Netflix’s Punisher

With Iron Fist and The Defenders coming out later this year it can be easy to forget about the Netflix series that follows.

After seeing him in The Walking Dead and Fury (2014) I thought Bernthal’s casting as Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher was perfect. He went on to become the best thing about Daredevil’s second season, providing a deadly foil to Matt Murdock. After watching the season and reading The Punisher Max and War Journal, the Punisher quickly became one of my favourite comic book characters.

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is (MCU) is sometimes hampered by the desire to remain family-friendly, the Netflix shows capture a more adult world that is also not afraid to embrace the more fantastical elements of the comics. Many people didn’t like the mystical aspects of Daredevil’s second season, probably due to the contrast with the gritty first season. However, I didn’t mind these additions. My biggest gripe was the love story between Matt and Karen, which wasn’t foreshadowed at all with the previous season. This season began and they were suddenly in love.

With that said, The Punisher is a series that might work better (at least for the first season) with more grounded villains. Most of the villains in the aforementioned comics were figures involved in crime syndicates such as the mafia or IRA. While The Punisher obviously lives in the same universe as Thor and The Hulk, and has fought some of these figures in the comics, I hope the solo series starts with his work on the streets. Daredevil ended with Castle donning his costume as he continued his personal war on crime. I want to see that story expanded, as Castle continues to target criminal enterprises.

While Daredevil emphasized Castle’s pursuit by law enforcement, the Max comics frequently imply that the police tolerate his presence. There is a story arc where corrupt policemen frame him for the murder of one of their own, but for the most part the police realize he makes their jobs easier and scares some people off the streets. It would be interesting to see this dynamic in the series as well. I have heard the series will be inspired by the Max run, and I am especially hoping that the “Slavers” arc is adapted.

Set pictures have revealed that Karen Page will appear in the series. She tried to act as Castle’s voice of reason in Daredevil, creating a character dynamic that had far more chemistry than her and Murdock’s. It is likely she will be trying to steer him away from vigilantism, or a less violent alternative. If the character’s written properly he won’t be changing his mind, but their conversations could lead to more interesting insights about how Castle views the world e.g. the rooftop conversation in Daredevil.

One of my main worries is the length of the seasons. Every Marvel Netflix show is thirteen episodes, which feels like too much at times. Luke Cage was a good show, but I feel like it was hampered by the length. Shortening the series by an episode or two could have led to some more concise storytelling. Since the series needed to be padded to 13 episodes I feel like all of the legal wrangling in the last few episodes was added to get the series to the necessary length. Since The Punisher kills his enemies there will be definitely be less police and courtroom proceedings to worry about. However, some other plot twists could be utilized to pad the series unnecessarily. Until the thirteen episode rule changes we’ll have to hope the writers adapt to give us 13 episodes that don’t feel bloated or stretched out.

Besides that concern, this series has a lot to offer. The few comics I’ve read present a swath of interesting supporting characters and villains that will help to support one of my favourite anti-heroes as he makes his solo tv debut. What is your most anticipated Marvel Netflix show of 2017?

 

Kill Or Be Killed

Hello everyone,

Comicommand is back and the first articles of the new year were uploaded yesterday, including my article on Ed Brubaker’s “Kill or Be Killed” (2016).

Check it out below or on the site.

 

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I first came across Ed Brubaker’s work with Incognito, a short but interesting series about a former supervillain in the witness protection program. Kill or be Killed (2016) frequently popped up in any discussion of Brubaker and I was quick to add it to my reading list.

The series follows Dylan, a college student who is visited by a demon after a failed suicide attempt. The demon advised Dylan that he spared his life, but must now kill one person a month in order to continue living. After the demon breaks his arm and uses host bodies to assault him, Dylan begins his quest to eliminate people who deserve to die.

Dylan’s father committed suicide when he was younger, which indicates he may have inherited certain dispositions from that side of the family. What makes the story so interesting is that Dylan has tried to commit suicide previously, so we know that he is mentally troubled. For all we know, his vision of a demon is all a part of his own delusion: a sort of split personality that prods him to begin his quest. The series is only on its fifth issue so there is still plenty of time to see if this theory is right.

Dylan may be mentally troubled but many of his struggles are universal. He is yet another student trying to figure out his life, and who struggles with girls. His best friend, Kira, is dating his roommate and he mostly sees her only when she visits her boyfriend.

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People Who Deserve It

Even though the protagonist is relatable, the story can fall apart if the transition to crime-fighting is handled poorly. Brubaker excels at creating a realistic portrait of attempted vigilantism that reminded me somewhat of Kick-Ass. Dylan is able to get a gun pretty easily, since his deceased father had one buried in his possessions. This plot point might seem too convenient but it fits since we know Dylan’s dad committed suicide, he is likely carrying out his mission with his father’s murder weapon.

