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.
There’s a huge reason Captain America: Civil War works and Batman v Superman doesn’t, and that’s emotional investment. I know Zack Snyder and DC/WB wanted to do thing their own way and not ape Marvel’s so far successful approach, but when you are rebooting two legendary characters and making significant changes, you need to get the fans used to these new versions. We KNOW Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. We’ve seen them overcome numerous obstacles, both separately and together. They’ve fallen on hard times, been betrayed, beaten, come back stronger. Mistakes were made, characters have evolved, things have changed. It’s why we can believe Captain America, the guy who wears flag colors and beat the snot out of Nazis and HYDRA for his country, would now decide “the safest hands are still our own”. Why we can believe Tony Stark, the rebel genius whose not a team player, admonished for his ‘ready-fire-aim’ mentality, would toe the line this time after never even looking for the line before. Cap, since being unfrozen, was lied to by Fury, found out SHIELD was infiltrated by his greatest enemy, and then had to bail Tony’s ass out after one of his creations came within a hair’s breadth of destroying the Earth. Tony for his part, finally has to come to grips with the fact that his first impulse may not always be his best. And this time, it wasn’t just his own life getting torn to shreds, but the entire planet.
Batman V Superman just didn’t have that weight behind it. WB wanted us to care about them fighting, and spent a lot of words during the movie hyping it up, and trying to tell us how important it was, but during Civil War? Didn’t need a word of it. I felt every punch in that final battle especially. Tony, GUTTED by the horrific video of the Winter Soldier killing his parents, feeling the sting of their death again, the betrayal that Steve knew about it (remember in CA:TWS it was shown by Zola), lashes out. The battle, which had so far been over an idea, becomes brutally personal. I was enjoying the movie to that point, but at that point? Riveted.
Shifting gears a bit, it’s kind of amazing that I can be this far in and only now discussing everything else that happened in the movie. We meet Spider-Man! And it’s a poor, nerdy kid whose quippy yet awkward. Tom Holland nails it. BLACK PANTHER, I mean, come on. His moves are unreal, he dismantles Bucky, but even in the midst of righteous anger over the death of his father, T’Challa can step back from his vengeance to serve justice. What an example for the two sides fighting, eh? The Russos made Florence Kasumba’s “Security Chief” (gotta be one of the Dora Milaje) more interesting in one scene with one line than BvS did for 90% of the characters in it.
If you are concerned this sounds too heavy, well, it’s got more weight than a lot of Marvel movies, but rest assured, it brings the funny. Many of the best lines aren’t in the trailers, including the scene with Falcon and Bucky in the car, or Falcon fighting Spider-Man. Or Ant-Man and the truck. Even crazier, there was a character building moment or two for everybody. OH, and much has already been said about the Vision and his dapper look – his relaxed home attire always slays me in his current comic, and I’m glad to see it here, but it’s his interactions with Wanda that are most interesting. He isn’t yet to “even an android can cry” territory yet, but the groundwork is there.
Zemo, technically the villain since he really sets in motion the acts that get Avengers fighting Avengers, fares better than some of the recent Marvel villains. Quite different from the comics but built with real, complex motivations.
As for flaws, I think the movie wasn’t as well paced out as The Winter Soldier. Considering the sheer amount of content, that’s understandable. With that, Captain America: Civil War can’t quite dethrone Iron Man and The Winter Soldier as my go-to Marvel movies, but it gets massive, Giant-Man sized points for being to pull off as many heroes and storylines as it did.
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.
