Tagged: The Avengers

Marc Alan Fishman: Just A League of Their Own

Somewhere around the mid-point of one of the chaotic action sequences in Justice League, a thought echoed in my head. “Avengers was better. I know it was. But why?” Put a pin in that.

And while we’re at it, consider this the blanket SPOILER ALERT. I’m not going to be holding back on plot points and such.

Justice League was a solid effort to continue DC’s course correction. Full stop. The flick tries hard to shake itself of its sullen feeder-films – save for Wonder Woman, which wasn’t downtrodden at all – and ultimately sticks the landing by final credit roll. Over the course of two hours (and change), Zach Snyder, Joss Whedon, and Chris Terrio assemble their (kinda) Lanternless league efficiently. The threat is worthy of the big bangers of the DC(E)U. The quips and sardonic looks feel well-worn and dare I say earned.

So why did the entire movie leave me feeling an uneasy mélange of contentedness balanced equally with ennui? I mean, Rao-be-damned, the movie just made me use the word ennui!

When I noted the efficient assemblage of the titular superteam, it comes couched with a cacophony of caveats. Our introduction to Barry Allen / The Flash seems to speed through his origin in a manner sans-irony given his power set. While he’d been on the fringes of Batman v Superman, we’ve been granted no real anchor to his character by the time he’s donning his car-wreck of a costume. It’s all flashes of awkward Big Bang Theory Sheldonisms smashed on top of tearful angst over the incarceration of Henry Allen. Late in the film, he shares a moment (one of the better exchanges, I should add) with Victor Stone / Cyborg, declaring they are the accidents. But because it comes so late – during the predictable recuperation of the nearly-defeated team scene (that all superhero team movies need, I guess) – it just feels like a tacked-on bon mot, instead of a necessary moment of respite.

And what of the aforementioned Mr. Stone? He’s Deus Ex Machina – ironically, figuratively, and literally. He’s given what might best be described as the affirmative action gift of the longest origin of the group, but never are we invited in the mind of the part-man-part-machine. Stone is stone-faced essentially for the length of Justice League, removing every ounce of characterization Khary Payton has been investing into Cyborg since 2003. When Cyborg of Justice League mutters a soft-spoken Booyah, it comes with the tenacity of a wet fart – meant only as lip-service, not fan-service.

And then we have Aquaman by way of the Abercrombie shirtless collection. WWE’s Roman Reigns, err, Jason Momoa exists as multiverse variant of Arthur Curry so devoid of the traits I’d long associated with the character, I all but abandoned any known factoids of the comic book original minutes into his first scene opposite Bruce Wayne – who himself was enjoying his take on the Fall Hugo Boss collection. Their shared scene, the one you no doubt saw in the trailers and commercials, sets us up for the League’s water-based warrior. He’s a hard-drinking, hard-fighting, surfer-lone-wolf with a pitchfork and a chip on his shoulder. His origin isn’t really told so much as it is scribbled, child-like, on a bar wall, and then half-dialogue-vomited in an appropriately confusing underwater scene. Verily.

Reading through my last few paragraphs may make you believe I utterly loathed Justice League. But you’d be wrong. For every dour note I left the theater with, came an equal smirk of joy overseeing the goodness that Snyder actually captured. Superman, after two incredibly dark films finally is presented the way we want him to be. Full of hope, love, and swagger. Wonder Woman continues to be the best female protagonist in comic book films by several levels of magnitude. And Batman? He’s rich. He’s funny when he wants to be. Believably human. And hilariously voice-modulated. All that, and we didn’t get any meaningless self-sacrifices, or fighting a giant blue sky-beam. Heck, the stinger at the end of the film even got me to clap.

