Sunday, December 14, 2014

Star Wars Trailer Review

Editor's Note: This week, StevieB gives us his thoughts on the Star Wars trailer. - Jim

Since the last time I posted we now have a title and a teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens! The title is good: very vague as the first subtitle to all the Star Wars movies have been: “A New Hope” and “The Phantom Menace”. You really get very little insight to the movie with these titles but when the movie’s over you think, “Oh! Now I get it!” The only kind of speculation I can form from it is that there may not have been that much going on in the past 30 years since the destruction of the Death Star II, at least “Wars” related.  This doesn’t bode well for the diehard EU (expanded universe) fans but again, just speculation on my part. But forget about the title, let’s talk about the trailer!

The trailer is broken upon into quick sections, let’s go over each one.

The trailer opens with John Boyega’s character seeming to be chased around Tatooine? (Looks like twin suns, and what Star Wars trilogy wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Tatooine). This was very appealing to me.

It’s crazy to see a Storm Trooper without their helmet on, let alone showing any emotion at all. This is the first time we’ve ever seen this. This also solidifies the fact that, just like in the EU, at some point clones were replaced with regular people. It still remains to be known How, Why, and When. 

You can also hear the sounds of a probe droid behind him. It seems like he may be defecting. Maybe he finally realized the Empire was evil?
It’s also important to know that he is billed as one of the new leads for this iteration and more than likely this trilogy.

The trailer then moves to this little guy.

Could he be the new Astromech droid? I, personally, feel like there’s no replacing R2-D2 but they can try. Also note what looks to be Pod Racing Engines in the background. This also feeds my theory that this is Tatooine.

After that, we get a look at the new Storm Troopers.

 Just enough changes to feel new and old at the same time. I dig the new design. This part of the trailer was also very cinematic. I feel it may set the tone for what the whole movie will be like. It feels very different from either trilogy but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Then, we move to Daisy Ridley’s character who, I’m really hoping, ends up being the daughter of Han and Leia.

First off, is that a light saber or a vibro blade she has attached to the speeder? Maybe being trained by her Uncle Luke on Tatooine in Uncle Ben’s old home?! Sigh… A Fanboy can dream, can’t he?

Then, we have the quick X-Wing above water scenes with Oscar Isaac’s character piloting one of these beauties.

This scene was my favorite. It was beautiful and nostalgic. Also proof that X-Wings work fine on land as well. There is some mild differences in the new version of this famous Star Fighter. The Wings themselves are a bit different. They are half the size of what they used to be and when the S-Foils are closed they seem to form one wing. As compared to the two wings on top of each other from the Original trilogy.

Now, the most talked about portion of the trailer: the new villain and his new style Light Saber!

A lot of people think this awesome new broad sword saber wouldn’t work. I completely disagree. I actually believe it maybe an Ancient Sith Weapon with some form of Plasma exhaust ports. Adam Drivers character (he may or may not be the character featured above) has been rumored to be hunting Ancient Sith Relics through the movie. I could go on about how it could work either way, but I think I’ll share this video of Stephen Colbert breaking it down. Skip to 3:12 if you don’t want to watch the whole thing. I feel like he sums it up nicely.

I also wonder if this character is even a villain. We all just assume he is because of the Red Saber. I guess we will have to wait and see.

And last but not least, nothing feels more like Star Wars than the Millennium Falcon and Tie Fighters!

This is when we truly know we are back. If you didn’t have goose bumps before, you did by this point. The biggest thing to note here is the Falcon’s engine; much more defined.
Then the trailer ends, and if you’re anything like me, you watched it 100 more times.

My final thoughts are this:
  • 30 Years later, it seems the Empire and the Rebels (New Republic) are still going at it. Maybe there is some kind of peace that gets broken in the beginning of the movie? 
  • We don’t see any of the original characters but somehow it still feels like the Original Trilogy.
  • Not a single scene of this trailer takes place in Space. Just something to think about.  
  • I think it’s going to be hard for me to see these Storm Troopers as the same in the Original Trilogy. It will be interesting to see how much of that time is referenced in this movie. Are there even any Clones left?
This trailer delivered on all cylinders for me. I didn’t think I could be more excited for December 18th 2015, but I was clearly wrong. What did you think? Did the trailer send you flying to cloud 9 like me or did you dislike parts of it?

