Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars Adventures, Lois Lane #9, and..Other Stuff…

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So yeah…how’s your quarantine been?

Like every other business on Earth, the comic book industry is being hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic. As such, comic shops will receive no new issues this week. What exactly will happen with digital releases remains to be seen. But Image, IDW, Dark Horse, and Oni Press have all opted out of digital releases until print issues return to stores.

As for me, “social distancing” kept me out of my comic shop this week. My issues are being shipped to me, but they won’t arrive until….today. Because of course.

But in the spirit of wanting to put something in this space this week, I’ve done some digital shopping of my own. I put some issues in my cart that aren’t the most recent, but that piqued my interest. First among these was Lois Lane #9, which for some reason has alluded me for several weeks now…

As for what’ll be in this space over the next several weeks, all I can say is something will be here. Even if I’ve got to review comics from decades ago. But next time, we’ll get into the issues I’m about to get in the mail. Such issues include Batman/Superman, Star Wars: Bounty Hunters, andI Can Sell You A Body, and more.

TITLE: Lois Lane #9
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Andy Troy (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: March 4, 2020

Batman shows up in this issue, seemingly for no reason other than to pad the story. Still, it is good to see Rucka writing him again. Even like this.

As the cover suggests, there’s an immigration angle here. If, like Batman, it were shoehorned in for no reason I’d take issue with it. But Rucka weaves it into the mystery of who is out to kill Lois. So it works for me.

Also, do yourself a favor and Google “Jessica Midnight.” Just a heads up.

TITLE: Star Wars Adventures #31
AUTHORS: Michael Moreci, Cavan Scott
ARTISTS: Arianna Florean, David M. Buisan, Valentina Taddeo (Colorist), Charlie Kirchoff (Colorist), Jake M. Wood (Inker)
RELEASED: March 18, 2020

I’ve had my eye on this title, as it was recently announced it’ll contain stories set after The Rise of Skywalker. But apparently that’s not until May…

What we get here is perfectly serviceable. First is a story about Rey flying an X-Wing for the first time. I assume that’s meant to foreshadow what she does near the end of Rise. Then we get a back-up about a young explorer in wild space. Frankly, the back-up intrigued me more than the main story did. We haven’t seen much (or any?) of wild space, have we?

TITLE: Outlawed #1
AUTHOR: Eve L. Ewing
ARTISTS:
Kim Jacinto, Espen Grundetjern (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Pepe Larraz and David Curiel.
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

This book is here to set the table for yet another Champions relaunch. After the most recent relaunch ended this past October with only 10 issues. I mean…alright? If you’re sure.

This issue feels very Civil War-ish. A big explosion during a battle involving the Champions prompts the government to adopt a law prohibiting those under 21 from acting as superheroes.

This issue on its own didn’t do much for me. But I really liked the Mark Waid/Humberto Ramos Champions line-up. So if this kicks off a good story for them, I’m all in.

TITLE: Marvels Snapshots: Sub-Mariner
AUTHOR:
Alan Brennert
ARTISTS:
Jerry Ordway, Espen Grundetjern (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Alex Ross.
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

I’ve got the unique perspective of reading Marvels at the same time all this supplemental material is coming out. It’s a lot to take in. But the process has been fun.

Though he comes from Atlantis, virtually a different world, this issue shows us Namor is just as vulnerable to the scars of war as his human cohorts. Set shortly after World War II, and told from the perspective of his love interest Betty Dean, this “snapshot” shows us how Namor both is and isn’t human. Ordway and Grundetjern set the period brilliantly with their art.

TITLE: The Resistance #1 (of 6)
AUTHOR: J. Michael Straczynski
ARTISTS:
Mike Deodato Jr., Frank Martin (Colorist), Sal Cipriano (Letterer). Cover by Rahzzah.
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

Good lord. This one might actually be too timely. Read at your own risk as far as triggers go.