If there’s a thing in comics fandom I hate right now it’s this adversarial tone a lot of the chatter takes on nowadays. A spirited debate is fun, no doubt, but this isn’t that, it’s just angry people shouting at each other. It’s there in sports now, video games, even politics. There are certain groups who cling desperately to their ‘thing’, and that other ‘thing’? You’re the most vile piece of trash not fit for life for liking it! UGH. And some of the media outlets support this sort of binary thinking – they encourage it, basking in the clicks and not caring that they make discourse demonstrably worse. Take this article in the NY Post that made the rounds yesterday, provocatively titled ‘Batman v Superman’ is too smart for Marvel fans. In it, Kyle “Women are not capable of understanding Goodfellas” Smith posits that Marvel fans’ intelligence levels are low:
This dimension lends the film a gravity and level of interest that places it at the opposite end of the spectrum from such sophomoric Marvel movies as “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Deadpool.” All three feature brainless, low-stakes action that’s as interesting as watching a waiter fall down the stairs while carrying a tray of dishes;
While I love a good pratfall (Pratt-fall?) as much as the next guy, you’ll notice he singles out a couple of things from the Marvel canon, as if only Guardians and AoU represent the MCU. As I read that, I pictured Mr. Smith as Anton Ego in Ratatouille, sitting in his coffin-shaped room, ready to eviscerate Marvel for releasing a movie that has the audacity to be ‘fun’. Where is The Winter Soldier on his ‘spectrum’? TWS may be the perfect comic book movie in that it isn’t really a comic book movie. It’s a spy thriller that just happens to star Cap, Natasha and Nick Fury. The first Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Jessica Jones, Daredevil…none of those represent Marvel, because it doesn’t fit Smith’s ‘us versus them’ narrative.
We need to stop letting the media gleefully hammer on the wedges that are splitting us apart. There’s no reason we can’t like BOTH The Avengers and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But even if you don’t like a thing, it doesn’t make the people who DO like it stupid. Let’s be better than that. Comic book fans were marginalized, looked down upon for so long, now that we are finally getting our day in the pop culture spotlight we shouldn’t turn on each other, we should be celebrating. DC fans, you are FINALLY getting your Justice League movie! Marvel fans, you get the freaking Infinity Gauntlet! Don’t stomp on something just because it’s too dark/gritty/goofy/noisy or whatever. We can be better than this. Build, don’t tear down.
It’s not surprising in the least that the Vision would get a title in Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” lineup. He made his big-screen debut in this summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron after all. When this sort of thing has happened before, you have often seen changes made to the comic book version of the character or characters involved, for better synergy. Peter Parker develops organic web-shooters, or the X-Men wear leather costumes, what have you. What writer Tom King, artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and colorist Jordie Bellaire created here is something VERY different, and it’s got me hooked from the jump.
If you need to know the basics about the comic book version of the Vision, he is a synthezoid, which is basically a synthetic human, who had originally been created by Ultron to infiltrate and destroy the Avengers. He turned on Ultron and ended up joining them. Vision’s emotional capabilities have changed numerous times, and currently he has his memories (more or less) but has purged the associated emotions from them. I don’t think it means he’s purged ALL emotion however.
As you can guess from that history it would take a lot for things to get stranger for the Vision, but Vision #1 certainly does exactly that. It seems that Viz has created a while family for himself and settled down to a ‘normal’ life in a DC suburb. He’s doing liaison work for the Avengers to the White House. His wife Virginia, and children Viv and Vin seem like a perfect simulacrum of a normal family…which is exactly why they are so darn creepy. Add in the fact that it’s implied that Vision used the Scarlet Witch’s brain patterns to create Virginia – and who’s more stable than Wanda! – and combined his and hers to make the kids, and you fall straight into the Uncanny Valley. The Visions’ blank eyes and 50’s style politeness are unsettling and as you read deeper it becomes clear that there are some serious problems with Vision’s plan.
Punctuating the story and adding to the creepy tone are the captions, matter-of-factly describing both the mundane and the horrific. As the story goes along, you begin to get a sense that the Vision family have the same sorts of problems we have – the kids don’t fit in at school, the mom is depressed, and Vision himself seems to be having a nightmare and doubting his ‘love’.
Much like any other super hero’s family, the Visions come under attack by a supervillain – who it is and why stems from Vision’s own creation, using the memories of Wonder Man. The story ends with Virginia telling the children to lie to their father about what happens and yeah, when is issue 2 out? I love when one of the big companies is willing to go experimental on us, and while I can’t see this being a long-running book, I HAVE to know what happens next.
I have some catching up to do, so you get some quick thoughts on some recent flicks.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – The first movie was so successful, so it would’ve been difficult to meet expectations here. Ultron definitely was a half-step down but still had some great action and humor. Ultron himself could’ve used a bit more menace – something Spader would’ve been capable of, and in the end Ultron comes off a bit odd. I loved the Vision though, and for all the worry about Quicksilver and the comparison to the X-Men movie version, he and Wanda were great in their limited role. Special shout-out to Hawkeye who filled the ‘heart of the team’ role admirably, and was probably the funniest of the Avengers.
