Up in Flames

Robbie Reyes: Ghost Rider

 

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Marvel Comics is a storm of fast and furious productivity, and has, more so in recent years, given preference to commercial cache whilst putting artistic value on the back burner. Like the people who produce commercial music these days, it seems like the puppetmasters are forcing the creative to produce material that isn’t as thought-provoking or of a high standard, so much so that it could easily be described as disposable. No current title does a better job of conveying this sentiment than Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider does.

 

Okay Marvel we get it, you’re pandering to the masses…the kids with the disposable incomes who don’t really buy that many comics compared to older, quality-conscious readers. But for the love of Stan Lee, throw us a bone here! I really wanted to get on board and support this title, despite knowing that Marvel, like the Apples and Samsungs of the world don’t really, really, care about their end-users anymore. And like any mass-produced, mass-marketed commodity, there was bound to be slag. In the Marvel Now! stable, Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider is the slag.

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This title is a relaunch, one of the many that are taking place to corroborate the raft of tie-in appearances in the contemporary Marvel Cinematic Universe in film and TV. As such, the debut issue features ‘warranted’ appearances from some of the comic giant’s current superheroes, whether as mentions or in the totally awesome flesh. However, the connections between the titular character and the guest appearances is lost. Robbie Reyes, and the Ghost Rider himself, seem like the sub-plot in their own comic. And while the art of Danilo S Beyruth, Val Staples and Jesus Aburtov does shine in some places, Felipe Smith’s overall writing doesn’t give the artists enough room to showcase their skills.

 

As I read this comic I wondered : why was any of this necessary? Are characters created solely to pacify the social justice warriors and snowflakes that currently populate the earth? Does entertainment media have to offer representatives of all ethnic and racial minorities and sexualities and backgrounds in their cast as a disclaimer? They’re all trying to convince the world that they are so progressive and aware of every ethnocentric aspect in the entire human populace. Look, we have an LGBT character! We have a muslim! We have an autistic character! Look how forward-thinking, broad-minded, aware of the contemporary world and America and young people we are! Love us! Buy all of our merchandise and everything else we will produce!

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The current Ghost Rider is a discount Spawn (skull, black costume and chains?) and even a discount Ghost Rider of old. They’ve settled on a handsome and sleek greasemonkey with a heart of gold who seems to have a wooden, two-dimensional relationship with his younger brother. Oh and he’s Latino and has fire-related powers. Anyone watch Suicide Squad lately? Is my déjà vu justified? What an absolute waste of time, especially when you consider how dark, vengeful and fiery the original character was. The new guy plays things a little too safe, in the relative safety of an American muscle car’s driver’s seat instead of riding into the night on an enflamed motorcycle saddle.

Despite any accolades, awards or recognition a comic book publisher may receive, it’s always a gamble when picking up a new comic. Save your money and time and don’t buy or read this book. If there are people in your life who you’d like to confuse, or if you’d like someone to dislike or distrust you or even doubt your intentions, then gift them this book, but do not read it.

Writer – Felipe Smith

Artists –  Danilo S Beyruth, Val Staples, Jesus Aburtov

Moonshine

Moonshine

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Maybe its because comic book fans today are largely overstimulated by a million and one tweets and status updates and the newest vape juice that there’s hardly any room anymore for the simple and the straightforward. Whether that’s necessary or whether it’s an example of the continued drive of human endeavour is up for debate, but in the case of Moonshine from acclaimed writer Brian Azzarello, different flavours deftly combine to create a delicious concoction.

Elements of film noire, countryside horror and depression-era Americana come front and centre in the new book to largely beautiful and compelling effect. Azzarello shows off his storytelling chops, combining with Eduardo Risso’s artistic contributions in a story that fits perfectly in the stable of offerings from Image Comics. Like me, most fans will immediately be taken by the highly stylised cover of issue 1, with the suave and polish of a 1920s gangster suit. It’s hard to not stop and take notice of the classy combination of red, white and black, a colour combination fans have seen most memorably from the popular work of Frank Miller (who actually put together the variant cover.) Inside the book, the colour palette widens considerably, acting as a worthy parallel to the unfolding drama.

