Azn Badger's Blog

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Luthor Review

What the fuck kinda' 'roids is Superman on in is picture?...

Let me just start this review off by making it clear that I’m not all that familiar with Brian Azzarello’s writing.

My brother has told me (on numerous occasions) that I’d probably enjoy 100 Bullets, but to date I have yet to crack open an issue.

My only firsthand experience I have in reading Azzarello’s work, was his and artist Lee Bermejo’s more recent graphic novel, Joker.

I was deeply impressed with Joker.

From a visual standpoint, Bermejo’s painting and pencils served to give the story a striking, cohesive, and altogether unique look that in many ways make it one of the handsomest comics on the stands.

More importantly though, the writing was strong throughout.

The dialogue was sharp, with all the various character’s “voices” and diction coming across in the text boxes as if they were being read aloud by the cast members themselves.

The one aspect of the storytelling that really made it all work though, was the decision to cast an associate of the Joker’s, Johnny Frost; as both the narrator and main character.

Writing from the Joker’s perspective is one of those things that requires an insanely talented writer, either that or it’s just plain impossible.

The character is simply too impulsive, crazy, and altogether unpredictable, to the point in which reading his thoughts would probably as difficult a struggle as the process of writing them.

By using Johnny Frost as our ambassador into the Joker’s world however, Azzarello effectively gave us a ground level look at the seedier denizens of Gotham city; all while avoiding any of the confusion that may have resulted from trying to get inside their heads.

For Luthor however, Azzarello; once again teamed with Bermejo, chose to cast Lex Luthor as both the narrator and central character.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, this didn’t settle with me.

Lex Luthor is not really one of my favorite characters in the DC universe.

Most of the Superman stories I’ve enjoyed over the years barely included Luthor, and for the most part I think of him as a character that is doomed to be portrayed in the same fashion over and over and over again.

The Joker lends writers a degree of flexibility that makes him an intriguing figure to explore.

Sometimes he’s batshit crazy, sometimes he’s surprisingly lucid, sometimes he kills people with fish.

He’s a playground of insanity that writers are free to play around in and add to on a whim.

Lex Luthor however, is kind of one note.

He hates Superman, he’s rich as fuck, he has an ego, and occasionally he has goofy homoerotic moments with Supes that most of us would probably prefer to forget.

Outside of a brief stint as a red-head with an Australian accent, the only real difference between Luthors that I’ve read, is that sometimes he wears power armor, and sometimes he wears a power tie.

The version we get in Azzarello’s Luthor, is of course of the power tie variety.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

On the contrary, I prefer power tie Luthor.

What I don’t particularly like about the Luthor featured in, uh, Luthor; is the fact that despite the whole story being presented through his thoughts, he never really develops a clear voice.

Luthor’s voice in Luthor is written using vocabulary and pacing that is meant to appeal to the reader as being provocative and “deep.”

Sadly, as I made it through the first few chapters of Luthor, I became disenchanted with Luthor’s supposedly “heady” ruminations.

While I won’t post any spoilers here, the basic plot of Luthor involves Lex Luthor enacting a plot to eclipse the fame of, and potentially deface the heroism of the alien being known as Superman.

Using a variety of seedy connections, and equally seedy methods, Luthor establishes his own brand new defender of Metropolis, a super-woman named Hope, making a media darling of her in the process.

Long story short, Hope stands as a living metaphor for Lex Luthor’s aspirations, Superman fights Batman (briefly), and Lex Luthor whines and schemes for 90% of the book.

Luthor isn’t a bad story, nor is the writing anything less than average; my main issue with the whole thing is the fact that the center of the plot, our vehicle by which we explore the entire universe Azzarello has created for his story, is just not all that interesting to read.

Far be it from me to demand outstandingly cerebral writing and plotlines from my comic books, but I found Luthor’s voice to be more tedious than “deep.”

Tedious, and redundant, most likely due to the story’s original publication as a series of issues as opposed to a graphic novel format.

It’s funny though, most of the dialogue and storytelling outside of the stuff coming directly from Luthor’s brain and mouth is pretty solid.

In particular, Azzarello’s playboy-to-the-extreme version of Bruce Wayne is fun to read, and wholly believable given the way he is presented to us.

Much like Batman in Azzarello’s more recent Joker graphic novel, Superman and Clark Kent have almost no physical presence in the story.

In both stories, the characters are spoken of, hinted at, but rarely seen; giving them a sense omniscience and menace uncommon to both characters.

While the story is told from Luthor’s perspective, and it indeed makes sense to do so, I found myself smirking at the sight of Lee Bermejo’s flame-eyed and uber-pissed Superman.

