The DCN crew continues their look back on the best of 2013. This time, the staff spills their guts on the best DC had to offer outside of the comic book medium. Movies, television, and video games are on tap for this final installment of DCN Best of 2013.
ASH: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox – I really, really wanted to like Man of Steel. Unfortunately, David Goyer wrote it. Still, we got some solid DC animated movies this year, the best of which was probably Flashpoint. For me, it just worked way better as a movie than as a comic, even if it was missing my two favorite characters from the series; Martian Manhunter and Plastic Man.
MAX: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox – I’ve said about Geoff Johns before that I don’t think he should be writing comics. This isn’t to say that I think he’s a bad writer, I just think his style is better suited for other mediums. His comics are really best read in trade paperback form, because while the stories as a whole are a work of genius when they come together, he has this habit of just giving you enough to want more in each issue but not enough that you’re satisfied with what you got. I really think he should be writing for TV, because while that works for a half hour of content delivered weekly, it is really annoying to deal with when you’re getting ten minutes of content monthly.
But this is why adapting Johns’ writing to film works. While I personally think that Flashpoint failed to live up to its ambition, I also think that a lot of the story ideas, if streamlined, would have worked. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is a really good adaptation. It hits on the bigger, more important plot points of the Flashpoint story while including a few nods to some of the miniseries tie-ins as well. The voice acting is good, and while the art style is a little wonky, it looks good in animation. The action scenes are a treat to watch, and while I think the violence is a little too gratuitous, it’s still a great film.
DAN: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox – Surprise, surprise; the best film offering of 2013 did not come in the form of a big budget, Hollywood release. Despite my enjoyment of Man of Steel, the strongest film based on a DC property was the direct-to-video animated film based on 2011’s Flashpoint event. Though the film is saddled with the Justice League moniker, this is a Flash movie through and through. With its strong script and crisp animation, The Flashpoint Paradox proved to viewers that DC’s other characters could be successfully adapted to film and provide a satisfying experience.
MATT: Man of Steel – Here is a film so divisive that both DC fans and non-DC fans are split on the issue. I have been in numerous discussions/debates about the film being “Great!”, “A train wreck!”, “Best” And “Worst Superman film EVER!” I tend to think Man of Steel is a good film and a great launching point for the expanded DC cinematic universe. Marvel aims for the “please every demographic at once” tactic, with a family oriented style, “wink wink, nudge nudge” techniques, and a fun time tone for their films. DC is ballsy and wants this to be similar to what Christopher Nolan did with his Batman trilogy; ground them in reality, with a much more adult, darker take on the character. I welcome the change; the Richard Donner films and Brian Singer’s terrible Superman Returns have done the happier, less-realistic version of Superman. Man of Steel is a new beast for a new generation that is going through a much harder time. Movies reflect what is going on in the world, and while I understand the “This isn’t my Superman” point of view, there is no reason to do the same thing over and over. This is something fresh that still holds true to the best parts of the character.
JAY: Man of Steel – Many of my fellow DCN staff writers don’t share my opinion that Man of Steel is the best Superman movie since Superman II, as well as being a perfect first film for DC’s Cinematic Universe, so I’ll make my argument here. Man of Steel is dark because that’s the modern age we live in. Superman was a boy scout for decades and decades because the comic book version of the character originated in the 1930s, a simpler time when good vs. evil was a lot more cut and dry. Times change, and with that change comes a need for adaptation. Beware; Man of Steel spoilers are below.
I’ll be the first to admit that when Superman snapped Zod’s neck, I was shocked and almost appalled by the way a character I’d seen in a certain light for so long was suddenly no more. That being said, it was the only thing Zack Snyder could have done. Superman is a complex character (despite most non-comic book readers decrying him as being boring for having “too many powers”), and the fact that he was forced to kill the only other Kryptonian in existence will surely have an emotional and psychological impact in the future of the DC Cinematic Universe. Can you imagine when Supes will meet Batman and what the Dark Knight will have to say about capital punishment? I loved Man of Steel and hope, in time, others will come to understand its importance in the greater comic book landscape.