So, why then, did I inevitably wind up in an Avengers conundrum? It stands to note that there’s no way to ignore that Marvel assembled their uber-team successfully a full five-years ago. And by the time it made its way to the movieplex, had given the general teeming masses of newly minted fanboys (and girls) time to live with the main members of their cast (Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor primarily). Because the feeder films (Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor) had all been well-received, there was a feeling of earned glee when the Avengers coalesced to punch mindless CGI aliens for forty minutes. In contrast, Justice League carries with it the weight of mismanaged and darkly derided prequels (minus Wonder Woman), and oozes desperation from its pores. It’s cut-to-shreds-by-committee, and feels as such. Avengers was lived in. Justice League came across like a wrongly-coined #MeToo.

But perhaps, there exists a silver lining amidst my kvetching. Justice League did leave me excited for what was to come. And it’s that feeling above any others that leaves my eyes on the horizon for the pantheon of DC superheroes… rather than the floor in collective shame.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Times, They Are A Changin’

Can you feel it in the air, kiddos? Whether it’s our President’s RussiaGate investigation picking off staff members and placing others under house arrest, or the massive movement of that other three-named comic book creator being snagged by their rival comic company. The times? They are a’changin.’

And while I’m apt to discuss my continuing thoughts on our super-villain-in-chief slowly devolving our country into the antithesis of what it was founded upon, I think it’s more apropos I dive in instead to the recent(ish) announcement that Brian Michael Bendis is headed towards DC Comics.

In 2000, which I’ll be double-damned was seventeen friggin’ years ago, BMB was brought in on a little experimental book Ultimate Spider-Man. The proto-millennial Peter Parker of Bendis’s pen was what a generation needed from their comics. He was young, unencumbered by decades of backstory, and full of delicious teen angst. Paired with the artwork of stalwart journeyman Mark Bagley, the book skyrocketed Bendis’s name-value into the upper echelons of the modern comic book fandom. And over the course of his career at the house funded by the Mouse, Bendis had amazing runs on Daredevil, The Avengers, Alias, and the X-Men. But you have access to Wikipedia too, so, let’s just call it a day with the basics, shall we?

While some would be quick to point out that BMB’s clout may not be at the same levels it once was, anyone with a Facebook feed like mine when the announcement dropped surely could argue otherwise. Every comic book fan and creator I know had something to say on the matter. Most all of it was purely positive – save literally for that one friend who literally can’t say they like anything, ever. But, pardon my French, fuck that guy.

With Bendis headed to DC, the potential energy here outmatches the kinetic force of his Marvel departure. With decades (plus) full of ideas for DC’s pantheon of super-powered beings, there’s a change in the air of mainstream comics – if only for the time being until his name is actually attached to specific projects with specific deadlines.

Simply take a look at the modern comic landscape, and you’ll see how BMB moved the needle of mainstream comics like a nuclear-powered sharknado. He made a generation believe that Spider-Man could become a legacy character through Miles Morales. He took the idea of a Wonder Woman, removed all heroic chakras, and gave us Jessica Jones. He whispered through Scarlet Witch “no more mutants.” He disassembled and reassembled the Avengers. And even recently, he created RiRi Williams – giving us the female Rhodey we never knew we wanted. Like I said: needle-moving creation.

Now, take that mind, and give it the keys to a new kingdom. This move allows us to build on the potent world-building of Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, etc., and grant carte blanche to introduce the humanity that Bendis has built a career off of… ultimately (natch) allowing DC to have its cake and eat it too.

 

If we think big picture, it’s easy to see how the street-level vision of BMB could breathe new life into staple DC champions like Batman, or Green Lantern. Or, Bendis could lend his pro-woman-writing wares to Wonder Woman or Supergirl. Hell, they could just let ole’ BMB nab someone like Jamie Reyes or Kyle Rayner (please oh please) and let him steer their ships towards brighter shores. Again: the possibilities are endless, and exciting. Oh wait! Could Bendis be allowed to work with the Endless?! I digress, I digress.

Yes kiddos, the times they are a’changin’. Amidst all the hellfire and panic that exists in the real world? I’m happy to know that the fake ones that exist on paper now have a new voice and energy to distract me from the impending doom. And that is a change worth subscribing to.

