Archive for the ‘Marvel Comics’ Category

Superior Spider-Man #1   1 comment

Gotta say, the covers for the last 2 Spider-Man comics don't really do much for me.

Gotta say, the covers for the last 2 Spider-Man comics don’t really do much for me.

I should have known that Marvel wouldn’t really kill off Peter Parker.   After a lifetime of reading comics; after seeing the “death” of countless heroes and villains, and seeing them come back in one form or another, I should have known that Marvel wouldn’t really kill the one true Spider-Man.  If there’s one thing that comic companies love to do, it’s “kill” their heroes or their villains, and then bring them back.  I guess the whole idea of returning from the dead has been the big story on Earth since the time of the ancient Greeks–Persephone  gets carried off to the underworld, and then her mother gets her back.  Hercules had to go to Hades and bring back Cerberus.  Just getting in and out of the Underworld is a job for a superhero.  Jesus Christ died for our sins and came back to life.  And on and on and on!  If there’s one lesson we all should have learned by now, it’s that Death is not the End–it’s just another phase that people go through.  Especially in comic books!!!

So, Ock-Spidey shows tendencies to be his old ruthless self, including showboating for women and killing his enemies, but he is prevented from murdering anyone by a remnant of Parker’s conscience inside his brain.  Just about the last panel shows Parker in ghostly form saying “I am still in the game.”  That’s an interesting statement.  This implies that it is not just a remnant of Parker’s personality preserved in his brain cells, but the true Parker personna. We saw Ock’s body die in Amazing Spider-Man 700 with Parker’s consciousness still trapped inside.  How can he be alive?

I have a theory, and I believe it will take Marvel quite a long time to prove or disprove it one way or another.  Marvel has had Dr. Strange run around in his astral form for decades.  We all have astral forms, but most of us never consciously experience the state of going astral.  The astral form is tethered to the physical body by a “silver cord” that is infinitely stretchable, and that cord is usually only sundered by the death of the body.  Ock, being a scientist, wouldn’t know anything about astral forms, but even though he managed to evict Parker’s self from his own brain and body, he wouldn’t have severed the “silver cord”.  That can only be broken by the death of the body.  Parker’s body survives; ergo the cord survives, ergo Parker is still in the game.  Who knows?  (Dan Slott and his cronies at Marvel know.) Parker and Strange were friends–they’ve adventured together many times in the past.  Strange may even be helping Parker maintain his connection to his old body.

Drawn by curiosity, I put Superior Spider-Man on my comics pull list.  I’ll probably let it stay there for 3 issues, and then cancel.  No, I don’t really want to buy every issue of Ock-Spider-Man, but I am curious enough to follow for a couple more issues.

If you have any thoughts about how long Doc Ock will be in charge of the Spider-Man being, why not leave a comment?f  Or a prediction? You think this will last a year or longer in the real world?

–end

Advertisements

The Ape, the Bat, and the Spider   4 comments

I love superhero movies–always have.  And there have been more and more of them lately as Time-Warner (D.C) and Marvel get their acts together.  In the last couple of weeks I’ve made an extra effort to get out and see The Amazing Spider-Man and The Rise of the Dark Knight.  I enjoyed them both very much.  Spider-Man was more fun.  Batman was more epic.

Talking with my son about them, I started to mentally compare the movies.  At first glance Batman and Spider-Man don’t seem very similar, but the two heroes actually have a lot of similarities.  In fact I’d argue that they’re both literary descendants of Tarzan who was the original swinger.

Tarzan was the original swinging super hero.

Then Batman got into the act.

Then Spider-Man made it his chosen mode of travel.

First Edgar Rice Burroughs had a super hero Tarzan swinging in 1912, although it was probably 1920 before he showed it off in the comics.  Then Bob Kane created the swinging Batman in 1929.  Finally, Stan Lee did it with Spider-Man in 1961 (and later with Daredevil in 1964.)

There are a lot of resemblances between these three male supermen.  They are all orphans. Tarzan’s parents died in the African jungle while he was still a baby.  Batman’s parents were shot down by Joe Chill in Crime Alley while Bruce as a ten-year-old boy.  Spider-Man’s parents perished mysteriously, when he was a young boy also.  Then Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben got killed by a petty criminal, so Spider-Man suffered the dead father figure twice.  (Superman’s parents died  when Krypton exploded.  Conan’s parents are generally thought to have died when he was young; Robert E. Howard never said, but the movie scripters kill them off when Conan is young.)  Is there something about being an orphan that creates heroes?

All three heroes base or get their powers from animals: apes, bats, and spiders.  My original comparison was simply going to be Batman and Spider-Man.  Both characters model themselves after animals that are loathed and feared–bats and spiders, and use an animal symbol on their costume.

