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Comic Reviews: Man of Steel and Blackwood!

COMIC REVIEWS!!

Man-of-Steel-1-CoverMan of Steel #1 (DC Comics)

After months of build up, the time has finally come for Brian Michael Bendis’ Man of Steel. A weekly miniseries, this new start marks the beginning of Bendis’ run on the Man of Steel, and boasts a pretty impressive roster of rotating artists, with the first being Ivan Reis. Promised as the start of a mystery that has ties to Superman’s past, this opening issue serves as a good indication of how Bendis fits into the DC universe, and it’s the shot in the arm that this writer has needed for quite some time. Read the rest of this entry

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1,000 Issues of Truth, Justice, and The American Way

superman-business-suit-shirt-pullThe Man of Steel has been a part of my life for nearly the entire time I’ve been on this planet. From the Superman doll my parents bought me at the Warner Bros store (RIP), to watching Dean Cain weekly on Lois & Clark, Superman was one of the first comic book characters I remember really enjoying as a kid. While he doesn’t have quite as big a space in my heart as Spider-Man or Batman, Superman is still a character that I hold in pretty high regard, and, surprisingly to me, he becomes more appealing the older I get. While the fact that he was pretty much synonymous with the term “superhero” was enough to get me hooked as a kid, as I’ve grown up I’ve started to realize that the real strength in Superman isn’t his power set, it’s who he is as a symbol. Read the rest of this entry

Pop Culture Pick Me Ups

imageIt’s been a tough week, to say the least. Without going into things, we’re all in a weird spot as a country, and a lot of us are genuinely confused as to what to do next. In times like these, a lot of us turn to different things that remind us of good in the world, or that we remember from our childhood. Comics, movies, toys, even video games can all help to take the sting off of reality for a little while, and it doesn’t hurt to remind people of this every once and a while. So here’s a few of my “Pop Culture Pick Me Ups” if you need some inspiration on where to look. Read the rest of this entry

Superman: Fury Road?

george-miller-superman-sequelRemember how we all assumed that Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was the sequel to Man of Steel? Apparently we’ve been wrong. Granted, there were rumors of another solo Superman film to be in the works at WB, but that wasn’t going to be until 2018, well after the Man of Steel squared off with Batman (and then presumably teamed up with him for Justice League). But if new rumors are to believed, WB is prepping a proper sequel to MoS, and they’ve signed on Mad Max mastermind George Miller to bring Superman back to the silver screen. Read the rest of this entry

Comic Reviews: Superman/Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel!

COMIC REVIEWS!!!

 Superman_Wonder_Woman_Vol_1_6_TextlessSuperman/Wonder Woman #6

 General Zod’s plans come to fruition in the latest issue of Superman/Wonder Woman, a comic book that’s way better than it should be. Written by Charles Soule and drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Superman/Wonder Woman continues the ongoing story that introduces Zod and Faora into the New 52, and while it’s not entirely the best introduction to the series, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.

Picking up from last issue’s knock down drag out fight, Wonder Woman and Superman travel to MT. Olympus in hopes of getting some new firepower from Hephaestus, Wonder Woman’s brother. (SPOILER: Wonder Woman is Zeus’ daughter now).  After receiving some pretty bitchin’ power armor, the two track down Zod and Faora, hoping to stop them from creating a portal into the Phantom Zone, which would release the monstrous Doomsday. Read the rest of this entry

I Liked Man of Steel, and It’s Okay If You Didn’t

michael-shannon-zodSPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

It’s official: Warner Bros. has a hit with Man of Steel. And while the box office figures are stunning, the fan reaction has been surprisingly mixed. In fact, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a comic book movie be so divisive. While there are always a few naysayers whenever a big comic book adaptation is released, the negative reactions online for Man of Steel have, in my opinion, gone too far into the red, causing many nerds to spout vitriol at not only the filmmakers involved, but also fans who enjoyed it too.

Chief among the negative camp is Mark Waid, the renowned writer of Daredevil, Indestructible Hulk, Kingdom Come, and Superman: Birthright (where much of Man of Steel takes ideas from). Waid is not only one of the best comic book writers in the business, but also possibly the biggest Superman fan of all time, so his extremely passionate reaction to MoS isn’t surprising. He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, but his weekend-long rant against the filmmaker’s decision to have Superman kill General Zod to protect an innocent family went too far. There have been Superman comics in the past where Supes has killed to protect people, but the one used most to back up Man of Steel is John Byrne’s Superman issue 22, where he uses lethal force as an absolute last resort.

Waid is a far better writer and Superman fan than I. There’s no questioning that. He’s one of my favorite writers in comics. But I was very disappointed with the way he handled people’s reactions to his opinions. Of course, some of these reactions crossed the line from expressing their views to attacking Waid personally. I know if I was being personally attacked for my opinions on the film I would probably react the same way he did.

