Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wizard World Kick-Off Thoughts

Earlier tonight I attended the Wizard World Kickoff party. It took place the "Hard Rock Cafe" at Union Station and was quite fun! It was not just for press, with a bunch of people having bought tickets to see a Q&A with Christian Kane as well as an acoustic set performed by him and a member of his band.
Kane preparing for his set he did later in the night.
Both a musician and actor, Kane has most recently been getting popular for the television show, "The Librarians," which I have not seen, but based on how many excited fans he had (they call themselves Kaniacs) I assume it is a fun program.

Rob on the left, Victor on the right.
Also in attendance was Victor Dandridge of small-press publisher Vantage: Inhouse Productions as well as Rob Schamberger, an artist known for his paintings that relate to the WWE. Both were very nice and fun to chat with. I also saw popular tattoo artist Chris 51 at the party, but was unable to find a chance to chat with him.

I spoke with some of the members of the Gateway Superfriends, a popular cosplay community that started in Saint Louis during 2012.
The Gateway Ghostbusters were there too!

All-in-all it was a fun event and has me very excited for the fun I'll have at Wizard World Saint Louis tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Television Tuesday--Saturday Night Live at 40.

The Big Four-Zero
Saturday Night Live just finished its 40th year/season. It was a decent one, but as anyone would say, not as good as it used to be--with everyone's "Used to be," meaning anything from the 1970's to the early 2000's depending on when you most enjoyed the show. The problem with SNL is it arguably was never as good as we remember, existing as an impossible memory of our childhood and teenage years, when watching the show seemed naughty, because they swore and made sex jokes. The thing is, our childhood was never as great as we recall, and everyone thinks of different eras of SNL being the "true" good years....besides the abomination that existed when boss-of-the-show Lorne Michaels left temporarily in the 1980's, but we don't talk about that. However, despite so much of SNL being subjective, I think it can actually be said, and be argued to be factual, these more recent seasons ain't been that great.

Tough Love
I love this guy, but he isn't exactly an edgy character.
I'm going to give SNL some tough love. I really do adore the program, and religiously tune-in live or if I miss it for some obligation watch my DVR as soon as the next day. That said, SNL has been kind of milquetoast lately. Bland. Passable. Whatever synonym you have for, "Mild," when meant as a criticism. SNL might never have been pure fiery jokes, or edgy satire, but it seems in election years the show does occasionally make a sharp statement, but less-and-less often now that programs such as "The Daily Show," put what used to be the stand-out segment--weekend update--to shame. SNL has become a show that rarely, "Goes there," and challenges the viewer. The strongest emotion it usually brings out is, "Oh, that's kind of funny." That makes those rare moments the show actually goes for the jugular all the more refreshing. The thing is, those moments happening seems to often ride on there being a good host.

The Importance of Being Earnest...When Hosting
SNL had a Godsend in the form of Sarah Palin and Tin Fey's eerily spot-on impression. We still talk about it today because of how stellar it was. A strong cast is a key part of the show, as she, Kristen Wiig, Darrell Hammond, Will Ferrel, etc. prove. What the show often rises and falls by however is the individual (sometimes individuals) whom is hosting. A sports athlete will usually mean a drag of an episode (with a few key exceptions such as Charles Barkley, whose willingness to mock himself has resulted in some strong showings), but a talented actor can provide some good times. We are all royally sick of the musical monologue however (Note: Actual musicians who host get a pass if they sing in their monologue), but besides it there are only two other go-to ways to handle that part of the show. Namely, you can have the "audience" ask the host questions, or on those magical times you get someone who can do stand-up, we get a short routine. That led to something amazing in the season finale of SNL's 40th year on Saturday--namely, it actually "Went there" and proved it can be relevant.

