Batman Poll: Affleck Apocalypse

I know we are supposed to be on hiatus, but then the Internet lit up like a Christmas tree … on fire … doused with gasoline … when news broke that Ben Affleck will play Batman in the Man of Steel sequel. Judging from Twitter and Facebook, many, many fanfolk are not feeling this idea. Like, at all. I haven’t seen this kind of social media meltdown since the 2012 Presidential debates.

Check out some of the best tweets. Continue reading


I have been pretty tight-lipped about my specific thoughts on Man of Steel. That’s because I was saving it for this very podcast. Last night, Erika and I were guests on Stimulated Boredom. We got on about the brave Lois Lane, a sullen Clark Kent, Christian allegory and the collateral damage of the long-awaited Superman film. We had a ton of fun talking about it and hope you enjoy the show.

But, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, there are massive spoilers in our discussion. Gargantuan. We talk about every scene we can remember in explicit detail. While I really, really want you to listen now – see the film first if you haven’t already. We’ll be here when you get back.

CLICK HERE to listen to our Man of Steel review podcast.

Man of Steel Film Logo

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines on PBS


I love a good documentary, but none more than Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines. Last year, Erika and I had the distinct pleasure of viewing this film (and reviewing it), and it moved me beyond words. It says so many of the things I want to say here at this blog about women and comics. For this fangirl, it’s an intelligent, poignant and supremely validating look at the female superheroine and her role in shaping the American woman. It is a must see film for ALL comic book fans. Beyond comic fandom, it will enlighten the friends and families of comic lovers of the power of comics in culture.

WONDER WOMEN! THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICAN SUPERHEROINES will have its television broadcast premiere in the United States on PBS’s Independent Lens series on Monday, April 15, 2013. Check your local listings to confirm the time and date.

Breaking Dawn Part 2: The End is Nigh

The first time I read the The Twilight Saga, I devoured it in just a few days. All four books. And when I got to the end of Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final book, I cried in spite of the happy ending. I became so enamored with the story that I was sad that it was over.

At the time, the first film had already made it to DVD. The wheels of this massive machine were fully in motion. Knowing that all of the books would eventually be interpreted visually, I couldn’t help but wonder how the characters, scenery, and memorable moments would play out in the movies. But none more than Breaking Dawn. Would the final film be able to capture the essence of that happy (yet sad) ending in the same way? Continue reading

Random thoughts on ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ with spoilers

Imposing in scale and length, The Dark Knight Rises takes viewers on a scenic but meandering journey — two hours and 45 minutes — that can test the limits of patience. But that’s OK. Thanks to some great acting and incredibly satisfying final scenes, these indulgences are easily forgiven. TDKR wraps up Christopher Nolan’s Bat-trilogy with style while offering some honest-to-goodness surprises and moments of pure fan delight.

This guy right here.

A few thoughts, in no particular order: Continue reading

G3 Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Whether a Spider-Man film, especially an origin story, is necessary so soon after the last franchise ended is debatable but ultimately irrelevant. Box office take aside, the real test of a film’s legitimacy is its quality. Is the reboot that no one was clamoring for any good?

Yes, it is. The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t always live up to the title, but it’s an entertaining, likable popcorn movie that is very lucky to have Andrew Garfield in the lead role. Garfield brings an emotional complexity and unexpected edge to this version of an extremely well-known character. His Peter Parker is a good guy and a nerd all right, but he’s got an undercurrent of anger and nervous energy that makes him exciting to watch. The Amazing Spider-Man is also a love story, and a mighty sweet one at that. Continue reading

G3 Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

With an aesthetic that falls somewhere between Game of Thrones and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman is a grotesque and gorgeous journey from dark to light. The austere imagery of costumes, creatures and landscapes, plus the physical performances, come together to make magic.

A white horse, black oil, a red rose. The snow-covered castle, the dark forest, drops of blood. The brilliant use of color contrast throughout the film is as much of a story as the script. Not only are the colors striking, but so is the breathtaking scenery of coastlines, castle-scapes, and forests.

