Having lived in Africa for quite a few years, I was a bit torn with this film. Overall it was an enjoyable experience, but it wasn’t perfect in my opinion and while its popularity cannot be denied, there were definitely issues with it in my opinion.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) really showed their creative genius with the backstory of Wakanda, a mythical nationalist African state ruled by a monarch. King T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, holds the Black Panther title, a role he had trained for since childhood. He rules supreme over Wakanda, a walled and isolated country which is the sole possessor of Vibranium.  Black Panther is challenged by Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, his cousin and eligible heir who disputes the country’s isolationist policies. The movie is action packed with awesome sci-fi tech and weapons although the humor is a bit forced and doesn’t blend in as well as in other Marvel movies.

Nationalist theme and cultural identity

For centuries, Wakanda has been closed off from the rest of the world as it is fully walled off, doesn’t accept immigrants or refugees, has stayed uncolonized and is completely composed of black Wakandan citizens. Vibranium is a revolutionary technology harvested from a meteorite and is used in making weapons and armored vehicles, but the Wakandans aren’t sharing it with other countries.

The film also has a huge presence of black people and women who are usually supporting characters in other Marvel superhero movies. Black Panther has set off the alt-right group who are using it as the latest example of how Hollywood is trying to force SJW agendas down their throats. Leftists, on the other hand, are elated about how the movie embraces diversity, African-American pride, and blabber on about how Wakanda is the epitome of a fully-fledged Trump-style administration. Basically, it has all the ingredients needed to spark a national debate and generate hype for a long time to come. In fact, it is already the all-time most talked about movie on Twitter. But see, that’s where I have some issues. I’ve lived in Zambia and Zimbabwe and the portrayal of Africans as monolithic is something I can’t really get behind. They talk about and show other African nations as poor and downtrodden (and they are) but they have some decent cities and South Africa especially has cities on par with anything in the Western World.

Storyline and writing

First off, this is the first Marvel movie in ten years to feature a non-white male lead actor. It is a good sign of things to come, and we can expect more of this from Marvel. Secondly, Wakanda represents a powerful nation with a rich African heritage that is untouched by Western influence.

The director, Ryan Coogler, gives King T’Challa an African accent and N’Jadaka/ Killmonger is given an American accent to show the animosity between Black-Americans and Africans. It is interesting how local conversations are done in Xhosa, a South African dialect, yet Wakanda is located somewhere between the D.R.C and East African countries. Kiswahili, Kikongo or Lingala would have played right into the geographical position.

** SPOILERS **

Upon King T’Chaka’s death, T’Challa returns home to claim the throne and pulls out his ex-lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) from an undercover operation to attend his coronation ceremony. Nakia’s mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) are also in attendance. Erik Stevens and Klaue steal a Wakandan aircraft from a London museum, and W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) who is T’Challa’s best friend and Okoye’s (Danai Gurira) lover convinces the king to take revenge. Later on, King T’Challa is challenged by M’Baku (Winston Duke), leader of the Jabari tribe, to customary hand-to-hand combat for the crown. M’Baku is defeated, but his life is spared; he repays this gesture by providing refuge for Shuri, Ramonda and healing T’Challa when he was fatally injured.

** SPOILERS **

Missing the mark?

The main antagonist, N’Jadaka, who is opposed to Wakanda’s customs, is willing to share Vibranium with outside forces including Ulysses Klaue. Ryan Coogler, however, missed the mark when he portrayed him as a pro-imperialist character who signs up for the U.S. Special Forces to fight in the Middle East. Although this is explained as N’Jadaka’s strategy to get combat training and challenge the Black Panther, it just doesn’t cut it. Killmonger comes off as a tragic hero and a victim rather than a ruthless and scary villain. To give him credit though, he plays the part well; a villain who has a personal agenda against the hero and not some crazy world domination scheme like Bond villains.

Pitting a black superhero against his kin (literally) dismisses the rhetoric of black-good, white-bad that was expected by most. There is also the issue of Marvel’s ambiguity about the capabilities of Vibranium which according to them can be used to create almost everything. Forest Whitaker (Zuri) dies too soon without establishing any real connection with the audience or even King T’Challa for that matter. Additionally, not much was shown about the Wakandan’s way of life or where they stand amidst the conflict since most of the film focuses on the main characters. Coogler really missed the mark with the whole “American colonialists” thing since the U.S. was never a colonial power.

Acting and screenplay

We had previously been introduced to the Black Panther and Wakanda from Captain America: Civil War when he seeks revenge against the orchestrators of the bombing that killed his father. This is good since the story is familiar and interconnected with other events on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). As previously highlighted, Coogler needed the Black Panther to have an African accent to bring out the African roots and background. Chadwick Boseman does his best on the accent, but it removes emphasis on some lines and doesn’t deliver them effectively. Killmonger is also more intimidating when quiet than when speaking since his lines are not well written and don’t pack any punch. It is a little underwhelming especially considering Jordan’s prowess in earlier films like “The Wire”.

There is a considerable amount of hand-to-hand combat, and the action scenes are on point. The movie is chock full of CGI and special effects which has sci-fi fans going bananas. However, Marvel is flogging a dead horse with their good-guy-in-suit vs. bad-guy-in-identical-suit fight which is almost the fifth time we are seeing it from MCU.

Shuri is excellent in combat, and her sword-wielding skills from The Shannara Chronicles are well used. We also get to see the Black Panther chase after cars and blow them up for the second time after the first time in Civil War. All in all, it is a gripping movie that is well laden with humor, action and emotional scenes to keep you on the edge of the seat for the whole screening. I’d give it an 8.5 out of 10 for the fusion of multiple concepts in a new type of superhero movie that we aren’t accustomed to.

Another year has flown by and like always, it’s time to reflect back on the stand out films and comics that came out. 2016 was one of the worst years for films but 2017 ended up being one of the strongest in quite a while. There was no shortage of interesting and exciting films, with some of them meeting expectations and others underwhelming.

The comic book world continued to produce quality stories, but they weren’t quite as good as last years batch of comics. Stay tuned for the list of the best comics of 2017! Nevertheless, there is plenty to talk about and recommend. Without further ado, let’s get right to it and dive in to the Best Films of 2017!

 

10. Dunkirk

People always seem to flock to the theaters whenever Christopher Nolan directs a new film. Whatever your opinion of his work, there’s no denying his singular and creative vision. He almost never repeats himself and he always tries to do something different with each new movie. Dunkirk had a lot of fanfare going in. It’s Nolan’s most simple film, from a story point of view. At it’s core, it’s about survival and everyday heroism. The goal is to make the viewer feel as if they are there, evading the bullets and struggling for breath. At this, the film succeeds in spades.

It’s failings lie in a lack of characterization that leads to the plot, ironically feeling TOO simple. It’s very difficult to care about the characters portrayed in Dunkirk. You might root for them, but it’s hard to care about them. Nolan does play with some interesting time changes, going from the past to the present but it still isn’t enough to elevate the film any further up this list. Still, I’ve never seen a war movie filmed quite like Dunkirk. For it’s innovation and ambition, Dunkirk deserves to be on this list.

 

9. Justice League

Justice League is a film that got a very bad rap and could not recover. Rotten Tomatoes were key in the bad press for Justice League. It did not deserve to be destroyed as harshly as it was. How can Justice League have a score of rotten and Spider-Man 3 have one of fresh!? Either way, it’s important to watch this movie and FORM your own opinion. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot but could you enjoy it? I’d say yes. I know I sure did.

The film greatly improves and undoes some of the damage Batman vs Superman did. Both Batman and Superman, are much better portrayed in this film. Superman especially. Batman actually feels more like the Batman from the Justice League comics, not EXACTLY the same but closer than I expected. Wonder Woman was strong and Cyborg turned out to be the best new character in the film. Aquaman was okay. He wasn’t MY Aquaman but he didn’t offend me either. Flash was probably the weakest and most annoying and yet, I saw his function in the film.

The villain was formidable, but forgettable. The story is a riff on Avengers. Just another alien invasion yada yada, but was it ever fun and entertaining. I may be a bit biased as I am a huge Justice League fan but I actually went in HATING the trailers but came out pleasantly surprised.

 

8. The Founder

This smaller scale film deserves more attention. Its got a great cast of actors who are led by another great performance from Michael Keaton. Keaton plays Ray Kroc, the man responsible for the mega success of McDonald’s. The movie shows just how he came to get control of an idea that was never really his to begin with. Kroc is portrayed as both someone to be admired and someone to be hated. Everyone knows McDonald’s and chances are you’ve eaten there at some point in your life. McDonald’s has always been the most popular and cheapest fast food joint while not always being the healthiest and most respected of them all. The film gives unique insight as to why that might be through the examination of the characters.

Keaton was snubbed at the Golden Globes but may very well get some attention from the Oscars. At the end of the day, The Founder is a movie that is enlightening and informative as it is entertaining and should be watched by anyone with even a remote interest of how the McDonald empire came to be.

7. Wonder Woman

DC was in dire need of a hit after the critical bashing of Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad. Thankfully, Wonder Woman ended up being that hit and even exceeded expectations. Before Star Wars: The Last Jedi took over, Wonder Woman was the highest grossing movie of the year. It seemed to connect with both critics and fans, which is very rare for a DC film. The hype was strong with this one and for good reason. Was it the best movie of the year or the best comic movie of all time?… No. Not at all, but the movie did a lot of things right. Wonder Woman felt like she was supposed to. They didn’t shy away from what makes her the hero she is. Gal Gadot greatly improved her acting and gave Wonder Woman an undeniable charm. She still isn’t the BEST actress but kudos must be given for her performance in the movie. The supporting cast was excellent, led by Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor.

