DC Animated: Violent Hypocrisy

When you think of the DC Cinematic universe, a few things come to mind. There are the disjointed and messy films, the ambitious ideas of building a working universe like that of Marvel Comics but rushing to do so, without taking the time to let it happen organically through the origin stories, and of course the constant need to reshoot films to take out jokes or put a few in, or go in completely different directions from the original artistic view of its creators.

But another thing that comes to mind is the amount of controversies on the violence of its heroes, on the level of destruction and death they leave in their wake. A point that often comes up is the killing of Zod in Man of Steel and how that goes against all the character stands for. Continue reading DC Animated: Violent Hypocrisy

Super Hero RPG – Mantles

I’ve been going on about super heroes for a little while now, but it’s been comics and TV series, so how about we talk Super Hero RPG? Continue reading Super Hero RPG – Mantles

DC Animated – Young Justice

Young Justice is the second (or third, technically) series in my current project of watching all DC Comics Animated series. At the time of writing my piece on the Justice League, I still wasn’t done with this series, still having the second season to go through. And even if I had, Young Justice definitely deserves its own article. Continue reading DC Animated – Young Justice

My Favourite Super Hero

While writing yesterday’s article on the Justice League I kept thinking about my favourite superheroes, trying to make that hard decision of which one of the many super-humans, aliens, magicians and vigilantes I would call my absolute favourite. For any geek with a deep appreciation for comics, that is a massive decision and not an easy one.

But after thinking about it for long enough, I finally realised which one was at the top of the ladder. For this, of course, I limited my choices to mainstream DC and Marvel, without considering all those comic series that have come and gone, such as the original Wildstorm comics, Vertigo, or the first generation Spawn and Top Cow universes. I kept out Majestros and Spartan, Jackie Estacado and the Hellblazer, John Constantine. I also excluded other forms of superheroes, such as those seen only on TV and Film or on Anime and Manga—these last two would make the decision nigh impossible. Continue reading My Favourite Super Hero

DC Animated – Justice League

Every once in a while, I get tired from the offerings on the current TV season, tired of seeing the same concepts rehashed under different names and with slightly different details, or sometimes even just want to see something I haven’t seen in a long while, a particular show to rekindle the memories and the emotions I felt when I first saw them.

It’s from those experiences that I draw my “Oldies but Goodies” articles, which I’ve written for Chuck, Eureka, Farscape and Warehouse 13. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been bingeing on other oldies, but these are beyond goodies, they’re outstanding. Continue reading DC Animated – Justice League

Character Look – The Joker

Last week I read the latest in the Opinion Battles hosted by Movie Reviews 101. It was “The Best Batman Villain.” I always read these at Emma’s site emmakwall (explains it all) and after reading the different opinions in the battle as well as the comments left on Emma’s site, I decided to drop my own, a mini-rant on why Joker was the best villain. Emma prompted me to write an entire article on it, so here I am.

My analysis on the Joke isn’t just in terms of films, but also comics, where most of my knowledge of the character comes from.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the Joker is that he’s a force of chaos, that what he does is just random and with the only goal being more chaos, but the reality is different. Continue reading Character Look – The Joker

Review: Justice League: Gods and Monsters

What happens when you take Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and give them completely new backstories and identities? You get Justice League: Gods and Monsters! Continue reading Review: Justice League: Gods and Monsters

Review: The Flash

The Flash is a new superhero TV series. It’s an adaptation of the DC Comics comic by the same name and a  spinoff of Arrow, having the same producers. It follows Barry Allen, The Flash and the fastest man alive.

During Arrow’s last season, we were first introduced to Barry Allen, a nerdy crime lab technician visiting Starling City under false pretenses. It turned out that he’d come to find the Arrow and that he did, leaving at the end of a small story arc but not without giving Oliver Queen a valuable piece of advice: wear a mask. Because we all knew the green eyeliner was kinda dumb, and someone had to say it. The last thing we see of him in Arrow is being struck by lightning in his office.

The Flash’s pilot shows us the complete picture, the events leading to that fateful lightning strike and beyond. Star Labs’ Particle Accelerator goes live while Barry is at the Police Station but malfunctions catastrophically, sending wild energies across Central City, turning the terrible weather into the weirdest storm the city had ever seen. Allen is struck by one such strange lightning and ends up in a coma for nine months. When he finally wakes up, he quickly realizes he can run at incredible speeds, though before he dons the now iconic red suit, he has a few mishaps, such as crashing into a laundry van.

The suit looks really good!
The suit looks really good!

I like the Flash. To be honest, before Arrow, I didn’t even like Green Arrow that much, but I always liked the Flash, especially the short and tragic run with Bart Allen. I still have those issues saved up because of how extraordinary they are. I love it all, from the miniaturized suit in a ring to the Speed Force to the time traveling treadmill.

As I said, I liked this character, and as such, my expectations for this series were at an all-time low. I expected something terrible. You might think that’s odd, that my expectations were low instead of high, but there’s an important reason: I didn’t want to hate it. I have fond memories of the 90s TV show and still think it’s badass. So, I really didn’t want to see this Flash and think, “This is bad!”

