20
Dec
2011
Top Ten Adaptations of Comic Properties in 2011
Comic Book Adaptations
Alex, Chris, and Jordan
You can't expect a group of pop culture junkies like the RBTN staff to sit around reading comics all day. Hell, we're lucky if we don't tear through our new stack of books in under an hour. It's a good thing we live in a golden age of comic to screen adaptations, 2011 may have been the best year yet (until 2012's one-two punch of The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises comes along and kicks its lilly ass of course). Take a look at the comic inspired movies and shows that satisfied our fix between Wednesdays.

10. Marvel Anime

The Marvel Anime series interested us purely our of curiosity. How would these stories written by Warren Ellis be translated into anime by Japanese companies? The short answer is that it is well executed, if not kind of plainly. The animation is well done and in a style and they all end up fighting robots at one point or another. The most recent X-Men (which has been concluded at the moment of writing this) has been most consistent in level of story telling and style. And I'm excited to see what they do with Blade.



9. Green Lantern the Animated Series
The Green Lantern feature left A LOT to be desired. Thankfully it was not the only adaptation for ring slinger fans to sink their teeth into last year. Cartoon Network debuted the pilot of their CG animated series focusing on the emerald knights. While the Review To Be Named crew is partial to the more traditional 2D Bruce Timm animation style, the pilot showed a lot of potential, establishing a conflict with the Red Lantern Corps and a fun buddy cop dynamic between Hal and Kilowog. Only one extra long episode aired in 2011, but it was promising enough to make sure we'd keep an eye out for the full season return.



8. The Walking Dead

The television adaptation of Robert Kirkman's sprawling, post-apocalyptic epic is about as far from perfect as the society it depicts. Yet for all of the convoluted plot points, bad dialogue, and aimless, go nowhere stories (we REALLY spent half the season looking for that little girl? REALLY?), there are a lot of things The Walking Dead gets right. For one thing, it manages to be faithful to the tone of the comics (which are also kind of tone death when it comes to dialogue, to be fair) while being willing to deviate from their plots to keep things interesting even for long time fans of the series. And for every eye-rolling decision a character makes, there's an awesome scene of zombie carnage right around the corner. Sure, they call them Walkers (which is endlessly irksome. They're zombies, ok? You know it, we know it, and any characters who have ever lived in a world vaguely resembling ours know it), but as long as they amble into as many great set pieces as they do, we'll stick around. If only for the chance to yell "Sweet Zombie Jesus!" at least once a week.



7. X-Men: First Class

Look, we're as reboot weary as anyone, but after the atrocity that was X-Men: The Last Stand, something had to be done. And if that something was taking us back to the "˜60s for a prequel with James MacAvoy as a young (and still mobile) Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as a not-yet-evil Magneto, well that's just fine with us. Sure, the continuity geek in us bristled at how inaccurate the line-up was, fans of good storytelling might have been irked by how quickly some of the plot points were rushed at the end, and fans of good acting were thrown into fits of fury by January Jones' turn as Emma Frost, but on the whole, it was just good to have our favorite mutant team back in front of our faces and not making us groan at every turn. There is little as invigorating as the X-Men firing on all cylinder, and despite its flaws, X-Men: First Class gave us pretty much everything we could ask for from this merry band of mutants.



6. Young Justice
Featuring an eclectic mix of DC sidekicks from multiple eras of DC history, Young Justice follows a team of teen heroes trying to navigate their way through the trials of adolescence and the demands of being a covert strike team under the command of The Batman (And you thought studying for the S.A.T.s was rough). The alternate DC Universe that the show is set in allows the creators to mix the most iconic interpretations of these characters together in the same age group: Dick Grayson and Wally West serve side by side with Superboy and Ms. Martian. The team is also closely connected to the Justice League of this world, having taken responsibility for mentoring and training the younger heroes, allowing multiple opportunities for guest stars: Red Tornado chaperones their headquarters, Batman hands out the missions, and Black Canary instructs combat 101. While some elements of the show are beyond grating (Superboy's ever growing collection of weird pets and Ms. Martian's catch phrase immediately come to mind.) the sweet burgeoning romances between Superboy and Ms. Martian, and Kid-Flash and Artemis, the intrigue of Aqualad and Robin searching for a mole in the team's midst, and the belligerent Red Arrow's adventures on the fringe of the team, give the show a bevy of ongoing sub-plots to ensure that viewers will want to come back week after week. And if none of those reasons entice you enough to give the show a look, it's worth checking out just on the grounds that it could be considered a proto-type for the leaner meaner DCU that DC attempted to create with the New 52.



5. Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
Boasting a theme song that is too infectious in spite of itself, Season 2 of Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes continued to build the most comprehensive translation of Marvel comics to screen yet. Drawing from classic Avengers storylines and big Marvel events from recent years, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is highly accessible to new viewers, but a veritable treasure trove of fan service and easter eggs for readers of the source material. Hank Pym wrestled with his principles as a pacifist while being the founder of a team that solves most of its problems by kicking the crap out of them, Black Widow revealed her triple agent status, Thor lead the team to war against Loki to save the Nine Realms, and Hulk smashed. Hulk smashed a lot. While the animation is a bit exaggerated and cartoony there's no denying that the themes of the show are as mature as an all ages show can deal with and the writers have an excellent handle on the characters. With even more Avengers, villains, and guest stars promised to appear next season, the only thing that is certain is how much fun both creators and fans alike are having with this show. Just try not to sing the theme song in public.



