We’ve heard about reshoots on the set of Thor : The Dark World, and now we’re hearing via SFX magazine that Joss Whedon has been brought in by Marvel to toy around with certain parts of the film in the hopes of bettering the finished product. They seem to be playing it up as the architect of the Marvel cinematic world lending his golden touch but does it spell larger problems for the Norse sequel? Director Alan Taylor had this to say about the situation;
“Joss came in to save our lives a couple of times,” laughs the director. “We had a major scene that was not working on the page at all in London, and he basically got airlifted in, like a SWAT team or something. He came down, rewrote the scene, and before he got back to his plane I sort of grabbed him and said, ‘And this scene and this scene?’ And he rewrote two other scenes that I thought had problems. Then finally we let go of him, he took off again, and we shot the scenes; and they were just much better and much lighter on their feet. Much more fun, much more surprising than what we had been trying to do. I can relate to guys who come out of the TV world, since that’s where I come from. And being able to land and work and solve a problem quickly… I really was grateful.”
It seems like Marvel wants to do anything they can to make their Phase 2 films work. It feels like they aren’t putting much stock in the creative teams they’ve hired from the outset and prefer to tinker after the fact, which might spell trouble down the line. Let’s hope we don’t hear of the need for similar fixes for Captain America : The Winter Soldier. The last thing we need is a visible pattern.
It’s been a hell of a week. Busy is the word I would use to describe it. But no in the “I have things to do” sort of way, more in the “why are so many things happening to me” sort of way. You know, viral infections, dead car battery, relationship drama; the usual. I haven’t had much time to blog it up, but thankfully things have quieted down enough that I can slip in and do some reviews. Not many, because there wasn’t a whole lot that I was interested in diving into this week just from a casual glance. As I climb deeper into the rabbit hole of reading weekly books on the regular, I’m sure the number of reviews that pile up each week will expand. That said, what I did read carried some heft, so we’ll dive right in and get right to it.
BATGIRL # 23
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Fernando Pasarin, Jonathan Glapion
Cover Artist: Alex Garner
On Sale Date: Aug 14 2013
The new “Batgirl: Wanted” epic begins here, as Commissioner Gordon must track down his son’s murderer—who happens to be his daughter! But has Barbara already given up the Bat?
I stepped away from Batgirl when Gail Simone was ceremoniously booted from the title a short while back. When she reentered the fray I neglected to jump back on board but the storyline here intrigued me enough to pick up last month’s issue as a refresher and threw this one on the stack as well. For those not in the know, Batgirl is on the hook for the death of her brother and that isn’t sitting all too well with their respective father, Commissioner Gordon. Barbara is going through much in her life at this point. She’s beginning to date a reformed criminal who can’t seem to escape his past and trying to reconcile what happened with her brother at the same time. She’s a big ball of emotions and her father is looming over her in more ways than one, needling her about staying safe and afraid of losing another child as well as chasing Batgirl down in a way that even Batman remarks is dangerously close to a vengeful tirade. The rooftop scene between Batman and the Commissioner is excellently written and gives the reader a good idea of what we can expect in terms of character beats from Jim Gordon.
That is really what drives this book and makes it such an interesting work; the character beats. Barbara is heavily conflicted here, and conflict makes for compelling reading. Barbara Gordon, at least as Batgirl, has never come across as a character who really elicits much of a response from me because she reads as cut-and-dry in most respects. I only really started to get a feel for her as a fleshed out human being when she became Oracle. We got to witness her deal with so many different types of adversities while she was in that chair in the clock-tower. Gail Simone has taken that development on the character and given us a new lens to look at Barbara. She feels full. She appears realized. She makes mistakes and deals with the consequences.
All in all, my first reaction is that I should go back and pick up what I missed to fill in the gaps, because I am enjoying what I’m reading. There are a few downsides, mostly having to do with some predictability regarding Barbara’s love interest that are far too telegraphed to be enjoyed fully on my end, but I imagine the narrative beats that will result from certain decisions will translate into some payoff in regard to Barbara’s development later down the line. At least I hope so.
INFINITY (2013) #1
Published: August 14, 2013
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Cover Artist: Adam Kubert
On Sale Date: Aug 14 2013
The oversized kickoff to the year’s most anticipate Blockbuster summer event, chaning the way you view the Marvel Universe! • The outbreak of war on two fronts: Earth and Space, with our heroes torn between them. • The world-shattering return of Thanos! • Includes material from FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: INFINITY
If you have been reading Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Avengers you may have figured out that his handling of the team is pretty much the anti-Bendis in terms of plot progression, storytelling, and theme. Hickman’s take on the book has been much like Morrison’s deconstruction of the X-Men years back. It is as different from what preceded it as you can get and yet never feels like it isn’t true to what the book should be about. Jonathan Hickman writes the Avengers as a hard intellectual sci-fi yarn, recalling elements from classic Avengers lore like the Kree-Skrull war and Infinity Gauntlet while infusing it with his very distinct creative voice. There is never a time where you are not aware that you are reading a Jonathan Hickman story. Much as Bendis has come to be associated with abundant panels and fast, snappy dialog, the elevated science fiction overtones along with deliberate pacing and neo-modern graphic design stylings clearly indicate a Hickman joint.
