ReReading: Dungeons & Dragons: Shadowplague (Graphic Novel)

dnd_shadowplague_v1_ogrecavedotcom

Book Cover: Five fantasy adventures ready to do battle.  Image Source: OgreCave.com

So, I’m in the process of moving all my academic books to a bookshelf (looks like it actually be a bookshelf and a half or perhaps two bookshelves total) with me as I work on my degree.  However, this leaves me with a fairly large gap of three to four shelves that I probably should fill.  I already have my graphic novels (& comic books) on my main bookcase, but I’ve decided to reread my graphic novels (& comics) and place them on those free shelves.  I have several fairly large graphic novels that don’t fit on the shelf with the other graphic novels on my main bookcase, but this secondary bookcase has more than enough room for them.  If I can remember, I will try to take a picture at the end of the project and post it here.

DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: SHADOWPLAGUE

This is the first of a “new” series of graphic novels with original characters in the Dungeons and Dragons universe.  I say new because this was tried in the late 80s/early 90s with a different group of characters written by Jeff Grubb, a prolific writer of D&D novelizations of the time.  This book is written by Jim Rogers and is full of post Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson) adventure/banter.  While not a comedy, Rogers does the “witty banter” so often found in comics and comic book movies that irked my late creative writing professor, Ken Smith when I tried to present stories in his fiction class with this same type of banter.  For Ken, the banter trivialized the drama and lowered the emotional stakes for the characters.  His argument (loosely speaking) was that if the characters are joking around during a life-or-death situation, then we get the feeling that the characters aren’t really in any danger.  I can plainly see that here as I didn’t get the sense that any of the characters (protagonists) were any in real danger, per se.

This sounds like I don’t like the story and that’s not true–I do like the book, but this is a fun, rip-roaring comic book adventure, but it doesn’t have a sense that the characters are ever really in jeopardy.  This book introduces and follows a team of intrepid adventurers of the mostly standard races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, and newcomer race, Tiefling) as they go through various adventures to discover the secret of the Shadowplague, a magical plague that turns ordinary people into zombies.  Abundant fight scenes, magic, and characters who all display a penchant for witty banter and sometimes painful backstories make this a fun and interesting story.

I did not happen to buy the other graphic novels that make up the rest of this series, but you can bet that I’ll definitely try to grab them as time and money allow.  The cover price of 24.99 is a bit steep for the product.  It is hardcover, but still it is really only worth about 14.99 to 17.99.  If I can find it for under 9.99, then I’ll definitely pull the trigger.  The problem is, the last I checked, it had gone out of print and Amazon 3rd party “scalpers” had driven the cost to above $30 dollars.  Sad days, indeed.  This is a fun little series that I wouldn’t mind getting a complete collection for myself–but if the remaining volumes stay out of reach, then this one volume will have to suffice, witty banter and all.

 

Advertisements

Batman Vs Superman Review (No Spoilers!)

Batman v Superman

Okay, so (like Star Wars: The Force Awakens), I wanted to wait and take a moment before posting my (non-spoiler) review for Batman vs. Superman (BvS).  Unlike, Star Wars:FA, it wasn’t so much because of spoilers, but for other reasons which will become clear in a moment.

I LIKED IT

First, this blog post is not going to be one of my more popular ones–I already know that even as I’m typing these words because I’m going to go against “popular opinion.”  I actually LIKED the movie (quite a bit, actually).  I don’t use the “A” movie (Exceptional)/”B” movie (everything else) paradigm that you seem to hear (aka A-List talent vs B-List talent, or triple A movie vs a B movie).  When I rate things, I’m doing so using the scale that universities use for their semester grade reports:

  • A (Superior/Exceptional)–You’ve gone above and beyond in order to create something few could achieve.
  • B (Above Average)–This is a good product with some minor flaws that detract slightly from the overall experience, but is still better than many would achieve.
  • C (Average)–This is “good enough.”  You’ve done just enough to meet the requirements, but haven’t done enough, but have too many flaws to be better than others like it.
  • D (Below Average)–Not up to “standards.”  This has too many flaws, isn’t crafted well, or ignores requirements.  It is well below what most can achieve.
  • F (Failure)–Simply put, unable to succeed.  A product that is lacking in nearly every respect.