The toughest part for Dylan is finding people who deserve to die. He realizes that he can’t rely on movies as a blueprint, knowing that muggings and other crimes don’t routinely happen on subways or dark alleys when he is present. He finds his first target because he remembers that one of his childhood friends was molested by his older brother. He already knows the person’s name, and Facebook gives him everything else he needs, including the person’s work place.

When he’s successful with his first hit, he can’t remember if he said something to the target before he shoots him. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t, and his mind is retroactively adding in a cool one-liner that one of his favourite movie characters would say. Dylan faces success, but he also faces plenty of failure. His actions escalate, bringing more consequences for him. As the story progresses, we’ll likely see consequences for his loved ones too.

Kill or Be Killed is a deconstruction of vigilantism, a love story and a story of mental illness. Brubaker deftly handles Dylan’s development and I am eager to see how the series ends his journey.

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The Rock and DC Comics- Tonal Change

Two days ago, The Rock posted to Instagram about a meeting he had with DC Comics concerning the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The Rock was announced as a lead for the DCEU’s Shazam (yes, the hero is actually called Captain Marvel but due to copyright issues he is just Shazam at the moment) adaptation, playing the role of the villain Black Adam.

However, there has been little word on the project since then. Henry Cavill posted a picture of he and the Rock sharing a drink in late December, fueling speculation that The Rock would make an appearance in the next Superman solo film, especially since Cavill hinted at bright things for the future.

The Rock is one of the few stars who can engage audiences off charisma alone. He is not the greatest actor, but his work on Ballers shows that he is developing. I am excited to see that the project is coming together slowly but The Rock’s summary of the meeting leaves me slightly worried.

“Had a very cool and strategic meeting with the heads of DC about their entire universe. As a hard core DC fan, to get a real sense of the tonal shifts and developments coming in these future movies has me fired up. Something we, as DC fans have all been waiting for for a very long time.

Hope, optimism & FUN.

Even when talking about the the most ruthless villain/anti-hero of all time finally coming to life. Prepare yourselves DC Universe.”

I have discussed the obsession with making comic book films “fun” before and how this belief is founded on nonsensical assumptions.

“I am not anti-fun or anti-humour. I simply do not like it when the device is overused. While some Marvel films have juggled it well, such as The Winter Soldier (2014), the Thor series has been severely brought down by terrible and consistent one-liners imho. While Loki’s humour is handled well, Jane’s (Natalie Portman) and Darcy’s (Kat Dennings) end up being the Jar Jars of the franchise. My problem is not only the overuse of humour, but how Marvel has successfully conditioned people to believe that this humour is the mark of a good comic book movie. Nowadays, any film that lacks the same level of levity is deemed too “dark”, “gritty”, “depressing, “brooding” or “pretentious”. A lot of the criticism levied towards Man of Steel (MOS) before it was even released came from this misconception. The trailers were serious in tone, nothing about them screamed “dark” or “brooding”, but people were so used to Marvel’s marketing by this point. The MOS trailers did not have enough one-liners, enough levity in comparison to Marvel’s trailers, so people were thrown off. Everything is relative, and since the MOS trailers were found to be lacking in humour, they were immediately deemed too dark.

This brings up another issue I have with Marvel’s brainwashing. I often hear people throw around the word “dark” like it is an insult in itself. As if saying a film is dark is as bad as saying the acting was terrible, the writing was terrible etc. A film can be “dark” and also be good… While Marvel has darker material in some of its films, and has Netflix shows with much darker tones (Daredevil, Jessica Jones) it appears that Marvel’s status gives it more room to experiment than any other property has. Marvel’s trailers, films and tv shows can have darker tones without people complaining about them trying to “copy Christopher Nolan”, “not being fun” etc. While Marvel is allowed to experiment, change and adapt, DC is now forced to appeal to Marvel sensibilities in order to be less divisive among audiences.”

You don’t have to tell me that BatmanvSuperman (Bvs) of Suicide Squad (SS) had issues. The villains and third act for both films sucked. Some dialogue was weak, some acting was weak, Eisenberg was a terrible Luthor etc. I am not a DC “fanboy”. I don’t think that DC can do no wrong. I just hate the fact that people believe that the solution to these films is to make them more “fun”. Some of the things added to SS to make it more fun, actually made it worse, such as the overly abundant musical segways. The emphasis on adding more “fun” in could cause the writers, directors, studios etc. to overlook other issues, such as a weak villain or weak storytelling (which is not always tied to tone). Like this writer says, “‘Justice League’ Is Reportedly “A Mess” & That’s Fine, As Long As It’s a Fun Mess.” Words can not describe how much I detest this mentality. Sadly critics and audiences will probably love the film more for its tone even if everything else is terrible.