The villain (Ares) should’ve been better and the CGI heavy third act hold back the movie from being a truly excellent film. Still, it was great fun and it honored a character that deserved to have a quality film. After all, Wonder Woman is arguably the biggest female superhero of all time.

6. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Fans finally got to see Spidey in the MCU thanks to Civil War, and now they got to see him in his own film set in the same universe as Thor, Iron Man in co. Iron Man is even in the film. Many times, having a film tied too much to continuity is a bad thing but it works here. The nods to Avengers actually enrich the plot and it’s main villain. That’s right, Marvel actually had a good villain in one of their movies. Michael Keaton plays the Vulture and really made him relatable while still being a credible threat.

Tom Holland plays a younger Spider-Man, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t good. He has a good balance between humor, seriousness and earnestness. The movie has a lot of humor but it didn’t distract. The serious moments were treated with seriousness, meaning you never lost the drama and you always felt the stakes. Spider-Man also had a great character arc. You saw him grow throughout the whole film.

It also paid tribute to the comics with several homages. The movie actually replicates a rather famous scene from Amazing Spider-Man #33. It’s these little touches and more that add to the quality of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Making it dare I say, the best Spider-Man movie of all time?

5. Baby Driver

Baby Driver’s conception came from the unique mind of Edgar Wright, who brought us such films as Hot Fuzz and Shaun of The Dead. It took a lot of his effort, time and money to get this movie done, and the end product showed. Baby Driver may seem oddly similar to 2011’s Driver but it’s execution is much different. It’s certainly a much more hopeful film and has it’s own style. Perhaps not as unique looking as Driver but unique all the same.

The characters really drive this film, no pun intended. Each of them feel interesting and the actors portraying them only make them more mesmerizing. Jaime Foxx steals the movie with his portrayal of the insane Bats. Talk about an appropriate name. The music in the film is really what sets it apart. It’s not just thrown in there as background music. It’s directly tied into the narrative of the film and actually quite necessary. It even has a satisfying and less predictable ending. Baby Driver was a refreshing change of pace from the saturated CGI driven movies that dominate the box office. I urge you to check this out if you enjoy good dialogue, music, cinematography, acting and overall fun.

4. Blade Runner: 2049 & It

 

 

It turned out to be to difficult to choose between these two great films. One an exceptional sequel, and the other a very pleasant surprise.

Blade Runner is a very worthy sequel to the original Blade Runner. More than 30 years later, Harrison Ford reprises his role as Deckard but it’s Ryan Gosling who leads this film. The striking visuals and cinematography ranks right up there with the best films of the year ut above al, the most impressive thing about the film is the story. It’s an engaging and cerebral plot, which forces you to pay attention and think. It had been quite some time since I was as mentally stimulated. Perhaps a bit overlong on time for some people but, I fel that the length was justified.

It was the remake of the classic 90’s film starring Tim Curry, and it improves on nearly everything from the original. Tim Curry is still an inch better as Pennywise the clown. The remake greatly improved the characterization of it’s main cast and executed the story far better than the original. The cast of kids really did a good job. It felt like an R rated Spielberg movie. If you liked Stranger Things it’s a strong possibility that you will enjoy It. Ironically It was a surprise commercial hit while Blade Runner: 2049 under preformed.

3. Logan

Logan was my favorite film of the year for a long time, and it still may very well be. The top three are easily interchangeable in their ranking. I wrote a longer in depth review of Logan early in March which you can read for further analysis.

Logan is Hugh Jackman’s last stint as Wolverine. It’s a gut wrenching, emotionally charged performance that is easily his finest of the whole series of X-Men films. Keep in mind that Hugh Jackman has been Wolverine for more than 15 years!

Logan treats the source material with plenty of maturity, choosing to focus on a small cast and repercussions of a lifetime of violence. It felt more like a western in the vein of Unforgiven rather than another entry in the X-Men cinematic universe. Logan is not just a great comic book film, it’s a great film period.

2. The Shape of Water

Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, may very well be his most impressive film to date. Del Toro states that it’s his most personal film that he’s most proud of. The film has been a critical success throughout the year. Getting attention at various film fests and taking in 7 Golden Globe nominations along the way.

At first glance it’s a tough sell for many movie goers. After all, we are talking about a mute woman in love with a lizard/aquatic monster. Look past your initial trepidation and you will appreciate a truly beautiful film.The Shape of Water is a very original take on the familiar tale of love & loss. Don’t be fooled, the film does have a hopeful message despite some of the tragic nature of the story. The visuals are fantastic and really take you back to America during the height of the cold war. The entire cast is outstanding, with Sally Hawkins leading the way as Elisa, a mute woman that works in a secret government laboratory where she meets the “monster”. She communicates throughout the whole film in American Sign Language. Hawkins went through careful research for her role, making sure she could accurately portray someone who only spoke Sign Language, and it shows.

Michael Shannon played the main antagonist in the film and you WILL hate him, he’s that good. Kudos must be given to Doug Jones for portraying the creature with humanity and making you care about him. The script is phenomenal, especially the dialogue but all these things have to be credited to the director Guillermo Del Toro. Without his hand at the wheel, the film would not be what it is.

1. War For The Planet of The Apes

The Planet of The Apes trilogy has to be given its due as arguably the most constant trilogy of all time. There really isn’t a weak entry in the series. Dawn of The Planet of The Apes blew my mind and set the bar high for the sequel. Like The Shape of Water, War For The Planet of The Apes is more than what it appears to be at first glance. Yes, there are Apes riding on horses and wielding machine guns but that’s not what should define your opinion of the film. There’s a deep story there with relevant and timely themes. It is determined to have a message and not just be an action movie with no brains. If you look carefully, you will find a lot of subtle commentary on various social issues that still exist today. It’s daring portrayal of the apes should also be commended. Most of Apes rely heavily on using Sign Language and physical acting to communicate their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Any Serkis must be given credit for the incredible acting he continues to deliver as Caesar. I am continually surprised as to how much he conveys through his CGI characters. War For The Planet of The Apes can be bleak but it’s a rewarding and unforgettable viewing experience that is a fitting end to a fantastic trilogy.

There you have it! let’s hope that 2018 shapes up to be as good a year as 2017.

 

 

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s been seventeen years since Hugh Jackman first suited up to play Wolverine/ Logan. I remarked to a friend of mine that Hugh Jackman had been Wolverine one year longer than we had been friends. That said, I knew it was going to be bittersweet seeing him pop his claws as Wolverine one last time.

When I heard there would be a third and final Wolverine movie I was cautiously optimistic. After all, the horrible Wolverine: Origins movie was still fresh in my mind. Then the trailer for Logan came out and I was officially excited. It had such a fitting finality to it. I felt that this last movie would be something special. Let’s see if the filmmakers gave Wolverine a proper send off.

 

Story:

At first glance I thought that Logan would be a loose adaptation of the comic Old Man Logan, but it’s really not. Some fans might argue that parts of it are but I find it easier to simply treat the film as it’s own thing, it helps to curtail expectations and comparisons.

Logan is more of a western and drama rather than a superhero film. Even without going into the story, the film’s look, landscape and score helps to illustrate the point. Logan’s focus is really more on character rather than anything else. This isn’t a big ensemble cast of characters. On the contrary, there are very few main characters and it really explores Wolverine/ Logan more than any other film before it.  Logan himself, is in a bad place in almost every way at the start of this film. He’s seemingly lost everything he held dear in his life, including the X-men. He lives only to take care of a senile and dangerous Charles Xavier. Logan drives a limo to make ends meet in the day and he drinks as much as he can by night. One day their world gets shaken upside down when Charles learns of the existence of a new mutant. Without spoiling too much more, things get more complicated from there.

It’s a fine story that dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s, and yet you may find the plot unremarkable. Perhaps the creators could’ve taken a few more chances and stayed closer to the source material but as I stated before, it’s a character piece. The movie is not interested in presenting a mind bending plot. It’s more concerned in presenting a human story that you feel. Of course it helps if you’ve enjoyed watching the character as long as some fans have but it works as a standalone film too. It has a lot of quiet moments that are really quite touching. In fact, I was surprised how emotional it was by the end of it. It also did a fairly good job of feeling very contemporary, especially with the parallels the climax of the film makes with a few issues facing North America and the rest of the world.

The story also introduced one of the most promising new characters the X-men franchise has had in years in X-23. She should be a fine addition to the franchise should they decide to continue forward with more X-men films in the future.

 

 

Action:

If the red and trailer was any indication, we knew Logan would be a different affair thanks to it’s R rating, and it when it did not disappoint. The action was brutal and exhilarating. The filmmakers did not hold back on this one and finally gave hungry Wolverine fans the kind of action they have been wishing for on the big screen. You don’t have to wait long for it either. The opening scene lets you know just how violent this movie is going to be. Some might find it gratuitous but I did not because the film does a good job of showing just what that level of violence can do to a person. I suspect that the action in the film  is sure to please fans more than casual moviegoers but it remains one of the many highlights of the film nevertheless. I can safety say that it has the best Wolverine fight scenes of all time.