Moonshine delivers what one would easily expect from a story that’s set in 1929 America, with the criminal activities of prohibition bootleggers taking centre stage. The cover and opening panels do well to present readers with something familiar, with feds in pursuit of criminals in the American wilderness in a time when masculinity basically meant being sexist. But soon enough we find out that there’s more to this story than just armed agents in suits and hats. Was I the only one who heard the voice of Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill from Goodfellas narrating Lou Pirlo’s asides? This gave the comic a great vibe, and if you considered yourself a fan of Boardwalk Empire, you’ll probably find more than one thing to raise your glass to.

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While the narration and story-telling were clearly the stars of the show, they had stellar support with the artistic talents of the aforementioned Risso. The story’s differing moods and situations were conveyed in emphatic style, adding dramatic tension to several scenes, including scenes without dialogue and all-important establishing shots. The final panel count and arrangement couldn’t be bettered, and the book’s colours help keep readers grounded within scenes. Still, it was easy for the mind to wander and wonder about the connections between the townsfolk, the creepy inbred-looking mechanic kid and whether there’s a lycan aspect to the story, what with the reference to the moon in the title and the action in the opening scenes.

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While the award for most original comic book title might not actually go to Azzarello for this book, we can console ourselves with the Bard’s words about a rose. This begs the question : – how long should a comic book name really be? Does less equal more? Won’t generation Tinder just abbreviate it anyway? There’s the possibility that it’s the grown-ups that make all the businessy and editorial comic-book decisions and that these merciless overlords have veto power over all and decide that they know exactly what the public want. It is what it is I guess, or IIWII, I mean #IIWII, in post-millennial speak. In any case, Moonshine’s debut issue makes me want to order another round, and maybe ask around how I can procure some more for my private stash.

 

 

Writer – Brian Azzarello

Artist – Eduardo Risso

Green Valley

Green Valley

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As I dove headfirst into reading Green Valley (no, not the Puscifer track), it made me remember all those self-made millionaire successful types who kept advising people to do something that scared them once a week. My results greatly vary, because for me, this new series has too much valley and not enough peak.

 

Okay, it’s still early days, and we’re only talking about a debut issue in this review, but from what we’ve been given, I think I’ve seen enough. Am I being overly critical about this tale of the knights of Kelodia? Do I not know enough about Dungeons and Dragony things and medieval mythological quest comics to be able to offer something positive in what I’m about to say? Have a heart and hear me out, because despite all the beautiful artwork presented here, readers might find themselves wondering what the requirements are for a comic script to be deemed print-worthy at the hallowed halls of Image Comics.

 

Now I’m no expert on the colloquialisms of the medieval age, but I can differentiate between a post-millennial punk from a baby boomer just by the words they choose to use. This was one of the first sticking points I had with Green Valley – the dialogue. Characters seem unstuck in time, using language that seems far too alien for a medieval fantasy drama. The artwork is lush and exquisite, very easy on the eyes, especially the horse drawings, the landscapes and all the colouring effects. If they could get all that nearly flawlessly, why was there such a dissonance in the writing? The cover and the artwork led me to expect a lot more in terms of dialogue. The characters aren’t some six-year-olds, so why the need to make them speak as if they were? I would’ve expected something a little more Shakespearean. Don’t tell me they didn’t have space to work it in, because those panels are big and roomy enough for a bit more polished language. The dialogue between Sir Bertwald and Ralphie made me think that they were actually in a sort of simulation or video game, a la Westworld or something similar. Why? Their complete lack of seriousness despite being in the presence of Brutus Gargus of Pendergast, the Barbarian Lord, the Warrior King. Despite being outnumbered a hundred to one, and despite the massive salvo of arrows the knights of Kelodia displayed no sense of urgency. So, are they superpowered? Going by the clues writer Max Landis has left us with, we have no real idea. Maybe they wield a persuasive shield, which sadly didn’t persuade me to be excited for the next instalment in this 9-part mini series.