The Justice League trailer already had me worried that the studio is putting even more pressure on the directors and writers to lighten things up. Bruce Wayne seems completely out of character, and so does Barry Allen. Wally West (Allen’s nephew-in law) is the version of The Flash that is known for being comic-relief. Allen is a more serious character, but it seems like the writers have just changed Allen completely in order to get more room for humour. Wayne can be funny as well, but I find his humour is best when it is done similarly to the dry humour we’re familiar with from Alfred.

One of the best examples of Batman’s humour, in my opinion, comes from the animated film Superman/Batman Apocalypse. After a newly arrived Supergirl damages $50,000 worth of batcave equipment, Superman asks Batman to send him the bill.  Batman then says: “On a reporter’s salary, right.”

That kind of humour adds levity, without coming across as out of character. Unlike the “more or less” exchange in The Justice League. That is the issue I have with some of the “fun” people insist on, especially because people normally ask for fun because DC is dark relative to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). When there is an insistence on having “fun” in every scene it can just kill dramatic tension. As Jeremy Jahns said in his review of Doctor Strange, “Sometimes I want an epic moment instead of a funny one.”

 

 

 

Outcast

I’ll be back to writing for comicommand soon, and should have an article for them around January 15. My first piece for the new year will be a piece on Ed Brubaker’s Kill or Be Killed. Until then, I wanted to share some thoughts on another ongoing series that I’m reading.

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is undoubtedly the comic that turned me into a serious comic book reader. It started with Rick Grimes, then moved on to Spider Jerusalem, Jesse Custer, Billy The Butcher, Mark Grayson, and now Kyle Barnes.

After binging on Invincible and then having to wait until February for the next issue, I eagerly sought out Kirkman’s latest series. After giving us a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, and then a superhero story, Kirkman delves into demonic possession.

Outcast follows Kyle Barnes, a man whose life is plagued with demonic possession and who is ostracized in his hometown after allegedly hurting his wife and daughter. While Kyle knows something changed his wife, making her attack their daughter, no one else believes him. As he returns home, Reverend Anderson helps to open his eyes to the truth of demonic possession.

Although I have not seen many films related to possession, I have always been interested in the subject. Firstly, Paul Azaceta’s artwork truly helps to bring the story to life from the first frame onward. The style is somewhat simple, compared to works like Punisher: Max, but is reminiscent of Invincible. Azaceta fits the comic’s atmosphere of horror by seamlessly transitioning from relatively simple frames, to ones that are genuinely unsettling.

 

Kirkman is also able to explore a religious theme, without creating a story that is pro or anti-Christian. Kyle represents the skeptic, while Reverend Anderson is the holy man who slowly makes Kyle accept the truth of exorcism. The story could come across as formulaic with this set up, but Anderson is a layered character who believes in the Lord, while also having his own doubts about institutionalized religion and God. Anderson’s thoughts are some of the most interesting parts of the story.

Kirkman also adds interesting modifications to the exorcism mythos, which are slowly explained as we get further into the series. In some ways, the exorcism links to several other issues in Kyle’s life. His mother abused him due to her possession and his wife abused their daughter. Both of these periods have significantly affected Kyle’s psyche, which leaves him in a dark place that aligns with the overall tone of the comic. Every triumph that Kyle faces is followed by another revelation that causes more pain or a setback from the forces that are working against him.

With each issue, we learn more about the possessed and the overarching conflict continues to build with Issue #24, which was released today.

Like The Walking Dead, Outcast currently has its own television show as well. One season is complete, and it has been renewed for another. Clearly, it isn’t the phenomenon The Walking Dead is, but maybe the show isn’t as hampered by filler. That’s a post for another day.

The Walking Dead’s Ratings Dropped Drastically-And For Stupid Reasons Apparently

Warning: Spoilers for Season 7

The Walking Dead season 7 premiere drew the show’s second biggest audience, with 17 million viewers. I am sure that the cliffhanger contributed to this. I originally did hate the cliffhanger but have grown to see some purpose in it, aside from getting more ratings for the premier. A friend at work mentioned that people’s hate for Negan is, for lack of a better word, “fresh” now. We didn’t see who he killed last season and have months to discuss it. We tuned in one sunday night to see Abraham and Glenn die.

The first death hit me hard since Abraham was one of my favourite characters. The second death is what caused a real firestorm online. After the infamous dumpster incident earlier in the season, Glenn undoubtedly met with death in the season 7 premiere, with a gory death pulled straight from the comics. Watch any reaction to the episode on YouTube, and you will see how people were dismayed that Abraham died, but became nearly hysterical when Glenn met his end.