 

Villain:

Here is where I would’ve like the creators to have stuck much closer to the source material. Not to say that the villain/ villains were bad. Not at all. The Reavers Turned out to be some pretty sadistic and messed up individuals but I longed for more from the source material. I felt the film wasn’t terribly interested in having a big imposing enemy that needed to be explored. They chose to focus on Logan and his relationships more. They did that very well so I give the filmmakers a bit of leeway for neglecting it’s main villain.

 

Acting:

Another of the film’s greatest strengths is the performances from it’s gifted actors. It’s nearly impossible to care about the characters if the performances aren’t good, especially since the film relies so strongly on character. Hugh Jackman definitely steps up his game and provides his finest performance as Logan/Wolverine. With so much emphasis on him he had to bring his A game and he did not disappoint. There are so many peaks and valleys to his performance on display and he nails all of them. His savagery and his vulnerability is felt on every level, a truly excellent piece of work for Hugh Jackman.

Patrick Stewart is no slouch either. His portrayal of Charles Xavier is spot on. Heartfelt and poignant. It was also bittersweet to know that this is his last ride on the X-men train as well. I must give full praise to the standout performance by newcomer Dafne Keen who played X-23. She was wonderful. Often times you never know what kind of quality you’re going to get from actors that young but she was another bright spot in the cast. She may have had the hardest task in the movie if you analyze her character after watching the film.

 

 

Conclusion:

Logan ends up being an excellent farewell for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. It’s certainly the best solo Wolverine movie of all time and it may even end up being the best of the X-men universe. Time will tell after repeated viewings. The one thing I loved most aout this film is that it gets Wolverine/ Logan, all sides of him. He’s brutal when he needs to be and he’s vulnerable as well. It understands that no matter what, he’s relentless in doing what he has to in order to protect the ones he loves. He may fail but he’ll try til his last breath.

If you’ve ever been on the fence about a Wolverine movie then this is the one to check out. I would encourage non superhero fans to watch this film above all others. It’s got everything ranging from excellent characterization, action, emotion, heart, and even humor. It’s a gem to look at too.

I will say that I was moved by the film and was sad to say goodbye to Hugh Jackman but all good things come to an end. There’s nothing left to say but thank you. He stuck with this character through thick and thin and ended things on his terms. All my respect to Mr. Jackman. It’s going to be tough to replace him as Wolverine in the hearts of many fans. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to go see a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen.

You da man Hugh!!

 

They always say  ” never judge a book by it’s cover”, and while that’s proven to be true on many an occasion this installment is about the latter. More specifically, judging the cover itself.

What makes a great cover? Is it the art? The artist? The action? The drama? The significance? All these factors do indeed contribute to the long lasting appeal to any comic book cover. Sometimes I want a ton of action and detail in a comic cover, while other times I long for the understated quiet cover that conveys just as much. These days the art of design is beginning to play a major role in comic book covers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I marvel at the creativity behind said types of covers just as much as ” traditional” ones.

One thing that can’t be explained is that odd favorite cover that any one of us just happens to like. Perhaps the artist isn’t that well known and/or the issue itself doesn’t have much historical significance, but it doesn’t matter. For some reason, that comic book cover spoke to you and burrowed it’s way into your memory. At the end of the day it all comes down to personal taste. Here are 12 of my favorite covers featuring the green Goliath known to all as The Hulk!

 

King Sized Hulk Special # 1 – ( Artist: Jim Steranko)

 

We start things off with a classic cover by cover artist extraordinaire, Jim Steranko. This one’s been homaged more than a few times over the years, which is always a testament to how good a cover is. This one screams Hulk. It’s loud and bursting with energy and drama. Hulk can’t seemed to be contained in his own cover. It’s a brilliant composition from a man who knew his craft.

 

 

 

Incredible Hulk # 102 – ( Artist: Marie Severin)

 

This cover is a big deal because it gave the Hulk his first full length series. It doesn’t hurt that the great Marie Severin had a hand in it either. Like the previous entry, the cover screams Hulk, but more importantly it tells us what Hulk is about. I’ve always been a sucker for these Hulk transformation type covers ever since I saw this one as a kid.

 

 

Incredible Hulk # 206 ( Artist: Dave Cockrum)

 

Perhaps it’s not as flashy as some other covers on this list but I can’t count how many times I’ve seen this image of the hulk over the years. It seemed like the default image for stickers, posters, lunch boxes, T shirts etc. I actually saw the image first before ever gazing at this cover. Legendary X-men artist Dave Cockrum really pleased Marvel and us fans with this gem.

 

 

The Incredible Hulk # 181 ( Artist: Herb Trimpe)

How could I not include this classic cover introducing Wolverine? It’s iconic status cannot be denied. It’s a great action piece that sets the stage for one of the best rivalries in all of comics. Poor Wendigo is totally overshadowed.

 

 

The Hulk! Magazine # 23 ( Artist: Walt Simonson)

This one could be considered my ” eclectic” choice but I truly love this cover. It’s a cover from the short lived oversized magazine publication that ran in the 70’s. I just find it so… cool, for lack of a better word. Maybe it’s the transformation thing again, who knows. I’m a big fan of Walt Simonson and seeing his painted work was a rare treat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other painted pieces he did after this one. It’s certainly of it’s time but it rocks in my book!

 

 

The Hulk! Magazine # 25 ( Artist’s John Buscema & Joe Jusko)

Another inclusion from the Hulk magazine line but this one contains a more iconic image. Big John Buscema is a LEGEND in the comics world. In my opinion, he’s almost as important an artist as Jack Kirby. This cover is to the point but it really stands out. The intensity just oozes off the page. Everytime I see it I still think ” Man, that’s awesome.” Full points for whoever thought to pair up John Buscema’s pencils with Joe Jusko’s wonderful paints.

 

 

Incredible Hulk # 340 ( Artist: Todd McFarlane)

Wolverine shows up again, so sue me. I’d be willing to bet this cover has been homaged the most out of any on this list, it’s that popular. The interior of this comic doesn’t disappoint either. We get treated to the most brutal and best Wolverine vs Hulk brawl ever. Todd McFarlane always has an eye for creating a memorable cover. The cover is totally Todd. He loved playing with reflections and different ways to draw an action scene. Only one word can describe this cover. Badass.

 

 

Incredible Hulk # 376 – ( Artist : Dale Keown)

This cover is the first to feature artist, Dale Keown, who is definitely my favorite Hulk artist of all time. To my knowledge, this was the first time ever to feature BOTH the grey and green versions of the Hulk. The story manged to tie up that loose end and come up with a plausible explanation for the two versions of the same character. I just loved the action and sense of urgency this cover has. I remember trying to draw by copying this cover over and over again when I was a kid.

 

 

Incredible Hulk # 377 ( Artist: Dale Keown)

An iconic cover for an iconic story. It’s a huge issue in the history of the Hulk because it manages to give Hulk Banner’s intelligence. No longer is Hulk a savage monster who can barely string together three sentences. The design of the cover is simple but brilliant and the colors are perfect. Dale Keown knocks this one way out of the park.

 

 

Incredible Hulk # 379 ( Artist: Dale Keown)

Guess who? That’s right, it’s Dale Keown once again. Truth be told I could’ve done an entire list of Dale Keown Hulk covers. This issue introduces us to the “new” intelligent Hulk. Keown made some subtle changes to his facial appearance, creating a truly unique and iconic version of the character. The cover just demands your attention. You know it’s a big deal, I mean it’s as in your face as it gets. Every inch of the cover is used including the title itself!

 

 

Incredible Hulk vol 2 # 49- ( Artist: Kaare Andrews)

Artist, Kaare Andrews delivers one of the cleverest Hulk covers I’ve ever seen. It’s a wonderful homage to the fan favorite children’s book, Where The Wild Things Are. Not a particularly important or noteworthy issue of the hulk and yet such a unique cover. It’s meant to put a smile on your face and let you appreciate two groups of iconic characters.

 

Incredible Hulk vol 2 # 94 ( Artist: Jose Ladronn)

We end things with my favorite cover from the Planet Hulk story line. Jose Ladronn provides a gorgeous painted cover reminiscent of the days of the yesteryear, and how appropriate. Planet Hulk Is essentially Gladiator( The film) meets Hulk.

Planet Hulk proved to be the most celebrated story of  modern age for Hulk. This is the cover that really make me take notice and get back into Hulk after many years of mediocrity for the character.

 

There you have it! 12 of my favorite covers of my favorite monster.

 

 

Today we examine the beauty of the single issue, but for DC comics. If you enjoyed my last article exploring some of Marvel’s best one shots, then I hope you stick around for this entry. DC has no shortage of excellent one shots as well.

Much like Marvel, I’m sure I forgot to add, or simply haven’t read many other great single issues that are out there, so don’t be mad if I miss a few of your favorites.

This list will be focusing on stories that do not require a vast amount of background to be ale to enjoy. That’s what makes the one shot so easy and accessible to read. Let’s proceed.

 

Sandman Mystery Theatre: by Matt Wagner, Stephen T. Seagle & various artists

Many fans, and perhaps non fans, are aware of Neil Gaiman’s critically  lauded series, Sandman. Too many people are not as aware of the other Sandman series that was going on for much of the same time, Sandman Mystery Theatre. It ran for 70 issues and had a small, but devoted fan base.

The series is a period piece set mainly during the depression era . It follows the exploits of Wesley Dodds, the golden age Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman had nothing to do with this version. Gaiman touched on the golden age Sandman briefly, but that’s about it. Wesley Dodds was just a mild mannered detective with a costume and a gas gun, very pulpy. The stories were always praised for its historical accuracy, mature tone and compelling characters. It’s exploration of relationships was rather interesting and unique as well.

