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Deadpool (film)

I finally got around to seeing Deadpool a few days ago. Now I’m part of the Cool Kids Club again. Let’s start with some backstory before we start talking about the movie. Deadpool was originally created as a blatant rip-off of DC’s Deathstroke. Marvel has never tried to hide this fact, they talk about it openly. They have similar names, costumes, and both are mercenaries. They have different powers and skillsets, but the biggest difference between the two of them is that Deadpool knows that he’s a character in a comic book. He breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the reader. He knows that he’s not real. It’s all very meta.

My biggest fear about the movie is that it wouldn’t be able to capture the tone of the comics. I felt a great sense of relief as soon as the opening credits started to roll. Ryan Reynolds, director Tim Miller, and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were able to bring the Deadpool to life the right way. They made the film as funny, violent, and raunchy as they could. They took a huge gamble by making it Rated R as opposed to PG-13. The gamble paid off. It’s already the highest grossing R-rated film of all time and it’s been out for less than two weeks. What’s more impressive is that it’s also the highest grossing X-Men movie.

The plot of the movie is pretty generic. It’s an origin story about how a regular guy became a superhero and then the bad guy kidnaps his girlfriend and he has to use his powers to get her back. The story structure is a little more advanced. They start in the middle of the action and then they tell the backstory through flashbacks. It’s as much of a comedy as it is a superhero action flick. The humor was witty and fresh and I was laughing hysterically every couple of minutes. There were also a few touching moments that I wasn’t expecting. It made a surreal character seem real, relatable, and likeable.

As strange as it sounds, I think Deadpool is a great date movie. There’s enough violence for the men, there’s enough romance for the ladies, and it’s funny enough to keep everyone entertained. It’s a solid flick all around. That’s hard to do these days. So go and see it if you were on the fence about it. It’s worth it.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth

Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth is a graphic novel by Chris Ware about a middle aged loser named Jimmy Corrigan. It’s a very different comic from what you’re used to. The story jumps back and forth between Jimmy’s reality and his fantasies, and it flashes back and forth between the present and his childhood. There’s also a parallel story about Jimmy’s grandfather growing up a hundred years earlier.

Jimmy Corrigan is an awkward loner with a rich fantasy life. He has no friends and feels obligated to talk to his mom on the phone everyday. The main storyline is about Jimmy going to meet his estranged father for the first time, and how the two strangers try to bond despite having nothing in common and nothing to talk about. Jimmy also has a habit of slipping into a fantasy, so he’ll be talking to his father in one panel and killing him in the next before resuming the conversation as if nothing happened.

In the parallel storyline, the focus is on Jimmy’s grandfather growing up with his abusive father. Jimmy’s grandfather is also shy with an overactive imagination, and there are many subtle similarities between grandfather and grandson. They look alike, they act similar, and they both share the same name. At first this parallel story seems unnecessary but everything comes together at the end. It’s a very satisfying ending that ties up a lot of loose strings, but Jimmy doesn’t really change or grow or learn anything. It’s realistic like that. He’s a broken person at the beginning and he’s still broken at the end. He’s not happy being a loser, but that’s all he knows how to be. It’s a great book. It’s a little confusing and off-putting at first, but you can’t put it down once you get into it.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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DC vs. Marvel (comic)

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the greatest, most powerful heroes and villains from the DC and Marvel Universes met? How awesome would that be? Well, it already happened in 1996, so you missed out. But you can relive the past and pick up DC vs. Marvel and see the two worlds collide.

There is actually a pretty coherent storyline. Writers Ron Marz and Peter David are able brings some of the biggest characters from two rival companies together in a comprehensive way. So back in the day, these two brothers/entities were controlling their own separate universes, until they learned of each other’s existence. One brother is the DC Universe, and the other represents the Marvel Universe. They decide to have a battle between their top superheroes to determine which universe will be destroyed.

Each separate universe starts to be aware that something weird is happening when heroes and villains start vanishing in a flash of light, and new, different masks start showing up. A young man named Axel Asher finds himself inexplicably drawn to an alley where a crazy homeless guy is trying desperately to keep an inter-dimensional gateway contained in a cardboard box. Axel is the Access, and he just might be the key to solving the crisis if he ever accepts his destiny.

