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From Panels to Film: Top 10 Best Comic Book Films and Shows of 2019 | Column from the Critic

2019 was an interesting year for comic book based shows and movies, from big title blockbusters like “Avengers: Endgame” and “Joker” to originally lesser-known independent titles that became sleeper hits like “The Boys” and “The Umbrella Academy.” Some were great, some were good, some I’m partial to and finally, we have those that I feel like were wastes of my time and money. So, without further ado, in order from #10 to #1, I present to you the 10 greatest comic book related shows and movies of 2019. As one can imagine, this will not be a full review of the titles presented but will rather be simply detailing the premise, why I enjoyed them so deeply and to whom I recommend it to in order to save both your valuable data and time that you should be spending on these programs.

10. The Tick  (Amazon)tick-season-2-renewal-amazon-e1516200080288

Premise: Geeky and mentally troubled Accountant Arthur Everest has to team up with the Tick, a powerful but dim-witted superhero in order to prevent the potential return of an infamous supervillain called the Terror.

Why I enjoyed it: Take the wackiness and silliness you’d normally see in a 90s Saturday morning superhero cartoon like “The Tick” or “Freakazoid” and place it in a modern live-action TV show with no network censors. The dynamic of Arthur’s weird but intelligent leadership mixed with the Tick’s dumb but good-natured muscle are also one of the major highlights of the show.

I’d recommend this to: people who like more adult-level humor in their superhero media without it being too violent or explicit. The sad fact that this show was canceled in May of this year means you can watch the full series without fear of having to play catch up.

9. Spider-Man Far From Home (Marvel Studios)

far from home

Premise: Trying to put his life together after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” Peter Parker is planning a personal vacation from superheroing through a school trip to Europe. However, after the arrival of Nick Fury and a mysterious hero called Mysterio, Peter is forced to embark on a mission that will impact his standing as Spider-Man in unforeseen ways.

Why I enjoyed it: Despite the obvious twist that most Spider-Man will see coming, this movie still does offer a considerable amount of surprises and the action is very entertaining. It’s rare to see Spider-Man outside of his native New York environment and “Far From Home” does a good job of using these environments and characters to establish how the world is recovering after the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

I’d recommend this to: Anyone who enjoys Spider-Man, globetrotting adventures, sci-fi in terms of gadgets, John Hughes movies.

8. Harley Quinn (DC)

Harley Quinn

Premise: After dumping the Joker (or him dumping her to be more accurate), Harley Quinn wants to prove that she’s worth more than just being an evil sidekick and wants to establish her own crew of under-represented supervillains and gain a place at the Legion of Doom (basically the Justice League for supervillains).

Why I enjoyed it: This what Harley Quinn should have been in the movies; She’s deranged and goofy but also a skilled psychologist who can analyze and break down people in battle as much as she would in a counseling session without looking like she was the daughter of Post Malone and a female Juggalo. The fact that majority of her supporting cast include Poison Ivy, one of her most well-known associates and a bunch of B to D list villains ranging from King Shark to Doctor Psycho makes far more sense than her being part of the “Birds of Prey” (where she was never a member and they had to release a comic with her as a member in order to seemingly justify that casting in the first place). The comedy is very much adult-focused and self-aware which serves the show very well with some gags that had me rolling on the floor such as Bane having the voice from Tom Hardy’s performance in the “Dark Knight Rises” which makes nearly every line he says hilariously memorable and nearly every scene with Kite-Man in Episode 2. I don’t like reviewing shows before at least the season is done but this show left such an impression on me that I had to place in this list so that at least one more person will be interested in viewing this show.

I’d recommend this to: Anyone who’s a fan of adult animation, anyone who wants to see a good female-led superhero comedy, anyone who’s sad that Donald Glover’s “Deadpool” animated show was canceled and wants a worthy replacement.

7. Avengers Endgame (Marvel Studios)

Endgame

Premise: Following five years after the events of “Avengers: Infinity War”the Avengers discover one final opportunity to undo Thanos’ galaxy-wide annihilation of half the population.

Why I enjoyed it: This movie feels like the payoff to the buildup from 21 movies set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The callbacks to previous films are fun, there’s clear fan-service to fan-favorite moments such as the Captain America fights that take place in previous movies, but they’re often done in terms of contributing to the plot rather than simply appealing to long-time viewers. The final battle is something I would never imagine to see in an actual live-action movie and I’m curious about how future films and TV shows will carry on the aftermath of this film.

I’d recommend this to: If you been following the MCU movies, if you love heist films, time travel stories, fan of Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye smaller personal moments followed by big bombastic “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” style fight scenes.

6. Shazam (DC)

Shazam

Premise: Young Billy Batson has been granted the ability to transform into a “champion of magic” by the wizard Shazam, and while it goes as well as you’d expect giving a young kid superpowers in an adult body, at the same time one of the previous candidates that the wizard rejected has been out looking to steal the powers for himself.