From the sharp tips of the Evil Queen’s many crowns, down to the dirt in Snow White’s fingernails, the costume design is remarkable. Theron did well enough on her own, but her stunning gowns radiate wicked power and extravagance. Snow White’s tattered revision of the classic Disney costume added a hint of nostalgia while still being something one could flee through the forest in.

This is a fairy tale after all, and overt magic is where Snow White and the Huntsman goes more Wonderland than Westeros. But the overall darkness of the film gives the magical moments that much more of an impact. These moments are welcome bursts of quick pacing. Two hours is a long time to sit through a film where you already know the plot, and you’ve known it since the age of three. While the visual effects lend much to the enjoyment of the film, the performances carry the bulk of that burden. Continue reading

G3 Review: The Avengers

If and when DC/Warner Bros. finally gets around to making a Justice League movie, it might want to take some notes from across the aisle. Not all of the Marvel movies have been homeruns, but as the first two X-Men movies and X-Men: First Class proved, it is very possible to make a highly satisfying superhero ensemble film. The Avengers is one of them.

Writer-director Joss Whedon swung for the fences, and the result is a consistently fun, exciting action movie that makes the most of a strong cast. The Avengers doesn’t just throw a bunch of comic book characters onto the screen and then blow stuff up real good. Whedon takes care in defining the players and showing how they come together to execute their first mission.

The objective is to take down that villainous Asgardian diva, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who pays S.H.I.E.L.D. an unwelcome visit to steal the Tesseract. The glowing cube is central to his plot to rule humanity via alien invasion, and Nick Fury, played by the stoically cool Samuel L. Jackson, knows he’s going to need more than one big gun to stop him. One by one, the future Avengers begin assembling, but it’s a bumpy ride. Continue reading

G3 Review: ‘Comic Con IV – A Fan’s Hope’

If you have a friend or family member who is baffled by con culture, show them the Morgan Spurlock-directed documentary Comic-Con IV: A Fan’s Hope. With sincerity and affection, it explains to the uninitiated and/or judgmental the world that our crowd knows so well. Alas, we live in a society that interprets wearing a giant, plastic cheese on your head as mere enthusiasm, but regards cosplay as weird. Go figure.

Amid all the geeking out, the movie — filmed at San Diego Comic-Con in 2010 — acknowledges the elephant in the room: Comics have been relegated to the background of a giant convention with “comic” in the name, and that is now largely about mass entertainment. It’s unreal to look at old photos of the first Comic-Con in 1970 and compare those images to the huge scene it is today.

Continue reading

‘Wonder Women’ Documentary is Powerful Viewing

“What are the consequences for women when they are strong, and when they are the central actors of their own lives?”

It isn’t hyperbole to say that every comic book fan should see “Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines,” the excellent documentary that premeired last month at the South by Southwest Film Festival. But you needn’t own a single comic book to fully enjoy this film. Thought-provoking and frequently moving, “Wonder Women!” examines the history of fictional heroines in popular culture, and how their highs and lows have reflected the lives of real American women since the 1940s. Continue reading

G3 Review: The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen, woman of action.

“In two weeks, 23 of you will be dead.”

One of the many uncomfortable things about watching The Hunger Games is that moment when you realize, “I’m watching The Hunger Games.” The story may be fictional, but it’s nonetheless almost physically unsettling to see children on the verge of killing or being killed.

For the five people who haven’t heard of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular dystopian series of novels, the Hunger Games are annual contests in which 24 young people ages 12 to 18 must battle to the death until only one is left standing. Worse, it’s all packaged as a festive reality show by the wealthy Capitol, which rules the nation of Panem. A few critics have knocked the film version for not having the guts to look this forced savagery in the eye, but I disagree with that assessment. Continue reading

Wonder Women! Gives Heroines Their Due

A revealing clip from the fabulous-looking documentary Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, makes a powerful case for the necessity of this film. In a series of street interviews, people of both sexes begin rattling off the names of comic book characters, and not a single female comes up. Not even Wonder Woman.

Wonder Women!, which makes its debut at the South by Southwest film festival next month, could go a long way toward changing that. This buzz-worthy documentary, feauturing interviews with artists and icons like Lynda Carter, Gloria Steinem and Trina Robbins, examines the evolution and history of female heroes in comic books, television and film. Directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and produced by Kelcey Edwards, the movie got a huge boost from two successful Kickstarter fundraisers, which made it possible for the movie to be completed and polished for prime time. I’m dying to see it, and based on the response to the fundraising effort, it’s clear that many others are, too.

I interviewed Guevara-Flanagan for the Geek Out! blog, and she’s clearly committed to bringing the stories of these heroines to light. Continue reading

Friday Favorite: Young Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi

If you’re ever in the mood to start an argument, try telling an adult Star Wars fan that the prequels have some redeeming value. No one wants to hear it, and you can count me among the hardcore Star Wars fans who will not be buying a ticket for the re-release of “The Phantom Menace” in 3-D today. (For a longer analysis of that movie’s impact, check out my article on the Geek Out! blog.)

But for all my hard feelings about Episodes I-III, I have to admit that George Lucas got one thing right: casting Ewan McGregor as young Obi-Wan Kenobi. Continue reading

2011 Memorable Moment: Charles and Erik’s Mind-Meld


Michael Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr and James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier were a match made in cinema heaven in this summer’s “X-Men: First Class.” (See review here.) The push and pull between the two of them is the movie’s greatest strength, and their relationship is essentially — as McAvoy has called it — a love story.

Maybe that’s why the scene where Charles helps the future Magneto discover the magnitude of his mutant power goes right to the gut. During a training session, Erik attempts to turn a massive satellite and fails because he’s using the wrong fuel: anger. Charles/Yoda advises him that “true focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity,” and he reaches into his friend’s mind to find a beautiful memory — one of his mother. Erik tries again and the damn thing moves. Best personal trainer ever.

It’s Charles’ belief in his friend’s goodness and Erik’s awe at his own gift that make this moment a killer, and one of the best in X-movie history.

G3 Review: Free Enterprise

Free Enterprise
Rating: R
Director: Robert Meyer Burnett
Writers: Robert Meyer Burnett and Mark A. Altman
Starring: Rafer Weigel, Eric McCormack and William Shatner

“Free Enterprise” may be the geekiest movie I had never heard of. A few weeks ago, a generous friend hooked me up with a copy of the film, which was released in just a

handful of theaters in 1998 and quickly disappeared. That’s a shame, because this story about two friends on the edge of 30 is a funny, bottomless pit of sci-fi and pop culture references. It’s also a sharp and ultimately sweet movie about relationships and fumbling toward adulthood.

Robert (Rafer Weigel), the slacker of the duo, would rather spend his money on a Mego Mighty Isis doll than his utility bill, and he can’t stop himself from correcting a bungled Star Trek reference. However, he’s not the stereotypical nerd who can’t get a date. Robert definitely gets around, but his man-child tendencies inevitably undermine the romance. As one woman puts it, “Wow. Your place looks like a really rich fourth-grader lives here.”

Mark (played by Eric McCormack of “Will & Grace”) is a sci-fi magazine editor who is practically ossified in cynicism and quietly freaked out about turning 30. While he’s more responsible than Robert, Mark is seriously impaired when it comes to intimacy. The most exciting part of his evening is when an anonymous woman having (or faking) an orgasm leaves a recording on his answering machine. Mark is kind of a dick, but he does help Robert out of a financial jam more than once. There’s a heart beneath those withering one-liners. Neither guy is exactly living the dream. Robert edits trashy films for a living, and Mark’s passion project is a movie called “Bradykillers.” Yes, that would be a film about the serial murder of the Brady Bunch.

