‘Dark Days: The Forge’ proves why DC is a cut above Marvel

The Forge Dark Days

The past year or so has seen the classic “DC vs. Marvel” debate take on added significance due to the success of DC Rebirth and the faltering (to put it lightly) of Marvel under the tenure of Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. There are many reasons for Marvel’s failures, but DC’s Dark Days: The Forge #1 shines a giant Bat-Signal spotlight on one of them.

The bottom line is that DC, whether it’s something like The Button or Dark Days: The Forge, is telling good old-fashioned “yarns” because it’s actually concentrating on big ideas — namely the issue of Good vs. Evil.

The Forge #1 is a tale that revolves around two beings — one of goodness and light, the other of darkness and evil — who are granted immortality via a mysterious metal and then tasked to fight each other in cycles of reincarnation. Batman’s discovery of the metal prompted a years-long investigation into its origin, which led him down a dangerous rabbit hole. It’s one that no man — even Bruce Wayne — should explore.

What separates modern DC from Marvel is that the former is willing to explore ideas of good and evil in serious ways. If you pick up most Marvel comics, then what you’ll find is moral relativist heroes fighting each other over a catty disagreements; and heroes fighting villains in a “going through the motions” manner because that’s what they’ve always done; political allegories that primarily use characters as vehicles to vent anger at [insert politician here].”

Out of all the comics I’ve read over the past two years, I think only Charles Soule’s Daredevil confronted a character described as truly “evil.” When most Marvel heroes talk about good and evil, they do so in ironic Deadpool-speak.

Paraphrase [insert hero here]: “Do you think we’ll come out of this one alive? Of course we will — we’re the good guys!”

People who believe good and evil are real — not just artificial constructs in a godless universe — typically do not become jaded. If you believe that your life has meaning and is intrinsically good, then you are not prone to hold life in contempt.

DC appears to have enough writers and editors on its staff who understand this, who are genuinely inquisitive about big issues, and then willing to appropriately use their iconic stable of characters to explore them.

Marvel, on the other hand, appears to be populated with a cloister of bitter moral relativists who write books for a small population of philosophical malcontents. Then, when their screeds don’t sell, they rhetorically lash out at fans for not being embracing Mighty Marvel Pessimism Pods.

I don’t know too much about Dan DiDio, but I do know quality work when I see it. I got into DC in a significant way for the first time in my life this year, and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon as long as I keep getting books like The Button and Dark Days: The Forge.

Kudos to DC’s creative team for a job well done.

Editor’s Note: I’ll be reviewing Dark Days: The  Forge #1 on my YouTube channel soon. If you haven’t already subscribed, then please do. I don’t always have time to transfer the videos over to WordPress as quickly as I’d prefer.

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DC’s ‘The Button’ offers lesson for Marvel, Axel Alonso

I used to have an irrational disdain for DC superheroes as a child. I was a “Marvel kid.” Sure, I loved Batman, but outside of his adventures I turned up my nose at DC fare. The echoes of my own irrationality reverberated into the future as I stuck to reading The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, and then occasional X-Men book as an adult. But somewhere along the line, Marvel decided to adopt a business model that needlessly alienates long-term readers. That, my friends, is where our discussion on DC’s The Button comes in.

Marvel Editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and everyone who takes their marching orders from him would be wise to look at what DC is doing under the watchful eyes of Geoff Johns. DC Rebirth was a creative home run, and now it seems as if the same can be said of The Button.

Check out my latest YouTube review on parts 1-3 of The Button, which is a great blueprint for Marvel to follow if it wants to win back fans. And, as always, I’m interested in hearing your feedback in the comments section below.

Mark Waid: ‘Every superhero you love’ is a SJW

There was once a time when activist-writers tried to hide their attempts to hijack comic books and turn them into little more than social-justice propaganda. Writer Mark Waid has changed all that. This week he took to Twitter and told the world that “every superhero you love” marches (or flies or teleports) under a SJW banner.