Quick summary: A deadly virus sweeps the planet, killing hundreds of millions. Then suddenly, it goes dormant. In response, a new American president is elected that promises to keep the pubic safe if the virus returns. But some of the survivors have inexplicably acquired superpowers. So what the hell happens now?

This sparked my interest enough to read more. Much of what we see here feels disturbingly realistic, particularly in terms of how the public reacts to certain things…

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

 

Weekly Comic 100s: Darth Vader, Batman, X-Men/Fantastic Four, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Darth Vader #1
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Variant cover by Chris Sprouse.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

After the events of Empire, Darth Vader starts investigating Luke’s birth/origins. He journeys back to Tatooine (again). He then goes to Padme’s old apartment on Coruscant, which remains more or less preserved after 20 years. As if it’s a crime scene or something. Based on the ending, I assume we’ll learn more next issue.

I understand it from a storytelling perspective. But in-universe, it’s always a little too convenient that these landmark places all essentially look the same no matter when we see them. That Lars Homestead will still be standing 30 years later

TITLE: Batman #88
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Guillem March, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

I wasn’t very nice to Guillem March last time. In fact, I’m rarely depict his work positively. But to his credit, he won me over with this issue. At least a little bit. His rendering of Catwoman in a graveyard on a rainy night is damn near beautiful. The scene with Batman, Penguin, Deathstroke, and the others is also very strong.

At more than one point, it seemed to me like this issue was laying the groundwork for the long-awaited Three Jokers book. Remember, we’re building toward a story in the pages of Batman called “Joker War.”

TITLE: X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Chip Zdarsky
ARTISTS: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson (Inker), Dexter Vines (Inking Assistant), Karl Story (Inking Assistant), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

I’m terrified of X-Men comics. Specifically, the decades worth of continuity and characters. But to this book’s credit, it’s fairly accessible.

Franklin Richards, the mutant teenage son of Reed Richards and Sue Storm, is summoned by Charles Xavier to live with Earth’s mutants on the island nation of Krakoa. This doesn’t sit well with Reed. Naturally, conflict and teen angst ensue.

I’ve been looking for a bridge back into the Marvel Universe. X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 might be it, as it does a nice job setting up both teams, and giving us a compelling main character in Franklin.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Simone di Meo, Alessio Zonno, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Igor Monti (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora.
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

We get a fight between Rita and Shredder in this issue. It’s a relatively lengthy battle. And you know what? I’m just going to come out and say it: I wanted this to be one of those fights where the guy and girl hook up at the end. You know how it goes. The passion overcomes them, etc. These two have a lot in common, after all.

What that says about me and these characters from my childhood, I’ll let you decide.

Oh my God. What if Shredder, not Zedd, was actually Thrax‘s father?!?!? Mind blown!!!

TITLE: Young Justice #13
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Michael Avon Oeming, Mike Grell, John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

Well hey there, Mike Grell! It’s been too long! What’s more, Grell gets to once again draw a character he created in Warlord. Warlord and Superboy actually have a pretty nice dynamic in this issue. The experienced elder statesman offering calm words of wisdom to an upset Superboy.

For the moment at least, the Young Justice cast has expanded greatly. If these additional characters stick around, it’s a lot to balance. But it’s still damn good to see a couple of them.

TITLE: Lois Lane #8
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 5, 2020

As much as I’m enjoying having Greg Rucka back at DC, I’m wondering if this needed to be a 12-issue maxi-series. This entire issue felt mostly like filler.

For instance, there’s a scene in this issue where Superman shows up after an attempt on Lois’ life. We take four pages to see husband and wife re-united, and then to see the attention the Man of Steel gets from the local police.

Am I missing something? Why are we seeing this?

On the upside, the assassin that comes after Lois has a pretty cool look.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars #1, I Can Sell You A Body #1

***”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.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You know what sucks? When your favorite comic shop closes down.