The effects are really well done
The effects are really well done

But that didn’t happen and not only was I pleasantly surprised, but I was actually impressed. The Flash, unlike Arrow, deals almost exclusively with Meta-humans, people with superpowers, and that means special effects, the wobbly part of most TV shows if we’re being fairly honest here. But the flash manages to do it right. They handle the super-speed effect marvellously, and the different villain superpowers (Weather, Cloning and Poison Gas in the three episodes leading to this review) actually look good, which is what impressed me them most.

As for characters and performances, The Flash does something right: every character in the show is very well defined and grounded. You can instantly relate to all of them, be it because they’re adorkable or because they’ve lost someone and that resonates with your own life’s experiences. Performances are generally very strong, though Rick Cosnett lacks a bit of punch as Eddie Thawne. He’s unconvincing as both a Detective and as Iris’ boyfriend. Her actress, Candice Patton is one of my favourite on the show. Grant Gustin is outstanding as Barry, hitting all the high and low notes perfectly. When there’s an emotionally intense scene, he’ll be pulling on your heartstring without question. Tom Cavanagh handles the duality of his character wonderfully. When Wells is being nice, you can feel the concern he has for Barry’s safety, and when he’s being evil, you can tell this is a guy you don’t want to mess with. It’s really difficult to play a convincing recurring villain, even more so one hiding in plain sight, and how well Cavanagh pulls it off with his performance amazes me to be perfectly frank. My biggest surprise for this show, however, and a pleasant and nostalgia-filled one at that, was seeing John Wesley Shipp as Barry’s father. Why was it pleasant? J.W. Shipp played The Flash in the 90s TV series.

Two flashes, now father and son!
Two flashes, now father and son!

The writing is currently the shows greatest weakness, and it’s not on the stories, those are pretty good. They’re fun superhero adventures with enough emotional and dark moments sprinkled on top to make them very interesting. No, the problem is with the dialogue. For its first few episodes, the Flash is and will continue to try to establish the character as a superhero, and for that the dialogues will often have inspirational conversations where the character will learn some valuable lesson that will shape the hero he’ll become. It’s expected but tricky to get right without being too cheesy. And so far, The Flash’s dialogue has had some very cheesy moments, the worst being the Oliver Queen – Barry conversation in the pilot episode. That one wasn’t only cheesy but also quite painful to watch. I could have complained about casting, about character choices, but I don’t and I won’t. First, any adaptation deserves the chance to make its own mark, to change things up a bit. And second, this show is from the people behind Arrow and if that show has proven something it’s that the changes it makes to “established lore” work really well!

One thing I do give props to the writers for is acknowledging the realities of Barry’s condition. The second episode takes its time to explore and handle his metabolism, with him constantly fainting for low glucose, because his body burns through it like there’s no tomorrow. Also, they at least try to come up with a pseudo-scientific explanation for how the different powers work, which I appreciate. Superhero TV shows get more leeway than other series in terms of unrealistic things, but The Flash’s writers take the time and put in the effort to keep the show as grounded as possible. Another thing I like is that Barry’s not an instant badass the moment he gets his powers. He’s still clumsy and he doesn’t know how to fight, which is why he still gets his ass kicked the moment he stops running. It makes the evolution from guy-with-powers to Superhero feel much more natural.

Iris and Barry...I really shouldn't geek out or I'll spoil stuff!
Iris and Barry…I really shouldn’t geek out or I’ll spoil stuff!

In the end, The Flash proves once more that the people behind Arrow know what they’re doing and they are the best at brining superheroes to TV. It’s an extremely fun show to watch. I give it enormous praise just for not having anyone say the word “Mirakuru” and for giving us decent DC Comics supervillain portrayals (and powers).

The Mental Attic Score: Worth Watching

Review: Gotham

Gotham is a Police Procedural set in the DC Comics Universe, specifically in Batman’s Gotham City, though this isn’t a show about the Dark Knight. Instead it tell the stories of Commissioner Gordon’s early years in the Gotham City Police Department as an idealistic and honest cop in one of the most corrupt cities in DC America.

The series opens up with the iconic Wayne murder scene, with Bruce and his parents walking home through an alley only to be mugged and Thomas and Martha killed. But while other Batman media go from this spot into the training montage and the first Batman escapades, Gotham tells us what happens right after, when the police arrive.

The main cast of Gotham...don't be fooled though, Ivy shows up for maybe 5 minutes in the pilot and that's about it!
The main cast of Gotham…don’t be fooled though, Ivy shows up for maybe 5 minutes in the pilot and that’s about it! Same with Nigma, a very minor character!

The pilot introduces all the major players and the overarching plot line of the season, the Wayne murder and its implications on the city’s balance of power. It also sets all the players and pieces on the board, with every episode thereafter building on them.

On the side of the law, a term used loosely in Gotham, there’s Jim Gordon and his partner Bullock from Homicide and Montoya and Allen from Major Crimes Unit. Bullock couldn’t be dirtier and from his interactions with their boss, so is she. Gordon on the other hand is an idealistic good guy, but his association with Bullock means everyone thinks he’s dirty.