John Ostrander: Riding With The King

Last Monday was the 100th birthday of the King o’ Comics, Jack Kirby. The young’uns among you might not know the name (or maybe they do; I try not to be a fuddy-duddy most days) but Kirby was a force unparalleled in the comics medium. If you need a primer, Mike Gold wrote an excellent column about him.

Even if you know Marvel only from the movies, you owe him. Captain America? Jack. The X-Men? Jack. The Black Panther? Jack. The Avengers? Jack. And so on and so forth. And not just at Marvel; King Kirby seemed to be everywhere. And not just superheroes; he did Westerns, monsters, romance. And so on and so forth.

I met him in person exactly once.

The first thing I need to explain is that, before I became a professional writer in comics, I was a bonafide geek. Yeah, I still am.

One of the big thrills when I first started was that at conventions I could meet my heroes as a fellow professional. In theory. Not as a peer; that suggested I was an equal and that was not how I felt.

So – it’s early in my career and I’m working the First Comics booth at the Chicago Comicon along with my wife, Kim Yale. We were the only ones working the booth at that moment. It wasn’t in the main room and we weren’t getting much traffic.

Then this small group of people walk by, talking among themselves, and in the middle of it is Jack Kirby.

OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!

(Point of historical accuracy: Back some 30 or so years ago when this story takes place, we never said “OMG!,” at least not in the Midwest. I just wanted to convey the impact of the moment in modern terms.)

Kim later said she watched me turn into a 14-year old fanboy complete with zits. I can’t imagine that was pleasant.

In the group, I spotted Julie Schwartz, himself a legend and an icon. There’d be no Silver Age DC without Julie. Possibly no modern comics industry.

I knew Julie a little through Mike Gold so I hiss at him, “Julie! Hey, Julie! Hey!”

Julie spots me and ambles over. “Hey, kid, how ya doin’?”

“Julie! Introduce me to the King!” I plead.

Julie looks at me like I’m demented and maybe, at the moment, I am. “It’s Jack,” he tells me. “Just go over and say hi.”

“No no no no no! I can’t I can’t I can’t! Don’t you see?! He’s the King!” “Hey, Julie! Help a guy out!”

Julie gives me a pitying look and says, “C’mon, kid.”

I walk over to the group with Julie and he does a nice intro of me. The King shakes my hand, says “HiHowareya.” I babble something about what an honor gee you’re my hero blah blah blah. And it’s over. The King and his group move on.

I wish I could say that I never washed that hand again but Kim would have insisted.

I doubt very much that the moment would have stayed with Jack Kirby but it has stayed with me in vivid detail for a couple of decades. Over the past few years, I’ve met some fans who treat me sort of like I treated Jack. (Trust me, gang; I’m not that impressive and I can give you references.) There was only one Jack Kirby and there will ever be only one Jack Kirby and he just turned 100.

Happy birthday, Jack. Long live the King.

Marc Alan Fishman’s ComicMix Six: Marc’s Top Marvel Studios Movies!

To date, Marvel Studios has 16 released films in their shared universe. And while I have an affinity for all of them (truly, there isn’t a bad one in the bunch) it’s fair now to see the cream rise to the top. Having just finished Spider-Man: Homecoming this past weekend – yes I’m a suburban dad who no longer prioritizes movies as a need-to-see-on-release-day – I think I’m within bounds to pluck out my top five… until I mentioned this idea to EIC Mike Gold who denoted “We have a logo” for picking six. Natch. So, without any further preamble, here are (ranked from bottom to top) my most favoritest Marvel(ous) movies.

Definition time: I’m specifying movies only within the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” This excludes the X-Men movies, the Fantastic Four movies, the Blade trilogy (which was awesome, honestly) any previous Spider-Man flicks, and sadly Deadpool who would have been #3 on my ranking.

