The War of Jokes and Riddles

The Joker is the quintessential Batman villain. The Riddler is my personal favorite Batman villain that is not The Joker. Recently, Batman writer Tom King has started The War of Jokes and Riddles storyline. Taking place in the early days of Batman’s career and details the gang war between The Joker and The Riddler. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense to have these two go to war with one another. Despite all his craziness, The Joker is a methodical villain with detailed plans on how to go about things. The Riddler with his vast intellect and narcissism makes him something of a thinly veiled villain. The two have a lot of similarities with one another and there have been frequent jokes about that fact also.

I’m always a big fan of seeing Batman’s early years as well. Typically you see his origin and then skip to the present. His intervening years are never really given much detail. So when stories like to go into those years, it’s fun to see a much more “green” Batman. I’m still not really sure as to when this story takes place but at best bet it seems to be a “year three” Batman. He already has most of his established enemies and familiar with those who operate outside of Gotham City. There have been a reference to Zero Year, because The Riddler is treated as a serious threat due to his machinations in that story.

The whole framing of the story is set against the backdrop of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle post coitus. In the issue prior to the story, Bruce proposed to her. As of this post, we still do not know what she said. It would be hard to imagine that they would have sex and him detailing a very personal story to her if she had turned down his proposal. But King has done a good job of writing around the answer and keep an interesting story going on where you don’t really think about it either.

Batman Catwoman Proposal

The best issue so far was a simple one where Bruce Wayne has invited the two leaders over for dinner in an effort to end the gang war. This shows a different side to Bruce Wayne. One who is very aware of things that many who are not so privileged will not know about. A nine course meal that sees even someone like The Joker act civilized. This does play into my belief that The Joker is someone who just fakes insanity and is perfect nonchalant in his monstrous acts. Bruce even offers to pay off the leaders in an effort to end the war with the caveat that one takes out the other. Later it is revealed that this was a ploy but something tells me that if the war was guaranteed to end, he might have done it. 

Bruce Wayne The Joker The Riddler dinner

This is a Batman at his best and worst. Best because we get to see what kind of hero he is. Working himself to exhaustion and willing to play all the angles and just not as Batman but as Bruce Wayne also. It’s also his worst because we see how he beats himself up over things that he has no control over. Close to a breakdown at numerous points as he is being run ragged.

Batman The Joker The Riddler.jpg

 The story is still ongoing but I’m always anticipating the next issue in the story. The art is also fantastic. If you want to get into Batman comics, I’d suggest starting with this story. It is destined to be a classic. 

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The Fantastic Four Should Return

The Fantastic Four is Marvel Comics’ first family. The crown jewel of the numerous collaborations between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Throughout the Fantastic Four’s history, there have been numerous classic creator runs on the title. My personal favorite would have to be the most recent run by Jonathan Hickman and numerous artists. But ever since 2016, the Fantastic Four have not been in comics. The official reason is that the Fantastic Four comic was not selling well despite the fact that many other books that sold worse are still being published. The unofficial reason is that Marvel head Ike Perlmutter is cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Back in the 90’s, Marvel was in dire financial straits. The way to help solve this problem was to sell off the film rights. This is not unheard of but Marvel made one glaring problem. When they sold off the film rights, it was under the condition that whoever bought the film rights held them in perpetuity as long as films were being made. This resulted in the infamous Roger Corman Fantastic Four film, the two mid 2000’s ones and the disastrous 2015 film. There is more news that Fox who hold the film rights plan to reboot the franchise again.

You can see where people in Marvel are getting annoyed at this predicament. They have the Marvel Cinematic Universe headed by Marvel Studios, Fox is doing great with the X-Men franchise and Sony is in a partnership with Marvel about Spider-Man. But Fox has yet to be able to crack the Fantastic Four issue. There are easy scapegoats to blame for all the films being underwhelming but they ultimately buckle under scrutiny. If the Fantastic Four were any of those things, there wouldn’t be such a uproar as to when the films get it wrong.

But should the comics have to suffer because of that? Reed and Sue Richard along with their kids are out in the multiverse doing who knows what. The Thing and Human Torch are currently appearing in team books and guest appearances. They are supposed to come together in their own book soon but it is still not the Fantastic Four. There have been hints here and there that the team will eventually return but nothing concrete. Then legendary comic artist Alex Ross dropped an image of Reed and Sue in new costumes and it got people speculating as if the team is about to reunite.

Just because Marvel made dumb but understandable financial decision does not mean the Marvel Comics should suffer. There has been little correlation between movie sales and comic sales. The Fantastic Four are also a lynchpin in the Marvel universe. Who does everyone turn to for science advice? Reed Richards. Sue Richards is that motherly figure that helps ground the team. Her little brother Johnny is the typical “irresponsible” brother who everyone knows has a heart of gold. Ben Grimm is the cool uncle. Marvel execs can claim this and that about how the team isn’t working but everyone who knows comics knows that to be full of it.

