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Comics Movies

Rest in Peace, Stan Lee

I think most of us know that Stan Lee’s legacy at Marvel for comics is fraught.  Who truly created what, who deserves credit.  That’s covered elsewhere, like the obituary/profile linked above.  I’d like to talk about Stan’s place in my life, as a budding geek who wasn’t sure of his place in the world.

Millenials, for the most part, only know Stan Lee as the kindly Grandpa who pops up in the movies to chew a bit of scenery.  For those of us around in the early 80s through the 90s, Stan was EVERYWHERE that Marvel characters were.  Stan Lee moved to California to hustle them into TV and movies, and he gave it his whole heart.  Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends?  Stan Lee opened every episode.  The Incredible Hulk?  He’s there too.  Every entertainment TV show, late night, daytime, game show, he was always putting Marvel out there.  The consummate showman.

Stan Lee always wore his heart on his sleeve, and his enthusiasm for comics as an art form was infectious.  You knew he was selling you, but he was so darn earnest about it you couldn’t help but grin along.  It helped that he seemed like a genuine good person, trying his best to push, in his own way, for civil rights and equality.  The world would be better than it is now if more people had gotten his message.  Excelsior, Stan.

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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – Crosswind Vol. 1

Crosswind is an Image series written by Gail Simone, drawn by Cat Staggs, with letters from Simon Bowland.  The blurb at Image’s site describes it as “Goodfellas meets Freaky Friday” and it’s an apt description.  What happens if a Chicago hitman and a suburban housewife switch bodies?  Under Gail’s pen, you get vulgar, action-filled fun.

Cason, the brutal mobster, has to clean up a mistake made by his boss’s son, while Juniper has to get a meal ready for her husband’s boss while navigating abuse from all sides.  It’s bad enough BEFORE they get zapped into each other’s bodies, and have to regroup on the fly.

Gail Simone is one of my favorite follows on Twitter, and her trademark wit is well used here.  Cat Staggs’s art has an almost rotoscoped-realism to it, and I particularly love how she captured different mannerisms for Cason and Juniper after the swap.

Crosswind is definitely worth a read if you like any of the above.  Check it out on Amazon/Comixology.

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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – Black Bolt Vol. 1, Hard Time

Volume 1 of Black Bolt’s solo series, subtitled Hard Time, is out.  Writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward fulfilled the promise of the first issue (which I looked at previously) and more.  Ward says a lot about who gets put in prison and why, while not ignoring the kickass fights and teleporting dogs we all crave.

Who is Black Bolt?  Why should I care?

It’s funny, despite the fact that Marvel’s been pushing them for the past few years, AND there was a TV show (which wasn’t great) out this year, AND they are an original creation of Jack Kirby, the Inhumans still feel like a group people don’t know much about.  I think it’s because Terrigenesis is being used in place of “I hit puberty and got my mutant powers” for how to power up new teen heroes.  Everybody’s familiar with a few Inhumans, like Ms. Marvel or Moon Girl, but mostly ignore the Royal Family.

Black Bolt, the silent king of the Inhumans, can speak and shatter mountains.  His voice is a weapon so powerful that he had to be trained from birth to stay perfectly silent (he’s great at parties).  Both his status as king and his necessary silence keep him at arm’s length from most people beyond his immediate family.  This has left Blackagar Boltagon (yeah, that’s his name) as a bit of a blank slate, compared to other heroes who have been around this long.

Doing Hard Time

This series sees Bolt trapped in a crazy prison, his brother Maximus the Mad managing to switch places with him.  He hears a voice, a demand, “NAME YOUR CRIMES!  REPENT YOUR CRIMES!”  He dies, is reborn, and eventually frees himself.  Black Bolt meets his captor and speaks…but nothing happens.  He dies again, and that’s when thing really start.  The other prisoners convince him to work with them on an escape, and it’s a great cast of characters.  The most notable is long-time henchman Carl “Crusher” Creel.  He serves as a sharp contrast to the noble, remote Black Bolt.  My favorite addition to the Marvel universe might be Raava the Unskrulled, a Skrull space pirate who never learned to shapeshift, because she wants her enemies to die seeing her true face.  The book is a great balance between philosophical discussions and butt kicking.