Ant-Man – Okay, I really enjoyed Ant-Man. Thought of as the riskiest project in the MCU after Guardians of the Galaxy, especially with all the turmoil surrounding Edgar Wright’s departure. It didn’t catch fire like Guardians but has performed solidly, tracking to match or exceed Captain America: The First Avenger. The visuals were a ton of fun and seemed to keep some of the Edgar Wright weirdness around. I wish Hope could’ve been Wasp here but I’ll deal as long as they get her in for future MCU movies. I also hope we get to see more Hank Pym – I’d love to see Michael Douglas as Hank going toe to toe with Tony Stark.
Minions – Minions is the classic example of something that is funny in small bursts but drags when expanded out to feature-length. Like how Pinky and the Brain were funny on Animaniacs but significantly less so with their own 30 minute show. There were a few chuckles and it certainly wasn’t so bad as to be painful, but it’s telling that the biggest smile for me came from when (spoiler alert) young Gru appeared at the end. Catch it when it’s on FX or whatever.
Like 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!
I’ve been struggling with how to approach reviewing The Avengers. I mean, I’m a comic guy from way back, but not an obsessive one. Iron Man is one of my favorites, and I’m not sure I can be entirely impartial. Had I stayed up last night (got home at 1:30am) and wrote this, my post would be peppered with ‘FUCK YEAH AVENGERS WOOOOO’ and stuff like that. By this time, you’ve read a bunch of other reviews and know pretty much what you are getting – but I have to write something! I thought Joss and the rest handled so many egos perfectly. Just about everybody had a great line or three that left people guffawing. As anyone that’s watched Firefly knows, Joss has excellent comic timing, and a way with having the unexpected happen that only amps it up. This is funnier than you are expecting, yes, even if you like the jokes in the trailers. There’s a few spots of real emotion, though they were kept a bit to the sideline so that the movie would keep moving (one particular scene with Agent Carter and Steve Rogers was cut as it ‘brought the movie to a halt’).
Stark referencing “life model decoys” from the comics
Captain America’s “There’s only one God, ma’am…” line
“Puny God” and the absolute ass-kicking Loki received just before it
Rogers/Cap paying up the $10 (total Joss move right there)
Banner on Loki: “That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.”
Tony’s speech to Loki at the final battle. “You’re missing the point. There’s no throne. There is no version of this where you come out on top…”
If there’s one bit that didn’t work, it was Stark with Pepper at the beginning. Could’ve used som polishing, and possibly Pepper should’ve worn some pants. Not that I don’t mind the fan-service daisy dukes there, but it distracted from them as a couple.
Minor quibble, though. I’ll be seeing this again on Wednesday, and probably again once it reaches the second-run theater, or maybe at the drive-in if there’s something good paired with it. Highly recommended for all except the little ones.
I went to see Captain America: The First Avenger this weekend, and I have to say, it was a TON of fun. It comes close, to me, to the first Iron Man as far as quality of the movie. It does lack some small bit of the emotional impact I felt with Iron Man, but Captain America shades more towards adventure and further away from personal intrigue, which is fine.
The movie centers around Steve Rogers, a scrawny, asthmatic orphan who nevertheless wants to join the Army and fight for his country. In his last attempt, he catches the ear of Dr. Abraham Erskine, who recruits Rogers for a secret project led by Tommy Lee Jones’s Col. Phillips to make ‘super-soldiers’.
I won’t go too much deeper into the plot so as not to spoil it if you’ve never read the various Captain America origin stories. Cap ends up leading the charge against the Red Skull and his Nazi off-shoot organization, Hydra. It’s worthwhile to see Thor before this, as there are a few references that you will ‘get’ that you may not otherwise. A friend of mine lamented that Red Skull never seemed to threaten Cap, though I’m not sure about that. They basically are equals in strength and they do have a solid if somewhat short fight in the endgame of the movie. I could see how that could be underwhelming, but it worked for me, especially with what occurs after.
All in all, I had a lot of fun watching The First Avenger. Make sure you stay after the movie, AND after the credits for some more scenes, and a trailer for The Avengers.