marvel

My Thoughts on Age of Ultron

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So, I went to see Age of Ultron on opening night, like one does. I was shocked as hell that my local theater had showings starting at 8PM on 30 April, despite opening night being advertised as 1 May. I went to the 10:15PM showing because it was after my kid went to bed (I didn’t want him to know where I was going, and keeping a 7 y/o up until 11 on a school night would have been fucked up). I didn’t get home and in bed until 1:30AM and had to get up at 6:30 for work, but it was so worth it.

  • I really enjoyed the rapport between Hulk and Black Widow. I haven’t followed Avengers comics as closely as the X-Men, so I’m not entirely sure if this has basis in canon or is something original to the movie universe, but I liked it. It’s obvious that at least those two have bonded some in between the first and second film. Now I do know in the comics she and Hawkeye have hooked up, so I’ll also say how nice it was to see a female lead just being friends with a guy instead of being there to be his love interest. It’s annoying how often the female lead is just there for sex appeal for one (or more) of the guys, and has no relationships beyond that.
  • On a related note, it seems like Hawkeye and the Widow got a bit more time in this film than the first. At least, I don’t remember them having as much of a role. And I’m glad that changed (if it did and I’m just not remembering things wrong). I mean, if you’re the Black Widow in a Captain America film, it’s not hard to shine–she’s as physically able as Cap, and it’s not an ensemble film. But on a team with Thor, Iron Man and Hulk…well, you see where I’m going. I thought for sure Hawkeye was going to eat shit by the end of the movie, the way they were building him up.

  • Which brings me to my next point. I can’t believe they wasted Quicksilver. I mean, it’s comics, so they can always bring him back (probably with the Infinity Gems). Since we’re talking about Quicksilver, I’m casting my vote in favor of Evan Peters’ version. But still, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are part of each other’s identities. I don’t think for a moment it’ll last, but I’m still surprised they did it. It was a good little bit of redemption for the twins, though, and worked well for their arc.
  • The fucking Vision. Believe it or not, I actually forgot we were going to get the Vision in this film, so I damn near jumped out of my seat when he burst free of that capsule. It was freakin’ awesome. And his rescue of Wanda at the end seems to be a seed planted for a relationship similar to the one they had in the comic. That just makes sense. She’s really going to need an anchor after losing her brother.

  • And of course, Ultron. While I was waiting for the film to start, I read a few Tweets and comments on the film from people in my networks who’d seen earlier showings of the film. They weren’t all complimentary of the movie in general, or of how dastardly Ultron wasn’t. I thought they did Ultron well. One of the things about Ultron in the comics was that he always got progressively more difficult each time he appeared. He’s an artificial intelligence. Of course, he’ll learn and evolve (in theory, of course. We may never see him again in the movies). Presenting him at the threat level he had helped keep the movie more about our heroes themselves, which is as it should be.
  • Finally, the changing of the guard that happened at the end. I guess they had to accomodate in the script for the fact that some of the actors may only have one movie left in their contracts, and the Avengers lends itself to a rotating cast anyway. I’m not sure how the last Thor movie will play out–perhaps it will relate more to Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and the space-faring side of the Infinity War. Hawkeye’s departure was a good cap to his arc. It seems weird to have Tony take a sabbatical, knowing he’s going to be a big part of Captain America: Civil War, but whatever. I doubt we’ve seen the last of Ruffalo’s Hulk; I’ve read elsewhere that his departure could be a segue into a Planet Hulk adaptation, and I’d love the hell out of that.

The new group, though: War Machine, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Falcon, along with Cap and Widow? Can’t wait to see them in action.

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Daredevil Season One Retrospective

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I finished watching the first season of Daredevil on Netflix today. I could have watched it a lot faster than I did, but I really wanted to savor it–at least somewhat. I’m extremely happy not to have had to consume the show on an episode-per-week, basis. The short version is, it’s pretty much the exact opposite of the 2003 movie, and for that reason, was completely perfect.

I didn’t mind the Daredevil movie all that much when it came out–not like some people. Sure, it took some liberties with the source material, but Michael Clarke Duncan was a great Kingpin and they at least made an attempt at updating Bullseye for the new millennium. I’m convinced that the problem with the film wasn’t Affleck, and not even the script–it was that it was a Daredevil movie. But like I said, I didn’t really mind it. A Daredevil movie was the best us comic guys could hope for given the climate in Hollywood at the time.

Now THIS, we didn’t really need. >_<

But Daredevil–and Matt Murdock–aren’t really characters that lend themselves well to a movie adaptation, in my humble opinion. Batman is iconic enough and has a general appeal such that there isn’t a problem with making a movie introducing Batman, setting up a couple of villains and having Batman kick the shit out of them. With Spider-man, you again have an instantly recognized icon. While Peter is changed drastically by the events of his films, we’re still talking about classic storylines that could be served up without having to dig far below the surface of the characters to find the gold. In both cases, of course, the comics have provided radical deconstructions of the characters and their motivations over the years, but I’m talking specifically about adaptations of these characters to film.

What we got in season one of Daredevil is basically a season-long origin story–not just for Murdock, but for Karen Page, for Wilson Fisk, even for Daredevil’s costume. The story has time to breathe. We don’t have a fully-realized Kingpin until the end of the season–but in exchange, we have Vanessa, a fully realized character in her own right. I don’t think there’s a chance in hell she’d have fallen in love with the Kingpin of Crime, and I don’t think the Kingpin could rightfully come off as charming–but done this way, it works. We don’t see the red suit until halfway through the last episode, which makes perfect sense for a hero at the start of his career, and comes about organically, as the result of Matt getting his ass kicked by a frickin’ ninja and inspired by his discovery that his archfoe’s suits have a little “extra padding.”

