Category: Reviews

Box Office Democracy: Wonder Woman

It seems like incredibly faint praise but I should get it out at the beginning: Wonder Woman is the best film of the DC Extended Universe era.  That only means that it’s a coherent film with proper pacing and character work that doesn’t feel completely at odds with 80 years of published material.  It’s honestly hard to believe that the same studio was working on this gem at the same time they were shoveling Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman out the door. Wonder Woman is a triumph for DC and the kind of shining beacon for the future that I’m sure they will ignore for a grey and smokey Justice League later in the year.

The action beats in Wonder Woman are stellar. The sequence where she ditches her outerwear and uses her sword and shield to come over the top of a bunker and traverse the no man’s land is maybe the best action beat I’ve seen all year.  I’ll even give them bonus points for not underlining the potential word play.  The training montages on Themyscira are crowded without being cluttered.  They gesture to a frenetic martial lifestyle that I would love to see more of in a sequel. The mass action sequences are done so well that it’s a little disappointing to have the final battle be a kind of inscrutable one-on-one fight but that’s how these movies end. I would be in to the superhero movie where things are solved in an institutional manner or with one hero fighting an entire army, but it’s seemingly never been done and this was probably not the time to start.

Gal Gadot is perfect in the role of Diana Prince. She’s so good that it’s easy to forget all the times another actress seemed perfect for the part and DC squandered the opportunity by not making a movie out of this property in the last 25 years.  Her facial expressions are on point and she deftly handles the switch from a steely warriors gaze to befuddlement at the world outside her island.  I think “oh, I don’t understand this modern thing” might be a little overused here but it’s one of their only avenues for comedy and you wouldn’t want it to be just a movie about how terrible World War One is, we’ve had those movies and I personally don’t find them very interesting.  The rest of the cast is fine, I suppose. Chris Pine is punching a little above his weight here, or he’s criminally underused in the Star Trek movies.  Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen are great as Antiope and Hippolyta respectively, but with such vanishingly small amounts of screen time.

I struggled a bit with World War I as a setting.  In the comics Wonder Woman has all the Hitler-punching bonafides as Captain America does, and moving to a war with a less certain, less reviled, adversary takes some of that oomph out of things.  It’s easy for Diana to hate Nazis and slightly harder for her to hate too many convoluted political alliances.  It serves the story (the suspicion of Ares’ involvement might seem too overt in WWII) but I spent a lot of time wondering when things might get turned up a little.  I’m here to see Diana smash tanks and fight against unstoppable odds (present in this film for sure) and less here for her infiltrating a ball or shopping in a very standard version of London (also unfortunately present).

I enjoyed Wonder Woman a great deal, but that’s not really what’s most important here.  I have watched my Facebook feed fill up all weekend with raves from women I know thrilled to see a superhero movie that speaks to them.  I have to believe them that this movie is something special above and beyond my appreciation of it on a surface level.  That people feel heard and represented by a movie is more important than any quibbles I might have over the depth of the supporting cast or how uninteresting I find World War I as a setting.  I thought Wonder Woman was good, all these people thought it was real, and given the circumstances I’m going to go with them on this one.

John Ostrander: Lost Vision

I don’t always get around to seeing movies that I want to see while they’re in the theaters. I prefer seeing movies first in the theater and preferably in IMAX. I love the big screen and I think that’s how they were meant to be seen. I don’t mind seeing it later on the small screen, especially if I still have the memory of seeing the large-scale version.

Sometimes, for one reason or another, I just don’t get around to getting to the movie theater in time to catch the feature. Logan was one of those films.

As you already probably know, Logan is the last film that Hugh Jackman will make playing Wolverine. It’s a part that made him a star and that he basically owns. This time it’s set in the not too distant future of 2029 and things have not gone well for the mutant population. (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the film and want to, best stop reading now or you may learn more than you want to.) By inference, we learn that there are almost no mutants left and none have been born in the past 25 years. There was some kind of unspecified disaster around the school in Westchester NY several years back.