Here’s to Rockhead’s Comics and Games in Kenosha, WI, for feeding my weekly comic fix for the last two years or so. You guys were awesome. I’m truly sad to see you go…

TITLE: Star Wars #1
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Jesus Saiz, Arif Prianto (Co-Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by R.B. Silva and GURU-eFX.
RELEASED:
January 1, 2020

This debut of Marvel’s post-Empire Strikes Back title is pretty much what you’d expect, with the characters reeling from what happened on Bespin.

But interestingly, this issue actually takes places during the events of Empire. A certain amount of time passes between the Star Destroyer escape and the closing scene. But how much time? When we open this book the Rebels don’t trust Lando, and Luke isn’t even sure he wants to be a Jedi any longer.

I’m hoping Luke doesn’t get a lightsaber in this series. The green one doesn’t come along until the next film, after all.

TITLE: I Can Sell You A Body #1 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Ryan Ferrier
ARTISTS: George Kambadais, Ferrier (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 1, 2020

What we have here is a mini about “reverse exorcisms,” i.e. spirits of the dead being found new bodies by our main character, Denny Little.  But things go awry when he gets mixed up with the mob. Y’know, the way you always do when you gain the power to communicate with the dead…

Ferrier and Kambadais don’t waste an inch of space here, putting out a really dense issue. But the story has promise, and the art has a nice charm to it. I can see myself following Denny for four issues.

TITLE: Action Comics #1018
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 1, 2020

I was actually dreading this issue. Simply because of John Romita Jr’s art.

Romita can be hit-or-miss as it is. But Action Comics #1018 has a rushed quality, as if the deadline was breathing down his neck. As such, the end product often looks awkward. Or worse, bush league.

Case in point, the way Superman is posed on the cover. What is that stance, exactly?

As this issue is partially about the Justice League fighting the Legion of Doom in the middle of Metropolis, this was a particularly bad time for a performance like this. Bad form, JRJR.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1018
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, David Baron (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Rafael Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, and John Kalisz.
RELEASED: January 1, 2020

This dialogue in this issue is really awkward at times, which is not a problem Tomasi usually (if ever) has. For some reason, Batman is uncharacteristically chatty.

Case in point, he leaves a crime scene and says to the cops, “Got what I needed. Scene is immaculate. Left behind only my boot prints. Merry Christmas.”

Um…thanks?

On the plus side, Tomasi tugs at our heartstrings in his own special way by showing us Bruce spending his first holiday season without Alfred. Very reminiscent of the stuff he did on Batman and Robin all those years ago.

TITLE: Lois Lane #7 (of 12)
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 1, 2019

While I continue to love simply having that Greg Rucka, street-level aesthetic back at DC, I’m losing interest in the mystery of who’s trying to kill Lois Lane and why. Frankly, the subplot about the public believing she’s having an affair with Superman is far more interesting. I’m curious to see how Clark revealing his identity to the world will effect this story, if in fact they cross over.

The back and forth between Lois and Renee Montoya is fun. It’s obvious Rucka is happy to be working on his version of the Question once again.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: MMPR/TMNT, Over the RopesBatman

***”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: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
AUTHOR:Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Simone di Meo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Igor Monti (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Variant cover by Goni Montes.
RELEASED: December 4, 2019

Surprisingly, they don’t go the trans-dimensional portal route with this one. This book seemingly has the Rangers and the Turtles living in the same universe. So…does that mean these are the Next Mutation Turtles that go on to meet the Space Rangers? *gulp*

This looks like it’s going to be a pretty standard first-time team-up story. The two teams start out against one another, then work together to face the enemy. But our heroes are in good hands with Ryan Parrott and Simone di Meo.

God damn, those Goni Montes covers are instantly iconic…

TITLE: Over the Ropes #1
AUTHOR: Jay Sandlin, Francesco Segala (Colorist), Justin Birch (Letterer).
ARTISTS: Antonello Cosentino
RELEASED: December 5, 2019

“Wrestling is like religion. You get it or you don’t.”

That’s amazing. Both as an opening line, and a simple philosophy regarding pro wrestling.