Those familiar with his work on the main Avengers title and therefore comfortable with his style and pacing will find Infinity to be a strong book. He takes his time and gives us freedom to enjoy the world-building that he puts on display. We are introduced to an abundance of alien races and evil machinations. We only see the Avengers on panel for perhaps 1/4 of the book’s length. Front and center instead are the actions of our antagonists, razing worlds and infiltrating the highest order of the Inhuman’s stronghold of Attilan in a meticulously plotted cerebral espionage sequence. What I am trying to say is that people who are looking for the whiz-bang pacing of a Secret Invasion, World War Hulk, etc. may find themselves disappointed at the way the first issue plays out. I personally enjoyed it and I will do my best to explain why without sounding like a total idiot.
The first issue played out, for the most part, like an episode of a TV show. The story beats are concise and structured for maximum effect, but it is the final pages of the book, where we see our heroes putting a plan into action and a final page cliffhanger that could easily have been followed with a meme image of Michael from Arrested Development saying “I Have Made A Huge Mistake” where things really clicked for me. You see, those last few pages didn’t feel like part of the narrative of this issue so much as a quick flash of what’s to come, similar to a “Next Week on MARVEL” montage at the end of a TV show. The pacing and the implications make for effective drama, and while Infinity # 1 is definitely a slow burn, it is also very much indicative of a quality mini-series that seeks to tell its story in a very deliberate way.
Simply put, Hickman delivers a standout first issue that couldn’t be further from what I have come to expect from a Marvel event series while at the same time giving me everything I want from a Marvel event series.
Rating: 4 out of 5
It started small: temporary gravity failures, time reversal loops, entropy reversals. With much fanfare a new government agency was formed with a mandate “to prevent and protect.” Its official title: The Federal Bureau of Physics. Humans, if nothing else, adapt to the changing parameters of their existence. What was extraordinary soon became ordinary, a part of people’s daily lives. They move on and do what people have always done: survive. But even that new status quo is now under threat. Things are getting worse, and it falls to Special Agent Adam Hardy and his FBP team to figure out what’s going on, before it’s too late…
I know I’m late to the party on this one but following all the hubbub surrounding the abrupt title change (Beginning with issue 2, Collider will be renamed to FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics) I decided to throw this one on the reading pile and give it a go. Writer Simon Oliver has done work previously for Vertigo on Hellblazer and The Exterminators and while I may have read his work before I cannot remember if I formulated an opinion so I am going into this 100% blind.
Collider feels like a Vertigo book. It takes a premise and runs with it. There is mystery and the promise of expanded world building and solid character work along the way with artwork that, were it on a mainstream book, would be decried for not fitting the mold. As it stands, it is a fine book. The premise, that the foundation of universally accepted laws of physics are starting to crumble and the fallout surrounding that hornet’s nest, is one worth delving into. It hooks you and keeps you there until the end. I’ve read comments about the book being boring but I had no such qualm with the book. But then again, I enjoyed Sweet Tooth and that book was admittedly a chore to get through sometimes.
For regular devotees of Vertigo content, this will not disappoint. For those who fall more squarely in line with the mainstream, I’m not so sure you’ll enjoy this one. It has all of the hallmarks that most people mock “indy” comics for; strange yet alluring artwork, strange premise, heightened dialog… you get the idea.
I don’t want to write much about it because I feel people will enjoy it more if they just go in blind. It’s sometimes the best way to enjoy a work of art and I’ll wager that this is the sort of book that benefits heavily from a clean frame of mind. It certainly helped when I read it, as I had zero knowledge of the title when I turned the cover. Whatever you do, just don’t dismiss it outright. Give it a chance.
Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5
Youtube has partnered with Marvel to show us some new goodies for their newly branded “Geek Week.” In this second trailer for Marvel’s Thor : The Dark World, it becomes very clear how different a film we can expect from the first installment. Alan Taylor’s stint on Game of Thrones seems to have heavily influenced the look and tone of the film. The real question is if the number of Dutch angles will be reduced this go-around.