Louis C.K. has now hosted three times in three seasons. He may struggle in some of the sillier sketches but his monologues--of course delivered as stand-up routines--are among some of the best on the show, with only other stand-up talents being as impressive (Chris Rock's recent hosting gig where he riffed about the new "Freedom Tower" was superbly done). In Louis' monologue on Saturday he started off in a relatively tame manner, discussing how he could be, "Mildly racist," but then eventually moved into the territory of talking about child predators. He discussed how the fact they could face such severe consequences but still do it must mean it is really enjoyable to them, and he cannot fathom ever loving something so much as they love molestation. It was admittedly crass and inappropriate, it caused controversy, and it was more amusing for shock value than content, but damn am I glad SNL let him do it for no other reason than for a brief moment this season the show, as I've said I want to see it do, "Went there." It did what entertainment is sometimes supposed to do to us--make us uncomfortable, make us a little angry, and get us thinking. It helped SNL stop being toothless for a moment, and give us a bit of bite. The only other time I felt that nibble was maybe during the big special that happened this year, where when some of the older cast appeared along with past hosts we got some pointed joke (I loved the slam against Fox news for being a network of pretty blondes, "Reading the fake news," that hit hard).

I Want to Feel!
An SNL character that has actually told some shocking jokes.
Remember his riff on Woody Allen?
SNL coasts along too often with jokes that are a bit funny, but don't challenge the audience. Those rare occasions when the studio gasps are like mana-from-heaven to me, someone who likes their humor a little sharp humor now and then. Some of my favorite skits are by no means topical or full of satire (Dick in a Box makes me laugh hysterically to this day), but getting some of that in the show is always appreciated. I just want to feel something, be it shock that they actually made a controversial statement, or even some anger if they do something I disagree with. Still, perhaps taking things steady has helped SNL last as long as it has. Through being a little agreeable and not always rocking-the-boat SNL has survived 40 years, that's an amazing feat in the arena of television. I suppose the issue isn't how SNL has been, but what it will be. After this somewhat-shaky season I imagine a chunk of the current cast will be let go, and a sizable assortment of new talent will pop-up too. Depending on how we all feel at the end of the 41st season, perhaps I'll be writing about an SNL renaissance, the worst season ever (again, those 1980's ones don't count), or something enjoyable but unremarkable, kind of like what we just got for the 40th year.
3 out of 5 stars for the overall season, including the special.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Some Links for the Weekend!

Lets enjoy some links
There are always interesting things occurring, how about we highlight some?

Let's Start Learning!

Archie Comics announced they were doing a Kickstarter. Then it was cancelled. There have been a mixture of reactions to all of this, but this one from a retailer before the cancellation is extremely well thought-out and makes some solid points, some of which stand to reason why the Kickstarter may very well have been stopped.

The first official photo of the entire cast (besides Jared Leto as the Joker) of the Suicide Squad came out, it looks like it has the possibility of being fun. I mean, the man who created Harley Quinn thinks it all looks good, so at least creators aren't mad yet.

Speaking of Suicide Squad, the Joker has always been contextualized in a variety of ways, but is exploring the idea of him being a sexual predator--straight, gay, or transgender--a step too far?

I first read about a card game called Funemployed in this article, and seeing that it has come out makes me excited. Then I get sad because it seems to not be easily purchasable right now.

There are currently rumors how Ava Duvernay is being courted by Marvel to make a movie in their Universe. This might make for a wonderful movie if it occurs, but Marvel possibly needs to do certain things to ensure a good project.

We often see cities portrayed certain ways in movies, the thing is those versions of a city do not exist. At least, as this fascinating piece discusses, they don't anymore.
It is interesting to think back to the days of, "Avon calling!" and how the company is doing so poorly now. Possibly the end of another era, going the way of such once-huge businesses like Gimbels, Blockbuster, Kirby vaccums etc. Wait, Kirby still exists despite many known problems? Weird.

Kotaku has updated their list of the, "12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now." I may not agree with the entire list, but it definitely has some stellar titles discussed.

While I'm linking to Kotaku, their list of 7 games we actually saw in action but which never came out is a fascinating trip down memory lane...of games we never actually got to form memories with.

You will be missed, B.B. King. We will always have the memory of all your fantastic works, solo or collaborative.

I've wanted to play "Divinity: Original Sin" but lack a particularly strong computer, with it barely running "Wasteland 2". Therefore, hearing the news about an "Enhanced Edition" that adds lots of new features and which will be coming to consoles got me really excited! Plus, the fact that this will be free to everyone who already owns the game is especially cool of the company. Fun fact, "Wasteland 2" is doing something kind of similar but not as big too, actually.

