By the Beard of Odin

We did not expect our favorite super-hero/action movie of 2013 to be Thor: The Dark Worldand yet there it is.  Iron Man 3 was not good, Man of Steel was problematic and should have been better…  We have not yet seen The Wolverine, but based on the reviews and chatter, we doubt it will eclipse the son of Odin.  Thor: TDW had the right blend of humor, action, and Asgardian mayhem, as well as an imminently watchable Loki and Thor dynamic and some Avengers 2 easter eggs.  If you’re into the superheroes, you should check it out.

And, of course, it hath spawned another excellent ‘How it Should Have Ended’, this time featuring the Villain Pub.

Review: Aquaman – New 52

In Brief:  In the first two volumes of Aquaman from DC Comics’ New 52 line, the creative team of Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado relaunch and revitalize this familiar if not overly popular character.  In Volumes 1 and 2 (the first twelve issues of the series), Aquaman confronts a mysterious subterranean invasion, then his old foe, Black Manta, while learning new details about the fall of Atlantis.

Pros:  This is an A-team lineup from DC.  Johns, Reis, and Prado have produced a beautiful book, well plotted, with mystery and effective characterization.  Johns’ take on Aquaman is somewhat darker than you might expect, but it works well here.

Cons:  There is a certain formula to the Johns storytelling method, and he certainly doesn’t flip any scripts or pull any big surprises here (not that DC would let him).  Some of the fight sequences seemed off in their pacing and could have used more panels to convey the action.

Full Review:  As we understand it, the idea behind the New 52 was for DC to rebrand/relaunch the books and characters in their universe – everything from issue 1, with a lot of the previous continuity jettisoned to make way for new stories.  I previously picked up the Batman relaunch (and sadly did not review it here) and have the JLA relaunch in the queue.  Aquaman probably would not have made the cut if not for a referral from a friend willing to lend me the first two volumes.

The nice thing about the New 52 concept is it does provide a good jumping on point.  I don’t know much about Aquaman beyond the Justice League, but that doesn’t matter here.  Purists may grit their teeth at the loss or sweeping away of so much back-issue history, but taking these familiar heroes, rebooting them in their prime with some sense of their origins and pivotal moments does provide an effective hook for new readers.  Picking up a book about a character with whom I had no prior investment (as opposed to Batman or the X-Men) was also an interesting prospect, allowing me to read and assess a little more objectively.

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Iron Man 3 – CBG Complaints

We took in Iron Man 3 this weekend for family movie night.  Mostly, it was what you’d expect: a fun comics themed actioner aimed squarely at the mass markets.  The kids and wife enjoyed it.  I mostly enjoyed it.  And we understand and fully support Disney/Marvel’s approach here.  We’re glad to have shared-world Avengers movies with a sense of continuity, big budgets, and A-list talent.  However….

However, and not to go all Comic Book Guy here, because Iron Man was never a personal favorite or anything, but I do have to go CBG here.  Because just like Man of Steel, the writers/director sort of missed some key elements with Iron Man 3 and kind of blew it to the point of ludicrousity.

Which isn’t really a word, but you get our point.  Major spoilers below…

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Who you Conning?

We made our way to St. Louis this past weekend for PROJECT: Comic Con at Westport.  A good time was had by many.  The exhibition portion filled two large areas and was generally well apportioned and laid out for the artists, retailers and other folks.  They also had a pair of breakout rooms for panels and presentations.

Organization seemed good.  And the place was full.  Not a lot of space in the aisles on Saturday.  Maybe some additional floor space next year.

So how was the Con?  A fair mix of artists, retailers, and exhibitors.  Plenty of folks on costume.  Featured guests from the biz.  Energy drinks.  So what else do you need?

How about comic books for kids.  I spent close to two hours going through long boxes with the specific goal of picking out some comics for my two young readers.  The problem, of course, is that the vast majority of books are PG-13 or above and cater to guys like me (who were fans in our youth and have now become the chief consumers of comics).  It’s a sustainability problem that will continue to threaten the comics industry, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Continue reading

Randomsville Saturday

We have no theme.  We’re random on a Saturday.  It’s comics, soccer, football.  Let’s start with this:

That ending just makes way more sense…  And. of course, the biggest news out of Comicon in San Diego was the Superman-Batman movie announcement.  Odds that Superhero movies have moved on from the general public wheelhouse by then?  I don’t know…  Maybe they should enlist Jeph Loeb to co-script.

I think I need the ‘Because I’m Batman’ t-shirt.

In other news, we did not get tickets to the USA-Mexico World Cup Qualifier at Columbus Crew Stadium in September.  They had to do a lotto for the chance to buy overpriced tickets, and neither me nor my co-worker friend were selected.  Now U.S. Soccer was very gracious and even offered a merch discount on my next purchase…

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Movies: Man of Steel

…written by David Goyer, directed by Zach Snyder, starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, and Russell Crowe, based on the comic book by Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster.