6 Marvel characters are chosen to fight 6 DC characters in one-on-one battles to determine the mightier universe. There are some really obvious fights between similarly powered characters like Aquaman vs. Namor, Wolverine vs. Lobo, and Flash vs. Quicksilver. There are also weird, random fights like Robin vs. Jubilee and Superboy vs. Spider-man. Elektra fights Catwoman, the Green Lantern and Silver Surfer duke it out in space, Wonder Woman somehow loses to Storm, Batman and Captain America are pretty evenly matched, and Superman barely beats the Hulk into submission.

Instead of one universe getting destroyed, the Spectre and the Living Tribunal are able to temporarily merge the two universes together. This buys them some time, and has the awesome bonus of creating hybrid superheroes like Dark Claw (a mixture of Batman and Wolverine) and Super-Soldier (Superman and Captain America’s lovechild).

Access finally gets his shit together and it able to separate the merged universe back to the two separate ones. He gets a little assistance from Batman and Captain America to end the Space Brothers’ hissy fit. And now the two universes can co-exist and life is good.

Yeah, there’s a lot of nonsense about two brother universes using magic humans to end a cosmic dispute, but once you get past that you can appreciate the story. What if the superhero you depended on was powerless to stop the end of the world? What if that superhero vanished and was replaced by a stranger in tights? What if you are a superhero and you can’t simply punch your way to victory?

The art is awesome. The panels spill over into each other, they overlap, it feels very fluid. Dan Jurgens and Claudio Castellini’s drawings are bold and powerful. And it’s pretty cool to see the Hulk and Superman exchanging blows in the desert.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but it doesn’t slow down the momentum of the story. If you like DC, it’s worth checking out. If you like Marvel, it’s worth checking out. If you like comics, then you should have read this already. You’re slacking.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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Batman: Haunted Knight

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale are reunited yet again for another Batman graphic novel. Haunted Knight is actually a collection of three short stories, all of which take place on Halloween night. The title is a pun, he’s a haunted knight and the stories take place on a haunted night. That’s clever; see what they did there?

The first story is called Fears and it’s about Batman facing his fears. He has a showdown with the Scarecrow and gets trapped in a giant corn maze and he almost goes crazy. But then he doesn’t and he escapes the maze because he’s the goddamn Batman.

The second story is called Madness. The Mad Hatter kidnaps James Gordon’s adopted daughter. The Mad Hatter has a twisted tea party with kidnapped kids and it’s up to Batman to stop the madness. There’s a parallel storyline involving a young Bruce Wayne and his pre-murdered mama reading Alice in Wonderland to him on a rainy day.

Ghosts is the final story and it’s a spin on A Christmas Carol. Bruce Wayne gets visited by the ghost of Halloween past (she looks like Poison Ivy), the ghost of Halloween present (he looks like the Joker), and the ghost of Halloween yet-to-be (and this ghost is a dead, decomposed Batman). The ghosts teach Bruce not to let Batman take over his life.

There is no sense of continuity between the stories. In fact, you’re not even sure when they take place. It must take place after the events of The Long Halloween storyline because Two-Face is referenced, but before Dark Victory because there is no mention of Robin. And they take place over three years because there are three Halloweens and there’s only one Halloween per year. I might have to double-check my math, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.

The Long Halloween is awesome. Dark Victory is still good, but not as great as The Long Halloween. Haunted Knight is just lazy. Loeb and Sale make great comics, but even they are susceptible to making shitty ones. This is their Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. You wanted to like it, you tried to like it, but they did everything they could to fuck it up and they succeeded in making it suck. It’s not terribly bad. It’s just soul-crushingly disappointing. There are a million better stories out there, and this collection is not necessary.

Critically Rated at 9/17

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Batman: Dark Victory

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale reunite for the sequel to Batman: The Long Halloween. Both The Long Halloween and Dark Victory take place in the same canon as Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Gotham City is in the midst of a transition from crime families to masked freaks taking over the criminal underworld. To make matters worse, a new serial killer is in town, and he’s targeting cops. If that wasn’t enough, Bruce Wayne takes in a young orphaned circus acrobat named Dick Grayson.