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Since I read the comics, I was almost looking forward to the death. It is a sad, but pivotal moment for readers, driving home the danger Negan represents.

Episode 7.5, “Go Getters” experienced the lowest ratings since season 3, before Daryl’s fangirls were in full effect. Obviously, such a drastic drop is a huge development. When I came across the news the first cause that came to my mind was the issue of filler. Episodes 2 and 3 were pretty good but I could not help but feel like they were dragged out. One focused on Carol and Morgan, one focused on Daryl. In both cases, the episodes could have been condensed to show more characters and stories. Episode 4 thankfully features less filler, but then episode 5 brought back more filler and more of the Carl and Enid relationship: a weak love story with zero chemistry and two of the weakest actors.

The comments in this Yahoo article feature some complaints of filler, but the majority of them don’t blame that for the ratings drop. They blame the death of Glenn. It was to graphic and mean-spirited. It eliminated a fan favourite and made fans lose interest. One person even says that it will be looked back on as the moment the show jumped the shark.

Firstly, I was almost amused to see that the comments echo my comic book stigma article. People who watch this show, which is based on a comic, refer to the readers as basement dwellers. They’re not losers like us so what happens in the comics doesn’t matter. I find this argument to be nonsensical since the television show would not exist if it weren’t for the comic. The show you love, the character you are mourning over, would not exist if another “basement dweller” didn’t love comics and decide to write his own one day. An adaptation rarely follows its source material note for note, but I think it is fair to hear fans out on one of the source material’s most iconic moments. I have to wonder if people would have as much animosity if the source material was a book instead.

Despite TWD consistently being a violent show, it appears that many people felt that this last episode crossed the line. Perhaps because brutal violence was inflicted on a main character this time. This brings me to my next issue with these complaints. If characters are going to come across dangerous situations, whether it’s from humans or zombies, where is the dramatic tension if we know that our favourites won’t die? Do you want the show to keep introducing red-shirts to get killed instead? Glenn becomes one of the first people from the original group to die in a long while, and his death served the same purpose on the show. Do the show writers have to keep killing off ancillary characters like Denise?

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Yes, it sucks that Rick and Daryl are submissive for the moment. People are wondering why they don’t fight back. Remember that they did fight back when Negan’s men originally gave them the terms. That resulted in them being surrounded. Daryl fighting back is what led to Glenn’s head getting turned into ground beef. Daryl feels guilty for that, but so does Rick. Rick assumed Negan was just another threat they could overpower, and he was wrong. He referred to Negan as nothing but “hot air” in the comics and quickly found out he was mistaken. Carl could have shot Negan. Rick could have beat Negan with Lucille, but what would that accomplish in the long run? Negan’s men pillaging Alexandria and killing everyone in it. Bad guys win sometimes, and good guys lose sometimes as well. Rick won’t be like this for the rest of the show but people need to grow up and realize entertainment can’t always give us happiness.

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All of these complaints about TWD being too mean-spirited remind me of how people always criticize DC comic book films for being too bad because they’re too depressing. Maybe people would like it more if this post-apocalyptic tale just became all sunshine and rainbows and nobody died anymore. When Negan swings his bat it bounces off people’s heads like rubber, but gives a nasty headache. That way there is still some danger but not too much.  This rampant mentality is the reason I knew Daryl wouldn’t be killed by Negan. The fangirls would stop watching because they’d lose someone to drool over during episodes. The show is meant to be bigger than any single character. The only character that is arguably an exception is Rick Grimes, since the series starts with his singular perspective.

Another complaint I have to address is the mantra that “this show is supposed to be about surviving zombies. Not your fellow man.” I could write an essay on how poorly thought out this argument is. Firstly, the show would become boring if every single season revolved around the zombie threat alone. If people are complaining about Rick’s group finding one bad group of people after another, how do you think they would react to Rick’s group killing zombies again and again or trying to avoid another herd? The zombie apocalypse represents a breakdown in civilization, whether in terms of institutions and nations, or in terms of people’s relations with one another. With zombies running rampant and humans split up into pockets, you can rest assured that people like The Governor and Negan would emerge. Some of the comments question why people would fight against one another in such tumultuous times and I have to ask what world these people have grown up in. People will fight and scheme against each other for the same things they always do: power and resources. Spencer is trying to paint Rick as a bad leader because he wants to rule Alexandria like his mother did. He feels like Rick stole his birthright. Negan simply craves power, which is manifested by his desire to control the communities and their resources. People aren’t always rationale. They can be petty, immature, greedy, selfish beings and that doesn’t change whether it’s a zombie apocalypse or not. Ask yourself, would you honestly prefer 7 seasons of the group just fighting zombies? Would you be interested in the show if the group came across one dangerous situation after another, but everyone always made it through alive unscathed?

