Superman: Year One – DeaconsDen Review

SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE, is another entry into DC’s Black Label imprint. It’s written by industry veteran Frank Miller and illustrated by fellow veteran John Romita Jr. This reunites the two who previously worked on the miniseries, DAREDEVIL: THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR. Miller had already presented readers with the first-year experiences of Batman in 1987’s YEAR ONE and now it’s time for Miller to tackle the beginning career of the Man of Steel. How does he fare?

Book one opens with what any and every Superman origin must have, the destruction of the planet Krypton. However, we don’t spend much time there. We don’t get acquainted with a new version of Jor-El and Lara. Miller does give us baby Kal-El’s eyes to look through and Romita’s art gives us a beautiful panel of his eyes in darkness as he leaves his doomed Planet. Yet we don’t stay with the tragedy for too long as Kal-El lands in Smallville and into the lives of Jonathan and Martha Kent. From this point on, Smallville is the location for the rest of the story.

I think its obvious when it comes to this story, you must talk about Frank Miller. I know when this was announced there was much talk and skepticism of Miller handling Superman. One thing is certain since 2013’s Man of Steel, and that’s people are particular about their Last Son of Krypton. Well for starters, there is no Superman in book one of SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE. There is only Clark Kent. And it’s not too bad. We have a young man, aware of his growing abilities with two loving parents learning to navigate the world. In addition to Clark’s parents, we have Lana Lang, his high school sweetheart. Unfortunately, Miller does not devote much characterization to these 3 pillars of Clark’s developing years. With Lana there is a part of the story that draws upon a negative aspect of Miller’s writing. It’s a bit more restrained than he would have written this in the past, but still, it’s a part of his writing that he hasn’t let go. There is also a move that Clark makes at the end of the story that I’m curious about because it is not something, I think Clark would have done and I welcome the character choice. Yet you must wonder how Miller will handle it in the future. Now that I think about it, it may work if you’ve read The Dark Knight Returns. The bulk of the story deals with Clark handling some bullies who constantly mess with his friends, but the way it’s presented in the story makes it feel like it has a twinge of Gotham City in Smallville. Again, it’s Miller so I’m not surprised.

However, my biggest criticism of the story is that there’s nothing special about it. For the most part it feels much like a standard Superman origin. Even with the typical Miller missteps, there isn’t much here to either love or hate. The story moves at a pretty pace, but it’s all familiar territory. Perhaps he’s setting the stage for the stakes to be raised in book two, but I would say that it’s an ok read.

John Romita Jr’s art? Beautiful. His visualization of Smallville remind me of the Rockwell like art of Tim Sale’s art in SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS. You see the sunset, the leaves fall, and you just feel like this is a serene place you should be. The colors by Alex Sinclair provide much vibrance even for scenes at night, as well as the destruction of Krypton. Although I will say that sometimes the faces can look a little too similar.

SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE is not the book you think it would be. It is not ALL-STAR BATMAN & ROBIN (Sadly, because that’s the most hilarious book I’ve read in a few years). It’s not unhinged Miller like one may fear. It has his trapping, but not to the degree we are accustomed to. The art is beautiful and vibrant, but the story is really nothing new except for what Miller sets up at the end that I assume we will see in book two. Since I can’t let a story go unfinished once I start it, and because this was cool to review, I will grab books two and three at release. Hopefully things pick up.

I’ll give the first part of SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE, a 6/10. Not as low as it could be, but not great as it could be.

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Aquaman – DeaconsDen Reactions

The King of the Seven Seas arrives in his first full fledged motion picture. Aquaman is the sixth film in DC’s cinematic universe, taking place after 2017’s Justice League. Jason Momoa reprises his role as Arthur Curry and what we receive as viewers is a visually ambitious story of a man simply wanting to understand his place amongst his people.

From the jump, Aquaman, probably more than any recent comic book film I’ve seen (at the of this writing, I have not seen Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse) embraces the overall feel of a comic book. To me it felt like a silver age story. Really basic, easy to follow. I did not see that as a negative. I know people are familiar with Aquaman, but he is not a character on the level of popularity as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or even The Flash. I think director James Wan made a smart choice in the way he chose to adapt the character.

Visually, as I mentioned earlier, Aquaman is very much ambitious. I don’t know how else to imagine Atlantis looking like, but I did not expect it to look like that. Atlantis is vibrant and bold yet detailed. It reminds me of the digital world in Tron: Legacy. To me it’s the most visually impressive film since James Cameron’s Avatar. This is further highlighted by Rupert Gregson-Williams score that really gives the feeing if both being underwater and techno driven.

One of the biggest questions about Aquaman might be, how are the performances? Momoa in particular?I felt everyone involved do their best to bring this world to life. Amber Heard bring steely determination to Mera as she knows what she wants for her home, as does swollen Dafoe as Vulko, who trains Arthur as a child and teen. Also we get to see a screen legend in Nicole Kidman get her badass moment and it is certainly badass. The best overall acting I believe belong to Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Arthur’s brother Orm and Black Manta respectively. Two of Aquaman’s greatest adversaries and I believe both actors channel different forms of rage that define their characters. I hope there is a sequel and I want both to return.