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The inconsistencies aren’t limited to just the words however, with some artwork completely defying character dialogue in the earlier scenes of the comic. Later, we also see a throwback to Joe Madureira’s Phalanx, which might be intentional, but I don’t think so. Meanwhile, the Knights are lauded as “the greatest warriors of the earth,” but what warrants this? The fact that a wimpy self-proclaimed Barbarian Lord ordered his 400-strong army to retreat after having only his ear shot? Sorry, not buying it. Maybe this book is a study on the warped perceptions of people, just as Bertwald moans about being misinterpreted by his closest friends. Was this book also meant to feature scenes of comedic greatness? If the beehive scene was an attempt in that direction, I would’ve welcomed a harsher editor. Which has to make you wonder – did the editors over at Image Comics decide to let Landis enjoy free rein on this because of his acclaimed Superman: American Alien or his screenwriting accolades? If it is so, my response mirrors that of Amalia unguarded and alone outside the city walls: “Drat! Drat!” Unlike her, I would be forgiven for using those words, since I’m probably closer in time to when that phrase was actually coined.

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If the writer was deliberate in his inclusion of gay overtones, weak, inconsistent character backstory, and a shadow of a Jax and Tara scene from Samcro, then hats off to him. Don’t even get me started on the whole one sleeping sentry that led to the Warrior King’s successful vengeance on the city, its king, castle and countrymen. This book just doesn’t give a shit about numerical probability. I also wondered whether the writer was a closet Bollywood action film fan, going by the way he allowed Amalia’s body to smoke and smoulder even in death while Bertie is unclad, but largely unhurt.

 

In his address to readers, Landis promises in strategically used uppercase letters that we really have no idea what lies ahead, and the optimist in me wants to believe him. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder whether some readers would even care after reading the debut issue. Other reviewers have been a lot more graceful in their reviews, which can only lead me to think that there is something wrong with me and what I want in the comics I read. But if I’m flawed, does my admitting it therefore absolve me of my sins?

 

 

 

Writer – Max Landis

Artists- Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cliff Rathburn, Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Seven to Eternity

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“Where have all the cowboys gone?” – Paula Cole

Call it serendipity if you will, but your friendly neighbourhood yours truly has noticed that we now find ourselves in a time where wild-west flavours and themes are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Take for instance the show Westworld, the recently announced Red Dead Redemption 2 video game and the new title from Image Comcis, Seven to Eternity. But maybe there isn’t as much happenstance with these motifs after all, especially since the whole wild west American frontier flavour has been a go-to for cinema for decades, and one of the biggest influences on comic books are films and TV shows.

 

Seven to Eternity isn’t quite the cowboys and injuns story you might expect from a traditional spaghetti Western though. Rick Remender’s story is set on a new frontier, but the sauce is still heavily flavoured by the elements you’d find in a traditional western. Before any images from the story proper are given to us, Remender gives us a page from the diary/journal of our protagonist Adam Osidis. The information he dispenses in the intro is as sparse as restraint on cinco de Mayo, but what we know for sure is that the Osidis clan are a family of exiles who live in the Voltk Mountains, far away from other society. Biblical influence is one of the most prominent elements of Seven to Eternity, as evidenced in the names of the male members of the Osidis clan. Adam has been christened with the name of the first biblical man; Peter was one of Jesus’ closest apostles and the first Roman Catholic pope, while Luke and James were both Gospel writers. Zebadiah doesn’t quite ring any bells, but I’d bet a glass of cold soothing sarsaparilla that it sure as shit is mentioned in the so-called good book somewhere or other. Osidis has to be some kind of corruption of the Egyptian god Osiris, which seems to fit, especially given the fantastical elements of the story and it’s setting. Adam’s wife is named Nival, and she seems to be of a non-white race with seriously recessive genes, which becomes obvious when you look at the ginger kids, especially badass daughter with suburban and safe name ‘Katie.’ What’s my beef with Katie’s being named as such? It just seems a little too out of place, especially when you have a region named Zhal, a steed named Duthra, a race named Mosak and an antagonist named Garils Sulm. Was Remender deliberately injecting elements of the familiar and ‘normal’ for his readership who might erroneously pronounce these words with a little too much Arabian inflection for them to be considered safe? Calm thy proverbial tits! Just because Katie calls Adam “Father” it doesn’t mean she isn’t just adopted, and while I’m making that point, Nival and Adam might just be living in sin and not officially married – who knows how matrimony and relationships are handled in this world. Maybe we’ll find out in the forthcoming issues.