Not too visible in this rubberized armor, but the bat symbol is right in the middle of Batman’s chest.

Spider emblem right in the middle of his chest. Granted, it is the best place to put a symbol on a costume, and all the heroes do it, but still . . . it’s a similarity.

Both Batman and Spider-Man are primarily known as crime fighters, and not just ordinary crime, although they will take out everyday thugs and such if the occasion arises, but freaky super-villains.  The Batman’s arch nemesis is The Joker (whose theme colors are green and purple).

Scary looking guy in green and purple, maniac, mass murderer.

Spidey’s all time worst enemy is The Green Goblin, whose theme colors are green and purple.

Scary looking maniac and mass murderer in green and purple.

Both heroes are scientific geniuses, coming up with all sorts of inventions to help themselves.  Batman does it more than Spider-Man does, but neither one is challenged in the IQ department.

Both of them have a tendency to get their girlfriends killed.  I won’t go into that, but ladies, stay away from superheroes (and villains) if you don’t want to die young.

Both of them developed female versions.  Batman has Batwoman and Batgirl.  (many different versions of both)

Kate Kane is the latest and perhaps the hottest Batwoman. She hasn’t made it to the movies yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Barbara Gordon is the original Batgirl, and still the best. She’s back, somehow, since DC rebooted their universe.

Spider-Man has his female imitations.

Spiderwoman, deadlier than the male.

Arana (should be a tilde on the n but not available while typing here) aka Spider-Girl.

Then there was the Batmobile and the Spidermobile, the Batcycle and the Spidercycle.  And who knows how many other similarities there are between the two heroes.  Is it just me, or is Marvel simply imitating D.C. as far as their hero characters go?

Batman is perhaps the most important figure in the DC pantheon of heroes.  Superman might be equal, but then why are there more Bat books than Super books?  Spider-Man is perhaps the most important figure in the Marvel pantheon of heroes.  It just had to be that way.  The two characters carry the same karma, and so achieve similar positions of prominence.

I’m not saying that Batman and Spider-man are identical, but dang, when you start to look at them, there sure are a lot of similarities.

If you can think of some comparisons that I may have missed, please go ahead and leave a comment.  If you’ve seen both of their new movies, and you’d like to weigh in on which was superior, then do that too.

end

Who You Gonna Call?   3 comments

Last night I finally got to see the Avengers, my most hotly anticipated film since Conan.  I enjoyed it.  The action scenes and the special effects were outstanding–Academy Award outstanding.  The acting was superb.  The scriptwriters and director gave good lines and plenty of screen time to all the major characters.  I suppose I should stop and give a well done bit of applause to all the members of the cast.  Here’s a few of them as listed at IMDB.com.

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Downey Jr. Robert Downey Jr.
Chris Evans Chris Evans
Mark Ruffalo Mark Ruffalo
Chris Hemsworth Chris Hemsworth
Scarlett Johansson Scarlett Johansson
Jeremy Renner Jeremy Renner
Tom Hiddleston Tom Hiddleston
Clark Gregg Clark Gregg
Cobie Smulders Cobie Smulders
Stellan Skarsgård Stellan Skarsgård
Samuel L. Jackson Samuel L. Jackson
Gwyneth Paltrow Gwyneth Paltrow

I am not a Hollywood groupie, and I don’t keep track of movie stars in my daily life.  I have seen Robert Downey and Gwynneth Paltrow enough in other films to recognize their names.  I still remember the terrific performances turned in by Chris Evans as Captain America and Chris Helmsworth as Thor, but if you had asked me last night before the film who played Cap and Thor in those movies, I couldn’t have told you.  Of course everyone in America knows Samuel Jackson from lots of different films–he does the Nick Fury, leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. routine.  However, I thought the actors were very good, even the ones in throwaway bit parts.  Tom Hiddleston as Loki really carried the movie.  Super heroes require super villains, and he was great, combining arrogance, cunning, and sheer mad egotism in a bravura performance.  I think there is a tendency to overlook the bad guys in hero action films, but we members of the audience should give those actors more credit.  Without them the heroes have no reason to exist, and nothing to emote against.  Think about it.  There was one real bad guy in the film–Loki.  He took on Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye, the Black Widow, and Nick Fury and gave them all they could handle.  One vs. seven. I’m not giving away any secrets if I tell you they beat him in the end, but think of the odds.  Hero stories are usually stacked the other way–more bad guys than good guys, and in a sense this was since Loki had an army of formidable aliens to back him up, but they were just extras.  Loki, and for 2/3 of the movie, Hawkeye who had been mind-controlled by Loki, were the only real bad guys.