The story picks up a few months after the events of The Long Halloween. There’s a new district attorney called Janice Porter, Sofia Gigante has taken over the Falcone Crime Family, Batman and James Gordon are still distraught over the whole Harvey Dent-turning-into-Two-Face incident, and a mass breakout at Arkham Asylum only makes matters worse. Not only does Batman have to deal with the warring crime families, but there’s a whole bunch of villainous freaks that he has to contend with too.

Alberto Falcone a.k.a. the Holiday killer is released and allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence in house arrest under the supervision of his brother, Mario. Alberto starts to hear the voice of his dead father telling him to return to his murderous ways and become Holiday again.

Shortly after Alberto’s release, Gotham City cops start being killed on a holiday each month. The killer leaves behind a hangman riddle on it, and the riddle is always on a document associated with Harvey Dent.

Naturally there are two main suspects as to who the Hangman killer is. It is either Harvey Dent, because everything is related to him, or it could be Alberto Falcone, because all the murders are happening on holidays. Or it could be someone else entirely. Just saying.

The personal lives of the main characters are shattered. Bruce Wayne/Batman is more isolated and alone than ever before. James Gordon has been promoted to Commissioner but at the expense of his marriage. Both men miss their friend Harvey Dent and still feel betrayed by him.

While dealing with a mafia war and a bunch of freaks, Bruce still finds time to go to the circus. But it’s not a fun night because a gangster ends up killing two trapeze artists to send a message to the circus owner; in the process Dick Grayson ends up orphaned. Bruce Wayne takes him in because he feels responsible, obligated, inclined, whatever, to take care of this young kid and teach him to hate the world and fight crime in an elaborate costume.

This comic feels like a continuation of The Long Halloween in a lot of ways. The plot is very similar. A guy is killing people on holidays and Batman has to find out who, and at the same time he has to deal with gangsters and mobsters and villainous freaks. The twist is that this time, the killer is killing cops and not mobsters. And then they tacked on a Robin origin story to spice things up.

Batman has to decide which side Catwoman is on and if she’s trustworthy again. He has to fight the Joker again. He has issues with Two-Face again.  The Scarecrow shows up. And Solomon Grundy. And the Calendar Man. And the Riddler. And a few more. It’s easy to mix up plot points between The Long Halloween and this story. It doesn’t feel as much like a continuation as much as a rehash. It’s good, but it’s not as good and nowhere as original. It’s worth reading. It’s not the best Batman story, but it’s one of the better ones.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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Batman: The Killing Joke

Alan Moore has some amazing stories under his belt, and Batman: The Killing Joke is another one in his arsenal. It is just one issue, but it’s the best Joker story written. Batman and the Joker are two sides of the same coin, and like Harry Potter and Voldemort, neither can live while the other survives.

The Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum, shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon, and kidnaps Commissioner Gordon. The Joker thinks that anyone can end up like him; all it takes is one bad day. The Joker wants to break Gordon, to make him go insane. Batman has a problem with this and sets out to save Gordon and confront the Joker.

The story flashes back to the Joker’s early life, before he was crazy. He’s a failed comedian who agrees to help out some gangsters stage a robbery to get some much needed cash. Before the heist, his wife and unborn child die in a freak accident. He has no reason to commit the crime now, but he’s forced into it. The caper doesn’t go as planned, and long story short, shit goes down and he becomes the Joker.

The main storyline and the flashbacks echo each other. The panels have a lot of parallels: similar character poses and arrangements provide a seamless transition between the past and present. Brian Bolland’s art is amazing. It suits the story perfectly.

