Archive for the Superhero Category

Avengers Arena not worth it after all

Posted in Comics, Superhero, Young adult with tags , on July 5, 2014 by Cara Marie

I didn’t read Avengers Arena when it first came out, because I objected to someone taking characters I love and sticking them in a battle royale-type situation. (Even if I do love Battle Royale the movie.) Then after the series was finished, I’d read enough that was positive about the series (and also really enjoyed the author’s run on Cable and X-Force) that I decided I would give it a go. And it wasn’t as bad or sensationalist as I had feared. But it wasn’t that worthwhile either.

Avengers Arena isn’t the series Hopeless originally pitched – that was a ‘straight teen drama set in a superhero school’. In the afterword to the trades, he says:

‘[The editors] pointed to a couple sentences near the end of the pitched that outlines what would have been our third arc. It was something about our kids competing in a tournament with other Marvel Universe schools that turns into a death match when a super villain takes control. The Triwizard Tournament meets The Hunger Games. Tom and Axel pointed to those two sentences and said, “There’s your story. Just do that.”

I never told this part of the story before, but I hated the idea. Instead of my dream project, they wanted me to do a Battle Royale homage. Were they serious?’

Later, Hopeless says he’s grateful for it. ‘They knew the story we needed to tell, long before I did. I’ll never thank them enough for pointing it out or Bill for talking me into giving it a shot.’

Thing is, I can imagine the concept working as an arc in an existing series – you’ve had time to build up to it, it can bring together themes you’ve been hinting at throughout the whole thing. (You won’t be pissing off the fans of existing characters by starting a new series devoted to those characters being compelled to kill one another!) But as it stands, I think Avengers Arena is a weak story. It’s not thematically coherent the way other teens-forced-to-kill stories are.

The basic idea is, I think, to highlight that adult superheroes are already letting these kids become killers. The closing pages of the comic show a couple of reporters discussing the kidnapping of the teenagers involved (before they or anyone else has let slip what happened in Murder World). One of the reporters says, ‘There’s a lot of blame to pass around here … most of which obviously belongs to whoever did this horrible thing. But from there I think you can head straight over to the adult super heroes. The men and women who trained these kids. Who failed these kids. These heroes of ours …’ – and we see Arcade, the mastermind of the whole thing, clicking ‘upload’ on a video –‘they should be ashamed of themselves.’

But this is not a theme that has been pushed through the series as a whole. It would have worked if this had been the end point of a series about training young superheroes – but that’s not what this is. This is a stand-alone story. Sure, half the kids are from Avengers Academy, and I could understand the arc in that context – but others are from Runaways, or other series that don’t involve kids actually being trained as superheroes. The original characters in the series are a UK superhero school, but this needed to come across of much more of a training facility than it did.

Also, Arcade’s motive for pitting the kids against one another is personal – partly him trying to prove his own worth as a supervillain, and partly just for entertainment. It is not political, the way the Hunger Games are political, or Battle Royale is political.

Arcade says to the participants, ‘Got the idea from a couple of kids’ books I read in the pen.’ Which is to *nudge wink* to the reader, yes, we know this is like The Hunger Games – but later, it comes out that book Arcade mostly has in mind is ‘the one about the kids on the island’, that is, Lord of the Flies.

But Lord of the Flies is about ‘human beings are [mostly] bad or at least morally weak people who form bad societies’, not about ‘bad societies force [mostly] not-bad people to do bad things’. Bringing up Lord of the Flies doesn’t strengthen the themes in Avengers Arena, it only confuses them.

And I think that’s what the issue is with the series as a whole – it is confused, and it tries to make an argument at the last minute that it hasn’t been building towards.

On the other hand, I did enjoy a lot of the characters – mostly the ones I wasn’t familiar with. Cammi I really liked, and would be keen to track down her other stories, and Death Locket and Apex in particular of the original characters. Also Arcade’s contractor, Miss Coriander, who was supremely competent and happy to work for Arcade whilst not buying into any of his bullshit.

