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One of the darkest chapters in Batman lore has received its very own adaptation from DC’s famed and often celebrated animation line. But does The Killing Joke live up to previous classic Bat-animations like Mask of the Phantasm, and the more recent Dark Knight Returns?

Seeing how this is a classic Batman-Joker story, with classic Batman and Joker voice actors, what could possibly go wrong? Right? That’s how I went into this one anyway. Unfortunately, my high expectations left me rather disappointed. I guess I’ll just get right to it. The screenwriters for this movie completely broke Alan Moore’s story. I understand that it’s a short story, and that it would have to be fluffed out to make a feature film, but if you’re going to make the commitment to film it, the least you could do is not screw it up. In Moore’s story, Barbara Gordon may have just been a side character to move the plot forward, but they’ve somehow managed to make that worse. The first thirty minutes of this movie is a kind of prologue to the actual story of The Killing Joke, and to be honest, it’s one that doesn’t work well at all. It feels like something completely separate, mostly because it is. That half hour could have been completely removed and the movie would have been much better for it.

Now for the good parts. As always, when you have such professionals as Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (Joker), a large part of the story and quality of the film is going to hinge on their performances. Both do an excellent job here. Hamill’s Joker is as chilling as ever and Conroy’s Batman is perhaps his most stoic performance of the character. Sometimes Conroy even came off a bit too stoic for me with a few line deliveries that were kind of flat for my liking. Those minor few instances aside, the voice actors are what kept this from being a total travesty.

Overall, I was really disappointed with this one. The source material and the voice cast set my expectations pretty high, but the way the screenwriters totally butchered the story left a very sour taste in my mouth. I know Alan Moore is typically not a fan of his work being adapted, so much so that he refuses to have his name credited on the movie adaptations, this one was no exception, and honestly, I can’t say that I blame him.

The Verdict for Batman: The Killing Joke:
2 out of 5

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Stay nerdy, my friends.

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Author Rhett C. Bruno weaves a sci-fi detective story set a few hundred years in the future, in which long-time bounty hunter Malcolm Graves is given the task of finding a bomber who decided to strike on one of Earth’s most celebrated holidays. However, Malcolm gets an unexpected surprise when Pervenio Corp., the company he tracks bounties for, decides to team him up with a partner named Zhaff from their new and highly secretive training program. Malcolm is not overly fond of working with a partner, particularly one as young and inexperienced as Zhaff, but he soon realizes that he may need all the help he can get in order to crack this case.

Bruno crafts a noir-style, sci-fi narrative, with some heavy action elements peppered throughout. Malcolm Graves, the grizzled bounty hunter who’s only in it for the money and the booze is a character that we feel like we’ve met before, and Zhaff, the by-the-book, almost robot-like partner is another trope of the detective genre most of us are familiar with. That being said, the author gives each of them just enough quirks to provide just enough depth for both of them. Occasionally these main characters feel a little thin, but never to the point where it becomes a distraction, or difficult to read.

The story takes us on a journey from Earth to the moons of Saturn, but for all the distance that gets covered, I feel like this is where the novel is lacking just a little bit. A greater description of the worlds the characters visit would have made for a more immersive experience that the reader could get lost in. Bruno gives us enough detail to understand where we are, and I will admit, the descriptions and immersion do get better as the book goes on, but the earlier chapters have a somewhat sterile quality about them that made it a little hard for me to actually get into the story in the beginning. However, as the story goes on, and some of the strands begin to weave themselves together, the picture that gets presented is ultimately one that I enjoyed.

Rhett C. Bruno gives us a narrative not unlike some other sci-fi detective/bounty hunter stories that we’ve encountered in the past. It’s not quite as complex or grand as some of those, but it does have a simplistic and streamlined appeal to it that makes for a nice change of pace from those larger, more complicated works. It won’t completely blow your mind, but it will keep you entertained.

