E3 – Marvel

Marvel came out in full force here at E3 with two major games being showcased so let’s get right to it.

Marvel VS. Capcom looks fantastic and I’m really happy that they’re putting a story mode in the new game. One of my biggest complaints about the last one was the lack of one. We get to see a bunch of new characters in this trailer and obviously the one I’m most excited for is Black Panther. I’m intrigued to see who the rest of the DLC characters will be and will be posting about them as I find out about them.

The gameplay looks to be updated from the last one and in the best way. I’m interested to see the different abilities of the Infinity Stones and to see how they mix with each different fighter.

Wow, so in this trailer we get to see the perfection of being Spider-Man in this game. There’s stealth, there’s action, there’s a chase scene and there’s a quicktime event of saving people. Mix all of those together and we might have the best Marvel game they’ve ever done. I love that they have multiple different references to the comic in these scenes, Wilson Fisk and Mr. Negative are great additions to the game and I’m excited that we’re getting characters that we haven’t seen a lot of before. Also, Mile Morales is gonna be awesome and I can’t wait to see how he fits into the storyline.

We Need to Talk – Iron Fist

Look, everyone, we need to talk.

So Iron Fist, the latest in Marvel’s series of Netfllix shows, is not very good. It starts out at a 3 and gradually achieves a semi-solid. And honestly, that’s OK. Marvel is allowed to put out something that’s not terrific, and no one can genuinely complain about Iron Fist’s quality when Guggenheim’s masturbatory fanfiction that is Arrow is still on the air. The quality of Iron Fist, while below Marvel’s usual standards, is not inherently offensive and thus is not the reason we need to talk.

The show’s treatment of mental healthcare, on the other hand, is another subject entirely.

As early as episode 2, Iron Fist throws itself into the fire of mental healthcare by using a psychiatric hospital—well, at least what they’re telling us is a psychiatric hospital—as its major setting. This was a bold move, and I was initially excited to see this move since mental illness has previously only been hinted at in passing in Marvel projects with few exceptions. However, as the episode proceeded, my excitement slowly wore away and yielded to disappointment and bemusement at just how inaccurate their portrayal of mental healthcare turned out. The show has been out for a while now, so I have been growing more and more surprised at the fact that no one else seems to have noticed how poorly this subject matter was handled. This is why I’m writing this article, my friends.

We need to talk about mental healthcare.

For some background, I am a mental healthcare professional–bachelors pursuing a masters pursuing a doctorate in clinical and forensic psychology. I have worked at a psychiatric hospital for a year, and my work and volunteer experience with the mentally ill total well over three years. I like to think I know my stuff respectably well. I also think that the writers for Iron Fist emphatically do not know their stuff. So just what was so inaccurate about Iron Fist’s portrayal of a psychiatric hospital that I found so upsetting? Well, here we go (SPOILERS for early episodes of Iron Fist).

I’m pretty sure that initial scene in the hospital speaks for itself, but let’s recap for fun. We find our protagonist Danny Rand strapped down to a table in an isolation room while a man in a white lab coat speaks to him, presumably a doctor. This man then tries to kill Danny, and we learn that he was actually a fellow patient who stole a doctor’s coat and snuck into a seclusion room holding a restrained patient.

If I had a week to explain everything wrong with this scene, it wouldn’t be enough time. So let’s act like Kanye West and hit the highlights: in a real psych hospital, patients would not have been able to get a doctor’s lab coat. Those things aren’t just lying around. They’re, you know, being worn by doctors. Also, patients would not be able to get into other rooms that easily. Rooms not meant for patient entry are locked. Understandably so, seclusion rooms are definite no-fly zones for patients to walk into, especially with a damn patient currently inside of one. By the way, patients are rarely restrained, and if they are, they are not left unsupervised. At psych hospitals, we intensely care about our patients, and patient safety is the absolute top priority. Basically, think the exact opposite of this scene where orderlies—not licensed nurses or doctors, orderlies—stab Danny in the neck—you know, where arteries lie—with medicine to knock him out without checking to see if he’s harmed after just having a metal fork (hmm, how’d that end up in a psych hospital) shoved in his neck. I personally think that’s a little unsafe, but what would a humble man with actual clinical experience know?

I can’t talk about this scene without mentioning that Danny is in a seclusion room in restraints for safety purposes yet still has a lamp to keep him company. A lamp, for those who don’t know, can be used as a blunt object for bludgeoning and has a cord that can be used for strangling. But it’s understandably just sitting there chilling with a dangerous supposedly psychotic man. Eh, semantics.

While this opening scene is the most blatantly ridiculous portrayal of psychiatric care, it is not the only incidence. I personally couldn’t go more than 5-10 minutes watching it without pausing to rub my temples and question how low their research budget was to so poorly reproduce mental healthcare in America. Openly aggressive patients are left to freely intermix with confused and victimized patients. Danny, despite being considered extremely dangerous, is left alone with a doctor in his office full of electronics and ways to hurt himself or others. Orderlies are charged with giving medications despite the national standard being licensed nursing professionals. Readers, a damn straight jacket is used. Let us dispel this myth here and now: straight jackets are not a modern staple of psychiatric care. In all my clinical experience, I have never even seen a straight jacket, let alone used one on a patient.

Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering why any of this matters. Sure, the portrayal of psychiatric care is flawed and inaccurate, but what’s the big deal?

Because mental illness, unlike Iron Fist, is real.

