Category Archives for Comic Books

AKA It Didn’t Quite Suck – TV REVIEW

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I spent the last of my holiday painting the bathroom. That turned out to be a complete waste of time – the color that looked good on a color swatch doesn’t look so good on the wall. Such is life. On the other hand, I did drag the laptop in there and finally finished watching Jessica Jones on NetFlix.

As I mentioned in my review of Luke Cage, the first few episodes of Jessica Jones left me feeling a bit empty. The show has solid production values and generally strong writing. Unfortunately, it also suffered from one major drawback: the main character, Jessica Jones herself.

Jessica Jones simply isn’t a sympathetic character. At one point about midway through the season, Luke Cage (who remains one of the best characters of the show) directly calls her out, telling her she’s a “piece of shit.” At that point in the show, I couldn’t disagree with him. Over the remainder of the season, the show finally did present some sympathetic elements of her character. But up to that episode, it really hadn’t – or, at least, it hadn’t made her sympathetic enough for a scene like that. She simply wasn’t very likable at all. And lest you wonder, she really had done something pretty terrible to Cage. She earned that.

What the show does have, however, is a truly compelling villain. David Tennant’s Kilgrave is truly one of the more interesting villains I’ve seen out of any film or TV Marvel property. His powers are interesting, and he uses them in interesting ways. His history with Jessica is interesting – and just morally gray enough to make you question her interpretation of events. Tennant owns the show whenever he’s before the camera. And his back story gave me true empathy for the character. He is most assuredly not justified in doing what he’s done. But you can understand why “Kevin” became “Kilgrave,” and sympathize with it.

But that only serves to underscore how sympathetic the main character isn’t. In fact, about halfway through the season I made a mental shift in how I watched the show. Instead of thinking of Jessica as the hero, I decided in my own head that I was watching a show about the tragedy of Kilgrave. Rather than focusing on Jessica, I focused on the story of a boy whose parents tried to save him – but who mucked it up horribly. He grew up, alone and aloof from the world – unable to interact honestly with anyone. His isolation slowly pushed him into madness. Then he fell honestly in love with a girl (for good reasons that I can’t give away without spoiling the show). But she rejected him utterly. Grief pushed him into madness, and he tried to pull the world down around him. Then she killed him.

Viewed that way, it’s a far better show. It’s truly Shakespearean in its depth. Unfortunately, that’s not actually quite the show we got. But it illustrates the underlying problem, and provides a strong rule of thumb for aspiring authors. Never make your villain more sympathetic than your hero.

In the end, I have to settle on three and a half stars out of five. Jessica is so unsympathetic that I might have given it two stars. But Tennant’s amazing turn as Kilgrave and strong supporting roles throughout the show bring it back up. In fact, they bring it up enough that if someone mildly edited the show and repackaged it as The Tragedy of Kilgrave, it could pretty easily become a five star show. Instead, we get a show that doesn’t quite suck… yet isn’t quite amazing, either. This is definitely the weakest of Marvel’s NetFlix offerings.

Punisher Season Zero

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Daredevil-Season-2-Trio-PosterThis weekend I finally finished Punisher Season Zero Daredevil Season Two. It’s a strong follow up to season one, which I’ve previously counted as one of the best comicbook adaptations of all time. I’ve never been a particularly big Daredevil fan, but this incarnation continues to really deliver the goods.

The strongest feature of season two is also the strongest feature of season one. Once again the casting is top notch. Season one brought us Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, two of the best casting choices of this decade. Season two brings us the next amazing casting choice: Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle.

As you might have figured out from my introduction, The Punisher plays such a huge role in this season that it could almost be viewed as the first season of his own show. This is a wonderful thing. In fact, it’s one of the strongest parts of this season. Unlike Daredevil, I was a massive Punisher fan in my high school years. For the first time, a live action really does the character justice.

Unfortunately the season also has some weaknesses. The two major plot threads – the Punisher thread and the Elektra thread – don’t weave together very well. It’s almost like the show is just telling two completely separate stories this season – except that they kind of sort of meet at the very end when the Punisher shows up to just barely help out Daredevil in the final showdown.