- StevieB

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Flash Vs Arrow

Editor's Note: Today, I am proud to present a guest post by Blair Marnell with his thoughts on the Flash/Arrow crossover episodes. Blair Marnell is the TV and Comics Editor of CraveOnline and a freelance writer for and SuperHeroHype. Previously, he wrote for Wizard Magazine, Geek Monthly, MTV Splash Page, Fan TV and Comics Bulletin.

This past week, The CW ran a two night event between The Flash and Arrow that served as the first full crossover between each series. It’s a superhero fan’s dream.

I wasn’t around for the ‘70s, but the closest TV equivalent I can think of would be if CBS had crossed over Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk when they were both on the network... ownership issues aside.

CBS didn’t even give fans an Amazing Spider-Man and Incredible Hulk crossover, and that should have been automatic!

Oddly enough, CBS ran the first TV series adaptation of The Flash back in 1990. But a few decades later, it Is CBS’ corporate sibling, The CW that has become the superhero network. Both Arrow and The Flash are now the signature shows of The CW that weren’t originally created for another network.

But the thing that I found most striking about The Flash and Arrow crossover is just how much I like The Flash more than I like Arrow Season 3 at the moment. The Flash just feels like a more fully realized show at the moment and the third season of Arrow hasn’t quite found itself yet.

This version of The Flash owes everything to Arrow. If Arrow hadn’t proven to be a hit, I highly doubt that there would be a Flash TV series on the network right now. After Green Arrow was proto-Superman’s substitute Batman for half a decade on Smallville, that’s a significant step up for the character in the eyes of the general public.

One of the more obvious instances of Arrow’s influence on The Flash is the way that Team Flash was assembled before the end of the pilot episode. The Arrow creative team tried to run Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) on his own for a few episodes before teaming him up with John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) later in the first season.

For Barry Allen aka The Flash (Grant Gustin), his team consists of possible future villainess Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), possible future hero (and annoying as f*** sidekick) Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) and the enigmatic Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh).

That dynamic shouldn’t work for The Flash, but somehow it does. Gustin has turned out to be a really good leading man and Cavanagh’s character has been the most intriguing addition to the Flash mythology. Caitlin and Cisco need better writing, but they’re bearable. Law & Order veteran Jesse L. Martin has been the most human character on the show as Barry’s surrogate father. Detective Joe West.

I’m gonna save my Iris West (Candice Patton) rant for another time. But she’s this show’s Laurel, which Arrow fans should instantly understand.

The Flash isn’t perfect, but it’s been amazingly solid through eight episodes. And the “Flash vs. Arrow” story of the eighth episode was the best one yet. The Flash writers wisely left the dead weight of Arrow aka Laurel (Katie Cassidy), Roy (Colton Haynes) and Thea (Willa Holland) off of the stage while giving Oliver, Felicity and Diggle the chance to shine on a different show.

One of my favorite parts of the episode was Diggle’s reaction to Barry’s superspeed. That was especially effective because we’ve been watching Diggle on Arrow for over two seasons and it meant more to see him freak out about it than it would have for a random character whom we had never seen before.

Rickards was also really good in the episode as Felicity was given a chance to actually be funny... which she seldom gets on Arrow. I think she’s a better fit on this series, but the Arrow creative team seems intent on following the fandom’s demand for an “Olicity” relationship.

But the most compelling part of “Flash vs. Arrow” is that both Gustin and Amell had a chance to play off of each other in comedic sequences and in a very well choreographed fight between Arrow and the enraged Flash. For TV action, that may be the new standard for a superhero fight. Remember when Smallville would give us 30 seconds of Clark Kent fighting Doomsday and then cut away? That didn’t happen here.

I have to admit that the biggest laugh of the episode for me came when Oliver and Barry took out the villain of the week so quickly that they did it during the final commercial break and he was already being locked up in STAR Labs when the show came back. 