I was more disappointed with the role of the characters I knew coming in. There was plenty of Hazmat being nihilistic, which is always good, but other than that … Reptil didn’t really get to do anything, Mettle got to die almost straight away … (Also, I was annoyed because there’s a line in there that made it so that Mettle was not Polynesian. Not that it was ever stated that Mettle’s dad was native Hawaiian, but it was a reasonable thing to assume, and it’s not like there are a whole lot of Polynesian characters in comics.)

I think Hopeless would have been better off with all-original characters, because he really did seem more interested in them. Which may be an artifact of this not being the series he originally pitched.

Cable and X-Force (and Hope)

Posted in Comics, Superhero with tags , , on April 6, 2014 by Cara Marie

So I finished reading Cable and X-Force (I got seriously behind on my comic subscriptions for a while) and damn, this was a good series. It strikes a good balance between action, silliness and pathos.

The final arc is a crossover with Uncanny X-Force, and apparently I will read crossovers if they involve only two series. I still find them kind of awkward – often I prefer one of the writers to the other, and I don’t always have any idea who the other characters are. But the crossover was centred around Hope (who is in Cable and X-Force), so that was okay.

Hope, and her dad, and her dad’s clone, and her own personal bogeyman. Read more »

Thoughts on Thor: The Dark World

Posted in Movies, Superhero with tags , on November 2, 2013 by Cara Marie

Spoilers below! Read more »

Pepper in the suit and other Iron Man 3 delights

Posted in Movies, Superhero with tags , , on April 24, 2013 by Cara Marie

I just want to say that Iron Man 3 is a beautiful movie. Read more »

This week in comics /27 Oct

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Superhero with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2012 by Cara Marie

So I am not going to talk about Journey into Mystery in this post. Because it really deserves its own. But, in other comics I am following:

Batwoman #13, JH Williams III + W Haden Blackman

If I didn’t have this on standing order in print, I wouldn’t be making the effort to read it anymore, and I’m thinking I should just drop it altogether. Issue #12 was a mess; this is a bit better, because at least I know Wonder Woman’s meant to be there … but I am struggling to care about any of it. Even JH Williams’ art seems less wonderous than it usually does.

Justice League Dark #13, Jeff Lemire + Mikel Janin, Vic Drujiniu, Ulises Arreola

Okay, maybe reading this on account of Tim Hunter was not such a good idea.

The things that make me sad about Justice League Dark:

  • not actually using Tim Hunter
  • undermining Zatanna – in this issue, she gets kidnapped voluntarily sacrifices herself by going off with an old ex enemy who John Contantine stole her from … look, it really just seems like this turn of events is more about John than it is about Zatanna! And I’m as fond of John as anyone, but please, not at her expense.

The Flash #13, Francis Manapul +  Brian Buccellato

Panel where the Flash has used his super-speed to tie up a bunch of gorillas. Glider is skating in the air and says, 'Well done, Red. If you ever wanna take off your goody two-shows, we could use a guy like you.' Flash says, 'You wish.'

Luckily The Flash is here to keep me cheerful. There are gorillas in Central City! Flash’s enemies are forced into teaming up with him! It’s all very exciting, and the art is charming as always. I think the lesson is that I should only read DC comics if they’re child-friendly.

Captain Marvel #5, Kelly Sue DeConnick + Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire

I really really want to love this comic but sadly I do not. It’s not that there’s anything in it that bugs me, or that it’s not written decently. It’s just that it’s not to my tastes. On the other hand, the preview is pretty interesting, so hopefully it will pick up. Maybe it’s just my innate loathing of time travel pulling things down.

Or it may just be that DeConnick is interested in different aspects of Carol than I am – always a risk with a new writer.

Or it could just be that the first arc in a new series is always the least interesting one. (That’s what I thought about Brian Reed’s Ms Marvel, at least.)

Anyway. Maybe next month I will love you, Captain Marvel.

Gambit #4, James Asmus + Leonard Kirk, Clay Mann, Seth Mann

This issue went by very fast. It’s pretty much the boss battle for the plot arc we’ve been following so far – so it’s not especially satisfying in itself, but it will work just fine once I reread the series. Plus, lookatthesedragons!

