught the real killer. Unable to accept responsibility for his actions, he blamed Spider-Man for ruining his life and desired revenge as he contemplated suicide. His hatred of Spider-Man was so potent that it awakened the symbiote and the kindred spirits created something unlike any foe Spider-Man had ever faced. After battling Spider-Man more than once, Venom eventually agreed to a truce and moved to San Francisco where he appointed himself the city’s lethal protector dispensing his own unique form of justice. Even though the film apparently finds a way to establish Brock and the events that help to create Venom, Spider-Man’s absence is noticeable primarily to comic book fans but does not derail the film and its direction so far.

 

This version of Venom appears to take inspiration from that chapter in the character’s history with the new villain responsible for its creation being the Life Foundation and its leader Carlton Drake played by Riz Ahmed. The trailer’s dialogue appears in line with the Life Foundation in the comics and their motivation to prepare the world for the upcoming Armageddon  but here they believe that the newly discovered symbiotes are not only mankind’s savior but also the next step in human evolution. Stating the film took inspiration from horror directors like David Cronenberg and John Carpenter, there appears to be all manner of gruesome transformations and deaths as the symbiotes are here and ready to play. Brock’s investigation into the Life Foundation and their experiments will put him on the path to becoming Venom and like any new superpowers, there is the learning curve and definition of the character. Exploring abilities of Venom that were established later in the creature’s continuity, we can see Eddie wrestle out loud with the symbiote about what it is and what their partnership will represent. Fans will cheer at Venom’s debate about what of his enemies’ body parts he’ll eat or his monologue full of threats to a robber of a local business because it reinforces that this character is no Captain America or even the Punisher. Fleischer has promised that this film will open the door to a bigger world referencing the Symbiote Home World and the fact that one of the film’s villains will be the symbiote dubbed Riot. In the comics, Riot was one of the five symbiotes extracted from Venom to be soldiers for the Life Foundation and Riot’s special ability was that it could easily transfer from host to host meaning it could be anybody. As seen in the trailer, Riot commits more than a few atrocities and apparently it will bond with Drake leading to a climatic battle near the end of the film. With Michelle Williams playing Eddie’s DA girlfriend Anne Weyving and rumors that Cletus Cassady aka the man who would become Carnage may make an appearance, it would appear other symbiotes and characters could show up in Venom’s future should the film be successful.

In the comics, Venom’s warped perception is that he is the hero while Spider-Man is the villain. In the trailer we can see Eddie accepting that while these powers are dangerous, its not completely awful suggesting he’s beginning to accept his role as judge, jury and executioner. While the absence of Spider-Man begs the question that without him does Venom have a chance of being a good movie, its important to remember that with the right cast, crew, and script any movie has the potential to be great regardless of a character’s previous portrayals. Despite any flaws that people may fuss and nitpick over, this trailer shows us a fuller and more comprehensive trailer of the movie as a whole than the previous trailers. The movie could be great, it could be okay or it could be awful but that’s the gamble you make every time you sit down in that movie theater. After what I’ve seen, I’m willing to give this Venom a chance and maybe you should too.

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Aquaman and Shazam Trailers suggest hope for the DC Cinematic Universe

Aquaman and Shazam Trailers suggest hope for the DC Cinematic Universe

Posted by on Jul 25, 2018 in Home, News, Opinion, Uncategorized

 

San Diego Comic Con is the place of nerd spoilers and anticipation where news of all kind are announced, spoiled, discussed and released to the general public. Among the many highlights of that weekend, DC Comics released two trailers for the upcoming Aquaman and Shazam! films to great reaction from an audience who was starting to doubt the DC Cinematic Universe’s potential. With the exception of Wonder Woman, a majority of the recent films in the DC genre haven’t been getting the box office totals or critical reaction DC or Warner Brothers was anticipating which is a shame considering the vast universe of rich and fascinating characters within the DC Comics Universe itself. While the superhero film genre appears dominated by rival company Marvel Comics, Aquaman starring Jason Momoa reprising his role of Arthur Curry from Justice League or Shazam! with Zachary Levi starring as Billy Batson’s adult alter-ego suggest that DC Comics might have a few unexpected tricks that may shift momentum and interest back in their favor.

