Friday, December 15, 2017

Justice League vs Avengers in Overwatch

This image brought to you by the power of Microsoft Paint

There are two huge stories this week: Net Neutrality and Disney purchased Fox. I'm not going to write about either of those - to be honest, I probably wouldn't be able to add anything that hasn't already popped up in your feed dozens of times by now. Instead, I'm going to write a silly editorial about the one subject that truly matters: What would happen if the Avengers and Justice League fought in the world of Overwatch?

Look, there's a lot of really significant stuff going on in the world right now and I don't know about you, but I sure could use some escapism. So, I'm combining three of my passions for a lighthearted and hopefully fun editorial: Comic book movies, comic book battle debates, and Overwatch. There are thousands of people arguing about the DC and Marvel movies and who would win in a fight, but I'm pretty sure no one has thrown them into the highly addictive world of Overwatch.

If you're familiar with Overwatch, jump ahead to the part that lists the teams - send me a friend request if you're on PS4 so we can play, too! If you're not familiar with the game, get cozy and grab a drink and a snack because I'm about to tell you everything you need to know so you can better imagine this brawl. It's not thrilling stuff but it's important info for this super serious fictional fight.

The multiplayer video game has a very simple premise: Two teams battle each other in various game modes (unless it's deathmatch, of course). There are several characters to choose from - all with different weapons, health, and abilities - and there are four classes: Offense, defense, tank, and support. Those classes all have pretty self-explanatory titles, right? Cool, moving on. A good team requires a balanced composition, so I've kept this in mind while choosing the rosters for each superhero team. Also, if a character is defeated in the game, they will respawn (come back to life) at the team's spawn point after a little bit of time.
Both teams are staring at Joss Whedon

For this article, some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Avengers will be taking on some of the DC Extended Universe Justice Leaguers in a scenario called "control." One team - the "attack" team - needs to capture two points on the map. Only the first point is available when the match begins, and then if the point is captured (by members of this attack team possessing it for a brief period of time without an enemy also being on it), the second point will unlock. The other team - the "defend" team - is tasked with preventing the other team from capturing the points. Before the round begins, both teams have about a minute to strategize. The defense team is allowed to explore the map and get in position, but the attack team is safely contained in their spawn point, allowing them to talk tactics. After the match ends (either by time running out or the attack team capturing both points), the two teams switch roles, meaning the attack team is now defending, and the defending team is now attacking. Keep in mind, the second round means both teams are now aware of who they're facing and that'll be critical during the setup time before the second round starts.

Overwatch usually has two teams of six players, but to keep things as balanced as possible, both teams in this fight will have five heroes instead of six. What? Like we could really get a fair battle if Superman was involved? You saw what the dude accomplished in Justice League, right? Hulk's mighty and all, but the Man of Steel was seriously impressive and I think he'd have no problem knocking around the Green Goliath. So, five versus five it is! Balancing both teams wasn't easy but I think I've come up with a fair roster for both sides. If you disagree, please feel free to make changes to the Avengers roster and have fun thinking about how it would play out differently. But for now, here are the teams:

Steve Rogers/Captain America (offense)
Peter Parker/Spider-Man (offense)
James Buchanan 'Bucky' Barnes/Winter Soldier (defense)
Thor Odison (tank)
Tony Stark/Iron Man (support)

Justice League
Bruce Wayne/Batman (offense)
Barry Allen/The Flash (offense)
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (defense)
Arthur Curry/Aquaman (tank)
Victor Stone/Cyborg (support)

A stern look is the one advantage Batman has over Cap
The teams will square off in the Overwatch control map Hanamura. For more information on the map, check out its page on the Overwatch Wiki here - give it a look if you're not familiar with the game so you can visualize this battle. To decide which team will attack first, I'm going to flip a coin. Seriously, I'm going to right... now. Okay, it looks like Justice League will attack during the first round. Before reading on, how do you think this would play out? Take a good minute to really think it through. How will each character benefit the team? How could they hinder the team? How will their tactics differ?

The first round is the most difficult one for both sides. For simplicity's sake, both teams will know the layout of the map and what their objective is, but they do not know who they're facing. These two teams are from totally different universes, so each character will have to learn about their opponents as the match progresses.

For the first round, I believe the DC team has the edge for two reasons: Batman's tactics and Wonder Woman and Aquman's impressive physicality. Even though both teams don't know what they're up against, the DC team has the advantage right away because Batman knows Flash has what it takes to be a good scout. The Scarlet Speedster may not be a great combatant - he slipped up against Parademons twice and the least physically impressive character in this match, Batman, was able to tag him with a grappling gun - but the Dark Knight could use the speedster to race ahead and then report what he saw. To me, this seems like a totally logical strategy that Batman would recommend. He knows he can't rely on Flash to defeat enemies, but he's extremely useful for sneaking behind enemy lines, seeing who's there, and zipping back to inform the team - he could even try to disarm someone, like Winter Soldier. This won't tell the Justice League everything they need to know about their enemies, but it at least has the chance to give them a heads-up about what they're facing and where their enemies are positioned. Despite his speed, the Flash is not untouchable, so there's the chance this could go totally wrong. After all, Spider-Man's spider sense would likely go off. I know it didn't seem like he had it in Spider-Man: Homecoming (the poor guy gets tagged a lot), but it definitely seemed like he did have it in Captain America: Civil War and the Avengers: Infinity War trailer implies it.
Stare, Barry, stare!