Full-page panel featuring some really stunning Eastern-type dragons.

Also, there is a lot of gratuitous shirtlessness.

A series of panels where Gambit has had his shirt torn to shreds. He uses what's left on the shirt to make himself a face-mask so he can go through some weird portal. What actually happens isn't really relevant, it's just the shirtlessness we're interested in.

Gambit is just a really fun series. It has gorgeous art and slinky, morally dubious attractive people. I have no idea what’s going to happen next and I really don’t care. In the good way :)

This week in comics

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Superhero with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2012 by Cara Marie

Panel showing Kara looking distressed, while Tycho stands behind her, saying, ‘Our daughter? You mean Mom shot Dad?! And Dad was experimenting on you?! That is rough!’ ‘No,’ Kara says. ‘No, this can’t ... this can’t be true!’

Super-Girl #13, Michael Johnson + Sami Basri

In this issue, Kara has a confrontation with a villain from earlier in the series, as well as an epiphany about her past. Tycho is dispatched with rather easily, but the angst, I suspect, will remain.

The more exciting part of this issue was that Kara gets an awesome undersea fortress, and calls her girlfriend new BFF Siobhan when she gets lonely. I was worried we wouldn’t see Siobhan again after Kara’s little ‘I’m putting you in danger’ meltdown, so I was pleased to see her here.

The artist for this issue was Sami Basri. His style is quite different from Mahmud Asrar’s. It reminds me a bit of Jamie McKelvie with Matt Wilson on colours. I liked it. It’s maybe not quite as charming as the felt-tip look, but definitely has its own appeal.

The Mighty Thor #21, Matt Fraction + Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Javier Rodriguez

Over in The Mighty Thor, the finale of ’Everything Burns’ happened. I was underwhelmed. Which was a shame – it should have ended the arc with a bang. Instead it lacked the gut-punch of the previous issues, didn’t read smoothly, and, while I am not opposed to Leah and Loki having a snog, I felt Leah was way too nice in this issue.

I know it was a stressful situation, but she’s always been sharper before. I’m not sure if this is meant to be development, or if story!Leah is different in this way from handmaiden!Leah … it just felt a little off.

Oh well. Next for Loki: the final issue of Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery. I’m preparing to have my heart ripped out.

Hawkeye #3, Matt Fraction + David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth

Hawkeye was also a bit confusing (also by Fraction!), because it jumped around in time some … but it’s so stylish I can’t hold such a small thing against it. I cannot even describe how much I love the art for this comic. I’ll just have to stick in a bunch of scans instead.

Panel showing Clint leaping out of bed in the nud! With a strategically placed Hawkeye-icon over the interesting bits.

 I enjoy Clint’s POV a lot too. He’s impossible not to like – a good guy, a little scattered in a very human way, a hero still with his enthusiasm intact. Also, he properly appreciates how awesome my girl Kate is. (So awesome. He’d be lost without her, natch.)

Panel showing Clint with a gun pointed at him – and Kate with an arrow pointed right back at the gunman.

I’m also intrigued by the redhead! Hopefully more will be revealed next issue …

Series of panels showing Clint talking to the redhead. ‘See?’ he says. ‘Look at how great you are. Why on earth would anybody want to kill you?’ She answers, ‘Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies. ‘Okay,’ Clint says, ‘now I want to kind of kill you a little bit.’

Off in the DCU

Posted in Comics, Manga, Middle fiction, Superhero with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by Cara Marie

I always feel like Supergirl is way shorter than any of the other comics I read. Even though I’ve counted and it’s not. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I am all for more panels showing less time, but it does make it rather frustrating to read issue by issue.

Last issue introduced Siobhan, whose super magic learning abilities meant she could actually talk to Kara … and thus that she immediately adopted her. It was adorable. I was rooting for bff-ery and epic hi-jinks, and would’ve been quite happy if that was all the issue had given us.