Furthermore, the show sets Matt Murdock into relationship turmoil, showcasing his relationship with Elektra while also trying to showcase a relationship with Karen Page. Both stories are strong. But the show kind of jumps from one relationship to another without much coherency. First he’s with Page. Then Elektra shows up, and Page kind of disappears off his radar sense – but he doesn’t actually want a relationship with her (for good reason: she’s damaged goods). Then, almost inexplicably, he seems to forget all about how he left things with Page and he wants to run away with Elektra. Then when that doesn’t work out, he turns around on a dime and wants to be with Page again.

This does not make Matt Murdoch very sympathetic.

In fact, that’s probably the single biggest weakness of the series. Daredevil himself simply doesn’t feel like the main character here. Most of the season involves stuff happening around him or stuff happening to him, but not much of him actually doing things.

The other unfortunate weakness: seeing the Punisher realized this well makes me wonder if I’d actually like a true, straight-up Punisher show. His stuff is intense, and pretty dark. I’m not sure I would have actually liked it very much, though, without the trappings of a lighter character to wrap it in. And given that Daredevil isn’t particularly light, that says something.

All in all, though, it was a strong season. I’d give it four out of five stars and I could easily sit through it again.

“Legends of Tomorrow”

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In contrast to the new CBS show Supergirl, about which I expressed my reservations earlier, I am ALL IN on the CW’s new Legends of Tomorrow show. First, the preview:

What’s not to love?

First, there’s Arthur Darvill (aka Rory Williams, aka the man who punched The Doctor in the face and was thanked for it, aka the man who entered a haunted hotel with a room containing everyone’s greatest fear and it showed him the way out, aka the biggest badass in all of Dr. Whodom). Yeah, that’s a pretty good start right there.

On top of that, they’re bringing in several characters I’ve been quite fond of from the Arrowverse: Brandon Routh’s Atom (this season’s best addition to Arrow, and whom I’m very glad to see continuing to get good work instead of seeing his career tank after turning in a really terrific performance as the man of steel in a really terrible movie that many people unfairly blamed him for) and Caity Lotz’s Black White Canary (who was quite fun when she wasn’t constantly pouting. I’m in for that.

They’re fully embracing the weirder side of the DC Universe: time travel, shrinking machines, Hawkgirl… and the show promises to be jumping throughout history every week. And perhaps most of all, the trailer promises us a show with a great sense of fun.

Legends of Tomorrow: I’m all in.

Supergirl Coming to CBS

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After knocking it out of the park twice in a row with Arrow and The Flash, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg are at it again with a third superhero show from the DC universe. This time they’re bringing Supergirl to life. A pretty substantial introduction/trailer has been released, and I’ve embedded it below so you can watch for yourself to get a preview.

Of course, the question remains: will the show actually be any good? The trailer, of course, doesn’t definitively answer the question. They never do.

The good: Berlanti and Kreisberg seem to have the DC universe down in a way that Zach Snyder simply doesn’t. Arrow and The Flash are two of the best shows currently on television in any genre, and pretty much the only TV that I try to watch the same day as it airs (I still DVR it, so I can watch without commercials).

I also like that they seem to be going with the “adorkable” approach with Kara/Supergirl. It works well for the character and certainly beats the uber-bitchy model that so often seems to be the only way that Hollywood knows how to write a “strong” female character.

The best: Over three seasons of Arrow, Berlanti and Kreisberg have been saying in interviews that DC has told them that the “big three” (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) are a no-no. Yet even in just the trailer for Supergirl, those were some pretty strong references to Superman. Clearly DC has come to their senses – at least somewhat – and realized that these are the guys to let have this. Could there be more TV references to the big three coming? Dare we hope that we might even someday get a Batman show that actually, you know, has Batman in it? Yes, Gotham, I’m talking to you.

The not so good: It’s only a trailer, so we’ll see how the actual show goes… but this trailer has a lot more CW-style teenage girl soap-operatic drama going on than either Arrow or The Flash have ever shown. Ironic, given that those shows are actually on the CW and this one is coming to CBS. Not good if that’s the way the show plays out. Hopefully that’s not the direction they’re going with Supergirl.

Update: The esteemed John C. Wright has a more optimistic take than I do. He makes some great points, but I still worry a bit about it coming off as a CW-style teen soap opera.