A Superman: Son of Kal-El #10 Micro-Review – Pulling Focus

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

TITLE: Superman: Son of Kal-El #10
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS:
Cian Tormey, Federico Blee (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Travis Moore & Tamra Bonvillain.

RELEASED: April 12, 2022

Dick Grayson makes another appearance in this issue, as does Batman. I tend to not like it when Batman and his cast of characters guest star in other books too much, particularly Superman books. They inevitably pull focus away from Big Blue. Taylor does it in a way that isn’t as obnoxious as it can sometimes be. But nevertheless, let’s keep the focus on Jon…

On the plus side, Taylor makes this a strong issue for Lois Lane, as she goes toe to toe with Lex Luthor at a press conference.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Superman: Son of Kal-El 2021 Annual Micro-Review – A Silly Game

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

Superman Son of Kal-El Annual 2021, cover, John TimmsTITLE: Superman: Son of Kal-El 2021 Annual
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Clayton Henry, Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Steve Buccelato (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by John Timms, Pugh, & Fajardo Jr.

RELEASED: December 7, 2021

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I don’t like when superheroes act chummy with their villains. Case in point, Superman playing a game of chess with Lex Luthor in this issue. Even by superhero standards, it’s silly. Plus, the metaphor is beyond obvious and Tom Taylor is a better writer than that.

On the up side, we get a pretty cool flashback sequence with Superman, Lex, and the Justice League that feels classic and cool. Especially with Romulo Fajardo Jr’s colors. It’s actually reminiscent of an episode of the Justice League cartoon.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Superman ’78 #4 Micro-Review – The Superman III That Could Have Been…

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

Superman 78 cover, 2021, Brad WalkerTITLE: Superman ’78 #4

AUTHOR: Robert Venditti
ARTISTS: Wilfredo Torres, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Dave Lanphear (Letterer). Cover by Brad Walker & Nathan Fairbairn.

RELEASED: November 23, 2021

Superman ’78 feels very much in line with Superman II. Specifically, the Richard Donner cut. In both stories, Clark gets a taste of a different sort of life. In the movie, it’s life without super powers. Here, it’s life as a member of a Kryptonian society. In that sense, Venditti’s script offers us a great consistency.

Take that, along with Torres’ excellent renderings of the characters, and Venditti’s spot-on takes on Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, and Superman ’78 feels like it could have been Superman III. All things considered, that’s probably the best compliment it can receive.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Superman ’78 #2 Micro-Review – The Joy of Lex

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Superman 78 2, cover, 2021, Ben OliverTITLE: Superman ’78 #2
AUTHOR: Robert Venditti
ARTISTS: Wilfredo Torres, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Dave Lanphear (Letterer). Cover by Ben Oliver.
RELEASED: September 28, 2021

This issue captures the comedic side of the first two Superman movies very well, especially with its use of Lex Luthor. Venditti, and Torres really nail Lex’s introduction.

Remember Batman ’66: The Lost Episode? When DC adapted that unused Batman TV script featuring Two-Face, and used William Shatner’s likeness for the character? I’m finding myself wishing they’d tell us what ’80s era actor is playing Brainiac in this story. That’s what fan casting is for, I suppose.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Superman & Lois, “Heritage” Review

SERIES: Superman & Lois
TITLE: S1:E2 – “Heritage”
STARRING: Tyler Hoechlin, Bitsie Tulloch, Jordan Elsass, Alexander Garfin, Emmanuelle Chriqui
WRITER: Todd Helbing
DIRECTOR:
Lee Toland Krieger
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
March 2, 2021
SYNOPSIS: As the family adjusts to life in Smallville, Clark teaches Jordan about his Kryptonian heritage.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I do need to make a correction from last week’s post. The “first” Superman costume from the premiere did not make its debut in The New Frontier (although that’s primarily the work I associate it with). It’s from all the way back in the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the ’40s. Whoops. Hey, what do you expect? I’m not Superman, y’know…

Captain Luthor says, “We need to stop Kal-El before he does to this world what he did to mine.” It looks, then, like Captain Luthor is an alternate-universe Lex Luthor. In the comics, the most prominent alt-universe Lex is the one from Crisis on Infinite Earths. Alexander Luthor, as he’s known, is that world’s only hero, fighting against an evil version of the Justice League. Is that what we’ve got here?

There’s a city on Krypton named “Kryptonopolis?” That’s pretty dumb, actually. I wonder where the city of “Earthopolis” would be…?

