Tag Archives: Marvel

Ant-Man

MV5BMTc3NzgxNTM0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMwMDI5MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY847_Saturday was a day of two movies. Hooray! The second one was, finally, Ant-Man. To get it out of the way: it was a) definitely relevant to the overall story progression of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and b) good enough in its own right. Also, to get the other thing out of the way, it’s about a guy who can shrink to the size of about a flea or a bit smaller, and also he can talk to ants, and he uses these powers to be highly stealthy, mobile, and also to be unexpectedly strong[1], and then he has to deal with a supervillain tailor-made for said powers. Like you do.

There. Now to the meat of it. See, in comics, there are two people who have been Ant-Man. (Well, that I know of.) The first of them, Hank Pym, is one of Marvel’s first characters. The second, Scott Lang, I have not actually gotten to yet. The movie is about, well, technically both of them, but the point here is that it’s mostly about the one I don’t know. Which means, virtually no preconceptions! Paul Rudd was damaged and charming, and the character was entirely likeable. The plot was heisty and heroic and if it was often predictable, it made up for it by never being boring.

My complaints about Hank Pym are spoilers, but the fact that I have complaints can be put down to the fact that he’s a known jerk of a character. (Unlike Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, who is objectively as much of a jerk on paper, but people always seem to like him anyway. This has nothing to do with anything, I’m just complaining about it.)

Anyway, pretty good movie. Worth seeing, especially if you’ve been watching the other ones. Spoiler thing about Hank Pym in the comments.

[1] Something something physics: space between atoms is reduced, increasing density and therefore retaining the same strength in a much smaller package; you know, comic book science.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man – Revelations

41464JNINZLRevelations is an excellent Ultimate Spider-Man book that fulfills the promise of its title by answering every meaningful question raised in the previous book and then some. It answers both the questions I had already asked and the ones I didn’t think to, and it answers them in satisfactory ways. Just as I would always expect Bendis to provide, crisis of faith aside.

And then, just when it is setting up a whole series of new questions, Marvel as a whole took a sharp turn to the left and is collapsing their multiverse in upon itself, with the plan being basically only one Ultimate book left after this one? At least, I think so. It’s going to be hard to know what to purchase to wrap things up, for certain. So, the flaw of this book is that it ended in a deus ex rushica instead of setting up the latest big deal in the Ultimate universe. This is not the book’s fault, but it sure is jarring.

So, um… I guess the majority of my comics reading will be happening issue by issue in the late 1970s now? Sorry about that.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

MV5BMjMxMTIyNzQxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDQ1ODk1NDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Last Friday, I made a joke about putting up the wrong review, secure in the knowledge that the correct review, about the blockbuster sequel that was kicking off the summer season, would be following that first review by only an hour or two. So, that was six days ago.

Yep. I really am that busy, apparently.

Anyway, though, Avengers. Did you see it yet? No? I guess that’s not numerically surprising, it has not made the bank it was expecting. And there have been all kinds of complaints, from anti-feminist to muddled and confusing to unnecessary antagonists. Some of that is fair, and some of it is not. I come neither to defend Caesar nor to bury him, just to say that, you know, I still liked it?

Obviously I’m a total Marvel fanboy. But I don’t think that’s it. It got me in the door, sure, but the things that I liked were along the lines of, “It’s really awesome that Whedon managed to provide a character arc for every person onscreen, even though there were like ten of them.” I completely get why someone would turn that around and complain about how overstuffed the thing is, it just wasn’t my experience. Or, “I appreciate how Ultron’s[1] motivations are thumbnailed so quickly, so we can get on to the plot and character development that succeeds his existence.” Which was turned into a question by a person that I wouldn’t have expected to hear it from, about why nobody bothered to explain why Ultron is trying to <spoiler elided>.

And more things like that. Basically, it’s possible that even though I’m actively looking for details about these characters, my decade long immersion in the characters they’re based upon is giving me an unfair advantage over the uninitiated viewing audience. So, I cannot say if this movie is for you. (Well, I can, for three or four specific values of “you”, but mostly I cannot.) I can say that the director’s cut is probably a visibly better movie than this was, and that this movie, despite a couple of missteps, was still a really excellent chapter in what is probably the most ambitious long-form piece of storytelling Hollywood has ever attempted.

There are worse epitaphs.

[1] He’s the guy whose Age it is, right? Age of Ultron? Right? Also, while I’m here: Spader nailed that character. I’m not surprised, but I am pleased.

