DIANA: PRINCESS OF THE AMAZONS (2020) review

Diana: Princess of the Amazons (DC Comics)

DIANA: PRINCESS OF THE AMAZONS (2020) review

Diana: Princess of the Amazons is available now where all good books are sold!

Eleven-year-old Diana leads an idyllic life on the island of Themyscira. Cut off from the rest of the world, she’s beginning to feel a little alone. Though she has a loving mother and many “aunties,” she is an only child. In fact, she’s the only child on the entire island!

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Nightwing (DC Comics)

NIGHTWING (2016-) #70 review

How many Nightwings does it take for one Joker to strike to get to the real one? Four Nightwings. And that’s not even the punchline-how will Ric interact with the Joker when he’s not quite sure which one of his two memories is the real one…and exactly how dangerous this clown standing before him is?

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Thor (Marvel)

THOR #4 review

Thor #4 is available now where all good comics are sold!

Synopsis

THOR’S GREATEST ENEMY – AND THE UNIVERSE’S ONLY SAVIOR – REVEALED! The Black Winter is coming – the end of the entire vast universe – and only one entity can stop it. The only one who has survived it before, Galactus the World-Eater, has come to Midgard…in search of a herald for the end of everything.

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Onward (Walt Disney/Pixar)

ONWARD (2020) review

Onward hits cinemas on March 6, 2020.

Synopsis

Set in a suburban fantasy world, Disney and Pixar’s ‘Onward’ introduces two teenage elf brothers (voices of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there. Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new original feature film is directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae – the team behind ‘Monsters University.’

Review

I have to hold my hands up and admit that prior to seeing this film I did not have a huge awareness of its presence. Onward had somehow managed to sneak by me in a way it thankfully hadn’t for the younger members of the audience who attended a screening I was recently at.

I have an acute awareness with films like this that I am no longer in the target market. So I hugely appreciate watching these films alongside a younger audience to allow me to gage how it lands with its actual demographic.

Having said that there were a couple of moments during Onward at which I felt choked up by it’s touching and honest storyline.

The film stars Tom Holland (the current Spider-Man for the uninitiated) and Chris Pratt (the guy all your kids want to cosplay as from Guardians of the Galaxy) as brothers Ian and Barley. Raised by their mother from a young age, only Barely has memories of their father but when Ian’s sixteenth birthday rolls around they’re given an unexpected gift.

Writer/director Dan Scanlon is very honest in his portrayal of loss for the boys. Both are impacted by the loss in different ways and it’s refreshing to see the topic of parental loss handled in this manner. The writing portrays a delicate balance between a realist portrayal of loss and the surrealist world which the characters inhabit.

This type of delicate emotional balance is something which is evident throughout the story. I’ve seen the film compared to Frozen with its sense of family but also Finding Nemo and other Disney/Pixar fare. But as much as there are echoes of those films, the overall project is much more original and not at all derivative of films past.

Onward takes a lot of cues from the world of Dungeons & Dragons and similar table top RPGs. Something I could absolutely get behind and really helped me buy in to the story. But rather than imitate it uses those elements as signposts along the way as the story weaves its way to a truly emotional conclusion.

There were points in the film where I felt I could predict what would happen and how it would end (you can hear me talk a bit about that in our latest podcast) but I was proven wrong as Onward saunters nicely towards the end credits.

What was also great to see was the amount of character development which went in to all of the main cast. There’s no character left undercooked with individual storylines all coming to a satisfying conclusion when the credits roll.

Of course the lions share of the work goes in to Ian and Barley as Holland Pratt really own the film. The two have an excellent bond which really comes across well even with only their voices and separate to the excellent animation on screen.

I was particularly impressed with how the film built their relationship with their father using only his legs. It’s no spoiler to say that when a spell is cast which will bring their dead father back for 24hrs, it goes wrong and only half of him is resurrected. Despite this there are some hugely emotional moments as Barely recalls drumming on his dad’s feet and later in the film when the three characters all dance together.

For anyone who has lost a parent, as I have, there’s a bit of inherent danger about an emotional outburst. But Onwards really blew me away with it’s handling of the subject matter.

Onwards features the usual, top notch work of Pixar. the film is littered with incredibly well realised landscapes and the fantasy world allows us to go to a wide range of different locations. From the suburban family home, to the high school, in to the city and out in to the mountains, all of the locations are filled with fine detail and will be suitably engaging for children and adults alike.