We see the artificial intelligence Jor-El, played by Angus Macfadyen. I imagine it’s more daunting for an actor to play that role than we imagine. After all, a large portion of the audience associates that role with Marlon friggin’ Brando. No pressure there.

Question: Clark takes Jordan to the Fortress of Solitude to learn about his Kryptonian heritage, but not Jonathan. Why? Odds are Jonathan is manifesting powers too, right? They’re just different than his brother’s. So why sew the seeds for jealousy by taking one brother and not the other? Also, they couldn’t have waited until after school to take Jordan to the fortress? What, are they worried about him missing dinner or something?

I’m finding myself wanting to see more personality from Bitsie Tulloch’s Lois Lane. It feels like she’s missing a certain spunk, or killer instinct. I suppose you can argue this is an older, more subdued version of Lois. But I’m not sure I buy that. Granted, it could also just be Tulloch growing into the role.

So now we’ve had another episode to let this Social Anxiety Disorder thing with Jordan sink in. Much like I’m wishing Lois had a little more spunk, I’m wanting to see Jordan be more socially isolated. After all, he kissed a girl in the show’s very first episode. That’s not to see everyone experiences social anxiety the same way, or that it should be portrayed uniformly. But if you’re going to say the kid has Social Anxiety Disorder, why not really dive in and explore it?

Lana not knowing Clark’s secret takes some getting used to. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. But she’s almost always portrayed as having been in on it since Clark was a teenager. And even having a cunning nature to rival Lois’ at times. Thus far, Superman & Lois has portrayed her more like a ditzy homemaker.

That shot of Superman standing with the American flag in the background was a nice touch. I’m a sucker for cheesy stuff like that. 

Lois quits The Daily Planet after an editor re-writes a story of hers, and joins The Smallville Gazette. I’ve always been a fan of the journalism-oriented side of Superman’s world. So seeing Lois empowering a small community newspaper is pretty cool. I’m also liking the Chrissy Beppo character. Here’s wondering what she and Lois can learn from each other.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Superman & Lois Season Premiere Review – Family Matters

SERIES: Superman & Lois
TITLE: S1:E1 – “Pilot”
STARRING: Tyler Hoechlin, Bitsie Tulloch, Jordan Elsass, Alexander Garfin, Emmanuelle Chriqui
WRITERS: Greg Berlanti, Todd Helbing
DIRECTOR:
Lee Toland Krieger
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
February 23, 2021

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Looking at the Superman costume they used for his debut in Metropolis, my initial instinct was go shout: “They made it to match his original suit in Action Comics #1!” Because, of course, I’m a huge geek.

That’s not what they did, however. It took me a minute to realize where I’d seen that suit. It was Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier. The costume’s vintage look threw me off.

So the kid says to Superman, “Thanks. Cool Costume.” He replies, “Thanks. My mom made it for me.” That line is plucked directly from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Superman For All Seasons.

This show went out of its way to establish geek cred right away.

Jordan, one of Clark and Lois’ twin sons, has Social Anxiety Disorder. As someone who’s struggled with social anxiety, that hits home for me. I’m sure it hits home for a lot of the people watching a comic-book-inspired TV show like this. From that standpoint, it has the potential to be a very smart move. But as with anything, it’s all about how they execute it…

I’m a staunch Superman defender. But watching this episode’s expository opening sequence, I can understand why some people don’t like him. Especially when he talks about being married to the most famous journalist in the world, raising two teenage boys, and then we see him on TV doing Superman stuff. As he’s presented here he has, in many ways, the perfect American life and family. In that moment, he comes off like the most popular football player in high school who grew up to become president of the United States. Personally, I love that Rockwellian Superman. But I can see the drawback. The hard truth is that when he’s at his truest and best form, Superman isn’t for everybody.

Question: I know that as comic book characters Superman and Lois Lane don’t age. But how old are they supposed to be in this show? Late 30s? Early to mid 40s? For what it’s worth, Tyler Hoechlin is 33 and Bitsie Tulloch is 40. Mrs. Primary Ignition, by the way, thinks that age difference makes them look weird. I’ll admit, it is a little weird. But I imagine that’s one of those things that’ll wear off with time.

After discovering the rocket in the barn, Jonathan (Can we just call him Jon?) and Jordan come right out and accuse Clark of lying.  I like that. Superman supposedly never lies. But as a parent, Clark Kent does. What that says about being parent is up for interpretation.

“Your life falling apart doesn’t mean you’re special. It means you’re human.” That’s a good line from Lois.