All-New Ultimates: No Gods, No Masters

51MeEMpGe1LBack when I ordered this book, and every time between then and when it arrived and I started reading it earlier this week, I thought the title was a reference to one of the first Ultimates books, Gods and Monsters, from nearly ten years ago now. But as of cracking the cover open, I have realized that the title of the book is actually No Gods, No Masters, which is a completely different title. Apparently it’s a reference to a political book about anarchism? I don’t see a particular parallel here, but maybe I would if I’d read the other book.

So, you know the street level gang war the teenaged Ultimates were fighting / trying to clean up last time? This is the conclusion to that storyline. Which means, yes more irrelevant third-or-lower tier “super” villains, yes more Roxxon intrigue. Also, some of the art was all scribbly and lame, but only some of it. Still, though, the character evolutions among some of our heroes has made the pair of books retroactively worth the price of admission after all.

Well, actually, that may not be true. Spoiler alert based on news reporting of happenings at Marvel. But, the thing is, most of these characters and in fact the Ultimate universe in general may be coming to an end when it collides somehow or other with the regular continuity. Can’t blame the current authors who have been pushing things forward that everything since Galactus has been basically a meaningless placeholder. But it’s damn disappointing nonetheless.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man – Revival

51sHdZFm72LAs of Revival, I’m current on the Ultimate universe again, at least as it is released in collected formats rather than monthly. I hate to go all mysterious, but I also hate spoilers, so my review will consist of a short, open letter to Ralph Macchio or Stan Lee or whoever is in charge these days, and if you choose to read very much between the lines at all, you’ll be able to tell what I’m talking about and have your review, and if not, you’ll avoid your spoilers. In any case, I hasten to assure you that Bendis is still writing this series, and he’s still doing a great job, and I’m still eager to know what happens next. (Seriously, seriously eager.)

Dear Stan Lee or Ralph Macchio or whoever is in charge of Marvel story development these days,

You guys. Seriously. I cannot really take this anymore. I was unhappy when I learned the news in the first place, skeptical for a good long time thereafter, and only fairly recently have I come to terms with what you did. It was a big, bold, ballsy move, and it has paid off in more ways than I would have guessed back when I first knew it was coming.

I can imagine myself coming to terms with this too, not least because it gives me back what I want. But it’s not fair to the new guy that has been developing so nicely, and it’s also maybe not fair to the creation you’ve all been developing for the past 15 years now. I’m just saying, be careful.

No, that’s not true. That’s the least part of what I’m saying. What I’m really saying is this: pick a side. Stop fucking with me. I want clear answers, and I want to feel reassured that they’re really the real answers, and I know goddamn well that’s a ridiculous thing to expect from the comics industry, particularly around this kind of story development. Nevertheless, I can’t really take it anymore, and there we are.

You should know, though, that (like I told my so-called audience a few paragraphs up before the letter started) I did like the book, and I do desperately want to know how things turn out. Just because I’m roller-coastered out doesn’t mean I don’t want more. Also, holy shit with how cool J. Jonah Jameson was. It’s been a while since my jaw dropped reading one of your books. (And almost always because of Bendis. Hold onto that kid, okay?)

Sincerely,
The guy that runs this blog

All-New Ultimates: Power for Power

51Cmme49xoLI have mixed emotions about the All-New Ultimates. For one thing, well, there just aren’t a ton of familiar characters left alive in the Ultimate universe, and most of the ones that are left moved on to the Future Foundation. It’s not that I don’t want to see Spidey and his Amazing Friends battle street crime, it’s that it seems silly to shoehorn them into the Ultimates, just so that team is still “alive”. Same plot, different title? I’d… well, I’d still have some complaints.

Because, all of that said: I’m not sure I saw the point of Spidey and his Amazing Friends the Ultimates taking on street level crime in the first place. I mean, okay, the gangs seem to have powers, at least a little? And there are leftover renegade scientists from the Oscorp and Roxxon days finding new ways to screw people up. So on paper (heh), it’s a reasonable conflict. But: the Serpent Squad? Really? Which is me complaining about how the villain side of the equation is just as depleted as the hero side. That’s a structural complaint, but I also have a related plot complaint, which is that it seems like I should have heard of any of these gangs before, if they’re supposed to be a big deal now.

