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Upheavals At DC Comic: My Concerns And Hopes

Let’s face it. Pretty much every industry not associated with health care, masks, streaming media, and Zoom calls has been hit hard this year. That’s especially true for certain segments of the entertainment industry. Basically, if you’re a movie studio, a movie theater, a comic shop, or a mall, this year has been like 100 punches to the gut, jaw, and genitals by a crack-fueled Ivan Drago.

That’s how bad global pandemics are. They pull no punches and will hit anything that attempts to prosper, both directly and indirectly.

Those blows extended to the comics industry, as well. As a lifelong comic book fan, I certainly felt it. I haven’t forgotten the weeks on end of having no new comics to enjoy for the first time in over a decade. It was not a pleasant experience. As elated as I was to see New Comic Book Day return, I didn’t doubt for a second that there would be some lasting scars.

Well, now it seems some of those scars are starting to fester and the first one to feel the pain is DC Comics. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the entire DC Comics operation has been hit with major layoffs and restructuring. It’s still intact, but make no mistake. This is the single biggest purging of personnel from a major comics publisher since the mid-1990s.

THR: DC Comics, DC Universe Hit By Major Layoffs

Monday’s WarnerMedia layoffs have affected a significant number of high-level figures at comic book powerhouse DC, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Among those said to be losing their positions are editor-in-chief Bob Harris, senior VP of publishing strategy and support services Hank Kanalz, VP of marketing and creative services Jonah Weiland, VP global publishing initiatives and digital strategy Bobbie Chase, senior story editor Brian Cunningham, and executive editor Mark Doyle, who oversaw the rollout of the Black Label graphic novels. Jim Lee remains the CCO.

Roughly one third of DC’s editorial ranks are being laid off, according to sources.

Insiders also say the majority of the staff of the streaming service DC Universe has been laid off, a move that had been widely expected as WarnerMedia shifts its focus to new streaming service HBO Max.

I can’t understate how big a deal this is to the larger world of comics, but I don’t want to overstate it, either. This situation is objectively bad. There’s no way around it. It’s also not the definitive end of DC Comics. That’s a narrative I don’t want to fuel.

That hasn’t stopped some of the whiniest, dumbest segments of the comics crowd from claiming otherwise. I won’t name names, but they are affiliated with a certain movement in comics that has only become less credible and more insufferable with time. The box office return of the “Captain Marvel” movie is proof enough of that.

Don’t be fooled by what some asshole voices on social media claim. This restructuring is not because DC Comics had too much diversity. It’s more a byproduct of DC Comics having lost its sense of vision, scale, and identity. This is something that happens from time to time in comics. After a while, the whole line loses its sense of self and needs some revitalization.

I can say, as a longtime comic fan, that DC has become somewhat stale in recent years. Even before the pandemic, I felt as though it had lost momentum outside its mainstays. It has primarily been relying on the strength of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Flash. As iconic as those characters are, they just can’t sustain the entire line.

There are many reasons for that. I think DC Comics, as a whole, hasn’t had a consistent vision since the days of DC Rebirth. It just got bogged down too much with competing visions, like DCeased and Injustice: Gods Among Us. It also endured way too many delays with its last big crossover event, Doomsday Clock.

The onset of the pandemic just exacerbated a problem that was starting to grow. As bad as things are now, there’s also an opportunity to set things on a better path. That’s my greatest hope for whatever restructuring DC pursues next. It still has plenty to build on. The success of the Harley Quinn show is proof enough of that. It’s just a matter of what form that will take.

That said, I do have major concerns. Comic lines have gone through upheavals before, but never during a global pandemic. This is uncharted territory for the comics industry, as a whole. This is not the era of newsstands and comic shops where top books could easily sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Paperbacks alone are not going to make this industry succeed.

Comics, in the current system, work best as a garden from which new characters, stories, and ideas can blossom. The fruits of that system can later become the basis for TV shows, movies, merchandise, and so much more. DC Comics already has a major media partner in its owner, AT&T. The structure is there. They just have to carve their niche into it.