The DC team attacking first also gives them the edge because Wonder Woman and Aquaman are seriously powerful and I believe Diana's capable of beating anyone she faces in a direct fight. Wonder Woman's speed alone could immediately cause trouble as she leaps at the team and then has the skill and weaponry (bracelets, sword, lasso) to hold her own against anyone she fights or even multiple enemies. The combination of Aquaman's brute force (and weapon that could hurt even Steppenwolf), the Flash being a solid distraction, and Cyborg keeping Iron Man occupied should be enough to compensate for Batman being a weak link in a direct fight. That's not a jab at the Caped Crusader, but in this setting, he's going to seriously struggle against any character he faces. This environment doesn't exactly benefit his stealth capabilities, either. Unless he's up against Captain America or Winter Soldier, his best option is to run and try to help with throwing weapons. And if he does go up against the Super Soldier or Bucky, I just don't see him winning that. Sure, he could but it's not likely. He's skilled and smart, but they appear to be just as skilled and intelligent and more physically imposing. Batman's the weak link here, but his tactics in the beginning should help the team overall and his allies' advantages should give 'em the win.
Good luck stopping Diana, Avengers

Just like the Flash, Spider-Man has the ability to be a huge problem but his lack of skill and experience (Captain America and the Vulture had no problem outsmarting him in a fight) means he won't be as effective as he could be in this situation. Still, his webbing could pose a problem for Flash and Batman. Iron Man and Thor are major issues, but I'm confident Wonder Woman and Aquman have what it takes to brawl with 'em. I'm not sure if Aquaman would win, but Wonder Woman definitely would and that's a huge edge for DC. They may have the weakest link (Batman), but the character who is arguably the MVP as well (Wonder Woman). She's not undefeatable - Thor and Iron Man have the potential to stop her - but her combination of skill, intellect, might, and weaponry makes her a huge threat in this match. We still don't have a clear understanding on what Cyborg's capable of (or how intelligent he is in combat - seeing him as a quarterback could've shed some light on whether he's a gifted tactician, but they deleted those scenes), but his blasts were felt by Steppenwolf and we know he can fly at an impressive speed. There's no doubt that the dude's a variable in this fight and more than capable of keeping any opponent distracted for some period of time.

The DC team takes the first round. Captain America being such a well rounded character, Iron Man's variety of weaponry and flight, Thor's pure might, Bucky's cunning nature, and Spider-Man's agility and webbing means it won't be easy at all, but once Wonder Woman and Aquaman leap in with Cyborg soaring through the air and Flash zipping around, Earth's Mightiest Heroes are likely going to be at a disadvantage. If things aren't going well for DC's heroes, Wonder Woman can always unleash her explosive attack to stun and potentially defeat some of the guys on team Marvel. So, I think the DC team takes this first round. Will the Avengers have better luck in the next round, though?

Before the second round begins, both teams now know what they're up against. This means Batman and his team will be able to better prepare their defensive plan, and Captain America will have more information as he talks to his teammates about their plan to attack. It's safe to say that Captain America (thanks to his shield and speed), Spider-Man (agility and reflexes) and Thor will lead the charge on the ground, while Bucky's behind them providing ranged attacks and Iron Man's in the sky, unleashing projectile attacks. It's an assumption, of course, but I think it's a reasonable strategy. This would be a brutal assault on their part that few teams would be able to withstand. Once again, Batman's the weakest link but he knows that by now. Because of this, he's likely going to stick to hit and run tactics or trying to target Winter Soldier. I don't think that'll go well for him, though. Given Spidey's speed, Flash may be the one who goes after him, but Flash clearly isn't a competent fighter and the longer that goes on, the more and more the odds will shift in the wall-crawler's favor. Still, Flash's speed is a big variable.
The ruler of Asgard or the (eventual) ruler of Atlantis?

While things aren't looking good for the DC team when they're on defense in the second round, I think this will boil down to Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Once again, Wonder Woman's the clear MVP. She faces Captain America? It's a good fight, but she's taking that - she's stronger and faster. Iron Man? She's got what it takes to take Tony Stark down. Winter Soldier? She's blocking some bullets and taking him out. Thor? One heck of a good fight, but she can take whatever he dishes out and even incapacitate him with her lasso. Remember, Diana took some major hits from Doomsday and got back up - in fact, it looked like she was having fun. Last but not least, she obviously has the reflexes and skill needed to hit Spider-Man. She can't save the round alone, though. Aquaman's not as skilled Wonder Woman and doesn't have her reflexes (as far as we can tell), but he's durable and strong enough to hold his own against any Marvel character. It doesn't matter who steps up against Aquaman because he's got what it takes to keep 'em busy. Iron Man may bombard him with explosives and Thor may knock him around, but he withstood some major damage in Justice League and kept on getting back up (smashing through the building, being hit by Superman, being struck by Steppenwolf). 

