Keep Your Hollywood Out of My Video Games

The other day, I finally got around to watching Warcraft, the latest film-adapted video game product of 2016. As video game adaptations go, I actually enjoyed it more than most productions in the genre. That, however, says much more about the adaptive medium at large than it says about Warcraft, considering the experience was overall rather mediocre. The visuals were phenomenal, but they were wasted on a slow-moving narrative with undeveloped characters and a lack of anything for the average viewer to really invest in. These criticisms lend themselves to an overall stance I have long felt but have been discouraged to share due to its apparent unpopularity: video games really shouldn’t be adapted to movies.

While I say this is an unpopular opinion, it is not totally unsupported. In fact, an entire podcast is devoted to such an idea, The Spinoff Doctors by Jim Sterling and Conrad Zimmerman which can be found here. While I understand fans of video games wanting to see their passion adapted to a more accessible medium like film, time and time again we have seen that the attempts simply don’t work. One need only watch Need for Speed or Bloodrayne to see what I mean. Even the more enjoyable “adaptations” end up bearing little resemblance to their source material (insert Zack Snyder-DC joke). The Resident Evil movies come to mind: while not necessarily good movies by any means, they can be fun zombie romps to enjoy. That being said, the finished product is a video game title with foreign characters and storylines. Alice, the protagonist of the film series and by far the most interesting and developed character, doesn’t even appear in the games. Now while it may sound like I’m a stickler for adaptations sticking exactly to the source material, my argument for video game adaptations is actually quite the opposite. But I’ll get to that later. At the time I’m writing this, Warcraft sits at a critics’ 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it had the largest production budget by far. Since something seems to be wrong with video game adaptations, one has to ask what’s happening?

In my opinion, the whole idea of adapting a video game narrative to film is inherently flawed. In order to show why, allow me to talk about how each medium works to provide escape and immersion for the consumer.

For movies, escapism and immersion are done through viewing the experience. Using the collaborative talents of actors, writers, directors, cinematographers, and a host of other trained and skilled professionals, films give their viewers a story that is convincing and/or thrilling, allowing consumers to get lost in the narrative and become absorbed in a story that they are passively participating in. Consumers are bystanders, and the product focuses on spectacle to immerse them.

Video games work on many of the same levels as do films, using voice actors, writers, and visual set pieces to create a sense of immersion. However, one of the things that video games offer that films do not is the opportunity for an observer to become an agent of the narrative rather than a recipient of it. Whereas the TV show Game of Thrones gives us an epic narrative with fantastic characters to follow , the video game Skyrim allows us to become a character and take an active part in the conflicts and adventures within the narrative. To compare the two mediums and try to say which one is objectively “better” is, in my opinion, a futile effort, for the two mediums provide a similar service of escapism in very different ways; the debate would take on an apples to oranges feel. However, efforts to blend the two mediums create some interesting results that offer much riper material for analysis and comparison.

Sometimes, creators want to blend movies into video games, and the best example I have to work with is the Uncharted series. To simply describe Uncharted as a video game cheapens the product and does do justice to what the games truly are. In all honesty, Uncharted games do not offer a lot in terms of strictly video games (hold your pitchforks, let me finish what I’m about to say). Take away the cinematography and set pieces, and you’re left with sporadic gunplay, extremely straightforward platforming, and puzzles added as an afterthought. However, the gaming experience is enriched immensely by the cinematic tone and visuals added to the game, allowing the player to feel like a real action hero in certain transitions. In this case, film and video games unite to offer a unique and special gaming experience (remember this paragraph for later in the article).

Now, when the two mediums attempt to blend the other way by adapting video game narratives to film, we start to see problems. Why? Because you immediately lose out on what the original experience was intended to be. Modern video games–as well as plenty of older games–are designed to put the player into the narrative as an active agent. When you take the consumer out of that role and water down the narrative into something that is just observed rather than lived, the product suffers. I was one of the people who were pumped for the Ratchet and Clank movie. After seeing it, I was pretty disappointed, and in hindsight I know why. I was bored watching a character do exactly what I had already done. Making an active narrative into a passive one only leaves gaming audiences bored and non-gaming audiences confused as to what all the hype was about.  Why would I want to watch Alice kill a ton of zombies when I could be killing them myself? Why watch an epic fantasy war when I could be a warrior in it? Sure, there are plenty of zombie and fantasy films that work on their own, but they were designed to be a received narrative, not an active narrative. To put it in more video game-oriented terms, why would I want to watch a Mass Effect movie in which Shepherd’s decisions are predetermined when I could be making galaxy-altering decisions myself? It’s like trying to fit a square block into a trapezoidal hole: close, but not quite the right fit.

So if video game narratives don’t work as directly adapted film narratives, should the union of the two mediums be totally abandoned? Absolutely not! Rather, the productions should seek a route more similar to Uncharted; that is, taking certain aspects of one medium to complement the film as a whole. Let me demonstrate this idea with my absolute favorite film-video game product: Wreck-It Ralph.

Wreck-It Ralph was not a video game adaptation; rather, it was a video game-based movie that carried itself on a new narrative. The movie utilized old arcade and video game references to create a unique atmosphere and please fans of such games while still creating a unique story that stood on its own as a good narrative. In other words, it borrowed from video games to complement its own cinematic goal. If we want video game adaptations, don’t adapt the narrative directly. Rather, use the video game’s settings and properties to create a unique storyline.

As a huge fan of the From Software games, I would love a Dark Souls/Bloodborne movie. Why? Because those games have enough lore in them to support an entire franchise of fantasy films without ever directly going into the games’ main storylines. Why do a movie about the Linker of the Flames when you can be that hero? Instead, do a film epic about the fall of New Londo. Give me a trilogy about the rise and fall of Knight Artorias. It would provide service to game fans while still offering a new narrative that non-players could understand and latch onto. As little faith that I have in Ubisoft, I must applaud them for doing a new adventure in their Assassin’s Creed movie rather than rehashing an old protagonist whose story has already been told. Want a Bioshock film? Cool, tell about what happened before the events of the first game. I already know what happened in Bioshock 1; I’m the one who made those things happen! By expanding video game universes rather than recycling old storylines, movies can provide a unique adventure to newcomers while still providing fan service to gamers.

I don’t know about you, but as a fan of video games I don’t want to pay $10 to just be told what I did. The whole reason I’m watching a movie is to be told about what someone else did. Case in point, if you’re trying to sell me on a Bioshock Infinite movie, spare me the game’s narrative. I was already Booker DeWitt. But I was never really Comstock.

Snarkalicious: A Look at E3 2016 – The…Sigh

To finish up my E3 segments, I bring you what I consider to be the failures of E3 2016. Sony and Nintendo had stellar conferences, giving us exciting new IPs and intriguing new entries into existing franchises. Bethesda and EA also had solid showings. While they lacked  the firepower they have had in the past, they brought some interesting announcements to the table without being overbearing. Then, we have  Microsoft and Ubisoft, showing that this year’s “soft” family was just as its name implies. And boring. And greedy. It was the soft-boring-greedy family. You know. Lots of divorces and what not.

Microsoft

If anyone thought that Microsoft was not totally money-hungry, E3 has hopefully shown them that such optimism is misplaced.