I understand that’s easier said than done. Right now, a lot of factors are working against DC and the comics industry, as a whole. When all is said and done, comic shops may become much more diminished and trade paperback sales may dwindle to just a handful of titles. I’m not looking forward to that kind of status quo.

The ultimate setup may one day involve DC Comics just abandoning its publishing system, as a whole, and shift to licensing its characters to other companies, such as IDW. That’s very much a last resort, but one that may be more likely if DC can’t get its comics in order.

I want to be hopeful, but I’m also going to brace for the worst. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that things can always get worse and the things we love are always capable of succumbing to forces beyond our control. It’s a sad, nihilistic mindset, but one that a global pandemic tends to affirm. Only time will tell and I’ll be waiting with baited breath.

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“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” Teaser Is Here And Why I’m So Hopeful

This past weekend was a damn good weekend if you’re a fan of all things DC Comics. The festivities surrounding DC FanDome, a showcase of the revamped future of DC Comics, was truly a sight to behold. As someone who is genuinely concerned about the future of DC Comics, and the comics industry in general, this was an incredible experience that gives me some tangible hope.

In a year like 2020, hope is almost as precious as a vaccine. Let’s not lose sight of that.

There were many highlights. I already cited the new “Wonder Woman 1984” trailer as a wonder to behold. However, the one teaser that got me most excited was the first full teaser of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which is set for release on HBO Max in 2021.

Now, the story and politics surrounding this movie are way too complicated, not to mention distressing, for me to go over. I’ve already touched on it before, so I’ll simply present the teaser for those who haven’t seen it. Hopefully, it evokes in others the same excitement I felt.

Now, I want to make one thing clear. I was not among those loudly protesting for the release of this movie. I saw the first “Justice League” movie in theaters. I didn’t hate it, but I could tell that it was not a well-organized movie. While I may not have joined the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement, I did hope that we’d get some sort of extended cut at some point, if only because there’s a solid precedent for it.

Solid doesn’t mean good, but in Zack Snyder’s case, I think there’s a context worth considering here. Snyder’s record as a filmmaker is mixed, but the man clearly knows how to think big. For a franchise like DC Comics and Justice League, you need that kind of vision and scale to do justice to these characters. That’s why I thought he was such a good choice to turn DC Comics into a major film franchise.

Snyder approaches movies as a huge, over-arching vision. He’s great at making spectacles. His work on “300” is proof of that. However, Snyder also has a nasty habit of clashing with studios who want to chop his vision up into something people can see in a movie theater without taking one too many bathroom breaks. Oftentimes, that grand vision is difficult to condense into a commercially viable product.

It happened with both “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Watchmen.” Each movie came out in theaters to mixed reviews by both fans and critics, to put it mildly. However, each movie also has an extended version that came out later. In both cases, the extended product was far superior. They include additional plots and details that make the overall vision more complete and satisfying.

This is especially true of “Watchmen.” Seriously, if you haven’t seen the Ultimate Cut of that movie, I highly recommend it. Even if you hated the theatrical cut, this one is a lot more satisfying, even if it’s over three-and-a-half hours long.

The same goes for “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Its extended cut is far more complete and concise than what we saw in theaters. No, it doesn’t make Jessie Eisenberg any less annoying as Lex Luthor, but it is a more competent and complete movie. It’s just longer and more fleshed out.

There’s also an extended version of Zack Snyder’s other film, “Sucker Punch.” Now, I’m not a big fan of that movie and that extended version doesn’t add much, especially compared to “Watchmen.” However, those extra minutes of footage add critical context to the movie that make it work better, as a story. Even if you don’t like how the movie plays out, you can at least appreciate the context.

In every case, it shows that Snyder had a solid vision for these stories. Too much of that vision got left on the cutting room floor. With “Justice League,” we’re not just talking about an extra half-hour of footage. Basically, this version of the movie contains footage that was almost entirely scrapped for the theatrical cut. It’s the same cast and concept, but a very different vision.

It’s also a vision that will have the time and space to be complete. According to Deadline, this cut of the movie will be nearly four hours long, divided into hour-long segments. That’s a hell of a vision and if history is any indication, it’ll be a spectacle worth seeing.