This bring me to Momoa himself. He’s not a particularly good actor, but more of a strong presence. This works strongly in his favor as some of the material can be a little hammy at times, it works for him because hammy appears to be a strong area for him. However, I feel this works in the context of the film as well. We get multiple flashbacks of young Arthur with Vulko and he asks about his mother and Atlantis. He’s constantly told to be patient and the years pass with no resolution. This makes his attitude and the beginning of Aquaman even in Justice League more understandable. James Wan knows his lead actor doesn’t quite have the chops as his supporting cast, so he simply lets Momoa be Momoa. This isn’t his take on a particular iteration of the character, this is if Jason Momoa has superpowers. For this reason, it works for me.

Aquaman plays like a mashup of 80s sword/sorcery/adventure films. From its plotting, to its style and music. I had a blast from start to finish and I can not wait to go back to Atlantis with Arthur and Mera.

Comic Analysis – Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia by Greg Rucka

I’ve read a great deal of comics in my life. And with the many I have read, I’ve come across many iconic stories for some of my favorite characters. For Batman there’s classics like The Long Halloween, Year One, The Killing Joke. Superman you have Birthright, Kingdom Come and The Death of Superman. Yet for Wonder Woman, stories that automatically come to mind are not easy to think of. I can recall the many writers who have penned stories for Diana, but nothing on the line of must read stories. Well I have finally read one and it’s the best Wonder Woman story I have ever read.

Greg Rucka became the regular writer on Wonder Woman in 2003, but he first wrote her in 2002 with this graphic novel that was meant to present the perception of Wonder Woman, her impact on those around her. It gives readers a common scenario for characters. What do you do when you are caught in a no-win situation?

If you are looking to read this story, the graphic novel is out of print by itself, but you can read it in the first collected volume of Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka as seen here.

Now onto the story. I will try to to spoiler beyond general plot points.

Hiketeia, is a ritual where an individual submits themselves to another for safety and protection. The ritual is enforced by the Erinyes, or Furies who make sure the oath is not broken. This ritual is taken very seriously. As the person who is responsible for the supplicant must allow no harm to come to them and they can not exit the arrangement. Only the supplicant can break Hiketeia. One day a young woman named Danielle arrives at Diana’s door. Danielle is on the run from Gotham with Batman in pursuit. Danielle submits herself to Diana’s protection and Diana accepts. Once Wonder Woman discovers the reason for Danielle’s flight, she is placed in opposition with Batman who wants to bring the woman to justice.

This places Diana in an untenable situation. She is the ambassador to Themyscira and has made this world her her home and that includes the rules and laws that go with it. However, she obviously has connections to her homeland and its culture. She also knows that the Furies are right there to ensure that the contract is upheld. Then there is Batman, whose only purpose is to see Danielle brought to justice for her crimes. The situation becomes even more dicey when Diana learns why Danielle did what she did. This places her in conflict with Batman that leads to this killer moment.

I’m used to reading stories where Wonder Woman has to exercise patience in Man’s World due to where she came from. Yet for this story, it’s the conflict that makes it far more exciting and entertaining. She isn’t faced with a question of what’s right? Once she learns of what Danielle did, she knows what should happen, but she’s bound by ritual that is strictly enforced by an entity that takes vengeance for breaking oath.

It’s the most conflicted I’ve ever read Wonder Woman. In this story she is forced to be many things at once. Friend, ally, protector, combatant, harboring a criminal (I’m sorry I can’t think of a better word than antagonist, but Batman is mostly the antagonist of this story). I found it fascinating and the conclusion was satisfying because it’s the only way a story like this would end. It’s the first story featuring the character that I’ve read that really captured Diana the individual, not the superhero, not the goddess, not the princess, but the person.

I’m genuinely excited to read more of Greg Rucka’s first run on Wonder Woman. I’ve read his work during the Rebirth initiative and loved every page. I strongly recommend The Hiketeia to be read by everyone. And please DC, make this an animated film!

Gaming Gallery 7 – Marvel’s Spider-Man

Spider-Man is an action/adventure game from Insomniac Games for the PlayStation 4. You are placed in the shoes of Peter Parker as he does whatever a spider can around New York City. Like most games of this generation, there is a photo mode and it just may be my favorite one yet. Here are some of my shots I’ve taken throughout the game so far.

Selfies:

Shots around New York:

Like many games with photo modes, it’s so easy to get caught up in capturing these moments. This is one I highly recommend!

Comic Review – Batman: Damned #1

Batman: Damned is the first original release from DC Black Label, an imprint of DC Comics. The purpose of this imprint is to showcase stories that are not part of main continuity and are more flexible in matters of content. This line is meant to have mature stories and subject matter. The line will consist of original limited series and previously published material.