Thor, the Mighty Avenger, returns to the big screen in Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” on November 8, and here is the official trailer, presented first on YouTube for Geek Week! See Thor, Loki, Jane Foster, Malekith and more in this epic trailer for the film!
I know I probably should have gotten this out there on, oh, Friday before everybody went and saw it. I know that. But at the same time, I think this is a film I needed to digest a little bit before I put my thoughts down on it. And by “digest” I mean, see it again. As of this writing I’ve experienced the film in both standard format and 3D. Each of these showings was packed to the brim. The first was on Friday at the first showing of the day at 10 in the morning. The next was a Saturday show at 1 PM. I need to point this out because the biggest surprise about The Avengers is that it even exists in the first place. The amount of planning and preparation that went into developing a crossover of this magnitude is mind boggling. There have been crossover films before this. Godzilla and King Kong fought it out, Freddy and Jason slashed at each other, the list goes on. It’s not that big a deal for cinematic properties to come together. What is unique is the idea of using individual characters and their films as a roadmap to an eventual crossover. In the world of cinema, it’s a miracle that it ever got made. Even more impressive is that Marvel was able to bring the viewing audience around as well. They sold the idea of this being on of the biggest movies ever and the audiences turned up. They invested their time in it. This is a movie that has been on everyone’s minds for close to five years. Ever since the end of Iron Man when Samuel L. Jackson walked in the room and told the world that the Marvel universe was going to be a shared experiment. This film is important.
That having been said, is it any good? I’m happy to say that everything you want out of this movie you will receive. Joss Whedon handles it as well as you would expect and we may finally have the shining definition of what it means to bring a comic book to life on screen. The final act is like watching a collection of “hell yeah” splash pages from a Marvel crossover brought to life. The film does not skirt the fact that comic books are writ large and with joyous bombast. The action sequences are everything that Michael Bay wishes he could accomplish. They are loud, they are big and at the same time they have a sense of direction that is managed and easy to follow. You never get confused watching the carnage and for that we should be thankful.
But what I really want to talk about is the character moments. The time between Norse gods fighting men in iron suits. Joss Whedon gives us a movie where the time spent with these character simply talking to each other are as gripping as the action sequences and set pieces. The interplay between these actors is something that holds the film together in a way that without it, the whole experiment would fail. Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo’s respectful banter is a highlight. Hell, anything Mark Ruffalo does is a highlight. I know folks liked Edward Norton but Ruffalo brings something that has always been missing from the big screen portrayal of Banner in the previous incarnations. He manages to portray Banner as a person who is angry at his own anger and yet somehow accepting of it all at the same time and he may very well be the MVP of the film. Downey does his usual great work with Stark, but here he really sells the trans-formative arcs that propel his character forward, and seeing him bounce of Chris Evans’ Captain America is a joy to watch. I will admit that I feel as if Evans didn’t get much to do until the final act when he really gets to shine as a team leader, but in a movie with this many characters to juggle it is a small conceit. Also, Tom Hiddleston needs some awards. All of them, really. Loki was a great villain in Thor, mainly because of Hiddleston’s ability to play the wounded creature. He was a tormented soul and that made him fun to watch. Here we get to see what happens when the soul is tormented for so long that it snaps. He plays the broken soul just as well and he sells it like nobody’s business.
The film is everything it needs to be and then some. There will be those who complain about the run-time or the way characters are handled but in the end this is a big win for Marvel and a bigger win for people who still enjoy the spectacle of seeing a true summer blockbuster on the big screen. I do not doubt that I’ll see it at least one more time in the theater because this is definitely a film that benefits from a big screen. I might even shell out the cash to see it in IMAX. It’s that good.
I’d been wanting to read this one for a while now. It caught my eye back when it was solicited because it seemed pretty far outside of Bendis’ usual comfort zone. Sure he’d written age-appropriate superhero stuff with Ultimate Spider-Man but this felt different, mainly because of the graphic novel format and the fact that he was bringing along his Powers co-creator Michael Oeming for the ride. The plot was supposedly hatched in cooperation with Bendis’ daughter Olivia and the characterization of the two leads is indicative of some input from people their age. The bickering, the energy, all of that adolescent experience seems quite genuine despite the outlandish story where they wind up getting superpowers in a freak accident.
The story doesn’t break any new ground. To anyone who has every read a superhero story the tropes are there and evident in spades. The humor is reminiscent of Bendis’ work on USM, which I don’t have a single problem with because I loved USM until the wave of Ultimatum came crashing down and destroyed not only the character’s world but my own interest in the title. That having been said, the early issues and just about anything written featuring the high school environment was quite entertaining and that really carries over here, with the two sisters having a relationship that anyone with a sibling will be able to identify with. Superpowers or not.