That ART

Christian Ward’s art is gorgeous, from the inky depths of space to bright shocks of color when Black Bolt uses his power, it looks AMAZING.  This might be my favorite comic art since I first encountered David Aja’s work on Hawkguy.  Matt Fraction is actually where I first learned of Ward’s art, in their fever-dream gender-swapped Odyssey comic ODY-C.  I am so glad he’s getting mainstream work, and I sure hope it continues.

Conclusion

If you’re not afraid to think about what we do to criminals and poor people in our world in between all the smashing and crushing, check out Black Bolt: Hard Time.

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Comics

Comic Book Review – Black Bolt #1 by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward

Creative Team:

  • Writer: Saladin Ahmed
  • Artist: Christian Ward
  • Letterer: Clayton Cowles

The Inhumans are in a tough spot, as far as the fandom goes.  They’ve been around a long time, created by Lee and Kirby no less.  But they’ve always been a bit of a niche group, mostly centered around the Fantastic Four.  It doesn’t help that in modern times, the Inhumans are being pushed hard by Marvel, and it’s seen by some that it’s to the detriment of Marvel’s Mutant characters.  I’ve never bought that particular conspiracy theory, but it’s left some fans with a sour taste in their mouths.

I’m happy to report that Black Bolt #1 is absolutely worth your time, even if the Inhumans have never been your thing.  The story will follow Black Bolt as he’s thrown in a cosmic prison by his brother, Maximus the Mad.  It’s for the worst of the worst, and was supposed to be Maximus’s new home.  BB’s not alone, however, and chief among the other incarcerated folks is Carl “Crusher” Creel, the Absorbing Man.  If you mostly know Marvel from the movies and TV show, he’s made a few appearances on Agents of SHIELD.  The writer, Saladin Ahmed, has something to say about prison and what happens when you toss people aside, but promises not to forget about the guy who can shout mountains apart.  When you combine that with the insane, trippy art stylings of Christian Ward (ODY-C), I’m definitely in to see what happens next.

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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – Mockingbird, Volume 1: I Can Explain

We’ve been over the controversy regarding the series and how much of a jerk some of comics fandom can be, but I really want to talk about the Mockingbird comic, too.  IT’S GREAT.  Snarky, action-filled, mysterious, fun.  Bobbi herself gets to shine – it’s not often she does, having been used quite often in the “Hawkeye’s wife/ex-wife” role – and the humor is on point.

The story covers Bobbi (Genius Scientist Spy Martial Artist) developing some weird powers…or is she?  In the course of her investigation she ends up rescuing both Lance Hunter and Clint Barton, runs into Howard the Duck and Miles Morales, and has to deal with zombies, corgis, and the Queen of England.  She might smash a patriarchy or three along the way.

Chelsea Cain writes Bobbi with a singular voice, and the art from Kate Niemczyk (with Rachelle Rosenberg colors) is fun.  Mockingbird is tall and buff and gorgeous.  There are tons of little details to pick out of the background, things that make sense or inform the story or just provoke a laugh.  The middle issues can be read in any order, and I suggest reading multiple times to get everything.

If any of this sounds like you, check out Mockingbird Volume 1.

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Books Comics Review

Book Review – Black Widow: Forever Red

Before you start this book, know that while it’s got Black Widow in the name, it’s both about her, and not exactly about her.  If it might bother you to discover the story is told mostly through the viewpoint of a teenaged girl that has an…interesting connection to Natasha, as some other reviewers seem to, just be aware.  Black Widow: Forever Red (by Margaret Stohl) tells the story of Ana Orlova, a young girl rescued from the mastermind of the Red Room, the infamous organization that turned Natasha into the perfect assassin.  Nat promptly dumps the girl into SHIELD’s lap and jets, not being the mothering type.  Fast forward 8 years, and Ana is having strange dreams and that evil from the past roars back to put the whole world in danger.

