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: Season 7 Thoughts

I got around to watching episode 7.2 on friday and just uploaded a YouTube video with my thoughts on it. I wanted to use this blog post comment on episode 7.2 but also season 7 and The Walking Dead as a whole. So far, this season has the makings of a great one and has the potential to be one of the best, if not the best.

Seasons 1 and 5 rank atop my list for the moment. I didn’t hate season 2 as much as many others did, mostly due to Jon Bernthal’s performance as Shane. However, there were a lot of other things that left much to be desired. Andrea and Lori were absolute cancer to the show and it generally got better once they were gone. The Governor was a pretty strong villain and the prison showdown is one of the show’s greatest highlights. I wasn’t that big a fan of The Governor’s continued story in season 4. The show returned strong with the group finding Alexandria in season 5, demonstrating the contrast between Rick’s battle-hardened group and the sheltered Alexandrians. This aspect of the show resulted in some of the best conflict since it wasn’t necessarily a single villain. There was Pete of course, the alcoholic, wife-beating surgeon who was suspicious of Rick’s intentions with his wife. However, the entire season did not revolve around this conflict. Rick’s group, and Rick in particular were simply the target of widespread mistrust. The Wolves came across as filler and were very forgettable villians imo.

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Obviously reading the comics prior to watching some of these later seasons impacts my perception of them. I am not one of those people that will bash an adaptation if it is slightly different, but I think it is fair to call the writers out on changes that I believe did not improve the show or serve any functional purpose. Season 5 could have been the same, if not better without The Wolves. Their biggest impact was bringing the herd to Alexandria, since they caused the truck crash that led the walkers to the community. However, this could have happened another way. If I remember correctly, the herd in the comic is only brought to the community by the sound of gunfire, which could have come from the internal conflict that permeated season 5.

Season 6 built on this mistrust but also added a love triangle and teen drama with Pete’s son, who was a weak actor and a whiny brat character we have seen numerous times before. This subplot brought the show down greatly, with the only good result being the loss of Carl’s eye. I always wondered if the show would ever go through with this development, and although I felt bad for Carl, it was great to see it happen. Carl’s appearance plays a big part in his more pessimistic attitude in the comics and his relationship with Lydia in the comic’s Whisperers storyline, which follows Negan’s. We will see if the show ever incorporates this relationship.  The highlight of season 6 was “No Way Out”, where Alexandria must confront a herd. This episode also gives us another allusion to Negan, with an appearance by The Saviours. The season then ended strong, with the first appearance of Negan.

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All this is to say that the quality of the villains significantly impact the quality of a season. Many of the season 2 supporters I have spoken to say they liked the season mostly due to Shane, even if they found other aspects of the season dull. Season 1 mostly focused on the zombie threat and the characters adjusting to their new world, which is often one of the most interesting aspects of apocalyptic stories. With season 7 we get an introduction to Negan that is dragged out in relation to the comics, but is still very powerful. We do not only see Negan beat people’s brains in with a bat, we also see him break Rick mentally. What I always liked about Negan is that he may seem like a raving lunatic, but he is also very calculated and methodical. In the comic he made sure not to kill Rick because he didn’t want to create a martyr that could inspire the others to fight back. He realized the leader needed to be broken. We see Negan do that with finesse by the end of the episode, showing a guilt-ridden Rick who is at one of the lowest points we’ve ever seen him in.

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One thing that continues to bother me about the show is the way they will often focus on one character, set of characters, or location for the entire duration of a show. In “No Way Out” the show switches between Glenn and Enid, to Sasha, Abraham, Daryl, to the rest of Alexandria. With good editing and writing, the show can seamlessly transition between these stories of varying interest and bring them all together at the end. Instead, we get a focus on Negan for the first episode. The dragged out confrontation then comes across as filler that is meant to hold us over to the next episode. The second episode focuses on Carol, Morgan and The Kingdom. Judging from previews, the third will focus on Daryl and The Saviours. When a show has this many characters, it simply does not make sense to spend a whole episode on one or one group. Shows like Game of Thrones may do this at times, but GOT characters weren’t all together at one point. GOT isn’t following a group that got split up, it is following different characters with different goals. With TWD, focusing on one character per episode forces you to pad the season with extra episodes that could easily have been condensed. Of course, more episodes, means more opportunity for ratings and more money. It is the same logic as the season 6 finale. The show runners knew they wanted to condense the action when it came to “No Way Out”, but they seem content to drag out the opening of this season. I am hoping that the desire to maximize profit doesn’t continue to yield filler and nonsensical subplots. If those two things are kept to a minimum this could possibly be the best season of The Walking Dead.

Vicious Cycle

Hello everyone. Below is my latest post for comicommand.

A Vicious Cycle

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After reading The Boys, I decided to check out Invincible due to a friend’s recommendation. Invincible follows the exploits of Mark Grayson, the teenaged son of one of Earth’s greatest heroes, as he discovers his powers and begins fighting crime.

I have previously discussed how the most popular superheroes, such as Superman, can serve as archetypes for future creations.  With their 1930s and 1940 origins, Superman and the members of the Justice League were not only some of the first superheroes, but they have become a benchmark for future creations. These heroes helped to create the superhero comic. Their powers became part of the prototypical image of a superhero, super strength, flight, super speed etc.

The Boys and Invincible both feature versions of The Justice League. The Boys has “The Seven”, while Invincible has “The Guardians of The Globe”. The Guardians of The Globe are so similar in that they are undoubtedly a homage to the Justice League. Their appearance, as well as their powers mirror heroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. One such hero, Darkwing, has no powers but uses gadgets and fighting skills to combat crime.