I, for one, will be eager to see the finished product. Snyder has shown in the past that he can tell a damn good story when he has enough time, space, and energy. HBO Max may be a more fitting platform than a standard movie theater. It may also open the door to a bolder vision for DC Comics in the future.

Only time will tell. All I’ll say from here on out is that the Snyder Cut is almost here. Hallelujah!

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New (But Still Limited) Comic Book Day: May 20, 2020

Another Wednesday is upon us. Sadly, the world is still an omega level clusterfuck. While some parts of it are re-emerging, the road to something more tolerable is nothing short of glacial. This extends to the world of comics, but there’s still some progress to note. Some is still better than none. At this point, the bar is just that low.

That should pick up, assuming things don’t go to Hell again, in the coming weeks. Both Marvel and DC Comics have finalized release plans for new books, some of which were originally set for release two months ago. That’s a long time to wait in the comic world. Even comic fans like myself have endured agonizing delays before, this is uncharted territory for the industry.

Will comics as we know it return?

Will the industry be able to change and adapt to a new marketplace?

Will stories, plots, and plans have changed as a result?

Will Wednesdays be worth waking up at 4:30 a.m. anymore?

These are all unanswered questions. A lot of it depends on the world becoming less awful in the coming months, which is hardly a guarantee. I’m not going to assume anything at this point. I’m just going to craft a pull list from the limited releases this week and make a pick.

Believe me, I want things to get better too. It’s just going to happen painfully slow. At the very least, New Comic Book Day is taking its first steps.


My Pull List

2020 Ironheart #1

DCeased: Unkillables #3

Hawkeye: Freefall #5

Red Hood and the Outlaws #45

Red Sonja #15

Star #4

Wonder Woman #755


My Pick Of The Week
Wonder Woman #755

Sometimes, it’s just not enough to have your heart in the right place. You could have the best of intentions and do everything you do out of love, but still end up the center of someone’s unflinching hatred. That’s a position Wonder Woman finds herself in more than most and “Wonder Woman #755” perfectly highlights the price that comes with that approach.

There are a great many superheroes in comics whose sincerity you can question, but Wonder Woman isn’t one of them. She’s a warrior, a demigoddess, a feminine ideal, and a beacon of wisdom and truth. You can usually assume that she does what she does out of sincere love and be right every time. For some characters, though, that’s just not enough.

That’s what makes Wonder Woman’s part in Paula Von Gunther’s story so tragic, but revealing. Paula, also known as Warmaster, is someone Wonder Woman attempted to save from a hateful environment full of hateful influences. She did what she did out of love and compassion, as she often does with everything. However, in trying to protect her from hate, Paula comes to hate her.

It’s a tragic setup that reveals what happens when Wonder Woman’s innate sense of compassion fails her. At the same time, Paula rightly points out that her compassion was still built on a lie. On top of that, she had no say in living that lie. Wonder Woman made that decision on her own and with no input whatsoever from Paula. Intentions or not, she had zero agency in this decision.

It poses some difficult questions that Wonder Woman cannot readily answer. Writer Steve Orlando puts her in a very strenuous position where she has to fight someone she cares about, but that battle is never more than secondary. Even as it plays out, courtesy of quality art by Jesus Merino, Paula uses her words to hurt Diana the most.

She’s still not the only target. While the battle is personal for Paula Von Gunther, there’s still a larger war for her to wage as Warmaster. It’s not just about Wonder Woman. She’s poised to wage war on the Amazonian homeland and she’s willing to sacrifice an American city to do it. She is a villain by her own admission, but she never comes off as a villain without depth.

What makes “Wonder Woman #755” great goes beyond the battles, the art, or the heroic struggle it explores. It dares to ask how much we’re willing to entrust our fate, our lives, and our agency in the hands of superheroes. Even if those heroes are as honorable and compassionate as Wonder Woman, is it still the right thing to do? Should heroes ever have that much say in how our lives play out?

These are profound questions. As Warmaster, Paula Von Gunther reveals how bad this can go. It’s a powerful message. It brings out both the best and worst of Wonder Woman, as well as the ideals she embodies.