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Why did this book receive all the hype that it did when it was launched? Was it because of the prevailing popularity of the western motifs we talked about earlier? Maybe so, but then again, it might also be because of the heavyweight names Remender and the immensely talented Jerome Opeña and Matt Hollingsworth that feature on the creative team. The artwork on these pages is gorgeous, with a number of rewarding details for any post-millennial who zooms in on panels with his iPad. I didn’t fully enjoy the fact that the protagonist sports a highly hipsterised hairdo, but the pros heavily outweigh the cons in the art department, especially the colour palette towards the latter half of the book. That isn’t to say that the book was flawless. Adam, Nival and Zeb seemed pretty unhurried during the lightning storm and were shown glued to the spot despite Zeb’s emboldened text and even an exclamation mark! Adam’s ominous entry into Fengow to meet the Mud King Garils Sulm (please don’t be anything like the Lizard King Jim Morrisson!) was tedious and felt a little unnecessarily drawn out. But then again, this might be exactly why I’m so curious and restless about how the conversation will run when issue 2 comes out.

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If I had to predict where this is going, I’d say that the mud king was about to offer adam a cure for his mysterious disease if he sides with his muddy majesty during the upcoming war. Adam will most likely refuse, but in doing so he runs the risk of sending his family to the gallows. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong, and I’ll only really know for sure whether I’m into this book after a couple more issues are out.

 

 

Writer – Rick Remender

Artists – Jerome Opeña, Matt Hollingsworth

Nighthawk

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Let me ask you a question. If you were to sit down and try to create a new superhero, how much would you be forgiven if you borrowed elements of characters, settings and tropes that already existed? One of Marvel’s more recent attempts to get readers’ cashola seems to dance according to that tune, and you have to wonder whether people were being lazy, or are we just demanding too much from our comics. Nighthawk doesn’t seem to lead readers into terra nova. The recently released debut issue is packed with borrowed story elements almost to the point where it seems that the creative time had a meeting where they all sat down and said, “OK guys, let’s put out a book that is 90 per cent borrowed story elements and 10pc whatever.” Am I being too harsh? Humour me will you?

What do you get when you mix elements of Batman, Black Panther, Old Man Logan, Nite Owl and the Punisher? Apparently Nighthawk. Chicago has its very own masked vigilante who’s got no natural superpowers, but is rich enough to afford a vast arsenal of sophisticated weaponry which he uses to disseminate swift and brutal justice to criminals. Where have we heard this before? I know what you’re thinking…Batman! But no, he’s black! So…Black Panther? Well, he’s the last of his kind, “a sole survivor of a world-destroying cataclysm.” Eh…Old Man Logan? But he doesn’t quite work alone; he’s got a sidekick with above-average intelligence. Again, Batman? Yeah but Batman doesn’t blatantly kill the criminals in his pursuit for justice. So…Punisher? Well…yeah, ok, kind of, but let’s move on shall we?

We find our “hero” just as he’s about to swoop on a band of redneck white supremacists at their den. The True Patriots, as they like to call themselves, learn quite quickly that Nighthawk, takes his job of waging his “one-man war against crime,” seriously, even to the point that he leaves no survivors, and even sees fit to blow up the cache of guns and meth. (Meth, guns, Breaking Bad, déjà vu). You have to hand it to writer David F Walker for not pulling any punches when it came to the comic’s showcase of brutal violence. I mean, did anyone else notice that the titular character has just murdered a truckload of incapacitated rednecks? There’s more of that, albeit from a different source later on in the book as we see detectives Burrell and Nina at a crime scene. They don’t seem too unnerved about making a few jokes in the aftermath of a decapitation, and talk nonchalantly about dismembering body parts, and caving in skulls without seeing the obvious pattern in these murders, the way Raymond Kane aka Kyle Richmond aka Nighthawk does as he observes with the help of his avian drone. Ok so…Falcon? Nite Owl? I’m no ornithologist, but these parallels are a hoot!