The second round's going to be close but, despite Marvel's variety of abilities and Steve's amazing ability to lead, I think it'll come down to Wonder Woman being able to hold her own against anyone she fights and Aquaman's endurance, allowing him to stay in the fight and give her support against heavy-hitters like Thor and Iron Man. The Avengers undoubtedly have the potential to win, but I think the Justice Leaguers' advantages make it more likely for them to earn the victory. But hey, that's just like, my opinion, man. Which team do you think would win in this scenario and why?

Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Comic Book Reviews: Deadpool, The Flash, Rumble (12/13/17)

Deadpool #290
  • Gerry Duggan (writer)
  • Scott Koblish (artist)
  • Nick Filardi (colorist)
  • VC's Joe Sabino (letterer)

"I'd rather give Hitler a time machine than trust you to face Stryfe alone." This line from Cable is an obvious nod to the absurd and hilarious flashback issue Deadpool #26 (which is also illustrated by Koblish and co-written by Duggan) and it immediately took me out of the issue. That may sound like a bad thing, but it's definitely not. This line made me think about how Duggan's been controlling the Merc with a Mouth's main title since 2012 and it has yet to disappoint - impressive, right? The guy's delivered everything that I would want from a Deadpool story. There's consistently over-the-top comedy, plenty of brutal action, amazing worldbuilding throughout, and lots of moments that'll remind you that Deadpool is so much more than just a goofball with a healing factor - he's a tormented guy who won't always do the right thing, and this latest story arc is completely embracing that.

Just like Duggan, Koblish has also been with Wade Wilson for quite some time, and, just like Duggan, he has yet to disappoint. I don't know how he finds the time to pack so much material into these pages. While some artists may skip on bringing backgrounds to life - and understandably so - Koblish is able to bring the characters and the settings to life equally well. Duggan's script is full of some truly ridiculous stuff - there's quite a bit of hopping around in this one - and Koblish is able to handle all of the drastically different material. Whether it's a dark and abrupt moment or a wacky trip through time, Koblish pulls you into the moment and sells you on it. This, of course, wouldn't be nearly as effective without Filardi adapting the tones for each of these drastically different moments, too. It's very brief but I really enjoyed the look of the first two panels - they yanked me right into New York and I could hear the rain. A variety of locations is something we tend to take for granted in comic books. Reflecting on this issue, it really is amazing how Koblish and Filardi are able to build each of these incredibly different settings.

When Deadpool's in Duggan's hands, you know it'll be worth your time. Word is that Ryan Reynolds has called his run "not bad." If that's not high praise, I don't know what is. Okay, I have no idea what Reynolds thinks about it (he's missing out if he's not reading it), but you need to read this series if you liked the Deadpool movie. Somehow, Duggan's still moving forward with Deadpool instead of doing the same old things with him. There's no doubt that his work with the Merc with a Mouth has earned a spot in any "Deadpool must-read stories" list.

The Flash #36
  • Joshua Williamson (writer)
  • Howard Porter (artist)
  • Hi-Fi (colorist)
  • Steve Wands (letterer)

Don't you just love it when a new story arc embraces history but is also totally new reader friendly? The Scarlet Speedster's new story races forward with the Rebirth run's history - I'm sorry but the terrible pun is intentional - while also crafting a fresh mystery that'll leave any fan wanting to read the next issue right away.

Williamson packs some exposition in here to make sure everyone has a proper handle on what's going on and why it's so important. To new fans, this will be greatly appreciated and quickly catch 'em up. To pre-existing fans, this may be going over information that they already know, but the developments in here definitely make up for that and then some, and the artwork totally enhances the experience. A little exposition is no big deal when the puzzle's off to such a strong start and you get hit with an ending like this one, after all. If you've been around since the first arc of the Rebirth title, you're definitely going to be fully immersed in this twist.

I love Porter and Hi-Fi's establishing shots. From Flash racing across the water to feeling like you've been teleported right in front of the Central City Bank, Porter and Hi-Fi's animated work makes sure that no panel feels static, even if it's just two people standing around - there's depth to these panels.

It doesn't matter if you've been following this series since the first issue or if you've never read a Flash comic before but you like the CW show. This new story is most definitely worth checking out if you're interested in Barry Allen's life and you're looking to enjoy a solid mystery. Run to your local comic shop, reader, run!

Rumble #1
  • John Arcudi (writer)
  • David Rubin (artist)
  • Dave Stewart (colorist)
  • Joe Sabino (letterer)

Rumble is finally back! The world of Rumble is creative and strange, exciting, and often pretty funny. It's baffling this Image Comics series hasn't received more attention, but hey, maybe it'll get a movie one day and people will finally see what they missed out on? Thankfully, this new volume welcomes brand new readers while also taking some pretty interesting steps forward.