Go ahead and call it blasphemy, but I’m one of those guys that still thinks of Christopher Reeve whenever he pictures Superman.

Seeing Superman portrayed as a total beast of superhero is both a striking visual, and a unique perspective on the character, but personally; I just couldn’t take it as seriously as I did in the case of Batman in Joker.

You look up badass in the dictionary, and I’m sure you’ll find an image of Lee Bermejo’s rendering of Batman from Joker.

Speaking of Lee Bermejo, his art is just as fantastic, if not moreso than was the case in Joker.

Bearing a borderline photorealistic style, Bermejo’s greatest panels are the ones that are painted.

In the case of both books, Bermejo painted a large number of the panels, however the ratio seems to be somewhat higher in Luthor, most likely a result of it’s gradual release schedule as opposed to the “all-at-once” format of Joker.

While I favor the creativity in the design, and the darker color palette of Joker, Bermejo’s renderings of the towering skyscrapers of Metropolis, and it’s delightfully fashionable citizens are still some of the best comic art around.

Additional kudos to colorist Dave Stewart, as some of the weather phenomena and night scenes really stand out thanks to his work.

While his angles and panel layouts may not be the most intricate or unique, Bermejo’s character art is his strength, and Azzarello wisely keeps his story grounded so as to allow his artist to shine.

Anyway, I really don’t know where I’m going with this review anymore.

Like I said, Luthor is a pretty enjoyable story, particularly if you happen to like Lex Luthor as a character; (I don’t…) but bear in mind there are some pretty heavy-handed (and redundant) metaphors, as well as some instances of “big words for the sake of big words” that you’ll have to get past to find said enjoyment.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you’ll try before you buy unlike I did!

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Superman/Batman Apocalypse Review

Not long ago, I was planning on doing a review for the DC Animated Universe feature film, Batman: Under the Red Hood.

RED HOOD MAKES BATMAN MAKE MEAN FACE!

My plans fell through on pounding out that article for the oddest of reasons:

After sitting through the movie, I found I had close to nothing to say about it.

To this day I can barely remember that movie, other than the fact that the climactic battle between Batman and the Red Hood was brutally well choreographed to an extent few animated films can measure up to.

Other than that, the movie was totally flat.

Yeah, like that kinda' flat...

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse on the other hand, is a film that I find I can very easily form an opinion of.

In short, I didn’t like Apocalypse.

Meant to serve as a direct follow-up to the (in my eyes) superior Superman/Batman: Public Enemies of last year, Apocalypse is an action-packed, but ultimately light weight exercise in tedium.

I know what you’re thinking:

“But Azn Badger, couldn’t Public Enemies be described in exactly the same fashion?  How can you like one better than the other?”

*Gasp!* That's like saying: "I like peanuts, but not peanut butter."

While I’ll admit this is true, Public Enemies was essentially a film comprised entirely of Michael Bay-esque lights and sound married with ungodly amounts of fan-service, the key difference between Public Enemies and Apocalypse lies within their execution of these 2 factors.

Public Enemies went balls out with it’s over-the-top-ness, pitting it’s 2 heroes against a legion of big name characters from the DC Universe, all while progressively stepping up the urgency and scale of it’s various crises until things, quite literally; reach astronomical levels.

Yes, Batman does in fact drive a giant Superman/Batman robot. Retarded: Yes. Entertaining: Kinda'...

It was stupid, it was fun, and the script was put together in such a way as to “play along” with that mindset.

Throw in some great voicework from the original “Timm-verse” voice cast of Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, and the always impeccable Clancy Brown, and you’ve got a recipe for a good time.

Clancy Brown = PIMP. Even though he DID kill Sean Connery...

Apocalypse on the other hand, sort of went about things half-cocked.

There’s a great deal of action, with the animation and art design being quite good for the most part, (much better than in Under the Red Hood) but the overall feel of the movie is just plain wrong.

Like Public Enemies, Apocalypse is once again based on Jeph Loeb’s work on the Superman/Batman comic series, with the source material being taken from the second story arc entitled “The Supergirl from Krypton.”

Perhaps it’s the Transformers and Power Ranger loving “boy” in me, but I’ve never found it within me to appreciate the beauty of Kara Zor-El AKA Supergirl’s soul.

Pictured: What happens when the Japanese get their hands on American comic book characters.

She was kind of cool during the 90’s when she was working for the red-haired Lex Luthor and busting heads in the Superman animated series, but other than that, I’ve never paid much attention to her.

Anyway, the story of Apocalypse kicks off very shortly after the conclusion of Public Enemies wherein Batman destroyed a massive Kryptonite meteor on a collision course with earth.