Check out my latest YouTube video on Mr. Waid’s opinion that comic book writers should look to anti-free speech ideologues for inspiration.

Ben Affleck, puffy Batman, slurs up storm during ‘Deflategate’ ‘f–k’-fest

Ben Affleck Any Given Wednesday

Batman v Superman is now in the rearview mirror and the general consensus is that it was a sloppy mess. Warner Bros. says changes were made to Justice League after the critical tsunami rolled in, but now its key star — Ben Affleck — is once again acting like a fool in public.

Sometimes “Batman” says he doesn’t like Republicans. Sometimes “Batman” nearly cries when someone says Islamic terrorism is, in fact, Islamic in nature. Sometimes he volunteers to do a show on finding one’s roots and then tries to cover up the fact that his ancestors owned slaves. These days, however, the puffy-faced (Botox?) star is launching into slurred f***k-fests that make him look like an immature frat boy. He is 43 years old.

Mr. Affleck, aka Bruce Wayne, looked like an alcoholic on Bill Simmons’ Any Given Wednesday, and now it will be exponentially harder to forget his antics when Justice League finally arrives in theaters.

Ben Affleck tweet

Here is 1:33 minutes of Mr. Affleck’s rant on the NFL’s decision to go after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for “Deflategate”:

“Deflategate is the ultimate bulls**t f***ing outrage of sports — ever. It’s so f***ing stupid that I can’t believe it.  Do you realize (slurred) they gave him a suspension for a quarter of the regular season, which would be equivalent of suspending a baseball player for 40 f***ing days … which is what they do when you get busted taking steroids. And by the way, if the NFL had real testing, it really knew how to test for steroids and HGH in the NFL, there’d be no f***ing NFL.

So instead, what they did was suspend Tom Brady for four days for not giving them his f***ing cellphone. … I would never give an organization as leak-prone as the NFL my f***ing cellphone so you could just look through emails and listen to my voicemail. … The first thing they’re going to do is leak this s**t. … Maybe Tom Brady is so f***ing classy, and he’s such a f***ing gentlemen, that he doesn’t want people do know that he may have reflected on his real opinion of some of his coworkers.”

Ben Affleck Pats tweet

HBO’s Bill Simmons tried to quell talk about the star being drunk by noting how the show tapes in the morning.

Note to Mr. Simmons: You just made things worse.

Either Ben Affleck was still drunk from the previous night, or he was drinking in the morning — because there is no mistaking what fueled his weird facial expressions, slurred speech, and countless f-bombs.

Bill Simmons

Fact: I said in my review for Batman v Superman that Ben Affleck did a fine job. An unpolished script and Jesse Eisenberg’s Jar-Jar Binks-like performance nearly destroyed the movie. I do not have an irrational dislike of the actor, but it is difficult to cheer for him when, in many ways, he acts like the pompous jerk who tried to embarrass his character in Good Will Hunting.

Ben Affleck Good Will Hunting

Warner Bros. needs Justice League to be pitch perfect after dropping the ball with Batman v Superman, and that will not happen if Mr. Affleck’s personal life prompts him to act like a buffoon.

When a man slurs his speech and acts like a drunken fool before millions of YouTube viewers, then he becomes a joke. When he becomes a joke, then millions of fans will not consider him a convincing Batman. That is the truth. If the people coughing up money for Justice League want to see a profit on their investment, then they will speak to the actor about his behavior sooner rather than later.

Watch the video and determine for yourself if Ben was merely “fired up.”

Batman v Superman: The truth — for DC Comics fans in denial

Batman v Superman desert

Last weekend this blog gave an honest review of Batman v Superman because your friendly neighborhood writer is always in search of truth, justice and the American way. I said it was a movie that had its good parts (e.g., Ben Affleck), its excellent parts (e.g., visuals), and parts that were just plain ugly (e.g., Jesse Eisenberg). I did that for the same reason I will readily admit that Iron Man 2 was a creative mess that was barely saved by Robert Downey Junior’s awesomeness — it’s the truth.