Lastly, a lot of people are saying how Image is the new Vertigo. Some of their titles lately really make that seem even more truthful.

Wizard World Saint Louis 2015 is in One Week!

Good times shall be had.
I've talked in-depth about Wizard World's comic and popular-culture conventions, as well Project Comic-Con. Well, I am getting quite excited because a week from today will be the first of three days that Wizard World Saint Louis is occurring (see the site here)!
The cons can get pretty busy!
I will of course be there as press doing my duty as a comic and pop-culture fan to find neat stuff and tell you all about it. I'm quite eager for next Friday to arrive, but in the meantime we can give my convention etiquette guide another once-over and begin planning-out which panels look the most appealing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Reviews of Two Humorous Oni Press Titles Out Today AKA "Rick and Morty" and "The Auteur" are Fun!

Because Sometimes You Just Want Your "Funnybooks" To Actually Be Funny
Comics are not necessarily comical in the sense of having humor. While the comic-strips in your newspaper (should your paper still have them) can be thought of as telling jokes, comic-books are not "funny". I mean, yes the Archie digests can muster a chuckle or two, but a DC or Marvel titles are more likely to be violently murdering fan-favorite heroes or vaporizing children these days--which is perfectly fine if that is the kind of story you want ,but sometimes a reader might just want to laugh.

The grim and dreary nature of many comics presently makes it all the more interesting and exciting when something that makes you guffaw out loud is released. Therefore, the fact that Oni Press has two humor-focused titles coming out this week--and that both books are pretty enjoyable--is something worth writing about.

The Titles
Rick and Morty #2
I've talked about my immense fondness for the "'Rick and Morty" television show before, and keeping in mind how much I love watching that program it is understandable I had some concerns about the comic. I mean, even the way the characters' talk is unique, with the stops, stutters, and random burps. Thankfully, the comic nails all the details down from writing the dialogue the way it would be said to the weird asterisk-eyes everyone has. The fact this isn't some slap-dash project but something clearly done with care just like the show gives the proceedings a sensation of a lot like watching Rick and Morty have adventures on T.V.

The problem is, while the show can follow its own pacing, going slow at some points and fast at others within each episode, an individual comic issue can suffer from uneven pacing, with this 2nd issue being proof of that. So much happened in the 1st issue of the "Rick and Morty" comic, but then in this 2nd things seem to just slow quite a bit, with some setup of Jerry potentially facing a scary monster soon, and Rick and Morty being stuck in prison, but little else (besides a fun side-story starring Summer). However, the biggest and most important question could arguably be if this comic is in fact funny. Happily, it is.

Rick and Morty is a outlandish T.V. show an full of great gags. I'm happy to report that the comic continues that trend, with plenty of fast one-off jokes, running gags, and the occasional joke that you really have to think about for a second before laughing when you realize the punch-line. Anyone who has seen the show knows half the fun is in watching Rick and Morty play-off one another's personality in hilarious ways, and it is great to see that translate to print just as well as on-screen. Really, it all works, whether it's Jerry being his usual whiny self, or Beth being annoyed. The humor being present in the comic is key, and helps to make-up for the sometimes questionable pacing.

The 2nd issue of "Rick and Morty" may have some uneven pacing, but with the stupendous art and humor it serves as a solid read for anyone who is a big fan of the animated version.
4 out of 5 stars.

The Auteur: Sister Bambi #1
This is a sort-of sequel to the first "The Auteur" mini-series (subtitled "President's Day"), but in some ways it is just a direct continuation of the story (with the inside even saying this is chapter six in the character's saga). Should you not be familiar with some of the characters you might be a little confused, but Rick Spears writes such a good comic, with James Callahan providing stellar art, that you can't get too upset. Even if you're a bit thrown-off by not knowing who this protagonist named Nathan T. Rex is, you'll love this book, and get a pretty good grasp on the kind of fellow he happens to be quite quick. That is to say, Rex is a horrible, horrible human being.