But then: reveal! Siobhan is actually heir to a magic power she doesn’t want, and her evil father has shown up and she has to fight them. Which was at the end of the last issue, which made me feel tired. It’s like back when I was reading Sailor Moon for the first time, and the senshi would just have defeated the big bad and I would be like, yay, time for hang-outs and Usagi getting some downtime!

Which would never actually happen – there would always be a new league of villains popping up to make life difficult for the senshi.

I suppose I did get nearly one entire issue that wasn’t plot-plot-plot, but I guess I was hoping for Siobhan to be a companion on Kara’s adventures, not a plot point.

But hey, maybe Siobhan will survive the next issue and not get overwritten by her own magic and Kara can have a friend.

I’m not very hopeful, though. That doesn’t sound like something that would provide Kara with much angst, and I suspect it’s the angst they’re going for.

I had a similar feeling of wanting the plot to slow down in the latest Flash. I don’t think giving your characters time to breath between enemies is going to stop people reading the next one! We don’t need a hook at the end of every issue!

Or maybe people do? It just feels too hectic, like they don’t have faith that we’ll want to keep reading next month if they don’t keep throwing plot! at us. (It’s not even like I’m not a narrative-driven reader.)

But I’ll forgive Flash because it’s so pretty. The splash pages especially are such a thing of joy, I’d probably buy it just for them. (It’s not that I don’t like the stories! Just that the rapid-fire of arcs is overwhelming.)

The types I go for

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Movies, Superhero with tags , , on May 21, 2012 by Cara Marie

So I was thinking about the unlikely circumstance that movie!Loki got redeemed. ‘Well, he’d have to feel awful,’ I thought. ‘I can’t see it happening.’

And then I had a flashback to Ken weeping over Wormon in Digimon (back in the day) and suddenly it all became clear. Of course Loki is my favourite, because I have always had a massive thing for villains with a giant inferiority complex. (Ignoring that, well, Loki is my favourite in the myths too, because it’s not like they have a whole lot to do with one another.)

Usually it’s a clash of geniuses – Ken was smart but his brother was always smarter, Mello was but Near was always more so, Peter was, but Ender was the one they picked, wasn’t he?

Whereas Loki is smart and his brother is not so much – but still, it’s what Thor’s got that the family values, and Loki’s skills mean little next to that. In his mind, if not necessarily in fact. We know he tells his story the way he wants it.

Here’s another example, and it’s even got Vikings in it: Juliet Marillier’s Wolfskin. Two boys, blood-brothers (one’s a fosterling, and we can start with the inferiority there): Somerled, who is small and dark and bookish; and Eyvind, who is everything a warrior should be, one of Thor’s men, and a truly good person to boot. Whereas Somerled is full of frustrated ambition, and not so full of compunctions.

God, I loved that book. I should really reread it, but then, I have to be prepared to weep bitterly. I cry easily with my fiction, but that book is something else. It is worse than the saddest episode of Cold Case.

And at the end of the book, Somerled is exiled, set out in a small craft into the vastness of the ocean.

The parallels are kind of amazing.

And Somerled does get redeemed in the sequel, when we see him as an old man and he’s converted to Christianity.

(I did not like the sequel so much.)

Somehow I don’t see that as an option for Loki.

And when he was cast down (when he chose to fall) … well, I don’t think his experiences since have improved him any.

The man and the monster

Posted in Movies, Superhero with tags , on May 13, 2012 by Cara Marie

I’ve always been fond of the Hulk. And I quite enjoyed The Incredible Hulk – mainly because I think Edward Norton is excellent. So I was worried about what we were going to get in The Avengers.

I didn’t have to be. Mark Ruffalo is now my Bruce Banner for ever and ever.

Halfway through The Avengers, we have Hulk as the out-of-control monster; at the end, that rage is focused, and the monster becomes a weapon. And I know the sharpness of that change bothered some people.

But in The Incredible Hulk, we see that the monster is capable of recognising the woman Banner loves, of defending her. So the Hulk is not all rage and property damage all the time. He learns, and is capable of compassion. I haven’t read many Hulk comics, but that’s there in those I have.