After seeing it, BvS for me is a B (Above Average).  It better than a “typical” action movie (I’ll get into why I think so in a moment).  It is competently made (i.e., it holds to the western philosophy of BME–Beginning, Middle, and End.  It has a Protagonist & Antagonist.  It has rising action, it has a climax, it has falling action, and it resolves.)  It follows Fryetag’s Triangle perfectly.  For that reason alone, it should not be rated lower than a C.

However, the critics would have you believe that the movie is a D/F and that it fails on many different levels.  And the justification just isn’t there for me.

OPERA IN MOVIE FORM

I liken the movie to an Opera.  It is a long movie (over 2 hours and 30 mins) and much of the first part is setting up the Batman/Superman, Bruce Wayne/Clark Kent dynamic.  But this a movie that is larger than JUST a comic book movie.  It touches on contemporary real world elements such police brutality, the nature of God and man, what it is to be a hero, what it is to be a above the law, discourse vs unilateral action, what it means to be a democracy, and what it means to be good/bad in today’s “modern” society.

All of this is in a “comic book” movie.  Critics slam this as being too much, having too many plot threads, “a mess,” as I heard one reviewer put it.  No, its not a Marvel movie, but then DC isn’t Marvel.  They have always done things differently than Marvel.  Many critics seem to be slamming the movie NOT because it is a bad movie, but because it is not a MARVEL movie and doesn’t use’s Marvel’s “template” for movies.

BvS isn’t as good as my current favorite Marvel movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it WAS more satisfying to me than Avengers: Age of Ultron.  It wants to have a conversation that the critics don’t seem to want to have in their “comic book” movies.

DC MYTHOLOGY

If you like graphic novels, see the movie.  If you like comic books and are up on your DC mythology, see the movie.  This movie includes a LOT of knowing nods and scenes to those who like comics (DC comics and graphic novels and properties) and does NOT try to explain to those who don’t.  I caught several striking scenes from various DC media: Injustice: Gods Among Us, Batman: The Dark Knight by Frank Miller, various BvS Graphic Novels, The Flash (TV show, current version), and others.

The iconography is striking, but there too, the critics want to complain.  Zack Snyder (the director) is “style over substance,” I heard in more than one review.  But that is what Snyder is KNOWN for.  300 was NOT a “great” movie when you get right down to it, but it was a visually striking movie.  Why is that not good enough now?  Because it’s a KNOWN quality about him now.  Only if you’re NEW and FRESH do the critics seem to take any notice.

WHY THE DISCONNECT?

I’m linking to a YouTube video to help explain what’s going on with the review scores.  Basically, the Youtuber is correct: there is a contingent who want to use social media to FORCE Warner Brothers to cater to them (fans) or those who want to punish the movie in some way (critics).  I’ve seen this before in other mediums: MASS EFFECT 3 for video games comes quickly to mind.  Many fans hated the ending of ME3 and social media outcry FORCED Bioware to go back and “redo” the ending of the game.  This is what I feel is happing here.  However, this has been building since World War Z, Man of Steel, Jupiter Ascending, and most recently, Gods of Egypt.  The Youtuber ‘s (Grace Randolph) channel “Beyond the Trailer” is one that I’ve recently found) and she does a great job of quickly of explaining a lot of my problems with the critics for BvS, in particular.  It’s short–only 13 minutes long and very informative:

Beyond the Trailer (Special Report BvS)–Grace Randolph

There is nothing inherently wrong with the movie.  It should be getting B’s and C’s.  Not the D’s and F’s that it is currently getting.  This is a good movie, with some flaws that keep it from being exceptional, but not one that should be denigrated as a failure.