This annual is a perfect mix of everything that made this series so good, and it’s all done on one issue. It’s about a mysterious central park attacker that is on the loose and terrorizing the citizens of New York. The other problem is that this mugger bares a striking resemblance to Sandman. Sandman is forced to try and stop this attacker while evading capture from the police himself.

It’s a great mystery story that really knows how to keep the audience engaged. It’s also notable for having a few recognizable guest artists for this issue, like Alex Ross! If you want to sink your teeth into a really good noir styled mystery, check this out. You just might crave more and jump into the actual series.

 

 

Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special: by Geoff Johns, Brett Booth & Art Baltazar

If you want something that’s a little lighter in tone than try this out. It’s one of the funniest comics I’ve ever read. It centers mostly around the Orange Lantern, Larfleeze. ( Orange Lantern’s are powered by avarice.) Larfleeze is essentially a powerful alien hoarder. He wants anything and everything, so when Christmas comes rolling around, he’s intrigued. Naturally, Larfleeze attempts to take Christmas for himself no matter what. Green Lantern must intervene and hilarity ensues thereafter. The art is dynamic and matches the chaotic tone of the comic. Not only is it funny, but it’s also endearing at times. Geoff Johns makes you care about this selfish pain in the ass of an alien. You just want to see more of him and that’s a credit to the writing.

It even comes with a recipe to bake Larfleeze cookies! My girlfriend was kind enough to try the recipe out, which put a smile on my nerdy face. Yum yum, nothing like frosty orange colored cookies.

 

 

Gotham Knights # 32- by Devin Grayson & Roger Robinson

Honestly Batman could have his own one shots list but for now, here we are. Gotham Knights # 32 is a less well known issue that really deserves more attention. This issue happens to be Devin Grayson’s last issue on the series, and it’s quite a nice send off. It really encapsulates what makes Batman who he is. Not a flashy issue, the aptly titled ” 24/7″ is just a day in the life for Bruce Wayne and Batman. In the morning Bruce Wayne takes meetings, attends dedication ceremonies, visits a friend in the hospital and has dinner with the Foxes. Bruce manages to squeeze every minute of time from these endeavors to do some good, however small it may be.

When night falls, Batman takes part in a more direct approach. He stops crimes, saves lives, keeps an eye on Robin and visits Barbara. There’s more, but you get the idea.

For me, this issue shines a light on two very important aspects of Batman/Bruce Wayne, which are his obsessively dogged determination and his unyielding desire to help people. In many ways these are the things that make Batman so special. It’s that, coupled with the fact that he’s only a man, not Superman or Green Lantern or even Spider-man. He has to work twice as hard as them and still have enough juice left in the tank to get it all done and make it to the next day and do it all again. But the Batman will never quit or complain will he?

Look out for this wonderfully character driven issue of our favorite Dark Knight.

 

 

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year 4 Annual #1- by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo

Injustice takes place in an alternate reality where Superman has snapped and become a tyrant. Batman, and a small group of resistance fighters attempt to fight his tyranny and take back the world. During Superman’s quest for power he creates a super-max prison where he has imprisoned every super villain you can name. Superman has also imprisoned anybody who stands against him, like the Green Lantern Corps.

This annual marks the return of fan favorite writer, Tom Taylor’s to the series he started, and boy does he deliver. It’s a story about escaping the super-max prison, while also serving as an excellent character piece. The character on full display in this issue is Plastic Man. That’s right, Plastic Man. Usually considered the butt end of many jokes and mostly forgotten over the years, Plastic Man has not had many “great” or defining stories. He’s always been thrown in for laughs, not much else. That all changes in this thrilling tale about a father trying to save his son.  Plastic Man surfaces so that he can help bust his son out the super-max prison and start a new life away from the madness around him.

The story moves so fast, simply because you can’t wait to see what happens next. The emotional component proved to be the most surprising thing throughout this issue. I really felt for Plastic Man and actually rooted for him more than ever. How many times can you say that about Plastic Man?

it’s an awesome comic that is definitely the highlight of a rather mediocre for Injustice: Year 4 . Seek it out.

 

 

Action Comics # 775 – by Joe Kelly & various artists

 

This issue gives us the Superman we all know and love, for better or for worse. There was a DC animated movie that was based on this issue titled “Superman vs The Elite”, which I’ve always said is the perfect movie for any Superman hater to watch. The same goes for this issue. It’s won a few awards and has been loved by many fans over the years that it was first published.

One of the best things about the comic is that it touches on many of the things Superman haters gripe most about, Superman’s unwillingness to kill. In the issue, a new superhero team called The Elite show up to Metropolis very much willing to kill bad guys and clean up the world. At first they try to get Superman on board but eventually they give him an ultimatum. ” Do it our way or be destroyed.” The funny thing is that most of the public like The Elite and even agree with their harsher stance on criminals.

This leads to many more questions like, is Superman relevant? Does the world need heroes like this? It packs a punch and does not shy away from the hard truth. Superman is faced with the decision of succumbing to public pressure and opinion or doing the right thing and staying true to himself. I love this comic because it paints the picture as to why Superman exists and what he really represents, not only in the world of the DC universe, but what he represents to the society we live in today. A society that is maybe, a bit to eager for bloodshed. A bit too quick to anger and ultimately, too quick to hate.

Superman is meant to embody an ideal and NOT succumb to the anger and fear many of us could have. This is what this comic illustrates so eloquently. Superman fans and non-fans, I urge you to read this. Just trying out this one issue may give you a respect and understanding  of the character, and above all, the importance of having a Superman in a world full of antiheroes.

 

 

Nightwing (vol 2) # 25 – by Chuck Dixon & Scott McDaniel

This comic has the distinction of being ranked #67 in Wizard Magazine’s list of “100 Best Single Issue Comics Since You Were Born”. It’s a thoughtful and touching issue about legacy and brotherhood. The simple premise of this story finds Nightwing and Robin( Tim Drake) on a night out training. They go through this self made gauntlet evading obstacles, fighting crime and bonding together.

Sharing a few personal stories ends up leading to several nice moments and one big revelation. They are able to trust each other and open up in a way that they can’t with Batman. Nightwing certainly takes a big brother role in this story. He gives Robin advice and listens to Robin without needing to judge him. It’s really a treat to read these two characters just being human and dare I say, normal but without being boring, that’s the beauty of this issue. It marries text and visual well enough to really showcase what the comic medium can do when it’s at it’s best. It’s a bit of a search to find this issue but well worth it.

 

 

Final Crisis: Requiem #1 – by Peter Tomasi & Doug Mahnke

There’s two things here that are important to note. I love Martian Manhunter and he loves Oreo cookies. For those unaware, Martian Manhunter was killed off rather unceremoniously in the pages of the major event series,” Final Crisis”.

This comic book acts as a eulogy for one of the most beloved members of the Justice League. it’s really a heartfelt sendoff that really makes you feel the grief that all the characters feel for their fallen friend. Far too many times the superheroes of these stories never get to deal with death. Not really anyway. They don’t have time to mourn, reminisce or have a ceremonies for their fallen brothers and sisters in arms. Sometimes they don’t even have a body to bury at all. That’s why it’s so refreshing to read an entire issue of superheroes going through the grieving process because, let’s not forget that superheroes are ultimately people too. And we as people, will encounter death and we’ll need to deal with it too. I’m not saying that the magnitude of loss will be the same in the real world… No, not at all. I’m just saying that seeing these characters go through these complex emotions humanizes them and allows them to relate to us just a bit more. It may even help some readers cope with things, even just a bit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone deals with loss differently, which the comic touches on too. It’s a nice script with some solid and emotive art to boot.

The ending is my favorite part. Read it and you’ll find out why.

 

Batman Adventures ( vol 2) # 17 – by Ty Templeton & Rick Burchett

Batman Adventures #17 is a comic that has had plenty of accolades and awards thrown it’s way. It’s a fantastic issue that addresses something that hasn’t been explored too often in the Batman mythos. What happened to Joe Chill?

Joe Chill is responsible for the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, the defining moment of Batman. This makes Joe Chill almost as important a villain as The Joker or Two Face, now just imagine a reunion between he and Batman? It’s an issue done by the creative team of Templeton & Burchett, who had been putting out quality work on Batman Adventures for a number of years already. Many fans and critics have said it’s one of the best Batman comic series of all time, and it’s hard to argue with that once you see the quality of this issue. It’s got a hell of a story and it doesn’t skimp out characterization either. It gives us a rare look at things from the view point of Joe Chill.

The story begins with Chill in the present day. He’s worn down and constantly lives in fear and regret. Fear of ever being discovered as the murderer of billionaire Bruce Wayne’s parents, and in regret of not having finished the job on Wayne himself. He can’t sleep, and it’s even gotten so bad that Chill sees Bruce Wayne’s face everywhere, on everyone. Things get worse when a detective from the GCPD, decides to reopen the Wayne’s unsolved murder case.  The story only gets better from there. If that’s not enough to hook you in I don’t know what is.

It’s a masterclass in storytelling, short form or otherwise. The story is tight tight tight. Every page has a purpose and every moment ties into the next moment. It’s truly a great issue with a great payoff. There are times where you might find yourself turning pages and gasping, and then smiling quickly afterwards. We all know how Bruce Wayne dealt with his parents murder, so it was intriguing to see what life has been like for the man who actually committed the crime. Complex themes of guilt, remorse and trauma are explored in a comic that was supposed to be dismissed as a kiddie comic. That’s perspective for you.

