Another year has come to an end, but before we ring in the New Year, I wanted to leave you all with one more entry in my recommendation series: Paul’s Picks! Let’s dive in…
House of X/Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman
This is by far the best superhero graphic novel of the year, if not the last several years. Jonathan Hickman has delivered one of the most wildly unique superhero comics I’ve read in a long time. Something about the X-Men allows for new creators to come into that world and wildly shake things up. They put their unique brand on the characters and the story, all the while always feeling like an X-Men tale. Chris Claremont did it with Giant Size X-Men #1, Grant Morrison did it with New X-Men, Joss Whedon did it with Astonishing X-Men, and now Jonathan Hickman has done it again with House of X/Powers of X.
The best part is you don’t have to be familiar with recent X-Men comics understand the story, you just need a basic knowledge of who the X-Men are. The hardcover volume I have is a special edition that actually came with a lithograph signed by Jonathan Hickman, which is pretty cool, but don’t expect it to be come with every edition (this was a special order).
Most other editions of this hardcore graphic novel have a different, but still beautiful wrap around cover. If you’ve ever been interested in superhero comics or if you wanted to get back into comic books, this is a must read.
As I’ve talked about on this website many times, I love the DC animated movies that come out every year. One of the better ones in recent memory has been The Death of Superman storyline which was broken into two different films. The first, The Death of Superman focuses on Clark Kent’s growing romantic relationship with Lois Lane and ultimately Superman’s fight to the death with the vicious monster, Doomsday. While Reign of The Supermen is about how the World, The Justice League, Lois Lane, and even Lex Luthor all deal with the loss of Earth’s greatest hero. Now this excellent story can be watched seamlessly as one beautiful animated film: The Death and Return of Superman. Much like their adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns, which was split into two separate film releases and then eventually released as one film under The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition, The Death and Return of Superman is best enjoyed as one movie.
My last pick is Quentin Tarantino’s latest film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. I’m a huge Tarantino fan, but to be honest I was disappointed with his most recent directorial effort. Don’t get me wrong, DiCaprio and Pitt are great and there’s a lot to like in this movie, but it just didn’t wow me like Tarantino’s movies usually do. I know I’m in the minority on this one, the film was a huge critical success and most of my friends loved it as well, including World’s Best Media’s own Ryan McDonald. However, just because I wasn’t blown away doesn’t mean I didn’t want to add the film to my Blu-Ray collection. My personal selection was the Best Buy Exclusive Steelbook Blu-Ray/4K edition. I love me some steelbook Blu-rays!
So that’s it for my picks in 2019! Look for me to continue this article series more frequently in the coming year. Have a safe and Happy New Year! See you in 2020!
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After the surprisingly solid Batman: Hush, it looks like we’ll be getting one more DC Animated Movie before the end of 2019: Wonder Woman: Bloodlines. You can check out the first trailer posted below. I am more excited for this one than I thought I would be. I really like seeing how the film is using many of the classic Wonder Woman villains that we don’t often get to see in projects like this. DC has been putting out some strong animated films lately after a few years of some mediocre entries, hopefully Wonder Woman: Bloodlines continues the trend of increasingly good DC Animated Movies. The movie will be released digitally on 10/5 and on Blu-Ray and 4K on 10/22. One of the bonus features included with the movie will be a short film about the character Death, one of The Endless from Neil Gaiman‘s The Sandman comic book series. Watch the trailer here:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the direct to Blu-Ray and Digital DC Animated Movies. There’ve been some real classics to come out of these projects. Movies like Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns: The Deluxe Edition, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and Batman: Under The Red Hood, just to name a few. While there have been some enjoyable standouts, there hasn’t been a real homerun from these films in a while. Though Batman: Hush may not knock it out of the park, it comes damn near close. Based on the classic Batman run by writer Jeph Loeb (Batman: The Long Halloween) with art by the legendary Jim Lee (Justice League, X-Men), Batman: Hush does a great job of adapting this seminal Batman tale while still fitting the movie into the animated continuity (or DCAU) that DC created beginning with Justice League: War. The result is a pretty damn good movie that is less of a mystery and more of a tragic romance. Which may irk some fans, but I’ll get into more of that in a moment.