Wrestling comics have never really done it for me. Which makes no sense, of course. They’re my two big interests, yet I don’t like them together. But Over the Ropes held my interest, at least. They start off seemingly going with a standard “underdog’s quest for the title” story, but then we get a twist that shakes everything up.

I’ve got a good feeling about this one. I’ll be back for issue #2.

TITLE: Batman #84
AUTHOR:
Tom King
ARTISTS:
Jorge Fornes, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Mikel Janin.
RELEASED:
December 4, 2019

We should have gotten this content several months ago. It wouldn’t have saved “City of Bane,” but it would have added some valuable depth to Thomas Wayne.

This book consists mostly of flashbacks, but done in reverse order. We start with the Flashpoint Batman’s recent actions in Gotham City, and go all the way back to before young Bruce Wayne was murdered. (See Flashpoint.)

The reverse order thing is cute in theory, but I found it tough to follow. It didn’t always jog the memories it was supposed to. You might be better off reading this issue back to front.

TITLE: Young Justice #11
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 4, 2019

A decent issue. But it left me with some questions…

So let’s say I get transported elsewhere in the multiverse. Then somebody goes back in time and causes a dramatic temporal shift, altering the course of the world, and my life with it. If I’m elsewhere in the multiverse when that happens, am I somehow unaffected? Wouldn’t my memories change? And if/when I come back to my now altered world, does my mere presence restore their memories of me from the prior timeline? Do the ripples caused by a said shift not reach across the multiverse?

Asking for a friend.

TITLE: Collapser #6
AUTHORS: Mikey Way, Shaun Simon
ARTISTS:
Ilias Kyriazis, Cris Peter (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED:
December 4, 2019

You know what sucks? When you really get into a new series, and then remember it’s not a series. It’s a six-issue mini. Rrrrgh.

Either way, Collapser wound up being pretty damn good. This is a book you can hold up as an example of what the Young Animal imprint is capable of, and how it’s different. In terms of both writing and art.

Here’s what I will say: This issue felt a little rushed. I’m inclined to think that means they had a bit more story they could have told. If that’s the case, it’s a cryin’ shame.

TITLE: Lois Lane #6
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 4, 2019

This issue is all about the death of General Sam Lane, Lois’ father, in Event Leviathan. Perhaps fittingly, the pre-New 52 Sam Lane was killed off in an event comic as well. The poor guy is just snake bit…

It’s frustrating that we’ve brought the story to a full stop just so we could lament the death of Sam Lane. But with the exception of an awkwardly drawn facial expression Lois has while accepting an American flag at the funeral, the issue is at least done well. It also sticks its landing with a genuinely touching final page.

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

Astonishing Art: Batman: The Animated Series by Rick Celis

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

If you’re a ’90s kid like I am, chances are you’ve got a soft spot for Batman: The Animated Series. For my generation, and even for a number of younger fans, it’s the definitive take on Batman and his world.

As such, artist Rick Celis and his many tributes to the series have hit me right in the nostalgic feels. Not only has Celis nailed down the look of the characters and the show, but he often uses it to pay tribute to more current works.

To illustrate, I’ve included some of my favorites below. You’ll see his send-ups to the Jim Lee variant for Batman #50, and the main cover for Batman #42. He’s also prone to giving nostalgic goodies like this tip of the hat to Runaway Bride (in the spirit of the recent Batman/Catwoman wedding, of course).

More of Celis’ work can be found on DeviantArt, Twitter, Instagram, and Patreon.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

A Superman, Vol. 1: Son of Superman Review – A Family Affair

TITLE: Superman, Vol. 1: Son of Superman
AUTHORS: Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason
PENCILLERS: Gleason, Jorge Jimenez, Doug Mahnke
COLLECTS: Superman: Rebirth #1, Superman #16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: January 4, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is the first ongoing Superman book in a long time that actually feels happy to be a Superman book.