Arcudi's back but this time around artist James Harren isn't with him. Rubin's stepped in - while Stewart remains on colors - and, to be completely honest, the switch is a little jarring at first but it's something that new readers won't notice. That's not a jab at the quality of Rubin's work - not at all - but Harren's artwork has been a defining quality of Rumble. With Rubin, the world still retains its strange feel, but it's a little trippier and, at times, looks a little more lighthearted, almost like it could be an animated series. Regardless, it's crystal clear that Rubin is a great fit for the series. He can pack the pages with strange Esu getting sliced apart, make me laugh at Del, and give even the smallest moments - like a close-up of Rathraq in combat - the intensity they require. He also goes all-out constructing each setting. Rubin's work is fitting for this story and he's already grown on me. Stewart, of course, plays a huge role in this. While Rubin's style may be slightly different than the previous volume's look, Stewart's impressive colors make the world of Rumble still feel familiar and it's amazing how he can give each and every scene the atmosphere it needs to thrive.

Look, this is obviously an issue that has to fill in new readers on an entire volume of Rumble while also planting the seeds to move forward with some pretty cool stuff. I can see the potential is already there for some exciting times ahead. A thorough recap page would've been good, but briefly going through the book's history is a good way to welcome Rubin to Rumble and have him tackle a lot of the characters and settings that his book has to offer. It's so great to have Rumble back in my life. Don't miss out on this amazing series, people. Seriously, go read it.

Want to read more comics? You can check out last week's reviews here.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter here.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Comic Book Reviews: Batman/TMNT II, Iron Fist, Venom Inc, I Hate Fairyland (12/06/17)

Hey, everyone.

I'm going to celebrate each and every edition of new comic book day by providing quick and spoiler-free reviews of some of my favorite titles. Hopefully it'll motivate you to check 'em out - support what you love, right? Okay, let's get to it.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II #1

Growing up, my two favorite superhero franchises were Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - guessing I'm not alone on that one. So, you could only imagine the amount of joy I experienced when it was announced back in 2015 that the Dark Knight and the Heroes in a Half Shell would finally join forces. Writer James Tynion IV packed the first limited series with a ton of fan service while artist Freddie Williams II and colorist Jeremy Colwell filled the pages with animated characters and immersive locations. To no one's surprise, it was a ton of fun. Thankfully, this second limited series is also off to an incredibly fun start as well.

The plot's obviously pretty predictable so far - there's already the potential for a good message about accepting our strengths and weaknesses instead of being held back by them - but it's fast-paced and exciting. Honestly, who's expecting this to have an elaborate plot anyway? The goal's to entertain and have a good time bringing these worlds together, and so far it's definitely accomplishing that. Thanks to visuals that make it feel like a blockbluster and consistently entertaining dialogue, Batman/TMNT II #1 felt like a quick read and left me immediately wanting to read the next issue. Credit to letterer Tom Napolitano for making the one use of "cowabunga" make an impact, too. Now that all of the pieces are in place, it's time to see what this creative team can do with these character interactions. Keeping my fingers crossed that we'll get to witness Karai and the TMNT take on Bane in one of the upcoming issues...

Iron Fist #75
You know exactly what you're going to get with this new Iron Fist series. Writer Ed Brisson and artist Mike Perkins' run has been non-stop action and an interesting expansion of the Iron Fist mythos. Benson's not making it overly serious and always sprinkles in some amusing dialogue, even if it's just to have some fun with comic book tropes. If you want pure action and some lines that'll make you smirk, you've come to the right place. That said, this issue is a bit heavier than the last two in this arc since it finally reveals the identity of the new Constrictor. I'll be as spoiler-free as possible and just say I really hope there's a little more to it after this issue. After all of that buildup, I hope there's more to the reveal than a reason for Sabretooth to stay by Iron Fist's side in the mission, even if it's just limited dialogue between Victor and Danny later on. Speaking of which, I'm really enjoying their dynamic. It's fun to see Brisson use these characters who have clashed so many times and force them to work together. From their bar brawl to New York's rooftops, he's prevented this uneasy team-up from feeling formulaic thanks to their conversations. Even Iron Fist wanting to enforce the "no kill rule" in a previous issue was lighthearted instead of feeling stubborn and preachy.

Visually, the action in this series has been fantastic and a proper spotlight has been placed on the choreography and force behind each hit. However, in this issue, it's very crowded so the quieter moments manage to make a stronger impact than the giant rumbles that are full of big swings and people clashing. Colorist Andy Troy's red sky is a striking contrast to the dark city and characters (as seen above) and I enjoyed VC's Travis Lanham's highlighting of character names and specific attacks.

Iron Fist continues to be one of Marvel's best action series and, if you've been following the series, you'll be happy to see how this issue ends. The idea of Sabretooth and Iron Fist teaming up sold me on this arc awhile ago, but it's nice to see that Brisson's using this story to also move the bigger picture forward. The next issue has a lot of potential.