I would love to tell you about the new games that Microsoft announced at their conference, but for the life of me I can’t think of any. There was Deadrising 4 promising to be another remake of the first game, but other than that there was not much to speak of. Microsoft used this conference to announce its hardware journey, a journey whose willing travelers are few and far between.

The Xbox One S is the new slim version of Microsoft’s main console, thus showing that Microsoft is happy to take the cell phone trend of naming consoles from now on. I can’t wait to see the Xbox One Plus, the bulkier version of the Xbox One that is also not really designed to play video games.

Microsoft also announced Xbox Play Anywhere, a program allowing Xbox games to be played on Windows 10. Because God knows they were running out of ways to convince people to upgrade to Windows 10 almost as fast as they were running out of ways to convince people to not buy an Xbox One.

Finally, we have the bane of Xbox gamers’ wallets: the Xbox Project Scorpio, an elevated performance Xbox console supporting 4k gaming at 60fps as well as VR. The new console will allegedly be able to work with previous games on the lower-tier Xbox One, thus allowing gamers to keep their gaming libraries. Ya know, rather than the multi-hundred dollar console they bought the games for in the first place. Their last hardware announcement was that Xbox gamers can expect keyboard and mouse support for their console in the coming months, leaving a lot of us wondering why you wouldn’t just invest in a gaming PC at that point.

I may be in a minority on this one, but I cannot stand this new trend of churning out updated hardware to hit up gamers for more money every couple of years. E3 should have been an opportunity for Microsoft to convince people that their consoles are a smart investment, but this year’s conference did the exact opposite. Not only did it give people every reason to not buy a console (between Play Anywhere and Scorpio, why waste your money?), it also made moot any former purchases by Microsoft fans. Enjoying your Xbox One? Great, here’s a slimmer fancier version. Oh, and in case you got too attached to the idea of the Xbox One S, here’s an updated console to make your current consoles a thing of that past! Yay money!

I don’t want to sound like a PS4 fanboy by any means; I know that the PS4K is right around the corner. However, despite the fact that most AAA gaming companies see their consumers as no more than dollar signs, why was Microsoft the only one who didn’t even try to hide it at the biggest gaming convention in the world? To use a somewhat controversial comic book parallel, I can’t help but think of Microsoft gaming as a DC Rebirth situation: the new hardware is both too intimidating for new buyers because of the future uncertainty and absolutely insulting to the loyal fans who kept the original Xbox One afloat. For the life of me, I can’t figure out who this Scorpio business is for other than the executives at Microsoft.

Ubisoft

Good lord, here we go.

I don’t like Ubisoft. Anyone who has read any of my past video game pieces knows that. So I was actually hoping that Ubisoft’s press conference would be really good so that people don’t write this off as just me being me, sadistically enjoying ripping Ubisoft a new one. But this conference was worse than the offensively open-faced greed that was present at Microsoft’s conference. Ubisoft’s showing at this year’s E3 was absolutely…forgettable.

Their biggest headliners were a new Ghost Recon game, a new South Park game, some BS Trials sequel using bad 80s pop culture tropes as a gimmick, and a Star Trek VR game. Oh, and of course, some more footage of Watch Dogs 2. Because everyone was clamoring for a sequel. There is nothing at all that sticks out about this conference: the new Ghost Recon looks the same as the other entries in the series. The South Park game looks like it will be much like the last one, a fun little licensed game that fans of the show will enjoy but everyone else will forget about after a month or so. The Trials game is already out and costs an absurd $14.99 for a glorified on-the-rails motocross game. The Star Trek VR game is at least something new, but it looks to be one of the more mundane VR experiences to be expected in the coming year. And then there’s Watch Dogs 2, a sequel that looks practically the same as the last one with choppy gameplay footage and a cinematic trailer that couldn’t keep my attention if it cosplayed as Mr. Miracle and called me Big Barda.

This is the problem with Ubisoft as a company: it’s nothing new. They struck gold with Assassin’s Creed, so what did they do for years? Make a new annual entry. Time for a new IP? Let’s just give people an AC clone in Watch Dogs but feature a broken hacking system and a bland protagonist. Oh, time for E3? Screw it, let’s just show them the same damn games we’ve been making for years and hope nobody notices. The biggest travesty of this conference is that it could have stolen the show if it showed anything at all about Beyond Good and Evil 2. You know, the game their fans have been begging for since the PS2 days. The game that has seen scores of online petitions pleading with Ubisoft to just give their loyal fans what they want. But it falls on deaf ears as we get more of the same recycled gaming experience with the same lazy execution with the same insulting Day 1 DLC with the same broken Uplay system. Microsoft may only see its consumers as dollar signs, but one must ask after this year’s E3 if Ubisoft even sees their consumers at all.

Final Thoughts

You can’t help but compare and contrast the best and worst performances at E3. Look at Sony and Microsoft: with the former, we have a ton of new IPs, exciting and innovative projects, and a postponed new console reveal for the sake of trying to ease gamers into the young new VR world of gaming. With the latter, we have an utter absence of games paired with new hardware left and right getting shoved down our throats. If the console war is still happening, Microsoft just waged the last half of the Crusades on Sony: in an attempt to assert console dominance, they ended up humiliating themselves with the clear message that Xbox isn’t in it for the gamers anymore. And if this video game company isn’t in it for the gamers, then why the hell should we give a yearly installment of our hard-earned money for a the latest shiny new console hardware?

Now, let’s compare and contrast Nintendo and Ubisoft. Both did a similar thing: focused most of their presenting power on past franchises. The big thing separating the two conferences, however, is the fact that one of the companies actually gave a crap about what their fanbase wants. Sure, there are legitimate arguments that the new Legend of Zelda game should have come out years ago. However, at least we finally got what we wanted. It took a while, but Nintendo actually had the self-awareness to say, “OK, you all have been patient, and as a result we’ve got a product that we have worked really hard to make exceptional.” Then there’s Ubisoft, who wouldn’t listen to its consumers if their lives depended on it. To win at E3, you either have to do something different from someone else (Sony actually having games to show off compared to Microsoft’s hardware-heavy presentation) or do the same thing way better (Bethesda focusing on established products with more insight and style than EA). Ubisoft did none of these things, and as a result, people are hard pressed to even remember that the company was even there. This credits truth to the Aboriginal proverb, “Look before you leap, especially if you’re leaping onto a world stage where all you have to show off is cinematic trailers that you’ll cut half the properties from by the release date, you lazy taints.”

Snarkalicious: A Look at E3 2016 – The Good

In this second segment of Snarkalicious, we’ll be looking at the two companies whose conferences at E3 this year offered the most quality to gamers and investors alike. Sony hit all of its bases as far as games and hardware goes, and Nintendo left everyone speechless with its long-awaited LoZ trailer. Let’s get into it.

Sony

Sony once again came through with a stellar conference this year and a ton of gaming highlights. First, Sony gave a final release date for The Last Guardian in October–yes, October 2016–shocking and delighting fans. “I didn’t think it would ever actually come out!” said one reporter in between fits of laughing, crying, and vomiting. Sony also showed a trailer for the upcoming God of War game, featuring Kratos as a warrior-turned-Christian seminary student. This game is said to bring the character’s growth throughout the series to fruition, a promise that leaves fans wondering just what brand of pissed off will this new Kratos be?