Batman and the Joker are both the result of one bad day. They just channeled their pain in different ways. Batman chose to face reality and fight crime. The Joker chose to embrace insanity and fight reality. He truly is crazy. He even admits that he can’t trust his own memories: “Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another… If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!”.  There is an iconic ending. The Joker tells Batman a joke and they share a laugh. It makes you wonder if Batman is also insane

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Batman comics are awesome. Alan Moore comics are awesome. Alan Moore Batman Comics are exponentially awesome. That’s a lot of awesome. This is a really good story. It’s a really important Batman comic. It’s also really short, so you have no reason to not read it. So read it.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Kingdom Come (comic)

Comics should have a good story and good art. Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come has a great story and even greater art. The world is in trouble. Superman has retired, and a bunch of new but dangerous vigilantes rise up to fill the void, so Superman has to get back in the game. He starts recruiting heroes to try to restore balance between metahumans and regular people. Batman thinks Superman’s ideals are outdated, so he creates his own team of heroes, mostly ones without powers. Lex Luthor leads a gang of villains called the Mankind Liberation Front, because you need a league of villains to fight.

Kingdom Come has a lot of similarities to Watchmen. Rorschach even makes a cameo. The glory days for heroes has passed. A lot of heroes have retired, only a few are still active. A growing threat emerges, and heroes are forced to confront it. The heroes have to pick a side, and they don’t always see eye to eye. Right and wrong isn’t always black and white.

The story deals with regular people being threatened by metahumans. The metahumans fight with each other, recklessly destroying things and endangering innocent bystanders. Superman comes out of retirement to remind them that with great power comes great responsibility. I might be paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.

Alex Ross’s drawings are practically photorealistic, making the superheroes look even more super. The artwork is amazing. The DC Universe seems to come to life. Alex Ross is a great artist. The panels looks like photographs, sometimes you think you’re reading a scrapbook with captions and not a comic book. The battle scenes are intense and chaotic. He crams a lot of background details into each panel, look carefully and you can find lots of Easter eggs, like characters from other comics or real people.

There are a bunch of DC characters running around the story. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Green Lantern… most of the big boys make appearances. Captain Marvel plays a significant role; he is probably the most important character. Captain Marvel a.k.a. Billy Batson is the only one who is both a regular mortal person and a metahuman. He is initially being brainwashed and used by Lex, because he is the only one capable of stopping Superman. He eventually regains control of his mind and saves the world. Sorry, that was kind of a spoiler.

This book is worth buying. Not only does it have a good, satisfying story, but the art takes it to a whole new level. You can read it multiple times, and you should read it multiple times. In fact, you should have already read it. So go do that if you haven’t yet.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One

Alan Moore is a genius. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is proof of such. There are a few volumes out already, this rant is about the first Volume. A bunch of characters from Victorian literature work together to recover a stolen item in order to prevent an aerial attack on British soil. Mina Murray, Allan Quaterman, Hawley Griffen (the Invisible Man), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and Captain Nemo are the Extraordinary Gentleman (and Woman). A bunch of other literary characters also make cameos, it’s rewarding to whoever paid attention in English class.

Kevin O’Neill’s artwork is scratchy and rough, a good fit for Moore’s storytelling. It feels old fashioned, and it captures the vibe of Victorian London.

It is quite a chore to take characters from different authors and different genres and be able to tell a story that would actively involve all of them. It’s a pretty dense story, and Moore is able to give each character time to develop and contribute to the action. A lazy author would be content merely writing famous characters into an original story, Moore makes them his own and gives them something to advance the plot.

There’s a lot of steampunk technology, but it’s nowhere near as obnoxious as Wild Wild West. I won’t even comment about the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie fiasco. That shit was just insulting.

This is a cool comic book. It is essential reading if you like Alan Moore. You can bring up this book in literary conversations and advance the dialog. It’s a very smart comic, you have to have read classic literature to know these characters. Moore assumes that you know them, or at least know about them, and brings them together in a clever way.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Bone (comic)

Jeff Smith’s Bone is one of the best comics of all time. It transcends being a mere comic book and is one of the best fantasy epics ever, up there with Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Harry Potter. This needs to be pop culture, I want to geek out about it and have 30 minute conversations about Bone with complete strangers. Bone is the epic saga of three cousins trying to find their way home, and stumble into a hero’s journey complete with princesses, dragons, rat creatures, ghost circles and magic. It’s one of those immersive imaginary worlds that requires a map in the back of the book. That’s a sign of quality for literary epics. It is hysterically funny at times, but can turn dark and scary in a moment’s notice.