Logan is now keeping it on the down low near the Mexican border as a driver/bodyguard. He drinks a lot and he’s sick; his mutant healing factor is fading and the adamantium that laces his bones (and claws) is poisoning him. He’s also taking care of Professor X, Charles Xavier (played once again by Patrick Stewart, who has said this is also his last go-round with the X-Men), who is also ailing. The man with the most powerful brain in the world is losing control of it; every once in a while, he has seizures that wreak havoc on everyone near him.

Into Logan’s and Professor X’s life comes an 11-year-old girl named Laura who is a mutant, who may have been created in a lab where she was dubbed X-23. She also has retractable claws, rage issues, and a violent nature. Sound like anyone we know? She is Logan’s “daughter” in that his DNA was used to create her.

The movie is a road picture, one in which Logan, Laura, and Professor X are chased as they try to find their way to a possible haven. The film is very violent (having earned an R rating) and bleak. Very bleak.

Professor X founded the X-Men in the belief, the hope, that mutants and normal humans could find a way to live together. His frenemy, Magneto, didn’t think they could and his path was more violent. He saw humans and mutants as being at war.

Evidently, Magneto was right. That appears to be the premise of Logan – very few mutants are left and the ones that exist are being hunted. Xavier was wrong.

That’s also been the premise of more than a few X-Men comics that touch on the future. I don’t recall seeing one such future where Professor X’s vision came true. I will admit, I find that a bit depressing. It seems to me to undercut some of the basic premise of the X-Men – that there is hope that all these different types of people can live together. The X-Men have been stand-ins for so many different persecuted minorities. Xavier’s dream, his vision, has always held out hope to me that our differences can be overcome, however tough the battle.

That’s not what Logan seems to say.

I don’t know if I have the right to gripe. My career seems to be about anti-heroes and bleak characters and bad times; it’s how I make my living. I can certainly see the allure in taking that attitude in Logan; it feels closer to life as we see it these days. More and more so all the time. But maybe that’s why we need a little more hope.

This is not to say that Logan is a badly made film; far from it. It’s not simply violent; it’s intelligent and well written and has wonderful performances. In the blu-ray pack that I bought, I had a chance to experience it in black and white. They call it Logan Noir and it has the feel of noir films of old. I was very impressed.

I was also a little saddened. It’s hard to watch a dream die, especially one that was meant to give us hope. These days, I think we need all the hope we can get.

Joe Corallo: Is Gwar Dynamite?

Back in October, an inarguably simpler time, I got the chance to interview writer Matt Miner and editor Brendan Wright on the project they were promoting on Kickstarter, Gwar: Orgasmageddon. Since then, not only did that Kickstarter get fully funded, but it got picked up for distribution by Dynamite Entertainment. The first issue is scheduled for release next month. I got my hands on a review copy, and since I asked you all to support the Kickstarter for this comic I might as well tell you what I think.

Before I jump in there are a lot of credits to this comic, so let me get through that first. The main 18-page story is written by Gwar’s own Matt Maguire and Matt Miner, line art by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer with Matt Maguire, colors by Marissa Louise and Doug Garbark, and letters and designs by Taylor Esposito. The four-page backup, X-Cops/Zipper Pig, was written and drawn by Gwar’s own Bob Gorman with colors by Hank Jones. The two-page backup, Gwar Slave Follies “Pissing Match,” was written by Matt Miner, line art by Scott Wygmans, colors John Bailey and letters by Taylor Esposito. Interior cover by Megan Muir. Covers by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer with Josh Jensen and Scott Wygmans. Edited by Brendan Wright.

Now that I got through that, it’s time to talk about my thoughts on Gwar: Orgasmageddon! Gwar, as you may know, is a band with a lot of theatrics. It’s kind of like if KISS (which is also a comic book at Dynamite) was a Troma production. They’re a group of unapologetically violent and somewhat homoerotic aliens that fight against other unapologetically violent and somewhat homoerotic aliens, except their manager is not an alien. They also travel through time, so throw some Bill & Ted into my analogy earlier. Maybe some Conan too.