As far as new announcements, Sony left fans in utter delight with two huge new gaming developments. First, we got a look at the legendary Hideo Kojima’s new project, Death Standing starring Norman Reedus. I have a joke for this, but I won’t blaspheme Kojima with it because I’m scared this game will end up like Silent Hills (#NeverForget) if we don’t respect it enough. Second, Insomniac (developers of InFamous) is making a new open-world Spider-Man game that everyone is collectively losing their minds about after seeing the trailer. I’ve seen it too, and I must confess: it looks like a really good animated movie. Hopefully it’s also a game!

A new IP also received an announcement and an actual gameplay trailer, Days Gone. “Oh, it’s like The Last of Us,” said fans. “No,” replied executives, “it’s a new IP with a totally unique world and–”

“Hush, fam. It’s like the Last of Us. Just let it happen.”

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was also shown. It is definitely a Call of Duty game.

One of the more fun surprises from Sony this year was the new Resident Evil featuring a first-person view. A demo was also released on a small scale, showing off the wonderful graphics, gameplay, and atmosphere that all indicate a return to RE’s survival-horror setting. “Weird, it’s almost as if the fanbase enjoyed the older games or something,” said one executive before almost being crucified.

Finally, we saw some great gameplay of Horizon Zero Dawn, a futuristic RPG style exclusive that looks like a lot of fun. I, however, am already looking to its sequel, Bologna Wheelbarrow Jellyfish.

Two big news stories about hardware came out of Sony’s conference as well, though probably not the type of news you may expect. The rumored PS4K or 4.5 was absent, a breath of fresh air to anyone who doesn’t hate their money. Playstation VR was also announced to be debuting at an average price of $400, a severe price cut compared to such VR systems as the HTC Vive or Occulus Rift. It seems like Sony is trying to make VR a much more financially feasible feature of its hardware, a welcome concession to gamers who don’t have money to blow but still want to try out the newest “wave” in gaming. While I remain skeptical of VR gaming myself, it felt good to know that at least Sony isn’t expecting to sell our firstborn for the gimmick despite the glorious locks of hair and cutting jawline that mine shall have.

Nintendo

As someone who isn’t really involved in Nintendo’s games, I absolutely loved how strong their showing was due to it being one of the lowest-effort conferences we have seen in recent years. Quantity-wise, Nintendo had a rather modest showing; however, in terms of quality, its offerings blew everyone away. Three major things punctuated Nintendo’s conference for me:

  1. Lack of news about the Nintendo NX. While several people saw this as a negative, I saw it as an important decision from Nintendo. Rather than bombarding its fanbase with a new console they’ll have to invest in soon, Nintendo focused on what they are able to offer gamers right now. The NX will debut eventually, and it will have all kinds of questions and controversy attached to it when it does; why bother with all of that now?
  2. The new IP Ever Oasis. While this announcement was overshadowed by obvious fanfare over a different franchise, I am legitimately excited for this project. Nintendo does not announce new IP’s often, but the vast majority of them are excellent products that offer entertaining gameplay and quality investments, such as Splatoon.
  3. Breath of the Wild debut. Look, this is what everyone wanted to see. While many people decry that the trailer was long overdue–which by all means, the game itself is long overdue–this was easily the biggest talking point from E3. The game looks fantastic, and the trailer even featured some in-game content, a refreshing change of pace from the pre-rendered cinematic trailers that usually plague E3.

At the end of the day, Nintendo gave its fans what it wanted. Could they have brought more to the table? Probably. But at the end of the day, gamers care about quality over quantity. Microsoft announced loads of things, but their announcements lacked flavor, originality, and any semblance of what console gamers have been asking for. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Nintendo and Sony proved the old Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he won’t give a flying crap about new gaming hardware.”

Snarkalicious: A Look at E3 2016 – The Fair

Let me start off by being real with all of you: I don’t like E3. The issues I have with the AAA gaming industry are vast, and they are all gathered together and lauded annually at the event, using consumer mentality and manufactured hype to continue abusing their supporters and sucking off their investors. So overall, nah, I’m not a big fan of E3, which is why I didn’t follow any of it in real time. However, as a gamer, I do value the announcements that come out of E3 every year, and as a human being I obviously have opinions about the medium I’m passionate about. Thus, here’s a special edition of Midday Snark where I’ll give a brief overview of each major E3 conference and offer some opinions about what gamers have to look forward to and dread in the coming years. I will try my utmost to not make these summaries a series of me taking the piss out of each publisher for cheap laughs, but you know they’ll come out anyway. This first installment covers EA and Bethesda, two conferences that while not terrific did offer solid showings of games and offers for their fanbases. It may seem like I rail EA in this segment, but their conference was fine in many ways and really doesn’t warrant a spot on my–ahem–lower quality conference segment.

Note: I will not be hitting every little thing; just the more major stuff to give a feel of each company’s showing.

EA Games

EA offered up a surprisingly fair showing, not giving off any insidious or incompetent vibes that most gamers have come to expect from it. However, much of its showing was more of the same from past years. We got looks at FIFA and Madden games which sure enough look exactly the same as the other entries from 7 years ago. We also got some dubious news about Battlefield 1 and the source of my first real swing at E3 news with EA saying that “No player will ever experience the same match twice.” Great! I’m sure Ubisoft will announce Beyond Good and Evil 2 as well!

My biggest problem with this kind of announcement is twofold: for one, it’s a cheap advertising gimmick that will always be technically true. Of course no two matches will be exactly the same, just as no two matches from Halo or Call of Duty or Gears of War were exactly the same. Players run out of ammo at different points, different players are involved in a lobby, your neighbors screaming for volume consideration at different points in the match distracting you. Is that announcement true? Technically, yes. Does it really mean anything that it implies? Absolutely not. You will eventually experience matches similar to each other, for you only have so many different maps, objectives, classes, etc. to go around. This kind of thing bothers me because it’s totally unnecessary; I don’t care about having an entirely novel experience every time I power up the game; I care about having quality experiences. All these announcements do is fuel the hype train with empty promises that EA gets away with due to technicalities.

The next big thing EA announced was the new Titanfall, the sequel to that game everyone played for 2 weeks and then forgot about. This one will be available on PS4, which was a surprising announcement, and will also feature a single player campaign, and boy did they laud that like it was Gabe Newell’s gift to the number 3. Congratulations, EA, you’re selling a game for full price that actually has the content expectations for a full price release. That’s a big step for you, isn’t it? People have to wonder, though, if by single player campaign they mean you’ll be alone in the servers again 20 days after launch.

The last two things from EA were a weird behind-the-scenes trailer of the new Mass Effect: Andromeda (gameplay-free, of course) and the announcement of their new indie game publishing platform, EA Originals. Quite generous of EA to introduce indie gaming the wonderful world of microtransactions and superfluous season passes. Thanks for taking care of the little guy, EA.

Bethesda

After last year’s trump card of a conference, Bethesda was somewhat set up for an underwhelming showing. However, despite not having the firepower of a Fallout 4 reveal, Bethesda did really well. I’ll have to reach for some jokes on this one. Following DOOM in its reboot steps, Quake was revealed to have a new installment that no one really saw coming. It looks like its gameplay will look a lot like Overwatch, featuring a champion class for the player to choose. It will apparently be PC-only at release, so our Master Race overlords will have to let us know how it is in between updating graphic cards and deriding consoles for things consoles never professed to have in the first place. Bethesda is also jumping on the VR bandwagon with news about adapting Fallout and DOOM for the HTC Vive. Ya know, if you’re tired of just spending hundreds of dollars on consoles and want to start actually burning your money on hardware yet to be truly tested in quality or adaptability. Pesky disposable income.