Preacher Review

Hello everyone,

I wrote this piece a few weeks ago after reading Preacher but it got lost in the shuffle with comicommand since I submitted two articles in a short period of time. Preacher is one of my favourite comic book series and I highly recommend it, along with The Boys. You can read this piece on comicommand or below.

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

After wrapping up 100 Bullets, I decided to move on to Preacher.  Preacher follows Jesse Custer, a preacher in the Texas town of Annville. During a service, a supernatural spirit named “Genesis” possesses Jesse and kills the entire congregation. Jesse later learns that the Genesis is the offspring of an angel and a demon, and that God left heaven the moment it was created. Jesse then sets out to literally find God and make him answer for deserting heaven.

Firstly, the cover artwork is amazing and many of them are among my favourite pieces of comic book art. The interior art also holds up. I do prefer the art in Y: The Last Man more but I don’t want to fall into the trap of always comparing one style to another. Preacher’s style is different, but I don’t believe it is inferior.

Jesse is a likeable protagonist with a tragic backstory, whose morals are shaped by his deceased father. While Jesse is a great character, Preacher’s greatest strength is the story and the stable of supporting characters. Jesse often fights with Tulip O’Hare, his girlfriend, and I know some fans criticized this aspect of the writing. I started reading with an open mind and can see why some may be annoyed by the relationship. However, their fights are justified. The main one throughout the story is Jesse’s desire to keep Tulip out of harm’s way by taking on enemies himself. While Tulip appreciates the sentiment she knows she is a capable shooter who has saved Jesse’s life numerous times. I can understand why such situations could result in conflict but the conflict was written well enough for me to still root for both characters.

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Preacher also features Cassidy, an Irish vampire. Cassidy rotates from being an anti-hero to something more sinister as the series progresses, but still remained my favourite character of the series. However, he does have a lot of competition.

Cassidy’s biggest competitor is Herr-Starr, a former German anti-terrorist operative and the main antagonist of the series. As the head of The Grail, Starr leads a mission to capture Custer and use him as a Messiah figure for The Grail’s vision of Armageddon. As the series progresses, Starr seeks to replace The Grail’s leadership and his motive for finding Custer becomes purely personal. The failures and misfortunes Starr faces trying to capture Jesse cause him to become more unhinged as the series progresses and Starr is responsible for making me laugh more than any sitcom has.

Starr is also followed by Arseface, a teenager who was deformed after failing to kill himself with a shotgun. Ennis manages to move seamlessly between making Arseface a pitiful character and comic relief, while also making Arseface’s story as interesting as Custer’s search for God.

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I was not completely satisfied with the last issue, only because there was one aspect of the ending that felt hollow. However, the ending is not poor enough to deplete the quality of the series and is only a small bump in a smooth road.Preacher joins Y: The Last Man, and Transmetropolitan as one of my favourite limited series.

The Killing Joke Review

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While DC is struggling to get critical approval with its live-action films, as the (partly) undeserved roasting of BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad demonstrate, they have an impressive record of success with their animated features. In my opinion, the quality of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies (DCUAOM) has declined in recent years with Justice League: War and Son of Batman. However, there have been some bright spots such as Gods and Monsters, Assault on Arkham and Batman vs. Robin. I was hoping that The Killing Joke would continue that trend. It isn’t a bad film, but as a whole, it does not measure up to some of the aforementioned bright spots.

As a spoiler- free summary, this story involves The Joker escaping from Arkham Asylum and kidnapping Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). There will be some relatively minor spoilers throughout this review. I haven’t read the graphic novel in years and I wanted to do so before seeing this film. However, I ended up rushing ahead and watching the film first. For that reason, I won’t be able to compare this film to the finer details of the comic.

I was told by friends that the film added a prelude that explained more of Barbara Gordon’s backstory, prior to her kidnapping. A little research online also showed that this section also resulted in most of the criticism for the film. I tried to ignore these critiques and form my own opinions so that I wouldn’t unfairly bash the film. I have to say that some of the criticism is justified.

The most valuable insights that come from this prelude are:

  • Barbara still views crime-fighting as a thrill, not an unhealthy obsession the way Batman does
  • Conflict over this issue is what led to Barbara ending her role as Batgirl

These two insights are valuable, but my issue is some of the execution. The Batgirl prelude centers around a single criminal, Paris Franz, who becomes obsessed with Batgirl. However, Franz’s obsession is more like a delusional and arrogant fanboy, as opposed to the twisted dependency we see with The Joker and Batman. Franz ends up being a very forgettable villain and the writing for his character is mainly what makes the prelude unwelcome.