Anyway, the story starts out by introducing most of the characters with caption boxes on the first page like a Legion of Super-Heroes comic. Both Matts weave a story with breakneck speed as we start right in the middle of a Gwar show and goes right into murder and mayhem, and that’s before the bad guys get there! Once they do, we’re propelled into a time jumping murder spree in an overtly phallic rocket that’s called exactly what you think it should be called. Hilarity ensues as the bodies pile up.

Jonathan and Matt’s line art is absolutely wonderful. The pages are laid out primarily in four or five panels with most of it being very traditional looking. This makes for a good contrast to the absurdity throughout the story and reinforces some of the parody elements we see in the issue. Their expressive facial expressions really sell the tongue-in-cheek dialogue and the fourth wall breaks that occur sporadically throughout. It sometimes feels like I’m reading an X-treme Marvel type comic from the early 90s.

The best part about this story might be the coloring. The colors throughout this, heavy on greens, blues, and reds, really make this story pop. Honestly, the colors in this story make it feel so fluid that after you put this comic down for a minute you’ll swear that you remember watching a Gwar cartoon. Taylor Esposito’s lettering also sells how Gwar and the other characters talk in such a way that even if you haven’t heard of the band, you’d know their voice.

The shorts at the end are fun too, and really give it a throwback feel. X-Cop/Zipper Pig has a more simple art style and is done as an origin story. “Pissing Match” is a quick two-pager that helps flesh out a couple of characters you already saw in the bigger story, again like something out of a Legion of Super-Heroes comic.

I will say that if you are easily offended, this book is not for you. I don’t mean to say that as a slight to people who would be easily offended; it’s perfectly within your right. I’m just saying you probably won’t like this. The blood gets bloody, the gore gets gory, there may be a joke or two that comes off as culturally insensitive as well as some events that Gwar experiences in the past that they influence in a way that may upset you.

All in all, Gwar: Orgasmaggedon #1 is a fantastic debut filled with the kind of fun you miss in comics. It’s a wild ride that never tells you it’s sorry but does remind you to not take it too seriously. Everyone that wants to do a comic about a band needs to read this and take notes. And whether you read this because you’re a Gwar fan or just because it’s a fun time, you won’t be disappointed.

Gwar: Orgasmaggedon #1 hits the shelves June 7th.

REVIEW: DC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games

REVIEW: DC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games

What a great time to be a grandparent (or so I’m told). There are now plenty of books, games, clothing, and video to encourage girls to be strong and independent. DC Comics offers up their Super Hero Girls line and this week they have released their second animated feature, DC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games, a 77-minute romp.

Writer Shea Fontana improves on the first offering with a story set at the Intergalactic Games where Earth’s powered women take on the vile challengers from Korugar Academy. To prepare for the competition Academy teacher Doc Magnus (Phil LaMarr) is building battlebots and supervising Batgirl (Mae Whitman) and Bumblebee (Teala Dunn) as they build their own. Principal Waller (Yvette Nicole Brown) is not amused nor is she happy that Magnus’ bots seem to have free will but were not programmed with any morality, a theme that plays out across the 77-minute fast-paced story.

Lena Luthor (Romi Dames) steals the robots for her own use, complicating matters when everyone assembles for the games. On one side we have the likes of Platinum, Batgirl, Bumblebee, Wonder Woman (Grey Griffin), Supergirl (Anais Fairweather), Starfire (Hynden Walch), and the Flash (Josh Keaton) Under headmaster Sinestro’s (Tom Kenny) command are Starfire’s sister Blackfire (Hynden Walch), Lobo (Tom Kenny), Maxima, Mongal (Julianne Grossman), and Bleez (Stephanie Sheh). There’s also Granny Goodness’ (April Stewart) Female Furies team including Lashina (Jessica DiCicco), Mad Harriet (Misty Lee), and Stompa (April Stewart).