Venom Inc. Alpha #1
The symbiote has been very busy over the past several years. It went on quite an adventure with Flash Thompson - even joining the Guardians of the Galaxy at one point - but now it has finally bonded with the original Venom: Eddie Brock. Was the world better with Flash as the host, though? The former bully definitely thinks so, but he's not the only one looking for the symbiote, and that's pretty much the premise for this new story. It makes sense that people in this world would want to control the symbiote for their own evil agendas, after all.

This new issue has a lot of history behind it, so if you haven't been following along with Spidey's adventures or the symbiote's story, you may feel a little out of the loop even though there's a brief intro. Thankfully, that shouldn't hurt your reading experience all that much because, for the most part, this is a setup issue, and understandably so. Co-written by Mike Costa and Dan Slott, this one is all about quickly introducing us to the key characters, setting up the main premise, and establishing a threat. Thanks to the story moving along at a quick pace and some comedic dialogue ("I like to get in character"), this issue is good fun and it hits us with one development that's sure to get the attention of my fellow Venom fans - this development alone justifies checking out the next chapter. I would've loved to see a little more from the Flash Thompson and Peter Parker scene, but I understand they're working with a limited amount of pages.

Artist Ryan Stegman and colorist Brian Reber's work adds so much energy to Costa and Slott's script. Right from the very first panel, you can appreciate the motion behind Mania's actions and they're such a good fit for the more twisted moments involving the symbiote. They give the wall-crawler quite an intro, too. This issue makes me want to go back and look at Stegman's work on the Scarlet Spider run - it was so good! After only a few pages, Reber has the opportunity to shine with some vivid effects that really sell the intensity of the moment as well. VC's Joe Caramagna's lettering helps bring the symbiote's horrifying voice to life, too.

Look, if you're a fan of the symbiote - especially during Flash's run - this issue really should be a no-brainer for you. Mmmmm. Brains. Sorry, terrible Venom joke. Let's move on and pretend I didn't write that, okay? Great. Moving on...

New Collection to Consider: I Hate Fairyland Deluxe Edition Book 1 HC
There's a surprising amount of tempting collections out this week: Green Arrow Rebirth Vol 4 TP, Justice League/Power Rangers HC, IDW's TMNT Vol 2 TP, a new Doctor Strange hardcover, and a noir edition of The Court of Owls are just a few of the new and eye-catching collections. This week even sees the release of a massive Jack Kirby Fourth World omnibus! There are plenty of collections that are worthy of your money, but the one that I want - no, need - to highlight is the very first hardcover for Skottie Young's I Hate Fairyland, his twisted and phenomenally fun Image Comics series.

This collection features the first ten issues of the issues of the brilliant and warped series. If you've never heard of it before, it's a bizarre and no-holds-barred take on a young girl, Gert, visiting a magical world, but unlike the other humans who have visited, she ends up being stuck there for decades and she doesn't age a single day. That would definitely take a toll on a person's mind, you know? She'll do anything to get back home, and it doesn't matter how many adorable creatures she has to slaughter in the process.

Skottie Young's imagination is fully unleashed and the script is every bit as out-there and memorable as his jaw-droppingly good artwork. Every single issue has made me laugh out loud and given me pages that deserve analyzing and appreciating instead of quickly flipping to the next page. This series is not for the younglings or those who aren't a fan of over-the-top violence, but for everyone else, it's a total blast. As for extras, there's concept art, a look at Skottie's script and corresponding pages before they were colored, and variant covers.

I own the single issues and the trades. Despite that, I'm still left wanting to add this HC to my collection. That alone should tell you how much I enjoy this series, and if you give it a shot, you just may fall in love with it, too. $30 for 10 issues in a hardcover - plus extras - isn't a bad deal at all, especially when the comic is hilarious and addictive.

Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Two of the Best 2017 Comic Book Movies Weren’t in Theaters

2017 was a really good year for comic book movies, wasn't it? The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle were all entertaining and for totally different reasons, too. We all have our favorites - Logan's my pick - but there are two comic book movies from 2017 that also deserve some major praise: Justice League Dark and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.

Director Jay Oliva's Justice League Dark - written by Ernie Altbacker and J.M. DeMatteis - brings actor Matt Ryan back into John Constantine's selfish mind. That alone should sell most of you on checking it out. While Batman (Jason O'Mara) does stand front and center on the cover, the Dark Knight is mostly along for the ride in this one and all of the attention is rightfully placed on Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, and Etrigran the Demon. Swamp Thing plays a brief but memorable role, too. I love how WB Home Entertainment and DC took a risk by putting this team in the spotlight. Sure, the Caped Crusader is there to attract attention and he's got some great scenes, but again, he's not the focus of the story and he's definitely not the one who saves the day. 
John Constantine and "friends"
Fans of the comic series will notice that Black Orchid's role is very different and Madame Xanadu is nowhere to be found - unless there's an Easter Egg I've missed - but seeing as these animated movies have short runtimes and take place in an already established universe, it's totally understandable that changes need to be made when adapting these stories. While the movie does technically follow the typical superhero story formula, its execution makes it stand apart. Justice League Dark has such a good mix of horror and comedy and unique action because of the team's unique abilities. Okay, I guess Oliva also deserves credit - guy's got a gift for making energetic action scenes. Throw in the character dynamics - it's always going to be amusing when Constantine's around - and this is a superhero movie that feels different despite following familiar beats.