Forever Red doesn’t break a ton of new ground, being a fairly standard YA novel, just in this case, it’s set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And yes, it’s the MCU, as they specifically mention events like the Battle of New York, and has Coulson as SHIELD director.  There’s also an extended appearance from Tony Stark.  There’s a good balance between the weirdness of the MCU and the more grounded aspects Natasha typically deals with.  I enjoy the interplay between Ana and Nat as their similarities get the better of the older woman (in a “when you get older I hope you have a daughter just like you!” sort of way).  The action moves at a fair clip most of the time, and the story has just enough twists to make you second guess some things.

Forever Red is a worthwhile read, especially for the MCU fan who isn’t up on the comics and wants to know how a spy/assassin gets the skills to team up with gods and monsters and not die.  Preview below:

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Comics TV

Help Me Fix Agents of SHIELD

This is mostly in response to the article over at Heroic Hollywood, Is Marvel’s ‘Agents of SHIELD’ Really Any Good? so maybe check that first.

There was no one more excited by the concept of Agents of SHIELD than me, when it was first announced.  A Whedon-adjacent look at the more mundane aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, led by everyone’s favorite dead SHIELD agent?  Let’s roll!  The reality of the show has been, at times, middling however.  As Jon Negroni points out in the article above, rather than the show being must-see TV for Marvel movie fans, it’s mostly an afterthought.  The episode that tied in to Thor: The Dark World is the perfect metaphor for AoS, as the team were literally picking up the scraps left behind by one of the MCU’s movies.

Not that there hasn’t been some great stuff to enjoy along the way, but beyond the direct link to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, all that’s great about Agents of SHIELD is of their own making.  Brett Dalton’s Grant Ward bored us all to tears as generic SHIELD agent guy…until the HYDRA twist turned our understanding of him on it’s head.  The action directing has been a highlight also.  Really, the only thing that holds AoS back from being spoken of in the same breath as The Flash is the MCU.  The focus (more from the fans than anyone at ABC/Disney/Marvel) is on just how the show will tie-in to the upcoming movies.  “Hey look, Inhumans!” which is particularly rough since the Inhumans movie is now off the schedule, or Lorelei/Sif which is fun but not exactly something that’s going to grab the attention of the movie-goers or the casual TV viewer who sees the promos.

No, the biggest thing Agents of SHIELD could do to increase its quality is…stop worrying about the MCU!  There are signs of that this year, with the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider being a focus, but they need to really lean in to it.  There are plenty of characters that will never get a movie or a TV show, and you already HAVE a show that needs to fill 20+ hours a year.  And has a tendency to have some filler episodes of questionable quality.  Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of sifting through the rubble of the next MCU movie, Coulson and May went on an adventure with Jimmy Woo and Ken Hale?  Or, instead of holding out hope we see another Kree, we see Fitz and Simmons have to figure out how to help defeat the Wrecking Crew?  The Hood.  Shang-Chi.  Moon Knight.  Tombstone.  The Grim Reaper.  Taskmaster.  Most of these characters wouldn’t carry a series on their own (okay, maaaybe Moon Knight) but would work great as a 3-8 episode arc on AoS.

There are signs that AoS may be going down this path this year, with Ghost Rider and some of the other mystical stuff.  The real trick is getting the audience back that may have lost interest.  Is there anyone you’d like to see on the show, or any TV-friendly storylines you’d like them to tackle?

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Comics Movies

Why Wolverine: Weapon X Makes More Sense Than Old Man Logan

For a long time, the rumors were persistent that Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine would be inspired by the Old Man Logan comics by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven.  It never made a ton of sense to me, unless the only bit of inspiration taken from it was the name (similar to Age of Ultron).  Too many of the players in that comic are off the board due to rights issues (Hulks, Hawkeye, Abomination, Red Skull, and on and on) that to even try to make something off that, it would be in name only.