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Another issue, is the infamous sex scene. Sorry if it is a spoiler but it is a part of the story that I can’t review this film without mentioning. If I simply said there is a sex scene, then it would still be pretty easy to figure out which characters I am referring to. Although I am not personally a fan of a Batman/Batgirl relationship, I know it exists in some of the comics. What annoys me most about the sex scene isn’t the fact that a relationship I like to think of as father-daughter is changed; I just hated the fact that it was precipitated by a slap-slap-kiss trope. I didn’t even know that this was a trope until a year ago, but seeing it time after time led me to believe that other people must have noticed how often it pops up in romantic situations. Two people are fighting; they often start pushing or come to blows. Then they suddenly stop, stare into each other’s eyes, and kiss. It is hack writing at its best.

With that said, the rest of The Killing Joke is much better. Firstly, we have a better villain. Mark Hamill plays The Prince of Crime, and also plays The Joker in flashbacks that reveal how he became The Joker. The graphic novel is famous partly for introducing a tragic Joker origin story and the transformation from Jack Napier to the Prince of Crime is one of the film’s most haunting.

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The Joker’s actions in this film make you hate him, but you also can’t deny his charisma and his skills as a wordsmith. I enjoyed John DiMaggio as The Joker in Under the Red Hood but it is great to have Hamill back for this role, alongside Kevin Conroy. One of my favourite parts of the film is a Batman monologue near the beginning. While Conroy is famous for portraying Batman’s menace, his ability to convey the character’s (often hidden) warmth was also a treat to watch.

Joker’s kidnapping of Barbara is the central crux of the story, and the scene is a tough one to watch. The animation, the music (or lack thereof) and the voice acting make it one of my favourite scenes among all the DC animated films. Hamill brings a blend of menace and humour to the role, while navigating his way through one of the most pivotal moments in Batman’s history.

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The kidnapping also represents a high-point in the film, which is followed by the final showdown between Batman and The Joker. From what I remember, the kidnapping of Commissioner Gordon was more enthralling in the graphic novel. Here, the voice acting from Gordon and Joker’s gang of freaks brought this section of the film down.

Overall, I enjoyed The Killing Joke. However, the faults I’ve mentioned prevent it from being among the top-tier of the DCUAOM films. As it stands, it is a decent entry that had a lot of potential.

 

 

 

 

The Boys- Fallen Idols

Hello everyone,

My latest post for comicommand is available on the site and copied below. After reading Garth Ennis’s Preacher I was eager to check out some of his other work, but was worried that other works would disappoint in comparison. However, I am loving The Boys just as much as Preacher.

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

After reading Preacher, I was eager to check out Garth Ennis’s other work. I heard mixed reviews about The Boys, but after reading 40 issues, I can safely say that I’m loving the series. The Boys takes place in a world where the greatest superheroes are morally corrupted celebrities. The elite teams have corporate backing and become increasingly disconnected with normal humans, which also results in the careless loss of human life during their conflicts with supervillains.

The Boys is the nickname for a CIA squad that is responsible for keeping the heroes in line through intimidation or violence if need be. While I love the characters, one of my favourite things about the series is its depiction of superheroes. There aren’t many supervillains in the universe, since many super-powered people elect for an easier life as public idols. If a hero becomes popular enough through his conquests or sales of his own comic book, he gets to join an elite team, such as The Seven (a twisted version of The Justice League). With elite status, comes corporate funding, public appearances and full-blown celebrity status.

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Deciding to be a hero doesn’t mean that these figures are actually the good guys. Billy the Butcher, the leader of The Boys, knows firsthand that they view regular people as toys. When Malchemical, one of the most deadly heroes, is relegated to the C-List Superduper group, he lashes out after their leader submits a complaint about him. The concepts of consequences or judgment are foreign to him and he believes that yelling “I’m a superhero” frees him of all wrongdoing. When Malchemical continues to be ostracized by the group he attacks its leader and attempts to rape two of its members. Billy also knows that this is regular behavior for Malchemical. Numerous other incidents in the comics also show other abuses of power from other characters, whether it is rape or attempted murder. The Seven, for the most part, are a group of frat boys high on their own power.