I’ve heard some people complain about the animation in these films lately. Critics say that copying the general aesthetic of The New 52 and attempting to adhere to a visual continuity, makes each of these movies feel overly similar and blocky. Well, that issue isn’t completely absent from this film, but there are some notable efforts to step up to quality of the animation. Some shots feature fantastic little details that immediately draw your eyes. How someone’s eyes and face move before something dramatic is about to happen, the way a fight move is pulled off, small moments scattered throughout the film that make it feel as if the animators were going the extra mile and it shows.
The real highlight of the movie is the relationship between Batman and Catwoman. It’s so rare to see Batman in a successful and a functioning relationship. I should mention that Selina doesn’t know that Bruce is Batman at the beginning of the story.
It’s only when things begin to get serious that he reveals himself to be Bruce Wayne. In fact, there is a funny scene when he brings her to the Batcave for the first time and she’s enthusiastically greeted by Dick in the Nightwing uniform without his mask and Alfred attempting to serve her tea. When she‘s surprised to realize that Dick and Alfred know that she’s Selina Kyle. She even half jokingly asks “Does everyone know who I am?“ Dick blurts out “No, just us and Damian.” Selena asks “Who’s Damian?”, “Oh he’s Bruce’s son… He’s Robin.” Replies Dick with an awkward look on his face. It’s easy to see how being an intimate part of Bruce’s life isn’t so simple, which is why he and Selena are so perfect for one another. He is drawn to Selina as both Batman and Bruce Wayne and that’s where the key to their success of the relationship lies.
If Bruce and Selina are out on a date and The Bat Signal appears in the sky, Bruce doesn’t have to make up some bullshit excuse. She’s more than capable of coming along with him to stop whatever threat he’s facing and it even feels like a natural part of their “date night” that they both seem to get off on. Catwoman may have been staying on the straight and narrow, but she loves this world, she loves being part of a good fight. In fact, I think if she was dating Bruce and he didn’t have the Batman aspect to his life, the relationship wouldn’t work. Selina needs those kind of thrills.The film is mature enough to acknowledge that this relationship wouldn’t have worked if it began when they were younger. Maybe there would’ve been an intense fling, but nothing more. They’ve both matured, changed, and they both want different things than they did years before. It’s at this point in their lives that they’re ready to be together as both Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle/Catwoman.
When comparing the graphic novel to the film, it’s important to remember that the Batman: Hush graphic novel is a mystery at it’s heart. Who is Hush? Why are they doing this? Well the movie managed to do a great job with staying relatively faithful to the source material, while still managing to surprising fans of the graphic novel. Love it or hate it. Many of the iconic moments from the comic book are present in the film. Some are even slightly improved upon. However, there is one classic scene from Batman: Hush that was adapted to the film, but (without going into SPOILERS) the scene felt like it needed to be a little bit longer. I was impressed how Hush managed to both surprise those of us who’ve read the comic book, while still being faithful to the source material in a unique way. To say much more would be a SPOILER, but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it. You may think you know where the story is going, you may think you know the identity of Hush (and maybe you’re right), but things play out just different enough to make things fun, interesting, and surprising.
The final fight between Batman and Hush is particularly well animated, well choreographed, and thrilling. The animation of the fight has a very dynamic quality. Batman employs one of my favorite tactics of his, that we’ve seen in animation and comics many times, but almost never in live-action: He gets in the villains head to gain the upper hand. He plays mind games with his opponents and that’s used here to great effect. Batman use his genius, his ability to manipulate the psychosis of the villain he’s facing, to exploit their fears, insecurities, and weaknesses to give him that extra edge for the win. Batman’s greatest weapon is his intellect.
