Titans: The Complete First Season – A Review

Have you heard that DC Comics started its own streaming service with original content? It’s true. Their debut show, Titans, has concluded its first season and is now available on DVD and BluRay. (Special thanks to the Normal Public Library for purchasing it after my request to do so.)

I have to tell you, I felt very excited to see this series. I had no idea what the quality of the story would be, the ability of the actors, or the caliber of the production due to the infancy of DC Universe.com. I’ve got good news. Generally speaking, I give Titans high marks for all three.

Before I explore these aspects, though, I want to make it clear that this version of Titans is not for children. Yes, it has Robin, Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire, but these are not the iterations of the cartoon series. This is a violent depiction laden with profane language.

With that being said, though the series is very uneven, I enjoyed it. I say it’s uneven because sometimes it’s a horror show, sometimes it’s an action show, sometime’s it’s a science fiction show, and sometimes it’s a drama. It never quite figured out how to be all of those things at once.

However, the production value is very high. I couldn’t believe just how good everything looked. The only moment in the eleven shows that looked “fake” was whenever Beast Boy became a tiger. They tried their best with the CGI tiger, but it never quite looked right. Otherwise, it all looked great. Robin’s costume, Starfire’s powers, the sets, the locations, the stunt work–it all impressed.

I thought the overall story had some issues as well. For the most part, it totally engaged me. Unfortunately, near the end of the season, Raven’s father and mother become a focal point and the show lost a bit of steam there. Up until that point, though, I thought the show made a lot of really smart choices with how it slowly revealed details about each character. There are major differences between what we know about the Titans and what this show chooses to do with them, but their essence essentially remains true to their source material.

For me, the standout story line actually centered on Hawk and Dove. I found them to be the most capable actors with the most captivating arc. I also liked them the best, which is ironic because I’ve always found Hawk and Dove to be uninteresting during my forty years of comic book reading.

I also thought Anna Diop was incredibly charismatic. I won’t argue against the fact that they deviate from established Starfire lore quite a bit, but I feel they really made this character work perfectly for the show’s general tone. Another standout includes Curran Walters, who plays Jason Todd, the second Robin. Walters’ accurately captures Todd’s cockiness and charisma, his spirit and darkness. I loved it when Dick Grayson and Jason Todd shared the scene together, and I love that Titans was brave enough to go that deeply into the Batman canon.

There were two things that did not work for me at all, though. The first is the decision they made regarding Raven’s father. If you know the character at all, you understand that he is the demon Trigon. Trigon is a giant, red, muscular, multi-eyed monster. Titans took the easy way out with him, and it totally deflated the series’ ending as a result. Furthermore, though Batman’s shadow hung over the entire season, the final episode really made it all about Batman. I thought this was a serious misstep after having worked so hard to establish Dick Grayson as a fully realized character disconnected from Batman. Everyone and everything took a backseat to Batman in what should have been an episode that pulled out all the stops for the main players. We can’t be expected to take these characters seriously if the show itself would rather be focusing on Batman.

Nonetheless, I had a great time with Titans. It is extremely violent, bloody, and profane, but it’s also brave, bold, and stylish. I’ve already seen some teasers for season two and I’m very excited. It appears that Superboy, Aqualad, Ravager, and Jericho will be appearing as well. If Titans can simply settle on a consistent tone, it’s got everything it needs to be a hit.

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Help My Treatment Of The Batman Get Noticed … PLEASE!

Friends, I know this is crazy.  It’s crazy.  I get it.  But I’ve written a treatment for The Batman.  It’s good.  Seriously.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Scott, you teach high school English in Central Illinois.  You have no connections to the movie industry.  You’ve gone batty.”

Yes, but remember I have a few things going for me.  First and foremost, I’ve been reading Batman for over 37 years.  I literally know this character better than I know myself.  I know his history, his persona, his potential.  I also have a firm grasp on what’s come before, his position in the new shared DC cinematic universe, where this universe seems to want to go, and where the fans would like to see Batman himself go.  I’ve taken into account Ben Affleck’s desire to perhaps leave the franchise, and I’ve given him an out if he wants it.  I realize Joe Manganiello is getting positive response in potentially playing Deathstroke, and so the assassin is still Batman’s primary antagonist.

