Comic Book Villains

Review Date:
Director: James Dale Robinson
Writer: James Dale Robinson
Producers: Mike Elliott, Mark McGarry, Holly Wiersma
Donal Logue
DJ Qualls
Cary Elwes
A true-blue comic book store owner and his money-grubbing rivals both find out about a local man who died leaving a huge collection of comics, and attempt to sway the dead man’s mom into respectively selling them his obscenely pristine and valuable collection. The bereaved mother is not interested in selling and black comedic hi-jinx ensue.
I’m not sure if many non-geeks or non-collectors will appreciate the true inspiration or entertainment value of this movie, but if you’ve ever been a rabid collector of any sort, especially of comic books, this flick is sure to provide you with some decent dark laughs, along with its wicked premise. I personally collected both comic books and sports cards for years, and this film actually revived some of the old feelings that I used to have when collecting. I literally took out my old collection after watching this movie! The one thing that is abundantly obvious throughout is that the man behind it, James Dale Robinson, is a real fan and knows all of the finer details of the community (which is one of the things that makes a comic book geek…such a comic book geek!). The basic premise behind it is about these two rival comic book stores competing to score an ultra-exclusive collection, but the overall theme is more about how some people could lose touch with reality to such a degree that only their ultimate greedy goals are what remain important in their lives. It reminded me somewhat of VERY BAD THINGS, but the problem with this picture was that it just started off too “nice” and abruptly downshifted into mucho nastiness. Not that I minded the horrible acts themselves, I mean, that’s what black comedies are all about (pushing the envelope), it’s just that the film didn’t build up to it so well, it felt unbalanced, a little schizophrenic. It was almost like the director knew that the comic book world would be a great place in which to set up such a nasty rivalry (which it is), but just couldn’t put the workable finishing touches on it.

A good example of that is in the actors, most of whom did competent jobs, but the pairing of Michael Rapaport and Natasha Lyonne just seemed “off”. Lyonne’s character in particular felt a little too over-the-top, caricature-ish…to the point that she took me out of the reality of the story before even the zanier shite started going down. It’s important to establish a true belief of the situation before making fun of it, but she just seemed ultra-bitchy for the sake of it. Not necessarily the actress’ fault, but the character was just too skewed to fit into this, more or less, believable environment. I did enjoy all of the other players though, especially the lead actor, Donal Logue, who really gave you a sense of his love (obsession?) for comics, particularly in the scene in which he tries to call a truce with his rivals (the man almost had me breaking down myself). DJ Qualls was also quite a revelation here, with a much smaller part than you’d imagine (he’s more in the background than anything), but a good acting choice on his part. He plays his character pretty straight and it pays dividends. Cary Elwes (who along with Qualls and Logue is also a co-producer on this project) also came through as the “heavy” in the film, as well as most of the secondary characters who were all quite convincing.

The movie was also very well shot, featured a couple of funky directing choices that worked, some nifty comic book scene transitions and had a nice, comfy feel to it. Overall, I have to say that I quite enjoyed this film, especially the dialogue and the smaller scenes of the rivals attempting to win favor with the old lady and her collection, but felt like it went a little overboard in the end and was too uneven. If you’re a comic book fan, you definitely have to pick this puppy up though, if only for all of the references and in-jokes that are rampant throughout. BTW, where was Kevin Smith’s cameo? How the heck could anyone make a comic book movie and not include Kevin Smith? Patooey! (alright, alright…there is that one “homage” to the man via a CLERKS T-shirt)

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian