Category: Reviews

The Wallace Mystery by Rick Geary

I’ve written a lot about Rick Geary here over the years; I’ll try not to repeat myself too much now. His comics work for the past couple of decades has been variously-titled series of graphic novels, generally in a slightly smaller physical format than a standard pamphlet comic, about famous historical murders of the last two hundred years, in the US and UK. (Or regions that are today parts of those nations, to be pedantic.)

There was the Treasury of Victorian Murder, the Treasury of XXth Century Murder (which may officially be ongoing), the Little Murder Library (which is definitely ongoing), and various one-offs and other things. The one thing they all had in common: murders that got a lot of media attention at the time, so they had enough primary and secondary sources for Geary to sift through to make his comics.

The most recent book in this long string is The Wallace Mystery; it’s part of “Little Murder Library.” Like the previous books in that series, Geary self-published it through his Home Town Press, and publicized and capitalized it through a pre-publication Kickstarter campaign. It’s not yet available in his webstore — and not available anywhere else that I can see — but will probably be available through Geary eventually.

For now, you might have to settle for me telling you about it.

Geary’s self-published books are a bit less “finished” than the ones he publishes through others (mostly NBM, the last twenty-five years or so). The front covers are simpler, there’s less text on the back, and the spine is really minimalist. The art is comparable in style: one or two largeish panels, fully drawn with watercolors to add depth and tone. The text is typeset, though, in a square all-caps font  that is clean and readable but which I don’t love that much. (And comics feel less like comics when the type is clearly set — a good font-based-on-the-artist’s-lettering can go a long way to avoid that.)

But they’re otherwise pure Geary — it’s just Geary with less publishing support, obviously because he’s doing just about all of the work himself.

Wallace Mystery tells the story of the 1931 murder of Julia Wallace of Liverpool, a 52-year-old married woman with no obvious enemies or problems. For the usual reasons, her husband William was the primary suspect, and ended up going to trial for the killing. Geary tells the story in his usual style: generally straightforward, but occasionally florid, with excursions into theory and unanswered questions, the product of a mind pulling on all of the strings at once.

Geary runs through the whole story, through the death of William and the other major characters. That’s one of the benefits of his matter: you can end cleanly if everyone is dead, even if important facts (like actual proof of the murderer) are still in dispute.

Wallace Mystery is not one of Geary’s major books: in general, my advice with Geary is to pick a murder case you’ve heard of and read that book first. Unless you’re an expert on Liverduplian history, this will not be that. But it’s another good entry in that string, and it’s great to see him still doing his thing, dependably and well, this far along in his career.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

REVIEW: The Deuce: The Complete Third Season

As a teenager, I walked the streets of Times Square, warned about its squalid, sordid nature. It was clear from the movie marquees that porn was readily available along with peep shows and prostitutes were visible on many street corners.

HBO’s The Deuce filled in the gaps in my knowledge by exploring what went on inside those buildings as it expertly showcased the pimps, prostitutes, porn producers, and mobsters whose lives were inextricably intertwined along with the politicians, cops, and reporters on the fringes. From David Simon, George Pellicanos, and Richard Price, they brought their expert eye and storytelling skills to the three seasons, covering 1971-1985.

The Deuce: The Complete Third Season is now out on DVD from Warner Archive and gives us a chance to reflect and salute the show. Produced by and starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, she inhabited Eileen “Candy” Merrell as a hooker who aspired to more and set against the rising tide of feminism in American society, did whatever it took to become her own director, creating a sub-genre of “smart” porn. We watch her hustle to raise the funds and coax her cast, including Lori Madison (Emily Meade), into doing more than moan on command. As Eileen fought for everything, including the price of her relationship with her son, Lori skyrocketed to fame and fortune, then became a tragic figure.

Female empowerment grows throughout the series, notably with Abigail “Abby” Parker (Margarita Leieva), an upper-class college grad who winds up tending bar and getting deep into the left-wing politics of the day. Similarly, there’s Ashley (Jamie Neumann), a prostitute who transformed into an activist. Their stories are as compelling and vital as are the ones surrounding sex, drugs, and crime.

