Batman vs Superman

Almost a year since its release, I’ve finally gotten round to watching one of the controversial movies of 2016, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. My short review is, I liked it! True, it’s not a masterpiece of cinema, but it’s not the dog’s dinner that I’d been led to believe, I feel!

The Story
Following the events of Man of Steel, the world is beginning to question Superman and his motivations. Should one man have all that power and be allowed to run around unchecked? Highly controversial stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree! The government decides to step in and call him to account. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is looking into a Russian weapons trafficker and discovers a link with LexCorp, so infiltrates their computers to get some intel. At a party there, he meets antiquities dealer Diana Prince, and once he manages to decrypt the data he steals from the corporation’s mainframe, discovers she is actually a metahuman warrior. Lex Luthor has been investigating a couple of these folks, and alongside this research has also been attempting to import some kryptonite found in the Indian Ocean to act as a deterrent against Superman and his ilk.

It turns out that Luthor is genuinely against these super-human types running around the planet, and determined to check them. Unfortunately, he’s also kinda crazy, and attempts to turn the world against Superman by blowing up the Congressional hearing, where only Superman survives the blast. Berating himself for not seeing the duplicity, Superman goes into exile. Meanwhile, Batman steals the kryptonite from LexCorp and turns it into a weapon to defeat Superman, and Lex obtains the corpse of General Zod and access to the Kryptonian scout ship held in isolation in Metropolis. He also kidnaps Martha Kent in order to bring Superman out of exile.

Superman returns to Metropolis, and Lex explains he wants the world to see that the alien is not all good; he must kill Batman in order to save his mother. Lois Lane, learning of the plan, follows Superman to Gotham. Batman and Superman start fighting, and the weaponised kryptonite gives Batman the upper hand. Just as he’s about to plunge a kryptonite spear into Superman, Superman gasps out that he needs to “save Martha” – which was also the name of Bruce Wayne’s mother. Lois arrives to explain, and Bruce promises to save her.

Batman manages to defeat Lex’s Russian terrorist allies and save Superman’s mum, while Superman confronts Lex at the scout ship. Lex has also been busy, however, and has created an abomination from both Zod’s body and his own blood: Doomsday. Superman and this abomination battle it out in Metropolis, but each time Superman defeats it with his heat-ray eyes, the mutant grows stronger. Superman flies it up into space, where the military decide it can safely be nuked with no collateral damage, and launch their missiles. Unfortunately, that just gives it more energy to grow stronger still.

Diana, about to leave Metropolis, sees the battle on the news and decides she needs to stay – when Batman manages to lure Doomsday to Gotham’s abandoned docks, he is almost killed before Diana, now in her Wonder Woman get-up, deflects the energy blast on her bullet-proof bracers. Superman recovers from the nuclear blast and also joins the fray, while Lois attempts to recover the kryptonite spear as the only way of killing the monster. Superman leaves the fight to go help her, though being in close proximity to the spear weakens him all the same. Wonder Woman manages to contain it with her lasso of truth, and Batman manages to use his last kryptonite gas canister to weaken Doomsday enough that Superman can fly in close enough to thrust the spear into the abomination, though as it dies it manages to stab him with a bone, causing a fatal wound.

At the memorial service for Superman, Bruce tells Diana that he plans to form a team of metahumans to help protect the world in Superman’s absence, starting with those he found in the LexCorp computer system…

Batman vs Superman

I really enjoyed this!
There’s a lot of story here, as you can see! There are elements from the comics brought in to support an otherwise original storyline, and I think it actually works out really great. I’m not about to write up some kind of apology for the movie, don’t get me wrong, but I thought overall it was a really good movie. There are some things that I kinda wish had been done differently, or could have been explained better, or whatever, but overall, I really don’t think this film deserves the amount of negativity it has gained.

