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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – Black Panther #1

Creative Team:

  • Writer:  Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Art:  Brian Stelfreeze
  • Colors:  Laura Martin
  • Letters:  Joe Sabino

Over the years with my sporadic obsession with comics, I mostly missed comics featuring Black Panther.  It was the same way with a lot of important characters – I think they only exposure to Hank Pym was in his ‘Dr. Pym’ days with the West Coast Avengers.  I became a big fan of T’Challa via the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon, and have sought out comics he’s been in since then.  He had one of the better arcs during the whole Time Runs Out/Secret Wars thing with Doom and Namor, for instance.  So I was interested from the start when I heard about a new series, but when I saw Ta-Nehisi Coates was writing?  HAD to be a day one purchase.

Coates is National Correspondent for The Atlantic, an author with multiple awards, a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship.  But before all that, he was a comic book fan, and was excited to take on T’Challa’s new series.  I don’t want to spoil it, but if his literary credentials give you pause, don’t worry – this is a comic book story through and through, but with the added depth of someone who’s thought long and hard about topics of race and belonging.  But who better to flesh out and update a character that was created in the 60s by white men?  Issue 1 features a main story that picks up threads from recent Panther history, including Dr. Doom and Namor both attacking Wakanda, and a populace that begins to doubt their returned King (after the death of Shuri, his sister who had been ruling), along with an external threat capable of fanning those doubts and fears into hatred and chaos.

No comic is complete without great artists, and that’s no different here.  Brian Stelfreeze (with Laura Martin’s colors) has not just tweaked T’Challa’s look but has created a coherent design across all of Wakanda.  Real life African influences are combined with the fantastic and it sings.  I like that they did away with the cape and some of the extra bits that have come and gone on BP’s costume over time and now have a clean, muscled, panther-like look.

There’s a lot of story threads started here, but I have a feeling Coates and company will be able to balance them effectively.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Categories
Review TV

Agents of SHIELD Recap – S03E02 Purpose in the Machine

Episode 2, Purpose in the Machine kicks off right where the premiere left off, and keeps up the breakneck pace.  After an open that shows old English dudes sending some poor sap into a room…with our monolith.  Mostly so one of them can tell us “no one ever returns!”.  But we know our Simmons is still out there!  Back at SHIELD HQ, there’s some talk to get everyone up to date on the state of the Secret Warriors and team SHIELD itself which is to say numbers are down.  Amazing that these new Inhumans are all pretty freaked out.  Or dead.  That talk stops when they notice Fitz freaking out on the monolith.  They pull him away and slam the case shut just in time for the thing to go liquid again…reacting to Daisy.

We also see Ward rebuilding HYDRA, cutting away the weak and soft heads so stronger ones can take their places.  He hunts down a young man…who turns out to be Werner von Strucker!  I didn’t see that coming, and I’m interested to see what they do with it.  He gets placed in Dr. Garner’s Psych class by Ward.  Garner, for his part, is helping Daisy and Mack evaluate the Inhumans after May went to ground.  Garner gets Daisy to open up just a bit, about how she wants to build a home for her people.

Fitz discovers proof that the monolith is a portal through space, when it leaves behind alien sand after going liquid.  Coulson recruits “Professor Randolph”, the Asgardian the team encountered in Season one to help them open the portal.  Peter MacNicol is hilarious as the unassuming but powerful deserter, who studied portals like this as he’s afraid of getting snatched back through one.  He’s able to give the team a location where the monolith must’ve been, and they find a room designed to vibrate it open.  How convenient that they have a team member who can vibrate stuff when the machinery breaks, eh?  Daisy opens the portal, and Fitz dives through (of COURSE, did no one there see this coming, really??).  Simmons has thankfully headed towards the portal site thanks to a flare they shot through the first time, and Fitz spots her.  It gets intense as Fitz tries to reach her and hold her while they pull him back in.  The monolith shatters, we see Fitz under the shredded remains…and then Simmons!  I was shocked they got her back this early in the season, but it was a great moment.

The remaining plot (boy, they are spinning a lot of plates) involves the missing May joining Hunter on his mission to kill Ward.  Unremarkable except for the interplay between May and her dad, played by the always wonderful James Hong (Po’s dad in the Kung Fu Panda movies, pretty much everywhere else they need an older male Asian actor with humor chops).

The high entertainment value continued this week, but there are still plenty of questions left to answer despite Simmons’ return.

  • What planet was she on?  Hala?  It looked more like a moon to me, and her getting stranded there reminded me a bit of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes episode where the Avengers get stuck on Hala and are attacked by strange creatures.
  • Werner’s giant H belt buckle is just great.
  • As is the team noting the SHIELD logo being plastered on everything may have not been the best idea.  Heh.
  • In the comics, Strucker had other children, Andrea and Andreas the Fenris twins.  They had powers but I doubt they want to bring them in right now.  This episode seems to be bringing the team slowly back together, but they preview for next week seems to show a ‘betrayal’ as Daisy tries to help Lincoln, on the run after being outed as an ‘alien’ in last week’s episode.
  • With a manhunt episode and the return of the ATCU, I don’t see things slowing down.  On to Civil War!
Categories
Comics Movies

Ant-Man, Michael Douglas, and YOU

Casting news came down this week that Michael Douglas had signed on to play original Ant-Man Hank Pym in Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, due out in 2015.  However, this came on the heels of Paul Rudd signing on to play Ant-Man…so who is it going to be?  Both, if they do it right.

EMH Ant-ManLike many hero identities over the years, the Ant-Man name has been held by a few different people, with Hank Pym and Scott Lang being two of them.  Pym created the technology to change his size, as well as the snazzy helmet you see to the right that allows him to control ants (and other closely related insects).  He fought alongside the Avengers, but after a while it got to him.  Hank was a scientist first, and after some setbacks he puts aside costumed crimefighting and rededicated himself to research.  That’s where the second Ant-Man comes in.  Scott Lang steals the Ant-Man gear in order to rob banks.  The reason why has varied in media portrayals, but it usually involves saving his daughter in some way (on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which Edgar Wright watched for ‘Homework’ and is the source of this picture, Cassandra Lang had been kidnapped by a mob boss).

So where does that leave the movie?  Considering Michael Douglas’s age, the prevailing thought is he’s going to be a retired hero, possibly a SHIELD agent considering the group’s importance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  We know from The Incredible Hulk movie that research into new heroes continued long after Captain America was lost – it makes sense that we would’ve had a few active in the 60s or 70s.  Maybe we’ll see a young Fury, or an older Sharon Carter kicking some Cold War ass in a flashback.  Then, fast forward to the present day, where we have Scott Lang stealing the Ant-Man gear.  The Scott Lang story fits with Edgar Wright describing the movie as a ‘heist’ picture.

Changes are going to happen, when moving a character from comics to the big screen.  Many are wondering about Janet Van Dyne, Hank’s girlfriend/wife/ex-wife (it’s a comic book, it’s complicated).  Will she be in this at all?  She’s an Avenger too, as Wasp.  I can’t imagine them NOT wanting an attractive young woman in the movie – it’s Hollywood – but it remains to be seen if they have Janet involved.  I’ve seen Rashida Jones mentioned for the character, and I think she’s got a great look for Janet (see the comparison below).  Let me know if you have any questions, or comment below!

Wasp