While their story was one pillar, so too was the story of twins Vincent and Frankie Martino (James Franco), one determined to keep the sordidness at arm’s length until he could go legit, while the morally-challenge other went for the quick buck regardless of consequences. Both worked for Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli), the mob’s capo responsible for the sex industry. Their interactions build to a series of, ahem, climaxes this season which shows how insidious the business was regardless of how the financial model changed.

By jumping from 1977 to 1984, where most of the season is set, we watch the arrival of the video cassette recorder, transforming how porn was made, distributed, and consumed. After all, as has been proven time and again, porn is always on the leading edge of new technology with its purveyors among the earliest adopters. It’s interesting to watch as people scramble to adapt, adopt, and profit. Some are good at it, others feel left behind.

In a coda to the final episode, we jump to 2019 and there’s Vincent, seemingly the sole survivor, the winner after walking a tightrope for decades. He’s alone and seemingly adrift ina world he no longer recognizes as he strolls Times Square, now awash in garish lighting to appeal to tourists as the ghosts of all he knew and loved to keep him company.

The eight episodes are on DVD and look just fine, if not as crisp as the original cable broadcast. They are accompanied by the short feature Setting the Scene: 1985 along with the Inside the Episode discussions that ran with the original 2019 broadcasts.

Is This How You See Me? by Jaime Hernandez

Two years later, here’s a one-shot I Love (And Rockets) Monday — because the Brothers Hernandez have kept making comics, and those comics do make their way into books eventually, and even more eventually I will read them.

Is This How You See Me?  collects a Jaime story that ran from the end of the book-size annual New Stories into the beginning of the current magazine-sized Vol. IV comic. And I covered it, more or less, in the last post of the main run of I Love (And Rockets) Mondays.

The story? Maggie and Hopey, now pushing fifty (possibly from the other side) head back to Hoppers together for a punk reunion that neither one of them is all that enthusiastic about.

Well, Hopey is never enthusiastic in a positive way about anything: she was a ball of chaos in her youth, and has settled into a cynical sour middle age. Maggie is more mercurial, as usual, wanting to believe that things will be wonderful but continually remembering all of the other times she believed that things would be wonderful and they weren’t.

So they both know that you can’t go home again. And they don’t live that far from home to begin with: they didn’t get that far or do that much, all of their dreams of rock ‘n’ roll or prosolar mechanicdom to the contrary. We don’t know what their old friends do for a living, exactly, but we suspect they’re more successful: Terry has been making music all this time, at least successfully enough to have a career as a leader of various bands. And Daffy was never as punky as the rest, a girl from the nicer side of town who went off to college and seems to be solidly in the professional/managerial class. (Remembering that Maggie manages an apartment building and Hopey is a teacher’s aide — both jobs they fell into in mid-life when other things fell apart.)

None of that is text, but it’s definitely subtext. Punk was one of the regular youth-fueled screams of rage and rebellion, giving voice to people who felt like their lives had no good options. And they were not wrong.

But we all have to live our lives, not just protest them. Punk bravado burns out, or starts looking silly. Maggie and Hopey are long past the point where punk attitude was relevant to their lives, so this is like any other reunion: wondering who will be there, whether any of it will be worth it, whether it can provide any of those moments of clarity we live for.

This reunion is scripted by Jaime Hernandez. So there will be moment of clarity, for us as readers if not for his characters. I’m afraid Jaime’s central characters are cursed to never have clarity: that may the most central thing about Maggie and Hopey. They will never really understand themselves, or each other.

Well, I may be wrong. They’re getting older, and they’re getting better at seeing clearly.

This is the story of one weekend in about 2016, with flashbacks to 1979, when the two girls were young and fearless and something that passed for innocent and damaged in different ways than their middle-aged selves. I can’t say if it will be as heartbreaking for people who can’t remember 1979 — who haven’t lived fifty or so years themselves. I think so: I think Jaime is that good. But it has more punch the more of this connects with you personally, like any good art.