Additionally, Hawkgirl (Nika Futterman), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Katana (Stephanie Sheh), Lady Shiva (Tania Gunadi), Big Barda (Big Barda (Misty Lee ), Star Sapphire (Jessica DiCicco), Frost (Danica McKellar), Poison Ivy (Tara Strong) , Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), and Harley Quinn (Tara Strong) play parts large and small.

So, right there, teens and adults more familiar with the comics than the target audience will love the characters plucked from throughout the DC Universe continuity. There are plenty of other little asides such as Steve Trevor’s Capes & Cowls Café.

Thankfully, it’s not just mindless action before, during, and after the competition. Fontana nicely weaves in all the inter-person drama one would expect when mixing all these characters together. Everyone does not get along nor are things overly simplified for the young viewer.

The standard DVD looks and sounds just fine. The feature comes with several extras including Fifth Harmony song “That’s My Girl” and seven short cartoons: “New Beginnings”, “Hero of the Month: Supergirl”, “Batgirl vs. Supergirl”, “Quinn-tessential Harley”, “Doubles Trouble”, “Franken-Ivy”, and  “Dude, Where’s My Invisible Jet?”


Given how incredibly popular Wolverine has been since his introduction in comics forty years ago, it’s always been a little odd that he has not fared well on the silver screen. While he’s been one of the strongest elements in all the X-Men films to date, his solo offerings — X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine – have not exactly worked. Hugh Jackman has said he had one solo film left in him so the challenge for Director James Mangold was making this one good.

Thankfully, Logan, was more than good. It was a thrilling experience on screen and now on home video. The movie, out now from 20th Century Home Entertainment, works on multiple levels but is a fitting finale for Jackman’s portrayal of the canucklehead. Where the others were solo stories with lots of extra characters around, this is more of a buddy film with the first half focusing on the relationship between Logan and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and the second half with his sort of daughter Laura (Dafne Keen).

We leap ahead to 2029, a world where mutants haven’t been born in twenty-five years, and where most of the existing ones are already dead. Xavier is dying, both from old age, and metal disease that has turned his psionic abilities into deadly force that has to be treated medicinally. He’s squirreled away in an abandoned Mexican refinery, watched over by Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Logan, the adamantium covering his bones, is slowly poisoning him so he’s finally aging and his healing factor is not what it used to be. To support his drinking and Xavier’s drugs, he drives a limo in a world that has seen better days but has not yet slipped into total dystopia.

There meager existence is upended when Logan is approached by Gabriela Lopez (Elizabeth Rodriguez), toting a young girl with her. She is on the run from Transigen where she worked as a nurse and the girl was raised in captivity. She appeals for Logan’s help but he wants nothing to do with her, no longer a noble figure but a broken hero. However, things change when Transigen’s enforcer Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) warns Logan off and Lopez is soon dead.

Pierce is out for the girl, Logan, and Xavier so the chase is on. The buddy film is merged with a road race as Logan tries to keep them safe while slowly learning that Laura and the others were raised from mutant DNA experiments, making her his genetic daughter, altering his view of things.

Several of the children have escaped and gone to Eden, a mountain retreat, reportedly revealed through an X-Men comic so Laura convinces Logan to bring her there but along the way, they are stopped by a clone of Logan, dubbed X-24, and there is death and destruction in their wake.

Mangold paints a bleak portrait of a world without heroes and a man without a future. There’s a sense of hopelessness that pervades the story and it takes a youth to awaken the hero within. The writing gives everyone plenty to do and other than a stop at a farmhouse for dinner, the pacing is excellent.

Jackman and Stewart play off one another exceedingly well, a familiarity born from their previous work together. They bicker like the tired old men they are. As a result, the real revelation in this film is Keen, who is expressively silent during the first two-thirds of the film. When she speaks, though, it changes their dynamic and adds a new layer.