All this is relevant because something peculiar happened when box-office numbers came in on Sunday: Hardcore DC Comics fans and those with a vested interest in the movie’s success started framing its $420 million global gross over the weekend as proof that critics were all wrong.

CBR, for example, reported Monday:

Overcoming a torrent of negative reviews that triggered social-media backlash from die-hard fans, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” stormed theaters worldwide over the weekend, exceeding most box-office predictions and breaking records left and right.

It turns out that, after all the hand-wringing by fans and Warner Bros. executives alike, “Batman v Superman” really was review-proof.

My wife asked me what the numbers meant as they started rolling in and I said we wouldn’t really know until next weekend.

I will now let Forbes explain why:

Batman v Superman has set a new record for the worst Friday-to-Sunday drop for a superhero movie release in modern North American box office history. In dropping 55% from its $82 million Friday debut to its $37 million gross on Sunday, it pummeled all prior records for weakness in theatrical staying power. It even beat the nearly universally reviled and now long-forgotten Fantastic Four reboot, which dropped a comparatively modest 48% across its opening weekend in the summer of 2015. …

Superhero movies that don’t hold up well over their first weekend tend not to sustain much energy at the box office over the longer course of their theatrical runs. …

The steep decline in the Batman v Superman numbers points to the unfortunate likelihood that, apart from DC Comics fans, North American audiences don’t like the movie very much.

One of the biggest challenges in life is to see things as they are instead of how we wish them to be. The optimist sees things through rose-colored glasses and the pessimist seems things as unrealistically grim. The mind has a funny way of making any “true believer” immune to cold, hard reality, which is why the truth about BvS should be spread far and wide.

I want Warner Bros. to succeed with its long-term plans, but that is not likely to happen if executives do not come to terms with the film’s flaws. Having websites out there calling the movie “review-proof” does no-one any favors.

Filming for Justice League is scheduled to start April 11, but Warner Bros. may want to consider stepping on the breaks for a month or two if that it possible. The script of BvS was disjointed and Bruce Wayne appeared to be the only character who was not underdeveloped. Given that the same creative team is working on Justice League, it would be wise to pause, analyze what didn’t work with BvS, and then fix any problems that inadvertently carried over into the current project.

This blog may favor Marvel fare, but I have no desire to see DC properties crash and burn. The superhero genre has plenty of people who are eager for its demise, which is why Warner Bros. needs to right its ship before its too late.

Batman v Superman: Jesse Eisenberg’s Turd Luthor almost destroys film

Batman v Superman

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has arrived. Fans finally get to see the two titans of D.C. Comics square up against on another while simultaneously setting up numerous other movies. Was it good? Was it bad? Does the “Sad Affleck” viral video convey what millions of moviegoers will feel by the end of the weekend? I think that the one thing people will remember 10 years from now about the film is just how big of a turd Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor turned out to be in the D.C. Punch Bowl, but I will try and lay out what worked and what didn’t in bullet points below.

First off, it should be reiterated once again that director Zack Snyder knows how to make a movie look cool. There are scenes that are incredibly gorgeous and he seems to have a great gut instinct for the shots fans want to see — probably because he is a fan. His problem, however, comes from the writing side of the equation. It is glaringly obvious that someone mandated all sorts of things that should have never been in the movie, in part because Hollywood producers have a penchant for being idiots. The script paid the price.

The plot of the movie is fairly straight forward and essentially told in the trailer. Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne both view Superman’s existence on earth a threat to humanity and both pursue a monomaniacal quest to end his life.

Superman struggles with the role he plays living among humans and then a studio-mandated monster is shoehorned into the finale because needlessly spending lots of money somehow translates as “good” to executives in Hollywood (One would think they would learn a thing or two from X-men Origins: Wolverine, but no!) The credits roll and then everyone wonders if there will be an extra scene at the end because that’s what Marvel does. The end.