4. Captain America: The First Avenger
If the summer of 2011 taught us anything, it's that there's definitely a market for superhero nostalgia flicks. Captain America: The First Avenger showed us Steve Rogers' rise from novice recruit to living legend. Chris Evans perfectly captured the sincerity, patriotism, and earnestness of Steve Rogers without portraying the character as sappy or jingoist while Tommy Lee Jones stole scene after scene as the equally bad ass and dry witted Colonol Phillips. Evans perfectly sells Steve's motivation in an early conversation between him and Dr. Erskine. Erskine asks if Steve "Wants to kill nazis," to which Steve responds that he just doesn't like bullies. While some of the action montages were a little over the top, there's no denying the collective rush that rippled through the theater as Cap threw his mighty shield. The movie was light on characterization, but the swift pace and retro action set pieces ensured that the film was fun from start to finish. Marvel Studios packed the film with numerous references to the shared universe they've been building in the steady march towards 2012's The Avengers that made for fun Easter Eggs. All of that aside, any movie that involves a couple hours of nazi beatdowns is just good ol' fashion fun for the whole family.



3. Thor
Make no mistake, Marvel has had a much better track record than DC (the Nolan batverse excluded) of translating their characters to the big screen. This is perhaps due to a consensus that Marvel heroes are a bit more grounded to begin with. However if there was one Marvel hero whose silver screen debut had the Review To Be Named crew holding our breath, it was Thor. Wall crawling teenagers and billionaires decked out in high tech armor is one thing, but would modern audiences buy a mythological norse god of thunder as part of this same shared universe? Director Kenneth Branaugh answered with a resounding "why the hell not?!?!" From start to finish Thor struck the perfect balance between fantasy and science fiction, introducing one big idea and action set piece after another all the while knowing just when to slow down and focus on quieter character moments. Chris Hemsworth's Thor was arrogant and brash but deeply noble and likable in spite of his flaws. He was also genuinely funny, a quality we're not used to seeing in the print version of the character but one that really truly worked towards making this adaptation so endearing. Hemsworth gave us multiple opportunities to laugh at the character's straightforward reactions to the fish out of water situations he finds himself in. Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston turn in stellar performances driving the Shakespearean family drama aspect of the mythology, while Natlie Portman grounded the story in that down to earth most gorgeous girl on the planet is your neighbor and wants to talk about stars and interstellar teleportation way that only Natalie Portman can.



2. Arkham City

Look, we here at Review to Be Named are geeks. You know it, we know it, the people we try to date certainly know it. It's just a fact. So you tell us we have the chance to be Batman, and we will leap at it like Batman leaps at The Joker to stop him from poisoning a reservoir. Arkham Asylum was such a great game, we lost count of how many times we played it. All we remembered was that someone had to keep Gotham safe, and finally that someone was us. Arkham City doubles down on everything its predecessor did right, giving us a fully realized environment, putting us up against classic villains from the rogues gallery, and generally just letting us be Batman. We've spent years thinking about how Batman would handle a situation, and now we get to put ourselves in his cowl again, for a chance to use the glorious mixture of deadly martial arts and brilliant deductive reasoning to stop anything that stands between us and justice. Paul Dini continues to know exactly what makes Batman great, and Arkham City has all of those things on display. The writing is strong, the game play is invigorating, the graphics are excellent, and it gives us the opportunity to crush in some Blackgate escapees skulls while screaming our very favorite sentence: "Fuck you! I'm Batman!" Now, if only we could stop screaming that when the line is too long at the grocery store...



1. Media Coverage of Spider Man: Turn off the Dark

Peter Parker is notorious for having the worst luck in super-hero comics, so perhaps it is apt that the ill-conceived Broadway musical adaptation of his exploits became the most fascinating slow-motion train wreck in entertainment this year. Spider Man: Turn off the Dark is a perfect storm of hilarious misconceptions by a bevvy of people we all like a chance to laugh at. First off, the title is inspired nonsense (and has become our favorite way to ask someone to turn on the lights). The show was directed by Julie Taymor, Queen of bold, daring, inventive and poorly thought out productions (since her success bringing The Lion King to the stage, she has given the world the atrocious Beatles movie musical Across the Universe and managed to make an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest that somehow didn't kick ass) with music written by arrogant, savior of mankind rock star Bono, and had the largest budget in Broadway history, which made its complete failure even funnier. And then there were the horrible injuries the cast constantly sustained, turning the entire production into some sick sort of celebrity death pool and inviting audiences to rush to the previews in hopes that they might see a violent death, or at least watch Spider-Man hang hopelessly above the audience for an hour or two while the show was incapable of going on. All of this was covered in painstaking detail by a media who truly rose to the occasion, even if that occasion was just kicking a crippled production of epic proportions when it was down. There was violence. There were bad decisions. There was snark. In short, the media coverage of Spider Man: Turn off the Dark sounds like just about the best adaptation the character has seen in years. If only the show had been nearly as compelling as its slow, painful, hilarious destruction, we might be singing a much brighter tune right now. Which might help us finally turn off the dark.


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