The rebooted Wolfenstein is receiving a new installment, an announcement that literally no one cared about as soon as new Dishonored 2 gameplay was revealed. Yes, actual gameplay at E3. Bethesda, you crazy radicals. Bethesda also announced a current-gen remaster of Skyrim with updated graphics and mod-capability. “We thought about releasing an Oblivion remaster too,” said a nameless Bethesda exec, “but we figured making people repurchase two old RPGs would just be showing off.” This announcement effectively softened the blow of Elder Scrolls VI being years off. You know, in case some kind of delusional fan actually thought that game was anywhere near release.

The rest of Bethesda’s conference was mostly taken up by Fallout 4 DLC, proving true the old adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t sell a game as a finished product without stringing your fanbase along with other installments that you probably could have included with the base game if you had delayed a few months.”

“Hold Fast” DC Rebirth’s First month.

“Hold fast to Dreams, for if Dreams die then life is a broken-winged bird, that cannot fly.” – Langston Hughes.

As I previously wrote, Rebirth was an idea that would either be a massive success or an amazing disappointment and unfortunately it has been a solid split down the middle. There have been some stories that were great and there have been some that were literally some of the worst I’ve read. My goal here has been to read these and write about them with an optimistic outlook on the event…but they’re not making it easy.

Now, I bought every issue that had Rebirth over the top of it that came out this month, I won’t be doing that again next month unless I get a request for it so hit me up on Facebook or in the comments section if you’d like to make a request.

Green Arrow

Let’s start off with one that I actually really enjoyed. These first two issues were outstanding. Ben Percy and Otto Schmidt are a great team to have on this. This was the only one from the first month that I wasn’t planning on getting but I picked up the first issue and loved it and two weeks later I picked up the second and now I have to sign up for it. It’s a great starter for anyone who wants to understand who Green Arrow and Black Canary really are.(It’s not, however, for fans of the show because these characters actually make logical decisions *Gasp!* and don’t backtrack on their moral choices a season later “The Horror!”.) I loved how we turned Green Arrow back into a hero of the people. They call him a social justice hero and that’s absolutely the best way to describe him. The second issue has one of my favorite speeches ever given by a comic book character, I won’t spoil it here but it’s when he explains to Black Canary what “Happiness is…” It’s just a great sequence and I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

Green Lanterns

I have a very interesting history with Green Lantern. I wasn’t a huge DC fan until 2008 or ’09, I loved The big characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and I’ve always loved Nightwing and the Teen Titans and most of that came from the shows and films but the rest of this beautifully dense universe didn’t become a huge part of my life until I read Grant Morrison’s run on Batman(an article for another time) and Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern. Green Lantern quickly became one of my all time favorite characters and I couldn’t get enough of his story. Well Johns has clearly always had a big hand in the Green Lantern mythos and Rebirth was no different, he co-wrote the first issue with Sam Humphries and it became a little meta textual in the story. The Story is that Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are the new Green Lanterns of Earth while Hal Jordan is off to find the rest of the Green Lantern Corps that has disappeared.(Much like Johns leaving to save the films while Humphries writes Green Lanterns, Whoa.) Before gaining the ring, Cruz suffered from a constant fear that she was always going to be attacked or hurt if she ever left her apartment, she still struggles with it but I like that because fear isn’t something that just goes away. Baz is a Muslim man that has been feared and hated most of his life. He recently gained the ring while wrongfully imprisoned and quickly discovered that he could do things with his ring that no other Green Lantern could, he struggles with trust issues which is where this story takes off. I loved the first two issues and I’m so happy that DC has decided to do more with these two great characters.

Batman

How do you follow the greatest Batman run of all time? This is the question that Tom King clearly had to ask himself before taking over Batman. Luckily for him, he already had the backing of Scott Snyder and Geoff Johns in this venture and he had some brilliant plans for how to make his Batman standout by using his experience from the C.I.A. to improve his stories and his way of writing. The first issue was co-written with Snyder as an epilogue to his perfect run and give an idea of what to expect and while it’s very good the second issue is the one that I’m going to focus on. It deals with something thst we haven’t seen Batman take on before: A plane crash. We’ve seen Wonder Woman, Superman and even Flash take care of this problem but we’ve never seen Batman do it until now. King writes him in a very intelligent way, he remains unstoppable and uncompromising when it comes to human lives and that’s why it works so well. My personal favorite quote is when he and Duke Thomas are talking about what they need to do to stop the plane and Duke says that it won’t be easy to which Batman responds : “I don’t need easy, Mr. Thomas.” It just made me really happy because he is the Batman that DC needs right now.

Titans

Titans Rebirth…I have so many concerns. Dan Abnett and Brett Booth are great. Let me go ahead and clarify that the creative talent on this story is not the source of my worries at all. My biggest worry is what Rebirth had already hinted at, not everything is back to normal. DC has effectively done the exactly what they did in 2011, some things are the same, some things are different and Batman is still arguably the best book on the stands. The one big change is that The Titans books aren’t being written by a hack like Scott Lobdell, instead, This one, focusing on the original Teen Titans from the 60’s, is being written by Dan Abnett and then starting in September, Ben Percy will be taking on Teen Titans which will be focusing on the younger group. I’m personally very excited for the other series and I was excited to read this series until I read the first book.

My review of this book has to be separated into two parts

  1. Rebirth Issues : The first issue was very good but had a problem of not knowing what story was still in continuity. When this title was originally announced, I had assumed that the entire purpose of it was to feature the older Titans from Marv Wolfman’s run in a more adult setting with them being the bridge team between the older Justice League and the younger Teen Titans but I was shocked that when I read this issue it appeared to focus entirely on the team before the New Teen Titans. But wait, they forgot about The New Teen Titans back in 2011 and I wasn’t upset, right? Well you’re correct but in 2011 they didn’t make it seem like this new universe was going to include everything that the DC Universe had published before. They called it a reboot which meant that it was a brand new story but now this Rebirth makes it seem like there are certain things that are important but then certain things don’t even matter anymore which is upsetting to me. I’m fine with certain things being Ret-Conned(Taken out of continuity) but if you’re going to do it then be clear about it. Also, if The New 52 is still in Continuity then why is Donna Troy not freaking out and killing everything in sight? If we’re taking anything out then I agree that it should be the Finch’s run on Wonder Woman but the need for clarification on what is and isn’t still important is definitely missing here.
  2. I didn’t hate this book because even though it had some issues here and there it was still written and drawn well. This is a great team that is going to bring us quality stories but I can’t be completely satisfied until they officially tell me if one of my favorite comic runs has been taken out completely.