This topic has been beaten to death, but let’s touch on it quickly: It’s time to stop trying to modernize, freshen up, or worst of all, “darken” Superman. It’s been done time and time again, and it never clicks. They’ve changed his costume. They’ve made him moody and broody. One time they even de-powered him and put him on a damn motorcycle. No more. It’s time to stop being ashamed of Superman. Let the character be who and what he’s always been at his core: A champion of values. Truth, justice, hope. and yes, the American way. Let the guy smile. Embrace the character’s legacy instead of hiding from it. Let him be the hero we need in these trying times.

Son of Superman does all of that, while still carving out a new direction for the Man of Steel. Simply put, it’s the best Superman book in years. Almost a decade, perhaps.

The DC Rebirth incarnation of Superman puts the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths version of the character back in the cape and boots. He’d been brought back for Convergence, and eventually became an ongoing character again in the pages of a new book, Lois and Clark. With him was his timeline’s incarnation of Lois Lane, and their young son Jonathan. As Clark Kent finds a balance between protecting the Earth and raising his son, Jonathan must learn to manage his emerging superpowers. With those powers come responsibility, risk, and a legacy…

Instead of focusing on Superman facing a threat, we spend most of this book learning about Jonathan. We see his response to living with a secret identity, how he reacts to challenges, and how Clark and Lois are raising him. They’ve accepted that he’ll one day inherit the Superman legacy, and are gently preparing him for the role. In theory, Superman works on two levels. Youngsters can identify with Jonathan, while older parent-aged readers connect with Clark and Lois. It’s by no means a sexy approach. But artistically, it’s true to the soul of the Superman character. His adopted parents instilled him with a set of principles. Now he has to pass those principles on to his son. But the dynamic is tweaked, because he’s able to relate to what Jonathan is going through. It’s a premise that lends itself to heart-felt storytelling, not unlike what we saw from Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s work in Batman & Robin.

We kick things off with Superman: Rebirth #1, which establishes our “new” hero, with some nice fan service thrown in. The New 52 Superman was killed off, and as the post-Crisis Superman is the one who famously died and returned, he sets about bringing his counterpart back in a similar fashion. Te issue is highlighted by artists Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, and Will Quintana giving us their take on the iconic Superman/Doomsday battle. It was out of continuity for so long, and it’s brought back in what I’ll call a “wide screen” sequence that plays out over about seven pages. Mendoza’s inks compliment Mahnke’s richly detailed pencils, and Quintana’s color make it every bit the glorious and epic scene it needs to be. The same applies to when they return for issue #5. We’ve got Superman talking to ghosts, we’ve got the Eradicator trying to eradicate things, we’ve got a big Batman robot straight out of a Snyder/Capullo comic…

Actually, I don’t mind the “Hellbat” returning from the Tomasi/Gleason Batman & Robin book. Maybe it’s because Lois Lane is the one using it, as opposed to Batman. It makes for a fun holdover.

But artistically, this book belongs to Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz. Obviously, as a co-writer Gleason has the advantage of molding the story to fit his strengths. But just from a basic figure rendering perspective, it’s so amazing to see Superman look like Superman again. Even the classic spit curl, which I’ve never been a huge fan of, is a breath of fresh air. These pages are bright, flamboyant, and unabashedly sentimental. Gleason’s slightly exaggerated, animated style is a perfect fit for a story about a pre-teen learning to be a superhero. There’s a lot of fun on these pages.

Gleason also has an amazing knack for classic Superman iconography. The page at left comes to mind, with our hero in the classic pose as an American flag waves in the background. For obvious reasons, he lays it on a little stronger in issue #1. We’ve got a two-page spread that simply shows him opening his shirt to reveal the “S” insignia. That’s followed up immediately with another two-page spread giving us snapshots from Superman’s history. This is who Superman is, and who he’s always been. To see it all reemphasized is borderline beautiful.