"If you attempt to make Etrigan dead, you shall lose your head!"
Justice League Dark is proof that WB Home Entertainment and DC are listening to the fans. They're still offering plenty of Batman stories - the Caped Crusader sells and he has plenty of excellent stories to choose from - but Justice League Dark breaks away from the world of the Justice League (for the most part) and Teen Titans to offer a look at all of the twisted fun that this team can offer. Here's hoping we eventually get a sequel because this group of characters definitely deserves one. Oh, and Robert J. Kral's theme song is a great fit.

Director Sam Liu's Teen Titans: The Judas Contract - written by Ernie Altbacker - is inspired by Marv Wolfman and George Perez's memorable Deathstroke (voiced by the late Miguel Ferrer) story arc. What I love about this animated movie - aside from Beast Boy (Brandon Soo Hoo), obviously - is that it focuses on how pain can mold a person and the importance of having supportive people in your life. Brother Blood (Gregg Henry) has an elaborate plan but it's still a character-driven adventure. Brother Blood's really just there to move the plot forward with DC's deadliest mercenary and provide a very entertaining final battle which refuses to let him complete his monologue.

Deathstroke's GQ cover
Just like in Justice League Dark, this film makes several changes from the source material. Some are mandatory since the Teen Titans roster - and the world they live in - is obviously not just like the source material. Some of the mandatory changes are things like Blue Beetle (Jake T. Austin) being on the team (Cyborg's with the Justice League) and Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan) is also on the roster. To be fair, Damian is on the DC Rebirth team! Changes like these are totally understandable to hold on to this shared universe's continuity, but in order to accurately adapt The Judas Contract, you'd need a pretty long runtime. So, the film makes some key changes - like significantly reducing Jericho's role - and some of the changes were absolutely the right call and certainly benefit the story. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that one of the most despicable parts of the classic story arc is altered and Terra's (Christina Ricci) role is undoubtedly more sympathetic. These changes really help make the final act more impactful. There are also some pretty funny changes to help lighten the mood just a bit, like the way Deathstroke targets Beast Boy and an interview after the dust has settled.

The Judas Contract keeps significant parts of the source material and molds it into something that feels new while also showing a lot of blatant love for Wolfman and Perez's work. It's got heart, humor, and some really solid action sequences. Oh, and did I mention that it has Deathstroke vs. Nightwing and Robin?  
That face you make when you get no retweets
You can order Teen Titans: The Judas Contract here and Justice League Dark here. Obviously, I think you should click those links if you love DC and haven't seen the movies yet. It's also worth noting that both of these animated films are in the mega-sized DC Universe: 10th Anniversary Collection.

Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Gregg Katzman, Professional Geek for Hire

Hi there, friends, random readers, and potential employers!

My name is Gregg Katzman and I have a totally healthy obsession with talking about comic books and the movies, TV shows, and video games that are inspired by them. Since 2011, I've been fortunate enough to write for some of the biggest and best names in geek culture: Comic Vine, Screen Rant, IGN, Midtown Comics, and's Marvel section. Now, I'm looking for a site to call home, whether it's a steady freelance opportunity or even one of those rare full-time opportunities that I've heard so much about.

I absolutely fell in love with writing editorials and reviews, conducting interviews (including Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Geoff Johns, and Hugh Jackman), appearing on camera, taking part in podcasts, collaborating with studios and companies to give fans great opportunities, and so much more. I also spent some time building fan events at Midtown Comics and worked on New York Comic Con 2017 - connecting with fans and making them feel more involved is something that I'm incredibly passionate about. If you're interested in learning more about my career, you can check out my LinkedIn profile here.

Below, I've shared some of my favorite writing samples and I can provide countless more samples if needed. 

If you do want to reach out with an opportunity (please and thank you), you can email me at or send me a message on Twitter. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The DCEU Should Learn From 20th Century Fox

"They will race behind you. They will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun." This quote from Man of Steel really can apply to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, can't it? No matter how you feel about Marvel Studios' films, there's just no denying that the MCU has earned a ton of praise and an absurd amount of money at the box office. When it comes to building a shared universe, no other studio has been able to duplicate its success.

Sony has tried - and failed - to build its own Spider-Man Universe, and now the studio's going to try to build its own Marvel Universe again, but this time with Venom leading the way. Paramount's attempting to construct a Transformers universe, and the future isn't looking good for Universal's Dark Universe. WB's been building the DC Extended Universe, but Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are seriously polarizing movies, and Suicide Squad had its neck bomb detonated by critics. Wonder Woman was the first DCEU film to receive overwhelming praise from critics while also earning a bunch of money. Now, Justice League - which should've been the DCEU's most successful movie yet - had the weakest box office opening out of all the DCEU films. Who would've thought we're on the version of Earth that gave Suicide Squad - and even Thor's third movie - a bigger opening weekend than the Justice League, DC's A-list team?