Likewise there are some brilliant character designs in Onward. Like the film itself, the characters take inspiration from characters in RPG games. There’s enough red and blue in Ian to remind the audience of his other, major big screen role and Barely felt like seeing my teenage self on the screen.

Much like with Monsters Inc. and Monsters University, the film truly benefits from its fantasy setting. It opens up the opportunity to create weird and wonderful looking characters which will appeal to the young audience. The joy the creative team had creating this immersive film is palpable on screen and definitely adds hugely to the enjoyment factor.

Verdict

Onwards is a huge triumph for Pixar. Emotionally impactful but never heavy handed it has all the adventure we could expect from the studio built around some important life lessons.

8/10

Written and directed by Dan Scanlon, Pixar’s Onward stars Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer.


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Batman (DC Comics)

BATMAN (2016- ) #89 review

Batman #90 is available now where all good comics are sold!

Synopsis

The mysterious master criminal known only as the Designer once brought together Gotham City’s greatest criminals to plot the perfect crime, and now his plan has been unleashed upon the city in all its might. Batman will go to any length to uncover the grand design, but Catwoman is the one who holds the greatest secret. If Batman wins against the Designer, he will lose everything.

Review

There’s absolutely no denying that James Tynion IV has injected some fresh blood in to the Batman series. four issues in to his run and this feels like the polar opposite to Tom King’s “City of Bane”. Not in terms of quality, but in terms of mission statement and scope.

This latest issue of Tynion’s Batman still feels incredibly rooted in the recent continuity and I’m impressed at his reverence for the relationship between Bruce and Selina.

In fact, this latest issue brings the story full circle back to their relationship but also to the early days of their careers are vigilante and villain.

Leading up to this issue the Tynion run has focussed on setting up The Designer as an “off-screen” villain. Someone pulling the strings of Catwoman, Joker, Riddler and Penguin. But here he finally takes centre stage as the machinations behind his plans are revealed.

The issue plays out partly in the present day, but most in flashbacks as Selina narrates the story of how she and the other A-List villains became involved with The Designer with Tynion finally pulling back the curtain on his new, original character.

The present day scenes remain very much focussed on the emotional fallout of Selina’s involvement and portray some great emotional writing from Tynion as well as equally striking imagery from Jimenez and Morey.

The flashback story allows the creative team to bring the group of villains together and illustrate more of their interactions with each other. I don’t find this is an aspect which has been heavily focussed upon, particularly during the King run on Batman. Yet another example of how Tynion is already differentiating his time with The Dark Knight.

What’s particularly interesting in this issue is seeing versions of these characters in a very early stage of their careers. Catwoman in the purple costume is a great throwback to early appearances by the character and she is able to pull serious focus, even from Joker. The concept of Joker being at an early stage of his career also feels fresh for a character who has arguably been done to death.

With Todd Philips rejuvenating the character on the big screen this feels like a similar reinvention if only for a handful of scenes. Bringing in The Designer and making the focal point of the flashbacks be his plan to help each villain elevate their status gives the issue a great hook. It opens up plenty of new questions around the Joker. Could this be a brand new trigger point in his descent in to madness?

It certainly leaves the read with plenty of lingering questions. As we watch The Designer’s layer burning to the ground, Catwoman narrates “It was my first time seeing what kind of evil he was going to become.” It perfectly embodies the fear that the story harbours.

Outside of the flashbacks there’s still some great emotional impact to the story. Tynion has allowed Bruce and Selina to maintain a grown up relationship particularly as the two confront her involvement in The Designer’s plans.

Rather than break the couple or thrown particularly huge roadblocks to their happiness, Tynion is allowing the characters to confront their issues from an adult perspective. Whilst the issue does leave them on a cliffhanger, it seems that Bruce has learnt to accept her past even when it stands at odds with his ideals.

As always Jorge Jiminez and Tomeu Morey bring their A-game to the look of Batman. There colour palette is particularly striking in this issue as we see the colours of the villains classic costumes.

Verdict

Tynion continues his run on Batman by bringing things full circle back to the beginning. This is brilliantly fleshes out the concept of The Designer as well as adding more layers to the relationship between Bruce and Selina.

8/10

Batman #90 is written by James Tynion IV with pencils and inks by Jorge Jimenez, colours are by Tomeu Morey. Jimenez and Morey also provide cover artwork.

Batman #90 cover art by Jorge Jimenez & Tomeu Morey

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