 

 

Nightwing ( vol 2.)  Annual #2 – by Marc Andreyko & Joe Bennett

Nightwing makes another appearance on my list, this time with Batgirl by his side. To be honest it’s a story about her as much as it is about him. This annual tells that tale of Nightwing and Batgirl’s rather complicated romantic relationship over the years.

The comic starts with Nightwing injured and lying in bed with Barbara Gordon at his bedside. She tends to his wounds and lets him know that he’s been in a coma for weeks. The comic then jumps from the past to the present.

We see Dick and Barbara’s rather embarrassing first encounter.( A rather awkward and hilarious way to meet) We see their first date, the reason they broke up and even the moment in time where Dick finds out that Barbara has been paralyzed. It’s equal parts sad, funny and charming. It’s even fairly romantic, but not in a sappy way. Marc Andreyko really writes the hell out of these two characters. He manages to give them a chemistry that practically leaps off the page. He also does such a masterful job of weaving the convoluted comics history of these two characters. Joe Bennett is no slouch. His artwork keeps right up with the quality of the writing.

I remember I picked this up on a whim and started reading it on the subway ride home. Before I knew it, I was completely focused in on the story and was hoping I wouldn’t get home before finishing it.

Everyone has either been, or knows someone who has been in a complicated relationship like Dick and Barbara’s. Again, moments and themes like these manage to humanize the characters and make us care and relate to them more. I found the ending surprisingly mature and realistic, for a comic especially. It’s certainly my favorite Nightwing issue of all time. Track it down.

 

 

Brave & The Bold ( vol 2.) #33 – by J. Michael Straczynski & Cliff Chiang

We end the list with, probably my favorite issue out of the bunch. It’s a story titled ” Ladies Night” and it tells the story of Wonder Woman and Zatanna deciding to take Batgirl out for one night of pure fun.

From the beginning of the story we see that doing this for Batgirl is important to both Wonder Woman and Zatanna, we find out why later. Batgirl takes some convincing, but ultimately gives in. The result is a carefree night on the town for 3 women that don’t often get that luxury. It’s really great to see these three iconic superheroes just kickback and have fun like regular women. On the surface it’s just a fun story but by the end it’s so much more than that. It’s a tale of sorrow, trauma, acceptance, consequences and most importantly friendship. Saying anything more about the story directly is a disservice to it. The art is just as good as the script. I’ve never seen Cliff Chiang eclipse the work he did on this issue. His run on Wonder Woman comes close, but this issue still reigns supreme for me.

Much like a suggestion I made on the Marvel list of one shots, if you read just one issue of all the issues on this list, make it this one. Tracking it down for a decent price will be a task, let me tell you, so I would suggest to pick up the trade.( Team-Ups of the Brave & the Bold) It’s totally worth it, plus you get a lot of other quality stories in there as well.

That does it for my DC one shot recommendations. Stay tuned for more in the future!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The single issue comic book is almost a lost art. These days, it’s far more common to have long story arcs and often times this can allow for several crossovers between other books. While I love long form storytelling, I appreciate the art of telling a succinct and compelling story with just one issue. Sometimes I think it’s harder to tell a story in this way, even harder to find a really good one. Often times, creators only have 22-30 pages to tell such stories. Managing to tell a compelling and memorable story under theses parameters is something that every writer and artist strives to be able to do.

It’s no surprise that comic companies push the long form story. After all, it’s far more lucrative if the reader buys 5 of 5 of a particular story arc as opposed to one comic. Many times publishers simply allowed single issue stories to be told in their series simply to be fillers until the next major story arcs, and often times they were merely that. But every so often a gem would appear. This list focuses on some of Marvels best one shot issues ( in my humble opinion.)

 

 

Edge Of Spider-Verse #2: Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman – by Jason Latour & Robbie Rodriguez

we start things off with a wonderfully crafted tale about Gwen Stacy in an alternate universe. You remember Gwen Stacy? Peter Parker’s girlfriend that died at the hands of the Green Goblin? Well not here. In this universe, it was Gwen Stacy that was bitten by the radioactive spider that gave her super powers, and it was Peter who died. It certainly turns the tables on Spider-man lore.

It also is able to build a fresh character, almost from the ground up. In this world Gwen is in a punk rock and she’s a kickass drummer. Her father is still a Police Chief, and Gwen chooses to follow in his footsteps, just not as a cop. Meeting Spider-Woman, or Spider-Gwen as she is affectionately referred to y fans turns out to e loads of fun. The script is imaginative and fun. The art is energetic and colorful, like her costume. Don’t let the fun tagline fool you, there are some excellent deeper moments in this issue too. Above all the thing this issue does best is introduce a new character that fans like AND telling a fully realized story, while leaving fans thirsting for more. So much so that Marvel decided to give Spider Gwen her own ongoing series thanks to the buzz from this one shot.

 

 

 

Winter Soldier: Winter Kills – by Ed Brubaker, Lee Weeks & Stepfano Gaudiano

This comic was created as a Casualties Of War one shot, and written by Ed Brubaker, (the man who brought Bucky back from the dead) so you know it’s going to be something special even before you crack it open. “Winter Kills” turns out to be a surprisingly melancholic and nostalgic look back to the early days of Bucky’s life. He recalls both, better days and sins past. After all, Bucky is celebrating his first Christmas since the 40’s at the beginning of the story.

But there’s never too much time to go down memory lane for an agent of Nick Fury’s. Sure enough, Winter Solider gets called up on an emergency mission to ” assist” a team of Young Avengers. The young team gets to see a legend at work as chaos ensues. This story balances action, drama, and emotion excellently, even providing moments of levity. The artwork is stellar throughout thanks to pencils by the underrated Lee Weeks. His work really fits in nicely with Brubaker’s noir storytelling style. The last few pages of the story features Namor and it’s my favorite part of the story. Together they trade war stories and even touch on the present and future. A touching issue that allows readers to feel the struggle of repentance and acceptance for yet another man, out of time.

 

 

Spider-man’s Tangled Web # 4 – by Greg Rucka & Eduardo Risso

This particular issue comes with a few accolades from the industry. Wizard magazine ranked this issue #31 on their list of”100 Best Single Issue Comics Since You Were Born”. I actually stumbled upon it because of my fandom of Greg Rucka, Eduardo Risso and Spider-man himself. It’s a simple but intriguing premise… What happens when someone who works for the Kingpin screws up? Like you might expect, the margin for error is next to none, and the poor schmuck working for Kingpin knows it too. One of the best things this issue manages to do is make you care about a character that is completely made up in the 22 pages you are reading. Spider-man is barely even in it, and it doesn’t matter. A masterclass in writing while being awfully cool to look at too.

 

 

Ghost Rider Annual #2 – by Warren Ellis & Javier Saltares

Interestingly enough, this issue happens to be Warren Ellis’s first ever published work, and what a way to start. Ghost Rider has always been a cool character, but he lacked a roster of villains to match his appeal. Annual #2 gives us one frighting villain that makes you take notice… The Scarecrow. I know, I know… Sounds like a Batman ripoff. That’s what I thought until I started reading and then quickly discovered a character that was a lot more demented and messed up than even Batman’s fearsome foe.

In essence, the issue serves as a character study for this new villain. Ellis manages to make Scarecrow fascinating. It’s impossible not to be intrigued by him despite his morbidly evil nature. Eventually Scarecrow’s thirst for fear and power leads him to a standoff with Ghost Rider. It’s a wonderfully tense climax which ends with a brutal finale. Think, a Tales From The Crypt type ending. This issue is a tough find but it’s worth the hunt.

 

 

Marvel Fanfare # 15 – by Barry Windsor-Smith

If you’re looking for a change of pace and tone, look no further than this issue. For those that are unaware, Marvel Fanfare was a series that ran in the eighties that was meant to tell short stories by various acclaimed comic creators. In this issue the main story is featuring the Fantastic Four’s The Thing.Written, penciled and inking the whole story is the legendary Barry Windsor-Smith. What an icing on the cake.

It’s a charming tale that explores the tumultuous, and often humorous relationship between The Thing and The Human Torch. It’s a masterclass in storytelling, particularly on the visual side of things, and funny! There are a few laugh out loud moments for sure. The important thing that this issue hammers home is that behind every prank and annoyance, there’s love.

 

 

Star Wars- C-3po – by James Robinson & Tony Harris

This is a, sort of tie-in with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it’s minimal at best. It’s meant to tell the story of how C-3po ended up with that red arm that he has in The Force Awakens, but it’s so much more than just that. I’d hazard to say that this one shot is better than the movie it’s meant to tie-in with. It’s surprisingly philosophical, exploring themes like freewill, war and the nature of good and evil. It’s brilliantly written by James Robinson, who made his name writing Starman for DC a number of years ago. Tony Harris ( also from the Starman alumni) provides the art that is surprisingly dark for such a bright character like C-3po. Honestly, it feels more like a really good episode of Star Trek rather than Star Wars. That may turn off some but if you like a little more brain than brawn in your science fiction than this one is for you. At the very least it manages to tell a story that doesn’t portray C-3po as an annoying robot and the butt of many a joke. I can honestly say that I see the character with a new respect thanks to this comic.I urge you to seek out this gem.

 

 

Daredevil #7  (Vol 3) y Mark Waid & Paolo Rivera

Winner of the Eisner award for” best single issue”, Daredevil#7 tells a tale about survival, trust and redemption. Matt Murdock( Daredevil), decides to volunteer to take a group of blind students on a field trip when disaster strikes and their school bus gets in a heavy accident. The bus driver is fatally wounded, which leaves Daredevil to guide these kids to safety in the middle of a deadly snowstorm.