  1. The Avengers

It’s funny enough to me that this film – the quintessential tent pole of the MCU – arrives in this bonus spot on my list. When the dust settled for me on The Avengers I remain in love with the concept, less the execution. Because Joss Whedon is so adept at creating great team dynamics there’s rarely any downtime in the flick, which is its saving grace. Ultimately, the plot is barely logical, with Loki aligning with Thanos because reasons and it’s all an excuse for a huge CGI fist fight. That the film never abandons the damage New York takes because of the epic Midtown massacre again harkens why The Avengers made my list in the first place. Amidst the cacophony, humanity still remains at the heart of the film. Even if Agent Coulson’s death was retconned almost immediately.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

All of Cap’s movies are infinitely watchable to me. Somehow the cock-sure asshat that was one of the only saving graces of the terrible Fantastic Four films (you know which ones) truly adopted and adapted his talents to fully realize Marvel’s big blue boy scout. And in his performance, Chris Evans balances the fish-out-of-water aspects of the character perfectly with a soldier’s grit and heroism in the modern age. While The First Avenger did all the expository heavy lifting to sell us on Steve Rogers the man, The Winter Soldier proved that “superhero” films could be far more than large set pieces and quips. The Directing Russos took their love of 70s political / conspiracy fiction and married it to the modern day in a way that felt bombastic but real. I still remain in awe watching Rogers chase down his former best friend amidst the chaos of the biggest Holy Watcher! moment of the MCU – the reveal of Hydra’s long-simmering subterfuge. Pair that with the late-in-the-movie tête-à-tête with Nick Fury over proactive protection over reactive super heroics and you get a heavy flick that leaves you wondering why it took this long to see something this good.

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

The only thing I could honestly nitpick about the flick was the avidity for late-night fight scenes, is a boon to the first Spider-Man film to truly nail the character as I’d always imagined him to be. Our believably-baby-faced Peter Parker steals the show (fitting given it’s his film) in what amounts to an homage to 80s teen rom-coms with a running thread of super-heroics. And, amongst literally all the movies I’ll be listing today, none had me more on the edge of my seat than the car ride discussion between Peter and his date’s daddy. That a superhero movie had me captivated without thwipping a single web is a testament to its depth and brevity. Oh, and somehow, the movie made a mort like Vulture into a believable badass. Case. Closed.

  1. Captain America: Civil War

Take everything that was said above, copy, and paste it. But magnify it by two or three. Civil War took big swings at the politics of being a super hero, weaved in a deeply personal conflict, and then set it all against a global backdrop. The movie owned the space Avengers: Age of Ultron should have, all while taking those initial beats of young Steve Rogers and bringing them home to roost. That they could tell all of this, drop our jaws with the airport sequence and make both sides of the equation nuanced in their actions and opinions only drove the point home harder how Marvel could make mature fiction against the flashy colors and CGI bombast.

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel’s way of raising two gigantic middle fingers at DC while simultaneously mooning them. For a bit of perspective: Batman v. Superman earned (essentially) the same amount of money as the first GotG movie, but came out two years later. So, a movie where a loose Indiana Jones / Han Solo rip-off pilots Firefly alongside a talking raccoon and animated tree earned the same amount of money. But that’s truly beside the point. Guardians 2 took everything amazing from its first iteration – the comedy, the space-action, the brilliant visuals, and an astoundingly wide scope of the universe at large – and somehow improved upon it. Kurt Russel’s Ego is a massive villain whose plot (for once) feels earned. All the performances were beyond exemplary… but nothing truly hit this father harder than a blue dude with a red Mohawk literally defining fatherhood amidst an intergalactic chase and war sequence.

  1. Iron Man

Iron Man was a no-brainer for the top of my list. While other actors across the MCU have grown into their roles… none of them hold a candle to Robert Downey Jr. – who doesn’t so much as perform Tony Stark as he simply exists as a surrogate so close to the source material he bleeds ink. While other Marvel films have woven more intricate plots, delivered better (a few, if we’re being picky) villains, or provided us with better battles… none compare to the total package quite so well as the original kick-off to Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here, our introduction to what the general pop-culture lexicon would consider a “B” lister, Jon Favreau drags right to the top of the A list in the cold open. Tony Stark – as massively, untouchably talented and wealthy as he is – becomes our surrogate POV character for nearly every Marvel film he’s subsequently been in. And while his personal politics and actions have led him to morally gray areas ever since… it’s all the work done here in his origin that allows us to believe every action that has occurred. All that and the movie made this millennial truly believe a man could fly. In a suit. Of space-age material, designed by a genius living with an electromagnetic reactor in his chest that powers it.