The Flash

Josh Williamson was, in my opinion, DC’s best acquisition of the new Rebirth talent. His big claim to fame was the crime thriller Nailbiter and it shows in this comic in a very good way. He writes Barry as a person who is haunted by the things he can’t change even while being the fastest man alive. He’s such a great character no matter what but Williamson has nailed it in the first two issues, the setup for the new characters is great and I can’t wait to see how Barry handles all of these new people. The story picks up a few days before Wally comes back and then after he returns we get to see the rest of the conversation at the end of Rebirth. The first issue doesn’t give you a whole lot to go on but it’s still very good. The second issue is where we get to see more of the story progression and we even got to see New 52 Wally, definitely a concern since Red-Headed Wally came back. One of the other things I’me excited to see is this new villain that we’ve read about in the solicitations, I expect him to be terrifying because those are the villains that Williamson does very well and it’s also a good contrast to have against Barry.

Overall The team has done a great job on this one and I’m excited to see where the story goes from here with the new speedsters.

Action Comics

As I’ve said before, this comic is pure insanity but it actually isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The basic premise of the book is that in the wake of Superman’s death Lex Luthor has stepped up and become the new Superman. If it stopped there then I think this could be my favorite book of the new line-up because Luthor is my favorite villain and I think that a story of him trying to be a better man would be great…if it didn’t have to deal with the rest of the story that Jurgens has given us. There’s actually another Superman from an alternate earth that has decided to become Superman because he thinks that Luthor is still evil and trying to trick everybody. Superman, who, for some reason is an idiot, attacks Luthor and then Doomsday comes out of nowhere while they’re fighting. Think it’s complicated? it gets worse because then a new Clark Kent comes out of nowhere. I don’t even understand what they’re trying to do with him, is he superpowered? instead of dying was he actually just depowered? how did he walk around the daily planet without anyone noticing?

The second issue is more of the same, everyone should listen to Lex Luthor, Lois stays with their son and says random things that don’t really make sense, the new Clark dances around giving a straight answer to anything, Doomsday is still a one note character(No, I don’t care that he’s “strategic” now) and the older Superman is an idiot. I had a lot of high hopes for this series and it could still be good but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as good as it could be.

Overall if this book didn’t have Lex Luthor then it wouldn’t be worth much but luckily he’s fantastic in this so if you’re a Luthor fan like me then you should pick this up.

Detective Comics

On the complete other end of the spectrum stands Detective Comics, which is absolutely fantastic. Not only is it incredibly entertaining but it also does very well with the idea of Hope and Optimism by once again using a villain who wants to become a better person. The execution on the first issue is almost perfect, it introduces all of the characters in a great way that I enjoyed immensely. Basically, Batman realizes that there are people targeting the heroes of Gotham and so he asks Batwoman(Kathy Kane) to help him train them to become an elite fighting force. The team is Batman and Batwoman as leaders with Robin(Tim Drake), Spoiler(Stephanie Brown), Orphan(Cassandra Cain) Clayface(Basil Karlo). Like I said the team is jsut very fun to read about and I can’t wait to see more of them. Stephanie and Tim have some great moments together but the standout of the first issue is clearly Batwoman, as an ex-marine she already knows how to fight as a unit which is why Batman wants her to train the team. Her lessons and her discussions with her father and Batman were definitely some of the months biggest highlights.

I love what Tynion is doing with this, while building off the relationships that he built between the characters in Batman and Robin Eternal while also making this work as a standalone without needing any prior knowledge of what has come before. Him and Barrows have already made this the best of the first month and I have no doubt that they will continue in the same way for many more issues.

 

Aquaman

I won’t lie here, The first issue of Aquaman really had me worried. It focused too much on making sure that he wasn’t considered to be a joke character anymore. That being said, him and Mera had some great moments and it was a good lead-in to the story but much like Batman, The second one is the standout issue. The main focus of the story is one Aquaman wanting to join the nations of the world to Atlantis. He wants to do this by inviting different representatives of the world to come to the atlantean embassy. I don’t wanna spoil too much but it has some great moments about ATlantean culture and it’s relationship with the surface world and it has some great moments from Mera. Which is great cause Mera’s always awesome. If Abnett got one thing right about the Aquaman universe then it was definitely the idea of Mera being the anchor for Arthur. I’ve always loved watching their love story as much as I love all of the great heroics. Can’t wait to see where this story goes after that killer cliffhanger.

Wonder Woman

Of all the comics that came out this month, Wonder Woman is the one that is most up in the air. When it was announced that Greg Rucka would be taking over I was ecstatic, but after reading his first two Issues I have some hesitance towards it. First, he is the only one that is using the Bi-Weekly schedule to his advantage in the sense of one week is the current story and then two weeks later you get to see her origin. It’s a great set-up and Rucka is doing an exceptional writing job but I do worry that we’re cancellijng out Azzarello’s run and I can’t abide that. The main reasons I’m not 100% behind this or against it is because Diana is hunting down her origin in the comic so I’m not sure if we still have Azzarello or not and although that’s an issue, it does guarantee return readers though.

As for Diana herself, Rucka writes her as well as he did back in 2005, she has a furious nature while also being very gentle and that’s hard for some writers to find that happy medium but Rucka does well like he always does. Overall, Great story and you should go and get it.

Superman

And at last we’ve come to it. This might be my least favorite comic book of all time. The second issue belongs in the pantheon of awful books like DC’s Convergence and Marvel’s Ultimatum. Peter J. Tomasi was the man who wrote The Last Days Of Superman over the final two months of The New 52, It was hopeful, emotional and was an overall great story…until you realized that it was leading up to this. Patrick Gleason has joined Tomasi in this latest story, taking over art duties and Co-Writing, and I expected to get a great story from the men who kept Batman and Robin going for so long. Instead we get depressing sub-plots and illogical character decisions. In the first issue, Older Superman(from a different earth, check out future installments of Comics 101 to learn more about multiple earths.) is trying revive Younger Superman who has recently died. Older Superman had died before and was brought back to life so this isn’t as crazy as it sounds…until it totally is. They can’t find the machine that could bring him back so they just give up basically. Some fans will say that he was finally becoming the Superman we needed, which is fine except for the fact that it seems really forced for him to come to this decision over the course of two pages. When Bucky becomes the new Captain America in Brubaker’s run, he does it over four or five issues which is a long time in the comic book world.

So basically the ending of the first issue is sad Superman isn’t as sad anymore and decides to become Superman again. Well what about the second issue?

Well Superboy, the son of Lois and Clark, is running along in the field with his lovable cat Goldie(Hope you don’t like that cat) and then a Hawk swoops down and snatches Goldie up(Wait, it gets worse) and while trying to save the cat, Superboy ends up frying them both with his heat vision and the charred corpses land at Superboy’s feet in the most horrifying comic book panel I have ever read.(Wow)

Superman is my favorite character and I constantly have to defend him as my favorite. But this story, this is why people don’t like him because people constantly forget how to write him. The first issue was boring and generic and the second issue got way too dark, way too fast. I’m not saying that comics can’t be more adult but this was reaching a Garth Ennis level of Violence.

I’m gonna give it until August which due to the Bi-Weekly shipping that’s six issues, or the length of the average graphic novel. Honestly, the only reason I haven’t cancelled it is so I don’t screw up my LCS'(Local Comic Shop) order too bad. Tomasi and Gleason would have to do something amazing to make this book anything but the first dropped book of this event.