The biggest obstacle this book faces is establishing that this is a “new” Superman from another timeline. They obviously devote a good amount of time to it. But it’s still a lot to wrap your head around, and has the potential to be really confusing for someone jumping on. This book is about a family trying to figure out how they fit into a new world. But that runs counterintuitive to how the average reader sees Superman, as he’s so ingrained in the fabric of the DC Universe. By the time we close the book, most of that awkwardness has subsided. But to say the least, this hasn’t been the smoothest Superman relaunch we’ve ever seen.

But it’s worth it in about every possible way. It’s been far too long since a Superman book has been this good. While this is obviously a new direction for the Man of Steel, in many ways it feels like he’s finally gotten back to his roots. That’s the Superman we need right now. That’s the Superman we’ve always needed.

Welcome back, Big Blue. We’ve missed you.

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

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A Justice League Review – Lessons Learned

TITLE: Justice League
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STUDIOS: Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films, RatPac Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME:
 120 min
RELEASED: November 17, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Justice League is a standard superhero popcorn flick. It’s nowhere near as dark, dreary, and generally abysmal as Batman v Superman. But it also doesn’t accomplish anything remotely special. It’s about a team of heroes coming together to fight a villain with a doomsday plan. Been there, done that. Several times, actually. So what we get comes off completely and utterly average.

After all these years, the first Justice League feature film is just average. What an awful, heartbreaking waste…

The plot is basic enough to surmise from the advertising. As the world continues to mourn the death of Superman, we’ve got a new big bad in town. Steppenwolf, a tyrant from the hellscape world of Apokalips, has returned to Earth after thousands of years with his army of Parademons in tow. He aims to conquer the world using the immense power of three “Mother Boxes.” Batman and Wonder Woman prepare to meet this invasion head on by assembling a team of super-powered heroes. The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman are all called to action. But in the end, they won’t be enough. For this new team to triumph, Superman must return…

Trust me, it’s a lot more exciting on paper than it is on screen.

Justice League is the culmination of the years-long comedy of errors that is the “DC Extended Universe.” Man of Steel was an adequate start, flawed as it was with it’s dreary look and overindulgent third act. It was followed by the downright dour Batman v Superman, which robbed its characters of almost any charm, heart, or likability. Suicide Squad wasted arguably pop culture’s most iconic supervillain in the Joker, but managed to be fun in a mindless hot mess sort of way. Wonder Woman was the exception that made the rule. It felt like a single vision, with purpose, heart, and passion put into it.

And so, on one the most rickety foundations in cinematic history, Justice League was built. Like Suicide Squad before it, this movie feels like a melting pot of visions, voices, and priorities clumped together to form a viable commercial product. Our director is once again Zack Snyder. But with their confidence shaken from the backlash to Batman v Superman, Warner Bros. brought in Avengers director Joss Whedon to reshape the script. Thus, we have a Joss Whedon superhero movie taking place in Zack Snyder’s grim DC Universe, under the management of a studio desperate to compete with Marvel at the box office. Hot damn! Sign me up!

One of the major missteps in Justice League is it’s choice of villain. DC Comics lore is full of baddies worthy of challenging Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Darkseid is the obvious choice. But you’ve also got big cosmic villains like Brainiac, Mongul, and Despero. Professor Ivo and the Amazo android could have made for an interesting story. Hell, team Lex Luthor up with the Joker! It sure as hell beats Steppenwolf…

Yes, Steppenwolf. A second-rate, paper-thin, poorly rendered Darkseid stand-in with an army of space bugs, a silly name, and a generic doomsday plot. This is who they came up with to face the Justice League in their debut feature film. Strictly from a cynical marketing standpoint, how the hell to you pass up slapping Darkseid, Brainiac, or Lex Luthor on t-shirts and posters, and instead opt for someone called Steppenwolf?