The Verdict for Titanborn:
4 out of 5

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Robert Kirkman’s latest foray into television comes in the form of the new Cinemax horror series Outcast. Based on Kirkman’s comic series of the same name, the show focuses on loner Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) as he tries to live his life out of sight from the rest of his small town community. The episode gives us glimpses of Kyle’s troubled relationship with his mother when he was younger, while at the same time introducing us to another young boy who has started to show some tremendously serious signs of violence and aggression. These mannerisms are quite similar to the ones that Kyle saw in his mother. The local clergyman, Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister), sets out to help the young boy, which eventually draws Kyle’s attention. It isn’t long until some of the former details of Kyle and the Reverend’s relationship are revealed, as well as Kyle’s abilities to deal with the darkness around him.

The story starts out a little slow, but about midway through the episode, as certain pieces fall into place, it starts to become more and more interesting. As the relationships between the characters are revealed, we figure out that there is a long and sordid history to this story that I can only hope will be unwound as the series goes on. However, one element that is present right from the start is the fear factor. The first scene of this first episode (much like Kirkman’s other TV series, The Walking Dead) establishes that the creators will pull no punches. They’re not going to go easy on their viewers, and I can respect that. The overall tone of this episode remains creepy from that first moment on, with quick cuts, dark settings, and just a generally unnerving feel.

The actors here manage a solid performance. The story obviously focuses on Fugit as Kyle and, for the most part, he plays the downtrodden loner role pretty well. He makes it clear that he would rather be stuck in his home, even if it’s not the nicest of places, rather than out and interacting with the rest of the world. Glenister’s portrayal of the reverend with flaws also resonates here. We can see through those flaws to the man that just wants to do some good with his life before he dies. Even if that good is fighting demons. However, the real standout of this first episode is child actor Gabriel Bateman. His portrayal of the aforementioned violent and possessed child is downright chilling.

Overall, this was not a perfect pilot episode. It took a little while to get going, which I feel hindered it some, but once it got up and running the strong performances of its lead actors really kept it going.

The Verdict for Outcast, Episode 1:
4 out of 5

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Stay nerdy, my friends.

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It’s here, it’s here! Marvel’s big Summer event series has arrived. Time to find out if it lives up to the hype.

After the Avengers are able to preemptively stop a massive attack from happening due to some information from the Inhumans, Iron Man hosts a party in Stark Tower and invites all of the heroes who helped save the day. The heroes learn just how the Inhumans learned about the attack and the revelation immediately causes some skepticism and dissension among the costumed adventurers. The conflict is presented immediately, the battle lines are drawn, and the casualties begin to mount a lot quicker than you might expect.

As previously mentioned, writer Brian Michael Bendis wastes no time in getting right into the the conflict for this series, and honestly, I’m okay with that. We don’t really need grand introductions to these characters’ mentalities and reasons for why they feel their way is best. If you step back and look at each side, you ultimately have to admit that both make valid arguments. I also have to give proper kudos to Bendis for coming up with a genuine, morally thought-provoking conflict for the heroes to fight over. That couldn’t have been easy following the landmark Civil War series from the last decade. What I was very surprised by were how quickly the casualties arrive. I would not have expected that kind of action for at least another issue or two.

David Marquez’s artwork is very clean. There isn’t a lot of huge action in this issue, but the little bit that we do get is well drawn. However, I think Marquez’s true talent is in the up close and personal scenes, of which we do get quite a few here. He has a real talent for wringing emotion and drama out of character faces. For an issue where the last few pages are both emotional and dramatic, that talent came in quite handy.

Admittedly, I’ve been pretty critical of Bendis’ ability to write a solid event book in the past, but this one seems to be off to a pretty good start. Which is equally impressive considering the long shadow of the previous Civil War event series and this Summer’s blockbuster MCU movie as well. The interesting premise combined with Marquez’s solid artwork should hopefully make for a series that can live up to it’s name. I look forward to reading the next few issues.

The Verdict for Civil War II #1:
4 out of 5

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Stay nerdy, my friends.