Interestingly, the combo pack comes with two Blu-ray discs – the film itself and Logan Noir, a black and white version that is chilling in its own way. The film can also be found on the DVD and the Digital HD code.

The AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.38:1 is superb, sharp, and near perfect. Coupled with Logan’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, you have an excellent home viewing experience.

The special features include a handful of Deleted Scenes (7:45) with optional commentary by Mangold. Of these, only one could have made the film better. There is a multipart Making Logan (1:16:05) that breaks down the film from its origins in Old Man Logan and the X-23 storylines in comics to the casting process (Deen’s screen test is well worth a look) to production. Finally, there is a strong Audio Commentary by Mangold (which is repeated for Logan Noir).

If this is truly Jackman’s farewell to the character, he couldn’t have asked for a better story to share with his audience.

Box Office Democracy: Alien: Covenant

I’m not entirely sure what I can ask of Ridley Scott at this point.  He’s made four or five honest-to-goodness classics and inspired an entire generation of science-fiction films.  He doesn’t owe me anything and I’ll watch just about anything he puts out because I have that kind of faith in him as a filmmaker.  He’s made a scary film with Alien: Covenant, but not one that I find particularly interesting.  Scott seems obsessed with giving me lore I don’t want instead of a higher concentration of scenes with scary aliens.

It’s impressive that they made the grossest Alien movie yet.  The one with the most visceral body horror.  They topped the terribleness of the chestburster in this one by making the alien birth process less discrete and more, for lack of a better word, fluid-y.  I don’t think it’s particularly worthwhile to discuss the particulars of the plot further.  There are scary aliens, some you’ll recognize and some you won’t, that chase a bunch of humans you never quite care about around a distant planet that is suspiciously earth-like.  This suspicion is both in the film and in the audience because it sure is cheaper to film in a planet that happens to be covered with plants from earth.  There are other things to be scared of, it isn’t important really as long as you find something in each scene potentially terrifying.  It definitely works as a horror movie; it will never be mistaken for a better Ridley Scott film.

Alien: Covenant is a movie carried by Michael Fassbender.  Playing a robot that struggles with showing emotion seems like a big challenge as an actor, and playing two that each have different motivations and different ways of hinting at their true intentions is just an incredible performance.  This prequel franchise is going to succeed or fail based on the audience willing to come and see more Alien-based horror, but artistically they’re inescapably linked to Fassbender at this point.  I wouldn’t go see the next one (and there shouldn’t be a next one but we’ll get there) without him.  He’s almost bigger than the Aliens at this point, even if I would kick him to the curb in a heartbeat for more Ripley.

The flaw in this movie is that I could not possibly care less about the origins of the Xenomoprhs.  I didn’t watch any other Alien movie thinking “if only we knew where these things came from” or anything like that.  Any explanation is going to make them less scary.  A bump in the dark is more scary than anything you could show on camera.  I won’t tell you the origins of the Xenomorphs, that would be cruel, but it’s not as good as whatever you had in your head, or even the non-explanation of “they’re just some terrifying aliens, those exist” that I had always assumed was the truth.  This is a movie answering a question I never asked and don’t care about what they have to tell me.

I wish I knew why they thought Alien prequels were more interesting than Alien sequels.  That what we want from a science-fiction horror franchise is less fantastical technology and more exposition.  I wonder if the whole Alien braintrust learned the wrong lesson from Resurrection and have decided they can’t move further in to the future.  I would rather watch an Alien without Weyland or synthetics or any of that rather than have more needless exposition shoveled on me.  That’s not what they’re making though so I have to make do with what we have— a legitimately scary movie with one tour de force performance and a fair amount of useless prattle.  Better than all the bad movies we’ll see this year full of useless prattle, I suppose.