One of the best things about Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil was his focus on character, particularly what makes Matt Murdock/Daredevil tick. It’s noted for it’s drastic change in tone, as Waid’s run was considerably lighter than previous iterations of the character. At it’s heart, this story is a very human one. How would we react in a life threatening situation? Especially when there are other lives at stake who depend on you. Matt/Dardevil goes through what we all might go through. Fear, self doubt and regret, but through it all he carries on. It’s not his super powers that make him do that, it’s his sheer will. Something that we all aspire to tap into in moments of crisis. Matt’s determination and will ends up rubbing off on his students which leads to a wonderful climax. No good vs evil here, just an inspiring story. Check this one out.

 

 

Wolverine: Debt Of Death – by David Lapham & David Aja

Wolverine makes an appearance on the list with a tale about honor, loyalty and paying your debts, no matter what. Almost sounds like Wolverine is a Lanniser from Game Of Thrones… Except for the parts about honor and loyalty.

To be honest, Wolverine is one of the characters whom has had TOO many one shots over the years but this one is a real keeper. The creative team of David Lapham and Aja really craft a wonderfully prototypical Wolverine story that every fan of the character should read. It’s as plot driven as it is character driven, but it’s Wolverine’s character that is at the heart of this story. Set in an ambiguous time period, Nick Fury also features in this war tale. I thought it was around the world war II days due to the appearance of giant robots and battlerobo suits but it’s never mentioned as far as I can tell. Regardless of the time period it’s an excellent story. It’s very grounded and not flashy in the typical ” superheroey” way you might expect. The script and story are great but it’s David Aja’s art that really steals the show. His fantastic panel work is a sight to behold. A simple story with various nuggets of complexity peppered throughout. it’s entertaining and engaging and most importantly, it’s Wolverine done right.

 

 

The Incredible Hulk # 420 – by Peter David & Gary Frank

Who would’ve thought that an issue of the Hulk could have such emotional heft to it. The issue covers a very taboo, yet important topic… Aids. Sometimes it can be a bit strange when comics that were created, essentially for escapism cover such heavy themes but this one did an exceptional job with the subject matter. I imagine that it probably hit harder when it actually came out ( 90’s) but in many ways the message is a timeless one and that sadly still affects too many lives.

Hulk’s friend, Jim Wilson has Aids, and he’s running out of time. Of course, the Hulk desperately wants to save his friend and is willing to try experimental measures to do so, but when Jim asks for a transfusion of Hulk’s blood, things get tricky. It’s a moral dilemma for him because giving Jim his blood would mean damning him and others around him, to a life as a monster. The alternative isn’t pretty and Hulk knows it. Meanwhile, Betty Banner( Hulk’s wife) tries to help a man with Aids who randomly called her office. This man has told Betty that he intends to kill himself due to his condition. Heavy stuff.

What this comics does is shine a light on the horror of Aids, homophobia, suicide & depression. It has hopeful moments but it doesn’t shy away from many of the realities of dealing with such an illness. It doesn’t cheapen the problem or trivialize it, which the story could’ve done so easily. It respects the nature of the problem and recognizes that even someone as strong as the Hulk can’t stop Aids. Hulk isn’t real, He could never stop aids in the real world. In a way, the story knows it too . It’s a sad read but it’s also a touching story about friendship and acceptance. Hats off to Peter David and Co. for this one.

 

 

Peter Parker: Spider-man # 35 – by Paul Jenkins & Mark Buckingham

Since we’re on the subject of sad stories, I present issue 35 of Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham’s fantastic run on Spidey. While it is sad, it’s also touching and so very important, at least to me. It tells the tale of a young inner city boy named Jamal and his day to day life. Suffice it to say, the kid has it pretty rough. Some days Jamal shows up to his filthy apartment and finds his mother passed out on the couch from booze. Other days Jamal comes home to find his Mothers drug dealer beating on her. Jamal doesn’t seem to have a father but he does have his hero…Spider-man. He imagines him always being there, watching over him, guiding him, talking to him.

Eventually Jamal’s aunt and teacher desperately try to work with social services to get him out of Jamal’s horrible situation, but it turns out to be an uphill climb. Much like the issue of Incredible Hulk, the story doesn’t trivialize or diminish the real problem at hand. What it does do a bit differently is show the importancethat  these comic book heroes can make in the comic world and in the real world. Spider-man is more than just a well needed escape for this boy. Spider-man is a friend, an example, an inspiration, and even a moral compass. Sometimes we diminish what these heroes really mean to people, especially kids. They’re meant to give hope and point us all in the right direction. Sure, we might outgrow them but we should never forget or diminish their importance.

The reason this issue can be heart breaking is because it understands that while looking at the reality of the world we live in. I’m not sure if i can call the ending of this comic a happy one, but it is a beautiful one. I will admit that even I teared up a bit reading it. If you only check out one comic on this list, it has to be this one. I would especially recommend it to non comic fans. It’s certainly one of my favorite comic book issues of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 brought us a plethora of great comics. In fact there was so much interesting stuff this year that I couldn’t get to it all. I will share all the best of what comics I DID get a chance to read. Let’s move right in!

Top Ongoing Comics –

1. The Vision: By Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez

This series took me by surprise. It’s emotionally rich and  deep. It feels very cinematic in it’s execution. Not one word of dialogue is taken for granted and it’s artwork demands attention to every detail. It’s not a typical superhero tale by any means. Even the covers themselves are atypical. It’s as much a character study as it is a plot driven story. I’ve heard Vision referred to as the ” Walter White” of the Marvel universe. I’d agree with that in many ways.

2. Justice League : by Geoff Johns & Jason Fabok

3. Batman: by Scott Snyder Greg Capullo & Danny Miki

4. Injustice: by Brian Buccellato & various artists

5. The Autumnlands: by Kurt Busiek & Benjamin Dewey

 

 

Best Original Graphic Novel:

 Dark Night: by Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso

What else can be said about this gripping powerful graphic novel? I reviewed it earlier in the year and suffice it to say, it floored me. It stays with you, it moves you and it’s easily the est original graphic novel of the year. For more information look to my earlier review!

 

Best Independent release:

Love: The Lion: by Frederic BrremaudFederico Bertoulucci

A beautiful book that highlights a day in the life of a Lion trying to survive in the jungle. It’s wonderfully illustrated and completely wordless. Not a sinlge piece of dialuge is used and none is needed to understand the complex emotions of every animal in this story. It’s a treat for the eyes and it forces you to pay extra attention.

Best Mini Series:

1. Conan: Wolves Beyond The Border: by Tim Truman & Tomas Giorello

An old Conan going on one last adventure? Tim Truaman & Tomas Giorello? Hell yes. What moredo you need? It’s essentially Dark Knight Returns for Conan, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. The art is spectacular, the writing is clever and surprisingly humorous even. A fitting ” last” tale for everyone’s favorite barbarian.

2. Chrononauts : by Mark Millar & Sean Gordon Murphy

3. The Phantom: by Peter David & Sal Velluto

 

Best Writer –

Tom King – Vision, Batman, Omega Men & The Sheriff Of Babylon

What a year Tom King had. He worked on 4 projects and each of them received critical acclaim. He seemingly came out of nowhere and is now here to stay. DC was quick to snatch him up and sign him to an exclusive contract. I’ve yet to complete Omega Men but I’m sure it will not disappoint!

Best Artist –

Greg Capullo – Batman & Reborn

Greg Capullo barley edges out the talented Jason Fabok ut the conclusion of his epic run on Batman was too much to deny. His last 3 issues were brilliant. His fifth issue of Batman remains the highlight of his career but these last few come close. I had the privilege of meeting him at a con this year and he’s as much a class act as he is a class artist. Easily the nicest artist I ever met. His work on Mark Millar’s Reborn is going to be a treat once it gets into full swing.

 

What a year for comics. One of the very few good things of 2016, that’s for sure. Let’s hope 2017 provides more quality work. Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke Cage, released September 30th as part of a long string of Marvel Cinematic Universe Netflix exclusives, has been met with many positive reviews, scoring a 79% metascore at Metacritic and 80% at imdb.

But while many celebrated its unique contribution to the MCU (myself included), such as its music, predominantly black cast, and thematic parallels to the real world African American experience, I cannot help but point out the crucial flaws that made watching it feel…

Lacking…

At least in comparison to its predecessors: Daredevil 1, 2, and Jessica Jones.

Let’s delve a bit, shall we?

DISCLAIMER: FROM THIS POINT ON, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

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1. One show, two voices

Midway through the season, Luke Cage experiences a shift in sensibility.

The first half established Luke Cage’s adversary, the world, and the theme—which was to act or remain complacent when one has the power to make a difference. With regards to the world, there were a couple of detours in Georgia but as far as the primary antagonist and the theme—these were thrown out the window by the second half.

This isn’t the worst thing in the world but if we were to analyze Jessica Jones and Daredevil, there is an apparent formulaic shift within Luke Cage.

With Jessica Jones, the theme lied in whether the horrible things she’s done were forced by Kilgrave—her nemesis—or whether those deeds were of her own accord.luke-cage-jessica-jones-kilgrave

With Matt Murdock, the theme lied in whether he was capable of protecting Hell’s Kitchen by bringing Wilson Fisk and his hooligans to justice before the law, without the compromise of a single life.