John Ostrander: Jack Kirby is Still King!

I may have told this story before but I’m at an age where you repeat yourself a lot. And it’s germane to this column.

Years ago, when I was still somewhat new to the industry, I was working the First Comics booth at a Chicago Con along with my lovely wife, Kim Yale. A group of pros walked past me that included Julie Schwartz, the legendary DC editor, and Roz and Jack Kirby.

My jaw dropped and I started hyperventilating. Kim gave me a strange look.

“Pssst! Julie!” I whispered. I knew Julie from DC, at least somewhat. Ever affable, Julie came to the table.

“Whatcha want, kid?”

“Introduce me to the King!” Julie gave me a strange look.

“Whattaya talking about? It‘s just Jack. Come over and say hello.”

“No no no no no! I can’t! Don’t you understand?! He’s the King! Help a guy out, wouldja?”

Julie looked at me like I was demented, which I probably was. He just shook his head and said, “C’mon, kid.” I was still young enough to be called a kid… comparatively speaking.

Julie took me over to the group and made the intro and Jack Kirby shook my hand and said “Hi. Howareya.” I made noises resembling words. I think my voice cracked. Kim would later tell me that she watched her husband turn into a 14-year old boy, complete with zits a-poppin’.

I freely admit it. Jack Kirby was the King and, despite making my living in comics, I was still the fan-nerd I had always been.

And still am.

Many of you out there will know all about Jack Kirby and will need no explanation, but some of you might.

Jack Kirby (1917-1994) was born in Brooklyn as Jacob Kurtzberg and got into the comics biz in the Thirties which was the dawn of comics. He took out time for World War II and then came back and worked for a number of different publishers.

What makes Jack Kirby the King? For me, it’s this.

  1. Imagination – The word “prodigious” comes to mind. So many concepts, so many characters, bear his mark. So many styles of stories. From the spires of Asgard to the weird distortions of the Negative Zone to the brutal cityscapes of Apokolips, to Ego the Living Planet, no one could top his visuals.
  2. Storytelling – His figures leaped off the page. The panels couldn’t contain the events on them. Even standing still, they vibrated with potential power. There was energy to burn on his pages. You felt them as much as you read them. You couldn’t read the story fast enough and when one issue was done you wanted the next one right now.
  3. Artistry – Okay, his anatomy was not always perfect. And every woman’s face looked the same. He was still one of the best ARTISTS that ever drew a comic because comics are about storytelling and no one beat Kirby as a storyteller.

He and the other titans of his era invented comic books, for cryin’ out loud! Without the King, there is no Marvel Universe, let alone the Marvel Movie Universe! He created or co-created Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Nick Fury, the Howling Commandos, S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers, Black Panther, the X-Men, the Inhumans, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom, Magneto, Loki, and the Hulk – among so many others… including Groot! At DC he created Darkseid, the whole New Gods, OMAC, Etrigan the Demon, Challengers of the Unknown (only one of the great titles in DC history), the Boy Commandos, The Guardian and gobs of others! And he did a whole posse of Westerns and co-created the genre of romance comics! He turned out three or more penciled books a month plus the occasional oversized Annual! My brain explodes!!!

(I don’t know if you can talk about Jack Kirby without using exclamation points!)

So here’s to the King! I did eventually wash the hand that you shook; Kim insisted. However, you were and are one of my comic book heroes and I’m glad I had the chance to meet you.

John Ostrander: For What It’s Worth

captain-america-civil-war

 “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” – For What It’s Worth, 1967, written by Stephen Stills, performed by Buffalo Springfield

SPOILERS! Warning! Danger! I’m going to discuss some questions raised in Captain America: Civil War, which means some plot points will get spilled. If you haven’t yet seen the film – it’s just out on Blu-Ray – you may not want to proceed.

There are a lot of things I enjoyed about Captain America: Civil War but what I liked best was the question that was at the center of the narrative. During an action in Legos involving Cap and some members of the Avengers, there is a mistake and an explosion and innocent bystanders get killed. This, coupled with the human collateral damage witnessed in previous Marvel films, causes members of the United Nations to create The Slovenia Accords – named after the site of the massive destruction in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now the Avengers must submit to an oversight panel. If they don’t, they will be disbanded.

This creates a split within the Avengers themselves. Tony Stark (Iron Man) believes they must accept the accords and some restrictions on how they use their powers or they would be no better than the foes they oppose. Steve Rogers (Captain America) does not, cannot, and will not agree. This compromises their freedom including the freedom to act when they see a situation calling for it. They can’t wait for bureaucratic paper rustling. Lives are in the balance. The Avengers split into Team Cap and Team Iron Man (along with some guest stars) and they will, of course, fight it out.

So… which team do we, the audience, ally with? The film is clever in that neither side is set to be absolutely right or absolutely wrong. There are arguments for both but the question at the center of the film is – can society allow masked, super-powered individuals to act without some check?

There is no right answer. Oh, my inclinations is to go with Cap; I’m a stinkin’ leftist liberal progressive pinko commie after all. FreeeeeeeDOM!

Except. . .

All these superheroes are basically vigilantes. They operate outside of the law; for the most part, the heroes are not deputized by any government or law enforcement organization (Green Lantern is an exception but that was a lousy movie). They don’t really have any authority to do what they are doing.

I do take exception to one trope in the movie. “Thunderbolt” Ross from The Incredible Hulk film returns, now as the U.S. Secretary of State and evidently liaison to the Avengers from the U.N. He cites all the collateral destruction suffered by society in both Avengers films and the previous Captain America film. He lays the blame for this on the Avengers, noting that there are others in society that feel the same way.

Except. . .

Neither Cap nor the Avengers initiated the situations in those films. Because of their actions, humanity was not enslaved or outright destroyed as would have been the case otherwise. I would have liked to have that mentioned in the film by the heroes.

However, that doesn’t change the root question in Captain America: Civil War. Can any society allow such masked, perhaps super-powered, individuals to act unilaterally? Some of them are masked and the authorities don’t know their true names. Can a society of law survive in such circumstances? It is not a simple question and, to its credit, I don’t think Captain America: Civil War presents it that way.

buffalo-springfieldMy heart remains with Cap but I think my brain may agree more with Iron Man. I think I have my own civil war, one that most of us have at one time or another – heart versus head. I don’t think that one is going to be resolved any time soon.

At the start of the column, I quoted a line from Buffalo Springfield’s song “For What It’s Worth.” Despite being fifty years old, the piece is remarkably suited for today. Check it out on YouTube or some such place for yourself and see.

Editor’s Note: A somewhat less subtle version was recorded by Ozzy Osbourne about 10 years ago.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Super Hatred for Batman v. Superman

Batman V Superman Doomsday

Let’s get this point out straight away: I haven’t seen Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Just Angry Dudes Who Like Destruction-Porn.  Beyond the trailers, I have done everything in my power to not read spoilers. I’ve put on blinders on whilst perusing my social media feeds, allowing me to catch only shreds of the shared rage boiling over amongst my closest 927 friends. So, my column this week explores the deeper issue fans are complaining about the most these days: gritty realism.

The clamber in the streets is about how DC is taking itself too seriously. How leaning into grit, grime, explosions, and death is ruining childhoods, and fans. But I beg the question: when your director previously worked on 300, and the lukewarm sepia-washed Watchman adaptations and delivered his own mighty opus in the video-game-cum-popcorn-film Sucker Punch, well, pardon me: what the fuck did you think he was going to do with Batman and Superman?! The output of Snyder shouldn’t come with a single measurable iota of surprise.

