Saturday, July 21, 2018

‘Shazam!’ trailer footage is a good time (review/breakdown)

Fun with DC superheroes? Onscreen of all things? That’s exactly what the “Shazam!” trailer footage released this weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con International delivers.

And I love it!
Not only have I had a soft spot in my heart for the Big Red Cheese for many years, but it’s well past time for DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. to start having fun with DC heroes.
This is how Shazam and Billy Batson looked in the 1940s and '50s comic books.

Of course, there’s some bait-and-switch here in this trailer. The first minute or so delivers footage from what looks like will be yet another movie with yawn-inducing, cliché-ridden scenes of a troubled, teenage foster boy who steals cars (0:06) and is placed with a foster family. But then we start having fun.

There are a few early moments of levity. Once the wizard Shazam chooses Billy Batson (Asher Angel) to be his champion (1:06-1:13) and Billy snickers at his name (1:31), the fun starts.

Friday, July 20, 2018

'Batman,' 'Justice League' issues — from Walmart! (review/retro-review)

Originally I went to Walmart to look for the new 100-page giants by DC Comics (Batman, Justice League, Superman and Teen Titans). Wouldn’t you know it; I walked away with BATMAN GIANT No. 1 plus three three-packs, which feature the Dark Knight and the basis of the following reviews.
BATMAN (Vol. 3) No. 9 is renumbered No. 1 for Walmart.

When I was a teenager, three-packs of DC and Marvel issues were fairly common at retail stores that didn’t sell comic books in spinner racks. They also might have contained four issues.

Regardless, just as with the current DC Walmart-exclusives, the ones from the 1970s and ’80s were packaged with the most attractive, or even collectible, issue being the most visible. That meant that in order for Marvel and DC to offer such three-packs or four-packs for a total price slightly more than each one issue, the remaining issues were barely worth the price of the entire packet. In modern terms, those other issues would be fodder for the 25-cent to $1 bins at comic cons or flea markets.

Indeed, that is the same case with the Batman-based Walmart three-packs. I have to assume it’s a similar situation with those featuring Green Arrow and Harley Quinn on the front.

The three issues that pulled me in were Walmart editions from the DC Universe Rebirth, ones that I didn’t want to pay for the prices being offered at conventions. The Batman titles in the packs were: BATMAN: I AM SUICIDE No. 1, BATMAN: NIGHT OF THE MONSTER MEN No. 1 and DETECTIVE COMICS: RISE OF THE BATMEN No. 1. At three issues for $5 and with current titles going for $2.99 to $4.99, it’s a pretty decent bargain per issue.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

‘Titans’ trailer review: Why does Robin say ‘F--- Batman’?

Warner Bros. has released the trailer for the “Titans” TV series which will be available, … well some time in the fall, … on the new DC Universe streaming service.
What I do know is I won’t be subscribing to it and even if I were, I’m not sure if I would tune into this series based on the Teen Titans. Granted, that’s probably not true as I always try to give a new live-action superhero endeavor a try.

The other thing I know is that DC Entertainment is determined to go dark with its live-action projects. I guess The CW Arrowverse and “Black Lightning” remain the only places to have fun with DC characters while still taking their universes seriously.

The third thing I know is why DC/Warner Bros. isn’t using the word teens with “Titans.” In this trailer, there is too much blood, gore and broken bones to be family-friendly, much less youth-friendly.

On the plus side, the Robin costume design is sharp. Love the throwing R! That powerful image at the 34-second mark is an obvious homage to the identical moment in “Batman Begins.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

DC Comics 100-page Giants are back! (review)

DC Comics’ Bronze Age 100-page Giants are issues I love having in my collection. Finding them at a comic-con for anything less than $20 each is next to impossible, so adding them is slim since that’s way above my price range.

Regardless, there is something special about hefting a comic book with a spine. The 100-page Giants really give you a lot of bang for the buck – usually a new story and a host of shorter ones featuring a variety of characters. Those back-up stories published in the Bronze Age (1970 through 1985) often were random reprints from the Golden or Silver Ages, so for a reasonable cover price, readers had a hard-to-find stories in a current issue.

All that being said, I was thrilled when DC broke the news it would be publishing Walmart-exclusive 100-page Giants focusing on Batman, the Justice League, Teen Titans and Superman.