I’ve got a treatment that develops characters amidst nonstop action.  And though Batman and Deathstroke are the major players, I’ve got a story that logically utilizes virtually Batman’s entire mythology — both hero and villain.  Yes, I’m serious.

But here’s the problem: I’m an outsider.  I’ve tried reaching everyone associated with the film via email and Twitter to no avail.  I have no agent.  I have no Hollywood union.  I have no connections to that world at all.

Another problem?  I can’t share the actual treatment online.  If I posted the treatment to the Internet, the plot would be spoiled, and the studio would have no interest in making that movie.  I somehow need to capture Hollywood’s attention enough to make them want to get in touch with me and read the treatment.

That’s where you come in.  I need you — each and every one of you — to share this post.  My hope is that you’ll share it, you’ll say you believe in me, and it will build so much strength that Matt Reeves, Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder, and the rest of the film’s creators won’t be able to help but take notice.

All I want is a chance to share my treatment of The Batman.  If you know me at all, you know I’ve spent a lifetime preparing for this opportunity.  Please help me succeed in making it happen.

BatScott

Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 – A (Comic) Book Review

Wonder Woman is nothing if not a contradiction.  She is warrior of peace, after all.  She absolutely believes in truth and justice, yet she will fight to the death in pursuit of those things.  This complexity of character, an attribute that has always accompanied Wonder Woman, came especially to the forefront during Brian Azzarello’s masterful time on the title.  Within the last six years, it came to light that she was not only the child of the Amazon queen but also of Zeus himself!  To further add depth to the icon, she eventually became the God of War!

Greg Rucka embraces all of these contradictions and uses them to create a gripping first installment to what appears to be a captivating story line.  In Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1, Wonder Woman remembers two distinct pasts, two separate lives, and she wants nothing more than the truth concerning these contradictory recollections.  She uses a unique approach to achieve this desired truth which sets her on a new path, and this new journey will seemingly put her in direct conflict with the entity Wally West is warning of in DC Universe: Rebirth #1.  I love that already Batman, Flash, and Wonder Woman know something is amiss, that they are being manipulated and watched, and it’s only a matter of time before they do something about it …

Two artists are featured within this issue.  Matthew Clark handled the Wonder Woman for whom we are familiar, and then, half way through the book, Liam Sharp takes over when Wonder Woman ditches her New 52 costume and adopts more traditional armor befitting an Amazon warrior.  Consequently, this new armor is very similar to what she wore in her big screen debut last March.

Rucka, like Azzarello, delivers a complicated, multifaceted Wonder Woman with a clear mission in mind.  He is treating her with dignity, respect, and as the capable hero she is.  Like The Flash: Rebirth #1, this issue seems integral to the overall story unfolding within the DC Universe.

I left Wonder Woman after Azzarello’s departure because I didn’t care for the way the new creators handled her, but Rucka has definitely brought me back.  I can’t wait to join Wonder Woman as she discovers her truth.

 

 

 

 

 

Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 – A (Comic) Book Review

Green Arrow is a character I’ve always really enjoyed when appearing in the Justice League books.  At times I’ve even felt compelled to read his solo title, especially when Smith, Meltzer, and Lemire were at the helm.  More often than not, though, I just follow him from afar.

One major thing drew me to his “Rebirth” book, and that’s his reunion with Black Canary.  It’s my understanding that Green Arrow and Black Canary only peripherally knew each other since the dawn of the New 52 back in 2010.  To newer fans this may not seem like a big deal.  To old guys like me, though, that seemed outrageous!   Black Canary and Green Arrow are one of the greatest partnerships and romances in all of comic book lore.  I don’t know when they got together, but I’ve been reading comic books since about 1980 and they were an item even back then.

