Wolverine #8

Comic books are riddled with deaths. From Uncle Ben, Bucky, Superman, and others, important characters have ended up on the wrong side of something and have bit the dust. Apart from Uncle Ben, the part about death when it comes to comic books is that you shouldn’t expect a character to necessarily remain dead. That’s the beauty of the genre. What once was lost can be brought back again.

That leads us to Wolverine. Marvel wrapped in 2014 the Death of Wolverine storyline. I questioned why they would want to take out a character that is as popular with comic fans as he is with casual fans. Yeah, I fully expect him to be back at some point snick snicking his way through bad guys with his adamantium claws but what brought Marvel to this point? While I understand that Marvel and 20th Century Fox have had their issues since Fox has the movie rights to the X-Men (and subsequently Wolverine) characters and universe, when you have a character like Wolverine who probably rivals Spider-Man for name recognition among the general public, why kill him off? This must be one heck of a story for them to be running with it. I had to check it out myself.

The first thing I really appreciated was the fact that despite this starting pretty much in the middle of an existing story, the writers made every effort to make this feel like the beginning of something big. We are clued in as first time readers (which I am for this particular story) as to what brought us to this point and some of the characters that are involved but we don’t have to have in depth knowledge of any back story to get a full understanding of what is happening in this issue. In fact, they did a pretty damn good job of making sure that the issue of mortality was front and center. The story from the previous issues really brings the reason why we’re here, seeing the beginning of the end of a character we all love, to the forefront.

I get the feeling that we are probably going to have a chance to see Logan reflect on his life throughout this story. He meets up with Death in the story (in the Marvel universe, Death is very much a real person. I don’t know this as of yet but I suspect that Death will be the same women who Thanos lusted after in The Infinity Gauntlet) and is started on a journey that will most likely bring him back to some past adventures. He’s on an island where he meets up with Death who happens to have a statue of Wolverine with the real skulls of his victims, friends, and families.

I do have to say that I just didn’t care for the side story too much in this story. Not that I wanted it to focus solely upon Wolverine but most of the story focused on a character named Pinch. Seems that in previous issues, Pinch had been a love interest of Wolverine all while they both were in a group headed by a guy named Offer. (Wolverine was undercover in the group for SHIELD.) Again, my problem wasn’t with the inclusion of this story in the issue but there should have been more focus on the character whose name is on the cover of the comic.

I really enjoyed the art in this issue. Reminiscent of classic superhero stories, it was simply well drawn, showcasing the emotions in the characters while showcasing the action in a story in a logical way that only comics can do. The training scene with Wolverine, Iron Fist, and Shang Chi had some great action lines when Iron Fist and Shang Chi were whipping on Wolverine.

Bottom Line:

While not a perfect issue, it was one of the best openings of a major event story that Marvel has put out that I have read. I get a real sense of a beginning in this issue which in other stories I have read like Secret Invasion or Spider Island I did not quite get. We get a real sense that we are on the start of a fateful journey that will see a character we all know and love battle through hell itself just to get to a long awaited end.

I want to see how Marvel pulls this off. I am under no expectations that this death will be permanent. If it isn’t, what device will they use that will allow future writers to get Wolverine back into the world of the living? If they happen to decide to do something foolish and keep this character dead, what finality will they bring upon him that will keep him dead forever.

 

Blink #1

   The X-Men. Thanks to various cartoon appearances throughout the years I am familiar with the characters but admittedly have not read too many of the comics where the characters originated. I wish I had a reason. I don’t hate the characters. Wolverine is an amazing character that I absolutely love yet for whatever reason I’ve found myself drawn to other comics in the super hero genre.   With the new X-Men: Apocalypse coming out this year I wanted to dive into the deep end of the X-Men pool so I decided I would give the story that became the inspiration of the film, Age of Apocalypse, a try. So I come to these stories as a new reader with a very basic understanding of the characters apart from the more well knowns like Wolverine, Cyclops, Magneto, and Professor X.

   The first story in the Age of Apocalypse story arc is Blink #1. Apparently this four issue series of Blink was written well after the creation of the Age of Apocalypse story but retroactively placed at the start of the story. That fact makes the story a little tough to follow since the story assumes you know a lot of what is going on before you even pick up the story. While we do encounter characters we are familiar with in this story, they have different motivations than we are used to so they may as well be new characters.