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New (But Limited) Comic Book Day: May 13, 2020

Comic book fans are in the same boat as everyone with respect to navigating this awful pandemic. We’re just waiting out the worst of the storm. Eventually, it’ll pass. Then, slowly and steadily, life will get back to a new form of normal. Let’s face it. There’s no going back to the way things were before. The best we can do is forge a new normal out of this crisis.

The world of comics is already making an effort. As I noted last week, major comic companies are preparing a gradual relaunch of the industry. That means comic shops will finally get new books in stock. Digital comic outlets like Comixology will get to release mainline titles aside from the usual digital-only series. It’s still nowhere near the size of the traditional stock for New Comic Book Day, but it counts as progress.

As it stands, Marvel is still a couple weeks away from releasing a slate of new books. DC, however, is getting back in the swing of things earlier. This week marks the first week in which they’re releasing some mainline titles to market. Again, it’s not much, but it’s much better than nothing. Rather than showing my pull list, I’ll just offer a list of the releases for today, as well as links to previews.

Harley Quinn #72

Justice League #44

Justice League Odyssey #20

Lois Lane #10

Metal Men #6

After weeks on end with no new comics to speak of, this is the first true taste of a new normal for comics. Unlike major sports or movies, comics have an opportunity to get going and thrive once more. There’s still going to be some major upheavals and restructuring, but that process can finally begin. At a time when good news is hard to come by, I’ll take it.

In what I hope isn’t too minor a celebration, here’s a pick of the week that I hope boosts everyone’s spirits. We all need it.


My Pick Of The Week
Justice League #44

Some comics try to be deep, introspective, and profound. Writers and artists attempt to craft a complex story that they hope will leave a profound impact on reader on the best possible way. I fully support these kinds of comics. It’s part of why “Watchmen” is such a groundbreaking achievement for the genre.

At the same time, however, I support books that take the opposite approach. In lieu of being deep, it sticks to the basics of what makes comics fun, but still leaves room for novelty. That’s exactly where books like “Justice League #44” come in. It doesn’t try to reinvent any genre. It just tries to have fun with DC’s most iconic characters.

After weeks on end with no new comics for mainline books, “Justice League #44” is just what we need to remind us why New Comic Book Day is the best day of the week. Writer Robert Venditti and artist Xermanico stick to a basic formula. Take the Justice League, have them answer a distress call, and then unleash giant mythical monsters for them to fight. It’s every bit as entertaining as it sounds.

That’s not to say its shallow or crude. There is a deeper plot at work here. It’s hinted at through some mysterious monologues throughout the issue. We don’t find out who it is until the end, but they provide that extra bit of novelty that makes “Justice League #44” more than just a generic heroes vs. monster brawl.

Those versed in Greek mythology will recognize some of those monsters. Others versed in Wonder Woman’s lore will also sensed something amiss before the fighting stops. What starts off as a distress call from Aquaman in Antarctica turns into a much larger threat that even the Justice League is ill-equipped to handle. The how and the why are teased, but the extent and breadth of that threat are abundantly clear.

In a sense, Justice League comics are the comic book equivalent of comfort food. They’re what you go to when you want something as warm and familiar as an old pair of sweat pants. Between global pandemics and massive upheavals in the comic book industry, we all need a little bit of that comfort food. Even with a limited selection, that’s exactly what “Justice League #44” provides and it’s delicious.

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Shazam! Review: A Simple Formula For Maximum Fun

shazam

When a particular genre becomes over-saturated and overdone, it’s tempting to try and reinvent the concept in hopes of striking a new chord. It’s especially tempting when so many others have risen the bar to such an insane extent that success can only be measured in billions instead of millions.

It would’ve been easy for a movie like “Shazam” to give into such temptation. With the recent success of “Aquaman” and “Avengers Endgame” set to break all sorts of box office records, it seems like this movie has to do something extreme, just to stand out. How else would it succeed in such a crowded market in a golden age of superhero movies?

That was my greatest concern before I saw “Shazam.” As much as I loved the trailer, I was worried that this movie would try so hard to stand out that it would overlook the part of actually being a fun cinematic experience. That sort of oversight has been plaguing the DC Extended Universe since “Man of Steel.”