The more any of us live, the more regrets and what-ifs we accumulate. They can overwhelm us, I guess, if we let them. Is This How You See Me? is about wandering through those piles of regrets and what-ifs without actually talking about them, about seeing where you are this year and looking back in wonder and surprise and awe at who you were forty years ago.

It does not have the electric shock of The Love Bunglers. It’s a quieter book, a middle-aged book. But it’s just as strong, just as true, just as real. And Jaime Hernandez is still one of our best storytellers, working fearlessly in a form he’s made his own.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

REVIEW: The Invisible Man

REVIEW: The Invisible Man

the-invisible-man-300x437-9167505After its creative misfires reviving their classic monsters, it is understandable audiences were cautious about Universal’s latest offering, The Invisible Man. Thankfully divorced from that shared universe, this retelling of the H.G. Wells tale stakes out new ground thanks to surehanded direction and a stellar performance from Elisabeth Moss. The film was one of the few bright spots in the abbreviated 2020 film season and is out now disc from Universal Home Entertainment.

The novel was a product of its time, the science fuzzy enough to be accepted by the genteel readership, the thrills delivered through its gripping third-person narration, a change of pace for Wells, who was rapidly becoming the father of science fiction with his works. There, Griffin altered his physiology to become invisible but grows mad with his attempts to find a way to reverse the process. As serialized, it was a ripping yarn that has been endlessly adapted ever since.

Here, as written and directed by Leigh Whannell, the focus is shifted from the tragic figure to a potential victim. Rather than a science fiction or horror tale, this becomes a psychological thriller, leaving audiences wondering through its 2:04 running time whether the title character is real or a figment of her fractured imagination.

Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) is trapped in an abusive relationship with the unpleasant Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), until she enacts a long-gestating plan to run away. After nearly failing, she finds sanctuary for a fortnight with her old friend Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). She is suffering a horrible case of PTSD, so frightened of the outside that the concept of seeking professional help (or a restraining order) is beyond her.

Freedom is dangled before her when word is received that Adrian is dead. But is he? Soon, she begins hearing things, seeing things, feeling things that suggest she is being tormented by Adrian but is invisible to the eye. In time, her nerves frayed, her manic tone suspects, she tries to convince James Adrian is back, invisible, and seeking revenge for leaving him. James is concerned and her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) suspicious of her.

Things build, the tension building with a quickening pace and you can see for yourself what happens next. It is a contemporary spin, for sure, with more a strong dose of female empowerment. While Hodge and especially Rain are underutilized, the film is really Moss’ and she owns it, bringing all her gifts to bear.

The film is out in the usual formats including Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD.  The 1080p transfer is very strong which is essential when the visual details count. The colors are sharp and the lowly lit scenes easy to follow. Even better is the Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

The Special Features are the usual assortment starting with a solid Audio Commentary: Writer/Director Leigh Whannell and followed by nine Deleted Scenes (13:24); Moss Manifested (3:54); Director’s Journal with Leigh Whannell (10:51); The Players (5:24), and Timeless Terror (3:04).

Given our limited theatrical choices in the months ahead, you would do well to catch this one.

By Night, Vol. 1 by Allison, Larsen, and Stern

I am unabashedly a John Allison fan; I’ll say that up front. I may not have been quite as much of a long-term Allison fan as some — I discovered him around the time Scarygoround begat Bad Machinery, if I remember correctly — but I’ve been reading his stuff for a decade or two and writing about it here for nearly as long.

So if I say that his new-ish series By Night , whose first volume I just read, is slightly disappointing, I want to be clear that I mean that I am not gushing about it in the manner I usually do for Allison projects. It’s fun and zippy and quirky and interesting; it’s a good comic. It’s just not as Allisonian (at least to me) as I hoped.

So, now that I’ve just deflated the whole thing before I even started, what is this By Night comic, anyway?

