Marvel and the Never Ending Civil War

9 May

If you listen to the entertainment media, it is not a good time to be a DC fanboy, and I have been one my entire life.  For some reason, Batman v Superman was torn apart in the media and people act like it was a complete bomb, in spite of making $850 million.  And people have been complaining that DC has been completely invested in maiming characters and trying to make their comics as dark as possible.  At the same time, we are assured that Marvel Comics is experiencing a golden age, in both print and at the movies.  Civil War just opened and automatically we are told that it was one of the best comic book movies ever (Newsarama’s updated list places it in the top 10) and comic book creators are leaping over each other to heap praise upon it.  I would argue, however, it is more of a sign that the “House of Ideas” is completely out of ideas.  Basically, for the last ten years, Marvel has one story: hero versus hero.  There really is no need for the company to have villains as the heroes are having way too much fun smashing and clobberin’ each other to need anyone else to punch.  Don’t believe me, true believer?

Ten years, Marvel launched the comic event known as Civil War (you might have heard there is a movie based on?).  In it, Captain America and Iron Man, two of the Avengers’ Big Three, had a falling out and they convinced all of Marvel’s heroes to kick, stab, and eye blast all of the other heroes.

A few months later, World War Hulk happened.  Hulk, Marvel’s perennial grouch, decided the heroes wanted to kill him, even though he was a rare hero NO ONE tried to kill during Civil War.  So he returns to Earth, after an absence, and declares war on the world (hence the title).  The story goes so far as to have him capture four of Marvel’s most important characters, lock them in a gladiator pit, and demand they fight to the death…….almost.

A few months later, the X-men get in on the action of hero versus hero.  Famous 80s and 90s hero Bishop turns rogue (not Rogue, as she is a female X-man) on his team and tries to kill a baby.  Hopefully they took his hero card for that one.

Then we got Secret Invasion.  Please note, all four of these stories happened in a span of two years.  Now, in theory, Secret Invasion has a bad guy: the Skrulls!  Shape-shifting aliens bent on global conquest.  Definitely NOT a story where you have heroes fighting heroes.  Except for the fact that shape-shifting villains were disguised as the heroes, so fans could still see their favorite heroes punching and kicking and eye-gouging each other every month of this story.  And when you realize half the time it was the heroes fighting the heroes because they thought they were the shape-shifting alien villains… this point my head begins to spin.

Still, when all was said and done, fans finally had to wait for two years to see their favorite heroes fighting each other again.  But then, Shadowland happened and the Netflix superhero Daredevil beat up a bunch of not so super-superheroes.

In 2011, fans had two opportunities to read Marvel’s one storyline.  In Fear Itself, an ancient evil transformed several Marvel heroes and villains into his evil tools and unleashed marvelous chaos on the Marvel Universe.  And the X-men, the team of the 90s, fought it out in Schism, in which perennial bad boy of the X-men, Wolverine, is revealed to actually be the good boy of the X-men and former boy scout troop leader of the X-people Cyclops is outed as Marvel’s new favorite anti-hero.

And it’s just in time because the next year sees him lead his team of no longer merry mutants against the Avengers in Avengers vs. X-men.  For anyone keeping score, this was the eighth such story in six years.  This time, the Phoenix force, which caused Marvel’s most famous hero versus hero storyline of all time, returned to earth and possessed new heroes.  Cyclops, possessed bad boy, kills his mentor and ends up in jail.

A year later, Age of Ultron happened.  Now, much like Secret Invasion, this story hardly seems to be a case of hero versus hero at first glance.  Instead, evil robot Ultron finally conquers Earth……in the future.  Future Avengers decide the best way to stop Ultron is to send a hero, no longer trophy bad boy Wolverine, into the past and have him kill Hank Pym, the hero who created Ultron.  Hero kills hero…..check!

2014 once again saw two stories of hero versus hero rage.  In Original Sin, not at all to be confused with Identity Crisis, someone kills the Watcher.  Marvel heroes search all over and fight with each other over who might have been involved, only to find out former hero (instead of a hero’s wife…..I see what you did there Marvel!) Nick Fury killed the Watcher.  A few months later saw Axis, a story all about making heroes fight heroes again.  Which was good.  Because after 11 times in 8 years, people might have forgotten what Marvel comics was all about.

I debate whether to include Secret Wars, in which some Marvel heroes team up with Doom to save the Marvel Universe.  This leads to everyone fighting everyone.  But I won’t count it because in theory, it could be construed as an alternate reality, I think?