Superman is not the first comic book hero to break his “no killing” code on screen. Remember Spider-Man letting Uncle Ben’s imageskiller fall? Or Michael Keaton’s Batman throwing one of Penguin’s clown thugs into a sewer grate with dynamite in Batman Returns? Superman himself even killed twice before on screen, in Superman II and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. Nolan’s Batman, a character who we all know has a strict “no-killing” code, borderline commits murder in Batman Begins, telling Ra’s Al Ghul that he’s “not going to kill you, but I don’t have to save you” right before jumping out of a runaway train. Superheroes not killing on screen have always been a touchy subject, and one that’s still a point of debate amongst fans.

Just because someone accepted the ending of Man of Steel doesn’t mean they are an idiot, nor does it mean they’re not a “real” Superman fan. It’s all opinion. It’s a shame that every time a new comic book film comes out we have to deal with the same over exaggerated reactions to them.  The stereotype of the hyperbolic nerd spouting “Worst. Movie. Ever.” is sadly, still true in many cases. I’ve been guilty of this. You’ve been guilty of this. We’ve all been guilty of this.

My girlfriend brought up an interesting point last year, around the time The Amazing Spider-Man was released. In regards to the people complaining about the reboot, she asked me “why can’t you just look at it as a different take on Spider-Man? Like a different universe?” This idea is even more apt for Man of Steel. This isn’t Superman from the Richard Donner films. Hell, it’s not even the Superman from the comic books. It’s a new take on the character, in a new universe. To put it in DC terms, it’s an “Elseworlds” tale. In fact, ALL comic book films are “Elseworld” tales (or for Marvel, “What If’s”?). The Nolan Batman movies “Elseworlds” take is “Batman in the real world”. The Raimi Spider-Man movies are ” What if Peter Parker had organic webbing and Sandman was responsible for Uncle Ben’s death”? Even the terrible Fantastic Four films are “What if Dr. Doom was with the crew when they were hit by Cosmic Rays?”

There’s NEVER going to be a film that truly captures a comic book character. There just isn’t. Comic book films are a reflection of how the director (or producer, or studio) perceives the character and what they mean to people. Sometimes it’s done right (like the Nolan Batman films) and sometimes directors miss the mark completely (Ang Lee’s Hulk), but you’re still seeing someone else’s take on the character, just like when a new writer comes on board a title. Don’t like the way Scott Lobdell is writing Superman? Don’t buy it anymore and try a different Superman title. Same applies for Man of Steel.  There are countless different interpretations of the character on film for you to enjoy if you didn’t like this one.

man-of-steel-flagThere are some of you that hated Man of Steel, and that’s okay. There are some of you that loved Man of Steel, and that’s okay. There are even some of you who thought it was just “ok”, and guess what? THAT’S ALSO OKAY. You’re talking about the film, which the filmmakers want. Instead of shrugging your shoulders, you have an emotional reaction to it, good or bad. It makes you think about the situation Clark was in, and the decision he had to make. Could he have flown Zod away? Could he have found a non-lethal solution to the conflict? Maybe. But this Superman is still trying to figure out what it means to be Superman. His reaction to killing Zod was an absolute last resort, and it’s something that I personally feel wasn’t handled lightly in the film. Sure, they could have given a little more time to the fall out of the act, but I thought what was there handled it very well, and I’m hopeful that it will be touched on further in the sequel.

I myself am okay with the death of Zod. In the timeline of the film, Clark has only been “Superman” for a day, and has never had to test himself in a situation where he has to defend others. He even pleads with Zod before committing the act, begging him to stop before he kills him. Clark does not want to kill Zod, but ends up doing it to protect innocent people.   In regards to the destruction of Metropolis during the fight, I took the scenes of people leaving when the gravity device arrives as a sign that much of the city was evacuated (or people went underground, like the family Zod threatens in the train station). If the city still had a huge number of citizens in Metropolis, wouldn’t some of them come out of hiding when the gravity device was destroyed, and watched Superman and Lois make with the smooches? The Daily Planet staff remained because they’re journalists and they want to be able to report on the events occurring before them. Superman tried to clear Zod out of the area by knocking him into space, but Zod eventually brought the fight back to Metropolis. Who’s to say that Zod wouldn’t keep bringing the fight back to an even more populated area? He already established that he had nothing left to live for, and was going to destroy everything as a way to get back at Superman.

Superman has been around for 75 years, and with that, means that there are hundreds of versions of the character that people relate to. Just because this wasn’t “your Superman” doesn’t mean you should belittle someone who thought Man of Steel represented the character. There’s no need to call people who enjoyed Man of Steel “not “real” fans of Superman” or “mindless idiots”. Superman is supposed to inspire you to help others and care about one another. Keep that in mind when you debate his film.

Movie Review: Man of Steel!

man-of-steel-posterMan of Steel (2013)

Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner

Directed By: Zack Snyder

There are some MINOR SPOILERS HERE

I can safely say that this is nothing like Bryan Singer’s attempt to reboot the Man of Steel back in 2006.  By crafting their own take on Superman, producers Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, along with director Zack Snyder, have reinterpreted the boy scout into modern times, and ask the question “what if Superman arrived today, in the real world?”