Recent films like Man of Steel have been criticized for their depiction of the destruction that transpires when super-powered beings fight one another. I never jumped on this bandwagon since some level of damage seems inevitable and because the damage often becomes a plot point in future films, just like Superman’s fight with Zod plays a central role in BatmanvSuperman, or how the destruction in Avengers 1 and 2 leads to Civil War. The Boys starts off with a civilian being killed during a fight between a villain and A-Train, a member of The Seven. The difference here is A-Train’s lack of empathy. He realizes what he has done, but quickly leaves since the paramedics can take care of everything else. Later, he also attempts to rape The Seven’s newest number, Starlight.

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Some might see the moral depravity of The Seven as a caricature, but the heroes are no different than politicians, judges, police officers, athletes, musicians etc, who get caught up in scandal after scandal. A sense of invincibility (literally in the case of the heroes) can lead to a lack of restraint and can corrupt people who may have started their pursuit with noble intentions. For every superhero who is morally pure, similar to our typical image of Superman, there are ten who are simply in the business for the money and adoration. Values like justice mean very little and are simply useful platitudes that the heroes use to justify their presence. The Boys is a depressing look at a society filled with superheroes, but it may be the most realistic.

Joker and Harley Quinn- Wish Fulfillment for The Twilight Crowd

As I scrolled through instagram this morning, I came across a post by another user who was upset that people kept arguing that the Harley Quinn and Joker relationship is meant to be a manipulative and abusive one. The user is aware that the relationship is depicted like that in the comics, but argues that the movies don’t portray that. In her mind, the relationship is a case of two people with psychological issues being there for one another. I have previously discussed how people who actually know about the comics are still treated as basement dwelling virgins, since people believe the source material for their beloved films shouldn’t matter. Today’s first post on @moviegrapevine was inspired by my reaction to this delusional user, and I figured I would expand my thoughts here.

In the comics, Harley is often depicted as heavily dependent on the Joker, and arguably experiencing true love. Meanwhile, The Joker sees her as a prized possession or a tool to be used as he pleases. Deleted scenes from Suicide Squad reveal a more abusive relationship. This article describes a scene that was cut (SPOILER ALERT)

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…. from Joker’s helicopter rescue of Harley. In the movie, they share a kiss and it is a sweet moment. In the deleted scene Joker verbally scolds her. There is also  leaked set footage of another scene where The Joker slaps Harley.

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These scenes were cut partly due to WB’s concerns about the film being too dark, especially following the backlash BatmanvSuperman received for its tone. This serves as yet another example of how the “make it fun” mentality can damage a film. We do not have the proper Harley and Joker relationship without the abuse. They are not meant to be an ideal couple. The Joker is unpredictable, selfish and violent. His treatment of Harley should reflect that. Yes, he comes back to recapture her at the end of the film, but that is like a real-life abusive husband buying his wife something shiny after he beats her; It only serves to continue the cycle of abuse. Of course, Harley Quinn puts up with his abuse to her issues with dependency, but I am sick of people arguing their relationship is supposed to be sweet and romantic in Suicide Squad.

The marketing for Suicide Squad focused heavily on Harley Quinn, which was perfectly fine with me since it is her big screen debut. However, the focus on Harley and the related girl power also served to attract the type of audience that would not normally see a comic book film. Instead of female comic book fans or general action film fans, we also attract the woman who would normally pass on this movie to read or watch Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight again. Wish fulfillment is a huge part of what makes these kinds of love stories so popular. Erika Leonard, better known as E.L James, admits that her writing was influenced by her own fantasies.

People flock to love stories to imagine themselves as the woman being chased after by the most popular guy in high school, or the woman hooking up with a millionaire. I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, and I refuse to. I understand the relationship portrayed there is not an ideal one, but from what I understand the BDSM is a consensual part of the relationship. Women can still fantasize about being taken in such a way by a millionaire. It is harder to fantasize about being used and abused by a psychotic clown. So when they are confronted with the truth that their “bae” is actually abusive, they deny it by any means necessary. It ruins the illusion of this sweet relationship with the hot prince of crime (yes, a lot of girls think this Joker is hot). Their real boyfriends are either non-existent or don’t fit their laundry list of ideal traits. e.g. bad boy persona, tattoos. Grow up and take your wish fulfillment elsewhere.

 

Suicide Squad- Drowning in Bad Reviews

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Since the first official trailer was released back in January, Suicide Squad has been one of my most anticipated films of 2016. At this point, Rogue One and SQ hold the top spots.

Another highly anticipated film, BatmanvSuperman, was a disappointment, mainly due to the third act and the presence of Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor Jr. who was in desperate need of some Ritalin.

I gave the film a 6.5/10, and was surprised to learn that Rotten Tomatoes gave it less than 30%. I knew the reviews weren’t good going into the film, but I didn’t realize the reviews were that bad. I can agree with some of the criticisms levied at the film. I understand that the dream sequences were jarring and nonsensical for some, although they did have some comic references that delighted me. I understand that the conflict between batman and superman could have been better developed. I understand the Martha scene could have been executed better, even if the intention was laudable, Doomsday was terribly developed etc.