No, it’s clear that Weapon X HAS to be the end of Logan’s story.  Just like in the Death of Wolverine storyline from a couple of years back, it just feels right to end it back where it began.  Which is why I was confused when people seemed surprised or taken aback at the title.  I mean, it doesn’t seem like a huge stretch, after DOFP we’ve seen that despite their meddling in the past, Professor X and Logan are both alive and still doing the Xavier school thing in the future, so it’s not like anybody dies after X-Men: Apocalypse.  They could fit in part of OML here – Logan could’ve ‘put away’ his claws and started living a somewhat normal life when he and the Professor discover what I assume to be Weapon X cloning him (perhaps with Mister Sinister’s help).  Cue the ‘one last time!’ adventure where they rescue X-23 and conveniently set up a teen girl Wolverine to join the X-Men in the next team movie.

The Wolverine continuity *was* fixed, more or less, after Days of Future Past, so this all works.  Any continuity issues that remain in the X-Men movies (and boy do they still exist) are mostly the fault of Singer’s movies.  How are the same actors supposed to keep playing these characters if you keep jumping 10 years forward in time?  “Wow, Moira hasn’t aged a day!” only works for so long.  The strange age difference for Cyclops and Havok.  Teen Jean having a moment with Wolverine.  I know Wolverine may not remember, but should Xavier address Mystique abandoning Logan to Weapon X for what, ten years?  I thought she might be ruthless enough to let them take him and get the Adamantium bonded to his skeleton, but to leave him there?  That’s cold, considering she was rescuing mutants, just not him.

I’ll be looking forward to more Wolverine/Weapon X information as it comes.  My one nerdy hope is that he wears the suit at least once (that’s fan art above).

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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – The Vision #8

Creative Team:

  • Writer:  Tom King
  • Art:  Gabriel Hernandez Walta
  • Colors:  Jordie Bellaire
  • Letters:  Clayton Cowles

Last month, the cover shown for this issue (shown in part above) seemed to indicate the arrival of the Avengers and the beginning of the final battle.  Well, as usual expectations are twisted.  There IS a new arrival, but it’s Victor Mancha, Runaway, former Avengers AI member with the Vision when he was not exactly this version of the Vision (long story), fellow ‘son of Ultron’.  He’s got an internship on the Hill, you see, and he’ll be staying with the Visions for a while.

Taken at face value, the issue unfolds with little excitement.  Victor has a moment with each family member, getting to know them.  It’s gotta be weird for him, finding a whole set of new ‘family members’ created and living this seemingly normal life.  Even with only being shown short interactions with each of the Visions, Victor can’t help but see that something is off.

Vision8Int

The reveal in the final pages will have you going straight back to read the story again, viewing the conversations in a new light.

I find my self dreading the end, because I’m afraid something might happen to Viv.  She’s seemed the most like a normal teen throughout this whole story, and has gone through a lot…and I can’t see anyone in the family left unscathed, with what we have been told all of this is building up to.  Kudos all around, especially to Walta and Bellaire for art this week.  I love the little details, like you see above, Virginia’s hand passing through the vase, the way she’s standing inside the coffee table.  Or the face on one of the other diners as they ‘eat’ in a restaurant, nervously looking over his shoulder.  The tension just keeps building.

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Comics Review

Captain America’s “Hail Hydra” Is Not A Stunt But A Story

You may have heard a little something about the recent Steve Rogers: Captain America #1.  I’m assuming if you are reading this you aren’t worried about spoilers, by the way.  So yeah, Cap was hailing HYDRA.  As soon as I saw the panel, I (unlike a lot of people, apparently) thought back to what Steve just went through – getting zapped back to youth by a weird sentient cosmic cube (made from shards of who knows which cubes), the Red Skull and Sin both involved.  Plenty of reason to be suspicious and curious about it – Evan Narcisse at io9 has collected some of the internet evidence for what might be happening, it’s close to what I was thinking.