Some people are legitimately ill. And unfortunately, some people are so severely ill that they have to be institutionalized, some for only a little and some for a very long time. By making their portrayal of mental illness and mental healthcare so scary and flawed, Marvel has perpetuated the stigma that the mentally ill already face every single day and has contributed to one of the most dangerous lies of our society: it’s not safe to seek help.

The patients in Iron Fist had it all figured out. Once you get a diagnosis, you’re there for good. The psych hospital is your new home, and you’ll be incredibly lucky if you ever leave and get to see your family again. If you don’t take anything else from this article, please understand this: nothing is further from the truth. As soon as we get a new patient, there are as many as 30 different people working together to get that person stabilized, keep them safe, and send them home in a better emotional and psychological place than they were when they arrived. Patients receive three meals a day and additional snacks, are allowed outside as long as it is a safe environment, and are offered classes and activities to improve their health and quality of life inside and outside of the hospital. And believe me, there is nothing we hate more than when patients have to stay any longer than the minimum length required for their case.

If I were undergoing severe psychological distress, Iron Fist’s portrayal of mental healthcare would scare me away from ever seeking clinical help. Honestly, the way the show fetishizes homelessness and demonizes mental healthcare makes me question what point the show’s producers were really trying to convey. Is it better to live under a bridge dying of a drug overdose than to stay in a psychiatric hospital where you are fed, provided shelter and clothes, and are cared for by people seeking treatment and placement for you to improve your life? But then again, those qualities found in real facilities were nowhere to find in Iron Fist.

Perhaps the show’s rushed production is to be blamed. Perhaps Marvel didn’t have the time or resources to have people do actual research on psychiatric care or medications (by the way, thorazine is not a lobotomy drug. I actually had to stop the episode to laugh at how ridiculous and uninformed that line was). Perhaps there was a deeper meaning to the antiquated treatment of psych care that I didn’t quite get. Perhaps the show’s writers just had a ridiculously bad experience with a poorly run psych hospital that tainted their perception of healthcare. Whatever is to be blamed for the portrayal, the question remains: when are we going to stop glamorizing mental illness and start admitting that maybe scientists and doctors know more than we do?

This is not a new issue. From such media as Perks of Being a Wallflower and Twilight to such music as Lana del Ray and 21 Pilots to the demonization of mental healthcare by Iron Fist and Hannibal, society’s understanding of mental illness is so delusional that I can basically taste the irony (it tastes like blood and not-yet-ripe zucchini, by the way). Let me say this as a mental healthcare professional and friend to many with mental illnesses: psychological disorders are not beautiful. The people who suffer from them are. But the disorders themselves are a source of incredible pain and distress than need more specialized help than some BS artistic sense of superiority can provide.

If you struggle with mental illness, I hear you. And I want to tell you that it’s safe to seek help. Whether it be a licensed therapist, social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, or psych hospital, you will be safe. Workers won’t go around blabbing your confidential information to anyone on the phone, and you won’t be left to rot in a padded room. And if you’re one of the many people who know someone with a mental illness, encourage them to find help. Be there for them, offer to go the therapy sessions with them, hold them accountable with their medication. They need friends during such trying times. And finally, if you’re one of the people who glamorize mental illness, who ridicule and demonize psychiatrists and mental healthcare, and who go out of their way to tell people that their suffering and suicidality are what makes them unique, then I have news for you. Your devotion to dramatic irony is hurting people, and you’re no better than the delusional preacher who tries to pray the gay away.

If you victimize the mentally ill like that, then you and me—we need to talk.

“Just to Watch the Snow” Dr. Strange Review.(Spoiler Free)

Dr. Strange is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Marvel Studios. It’s got A-list actors, solid screenwriting and visual effects that can challenge any other studio. Is it without it’s faults though? Unfortunately, not quite.

This film begins by showing us an action sequence that sets the stage for the rest of the film by with wild set changes and different effects that really make this film stand out from any of the previous ones. There’s multiple points where the world basically turns into a giant kaleidoscope that is constantly changing which is honestly one of the more enthralling sequences that they’ve done since the start of the MCU.

Marvel has perfected the Origin story with films like this, Ant-Man and Iron Man.  Seeing Stephen Strange change from the arrogant Neurosurgeon to the Master of Mystic Arts was just a perfect transition and I loved that the ending of the film doesn’t leave you feeling like it’s done, Dr. Strange still has a lot of character growth and I like that instead of cramming everything in the first one we get to see just enough for the origin and the rest will be shown over future films…which are set up perfectly in the two after credit scenes. A lot of people will say that the story is a bit too linear for their taste but it never felt like more of the same for me. It is a story about a man becoming a hero and learning how to stop the villain but it’s done in a new way that was very refreshing to me and I think it will be to a lot of people.

Benedict Cumberbatch shines as the Doctor. He’s a man that you wouldn’t normally root for due to his shortcomings but you quickly fall in love with him after you see how he changes over the course of the film. His changes from an emotional and mental level happen primarily due to the efforts of The Ancient One who is wonderfully performed by Tilda Swinton. Her interactions with Strange are clearly the highlights of the film, particularly when they’re together on the astral plane towards the end of the film. It’s at this point that you realize how far Strange has come as a character and I don’t think it would’ve worked as well if it had been anybody besides Cumberbatch and Swinton.

They’re joined by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, a contemporary for Strange after he joins with them at Kamar Taj. Ejiofor delivers a solid performance here and it’s to be expected from this oscar-caliber star. In fact, one of the few issues I have with this film is that it needed a bit more of him but there’s always time for him in the sequels.