Best TV Series
ASH: Arrow – The first season of Arrow was decent. It was definitely better than Smallville and it was steadily ramping up to be a pretty good show by the finale. Season two has been freaking amazing. The two-part midseason finale was so full of great moments that I’m actually excited for the Flash TV show now. That’s right, I care about a Barry Allen thing. Will the wonders never cease?
MAX: Teen Titans Go! – This series has been treated unfairly since the first episode. This is due to a combination of it not being an actual revival of the original cartoon, as well as it being a replacement for Young Justice, neither of which is fair to judge the quality of the program. Young Justice was cancelled because kids weren’t enjoying it, and DC never claimed that this would be a revival of the cartoon series. They said they were gonna take the comedic shorts featuring the characters they were making on DC Nation and adapt them into longer television episodes, and that’s exactly what they did.
DAN: Arrow – 2013 was kind to this new CW series. The second half of the first season saw an increase in production values and script quality that culminated in a satisfying season finale. But that was just the beginning, as the show’s sophomore season hit the ground running and has only improved week to week. Despite complaints of “CW-ness” with regard to certain character subplots, those moments have taken a backseat in the new season in favor of new heroes (Black Canary), global threats (League of Assassins), and the introduction of superpowers (Solomon Grundy, the Flash). Arrow has gone from solid if unspectacular to a must-watch program.
MATT: Arrow – This show—just like a certain Superman movie that came out this year—divides fans. Some think it’s too “CW” and “Smallville”, and at the start of the show, they had a valid leg to stand on. But those that stuck with Arrow know it has improved greatly. Embracing its comic book origins with season two, we now have of tons of DCU villains and heroes, and the show focuses more on them than the melodrama. Arrow is now the best superhero show on TV, and non-DC fans are even starting to take notice that Agents of Shield is no Arrow.
JAY: Young Justice – Though it came to a bittersweet end this year, Young Justice is one of my favorite DC animated series to date, sitting just below Justice League/Unlimited and just above Superman: The Animated Series. In its second season, Young Justice became a more fleshed out, fan-servicing version of the show that included not only the teenaged heroes focused upon in season one, but also a host of new recruits and the Justice League proper. Young Justice was cancelled due to lack of ratings, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, and the fact that there were thousands of people online petitioning for another season and/or a web series showed that this spunky little TV-show-that-could was far more popular than Cartoon Network imagined.
Best Video Game
ASH: Batman: Arkham Origins – I came in pretty late to the party on this one (I’m still playing through some side missions now) but I honestly love Batman: Arkham Origins. It’s not as polished as the first two installments in the franchise, but—as I gleefully told the rest of the staff earlier this month—I have never felt more like Batman than I have while knocking the Electrocutioner out with one punch.
MAX: Injustice: Gods Among Us – Scribblenauts: Unmasked is all well and good, but I didn’t really get into it as much as other people. Fables: The Wolf Among Us, is amazing, but has only just begun. And for all its flaws, I certainly enjoyed Batman: Arkham Origins. But nothing gets me quite like Injustice: Gods Among Us has. With a great cast of characters that cover a fair amount of the DC Universe, a really good story mode that genuinely engages the player, and a fantastic combat system that’s easy to pick up but hard to master by the guys from NetherRealm Studios, it’s just a solid game. Whether you like piledriving people as Solomon Grundy or punching them into space as Superman, there’s something for every DC fan in this game, even if your favorite character didn’t make it in. Injustice is just a blast.
DAN: Scribblenauts Unmasked – With all respect to Injustice: Gods Among Us and Batman: Arkham Origins, the best fan experience in 2013 came from the all-ages Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure. Featuring nearly every character from the DCU (including Crazy Quilt!), there’s something for everyone. Scribblenauts Unmasked is not just a game; it’s an experience.
MATT: Batman Arkham Origins – This is the first Arkham game not by Rocksteady Studios, and everyone was left wondering if WB Montréal would be able to produce a game up to the quality of their predecessors. Well, yes and no. I felt the story was the best out of the three, and the art style and gameplay also managed to live up to expectations. Where WB Montreal failed was quality. The game came out extremely buggy on not just consoles, but on PC as well. Numerous patches since have made the game completely playable, but I haven’t played a game this buggy in years: couldn’t collect a Riddler tower because of a glitch that didn’t allow me to climb through a vent. So if the game is so buggy, why say it’s the best game of the year? Because it’s still a great game and if you haven’t played it yet, all these issues have been fixed, so consider yourself lucky you’re getting the best experience.