Well, it’s written by Allison, as I implied. Art is by Christine Larsen (probably best known for a stint on the Adventure Time comic; possessor of an awesome website with lots of excellent art) with colors by Sarah Stern (whose website is only very slightly less awesome). It began in mid-2018 and seems to have ended with issue #12.

It’s about two young women, former friends from school who meet again in their dead-end town in their mid-twenties and go on a quirky supernatural adventure together, eventually pulling in a larger cast of oddballs from that town. So far, it sounds very Allisonian.

But the town in question in By Night is Spectrum, South Dakota, and Allison is exceptionally British. (One might even say quintessentially so.) There are other parts of By Night that made my editor’s red-pen hand twitch, but the core of my uneasiness is that Allison’s dialogue and phrasing here is often not quite American, while also not quite being as sprightly and clever as his usual. He is definitely aiming to write Americans, and it was a grand experiment…I just think that it doesn’t play to his strengths.

Anyway, Jane Langstaff is the studious, serious one and Heather Meadows is the free-wheeling wild child (as we have seen often before in Allison’s work). They meet up again in this dying town, and Heather convinces Jane to go along on her mad scheme to investigate the newly-unprotected Charleswood Estate, which was once the commercial heart of the town, back before its founder and driving force disappeared mysteriously. They go there, and discover a portal to an alternate world populated with fantasy creatures and various dangers, wandering in and out a couple of times, guided by a goofball local, and…well, that’s about it in these four issues.

I assume there’s a larger story about that mysterious founder, and probably Deep Secrets about the fantasy world, and these issues have plenty of plot, but it doesn’t end up going in ways that makes much of a story. Things happen, then other things happen, and a few more people learn about the portal — but what, if anything, any of that means isn’t clear at this point.We also don’t see much of the fantasy world; the story tends to cut away from it to go back to our world — either because Allison is more interested in the real-world end, because he’s setting up for a bigger reveal later, or just because, I can’t say.

There’s one more collection available, of the next four issues, and I expect a third will be forthcoming to finish it up. (Well, maybe I hope it will be forthcoming; from the publication schedule, I would have expected it last fall.) I plan to see where this goes; it’s not a long story, and the creators are all doing good work. So I reserve the right to later say that I’ve changed my mind, and this is just as awesome as other Allison works. That would be a nice outcome, actually: I want to love things.

If you’re less of an Allison fan than I am, I wouldn’t pick this as your entry point. Giant Days or his webcomics (which have the advantage of being free) are much better for that. But if you want to see how he handles Americans: here you go.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

The Eye of Mongombo, Book One by Doug Gray

Serialization, the fans of floppy comics are fond of telling us, means that stories actually get told, since their creators can get paid while they’re working. If a creator had to finish an entire story before publishing anything…well, that might take years, and clearly no one can live on nothing for years and so, ipso facto, Batman has to punch people every month or else comics won’t exist at all.

(I may be horribly mangling their argument for my own purposes.)

But serialization just means that stories can start. Market forces, timing, and the creators’ circumstances will affect that story once it’s running — no storytelling mechanism can avoid those things. And so a lot of serialized stories don’t manage to end. They stop mid-way, for whatever reason, to be picked up later, quietly forgotten (Billy Nguyen), loudly forgotten (All-Star Batman and Robin), or stop-and-start for an extended period of time (Hepcats).

Which all brings us to Doug Gray and The Eye of Mongombo . It was a comic book from Fantagraphics, launched in 1989 and expected to run twelve issues, but the last issue was #7, in 1991. I read it at the time, enjoyed it a lot, and kept hoping it would come back — I’ve mentioned it on this blog a few times, I think.

Spongebob Narrator Voice: twenty-eight years later

Doug Gray re-emerged last year with a Kickstarter and a plan to finally finish Eye of Mongombo and publish it as three album-format books. The campaign did not hit its funding target, but Gray decided to finish the story anyway, and the first book was published at the beginning of this year. So I got to read a big chunk of Eye of Mongombo for the first time in a few decades — I did own the comics (until they were destroyed, with all of my other comics and most of my books, in the Flood of ’11), but I don’t think I’d pulled them out to read since maybe the mid-90s at best.