Mads Mikkelsen plays Kaecilius, A sorcerer who has defected from the Ancient One’s teachings and begun to seek out an opportunity to gain more power elsewhere. Mikkelsen does very well in this role, but he remains downplayed throughout much of the film and that’s really my main issue with this film : the villain is good, could be great. I know I’m a little nit-picky but that’s the point of the review.

Last but not least Benedict Wong plays Wong, who is the stoic librarian. Unfortunately, talking more about his character would spoil some of the films better scenes but just know that he, the cloak of levitation and any scene involving the astral plane are all scene stealers that will surely go down as some of Marvel’s best moments.

Why the Disney Buyouts were Brilliant.

Disney has been a huge part of my life and they’ve always been a company that has supported the idea of films for everyone to enjoy. Prime Example : Show Mary Poppins to a six year old and they’ll laugh at the dancing penguins, show it to a sixty year old and they’ll cry during “Feed The Birds.” That’s the power of Disney and that’s why this article exists. Naturally throughout almost 80 years of films there will be a few duds. To get to the brilliance of Frozen and Zootopia you had to get through things like Herbie : Fully Loaded and Flubber. Now, I might be stepping on some toes due to what I just said but that’s the interesting part; even films that aren’t great have a following because of a nostalgia factor, which is something else that Disney thrives on. But aren’t most of these films targeted towards a family setting? Why should you enjoy the Marvel and Star Wars buyouts? Well that’s what this article is for.

Let’s go about this chronologically : Around 2006 or 2007 Marvel realized that the characters they owned made up the main members of the Avengers. So, they decided to try and make their own film studio to gain complete creative control over what they were making but they knew they would need a solid backing company and they would need to show what they could do. So, Kevin Feige made some major moves to make this a reality such as : getting Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Focusing an entire film on the World War II origin of Captain America and getting Joss Whedon to do the biggest film of the entire project. As we know, it paid off and everything worked out really well. But where does Disney fit in? Well, After the massive success of the Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America : The First Avenger, Disney decided to buy the company in a merger and allow them to create Marvel Studios. Avengers was the first film to officially be created under Marvel Studios and it’s been going strong ever since.

Marvel wanted to create their own studio because they wanted to show that they could make films that were by comic fans and for comic fans that could still appeal to the wider audience. Obviously it worked because we just recently were given Civil War and it was easily one of the greatest examples of why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is close to perfect. Now if we could just get the X-Men in there…another problem for another time.

Now what about Star Wars? Well that story is a bit different but it has a very similar ending. Basically Disney bought Star Wars in 2012 and immediately began preparations for a new series of films. It had been 29 years since the original trilogy and 8 years since the prequels. In that time we had different areas of Star Wars such as The Clone Wars cartoon, multiple comic book series(Done by Dark Horse) and multiple books series which were all a part of the expanded universe. Now, here’s where the divide happened : When Disney bought the company with the intention of making a new series of films and books they said that most of the expanded universe were no longer part of the canon(Considered to be part of the main story) and that really upset a lot of people and to an extent I can see where they’re coming from. Imagine that you’ve spent 20 years reading these books and following these characters and really enjoying the stories only to be told that they never mattered. I can see where they’re coming from but they’re still getting more Star Wars movies and I’ve never heard an official word on if the books set before the films were or were not canon. Many of the books which were now useless were good but there were quite a few that weren’t and I don’t blame Disney for wanting to make their own stories because of it. There was one factor that left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths though and that was George Lucas.

When Lucas signed the company over he initially seemed pretty cool about everything, he was getting older and wanted to allow a new generation to take over but then after the new film came out he went on and said that Disney was awful to him. This would’ve upset me due to Disney kicking him out until he said “They wanted to do something for the fans and i just wanted to tell a story”…Now, I have to make a statement about this because I understand artistic vision but I also understand being selfish. When you put something out there, it’s not 100% yours anymore. It becomes something else entirely and you have to understand that there has to be a balance between what fans want to see and what you want to create. This was one of the biggest problems with the prequels which didn’t focus on fan wants at all and instead forgot everything about the basic structure of a story. These are my issues with George Lucas.

Since Disney has taken over we’ve received one fantastic entry in the main saga, 2 really good seasons of Rebels, a plethora of books which were critically acclaimed and a few different comic series which have been some of the best that Marvel has been publishing. This leads me to believe one thing, that Disney knows what they’re doing. Many people made jokes saying that Disney was going to make it too kid friendly but as we’ve seen : 1. Darkness doesn’t always equal greatness. (See: Revenge Of The Sith, Punisher : War Zone, Spawn, Batman V. Superman : Dawn Of Justice.) 2. Disney can maintain a solid balance of light and dark. It’s one of their best traits and I knew that they would knock Star Wars out of the park.

In conclusion, there is a definite difference in Pre-Disney Marvel and Star Wars and I stand by the fact that it only got better after the fact.

Know why? Because we can get pictures like this:

If you don’t know why that’s awesome then you need awesome lessons.

Agree? Disagree? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Always Forward. Forward, Always

I’ve stayed spoiler-free for this review, so enjoy!

Marvel’s Netflix offerings have brought comic book fans some of the best television they could’ve asked for. Daredevil has given us two seasons of gritty underworld crime mixed with ninja mysticism, and Jessica Jones—a character no one expected to see mark Marvel’s live action roster—has blessed us with a season’s worth of emotional weight and psychological thrill that has left us wanting more. Now, Marvel has given us Luke Cage, a character and show that proves to be just as high-quality contest as its Netflix brother and sister, if not a more unique tone and approach.