As the last remnant of said meteor make their way past Earth’s orbit, a hefty chunk manages to fall through the atmosphere and crash land in Gotham Harbor.

Goddamn women drivers!

After investigating a bit, Batman (Kevin Conroy) discovers a space pod among the debris, which of course housed our future Supergirl (Summer Glau) who goes through the requisite culture shock of dealing with Earth people for the first time, (in the nude no less) and discovering her vast array of powers granted to her by Earth’s yellow sun.

Yeah, not sure how you "accidentally" shoot lasers out of your eyes, but whatever...

Merry mishaps ensue, much property damage is caused, (it’s okay if it’s on accident!) and Superman (Tim Daly) eventually shows up to lift something heavy and take Kara off to show her his Fortress of Solitude.

The "Fortress of Solitude." Oh wait, they're cousins... THAT'S NASTY!!!

From that point on, the first 20 minutes of the movie see us following Kara as she explores life on Earth with her cousin Kal, (Superman, you big dummy) all while Batman constantly broods about the potentiality of her being a bad omen/villain/secret weapon/fish person.

Cut to the planet Apocalypse, where Granny Goodness (voiced with unbelievable zest by Ed Asner) oversees the training of a potential leader of Darkseid’s honor guard/stable of fucked up bitches, The Female Furies.

As you can see, they're a happy, well-adjusted bunch of females... That just happen to be FURIOUS.

What follows is a lucid and well-choregraphed 4-on-1 cat fight.

The drama is convincing, largely due to the effective pacing, which sees our 1 against the 4 holding their own in the few minute or so of combat, only to eventually be overwhelmed.

Like all of the fighting in Apocalypse, this scene served as a brief highlight among a sea of blemishes.

Cut back to Metropolis, where we are treated to the requisite “teenaged shopping spree” scene, albeit with oddly boring and low-key music.

Haha, it's funny 'cause he's a dude.

With that, night eventually falls and Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg) decides to show up to piss off Superman by trying to hog-tie Kara.

I like where this is going. Proceed...

Y’know, like yah’ do.

As it turns out, the Amazons of Themyscira’s (Wonder Woman’s ‘hood) resident prophet, Harbinger (Rachel Quaintance), has been having visions of Kara’s eventual death on a beach somewhere, resulting in Wonder Woman making the decision to take Kara back to the island in hopes of maintaining her safety.

Another good argument for Wonder Woman’s logic is the fact that Kara, for perhaps the 3rd time in the movie, recklessly unleashes her powers on Metropolis during her attempted kidnapping.

WOULD YOU STOP DOING THAT!!

Eventually, Superman grudgingly decides to give in to Wonder Woman’s pleas.

With that, we flash 2 months later and Kara’s been living on Themyscira with the Amazons.

Despite all that time, Superman is still feeling butt-hurt about the whole deal, while Batman and Wonder Woman just kind of look to each other from time to time and wonder just why Superman is such a douche…

Anyway, Kara imparts to us, through the language of teenage angst, that she is feeling cramped by everyone ordering her around the time, and she now wishes to live her own life, by her own terms.

Thankfully, after all of this boring “stranger-in-a-strange-land” meets Jem bullshit, the Darkseid angle of the story hinted not so subtly by, I don’t know, the title of the movie, finally comes to light proper.

A boom tube opens up in Themyscira, teleporting in, not one, but a literal army of Doomsday clones.

Um... You know just 1 was enough to kill Superman, right?

With an army of Amazons at their backs, Batman, (armed with a magical axe) Superman, and Wonder Woman take on the Doomsday army 300 style.

What follows is a pretty decent, if not chaotic battle sequence highlighted by a goofy and melodramatic homage to the muted war sequences made popular by Saving Private Ryan.

"Mike..."

I haven’t read the comic that this movie is based on, but my guess is that the Doomsday’s present in this story were meant to be vastly inferior to the original, as we all know that just one Doomsday probably should’ve been enough to take on all of Themyscira.

Either way, things wrap up as Superman opens up with a Kamehame-I mean, heat-vision blast that levels the entire army at once.

Now I ask you, why the fuck didn't he do that from the start!?

With that, our heroes run off to the beach of Harbinger’s visions, only to discover that Kara is gone, and Harbinger lay dead in her place.

"*Whew!* It's okay folks, it's only that one chick that nobody liked."

Now that we’re about halfway through the movie, the stakes have been clearly laid out for us, leaving the plot with nowhere to go but Apocalypse, right?

Well, not quite.