The Fantastic Four need to return and as soon as possible. It is really a dishonor to the legacy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to do their creation like this just because of some film rights. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and as more time is spent without the team being around, the more we grow fonder. Marvel’s First Family brings a uniqueness to the Marvel Universe and that is one that cannot be replicated.

Justice League Banner Featuring Big Blue Himself

Everyone knows Superman will be in Justice League despite being “dead” after the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. So the marketing has been playing it fast and loose with featuring the Man of Steel. Superman mainly appears in ancillary promotional materials but never like posters. This is the first major piece of marketing to feature him. 

Marvel’s The Punisher Trailer Takeaway

It should be noted from the get go that I am not the biggest fan of The Punisher. Personally, the character works best for me in guest appearances and limited series. I have never been able to tolerate reading an ongoing Punisher book for more than six months. So when The Punisher was announced as getting his inevitable Netflix series after a recurring role in the second season of Daredevil, I was just “meh” about it. I’m really not sure as to what they can do with the character for thirteen episodes. So the trailer came out today and it really did nothing for me.

  • We see more of Frank’s life before his family was killed. It seems to be retconning the events of Frank’s family being murdered. Either that or he might be hallucinating and mixing things up. There are some definite Max Payne vibes here.
  • Apparently there is a conspiracy around Frank and why his family was murdered. This was one of my major criticisms surrounding The Punisher in Daredevil. Instead of simply just making Frank’s family victims in a random act of violence, there has to be this whole thing going on behind the scenes. It seems to unnecessarily complicate things.
  • Karen Page is back and I’m no fan of that character. Constantly chastising Matt Murdock for being secretive yet always defending Frank Castle, a known mass murderer, who even tells her point blank not to defend him.
  • There are scenes of the actor who plays Micro. I’m not the biggest fan of Micro but hey Frank has to have some sort of supporting cast to talk to.
  • A lot of the imagery shows that Frank is definitely a disturbed individual, which is appreciated.

I still don’t get a sense as to what this show is going to be about. What the overarching story of the season is. I know that an actor has been cast as the man who will become Jigsaw. But who knows? That could be something that happens in the last scene of the last episode. I’m not too excited for the show but I’ll give it a fair shake.

Is J.J. Abrams The Right Choice for Episode IX?

So after another director shakeup for Star Wars directors, J.J. Abrams is directing Episode IX. He previously directed The Force Awakens and was heavily involved in The Last Jedi as a producer. So it was an easy choice to make when came to him jumping back on board. It was also the safe choice.

I do slightly agree that The Force Awakens played as something of the greatest hits of Star Wars. Some people would have you believe that the movie was a complete rehash of A New Hope. I do not fall into that camp as there was enough new to help smooth out the treading of old ground. Also all the blame cannot be put on Abrams for that as that huge was multiple hands playing a factor.

I do think fresh blood would have been best for the project. New ways of thinking always brings out something new in projects. Of course the director would still have to answer to Kathleen Kennedy, the head of Lucasfilm. It’s like any job where you can bring your ideas to the table but you’ll still have to do it within the confines of whoever’s in charge. With all the director shake ups lately, it is easy to blame Kennedy for being the problem but who really knows?

A benefit of Abrams finishing what he started is that things are very much different from when he started. The Force Awakens was a rushed product with numerous script changes. Episode IX is not supposed to start filming until mid 2018 and Disney pushed the release date back to December 2019. That gives Abrams enough time to work and develop the script with Chris Terrio and hopefully not deliver a rehash of Return of the Jedi like everyone fears. I am someone who does not have these fears as I think Abrams is very much aware of the criticisms that faced him with his first Star Wars outing.

Though I am a little apprehensive about Abrams returning as like I previously stated, it is far from the worst choice. Lately I have been trying to approach things with a more open mind and be more positive. All the previously released Star Wars films, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, both had issues but turned out to be solid films. I believe Abrams will deliver a solid final outing for the trilogy that he started.

It (2017) Movie Review

The big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal novel, It, has finally hit cinemas. The novel has already been adapted into a television miniseries in 1990. Hindsight is everything and while nostalgia plays a part, the miniseries is not that good. Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown is really the only thing that goes beyond critique as the great actor delivers a great performance. But that was then and this is now. Andy Muschetti, the director of Mama, has taken the reigns over the film adaptation which only covers one half of the story. How does it fare?

It is one of the best films of 2017. The filmmakers took a wise choice by instead of adapting the entire novel, they instead chose to go chronologically and thus the child half of the story. This helps keeps the film focused on one singular story instead of having to cater to the half where the children are adults. In fact, this makes the film feel more like a coming of age story…that just happens to feature a killer monster.

PennywisePeople were wondering how Bill Skarsgard would fare up as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. His version of the infamous killer clown is far different from what came before. This Pennywise is from the get go, a monster and definitely otherworldly. While the Tim Curry interpretation was much more bombastic and chewing scenery, Skarsgard is vicious. He still cracks (very dark) jokes but is much more silent and more like a predatory waiting to catch its prey. He’s not in the film all that much, Pennywise is a shapeshifter, but he does make the most of his screen time.