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The Seven is lead by Homelander, whose costume has a similar colour scheme as Superman’s. The Homelander also has similar powers, including heat vision. The Seven were all created through genetic modification, but all have cover stories that are given to the public. The public believes the Homelander is an alien who crash-landed on earth as an infant.

Queen Maeve’s cover story is that she is Empress of the Netherworld, similar to Wonder Woman being a princess of the otherworldly Amazons.

While these examples are glaringly obvious ones, which were intended by the creators. Invincible and The Boys are both satire and deconstruction of superheroes. The Boys shows a world where superheroes are morally corrupt celebrities, and Invincible features a twist on the Superman origin story that has tragic consequences for the its protagonist. Since the members of The Justice League came first, it can be hard to create heroes who lack any similar powers or tactics. The most interesting part of the archetypes is seeing how these archetypes created an ideal of morality that led to many subsequent creations.

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Antiheroes such as The Punisher and Deadpool were created to be a marked contrast from the shining pillars of heroism seen in the early comics. As time progressed, every character underwent arcs where their image was altered, in order to keep them relevant to a changing world. Superman: Birthright featured a version of Pa Kent that was reluctant to see his son use his powers for good, knowing the fear they could generate. Batman comics may have been campy at times but the character has now evolved into the quintessential dark superhero. Meanwhile, Superman still has the image of a light-hearted hero, even though decades of comics offer much more variety.

Characters created in the 1930s and 1940s still shape superhero comics, whether they are being admired, criticized or deconstructed. Arguably, comics that don’t revolve around superheroes might not be as popular if it wasn’t for the large slate of comic films. When people feel like a market is congested, they often seek something new. Comics are a world of their own, where praise and criticism can still feed the same cycle.

Wattpad and Other Updates

The first chapter of my second book, The Visitor, is now on Wattpad. As expected, very few views but I’ll try to stick with the platform for a few months. I am only planning to upload one chapter a week so I won’t have to upload the entire book before I get to monitor the progress. In addition to editing and uploading The Visitor I will also start converting my werewolf series, Alive, into a novel. The poetry pieces I have on the site now will serve as the backbone of the story, but I will be expanding it. It will take place in a fictional feudal society, where the protagonist’s curse is used as a weapon to attack other villages.

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I am almost caught up with the 130 issues of Robert Kirkman’s Invincibleand will be writing an article for comicommand over the weekend. The series will end with issue 144 and I am hoping the ending lives up the series that preceded it.

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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.

100 Bullets Review

Hello everyone,

My review of 100 Bullets is up on comicommand and is also pasted below. I am nearly finished Preacher now and like it a lot more than 100 Bullets so I’ll probably do a review later this week.

100 Bullets – Reloaded

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

I did an earlier article after reading the first volume of 100 Bullets. 80 issues later, the series is completed and I want to share my thoughts on it.

As The Commander said in his last article, the artwork can either elevate the story, or the story can elevate the art. In the case of 100 Bullets, the story definitely elevates the art. Making the switch from superhero comics to others can be jarring, mostly in terms of the artwork. However, the artwork for 100 Bullets still pales in comparison to ones like The Walking Dead and Y: The Last Man or Preacher. The covers are well done, as well as some panels, but overall the illustrations made it difficult to get into the first issue since their quality actually became distracting. Once I got through more of the story, I was able to tune out the artwork and appreciate the comics more.

The story starts off with separate subplots, all featuring the enigmatic Agent Graves, who offers people an attaché containing a gun with 100 bullets of untraceable ammunition. The gun is meant to be their weapon of choice against the people who ruined their lives, and the attaché also includes proof of their enemies’ wrongdoing.

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The various storylines and figures eventually mesh into a single story about an organization known as The Trust. Graves is a former agent of The Minutemen, a group of enforcers that the Trust disbanded, and he seeks to reinstate the Minutemen by eliminating their former bosses. For the most part, Brian Azzarello does a great job of linking each character and subplot to the main one. However, I could not help but notice that there were some storylines that were never mentioned again. It is implied that all the attaches were given with the purpose of reactivating the minutemen, who were basically brainwashed to forget their past lives. Yet there are some characters that are given attaches and never seen or referenced again.

I previously mentioned the issue of the dialogue overusing slang at times. This issue continues throughout all 100 issues and did drag the experience down a bit. Just about every minority character talks like their words were put through an Ebonics translator and it goes past being immersive or reflective of a certain area, and becomes completely distracting.

100 Bullets features very few “heroes”. For the most part, the character’s morals are different shades of grey. It takes a great writer to make us care about any of them, let alone to make a reader root for most of the characters. Issue by issue, I find myself supporting one character’s actions, and then supporting another character’s actions that could undo theirs… This cycle continues and culminates in an action-packed and bloody finale. One of my biggest gripes was that this action packed finale ends rather abruptly. We go from a violent bloodbath to a few lines of dialogue that are meant to reveal more about  a character’s motives, before ending with a cliffhanger.

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At the end of it all, Graves’s backstory is still shrouded in mystery. I don’t need everything spelled out but this was a case where just a few more lines sprinkled across a few issues could have led to a more fulfilling end. Since Graves plays such a central role in the story, the lack of more backstory for him makes the entire series somewhat hollow. One figure has played a huge role in leading to all of these events, but we don’t get a proper look at what truly drives him.

Overall, 100 Bullets was a great read and I will likely be going back to re-read certain issues. I knew it was an Eisner winner before I started reading and perhaps that got my hopes too high. I know there are many Azzarello fans that would heartily disagree with me.