Fun fact: Alexander Garfin, who plays Jordan, was the voice of Linus in The Peanuts Movie. Am I weird for thinking that’s kind of perfect, considering Jordan has social anxiety? It matches up with the whole Linus and the blanket thing, right?

On the subject of Jordan, for me it’s always a fine line with how moody and angsty certain teenage characters are. At what point does it cross the line and get too moody or angsty? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to that. It just depends on the character and the story…

Clark Kent’s signature glasses disguise always requires a huge leap in terms of suspending disbelief. It’s comic book science at its least practical. But disbelief really stretches thin when you try to sell us that Clark’s own children didn’t recognize him without his glasses on.

Simply put, when we get to the scene where Clark takes his glasses off and it’s this big revelation, Jonathan and Jordan look like idiots. It’s just that simple.

What are the odds that as the series progresses we get a good twin/bad twin situation? Does one become a superhero, and the other a supervillain, thus tearing the Kent family apart? Seems like the probable way to go…

So the bad guy in this episode turns out to be someone named “Captain Luthor.” I can only assume this isn’t Lex Luthor, as the CWverse Lex is played by Jon Cryer. (Right? It’s been awhile since I’ve been plugged into the CWverse.) But apparently it’s not a Superman show unless you have a bad guy named Luthor. So…cousin? Someone unrelated who adopted the name?

Overall, not a bad premiere. I can’t say I was blown away. But Superman & Lois shows a lot of promise. Tyler Hoechlin was, and is, a great Superman. Possibly the best performance in the role since Christopher Reeve, and I don’t say that lightly.

If you’re into the concept of Clark and Lois as parents, there are two book’s I’d highly recommend. The first is Superman: Lois and Clark (which has nothing to do with the ’90s TV show). The second is Son of Superman by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, and all the subsequent books in that series. For my money, this series owes a debt to these creators and those titles.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Best of Batman & Superman: A New Era Begins

***It’s easy to put Batman and Superman against one another, as they’re so different. But those who truly understand them know that the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are better together! “Best of Batman & Superman” celebrates their best moments as a team!***

TITLE: Superman/Batman #1
AUTHOR: Jeph Loeb
ARTISTS: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines (Inker), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
ORIGINAL COVER PRICE: $2.95
RELEASED: Fall 2003

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It’s hard to believe this issue is creeping up on 20 years of age. And yet, among Batman and Superman stories, it’s a timeless classic.

If I could bring one person back to work on Superman and Batman, seperate or together, it would be Jeph Loeb. He understood both characters, and cut to their core better than almost any of his peers. That’s why, in the early 2000s, DC tapped Loeb and his former Superman collaborator Ed McGuinness to work on an all new title featuring the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight: Superman/Batman.

Loeb would do more than 25 issues of Superman/Batman, roughly half of which were with McGuinness. Almost all of them were great. But the book’s inaugural issue, Superman/Batman #1, delivered pure magic. You’ll won’t find a better example of why these two characters are better working together than against each other.

The series is narrated by both characters simultaneously. Thus, we get duel perspectives on the events of the story. Loeb makes perfect use of this tool right out of the gate, as our heroes narrate their origins in alternating sequences (shown below).

Loeb, McGuinness, and the team start out with dueling sequences in which Superman and Batman narrate their origins. What’s brilliant about this is that it showcases not just the differences between these two characters, but their similarities. Yes, they have different methods and demeanors. But its this common ground that ultimately brings them together. These are two heroes born of tragedy, who used that tragedy to forge their identities for the betterment of mankind. That mutual desire to better the world serves as the foundation of every Superman/Batman story we’ve ever seen.

Our main antagonist for the issue (though not the story at large) is Metallo, a machine with the brain of John Corben, and a heart of pure Kryptonite. Coming out of the opening sequence we get a fight between he and Superman in Metropolis. We then jump to Gotham City Cemetery, where Batman is examining Corben’s grave.

Here we get a great little moment between our heroes. One of my favorites in the entire six-issue story. Superman talks about going through Corben’s files at S.T.A.R. Labs, and speculating about his actions of late. Batman asks, “Which one of us is the detective again?”

Superman replies with a line I absolutely love: “It’s called investigative journalism.”

I love this moment because it illustrates that while Superman isn’t the detective Batman is, he’s not just some brute with super powers. Writers like to emphasize that Batman is the brains of the team, while Superman is the braun. But the best writers are the ones who show us it’s not as simple as that. Superman is perfectly capable of putting on a detective hat, just as Batman can hold his own against some of Superman’s more powerful enemies.