The combination of the surprising reveal of Hush’s identity, the fantastic animation, and Batman using his intellect to exploit the mental and emotional weaknesses of his opponent, make this for a pretty memorable final battle.
It should be noted that Selina Kyle/Catwoman is a notorious criminal and accomplished superhero in her own right. However, Batman can be such a larger than life figure, that it would be easy to make even the strongest of women look like a damsel in distress in one of his stories. The film does a great job of avoiding problems like this. Selina is her own woman. Her choices are not defined by Bruce’s choices. She doesn’t necessarily need his help to get out of some of the most serious jams she finds herself in throughout the movie. Particularly in the climax of the film, Selina finds herself in a very precarious life and death situation. I’m fairly certain she would’ve been fine, whether Batman showed up or not. The storytellers did a phenomenal job making her an interesting capable character.
At the end of the day this is still a love story between Batman and Catwoman. The sad realization of how, at least in this point in their lives, that love story is also a tragedy. Bruce lets Selina in, in a way we rarely see from this character. There comes a point in the story, when Bruce makes a decision that looks like madness to Selina. In fact, it would look like madness too many of us in the audience. Once the threat has been neutralized and the villain dealt with, Selina has an epiphany. She realizes that no matter how much she loves Bruce, no matter how much she changes for him, no matter how much more she’s willingto change for him, he won’t change himself.
There are things he will not become. There are lines he cannot cross. Because of that Selina will always come in second place to Bruce. She willing to let herself evolve with this relationship, but she realizes that in the end, Bruce is an immovable object she’ll break herself against. It’s profound, it’s sad, and it’s veryBatman.
Batman: Hush is a flawed, but solid Batman mystery/adventure with a fantastic romance story, great fight scenes, some stand out bits of animation, and some surprisingly thought-provoking character and story elements. Some things land better than others and I think the film may have benefited from another 20 minutes or so of storytelling to help flesh out some of it’s more interesting ideas. The climax in particular feels like it comes out of nowhere, when there should’ve been a bit more tension and build up to Batman‘s final confrontation with Hush. Whether you’ve read the original graphic novel or not, this movie will still keep you guessing.
While not the complete return to form I was hoping for from Warner Bros/DC Animation after the strong combination of The Death of Superman/Reign of the Supermen, I’d say this is still a MUST WATCH for any Batman fan!
I’ve always been a big fan of the DC Animated movies that come out each year. For those of you that aren’t familiar, they’re animated adaptations of DC Comics stories that go directly to iTunes and Blu Ray. They usually release three a year, around January, April, and July. They’re PG-13 or R-Rated films marketed to adult and teenage DC superhero fans. They’re hit or miss, in terms of quality. They run the spectrum from “Ok” or “Fine” to “One Of The Best Superhero Movies I’ve Ever seen”.
Their latest release is “The Death of Superman” and you may be thinking: “Wait, didn’t they do this one already?” The answer is: Kind of. Way back in 2007, the very first DC Animated Movie was Superman: Doomsday, a very loose adaptation of the classic death of Superman story. So, as far as THIS movie is concerned, this current film I’m reviewing is a much more faithful adaptation. The Death of Superman is the first part of a 2 movie story.With Part 2 titled, Reign of The Supermen, premiering in January or February 2019.
Like I said before, they usually release three of these a year. Starting with 2013’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and 2014’s “Justice League: War” (A JL origin film FAR superior to the live action one we got in November 2017), 2 out of the 3 animated movies they released each year were part of an ongoing cinematic universe, like the MCU or whatever the fuck DC is trying to do in live action at the moment. Including Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, 11 movies that take place in this DC Animated Movie Universe have been released. The other stories are cool one offs, like the recent Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, for example. Which is a what if? tale that imagines a steampunk, Victorian era Batman hunting Jack The Ripper in late-19th Century Gotham. Most of these have been pretty solid across the board. It probably doesn’t say much about the overall quality of this Animated Movie Universe that there isn’t a sense that we got to know these characters over an 11 film continuity. Or that the movies had been leading to something like this.