Luke Cage is an African-American superhero with super strength and unbreakable skin operating in New York. We last saw Luke in Jessica Jones, and this show finds him in his historic setting of Harlem, a historical and modern center of Black American culture. The show definitely uses such culture as a centerpiece for its plot and tone, and the political and social undertones of race found in the show are poignant yet never heavy-handed. Luke Cage is a show that does not shy away from its ethnic background and setting, and I personally applaud Netflix and Marvel for taking such an unabashed approach to one of the most high-profile Black comic book characters in history.

To start this review, let’s begin with the content of the show. Luke Cage offers an intricate plot involving a large circle of characters, and the narrative’s complexity outperforms that of any other Marvel shows we have seen so far. While some episodes favor dialogue and background information over action sequences, the show never feels boring or stagnant. Rather, the action sequences are utilized as a method of additional storytelling rather than a break from the narrative, thus establishing a dynamic story in which every character, scene, and dialogue exchange feeds each other smoothly and intriguingly. Narratively, Luke Cage may have the most well-executed plot out of all the Marvel Netflix shows so far.

We follow Luke through a journey of underground crime and political corruption as we witness a struggle for the city of Harlem. Crime lords Cottonmouth, Diamondback, and Domingo Colon struggle for power while futilely attempting to maintain relative peace. Meanwhile, politician Mariah Dillard works to restore Harlem and give its Black community more opportunity for success while working behind the scenes with dirty money and questionable business connections. As police officers Rafe Scarfe and Misty Knight work to solve a recent string of shootings and unearth criminal activity, Luke Cage finds himself caught in the middle as he just tries to live his life apart from all the violence and chaos. Cage offers an interesting contrast to Matt Murdock in Daredevil: While Murdock makes it his mission to help his city and defeat the corruption within it on both sides of the law, Cage simply wants to help the individual where he can but otherwise avoid the bigger conflicts altogether. The reluctant hero archetype is executed admirably in Luke Cage as we watch him transform from a quiet bystander to a powerful city guardian.

As we have come to expect from Marvel Studios, the casting is absolutely perfect. Mike Colter seems born to play Luke Cage. Alfre Woodard, Erik Harvey, and Mahershala Ali nail the various villains that they play, and Rosario Dawson delivers yet another stellar performance in the Marvel TV universe. Newcomer Simone Missick also shows incredible range in her role as the dynamic and complex Detective Misty Knight. I have no idea what the casting director for Marvel is being paid, but I don’t think it’s enough. Just like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and the MCU, Luke Cage brings characters to life in a way that will make fans think they’ve walked right into a Luke Cage comic.

I would be remiss to not comment on the soundtrack for the show: Sweet Christmas, is the music perfect. From OG hip hop to soulful R&B to jazz to gospel, the music in Luke Cage captures perfectly the musical history and richness of Harlem and the Black community in America.

While the vast majority of what I have to say about Luke Cage is positive, it is not without its issues. The somewhat shaky camera work can be distracting at times, and while the fighting scenes are impressive, it is somewhat of a downgrade from the choreography we’ve come to expect from Daredevil. Obviously, one would not expect the same type of fighting from both characters considering Daredevil is trained in martial arts while Cage has military and boxing training, so the shift in style fits and makes sense. That being said, viewers expecting Daredevil level fighting choreography will not find it here. Without getting too into spoilers, I would have liked to have seen more from certain villains. By the end of the season, some characters seemed to have so much untapped potential that viewers may wonder why the writing did not go different way. However, to counteract this, the show does set up incredible possibilities for just about every character involved, so audiences may rest assured that they will leave Harlem an even more intriguing and active city than when they arrived.

Luke Cage is an excellent show. Narratively, it is perhaps the strongest Marvel show yet. Casting is as phenomenal as ever, and each episode is an exciting ride through a story that deeply respects the characters’ comic book histories while making them relevant to modern audiences. One thing that may turn off certain viewers is the social commentary present in the narrative, however. I have seen some critics and fans express dissatisfaction with the “heavy-handed” racial and political ideas in the show. While I respect those opinions, I also think that they are a little unfair and rather miss the point. This show takes place in Harlem, a city of such racial, historical, cultural, political, artistic, and social significance that to remove the Black commentary and culture from it would be to rob the setting of everything that it is. Yes, it is brought up repeatedly that Luke Cage is a Black bulletproof man wearing hoodie. Yes, several parallels can be drawn between the unrest in the show and the Black Lives Matter movement. But all of these things do not feel forced, out of place, or preachy; they feel real. Harlem is at the center of Black history and struggle; it is a big deal in the show that they have a Black bulletproof superhero because in reality, the community passionately desires protection from the violence, oppression, and chaos that is often a part of their daily lives. The show never polarizes the issues; rather, it does a service to its audience by showing just how complicated the issues really are. The police brutality and corruption in Luke Cage is shown from the angle of an angry wronged Black community but also from the perspective of an exhausted and uncertain police force. Gun violence is treated from lenses of both protection and potential violence; racial oppression and disadvantage is approached from angles of poverty, education, systematic privilege, and a host of other factors. One of the worst things people can do is simplify complex issues, and Luke Cage does an excellent job of making its audience think rather than forcing opinions onto them. Luke Cage is a character of Black pride and strength, and to ask the show to be anything else is not being true to the character’s history or the Black community at large.

