ZACH SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE | A (Spoiler Free) Movie Review


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61FsK3k4N7L._AC_SL1024_I often begin my comic book movie reviews with this piece of self awareness and truth: I am not particularly objective about these films. I am predisposed to enjoy them. I am all too ready to overlook any flaws they may have (see MY REVIEW to 2017’s Justice League as a painful case in point). 

I have been looking forward to Zach Snyder’s Justice League since the moment it was announced and have documented on this blog my reactions to his other DC Comics movies, 2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. My reactions to those films were almost universally positive. Zach Snyder’s Justice League came out as I was on Spring Break the entire day was planned around viewing this just-over-four-hour epic. As the movie ended, I had a strong desire to run to my computer and write a review.

But I decided to wait a few days to see if my feelings about its conclusion would change.

They have not.

Unsurprisingly, I loved Zach Snyder’s Justice League. 

This is a very, very (almost completely) different movie than the 2017 Justice League. Snyder vowed, as he embarked on this project, that he would not use on frame of film that he did not shoot himself and that this movie would be a deeply separate experience from the prior iteration, and he made good on that promise. Zach Snyder’s Justice League is not a simple expansion on a movie already released, it is a new creation in-and-of-itself and an impressive one at that.

The skeleton of the movie remains the same. Superman’s death at the end of Batman v Superman has awakened forces that would do Earth harm. They know the world is no longer protected by Superman and they are coming for it. Specifically, they are coming to unite 3 powerful devices called Mother Boxes in order to destroy the planet. Batman, chastened by the experiences of Batman v Superman, is hell bent on honoring the fallen Man of Steel by bringing together heroes to battle this extraterrestrial menace. Will Batman find these beings? Will the Justice League come together? Will they be enough to defend Earth without Superman? 

That is the story of both the 2017 and the 2021 movies, but the execution is completely different and the 2021 version is superior in every way.

With four hours, director and visionary Snyder is able to restore multiple plotlines to this film – plotlines that are so critical to the narrative it is almost shocking that they were ever left on the proverbial cutting room floor. Ezra Miller’s Flash is a recipient of this largess and his character is much more fully rounded and engaging in this movie. But it is Ray Fisher’s Cyborg who truly benefits from Zach Snyder’s Justice League. Cyborg becomes the soul of the film both in terms of theme and in terms of plot. This movie does not work without Cyborg at its center and Fisher is earnest and terrific in the role. The movie going public missed out on a tremendous performance last time around. There is some… justice in its restoration, especially considering the well-documented behind-the-scenes drama Fisher has endured.

The other members of the Justice League all benefit as well from Snyder’s work here. Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman, perhaps a bit more surly in this version is far more heroic. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman remains a highlight and this cut of the movie eliminates some truly cringe-worthy moments her character was subjected to in the 2017 film. Ben Affleck’s Batman is better than ever here – Snyder’s evolving take on the Dark Knight Detective worked magic on me. And (this is only a spoiler if you have not seen any promotional image from the film) Henry Cavill’s Superman is truly Super. I am not at all bothered by the “fan service” and lack of explanation of him wearing his black and silver costume. That I know it is a Kryptonian Restoration Suit from reading the comics makes me a geek. That others watching the film may not know this should not ruin the movie for them. If it does, they are looking for reasons to complain in my opinion.

I loved this movie. It surprised me in many ways, in how it held my attention over its long runtime, in how it, time-and-again, put representation at its forefront, in how emotionally satisfying it was, in how funny it was. Zach Snyder’s Justice League was the movie many wanted to see in 2017. I am glad we got to see it now, even if it is a cinematic one-off as it most likely is, the fact that Snyder sneakily teased about five different movie directions in it notwithstanding. For what it is worth, all of the new footage, including the so-called Knightmare sequence with Jared Leto’s disturbing Joker, worked for me, but that is hardly surprising.

I understand that Zach Snyder’s Justice League is not everyone’s cup of tea. In a society where we love our comic book heroes to be smart and quippy and relatable, the characters in Zach Snyder’s Justice League are decidedly other. The movie is long, but nicely divided into chapters. It is a result of one man’s singular vision and that vision decidedly does not resonate with everyone. It treats these characters as mythic archetypes and casts them in a battle of historic good vs. historic evil. It does not work for everyone. 

I get it.

But it sure worked for me.

ZACH SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE receives FOUR AND A HALF Mother Boxes out of a possible FIVE. 