The trailer for Get Out intrigued me but ultimately I chose not to see it in the theater because it seemed a bit more of a thriller than I desired. But then lots of people I knew were recommending it, as were the critics. I was impressed by the 99% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score so when the opportunity came to review the film on disc, I decided to give it a shot.

I have never seen anything Jordan Peele has done but appreciate his work here as both writer and director. The film’s first two-thirds are very strong as everything appears idyllically normal with a loving, upper crust family welcoming the daughter’s boyfriend for a weekend visit. But, in many, many subtle ways, there’s also something very unnerving just below the surface. The house too perfect (despite the “black mold” in the basement), the dad just a tad too accommodating, and the maid a might too subservient.

Increasingly, things feel “off” and you get an unsettling feeling without fully knowing what is happening. Is it supernatural in nature? Is it white supremacy gone off the deep end? You get the clues slowly and by the time you figure it out, the film goes off the rails and devolves into standard horror fare, undercutting and spoiling the marvelous tone Peele established.

The movie stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington, a well-balanced, loving black boyfriend to Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). She has not told her parents, Dean (Bradley Whtiford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), that she has been dating a black man, which at first feels remarkably modern but is actually the first warning sign. The first real sign that not everything is right comes with the arrival of Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones).

At the party the following day, the various friends seem particularly taken with Chris, who grins and bares it, while people recreate that uneasy feeling I first got when I watched Mandingo, checking him out. And that’s when the racist themes really get an airing in a nice variety of exchanges. But what about the maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and the handyman Walter (Marcus Henderson)? They’re the only other black people on hand and neither one seems welcoming; in fact, it’s the opposite. That raises new questions.

Chris shares his concerns with his pal, TSA Agent Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery), so when he disappears for two days and can’t be reached, Rod goes into detective mode. Unfortunately, his concerns are laughed at by Detective Latoya (Erika Alexander). This in itself is a reflection of how black issues can be overlooked by authorities, even black ones,

The performances are well-mannered and downright creepy at times with high marks to Kaluuya and Williams, who get the most to do with their characters. Peele makes us uncomfortable with the very normalcy of the race relations along with the class structure on display. He doesn’t get showy…until that final third.

We then have the usual assortment of over-the-top blood and mess, predictable thrills, and an anticipated climax. What’s interesting about the film’s end comes with the Special Features which offers up a vastly differently final scene that changes the tone and the optional commentary from Peele explains his choices. While I’m reviewing this as a straight thriller, others have viewed it as a satire but it doesn’t entirely work on that level given the horror undercurrents driving the characters and issues of race.

The film is out now from Universal Home Entertainment in a variety of packages including the Blu-ray, DVD< Digital HD Combo Pack. The high definition transfer is crisp, clear, and colorful with an excellent audio track,

Along with the alternate ending, there are a score of deleted scenes including seven different versions of the actual end scene, showcasing Howery’s adlib skills. A few of the other scenes would have helped the film and again, these come with optional Peele thoughts. There is the far more perfunctory Unveiling the Horror of Get Out: Behind the Scenes and an engaging Q&A Discussion with Peele & Cast, hosted by Chance the Rapper. Finally, there’s an okay Feature Commentary from Peele.

Terms and Conditions by R. Sikoryak

Sikoryak has made his comics career out of taking words and pictures from other people and mashing them together — most notably collected in Masterpiece Comics. His thing generally is to redraw famous comics pages — sometimes new pages in the style of someone old and/or dead, but usually the famous art itself — and put different words into the balloons, for amusing, satiric, and or artsy purposes.

A couple of years ago, he decided, for whatever reason, to abandon high literature and take his text from much duller reality — Apple’s iTunes Terms and Conditions, a legal document that millions of us have accepted without actually reading. The book Terms and Conditions explains, in a short postscript, how he went about working on this project, and which iterations of the changing legal document were used for various versions of these pages, but it never actually tells us why he did it.