But then, all of that is balanced by the team’s make-up. Spider Woman, newly christened as Black Widow, is the leader. Then there’s Spider-Man, Bombshell, Kitty Pryde, and Cloak and Dagger. You’ve heard of maybe half of those, which is why my point is not coming across, which is that the Ultimates is comprised of four ladies and two dudes, neither of whom are white. Get these people some actual villains and storylines, and I could find myself very excited by what Marvel is doing right now.

Also, just give Jessica Drew (that is, new Black Widow) her own title, already.

Ultimate FF: Strangest Ever

81hWGc63i3LThe newest wave of Ultimate books is finally here! Which is to say, they dropped within a week or so of the site coming back up, and despite there being three of them already, that’s just a timing issue and I’m not nearly as far behind as it sounds. Unlike if you were to be talking about Brust or Rothfuss or King or Butcher, to name a few twitches I’ve had lately.

Strangest Ever is certainly a book that lives up to its title. It’s not the Fantastic Four like you’d think (unless you’ve been following these plotlines, in which case you’d think that’s entirely ridiculous). Instead, it’s the Future Foundation, which is basically Tony Stark’s and Sue Storm’s brainchild to defend the planet against extra-dimensional incursions of the type that came so close to wiping out all life, a book or so ago. And that’s a good idea, as far as it goes. It’s just that it seemed to turn into an excuse to trot out every bizarre event that has ever happened in the Marvel multiverse. It turns out I have limits?

But that’s a matter of taste, which I accept. It’s not objective truth, like the fact that nobody wants to see a purple Iron Man. And it’s not something that clearly should be objective truth, like that nobody wants to see dead people come back. The whole Ultimate thing up until now has been so good about that, and okay, they had a really good excuse this time. They earn credit with me for not having used, much less overused, this excuse. But the reason why they have that credit is that they don’t do it. The whole thing makes me skeptical, is all I’m saying.

Anyway, my point is this: I look forward to seeing someone take the reins on the new era soon, and I especially thank my stars that Bendis has stuck around. Someone give him the reins, yo.

Guardians of the Galaxy

MV5BMjA3ODU4MDUyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTE2OTkzMTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_The crazy thing about how far behind my reviews have fallen isn’t that the backlog is huge, but that it’s so very, very small. There’s the movie I saw before this, which I have finally accepted won’t be served by a useless review and which will therefore have to wait until dollar theaters pick it up so I can purge expiate my sins, there’s this one, and there’s one book I finished almost at the same time. Nothing else.

I haven’t exactly been avoiding the theater? I have most definitely been avoiding books though. Which is to say, boy howdy have I read a ton of comics over the past month. None of that has anything to do with anything, except oh wait, it totally does, since I just remembered that the movie I am reviewing is Guardians of the Galaxy. If you were to guess I had seen that comic in the mid ’70s, the answer would be, sort of? I did, but just the premiere issue so far, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the characters that populate this movie. I did read a handful of issues of Adam Warlock which introduce Gamora, making her, so far as I can tell, the oldest of these characters in Marveldom. This is not only pretty cool, but it definitely puts a pleasantly ironic spin on a situation I read about a few weeks ago where someone was selling kidshirts of the characters and left her off because she wouldn’t appeal to boys enough. That’s already dumb on the face of it, obviously, but man oh man is it five times as dumb with the added knowledge about their collective history in comics.

None of which has anything to do with how good the movie is, I know, but… it’s been out more than a month. I kind of missed the boat on that one already, y’know? But let’s pretend I haven’t, and someone who can see this hasn’t actually seen the movie yet. It’s like this. A misfit kid with the soundtrack of the ’70s and ’80s as his sole possession in life winds up in space because that’s how comics work sometimes, only now he’s a cool thief[1]. Then he gets caught up in a galactic civil war[2] between the Kree and some other people who are not the Skrulls and who I would probably know more about if I had read comics from the ’80s, meets up with the daughter of the baddest dude in the galaxy[3], not to mention a psychotic raccoon, his pet tree who has a lot to say but only the raccoon can translate, and an angry tattooed giant out for revenge because the second baddest dude in the galaxy killed his entire family one time.[4] Then, they… well, the point is, literally any damn thing could happen, and if you aren’t desperate to know what, we are entirely different people, you and I.