But I’m not really writing about that, but the perplexing outcry over this being a ‘publicity stunt’.  Uh, yeah?  Ideally, don’t you publicize everything?  There are previews, solicits, interviews, teaser images but the best publicity is the kind we see here, that organically grows because a bit of media gets your attention and you just HAVE to talk about it.  The last page shocker to pull you in for the rest of the storyline is a classic of comics especially.  Why is it a ‘publicity stunt’ this time, just because you don’t like it?

“It’ll be undone in a few months!”  Yeah, again, comics.  There’s only so much that ever changes in the ongoing comics universes, and even when things DO change, they’ll only stay that way until someone comes up with a story to tell that requires it to go back the way it was.  Logan is still dead because Marvel has stories to tell with Laura Kinney and Old Man Logan, but if someone had a story they just HAD to get out there that required the original Wolverine back, he’d be here.  Bucky stayed dead, but as soon as a writer came up with a kick-ass storyline to bring him back, here he is.  These are ‘publicity stunts’ that have led us to great storytelling.  How can you know what’s coming after chapter 1 of 5 or 6?  It’s Cap’s 75th anniversary year, I’m sure Marvel wouldn’t let Nick Spencer drop this if there wasn’t some huge payoff.  Maybe you still won’t like it, but I’m all for some patience and perspective.

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Comics Review

What’s New on Marvel Unlimited – May 22 to May 28, 2016

Every week, Marvel adds new comics to their Marvel Unlimited service. Sometimes it’s new stuff – most series they publish get issues added about 6 months after they are released in shops – and others it’s older comics. But there’s always something interesting and I will point them out weekly.

Starting thing this week is the new Ms. Marvel #1.  Kamala has everything she ever wanted (mostly).  She’s an awesome superhero, an Avenger even, hanging with the likes of Tony Stark, Miles Morales, and Sam Alexander.  But Kamala learns that once you go public, you’re no longer in control of your image.  And sometimes that shady real estate developer using your face to pave over your neighborhood just might be hiding something more sinister.  G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Ian Herring are your creators.

Next up is Star Wars: Vader Down #1.  If the prequels’ take on Lord Vader depressed you, this should cheer you up.  THIS is the Darth Vader who stomps onto Rebel ships and chokes the life out of anyone in his way.  Just check this out.  Jason Aaron, Mike Deodato and Frank Martin Jr creating based on an overall story arc by Aaron and Kieron Gillen.

VaderDown1

Lastly, you have Spider-Woman #1, starring Jessica Drew…pregnant??  It’s a cliched twist I admit, but it’s handled in a fun way here.  I definitely want to see what’s coming next.  Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez.

Other comics of note:

  • Star-Lord #1 – go back and see how young Peter Quill lied, cheated, and stole his way into space.
  • This week’s 90s nostalgia is thanks to a bunch of X-Factor issues getting added.
  • The Astonishing Ant-Man #2 for more Scott Lang adventures
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Comics Review

What’s New on Marvel Unlimited – May 11, 2016

Every week, Marvel adds new comics to their Marvel Unlimited service.  Sometimes it’s new stuff – most series they publish get issues added about 6 months after they are released in shops – and others it’s older comics.  But there’s always something interesting and I will point them out weekly.

First thing to check out is All-New Wolverine #1, starring Laura Kinney.  She’s rumored to be appearing soon in the movies, and she’s now got the Wolverine name all to herself.  This is a great set-up if you aren’t 100% up to speed on what’s up with Laura (formerly X-23), and involves a team-up with Angel.  Tom Taylor writes, with David Lopez and David Navarrot covering the art.  Nathan Fairbain (colors) and Corey Petit (letters) round out the team.

The Vision #1 is the next stop, and seriously, if you haven’t read my previous reviews, check yourself and read it.  Don’t wait.  Or just buy the trade already.

Other titles of note:

  • This appears to go back for a while, but Marvel is adding a ton of X-Men issues to Marvel Unlimited, mostly from their heyday in the 90s.  Lee, Kubert, Nicieza, that era.
  • All-New, All-Different Avengers #1
  • Carnage #1
  • Darth Vader #12, Chewbacca #3 – go back and read the rest if you haven’t.