Batman: Damned is written by Brian Azzarelo and illustrated by Lee Bermejo. The two have collaborated previously on the tiles Luthor and Joker for DC, now they create their vision of a Dark Knight tale. This is a three issue limited series. Issue one was released on September 19th 2018.

Batman: Damned is the story of Batman as a suspect in the death of his longtime nemesis The Joker, who was found dead on a bridge in Gotham City. Batman’s path will cross with supernatural detective John Constantine to solve this mystery in a combination of crime and occult.

The moment I pick up my physical copy of the book, I was instantly impressed with the quality of the book as a whole. It has a nice cover design and the paper quality is good as well. I wish it had a hardcover like the 2-part, The Dark Prince Charming, but I’m sure that is a reason those books cost $12.99 at release and this one $6.99. Just a preference and not a complaint at all. I like the larger format as it reminds me of the prestige format of titles like Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters. While I’m certain this will read much better once it is collected, I am excited to read these individual issues since this is the physical format it will initially be available in.

Now to speak on the book’s content.

Batman: Damned is a very atmospheric book. It might be easy to say that because it’s almost second nature to visually interpret Gotham City, but Bermejo’s art is outstanding. If you never read Luthor or Joker (I haven’t and will correct that soon), you are in for a treat from the jump. It’s sharp, it’s beautiful, it’s horrifying. Gotham isn’t just a city, it’s almost an otherworldly dimension. Since the supernatural factors into this story, that is probably intentional. His rendering of familiar DC characters who I won’t spoil is outstanding. The book is worth it for this artwork alone in my opinion.

However, I have to admit I wasn’t overly thrilled with Azzarello’s story for this first issue. It isn’t bad by any stretch, but I found it a little thick to get into what he was setting up besides the death of the Joker. There is some good material that takes a look at Bruce Wayne which is always interesting to me, but I guess I’m unsure of what the book is going to ultimately be about. It could be a combination of the crime elements, supernatural and psychological, but with it being only 3 issues, I was expecting just a little forward motion.

Overall, I will say issue one of Batman: Damned is still a quality purchase for me. Beautifully drawn, but hopefully issue 2 will move things along and make the direction a little more clear for me. However I’m still on board with this story and what DC Black Label can offer. And I can’t wait to see Azzarello and Bermejo’s take on one of my favorites, Harley Quinn.

Rating (3.5/5)

Gaming Gallery 6: Injustice 2 – Nth Metal

Today’s Gaming Gallery takes us back to the world of Injustice 2. Some favorite characters of mine have new looks as well as a sleek sheen with the Nth Metal shaders, named after the fictional material in DC Comics.

SUPERMAN

WONDER WOMAN

BATMAN

SUPERGIRL

HARLEY QUINN

GREEN LANTERN

GREEN ARROW

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies – DeaconsDen Reaction

Robin, Raven, Starfire, Cyborg and Beast Boy have hit the big screen together in this animated film based on the series Teen Titans Go! How did this quintet fare in their first movie adventure?

So I must begin with a little history. Teen Titans Go is a comedic spinoff of the Teen Titans series that aired for 5 seasons from 2003-2006. Teen Titans Go brought back the same voice actors from the original series, Scott Menville as Robin, Tara Strong as Raven, Greg Cipes as Beast Boy, Hynden Walch as Starfire and Khary Payton as Cyborg. The original show was really well received and enjoyed by many for balancing the character development and storylines while never forgetting that these are teenagers. Upon the release of the newer series, fans were not pleased with the new direction. It’s goofy, irreverent and does not take itself seriously.

Or does it?

One of the things I’ve grown to love about Teen Titans Go even as an adult in his 30s, is how committed it is to being what it wants to be and how it reflects things that we see everyday especially in a world occupied by social media. In terms of its quirkiness, it’s like an animated Seinfeld which is my favorite sitcom ever. Both shows have a cast of characters that have different characteristics and traits. And both poke fun at everyday situations. I especially love how it always lets people know that they are here to stay since you always hear about how people are fuming that this show exists and not the original. Well, this movie is here to remind you of its place in the world just like the show.

Believe it or not, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is both a hilarious spoof on superhero cinema and our love of them, while simultaneously providing its own commentary on its place in superhero media. Just because these aren’t what you specifically loved before, it doesn’t make them any less heroes. The show is super funny. This film was super funny and heartfelt. It actually makes a case for its place in the landscape and I find that a very important concept to explore in a landscape where it’s questionable it seems to have multiple iterations of comic book characters.

Oh and if you are a fan of DC Comics, which I assume if you see this movie anyway, there are references and Easter eggs galore. So many. And if there was a DC character you’ve wanted to see on screen, you probably will see them. No matter how obscure. Seriously, I don’t want to give spoilers, but there is one character I’d love to see in live action one day and it was great to see her (that’s all I’ll indicate) on screen.

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is a great time for kids who love seeing these characters be what they know them to be on television and adults will appreciate some of the DC related jokes and nods as well as the commentary about superheroes and the media we love to consume about them.