Monday, November 27, 2017

Punisher (Netflix Series)

Marvel's Punisher is -- at least according to my memory -- the comic industry's first anti-hero. Frank Castle's appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man (sometime in 1974) set the stage for later characters like Deadpool, and for titles like Suicide Squad.

(Hell, I doubt Batman's fan base could have accepted a violent, gun-teasing Dark Knight without Punisher setting that tone.)

The Netflix series is an extension of Punisher's origin story from Daredevils second season. The audience watches Castle struggle with the moral dilemma of what he knows he is, and what he knows he must do to carry out his view of justice. We see his struggle with relationships, and manipulate them in order to achieve his mission.

Finally, we see him embrace his (even) darker side in order to deliver a truck load of karma to someone who deserved it.

It was a beautiful thing to watch.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Justice League

I'm considered somewhat of an outcast among my herd of nerds, geeks, and comic book snobs. And that's for two very simple reasons:

1. I dig old-school, team-based, super-hero comics; and,
2. I prefer DC over Marvel, Image, and other publishing companies.

It's true.

Several of my comic-book-readin' friends scratch their heads after learning I prefer JLA or Teen Titans stories over The Wicked + the Devine, or that a stack of regular old Justice Society of America comics helps me pass a day of bad weather better than the best issues of The Avengers.

When I first started reading comics in the 1970s, DC was the company to read for great stories and well written dialogue; Marvel was the place for really cool visual story telling. (There were notable exceptions, such as Spider-Man, and I read and enjoyed those titles too. But those were exceptions.)

It was in a DC comic that I could find philosophical debate over ethics and morals, and friends arguing over the subtle points of a mission. It was in titles like The Justice League where I could watch a group of diverse people consider a problem from all angles, then reach consensus and act together to solve that problem.

My favorite comic book stories weren't those with dozens of panels showing Superman punching through walls.

My favorite comics were the ones where team members sat around their meeting table in debate, arguing through what they should do.

It's for that reason I enjoyed Justice League (2017). The flick has mixed reviews, and I agree with some of the scuttlebutt and poor reviews I've read on the 'net. I'm no fanboy; I have my own issues with the film. I absolutely hate the way The Flash is portrayed as an insecure kid, and I'm not wild about how producers focused in on Peter David's 1990s Aquaman when developing the character. It gives Arthur Curry some sass and stature, for sure, but this is not the traditional Aquaman most readers know.

But there is much about Justice League that is right. Ben Affleck is better as The Batman this round than he was in Dawn of Justice, and I think that's because he spent more time out of the batsuit as Bruce Wayne. Watching Bruce track down and convince the other heroes to join this new league was the highlight of the flick for me, as was the team's debate over the ethics of whether or not they should play gods with someone else's life or death.

(That's a purposely vague reference for those couple of people who don't yet know the plot of this story.)

DC movies are still a step-and-a-half behind Marvel in story-telling, effects, and structure. Marvel flicks are lighter and sell more popcorn. But Justice League is a step in the right direction, I think. And, hopefully, ten years from now the movie will be considered a turning point for when the studio started getting it right.