Fans often compare the DCEU to the MCU and it's totally understandable. They're the "Big Two" in the world of comics and it's pretty natural to want to compare how each studio is handling the iconic heroes and villains on the big screen. While some claim the DCEU should be inspired by the MCU's methods, others praise the DCEU for taking a very different approach. No matter where you stand in that debate, we can all agree that the future of the DCEU does need to undergo some changes. If WB can't earn Mogo-sized box office numbers with Justice League, something is obviously wrong. I think WB should look to another studio for inspiration, but it isn't Marvel Studios. If you've read the title of the article, then you obviously know that I'm talking about 20th Century Fox. The DCEU needs to be character-driven, not universe-driven.

Look at how 20th Century Fox treated Wolverine's movies. The first one, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, added fan-favorite characters like Gambit and Wade Wilson. Despite that, you'll find very few fans out there who call it one of their favorite comic book movies - it was torn apart by both critics and fans. James 'Logan' Howlett's next solo film, The Wolverine, released four years later and received a much better response from critics and fans even though things got a little too silly in the final act and it still felt like Wolverine's true potential was being held back. Overall, it was an improvement over the first film, but it still wasn't truly the Wolverine film that so many of us wanted. Fast-forward another four years and the world finally got the Wolverine movie that it was waiting for: Logan. Character-driven and true to the character, it was clear 20th Century Fox realized that the best way to win over the audience was to give them the movie that they truly wanted all along! The end result is an emotional Wolverine movie that will definitely stand the test of time and it's arguably one of the best comic book movies out there. Even though it was rated R, it still earned more money than the other Wolverine movies, too!

20th Century Fox learned from its mistakes and delivered a phenomenal Wolverine movie that also introduced the general audience to X-23 without trying to make the viewer think about what movie comes next - they were left thinking about what they just watched. The same held true for Deadpool. The backlash from the appearance of "Deadpool" in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was huge and there was clearly a lot of demand to see the Merc with a Mouth done right on the big screen. The final product stayed true to the character, earned a huge amount of money, and even had some great jabs at the studio and its confusing continuity with the X-Men movies. They let Deadpool's movie be what it needed to be. They let Wolverine's final movie be what it needed to be. In both cases, studio interference was reportedly minimal and they were allowed to do whatever they needed to do to stay true to the spirit of the characters, even if it meant throwing in some jokes about the studio. It's also worth noting that the stakes were personal instead of being yet another end of the world scenario. The threat always doesn't need to be bigger to be more impactful.

The future of 20th Century Fox's comic book movies looks promising. New Mutants is looking like it won't be another formulaic superhero story and it's instead going for the horror angle, and it's clear that they're letting Deadpool 2 be every bit as ridiculous as it should be. Plus, the minds behind X-Men: Apocalypse have admitted where they went wrong and hopefully they will sincerely keep the constructive criticism in mind while working on the next X-Men film.

Love or hate Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it's clear that the theatrical version of Justice League is not the one he would've wanted to deliver. Some of the added and redone scenes are way too transparent because they feel different and a good amount of material is missing from the trailers. Again, like or dislike those changes, it's tough not to have them take you out of the moment and make you think about how there was apparently a clash of ideas behind the scenes. The film is supposed to be about heroes coming together, yet it feels like the product of people who clearly don't want to be together.
Why was this awesome Aquaman shot cut?

Hopefully, Justice League will be a unique case and a learning experience for WB. The studio now has Superman in the position where they've clearly wanted him to be, so at this point, the studio needs to focus on bringing in people who truly care about these characters and see eye to eye with their approach, inform them about the bigger picture, and then step back and let them do their own thing. Don't get caught up in continuity and selling the audience on what comes next - focus on what makes the heroes and villains unique. Sell the characters, not the world. Succeed there and there's no doubt that a crossover/team-up involving the heroes and villains will sell more tickets. Fingers crossed the future of the DCEU will have us entertained and enjoying being in the moment instead of thinking about what happened behind the scenes.

Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter here.

Justice League review (spoiler-free)

Let's get something very important out of the way first: I love Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and I've grown to really like the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Some of you probably just left this page, some of you are totally judging me but still reading, and some of you are happy to meet another fan of those polarizing films. Because of this, I'm going into Justice League with a completely different mindset than many people. I'm obviously keeping an open mind every time I see a new movie, but I'm hoping for a balance that wins over the people critical of the DC Extended Universe and keeps pre-existing DCEU fans happy. I imagine many people out there want something that feels nothing like MoS and BvS.