So here we are in 2016.  Marvel Studios has just released what everyone will tell you is the greatest superhero movie of all time!  This is your chance to watch your favorite heroes beat each other and it’s really serious.  It’s so serious, in fact, that Marvel has decided to publish a comic book tie-in series, Civil War II. It’s a story so good that they had to tell you twelve times!


While waiting for Batman V Superman, some thoughts on Man of Steel

23 Mar

With Batman v Superman launching this weekend, I felt the need to try and defend The Man of Steel one final time.  Now, I understand that it is a film people either love or hate.  There seemed to be little middle ground in defense of it.  And that’s perfectly fine.  Our modern America is not one given to middle of the road viewpoints anymore.   But the movie is a complicated movie and needs a deeper look at some issues, I would suggest.   And before anyone states that I am a Snyder fanboy, who can’t view the movie through a fair lens, I must confess, that this is Zack Snyder’s only movie I love.  I did appreciate his Watchmen, but I can’t say I truly loved it and I can’t stand ANY of his other movies.

For one thing, although it’s a movie about Superman, it is an attempt to tell a more realistic version of the Superman story than the Christopher Reeves movies of our youth.  If beings truly could fly, crash through the moon, and burn the skin off other beings with a glance, we would be in a great danger.  The criminals are evil and Superman has great difficulty stopping them.  Plus, this is “Superman Year One.” He does not use his powers in the open and he is not familiar with having to stop a serious crisis like he faces.  Unless these basic facts are understood, the movie will be very difficult to appreciate.

A major concern in the movie is Kevin Costner’s Pa Kent.  People didn’t like that he told young Clark that he possibly should have let the bus of children die.  But if this was truly Jonathon’s only child, and Jonathon lived in the real world and knew that the government would be VERY interested in a child that could lift a bus out of water, he might be concerned with Clark using his gifts so openly.  Later, for much the same reason, he tells Clark to not save him during the storm so Clark can have a normal life, something he knows Superman will not be able to do.

The biggest concerns people had though with the movie was the final act.  The sheer amount of destruction that is unleashed on Metropolis and how Superman did not save everyone.  Once again, this is Clark’s first real crisis as Superman.  He is fighting an army of beings just like him, who are not holding back at all and are unleashing devastation that is unimaginable on the earth.  Any time he left the battlefield to save one or even one hundred people, the Kryptonian army would slaughter thousands.  Yes, it would have been simple to show Clark try and save a few people here or there, but the movie focused on the major issue, of the true terror Kryptonians would unleash on our planet.

Another issue a reviewer raised was the Superman left Metropolis to take out the machine in the Indian Ocean, where no one was, while a similar machine was destroying Metropolis.  But Metropolis had the military attempting to, and eventually successfully, destroying that machine.  The army would not have made it in time to stop the machine in the Indian Ocean.  Meanwhile, without stopping it, the world would be destroyed.  So Superman left Metropolis to the military while he saved the planet, from certain destruction.

Man of Steel is not a perfect movie and it isn’t the best superhero movie.  But it does a fantastic job I would argue of showing what life with godlike beings would be like for humans.  At the moment children from Krypton arrive on Earth, life would change forever. Snyder shows this and also shows that a young man can rise above his fears and personal shortcomings to save mankind.  From all descriptions in both the trailers and press releases, Superman will be much more like his classic form in his new movie this weekend.  Batman, meanwhile, will be an entirely different story.  

Lego Dimensions

26 Oct

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog, but I picked up Lego Dimensions last week.  If you have been here before, I really enjoy the Lego games, even though I am a father of three and a teacher.  In fact, it’s scary to say, but probably safe to say, but the Lego games just might be one of my favorite game franchises out currently.  But in spite of the love for the titles, and even though I bought the game several days ago, I have had extremely little hands on time with the game: about two hours Saturday morning.  Still, I wanted to share my thoughts for anyone considering purchasing the game and the myriad expansion sets.  

Even if I wasn’t completely sure if it was a game for me, I was completely sold in the first ten minutes of playing.  This was because of one scene I encountered in the first real stage: my Lego Batman was riding a Velociraptor, courtesy of Jurassic World, throughout Oz.  That was it!  At that point, you have completely in the palm of your hand Traveler’s Tales.  I’m stuck.  

The game is the newest in the line of toy/game hybrids.  It is competing against Skylanders, a franchise I couldn’t get into, and Disney Infinity, which won me over with the addition of Star Wars.  But their two major things that separates the Lego version from its competitors.  One thing, and easily the main selling point, is the sheer variety of franchises involved in Lego Dimensions: DC Comics, Back to the Future, Jurassic World, and Ghostbusters are just of the franchises included. There is also Dr. Who, the Simpsons, the Lego Movie, Scooby Doo, and more.  