Justice League cost a whopping $300 million to make. That’s astounding, considering our CGI-rendered Steppenwolf looks like he was done in the late ’90s. It’s not just him, either. It’s been well documented that reshoots were done with a mustached Henry Cavill. The movie’s opening sequence wasn’t even over before Mrs. Primary Ignition turned to me and asked, “What’s up with Superman’s mouth?” Certain shots in Batman’s introduction are also extremely fake looking. Makes you wonder what the hell happened to good old fashioned stunt doubles and prosthetic make up…

Superman has a certain aura of reverence in this movie. Had that been earned or established in Man of Steel or Batman v Superman, that would have been fantastic. I’ve always been a proponent of Superman being the center, or at least part of the center, of the DC Universe. He’s certainly its moral backbone. But all this mourning we see over Superman doesn’t match the controversial figure we saw in Batman v Superman. Yes, some people loved him. But he was also the subject of protests and a congressional hearing. Lois Lane, Batman, Wonder Woman, and those who knew Superman have a reason to miss him. But based on what we saw before, there’d be a large contingent of people who’d be glad Superman died.

So now that I’ve sufficiently ripped Justice League apart, what’s there to like? What did they get right? Believe it or not, all was not lost from the get go…

Unlike in Batman v. Superman, almost all of our heroes are likable. Superman knows how to smile. Wonder Woman is compassionate, but still fierce. I’ve never needed a lot of selling on Ben Affleck’s Batman. Joss Whedon’s influence in the movie is obvious when the Dark Knight gets in a quip or two. Ezra Miller plays a socially inept Flash, who provides much of the comic relief. His costume looks absolutely ridiculous. But there’s a certain charm to him. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is surprisingly okay as a dude bro. For a team flick, it works fine. Granted it’s not the approach I would have gone with, and they’ll obviously need to deepen his character for the Aquaman solo movie. Assuming that’s still in the pipeline after all this.

As much as this movie fell short of what it could have been, there is a certain warm and fuzzy quality to seeing these characters on the big screen together. Most of them aren’t true to the essence of the iconic characters they’re based on. But at the very least it’s cool on a superficial level to see Batman is standing next to Wonder Woman. Superman is running next to the Flash! Aquaman is in Atlantis! It’s a highly tarnished version of what we should be getting. But at least we’re getting it in some form. That counts for something.

And so, four years into the DC Extended Universe, what have we learned? What has the road to Justice League taught us? More than anything, it’s this: Darkness doesn’t equate to quality. At least not to larger audiences.

Some people point to darker tales like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen as the pinnacle of the superhero genre. But while they pushed the boundaries of how these stories and characters could work and be seen, they weren’t simply dark for the sake of darkness. The Dark Knight Returns isn’t just about an older and grittier Batman getting to punch Superman in the face. It’s about a hero returning to face a world that’s changed in his absence. Watchmen isn’t about Rorschach beating people up. It’s a look at superheroes from a different, more grounded angle. The dark tones fit the stories and the characters, not the other way around.

We also need to remember that at the end of the day these characters are meant for children. That doesn’t mean we can’t love them as adults. We don’t need to dumb them down for kids, but we can’t keep them all for ourselves either. If DC and Warner Bros. should have learned one thing from Disney and Marvel, it wasn’t the cinematic universe element. It’s that these movies can be accessible to viewers of all ages. They can be mature without being meant for mature audiences.

The blame Justice League‘s failures, creative and otherwise, falls primarily on the studio higher-ups. But the finger also needs to be pointed at Zack Snyder. He’s got a devoted fanbase that will filet me for saying so. But if Batman v Superman didn’t convince you, the fact that the first Justice League movie didn’t outperform the third Thor movie should say it all. Snyder must be kept far away from any and all future DC films. I shudder to think what this movie would have looked like without Joss Whedon’s influence. 

Superhero movies can be thrilling, emotional, and surprisingly versatile. But at their core, they aren’t complicated. Give us a hero worth rooting for, a villain worth rooting against, and a reason for them to fight. We don’t need to see a bad guy get his neck snapped, a bomb inside a jar of piss, or a city destroyed to compensate for a lack of emotional connection with the audience. 

Lessons learned. Six years and millions of dollars too late. But lessons learned…

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

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