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Review TV

TV Review – The Defenders

With only 8 episodes, I was able to make it through The Defenders over the weekend, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It’s not perfect, and does run into some of the same problems as the previous Netflix shows.  Despite that, there are plenty of really enjoyable bits.

The basics behind The Defenders

The Defenders brings together all the principal players from the Netflix Marvel shows to take on the Hand once and for all.  But it takes some time to do so, starting out by giving us a glimpse of where each character is at the start.  Matt (Daredevil) is trying to live a non-super life, doing pro bono work.  Jessica Jones is avoiding work altogether despite Marcus and Trish trying to get her back in the game.  They are unsuccessful until she gets a strange call after turning down what she thinks is a typical cheating husband job.  Luke Cage is sprung from prison legally, thanks in part to Foggy Nelson.  Danny Rand is hunting the Hand across the globe, but is told they are up to shenanigans in New York.  This sets all our heroes on the path to their first meetings.

What works

We’ve been waiting forever to see some of these characters meet, and for the most part, it’s great fun.  Finally, there are people who roll their eyes at all of Danny’s “I’ve got to focus my chi, brah” antics.  Jessica’s double-takes every time Matt is in costume are worth it, too.  The action is a lot better than in Iron Fist.  Sigourney Weaver is a boss.  Claire is so good it hurts.  The combat, for the most part, works and showcases the different fighting styles.

What doesn’t

There’s a bit of shoehorning as far as “let’s have these characters meet to set up the future”.  There’s a severe lack of ninjas thanks to the updated origin of the Hand.  (vague spoiler) They sort of repeat the surprise villain death that happened in Luke Cage (end vague spoiler).  While I love the interplay between all the characters, they sit and talk just a hair too much.  While the fight scenes are better in general, they are poorly lit.

What’s next

I won’t spoil things, but there’s a pretty huge Daredevil-related cliffhanger, and the show leaves the rest of the Defenders in a much different place.  I feel like we got a worthy finish to what was started way back in Daredevil’s first season, and hopefully the forthcoming seasons can build on it in an interesting way.  If you’d like to know more about what may be coming, try these books:

 

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TV

How to Fix Iron Fist in Season Two

Note: potential spoilers if you’re not caught up on the Marvel Netflix shows.

I talked about Iron Fist‘s first season already, but I’d like to look ahead to the future of the character beyond his next appearance in the Defenders.  Barring something crazy in the upcoming Defenders season, we currently have Danny as the Iron Fist, but only barely.  He can’t summon his chi to both fists at once, can’t keep it there long, and had to be taught how to heal someone and restore his chi reserves by a dude from the Hand.  And (super spoiler alert) he tries to head back to K’un Lun, and it ain’t there, so no way for the Thunderer to maybe give him the pointers he needs.  There’s a fix for this, and it’s straight from the comics:  The Book of the Iron Fist.

Iron Fist: It's Chi

A perfect solution, right?  This would be easily adaptable to TV, though they’d have to shift things to avoid doubling down on the white savior trope.  See, in the comics, the guy that gives Danny the book?  Orson Randall, the previous Iron Fist, also a white dude.  Marvel could easily tweak this, but they could’ve done it with Danny and didn’t, so my hopes aren’t high.  Still, I loved the story, and it heavily involves characters we already know such as Davos and Crane Mother.  It also gets Danny to his full strength, meaning you can amp up the threats he and the Defenders/Heroes for Hire/what have you face in the future.  It’s a no-brainer to me.

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Comics

Marvel Joins Amazon Prime Reading

Just a head’s up for anybody who likes to get their money’s worth out of their Amazon Prime subscription, Marvel is now partnered with Amazon to have their comics show up there (as well as some selections in Kindle Unlimited and Comixology Unlimited).  Those are cool if you already pay the extra subscription fee for either service, but even if you don’t, there’s some very good stuff to check out in Prime Reading.  Here’s my favorites:

Star Wars, Volume 1 and Darth Vader, Volume 1:  When Marvel got the license to publish Star Wars comics, they went big.  Assigning some of their best writers and artists (Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, Salvador Larroca, John Cassaday, Adi Granov, and others).  These comics both follow on straight out of A New Hope, and they go a long way to re-establishing Darth Vader as the pre-eminent menace in that galaxy far, far away.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1:  If you haven’t read this yet, there’s no excuse.  Kamala Khan matters more than ever in our current political climate, a daughter of Muslim immigrants who fights crime not because of some great tragedy, but was inspired by other heroism in the world.  And the story is a ton of fun, to boot.  G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona made a great creative team (along with Stephen Wacker and Sana Amanat editing and helping to create the character).