Luke Cage is equal parts superhero action show, social commentary, comic book adaptation, and character study. Each character is examined from multiple angles to show their depth and complexity, and the social issues in the show are treated with equal honesty and skill. Luke Cage may be the strongest narrative entry in the Defenders mini-verse, and any comic book fan can enjoy the show regardless of familiarity with the characters. Luke Cage is more than an entertaining show; it is a source of cultural enrichment and thought-provoking social commentary that goes above and beyond the expectations for a show about superheroes. But then again, what else would we expect from the Savior of Harlem?

Now we got a hero for hire, And he’s a Black one.

Red Lanyard

A Response to an IGN Article.

Jesse Schedeen, who writes at IGN, wrote an article a few weeks ago asking the question: “Is Marvel Losing Ground to DC?” I would like to write a counterpoint article. Take note of a few things before we proceed:

  1. I still have great respect  for Mr. Schedeen as a writer and this article is just where me and him see differently on a few things.
  2. I’m not just a “Marvel Fanboy” I have great love for what DC has done, Rebirth has had some really solid comics and some really bad ones. That being said…

Is Marvel losing ground to DC? No. Absolutely not. Now, Mr. Schedeen wrote his article  before Marvel released their Fall line-up so he is at a slight disadvantage but I don’t think his opinions would’ve changed that much. Many of his issues with the company were things that will most likely continue into this next season but whereas they are things that he might be upset with, most of them are things that I can’t wait for. Prime Example: I love the idea of two new people taking on the mantle of Iron Man but him and many others most likely hate the idea. WiseSage himself has said that he will miss Tony Stark as Iron Man but he, like me, is open to new storylines. I had originally planned on doing an entire article on the new line-up but just about everything I could say has already been given on any number of articles on other sites so instead I’ll be talking a bit about the ones I’m excited for while responding to Mr. Schedeen’s article. If you’re interested in seeing all of the solicitations then you can see them here: http://comicsalliance.com/marvel-now-previews-line-up/

So why do I think Marvel isn’t losing ground to DC? Simple: DC’s not willing to take a risk and when they do, it’s the wrong risk. Let Scott Lobdell, Dan Jurgens and Peter J. Tomasi have very little editorial backlash? Bad Risk. Make Pre-Flashpoint Superman an idiot? Bad Risk. Use Titans to forget about one of the most beloved Teen Titans runs? Really Bad Risk. Now, Don’t think that I’m just hating on DC all throughout this article because I’m not. In fact, Here’s some good risks they’ve taken.

  • Keeping Robert Venditti on Green Lantern was a very good decision. He had the unenviable task of following Johns and yes, his earlier stuff was a little rough but he only got better the more I read. Godhead was a fantastic storyline and I loved Hal going rogue. It was a different take but it never stopped being fun.
  • Letting Tom King take over on Batman was absolutely perfect. Both of these decisions were mainly risks due to the fact that their previous writers were Eisner award winners and anybody would be a risk in comparison but King was clearly the best choice. His Batman has already given us some amazing things to see and it’s only on the third issue.
  • Bringing Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz back to the forefront of DC and making them Earth’s primary Lanterns was a perfect move. These two were not only great diverse characters in their own right they were also horribly underused and deserved their own story. Also, Sam Humphries was a great choice for writer here.
  • Everything about Detective Comics, Nightwing and Green Arrow have been perfect. That is all.

See? I like DC and I want them to succeed but let’s face the fact that if we’re looking at DC You/Rebirth VS. Secret Wars/All-New, All-Different Marvel then Marvel has clearly won over the last year and a half. Secret Wars was easily one of my all time favorite event comics and every Marvel comic that I’ve read since then has been at least a 7 out of 10.(I haven’t read all of them but seriously most of them have been pretty solid.)

Something else that Marvel has done is perfected the idea of a reboot. Instead of restarting every 3 or 4 years, Marvel is now working on a seasonal schedule like a television series. Now every fall we get to see all of the wild changes, new comics and new characters for us to enjoy. I love this system because it gives people a perfect jumping on point once a year while also carrying on all the great stories that us comic readers already love.

Something else that I love that Marvel is doing is building up their characters. Ask someone who Marvel’s best character is and you could get a plethora of answers now ranging from household names like Iron Man and Spider-Man all the way to previously unknown heroes like Star-Lord and Jessica Jones. Marvel has built their roster up to where there are no more obscure heroes or villains. Everyone has the ability of being an A-Lister now. If you told me 10 years ago that Carol Danvers(Captain Marvel) would be headlining the summer event comic with Iron Man then I would’ve thought you were crazy, not because she wasn’t any good but because she wasn’t really a headlining fan-favorite yet.

Now contrast that with DC, they have great characters but they’re not willing to branch out too far from the main ones. Ask someone who the best DC character is and you’ll get some who say Superman, some who say Wonder Woman, a few would say Flash and most would say Batman. Nothing wrong with those answers because those guys are great but they’re everywhere for DC. Why doesn’t the Justice League Line-Up change? Why hasn’t anyone besides Scott Snyder, Robert Venditti and Geoff Johns created new characters?(That last one is a slight exaggeration but it still holds some weight)

A great example of what they should do came from WiseSage. His plan was that they should make the Justice League like it was in the 80’s with a few heavy hitters like Flash and Aquaman and then build up some lesser known characters like Black Canary and Blue Beetle. I think it’s a great idea and a perfect way to build up your roster.