The plot can be summarized easily enough.  Loki and his army of alien monsters decide to conquer the Earth.  Loki’s main problem is in bringing his troops to Earth from their outer space/other dimesnional homeworld.  Nick Fury and his agents of SHIELD, including the group he pulls together as the Avengers have to stop him.  Lots of combat and property destruction ensue.  Much of the conflict occurs on a personal level.  Marvel characters are all people first, heroes second.  They have their own motivations and lives, and often resent being forced to protect the world from one threat or another, but because they are good guys at heart–at least most of them are–they get over their greivances and cooperate to save the day.  Take out all the character vs. character petty antagonisms and the movie is half as long.

I don’t know why the publicity departments for these films always choose the least interesting photos.

The movie really starts with the theft of the Tesseract (also known as the Cosmic Cube in the comics) from a SHIELD base somewhere.  Loki takes on the whole base, beats it, and gets away with the maguffin.  But it only gets interesting when we switch to the Black Widow, in her crimson underwear, tied to a chair, and being interrogated by an evil Russian general arms dealer.  She gets a call from SHIELD saying they need her to “come in” and this leads to an escape featuring the most incredible display of chair fu ever filmed.  Jackie Chan would be so proud.  That’s the scene I want a picture of, not her in a black rubber suit pointing a pistol.

The two Chrisses. Blondes rule when it comes to street-fighting in New York.

Thor and Captain America, although no dummies, spend most of their time kicking butt and looking hunky.  I suppose the beefcake is for the ladies in the audience, but there is a lot of barely concealed homoeroticism in superhero comics.  These guys are just so damn pretty.  I like it better when they’re kicking butt.

Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD, is a hands-on kind of guy. He does his own dirty jobs, and butt-kicking. Does he look like a mastermind to you? He doesn’t to me, but appearances can be deceiving. You can never trust a cyclops.

In the course of the film we learn that SHIELD is really run by a secret cabal who are utterly ruthless.  I guess having it just be an arm of the United Nations or the U.S. government isn’t enough any more.  We need conspiracies.  And the government looks evil enough to the American public without the movies making it worse.  Far better to have secret leaders who can’t be traced back to the Republicans or the Democrats or the Communists pulling the strings.  Fury is shown to be a devious bastard, but still a man with heart who does his best to protect people.

Alpha-males never get along when they meet each other. Give them a common foe, and they can certainly cooperate, but social situations are just plain nasty.

Thor and Iron Man go head to head in combat about half way through the movie.  I didn’t buy it.  No matter how good Stark’s technology is, Thor’s hammer should have blasted through it like it was tissue paper.  He’s a god.  So, suspend your disbelief for this part and just enjoy the smashing and bashing.

Loki has the best costumes, the best lines, and the best smile in the movie.

Remember that building in the background from the Ghostbusters? When there’s someting bad in the neighborhood, who you gonna call? Bad doesn’t come much worse than Loki on a power trip.

Who ya gonna call? Iron Man, I guess. I like Iron Man–he’s witty, smart, courageous, lecherous, and rich–just like me. Heh. Well, I can match him in one of those characteristics, and it isn’t the rich one.

The movie ends in an epic battle scene.  All of our Avenging heroes fight like heroes.  Hulk and Thor do the heavy hitting.  The rest take on the alien storm troopers who are quite bad enough to give any normal human being fits.  This is the part of the movie I liked best.  Bring it on!  Take out one gigantic space dragon.  Not bad.  Here’s ten more of them.  Now what are you gonna do, Hulk?

I liked the Avengers and give it 4 stars out of 5. ****  If you like superheroes at all, don’t miss it.

One more thing:  my personal rant–People are so hypercritical of the movies these days.  The Avengers is an amazing achievement as a movie.  Can you nitpick it?  Yes you could.  I’m not going to.  Try to see the terrific acting, the great storyline, the amazing special effects (even if it was all done with computer animation), and skip over the implausibilities and impossibilities that glare out of the movie at you.  It’s a comic book world, bearing a heavy resemblance to our world, but it isn’t our world.  It’s a wilder place than our own universe, and wilder things happen.  Accept them!  Enjoy them!

Biggest surprise for me: Joss Whedon had his name all over the credits.  Wow!  He must be on top of the world right now.  He is, imnsho, the best storyteller in Hollywood, perhaps in the world.  Didn’t know he was a Marvel fan, but I stand in awe of his achievements.

end

If you have anything to say about the Avengers, the Ghostbusters, or Joss Whedon, please leave a comment.