At nearly an hour and half, this movie is slightly longer the most of the recent DC Animated Movies. However, it’s a smart move because the running time allows for a much deeper film that I was expecting. Going into this, I expected the whole thing to one big superhero punch up. Great animation, cool fights, but at the end of the day just a fun piece of entertainment. So, I was delighted when at least half of the film is about Clark and Lois and the issues that arise in their still relatively new romance. The movie is well paced considering all of the characters in play. Because this movie is about his death, everyone in Clark Kent’s life is in this film and they all get their moment to shine. The Justice League, The Daily Planet staff, Ma and Pa Kent, Lex Luthor, and few other local Metropolis citizens with ties to Superman all pop up in the movie. It’s a credit to the film that even with all these characters, it never feels over stuffed or loses it’s focus on Lois and Clark.
You don’t need to have seen any of the other DC Animated Movies to enjoy this wonderful film. All of the great character work and storytelling come straight from THIS movie. Real life husband and wife Jerry O’Connel and Rebecca Romijn are perfect as Clark and Lois. O’Connel has voiced Superman to good effect before in other animated movies and Romijn makes a solid debut as Lois Lane. They’re real life chemistry definitely translates into the film. We have all the usual suspects from the other films back to play their respective roles in the Justice League, as well as other returning supporting characters.
Before getting into the movie there’s one other bit of voice casting I want to touch on. Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) voices Luthor and is surprisingly effective as the character. Lex is an interesting presence in this film. He’s not that dissimilar to the Lex we’ve seen in the comics over the past few years. He’s undeniably despicable, arrogant, and cold, but there’s a glimmer of something more underneath. Inside him’s the shadow of a man who could be better than he is. He adds a little something special to the overall film.
I’m going to make a bold statement here. I think this is the best film about Clark Kent that I’ve ever seen. This movie is Clark Kent’s story. Lois is very important, but this is Clark’s tale. This man’s death shows us who he is. This was just one more reason I loved this movie. Outside of the fights with Doomsday, I deliberately refer to the character as Clark, not Superman, throughout this review. This is one of the better onscreen portrayals of Superman I’ve seen and that’s because they understand who Clark Kent is. The kid who grew up on a farm in Kansas, that’s the real character. Not Kal-El, not Christopher Reeves’ mask of Clark Kent as pathetic buffoon, not Superman. He’s Clark Joseph Kent. Jonathan and Martha’s son. Even when he’s in costume at the beginning of the movie, interacting with the League or stopping bad guys with high tech weapons. He seems more man than god. He’s happy to stop and take a picture with a man he’s gotten to know, because he’s saved the guys life so many damn times. In these scenes before the fight with Doomsday, while he’s in costume as Superman, he feels like a citizen of Metropolis. Not a distant god, but more like a cop on his beat that gives you a nod and smile. Superman knows these people and they know him. It’s a brilliant way to humanize the character in a way live action films always struggle with.
At the heart of Clark’s story here is his romance with Lois. Unlike other takes on the Lois and Clark/Superman dynamic, Lois is into Clark, NOT Superman. She wants their relationship to move forward but she knows something’s holding them back. She knows there’s more going on with Clark, but doesn’t quite know what it is. She’s a little taken aback when, while asking Clark to dinner, he tells her he cant because his parents are in town and he’s having dinner with them. Lois is understandably a little insulted when Clark didn’t even mention the possibility of meeting his parents. It’s clear that they’ve been dating for at least several months if not more. But what she perceives as Clark being aloof and having an emotional wall up, is actually Clark wrestling with the idea that he’s falling in love with her and that he should tell her he’s Superman. He’s afraid that his parents will accidentally let something slip before he has a chance to tell Lois the truth about this part of his life. After all, besides a few fun DC Easter Eggs mentioned by Ma and Pa Kent, Clark’s ex- girlfriend knew had superpowers from the jump, this the first time Clark has been in a relationship like this. Not just with a normal person, but someone he’s falling in love with.