[1] Not the Danny Ocean kind of thief, the Indiana Jones kind, if Indy had ever acknowledged that he’s totally a thief but for museums, which by the way is 100% what he is. I mean, it’s not his fault, it is colonialism’s fault, but think about it.
[2] It’s more complicated than that, but at some point I’m just writing a spoiler-filled summary of the movie instead of a review; plus also, if I break it down, the movie sounds less like Star Wars.
[3] Who we last saw financing the destruction of the earth for unknown reasons.
[4] “For you, the day Bison graced your village with his presence was the single most important moment of your life. For me, it was a Tuesday.” Oh Raul Julia, we miss you still.

Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand

511fl0IJPOLThis is, what, the fifth Ultimate universe crossover event? Well, probably more even than that, but it’s certainly the second really big one, after the Ultimatum, which is cool because now I can start marking time from this instead of that. Based on the cover of this and many past books, I think it’s fair to say that if the Ultimate universe can even survive[1], this is certainly an event which changes everything, an event after which nothing can be the same!

And, okay, it’s a fair statement to make, right? The last time nothing could ever be the same, something like a third of the major and minor heroes died because Magneto flooded Manhattan and froze Europe solid. That’s some pretty hardcore destruction, and it certainly went after the highest density of heroes, with predictable and already-mentioned results.[2] If that sounds hardcore, then you can only agree that a confrontation with the literal purple-hatted Devourer of Worlds would be rather more Cataclysmic, right?

So, yep. Dire odds, check. Requirement for every single superhero to band together against total destruction, check. Desperate gambles, heroic sacrifices, senseless tragedies? Check, check, check. And of course, for anyone who’s been paying attention the last couple of years, we all know there’s only one person who can defeat Galactus, right? That’s some added conflict right there.

Like you’d expect, Bendis’ stories have the biggest emotional punch, but there’s really not a single bad moment anywhere in this event, which is far more than I can say for the muddled, incoherent mess that the Ultimatum storyline became. Let me say it like this: at the end of a story that featured significant amounts of Rick Jones, I do not currently despise Rick Jones. That? Is impressive storytelling.

And, y’know, it was valid claim after all. Nothing will ever be the same.

Probably.

[1] Spoiler alert: probably it can?
[2] Although, who could have predicted that the single largest impactful moment would have been the meeting between Ben Grimm and Victor Von Doom in the epilogue? Honestly, it’s still not clear to me whether even the authors are aware of just how instrumental that was to subsequent events.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

rs_634x939-140324091106-634.jennifer-lawrence-x-men.ls.32414Hard to believe, yet true: over the past fourteen years, there have been seven X-Men movies, all in the same continuity, and all including Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. 20th Century Fox is doing nearly as good of a job as Marvel Studios. That’s really pretty impressive, all in all. (I mean, okay, the actual movies have not been as consistently good, but it’s nearly impossible to credit how much better special effects have gotten in the not quite a generation between then and now.[1])

All of which brings me to the seventh such movie, Days of Future Past, which is named after what I understand will eventually be a really important storyline that I’m still probably more than a decade from reading. That said, I’m not so sure it’s very similar to that storyline? It is, however, extremely cool and handles time travel pretty well, both philosophically and structurally. I don’t want to say much about it, because of spoilers, but the title already gave away time travel and the end of The Wolverine already gave away the Sentinels; so I will only add that I thought the Sentinels were handled at least as well as the time travel was, and probably quite a bit better.

What was handled best of all, though, were the characters. The movie is, more than anything, a sequel to First Class, which was already heavily character driven. All of the dangling conflicts are brought to fruition in satisfying ways, and what more can you really ask? Well, that the characters also be fully realized, but I think they are. (Speaking of which, the scene with “Peter” in the Pentagon? Definitely the best characterization of him I have ever seen, and all without a word of dialogue. Bravo!)

[1] That makes it sound like I’m saying the special effects are the only flaws in early or for that matter middle X-Men movies. I’m not saying that, but having watched the first one a week or so ago, special effects are what stuck out to me as the second biggest flaw, just barely ahead of pacing[2] and way behind upscaled 480p, which it turns out is eye-hurtingly unwatchable in modernity. At least, it is if there are any special effects happening.
[2] Because, seriously, half that film was spent on Liberty Island! Climactic battles should not feel draggy. And don’t even get me started on treating Rogue as a major character in one half of the flick only to leave her as a damsel in distress for the other half. That she was rescued by a mixed team instead of a big strong man helps a bit, but not really enough.[3]
[3] Talk about being in the wrong review, right?