"The Auteur" is gross, excessive, rude, and a delight. One complaint is that I find the last mini reads better as one dose of madness ingested in a single session, and I feel like that will be the case with this new mini-series too, with it only seeming to really get started at the conclusion of the first issue. For now I have to make due with a small serving of insanity, feeling like just as the book kicks into gear I have to wait another month for more.
This issue involves Rex attempting to acquire independent financing for his next film idea due to his previous production having been a massive flop. In his quest to get a movie made he seems to be pitching-to and making deals with Nazi clones--with Rex being more concerned about having his "vision" messed with than the moral qualm of how he is cutting a deal with Nazis. A bunch of heavily-armed Jewish folk attack the Nazi base however, but it seems Rex's idea for a women-in-prison film may still possibly occur after all, making me wonder what silly things we will see in the next issue.

As you can clearly see from my description, this is a wildly absurd book. The art of Callahan helps to impart how crazy everything is, with an appearance that is best described as disgustingly detailed. I use that wording because Callahan provides art that is incredible in how hideous it looks. Be it Rex sweating in the desert, a Nazi meeting a bloody end, or even the quieter moments, all the artwork has an appearance that would be gorgeous if it weren't so ugly.
"The Auteur: Sister Bambi" turns in a first issue that is great, but leaves me wanting a lot more--clearly Spear's intention. Still, I just feel that right as the book is getting started this first issue ends, which makes me a bit annoyed.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Closing Thoughts
Oni started out a smaller publisher that maybe wasn't too known except for some solid titles. Lately they have been growing in size and popularity quite significantly, and by putting out titles that are either original creative joys (The Auteur) or solid tie-ins with other media (Rick and Morty) I imagine Oni will only continue to catch more eyes of comic readers. I myself am just pleased there are some comics that make me laugh instead of sad for those times I want my mood raised instead of demolished into misery.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Oh, What a Difference a Writer Makes AKA The Immense Disappointment of "Moon Knight" #13 & #14

From Hopeful to Saddened
Cullen Bunn is an interesting writer. He has created stuff I've greatly enjoyed, such as his earlier issues on the current run of "Magneto", and he has made work that I found to be utter tripe--see "Fearless Defenders". Therefore, when it was announced he would writing "Moon Knight" for six issues, following up the amazing Warren Ellis run, and solid Brian Wood submission, I was hopeful that I'd get to read the good Bunn, not the terrible one. After having read issues thirteen and fourteen my hope has turned into a deep sadness, because this is just awful.
With these first two issues of Bunn's Moon Knight it appears he is going for what Ellis did, with each issue being its own little story. That is a mistake, however, because it makes the quality-gap between what Bunn and Ellis have created all the more apparent. Bunn's 13th issue where Moon Knight helps free some ghosts is somewhat-passable in terms of plot (mercenaries trap ghosts to sell to people who collect weird-stuff), but the way he writes our hero's way of talking makes him come-off more like a Batman knock-off than the deranged avatar of Khonsu we know and love. Marc Spector just seems "off" the way Bunn writes him, unsure whether he wants to be brutal and tough or make little jokes. This gets even worse in issue #14 which other than a fun reference to Moon Knight's first appearance fighting "Werewolf by Night"  is miserable. We get a story where he discovers a man who owns a junkyard has been training dogs to attack and kill rich people. Yes, really.
The one part of issue #14 I liked. That's it.
The most depressing thing about this is the previous twelve issues of "Moon Knight" prove he can be written well, and Bunn even shows hints of quality, such as in the clever way the opening of each issue shows brief flashes of images that will be important throughout the story. It is so incredibly discouraging to think we are stuck with four more issues of this, and unless Bunn somehow turns thing around rapidly this is going to be amongst the worst Moon Knight-stuff I've seen--and that's coming form someone who remembers when Moon Knight fought Mexican Lucha Wrestlers. At least the covers by Declan Shalvey are still incredible to look at, and hint at a good story we can imagine in our heads.
1 out of 5 stars (for both issues #13 and #14).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Rant Reviews--Drugs, Viruses,Jokers, and Squirrel Girls

A Holiday For Mom, A Bunch of Comics For Me
It's Mother's Day! What better way to spend the holiday than by reading some comics and discussing them? To tie-in with the holiday I'll have my usual stars I reward a comic, but then add a thought on what kind of mom would enjoy such a comic!