 

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ZACH SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE – Preparations | BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE ULTIMATE EDITION


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maxresdefaultFirst, there is very little question that the so-called Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is superior to the theatrical release. It adds explanation and nuance to plot and characters and some of the scenes restored to this edition are so essential to the film, one wonders why they were cut to begin with. Running time was shortened, yes, and the theatrical cut is a long movie, the Ultimate Edition almost thirty minutes longer but the result is a movie that is far more less developed than it had to be. 

Second, the movie swings at some pretty deep themes, as far as superhero movies go. Director Zach Snyder began his grounded and “what would really happen if our world had superheroes” approach in 2013’s Man of Steel and he doubles down on that direction here. The events of Man of Steel caused massive loss of life, destroyed tracts of Metropolis and introduced us to a Superman (the really solid Henry Cavill) we had not seen before: one who was confident he was meant to be a hero, but not accomplished in the role. Batman v Superman introduces us to a Batman (a terrific Ben Affleck – perfectly cast here) who is accomplished in his role, but is not confident he is a hero. In fact, he tells Jeremy Irons’ Alfred “we’re criminals, Alfred. We’ve always been criminals. Nothing’s changed.” 

This dichotomy propels the two iconic characters towards conflict, a conflict that the Ultimate Edition makes clear is arranged behind-the-scenes by Jessie Eisenberg’s  Lex Luthor. (Upon subsequent viewings of the movie, I have come to like his performance more-and-more, and I liked it initially!). Batman, who presumably lost hundreds of employees in the Superman/Zod battle in Man of Steel when the Metropolis Wayne Financial building collapsed, is certain Superman is an existential threat to humanity and must be contained. Superman, for his part, is wrestling with his place in a world that, increasingly, does not seem to want to be saved and who finds Batman’s escalating violence abhorrent and surely not heroic. These are pretty deep themes for a comic book film and Batman v Superman puts them front and center, though the ultimate resolution is not found here, but will hopefully be found in Zach Snyder’s Justice League.

Third, while there is no doubt that Snyder’s take and direction is divisive – his is a ridiculous understatement – there is little doubt that his casting (outside, perhaps, of Affleck) is terrific. Batman v Superman, in a subplot to be explored in Zach Snyder’s Justice League) introduces Ezra Miller as Barry Allen (the Flash), Ray Fisher as Victor Stone (Cyborg) and Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry (Aquaman). They have very brief moments but have gone on from this film to prove themselves well suited to the roles. It also gives the world Gal Gadot who is transcendent as Diana Prince (Wonder Woman). All of these casting choices are terrific and have shaped DC movies for years to come.

Finally, as a compelling piece of world building, Batman v Superman is a triumph. Again, one’s mileage may vary, but Snyder has created a definite vision of the DC universe and the population within it. It is darker, more dangerous, grittier and more nuanced than the Marvel cinematic universe but Snyder’s is a clear approach and a singular one. It is as real world an approach as major superhero movies allow. Watching these characters function within it is, for me, highly interesting and engaging.

I loved Batman v Superman on my initial viewing (you can read the review HERE) and I have defended it in multiple posts (HERE, HERE and HERE). It is in my personal top five of comic book films. I completely understand why people do not embrace it as I do. But, man, do I embrace it!

On to Zach Snyder’s Justice League!

 

 

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ZACH SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE – Preparations | MAN OF STEEL


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artworks-000337678707-ablnk1-t500x500-1One must (as Fraulein Maria reminded us) start at the very beginning, and the very beginning of the Zach Snyder DC trilogy is 2013’s Man of Steel.

Warner Bros had brought Superman back to the big screen following a fallow decade plus in 2006’s Superman Returns, an all too faithful homage to the Christopher Reeve films of the 1970s and 1980s. An inoffensive but bland affair, Superman Returns failed to bring the character back to prominence and, importantly, to box office domination and plans for a  sequel were almost immediately scrapped.

It was the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies (Batman Begins, 2006, The Dark Knight, 2008 and The Dark Knight Rises, 2012) that convinced Warner Bros to take another swing. The wild success of the Marvel movies was a factor as well. The company engaged Christopher Nolan as producer, he hired Zach Snyder as director and visionary and Man of Steel was on track.

Starring Henry Cavill as Superman and featuring a terrific cast including Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe and Laurence Fishburne, Man of Steel was a sizable hit. It did not generate as much business as Warner Bros may have wanted, but it generated a ton of talk.

