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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I finally got around to seeing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice last night. I’m slacking, I know. It’s the sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel and Zack Snyder returns to direct, while Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, and Diane Lane reprise their roles as Superman, Lois Lane, Perry White, and Martha Kent respectively. New to the series is Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. It’s also the feature film debut of Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash but they only appear for a few moments on screen. Even though it’s a sequel to Man of Steel, Superman takes a backseat to Batman in this movie. There are more heroes and villains and bigger action sequences, but the film seems like a step backward. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t exciting. It was pretty disappointing.

The film was too bleak. It’s supposed to be a comic book movie. They were trying to capture the gritty realism of The Dark Knight but the studio doesn’t seem to realize that Superman is not dark and gritty. Wonder Woman is not dark and gritty. Lex Luthor is not dark and gritty. It should have been more campy and upbeat. There were hardly any jokes or humor. It wasn’t fun. Comic book movies should be fun. The action sequences were bigger than the ones in Man of Steel, but the action wasn’t as good. Snyder likes to speed up and slow down the action and that worked really well in Man of Steel because it captured the power of Superman. It made him seem unworldly and godlike. You don’t get that feeling in Dawn of Justice. Superman isn’t as impressive. It feels tired.

It’s not a terrible movie, but it did not live up to the hype. The plot was meh. The characters were meh. The acting was meh. Like Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? Lex Luthor is one of the most formidable villains in the DC Universe. Jesse Eisenberg is not formidable in the slightest. It’s like casting a pug to play Cujo. It doesn’t work and it brings down the film’s integrity. DC and Warner Bros. were using this flick as their foundation for their Justice League franchise. There are a lot of cracks. Doesn’t seem like Marvel has much to worry about competition wise.

Critically Rated at 10/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Amalgam Age of Comics: The DC Comics Collection (comic, obviously)

In the mid ‘90s, Marvel and DC brought their characters together for DC vs. Marvel, in which Marvel and DC characters fought each other to save their universe. One of the highlights of that story is when the two universes merge together to create entirely new character with DC and Marvel traits. The characters were cool enough to create new comics centered around them. The Amalgam Age of Comics: The DC Comics Collection contains six different #1 issues starring the Marvel/DC hybrid characters.

Amazon #1 stars Princess Ororo of Themyscira, also known as Wonder Woman. She’s a mutant with the power to control weather and she was adapted and raised as an Amazon. She deals with learning about her adoptive past, and with the wrath of Poseidon, the god of the sea.

Assassins #1 is about the crime-fighting duo of Dare and Catsai as they take on the evil New Gotham mayor, Enigma Fisk. Slade Murdock is blind and fights crime using the moniker Dare. She’s like a female Daredevil with a revealing costume. She teams up with Catsai (real name: Elektra Kyle), the crime fighting dominatrix to bring down Enigma Fisk, better known the criminal underworld as the Big Question. Imagine the Kingpin and the Riddler in a blender, and this strong and intelligent criminal mastermind is the result.

Doctor Strangefate #1 centers on Doctor Strangefate, a hybrid of Professor X and Dr. Strange. He’s your typical sorcerer/telepathic mutant. He sends a few of his minions to find the Access. If this story seems familiar, it’s because this issue was also included in the DC vs. Marvel comic.

JLX #1 is about a team of mutant superheroes called the Justice League X-Men. There’s a bunch of characters and I could tell you their names, powers, and affiliations but I’m feeling lazy right now, so I’ll just sum it up by saying there’s the JLX and they have a reluctant battle with another team of superheroes and then they go to Atlantis and have another battle with a team of super villains. There are a lot of characters and it’s fun to see which Marvel and DC characters they are composites of.

Legends of the Dark Claw #1 is about Logan Wayne, who calls himself Dark Claw when he’s fighting crime with his spunky sidekick Sparrow. His main nemesis is the Hyena, a former friend who used to be called Creed H. Quinn. Dark Claw is Batman and Wolverine combined, and the Hyena is the Joker and Sabretooth combined. This is one of the highlights of the collection.

Super-Soldier #1 is about a soldier who volunteers himself to be injected with alien cells found in a crashed rocket ship, becoming Super-Soldier. There’s a nice blend of Captain America and Superman mythology. It works because both those characters represent the best of the United States.

This collection of DC and Marvel mash-ups is worth exploring. The art is solid, distinctive, and beautiful. The panel layout adds momentum and movement. It’s fun figuring out which character traits and attributes belong to whom. Some of the character combinations are a little weird, but the majority of them are acceptable.

The Amalgam Age characters should be the next comic book movie franchise. Dark Claw on the big screen? Yes, please.

Critically Rated at 12/17

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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Superman: Red Son (comic)

Superman is an American icon. But what if he wasn’t? Mark Millar’s story puts a simple twist on the Superman legend… what if baby Superman was twelve hours late and crash-landed into the Soviet Union instead of America? In this alternate universe, Superman lands in the Ukraine and comes to embrace Communism. Instead on an S on his chest, he sports a hammer and sickle. He makes the Soviet Union the dominating world power, while the US goes on the decline. The story is presented in three acts. The first act is establishes who this different Superman is and what he stands for. He is still a hero, he wants to help people, he is selfless, but he embraces the Soviet ideals instead of American ideals. The first act also introduces the other key characters, like the brilliant American scientist/genius Lex Luthor and his beautiful wife Lois “Formerly Lane” Luthor. There’s a Russian version of Batman who is leading a rebellion against the Soviet dictatorship. There’s a version of Wonder Woman that is also familiar and yet different. The second act is about Superman taking control of the Soviet Union. He doesn’t do it because he wants power, he does it because he feels obligated to help because he can help. Russian Batman is continuing to fight back against a dictatorship that’s headed by an all-powerful alien. With the help of Lex Luthor he lures Superman into a trap and nearly defeats him, but Wonder Woman saves Superman, even though it costs her a lot in the process. The last act finds Superman facing off against Lex Luthor, who is now the President of the United States. Lex is able to bring the US back from the point of total economic and social collapse, but it’s just the first step in his plan to destroy Superman. President Luthor uses Hal Jordan, Wonder Woman, and other tactics to wage war on Superman. I don’t want to give away anything major, but there is a great twist. So here is a spoiler alert – in this alternate universe, Lex Luthor saves mankind and sires a long line of brilliant descendants, one of which is named Jor-L who sends his infant son into the past, where he crash-lands in a field in the Ukraine. Mark Millar does a great job of reimaging Superman as a Russian. He is recognizable, but his upbringing changes aspects of his being. The best part of this story is how they use familiar characters in different ways. You’ll recognize a lot of DC characters, from Oliver Queen to Brainiac. You’ll even appreciate the historical figures that pop up, like Stalin or JFK and his Hollywood lover named Norma Jean. The artwork is great, but it’s the story that stands out. It’s just a cool take on a character that everyone knows. Superman is the most important character in the DC Universe. He affects everyone and everything. You will like this book, even if you’ve never read a Superman comic before, but you’ll appreciate it more if you have a greater grasp of his origin. Critically Rated at 13/17

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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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