Good Reading
Miami Vice: Remix #2
Joe Casey is a stellar writer and makes stuff I often love, but the real draw for this comic being published in a partnership between IDW and Lion Forge Comics is the incredible art of Jim Mahfood. Thanks to Mahfood's artwork Miami Vice is looking even more like a neon-drenched acid-trip than it ever has. Plus, tying-into that whole media-sensation of "Bath Salts" and how it made some people attack others, we get to see voodoo-zombies tripping on "Miami Bath Salts" and attacking our famous heroes, Crockett and Tubbs. It's all very silly, but self-aware enough to know you're reading for a good time, not a serious exploration of the morality of police-work and undercover life. Thanks to Casey turning in a wild script and Mahfood providing pitch-perfect art, a solidly entertaining time will be had by anyone who reads this comic.
4 out of 5 stars.
Give this comic to your mom if--She still fondly talks about watching "Miami Vice" back when it was the hottest thing on T.V.

Zero #16 and Dead Drop #1
Both of these comics are written by Ales Kot, a writer I have been excitedly following the works of ("Zero" was in fact one of my favorite comics of 2014). I'm noticing certain themes popping-up in his books that make it interesting how even if the things he writes are in different comic-universes certain concepts keep popping-up that make it apparent Kot has a bit of a thematic-link between titles. Whether it is how "Zero" makes mention of mental holograms (a concept discussed in Kot's comic, "The Surface," or how issues of "Zero" have focused on a mushroom spore that spreads in a viral way whilst meanwhile the first issue of "Dead Drop" touches upon a viral entity with a consciousness that terrorist-styled anarchists want to use, Kot is making different comics, but in some ways is creating his own multi-line singular piece of work with ruminations on the mind along with literal and figurative viruses. It helps that each of his works are all very strong, thanks to his unique writing-voice and the solid art turned-in by his contributors.

Upon my hearing that "Zero" was ending with its 18th issue I felt sad, but as this 16th issue makes clear, Kot is clearly building up to something epic, with what started as a simple future-spy story morphing into a treatsie on how we perceive reality, the meaning of life, and lots of really gross mushrooms. Meanwhile it appears that "Dead Drop" will incorporate various characters of the Valiant comic-universe in fun ways, as everyone heroic in that world works to keep the utter destruction of Earth from happening. It sounds dreary, but "Dead Drop" is actually written with a fun and humorous tone that makes all talk about how "This virus will destroy our planet!"not as dramatic and upsetting as things would seem. With both comics we have something good--an intriguing nearing of the end with one, and a solid start with the other. Kot is definitely a writer to keep watching, as his output should only grow more and more interesting.
Zero #16: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Dead Drop #1: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Give these comics to your mom If--She likes deep explorations of what it means to be human ("Zero), or just enjoys a good chase-scene ("Dead Drop").

Batman #40
Well, here we are. Another issue of Batman, another "Final fight," against his greatest foe, the Joker, followed by another apparent death. I don't know, perhaps I'm a little cranky because I felt Morrison did it better with his run of Batman where he killed Bruce Wayne and then brought him back, and that was so recent. It just feels like this is recently-trodden territory with the only big shocking change being that apparently Jim Gordon is going to be the new Batman as DC's latest releases have made clear. Still, Snyder gives us a passably mediocre conclusion, Greg Capullo provides stellar art, and now we get to the play the betting-game of wagering how long it will be until Bruce Wayne returns to reclaim the mantle of Batman. I guess I just expected more than another apparent death of our hero and potential death of his villain. Sigh.
2.5 out of 5 stars (I would rate it lower, but Capullo really is a great artist).
Give this comic to your mom if--You want to show her an example of how comics are always killing off characters only to have them inevitably return some years (or even months) later.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5
Just when I start to think "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" can't get even more fun, it goes and does. This issue primarily involves our heroine's college roommate stuck in the head of the Statue of Liberty with a bunch of other hostages while they tell stories about her that seem quite similar to other heroic-yarns. Whether riffing on the Spider-Man of the 1990's and his clone wars, giving a shout-out to "The Dark Knight Returns," or touching upon the 2099 comic-Universe, each story is incredibly funny to witness, as it becomes more and more apparent that the people being held hostage either are making things up about Squirrel Girl, or just have a horrible memory in regards to their heroes. It is just super-awesome fun.
5 out of 5 stars.
Give this comic to your mom if--She has expressed interest in super-hero titles, but wants something more fun than grim.