This picture sums up the issues nicely.

Well, having seen the movie, I’m happy to say that none of those concerns were founded. In fact, I’m elated to report that “Shazam” is another big win for DC Comics and superhero movies, as a whole. However, it didn’t win because it reinvented the genre or did something radically different. It won because it followed the basic formula for quality superhero movies and had fun along the way.

It helps that the core appeal of Shazam, as a character and superhero, is that it approaches heroics with a childlike playfulness. Billy Batson, the alter ego of the titular hero, is not some jaded adult like Batman. He’s not even a boy scout idealist like Superman. He’s just a kid and one who got dealt a bad hand, for that matter. Being both an orphan and a troublemaker, he sees the adult world through very different eyes.

That’s a novel perspective, to some extent. Every other superhero movie, even going back to the era of Richard Donner’s “Superman,” has framed the idea through an adult lens. It always starts out as something simple. An individual gets superpowers, they start carrying out simple acts of heroism, and those acts eventually get complicated, as often happens with adult issues.

With a character like Billy, things never get that complicated. Again, he’s a kid. Even in his heroic form, he sees conflict with a childlike simplicity and “Shazam” captures that simplicity perfectly. The movie doesn’t deviate much from the details and themes of the source material. Concepts like the Rock of Eternity and the Seven Enemies of Man are present and accurately portrayed.

Such details may not matter to those unfamiliar with the comics, but such accuracy is largely a bonus. What really makes this movie work is how it follows Billy’s journey and not just the one he undergoes as a hero. His evolution when he’s not a magically-endowed superhero is arguably the most meaningful aspect of the story.

When we first meet Billy, it’s hard to discern whether he has the spirit of a hero. He’s no upstanding boy scout. In fact, he’s very much a troublemaker who’s willing to thumb his nose at police, break the rules when it benefits him, and run away from anyone who tries to help him. However, he never comes close to crossing that might send him down a darker path.

It’s that trait that sets him apart from his villainous counterpart, Dr. Sivana. While he’s no Thanos, he demonstrates that he’s a lot like Billy in a few key aspects. He’s given a chance to become a hero, but is unable to refuse the temptation that often comes with immense power. That failure haunts him and pushes him down a darker path.

For a time, it seems as though Billy could walk a similar path. When he first gets his powers, he reacts in ways that most would expect of a 14-year-old boy. He tries to buy beer. He tries to make money. He even ventures into a strip club. It’s hilarious and cute, but it also establishes the perfect tone for a movie that avoids complicating the standard superhero narrative.

Within that narrative, there’s a hero who makes choices and learns from his mistakes. There’s also a villain who makes choices and refuses to learn from them. When they eventually clash, it’s a flashy spectacle with simple, understandable stakes. It’s no Battle of Wakanda, but it doesn’t have to be.

The look of someone who DIDN’T get to work with Josh Brolin.

From the moment he first gets his powers to the final showdown with Dr. Sivana, Billy develops into his own hero, but never loses his childlike mentality. He’s not forced to grow up too fast, nor does he have to abandon the civilian life he’s trying to establish. Whereas being Bruce Wayne is often an inconvenience for Batman, being Billy Batson is necessary for Shazam.

This shows in the seamless characterization provided by Asher Angel, who plays young Billy, and Zachary Levi, who plays Shazam. At no point does either manifestation feel like a different character. They both wield the same childlike charisma as they navigate their superhero journey. The same lovability that made Levi so great in shows like “Chuck” help him and Angel bring out the best in Billy Batson.

When the movie begins, it’s not clear that Billy has what it takes to be a competent hero. Trying to determine his worth is like trying to determine if some random 14-year-old will one day play in the NFL. The odds are against them, but the potential is still there. By the time the credits roll, the message is clear. Billy has the spirit that Shazam was looking for and you can’t help but root for him.

At its core, “Shazam” checks all the right boxes for the classic hero’s journey. Billy Batson is perfectly poised to take that journey and not just because he’s one of many orphans who become superheroes. The movie doesn’t try to subvert these tried and true tropes. If anything, it embraces them and dares to have a little fun along the way.