The other major difference though is that these toys are really toys!  If you don’t enjoy putting together legos, then this would not be the game for you.  The two hours of play time I’ve had?  I was actually playing the game for about thirty minutes.  Right after you start, the game prompts you to put the controller down and build a stargate out of legos.  This then is attached to the portal and took me about 45 minutes.  Shortly afterwards, I constructed another device (15 min) and was off.  Then, because I suffer from minor OCD tendencies, I threw in some bonus characters I had and each had me construct a tool or ride for the specific character (30 min).  In that thirty minutes, though, I had the opportunity to fight the Wicked Witch and a horde of flying monkeys.  

So what did I buy?  And how far back did it set me?  I bought the PS4 starter pack: the game, three characters (including Batman) and the batmobile.  That cost $100 regardless of the system you purchase it on (including the Xbox 360 and PS3).  I bought the Back to the Future kit, which includes Marty McFly, the Delorean, a bonus stage, and his hover-board.  That cost $30 and oddly, it is the only set I didn’t use yet, even though it was the add-on I wanted most.  I bought the Jurassic World kit, two characters, a raptor, and the gyro-sphere for $25.  And finally, my 15 year old has an eerie love for the Wizard of Oz, which led to the purchase of the Wicked Witch and flying monkey pack for $15.  
Although I plan to say more when I have played more and explored the title, I definitely am excited right now.  It’s definitely a pricey franchise, which is why I didn’t buy it at launch, but it seems fun.  The fact that they will be doing four waves of add-ons, including levels, characters, and entire franchises is very exciting.  If you like the lego games and enjoy building, this is the game for.  But if you don’t enjoy both, I definitely recommend passing.  

The end of Fables

28 Jul

cover67350-mediumLike many, I came into the Fables universe late.  Last year, DC had an “essentials sale” in which they dropped the price of their most important graphic novels ever and I picked up several from their main line and for the first time ever, their Vertigo line.  I read the first volume of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run which was fun.  I read the first volume of Hellblazer and found it not for me, but I could see where people would enjoy it.  And I picked up the first volume of Fables and really liked it a lot.  Now, I must confess, I didn’t love it, but I really liked it a lot more than I would have thought.  I saw clear similarities between it and early seasons of Once Upon a Time, which I had watched with my wife and daughter.  But after that first volume, I moved back to my standard superhero fare.

A few months later, though, I decided to try the second volume.  The ongoing tale of the Adversary piqued my interest a little more.  The characters of Bigby, Flycatcher, and Boy Blue were very different from my typical heroes.  And the leading ladies of Snow and Rose Red were interesting, and not at all like the typical comic leading lady.  But once again, I put the series aside for a few months.

About two months ago, though, on a whim, I binge bought volumes three through five and it was done.  From that moment on, I fell completely for this series and have now read through volume 13.  At a con, this weekend, I bought through volume 18 and hope to read them soon.  And suddenly, through Netgalley, I have been given the chance to see the end before the middle.

I must confess, I really appreciate what was done here.  Although I don’t know everything that took me from the introduction of Mr. Dark to the death and return of a certain major character, I was able to follow along for the most part.  I don’t know exactly when Snow and Red’s relationship took such a horrid turn, but I found the conclusion of their story to be touching.  I am glad to see King Ambrose is still a noble leader and what happened to Pinnochio was perfect!

I really cannot wait to purchase this volume in print.  It is a fitting conclusion to one of the most interesting and original  comic series of the last thirty years.  I cannot recommend it enough and hope Bill plans on making a few return visits to the Mundy and Fabled worlds.  This is a classic for the ages.

Justice League Vol 6

14 Jul

The post Forever Evil world continued through volume 6 of Geoff John’s Justice League.  Now, I must confess, I have been a fan of Geoff’s since his Star Spangled Kid days.  I have also been a huge fan of the Justice League since watching Superfriends.  But for some reason, I have really been struggling through his Justice League series.  Some might suggest that it is due to the non-stop event status that has dominated the title, but honestly that doesn’t bother me.  I enjoy events as much, if not more, than the typical fan.  I buy comics because I want events!  But for some reasons, the Justice League title hasn’t worked for me.

But, I will say, that volume six: Injustice League was a lot of fun!  Lex in the Justice League is an idea that screams potential.  The new version of Amazo introduced could be great too, especially if they keep his mad on for Luthor even when Lex is out of the League.  The plague story was timely too as it was released in single issue form last year during the height of the Ebola scare.  And few creators can revitalize old concepts like the Doom Patrol like Geoff can.