 

In closing, Rebirth has had some great things happen in a few titles but it’s also had a whole lot of bad. The quantity of good books outweighs the bad currently but it has to be said that if you’re not watching out for your flagship character then something is a little off from the editorial side and only time will tell if any of the other books will be affected. The title of this article is taken from a great poet who implores us to not let our dreams die. I have many dreams about what DC could be. How it could form into a beautifully crafted story featuring some of the greatest characters that the world has ever seen. How it would showcase the hope and optimism that we need to see amid such dark times. Much like Norman McCay in Kingdom Come we have to stand and watch as these terrible things happen without the ability to fix them. Which is why we need Superman to come back and show us the way…but that’s hard to do when he’s being written by someone who clearly misunderstands hope.

One More Day Revisited: When Stories get Phoned In

Oh boy.

For those who don’t know, Spider-Man: One More Day is a four-part story created by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada that was released in 2007, following up the events of Marvel’s Civil War event. The story itself has received severe criticism over the years and is often considered the worst Spider-Man story ever written, which is really saying something significant. As a devout Spider-Man fan and critic of the story myself, I wanted to revisit One More Day to see if it has gotten better since its premiere almost 10 years ago. Hindsight is 20-20, right?

Well, my hindsight has revealed that the story is, indeed, a disaster from start to finish.

One More Day kicks off with Aunt May having recently been shot and basically in a coma; this is due to the fallout from Civil War in which Peter Parker reveals his identity to the world as Spider-Man. Sure enough, his enemies target his loved ones and track down his personal life, and an assassin hired by Kingpin attempts to kill Peter and MJ but misses, shooting Aunt May instead. This brings us to Part 1 of the storyline, in which Peter is in anguish over his aunt’s critical condition. His grief leads him to do a variety of extreme and uncharacteristically Spider-Man things in order to just have “one more day” with his aunt (oh, aren’t you self-aware, Quesada). Let’s look over the problems with this storyline piece by piece, shall we?

The Tragedy

OK, yes, losing Aunt May is arguably the worst thing that could happen to Peter Parker. But good Lord, is the tragedy uncreative. Aunt May is shot as a result of Peter’s enemies knowing who he is. This gives Peter incredible guilt over the experience, because Lord knows self-blame over personal tragedy has been a successful trope for comic book writers over the years. However, with the talent that Straczynski has, fans were hoping for something with a little more meat. Why not something a bit more tangible for the rest of us? Spider-Man has always been one of the most relatable characters in all of comics, arguably in all of fiction, and while we have all experienced some self-loathing for tragedy in our lives, very few of us can really connect with having a mob boss order a hit on us resulting in an unintentional death. You know what is relatable? A loved one getting cancer, or being lost in a senseless automobile accident. If Straczynski and Quesada wanted to make a story that readers could connect with, they should have made the tragedy something that was truly out of Peter’s hands: give us three issues of Spider-Man fighting off droves of enemies to protect his family, and end it with Aunt May contracting cancer or being hit by a drunk driver to showcase the real futility of Peter’s efforts. Making her death a case of assassination-gone-wrong ruins the blow of the inciting incident.

Also, why was his spider-sense, a power that has been monumentally effective in the past, so unhelpful in this case? So his power can make him dodge a bullet in his sleep but can’t let him know that his Aunt May is right behind him? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Parker’s Reign of Terror

I’ve never been a big fan of the whole “symbiote suit makes Peter lose his character” idea; it feels contrived and gimmicky to me. You know what I’m also not a big fan of? Peter establishing a 24-hr reign of terror in his grief. During the course of One More Day, we see Peter Parker do a host of things that are definitely not par for the Peter Parker course. We see him physically and verbally threaten a doctor whose hands are administratively tied; let loose his full powers on Tony Stark (something he has repeatedly sworn to never do); intimidate, threaten, and shift blame onto Stark in order to get money from him; threaten to rob people and banks in order to pay for medical treatment; and verbally attack Dr. Strange and disobey him concerning the arcane arts. While we all can understand that tragedy can make us do things we normally would not, we see Peter transform right before our eyes into something he has never been. It is completely inconsistent of his character to even think of doing any of these things, especially when viewed in light of trying to save the very woman who raised him to always do what was right. It is ironic that while every effort is made to save Aunt May, not once is any thought given to her legacy, a trend in this story that is antithetical to everything Aunt May has ever stood for.

Avengers, BE USELESS!

I have no idea what kind of bullet that assassin shot Aunt May with, but it apparently was laced with special plot-juice that makes every character in the entire Marvel Universe completely incompetent and useless. Arguments have been made that Straczynski at least tried to explain why no one else could help heal Aunt May, but in all honestly, he really doesn’t. While Tony Stark argues that the government would come after him if he gave Peter any help, refusing to help an innocent bystander is not the type of hero Iron Man has ever been (the weird recent Extremis storyline excluded). His argument also falls apart literally one page later when Jarvis shows up with a new hefty bank account to help Aunt May. Apparently, the government stops caring about Tony Stark when he just wires 2 million dollars to an account which then covers hospital bills for May Parker (oh, I’m sorry, May Morgan. As if anyone in America didn’t know who they were after the events of Civil War). Peter does the next logical thing, asking Dr. Strange for mystical help. However, Dr. Strange proves even less helpful than Tony, simply saying the magical-spiritual equivalent of “Nah, sorry fam; ain’t gonna work.” This might be the biggest problem for me: Peter goes to Steven Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, a character who can travel the globe with the Speed of Thought, who can multiply himself with comparative sentience, who can phase in and out of the astral plane at will, who has defeated clone versions of the Hulk and Namor, and who has altered all of reality too many times to count. And Strange just says, “I’m sorry, I can’t help her.” WHY NOT?! At least try to give an explanation as to why one of the most powerful beings in the universe can defeat demons and exist in several different realities at once but can’t heal a bullet wound! Further, the creators don’t even try to explain why anyone else can’t help; they simply show Peter asking the richest, smartest, and most powerful characters in all of Marvel in unexplained futility. This is one of the worst examples of plot-convenience I have ever seen, and it is unacceptable. All of these things lead to…

Mephisto

  1. OK, Straczynski and Quesada. Peter Parker, one of the most morally upright and spotless characters in all of comics, a character who refuses to kill even his most dangerous foes because he believes some things are just too sacred, whose career has been spent stopping muggings just as much as saving the universe, who’s moral resolve has been tested and proven countless times, accepts help from Mephisto, Marvel’s version of Satan. OK. Sure.

Honestly, I hate everything about this sequence. I hate that Mephisto just randomly shows up, I hate that Peter is one of the most intelligent people in Marvel and he can’t figure out what’s going on as all these weird random things occur, I hate that we just saw Peter walk the astral plane in an attempt to find help for his dying aunt then immediately is having casual conversation with random people in the street, I hate that Quesada insults his readers’ intelligence by assuming that we don’t see the little girl’s identity a mile away, I hate that Straczynski goes out of his way to ridicule an entire group of readers by saying that people who play and program video games are wasting their lives in bitterness and social withdrawal, I hate that Mephisto, one of the most powerful and evil beings in the universe, has nothing better to do than break up a marriage. If there is a single issue of comic books that I hate more than The Sensational Spider-Man #41, I have no idea what it is. It’s a series of nonsense scenes and insults to the readers that make the story feel more like a bad melodramatic David Lynch project than anything else.