But in Luke Cage, the primary antagonist shifts to two figures (one of who had not been properly established in the first half) and the theme transforms to the preservation of Harlem’s identity and its often forgotten inhabitants—that they too, need a hero of their own.

So, yeah. *blink blink*luke-cage-matt-murdock-wilson-fisk

2. Character Inconsistencies

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There were a few characters with unclear formation but the biggest culprit would have to be one of the main antagonists, Black Mariah (Alfre Woodard).

The first half of the show when the show’s villain, Cottonmouth (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), finds himself in a financial bind, his cousin, Mariah, suggests selling the club passed onto him by their matriarchal figure, Mama Mabel.  During the second half, Mariah decides to run the club herself, despite the dubious dealings that take place within, which run counter to her own moral compass of operating responsibly within the confines of the law.

Mariah maintains a degree of moral dignity throughout (or at least, she believes she does) for Harlem’s sake. But not only does she eventually perpetuate Mama Mabel’s criminal legacy, she also willingly commits murder in her efforts to ruin Luke Cage (Mike Colter).

Like… huh? How does murder (not to mention her other vices) operate within the confines of the law?

Pick a side. Run with it. And show your deceit when necessary. Otherwise these characterizations would be a headache to follow.

3. Convenient plot points

Stories are ALWAYS subject to a degree of convenience…

But when Luke Cage’s step brother, Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey), decided to move from Georgia to Harlem—the same place Luke Cage moved to at the conclusion of Jessica Jones—to conduct his crime ring operations…

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Luke Cage and Pop, seated before the show’s most poignant Harlem setting– the Switzerland barber shop.

And when the person that introduced Diamondback into the crime world is the same person that aims to bring Luke Cage into the superhero-for-hire business (that’s to say, Pop)…

Things suddenly have a penchant for being TOO convenient.

Forgive me if I missed it, but why did Luke Cage and Diamondback move to Harlem in the first place?

Diamondback wanted to be a big shot—that’s a little believable, I think? Because Harlem’s where all the criminal wannabes go, right?

But at the end of Jessica Jones, Luke wanted to reinvent himself—OUT OF ALL THE REGIONS IN NEW YORK STATE—in Harlem, too?

Come on…

4. No believable threat

Luke Cage is unique in that his true adversaries are not criminal empires corrupting the city, nor is it a being with superpowers…

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The writing took the story to a different direction by establishing the people of Harlem as the true threat to his identity.

As a result of Mariah’s machinations, the people of Harlem are divided on whether to trust Luke Cage as the city’s hero, perhaps as a companion piece to Captain America: Civil War.

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This is supposed to look menacing?

This would be a non-ideal plot direction—as it’s recycled—yet acceptable…

 

BUT!

Luke Cage had just single-handedly taken down one of Harlem’s largest criminal operations, made news by keeping thugs out of Harlem’s only Asian-owned business, saved numerous lives, publicly retrieved the stolen belongings of several citizens, and had not killed one single human being indirectly or otherwise…

And I’m supposed to believe that Mariah has effectively turned some, if not most of the populace against Luke?

Couple Mariah with Diamondback, whose claims to villainy are: 1) to procure a limited—I repeat—a LIMITED amount of super bullets that penetrate Luke’s skin and 2) to acquire armour that barely holds a candle to Tony Stark’s…

I was like, “Excuse my mic drop, but can we skip a few months to Danny Rand, already?”

Luke Cage “caged” in mediocrity

To be clear, I’m not a bonafide Luke Cage hater.

I simply want to address the bonerific reviews that more or less pervade quotidian discourse.

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Luke Cage, “caged”. Get it? Muwahahaha!

Am I partly spited and motivated by the annoying, “zomg, Luke Cage best Netflix MCU show, hhhnnnnnggg!” comments on Facebook?

Sweet Christmas, abso-friggin-lutely.

But compared to its MCU Netflix series predecessors, Luke Cage simply doesn’t hold up.

With my peace said, hopefully Iron Fist takes the formula “forward. Never backward.”

After sub par movies, Batman vs Superman and the divisive Man Of Steel, I was really hoping for Suicide Squad to be amazing. The critical reception thus far has not been good. Is it DC bashing? Or even more unlikely, is there a Marvel conspiracy? Well, I went to see Suicide Squad to form my own opinion and find out for sure. When I first saw the trailers I was optimistic, but the negative reviews had managed to temper my expectations . Let’s see how this turned out…

 

Story:

Weak. This is the movie’s biggest flaw. It has a unique concept but it relies on that to carry the bulk of the movie. A team of super powered villains that are used by the government to carry out missions the government can’t fully handle. In exchange for taking part, the villains get time off their sentences. If they fail in their mission the government has total deniability. That’s it in a nutshell.  Every beat the movie has is predictable. Almost every character becomes as formulaic as the story itself. There is a lot of entertainment throughout but it’s fleeting and ultimately forgettable. Unlike  Batman vs Superman, there was quite a bit of humor, sometimes it was good and sometimes not. Some scenes were obvious re-shoots in an effort to add more humor, which led to many of those scenes feeling disjointed and weirdly cut. The whole movie probably suffered from studio interference because Warner Bros. was still in panic mode from Batman vs Superman. Unfortunately the cliches and predictability left for no surprises which ultimately led to a very boring climax for me, and a few too many chessy lines didn’t help. If the characters were better written, perhaps the story wouldn’t have mattered as much. A good example is this year’s Deadpool because it only manged to pull off a weak story because the characterization was so strong. Suicide Squad has a plethora of rich characters that were not taken advantage of. Some were simply there as a plot device to prove a point ( Slipknot) The characters with the most depth are easily Deadshot and Harely Quinn, the rest are just window dressing.

There were a few cool cameos and I will say that they did add a few nice touches for fans. Pay attention to a flashback sequence that shows us Harley Quinn’s beginnings. There is a nice moment there that is sure to please any fan. They also gave a quick nod to John Ostrander ( Creator of Sucide Squand) that my girlfriend was kind enough to point out. Somehow I missed it, so pay attention!

 

Action:

Aside from one awesome Deadshot scene, the action was pretty forgettable. They weren’t bad by any means, just not very memorable. Harley’s fighting style can be entertaining at points but it wasn’t as dynamic as it could’ve been. I have to give the edge to Zack Snyder’s Batman vs Superman in terms of the action.

 

Villain:

Enchantress was easily one of the worst villains in a comic book movie thus far. Lame is the appropriate word here. She was supposed to be threatening but I didn’t feel that threat at any point. She didn’t have much charm or wit either. The Joker was technically an antagonist as well but he was in the movie for such a short time that it doesn’t really count to me.

Acting:

Middle of the road, and that’s being generous. I’ll start with the positives. Will Smith as Deadshot was very good. He was the most consistent actor in the movie and he was also one of the only ones that was successful at making me care. I felt as though I was watching Deadshot more than I was watching Will Smith play himself. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was also fairly good, although sometimes it looked as if I was watching her do an impression of Harley Quinn rather than playing Harley Quinn.  keep in mind the type of character she played and the dialogue she had to pull off.

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Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller was a bit of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, her acting was good, on the other hand her character wasn’t handled properly. I ended up finding her pretty unlikable and even downright evil at times. ( One scene especially pissed me off and made no sense.) But if we’re talking about straight up acting then yes, she was good too.

Now for the mediocre. Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang was okay. Hard to understand and one note, but okay. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc, did what he could with all that heavy makeup and Karen Fukuhara’s Katana, did what she could with limited screen time.  Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo, had a good start but there were times were his lines sounded forced. This was particularly evident in the climax of the movie and yet out of all the actors I mentioned, he was the most likable.All and all,  none of these actor’s were terrible, they just weren’t that good.

And finally, the bad.

Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg, had his moments but for the most part, he was bad. Sometimes cringe worthy bad. Again, this could be due to having to say some pretty bad lines, but still. Not a charismatic lead for the ” good guy” of the movie. Cara Delevingne as Enchantress was very bad. She was cringe worthy on almost every ” big” occasion, and not believable in every other occasion. Watching her and Joel Kinnaman sharing scenes together wasn’t easy. The script held them back but their skills certainly did not shine here.

Jared Leto’s Joker is a hard one. I didn’t hate it and I didn’t love it. He was good in the role but it felt a bit too over the top at times. He was trying TOO hard to be crazy and intense. He was menacing enough, I’ll give him that, but he lacked… charm. He also had a very weak laugh. I expected something epic and instead I got a laugh that I could imitate instantly. I think he has potential but he’s got to stop trying to channel Heath Ledger and really own the role.

Conclusion:

Another sub par release from DC/Warner Bros. leaves me disappointed and a bit worried. I really felt that DC/Warner Bros. could not afford to let Suicide Squad be anything less than it’s version of Guardians Of The Galaxy. Not only did it not live up to the hype, it’s actually getting a lower score than Batman vs Superman on Rotten Tomatoes! In It’s defense, I have to say I don’t think it was worse that Batman vs Superman.  Is it a steaming pile of horse poo? No. Is it a benchmark in superhero movies? Not even close.

The interesting thing is Suicide Squad has made it’s money Warner Bros. hopes it will continue to do so, but how long can this formula last for other releases in the future?

A key demographic for DC/ Warner Bros. is the fans, many of which were displeased with the last 3 releases DC/Warner Bros. put out. For these fans, the titles of these movies is enough to warrant buying a ticket, but many have sworn off the next DC/ Warner Bros. release if it continues it’s mediocre quality. Word of mouth is huge and lately the word of mouth has not been good for the DC cinematic universe. I do think a lot of people simply want to hate on the movies but DC/ Warner bros shouldn’t make it easy for them critics and haters to do so.