First of all, Ben Affleck is a fantastic Batman, and I just loved Jeremy Irons as such a bitchy Alfred. There is definitely a movie in there that I want to see! Henry Cavill as Superman is perhaps a bit odd, he certainly seemed a lot more serious than I’d expected for Superman. But it’s a very serious movie, and I think he did as good a job as could be expected. A lot of folks have talked about how Superman is supposed to be such a bright character, but I think Cavill had a sense of bemusement as to why the world seemed to be so against him, when all he’s trying to do is help, and I thought it came across quite well. Wonder Woman was terribly under-used, unfortunately, but I suppose it’s just made me more excited for the upcoming movie this summer! Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was simply annoying – a lot of people have complained about the fact that he has hair, but personally I don’t really mind the fact that he looks different. It was more the fact that he came across almost as a caricature of the cackling evil madman, and it just annoyed the hell out of me.

We get some tantalising glimpses of Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman in the movie, who are all set to be in the upcoming Justice League movie that is also due out later this year.

There is a lot of story here, and the movie does seem to jump around with a lot of exposition before we really know where we are. Part of me wonders whether that might be part of the problem with the film: it demands too much of our attention. You have to actually watch it to follow it, rather than just browsing your phone while it’s on in the background, and looking up whenever there’s a fight or whatever. Maybe I’m just being a snob when I say that, though. As I said before, it’s not like I’m trying to be an apologist for it, I just think it’s a lot better than people seem to want you to believe.

Sometimes, of course, the film does sag under its own weight of story, and I have to say, it was a little confusing at times as to why some characters were doing what they were doing. Why do Batman and Superman even fight? Sure, Lex explains he wants the world to see Superman kill Batman, but why is Batman so up for it? I get the impression we’re supposed to believe he thinks Superman is no better than the criminals he’s been fighting in Gotham all these years. But it’s never adequately explained, for my liking. There is actually a DC comics series of Batman vs Superman, and I never really managed to get into that either. To me, while Batman is usually the one to distrust everyone, I don’t ever see him actually fighting Superman, who should so clearly be a force for good in the world.

The film runs to a little over 2 hours 10 minutes, but I feel it could have done with perhaps an extra half hour of material to really flesh things out. We’re still in that tenuous sort of era where movies can’t always go much over 2 hours without being really tremendous, but I’d happily watch a longer feature if it meant a proper story. And I think this is a perfect example of a movie that needs that – we’ve got two absolute titans of the comic book world! They need to be fleshed out properly!

Anyway.

Comparisons with Marvel I suppose must be made, though I haven’t yet seen Civil War so can’t comment on that whole thing. While I would say that Marvel’s movies do tend to be much brighter and whatnot, and a lot of people have heavily criticised this film for taking such a dark stand, I think it fits with the story perfectly, and would say again that such reviews have been too harsh. It’s not a Marvel movie, correct – it was never meant to be, after all! DC are clearly doing their own thing, and lightness of tone are probably better kept for Flash and Green Lantern. I don’t think a comic book movie has to be comical, after all.

This is a movie that is definitely worth watching. I let other people put me off going to see it for far too long, now, and I think the lesson I’ve learnt here is, don’t listen to the popular opinion of DC movies! It’s worth watching to make up your own mind, and even if you don’t agree with me, I still think that’s a valuable lesson to take from all this.

Rivals!

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and what else could I possibly feature during DC week than the DC Comics Deck-Building Game from Cryptozoic?!

DC Rivals Batman vs The Joker

Today, I thought I’d take a look at the standalone expansion released back in 2014, the first in the Rivals subseries, showcasing Batman vs The Joker. It’s a rivalry that’s almost as old as comic book superherodom itself, after all, so probably the best way to kick off what seems to be a new set of small scale expansions to the DC line.

The game plays almost exactly like the main game and its tie-ins, with a new set of starter cards and main deck cards all centred around Batman and his arch-nemesis. These cards can be used within any of the main games, so you can either view this expansion as a nice source for new cards to shake up your games, or keep it separate as a stand-alone experience. What’s more, the main deck also comes with a number of super powers and equipment that are specific to the Joker, meaning you could slip these into Forever Evil and keep the theme alive there!