It should be said that Arrow’s side of the crossover, “The Brave and The Bold” was not a bad episode. It was just too consumed with being an episode of Arrow that happened to have The Flash in it.

You’d think that the Arrow creative team would have used the special occasion to step away from the flashback structure for a week, but nope! We lost a few minutes of valuable screen time to Oliver Queen learning how to come to grips with torturing someone for the greater good. There is some dramatic potential in the way that Oliver has essentially absorbed the worldview of Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), but that sequence was wasted in this episode.

It was also unintentionally hilarious to see how the show went out of its way to make Captain Boomerang aka Digger Harkness (Nick Tarabay) into a credible threat to both The Flash and Arrow. It’s one thing for Boomerang to fight Oliver and Roy to a standstill, but to make him tactical genius who hid bombs throughout the city just to keep The Flash off of his trail?!  


And does the casting director of Arrow watch any other shows besides Spartacus? No, really. I want to know.

Once again, the best part of Arrow’s side of the crossover was the interplay between Oliver and Barry. They really are fun to watch when they’re sharing the same stage and both Gustin and Amell deserve recognition for how well they handle their roles. I still think that DC is making a mistake by not tying these shows into the movies. The DC Cinematic Universe of Man of Steel was a very joyless world. I want to see more of the TV world created by Arrow and The Flash.

Despite all of the changes made to both characters, Arrow and The Flash feel close to the spirit of the comics that inspired them. Neither show is perfect, but we should all recognize how fortunate we are to be in an era when we have two terrific superhero dramas... on the same network.

- Blair

Sunday, November 30, 2014

MonkeyTalk about Armor Hunters and Edge of Spider-Verse

Here is my second appearance on MonkeyTalk. This round of discussion between myself, StevieB, Trex (of Nerds of the Apocalypse) and Jeff (of PunkMonkey Comics) finds us discussing Valiant's Armor Hunter's mini-series (which I totally dug) and Marvel's Edge of Spider-Verse event (which I have mixed feelings about.)

If you are a fan of the old Valiant universe, I encourage you to check out the video as we give you are thoughts on the Armor Hunters mini-series and the new Valiant universe in general.

If you are a fan of the Spider-Verse, brace yourself. We have some positive things to say about the event prelude, but we also take the series to task on some legitimate shortcomings.


 - Jim

Monday, November 24, 2014

10 Thoughts about Team Up Comics

Talking with MattComix recently, I realized that somehow, in the countless articles I've written for this blog, I've never written anything on one of my favorite types of Bronze Age comics: The Team Up Comic! Specifically: Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-In-One, Brave and the Bold and DC Comics Presents.

Here are 10 Thoughts about such comics:

1. They were a good tool for exposing readers to new or lesser known characters. As such, my first exposure to such characters as Deathlok, The Demon, Guardians of the Galaxy and Wildcat all came from Team Up comics.

 2. The stories were typically one and done, but some writers were able to use the format to tell some really nice multi-issue stories. One of my favorites was Jim Starlin's Warworld arc in DC Comics Presents.

In this storyline, we get the introduction to Mongul and a great story where the Spectre tries to get Superman to understand he can't just punch every opponent into submission. Jim Starlin does his usual fantastic job on story and art.

3. We saw more crossovers with licensed characters in team up comics. (Doc Savage, He-Man and Saturday Night Live appeared in stories that probably never would have made it into the regular solo titles.)

4. Attempts to revive team up titles have not worked in recent years. There have been a few attempts to relaunch the Team Up title (Marvel Team Up and Brave of the Bold coming to mind) bue even when written by such well respected writers as Mark Waid, JMS Straczynki, Robert Kirkman or Brian Bendis, the titles don't seem to gain traction with today's readers.

As I've postulated on the reason why such titles fail before, but a quick recap is because any story line or comic not tied to an event or A list character is seen as unimportant by today's modern comic readers.  They aren't outside of continuity. They just don't matter.

With that said, you might find it surprising to hear that Marvel is going to take another shot at the idea comic with a new team up comic centered around the Guardians of the Galaxy.

 5. Bronze Age Brave and the Bold existed in a different continuity.  It was a world where Batman might team up with Sgt Rock during WW II..