We’re reminded of that moments later as Metallo attacks, shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet. And of course, he falls directly into John Corben’s exhumed grave. After briefly incapacitating Metallo, Batman goes to work trying to extract the bullet. Loeb provides us with another great little moment as we get this little exchange…

Batman: “Do me a favor, Clark. Lose the sense of humor.”
Superman: “Do us both a favor, Bruce. Buy a sense of humor.”

We get a cliffhanger for next issue as Metallo then proceeds to dump a mountain of dirt on top of our heroes, burying them alive. Then to close the issue, we go to the Pentagon and President Lex Luthor. We’ve got a crisis on our hands, as an asteroid made of Kryptonite is headed for Earth. To complicate matters, President Luthor has recruited his own team of heroes…

Visually, the issue is gorgeous. Everything is bright, crisp, and clean. Ed McGuinness’ superhero figures are always jacked beyond belief. Practically every muscle in both Superman and Batman’s bodies are bulging for display. It’s not my favorite style choice. But it works for McGuinness in a cartoony, popcorn-flick sort of way.

Simply put, this issue has it all. Action. Drama. Beautiful art. Character exploration. Character origins. It’s appealing to fans, but 100% accessible even if you’ve never picked up a comic book before. What’s more, it’s the first chapter in one of the best Batman & Superman stories ever told.

Now that’s how you kick off a series.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

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Weekly Comic 100s: Shazam!, Killadelphia, MMPR

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Nothing too in-depth here. Just straight, concise, and to the point.***

***Author’s Note: If I display a variant cover, it’s because I purchased the issue in question with that cover.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Shazam! #8
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Scott Kolins, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Michael Cho.
RELEASED: November 27, 2019

I’ve always admired the firm grasp Geoff Johns has on the less renowned DC characters like Green Lantern, the Teen Titans, and now Shazam. He can do anything…except get these books to come out on time.

This issue misses Dale Eaglesham, whose pencils have provided the sense of fun, adventure, and fantasy elements that define this book’s identity. Still, Scott Kolins is more than serviceable, especially during the scenes in the undead “Darklands” realm. Michael Atiyeh makes them very interesting from a color contrast standpoint. It’s like this bright red superhero has stepped into an old Universal monster movie.

TITLE: Killadelphia #1
AUTHOR: Rodney Barnes
ARTISTS:
Jason Shawn Alexander, LuisNCT (Colorist), Marshall Dillon (Letterer)
RELEASED:
November 27, 2019

I mean, c’mon. The title alone makes this worth a look.

If you’re into the stuff Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do, you’ll like Killadelphia. Or at least this first issue. It’s got a great pulp-noir-meets-horror feel. A second generation cop investigates the most bizarre case his famous father ever worked. What he uncovers is, as the book itself puts it, “There are vampires in Philadelphia.”

Best page in the book? When our main character opens a door, sees a bunch of vampires hanging from the ceiling, and runs away in terror when they give chase…

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #45
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Daniele Di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli & Igor Monti (Color Assistants), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED: November 27, 2019

“Necessary Evil” progresses nicely with a great “heel turn” this month. Parrott and Di Nicuolo are usually my guys as far as PR comics go. But one particular moment felt wrong…

There’s a scene where Zordon, talking to the Red Omega Ranger (Does he know it’s Jason?), says that Lord Zedd is formidable, yet “an adversary I was confident that they could handle.” While I’m sure this isn’t how Parrott meant this, that makes it sound like Zordon considers Zedd more of a nuisance than a threat. Didn’t he originally describe Zedd’s arrival as “the thing I have feared most”?

TITLE: Action Comics #1017
AUTHOR:
Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS:
John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED:
November 27, 2019

On page one, panel one, we get a big dumb Batman robot suit. For me, that’s about the worst way to start an issue of anything.

This issue does a nice job forwarding the “Invisible Mafia” story as it crosses over with the “Year of the Villain” stuff. It looks like we’ve got a big Justice League vs. Legion of Doom fight coming at us next time.

Justice League hasn’t been on my pull list since “YOTV” started. *sigh* I suppose I should probably catch up if I’m going to fully grasp what’s happening with Lex  and the gang.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1016
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS:
Doug Mahnke, Tyler Kirkham (Co-Penciller and Co-Inker), Christian Alamy (Co-Inker), Keith Champagne (Co-Inker), Mark Irwin (Co-Inker), David Baron, (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED: November 27, 2019

Ugh. There’s another stupid modified Batsuit in this issue. What happened to the Hellbat armor Tomasi used in Batman & Robin and Superman? Wouldn’t a modified version have worked here?

