‘Justice League,’ ‘The Punisher’ and ‘Runaways’ revive beloved comic series and debut formerly unrenowned characters

In Arts & Entertainment, Film & TV, Lifestyle, Reviews
(Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

DC and Marvel fans have been eagerly waiting in anticipation all year for November’s packed lineup of comic book adaptations. Following the continued success of “Thor: Ragnarok,” which premiered earlier this month, “Justice League” opened in theaters while “The Punisher” and Marvel’s “Runaways” made their debut on rival streaming platforms Netflix and Hulu, respectively, within a few days of each other.

Both DC and Marvel make some significant statements through these works, proving that the quality of their work is expanding and evolving with each release.

“Justice League”

The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has faced a tremendous amount of criticism since the release of “Man of Steel,” with most fingers pointed at “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

“Justice League,” although not without its flaws, is a huge step forward for the DCEU.

The chemistry between Justice League members was evident, and it wasn’t as dark and gloomy as past films, probably something they realized was a necessary change after the success of the much lighter “Wonder Woman.” While The Flash (Ezra Miller,) delivered the most comic relief throughout the film, even The Dark Knight himself cracked a few jokes. DC learned from its most criticized films’ mistakes by cutting the run time and giving fans an exciting, action-packed film.

Easter eggs placed throughout “Justice League” and a post-credit scene promising new foes hyped up fans for upcoming installments, including the recently teased Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello).

Oftentimes, Marvel and DC comparisons seem like they will never let the DCEU have its moment to bask in success. DCEU has made great strides with “Wonder Woman” and now “Justice League,” but it still falls behind because it’s trying to catch up to Marvel’s established success.

In coming films, the DCEU needs to keep the momentum going but it also should focus more on developing its villains, both old and new, and give them the portrayal that fans deserve.

“The Punisher”

Three “Punisher” films have been made since 1989, but none have come close to nailing what makes the character unique like Netflix and Marvel have in their 13-episode rendition of “The Punisher.”

In Marvel’s new series, viewers see a deeper, emotional side to Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) that was only hinted at when he was mostly portrayed as a remorseless, armed killer in “Daredevil” season two. The show manages to humanize the ruthless vigilante in a way no film has ever done before.

“The Punisher” has no powers or mystical fists. It remains grounded, and its villains are cruel and capable of arguably scarier deeds than what typical comic book heroes are faced with.

But the Punisher isn’t a hero, or at least he definitely wouldn’t consider himself one. He treads closer to being a complete psychopath, though the show masterfully makes viewers sympathize with him by detailing his tragic backstory and answering the question of what could lead a seemingly good man to a life of brutality.

It’s the best character portrayal seen in any Marvel show and Bernthal’s acting firmly establishes himself as the definitive Punisher.

The show is also Marvel’s most emotional and realistic release to date, as it tackles veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and government cover-ups as well as loss, deceit and tragedy.

The show looks at how war can leave traumatized and abandoned young soldiers to suffer alone once they return to civilian life, serving as a striking critique of how the United States treats its veterans.

Critics of the show may complain that it’s too slow and not superhero-y enough, but Marvel made the right choice by grounding this decidedly street-level character, giving viewers something real and relatable that parallels society while remaining true to the source material.

Marvel’s “Runaways”

Hulu released the first three episodes of Marvel’s “Runaways” on Nov. 21, with new episodes premiering weekly until February 2018.

The show is based on the titular comic series in which six teens discover that their parents are super villains and that they too possess supernatural abilities.

Tonally, it is completely different than Marvel’s Netflix show’s fans may expect. In this case, it works perfectly by creating its own separate narrative that revolves around a group of young kids rather than one hero. It’s also refreshing to have the story set in the suburbs of Los Angeles instead of the crime-ridden New York featured in the Netflix shows.

For casual viewers, it may be easy to forget how expansive the Marvel universe is. Marvel’s “Runaways” features a younger cast that is also ethnically and socially diverse.

Unfortunately, this show can’t be binged right away, but it will definitely keep fans wanting more. If it proves successful, Marvel may put more time and money into story arcs like these to bring light to more Marvel series.

Overall, November was an amazing and exciting month for comic book fans, and the high anticipation for their releases was surely worth the wait.

With the new year right around the corner, fans should reflect and acknowledge the risks and changes in direction that Marvel and DC have taken with their new films and shows that have come out this year and look forward to what’s to come in 2018.

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