The deeper issue then gets tied back to Chris Nolan’s interpretation setting the table for what has come since. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises were once applauded for removing the kitch from the Bat-franchise. Nolan’s Knight was as real as you could get with the base-concept. The interpretation of the Joker was chilling – and not in the gutter-punk way Jared Leto appears to be aping Ledger’s performance mind you. And Bane? Well… he spoke in a weird accent, and had an appreciation for coats of the 70s. Those three Bat-films begat what we’re getting now. And that includes the popcorn fart that was the spectacular – Trump-level – Green Lantern movie.

So why is Marvel so beloved? As we’ve seen the table set for Civil War… for all the fun we had laughing at SHIELD agents playing Galaga, and Ant Man cracking wise, we’ve been privy to just as much world destruction. New York? Invaded. Washington D.C.? Had helicarriers dropped on it. And that fake-sounding country in Avengers 2? Well, it done went and turned into a low-grade meteor. Pair that with a few Hulk-smashed cities, and all those dead goats in Ant Man, and you have plenty of grit to chew on.

The difference being the actual plot and characters in service to it.

Man of Steel, much like The Avengers featured the destruction of a city (and maybe a few suburbs). Iron Man, Cap, and pals were lauded as witty-brilliant. Kal-El was deemed a dour dolt by the very same folks. One movie was held up in reverence. The other, kicked to the dollar bin with a sigh. For the record? This is as it should be. The Avengers took the time to showcase their heroes making attempts to save the people of New York. Superman was basically shown punching for the last 40 minutes of his film; subsequently followed by the murdering of the villain, a quick bit of snark, roll credits. It would seem, based solely on the 10-20 sentences I’ve half-begun to read on my feed… BvS is much in the same vein. And not a surprise either… I saw the trailers, and can put one and one together.

Spoiler-free knowledge of BvS dictates that Batman was in Metropolis during the Kryptonian scuffle. And true to his comic-counterpart (to whatever degree you agree with me), he sees an unchecked level of power on display and finds need to be fit to control it. Superman is the gun that took Bruce’s mom and dad until he can prove it otherwise. What follows – I’ll safely assume – is 90+ more minutes of fighting, yelling, and teeth gnashing. And Wonder Woman is there to make girls happy or something.

Don’t get me me wrong. I believe we need to look to our ComicMix cohorts Mike Gold, Denny O’Neil and John Ostrander when we talk on the topic of grit and realism. Pick nearly any yarn spun (and edited) by those gentlemen, and you’ll see how the heaviest of topics can be touched on without leaving a fanbase in ruin. Hell, check out the very first issue of Wasteland, and ask how the material could be covered within its pages and still leave you with a bit of a smirk.

When it comes down to it, I will see the new Batman and Superman movie. I’ll do my best to withhold judgment until the last frame is projected. I’ll do whatever I can to suppress expectations to anything higher than a whisper. I’ll give credence to the filmmakers, writers, and producers to prove to me they have a way to bring the heroes and villains of their catalog to life in direct completion to the House of Mouse.

But, at the end of the day, the devil is in the details, not the CGI decimation of untold thousands. So, I’ll just guess there won’t be a need for any follow up review, kiddos. No worries: Civil War is just around the corner.

Marc Alan Fishman: Loving Age of Ultron

Oh, Avengers: Age of Ultron, how I loved you so! From the moment the pre-movie Ant-Man trailer began to the last second of Whedon-tinted footage befell my eyes, I was a happy camper. Before I roll up my sleeves and dive in to the nitty-gritty details that made the movie for me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout from the rafters that this week’s column is chock full of spoilers. So, consider yourself warned. But I digress. Let the love-in begin!

Remembering Where It All Began.

More than once during Age of Ultron, the lingering ideas of Iron Man permeated the plot line. This attention to detail – taking the theme of Tony’s war-mongering past as the driving force for all that has followed – helped create a sequel born of the cinematic MCU, rather than being plucked directly from the proverbial pulp.