Eye is a goofy late-80s comic, from deep into the black-and-white boom, and it did set off to tell one story. A long, convoluted, silly story packed with reverses and incidents, yes — one that could be told well in serialized form — but a single story.

Our hero is two-fisted anthropologist Dr. Cliff Carlson, who begins the story by first being fired by one nemesis (department head Nuskle) and quickly afterward being turned into a duck by another nemesis (Jumballah, some kind of witch doctor). Cliff is smart and cunning and quick on his feet, so being duck-ified only momentarily slows him down: he’s soon off to find the fabled treasure of the title along with his unworldly grad student Mick and his sexy girlfriend/fellow adventurer Raquel.

Unfortunately, Nuskle stole the map for the eye, so Cliff and friends are chasing “Numbskull” (and his dimwit brother-in-law). And there’s at least one other group, some nefarious types who also seem to be among Cliff’s many nemeses. All set off for South America, variously hiding from, stalking, and attempting to murder each other.

Gray went into animation after Eye‘s aborted first serialization, and his story has the energy and one-damn-thing-after-another pacing of a good cartoon. It manages to stay a silly adventure story rather than a parody, which is a tricky balancing act: Gray isn’t making fun of his characters (well, not all of them), but using them to tell a story with funny parts.

The art looks pretty much like I remember the original Eye, but the Kickstarter page has multiple examples of improved panels compared to the originals. Clearly, my memory is faulty…or Gray got pretty good by the end of the first serialization, and that’s what I’m remembering. Either way, it will be interesting to see what the back half of Eye looks like, once we get past the reworked early-90s stuff and get into entirely new pages.

Eye is not great literature. It’s not a lost comics classics. But it’s a great goofy adventure story, filled with oddball characters and drawn with verve. I liked it a lot in 1989, and I still like it a lot now. I really hope Gray manages to finish it this time and maybe, just maybe, goes on to do other stories as well.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

REVIEW: Nathan Hale’s Alamo All-Stars, Major Impossible

REVIEW: Nathan Hale’s Alamo All-Stars, Major Impossible

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars
By Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, 144 pages, $19.99

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Major Impossible
By Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, 126 pages, $13.99

In 2012, Nathan Hale, the graphic novelist not the dead patriot, began a series called Hazardous Tales, starting with his namesake. Since then, he has released nine volumes, with the tenth due in the fall.

The series spans the years and focuses on the familiar and unfamiliar names throughout American history.  In each case, a trio of spectral figures act as narrator, Greek chorus, and the print equivalent of Statler and Waldorf. We have Hale the colonial hung as a spy, his masked hangman, and a British red coat. In each case, they take the middle ages reader through the story. Hey pause to explain historic figures, details, debunk urban legends, and much more. As a result, they are entertaining and informative in the best sense of both words.

2016’s volume six, Alamo All-Stars, has been turned into a larger-sized new edition with sixteen additional pages tucked in the back. These include photos of artifacts, the real people depicted, and other artifacts along with mini-comics featuring the history the Alamo cat. There’s even a section devoted to Phi Collins and his donating his Alamo memorabilia to the fort.

What most know about the Alamo is the rallying cry, “Remember the Alamo!”, and legendary figures Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett were present. After that, things get fuzzy, but here Hale walks us through all the players, the shifting alliances, and the eventual establishment of Texas as a state. It was nice seeing a different take on Juan Sequin, the focus of Jack Jackson’s wonderful Los Tejanos graphic novel.

There are frequent pauses for the ghostly trio to provide commentary, sort out rumor from fact, and help us keep track of the various Mexican leaders. I’m not sure how the intended audience will find the book, but I certainly learned a lot from it.

The more recent release gives us something far lesser known. Nicknamed Major Impossible, we are treated to the story of John Wesley Powell, a one-armed explorer who organized an expedition to explore the Green and Colorado rivers by boat, traveling from Wyoming through Utah and the Grand Canyon region of Arizona. The trip had never been done by Americans, well white Americans, and was a harrowing experience for the ten men who set out shortly after the Civil War, to continue mapping the American west.