That talk related to the creative choices that director Zach Snyder and writer David S. Goyer made, pushing the character in a more “real-world” and “grounded” direction. Taking a cue from producer Nolan and the massive success he had enjoyed in placing Batman squarely in a world that viewers would recognize as one in which they lived, Snyder and Goyer’s take on Superman dealt with a fundamental question: how would the people of the world truly react learning that aliens not only existed, but that a super-man was walking among them? How would governments respond to this news? How would things change.

This philosophy is neatly summed up by Kevin Costner’s Johnathan Kent: “You just have to decide what kind of a man you want to grow up to be, Clark; because whoever that man is, good character or bad, he’s… He’s gonna change the world.” It is on this question that Man of Steel operates.

It also features a Superman on his first adventure, learning the extent of his powers for the first time, matched up against the US military, public opinion and vastly more experienced Kryptonian soldiers bent on bringing back the dead planet. Superman is the key to doing this. This is a superhero movie, so the outcome is never in doubt though the amount of destruction and death that results from Superman’s battle with Michael Shannon’s General Zod, Man of Steel‘s primary antagonist, is somewhat breathtaking, especially in a post-9/11 world. Metropolis is devastated in the battle of these super-men, a battle that is finally concluded when (does one need to worry about spoilers for a movie that debuted eight years ago?) Superman feels he must kill Zod to save earth.

This choice, along with the destruction caused in the final act of the movie, polarized audiences and critics alike. Many said Superman would have found a way to limit the death and annihilation caused by the battle with Zod and would never, ever kill. Others (and I am in this camp) thought the nature of the story – that this was a Superman only learning for the first time what he could do and what his responsibilities were – supported the creative choices made. After all, in killing Zod, Superman commits himself to serving humanity forever. There is no more Krypton. There are no more Kryptonians. He will have to live with this choice, with all of his choices.

Snyder knew this and would pull on these narrative threads in his next DC movie, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice which was already in production as Man of Steel entered theaters.  

I love Man of Steel while also noting that the critiques of the movie are valid. You can read my original review HERE

The reality of dabbling in the story of a character who is now over 80 years old is that people have strong opinions about what Superman is and what he should do. They have strong feelings about how these stories should progress. They have strong reactions when they feel narrative history has been wronged.

People had strong reactions to Man of Steel, but these were just the opening act. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was coming… and the firestorm around it would make reactions to Man of Steel look positively glowing.

More on Batman V Superman in my next post, and it, too, is a movie I really enjoy… perhaps even more than I enjoy Man of Steel.

 

 

 

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ZACH SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE – Preparations | What Happened in 2017?


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ZSJLTeaser2_900_6014400b1a8c63.86240621In November of 2017, the first live action Justice League movie was released in theaters following the build up of 2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League was designed to be the next step in the establishment of a DC universe of motion picture heroes – a universe that was intended to rival Marvel Comics’ incredibly successful film franchise.

Man of Steel and Batman V Superman made money, but were divisive experiences, some fans (like this one) and critics enjoying both and wanting more and some fans and critics feeling director Zach Snyder – who had been placed in charge of the DC movies – had completely miscalculated his approach and did not understand the source material that he was bringing to the screen. Warner Bros was committed to Snyder’s films at this point, but were worried enough about the mixed reception to the prior installments that, towards the end of the filming of Justice League, they brought Joss Whedon (the ultra successful director of Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron) aboard to punch up the script, add more humor and to lighten up proceedings as it were. The plan was to make the DC movies more like the Marvel movies and to watch the receipts roll in. 

The plan failed. Miserably.

After Whedon was added to the Justice League creative team, Snyder left the project. His daughter, Autumn, died by suicide and his wife Deborah (his producing partner) and he determined after some time of trying to throw themselves into the project that it was best for their family to step away.

What happened next can be easily seen in the product that made its way to movie theaters in 2017. Though I praised the film in the immediate afterglow of seeing it (you can read my 2017 review HERE – it is a review that decidedly does not stand the test of time), subsequent viewings – which have been few – reveal a patchwork, tonally discordant, monster of a movie that can hardly be described as anything but a massive disappointment.

(There is an entire history of purported awful things that happened to the cast after Snyder left the films beyond studio interference. There was enough validity to these claims that Warner Bros launched an investigation into alleged unprofessional and destructive behavior by studio executives. A short internet search yields all kinds of information about this branch of the story – which perhaps deserves a film all to itself.) 