Thanks to all the Moms!
That's my special Mother's Day-edition of my Rant-Reviews. I hope everyone has a great rest of their day!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Film Friday: It's Been a Week Since "Age of Ultron" Came Out so I'm Gonna Share my Spoiler-Filled Thoughts/Review

We've All Seen it, Right?
So, "Avengers: Age of Ultron" came out a week ago in the U.S. (technically eight days ago if you count the Thursday evening-showings). I've seen it, and would say I greatly enjoyed the flick, even if it is not necessarily as good as the 1st "Avengers" or "Captain America: The Winter Soldier". Considering how the newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe basically made a big ol' bunch of money I am going to assume you have either already seen "Age of Ultron", or don't mind being spoiled if you're reading this. Should you have missed the title however, I'm going to spoil basically everything as I share my thoughts...

My Scattered Thoughts
Somewhat Mixed Reviews On Deck!
Whereas the first "Avengers" movie had absurdly-high expectations and actually delivered on them quite handily, this newest yarn seems to have reviewers a bit split. People love the special effects and quiet character moments, but some complain of it feeling bloated at its 2 and 1/2 hour running time, or worry about a sensation of character-overload from all the heroes and villains who appear (the Baron got very little screen time despite having a solid actor in the form of Ralph Fiennes). I myself do agree that toward the end when literally everything was happening at once it could be a bit chaotic, with me wondering, "Wait, Thor and Ultron have been fighting the whole time while everyone else did their thing?" but I still thought it was good to get some fresh faces thrown onto the screen. Some of the original cast won't be around forever, so having someone young who can play Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) for the next couple of decades is a good plan considering folk such as Chris Evans have made it clear they don't want to still be playing super-heroes when they're eligible for Medicare.

Relatively Stand-Alone
Even though to completely appreciate the Marvel Cinematic Universe you need to see all the films (well, maybe not "Incredible Hulk) this actually stands pretty well on its own as long as you've seen the first "Avengers" movie--and it's helpful to have seen "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" so you know why S.H.I.E.L.D. is no more and who Anthony Mackie's character is that hangs out with the Avengers (along with how that, "Missing person," he references is of course Bucky). That said, various characters get a mention here-or-there and maybe appear briefly (Idris Elba is always a treat to see), but you can basically watch this without having to know a ton about the movies. Even the brief mention of the Infinity Gems/Stones isn't too confusing, but does help to tie-in the otherwise yet-to-be-directly-important "Guardians of the Galaxy" to the other Marvel flicks.

A Delightfully Evil Ultron
We have all made fun of Marvel for not having any good villains besides Loki. Their bad-guys seem to either die too fast (Red Skull) or be completely forgettable (that Elf-guy in Thor, the Kree in "Guardians of the Galaxy" who has a name I can't even remember now even though he's important in the comics). This trend is thankfully stopped or at least interrupted by Ultron. Voiced deliciously by James Spader, Ultron has a seething hatred for humanity you can hear through his quips and comments. Even though he seems to be dead and gone at the end of the movie, it wouldn't surprise me if he pops back-up.

Justice Was Done For/To Hawkeye
A lot of "Age of Ultron" seemed to basically be a big apology to fans of Hawkeye who were still upset about his treatment in the first movie. We see a lot of the hero's personal life with his wife and kids, have it pointed out how even though he simply is a guy with a bow and arrow this normal humanity is what actually makes him an important member of the team, and basically Marvel says, "We're sorry, please quit sending us hate mail, Hawkeye lovers. All four of you. Sorry, we just did it again, we can't help ourselves." It is also interesting how the movie really built things up to make it seem like Hawkeye was going to die, when in fact...