Again, he carefully takes us through their trials and tribulations, keeping track day by day. There are disastrous choices made, difficult decisions to make, and the unknown around every bend of the rocky terrain. I knew none of this and was interested enough to finish it, thanks to the lively writing and drawing.

Each volume is well-illustrated and presented in muted colors, giving a nostalgic feel to them, and setting one apart from the other. In every case, Hale shows his research cleverly hosted by the Research Babies.

These are recommended from fourth grade up and will make useful tools well into middle school.

REVIEW: Bloodshot

REVIEW: Bloodshot

In 1992, every comics company had a guy with gun – DC’s Deathstroke, Marvel’s Punisher and Cable, Fleetway’s Judge Dredd, and then came Valiant’s Bloodshot.

In the 2010s, every studio needed a comics franchise to exploit for box office supremacy – Warner’s DC, Disney’s MCU, and Sony, not happy sharing Spider-Man with Disney, picked up Valiant’s Bloodshot from the Columbia scrap heap by way of Paramount.

In the intervening years, filmgoers had already been treated to an endless array of gun-toting, cool-looking figures from Neo to John Wick (who just happen to be played by the endlessly fascinating Keanu Reeves).

There was no particular demand for one more, certainly not one played by Vin Diesel whose range goes from A to B. From Pitch Black to Hobbs and Shaw, he’s pretty much the same guy, without the range of roles his rival, Dwayne Johnson, has managed.

So, Sony finally delivers a Diesel vehicle in Bloodshot and it was fittingly met with a giant yawn from general audiences and comics fans alike. Out now on disc and streaming, the Sony Home Entertainment film isn’t bad; it isn’t great either. What’s missing is something that feels fresh, a performance that shows us something different, and a reason to be emotionally invested.

Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) is a dead Marine brought back to life thanks to nanotechnology. Fresh from the grave, he intends to kill Martin Axe (Tony Kebbell), the man who murdered his wife Gina (Talulah Riley) before realizing that the man who resurrected him, Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), is up to no good (ho-hum). A lot of this smacks more of Deathlok than anything else and even that’s been recycled on television.

We race around the world, we watch him fight people, break things, got injured and regenerate, rinse, repeat.

The debuting director, David S.F. Wilson, was a good choice if you’re into production design and special effects, where the film is at least moderately interesting.  Where the film needed a more skilled director was to work with hack Jeff Wadlow’s screenplay, which he’d been working on for many a year, through several studios before someone wisely brought in Eric Heisserer to finesse it, but it might have been too little, too late.

Wilson doesn’t seem to know what to do with the supporting players including the cyborg jerk Jimmy Dalton (Sam Heughan) or the possibly intriguing KT, played by Diesel’s Fast & Furious universe costar Eiza González, who acquitted herself nicely in Baby Driver.

Despite the bland script and lackluster direction, Diesel gives it his all and is 100% committed to the part. He just isn’t given anything interesting to do with the character.

The film suffered from bad reviews just in time for the coronavirus to shutter theaters around the world, leaving the film to a streaming fate as it eked out a mere #28 million worldwide against a $45 million budget. Whatever plans there were for a Valiant Cinematic Universe may have become an unintentional Covid-19 victim.

The movie can be found streaming and in the standard 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD flavors. The film itself was reviewed via Moviesanywhere.com and the high definition performance was sharp, clear, colorful, and just fine making the movie look better than it is.

The digital and discs have an assortment of special features that are worth a look only if you liked the feature. There’s R.S.T. HACK: CHAINSAW, a set of four animated shorts (6:20) purportedly revealing classified information on CHAINSAW.

Before Sony enthusiastically provided the cash for the ending, an earlier and less interesting version was shot and is included here with optional commentary (4:26). There are three other deleted and extended scenes: This is What we Fight For (1:22) Why can’t I remember anything (2:50), and Eric Evacuates (:31).