...and then team up with him again 30 years after the war. (To fight the devil no less.)

Check out this excellent review on the genius of Bob Haney from the Bronze Age of Blogs.and this one from friend of the FBU Chris Sims on Comics Alliance on the 7 Craziest Bob Haney stories.

6. Green Arrow holds the record for appearing as a guest star. Between Silver Age and Bronze Age appearance, Green Arrow showed up 11 times in the Brave and the Bold.

I think the reason for so many appearance by the emerald archer was three fold: One, his street level skills worked well with Batman's style. (IE his powers complimented Batman's, not overshadowed them.) Two, during the Bronze Age, Green Arrow was going through a sort of social awareness personality revamping that allowed Bob Haney to tell stories with more of a political or foreign intrigue slant to them. Three, Bob Haney preferred to tell more down to earth stories (sci-fi was a rare element in his B&B run) and Green Arrow is one of the more down to earth super-heroes.

7. Did Spider-man almost lose Marvel Team Up to the Human Torch? The first 3 issues of Marvel Team Up guest starred Spider-man and the Human Torch. After issue 3 though, Spider-man would become the lead with rotating guest stars. However, starting with issue 18, the Human Torch would alternate as the lead character with other heroes assisting him.

Was Marvel playing with the idea of letting the Human Torch be the lead character? Or were these backlog stories that helped artists meet deadlines? Also, imagine pulling a bait and switch like this on today's comic shop owners.

 8. While most characters who headlined a Marvel comics during the Bronze Age eventually appeared in Marvel Team Up, the one lone exception to this rule is Conan. What makes his non-appearance most puzzling is that both Red Sonja AND King Kull did appear in the title.

 If I had to hazard a guess, I would say it was a combination of some sort of Marvel editorial view that Conan stories were grounded outside of the world of superheroes and some sort of mandate from the REH Estate concerning usage of the character in other titles. Still, he did appear in a couple of What-If titles, so it's hard to say exactly what the deal was with Conan.

9. Female characters were mostly equally represented across companies.
Marvel Team Up  - 26 out of 149 guest stars were female (17%)
Brave and the Bold -15 appearances from issues 100 - 200 (15%)
DC Comics Presents - 14 out 97 appearances  (15%)
Marvel Two In One - 11 out of 100 appearances (11%)

The number of female guest stars in Marvel Two in One is a bit lower than the others. Not sure why that might be. Perhaps the two fisted approach to the The Thing's adventures didn't suggest situations that inspired writers to use female characters. IE: A Spider-man/Black Widow seems to lend itself more readily to story ideas than say a Thing/Black Widow story.

10. Was DC Comics Presents a copyright trademark renewal clearing house? If you look at the guest stars in DC Comics Presents, you see that around issue 50, there was a shift away from the traditional guest stars (Green Lantern, Flash, Atom, ect...) to C and D-List characters (Air Wave, Vixen, Amethyst, Madame Xanadu, Freedom Fighters, ect...) who did not have their own titles at the time.

I don't know where I read it, but someplace I saw it suggested that at one point the Superman team up comic was used to renew trademark of long unpublished characters. That's not an entirely unheard of practice in the industry and judging by some of the guest stars in the comic, it seems like a possibility. I guess it's also very possible that this was simply a case of a writer creating stories with characters they enjoyed. Still, one has to question why DC thought a team up story with The Atomic Knights might have been a better seller than another one with Green Lantern.

And with that, I'll leave you with this question: What was your favorite Team Up story of all time?

- Jim

Monday, November 17, 2014

Spider-Verse - Cheap Heat

Editor's Note: Today, I'm happy to present a new post from MattComix! For long time readers, you may remember when Matt used to write columns on a regular basis here. Newcomers will recognize his name from the comments sections as he is regular commenter. Today he presents his thoughts on the Spider-Verse event:

In professional wrestling there is a term known as "cheap heat". Basically when a wrestler does or says something just to get a cheer, a boo, a chant, or other "pop" from the crowd that has nothing to do with their skills as wrestler or an entertainer, but they know the crowd will react regardless. Probably the most prime example of this is saying the name of the town they're in during an interview. It's a very easy way to make a crowd of wrestling fans pop.