The Shazam! Trailer:

My first thought about this film is that the DC Universe needs this. Many of their films have opted for a gritty and consistently darker themed movie which have had a mixed reactions from fans who feel the unnecessary action scenes, inconsistent scripts and erratic portrayals of favorite characters contradict fans opinions of their beloved characters and give people unfamiliar with the comics poor introductions to the character. Shazam! also tackles magic which is something the modern superhero film genre has struggled to balance in the past. While films like Marvel’s Thor and Doctor Strange have successfully managed to introduce their characters with a good balance of magic, realism and humor there are moments that have fallen flat. The problem with magic is that once you explain a trick, it loses that wonder and appeal so thus when introducing a character who transforms by getting struck by a magic bolt of lightning, you gotta make it fun. When this film was announced, I was excited because Shazam or his previous name “Captain Marvel” was always a character that seemed eternally Silver Age in a modern world considering his back story and interactions with the DC Universe overall. A runaway is chosen by a magic Wizard to be his champion so whenever he says the magic word “ Shazam”, he transforms into an adult guardian gifted with mythological superpowers and the brain of a young adult. He protects his home in the fictional Fawcett City from a mix of mythical and science fiction foes while still dealing with the everyday struggles of life.  Zachary Levi captures that childlike wonder and joy in his expression and his performance alone. Whether he’s testing his superpowers with his foster brother/best friend Freddy Freeman, a disabled young man played by Jack Dylan Grazer who could end up sharing Billy’s greatness, or realizing he has bullet immunity, I found myself laughing more than once during this trailer because it looks exciting and fun. The script is clearly taking some inspiration from the New 52 version of Shazam from the creative team of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank as seen by Billy Batson character played by Asher Angel and the appearance of Dr. Sivana played by Mark Strong. Dr. Sivana, one of Shazam’s oldest enemies, backstory has been changed from an older scientist to someone who also encountered the Wizard who gave Billy his powers but was denied the power. Dr. Sivana’s lifelong quest to achieve those powers in an effort to prove himself will bring him into collision with Shazam and possibly lead to the introduction of Black Adam in future movies to be portrayed by Dwayne Johnson. With the right mix of comedy, action, and comic book references this upcoming 2019 film could be the kind of lighthearted film to shine a light in this gloomy DC Universe.

 

Aquaman Trailer:

Having met the man in real life, I have never had an issue with Jason Momoa’s performance as Aquaman and believed him to be one of the stronger characters portrayed in the Justice League. While Shazam! is a balance of comedy and action, Aquaman proves that comic book movies don’t have to be dark but that they can be serious in their direction and portrayal. Balancing solemn themes of war and responsibility with dashes of science fiction and comedy, Aquaman portrays Arthur Curry struggling to prevent a war between the surface people who threaten the ocean and the people of Atlantis who are eager to retaliate by force. Despite popularity in comics and television, some still remember the time when Aquaman and his powers were considered more comical and gimmicky instead of practical to the Justice League’s adventures. Taking inspiration from the New 52 version of the character and the “Throne of Atlantis” story-line, both products of writer Geoff Johns, we see more into Arthur’s backstory as a child of two worlds: a light keeper at Amnesty Bay and the Queen of Atlantis. We see him working together with Mera, a Xebel princess and Arthur’s loyal love interest, played by Amber Heard as he decides to accept his birthright in order to stop his half-brother Orm a.k.a Ocean Master played by Patrick Wilson from motivating the Seven Seas to war. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s portrayal of Black Manta says nothing but his appearance alone is not only accurate to the comics but adds even more anticipation to this impressive and eagerly anticipated cast.  Director James Wan who did excellent work with Star Trek Beyond shows us both the beauty of Atlantis and the brutality of war as Orm and Arthur battle for the right to rule Atlantis as they see fit. While already entrenched in the DC universe, both films seem comfortable with minimal references to the current DC Cinematic Universe and that essential focus may benefit the film in the long run. Instead of a cameo from Batman or Superman, the film could focus on references or Easter eggs relevant to the character and flesh out this particular version of Aquaman, something that should have been done before the Justice League, not after.  Momoa’s Arthur Curry knows when to let his actions speak for him but the script allows for some good one liners to break apart the serious moments instead of letting the high-intense action become clique or repetitive. With love, weird undersea creatures being either enemy or ally, intriguing cameos from veteran actors and the anticipated appearance of the classic orange and green Aquaman armor, this upcoming movie scheduled for December 2018 reminds us that while Aquaman does talk to fish, he is still King of the Ocean.

At this time, whenever we get excited about an upcoming DC movie we have this little voice in the back of our mind reminding us to remain objective and not to get too excited. Many have voiced criticism with the previous direction of the DC Cinematic Universe and I believe that these two forthcoming films show that DC Comics and Warner Brothers are listening and working towards a better universe that reflects the source material but isn’t afraid to take the characters in new and exciting directions. But this shouldn’t be seen as redemption, it’s not their attempt to be better than Marvel and even if it is, in the end these are just two movies that I can’t wait to sit down and enjoy with an audience of my peers. I’m excited and I want to see more and that is exactly what trailers are meant to do.