In “Rebirth,” they come fact to face, join forces, and have an adventure together.  I’m honestly not familiar with the author, Benjamin Percy, but he nailed the chemistry that must exist between these two icons.  He kept each character true to their core but also made sure they amplified the best attributes of the other.  Isn’t that what all great romances are meant to do?

He also ended the book with a nod to the audience, that yes, this has been too long in the making, which I thought clever.

I think one really interesting development with bringing Arrow and Canary together for the “first” time is that even old fellas like me get to see something I’ve never seen before — the advent of the relationship.  Like I said, even in 1980 this couple felt firmly established to my three-year-old eyes.  It’s nice to have them both very young, very fresh, and very inexperienced with each other.  I really hope DC takes its time fostering the relationship and giving them the time they deserve to grow together.  But, man, it’s nice to see them side by side!

In fact, this entire book seemed intent on giving the audience back what it wants.  Green Arrow has his famous goatee again, he once again considers himself a social justice warrior, he’s the most lighthearted I’ve seen him in a long time (which, to me, is a must with GA), and his costume is simple, sleek, and dynamic.

The story itself didn’t prove all that interesting.  Honestly, it accomplished the one thing it needed to do, which was give GA and BC a reason to team up.  And while the writer certainly captured the charisma and charm of this famous couple, there were several instances of clunky dialogue and redundancy.

Even so, if you’re a Green Arrow AND Black Canary fan, I’d consider this required reading.  While the plot concerning the conflict wasn’t great, it still firmly delivered on providing a memorable first interaction between two of DC’s greatest characters.

 

 

All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder: Volume I – A Graphic Novel Review

This book is absolutely insane, and I loved it!

What we have here is a Batman story free of any previous or current continuity.  Writer Frank Miller is taking Batman and starting his story from scratch.  (Or is he?  More on that later.)

The Batman in this storyline is testosterone fueled, immature, and more than a little nutty.  Miller takes him so over the top that I really and truly hope the writer is poking fun at his previous incarnations of the characters and his previous, ultraviolent works such as Sin City and 300.  The fact that both Batman and most other characters in the book refer to him as “the g-d-n Batman” can only lead me to believe Miller didn’t want us taking this too seriously.

However, Miller is also proving a point.  We’d always heard that Batman needed a Robin to take the edge off the man-to bring him back to humanity.  However, as a Batman fan of over twenty-five years, I’d never really seen an incarnation of the character that had him in DIRE need of a humanizing sidekick.  That is, until now.  Miller’s All-Star Batman is a whack-job, and it’s only through his dealings with Dick Grayson that he slowly begins to realize he’s turned into a monster.  Despite all the sex and violence in the book, Miller actually does a wonderful job evolving Batman’s character-there is real character development taking place that is rarely seen in the comic book medium.

And because this is an all-star title, the artist must be as equally as big a star-enter Jim Lee.  Jim Lee has always been a mesmerizing artist, but he truly outdoes himself with All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder.  His figures look amazing-as always-but the settings are what really blew me away.  His attention to detail is nearly genius-level, and I found myself studying every building in the skyline, every poster on the wall, every tread on a tire.  He is absolutely astonishing.

So while I’m glad this book isn’t the definitive and mainstream interpretation of the character, I am so glad we have this Batman as well.  I couldn’t put the book down.  It was ludicrously fun and breathtaking to look at and had me addicted within the first few minutes of reading it.

Now, if you’ll allow me a slight digression: Does anyone else think this is a prequel of sorts to The Dark Knight Returns?  As I started reading it, I noticed some thematic links between All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder and The Dark Knight Returns, as well as The Dark Knight Strikes Again.  This is nothing unusual with writers, many of them tend to have certain passions that they return to (consciously or not) in their work. 