Mark and Robert meet their idol William Shatner in a bookstore one night, and after going into a babbling fanboy fit, they end up befriending the star. Their obsession with Shatner goes all the way back to childhood when they considered him a sort of guardian angel, so it’s a bit of a shock for them to discover that he’s very human. Later, Robert meets the girl of his dreams in a comic book shop and (barely) recovers after assuming she’s buying “Sandman” for her boyfriend. Robert falls deeply in love with Claire, ignoring friends and employer, but bad habits come back to haunt him. For all the humor, there’s a tenderness in this movie that I didn’t expect.

In addition to Shatner’s charmingly self-effacing performance, there are a number of laugh-out-loud moments and delightful in-jokes. The “Logan’s Run” dream sequence was gold, as were the strategically placed “Star Wars” quotes. I plan to watch it again because I’m certain that I missed something.

I’ll admit that the movie is dated (Do the rappers have to be so stereotypical?) and doesn’t exactly have the highest production values. As much as I dug it, I wonder whether it would resonate as much with those outside Generation X because of the plentiful allusions to ’70s nerdery. However, my civilian spouse liked it, so that indicates some mainstream appeal.

Minor shortcomings aside, “Free Enterprise” is a well-written love letter to the geek community, and it deserves a bigger audience. I’m doing my part to spread the word.

G3 Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America (Chris Evans) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan).

The best comic book movies find the balance between pleasing fans and entertaining people who don’t know their adamantium from their vibranium. As sturdy and sincere as its title hero, Captain America: The First Avenger pulls it off. It’s an accessible origin story with big, old-fashioned heart, and the geek in me was thrilled to see that famous shield slice the air. Continue reading

G3 Review: Super 8

Between outrageous ticket prices and patrons who can’t stop texting/Tweeting/yapping for even two lousy seconds after the lights go down, I’ve often wondered whether it’s still possible to experience child-like joy at the movies. However, my skepticism was no match for the wonderful J.J. Abrams-directed thriller Super 8. It was like time travel. Just seconds into this film, I could feel myself turning back into that 12-year-old girl who was watching E.T. for the first time. Continue reading

G3 Review: Green Lantern

“The bigger you are, the faster you burn.”

Disclaimer: First and foremost, I am a Green Lantern fangirl. I shall give my best impression of an objective film critic type. Now, shall we?

Let’s start off with a roll call.

Hal Jordan
Behind Hal’s sarcastic, white-bread machismo exists a human determined to get the job done; hence, our willful leading man. Insert Ryan Reynolds. I know many of you were rolling your eyes when he was cast as Hal Jordan, but I was not. I think he fits the character (and that suit) like a glove. Continue reading

G3 Review: X-Men: First Class

We all bring our baggage to movie adaptations of comic books, terrified that filmmakers will eff up the stories we hold dear. They’ve certainly done it before, so my Marvel-leaning friends’ concerns about X-Men: First Class were understandable. Whenever I said that the movie looked like a winner, at least one person would reply, “I doubt it.”

But how can you not be the tiniest bit excited by those trailers showing the early days of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, the future Professor X and Magneto? Continue reading

Poll: What’s Your Summer Superhero Pick?

Are you ready for some superheroes? Thor, the first entry in this summer’s cinema geek-a-palooza, is storming a theater near you on May 6. Hot on his mighty Asgardian heels are X-Men First Class (June 3), Green Lantern (June 17), and Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22). The trailers have ranged from “Holy hell!” to “Hmm,” but I predict they’ll all make a truckloads of cash. While I’m generally a DC gal, I have to say that the Captain America promos have blown me away — far more than the DC/Warner Bros. entry Green Lantern. Of course, I’ll end up seeing them all.

What about you? With the embarrassment of riches headed our way, what superhero flick are you most excited about?

G3 Review: Sucker Punch

Ladies and Gents, this review contains SPOILERS.