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Glass: The Final Installment in M. Night’s Superhero Trilogy

Glass: The Final Installment in M. Night’s Superhero Trilogy

Posted by on Jul 25, 2018 in Home, News, Source Material, Uncategorized

 

 

At San Diego Comic this weekend, Universal Pictures released the first full trailer of Glass, M. Night Shyamalan’s conclusion to the superhero story he began with Unbreakable (2000) and continued with Split (2016).

Originally intended to mirror a comic book three part story structure, Unbreakable told the story of security guard David Dunn played by Bruce Willis who is the sole survivor of a horrific train crash. After the incident, he meets with a disabled comic art gallery owner Elijah Price played by Samuel L. Jackson who suggests that Dunn may have superpowers. Afflicted with a rare bone disability that makes his bones brittle and easy to break, “Mr. Glass” suggest that there are other’s out there like themselves. Dunn spends most of the movie discovering the extent of his powers and trying to use them to help people while trying to navigate a strained relationship with his family. Near the end, he learns that Elijah is not only responsible for his earlier crash but also dozens of other incidents all in pursuit of finding other super powered individuals. David walks away from Elijah who believes he was meant to be David’s super villain and is eventually arrested, tried, and sentenced to an institution for the criminally insane. It opened to good reviews, $248 million at the box office, and is considered both a cult film and one of the best superhero movies ever made.

After years of development and questionable movie decisions from the writer/director, Split told the story of Kevin Crumb played by James Macavoy who suffers extreme dissociative learning disorder with 23 distinct personalities within his body. He kidnaps three teenage girls Casey, Monica, and Claire and keeps them hostage as the more dominant personalities express that the girls are intended as some kind of sacrifice to “The Beast”, an unseen 24th personality. As the girls attempt and fail to escape or manipulate the other personalities within Kevin, we gradually see the emergence of the Beast as a personality that is a sociopath, cannibalistic but also grants Kevin incredible strength and speed. As the Beast hunts down and devours Claire and Monica, Casey manages to escape a similar fate upon the discovery that she is also is a victim of suffering and abuse. The Beast declares its mission is to cleanse the world of the untouched, those who he deems impure for having never suffered, and spares Casey. A while later, Kevin’s mission has the media calling him the Horde and a cameo by David Dunn proved to be the biggest twist M. Night’s done in years. Not only is Split a super-villain solo/origin story but it is the second act in a superhero trilogy that many thought was never going to be completed until now.


The Glass trailer connects all three characters: David Dunn, Kevin Crumb, and Elijah Price in one theme: they have all been institutionalized for believing they have superpowers. As narrated by Dr. Ellie Staple played by Sarah Paulson, she is a psychologist who specializes in treating people who believe they are superheroes. Dr. Staple claims that it’s a growing field which may support Glass’ previous claim that there are others out there like them and their exposure to the world may be his primary motivation in this movie. It would appear that Mr. Glass and the Horde will be working together with Dunn set as the hero who will stop them both. It’ll be interesting seeing how Dunn’s powers have evolved since we last saw him or what diabolical plans Price has setting up since his incarceration. We can already tell that there are a few new personalities within the Horde which continues to cement McAvoy’s excellent acting abilities and returning cameo from Casey, his sole survivor played by Anya Taylor-Joy. M. Night’s approach to comics and superheroes continue his trend of grounding the fantastic with elements of reality and frankly this is a welcome break in a genre dominated by comic book companies like DC and Marvel. Glass is a serious film that thinks less about how their characters will appear on action figures and more about the symbolism of the characters themselves or the cohesive flow of the film as a whole. As a fan of Unbreakable, I was taken by surprise watching Split when it was revealed both films were within the same universe. Glass completes the trilogy that M. Night started almost 20 years ago and I cannot wait to see how this story ends, words that I haven’t truly said about an M. Night Shyamalan film in a long time. What a twist indeed.

 

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Death of Superman Review

Death of Superman Review

Posted by on Jul 21, 2018 in Home, News, Opinion, Uncategorized

Few stories changed the very fabric of Superman like 1992-1993’s Death of Superman. The invincible and unstoppable Superman met an enemy unlike few he had experienced before in the form of the feral Doomsday. As the creature tore through cities and superheroes alike, Doomsday met his match in Superman as both adversaries fought a battle that culminated in Superman’s beloved Metropolis. In the end, Superman and Doomsday would die at each other’s hand and his death would rock the very foundation of the DC universe and comics in general. Although he would return in Reign of Superman, Superman would never be the same. The story was adapted in an animated film in 2007’s Superman: Doomsday which attempted to combine both Death and Reign of Superman into one cohesive story and was released to mixed results. Recently, DC Animated Films decided to do what they should have in the first place by splitting both stories into two individual films. With writer Peter Tomasi handling the script with an all-star cast of talent, Death of Superman modernizes the dated material within the context of the current New 52 Animated universe and still manages to fill it with wonderful references and moments that capture the meaningfulness of the tragedy it represents.