Why I enjoyed it: Shazam (or as he was originally known as, “Captain Marvel” is one of DC’s oldest superheroes that has survived the golden age of the 40s alongside Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. He has a lengthy legacy behind him and multiple interpretations of the character, both the child and the adult persona which I think the film does a respectable job trying to meld some of the more noticeable iterations together mainly the New 52 version. I also have to give the film strong praise for its acting credits; the child actors such as Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer who played Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman did a very good job playing roles that weren’t annoying or painfully flat, but are rather enjoyable and more clever in their acting despite being so young and inexperienced such as with Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley. Mark Strong plays the villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana and prior to Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the Joker, I thought this was the best villain in the DCEU since General Zod. The humor serves the atmosphere of being a kid’s film and keeping in to the source material and there’s some heartwarming and heartbreaking moments in this movie that I wasn’t expecting.

I’d recommend this to: Those who prefer movies with strong themes of family, kid friendly movies, fans of the movie “Big” (1988), movies with good child actors, those disappointed by DCEU’s version of Superman, those that want to see a DC movie that isn’t based on a franchise that isn’t the trinity (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman)

5. Umbrella Academy (Netflix)

Umberlla Academy 2

Premise: On October 1, 1989, 43 women around the world give birth simultaneously, despite none of them showing any sign of pregnancy until labor began. Seven of these children were trained to become superheroes in a team called the “Umbrella Academy” by Sir Reginald Hargreeve. Now in the present day; the team has disbanded and the now adult members of the team have disappeared, dead or left to follow their own personal professions and lifestyles. However, once their old mentor dies and their disappeared team member returns from the future to tell them that the world will end by one of them in a week, they need to band together and solve this crisis as well as their own personal trauma.

Why I enjoyed it: If you were to tell me that Gerald Way of My Chemical Romance fame would be responsible for two of the shows (you’ll see the other one down the list) I’d say you were lying. However, this show demonstrates a sincere love for the wackier side of comic books such as Monkey Butlers and Weird Science as much as it poke holes in the logic of these concepts and shows how they would affect people especially young children. The action scenes, especially the donut shop and the bank robbery in the first episode are amazing to behind and the show’s soundtrack kept with me to this day. The 7 (what I’ll call the main cast to avoid  repetition) all have different powers, motives and flaws that could have easily been interesting as a singular character but then makes it so much more interesting when you see them clash with each other the same way a dysfunctional family would.

I’d recommend this to: fans that like 50s era comic aesthetics, fans of my chemical romance, fans of tv shows that have great soundtracks and music choice, those that want to see another series handle a story similar Dark Phoenix Saga better than Fox’s two attempts with “X-Men 3: The Last Stand” and “X-Men: Dark Phoenix”.

4. Joker (DC)

Joker

Premise: Arthur Fleck is a man who is down on his luck and the world isn’t helping him feel any better. This is the story of rise of the crown prince of crime and one of most notorious villains in comic book history; The Joker.

Why I enjoyed it; I’ll be perfectly honest, up until the actual release date I thought that this movie would be a colossal bomb; too many big name actors, a director with a lot of critical acclaim and more importantly a completely original story that’s not directly inspired by any storyline were all major red flags to me. As you can guess, this movie broke those expectations and I ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I would given my constant concerns. If you want a more in-depth review, I’d recommend reading Mitchell Chapman’s review of the film which holds many of the similar views I had but with the caveat of being written by someone with a degree in journalism and creative arts rather than someone who is simply a comic book nerd with the ability to recall ungodly amounts of trivia.

I’d recommend this to: those that like more realistic movies, dark and depressing movies, movies that are not about the good guy, Joker fans.

3. The Boys (Amazon)

The Boys

Premise: Think of the worse celebrity you’ve seen on the news or online, now imagine if superheroes acted like that. This is the world of “The Boys”; where a good portion of the sups are more concerned in pursuing fame and their own Hedonistic desires than simply being champions and paragons of society. The solution? The boys, a small group of individuals who have a personal vendetta against the superheroes and want to “spank the bastards” when they step out of line.

Why I enjoyed it; You will almost hear me say or right this phrase again but this show is superior to the comic in every way possible. There is no better time for this show to come out; the rise of superhero popularity and technology, even social media helps the story of “The Boys” seem more realistic than how it was originally portrayed back in 2000. However, the best thing about this show has to be the writing and acting: the main flaw with the original comic for me is that it just reads as Garth Ennis’ personal ramblings about why he hates superheroes and modern society in the same way that you would find an edgy teenager trying to express themselves through bad poetry. The show manages to salvage this issue by having the characters more believable positives and negatives traits rather than simply being flat caricatures meant for parody and shock value.