   That is the problem with prequels or stories like this that unintentionally become prequels. Take the Star Wars prequels for instance. Sure, they were not the landmarks of cinema that maybe George Lucas thought they would be but despite their many flaws, they told the story of how the heroes we do like and care about got to where they did when Episode 4 started. But when you’re creating a story that folks already know the ending to, it’s tough to create a story with characters and situations that are new and exciting since we already know where characters end up with the later part of the story. Any sort of tension or suspense you’re trying to create gets tossed out the window when you know the fate of the characters involved.

   You also have the problem of the writer not knowing how to focus correctly. What do I mean by that? The purpose of a prequel is to essentially write a new opening to an already established story. Your focus going into it has to be making sure that the story blends as well as it can with the original story as it can. Too often you find writers making decisions that assume the reader or movie watcher or whatever know something that, if they were supposed to start the story from the new starting point, should not know by this point. If you are going to have a character act in a particular way, you have to act like the audience is meeting this character for the first time and explain why, either through actions or through a little thing called exposition.

   The big issue I had going into Blink was the writer assuming myself as a reader knew a lot more of the story than I did coming in. I get that comics are a different medium than books so aren’t always afforded the benefit of a proper, exposition filled set up of the story. Being that this details a less well known character as well, saying this is a proper story introduction would be wrong as well because while it may be the start of the reading order, this is not a story where you can throw in a ‘Once Upon A Time…” and start the story off. It’s one character’s adventures tossed into an already established story. There’s nothing wrong with that per se but the disorientation I felt trying to get my bearings to me shows that starting the reading order with this issue was probably not a good idea. Does that make this a bad story? No. It’s all right. Not my cup of tea but enjoyment of a story is purely subjective. Marvel could have done a better job with the reading order.

   The art is not my cup of tea here. There are too many garish colors and oddly drawn characters for my liking. I get that these are mutants for characters so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they will look different than you or I. The problem I had was the fact that the artist in question really loved making the characters extra curvy. The characters didn’t have the bit of realness I like to see in stories. It was like the X-Men version of a Conan The Barbarian comic. Whether it be Conan or Red Sonja, everyone had to have muscles upon muscles or extra billowing bosoms which just distracts me from the story. I understand that comics are not movies. They’re not supposed to be as close to real people as possible. I just don’t care for the exaggerated nature these characters were drawn in.

Bottom Line:

   I didn’t care for this. I wouldn’t call it bad but for my tastes, it just didn’t do it for me. In regards to its placement as the start of the Age of Apocalypse reading order, something feels off here. It doesn’t really feel like a proper beginning which really made getting through this issue a chore. I’m supposed to know a lot of what is happening already when I start…but this is supposed to be the start of the story. They’re trying to accomplish two things at once which for my money, was a failure.

Ms. Marvel #14

msmarvel14

I’ve been waiting every week for new issues of Ms. Marvel. This is my new favorite comic from Marvel today. The story just keeps getting better and better each issue. This one is no different.

This picks up from last issue when Kamala discovers the boy she has a crush on is an Inhuman as well. Before they really have a chance to commiserate about everything Kamala’s brother catches up with them. At this point he is their chaperone. I really appreciated how Kamala’s brother was portrayed in this issue. In the hands of a less skilled writer he could have come across as heavy handed and stern for the sake of being stern. Yet in G. Willow Wilson’s hands he comes across as nothing more than a brother who loves his sister and is concerned about her well being.

The beauty of this comic is the light it shines on an average American Islamic family. Guess what? They’re just like every other family out there. Kamala, like any teenager, goes through the same insecurities anyone else would go through. And like many folks, her faith helps guide her decisions. It also helps her realize that sometimes the decisions she makes may not be the best decisions but her heart forces her to go through it anyway. Like when Kamran, the boy she is interested in who is also an Inhuman, shows up at her window in the middle of the night and takes her out to talk.

Kamala has struggled through the series to balance both her duties as a superhero, as someone with power who owes it to the public to protect them from threats they may not be able to face on their own, as well as her duty to her family and her faith. So when she encounters a boy she is interested in she struggles like anyone would with the new feelings that rush over her like a tidal wave.