Critics have slammed it, and the box office numbers are dismal in comparison to the $82 million budget. The former affecting the latter, I’m sure. But Sucker Punch has quickly become a polarizing film in pop culture fandom. I stand firmly on the side of the pleated skirts. Orcs, fishnets, and Steampunk Nazis? Oh, yeah. Baby Doll leads us on a physics-defiant fantasy ride within her two-tiered dissociative delusions, which are the movie. Continue reading

All-Star Appreciation

Many, many others have written about the genius of the original All-Star Superman, so the series doesn’t need my late stamp of approval. But while I fully expected to enjoy the story, I didn’t anticipate just how much more I would appreciate Superman as a character after finishing them.

I recently purchased the trades in a mad rush to catch up before watching the direct-to-DVD film that was released last week. Several times, I’d flipped through the All-Star Superman collection in a bookstore, shrugged and put it back. Again, I assumed that it was good, but I was convinced there were no more truly interesting stories about the Man of Steel. Even the gushing cover blurbs couldn’t win me over.

My bad. Continue reading

Heroic Hotness: Spock 2.0

Zachary Quinto’s Spock: The Sleeper

Leonard Nimoy will always be the quintessential Vulcan, but damn if Quinto didn’t kick the heat up to five-alarm levels in the 2009 movie. His Spock was arrogant, angry, and dismissive, but also tender and intensely romantic with Uhura. Qunito played Spock as That Guy who is kind of a dick, but whose intelligence and unshakable confidence makes him irresistible. The sexy side of Spock took a lot of Star Trek fans, old and new, by surprise, and he gave intergalactic playboy James T. Kirk a run for his money. Set phasers to stun!

Heroic Hotness: Sherlock Holmes

RDJ as Sherlock Holmes: The Determination

If Robert Downey, Jr. is in a movie, I am going to see it. I think he is a brilliant actor. I was not prepared for how utterly exciting his performance would be as the intense and tough Sherlock Holmes. His Holmes is a logical genius marching to the beat of his own drum, fearless in the face of authority, and fighting the good fight. Renowned for his repartee, he also happens to be wearing the hell out of that vest. It’s like … perfection.

You better stop looking at me like that.

Heroic Hotness: Our Top Geek Crushes

Topless Robot recently dedicated a post to the 11 heroes geeky girls want to date, but who are also probably toxic — Batman, James T. Kirk, and such. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, that got us thinking about the crush-worthy characters who set our hearts aflutter. While some of them probably wouldn’t be the most reliable romantic companions, they’d certainly be memorable. I’ve always tended toward good guys in real life, but as long as we’re fantasizing, I’m gonna get this party started with:

Han Solo: The Scoundrel

Harrison Ford was never sexier than when he was playing the rascally, fast-talking smuggler with a blaster on his hip. Han is basically every charming, handsome bastard you’ve ever known and loved. He isn’t the type to call the next day, but when he shows up on your doorstep unannounced with a sly grin, well, you know you’re gonna let him in. Just ask Princess Leia, whose frosty facade Han melted like a blowtorch. You know that scene in The Empire Strikes Back where he backs her up against a wall, moves in real close, and says, “You like me because I’m a scoundrel.”? Talk about a disturbance in The Force! If loving Han is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Rethinking Lois

Rumors are swirling that Lois Lane might not be the female lead in the upcoming Superman movie, but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating on who should play her if and when the time comes. As much as I love Emily Blunt and Rachel McAdams, I’m a little annoyed by how monochromatic the entertainment media wish-lists are. While some armchair casting agents have looked beyond the typical starlets, most have been depressingly predictable. Obviously, the role should go to the best actress available. However, there are a number of wonderful actresses who don’t even seem to be in the running. Hollywood, here are some alternatives you might want to consider:

Sanaa Lathan

Sanaa Lathan: She’s played plenty of strong characters, and her turn as a driven career woman in the little-seen Something New was really good. As an actress, Lathan has the right mix of steeliness and vulnerability to do right by the role.