The question — Is it good? — still remains. First, let us acknowledge what worked:

  • Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and Batman. He put in the time required to succeed, and it showed.
  • Henry Cavill did a fine job as Clark Kent and Superman, even if he took a back seat in what was initially supposed to be his movie.
  • Jeremy Irons makes an excellent Alfred.
  • The fight scenes are exactly what you would expect from the guy who knocked it out of the park with 300

Now, let us cover what did not work:

  • Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is an embarrassment. The entire film is dark and gritty and then he plays Luthor like he drew inspiration from Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever (another Warner Bros. movie that suffered because it had too much going on, among its many other problems). Worse, the ominous music that plays when he’s on screen — juxtaposed with his goofy performance — reminded me of the “Large Marge” scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Any scene with Eisenberg that was supposed to be dramatic was not because he wasn’t believable as a Superman-worthy villain.
  • The movie was disjointed. Luthor should have been a serious businessman and there was absolutely no need for him to create Doomsday. The way it all unfolded was cringeworthy, which again begs the question: Was it Synder’s fault or studio-mandated? I will give Synder the benefit of the doubt since he stuck to his guns on Watchmen and wisely changed the ending for its film adaptation.
  • Batman v Superman was too long. There was a good 30 minutes that could have been cut from the film if they weren’t trying so hard to set up Justice League.

Jesse Eisenberg

In short, Batman v Superman is the classic case of “What might have been.” Parts of it are good. Parts of it are excellent. Unfortunately, some of it is just bad. In fact, just looking at Jesse Eisenberg’s face right now makes me shake my head in disgust. It’s not as bad as the time he likened San Diego Comic Con to “genocide” (yes, seriously), but it’s pretty bad.

I recommend seeing Batman v Superman to long-time fans because the impossible was made possible. For a kid who grew up in the 80s, I cannot help but feel as though this generation is spoiled rotten when it comes to cinematic superhero fare. See the film, but know that you will also walk away frustrated at the wasted potential.

It wasn’t your fault this time, Ben. Really. It wasn’t.

Editor’s Note: Check out Hube’s take over at The Colossus of Rhodey.

Geoff Johns’ ‘Flashpoint’: Time travel done right

Flashpoint2

It is a rare thing indeed for a guy who gravitates almost exclusively to Marvel fare to read a book by DC comics, let alone one featuring The Flash. Your friendly neighborhood blogger recently checked out 2011’s Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and was impressed. (Regular readers will note that I was not thrilled with his introduction of Simon Baz in 2012.)

Flashpoint1

I am generally not fond of alternate-universe tales where heroes have become darker versions of their normal selves. With Flashpoint, however, Johns enters territory that was superbly explored by Rian Johnson’s Looper in 2012. When my wife and I watched Looper she asked, “If I was murdered and you could go back in time to stop the person who did it, would you?” My answer: No.

Flashpoint asks the same question, with Barry Allen having no clue that in an attempt to save his own mother’s life he inadvertently created a much darker world than he could have ever imagined.

The challenge for Barry throughout the book is to a.) figure out how he woke up in this new world — where his mother is alive, Bruce Wayne died instead of his father, and Wonder Woman’s Amazons are at war with Aquaman’s Atlanteans — and b.) how to make it right.

Looper

Where things get tricky for readers like me, who are somewhat indifferent towards Flash’s history, is judging a book where writers took liberties with his origin. A friend of mine told me that historically Allen became a cop just because he was a good guy — not because his mother was murdered by the Reverse Flash.

While it is odd to imply heroes need to experience tragedy in order to prompt them to fight evil, in this case Johns inoculates himself from a lot of criticism by simply writing a good story.

Flashpoint3

The final thing to note about Flashpoint is that its ending is amazing. There is an incredibly powerful scene with Bruce Wayne that makes the $17 price of the trade paper back worth every penny. The emotional impact of the moment can only be appreciated by reading the whole book — and for that Johns should be applauded.