The Quicksilver and The Dead (Yes, That's an Awful Pun)
Not to be confused with the version in the "X-Men" movies...
As he says after getting shot full of bullets, "Bet you didn't see that coming." Yes, Quicksilver dies and even though there may be alternate footage where he survives, as far as the official Marvel Cinematic Universe goes he is no more for this world. While we have seemingly seen people die in the Marvel movies only to have it revealed they are alive and well, I actually could see this sticking, maybe. I'm honestly just glad Marvel introduced another female Avenger in the form of Quicksilver's sister, Scarlet Witch, considering how besides Black Widow there ain't much gender diversity on the team. I just was surprised Marvel had the gall to kill someone off considering how any of these characters are walking piggy-banks of merchandising. Then again, with Spider-Man appearing in a Marvel-movie before too long there should be plenty of money falling from the heavens shortly.

What Superman Couldn't Do
I have seen multiple articles (here's one, and here's another!) that point out how throughout the movie we witness the Avengers doing something Superman didn't do in "Man of Steel." Namely, they care about innocent lives and take great pains to make sure civilians are clear of conflict--expressing great concern at times regular folk find themselves in harm's way. Even a major plot element is how the team tries to evacuate the chunk of land Ultron wants to use as a weapon (this effort to save everyone of course leads to Quicksilver's aforementioned tragic death). In "Man of Steel" We see Metropolis be utterly decimated and its made clear a whole bunch of people die. It seems this may be an important plot-point of "Batman VS Superman", with the former using the destruction as an excuse to be mad at the latter, but it is kind of interesting to think that the traditional beacon of hope and all that is good (Superman) actually seems less concerned with human life than the Hulk (well besides in the mind-control scene where the Hulk freaks-out).

The Vision Was Cool
That really is all I have to say about Paul Bettany as the Vision. It was pretty neat. I loved when he just casually grabbed the hammer. That probably was when the theater I was in laughed the loudest with surprise.

Concluding Thoughts
" liked it?"
I really enjoyed "Avengers: Age of Ultron." It may not be the best of the Marvel films, but is definitely in my own, "Top 5," of all the films. It has action, humor, quiet moments to compliment the many loud ones, and is otherwise a great time. Plus, most important of all (to Disney/Marvel, at least) it gets me excited for the future movies.
5 out of 5 stars.

...Ronan, the Kree's name was Ronan! I knew I'd remember it eventually!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Superior Iron Man" Is Fascinating--A Mini-Run Review of issues #1-8

Iron Man, Minus the Moral-Compass
"The Superior Iron Man" is a series written by Tom Taylor that has had a variety of artists contributing a solid look. It is a fascinating comic (that admittedly started slowly but now is firing on all cylinders) in that it takes Tony Stark and essentially amps-up his less desirable attributes to absurd levels. He's still a genius, but now he's self-absorbed, thinks he's better than everyone, and still wants to save the world, but has methods for doing so that are dangerous at best and evil at worst. Basically--as the letters section mentions in the seventh issue--taking the swagger Robert Downey Jr. brings to the role, but leaving out the personality element of actually caring about people. So yeah, Iron Man, minus the moral compass. It makes for a Tony Stark who truly does think he is superior.

How did we get to this new, more self-absorbed Iron Man? Well, the series has made allusions in the earlier issues to the fact that Tony Stark had his personality warped (readers may recall the mostly unremarkable "Axis" event that made heroes kind-of evil and villains sorta good) and it has stayed that way even if most other folk reverted back to their original personality. Thankfully, one does not need to have read that event to follow-along with this series.
This Stark is not one we empathize with, it is one who disgusts us but at the end of the day we kind of envy. Yes, he's a jerk. Yes, he's rude and believes he's smarter than everyone else. Oh, and yes, his "Ends justify the means" way of thinking is arguably dangerous, but man if this Tony Stark isn't a hoot to watch with his wild actions and even sharper-than-usual wit.

The series opened with Stark relocating to San Francisco and debuting a new "App" that allows anyone who uses it to have their genes essentially altered by Extremis to have great health and look gorgeous. The problem is this app costs a lost of money, and has led to an uptick in crime.