One of the films strengths is its script. Peter Tomasi balances his sense of humor with his ability to juggle multiple characters with their own individual’s moments while still doing the source material justice. Stripping away elements from the original stories that would have been too confusing or tangential, he makes the focus about Superman and his relationships, specifically his with Lois Lane voiced by real life couple Jerry O’Connell and Rebecca Romijn. Although Superman’s identity and the means he takes to conceal it from others has been a constant debate with comic book fans, the movie takes the time to explore Clark’s double life and the vulnerability to his emotions that comes as a result. As Superman, he might as well be a god but as Clark Kent, he experiences life plagued by doubt, fear, frustration, and embarrassment as much as the next person. He can stop Intergang from kidnapping the Mayor but introducing Lois Lane to his parents petrifies the Man of Steel in a way that Lex Luthor would envy. Tomasi takes time to pepper in references not only from the comic but also from Superman’s entire history. Whether it’s a redheaded Lex Luthor or a fish girl that Clark used to date, it shows that not only did Tomasi do his research but he also knows how to mention it without distracting from the overall story. As we get a good idea of Clark and his everyday life, everything changes the second Doomsday drops in from the sky.

Doomsday isn’t like other Superman villains, he isn’t bound by revenge or ego; his goal is not to enslave the planet or challenge Superman to an arm wrestling contest to see who is the strongest. He is simply there to destroy and he does it very well as he tears through people and Justice League alike. The Justice League puts up a good effort, voiced by a group of regulars such as Jason O’Mara, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion and Shemar Moore, but the only one who can stop Doomsday is Superman and the two battle back and forth wearing each other down until their tragic end at each other’s hands in the ruins of Metropolis.


While I did enjoy the movie, I felt that updating the story to fit within the new 52 storyline came off as disjointed instead of natural at times. It’s true that not a lot of the original material would have made sense but I felt that the story might have worked as a collective flashback amongst survivors of Doomsday’s rampage instead of an unfolding narrative. Details like Superman’s new 52 costume seemed strange in the same context of his relationship with Lois Lane since that relationship didn’t exist at that time in Superman’s revised history. The Justice League, which is supposed to represent a group of the world’s mightiest heroes, are just symbols who prove to be nothing without Superman when they get beaten every other week according to Lex Luthor. While the meeting at the Hall of Justice was a good moment to let the characters connect and breathe, some members such as Batman had far bigger roles to play in the conflict while characters like Hawkman were there and then quickly removed from the battlefield.

Then there’s Lex Luthor played by Rainn Wilson whose Lex fails to capture the arrogance and intelligence of Clancy Brown’s portrayal  and at times has more in common with Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex from Batman vs. Superman. Until the end of the film, Lex does very little but verbally spar with Superman, outsmart the authorities and figure out a way to use this new monster to his advantage. He makes his move in the battle against Doomsday but to his horror his worst nightmare becomes true with Superman saving his life before sacrificing his own, leaving him the lesser man. The sneering and overbearing Lex was obviously present but Wilson unfortunately didn’t have the kind of gravitas and presence I’ve come to expect from the character. Fortunately these flaws do not overshadow the film or make the film less enjoyable overall.

In the end, the Man of Steel is gone and the world mourns his loss with a big ceremony that shows how those who knew him grieve regarding his absence in their own unique ways. Some cry, some bury themselves in their work to distract from their pain while others are not entirely convinced he’s truly dead. The film sets up the next movie Reign of Superman perfectly by introducing each of the four upcoming Supermen subtly throughout the movie and after his death, the film pulls a Lord of the Rings multiple ending to show that Superman’s legacy will live on. The person I found myself connecting with the most was Bibbo Bibbowski, owner of the Ace o’ Clubs bar and Superman’s #1 fan. Whether he’s getting a picture with the Man of Steel or talking about today’s special with ” Super Sauce”, Bibbo represents all the fans who find inspiration and hope within Superman. When Superman dies, we find Bibbo distraught and wondering how such a thing could happen and that moment is a metaphor for life. Sometimes we invest ourselves in ideas and symbols and put our faith and love towards them so when they fail or die, our faith is shaken because our beliefs are no longer indestructible; they can be beaten or broken and that makes us feel even smaller and more alone than we did originally. Despite the ramifications his death and eventual resurrection had for comics in general, I thought Death of Superman was a faithful adaptation that despite its flaws captured the emotional essence of the story and I look forward to seeing how that story continues/ends in Reign of Superman debuting early 2019.

 

 

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