Rounding out the extras are the standard background pieces including Outtakes & Blooper Reel (1:59), Initiate Sequence: Directing Bloodshot (9:16), and Forgotten Soldiers: The Cast of Bloodshot (11:13).

REVIEW:Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

REVIEW: Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

Warner Releases Details on all-star Justice League Dark: Apokolips WarAll of the marketing promises that Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, out today for digital streaming, is the final chapter of the DC Animated Movie Universe. Similar to Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame wrapping up a decade’s worth of stories, this too brings everything to a cosmic climax, the likes of which have not been attempted before. The largely successful effort clocks in at 90 minutes, making for the longest film yet in the 38 animated features from Warner Animation.

The film opens with John Constantine (Matt Ryan), now a full-fledged member of the League, in bed with Zatanna (Camilla Luddington), a moment of bliss before impending doom. The language and graphic violence definitely make this inappropriate for the youngest viewers so parents are forewarned.

Darkseid (Tony Todd) has been a looming threat and now, he launches his all-out assault on Earth. With the Titans left to defend Earth, Superman (Jerry O’Connell) leads the Justice League into battle on Apokolips. They get their asses kicked and Earth gets conquered.

Two years later…Really, no spoilers so far because this was in the first few minutes of the epic battle. Through dialogue and sparing flashbacks, writers Mairghread Scott, Christina Sotta, and Ernie Altbacker show how one by one, the world’s greatest heroes fell. Earth is now being plundered for its resources and humanity has been reduced in great numbers.

Of course, there is a resistance and this is where the bilk of the story takes place. Clark Kent, laced with Kryptonite through his body and therefore powerless, recruits Constantine, mourning Z’s death with alcohol, to help resume the fight. A loose network of heroes and villains, relying on one another for survival, forge a plan. As a result, characters from across the films are present with Lois Lane (Rebecca Romjin) taking a leadership role. And it’s no surprise lowlifes like Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre) are still around.

Meantime, Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan) recruits his mother, Lady Shiva (Sachie Alessio) to join the battle. He and Raven (Taissa Farmiga) have one of the more significant storylines in this sprawling story while she and her father Trigon (Jon Bernthal) also have a major thread.

Standing in their way is Darkseid, no longer surrounded by any other member of the New Gods. His new Furies include transformed versions of Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), Mera, and Hawkman. Occupying the Mobius Chair is Batman (Jason O’Mara), now a loyal servant.

As the film unfolds, one of the most glaring aspects of these massive team-ups is exposed. Characters who normally avoid death from gunfire, talon, knife, cosmic blast, etc. easily fall here to show just how overwhelming the odds are. As a result, many characters are seen in very quick cameos. Similarly, Darkseid is just way too powerful, on a scale never before seen. He seems to make easy work of not only Earth’s heroes but the entire GL Corps and kills the immortal Guardians, which doesn’t feel right. And what happens to the Central Power Battery is an incredibly false note.

Surprisingly, Constantine is far more heroic and the center of action than he should for such a cosmic tale, but given that the title is Justice League Dark, it makes some sense. The other occult members play minor roles with Etrigan (Ray Chase) getting some of the film’s best lines.

This, of course, is a story about heroes and heroism with plenty of noble sacrifices throughout. The final solution involves some of both and fittingly wraps the film series. Then there is one final problem, with 31% of Earth’s magma now gone, the planet is doomed. Superman, though, refuses to give up and as he rallies the exhausted troops, Constantine turns to one of them, telling him he knows what must be done. And the film ends as it must.

I’m not sure why they felt the need to end the continuity, but they tie up many threads from previous films. And the heroes aren’t gone for good. Coming later this year will be a new Superman tale.

The film was screened digitally and there’s an interesting gap after the end credits suggesting a post-credit hint for the future.