Justice League reeks of (and numerous stories including THIS ONE by CNN bear this out) studio interference. It is the result of two directors having almost diametrically opposed views on the subject of the movie. It is a shockingly bad looking $300 million film. 

It’s just not that good.

Almost as soon as the movie came out, fans, noting significant differences between the trailers and the finished product, began demanding to see what they felt they were denied: a different and, perhaps, superior cut of the movie – the Zach Snyder Cut, if you will. 

After many months of social media clamor by fans, the director himself began to get involved, dropping images and bon mots, noting the cut did exist when people “in the know” protested it did not, and, finally, suggesting that he hoped fans got to see it some day.

Thursday, March 18 is that “some day.” Zach Snyder’s Justice League – all 4 plus hours of it! – will drop on HBOMax, providing the streaming service massive attention and giving the fans something they have been demanding.

It’s a pretty incredible story.

As a fan of most of Snyder’s choices in Man of Steel and Batman V Superman (especially in its far superior “Ultimate Edition), I am incredibly excited to watch Zach Snyder’s Justice League. I have been excited for months. In preparation for it, I will re-watch Man of Steel and Batman V Superman and share some thoughts here at And There Came a Day.

But I will not rewatch Justice League. Perhaps, weeks from now, when I have processed the new film, I can revisit the old one as a curiosity. For now, it remains in the past.

Tomorrow, thoughts on Man of Steel… a movie I like very, very much.

 

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2 Dozen Years | HJ Turns 24


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Let me tell you a brief story of the pandemic. 

HJ jr was set last March about this time. He was working a job he enjoyed and opportunities to move up. He had a routine. He was looking at apartments to rent. He was in the early stages of work on a second degree and was moving through the courses quickly and well. He was turning 23 and he was making plans.

And then: pandemic.

After hanging on at his place of employ for a few months, he found things had changed. His job became unrecognizable. His opportunities dried up. His future there became cloudy. His routines were altered. He had to change course.

Pressing on, he found an apartment to rent, a place of his own which we furnished and got set up and got him into. 

He diligently continued his work on his second degree and wrapped that thing up a few weeks back. 

He faced the challenges of the pandemic, head on.

While he may not be where he wanted to be when he sat down upon turning 23 last year and visioned the coming 12 months, he did not let the time pass idly by. He changed, He worked, He completed what he set out today.

His mother often says that, when he sets his mind to something, his determination and his drive are singularly focused. This is so true.

As he turns 24 today, I hope that vision and drive gives him an amazing year!

Happy Birthday, man! We love you!

 

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Home Is Another Word for You


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A year ago, Valentine’s Day 2020, so many, many things had yet to happen, things of which The Cinnamon Girl and I could never have conceived.

We have spent the better part of the last 12 months watching – sometimes in wonder, sometimes in sadness – as the pandemic moved its way inexorably into reality around us. We watched its affects on our children, our jobs, our lives.

We have spent the better part of the last 12 months thankful for our comfort and safety.

We have spent the better part of the last 12 months home.

Being home has not been a burden or a challenge and we are very lucky in that.

Have we looked at one another over the course of these months and thought it would be nice to eat out at a restaurant once in a while (though The Cinnamon Girl remains an incredible chef) or at a movie (we have been to [precisely one since last Valentine’s Day) or at Disneyland (okay, there’s no shaking this one, it would be nice to be at Disneyland!)? We have. We have missed these things.

But the days and weeks and months sharing drinks, bingeing shows, sharing days with our animals and our children, using the half brain we share to finish each others’ sentences, spending time together, they have reaffirmed for me something I have known for years: wherever she is is my home.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Cinnamon Girl. Home is just another word for you.

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Still with Us | Dad’s Birthday


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Today is my father’s birthday and he would have turned 79 if he were still alive.

I was going to type “if he were still with us” as opposed to “if he were still alive” but, though he’s been gone for over 9 years, he is absolutely still with us. 

At the end of every Denver Bronco loss (and there have been far too many of those of late), I think of Dad who would call me and check in that I was okay in the most teasing way a father could. Every time I think of the Colorado Rockies, a team Dad loved, I think immediately of him. Each day when I hear my voice echo off the back of a classroom wall, I hear him. When I speak with his grandchildren, I see him. When I go to sleep at night, he sometimes invades my dreams. When I look at the picture mural I have in my office, he’s staring back. Every time I talk with my mother – which is just about every day, thoughts drift to him.