What’s that? It would never work? well I have two words for you, random naysayer: Young. Justice. How many non comic readers do you think knew about Jaime Reyes, Kaldur’ahm or Artemis before that show? Probably not too many and yet they all became fan favorites. I don’t understand why DC animated and DC Comics both let this goldmine fall to the wayside. I would buy a Young Justice comic, I’d watch a Season 3 and I’d buy as many action figures and shirts as it took to keep it on the air. This was a show that started a movement that hasn’t been seen since Batman: The Animated Series(Yup, I said it.) and yet for some reason DC has allowed them to become “Forgotten.”

Meanwhile, Marvel has put some of it’s best talent on their fan favorite books. Soule on Daredevil, Bendis on Guardians Of The Galaxy and Coates on Black Panther have all given us some great comics and it will only continue after this fall. I love DC but they’ve got a long road ahead of them before they can catch up to Marvel.

“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.

What to Expect from Spider-Man: Homecoming

So now that we’ve seen Tom Holland as our new MCU Spider-Man (spoiler alert, he’s spectacular), the rumors have been flying about his upcoming solo movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, a title that just exudes Marvel’s fun sense of self-awareness. Set to come out next year in July—the seventh, to be exact, if you want to be like me and mark your calendars and set up countdowns on your electronic devices—the movie hasn’t really released a ton of information about its plot or the comic book sources it may or may not be drawing from. Thus, rumors have gone everywhere from a weird pseudo-adaptation of The Clone Saga to an entirely new story straight from the MCU. As an avid Spider-Man fan, I can’t help but dive into these rumors and unsubstantiated claims and voice my opinions. Seeing as I am an admin on a genre-based blog, you all get to read these ramblings! So let’s look at some of the rumors and wishes circulating around our new web-slinger.

Kraven’s Last Hunt

This is a storyline that fans of Spider-Man have been clamoring for since Toby Maguire was under the mask, even though reports leaked in years past have shown that Morbius was a more likely villain for Raimi’s fourth entry than Kraven. And as a huge fan of DeMatteis’s story, I am personally holding out for a Kraven appearance in the years to come under the MCU. But let’s be honest here, folks: Kraven’s Last Hunt makes absolutely no sense for a year one Spider-Man.

Kraven's Last Hunt

Join with me in hypothesizing this proposed idea for a movie: for the first Spider-Man entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kevin Feige is going to introduce a villain never before seen in a movie, let him apparently kill the titular hero and steal his identity, and then have (in cinematic terms) a rather anticlimactic ending with Spider-Man fighting an entirely different tier-3 villain as the aforementioned bad guy commits suicide. You are gonna have a lot of confused people in that theater. Even if MCU writers mix things up with the storyline, the whole idea of Kraven’s Last Hunt is that it is a climax from the other encounters that Spider-Man has had with him in the past. It’s the conclusion to big life phases for both Kraven and Peter alike. Making it into Kraven’s First and Last Hunt loses the real meaning of the story and just doesn’t make sense. Maybe for Spider-Man three or four. But not for year one.

Remake Raimi’s Spider-Man (How Green was My Goblin!)

A lot of the ideas for Marvel’s new Spider-Man franchise surprisingly circles around remaking older movies. While this idea makes a bit of sense—there’s perhaps no villain more essential to Peter’s history than the Green Goblin—we have already gotten three different Goblins since Raimi’s first entry. The villain, while undoubtedly will be seen soon enough in the MCU, needs some time off, and I doubt Marvel wants to associate itself so closely with any memories of the Sony franchises. We do know that Michael Keaton has been approached to possibly play a villain in Homecoming, and he would make for an excellent Norman Osborn, but I for one have serious doubts that he will be the main baddie in the movie or that he will even have his villainous origin this early in the game. There’s just too much baggage from Sony that Marvel is trying to avoid.

Birth of Venom

Story-wise, this rumor makes the most sense for inspiration. While not taking place in year one Spider-Man lore, the Birth of Venom could pretty easily be modified to fit as a first big bad for a young Spider-Man. The presence of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 just a couple of months before Homecoming even gives Marvel a chance to briefly introduce the existence of symbiotes in the universe, leading into one ending up on Earth due to the abundance of alien presence on our planet over the years in the MCU. Introducing Eddie Brock (quick plug for my fan-casting of Tom Hardy) as a reporter for the Daily Bugle, Peter’s new part-time job, offers a good opportunity to give fans a villain they’ve been asking for while not forcing an ill-fitting storyline. Add Michael Keaton as Norman Osborn in the background, and you have the groundwork for a Spider-Man mini-verse. If Marvel does use an existing story as inspiration, this one is probably the most likely.

The Death of Jean DeWolff Death of Jean Dewolff

I’ll be honest, this is my own personal rumor that I am officially starting. For anyone who has read a lot of Spider-Man—and I mean a LOT of the comics—this story sticks out to you as the moment you start to wonder if Spidey is going to actually kill someone. Go read the story for yourself; it is absolutely fantastic and stands as one of my personal favorite comic books arcs of all time. I like the idea of Homecoming being inspired by this story because it gives the MCU the chance to do a lot of new things: the tone of Spidey hunting down a serial killer could offer a crime thriller tone new to Marvel movies, it could introduce the Netflix TV universe by bringing in Kingpin and Daredevil like the comic book story, and it could give Marvel the chance to set Spider-Man apart in the cinematic universe as being the hero who doesn’t kill despite being pushed to his limit by the Sin Eater. While this is probably a long shot for Homecoming, I am going to remain hopeful we see this storyline down the road either as a future Spidey movie or as a subplot in a future season of Daredevil.