Hawkeye, Volume 1:  I’ve evangelized this series before, so hopefully you’ve already read it, but here’s yet another chance.

There’s also some Iron Fist, Deadpool, the first volume of Alias (Jessica Jones), and a few other solid comics.  If you are already subscribed to Amazon Prime, there’s no reason not to use Prime Reading.

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Review TV

TV Review – Iron Fist

I finished Marvel’s latest Netflix series, Iron Fist over the weekend, and I have a lot of mixed feelings.  I became a fan of Danny Rand fairly late, having read the Brubaker/Fraction/Swierczynski/Foreman Immortal Iron Fist series after loving Fraction/Aja’s Hawkeye and Brubaker’s Cap run.  That series pushed a lot of my buttons, since I loved the old Kung Fu TV show (and even the sequel series), martial arts TV and movies in general, and the greater Marvel universe as a whole.

Having said that, as an adult I now know that the set up for Kung Fu and similar media is problematic.  There was talk that Iron Fist might subvert the source material’s issues by casting an Asian man as Danny, but Marvel played it safe.  Having seen the guy they were considering (Lewis Tan), I wish they’d taken the chance but here we are.  I’m not going to hammer them on this point (as many other reviewers and pundits have done so eloquently) but for a company that has led the way in so many other ways with the explosion of comic book media, it’s perplexing that they are going to lag behind on something like this.

Let’s move on to the show itself.  The story revolves around Danny Rand, long thought dead after his parents’ plane went down en route to China.  Secretly raised by warrior monks, Danny is trained to be a living weapon, able to channel his Chi into his fists (or fist, singular, so far) to become…well, I’ll let Roy Thomas tell you:

Iron Fist badassery

Comics!  Anyway, Danny returns to New York City and attempts to restart his life there – trying to get Rand Enterprise back, reintroducing himself to Ward and Joy Meachum (childhood friends/frenemies and the children of his father’s business partner, Harold), pestering dojo leader Colleen Wing, and generally making a nuisance of himself.  The earliest episodes felt the weakest to me.  I don’t think Finn Jones as Danny Rand was all that strong at the emotional aspects, though perhaps those directors were not pulling in a strong performance from him.  The action is weakest in these episodes as well, though Jessica Henwick as Colleen shows a bit of skill.  Still, I found myself most interested in Harold Meachum (yeah, he’s not dead) and his manipulation of events.

And make no mistake, Danny is very easily manipulated.  Despite numerous times this causes him trouble, he repeatedly trusts someone right after they do something somewhat nice for him, or just because it’s a person he knew in the past.  This despite the fact that one of the reasons he left his post – he’s supposed to be guarding the entrance to his mystical adopted home of K’un-Lun while it’s open – was he didn’t want to be a tool used by others.  I think they wanted to show how naive Danny is, with half of his youth spent apart from our society, but he seems to integrate himself back in fairly easily otherwise so it doesn’t quite work.

I know a lot of this sounds negative, but the show does pick up in the back half.  The action improves quite a bit.  I wasn’t surprised at all to see that the episode with one of my favorite fights (drunken boxing!) was directed by Kevin Tancharoen.  We get our requisite Claire Temple appearance, big reveals about the Hand, Madame Gao, Colleen Wing and Davos.  It DOES end on a pretty enormous cliffhanger, but Iron Fist perhaps suffers more than the previous Netflix/Marvel shows because it’s also pulling duty as the lead-in to the Defenders.

In the end, Iron Fist is probably a 3 out of 5.  Luke Cage (which I should probably re-watch and talk about here) is a notch above, and Jessica Jones and both seasons of Daredevil above that.  My next post will be a look ahead, at what the future should hold for Danny if there’s another Iron Fist season.

Categories
Comics Review

Comic Book Review – Power Man and Iron Fist #1

And now for something completely different!  Although Power Man and Iron Fist does feature another character we first spotted the live-action MCU version of in Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, teaming back up with his old partner Iron Fist.  But don’t tell Luke that, it’s just a favor for a friend, and how well does that usually work out when you’re a superhero?