Fone Bone is the main character, the one that you relate to, the everyman. He’s got a good heart, likes to read Moby Dick, and tries to keep his cousin Phoney Bone out of trouble. Phoney is greedy, manipulative, and always plotting. His exploits got the three cousins kicked out of Boneville. He thinks of himself first and foremost, but genuinely cares about his cousins. Smiley Bone rounds out the trio, he is the comic relief. He is simple and acts dumber than he is, but occasionally has some brilliant ideas. So the three Bones from Boneville are forced to flee some angry townspeople and find themselves lost and separated in a mysterious Valley.

The Valley is where the bulk of the story takes place. You never actually see Boneville, but you can assume it is modern because they have books like Moby Dick, a CornDogHut, and paper currency. The Valley seems to be stuck in the past. There’s a tavern, an economy based on eggs and goods rather than money, and seems medieval. The Valley is home to a village populated by people called Barrelhaven, a few isolated farms, and talking creatures like Ted the Bug, Miz ‘Possum and her kids, and a giant mountain lion named Roque Ja who guards the Eastern Boarder.

Fone Bone gets separated from his cousins and eventually befriends and stays with Thorn Harvestar, a gorgeous, generous girl and her tough as nails grandma, who goes by Rose or Gran’ma. Not to spoil anything, but Gran’ma Rose just might be a usurped Queen with a hidden past. Fone develops a crush on Thorn, and you can’t blame him, ‘cause she’s smoking hot. And nice to him. Anyway, Smiley and Phoney Bone end up in Barrelhaven, and they meet some of the locals down there. Eventually everyone meets up again and the Bones go back home to Boneville.

But before that happens, strange things begin happening in the Valley. Dragons show up. Rat creatures show up. The king of the rat creatures shows up. The evil Lord of the Locusts shows up. Add a whole backstory of ghost circles, and the power of the Dreaming, and mysterious cults, and dragon origin stories and you have yourself an amazing fantasy epic. If you like Lord of the Rings but wish it was funnier, than this is the comic for you.

It is unlike any other comic. This is one of the few graphic novels that changes people’s minds about what a comic can do. It transcends boundaries. At the heart of the story is your basic Hero’s Quest, but Jeff Smith does what you’re supposed to and created his own unique universe. One that’s unique but familiar. It goes from funny to sad in a heartbeat. The panels create the illusion of movement and pacing. It’s almost like a movie on paper.

Go out and read this book. I think you are a decent human being and I want you to be happy. This comic will make your life a little better. You owe it to yourself to see what I’m talking about. There is a $40 book that has all 9 volumes in it. The artwork is in black and white, just a heads up. It doesn’t take anything away from it. The first few volumes have color versions, but they haven’t published the whole saga in color yet. Go read it if you haven’t, you won’t regret it.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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Ronin (comic)

Frank Miller’s Ronin is one of his breakthrough comics. Ronin is the story of a disgraced samurai and his demon enemy who are reincarnated into a desolate, futuristic New York City. It’s heavily influenced by manga and Japanimation.

The story begins in old time Japan, where a young samurai loyally serves his master. His master gets assassinated by Agat, a powerful demon. A samurai without a master is a ronin, hence the title. The ronin and Agat do battle and somehow get transported to the future.

The world has gone to hell, and New York City is in shambles. There are gangs of freaks and mutants, lots of bums, lots of anarchy. The city is also home to the Aquarius Corporation, known for their pioneering work in biocircuitry, which they hope to weaponize.

Billy Challas, an armless, legless telekinetic lives in Aquarius and uses his telekinesis to control the biocircuitry. The Aquarius Corporation has an advanced A.I. system known as Virgo. Virgo acts like Billy’s friend and babysitter. Billy has strange dreams involving samurais. He eventually uses the biocircuitry to grow himself limbs, and starts transforming into the ronin. Good thing too, because Agat is back too.

There is a lot more to the story than what meets the eye. This is a story of past and future, east and west, man and machine, of honor and duty. Miller’s version of the future is dark and gritty, and his rough and aggressive artwork compliments it nicely. Miller does comics for men, not for kids.

It’s a cool comic. I realize my half-assed plot summary seems a little confusing, but the story isn’t that convoluted. There’s cool characters, a cool concept, and it’s hard to put down.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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