I assure you, I miss my dad. I miss him very much and there have literally been thousands of times over the course of these past years that I would have loved to seen him, hug him, speak to him. Heck, the sliding glass door on our patio isn’t working correctly right now. How am I supposed to fix it without his advice? Actually, I will have his voice in my head and, apparently, coming out of my mouth as I struggle with it…

I miss him. Deeply. 

But he’s not gone.

Happy Birthday, Dad. 

Now I have to go fix our sliding door.

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Link’n’Blog – 1.8.2021 |The Beatles Get Back

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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as fun or thought provoking as I have.

It took me a couple weeks to connect with the preview for Peter Jackson’s upcoming Get Back documentary about the Beatles, but now I cannot get it out of my head.

You likely won’t be able to either… 2021 is looking up!

 

 

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: December 21 – 27, 2020

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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

Comics I Read Last Week:

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The Best Comic I Read Last Week Was Action Comics #1028

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: John Romita, jr 

Christmas week was a surprisingly great week for comic books and I had some terrific reads to choose from for this week’s Best Sequential Art. Giving Action Comics #1028 a significant run for its money was Dark Nights: Death Metal The Secret Origin (which was really terrific!) but let’s talk about significant runs…

As DC wraps up its storylines in advance of Future State and points to the juggling of creative teams, one of the most crucial runs in recent memory comes to a close: that of Brian Michael Bendis on the Superman titles. Last week, we saw the end of his run on Superman and this week brings the conclusion of his Action Comics authorship. 

And a beautiful conclusion it is. Working with frequent collaborator and legend John Romita, jr (who is terrific in the issue, especially in more static moments – his character work here is as good as it’s been in recent years) Bendis pens an emotional and weighty end to his amazing work with Superman. With much to do and many threads to tie, Bendis packs Action Comics #1028 with the wrapping up I had hoped for, leaving Superman and his supporting cast forever changed for the better. It is rare when a legacy character like Superman can be changed, but he is here. Bendis had the clout to do it and do it he did.

Giving each of the supporting cast a moment to shine with the lead player, Bendis does here what he does best: he humanizes the super and makes the super normal. Following his work with Superman, I hope the old trope that the character is impossible to write because he cannot be related to is forever buried.

Of course, not every writer is as good as Bendis, but the groundwork he’s left behind is a wonderful place for other creators to play.

Congratulations, Mr. Bendis (and the amazing artists with whom you worked) on a truly monumental run. You will be missed on the title. See you in Justice League! 


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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: December 14 – 20, 2020

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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

Comics I Read Last Week:

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The Best Comic I Read Last Week Was Nightwing #77

Writer: Dan Jurgens

Artist: Ronan Cliquet 

I am a sucker for all things Nightwing. All things. And, though I didn’t love the direction – which felt so editorial – that the title took for the “Ric Grayson” era, I knew that we would be rewarded with a triumphant return to Dick Grayson soon enough. Now that this happened, Dan Jurgens – one of the most underrated writers (especially of the Teen Titans and related characters) of whom I can think – shows his innate love,  respect and understanding of Nightwing and his supporting cast. Specifically, in this issue, he illustrates that, first, Batman is a Nightwing supporting character and, second, that they are distinct creations.

I am excited that Nightwing as a character and a title survives all the changes that are coming to the DC Universe. I am less excited that Jurgens is leaving the title. I will miss him here.

I am also a sucker for Christmas tales at Christmas. Well done, Mr. Jurgens.

Finally, I am a complete sucker for family stories and Jurgens wraps up his run on the title by providing a lovely end and look at the new status quo of Nightwing’s family. This was something I very much appreciated and played very well. There is no forced moment here, just pure love of the characters.

Ronan Cliquet has been a terrific partner to Jurgens, his style, in fact, somewhat reminiscent of Jurgens the illustrator. In character moments, of which this issue has many, Cliquet absolutely shines. His rendering of action is very solid, too. Nightwing as a character should be cleanly illustrates befitting the grace of the character and Cliquet has been tremendous.

Thank you for this run, Mr. Jurgens. I may not have loved every choice made but I am the reader, not the writer and illustrator(s). I came back issue-after-issue and am looking forward to your work on Generations: Shattered and beyond.   

 

 

 

 

 


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