Avengers Prime   2 comments

Thor, Iron Man, Steve Rogers--no longer the best of friends

I read a lot of comics.  Because of the availability of graphic novels at the public library, I read far more than I could ever afford to buy.  Let me tell you, comics fans, the public library is your friend when it comes to comics.  Whether you like American superheroes, Japanese manga, European sophistry, or the Independents, the Library is your best friend when it comes to getting an entertainment fix without breaking the bank.  Of course, you could always just stand around the comics shop and browse through stuff on the rack, but really, who has time for that?  And, it is hardly fair to your friendly local comics dealer.

I hardly ever buy Marvel, not because I don’t like Marvel comics–for the most part Marvel publishes high quality good stuff.  It’s just that my finances are strained to the breaking point already in keeping up with the books inspired by Robert E . Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, and a few other notable purveyors of swords and sorcery, sword-and-planet, or jungle/lost worlds adventures.  Conan, Kull, Tarzan, John Carter, Elric–these are the titles I must buy as they appear.  Throw in the occasional Justice League or Green Lantern or Ka-Zar, and my finances are overstretched.

But, just as I love the Justice League, so do I also love the Avengers.  And, last week I read the best Avengers tale ever.  Here is a brief teaser for it:

They were friends, brothers and teammates through all of Marvel’s greatest adventures, but recent events turned them into the bitterest of enemies. In the wake of the siege of Asgard, Thor, Iron Man and Steve Rogers are brought together on the same side once more – but these great heroes can’t truly trust each other yet. They better start soon, because something only the Big Three can handle is tearing their world apart. This all-new, grand and dangerous adventure – uniting comics legend Alan Davis with Avengers scribe Brian Bendis for the first time – will catapult our heroes into the explosive Heroic Age! Collecting AVENGERS PRIME #1-5.

I’m going to sum up the story very quickly.  The old Asgard is gone–I don’t know why–I’d better go catch up on Thor’s adventures at wikipedia.org.  Thor has been rebuilding the Realm Not-So-Eternal in the boondocks of Oklahoma.  Norman Osborn goes nuts and attacks it with his coalition of supervillains disguised as superheroes and government goons.  The Avengers and other heroic types gather to defend it.  That all takes place in other comics.  Somehow, Thor, Iron Man, and Steve Rogers (not Captain America at the moment because Bucky Barnes–whose survival story is at least as strange as Cap’s–is wearing the wings and toting the shield) get transported to one of the other nine worlds–the world of elves, giants, trolls, and dragons.  And none of them like Thor, or his friends–a fact that both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are a little slow to appreciate.  Thus they meet with hostility wherever they go.  Throw the ever-beguiling Enchantress and the Death Goddess incarnate, Hela, Queen of Hell, into the mix and our boys have women trouble.  Big trouble!

Green seems to be the color of evil in the Marvel universe.

I’m not going to go into the plot, the struggles, the heroics of the big three.  They are heroes.  You know they will prevail and make things right by the end of the book.  Apparently, it was a 5 issue mini-series, but I like it better all collected into one graphic novel.  How they do it makes for one of Bendis’s best stories ever.

Because, while most comics make me smile, sometimes even laugh, this one made me cry–or almost.   I was so choked up at the end of it that it took me 10 minutes of walking to get my emotions back under control.  You see, Bendis wrote a story of triumph, but it was shot through with sadness.  A giant helps Tony Stark in his moment of need, and for that good deed, the giant is immolated by the dragon Fafnir.  I identify with that giant who personifies the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”  A beautiful Elf healer girl falls in love with Captain America.  Without her help they would not have made it to the endgame.  She is abandoned–her love was hopeless.  No good deed goes unpunished.  Thor has to shoulder the burden for every inequity ever commited by Odin and the gods of Asgard, and also take a sword thrust through the gut.  He’s a god.  He survives it.  But it had to hurt a lot.  No good deed goes unpunished!

Bendis might not have been trying to say “No good deed goes unpunished.”  He was telling a story of the triumph of heroes over incredibly hellish difficulties and tremendous odds.  He was talking about the renewal of friendship and the failure of evil to triumph.  Those are noble themes, but my heart went out to the secondary characters who suffered in order to achieve the final triumph.  Gods and heroes walked away happy.  Lesser characters, mortals like you and me, suffered and died that the gods and heroes might triumph.  I was left feeling incredibly sad, because I am not a god or a hero.  It wasn’t my triumph.  I know I would have been one of the dead ones in that story.

No good deed goes unpunished!  Great story, Mr. Bendis.  Terrific art, Mr. Davis.

If you have read The Avengers Prime, I’d love to see your comments on the story.

end