David Ayer, Zack Snyder keep using the line ” We didn’t make these movies for critics, we made them for the fans.” Let me speak as a fan…

Gentlemen, I appreciate the effort but these movies are not good enough. They touch on some positive things but ultimately they stumble. Just because I am a fan doesn’t mean I will put up with a mediocre or bad product. Don’t take us for granted.

Let’s hope Wonder Woman saves the day in 2017.

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to watch the animated version of The Killing Joke on the big screen. There was a lot of hype surrounding this movie. What, if anything would they omit? What would they add? Most Importantly, would it live up to the quality of it’s comic book predecessor? Let’s dive in and find out.

Story:

Right off the bat I was pleased that the animation on display was reminiscent of Bruce Timm’s classic style, albeit with a modern edge. Now on to the story. The interesting thing about this adaptation is that it begins with a totally new storyline that focuses heavily on Batgirl. I know a lot of Killing Joke purists will have their strong views on this but it wasn’t too bad. I say this because it wasn’t without it’s flaws either.

Without giving away too much, the ” prologue” focuses on seeing Barbara Gordon in action as Batgirl. It also gives us a taste of the true nature of Batman and Batgirl’s relationship. The entire segment lasts about 20 mins or so. It’s very well done, production wise. It’s well paced with snappy dialogue and entertaining action, but the whole thing seems out of place to me. As a standalone prologue, I suppose it works, but as part of the movie itself I found it weird. It’s very Batgirl heavy and the things move at break neck speed. Once the more familiar aspects of The Killing Joke begin the pace slows down.

The plot, for anyone who hasn’t read the comic or seen the movie is basically a character study of The Joker and loose origin story for him. It touches on Batman’s psyche and relationship as well but it’s very much Joker centric.

Joker wants to prove that anyone, no matter how ordinary or good they are, can succumb to maddness if they have enough terrible ordeals in one day. Therefore, anyone can be like the Joker. This is something he seems dead set on proving to Batman and Jim Gordon, and he goes far to do it. Barbera Gordon/ Batgirl becomes a consequence of his horrific plan. It’s a disturbing story but the movie didn’t present it too graphically, so I give them kudos for it. As dark as it is, I was engaged throughout. There’s some great monologues in the movie. When heard on screen, The Joker’s word take on a diff rent meaning as opposed to reading them. It was an interesting experience. Ultimately I’m not sure if the comic lends itself for a cinematic translation but it is very well done nonetheless. Much like most of Alan Moore’s stuff, it works best in it’s comic book format. The movie tends to follow the comic beat for beat and thus provides a faithful adaptation, which is a good thing if you’re a fan of the comic as I am. The Batgirl story in the beginning seems to be the dividing point for many. More on that later.

The Animation/ Action:

The animation is stellar throughout the picture. The subtle expressions on Joker’s face are a treat to behold. He looks genuinely creepy on several occasions. Brian Bolland’s art was done as faithfully as possible while still remaining it’s own thing but the key moments were unmistakably Bolland’s art. The fluid animation and colors really impressed me. Again, it was a welcome come back to the Bruce Timm animaiton style!

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There is quite a bit of action on display, much more than the original source material provided. It’s quite good but not the best I’ve seen from DC animated movies. To be fair the movie is not really about the action but I expected a few more exciting action sequences. I will say that the Batgirl story did deliver more on that side of things.

The Voice Acting:

Outstanding. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil deliver as they always seem to do. Tara Strong more than holds her own among these giants. I felt she provided some excellent emotinal moments. Perhaps, some of the best in the movie. For my money, Mark Hamil stole the show. He provided the best performance of the character since his days on the Animated series. He gets every beat right and speaks every line with conviction. The Joker’s flashback sequences really showcased how diverse a range he has. I got shivers a few times I heard he spout off some of the dialogue from the original comic, great stuff. As good as Kevin Conroy was, I was hoping that a little bit more emotion would come through, not a lot just…A tiny bit more. Still the moment those two come together, everything works.

 

Conclusion:

The Killing Joke film is a faithful adaptation that only helps to honor the material but doesn’t surpass it. Ultimately the comic book version can’t be touched and it works best in that format. Fans of the comic will appreciate more than the first time watcher. What about the Batgirl story addition? Well, I liked it quite a lot. On it’s own it’s great, but as part of the main story it doesn’t completely work.

Does it really add anything to the Killing Joke? For me, not really, but it doesn’t take away from the story either. For the most part The Killing Joke story is an examination of The Joker and the nature of his insanity. Batman is big part of this because of the history between the two. the story tries to briefly hold up a mirror and show how similar and dissimilar they both are. What the Batgirl story does for the audience is showcase Barbara Gordon as her own person and not simply a victim of The Joker, and while that is incredibly important it feels a bit forced. Perhaps the story was done to appease the growing number of fans over the years that often complain about this story’s treatment of Batgirl, with the very argument being that she is nothing more than a victim of the Joker. For a long time I could never see it that way but DC has always gone back to that moment time and time again. It makes you wonder why they continue to bring Barbara Gordon back to that horrible time.

Victims only get on with their life if they move forward and get stronger from their ordeal, which she did. But we have been reminded of that moment in Batgirl’s life many times in many different stories far to often. That is problematic, but not totally unjustified either. It was a deeply traumatic event for Barbara Gordon/Batgirl so why shouldn’t it have left a scar on her? A scar so deep that it reverberates in her whole world, including the people around her.  Batman’s traumatic past is touched on over and over. The night of the his parents murder has left an undeniable scar on him that has clearly never healed. I know, I know… Batman wasn’t the direct receipt of the crime and Barbara Gordon was. Also, Batman was never physically incapacitated after the event. He was fully abled to exact his own form of justice. But I hate the implication that once Barbera lost the use of her legs she became less of a hero or a person. For those that don’t know… She got on with her life and even went on to become Oracle. She became an integral member of the crime fighting team, The Birds Of Prey. She also became the eyes and ears for Batman, saving his ass on many occasions.

Some fans often complain about why Joker had to do this to Barbera Gordon? You hear that he went too far., that DC went too far in allowing Alan Moore to write this. Maybe they did.

Maybe they did go to a grim place that was so dark it shouldn’t of happened, but it did. That argument could lead to a further argument in regard to the direction that comics took in the late 80’s and beyond. It might mean you disapprove, which is fine. But if you continued to read on, than you must accept the fact the this is where comics went. Once DC decided to cross that dark territory no one can really be surprised about what a character like the Joker has done or will do. Over the years the Joker has become a deranged psychopath who has zero regard for the well being of anyone. He scarcely has regard for his own well being. He’s a cold blooded sadistic murderer, do you expect a murderer to be nice? If not, then why be enraged when said murderer kill’s and maims? And it’s not like Barbara was the only victim in the Joker’s wake. Jason Todd( the 2nd Robin) shared an even grislier fate. He was beat with a crowbar within an inch of his life only to be blown to bits shortly after, and that event certainly defined him. For a long long time Jason Todd was not able to enact his own justice until, of course, he was. But even after coming back from the dead, the scars of that moment remained.

At the end of the day you can’t please everyone but I think it’s best to look at both sides of an argument objectively and as fairly as possible. Perhaps this version of the Joker is not YOUR joker. Perhaps the joker you grew up with is more in line with the easier to root for version in Batman the animated series or the even goofier version of the 1966 Batman TV show. Maybe you like your Joker a bit over the top, but just menacing enough. In that case, Jack Nicholson’s version might be right up your alley. Or maybe you like your Joker  grounded and a lot scarier, in which case Heath Ledger’s version is the one to go with.The one thing that they have in common is that they all have the same spirit, just done a different way. Everyone’s tastes and opinions are their own and we’re all entitled to them. The point is that Joker, like Batman, can be done in a multitude of ways. It’s very hard to have a definitive version that will please everybody so I try to remember that whenever I see any interpretation done on screen or on paper. I found something to like from all the versions of the Joker I just mentioned and the version in the Killing Joke comic or movie fits into my spectrum of what the Joker is and should be. He can be cruel, sadistic and violent but he can also be complex, engaging and even sympathetic. A lot of fans might call that wrong, I just call it a good character.

Much like Tony Soprano or Walter White, you’re not supposed to love them or even like them, they just are who they are and you kick yourselves for having developed a connection with them as you watch them do something that makes you hate them. It’s almost a betrayal to see such a thing because, let’s face it, a lot of people like the Joker. How many people weren’t rooting for him just a little bit in Heath Ledger’s Dark Knight? It just that when they go too far into a place that a we can’t follow, it offends and disappointing us. Make no mistake, the signs are there and the Joker is many things but a good person ain’t one of them.

Does what happened to Barbara offend me? No, does it anger me? Yes, I care for the character immensely. I don’t believe that The Killing Joke dismisses her worth as a chracter, that’s for sure. Fans may have an argument against that and they may have a point but I don’t let that moment define her as a victim, a defining moment, yes but not THE defining moment.

Barbara Gordon has been retconned and will have the chance to purge whatever baggage there may be left from the Killing Joke. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe that’s what she deserves. A hero is someone who rises up against all obstacles to do right by others in times of need. That’s Barbara Gordon to me. before the Killing Joke or after, during the New 52 or DC rebirth, that’s who she is.

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