Thursday, April 4, 2013

What's so funny about funny books?

For our wedding, the wife and I received this fancy new Roku player. It’s basically a little box that allows you to stream movies to your television without the use of your computer. There’s so much stuff out there I’ve never had the time or inclination to watch. Now that they’re basically free (as long as you belong to the rental sites like Netflix, Hulu, etc) I’ve come to feel obligated to gorge myself on whatever culture I can find.

Titled as “Superman vs. The Elite,” this animated superhero cartoon is one I can’t necessarily put a finger on. It’s based on DC Comics’ “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way” originally penned for Action Comics #775 by scribe Joe Kelly and illustrators Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo.

The story itself starts out with a mock Superman cartoon styled to be very childish and silly and even stated so by Lois Lane as she and Clark Kent watch, unawares as to what is about to unfold.  Before too long, The Atomic Skull proceeds to wreak havoc on Metropolis.

As the plot begins to take shape, we learn that society is getting pretty fed up with things like terrorism and super-villainy.  The United Nations doesn’t understand the thought behind putting super-criminals behind bars, only to have them escape to up the ante of destruction again. Some question whether or not Superman can follow the world into the 21st century.

Somewhere in the Middle East two fictitious countries threaten each other with nuclear Armageddon. Superman comes to their rescue, only to be aided by a group of new heroes called The Elite. Supes has misgivings about their tactics and vows to keep an eye on them. What follows is some strange goings-on with a group of heroes that are misguided and angry, willing to do the hard things that Superman won’t cross a line to do.

Heads of state are executed, super-villains murdered in front of a cheering public and Superman being pushed aside as he’s being replaced by this new breed of anti-heroes. He is confronted then by The Elite and forced into and endgame where he has to choose between killing or dying at the hand of these killers.

Overall, there were lots of nice nods to DC Comics’ continuity and neat new characters that I’d never even known existed. The animation was top-notch with some great scenes of superpowers. As much as I can’t stand the Abby character on NCIS, having her as the voice of Lois Lane still didn’t taint my watching experience.

That being said: this cartoon is NOT FOR CHILDREN. Maybe I"m getting cynical in my old age, but the PG-13 rating was hard for me to stomach at times. A little over the head with ant-government sentiment, but even the swears I could get over. It's the "suggested fates" of an alien creature worming its way into someone's ear or monster-y deaths. That got me worried. The crumpling of another human being and the blowing off the head of The Atomic Skull was bad. And no lie, when Superman gets mad, it can get more than a little scary.

Books With Your Barista originally appeared 04/04/13 in the Lock Haven Express.

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