It’s easy to share in that fun. The humor is exactly what you would expect of a movie that involves 14-year-olds getting superpowers. It’s serious when it needs to be, but never too serious. Given the grim and gritty settings of other DC Extended Universe movies, it’s a breath of fresh air that the superhero genre badly needed.

It’s not without its flaws. Some details of Billy’s life are underdeveloped and glossed over. There were also inconsistencies with Dr. Sivana as well, but none were egregious to the point where they derailed the movie. It simply stuck to a simple formula, mixed in a few twists along the way, and made the most of what it had to work with.

If I had to score “Shazam,” I would give it an 8 out of 10. It didn’t reinvent superhero movies or raise the bar. It was simply a fun, entertaining movie that gave a character with little star power a chance to shine. It even managed to accomplish all this without trying too hard to make him like Batman. For a DC Comics movie, that alone is a major accomplishment.

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The following is a review I wrote for PopMatters for Justice League #1. Enjoy!

Justice in Its Totality: Justice League #1

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June 12, 2018 · 9:43 pm

The following is a review I wrote for PopMatters for ‘Mera: Queen of Atlantis #1.’

Royal Vulnerabilities and Regal Strength in ‘Mera: Queen of Atlantis #1’

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March 4, 2018 · 10:55 am

My Justice League Review (And Why The Criticisms Are Unwarranted)

When I did my review for the “Wonder Woman” movie earlier this year, I did so under fairly favorable circumstances. The movie was already getting a lot of positive buzz from critics and general word-of-mouth. I was excited to see it in any case, but that buzz certainly set a positive tone when assessing the merits of that movie.

With “Justice League,” I face the polar opposite of those circumstances. While I generally try not to give much weight to critics or Rotten Tomatoes scores, it was hard to avoid this time. Unlike “Wonder Woman,” the buzz for this movie was entirely negative and it showed in the box office returns, also known as the only real measure that studios care about.

For a movie that was set to be a major milestone, finally putting DC’s most iconic heroes into one movie, it has since become an outright scandal. How can a movie with so much superhero star power do this poorly? That’s a question I am not equipped to answer, especially since people much smarter and more well-connected than me already have.

Instead, I’m going to walk right into this ongoing firestorm of whining and anger to give my spoiler-free review of this movie. I wanted to do it sooner, but I decided to let that firestorm die down just a bit before I offered my take. That might have been a mistake on my part. There’s a lot of noise surrounding “Justice League,” but not much insight.

With that in mind, I’m going to keep my review simple. I’m not going to try and extrapolate a bigger picture, like I did with “Wonder Woman.” I’m just going to focus my review on one simple question.

Is “Justice League” a good movie?

Before I go into detail and try to talk over all the noise, I want to answer this question with my honest and sincere sentiment. Given how much I’ve talked about comic books, superheroes, and superhero movies, including the sexy parts, I like to think my answer has at least some weight. However much stock you put into my opinion, here’s my ultimate conclusion on “Justice League.”

It is a good movie.

Yes, I realize that sentiment doesn’t reflect its Tomatometer score. Keep in mind, though, that score reflects the opinions of critics who are paid to see and/or overthink movies. It doesn’t reflect how actual fans feel about it, which actually shows in the response for this movie.

Even critics can’t deny that this movie went out of its way to please fans, especially those who were dissatisfied with “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.” It directly dealt with the aftermath of that movie, as well as the characters’ reaction to it. It even dealt with the aftermath of “Wonder Woman,” building upon a foundation and creating connections, exactly like a real movie universe should.

Those connections weren’t too critical to appreciate the movie as a whole. It also works very well on its own, creating a simple, concise plot that really ramps up the scale. Again, it’s entirely consistent with the effort to make a large, inter-connected movie universe, just as Marvel has done with so much acclaim.

However, that’s not my primary reason for me saying that “Justice League” is a good movie. In simplest terms, this movie is good because it sticks to the basics and does them very well. It doesn’t try to be overly elaborate. It doesn’t attempt to reinvent the characters to an excessive degree. Yes, those characters have some variations, compared to their comic counterparts, but it’s nothing that warrants confusion or outrage.