Spider-Man: Blue

This is my favorite Spider-Man story, and it would definitely make for an interesting movie. The idea is that Gwen Stacy is already dead by the time Civil War takes place; thus, Homecoming would be a set of flashbacks for Peter as he details what he has done up to now. This would show some scenes of him fighting the Green Goblin, meeting Mary Jane, encountering Eddie Brock (again, cast Tom Hardy!), hanging out with Harry Osborn, and getting into tussles with several members of his rogues gallery. Peter narrates all of this as he stands talking to Gwen’s grave, ending in a flashback to Death of the Stacy’s and a final farewell message to the girl he loved but could not save. Again, this would be a different type of movie style that Marvel could try to add variety to their roster, and it would be a fitting metaphor for Spider-Man saying goodbye to a former presence in his life—Sony—and hello to his new companion, the MCU. Again, a bit of a long shot, but intriguing nonetheless.

The Clone Saga

Stop. Just Stop.

A Totally New Story

This will probably be what we get, and I am totally fine with that. While Marvel has always drawn some inspiration from the comics in their movies, they have also definitely not been afraid to play with canon a little bit to make a unique adventure (see Civil War, Iron Man 3, and Winter Soldier as primary examples). Michael Keaton is tagged to play someone, and the popular theory is the Vulture. For the life of me, I cannot name one big Spider-Man story that features Vulture in anything more than a side role. But hey, I’m down to see what they do! Marvel is in an interesting position: Sony has already done a lot of groundwork over the years to set up Spider-Man’s world. People have a pretty good idea of who Norman and Harry Osborn are, and at least some idea of Peter’s love interests (Gwen and MJ). We have also seen the death of Uncle Ben far too many times, so no need to rehash that. Marvel gets a rare opportunity to introduce a character who has already been introduced, letting them do whatever they want with a year one story. Let’s see what they do!

Whatever it is, please Marvel, for the love of God, no more sidewalk dancing.

-Admin Red Lanyard

“I Remember all of them” Civil War’s Perfect Finale

*I can’t stress enough my major spoiler warning for this article. I will most likely be talking about every important thing that happens in the last 30 minutes of Captain America : Civil War.*

You’ve Been Warned.

As I’ve already said in my actual review, I loved this movie…so why write another article talking about it? Well one reason is that it’s worth it but the main reason is that I couldn’t talk about the fantastic finale. I believe it to be the greatest finale of any superhero film. Yes, I know what that means…better than Iron Man 3…better than The Dark Knight…better than The Avengers. I understand that many of you already think that such heretical thoughts should never be written but hear me out on this.

Civil War was the culmination of 11 different films(12 if you count Guardians Of The Galaxy). Marvel had built these characters up in a way that humanized them and made us fall in love with them. No matter how old you were or where you came from there was a certain magic whenever you saw the 6 Avengers in that line-up or when Winter Soldier caught Cap’s Shield or when Hawkeye made his speech about “If you step outside those doors, you are an Avenger.” Marvel had made these characters leap off of the page and most importantly in this case…set up the friendship between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. They’re not old friends with each other like they are with Bucky Barnes or James Rhodes, they’re not contemporaries like Sam Wilson or Bruce Banner but they are the two leaders of this team that want to do what’s right. Steve and Tony both reinvented themselves to become the heroes they are, they’re both heroic outside of their alter-egos and they both suffer from severe trauma and loss. So what would cause these two men to fight?

Unfortunately, their own heroics is the cause of it. The battle against Ultron in Sokovia has made many people throughout the world view the Avengers as a group that brings nothing but destruction wherever they go. So the government comes up with a solution: The Sokovia Accords. Basically they want to make the Avengers a team that is sanctioned and controlled by the United Nations. Tony is all for this because he wants to protect people as much as he can. Steve is against this because he doesn’t want to be told when he can save people and he realizes that if someone does get hurt then all it’s going to do is shift blame to whoever gave the orders.

This is enough to cause a split between the two factions. Some of the Avengers are for it and some are against it. The initial fight is gradually built towards from here including the return of the Winter Soldier and the introductions of Black Panther and Spider-Man. I’m skipping over a lot to get to the finale so forgive me for that, I’m not exactly sure when the fight takes place time-wise but it is absolutely brilliant. It’s a 6 Vs. 6 match-up that we’ve waited to see since the first Avengers film and it’s finally happening. The reason this fight works is because it’s been set up so well and because it doesn’t get boring, we see scene after scene of superhero action for a solid 15 minutes and it’s still incredibly entertaining. I also love that they’re not trying to kill each other or anything Steve is just trying to catch up with Zemo and stop him and Tony is just trying to bring Steve in. The fight ends with Vision accidentally shooting down War Machine and severely wounding him while Steve and Bucky get away on a quinjet.

This is where the last 20-30 minutes become flawless. After making sure that Rhodey is safe, Tony goes to the raft, a prison for superpowered beings and speaks to Hawkeye, Ant-Man and Falcon. Scarlet Witch is basically catatonic when we see her, presumably due to the fact that Strucker kept her and her brother in cells and now she’s back in one. Hawkeye kind of steals the show in this part because he gets to take Daredevil’s part from the comic, he’s so angry with Tony and Renner pulls it off perfectly. Falcon tells Tony where Steve was heading because Tony finally believes him about Zemo and just wants to help him.

Once they all end up in Siberia, they realize that Zemo’s plan wasn’t what they thought and he shows them a video, a video of the Winter Soldier killing Tony’s parents. This showcases phenomenal performances from Stan, Downey and Evans. The battle between the three starts and it’s incredible. It has some great action moments but it’s the drama behind it that makes it perfect. The title of this article refers to one of my favorite lines

Tony : “Do you even remember them?”