There is an annoying fanfic writing impulse, one which seem to dominate modern superhero comics which is to take something from the readers have familiarized with some degree of positivity or innocence and doing something horrible with it that would never be done in that property's canon due to standards and practices, target audience, or common sense.

Cheap heat.
The latest in a never ending number of convoluted and of course blood-soaked events coming out of the big two, the current Spider-Verse arc involves a vampire-esque family that crosses dimensional barriers to feed off and kill in horrible and usually on-camera ways various versions of Spider-Man and other "Spider Totems". 

These dimensions include everything from comics, cartoons, live-action, to even Spider-Ham and the Spidey from the old Hostess ads. I figure Japanese Spider-Man is safe as long as he can get to his big robot in time but Nicolas Hammond Spidey is probably doomed. Maybe Electric Company Spidey can prevent Morlun's son from having access to vowel sounds and contractions. That would at least trip up his usual threats.

The latest victim in all of this is Mayday Parker aka Spider-Girl. While Spider-Girl and the whole MC2 experiment was by no means perfect, Spider-Girl really feels like where much of everything I ever liked about Spider-Man apparently went to after being fired by Marvel.

For myself, I didn't really get on board when it was first coming out but after finally reading the book I decided that Peter Parker's future in Spider-Girl felt far, far more genuine and enjoyable as any kind of actual extension of what Lee, Ditko, Romita started. Much moreso than any version of his present being shown in the mainline  titles. This is even before One More Day and the so-called "Superior" Spider-Man.

Yeah, it kinda sucks that Peter had to lose a leg and that the Clone Saga basically counts as irremovable backstory (also have mixed feelings about that goatee) but he was happy with his family and helping his daughter who was doing his old mantle very proud standing out as an a great character and hero in her own right.

I felt that just the existence of this continuity at least gave me some sense of closure for the whole Spider-Man thing. Such that if an enjoyable Spider-Man series in any media never actually happened again before I leave this mortal coil I could at least be reasonably satisfied with the idea that Spider-Girl is how the story one of my favorite heroes ended while also leaving another hero I'd enjoyed open for more adventures. I could be content with this being the image I left both Peter and Mayday Parker behind on:

Ron Frenz commented on the story in a recent interview with Swerve magazine:

“Pete learned through the death of Uncle Ben that if he doesn't act, people die; Mayday learned in her first couple of issues that when she does act, people live. That subtle, but significant difference put her in a much more positive and proactive headspace, which was pretty much the whole vibe of the MC2 Universe. MC2 was unabashedly a universe wherein heroes existed and helped make the world a better place, so that a second generation of people who get powers are inspired to do the same thing."

But of course I should have known that the relentless event cycles and the anti-joy stance of modern comicbook writing would not let such a thing pass in to history with its dignity intact. So of course in Spider-Verse no. 8 Peter Parker and Mary Jane are killed and Mayday not only swears vengeance but is also sure to emphasize that she will do so at the total expense of her fathers ideals. Because there is such a huge gaping void of superheroes with dead parents and revenge driven berserkers in comics that Mayday Parker just had to be the one to fill it.

Cheap heat. 
Apparently killing off the Parkers in Spider-Girl is something Marvel editorial has been salivating to do for a long while and something the creators fought against during their run. Again from the Frenz interview at Swerve:

“There was more than one editor in our run of 'Spider-Girl' who thought it would be great to kill Pete because then it gives her the whole tragic origin just like his. The very first annual, Tom DeFalco and Pat Olliffe did that cover with Mary Jane and Pete laying dead, and Spider-Girl's kneeling there mourning them, and they did it deliberately to 1) give the editor's what they wanted in the shocking cover, and 2) stick it to them because it didn't happen in the story. It was a story with Misery and she's showing May her worst fears."

“Our problem with it is, if you take away the family, then you have taken away the core of what Spider-Girl stories are about. The same way Spider-Man stories are about 'With great power, there must also come great responsibility,' Spider-Girl stories are about family and the positive aspects of being a superhero."