 

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

When Bruce first Hulks out, he is angry. Natasha tries to talk him down, but she’s the thing he’s angry at. Maybe not the mind, but certainly the hand that dragged him into this mess. She’s lied to him, repeatedly. It’s just you and me. There’s no cage.

And Bruce stays calm, as if he’s okay with this, and he swallows her lies, because what’s his other option? Only the very thing he’s running from.

And if we take the Hulk as an amplification of Bruce’s anger: well, Natasha should be afraid.

But we know from The Incredible Hulk that anger is not the sum total of the Hulk’s emotional range. He protects Betty, whom Bruce loves.

So, if Tony is someone whom Bruce genuinely likes and connects with – it might be a very new connection, but Bruce has few enough friends these days – well, then it’s no surprise that the Hulk would then look out for him, and act from concern for him.

That’s not a leap. It’s not a sudden penchant for team-play that comes out of nowhere.

Now, the Hulk punches Thor in the final battle. To remind us that the Hulk is not entirely under control. Also, because it’s funny.

At this point, we know we don’t have to worry the Hulk might hurt Thor. Thor can hold his own. We know this, and if the Hulk remembers and learns, then he knows too.

So does Bruce. There is a moment, much earlier in the movie, when a comment is made that a whole town was levelled because of Thor.

And hang on, isn’t that something people throw at the Hulk? And Bruce gives Thor this look. Like, he’s not alone. Sometimes masses of property damage are inevitable.

Because of that moment, I have it in my head that the Hulk punching Thor is just the equivalent of a bro-fist. Thor can take it. He just needs to remember who’s boss, right?

 

So, if I accept that the Hulk has awareness of the relationships and people that matter to Bruce …

… and those that Bruce might never articulate to himself, because that might be to admit that he and the Hulk are one and the same

… and the Hulk has a protective streak

… why, then I don’t find it a stretch that the Hulk would fight alongside our heroes, for something Bruce believes is important – important enough that he would choose to be ‘the other guy’.

Bruce has to set aside his anger, to go back and fight alongside people who have used him. He could have got away clean.

But sometimes you need the Hulk. (And doesn’t Tony have faith that Bruce would be back?)

Bruce becomes the Hulk then because he has a purpose. And the Hulk’s purposes are Bruce’s.

Maybe Bruce wanted to die, at one point. But I don’t think that he and the Hulk are so separate that there wasn’t a part of Bruce that wanted to live.

Less respectable but more fun Norse-inspired comics

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Superhero with tags , on April 28, 2012 by Cara Marie

I bought a bunch of random trades at our recent sci-fi convention, including The Trials of Loki by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Which is great – way better than Robert Rodi’s Loki miniseries which is a bit too ‘no-one understands me’ for my taste, also not always so easy to follow. Also far better than the DeConnick oneshot that covers some of the same material, like the shaving of Sif’s hair. The story gets more time to breathe.

Basically, this is the binding of Loki and that which lead to it, retold in the Marvel-verse. It feels cozily familiar. And unlike some Marvel stuff, the places this story does depart from the myths don’t feel egrigeous. And have as much to do with the differences in established canon as anything.

I also found it actually made me feel sympathetic to Balder, moreso than the myths ever have – I guess that’s the difference between telling and showing, there.

One change that did make me sad was to not have Sigyn there in the binding scene (not that I know anything about her in the Marvel-verse). And not having the whole one-son-tearing-out-the-other’s-entrails-to-bind-him thing. Which I’m fond of, awful as it is.

But this was a really solid miniseries. I especially liked the fight scene between Thor and Loki, where Loki’s using his shapeshifting to make it an even fight. (I was a little annoyed in the Avengers when Loki was holding his own against Thor in a close range fight. Without magic. This was more believable and more satisfying.)

Also, when we saw Loki engineering Balder’s death, I liked the sense that it wasn’t so much a malicious act, but a curious one. Gods don’t die much, so what happens once you start that ball rolling? When one death becomes three becomes now you have something to get revenge for, even what was your own fault.

I thought it was a really interesting portrayal of Loki, without making him not a villain, or playing up the angst. And I would recommend it.