If you get a chance, then check out Flashpoint. It’s a product worth adding to your comic library.

Editor’s Note: If you haven’t seen Looper, then make time to do so. Director Rian Johnson is the guy who will bring Star Wars fans Episode VIII

Zack Snyder’s ‘nightmare’ sneak: Scowling Superman terrifies

Superman nightmare

Zack Snyder has released a new “Batman v Superman – Exclusive Sneak” for the upcoming movie, and it is frightening. The “nightmare” clip begins with Batman trapped in a desert bunker manned by some sort of shock troops loyal to Superman. The Man of Steel arrives at the remote location and approaches his prisoner with a scowl normally seen by the Dark Knight.

Batman nightmare

Yes, it is possible to make Batman wet his pants. Bruce Wayne is righteously terrified (hence, the nightmare). Imagine a man with the power of a god — unaccountable to no one and restricted only by his own definition of right and wrong. Would the world hope and pray that this “superman’s” moral compass had a lifetime warranty, or would they not want to chance it and find a way to destroy him?

Superman scowl nightmare

Nations around the world would only tolerate Superman’s existence as long as there were equal or greater threats out there that he could defend them from. Leaders would jockey to win his allegiance. Wars would be fought because of him, and in the end it is entirely plausible that he would finally succumb to the temptation to end the madness by declaring himself our global king.

Batman v Superman nightmare

Some fans are already bemoaning the movie and its depiction of “nightmare” Superman, even though it won’t even be in theaters for another four months.

Perhaps the most hilarious feedback came from Dan Slott — the guy who “killed” Peter Parker for over a year and then put Doctor Octopus behind the mask.

He said: “I’d rather have a Superman who inspires and gives people hope — and not a dark & gritty alien who inspires fear.”

Dan Slott Superman

The lack of self-awareness is astounding. Replace “Superman” with “Spider-Man” and “alien” with “Doctor Octopus” and then ask him how he has the gall to critique Snyder. But I digress.

Online critics who are oddly upset that Henry Cavill will not become a Christopher Reeve simulacrum are missing the point: Synder has elevated great characters to their well-deserved mythological status. He is exploring big ideas about larger-than-life characters. To do the movie justice (no pun intended), he can’t be beholden to some idealized version of Superman that simply would not work in the cinematic universe Warner Bros. has created.

Whether you’re on Team Snyder or a Team Slott, let me know what you think in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you think.

Batman #44: Bruce Wayne and readers beaten with racial guilt baton

Batman 44

Last month Superman: Action Comics #42 took on police brutality, which meant it wasn’t long before Batman gave it a go. DC Comics is back at the political activism again, although it appears Batman #44 is a much stronger product thanks to writers Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello.

As I have said in the past, the fact that writers insert their personal politics into their stories doesn’t bother me — it’s that industry activism operates along a one-way street.

The latest issue of Batman alludes to the deaths of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City, but when will DC Comics write an issue inspired by the Officer Down Memorial Page or the many cops killed in gunfire each year? Don’t hold your breath.

Here is what Bleeding Cool had to say about Batman #44:

Throughout the story’s twists and turns, and there are several, certain themes begin to emerge that prove to be compelling and thought provoking. As Batman follows his line of investigation, he begins to discover that true culpability, however far removed, may ultimately rest with none other than Bruce Wayne. It’s an interesting commentary on the notion of vigilantism in general, as the genuinely well-meaning effort to rebuild Gotham undertaken by Wayne inadvertently create issues that he must confront as Batman.

And all those years ago Bruce’s parents were responsible for their own murders, right DC Comics?

Batman 44 Penguin

Here is what Emma Houxbois of the Rainbow Hub blog told The Guardian:

“The issue is ‘unprecedented’ in how the authors ‘make race, and the impact on black children in specific, central’ to Snyder’s four-year reimagining of Gotham as “a place that reflects all of the most urgent issues facing contemporary urban populations, like the destruction of public services, using prisons to house the mentally ill, militarization of police forces, and large scale gentrification in the wake of natural disasters.’ The story holds not just Batman but the book’s ‘white readers accountable for their complicity in the real-world situations that the comic analogizes”.