Bucky : “I remember all of them”

This is some incredibly clever writing because we get everything we need to know about Bucky right there. He feels remorse and anger over the fact that he was nothing but a weapon for over 60 years.

While this is going on, Black Panther has followed them and he has learned that it wasn’t Bucky who killed his father, but Zemo. He tracks down Zemo, who explains that he lost his entire family in the Sokovia attack and that he planned to destroy the Avengers but how could he if Ultron and Loki couldn’t? He broke them from within. Zemo is the most underrated part of this movie. He’s manipulative and patient, which is terrifying. He has a definitive reason for hating the Avengers and his story works perfectly as the backdrop to the accords. He wasn’t just a recreation of the hero and he wasn’t just someone else to beat in a punching contest. He was fantastic and he’s also the only villain to win.

This leads to Black Panther’s shining moment where he “Won’t let revenge consume me” and instead of allowing Zemo to kill himself, he stops him and captures him.

Meanwhile you have one of the most brutal fights I’ve seen in a superhero film, Bucky gets his arm blown off, Steve is beaten bloody and Tony is just an emotional wreck and you can’t really blame any of them. Of course the now classical gut wrenching line is in there of :

Steve : I’m sorry Tony but he’s my friend.

Tony : So was I.

It honestly carries even more weight in the actual scene. The fight ends at a standstill and Steve and Bucky leave with Tony just lying there on the ground.

It ends with Tony returning to The Avengers compound and with steve breaking his team out of the raft. Tony receives a letter and a phone in the mail, the letter is Steve apologizing for the way things went down and saying that if they ever need him then he’ll be there.

It’s such a perfect ending and I love that this film hits every major point you need from a Superhero film. It still has it’s fun moments and it’s action moments but it’s a film that deals with accountability and remorse for your actions. It ends on a higher note than the comic and for me, it’s actually a better note to end on. Everything about this film balances well and it shows especially in it’s perfect finale.
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“Whose side are you on?” Captain America : Civil War Review

Last night, I felt like a kid again. I really did. I haven’t been this happy about a film since Star Wars : The Force Awakens and I can’t even remember the last one before that. Civil War is what films can be and what they should be. Now, I didn’t just say superhero films, I mean all films. The Russos, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeeley and Kevin Feige have crafted something that is absolutely amazing.

I’m going to do my best to make this a coherent review and not just me fanboying about it for an entire article. I’m just going to go subject by subject on it.

Story

The story in this film is incredibly Air-Tight. Markus and McFeely have done it again, every point happens in a way that it needs to go down and nothing was left unanswered. My cousin asked me something about the finale and I explained it to him about what the villain did just a few minutes prior, if you’re staying focused then this film will explain everything that it needs to and the questions that are left will surely be answered in the near future.

Many of you should know that the original Civil War comic is one of my favorites. It was the first comic that showed me that these stories weren’t just for kids. They had pathos and rich storytelling surrounding these phenomenal, classical characters and this film is no different. It handles the source material well in a way that every screenwriter needs to study for future adaptations. No character felt left out, even characters who had limited screen-time like Vision, Ant-Man and Hawkeye all have prominent roles to play and you don’t feel cheated at all.

On the other end of that spectrum, the film never feels cluttered or preachy which were two factors that I had mild concerns about going in. Instead, we got an adaptation that wasn’t scene for scene straight from the comic but we got to see the ideas of Civil War placed into the grander overarching story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I think that this was the right play, we still got many of the great scenes from the comic and it’s tie-in issues and we got a moral conflict where no matter who you side with on the subject you can still see that both of the men just want to do what they think is right. In the original comic they set up the main characters in a more black and white setting with Captain America as the hero and Iron Man as the villain. This isn’t to say that Iron Man wasn’t still a sympathetic character in the comic…he just didn’t really feel like that until Civil War : The Confession came out. In the film, you can see both sides a little easier and for me, it made it even better than I expected.

Acting

As I said above, no one was cheated in this movie. Every character had at least one great memorable scene and of course there are a few standouts. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. have been working towards this over 7 films and it shows. They are at their prime in these roles and I never want them to stop playing these characters. Sabastian Stan’s return as the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes is well worth the wait, he has some great moments particularly with Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie. Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow never ceases to amaze me, if she doesn’t get her own movie soon then I will be incredibly upset.

The true standouts of this film were Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Their solo films are setting up to be absolutely phenomenal.

Boseman was great from the moment we see him as T’Challa the ambassador to when we first see him in the Black Panther armor. He can be regal and kingly in one scene and then switch to wild and vicious the next.

Holland brings an energy to the character of Peter Parker that you could only get from someone who is clearly having the time of their life on set. He’s a perfect balance of being occasionally awkward but always fun when he’s on screen.

Direction

The Russos have a vision that is exceptional and a big part of why it’s great is you can see that they have a reverence and love for the source material. They love these characters and this universe and they only want to make it bigger and better with every outing. I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do with the next Avengers films.

Their fight scenes are as tight as you can get them. Everyone has a very distinct fighting style that showcases their powers and abilities in ways that remain entertaining and exciting. It never becomes dull and even after seeing it twice there were things that I kept picking up.

Overall

It’s clear that Marvel knows what they’re doing, they’re making films for fans because they themselves are fans. I love what this company is doing with their stories across all mediums and judging from what I’ve seen it’s only getting better from here.

Make Mine Marvel.