First, our heroes have to go visit former Female Fury leader, Big Barda; in order to borrow her equipment to boom tube their asses over there.

I always found Big Barda's costume to be, uh, a little bit gaudy for my tastes. Eithert that or, y'know, STUPID.

Barda resists at first, but then opts instead to join our heroes in their crusade, seemingly just for the sake of getting a chance to throw mud in Darkseid’s eyes.

From there, the rest of the movie is action/fighting.

I won’t spoil anything for you, but I will say this:

The second half of Apocalypse, while well animated and filled with fight sequences, is hardly notable among DC Animated Universe productions.

Among the trio of climaxes, (one for each major player) Wonder Woman and Big Barda get the best of the bunch in the form of a brawl with the Female Furies.

Seriously, the choreography in this scene is excellent, nearly as good as the Wonder Woman feature from a few years ago.

For those who are keeping score at home, that’s really fuckin’ good.

Batman and Superman though, sadly have little to offer in terms of awesomeness.

Although I suppose if giant dogs are your thing, then Batman's stuff might be kinda' cool for you...

Once again, I’m not going to spoil anything for you, but the movie has a long and drawn out ending sequence that, while entertaining on purely visceral level, was overblown and utterly pointless.

Like Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King “I have 5 endings!” pointless.

Oh well, at least it gives us a chance to see Superman access his inner Fist of the North Star and bust out blatantly anime-inspired moves like this:

Yeah, that just happened…

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse rests very low on the totem pole for me as far as DC Animated Universe films go.

Wonder Woman, of all things, is at or near the top, with Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths ranking just below it, followed by Green Lantern: First Flight, with Public Enemies rounding out the lower-tier of the “good” movies.

In other words:

Apocalypse ain’t so hot.

The story was petty and unfocused, with the characters not so much relating to each other as covering each other’s asses in battle.

ASS.

Call me crazy, but I prefer my superhero team-ups to y’know, have the characters talk to each other every now and again.

The action, while impressive to behold, felt surprisingly limited in scale given the stakes at hand.

Remember in the Superman cartoon when Darkseid invaded Metropolis with an army and wrecked Superman’s shit with said army.

Remember when he killed Dan Turpin? Yeah, that sucked balls...

Well, in Apocalypse, on Darkseid’s home turf, which by the way was seemingly populated by about 10 people, Darkseid manages to send, I don’t know; 5 guys and some dogs after our invading heroes.

That’s just silly.

A gripe about Darkseid:

Andrea Romano’s work as a voice casting director for Warner Bros. animation has always been regarded as some of the most consistent and praise worthy stuff in the industry, but what in the holy-fuck made her think ANYONE but MICHAEL FUCKING IRONSIDE could play Darkseid!?

Here, just take a look at this:

It pains me to know that this clip, from the script, to the voice-acting, to the music, to even the quality of the animation, however economical, is better than any of the DC Animated Features.

Andre Braugher has a wonderful voice.

Hell, if it’s any consolation I liked him in Glory

But the simple fact of the matter is, he was horribly miscast.

For one thing, he speaks far too fast, but moreover; his voice simply lacks the timbre and menace of Ironside’s.

I suppose it doesn’t hurt either that the script for this movie couldn’t hold a candle to anything from the DC animated series’…

Though it may seem minor to some, for me, I found it utterly impossible to take Darkseid seriously in this movie.

You know it's bad when you can't take THIS GUY seriously...

Another gripe.

Apocalypse contains a great deal of useless “asides.”

That is to say, the movie mimics the time tested anime trope of cutting away to pointless shots of everyday life/nature as a means of transition.

In anime, this works.

It’s an undeniably Japanese approach to story pacing, and when used in a long-form series consistently, it just plain works.

Here it’s a just goddamn waste of time, something that a slim; hour and a half long production should be conscious of.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is not a Japanese production, nor is it a long-ass series where wasted shots can be used to pad out episodes.

I don’t know what the fuck is going on with American animation these days, but the power and influence that anime has had over it’s character designs, animation techniques, and now even storytelling techniques, is just plain fucking grotesque.

I understand that anime and manga are currently the bees knees among the younger crowd, but c’mon folks, stick to what you’re best at.

The Batman and Superman cartoons were animation classics.

Now we’ve got shit like Teen Titans, shit that truly feels like pale imitations of something that is, culturally; quite foreign.

YOU SEE!!? THIS is why we have weeaboos and Narutards!

Anyway, I’ve said far more than I ever intended to about this movie, so I think I’ll cut things here.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse – A movie that doesn’t try hard enough at being dumb and loud, but ultimately leaves it’s viewers with no entertainment value other than those 2 elements.

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