SweetChristmasThe first issue expertly straddles old and new – the plot focuses on Danny and Luke helping out their old Heroes for Hire office manager after she gets out of prison, but all is not what it appears.  We also see a bit of home life with Luke and Jessica Jones, such as the running gag about with Luke not swearing.  David Walker’s got the Luke/Danny banter down, and Sanford Greene’s art with Lee Loughridge’s colors invokes the 70’s era movies and shows that originally inspired the characters.  It’s no secret that Iron Fist is a personal favorite of mine, but this has inspired me to go back to the beginning in Marvel Unlimited to get the full details on what’s going on.  Definitely checking out issue 2.

Categories
PC Games Review

State of the Game: Marvel Heroes

TooManyHours
You’ve played a game more than this, right? RIGHT?

Note:  I looked at Marvel Heroes before, but the game has changed even more since then so I’m starting fresh in this article.

I tried Marvel Heroes when it first came out (it didn’t have the ‘2015’ in the name then) but only played about 20 or 30 hours before setting it aside.  Loved the subject matter and style of game (Diablo with Marvel super heroes?  Sold!) but the execution just wasn’t there.  I kept on the e-mail list though, curious to see if the game would die out or come around, and ended up trying the game out again after I got a message about an event that sounded interesting.  As you can see, I’m hooked.

If you are not familiar with the game, Marvel Heroes is an action-RPG where you can play as one of forty different Marvel super heroes and villains.  If you’ve played the Diablo or Torchlight series, you know the style of game.  The difference here is MH is a free to play massively multiplayer action role playing game.  An ‘Action RPG’ is just a role playing game where you click on enemies to attack them, using various abilities directly, rather than selecting attacks from a menu and watching them happen.  ‘Massively multiplayer’ just means hundreds to thousands of users are playing alongside you, though in practice most places you go split you into manageable chunks of players in a particular zone.  ‘Free to play’ means you don’t pay up-front for the game but you can buy stuff, but unlike many games that make F2P a hated term, Marvel Heroes handles it pretty well.  A currency drops every 8 minutes or so, and you can use that to unlock every hero in the game, and many other things like some team-ups.  The main thing you end up running short of is storage space.  You have your inventory, your team-up inventory, and one ‘STASH’ but if you tend to keep interesting gear or play a bunch of heroes, you’ll want to chip in some bucks for extra space.  However, by the time you get to that point you’ll know for sure whether or not you like the game.

In my previous look at the game, I mentioned that the characters hewed pretty close to the standard Diablo archetypes (Ranged, Melee, Pet class) but I’m happy to report that as they’ve gone on, the characters have gotten more and more creative.  Rogue in particular is a ton of fun, as she can steal powers or knowledge from over a hundred heroes and villains in the game – the ultimate in customization.  The unstoppable Juggernaut was just released, and uses his momentum to power hard-hitting movement powers.  The devs are also deep in a process of completely revamping the earliest heroes to bring them up to the level of fun and uniqueness of the newer ones.

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Taskmaster is ready to take you chumps to school.

The story is fun the first few times through, with motion comics as the cutscenes at important spots.  Gazillion has tried to hit all the high notes in Marvel’s stable as far as enemies go, so you fight everyone from Shocker, Doc Ock and the Kingpin to Loki, Doctor Doom and Magneto.  Eventually as you gather more characters, you will not want to just go through the story over and over, and there are more options.  For instance, there is a Midtown Manhattan patrol (and within a few weeks, another Patrol map) where boss fights occur every few minutes.  Holo-Sim pits you against waves of enemies or boss events either solo or with a partner, which X-Defense lets you defend Xavier’s mansion against threats.  Gaz has also released two ‘One-Shot’ stories that exist outside of the story, the Wakandan Mines and the Bronx Zoo, which added the Lizard, Kraven the Hunter and Mr. Hyde.  They also set up ‘terminals’ where you can fight harder versions of some of the story chapters, with chances at better classes of loot or special drops from the bosses.

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Part of the training to defeat Shou-Lao the Undying is how to not check out every mutant who flies by. Also helps to remember that Misty Knight will kick your ass.

There is raid content too, though I’ve never done that – I have too much fun playing each character to the cap and trying the next one.  Cyclops is next, after I finish Taskmaster and Rogue.  I’m also excited for the characters coming this year, as the Winter Soldier, Iron Fist, War Machine and Blade are all on the way.

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One possible way to build Taskmaster.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out our Random Hero box giveaway!