Final Thoughts

One More Day is a bad storyline. You can summarize its four parts as such: Part 1, Both Peter and Tony are Turds. Part 2, Dr. Strange is Vague and Useless. Part 3, Mephisto Finishes Binging Days of Our Lives. And Part 4, Really Drawn-Out Dialogue Leads to Retcon. But bad writing is really nothing new to Spider-Man fans; we’ve had to suffer through some really bad stories in the past, but nothing felt as personal as this. The reason why One More Day stands out is not that the writing is bad but rather that the writing is lazy.

Everything that happens in One More Day is convenient for the story. Yes, in order for any story to work, certain things have to fall into place. However, when things fall into place in such a way that nothing makes sense, e.g. everyone in the Marvel Universe suddenly becoming useless to heal a bullet wound, readers start to feel as if the creators are just phoning it in. One More Day was never meant to revolutionize Spider-Man comics; it was meant to do one thing—retcon Civil War because it was inconvenient. The fact that everyone knew Spider-Man’s identity made telling a traditional story really difficult; however, rather than embracing that difficulty and giving readers something new and exciting, we get a weird retconning that makes no sense and only serves to give Quesada a way out of the box that Marvel creators had written themselves into. Yes, Civil War was a great book, but it wreaked utter havoc on virtually every mainstream Marvel title that was not Captain America. So, what did Quesada do? Give Spider-Man fans a cheap, unimaginative and nonsensical four-part story that not only destroyed Peter and MJ’s marriage but also set a dangerous precedent: if things get tough, we can always phone it in and retcon. This is why One More Day stands out as the worst Spider-Man story, for it showed readers just how terrible comics can get when creators decide that they just don’t want to actually earn their paycheck with creativity and quality content anymore.

 

Which is why I say thank God for Dan Slott. Sure, the man killed Peter Parker, but you can never say he phoned an issue in.

 

Midday Snarks June 6th, 2016

Red Lanyard back with another installment of cynicism and wit for the genre news from last week. Remember, it’s all in fun! Except for when I talk about Ubisoft. For real, they’re the worst.

  • Brie Larson is rumored to be the front runner for Marvel’s Carol Danvers, AKA Captain Marvel. Joining her former cast mate Chris Evans from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Ms. Larson leaves fans wondering when the trifecta will be completed and we get some Michael Cera action in the MCU. Hello, painfully-awkward Sam Alexander.
  • In DCCU news, The Flash project (no, not the enjoyable tv series that has fun; the dark and gritty movie with Ezra Miller) has a new director, Rick Famuyiwa, the director of the phenomenal and criminally underrated DOPE from last year. Fan uncertainty increases as WB hires a director whose greatest film credit is a movie glorifying 90s culture to helm a comic book project. Henry Cavill already in talks to work “growing a mullet” into his film contract.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse releases to mediocre reviews and reception by audiences and critics alike; comic book fans remark concern over the actual Apocalypse character being nowhere in the movie, apparently replaced by the tallest member of the Blue Man Group.
  • Actress Rose McGowan berates Fox for their billboard ad for X-Men Apocalypse showing Apocalypse strangling Jennifer Lawrence’s character Mystique. McGowan argued that the ad promotes casual violence against women, simultaneously failing to identify Lawrence’s character as anything other than a gender-bound damsel character and somehow interpreting two blue people fighting in a wasteland as “casual.”
  • In the midst of the above controversy, Rose McGowan’s primary film credits include Planet Terror, a Grindhouse feature by Robert Rodriguez. Irony apparently lost on everybody.
  • DC: Rebirth titles hit shelves this last week, once again displaying the company’s willingness to push the envelope about just how many times an entire universe can be rebooted in a decade.
  • Nintendo announces plans for E3, plans which primarily revolve around live-streaming footage of the new Legend of Zelda game and Pokemon Sun and Moon. Responding to fans utter ecstasy, President of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime remarks, “It’s like that’s what they wanted the whole time!” Fans almost riot.
  • Assassin’s Creed fans excited about the movie’s premiere. “I can’t wait for the cool visual effects they’ll be using,” said one impossibly enthusiastic fan. “If it’s anything like the games at launch, how are they gonna make it look like Fassbender is glitching through the floor making the entire movie crash?”
  • Moviegoers watching the Assassin’s Creed film will gain user credit for their UPlay accounts. Ubisoft still refuses to say what the hell a UPlay account actually is or what the points thereof actually do.
  • Ubisoft is going for the most accurate representation of an Assassin’s Creed game possible. Thus, in true Ubisoft fashion, moviegoers will have the film stall at random points and will be asked to login to their UPlay accounts at least 7 times before the movie is over.
  • Console gamers excited about E3 this year. “I can’t wait to see all the pre-rendered trailers and experience all the graphics that the console won’t actually be able to handle!” said one Microsoft fan.
  • Telltale’s new Batman game set to premiere at E3. Telltale expected to also announce about 873 other IP’s they have purchased gaming rights to.
  • Black Panther #3 to be delayed a couple of weeks; Ta-Nehisi Coates apologizes for delay as if fans who waited decades for the character to appear on film can’t wait 14 days for another wonderful issue.
  • Captain America revealed to be Hydra; literally everyone who has ever lived ever loses ability to deal.

“Hail Hydra”: Why Nick Spencer isn’t Evil

I would say spoiler warning but no one else has cared about the poor people that were waiting a few days before getting their newest comics. Last week saw the release of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 By Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz, which I would’ve already written about except that I wrote about DC Rebirth #1 instead which I thought was going to be the biggest news story that day. I was wrong. I had read this issue and really liked it and thought it was an interesting route for Spencer to take but then I got online and the world had exploded. It was met with outrage by many, confusion by most and questions by all. It quickly went all over Facebook, Twitter and just about any outlet where people could complain about things. Even Marvel standbys such as Stan Lee, Chris Evans, Clark Gregg and James Gunn got in on the fun with different opinions and naturally your Fandom Correspondents have some too. WiseSage has already written about how it could always be worse, my article’s going to be a bit different. Whereas Sage’s probably made you laugh and cry at the same time, mine will either calm you down…or make you even  more upset.

I’ve read Nick Spencer’s run on Captain America since he started writing Sam Wilson: Captain America back in November and he has built a story that was not only entertaining but also very topical which is when Cap is at his best, no matter who has the shield. He’s a great writer that can juggle the themes of modern day stories alongside the colorful costumes and wild villains. So knowing that Spencer has already tackled racial prejudice, extortion and brainwashing as primary story lines I think it’s right to assume that he is a writer who takes his craft very seriously and also is someone who isn’t afraid to rattle a few cages. Time for me to get controversial: Spencer reminds me of another writer that didn’t listen when people told him something was a bad idea, Stan Lee. There was once a time where people said that having Spider-Man take on the drug conflict was a bad idea, Lee didn’t care and wrote one of the greatest stories of the 70’s. Now, is Spencer as good as Lee? maybe not but he’s a writer worth trusting in and you have to at least admire his courage to do something different.

I previously wrote about change in comics as a force that is constant. This is something that is especially prevalent in the stories of Captain America.

Remember that last time Captain America went through a major change?

 

 

No? What about the time before that?