 From this problem we saw Daredevil/Matt Murdock enter the scene, be teased with getting his vision back, and then the arc ending with Tony wiping his friends mind of a shocking discovery about the app (it doesn't really do anything, Tony put Extremis in the water supply). This sounds harsh, but Stark could have let Matt fall to his death at one point and that twinge of humanity maybe left in Stark resulted in him saving his friend's life.

It is actually those little hints that Stark isn't all bad that keeps him from appearing to be a villain, even if he is clearly not a hero.

Not Quite a Villain. Definitely Not a Hero.
Early on in the series we are introduced to "Teen Abomination," a young monster-boy named Jamie who keeps trying to attack Stark until Tony finds out he is just 13 and has a recently deceased Mother. Tony says he'll help Jamie but later fully admits he was thinking of just taking advantage of Jamie's condition and how to make money off of it. That was his plan at least until he discovered the boy's birth-father happens to be none other than Stark's close friend Happy Hogan, who died not too long ago. With this Stark says he actually will help Jamie, as that friend was one of the few people he maybe truly cared about. Again, not a hero, but not exactly a villain.

Things get even more interesting in the most recent issues, where it is revealed how Tony's on-again off-again girlfriend Pepper Potts has been working with a computer back-up of his mind in an effort to possibly "fix" him. The thing is, even this mental back-up of Tony poses a danger to society, and with the end of issue #8 it appears the real Tony is going to take some extreme measures to make sure any plans he has to improve the world are not disrupted.
This involves Stark appearing to use mind control on a local partying-populace so as to fight against robo-Tony. Okay, that is actually pretty villain-like, but it still makes for good reading regardless.

Do We Love the Bad Guy?
Thinking about how much I've enjoyed "The Superior Iron Man" got me thinking about the last time I really enjoyed a Marvel comic that focused on a less-than-nice main character. That was when Rob Williams expertly wrote about Wolverine's son, Daken, up until killing him off in the series finale...well, seeming to kill him off as then the character popped-up in other comics only to eventually die--and now apparently be alive again or something? I don't know, I just like to pretend Marvel left Daken alone after Williams.

Anyways, even though they behave like horrible people, I find myself fascinated by these "heroes" who are mean people, but know it too. It just seems that seeing a "hero" behave in ways that are un-hero-like may not be new, but them feeling little remorse about it is something seen much less often. Plus, those small hints of Tony still being a nice human (saving Matt's life even if he mind-wiped him, helping Jamie/Teen Abomination as a tribute to Happy) keep him from being completely horrendous.
Tony Stark wants to save the world, but to make sure nobody can stop him hopes to buy a media empire. That's pretty wild and shows how there are anti-heroes who are all conflicted about what they do, but when you get someone borderline-evil like Daken or this Superior Iron Man who don't care they're bad people, well that is just intriguing. Stark knows people will be mad at him, and he doesn't care as long as he can control the media to keep them quiet. That's a bad-guy move, but also pretty ingenious and fun to read about.

This all begins to raise the question of if some of the, "Ends-justify-the-means," heroes we worship such as Batman are really that far removed from these so-called heroes who also go about things in questionable ways, but instead of feeling all dramatic about it just shrug their actions off and go have a drink (the newly Superior Tony Stark definitely has broken his sobriety).
The current Superior Iron Man is not the Iron Man people know and love, and even though I find him really interesting the world may not be long for this Tony Stark considering how Marvel is looking to really shake things up with their "Secret Wars" event. Still, I really have enjoyed this series about a less-caring Tony Stark, and when it ends relatively soon will look back upon it with fond memories.
4.5 out of 5 stars. (for the overall eight issues).

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Interview Time: The "Dash" Creative Team

I often have discussed the comic "Dash" and how I greatly enjoy it. Published by Northwest Press, it is a stellar read. That made it even better that writer Dave Ebersole and artist Delia Gable were eager to speak with me for an interview. Conducted via Skype, I have the video embedded below. I hope you enjoy listening!

Here is the website and tweet addresses mentioned:

Team Dash Website

Dave Ebersole's Twitter

Delia Gable's Twitter

Thanks again to Dave and Delia!