Justice League: Origin Review

A decade has nearly passed since the New52 (eventual Rebirth) initiative kicked off, and for a universal reboot has experienced quite a few more downs than ups in the ten years since its inception. It is perhaps a tad poetic that Justice League, as a then flagship title, perhaps represents a microcosm of the successes, failures and the impact that this slate wiping produced.

In many ways this series can be seen as a natural successor to the 1990s JLA run under Grant Morrison and Howard Porter. Like that famous duo of creators, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee knock right out of the park, the feel for what a Justice League book should be; high stakes, perhaps a bit high drama, and high octane. The Justice League should be tackling the planetary and universal threats. Let Superman save kittens from trees in his own titles; when you appear in the Justice League, it is because you are expected to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Darkseid. It is no surprise that the likes of Johns and Lee give us exactly that in the opening arc.

It is perhaps why this type of Justice League story becomes the classic or archetypal interpretation. There is a time for many different approaches to the source material, but it is not too unreasonable that if you are going to kickstart a new universe with this as a core title, that more relaxed, oddball interpretations, are perhaps not the natural first choice. While the general plot of this collection is fairly by the numbers, it does reveal early flaws in the whole reboot. Those flaws can loosely be grouped into three areas: plot, characters and continuity, with considerable overlap between.

In terms of characters, the Justice League depicted is the classic line-up. Kinda, mostly. In a daring move, Martian Manhunter is not only erased as a core member, but shuffled off to another corner of the DCU (bad idea). With mixed results, Cyborg is promoted to both JLA member and founding member (not a bad idea, just not a great one, and for alternatives see below).

Cyborg is written as a very convincing member of the Justice League… but most readers associate him as a member of the Teen Titans, especially with prominent animated adaptations depicting the character in the last two decades. Charter member of the Justice League? No. First new recruit? Absolutely should have been, and with minor tweaking might have still worked within the storyline. These two largely cover issues over continuity as well.

Previous continuities presented either Wonder Woman (Silver Age & Post Infinite Crisis) or Black Canary (Post Crisis) as a founding member. This would have been a perfect opportunity to establish both female characters as founding members, especially on a  team that can honestly be described as a sausage-fest for most of its history.

The only other issue character wise are the wildly out of sync character representations of both Batman and Green Lantern in this arc. Fans of Hal will likely start fuming at references to how incredibly obnoxious their favourite emerald ring-slinger was, and Batman does one thing so glaringly uncharacteristic that it defies logic. In terms of writing, the Batman moment is a bit unforgivable when one takes into consideration the first issue of Justice League takes place five years into their new timeline; Bruce is simply too long into his crimefighting game to make the naïve decision he did. This one can be filed under continuity issues as well.

Finally in terms of plot, this is fairly paint by numbers in terms of storytelling; hero meets hero, misunderstand each other, fight, come to their senses, meet another hero and repeat a few times until the writer is ready to introduce the universal level threat that the characters will all have to overcome their differences to defeat.

In the end, there is no denying the overall impact this opening arc has had; from influence in the DCEU movie franchise, the promotion of a strong person of colour in the character of Cyborg to the upper echelons of super-heroics (one, who already had a rich history to begin with) and even a direct adaptation as an animated film. Big impact, entertainment value and Jim Lee at some of his best artistically; if you can forgive a somewhat thin plot.

Collects: Justice League (Vol. 2) 1-6

Superman IV Review

So, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, where do I start?…..

I always say films are subjective and different people take different things from films but on this occasion I think we can all agree that the final entry into the Christopher Reeve Superman franchise was bad, really, really bad. Not that I don’t love it, I do, I genuinely cant help myself but to love its over done cheese, complete lack of reality and super hammy performances!

So the budget for IV was cut dramatically due to it being put out by Cannon rather than Warner Bros themselves and boy you can tell, bot just due to the fact that a lot of the special effects shots are just reused bits of Superman from other films and put over new backgrounds but the location of Metropolis, in the past New York has been a perfect stand in for the Big Apricot but less money means less resources, so New York is replaced by Milton Keynes……now I’m not sure if you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Milton Keynes but I actually used to live there and believe me New York it is not! It is cool being able to visit actual places that are featured in the film like the Train Station which doubled as the UN and the outside of the Daily Planet, the Home Retail head office as the high end Metropolis Hyatt Hotel, or the Bannatynes Health club (former Winter Gardens) being the Metropolis museum, but once you’ve seen them in real life you get how much they cut that budget!

So location aside the rest of this film doesn’t fair much better which is a shame as Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder return to their roles after their absence from Superman 3, and all the usual suspects are back in force Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure and obviously Christopher Reeve but they are joined by Lenny Luthor played by Jon Cryer who has taken over his uncles role as it were by playing Lex on Supergirl and hes doing an incredible job there! Then there’s Sam Wanamaker as David Warfield and Mariel Hemingway as his daughter Lacy Warfiled and lastly Mark Pillow as Nuclear Man……and that’s where things fall apart, not because Mark does a particularly poor job as Nuclear Man, he works with what he’s given and unfortunately what his given is just well, kinda trash.

The story as a whole isn’t a bad one, Superman ridding the planet of Nuclear weapons, Lex takes advantage of that and creates a being to destroy Superman perfect comic book story but to do it live action takes time and money and a good script and this film just has none of that and it’s a shame, also Christopher Reeve has a writing credit on this film and apologises for it in his autobiography haha!

A lot of licence is taken in this film, with Superman’s powers, his ability to rebuild walls with his super vision is a new one, with reality, Nuclear Man flies Stacy fully into space and shes absolutely fine, which I guess would be ok if we hadn’t seen Russian Cosmonauts at the beginning of the film in full space suits….I could go on! Though that scene where Superman puts all the Nuclear missles into a massive net and hoofs it into the sun is still amazing!

Now while I may have just written about how bad this film is, I still hearken back to one of the first things I said, I love this film, it fills me with good memories, I remember when it came out on VHS for rent and my dad spent £25 to get me an ex-rental copy and I wore that tape out, for me it was just more Superman, sure now I can look back and see all the poor quality things about it but then it didn’t matter to me, it was more Superman and I loved it.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is looked at as a low point of the Superman franchise or in film generally and I get that, I can see that definitely. But I also see 9 year old me running around with a red blanket on my back pretending to fly and that for me is more important than anything else, films are for entertainment and this film above anything else sure is entertaining 🙂