That Pietro and Wanda would stare a Stark explosive in the face for several days of mental anguish, would lead them to their nearly permissible antagonistic actions showed a deft hand in the writer’s room. Pair this with the birth of Ultron himself and you have a wealth of villains to combat without it feeling like a bloated mess. I’m looking at you, Spider-Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man, and any other multi-villain movie menagerie. Here, Tony Stark is the spark for the unfurling events. It’s an organic plotline that pays dividends through believable character interaction. Astonishing, no?

Exploring The Details Of The Under-Players.

In the first Avengers movie, Black Widow and Hawkeye were mostly there to flesh out the cast. Believably placed for the ties to S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha and Clint had their moments, but their placement on the team at large seemed more or less to add a human element to an inhuman team. No, not those Inhumans.

Here in Ultron, our truly human Avengers showcase that it was their humanity that was their superpower all along. Hawkeye the family man and the Black Widow the no-baby-mama helped anchor their gifted counterparts when things got too explody. That we would see Hawkeye leap into battle knowing he leaves a wife and kids behind – because he knows his worth and importance to the team – hit me as a parent right in the feels. As for Natasha revealing a secret shame to Bruce Banner in an effort to prove that her budding feelings for Tony Stark’s best science-bro matched his outer monsterhood with her own perceived faults… well, it was a touching and mature a concept placed in a movie I wouldn’t have pegged as either of those adjectives.

A Master Plan Worthy Of A Mean Child.

Loki, granted the mind-gem by Thanos in an effort to conquer Earth, hatched an invasion pitted against  a handful of misguided do-gooders. His machinations included mind-control, sabotage, and ultimately brute force. In contrast, Ultron – very much a child, with more mental capacity and power then he can truly control – opts instead to smash the earth with a big rock. Sure, there’s more to it than that… but really, there isn’t. And it’s a brilliant move. When we first meet him, Ultron seeks to evolve. He sets about his plan not unlike Loki – using mind-control and psychic attack to distract – but when he’s denied his prize, there’s little left to do but start killing. That he was able to create a network of thrusters underneath an entire city in what feel like a few days? Well, I guess that’s what makes him a super-villain.

What I love most about it though, is that the end-game motivations of Ultron end up immature and thuggish when he’s left without the toy he wanted in the first place. We are reminded at the tail-end of the movie that both he and The Vision are very much new to the world. No amount of knowledge can replace wisdom. Again, this is a little detail in a large moving plot that escalates a would-be blockbuster into something that rises above my personal expectations.

And Last, But Not Least… The Promise Of The Future.

When the dust settles, it’s apropo that there’s no schwarma to be had. The Avengers fall into their more natural state. If I might beat this dead horse one last time: the actions presented all felt in line with the characters we’ve seen built in front of us now for the last seven years. Of course Captain America and Black Widow will remain Avengers set to train the first class of new heroes. Tony Stark, tail between his legs, retreats to his vast fortune and his machine shop to ponder where he goes next. Thor returns to his homeland to seek answers, and likely build towards Infinity Wars. Hawkeye gets his well-deserved family time.

And our incredible Hulk? He’ll incredibly sulk for a while, until he’s needed again, I suppose. Given that he turned down the opportunity for a romantic connection in lieu of a martyrs’ life makes sense. He did try to commit suicide only a year or two ago. He’s not ready to move on.

And after a nuanced movie like Age of Ultron? Neither am I. Excelsior indeed.

 

The Point Radio: AGENT CARTER Slides Into The Marvel Universe

All eyes are on Marvel this week with the debut of AGENT CARTER, and our first full look at The Marvel Universe post CAP and pre AVENGERS. Series star Hayley Atwell talks about her feelings on playing what has become a key part of the mythos. Then, we sit down with the cast of TNT’s THE LIBRARIANS who give a lot of solid reasons why if you aren’t watching, you might just be missing something good here.