Now it's possible all this is will be retconned before the Spider-Verse event is even finished. I'm willing to acknowledge that Spider-Verse is a story that is still in progress even as predictably grimdark and eyerolling as this whole thing is. But I think there's a difference between building drama and having to wade through relentless misery for the big payoff.

A payoff that will likely just lead into yet another event anyway given the track record of these things. A lot of these stunts seem to be made under the pretense that there's nothing that can be done to these characters that can break or ruin them and so often it feels like Marvel is constantly playing chicken with Spider-Man to test that theory.

With few exceptions, character death is cheap heat and like in professional wrestling it will always give you that initial pop to fire up the crowd but it's not sustainable as the entirety of the show. What isn't cheap are monthly comics and I've now been given just one more reason not to go back to buying them on a regular basis.

- MattComix

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Family Comics: Captain Marvel to Spider-Verse

Marvel's big Spider-man event for this season is the Spider-Verse storyline, which involves a multi-dimensional threat to every incarnation of Spider-man ever presented.

Normally, I shy away from events, but the prelude to this event was assigned reading for a podcast I'm involved in, so tried it out. (You'll get to see what I thought when the podcast is posted.) Reading the prelude caused me to reflect on what I think is a growing trend in modern comics to create Families for super-heroes.

First, where did this start?

While I'm not certain, I believe the first instance of a family of superheroes was Fawcett's Marvel Family (which was very popular).

However, in the 50's, with the pressure to change the types of stories in comics, DC's Superman comics developed into a family of titles (Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, eventually Supergirl) which led to an actual Superman Family comic in the 70's...

...and a similar title for Batman.

However, that sort of storytelling fell out of favor in the grim and gritty 80's. It wasn't until Mark Waid resurrected the concept in Flash that we would see an actual new family of superheroes.

The next modern instance I think was in the Hulk titles

I could also see an argument being made that the the multi-colored lanterns of Geoff John's Green Lantern run were based on the family motif. (Though it's hard to say whether they are more toyetic or family based.)

Possibly you could make the same argument for Grant Morrison's Batman Inc. run. (Though that's more of an homage to earlier family-like stories)

I think the family concept has generally worked better for DC heroes than Marvel heroes, as the angst driven storylines of Marvel comics tend to work against having any sort of family-like support network. IE: If Spider-man has a group of friends he can hangout with, it sort of undercuts his hardluck hero appeal. I think the family feel of the Clone Saga and an attempt to capitalize on some of its success (and it was successful early on) that led to this most recent Spider-verse event.

Now, with the success of the Spider-verse event (and mark my words, it will be a success.) I have to wonder will we see more comics like this down the pike?

- Jim

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How would you revamp The Inhumans?

So it seems that Marvel has plans to try and turn The Inhumans into an A-List property.

I've written about The Inhumans, stating (half tongue in cheek) 5 Reasons The Inhumans are Boring, and while part of that article was tongue in cheek, the group has never succeeded in carrying their own title for longer than a year. On the sales meter, they seem to fall  somewhere in between Agents of Atlas and The Runaways.  So, with that in mind, here is what I think Marvel will do to make the team more appealing to modern readers:

Disclaimer: Many of the suggestions I'm going to put forth are not the sort of thing I would like myself, but my sensibilities are out of touch with current trends, so that's your fair warning.

One: Kill off some of the old crew and introduce some new blood.

There are just some members of the old guard that are a bit quaint by todays standards. Ditch Gorgon, Triton and Karnak in favor of the new Ms. Marvel and a few other younger characters. Killing them off is a much better solution than just putting them in the background and focusing on the newer characters. Nothing says This story is important! than a few deaths here and there.

Two: Put the female characters front and center (in the way that modern comics are so good at.)

 Three: Make all the characters talk like 20-something coffee shop patrons. (A tactic that's worked so well the Avengers...)

Hahahha! It's so funny! Carol Danvers who used to be an officer and Security Chief for the United States Air Force talking like a ditzy wallflower. That's what I'm talking about!

I'm pretty sure if Marvel follows the tactics above, they will end up with a comic that is every bit as successful and enjoyable as many of their other top-selling comics.

- Jim


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