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But this is a layered story, and Nighthawk will have several battles to fight as he wages his war and brings justice to Chicago. His sidekick Tilda Johnson, herself a reformed criminal, reminds him of a meeting he has to go to, scheduled of course at a time when he was sure to be done fighting crime for the day. And so, Ray Kane meets wealthy realtor Dan Hanrahan, who we find out has detective Dixon and officer Moletti on his payroll. Kane wants to save an impoverished black ghetto project building because ‘reasons,’ and the meeting ends with him secretly declaring war on Hanrahan. Speaking of war, you have to wonder what the deal is with Kane’s inner demons. The flashback to when his mother advises him to keep his rage in check didn’t reveal much, except that a prosperous-looking young Ray once had an adventure that led to a bloody nose and piled years onto his face, despite being just a little boy. Why so much rage? Does it have anything to do with his catholic upbringing? Cough, cough, Daredevil.

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While I’m clearly being too much of negative Nancy with all of my observations, I’m giving full credit to the creative time for producing a comic that’s a little less mainstream, a little darker and a little disturbing, especially the scenes in which dismembered fingers are shoved into mouths. But then you also have to pay attention to the references to film and TV shows that pepper this debut issue, including Sean Connery, Oldboy, Blade Runner, Game of Thrones, The Wire and David Fincher, to kind of see what the creative team was aspiring to. At one point whilst reading, I wondered whether this book was greenlit because of expiring publishing rights or some other commercial reason. (Art for art’s sake? Wake up and smell the profit margin!) Walker’s book does well to highlight the racial issues that are oftentimes ignored in today’s comic books, even if it’s done with the subtlety of a jackhammer. One thing I cannot forgive, however, is Marvel’s keen ability to come up with unbelievable and lame names for fictitious countries and locations. Wakanda was good, but Sokovia? and Bagalia? For serious? The comic ends with the murderous Revelator, who appears to be a dark-skinned man who prefers a white suit, continuing his spate of murders, threatening to reveal the truth to judge Czenziki and his wife. We are only given a mask however, no reveal of a face. How’s that for irony? It reminded me of a line that the Penguin offered Batman in the film Batman Returns “Ah, the direct approach. I admire that in a man with a mask.”

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I can’t wait to see how comic fans respond to this book, because my spidersense tells me that this is going to polarize people, maybe not as much as a Superhero Registration Act might, but not everything in this world is as simple as black and white. Let’s just hope this anti-hero continues to survive, and carry on the adventures of Black Bat Hawkeye…ah fuck it…you get what I mean.

 

Writer – David F. Walker

Artists- Ramon Villalobos, Tamra Bonvillain

Gwenpool – The Marvel Vs. DC Clone Wars Rage On!

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Remember back in the day when some guy said something about how there was nothing new under the sun? No? Well Marvel and DC surely do! Or at least that’s what you’d be forgiven for thinking, if Harleypool—I mean Gwenpool #1 was anything to go by.

 

Whoops! No, that wasn’t what I was going for at all. It’s just that I had my problems deciding what title I was reading. Surely the bright heads and decision-makers at Disney Marvel wouldn’t have voted aye for a recycled, borrowed (stolen), rebranded and repackaged character and set of story elements again would they? Maybe I need glasses, or I need to lay off this white tea and these hand-rolled cigarettes, because it feels like I’m seeing things slightly askew. But despite all this incessant blabbering about my warped view of things, maybe there’s a word or two or truth in there? Let’s find out.

 

Consider the following: How much fourth-wall breakage, or acknowledgement of one’s existence in a fictional universe in a form of media is even innovative anymore? Well, we’re reading a Deadpool-ish comic after all, so there would always be that kind of flavour in the pot. So maybe the creative team wasn’t really going for innovation, but instead for time-tested retro story elements and literary devices. Ok, let’s just forget about that for now. Gwen Poole is a powerless, but still reckless and irresponsible comic book fan amongst super-powered goodies and baddies in New York City. Danny Madigan somehow manages to compel us to root for him before the Last Action Hero…wait. What the hell? Why does that keep happening? I confused that Arnie film from 1993 with the comic book that I read this morning in 2016. Sorry about that. Let me start over. So Gwen is a New York-based blonde, powerless, irresponsible and volatile crime-fighter with an even less powerful half-ass sidekick buddy that the comic does well to introduce early on it its run. And so, Harley, I mean Gwen…ah fuck it.