As for the book itself I can say that it reads rather quickly, but for the price tag it feels like a good value. I think I was expecting more in the style of Powers where we get much more dialogue crammed in than is probably necessary which makes the narrative feel vibrant and constantly moving. Instead we get a narrative structure that allows for the artwork to tell the story for good chunks of time, which is fine because Oeming is one of the finest working artists we have right now, but it does make it feel as if the book is travelling in slow motion at certain points. But once again I say that with what they charged for a hardcover edition of the book, the value is superb. If only Marvel could learn to translate some of that value into their monthly books maybe I would be able to do weekly reviews of their books again. But if it comes down to $3.99 for a regular sized book or $9.95 for an occaisional hardcover digest, the digest comes out looking much more appealing.
I’m not sure when the next volume is set to hit, but when it does I’ll be the first to rush out and get it because at the end of the day the book entertained me and I felt like it was a good value, which is something that is becoming more and more of a rarity nowadays.
Thor : The Mighty Avenger cancelled by the people at Marvel who are actively trying to make me angrier with each and every passing month…
In a move that makes me seeth with anger in a way that cannot be descibed using the words available to me in the English language, Marvel has decided, in their infinite motherf#$%ing wisdom to cancel one of my favorite running titles; Thor – The Mighty Avenger. An all-ages book with some of the most brilliant work Marvel has put out in the last few years that for some reason hasn’t been given a chance to live on, especially considering they haven’t taken into account what the trade sales might look like considering that the collection doesn’t drop until December.
This is starting to look like an exact duplicate of my rant about Marvel cancelling SWORD earlier this year, so I’m just going to leave it at this before my hands start to shake and my typing skills greatly deteriorate.
At the NYCC this past weekend, both Marvel and DC promised that costs on their publications would drop in early 2011, with DC stating that their books would drop two pages of content and return to a $2.99 price tag. A good majority of comic fans rejoiced, knowing that most of their books have been $3.99 for a while and that saving a dollar on each of those books would be a huge relief in the long run. Others voiced concerns that cutting content is not the answer and that paying what was the norm not too long ago for less material is not an acceptible comprimise.
Marvel has remained vague on their price changes, noting only that no new regular books will be launching next year at $3.99. I doubt that their major moneymakers like the Avengers or X-Men franchises will decrease in price anytime soon. I think they would sell more issues at $2.99, especially considering the way Bendis writes. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I feel like I don’t get my money’s worth with his decompressed writing. In the long run I greatly enjoy his work, but if I had to pay $3.99 for his Daredevil run way back when I might have gone insane. Seriously, go back and read that run sometime, it’s amazing stuff but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a little padded in some areas.
But I digress…
What does this mean for those of us who still have the disposable income in this economy to collect comic books? I think a good majority of people won’t change their buying habits one bit. They’re not going to use the money saved to buy other titles, they’re going to put it back in their pocket and walk away. It’s not going to do anything to help out the comic publishers. While I’m sure a select few will spread some money around, the majority most likely will not. I’ve been working in a comic shop for close to five years now and I see the way people react to price changes. Granted, this is the first time prices have dropped after going up, but it’s not that dissimilar to running a discount sale. You offer a discount and people will use it on what they were already getting and then shove the money they save back in their wallet and walk away. I don’t blame them. All I hear from people is how most of the mainline books have been declining in quality while the prices increased. I hear that gripe about Amazing Spider-Man just about every week. Not everybody feels this way. I personally haven’t liked Spidey this much in years. But the mindset of the consumer right now is heavily influenced by the recession we’re in. They’re picking and choosing their books with a lot more insight. I’m hoping that this price cut will help people discover new books. Take that four extra bucks and buy a book you normally don’t. Jonah Hex is amazing. Supergirl is getting a new creative team and looks like it should be pretty epic. Freedom Fighters is solid. Over at Marvel you’ve got Avengers Academy, Young Allies, or the new Spider-Girl. I’m just saying there’s good stuff out there you should give a chance.
The real interesting element of all this will be to see how the stores handle it. If people do only buy the same books they buy now, that means that the shops will be looking at a smaller profit for the same amount of books sold. In an industry where a lot of stores are hurting for business, this isn’t going to help. I’m lucky enough to work in a shop where even if one department starts to dip, like comics, the others can pick it up; ie. gaming, toys, statues, etc. But what about the small shop in the strip center down the road who works on a very thin margin? It’s not fun to think about but it needs to be discussed so that everybody can stay in business.
Basically this is just me telling you that if you’ve got the extra cash and you really love this industry, put it toward another book when these price shifts happen. You’ll get the added enjoyment of reading something you previously didn’t have the chance to and everybody from the writers and the artists to the people who sell the books get to keep doing so for a long time to come.