Sunday, July 19, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Justice League: War

The first of what was DC Comics' New 52 lineup of their DC Universe made-for-video animated flicks, Justice League: War is based on the first few issues of the current Justice League comic book series taking place after the reboot movie, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox where Flash ended up restarting the entire timeline. Jay Olivia continues from Flashpoint as director of this new line-up, plus an entirely new voice cast at the JLA.

Mysterious kidnappings have been happening all over America, particularly in Gotham, where Green Lantern Hal Jordan tracks down a certain cape-wearing menace. It turns out to be an alien monster called a Parademon, so Lantern and Batman team up to stop him, although it commits suicide to cover its tracks. Batman figures out its alien origins, so he and Lantern fly to Metropolis to confer with its resident alien, Superman. The Man of Steel doesn't take their interrogation well at first, which ends in the usual "superhero vs. superhero" resolution. Meanwhile, more Parademons start springing up all over, with Wonder Woman saving the President from an attack on Air Force One, and the Flash arriving at S.T.A.R. Labs to witness the origin of Cyborg, a high school football player whose body was mangled after a Parademon portal exploded in his face. Cyborg is surprised to discover the hero Shazam knows him, and it turns out that this version of Captain Marvel is really a young boy. The Parademons are being lead by the tyrannical god, Darkseid, who in this timeline is at least about a yard taller than before. His forces capture Superman and take him back to be converted into one of their soldiers, with Batman going to rescue him. The remaining heroes assemble and proceed to take out each of Darkseid's eyes which shoot menacing Omega Beams. After Batman brings back Superman, Cyborg hacks into one of Darkseid's computers to reroute all his forces back home, along with the now eyeless Darkseid. The heroes from this point pledge to the U.S. government to work together as a team to defend the world from other various threats, one of which appears in a post-credits scene with Ocean Master vowing vengeance against the surface world for the death of his father.

JL: War has up until this point one of the first real times we see the League getting together for the first time, not like in New Frontier which was more an assembling of Earth's forces against a similar threat. The versions of some of the characters like Batman and Flash are spot-on, but these versions of Shazam, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern has them being colossally too arrogant and conceded. The new voice cast is okay, but they were smart to recast Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern in the sequal, Justice League: Thrown Of Atlantis. It's also plain to see that DC wanted to capitalize on the success of the original Avengers movie showing several heroes uniting to confront an alien menace, but the addition of Darkseid as the big bad made it a lot more epic in scale. For reals check this out if you want to see what the Dawn Of Justice movie is leading up to.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

A lot of people thought the idea of doing an adaptation of Frank Miller's gamechanging 80s mini-series The Dark Knight Returns was nearly impossible, but the DC Universe crew decided to test the waters with Batman: Year One which met with a lot of success. This lead to them producing the "What If" story of Batman's future into two parts, which was later released as a single full-length compilation. The comic itself was only four issues long, but the content involved went on to influence several future productions, including Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. So, Bruce Timm and company treated it very seriously in creating a mature realized version of Frank Miller's story.

Set in the undetermined future, Bruce Wayne hung up his cape a decade ago after the death of the second Robin(and this was still a few years before they actually did it in the comics!). In that time, Gotham has been overrun with a gang called the Mutants, who don't have any actual X-Factor but still are a big pain in the city's backside. Harvey Dent has allegedly been cured of his Two-Face persona with plastic surgery to fix his looks, but instead plans to blow up a few buildings. After getting frustrated with all the crime going on, Bruce heads back to the Batpoles to stop Two-Face. This causes a huge public outcry, with a lot of commentary being shown on TV as it provides a large part of the story's narrative. Batman then takes on the Mutant Leader, along with his new recruit, a teenage girl named Carrie who becomes the new Robin(and the first female "Boy Wonder"). With the Mutants disassembled, a lot of the disenfranchised punks become vigilantes calling themselves the Sons of Batman. All this new Bat-buzz flying around causes the Joker to come out of a long state of catatonia, and remarkably gets booked on a late-night talk show where he unleashes his Joker toxin killing hundreds. Batman and Robin track Joker to an amusement park, and the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince have a final showdown, leaving the police to believe that Batman had killed Joker. Meanwhile, Superman has been in the pocket of the American government working as their secret weapon in order to keep them out of the lives of other superheroes. The Man of Steel stops a Russian invasion of a small Central American nation, but they counterattack with a nuclear warhead. Superman stops it, but it causes a nationwide blackout, and also reduces Supes' power since there is a nuclear cloud covering the sun. Batman pulls together the Sons of Batman into pulling together the chaos in Gotham after the blackout, which embarrasses the U.S. government, so the President sends Superman out to put down this "outlaw". Batman suits up in some heavy duty battle armor, and uses the entire Gotham power supply to take on this slightly weaker Superman, and tops it off with a Kryptonite arrow fired by a one-armed Green Arrow who also had an axe to grind with Clark. Batman then fakes his own death to make Superman and the government think that he is dead, while he along with Green Arrow, Robin, and the remnants of the Mutants and Sons of Batman to set up a new underground crimefighting crew.

This was a very faithful take on the original comic, with a few added extras, like some flashbacks of Bruce Wayne's parents, plus some bonus material with the social media coverage. The movie had an impressive cast with Robocop himself, Peter Weller as Batman, and Michael Emerson as a truly wild Joker, along with María Canals Barrera(formerly Hawkgirl on Justice League)as the new police commissioner. The style and animation match Frank Miller's vision of the comic perfectly, as well as an impressive musical score. If you've never read the comic before, and still want to know where a lot of the ideas for the previous live-action trilogy came from, you owe it to yourself as a true Bat-fan to check this out!

Friday, July 10, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *Lost At Sea

Before his international fan sensation of the Scott Pilgrim series, Bryan Lee O'Malley started out with a one-shot graphic novel titled Lost At Sea. First printed by Oni Press in black and white, it was later reprinted in color, similar to how they did with Scott Pilgrim.

Raleigh is a seemingly delusional teenage girl from Canada who has impulsively decided to catch a ride with three other people after coming down to California to see her "boyfriend". Her travelling companions on this road trip are two boys, Dave and Ian, plus the chainsmoking Stephanie. Along this long strange trip, Raleigh reflects on her life, and how she thinks her mother might have sold her sold away to a cat for to become a success in business. Whether or not there is any definitive otherworldly or supernatural backdrop to this is never really made clear. However through her experiences with her new buddies, Raleigh discovers a lot about herself as a person, and suddenly becomes sees things a little more positively.

Lost At Sea was intended as a single book, although there have been some short comic strips that expand on the characters in little vignettes. It's style and storytelling are very underground, something akin to watch you might find in an indie self-published mini-comic or zine. You can see the foundations of what eventually lead O'Malley to do in Scott Pilgrim, even though it's not intended to be as funny or filled with pop culture references. Definitely see about at least getting this from your local library if you're not already a fan of O'Malley's style.