Superman is still Superman. Wonder Woman is still Wonder Woman. Batman is still Batman, even if it is through the brooding demeanor of Ben Affleck. Getting those three right is critical to the success of any “Justice League” movie and this one makes it a point to do that early on.

It doesn’t stop there, though. It puts time and energy into developing the rest of the league, namely Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. These three characters had only brief cameos in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice,” but they achieved much greater depth here.

These supporting members weren’t just there to fill out the ranks. They each had their own personal story to follow. Through that story, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg gain a personal stake in “Justice League.” It’s not just about saving the world for them. They’re struggling for something greater and, through the story, they achieve it.

At times, there are a lot of plots unfolding simultaneously. The personal stories of all those involved tend to mix. While it does get somewhat messy, it never gets chaotic. The story never goes off-track and it never becomes too confusing, which was a common criticism levied against “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.”

A major reason why the story remained so concise was because of the main villain, Steppenwolf. While he’s not as iconic a villain as Lex Luthor, Loki, or Darkseid, who is mentioned multiple times, he does plenty to establish himself as a powerful threat and a highly motivated villain.

Like the other members of the league, his role in the plot has a personal component. He doesn’t just show up, wanting to destroy the world for shits and giggles. There’s an actual reason behind his actions and those reasons never become excuses, something that should carry weight for any character.

On top of those reasons, Steppenwolf’s story helps build the bigger picture of the DC Extended Universe. Through it, we learn that there are much larger conflicts in this universe that go beyond the Justice League. It helps establish a larger role for the Amazons, who showed their strength in “Wonder Woman.” It also establishes the Atlanteans and Green Lantern Corp, who are set to show theirs in future movies.

If the secondary goal of “Justice League” was to build a world and expand the possibilities, it certainly succeeded. If its primary goal was to bring each hero together in a way that was entertaining, flashy, and dramatic, then it succeeded as well.

There were plenty of powerful moments. There were plenty of dramatic moments. There were even some funny moments, most of which involved Ezra Miller’s Flash. Few of the moments felt forced or contrived. None felt empty either. There was purpose in every moment, decision, and action. By those most basic of standards, “Justice League” works.

I would even argue that this movie works better than a lot of Marvel movies. I would certainly put it above titles like “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” and “Iron Man 3,” movies that I think get more praise than they deserve. “Justice League” even makes the effort to improve on the mistakes of its predecessor, something few franchises even try, as “Amazing Spider-Man” can attest.

None of this is to say that “Justice League” is without flaws. It certainly has a few. The effects aren’t as flashy or colorful as other movies. Even “Man Of Steel” had better effects, by comparison. It’s also worth belaboring that Ben Affleck is no Christian Bale and Steppenwolf is no Darkseid. It really did feel as though the movie held back, at times.

If that’s the biggest shortcoming of “Justice League,” though, then I still say it qualifies as a good movie. It tells a story. It fleshes out characters. It tells a big, flashy story, full of big battles and satisfying conclusions. There’s a sense of emotional catharsis at the end that is much more uplifting than what we got in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.” When put in the context of the greater DCEU, it acts like frosting on the cake.

Why, then, does it receive such hate and scorn from critics? If this movie does have a major crime, it’s that it isn’t crafted in the same mold as Marvel with their cinematic universe. I don’t deny that Marvel sets a very high bar. However, this movie cannot and should not operate by those same standards. If it did, then those same critics would just whine that it’s ripping off Marvel too much.

There are other criticisms of “Justice League,” but when so many of them revolve around Henry Cavill’s digitally-removed mustache, those criticisms are downright petty. It is possible to hate and criticize this movie by focusing on those petty issues, but that’s hardly a fair way to judge the actual substance of the movie.

In terms of actual substance, “Justice League” has it and plenty more. It Superman being Superman, Batman being Batman, and Wonder Woman being Wonder Woman, just in case her movie didn’t give you enough of that. For that reason, “Justice League” deserves far more praise than it has gotten and far less petty criticism.

In the end, it still gives us a satisfying, live-action Justice League movie. That, in and of itself, makes it inherently awesome

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Movie Reviews, Wonder Woman