JAY: I didn’t play any DC video games this year. This is due to my only owning a Nintendo 3DS, and not having enough money to buy Batman: Arkham Origins – Blackgate. That being said, Injustice: Gods Among Us looked the coolest, as I’m a big fan of fighting games.
ASH: Jor-El’s voiceover in Man of Steel – As much as it pains me to say this, I’m going to pick a moment from Man of Steel. Specifically, a line from Jor-El, which we all first got to hear in the teaser trailer about a year before the film was released (but it totally counts since it was actually in the film). Now, I’ve been rather vocal about my disdain for Man of Steel. Frankly, I’m not a fan of David Goyer’s horrendous dialogue or of Jon Kent’s crap-tacular characterization in the film. But this moment… it was just so damn beautiful. Granted the line is lifted almost exactly from Grant Morrison’s incredible All-Star Superman, but it’s a quote that so perfectly captures the majesty of Superman as he ought to be and is so flawlessly delivered by Russell “Let’s Punch That Thing” Crowe:
“You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”
Good god, that’s fantastic.
MAX: Barry Allen appears in Arrow – While I enjoyed the first season of Arrow, there were still a lot of things about it that bothered me as a fan of the character from the comics. Admittedly, Oliver Queen has never been in my top ten favorite superheroes list, but I have read and enjoyed classic stories like his road trip across America with Green Lantern and his return from the dead in “Quiver”. Seeing one of the genuinely nicest guys in the DC Universe portrayed as a murderous vigilante just rubbed me the wrong way. Then season two came, and Ollie decided to become a hero and not just a vigilante, and the show improved a lot. Still, the highlight of the second season so far has to be Grant Gustin’s recent appearance as Barry Allen, an introduction to the character for CW’s upcoming Flash TV series. Grant Gustin’s performance is wonderful, portraying Barry as an incredibly kind genius with poor timing and poor luck. Watching him help Green Arrow beat Solomon Grundy (albeit in a supporting role) was a lot of fun, and witnessing how his origin story has been executed has given me a lot of hope for his show. While I’ve liked the Flash in the past, I’ve never been a huge fan of his, but this version of the character may just change that.
DAN: First Flight in Man of Steel – Man of Steel was undoubtedly a divisive film. That said, perhaps the one scene that escaped criticism was Superman’s first flight. Emerging from the alien craft for the first time in costume, Clark took to the skies with a couple mighty leaps before crashing into a mountain. Aided by Jor-El’s voiceover, Superman got to his feet and gave it another go. With one more attempt, Superman soars across the globe as Hans Zimmer’s score trumpets in the background. Brandished with a joyous smile, Henry Cavil’s performance reminds us that these iconic characters should inspire a sense of awe and wonder.
MATT: Lightning strikes in Arrow – Barry Allen’s appearance in Arrow was a pretty big deal, especially because it sets up the upcoming television show starring the Scarlet Speedster. But seeing Arrow actually go for it – with a full on chemical bath and lightning strike to conclude the midseason finale – raises the level of excitement for even the most jaded of fans. Fall 2014 can’t come soon enough.
JAY: Superman defeats Zod in Man of Steel – See my reasoning for up in the “Best Movie” section for why this was the best moment of 2013.
About the Staff
ASH MAHTANI is the writer of the conversation starting “Showcase Presents” opinion pieces. Though his views are not universal, he is the heart of the DCN staff.
MAX DWECK heads the review department and reviews nearly all of DC’s Dark line of titles (Justice League Dark, Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger, etc). He also loves all things Deadman.
DAN GEHEN primarily reviews The Flash and Nightwing, as well as whatever else needs a look. Even Katana, which was a huge mistake.
CHASE MAGNETT didn’t contribute to this piece, but he did contribute to parts 1 -3. Therefore, he’s included down here. He likes Li’l Gotham.
JAY MATTSON is the Head Editor of Reviews and News for DCN, as well as the reviewer of a plethora of titles. It’s likely he changed a few things from this article’s original draft.
MATT GALVIN is the founder and driving force behind DCComicsNews.com. Without him, this article would never have happened.