Where this game is really different is the Confrontation step. Rather than starting the game with your oversized Super Hero card, which grants a static ability each round, each player has three oversized cards, for Batman and The Joker, respectively. If you have amassed enough power to do so, at the very start of your turn, you can announce a Confrontation against your opponent. This is basically you attacking your opponent as if they were the Super Villain, as each oversized card has a health value in the lower-right corner – 9, 12 or 15. Once you defeat your opponent, the topmost card is discarded, granting a different ability thereafter, until the third card is defeated, whereupon that player loses the game.

DC Rivals Batman vs The Joker

It’s a really fun variant to the DC deck-building formula, and I love the fact that Cryptozoic are supporting the game like this rather than trying to somehow put together the pieces out of existing cards. That we also get new cards for the main deck is also very cool. While there were initial plans for a Rivals 2 box to coincide with Batman vs Superman, that seems to have gone by the wayside, and we’re left without much news (as of the time of writing) about the future of Rivals. Will we ever get Superman vs Lex Luthor? Or Flash vs Zoom? Who knows. 2016 seemed a bit sparse for the deck-building game, considering there were two huge movies for the DC extended universe, with more announced for the future. Maybe 2017 will see some more exciting developments to come!

Suicide Squad and more!

Hey everybody!
After something of a prolonged absence, I’ve been catching up with some DC Comics in the wake of SDCC and all the good stuff coming out of that. I want to do a separate blog on those things, but suffice it to say, I’m finally excited for Suicide Squad, and have started to read the comics!

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Getting in the mood… #DCComics #SuicideSquad

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The first volume, Kicked in the Teeth, is very much an introduction to the team, or at least, to the idea of Task Force X, as we see them go on a few missions that appear to be somewhat unrelated. But at least we get to see the dynamics of the group, which is made up of Deadshot, King Shark, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, and then a rotating cast of additional characters. The book ends with more of an actual storyline, as Harley’s bomb is taken out of her neck early, and she escapes from Belle Reve prison to find out what happened to Joker, having heard that he’s dead. Apparently this is a tie-in to a Batman storyline, but I’ve not read that one yet, so it was a bit of a shock, though I don’t actually believe they’ve killed off such an iconic character, even though we get to see the Gotham PD have his face in a glass frame…

Having known of the team for years, it was pretty good to finally sit down to a story with them and, while some reviews have criticised the book for essentially being a bunch of random missions for the team, it’s definitely worth sticking with it, as these random missions (and group additions) begin to pay off as early as the second book:

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Getting in the mood, part two… #DCComics #SuicideSquad

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Volume two, Basilisk Rising, sets up the main antagonist for the Squad, Basilisk. They’re basically H.Y.D.R.A for DC, having many of the mannerisms of the Marvel villains. Things like this used to annoy me, especially when I’d hear people refer to DC as ripping off Marvel stuff, but the fact is the two companies share a pool of writers, so to some extent we’re bound to see similar ideas crop up. Anyway, rant aside, Basilisk is determined to undermine their future enemies now, before the new world order is in place with metahumans ruling the globe. We’ve already encountered one Basilisk agent in volume one, but here we get more on them. I thought it was a really good book, though it does take a long time to get going, unfortunately, and we have one crossover story with Resurrection Man, a character I’d never heard of before, but was intrigued to find out that Dan Abnett was the writer for that comic! It being a crossover, there is a distinctive disconnect in the artwork as we get the one rogue issue before returning to the main Squad storyline.

Anyhow, volume two connects really strongly to several of the random elements from volume one, such as Captain Boomerang being captured by Basilisk, and King Shark eating Yo-Yo, so it’s worth sticking with volume one, even if you don’t know where it’s heading.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first foray into Suicide Squad, and have a couple more books on the shelf waiting for me to get round to them!

We’ll finish up for today with the first book in the Batwoman line. I thought the opening of this book was really hilarious, as it featured Batman and Nightwing trying to find out who Batwoman is – while I also struggled with the question! There are several members of the Bat-family, of course, and I’ve previously talked about Batwing on this blog, as well as the man himself, and while I was aware of a title called Batwoman (as distinct from Batgirl), I had no idea who she was. Anyway, turns out she’s Kate Kane, a former cadet from West Point academy, the daughter of a military family, but left the service when she came out as a lesbian. After an encounter with Batman that made her realise she too could fight crime in Gotham, she donned the persona of Batwoman.