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Obviously, I can’t say the film was amazing. Ben Affleck was great, Gal Gadot gave a memorable silver screen debut for Wonder Woman etc., the film built off the much aligned destruction in Man of Steel…but the positives are weighed down. I am not a fanboy who rejects reason when defending a film. I understand that the film has its faults, but the hate levied against it seems vastly disproportionate to them. Mainly because a lot of criticism revolves around the film’s tone. This is of course not the only criticism, but it is one that pops up in numerous reviews.

I have previously discussed the ongoing belief that comic book films should be light-hearted and “fun”. I find this funny since the source material doesn’t always fit this criteria. The comic book version of Civil War was not full of witty banter and “fun”, but we get that in the film. I did love the movie and I do like many of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films, but the insistence on a “fun” tone is making the movies become stale to me. It is good to have tonal variety. DC will have more humour with films like Shazam and Aquaman, which will help to balance out the darker films. The Justice League Comic Con footage also shows us a lighter tone, but I hope that more jokes aren’t shoehorned in only to appeal to the horde that thought BvS was too “dark” “brooding” “depressing” etc.

No other genre of films will get panned solely for its tone. No one will say a biopic is bad because it’s depressing, but comic book films seem to be bound by a duty to make their audience laugh. People are used to this and expect this now due to the MCU. Some might be quick to say that the MCU’s films are light because they fit the characters. However, that is not always the case. Thor: Ragnarok, the third film in the Thor series, will revolve around Asgardian Doomsday. It would make sense for this film to be dark, at least relative to the previous films. However, a comedy writer was brought in to change the film specifically because they thought the original script was too dark. Again, he was brought in ONLY due to concerns about darkness, not character development, plot etc.

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The humour started with Robert Downey Jr. ad-libbing dialogue in Iron Man (2008), which became a template for the rest of the MCU, and it is now a recognized staple of the Marvel films. Now that Disney owns Marvel, you can bet that there is even more corporate pressure to keep everything light and family friendly. Of course, the Netflix shows are much darker and ones like Jessica Jones aren’t meant for children at all. However, these shows are much cheaper than a $150 million film, so there is less pressure to appeal to a wider audience. It seems like the execs are more willing to experiment with darker themes and tones when crafting a Netflix series. For the moment, any darker Marvel characters will either be watered down on film or available on Netflix. The funny thing is that these shows rarely get criticized for the tone the same way the films do. People don’t say they would be improved if they were more “fun”.

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Point being, Marvel has created a brand that is lighter and I believe people have a much harder time accepting anything else. Even Stephen Colbert has criticized DC for being too dark, referring to Suicide Squad as the “mopey avengers“. This is despite a marketing campaign that has continuously portrayed SQ as a lighter, more “fun” film than BvS. Colbert is not a film buff, or a huge comic fan. When it comes to his interest in these topics, he can be considered a member of the general public. He is a perfect example of how the mindset that DC is too dark has filtered through society. Kevin Fiege has explicitly stated that the MCU will never be dark, arguing that humour is in the “DNA of the movies”. There you have it, a commitment to sticking to the same tone for every single MCU film, despite the character or story arc being explored. It’s a restrictive policy but one that many people commend. They have adapted to expect this tone from their comic book films and they retroactively ascribe the “fun” to the source material.

Aside from the issue of expecting light-heartedness, it seems like people are much more forgiving of a film’s faults if it is light-hearted. I saw a tweet from someone today that was criticizing SQ directory, David Ayer, for his “snarky” response to the negative reviews. @4starfilms didn’t appreciate the response since he has plenty of things to criticize the film for. The funny part, @4starfilms hasn’t seen the film yet. I am not assuming that because it’s not out yet for general audiences yet. I asked him, and he told me he hasn’t seen it. All the criticisms he has for SQ? Solely based on reviews he has read. BvS taught me not to judge a film just by reviews, which was something I did for Fantastic Four (2015).  While @4Starfilsm bashes SQ based only off reviews, a recent review of the new Jason Bourne film also says that the film deserves a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes. Obviously he doesn’t truly believe that critics are always right. Seems like he was just eager to hate the film. It can be easy to jump on the bandwagon. @4Starfilms is also another person who thinks the tone was one of the main issues for BvS. Seeing a pattern here?

I’m seeing SQ this Saturday and I will reserve judgment until then. Who knows, it might suck, but I won’t bash it prematurely and I won’t say it sucks because of the tone.