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It took me a while to get over that chip on my shoulder when I read this comic before concluding that maybe they weren’t going for something too serious. The phrase “why so serious?” comes to mind. Gwenpool 1 isn’t a serious comic on first approach, and it may be this element that reinforces the impact of the beautiful surprises that pop up sporadically between its pages, like Big Ronnie’s cleverly-worded window displays. It almost feels like the book was divided into two parts particularly for the benefit of people who’d like to publish their own comics but need a template. Christopher Hastings gave me the impression that he was trying to subconsciously influence his editors into promoting him because of his tongue-in-cheek references on this debut issue. Maybe that’s the genius of this comic’s creative team. Maybe Hastings, the same guy who got a derivative of the word ‘cynocephali’ on the page, is holding back just a little. The wonderfully talented Gurihiru, Danilo Beyruth and Tamra Bonvillain are all in on the act. I would’ve preferred more pages given to the Japanese powerhouse just because of the manga-riffic artwork which features in the non-prologue part of the story, but there will be more from Gurihiru from here on out.

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Let’s just take a moment to shout-out to all things Japanese! Like they did with the black bun whopper. It might’ve been considered revolutionary by anyone who wouldn’t eat something that looked a little too well done, but the black bun whopper existed, and despite its unconventional concept, it was a variation on something classic. In the same vein, so too is Gwenpool. Take for instance the fact that within these pages, heroes and villains contend with a case of mistaken identity and we even see the teaming-up of the hero (traditionally reluctant, but quite the opposite in this story) and a redemption-hungry villain. Throw in the brilliant quips and one-liners a la Wade Wilson and a seemingly unpowered human being as another of the protagonist’s friends and you’ll have plenty that you would’ve seen before in other comics. Oh yeah, there’s also the revenge, blackmail, sidekick aspects readers will enjoy here. So, in that regard, we can only applaud the creative team for putting out the book that they did. All well and good, yeah?

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Yes, but then again there’s the whole issue of…Wade Wilson and Slade Wilson and Deadpool and Deadshot and Captain Marvel and Shazam and Marvelman and Ms Marvel and the chicken and the egg. So, should we bother getting into the philosophy and social implications of these comic-booky-issues? Fuck no. There’s plenty to enjoy in Gwenpool, like that twist later on that just made me want to know what happens next. I’d wager a guess that before too long, readers are going to give Hastings the credit he deserves for presenting a gripping story considering the parameters he was given to work within.

 

 

Writer- Christopher Hastings

Artists –Gurihiru, Danilo Beyruth, Tamra Bonvillain

They Drank the Haterade and Watched Batman Vs Superman

It’s 2016 apparently, and now more than ever, there’s enough to warrant our hate. Hipsters, orange-skinned racist presidential candidates, lawyers, Disney and money-hungry video game developers often come to mind. Yet in this foul year of our Lord, despite our ability to appreciate or, at the very least, avoid writing something off, folks have gone ahead and spread their cheeks to let loose a stream of hateful verbal diarrhoea against the new Batman vs Superman movie.

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How did it come to this? The words of the late, great Hunter S Thompson come to mind. “Our vibrations were getting nasty—but why? I was puzzled, frustrated. Was there no communication in this car? Had we deteriorated to the level of dumb beasts?” – The film came out amidst the oddly stylized logos and posters and marketing activity and despite Superman and Batman being the comic book heroes that did the most to bring comics to the mainstream back in the golden age of comics, folks today shat all over it like it was supposed to win the Oscar for best picture. What the fuck dude? Was the film really that bad? Did it warrant as much hate as it received?

If you haven’t seen the film yet, go watch it. I watched it once, and I couldn’t see what everyone was getting their panties into a bunch about. As someone who second and third-guesses himself a lot, I thought more than once after watching the film that something was terribly wrong with me because I didn’t hate it the way everyone else seemed to. It’s been a few days since I watched it, and my thoughts haven’t changed at all. Earlier in the week, a friend on social media said the film sucked, and I resisted the urge to give him my 2 cents. On the same day, or maybe later, someone else stuck up for it, and again I kept my opinion hidden, like a bat in a cave, or a post-credits scene that never presents itself. I don’t know either of these 2 people to be comic book fans, but their opinions differed. I wonder what they’d say if they read this.