The book also never mentions that Sikoryak replaced the main characters in all of this redrawn art with what looks like a Steve Jobs figure — the name Jobs is never mentioned, nor the fact that this book has a single main character throughout all of its hundred art styles. But it’s what he did, and you can see many of the styles of Job on the front cover.

Sikoryak’s postscript also notes that he worked on his book in batches of pages, a dozen or so at a time. He would draw those page and then shoehorn some T&C onto them, and then go onto the next batch. So he didn’t pick pages to coincide with the text; he just redrew a bunch of famous comics pages to star Steve Jobs instead, and then tossed what is essentially lorem ipsum text onto those pages.

It’s all very arty. But I don’t really see the purpose or use of it. Terms and Conditions can have no artistic unity in any way — each page in completely independent, and the text is pure legal boilerplate. The enjoyment in reading it is primarily in recognizing each page (if you do so instantly) or in trying to figure out the source if it’s vaguely familiar. It is a cold and pointless thing, of interest primarily to people who like conceptual art.

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

REVIEW: Vixen the Movie

REVIEW: Vixen the Movie

It’s hard to imagine Vixen as a member of the DC Universe for over 35 years now, an early victim of the DC Implosion before arriving as a guest-star in Action Comics. She’s been a constant presence if not a major one, but was exactly in the range of secondary characters ripe for development for television since her powers were not entirely special effects-laden.

Interestingly, she was brought to The CW through their CW Seed website, a way to expand the Arrowverse with original content. In 2015, there were six short animated episodes that performed well enough that a second season arrived last October. The dozen episodes have now been edited into a 78-minute feature, Vixen the Movie, out now from Warner Home Entertainment.

The series is only kinda sort of close to the source material as we learn of Mari Jiwe McCabe’s (Megalyn Echikunwoke) upbringing in the African land of Zambesi, but raised in Detroit by her foster father Chuck Neil Flynn). The series opens with Mari wanting to learn the truth about her birth parents and the origins of the Tantu Totem necklace she was given by her birth mother. People are now after it and she discovers it imbues her with animal powers, bringing her to the attention of Flash (Grant Gustin) and Green Arrow (Stephen Amell). She rejects their offers of help and instead turns to college professor Macalester (Sean Patrick Thomas) for answers, leading her back to Africa and a confrontation with Kuasa (Anika Noni Rose), the sister she didn’t know she had, and one who wants Mari dead so she can possess the totem.

The second season went way beyond the comics and introduced the notion that there were five powerful totems – air, earth, water, fire, and spirit. The fire jewel has been found and comes into the possession of Benatu Eshu (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), a general who has been seeking any one of the jewels for years. He appears too powerful for Vixen until she digs deep and finds a way to persevere. Along the way, she demonstrates how comfortable she has gotten with her powers by aiding Flash, Firestorm (Franz Drameh/Victor Garber), Atom (Brandon Routh), and Black Canary (Katie Cassidy) during an attack from Weather Wizard.

The animated story suffers from the same weakness of its live-action colleagues, an inability to effectively write team action or proper use of powers. In this case, Eshu uses fire much as Heat Wave does, as some sort of force rather than something that burns. The dialogue has the same snap to it, though, which is welcome.

The animation is adequate if a little stiff and angular in character design while the live-action actors needed far better direction for their animated counterparts. Thankfully, Echikunwoke does a far superior job, which earned her a guest spot on Arrow last year and would be most welcome back for a third season or another live-action appearance.

The movie comes on a Blu-ray with Digital HD code. The lone special feature is “Vixen: Spirit Animal” which has comics historian and ComicMix contributor Alan Kistler, series executive producer Marc Guggenheim, Victor Garber, and Carlos Valdes weigh in on how her magical background fills a gap between the super-hero and the vigilante in the Arrowverse. Not much about her comic book origins are ever discussed, though. Additionally, there are two episodes from Justice League Unlimited included – “Hunter’s Moon” and “Grudge Match”.