There we go. The truth finally comes out. Again. White readers must be repeatedly flogged for “complicity” in … out of wedlock births and black-on-black crime in places like Chicago and Detroit.

Somehow, someway, when I enlisted in the military years ago and was on a field training exercise in Germany I managed to create the “real world situations” now tearing Chicago apart. Weird.

Somehow, someway, when I was working the overnight shift at Target stocking shelves while putting myself through college I was sowing the seeds for violence on the streets of Brooklyn. Odd.

But how does Snyder feel? He tells The Guardian of officer Ned Howler’s decision to shoot teenager Peter Duggio:

“Of course you want Batman to beat this officer up, and be like, ‘How could you?’ But the point of the issue is that wouldn’t solve the problem. Batman throwing the officer off a roof, or throwing the officer in jail, it wouldn’t get to the heart of the matter at all. And that’s the thing I think is ultimately infuriating.”

And let us not forget the issue begins with a young black child, shot in the stomach and dying in the street, rendered food “for the crows.”

Batman 44DC

On one level I respect DC Comics for putting sharp writers on a book as important as Batman, but at the same time I resent the industry’s relentless attempts to shove activist propaganda down its readers’ throats. I refuse to buy a product that is specifically designed to flog me over the head with a racial guilt baton.

Are there bad cops out there? Sure. But most of them are good people. It is highly ironic that the same people who are complaining of being negatively painted with broad brushstrokes in the media do the same thing to law enforcement personnel, but I digress.

The next time you read a story about police brutality in a Marvel or DC Comics product, be sure to ask yourself if the writers and editors have deputized themselves society’s Thought Police. When you do, you will better parry and counter their ideological beatings.

‘Batman v Superman’ trailer: Zack Snyder goes were Marvel Studios fears to tread

Batman v Superman 911The Batman v Superman trailer is out, and one thing is obvious: Zack Synder is going with a level of realism that Marvel Studios has shown no desire to duplicate. Anyone who lived through the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will not be able to see Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne engulfed in dust and debris without thinking of that day. If they decide to accept the director’s decision, then they can appreciate what the visual does for the story — while everyone else sprints away from the carnage, Bruce Wayne hurls himself head first into the chaos. That is the kind of bravery (bordering on psychosis) a man would need for him to seriously attempt to challenge Superman.

Batman v Superman flyThere are plenty of valid criticisms that could be made of Mr. Synder’s DC Universe, but it is hard to deny that his Superman exudes raw power. When he is on the screen, he demands respect. The argument that his costume is dated and cheesy just doesn’t fly (no pun intended), because if you can be led to believe that a character possesses the power to exterminate the entire human race, then you will respect him in almost any outfit.

Batman v Superman desertThe strength Superman wields is what will (understandably) cause Bruce Wayne to fear the alien and, at least for a portion of the film, seek to destroy him.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor telegraphs exactly what “Batman versus Superman” is about:

“Black and blue. God versus man. Day versus night.”

If a man had the power of a god — but he wasn’t God — wouldn’t he have to be destroyed? The same question would, of course, apply to a … Wonder Woman.

Batman v Superman Wonder WomanMarvel Studios has a track record of making great movies, but for the most part it has shied away from the level of realism embraced by Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and Zack Synder’s “Man of Steel.” Both kinds of movies can happily exist in the summertime blockbuster market, but Marvel’s problem is that there are only so many times the world can be demolished in a shared cinematic universe before the cotton candy-ish tone seems weird. Perhaps Marvel Studio’s “Civil War” will finally address that problem, but as of now DC has the pole position on superhero fare that makes an audience think about real-world issues.

If you plan on seeing “Batman v Superman,” then let me know what you think about the trailer or anything else related to the movie in the comments section below.