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The movie wasn’t flawless by any stretch of the imagination. There was plenty that was off, but come on dude, the hatefest wasn’t as deserved as it was in a film like the newest Fantastic Four. (Do not watch that film, even as a point of reference to see where I’m coming from.)

Now I’m no stranger to comics, or comic book movies, and let’s face it, everyone who bought a ticket or watched this film has basic knowledge of the two leads before stepping into the cinema. A concurrent truth is that there’s a lot I don’t know about Superman and Batman comics, and maybe that’s factored into why I wasn’t waving the hate flag as much. Die-hard fans of either the big blue boy scout or the dark knight could very possibly see things differently, the way I watch X-men films and take them apart because of inconsistencies between the page and screen. But do the hate-filled voices we hear on review sites, social media and in the pub all belong to DC fanboys/girls who feel their idol was given a raw deal? Another friend’s poignant words on the issue still ring in my ears: “People love to hate what they don’t understand.”

I went into the film with moderate expectations. These weren’t my boys per se, and a part of me that’s more in touch with cynicism and the hoighty-toighty douchebaggery of people with ‘refined tastes,’ knew that it was ultimately a film about a fight between Batman and Superman. You don’t exactly unlock the Sophistication Trophy to get the story. But these are cruel, evil, unfriendly, and unforgiving times we live in, and the media circus, no, the media carnival that is part of showbusiness exerts in own influence over public reception of a film. Like I said earlier, when the initial marketing promotions began, the logos for both heroes didn’t do it for me. It was like when Batelco rebranded from their traditional logo to that fugly wtf is this slouchy potato boob turd thing. Ok, they aren’t as ugly as Batelco, but they sure as hell look too contrived, and it’s probably because the classic logos were too dated for generation Uber who were probably a big chunk of the target audience. When they announced Batfleck as the new Bruce Wayne, there was already so much negative reaction. Even at the outset, the film was doomed, and yes, the nature of “living” and “life” in this day and age has played a part.

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Other dark forces came into play after the film was released and a clip from an interview went ‘viral’ – which is a word that ironically induces a wince and a headshake followed by a little piece of myself dying whenever I hear or read it. The now infamous Affleck non-interview clip about critical reaction to the movie ripped through him mercilessly, and the haters had their day. Didn’t he just get done playing the brooding, drinking raging and vengeful Batman? The same Batman who actually uses guns and knives and straight up kills someone? Give the guy a break, maybe he needed some more time to get out of character! It also made me wonder about the struggles of film-makers in this current period of human existence. Can full-length movies still hold our attention in the vine-soaked world we now live in? This is a discussion for another time, with many more words! Congratulations to you for reading this far btw! If I’ve held your attention with words for this long, thank you for the opportunity, and for your time. Generation Tinder would’ve swiped left /scrolled down on this right at the start. Makes you wonder doesn’t it – do people even fucking read anymore?

You’ve made it thus far and here’s a lame Wonder Woman joke that actually serves to illustrate a point. Q: What does Wonder Woman use to make sure her chest looks fantastic? A: A Wonderbra!

 

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If there’s anything the cast and crew need to remember in these, the unsettling weeks and months of write-off season it is that the human attention span has possibly been tweaked so much because of smartphones and computer machines that despite the fact that everything that’s ever been online will live forever on the cloud, it’s only a matter of time before people forget about it and something new comes along to take its place.

This movie, like any other, isn’t without its flaws. I’d heard negative reviews and maybe I sabotaged myself by watching the trailers, which pretty much gave everything away. But I still gave it a chance despite all the apparent red flags all over this ‘Martha-fucka’ (See what I did there?). The opening credits played out in true cinematic style, especially the frames of the Waynes being gunned down and Martha’s pearls hitting the cold black floor. It reminded me of the opening credits of Watchmen, and I felt hopeful, because despite what people said about Watchmen, I liked it for what it was – there was no way they could make the film like the book. For a horrifying moment, that thought evaporated as I watched a colony of bats raise an orphaned young Bruce up a tunnel using their wings or maybe modified echolocation? Dream sequence or not, I wondered to myself : holy shit… did I just lose some money? To compound that, I caught myself wondering why the film needed six words in its title. Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. Say all the words out loud and think about that, the way I did in a moment of grim and terrifying dawning reality. Hope nearly died in the cinema as those credits hit the screen, but instead, it prevailed.