The Losers ClubThe true heart of the film lies within the kids aka The Losers Club. Bill, Mike, Stanley, Beverly, Ben, Eddie and Richie make up the group of outcasts who have to come together to stop this evil that lies within their city. The standouts for me are Beverly, Ben, Eddie and Richie. Beverly is the only girl in the group who has to deal with her own monstrous home life. Eddie and Richie provide the comic relief as the former is something of a hypochondriac while the latter is the jokester of the group. Ben is the chubby new kid and that is what I was as a kid. The other three do fine in their roles but these four were my favorites. The best part about all of them is that they behave like children. They swear like children do as in they just swear to swear. If there is one weakness is that some of the kids, Mike and Stan, don’t really get much to do.

One of my favorite aspects of the film was the sound design. In any sort of horror movie or thriller, sound design plays an integral role. Whenever Pennywise enters the scene, he is always accompanied by a haunting tune. Since you have to pay attention to a lot of background material as well, it makes you wanna go back and watch the movie again to hear things you may not have heard the first time. Since the movie is set in the 80’s, it would have been easy to lace the film with an 80’s soundtrack. The filmmakers go a better route and only really include one notable 80’s act and it’s more of a running joke than anything.

Pennywise The Losers Club

Andy Muschetti was a perfect choice to direct this film. You can tell that he wanted to stay true to the source material but also know that he was adapting it to film and thus had to make changes to better fit a film narrative. For a movie that is two hours and fifteen minutes, I hardly felt it. In fact, as soon as I realized that the third act was starting I was genuinely surprised. Once the movie was done, I wish that we could have spent more time with the cast and got to learn more about the characters. Even though there is an inevitable sequel on the way, this film does work on its own as a complete film while leaving just enough out there to hint towards the future. Not sure if this is the best Stephen King adaptation I have seen but it is certainly one of them.

SCORE: 9/10

Arrow + Black Lives Matter = Bad Idea

If you’re just not reading my stuff for the first time, then let me be clear that I stopped being a fan of Arrow sometime in the middle of season three of the show. The past season kind of bounced back for me in terms of quality of the writing of the show. But it seems that the damage has been done for me as I’ll never be a fan of the show like I used to be. But now news has broke¬†that the showrunner wants to tackle the Black Lives Matter movement in an upcoming episode of season six. This is a terrible idea.

There are many things that you can say about the CW superhero shows and subtlety is not one of them. There was a recent episode about the ongoing gun control issue. It was the definition of heavy handed and that may have been the point. But racial issues in the United States currently are at a critical point. The entire Black Lives Matter movement is controversial in itself. The article implies that the show wouldn’t directly have Black Lives Matter in the show but some sort of expy. Still a bad idea as everyone would know what they will be trying to reference.

The biggest issue is that Arrow and the other shows in the “Arrowverse” have never done a good job with ethnicity. There have been a few lines here and there where Diggle, Arrow’s bodyguard turned partner, references that he is black and black issues but that has been wholly forgotten in recent seasons. Currently in the show there are two main black characters and one Latino one while the rest of the cast is white. This extends to other cast which is primarily white. It will be jarring to see the show suddenly tackle this topic and probably feel like one of those “very special episode” shows of the past which has gone out of fashion and for good reason.

I know the writers would never have this particular Green Arrow take a firm stance on the issue. Ever since the 1970’s, Green Arrow has been the hero of the people with very strong liberal beliefs. This is something that has been lacking in Arrow since the start with it only starting to bubble ever since Oliver Queen, Green Arrow’s real name, took over as mayor last season. The biggest issue is that the show had many ample opportunities to do so but backed away in favor of melodramatics and soap opera elements. Not saying that there isn’t a place for that stuff but there has been a serious lack of real life issues. Other than the gun control episode, there really hasn’t been anything like that. So this will be going from 0 to 60.¬†

I’m not saying that this show or any show shouldn’t tackle topics like this. I just think that they should earn their way up to it. Arrow certainly has not earned it. Race issues have never played a part in this show and would be coming out of nowhere just to be “topical”. The Black Lives Matter movement is certainly topical but not something to be done because it’s going on in the real world. It’s a tightrope to walk and I think the people behind Arrow would fall to their doom if they tried to walk it.

Thor: Ragnarok Character Portraits Released

With tickets going on sale today for the November release, Disney released these characters portraits for the major characters

Chris Hemsworth Thor Odinson
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Mark Ruffalo The Incredible Hulk
Mark Ruffalo as The Incredible Hulk

 

Tessa Thompson Valkyrie
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie
Tom Hiddleston Loki
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Cate Blanchett Hela
Cate Blanchett as Hela
Idris Elba Heimdall
Idris Elba as Heimdall
Anthony Hopkins Odin
Anthony Hopkins as Odin
Jeff Goldblum The Grandmaster
Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster