FanExpo Toronto 2018 – DC Nation Panel

FAN EXPO Canada is the largest Comics, Sci-Fi, Horror, Anime, and Gaming event in Canada and the 3rd largest Pop Culture event in North America.

Celebrating its 24th year, FAN EXPO Canada has grown from a small comic book convention attracting 1,500 fans into a multi-faceted, 4-day citywide event that attracts over 129,000 people from around the world.

The DC NATION is back and better than ever! Don’t miss out as DC Publisher Dan DiDio hosts this all-star gathering with Scott Snyder (Justice League, Swamp Thing), Tom King (Batman, Mister Miracle), Jock (All Star Batman), Greg Capullo (Dark Nights: Metal), and Jason Fabok (The Man of Steel) talking and teasing upcoming stories!

FanExpo: https://www.fanexpocanada.com/en/abou…

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Superman Returns (2006) – Movie Review

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Like many other people, the character of Superman has always been a firm favourite of mine dating back to my childhood. Christopher Reeve’s Superman made me believe a man could fly, with the light-hearted ‘Lois and Clark’ series seeing me through the Nineties.

‘Superman Returns’ is set five years after Christopher Reeve’s ‘Superman II’ (thankfully ignoring the events in the lacklustre ‘Superman III and IV’). Superman, after five years of searching for the remains of his home planet Krypton, has returned to Earth to resume his life as Clark Kent only to find things moved on without him. Lois Lane is now mother to five-year-old son Jason and engaged to Perry White’s nephew Richard. She is also thoroughly disenchanted with Superman although it soon becomes clear there is much unresolved feelings between the two. But between juggling his conflicting emotions for Lois and his duties to protecting the population, Superman has to face his arch-enemy Lex Luthor, who has stolen the crystals from the Fortress of Solitude and is intent on using them to rule the world.

It was never going to be easy Brandon Routh to step into Christopher Reeve’s shoes but he takes it in his stride, managing to capture the bumbling but kindly nature of Clark and the strong, reserved demeanour of a Superman who strives to find a balance between his alien heritage and the life he has made for himself on Earth. He makes the role his own yet does well in succeeding where Reeve left off. Kate Bosworth was also another surprise. I was very disappointed in her casting initially but seeing her perform in the film left me realising that she was perfect for the job as she portrays the cocky and determined yet vulnerable Lois to a tee. Kevin Spacey was great as the obsessive, slightly unhinged Luthor who possesses a real hatred for our hero while Parker Posey gave us a nicely-portrayed ‘shades of grey’ character in Kitty, a villain with a heart. Even the little moppet who played Jason gave a decent performance without being wooden or grating.

What I loved most about the film is that it delivered an interesting storyline that didn’t reject the first two ‘Superman’ films, which are classics in the heart of any Superman fan and had already done a good job in covering the origins story. But at the same time, it didn’t shirk in giving us deeper insights into the character of Superman, the solitary hero and the man who just wants to fit in. What was a pleasant surprise was that the film also refused to dumb down to small children in the audience, which is a growing problem with many Hollywood films that over-dose on infantile humour to appeal to kids resulting in boredom for anyone over fourteen. There was humour, some on a level to make children laugh, but overall there was a nice mix of action, romance and darkness aimed more at an older audience. They even avoid the clichéd pitfall of portraying Lois’ love interest to be a sanctimonious twit and instead he came across as a genuinely nice guy who shows that it’s understandable why she has problems choosing between him and Superman

In fact, my only real problem was that there wasn’t enough interaction between Lois and Clark, which would have been nice as Clark’s jealousy towards his alter-ego and the attention Lois lavishes on him is a large part of the story yet in the film, you felt as if Clark and Superman really were two different people with Clark just being some rather random guy. However, it can be over-looked by the fact that Clark was so happy to just have Lois’ attention that he didn’t care whether it was projected onto himself in his real personality or on Superman.

For anyone who has yet to see the film, I do recommend it and don’t allow yourself to be put off by nitpickers complaining about the actors’ being too young (better they be a shade on the younger side than going the ‘Smallville’ route where you have adults in their late twenties and thirties prancing around pretending to be teens and just looking ridiculous for it) or that the film is too long (even the eight-year-olds in the audience sat quietly, glued to the screen, for the entire film) or that it’s bland (no more so than ‘Spiderman’). I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

9 out of 10 stars

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Justice League: War (2014) – Movie Review

DC’s “New 52”. Love it or hate it, it is here to stay. So strong is this line wide continuity reboot that it has now entered the realm of animation in the form of JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR. Adapting the first volume of Geoff John’s and Jim Lee’s graphic novel “Justice League: Origins”, WAR is a brisk animated superhero blockbuster, heavy on action and snappy dialogue. Compared to the bleak and morally ambiguous FLASHPOINT PARADOX, WAR returns an element of fun to DC’s superheroes by crafting a tradition, clear cut “Good versus evil” tale.

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and more. Superpowered beings have only recently made their presence known to a suspicious world. Admired by some, but feared by most, they struggle for acceptance while fighting the good fight. A typical night on the job turns into a conflict of epic proportions when Batman and Green Lantern uncover evidence of a clandestine operation carried out by techno organic aliens. Superman gets roped in due to his alien origins and an experiment gone wrong leads to the metamorphosis of Vic Stone into a techno organic “Cyborg”. All this culminates in a full scale invasion, pulling in the likes of Wonder Woman, The Flash and Shazam, who just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Facing down the invasion forces the squabbling heroes to set aside their differences and work together.

Perhaps the best part of such superhero team ups is to see how the heroes play off each other. Thanks to an expertly written script and fine acting, our characters share memorable moments of dialogue punctuated with wit and a bit of humour. It feels like Marvel’s AVENGERS only that the humour is more controlled, more witty, and less outright comedy.

Miraculously, with so many heroes, our script gives ample development to the characters and fleshes most of them out perfectly. Cyborg’s tension with his father, Green Lantern’s over confidence in his power and Wonder Woman as the stranger in a strange land are a treat to watch. All the characters are played by an excellent bunch of actors who ease right into their roles. Special mention goes to young Zach Callison who nails Billy Batson as a streetwise but insecure kid, hiding his insecurities behind a showboating little tough guy act. Little sub-plots lend meat to the story such as Cyborg and Shazam’s issue with trust, Green Lantern learning some humility, and a budding romance between Superman and Wonder Woman. Superman himself however is a big letdown. His simplistic dialogue, and muscle bound design makes him seem like a clueless one dimensional bruiser.

Of course, what would a good superhero movie be without action? In JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR, the action is intense and wild. Featuring a soundtrack that combines orchestral fanfare with some sinister sounding synths, essentially makes JUSTICE LEAGUE WAR sound more like the sci/fi invasion flick that it is than a traditional superhero movie. Legions of parademons storm the major cities of the world while their leader Darkseid personally confronts the heroes. Moi Animation studio brings their best to the fight scenes. The animation is smooth and dynamic, yet the level of detail remains constant. Director Jay Olivia, who also directed the superman slugfest SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY shows off some beautiful combat scenes, including a cool first-person sequence from the point of view of Wonder Woman slicing her way through a horde.

Unfortunately, the slower scenes in the movie show off some areas where the animation is lacking. With TV shows like Young Justice and Legend of Korra, the art detail in this movie is barely any better than that in the aforementioned TV series. Then there is the ubiquitous CGI used to render vehicles and parademon hordes in the background. They clash rather obviously with the 2D art, a true crime when others shows can successfully integrate cel shaded CGI into the traditional 2D animation. Some character designs are also just as iffy. While most of the characters look fantastic, with a slight Japanese anime touch, Superman looks like a dumb beefcake. Not that his simplistic dialogue helps this impression. His face is too wide, his shoulders are huge, nothing at all like the sleek and handsome Jim Lee art in the original graphic novel

And that is perhaps the greatest sin this movie commits. In touting itself as an adaptation, it makes many unnecessary changes from the original comic. Polarising your audience is never a good thing. Fans of the comic would be turned off by the changes. Not that JUSTICE LEAGUE WAR is not a good movie, it is. It succeeds in re-introducing these well known characters in a new light, and in setting up a whole new universe for subsequent animated movies to be set in. As a pilot film, not bad. But perhaps with the critical acclaim that the graphic novel got, it should not have been too much to expect more advanced animation techniques and better character designs that were closer to the comic art.

DC now has it’s New animated movie universe up and running. With a slew of great stories to tap on like THRONE OF ATLANTIS, COURT OF OWLS, ROTWORLD, DEATH OF THE FAMILY etc, here’s hoping DC puts a bit more love into the next one.

 

7 out of 10 stars

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Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015) – Movie Review

Continuing the DC New 52 shared universe initiated by JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR, we have the long awaited Aquaman origin story in JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS. This movie, loosely adapts the second major arc of Geoff John’s critically acclaimed “Justice League” comic run. Like its predecessor, THRONE OF ATLANTIS does some major changes to the story to fit the animation medium. The most drastic change would be Aquaman’s hero’s journey from a lost wanderer finding his true calling in the world.

As the newly christened “Justice League” investigate a mysterious attack against a nuclear submarine, we get glimpse into the life of one Arthur Curry. Grieving the loss of his father, the directionless Arthur has turned to drowning his sorrows and talking to lobsters. Just another drunken bum wandering the harbour. Or is he? As a fight with some thugs show, Arthur is more than human, boasting incredible strength, invulnerability, and able to mentally communicate with ocean life. Destiny, it seems, is not without a sense of convenience.

It seems that Arthur is the heir to the throne of Atlantis, the legendary underwater city, and the death of Atlantis’ king (as shown in Justice League: War) forces Arthur to realise his birthright. While some see him as the solution to peace between two worlds, his half brother Orm desires only vengeance against the surface world. As tensions mount, a coup from within sparks all out war; a war that only the Justice League can stop.

I’ve said it before that DC and WB Animation’s latest line of movies feel like Justice League in the tone of Marvel’s Avengers. THRONE OF ATLANTIS continues that but starts to carve out its own identity. The forced humour is toned down a lot but the show still keeps its upbeat sense of superhero fun. The chemistry among the cast is impeccable thanks to the voice direction of veteran Andrea Romero.

Some of the more questionable voices from the previous movie (Alan Tudyk as Superman, Justin Kirk as Green Lantern) are replaced with better sounding actors. Nathan Fillon is definitely a welcome choice to reprise his Green Lantern role and Jerry “Sliders” O’Connell takes over as Superman. On the antagonist side is Prince Orm, voiced by Sam “Starkiller” Witwer, who may be the most deliciously over-the-top villain in animation since the 90s Street Fighter cartoon’s M Bison played by Richard Newman.

For all the natural sounding dialogue and spot on acting, THRONE OF ATLANTIS feels a bit too bloated with too much plot in too little time. As a result, the central character of Arthur Curry is criminally underdeveloped. His story takes some cues from the live action MAN OF STEEL movie but due to a lack of focus, you never really get into his head or his personality. He goes from a man whose life is in a mess, without direction or resolve, to a natural born leader with strength of character and charisma. Also within a single day.

Take away the opening and closing credits and this movie has just over an hour worth of content; Underdeveloped content, but beautifully drawn and animated content. Both artwork and animation takes a step up from the last instalment. The art is decently detailed even in the tightest action scenes.

Director Ethan Spaulding add some nice stylistic touches to the footage giving underwater scenes a slightly off-focused blurred looked and doing some marvellous work on lighting and shadows. Character designs are less exaggerated than before (Superman shaved off a few pounds) and hew quite closely to Jim Lee’s New 52 look.