Rashida Jones

Rashida Jones: The multitalented Ms. Jones could do a great screwball comedy turn on Lois Lane, harkening back to the Margot Kidder model. There’s something wonderfully perky about her, and since she’s co-authored a comic book, we know she’s a fan of the medium.

Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes: Besides having a stunning screen presence, Eva just comes across as a formidable woman. She’s also funny, as her turn as Will Ferrell’s wife in The Other Guys proves. I can definitely see her staring down a shady mofo on the other side of a reporter’s notebook.


Anika Noni Rose

Anika Noni Rose: The voice of Disney’s first African-American princess and big-screen Dreamgirl would make a plucky, loveable Lois. She’s a fresh face and a big talent who deserves more exposure. Plus, she’s a fellow alum of my alma mater (Florida A&M, represent!).

Grace Park: She’s been on Battlestar Galactica (geek cred!), and she’s currently Det. Kona Klakaua in the updated Hawaii Five-O TV show (badass!) Enough said.

Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton: OK, Thandie was my top choice to play Selina Kyle, but that ain’t gonna happen. So why not give this lovely, proven actress a chance to do her thing as the most famous reporter in the DCU? Besides, who would deny this woman a quote?

New Supes: Do You Care?

The very handsome Brit Henry Cavill is the new cinema Superman, and for the life of me, I can’t tell whether anyone cares. Too soon? It seems like we were just being introduced to Brandon Routh, who did a good job in a flawed movie, Superman Returns. I’m not all that excited about a reboot, but I’m a little bummed that Routh didn’t get a chance to show what he could do in a (potentially) better movie. In any case, Cavill will look great with a spit-curl and a cape. And for the love of Rao, please cast a believable Lois Lane this time around.

Does the unveiling of the new Man of Steel have you pumped for the movie?

Thumbs Up for Young Justice

We're, like, heroic and stuff.

Over the years, various Cartoon Network shows based on DC Comics have given their source material a serious run for their money. I’d wager that many episodes of the late, great Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans and the current Batman: The Brave and the Bold, to name a few, have been just as entertaining – often moreso – than some of the books they sprang from. Based on tonight’s winning film premiere, Young Justice is poised to carry on that proud tradition.

The movie, a launching pad for the ongoing series beginning in January, is a classic coming-of-age story with a lot of punching and explosions: Robin, Speedy, Aqualad and Kid Flash think they’ve been invited to the grown-up table when their mentors finally bring them into the Hall of Justice, but in reality, they only get as far as the foyer. Batman, Green Arrow, Aquaman and Flash claim the kids simply aren’t ready for full access, which sends Speedy into an angry, this-is-bullshit hissy fit. Aqualad’s quietly wounded response is particularly moving. Aquaman isn’t just his teacher, but his king, so the apparent lack of confidence goes right to the heart.

Of course, it’s only a matter of time before the adults are called away on a mission, and the kids ignore their orders to stay put. They dive headfirst into a crisis at Cadmus Laboratories, and that’s where the real fun begins. Let’s just say that the Cadmus staff isn’t exactly whipping up new flu vaccines.

Visually, Young Justice is a treat. The players are distinctive-looking without being overly stylized, and the animation is quite fluid. The characterization is dead-on: Robin is the quick-witted detective who’s one step ahead of the rest; Kid Flash is the impetuous, slightly annoying chatterbox; Aqualad is thoughtful and broodingly regal. There’s also an element of real danger when Superboy enters the picture, because a wild card with Superman’s powers is pretty much the scariest thing ever.

It’s not giving much away by saying that everything works out in the end, but this fledgling team is in for plenty of trials and adjustments – like the very welcome addition of Miss Martian, Martian Manhunter’s niece. My only quibble is that she doesn’t show up until the end, and Artemis doesn’t appear at all. However, I understand that there’s only so much character development you can deliver in one hour, and the movie does what it’s supposed to: Build excitement for the weekly TV show. Count me in.