Bad costume notwithstanding, I love the way this Victor/Nora story ends. “A vicious circle,” as Batman calls it. Tomasi also works in an amazing callback to a New 52 event. Continuity, ladies and gentlemen. Use it well, and it’ll do wonders for you.

This story leaves Mr. Freeze’s status quo dramatically altered. Now it’s just a question of how long DC keeps it that way.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Justice League #52 Review – Aren’t You Forgetting Something?

Justice League #52, 2016TITLE: Justice League #52
AUTHOR: Dan Jurgens
PENCILLER: Tom Grummett. Cover by Paul Pelletier.
PUBLISBER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 22, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy

For such a smart man, Lex Luthor makes a pretty big mistake in the design of his Superman armor. It’s a pretty obvious one. If you’re looking for it, it’s right there on the cover…

Lex Luthor and the world at large are still reeling from the death of Superman. Having just returned from Apokolips after the events of Darkseid War, Luthor is prepared to assume a new role as Metropolis’ new Man of Steel. The question is, why? Why would Luthor want to assume the role once occupied by his nemesis?

This move for Luthor makes sense to me. He’s always wanted to be revered as a savior the way Superman is. So it’s believable that he would try to step in and take Superman’s place, even wearing the same emblem and cape. And of course, Luthor has a much darker approach to things. His attempt at reasoning with a gunman is to give him a choice between paralysis and death.

Justice League #52, Luthors

But one of the elements that makes Lex so intriguing is the sense of nobility that’s mixed with the narcissism and greed. As he should, Dan Jurgens brings that to the forefront here. We see Lex does indeed love his currently comatose sister Lena, and he wants to prove to her that he can be a good man. Hearing him speak of himself in that regard, and watching him reinvent himself in Superman’s image is surreal in the best possible way.

Tom Grummett, no stranger to Superman books, turns in a commendable performance here. His style is a fascinating mix or characters with an animated look, conveying emotions that feel very real. He’s a very good “acting” artist, in that sense. His Luthor looks like something you’d expect to see in a superhero comic. But his expressions aren’t dynamic or cartoony. The Lex we see here, regardless of the scenario he’s in, is stoic and reserved. It’s exactly the way he should be. It’s a really interesting balance Grummett has been able to do it at least as far back as his work on Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying. That’s right, folks. Tom Grummett helped create Tim Drake.

Lex Luthor, Justice League #52, 2016, Tom GrummettNow, let’s get to that armor he’s wearing. I don’t know who designed this thing, but it’s got a big logic flaw: There’s no headpiece. Luther stops a mugging in this issue, and gets shot at in the process. The bullets bounce off the armor, of course. But if the muggers had simply aimed a bit higher and SHOT HIM IN THE HEAD all their problems would have been solved. This flaw in logic not only makes the muggers look incredibly stupid, but it makes Luthor look stupid for not thinking of it. It’s not limited to this issue, either. In Action Comics #958 (also written by Jurgens), there’s a moment where Doomsday, the gigantic indestructible monster that killed Superman, grabs Luthor by his head. This is in the middle of a battle! Luther’s head could, and should, have been crushed like a grape.

Here’s an idea: Why not get him a retractable, clear helmet like Buzz Lightyear had? You know, with that “whoosh thing.” I’m only half joking. It’s better than getting your head crushed by Doomsday.

This volume of Justice League meets its end here. Though it obviously doesn’t so much serve to send the series off, as it does set up the events unfolding in Action Comics. That’s fair enough. It’s not like the League is disbanding, or we’re getting a new roster or anything. And if you are indeed reading Action Comics, you’ll want to pick this up.

Image 1 from insidepulse.com. Image 2 from batman-news.com. 

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/

A Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review – Why So Serious?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeTITLE: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STUDIOS: Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Entertainment, RatPac Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual films
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME: 151 min
RELEASED: March 25, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This movie had a lot of mud thrown its way before even one shot was in the can. Some of that was fair. Much of it wasn’t. Man of Steel wasn’t as well received as many would have liked. Then people jumped on the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. There was also a lot of skepticism about the inclusion of all the Justice League characters, not to mention Doomsday. And that’s just some of it. So after all that, what’s the bottom line on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?

Is this movie as bad as so many critics say it is? No. Is it a deeply flawed movie? Yes.