 

 

…and before that

 

…and of course…The classic change

 

Captain America has always gone through changes and I think he always should. A few weeks ago, in defense of Superman in the latest DC films, someone wrote that Superman needs to be a mirror image of what America is, I absolutely disagree with that. He’s an ideal for what Americans should strive for and what humans should strive for. Captain America on the other hands needs to be a mirror of the current America. His entire character is based around the idea of America and of traditional ideals and morals that were the standard in the 1940’s, but the question is what happens when they meet modern problems that don’t allow for Morals and Ideals to even be a variable in the gray areas that we live in? That’s what this story will ultimately be about because it’s what is needed. Red Skull’s speeches speak to a generation that is angry and doesn’t know why, which breeds confusion and a longing for purpose, which Skull is more than willing to give…as long as that purpose is the glory of Hydra. Sound Familiar? Cause it should.

So we have modern problems and a classical hero to combat them. But how can he do that if he himself is part of that group?

Well first and foremost, I don’t think that he is actually part of Hydra. At the end of The Free Comic Book Day issue, which was the prologue to this issue, he is shown telling Sharon Carter that to stop this new Hydra he may have to do some things that he isn’t prepared for. That makes me believe that he is just undercover with them. Naturally, I agree that the flashback scenes are done very well to make it seem like this is the new status quo for cap but I just don’t see it. Spencer has said that this is a story that is going to take a long time to resolve so we might not know for sure what’s going on for the next few months so while we won’t ultimately know what’s going on in the next issue I still have faith that it’s going to be a great story.

Another thing to consider is that Tom Brevoort(Editor) and Nick Spencer are both huge Cap fans and I can’t see either of them doing something that would ruin him. But you have to think of the publicity on this, you most likely clicked on this article just because you saw the picture or the title and that speaks volumes of what it’s done in a public sense. This subject has hit major news stations in the same way it did back in 2007 when he “died” which is exactly what the publishers would want.

At the end of all of this I still believe in Captain America and I believe in creators doing stories that aren’t just the same as before. I think Spencer is destined to go down as a truly phenomenal writer and this story is really just the start for him.

Remember, Martin Goodman once told Stan Lee that no one would like a spider themed hero…thank goodness we didn’t have social media in the 60’s.

Cheer up Kids, You Could be Reading Comics in the 90’s

So, in case you haven’t heard, Captain America is apparently a Hydra Agent now.  The revelation occurred in the first issue of the newest volume of Captain America.  I’m skeptical that it will stick. In my opinion, if Jack Flag is dead (who Cap throws out of an airplane) then he has actually been turned, and I will simply cease to read that comic.  If Jack Flag survives, then I think it is pretty clear that Steve Rogers is undercover.

Either way, the fallout from the first comic has been insane.  The internet is abuzz with people proclaiming that they are boycotting Marvel and basically acting as if this is the worst thing that has ever happened in comics.  Little kids, who have idolized Captain America, are crying because their hero has become a turncoat.  Now, I don’t want to sound heartless, or unsympathetic to the plight of these children.  When our heroes become fallible is the beginning of the end of innocence.  But what I would tell those children is that it could have been a lot worse.  To whit, they could have been 7 years old in 1993.

I distinctly remember being told by my Mother I could get one comic book at Wyndall’s Foodland.  Up until that point, I had only ever received comics at second hand book stores.  I had never gotten a new comic before, and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity.  I picked out a comic featuring my favorite superhero, Batman.  Unfortunately, the comic I chose was the first part of Knightfall.  Now, 6 year old that I do not know, I realize that Steve Rogers saying Hail Hydra is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, but I need you to understand that the first story I ever followed in continuity begins with Batman having an existential crisis, and ends with Bane breaking into Wayne Manor and breaking Batman’s back over his knee.  That was the world I grew up in.

Of course, I could switch over to Superman right?  After all he’s a boy scout, and his stories are not as dark as Batman’s.  Well in 1993, Superman was dead.  Which means that my first in continuity story was Reign of the Superman, which features John Henry Irons becoming Steel (later played by Shaq), a psychopath named the Eradicator, and a creepy Cyborg dude.  Oh, and fictional 7 year old, you are about to receive a comic wherein your Superboy is a precocious 13 year old, who has been raised by Clark and Lois.  Enjoy that, because my Superboy was a petulant teenager, with a godawful haircut, an earring, and a leather jacket that was only slightly bigger than Rogue’s was at the time.  Basically he looked like a member of New Kids on the Block, only not Joey, Jordan, or Donnie, but one of the other two that no one remembers.

And man, what a strange story this was.  We were basically told to choose our favorite of the 4 Supermen, but every option was bad.  Irons was the most likeable, but he was basically a poor man’s Iron Man.  Eradicator’s first appearance sees him literally set a man on fire.  Cyborg blows up Coast City, and he is still somehow more likeable than Superboy.  And yeah, Cyborg destroys Coast City, which is Hal Jordan’s home.  He creates a big machine that just blows up the whole city.  Geez.  I can hear what you are saying, imaginary 7 year old.  You are asking why I didn’t just go back to Batman?  Good idea.  I did and much to my surprise Batman had been replaced by a crazy cult member.  And he would be Batman for almost AN ENTIRE YEAR!

Basically, Batman becomes a paraplegic and leaves Gotham to be healed by this holistic healer and to fight ninjas.  He leaves Gotham to be protected by Jean Paul Valley, who has been brainwashed by a cult…

What’s that 7 year old?  Why would Batman leave his city to be protected by a guy who is clearly crazy?  I have no clue.  What matters is that he does, and Azrael, as he is called, decides to pick a fight with Bane, which he wins because he has a crazy suit with all types of enhancements.  But Azrael soon proves to be a lunatic.  He still hears voices and becomes obsessed with being better than Batman.

Meanwhile, Pa Kent goes to limbo to fight demons who want to take Superman’s soul to hell (this is all true), Superman returns with a mullet, and defeats Cyborg to take back his mantle.  However, Green Lantern tries to rebuild Coast City and the Guardians keep him from doing so, because he cannot use the Ring for personal gain.  Hal Jordan goes to Oa and decides it would just be easier to kill everybody.  One of the Guardians escapes and gives a Ring to Kyle Rayner, who receives it while wearing a Nine Inch Nails shirt.  How can I properly describe Kyle Rayner in the 90’s?  Imagine if Rob Liefeld was writing a character, and an editor told him that he would be fired if he did not make the character more off-putting and incompetent.  That was basically my Green Lantern, my young friend.

So over a two year period,  Superman died, Batman had his back broken, 4 pretenders to the Superman throne emerged and they were all horrible, Azrael took over the mantle of Batman and he was a brainwashed cultist, and Green Lantern killed all of the other Green Lanterns and was replaced by a brand new character who is just the worst.  Oh, and you heard me correctly; two years!  Whereas it is very likely that Captain America will be back to normal in about 6 months, comics in the 90’s drug things out for as long as possible.  So listen my young friend, try not to cry too much.  Things will be back to normal soon.  I promise you.  Sometimes you must deal with the pomposity of editors and creators, who are always wanting to make a splash.  But usually, it all turns out right in the end.

What’s that?  Why didn’t I try Marvel?  Well I did a little bit after this, but the X-Men were living in a hellscape run by Apocalypse, and Spider-Man was a clone named Ben Reilly, and Tony Stark was a teenager… Oh you’re crying again.  Sorry about that…