However, as I continued reading, things began to seem like more than just coincidence.  For example, in the huge spread from Episode 4, doesn’t that look like the Dark Knight Returns Batmobile being built?  Also, we clearly see the cover to The Dark Knight Returns collected edition as a poster on Barbara Gordon’s wall in Episode 6.  The Wonder Woman design in Episode 5 is very similar to the Wonder Woman in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, as is her basic personality and attraction to Superman.  I would also argue that Superman, Plastic Man, Green Lantern, and Jim Gordon all seem tonally the same as they are in The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again

But, the real cinchers for me occurred first in Episode 8 where the Joker’s henchwoman was the same lady with the swastikas covering her nipples (wow, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d construct) as from The Dark Knight Returns: Book Three.  

And then, the big one-the HUGE one-happened in Episode 9 where Batman tells Green Lantern, “Of course we’re criminals.  We’ve always been criminals.  We have to be criminals.”  Now compare that to Superman’s internal dialogue from The Dark Knight Returns: Book Three, which was written roughly twenty years earlier: “When the noise started from the parents’ groups and the subcommittee called us in for questioning – – you were the one who laughed … that scary laugh of yours … ‘Sure we’re criminals,’ you said.  ‘We’ve always been criminals.  We have to be criminals.'”

In my estimation, it seems Frank Miller is using All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder to build upon his mythos originated in The Dark Knight Returns, and I think that’s incredibly entertaining.

Of course, if I’m right, knowing what we know about the end of The Dark Knight Strikes Again certainly makes his developing relationship with Dick Grayson seem bittersweet.

Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come (Part I) – A Graphic Novel Review

I’ve always enjoyed JSA, mostly because Geoff Johns has made a point to keep one foot in the past with the title while keeping the other foot firmly planted in the future.

With the Justice Society of America re-launch, the team has a new mission statement of making sure the world has better heroes, and so they are first tracking down legacy heroes and training them to deserve the mantle they’ve assumed.

Thy Kingdom Come is particularly fascinating because it reintroduces Superman from Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come series.  In expert juxtaposition, Johns makes a point that while the Earth-2 Superman thought Earth-1’s heroes weren’t heroic enough, the Kingdom Come Superman finds Earth-1’s (New Earth’s) heroes inspiring and invigorating.  Any writer will tell you that good writing means making use of unusual perspectives, and Johns does just this with KC Superman.

Furthermore, I love the KC Superman because he has an edge to him.  He’s damaged goods.  After all, he watched his world’s heroes demean and destroy themselves and did nothing until the (relatively) very end.  He wants a fresh start as well, a chance at redemption, and that makes him very compelling.

But among such heavy themes and dangerous adventures, Johns also brings about quite a bit of joyfulness.  Boxing matches between Wildcat and his son, fundraising at the local firehouse, and ski trips are just part of what makes this team such a delight to follow. 

Johns also mixes established, semi-established, and brand new characters in this book and gives each a chance to shine in an appealing and engaging manner.  To have characters over half-a-century old such as Flash and Green Lantern interacting with brand new legacy characters such as Wildcat II, Cyclone, and Citizen Steel brings an unpredictability that is missing in several other DC titles.  Throw in semi-established characters using familiar names like Hourman, Liberty Belle, and Starman, and you’ve got something exciting, amusing, and captivating.

For me, Justice Society of America continues to be a must-read and I really look forward to where the title is heading with its heavy referencing to Kingdom Come and multiple-subplots.

Justice, Volume I – A Graphic Novel Review

Justice: Volume I is a good start to what seems to be an interesting story. The artwork is captivating and the writing is adequate enough to keep me looking forward to the conclusion. This story line is not contingent upon the current DC Universe continuity, so we have a lot of heroes in their Silver Age composition but set in modern times. The villains’ interpretations are more eclectic.

I’ve heard some people compare the general cast of heroes and villains to that of the old cartoon Challenge of the Superfriends. I can certainly see the validity of such a statement in terms of who is being used and the costumes, but otherwise this story is far grittier, mature, and complex.

Again, the story in Justice is not anything groundbreaking, but the art and the interpretations of characters, especially the villains, make it an entertaining read.