I remember being in love for the first time. The girl was nice enough and all and deep down I think I knew we had no future but I fell head over heels for her and got smacked in the head with reality quite quick. It was just…a relationship that should not have happened. I am glad it did in the grand scheme of things because this particular relationship I feel helped me wisen up and eventually find the right woman for me (Almost 13 years of marriage!). But again, I overlooked things that if they were happening to a friend I would have been screaming my voice hoarse that they were getting screwed over and making a horrible mistake.

Over the course of the issue we discover that Kamran is not all he is cracked up to be. By issues end he’s revealed himself to be in league with other Inhumans who, similar to Magneto in X-Men, feel that they deserve to be rulers of humanity, not its savior like Kamala is trying to be.

Kamala’s brother has another great scene when he tries his best to let Bruno, another boy who has a crush on Kamala down by telling him that he should not try and pursue a relationship with her. Whether you agree with what Aamir has to say or not is irrelevant. The issue is not trying to be a pamphlet for Islam. It’s just stating what immigrant families the world over would consider to be fact. I don’t see Aamir’s actions as being negative. I see him trying to do what Italian families or Irish families said to their kin back in the day. As immigrants, they want to be able to keep their culture alive despite being in a new country. I never got the sense that Aamir was trying to insult Bruno. Apart from religion, I think Kamala’s family would probably not have much of a problem with Bruno. But immigrant families can be quite protective. Being in a new country, they still find themselves wanting to keep their old ways and traditions. Hell, I’m originally from Michigan and am now living in Oregon and I find myself feeling similar feelings. While I am a citizen of Oregon, my home will always be Michigan. It pains me a bit for my kids to not like the same sports teams or call Pepsi Pop (when they call it soda I want to send them to the door. It’s not soda. It’s POP damn it!) You don’t want your vision of home to disappear. If you added in religion into that mix, I am quite sure that my feelings of sadness would probably border on despair. The future can be a harsh bitch. Not knowing how things turn out can be a motherfucker for control freaks like me.

The art was pretty solid. One feature I really liked was one little feature they dealt with in regards to Kamran. Throughout the story when he exhibits his powers the action lines on his powers show themselves to be white. Yet when he reveals himself to be not as nice as Kamala thought he was, he knocks her out with his powers. The action lines for his powers are drawn black. I know, a very small detail. But it’s little things like this that make this comic so good. As I stated in a review I wrote for the previous issue, I love how this comic really does come across as if Kamala is drawing it herself. It has that simplistic quality you expect from a beginning artist but it has such power in the small things like the action lines that you know there is real skill at work here. Well done.

Bottom Line:

If you are not reading Ms. Marvel you are missing out on one of the best comics going today. The characters are all well done and quite realistic. You can picture these people actually existing. In fact, I said it before that the superhero parts of the story end up being more of a distraction from the real story at hand which is a wonderful story about a young girl from an immigrant family trying to adjust to life in a new country while her family is trying their best to raise her in the old traditions. This is an important comic too because it portrays Muslims as people. Nothing more, nothing less. You don’t have the Afterschool Special type of lecturing some stories can give when they’re trying to create an “important” story. I think of 80’s sitcoms that had that very special episode. That one episode that dealt with a very serious topic but was dealt with in such a ham fisted way that the point they were trying to make was lost in the cheesiness of the garbage you were seeing. (Like Diff’rent Strokes and the bike molester episode.)

The reason I bring this up is this. America has a problem with Islam. Stoked like a campfire by pieces of shit politicians, the actions of a small group of Saudi Arabian men have now turned into a silly religious crusade that is simply being used by big corporations to make money off the lives off poor people around the world. I am not naive in thinking that there are not Muslims in the world who have done and plan to do very bad things. But the fact that I am more likely to die from a white guy who has one too many guns when he should be locked away being fed his medication through an IV instead of at the hands of a terrorist says a lot about our countries priorities. We want to demonize people just for the hell of it. The ONLY way that demonization will come to an end is when folks open their damn eyes and see the world for what it is. It’s filled with people who want to simply live their lives in peace. We may all have different philosophies on how to live life. In the end, most of us just want to be happy. This is a comic about just such a family. You have to read this series.