There’s a lot going on in this book that I wasn’t all that familiar with, namely the Religion of Crime supervillain group and their connection with Kate’s dead sister (dealt with in the book Batwoman: Elegy, from what I can tell). This is somewhat symptomatic of the New 52 series as a whole, which was touted as a perfect jumping-on point for new fans, but still deals with a lot of the established story from back in the day. In this case, it’s not all that bad, as you pretty much get the story of the earlier book, but it does often leave you wanting more. But I digress.

I thought the storyline overall was pretty interesting, as we have Batwoman investigating a series of kidnappings that were perpetrated by a ghost, while she is herself investigated by the Department of Extranormal Operations, in the hope of learning Batman’s true identity. The fact that Kate is shown to be a lesbian superhero is extremely powerful stuff, as this is something I feel is distinctly under-represented in mainstream titles. The fact that Batwoman isn’t relegated to some sideline book but has a prominent place in the lore here is really good. But even leaving all of that aside, Batwoman is a sufficiently complex character to be interesting, and well worth investigating for that!

The Throne of Atlantis

Hey everybody,
I read an awesome comic book crossover yesterday, and have been pretty much buzzing about it since. Back in 2012, the Justice League and Aquaman titles from DC’s fresh New 52 series crossed over in an epic five-part awesome storyline that featured Aquaman facing off against his bother Orm (Ocean Master) as the East Coast of the USA was almost submerged.

It was pretty incredible, let’s just say that from the off. both the Justice League and Aquaman books were written by Geoff Johns at this time, so I guess a crossover was pretty easy to facilitate. Both pick up directly from where they left off, with some hints being dropped in Aquaman especially around the Trench in the previous arc, The Others. In fact, having read the second volume of Aquaman beforehand really helps here, as we see the evolution of the character into a team player, while also showing us Black Manta on the lookout for relics of Atlantis that will become important. His story in The Others echoes the opening of Justice League volume three, where Wonder Woman almost begrudgingly accepts the help of the League in hunting down the Cheetah.

Anyhow!

The story begins with the US Navy on exercises in the mid-Atlantic, and a missile test goes awry, targeting the submerged city of Atlantis. This causes Orm to bring his Atlantean warriors to the East Coast in retaliation – Aquaman guesses his brother is using the first King of Atlantis’ sceptre to cause one of the cities on the coast to sink beneath the waves. Metropolis and Gotham both see heavy casualties in the storms, but Boston is Orm’s true target.

Aquaman and Orm face off, Aquaman trying to show dominance over his brother in order to force the warriors to heed his commands. When Batman tries to intervene, Orm captures most of the League, leaving only Cyborg in the Watchtower to help. Cyborg goes to STAR labs to ask his father to perform an enhancement that will make him able to operate under water, at the cost of a little more of his humanity. Once he’s ready, he activates the JL reserve list of superheroes, including Hawkman and Green Arrow, to defend Boston against the Atlantean forces. Cyborg then travels to the deep waters to rescue his companions, whereupon they discover the Trench has opened, and the demon fish-people from the first Aquaman arc have returned to terrorise the coast as well!

Turns out that Orm was manipulated by a former Atlantis royal adviser called Vulko, who had hoped to engineer to the conflict to restore Aquaman to the throne of Atlantis. Aquaman goes ballistic, imprisons Orm and beats the crap out of Vulko, but ultimately decides he needs to take his place as the King of Atlantis to prevent any further conflict.

The story is just awesome in its scope and execution, and is very definitely worthwhile taking the time to read! The danger for big team stories like these is that some people will inevitably fall short in the course, and while this is certainly an Aquaman story as much as it is a Justice League story, the other members of the League have a lot to do here as well. Chief among them, Cyborg – I’ve always been vaguely interested in this guy, but he’s becoming a really cool character in this series, and it’s really interesting to see his story develop. We also continue the burgeoning romance between Superman and Wonder Woman that began in volume two. In the midst of all this, we still have time to see Black Manta offered a place on the Suicide Squad, and the book ends with Steve Trevor and Green Arrow discussing another of the Darkseid “mother boxes”.