After the destruction left in the wake of Superman’s battle with Zod, the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) unknowingly has an enemy in Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman (Ben Affleck). Then, 18 months later Superman causes an international incident when he swoops in to save Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from a terrorist group. While his intentions are good, Superman’s actions have sparked a mass debate about if and how he should be monitored and regulated. Meanwhile, young business tycoon and hereditary CEO of Lexcorp Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has plans of his own regarding the Man of Steel…

Batman v Superman, image 1

Audiences hoping for something in the vein of a Marvel movie likely got a rude awakening from Batman v Superman. Zack Snyder’s superhero films, going as far back as Watchmen, are very serious, and at times very grim. This is a stark contrast to what we get from Marvel Studios, and also Fox’s X-Men movies. Those various superhero franchises (Iron Man, X-Men, Captain America, etc.) have all found their own balance between action blockbuster and comedy. That comedy is more important than a lot of people think. While I’ve always maintained superhero stories can be more than simple escapist tales about people punching each other, people should also be able to have fun when they see these movies. And that fun pays dividends. For proof, look no further than Deadpool, a movie made for $58 million that went on to make $745 million worldwide.

Fun doesn’t mean belittling the story or universe, either. There’s a moment in Batman v Superman when Batman saves Martha Kent (Diane Lane), and tells her “I’m a friend of your son.” She replies with a simple: “I figured. The cape…” There are precious few moments like this in the movie. But humor and levity are such valuable storytelling tools, particularly in terms of endearing the characters to us. And they’ve largely been cast aside in Batman v Superman. The notion that levity somehow takes away from a movie’s epic factor, or even it’s “dark tone,” is simply a fallacy. Cast in point: Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. Those films weren’t funny, per se. But they had little moments of levity that made the dark and chaotic stuff that much more impactful. By comparison, this movie feels like darkness on top of darkness.

Batman v. Superman, image 2The movie also has slow build-up to the confrontation between the two titular characters. This results in the first half of the proceedings being flat-out boring at times. We get a lot of good information regarding the characters and their world. But between the bleak and dreary look these movies have been given, and the lack of levity or fun, I can see many a casual moviegoer falling asleep here. Batman v Superman tries to slap a band-aid on this problem with some nightmare sequences in which Batman fights against a tyrannical Superman. While they do have a certain appeal, they contribute little to the actual story, and end up being more frustrating than anything else.

But let’s not pile on, here. The movie isn’t devoid of positives by any means. Batman fans jumped all over the casting of Ben Affleck like a pack of rabid dogs, and perhaps justifiably so. But as a lifelong Batman buff, I say Affleck gets a passing grade as The Dark Knight. I maintain Affleck wasn’t a bad choice for Daredevil either. Both Daredevil and Batman v Superman had problems. In the case of Daredevil, Affleck took the heat for those flaws because he was the face of the film. Hopefully, history won’t point the finger at him again.

Batman v Superman, image 3, Jesse EisenbergJesse Eisenberg is partially channelling Heath Ledger’s Joker in his portrayal of Lex Luthor. That’s fine, I suppose. Once he gets into full blown supervillain mode, he’s very good. To those of us who saw him in The Social Network, that should be no surprise. Heck, the Lex Luthor we see here isn’t unlike Mark Zuckerberg, really.

Perhaps the single best aspect of Batman v Superman is that Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) gets put over like a million bucks. In my theater, when she finally showed up in costume, the audience cheered. That’s a hell of a sign. I’d never seen Gal Gadot before, but she carries herself well in the role. This obviously bodes well for a Wonder Woman movie.

As one might have guessed with the presence of Doomsday, this movie goes the Death of Superman route. On paper it sounds risky. But it works on the screen, particularly in setting up a Justice League movie. Superman’s death can galvanize the other heroes into working together for the greater good. What’s more, the fight with Doomsday is amazing. It’s almost as if they met their entire action quota with that one fight. They also seemingly learned their lesson from Man of Steel, and didn’t destroy an entire city this time.

Batman v Superman, image 4There will be lessons to learn from Batman v Superman as well. The biggest one being not taking things so damn seriously. Not every superhero movie needs to conform to the Marvel formula. But it would be silly not to learn from the success of something that spawned an entire cinematic universe. Batman v Superman should have been a fanboy classic for the ages. While it’s not quite as bad as it’s been made out to be, what we got was definitely not that. Frankly, that’s a crime. All the tools were there, but they couldn’t get the job done. As a long time DC Comics fan, that’s an awful miscarriage of justice.

Maybe that should have been the title.

Images courtesy of rottentomatoes.com. 

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