There was enough to keep me entertained throughout BVS. Batfleck was cool, the batmobile was cool, Alfred was cool. Most of the Batman stuff is cool. The fight sequences were epic and the dark, murky atmospherics in Metropolis and Gotham both served the story in the best way possible. Much later, I told a friend that at one point in the film, I wasn’t sure if I was watching a Superman or a Batman movie. Interestingly, what classifies it as a Superman film are some of the things that I would’ve liked to see handled differently. Why the fuck was Perry White such a cheesy misrepresentation of a modern day newspaper editor? Jesus Christ, was it me or did the guy have a flair for zany, needlessly verbose headlines? But whatever, at least he didn’t authorise Lois Lane’s sudden and unexplained taking of a news chopper out to run a personal errand when the shit hits the fan. Oh wait. Nevermind.

Lois Lane gave me the impression that she was just there to prove to us that genius Lex Luthor can spot a pattern and that he notices Superman’s penchant for always saving her. She also helped me feel quite foolish as she made me think she was the one Luthor references when he plays his “I got your girl so you gotta do my bidding” card against Superman. Lois Lane didn’t quite do it for me, which is kind of how I felt about that Kevin Costner scene as well. Oh and then there was Jesse Zuckerburg as Lex Luthor apparently. Maybe they should’ve got someone like an Oscar Isaac instead? He’d just have to rework his method from Ex Machina and boom! The Perfect Casting Trophy would’ve been unlocked! Isaac even looks better bald than Zuckerberg, I mean, Eisenberg does. Fuck it, man. Who knows how these movies get made. I’m just a guy who watches ‘em.

Speaking of perfect casting, we really should’ve been given Wonder Woman in the tub instead of Lois Lane. Gal Gadot was convincing enough for my average brain, but if I’m honest, I actually found Wonder Woman a bit irritating in her early appearances, but that could actually be because for whatever reason, the song Barracuda kept playing in my head whenever she showed up on-screen. I was also dealing with the fact that days earlier, I had watched Horrible Bosses, and my mind kept telling me that Ben Affleck was Jason Sudeikis. What horror. That one’s my fault guys, but the whole “Martha” thing – that’s on somebody else.

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For a film that assembles several heroes for the first time on screen and teases a few more possibilities, you have to give the devil his due. Ok, so I didn’t wet myself at the sight of Jason Momoa as Aquaman the way thousands probably did, but yeah, I can appreciate it. Maybe some of the film’s plot details were lost on me, like how the fuck are Wonder Woman and Bruce or Batman emailing each other? What’s the difference between the nightmare dream sequences and flashbacks or maybe time-travel warnings of future bad-thinginess! And having Doomsday and the whole Death of Superman storyline in the movie too? Jesus Snyder, don’t blow your load all at once!

Despite his ‘not-the-hulkbuster’ bat armour Batman can’t really do shit to superman without kryptonite. Superman could literally so easily remove any problems he could face without thinking twice. So, should any of these things matter in a film of this nature? Superman has x-ray vision but doesn’t know Batman is Bruce Wayne? Bruce Wayne is the greatest detective in the DC universe, but can’t tell that Superman and Clark Kent are the same. Fuck you! Take this seriously and obsess over it! Or just take a moment to realise that it’s a comic book movie.

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So there you have it friends. There’s no way this movie would’ve been made without raining on somebody’s parade, and yeah, maybe people should cut the film’s creative and marketing team’s some slack. This film aint no Winter Soldier, but it aint Fantastic Four neither. Fuck the critics, dude. Encourage your friends to watch the film, and form their own opinion. If they hate it, let them hate it because they watched it and hated it, not because they’re supposed to, because Rottentomatoes or whatever told them they were supposed to. Rottentomatoes can suck my batarang. Too many peeps are drinking the haterade and it isn’t really warranted.