The movie does an excellent job of showing the audience exactly what an unstoppable, terrifying force Doomsday is. We’ve seen Doomsday in live action and animation before, but the threat he represents is much more impactful here. This is a creature that kills every single living thing it sees.
The Justice League faces Doomsday before Superman gets into the fight and they have some pretty heavy hitters. We see Doomsday go up against Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, Cyborg, and Batman all before the Monster’s fateful Confrontations with The Man of Steel. Even with out Superman, that’s a fucking stacked roster. Despite how powerful the Justice League is, they’re simply not up to facing Doomsday. They’re completely helpless to stop him.
So, when the fight between Clark and Doomsday finally goes down, there’s no backup or cavalry coming. Superman is the “last watcher on the wall”. If he doesn’t stop this Monster there and then, there will be no end to the death and destruction Doomsday will unleash. There’s an inevitability to Doomsday. As he slowly kills his way to Superman. We all slowly march towards death and this story shows us The Man of Steel is no different, but for him Death comes in the form of Doomsday.
The fight between Superman and Doomsday is easily the most brutal and bloody Superman fight I’ve seen in any medium. I found myself wincing or exclaiming “Jesus..”, as conflict went on. At a certain point, it stops being a fight. You realize you’re watch Superman slowly be beaten to death with each blow and it’s hard to watch. The fact that there’s such emotional heft shows that the storytellers did their job with this film. The movie is called The Death of Superman, OF COURSE HE’S GOING TO DIE! But the movie magic was that the filmmakers had me so engrossed in the story onscreen, I almost forget that there was no question to the outcome of this fight. The battle’s hard to watch not just because of the level of violence, but because you really care about Clark Kent and it’s heartbreaking seeing this man die in front of us.
The animation in this film is top notch. When the action goes full tilt there’s a level of detail that comes close to resembling anime, without completely going over into that style. Every once and awhile a western animation superhero project will use anime influenced sequences, Justice League Unlimited comes to mind for example. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s used well here and only adds to the already visceral fight scenes. For those of you who aren’t fans of that animation style, It’s not so noticeable that it takes you out of the story.
I think its was smart that DC decided if they were going to tell this story, it should be a 2-Parter, like they did with their fantastic adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns. As impactful as the death of Superman is, the story of how the world, his friends, his enemies, his family, and his fellow superheroes react to his death is arguably more compelling . Who or what will step up to fill the void left by The Last Son of Krypton? Considering how well this story was told, I can’t wait to see what the filmmakers do in Reign of The Supermen. If you’re a DC Comics fan, there are some Easter Eggs in the movie that hint at some of the story and characters elements that’ll be used in Part 2. Make sure you stay for the end credits, there are multiple mid credit tags setting up the next movie.
I didn’t want to end this review without mentioning something I noticed that the writers chose to add to the story. As I said before, this movie is part of a DC Animated Movie Universe, this story doesn’t exist in a bubble. I don’t want to spoil this for anyone and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but pay attention to EXACTLY how Doomsday comes out of space, ultimately crashing on Earth. Also be sure to pay attention to the details when STAR Labs examines the high tech weapons Superman takes off the thugs at the beginning of the movie. None of these story elements are from the comics, so the writers deliberately chose to add them in. I have my own theory about what’s going on, but I wont spoil the fun here.
This is top notch superhero story telling from DC Animation. This movie is the best DC Animated Movie since Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (which is high praise). This a surprisingly moving story about love, death, family, friendship, and sacrifice. No DC fan worth their salt should miss this one. I know I cant wait to see Part 2, when Reign of The Supermen comes out early next year. The Death of Superman is an excellent film, the best DC Animated Movie in years, and a must watch. Don’t miss it.