In a storyline as packed to the gills (ha!) as this one, some things are bound to be left out. Green Lantern had already left the team as a pariah in the last book, so it’s no real surprise he’s not here, but we also don’t see Flash, as he’s explained to be dealing with a “primal problem” of his own – presumably, the Grodd storyline from the third volume of his series. Shame, that, as he’s my favourite DC hero, but some things have got to give.

We’re left with Aquaman leaving the surface world, and the final pages are a bit heart-rending as we see him part ways with Mera, but more problematic (for me) is the enlarged team. Another thing I often dislike in big team stories like these is how the make-up will often change; I loved the first volume of Justice League because of the characters it used – since that book, we’ve now lost two of the principal seven players! I’m intrigued as to where we’ll see this go next, of course, but I’m also a little wary of having the team I came to love mixed up too much.

Anyway – Throne of Atlantis was an amazing read, and I think I may delve into the world of DC’s animated movies to see how the storyline fares there shortly! I can highly recommend this book – however, as an aside, both the Aquaman and Justice League collections have the same issues, so you don’t really need to get both books to get the story. I’d recommend getting the Aquaman collection if you had to only get one, because of the additional storyline from his book, but you won’t be totally lost if you pick up just the Justice League book instead!

Thursday was awesome!

Hey everybody!
Pretty much as the title up there says, my Thursday was awesome! Let me ramble inanely for a while…

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Time to get in the mood… #Batman #Superman #DCComics

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First of all, I’ve been reading comics again. Batman / Superman: Cross World was a bit of an impulse buy not long ago, back when the movie was really hyping up for its release last week; I’ve not been to see it yet, though hoping to remedy that this weekend. To get in the mood, I thought I’d read this book, and I have to admit, I wasn’t that impressed. It seems to follow the demon Kaiyo as she causes chaos in the multiverse, uniting Earth-1 Batman and Superman with their counterparts from Earth-2 in an attempt to see which Earth has the best champions to defeat Darkseid. I’m not a big fan of alternative-reality stories, as I get easily confused, and there were parts of this book that I felt I didn’t quite follow. The epilogue was the best part for me, as we see the early years of Darkseid on Apokolips.

Not the best – but then, I’ve been reading a lot of DC Comics of late, so I was bound to find something I wasn’t too keen on before long!

Next up was Aquaman: The Others! I basically fell in love with the character before I’d even finished reading the first book, so had high hopes for this one and, I’m pleased to say, it delivered! We see Aquaman working with his old team The Others again, as Ya’Wara comes to warn him that Kahina has been killed by Black Manta. The storyline follows each of the other members of the team as we see Black Manta on the hunt for relics of Atlantis – turns out, there’s a still-undiscovered relic in the tomb of the first King of Atlantis, and Black Manta is trying to find it using the others. The sceptre of the king is the most powerful of all the relics, it actually caused Atlantis to sink all those years ago – and now Black Manta has it!

This story was terrific, as we get to meet Aquaman’s team and everything. I know very little of the lore, but that has no bearing on my enjoyment of this story – I imagine if you do know the team, you’ll appreciate it even more! The artwork is gorgeous, especially that double-page spread of the tomb of the king. It’s a pretty dark story, however, as Aquaman shuns the help of his team, feeling he’s gotten them into too much trouble already, but ends with an entirely too-emotional scene that actually had me filling up! Oh, Vostok! In the final panels, we see the next story being set up, with conspiring Atlanteans and the Trench reopens!

This story certainly didn’t disappoint, anyway, and I’ll be moving on to volume three soon, no doubt!

My mid-week painting update is quite impressive, I think! There’ll be more on this on Sunday, of course, but I was so excited I thought I’d post this early! Getting the bases done has suddenly made me feel so much closer to completing all of these things now, so hurrah for that!

And while I’m on the subject of games, I’ve been getting back into Android: Netrunner today, with a couple of games at the local store. I haven’t played this in months, and still have next to no experience playing the Corp, so sat down with Rob, the guy who I taught to play last summer and who, as a result, created a whole ream of converts to the game, and we had two games.