That is precisely the case with Montoya, she immediately flags him as ‘scumbag’ the moment she meets him, and then spends every episode thereafter trying to get Jim’s fiancée Barbara to leave him. She says it’s because he’s not a good guy but there’s a story between them and as the episodes go by, the good Major Crimes Detective falls well into the creepy ex-girlfriend territory. Allen on the other hand is barely important to the show, just there because Montoya needs a partner, even though DC Comics fans know he’s a pretty cool character.

This is character I want to know more about, even if I already know most of it!
This is character I want to know more about, even if I already know most of it!

On the criminal’s side, there are three notable characters and a whole lot of secondary ones: Carmine Falcone, Fish Mooney and Oswald Cobblepot, already nicknamed Penguin, a name he hates. Fish and Penguin’s roles are to be our link to the criminal underworld. Fish plots takeovers and betrayals and is the go-to girl for the detectives during their investigations, while Penguin, despite his relatively low position on the food chain, sees the bigger picture more clearly than every other character and knows just what the death of the might bring about. And behind his meek behaviour hides one of the most brutal characters in the show. He kills someone at least once per episode.

Carmine on the other hand is there to represent Gotham’s status quo, to let the audience know how things work in the city. And it works, mostly because they don’t show him that often, only appearing to give out some needed advice and punishment.

While his part is small, Edward Nigma is just as riddle-obsessed as you expect him to be!
While his part is small, Edward Nigma is just as riddle-obsessed as you expect him to be!

Finally, the Waynes and Catwoman. This version of Alfred Pennyworth is much more intense than we’ve ever seen him, perfectly capable of snapping at his young ward and call him on his nonsense but stuck between his responsibilities as a parent to the young millionaire and his role as his servant. He worries about what Bruce is going through. As for the young Batman himself, he goes from grieving kid to determined vigilante in training maybe a bit too quickly and every episode has him doing something that depending on your point of view might be extremely stupid or simply badass. From standing on the edge of Wayne Manor’s roof to holding his hand over a lit candle, Bruce challenges himself further every episode, followed by Alfred’s reprimands and Gordon’s advice and life lesson. The show tries to make Jim Gordon into a substitute parent figure alongside Alfred, but so far it’s the show’s weak spot, as it seems too forced.

Selina Kyle, already going by the nickname Cat, is there at the scene of the Wayne’s murder and so far she’s proven both very capable at getting in and out of trouble and that she knows more about the killer than anyone else, even the police. She’s actually one of the most intriguing characters so far, as there is a lot about her that hasn’t been said, a lot of backstory hinted at but not revealed, such as her stints in juvie.

Penguin simply rocks!
Penguin simply rocks!

The one thing that struck me as odd while watching the show is the language. You’re dealing with criminal elements yet no one even says a bad word. True, it’s DC comics, but it makes the underworld a little less believable. At least they haven’t gone into “Darn” territory, because if they do I’m jumping ship. A show doesn’t need constant streams of Fs and Cs and any other insult, but when you’re dealing with clearly uneducated and violent individuals, which most of the thugs in Gotham are, you hurt their characterization by giving them a cleaner language than they should have.

The performances on the show are a bit of a mixed bag. Donal Logue’s Bullock is sleazy and dirty and both appalling and entertaining to watch. Ben McKenzie’s Gordon on the other hand lacks strength. It’s not a bad performance, just needs a bit more bite to it. The best actor is definitely Robin Lord Taylor, his Penguin is just perfect and even while being servile he dominates every scene he’s in. Jada Pinkett Smith is seductive, scheming and downright scary as Fish Mooney and her scenes are all fantastic. Victoria Cartagena’s Montoya scenes on the other hand are bland and boring. Every other actor in her scenes, especially Erin Richards during the increasingly creepy Barbara & Montoya scenes, outshines her. I don’t know if it’s her fault, the director’s or the writing, but they need to pick it up because Renee Montoya is a kickass character and she’d not doing her justice.

Camren Bicondova is awesome as Cat and is pretty entertaining to watch. Alfred is another powerhouse performance, from losing his temper with Bruce to simply being the stoic butler standing there. Bruce, David Mazouz, on the other hand is completely and utterly forgettable.

This is the only Gordon-Bruce scene that doesn't seem forced!
This is the only Gordon-Bruce scene that doesn’t seem forced!

As of now, Gotham is in that wobbly first season every superhero TV show seems to go through even more than any other type of show. It’s good and intriguing enough to bring me back every week and the potential for stories in that time period of Gotham are practically endless, especially since they’ve said every episode will have one Joker candidate.

The Mental Attic Score: Worth Watching

Arrow Season 1 Review

When I first saw the promos for Arrow, a show based on Green Arrow, I was skeptic. Sure, Smallville proved you could make a successful comic book adaptation series, but even that show had its very definite lows, the series ending being one for me, even if with Darkseid they had everything going for them to end it spectacularly.

Thankfully, the show surpassed my expectations and put my fears to rest. Continue reading Arrow Season 1 Review