Much like the originals, the new version includes one new story. The reprinted stories in BATMAN GIANT No. 1 are full ones: the first part of the “Hush” storyline in BATMAN No. 608 (2002) and two No. 1 issues from the New 52 era of the Batman universe: NIGHTWING (Vol. 3, 2011) and HARLEY QUINN (Vol. 2, 2013).

At $4.99, with four full stories, that’s a huge deal, considering single issues with many less pages cost $3.99 and $4.99. Just as much of a bargain are the Walmart-exclusive DC three-packs, which feature Batman, the Flash, Green Arrow, Harley Quinn, the Justice League, Suicide Squad, Superman and Wonder Woman. Cary’s Comics Craze will post a review in two days of the notable issues in the Batman three-packs I bought.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Final four: DC Universe Animated Original Movies countdown ranking (Nos. 4 - 1)

Finally! It's time for the final four.

I'm referring to the final four installments of my Cary's Comics Craze countdown ranking of the first thirty of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Somehow life and timing in general got in the way and this has sat in my "drafts" for months now. …

Without further ado, here's the big reveal:

4) "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" (2010): Imagine a scenario in which Superman reluctantly partners with an honest-to-goodness good-hearted Lex Luthor. And get this: There's an anti-Justice League in another Earth, the Crime Syndicate, which is full of bullies, murdering psychopaths and leaders of crime families.

If you enjoy memorable fights -- especially when superheroes fight their dopplegangers, then this action-packed animated film is for you. "Crisis on Two Earths" is something I have watched many, many times since it came out eight years ago. It's always a good time and regularly quite enjoyable.

Superman fans will enjoy seeing him being the decisive leader of the Justice League he's supposed to be. In the last ten years or more, it's been rare to see this side of Supes especially since DC Comics has made Batman the team's de-facto leader, so it's very cool to see it happen here. It's also fun to see cameos by other Justice Leaguers and their evil counterparts.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ review: Is Phase Three of Marvel Studios largely a dud?

To get the proper perspective on “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” I first must take a broader look at the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.

Can we agree that with one exception, the Phase Three releases of Marvel Studios mostly have been underwhelming?

For first the eight years or so, Marvel could do no wrong, putting out one impressive movie after another. (Go here for a preview/early take by Cary’s Comics Craze on the first version of Phase Three, which included a movie about the Inhumans. That turned into a short-lived ABC TV series that failed to find any love from critics or fans, so Marvel was smart to shelve that flick.)

Phase Three started out strong, with the intriguing and multi-layered “Captain America: Civil War,” which is equally enjoyable on repeat viewings. For my money, “Civil War” is the last truly outstanding and intelligent film that Marvel has released. That was more than two years ago, May 6, 2016, a lifetime in the movie industry.

The next two movies in Phase Three with any substance are “Doctor Strange” (Nov. 4, 2016) and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (July 7, 2017).

Friday, July 6, 2018

'Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay' is bloody, violent (review/retro-review)

Do you remember when I predicted that “Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay” would be really gory, after just watching the sneak-peak extra on the “Batman: Gotham by Gaslight” Blu-ray?

The first six minutes or so of “Hell to Pay” contains some of the bloodiest scenes that I’ve seen in a DC animated movie. In fact, there might be more bloodshed and deaths (of super-villains, no less!) in the train heist sequence than in the entirety of its other flicks. It’s so gratuitous it seems as if the creative team decided to fit in as many decapitations, cut-off limbs and such as Warner Bros. Animation would allow.

As I mentioned earlier, I was surprised when I learned that “Gotham by Gaslight” received an R-rating. Sure, it’s about a serial murderer, Pamela Isley and Selina Kyle show more skin than we’re used to seeing and Batman or Bruce Wayne finds Jack the Ripper’s victims in a giant pool of blood. But on the other hand, we see Jack the Ripper stab women multiple times without seeing the actual damage he inflicts and we just see a hint of the top of Plant Lady and Selina’s butt cracks and Pamela wears skimpy lingerie as a burlesque dancer that shows off her rear. None of that really deserves an R-rating.

“Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay” definitely deserves very bit of its R-rating. And it’s all there in the reasoning: “Strong bloody violence throughout, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and some drug material.” Yup, there's a statuesque super-villainess who is shown fully naked after she leaves a hot tub. (Is it OK to call a female baddie a “super-villainess” these days?) Much like the violence, it’s gratuitous.