First of all, I played my Shaper deck with Kate McCaffrey, which I’d wanted to re-do for a while but had just left in the deckbox, against Rob’s new Corp deck: NBN! This was an extremely lucky game for me, as I pulled out all the cards I needed, and only stole two agendas, but they were Vanity Projects, so they were all I needed!

We then switched, so Rob played Noise and I played my NBN deck that I’d thrown together a while ago (with some recent refinements). The whole plan for my deck was to have cards that reduced the value of my agendas when they were stolen, or made it fiscally impossible to steal them. Despite drawing two Day Jobs, Rob just couldn’t get past my ICE to get them, and somehow, I managed to win the second game, too!

Such a great gaming experience. Not just for the wins, here – rather, to see my decks come together and do what they’re supposed to do! My NBN deck in particular made me happy, because I’ve had such bad luck playing as the Corp in the past! The deck is actually a little large, so has a lot of agenda points, but it runs a lot of higher-costing agendas, to make sure the actual card count is low. A lot of low-cost ICE also helps, though I had some serious problems with placements – a lot of the cards I put down affect the Runner when he’s tagged, but I put those in front of cards that tag the Runner in the first place, so that didn’t quite work out! Managing to get a Utopia Fragment scored first also helped with making the agendas difficult to steal, and News Team made sure, given the ICE I had out, it was in Rob’s score area to de-value the agenda he had stolen. I was so gutted when he trashed Director Haas, converting her into an agenda, but in the end, it didn’t matter, and all was well!

NBN appears to have become a popular Corp in the local meta since Data and Destiny came out (and since my hiatus from the game) so I’m thinking about mixing it up a little more as I look to come back to the game. I’m considering making up a Wayland deck, and also an Andromeda Criminal deck as an alternative Runner!

But first – let’s get to the Throne of Atlantis!

Justice League!

Oh my goodness you guys, I read this bad boy earlier in the week, and it was just awesome! I’ve been reading a variety of these New 52 titles recently, and had bought this one in an effort to become more schooled in the DC Universe. I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic, but I was going to see what it was all about.

I am so glad that I did!

The story, like all the New 52 books, is a soft reboot of the DC Universe, and as the title suggests, it’s an origin story of the team, so we see how they first teamed up. Knowing nothing about the Justice League (though I have watched at least one animated movie in the past, not taking a lot of it in!) I was all for an easy-entry storyline.

So we follow Batman investigating some weird flying guy who plants a strange metal box in Gotham. Green Lantern shows up, investigating the alien activity going on, and the story really builds from there. The two travel to Metropolis as Green Lantern suspects it might have something to do with “that alien”, Superman, and later calls in Flash to help investigate the box. It’s interesting to see the group dynamic at this point – Flash and Green Lantern obviously know each other, Superman is suspicious of everyone, and Batman is almost the butt of everyone’s jokes (“so, what can you do?”) The story shifts to follow the “birth” of Cyborg, linked to his father’s investigations of these alien boxes, before moving on again to Wonder Woman as she rushes off to a fight with the flying aliens in Washington DC. In the capital, the others turn up and are soon joined by Aquaman, who has been fighting the aliens underwater. It soon turns out the boxes are essentially extra-dimensional portals, which are used to allow Darkseid to arrive on earth in search of his daughter. The aliens capture Superman in what feels almost like a side-story – they intend to make alien supersoldiers from his genetic material? – but Batman shows up to rescue him. In a final move, the super heroes all work together to defeat Darkseid, earning the support of the people at last.

The story is really good, but the characters are done so damn well that I was in love with this book pretty much from the get-go! I particularly loved Green Lantern, a character in whom I previously had no interest – he was generally pretty funny, which I was surprised at as I usually dislike the smart-mouth types. In fact, I’ve since bought the first books in both the Green Lantern and Aquaman series to see what I’ve been missing out on! Superman was also a really cool character here, and I’m really interested in this whole thing with Darkseid, who I believe has some sort of history with the Kryptonian, so that’s interesting.

The whole story was just so great, I am really impressed with all of these books so far, and can highly recommend this one in particular to anyone who is a fan of superheroes!