Snyder’s natural gift for directing amazing action sequences is in full force here. From the opening scenes on Krypton to the flat out jaw dropping battles in Smallville and Metropolis, Man Of Steel stands as the director’s best film to date, and a return to form after the misstep that was Sucker Punch. You may think you have seen action in a superhero film before, but you’ve never seen it like this.

Henry Cavill, in my opinion, was phenomenal as Superman. Starting off as a drifter unsure of himself in this world, his depiction of Clark Kent becoming the man he is destined to be very affecting, and he really sells home the ideas of loneliness and questioning that the young Superman had to have felt at some point in his life. In many ways, Clark’s journey is the opposite of Bruce Wayne’s in Nolan’s Batman Begins; where Wayne is wandering with the end goal of avenging his parents’ death, Kent is trying to figure out where he fits in the world, always wondering if he should he reveal himself, or remain in hiding for the rest of his life?

Other extremely talented actors surround Cavill. Diane Lane’s Martha Kent is strong and fiercely protective of her son. Laurence Fishburne has a great role as Perry White, editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, which is also where Amy Adams’ Lois Lane begins her investigation into the mysterious “Superman”. While I liked Adams in the role, there is a part of me that wishes her character was more like the comic book Lois, who’s not known for taking crap from anyone.

The standout supporting roles have to go to Clark’s two fathers: Jor-El and Jonathan Kent. Russell Crowe brings a sense of nobility to Jor-El, and his decision to send his only son away is extremely heartbreaking. His “ghost A.I.” that interacts with Superman later in the film was both cool to see, but also a little annoying,  toeing the line with giving a little too much information to characters  and appearing just in the nick of time (especially when he appears to Lois later on in the film to help her defeat Zod).

Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent, unlike Jor-El, isn’t in much of the film, but what he is in is fantastic. For some reason I’ve always loved the character of Pa Kent, and Costner definitely delivers in the scenes he’s in, offering guidance to his adoptive son, and trying to his best dealing with something far beyond his comprehension. The idea of two ordinary people having to guide a child who will become a god is something I find really intriguing, and Costner and Lane portray the frustration of having to shoulder this amazing responsibility really well. Their scenes with the young Clark are some of my favorites in the film, and also some of the most emotionally gripping too.

For our villains we have Michael Shannon as Zod, and his female sidekick Faora, played by Antje Traue. Both Shannon and Traue are fantastic in their roles. I especially liked Traue’s performance, which really sold the extremely cold nature that these surviving Kryptonians have towards humanity. Shannon’s Zod is intense and formidable, and his performance isn’t one of sheer villainy, but of a soldier who’s only trying to restore the people he swore to protect. His fanatical beliefs blind him to Superman’s pleas for peace, and lead to a conflict that is literally Earth-shaking.

If there’s one complaint I have about Man of Steel, it’s that the origin of Superman feels truncated. I didn’t feel as if there were enough scenes of the young Clark discovering his powers and learning how to control them. Then again, I can understand shortening this piece of the film since everyone and their mother is aware of Superman’s origin. The decision to tell a majority of his story in flashbacks was inspired, and I really enjoyed how they played with the now formulaic “origin story” movie, even if it seemed like Snyder was rushing some parts to get to the action.

Speaking of the action, my god. If you thought The Avengers was the be all, end all of superhero action sequences, then you haven’t seen anything yet. Man of Steel takes what Marvel gave us and cranks it up to 11. The sheer amount of destruction is insane, and gives a prime example of how powerful Superman really is. Critics of Superman Returns (including myself) who said they wanted Superman to punch something? You get it in this. And then some. Trains are thrown at our hero; Zod is punched through 5 buildings, and much, much, more. Sure the wanton destruction might make you wonder for a second if any innocent bystanders have been harmed, but then you see another incredible action sequence that throws you right back into the film.

There’s a shocking plot point towards the end of the film, one that is already causing a divide amongst Superman fans, including ones in the comics industry who have written him. I won’t spoil it here, but I will say that I think it works within the context of the film, and the fallout from it is incredible (not the mention that he has done this once before in comics). I hope the ramifications of it are dealt with in the sequel. We get a glimpse here, but I really think you could use it as a great inner conflict for Kent in the next film.

Man of Steel was everything I was hoping for action-wise, and while I wish there was a little more time put into the story, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t immensely enjoy this film. This is the film of the summer to beat, and a return to form for Superman on the big screen. The word “epic” is used a lot to describe things nowadays: from pizza to TV shows to clothes. But when it comes to Man of Steel, it’s the only way to accurately describe the action and scope of this film. While it’s not perfect, I feel it’s the best Superman film we’ve had since the iconic Richard Donner film from 1978. If Warner Bros. plays their cards right, Marvel Studios is going to have a lot of hefty competition in the future. With the origin now out of the way, I can’t wait to see what they do for the sequel.

Verdict:

5 super-punches out of 5