The volume is far from perfect however.  The new Power Ring hasn’t really done much since being introduced.  In fact, she sat her second story (half the book) unconscious.  And if she ends up anything like Geoff’s last new Lantern, it will be a total waste.  Also, the volume goes through several artists, although all of the artists are talented.  I could definitely see why it might get on some people’s nerves.

The next volume promises to be huge, as the Darkseid War begins.  So perhaps this has been just the start to a renewed Geoff and a new start for the Justice League.  It’s going to be an amazing summer!

Gotham Academy

23 Jun

If there is a comic book that I wouldn’t think I would enjoy, it is Gotham Academy.  I am 34, a history teacher, and a father of 3.  Teenagers being overly dramatic is what my life revolves around and typically I want my entertainment to be about escaping those bounds.  I love Superman because he is the world’s greatest hero.  I love Green Lantern because he has a ring that can do anything and solve any problem.  Neither of those are options for me.  And yet, I have found, that a comic book about teachers in a school of crazy kids is one of the most original books out there and it really is as close to perfect as any other book on the market currently.

The book’s teachers are classic “B-rated” villains.  Bookworm was one of those crazy characters that could have only been in Adam West’s Bat-universe and yet he is the school librarian.  I can’t help but wonder when he will kidnap children in his quest to rule Gotham’s literary circles.  Aunt Harriet is the school ma’am responsible for the girls’ dormitory.  And yet, if you recall your Batman ’66, she is the woman who couldn’t figure out that special glowing red phone meant Bruce and Dick had a secret life (and not the type that Grant Morrison likes to allude to!).

And then there’s the kids.  One of the characters is named Maps! And she loves RPGs, one of my favorite gaming fixations.  And I am really not sure if she realizes life isn’t a big RPG, as she walks around and discusses her need for mail armor or lock picking skills.  The star reminds me of some of my favorite students: moody, bright, and obsessed with Batman. She has boyfriend drama and super-secretive teenage stalker issues.  And Killer Croc stalker issues, in one of the character’s most fun roles since Tiny Titans’ All Croc issue.

The entire book reads like a modern day Scooby adventure.  To help drive home that fact, there are fake ghosts hiding around every secret passage way you can find in the school.  The headmaster has that “is he the secret evil villain or just another red herring” personality that Scooby Do mastered in my childhood. And in closing, like my favorite Scooby episodes ever, Batman occasionally guest-stars.  I admit it: I am in love with a teenage angsty-drama!

Grayson Volume 1

9 Jun

I must confess when Grayson was launched, I really wasn’t all that interested.  The idea of Dick Grayson being a spy with a gun seemed to run counter to everything I liked about the character.  And honestly, I never really read many solo titles about him anyway.  I loved Snyder’s run with him as Batman in Detective Comics several years ago and I enjoyed the early volumes of his new 52 series but I hadn’t read much more than that.  And the promotional image telling fans we didn’t know Dick, just seemed……well, right up there with DC’s other promotional mishaps of late: the WTF covers from several years ago or the “Draw Harley naked and committing suicide” fiasco.  So imagine my surprise when I had the chance to read a promotional copy of Grayson volume 1 from Netgalley, and found that I really enjoyed the story.

Now, I do want to say, there were still parts of the book that I didn’t care for.  Although I am a huge fan of DC comics, I must confess I have never cared much for Grant Morrison’s writing, so I had no background information on Spyral and found the spy organization to be somewhat derivative of Chase, a wonderful and offbeat DC title from my youth.  Replace the mysterious leader with no face with Mr. Bones, the head of the DEO who has no face (just a skull) and you are good to go.  And I will say, at least in the digital promotional copy, the last chapter accidentally duplicates the prior chapter.  I hope they fix that in the print copy or regular digital copy.

Other than those two minor complaints, though, I will say the majority of the book was really fun.  The characters were fun to read.  Dick’s relationship with his partner (former Huntress) was interesting.  She is the classic spy who only sees the work and he is Dick Grayson, the hero with the heart of gold.  A brief romantic interest is introduced and handled in a way I didn’t see. Finally, the overarching mystery of “super body part implants” was a different type of threat than you normally see in the superhero comics I read.

From what I understand, Tom King, writer of the series, was in the CIA.  That fact is apparent when you read the series.  He writes the spy world the way I imagine it to be.  Cloaks and daggers are everywhere and outside of our title hero, probably no one can be trusted. I like that.  I believe this series has a great deal of potential and look forward to the second volume.