Look, I completely understand why some people don't enjoy MoS and BvS and it's totally understandable that the studio wants to move in a direction that will earn critical acclaim and praise from a majority of fans. I get it, and Wonder Woman appeared to be the first step in the DCEU's new direction, which is clearly being led by Geoff Johns. Justice League is the second step, and I'm happy to say that it's a very entertaining movie; however, as someone who appreciates MoS and BvS, it is a little difficult not feeling like they're trying a little too hard to "course correct" during a few points. These are extremely brief moments, so those who don't share my opinion of Snyder's DC films likely won't mind and may even love 'em. Those who do share my love for MoS and BvS UE may also feel like the film goes a little too light at times to earn a laugh from the audience.

The overall story is nothing out of the ordinary and that's perfectly fine because this story isn't really about Steppenwolf trying to destroy the planet; it's about the heroes improving themselves and joining forces - that's what's important. Steppenwolf leaps into the picture and he has one simple role: Be a big and seriously formidable dude. I think he plays that role well while we get basic info about him. He's not someone I cared about, but he did entertain and his presence had my mind racing about all of the cosmic possibilities for the future of the DCEU. He's never as intimidating or engaging as Michael Shannon's General Zod - few villains are, though - but he's there to pose a threat and he absolutely delivers. That said, I was hoping for a little more when the conflict wrapped up, but that's a small, personal complaint. The film feels like it's playing things a little too safe and predictable at times, but it's entertaining throughout the whole ride. As for Steppenwolf's CGI, it never dropped my jaw like the visuals from the rebooted Apes films did, but it never felt too fake to me, either.

Everyone's going to walk out of the theater with different favorite heroes. Thanks to his lovable and awkward banter, the Flash (Ezra Miller) is going to become very popular and I can't wait for the potential Flashpoint film. If you loved Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, you definitely still will; Ray Fisher's Cyborg is critical to the story and I love his growth and chemistry with Flash; Jason Momoa's Aquaman will make you believe that a man can swim - the dude's good fun. Ben Affleck's Batman still makes me want to cheer whenever I see a cool shot of the Caped Crusader and, if you didn't understand how he changed at the end of BvS, you will in this film. Again, I stand by that guy as a great Bruce Wayne and Batman - hopefully he sticks around for Matt Reeves' upcoming Batman film.

While Cyborg, Wonder Woman, and Batman receive some extra insight, Aquaman and Flash have dialogue dedicated to quickly teasing their origins - it's basically "go see their solo films" and I'm totally fine with that because, as a fan of both characters, it feels like a super brief teaser for both of their movies. Please don't read too much into that! I don't mean to imply there are huge reveals or anything, I'm just saying it's cool seeing a scene or two revolve around Flash and his father as well as Aquaman and Mera. I had the same feeling watching Batman fighting a Parademon in Gotham. It's surreal that we're witnessing this on the big screen!

What can I say about Superman without blatantly spoiling anything? Well, I guess I can say that we do see more of the Man of Steel than I expected and I really enjoyed it. If you consider yourself a fan of the Last Son of Krypton, I'm pretty sure you'll be happy, even if you didn't enjoy MoS and BvS. To keep spoiler-free, I'll leave it at that, but I'm really excited to talk about those moments after the film opens!

There are a few surprises and I sincerely hope you're able avoid spoilers before seeing the movie. There are so many times I had goosebumps and wanted to applaud. Whether it was a simple namedrop or witnessing something completely unexpected, I had a total blast. I can't elaborate because, well, spoilers, but both credits scenes are amazing and for entirely different reasons, too. That said, several promising moments from the trailers didn't make the cut. Hopefully we'll see them in a potential extended edition!

Director Tim Burton's Batman (1989) was my introduction to the Dark Knight so the film and its music holds a very special place in my heart. Because of that, it's tough not to have a fanboy moment when I heard a sample of Batman's classic theme in this movie. It immediately made me think of how big of a role this character has had in my life and how amazing it is to still be awe-struck by the fictional hero. The second time I heard a sample of the theme during a Batmobile scene, it took me out of the moment. Instead of this general feeling of witnessing something larger than life, I was left comparing this new Batmobile scene to the one from 1989. You may agree, you may not. Who knows, this is all subjective, right? Hans Zimmer's score also makes a brief appearance and boy, that really made me miss it. Obviously, I mean no disrespect to the talented Danny Elfman, but Zimmers' music has played such a big role in this cinematic universe and it's so powerful. Its absence is definitely felt, but Elfman's score does feel appropriate at times for the "lighter" direction.

Did you like Zack Snyder's other DC movies? Go see Justice League, but you may think it doesn't have the same emotional impact as the other films. Did you not like Zack Snyder's DC movies but you enjoyed Wonder Woman? Go see Justice League and hopefully you'll feel more optimistic about the future of the DCEU. Basically, if you're a human, I think you should go see Justice League. The plot won't blow your mind and the film doesn't take any risks but it's a very good time at the movies and there's plenty of fan service and teasers for the future of the DCEU. This one's all about selling us on the heroes and I'd say it delivered. This cinematic universe is still so young and I can't wait to see what the future has in store for us, especially after witnessing that credits scene...