None of the Blu-ray’s special features were included for review but for the record, you can expect on May 19:

  • DC Showcase: Adam Strange (Animated Short) – On an asteroid mining colony, mysterious drifter Adam Strange is dismissed as an interplanetary derelict. But when the miners open a fissure into the home of a horde of deadly alien insects, his true identity is exposed. He is space adventurer Adam Strange, whose heroic backstory is played out in flashbacks as he struggles to save the very people who have scorned him for so long. Charlie Weber provides the voice of Adam Strange, alongside with Roger R. Cross, Kimberly Brooks, Ray Chase, and Fred Tatasciore. Adam Strange is produced and directed by Butch Lukic (Batman Unlimited franchise), who also conceived the original story – which is written by J.M. DeMatteis (Constantine: City of Demons).
  • Darkseid: New God/Evil Classic (New Featurette) – This documentary explores the machinations of one of fiction¹s greatest Super Villains as we learn more about what fuels Darkseid¹s drive to becoming a galactic Atilla the Hun and the importance of Deities in our classic and modern fiction.
  • Filmmaker Audio Commentary – Observations and behind-the-scenes insight from Executive Producer James Tucker, Directors Matt Peters and Christina Sotta, and Screenwriter Ernie Altbacker.
  • Look Back: Justice League Dark (Featurette) – John Constantine leads a group of misfit characters that use magic to vanquish their opponents. This is the dark version of the Justice League taking on the malevolent forces that go beyond our plane of existence.
  • Look Back: Batman and Harley Quinn (Featurette) – Take a peek at the animated feature film, Batman and Harley Quinn, featuring the creators and talented voice cast.
  • From the DC Vault: Justice League Action, “Zombie King”
  • From the DC Vault: Justice League Action, “Abate and Switch”
  • From the DC Comics Vault: Teen Titans, “Nevermore”
  • A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Superman: Man of Tomorrow – An advanced look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection.
REVIEW: The Gentlemen

REVIEW: The Gentlemen

After dabbling in worlds created by others, including Sherlock HolmesThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Aladdin, director Guy Ritchie decided to return to his roots and tell a quirky English crime caper. Whether he was feeling nostalgic or attempting to regain the cred earned from the wonderful Layer Cake is unknown. What I can tell you is that while far from perfect, The Gentlemen is an entertaining delight.

The film is largely a two-handed, an engagement between Fletcher (Hugh Grant), an untrustworthy independent reporter, and Ray (Charlie Hunnam), the right hand to drug lord Michael Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). It’s move and countermove between the two as Fletcher tries to extort 20 million pounds or reveal what he believes to be the scoop of the year. And as they go back and forth, they tell each other pieces of the bigger pictures and then we go into flashbacks. Each time one thinks he’s trumped the other, we get a new wrinkle, another story, and things fall into place. By the end, you’re satisfied and amused which we could all use right about now.

The flashbacks and changing points of view may take some getting used to if you’re unfamiliar with Ritchie’s earlier work. But they and the oddball cast are what make the film worth watching. It’s terrific seeing Grant cast against type and he’s well-matched by the underseen Hunnam. That said, we’ve seen McConaughey in this role before so he’s fine, just boring in comparison, and the more versatile Michelle Dockery, as his wife Rosalind, is way under-utilized (and there should have been far more prominent women in the story). Colin Farrell steals every scene he’s in as the athletic trainer/thug Coach, who manages a gang of boxers turned gangbangers.

There’s some predictability here and there along with some stereotyped characters marring the story, but overall, this was fun to watch and should have done better before we were quarantined. There is strong production design and costuming, especially Grant and Farrell.

The film is now available from Universal Home Entertainment in all the formats you could ask for including the Blu-ray, DVD, and digital HD combo pack. Note: the digital HD is for iTunes only, which I personally object to.

The 1080p transfer nicely captures the colors, lighting, and textures. The Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 default) audio mix is also strong so the viewing experience is a positive one.

As entertaining as the film is, the Special Features leave a lot to be desired. You get Best Gentlemanly Quips (3:09), Glossary of Cannabis (00:46), Behind the Scenes of The Gentlemen (1:37), and a Photo Gallery.