THRONE OF ATLANTIS earns its right to be called a movie thanks to the exceedingly smooth animation of Moi Studios in Korea. Every fight is fully choreographed and animated without short cuts. The part with Aquaman and Mera facing off against the savage “Trenchers” before the Justice League arrive is just spectacular to behold.

It isn’t perfect though and some animation errors do creep in. There is a scene in a bar where Arthur orders another drink. He raises his hand and freezes there with his mouth wide open but the dialogue carries on. Then there is the attack on the lighthouse where the Atlantean lasers are clearly not hitting where they are aiming at. And I just have to mention the aftermath of the torpedo attack against Atlantis where the smoke and debris are so badly composited on the background that they look like long floating turds.

But hey, I am nitpicking here. And it would not be fair to penalise the whole show for a few visual oversights. That being said, JUSTICE LEAGUE THRONE OF ATLANTIS may have been a more enjoyable experience had it been more focused on Aquaman and his origin story. His is an intriguing tale to tell but it ends up being rushed through.

At least DC has succeeded in bringing the Aquaman character out of the public opinion rut he has experienced since his days in Superfriends. I want to see more of Arthur Curry, and not relegated to a supporting role in the Justice League. Here’s hoping that the character gets the solo animated movie that fans like me are dying to see.

 

7 out of 10 stars

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Comic Book Review – Final Crisis: New Edition (collecting issues 1 to 7) – 2008

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Ok. The usual disclaimer here: this review may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t read the series then it may be best to skip the main body of this review until you have.

Created by Grant Morrison, J G Jones, Carlos Pacheco plus others, it is……..just about okay. To be honest, it’s not that great. It has some good ideas, the concepts and narrative are quite brilliant, but the execution/delivery is poor and scattered, which makes it an odd read at times.

Let me explain.

Grant Morrison’s writing style is challenging to completely grasp at times. He’s sometimes so abstract, you’re not sure exactly what you’re reading. He tends to use quite a bit of foreshadowing, and when coupled with non-linear story telling it means that the series or story arc is best consumed in one sitting versus monthly or periodic installments. So, if you do decide to read this series, it’s best to do it in one sitting.

I read this series back in 2008 when it first came out and felt, like everyone, that Grant could do no wrong. I mean, he’s one of the top comic book writers of all time and he has written some great iconic stories, however this is not one of them. I really wanted to like it at the time of first reading, and it wasn’t until I read the series again recently that I was able to weight the story on its own merits.

I liked the exploration of the New Gods as an idea; their fall from Heaven to Earth after a war between Good and Evil, only to be planted in normal humans as an idea that grows and evolves, transforming the person into the respective New God. I loved the concept of delivering the anti-life equation through electronic media to infect and ultimately subjugate the Earth’s population with an idea. It’s so close to what is going on today with social media and the whole SJW culture that is infecting everything (to the point of it being detrimental). That Grant could see this as a possibility back in 2008 is brilliant on his part.

I also liked the deconstruction of the heroes, the way that he dispatched the super heroes so that the New Gods could infect and subjugate the populace.

Beyond that, it’s just weird. Libra acts as the Prophet for the coming of the New Gods by evangelizing and organising the super villains into one group to provide support for their arrival, and then he disappears in the second half of the story.

Superman and Batman are dispatched early on and then you don’t see them again until the final issue. Superman’s absence is odd and not fully explained, just briefly referenced when he reappears at the end of the series. And that’s really my problem with the story, there isn’t a central character or set of characters which carry the narrative and can be used to revolve the story around. It would have been better to tell the story from the villain’s perspective by making them the central characters.

I also wasn’t keen on the story pacing. Long arcs dedicated to Mary Marvel, without showing how she was corrupted, fighting the uninfected heroes, Supergirl in particular, I thought was unnecessary and didn’t really move the story along at all. I mean seeing these two square off against each other is fun, but maybe that should have been used for a supporting one-off story in it’s own separate book.

All that said, it is worth a read. It does have some really neat concepts, but it ultimately falls flat and fails to connect.

3 out of 5 stars.

 

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