Karen Page, Foggy Nelson and Ben Urich, so important to the mythos, aren’t shoehorned in, in such a way as to reserve most of the running time for Murdock, Kingpin, Bullseye and Elektra. Foggy gets a rollercoaster through the emotions of betrayal and finally acceptance when he learns who his old friend Matt really is. Karen gets a full character arc, from being a victim in the first episode to being firmly entrenched in the shit by the end. Deborah Ann Woll would have been wasted on anything less, just like Vincent D’Onofrio would have been wasted on simply playing “The Kingpin.” The movie tried to encapsulate the entirety of what Daredevil’s about in a couple hours of film. There’s no way in hell that could have done the character justice.

It’s a bit of a shame they couldn’t work *this* into Kingpin’s backstory, ain’t it?

 

I love that we haven’t even seen Bullseye or Elektra the whole season. There was no need. The writers and the moneymen knew damn well if they made a killer first season, they could bring them in in good time. Charlie Cox did such a good job of playing a vulnerable, driven, human hero, and it only took a sliver of Daredevil’s rich backstory to do it. We only got a small taste of The Hand, and that was plenty to carry an episode, with consequences lasting all the way to the end of the season. Gao’s going to be back (though I’m betting her return will set up The Defenders more than anything else), the Owl’s been teased, Potter’s Gladiator is surely nigh at hand, and if you looked closely when Murdock picked up his suit, those stilts in the corner probably weren’t placed on set as an afterthought, either.

I doubt we’ll see all of these things come to fruition in season two, either. Because if the creators turn in a killer season two, they don’t have to rush to get everything on the table. I’m guessing Bullseye and Elektra won’t even be introduced in the same season. If I was in the writer’s room, it’s what I’d do. And while personally, I’d rather see a Defenders show featuring Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Power Man right from the get-go instead of three individual shows, I have faith in Marvel that they’ll continue offering quality comic adaptations. I do have to say a Punisher show on Netflix is at the top of my wishlist, however, and a Wolverine solo show adapted from his comic would be the tits, if Fox decided to get into the game.

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Christmas Comics Chronicle, Continued

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For those of you just tuning in, the first installment of The Secret Origin of Lincoln Crisler covered the first two of four X-Men comic book issues given me by my older brother for Christmas when I was twelve. I’ve recently re-read those issues for the first time as an adult—and, since my twelve year-old self had no money whatsoever to spend on comic books, for the first time ever in the context of the several years’ worth of story that preceded them. The other two issues I received that year were:

X-Force 30, featuring the second-ever appearance of Adam X, the X-Treme. X-Treme was a Shi’ar/Human hybrid who appeared to be in his late teens/early twenties. His first appearance was in the prior year’s X-Force annual, which I finally got to read a few years down the road. One issue was all I needed to completely invest in this character. He was a badass looking blade fighter, could go toe-to-toe with Shatterstar and had an awesome power: if his foe had an open wound, he could ignite the electrolytes in their blood and incapacitate them.

A year or so later, I traded for another single comic issue, X-Men 39, which also featured him, and that—a story of X-Treme and Phillip Summers (Cyclops’ grandfather), of all people—is another of my all-time favorite X-Men comics. The next time I saw him in a comic, it was at least ten years later, in a cameo appearance written by a guy who had no sense of the character and portrayed him as a whiny, Earth-normal mutant bitch for a couple of panels in a book I don’t even remember all that well. He was supposed to be the third Summers brother (born of Emperor D’Ken and Cyclops’ mom), but that never came to fruition and we got Vulcan instead. Meh.

Side note: this comic also featured, along with the first Deadpool limited and the New Warriors/X-Force crossover, the subplot involving Black Tom’s conversion to a wood-based tree looking creature. I’d never gotten to read this entire subplot, though, as a huge fan of Generation X (issue 25 of which featured Tom) I was excited as hell to read the set-up for those issues in their entirety (Tom was adapted by some doctors after being shot up by Cable in the early X-Force/Spider-man crossover from ’91 or ’92).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X-Factor 99, the issue before the Death of Multiple Man, featuring an awesome villainess named Haven who was introduced in issue 96 and wasn’t seen again after issue 100 except for a two-issue or so subplot several years later setting up a battle between Forge and the Adversary. Waste of a great character, if you ask me. She was from India (a cultural rarity in comics), had a striking character design and a great back story written by Peter David (whom I’ve asked in a recent letter to consider bringing the character back) and had an immense impact on X-Factor. She was responsible for curing Wolfsbane of the engineered attachment to Havok she’d had since her time in Genosha back in ’90 or ’91, and attempted to cure Madrox of the Legacy Virus. As with X-Men 28, the book had an exciting cover and featured another of my favorite characters, the mercenary Random.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think what I miss most about the comics of this era, besides the storylines and the art, was how interwoven the various comics and their characters were. The entire X-franchise was tight and polished. Characters had lengthy, consistent storylines and arcs. The X-Men were put through the ringer during that period—the battles against Stryfe and Magneto, Wolverine losing the adamantium, Colossus joining the Acolytes, the deaths of Illyana and Madrox—and you actually gave a shit. Nowadays, I’m reading the new X-Factor book (written by David again—imagine that!) and not much else, except for when I pick up an issue of one of the other books for nostalgia’s sake.

Next week, we’ll shift gears for a couple of installments and begin discussing a few of my favorite science fiction and fantasy novel series’ from my childhood. Fans of Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffery and Piers Anthony will want to stay tuned, for sure.

 

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