The art again is beautiful. Drawn as if Kamala herself drew it in a journal, the power in the details really brings out the emotions of the story. Like when Kamala holds Kamran’s hand for the first time. When she almost kisses him. This entire work is so alive. You are reading a series that will be studied for years to come. I love Ms. Marvel.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones #1

Jessica Jones

Steven Spielberg recently talked about superhero movies and said that they will go the way of the western eventually. If you read his comment in full, and respect his status in Hollywood, you’d know that he is absolutely right. Something new will eventually come along that will entrance the public and superhero movies will take a much needed break. Everything has a saturation point. Too much of it and you will get tired of it. Like when I had my free trial to Apple Music and used Siri to make a playlist based on the top twenty hits from the year I was born. I had to explain to my kids what disco when they were taking a breath from laughing. Disco music in and of itself is not bad. There are some real gems that are still great to listen to, plus it helped influence The Rolling Stones with one of their biggest hits off their Some Girls album, Miss You. But much like Disco had its day where people finally had enough (and then the songwriters of disco went to work with country pop singers like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton but that’s another story.), superhero movies will slow to a crawl in terms of being made.

Until then, we’re still in a golden age of story telling if you like comic book stories. Once technology caught up with the imagination of comic book creators, it really opened the flood gate as to what could be done with movies. DC had massive hits in the 70’s and 80’s with Superman and Batman. Those two stories though could reasonably be told without too much in the way of special effects. Marvel for the longest time couldn’t catch a break. Apart from The Incredible Hulk and their cartoon line ups, they couldn’t get Hollywood to really use their stories in the right way. If you ever caught the 70’s Spider-Man television show you’d see how right I was. Or the Captain America movie starring JD Salinger’s son.

That movie alone was probably the death knell of a company that had no business making comic book movies. 21st Century Film Corporation made the film, that company being run by the former owner of Cannon Films, the makers of cinematic classics like Masters of the Universe, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (You know a movie is bad when on the director’s commentary for the movie, the first thing the writer of the film does is apologize to the audience for making a bad movie.) I remember watching a movie at the local theater when I was a kid and saw this teaser.

By today’s standards, yeah it’s cheesy. But in late 1989 this was a pretty bad ass way to get a young kid excited for a movie. Then…the movie never came to theaters in my town. I should thank them for that.

It wasn’t until Blade and X-Men that Marvel stories were finally translated to the screen in all their glory. Some movies may not stand the test of time (I’m looking at you all iterations of Fantastic Four) but they’re better than Captain America from 1990 or other earlier attempts at making cinematic Marvel movies.

Once Marvel got their act together they decided it would be wise to be the controlling destiny behind the movies based on their intellectual properties. And why not. For every Spider-Man that was made, there was an Ang Lee Hulk movie that didn’t quite get it right. So they made their own production company and movie history was born. They have been able to seamlessly blend their characters into one shared universe. While you don’t have to watch every single movie to get what is going on, you can get more from your experience if you do so. Now they’ve branched into television. That started with Agents of SHIELD. Then they made the bold move to make Netflix shows.

Daredevil is the first of a planned group of shows that will culminated in an Avengers like television show called The Defenders. We’re going to get Daredevil (and The Punisher which I am squealing like a little girl about!), Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. There’s already talk of more shows on the way as well. Maybe a Fantastic Four television show anyone?

Jessica Jones in the second show from them which will debut in November. The trailers have been great, especially this one.

Everything you need to know about the character is in that teaser. And you don’t even see her face.

This comic is a brief teaser for the new show. It’s really just a scene, a study of her character. She meets up with Turk, who was a minor bad guy in Season 1 of Daredevil who is recuperating from a beating he took at the hands of Daredevil. Jessica sneaks her way past the police and confronts him about back child support and tells him he should be more of an influence in his children’s lives. Yeah, she’s not delusional and doesn’t think for a minute he will listen. Which is why she steals the money he had left in his wallet and takes off. Simple scene really. But it goes a long way to show what motivates her.

I am really excited for the show and can’t wait for November to get here. Marvel has done some amazing work in getting lesser known characters into the public eye. While big names will always rule the roost, for Marvel to continue to be successful they have to make their entire catalog palatable for the public. Before Guardians of the Galaxy came out internet message boards were claiming that would be the first Marvel failure because who would want to see a movie involving characters you know nothing about? Marvel’s secret? Make a damn good story with characters people can relate. Easier said than done to be sure but Marvel has done a fantastic job in using their lesser known characters than DC which still wants to rely upon the big two, Batman and Superman, to get people into the movie theater.

This issue is a must read. It’s another great tease on what I am sure will be a great show. And hey, we’ll finally have an American made show that will allow folks to see David Tennant show his acting chops on that people will actually watch.