The Boys are the heroes in this story when compared to most of the Seven (the show’s version of the Avengers/Justice League) but are not above doing actions that will portray them in a very dark light, even sociopathic at times. The Seven, despite their corruption and moral depravity, have sympathetic elements to almost all of them either through a tragic origin that explains (but not justifies) their actions and motives, or even feeling guilt about their actions and wanting to reform. The acting is top notch, Karl Urban as Billy Butcher and Antony Starr as Homelander (think evil Superman and Captain America) alone sell the show and the rest of the cast just adds onto why this show became one of my favorite adaptions of anything I’ve seen.

I’d recommend this to: those that love superheroes, those that hate superheroes, people that thought the concept of “Brightburn” was interesting but want it done better, fans of the spice girls, anything Karl Urban, those interested in how celebrity culture, American politics and #Metoo would look like if superheroes were involved.

2. Legion (FX/Marvel Television)

Legion.jpg

Premise: David Heller is a very troubled man, he’s a schizophrenic that constantly hears voices and gets strange visions that haunt him since he was a young child. Then he finds out that he’s actually a mutant with an ungodly amount of power and that not everything is as simple as it seems.

Why I enjoyed it; I’ve been a fan of this show since season one first launched on 2017, even through it revolves around characters with strong relations to the X-Men franchise, this isn’t a typical superhero show: the format and plot lines more closely resemble “Fargo” and “Twin Peaks” than it does “Arrow” or “Daredevil”. At times it can be a psychological thriller, at other times it can turn into surreal science fiction, all while playing around with the X-Men mythos without actually showing that many established X-Men characters. This is a show that focuses more on absurdity, mystery, and character driven drama at a much slower pace than one would expect coming from the genre. Each season has a way of evaluating the plot as well as the stakes and season 3 served as the conclusion to what I often felt was one of the most underrepresented characters of the X-Men. As I compared “Umbrella Academy” to the Dark Phoenix Saga, I think it’s only fitting that I compare this to “X-Men Legacy” vol. 2 in terms of themes about destiny and self determination.

I’d recommend this to: fans of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, “Fargo”, “Twin Peaks”, lesser known X-Men characters.

1. Doom Patrol

Doom-Patrol-Official-Images-All-Character-Posters-02.jpg

Premise: Niles Caulder is a wheelchair-bound scientist and explorer that has attempted to help those with unusual abilities come to terms with their situations and find some form of peace. Of those he’s helped, we’re introduced to four very troubled individuals who include an actress from the 50s with the ability to stretch and melt her body sometimes without her consent, a closeted gay test pilot who survived a jet crash and now has remained scarred mentally and physically decades after works, a race car driver who survived a crash but could only do so by having his brain stuffed into a mechanical body and being denied any of the physical senses that one would consider human, and finally a woman with a lifetime of trauma and abuse which has resulted in her carrying 64 different personalities each with a different super power.

Why I enjoyed it; Do you remember in the section for the “Umbrella Academy” when I mentioned a second series that Gerard Way contributed to? This is that series and I say it carries a lot of the best aspects from a lot of the other shows and movies on this list; the “Doom Patrol” is inherently one of DC’s more surreal titles. Any title where the main villain is a man called Mr. Nobody who is self aware that he’s the villain of a superhero TV show and can influence the plot of the show by actively narrating what he wants to happen and prefers to psychologically torture his enemies rather than outright killing them deserves that distinction.

Oh also, there’s a man who can bend reality by flexing his muscles and a literal sentient genderqueer street (Danny the Street. Yes, this is a thing) that can travel across the world and feeds off the joy and happiness from those that live on it, leading it to find social outcasts in order to help them find a home.

I don’t what could compel the minds of people like Arnold Drake, Grant Morrison and Gerard Way to come up with stories and characters that on one hand, can be so campy and comedic also genuinely tragic and miserable, living in a world where nothing makes sense, especially when you try to compare them to more standard series like Batman and Superman.

Keeping up with my comparison to famous X-Men titles; this one I’d say is more akin to “X-Factor” as it deals with what could considerably be the outcasts of outcasts. Where as the X-Men serve as a metaphor for the “other” in society whether that means race, creed, etc. … and how anyone can be a mutant, “Doom Patrol” serves as the counterculture equivalent to those in the lower rungs of society.

They’re freaks to other freaks, they’re the ones in the island of misfit toys that not even the other toys want to play with, and I think it’s this what makes “Doom Patrol” so interesting and endearing. It’s not afraid of taking risks or being weird and standing out with its absurdities, while at the same time being tethered to “reality” somewhat by having characters that express emotions and motives that are heavily relatable, including survivor’s guilt, shame about sexuality or simply saying out loud “what the fuck” when you see something that you just can’t comprehend.

I’d recommend this to: anyone and everyone.

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