Superman is serious business.  He’s the first and arguably the greatest comic book super hero.  Clark Kent has inspired countless spin-offs and clones, including the super hero action blockbuster sub-genre that currently rules in Hollywood.  That doesn’t mean he’s always fared well on the big screen.

Witness the latter Chris Reeves Superman movies (but please, don’t).  Even Superman and Superman II, which we love around here, don’t hold up all that well over time.  2006’s Superman Returns embraced Richard Donner’s same big-screen mythology and floundered.  Now the team of David Goyer and Zach Snyder, with input from Christopher Nolan, have rebooted with Man of Steel.  They are hoping for that same mature and riveting re-imagining of the the Kryptonian Mythos as Nolan provided with his Dark Knight trilogy.  Warner Brothers needs a foil to the Marvel juggernaut, and it’s Big Blue to the rescue.

But, like an ill-fated Lex Luthor plot, they come up a little short.

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Some Summer Movies

With Iron Man 3 opening this weekend, we enter the Summer Movie zone.  Ah, the smell of popcorn and industrial-strength air conditioning…  Big budgets, big stars, big plot-holes…  Summer movies have crept forward from the traditional Memorial Day weekend starting point, because why, again?  Because if they open something big the first week of May, it will sell.

Even if we don’t make it to the cinema as much as we used to, we’re still big movie people in Beemsville.  And summer movies, with their explosions, effects, and fantastic settings always provide grist for the escapist mill, not to mention fuel for the snark fire.  So here are five movies we’re pretty excited about and will most likely see…

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Supes and Bats discuss stuff over coffee

The guys at Howitshouldhaveended.com – which is worth a youtube subscription – have a new short linked below.  It’s Superman and Batman in the super cafe coffee shop discussing the new Man of Steel trailer.  This is my kind of geeky stuff.

Here’s the Supes trailer if you haven’t seen it.  And of course, it’s all funnier if you can recall last year’s trailer for Dark Knight Rises.

They’ve done a number of super cafe entries over there.  Quality stuff if you’re killing time and want a laugh.  Great dialogue and character knowledge.  Of course their more standard alternate ending videos are good fun as well.

Here’s a link to a recent compilation of older super cafe videos.  Enjoy on a Monday.

Movies: The Dark Knight Rises

…based on Bob Kane’s Batman, written by Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David Goyer, directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy.

The Dark Knight Rises, the third installment of the Nolan brothers’ take on the Batman Mythos, has been criticized and praised alike with heavy-handed gusto by media and culture critics.  You’ll hear how it’s violent, bleak, self-indulgent.  It’s epic, intricate, spectacularly visual.  Dark Knight Rises is guilty of all.  The film also carries considerable baggage: the crazy expectations that seem to accompany any Chris Nolan project, the legacy of the last film, the Dark Knight, which receives too much credit for a number of reasons, not to mention carrying the standard for the entire DC Comics/Warner Brothers line.  A crushing weight, Man-of-Steel worthy.

And Batman and the Nolans are up for it.  This is an awesome film.  Awesome in its most literal sense.  DKR pushes the boundaries of super-hero/anti-hero narrative.  It engages in multi-layered, multi-generational story telling.  It takes this version of Batman – a contemporary characterization that still retains the essential elements – breaks him down, examines his ethos, and brings him back from the brink.  Visuals, performances, character arcs – its’ all there.  The movie is a cut or two above…

And DKR does not achieve this in a vacuum.  Nolan and company employ a secret weapon (that’s not so secret to comic book fans):  years and years of great Batman stories from DC Comics, including Knightfall, which introduced the Bane character, but most importantly the great Frank Miller treatise, The Dark Knight Returns.

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Magic in Prime Time

We’ve been watching a couple of new TV shows with firm contemporary fantasy roots:  ABC’s Once Upon a Time and NBC’s Grimm.  They are similar in that they juxtapose well-known fairy tale characters and stories in the really real world, feature reluctant non-believer protagonists, and have intriguing bad-guys in the mix.

Once upon a Time takes place in the town of Storybook, Maine, where skip-tracer Emma Swann has arrived at the request of her 10-year old birth son, Henry, to investigate his claims that she’s the one who can the curse.  What curse, you ask?  The one cast by the wicked Queen (of Snow White’s tale) on the denizens of the magic kingdom, causing them to all forget who they are while transporting them to a ‘horrible place’ (i.e., Maine).  So, in the context of the story, the wicked Queen is now the control-freak Mayor with a thing for apples, Jiminy Cricket is Henry’s Shrink, Snow White is an elementary teacher, etc.  So far the show has balanced on the crux of Emma believing in Henry’s explanation and playing along with him for the sake of his therapy.  However, we know she has a part to play because we also know she is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, the only person who can break the curse and send everyone home. Continue reading