Green Lantern Lights It Up

So the first footage from the upcoming Green Lantern film is out and there’s a whole lot of quipping and green blasty stuff happening. Ryan Reynolds is his usual charming self, and he looks like he’s having a great time. Of course, geeks appear to be divided over whether the clip looks amazing or cheesy. Since this is all we have to go on for the moment, what do you think?

WTF? Wednesday: The Fantastic Four Movie You Didn’t See

At the risk of offending Jessica Alba fans the world over, I think most people will agree that the last two Fantastic Four films were pointlesss. Aside from Chris Evans’ fun performance as Johnny Storm, the movies didn’t exactly set the world on fire, pun intended. However, an earlier movie adaptation of the Fantastic Four apparently made Tim Story’s version look like Iron Man by comparison. Continue reading

G3 Review: Batman-Under the Red Hood

Batman: Under the Red Hood
Rating: PG-13
Director: Brandon Vietti
Writer: Judd Winick
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs

If you’ve been a geek for any length of time, you’ve likely encountered your Scott and Jean — a comic book topic that makes you so angry that you can’t discuss it without going completely off. I’m not talking casual disdain, but full, frightening-the-children rage. As someone who was deeply affected by Batman: A Death in the Family when it was originally published, I’d long considered Jason Todd’s return from the grave to be my Scott and Jean. Especially since said return has often amounted to little more than violent douchery. (Big spoilers ahead.)

While I eventually reached a sort of Zen acceptance about Jason’s resurrection, I had no intention of watching, let alone enjoying, the animated film adaptation of Judd Winick’s Batman: Under the Red Hood. My husband ordered it On Demand, and after a long day, I simply didn’t have the will to get off the couch. The bottom line: Jason’s presence remains problematic in a bigger sense, but it works surprisingly well in a self-contained story. And despite the inherent cheapness of bringing characters back from the dead, Under the Red Hood has some truly gripping moments that evoke the raw sadness of A Death in the Family.

Nothing annoys Bruce Wayne like a fellow vigilante, particularly one who has no problem capping criminals. So when a nouveau Red Hood shows up in Gotham City and starts blowing shit up, Bruce and Dick Grayson (still Nightwing in this context) go after him. Even if you’re not familiar with the Judd Winick-penned comics the movie is based on, it doesn’t take much to figure out Mr. Hood’s identity. After all, the story is punctuated with flashbacks of Bruce and Jason’s time together as Batman and Robin, including the latter’s sickening death at the Joker’s hand. That scene alone is worthy of a PG-13 rating, so make no mistake: Under the Red Hood is not appropriate for small or sensitive children.

Speaking of the Joker, John DiMaggio’s voice work as the cackling menace to society is excellent. His delivery is alternately ha-ha funny and ha-ha-now-he’s-freaking-me-out creepy. Bruce Greenwood is a solid Batman, and you can never go wrong with Neil Patrick Harris, who gives voice to Nightwing. Jensen Ackles is fine, if not memorable, as Jason Todd. The animation is well executed, and it’s more fluid than some of the earlier DC direct-to-DVD offerings.

Under the Red Hood is sure to rekindle the conversation about Batman’s no-killing code, particularly where the Joker is concerned. As the Red Hood himself puts it, we’re not talking about Penguin or Harvey Dent (Two-Face), but a serial, gleeful murderer who beat an adolescent to death and put Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair. Seriously; go back and look at those panels of the Joker clubbing Jason with a crowbar and tell me that guy doesn’t deserve far worse than a presidential suite at Arkham. (Gee, maybe THIS is my Scott and Jean.) I get Bruce’s concern about tumbling into the abyss, but somehow, I think he’d be OK. And this being DC, it’d only be a matter of time before the Joker came back to life!

My non-geek spouse, who completely dug this movie, had the advantage of being able to view it without the continuity baggage. We both agreed that the final scene is real heart-tugger, but it also reminded me of what an awkward position Jason Todd now occupies within the DC Universe. Considering all he’s been through — including the readers’ decision to off him in the first place — I can’t help but think he deserves more than a gold Crazy Medal.