Category Archives: Marvel

My review of the excellent ‘Logan’…

I have been a fan of the X-Men movies since I saw Brian Singer’s X-Men and then the sequel twice each in the cinema, something I rarely do. I have watched each of the subsequent movies, with the exception of Apocalypse which I skipped due to the poor reviews, and for the most part I have enjoyed them all. Well, Wolverine: Origins is terrible, as is The Last Stand, and my favourites are X2, which I still think is a tremendously entertaining movie, and First Class which is directed by Matthew Vaughn who is one of my favourite directors (more here: https://tinyurl.com/gturgyw). As with my previous movie reviews, I will be talking full spoilers so if you don’t want to know what happens please go and see the movie before reading any further. Seriously, I will tell you what happens, so go see it if you don’t want it spoiled!

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The first thing that should be said about Logan is that it is not your typical movie about superheroes or mutants. I’m not sure I would even put it in either of those categories. It’s part western, part action thriller, but it is mostly a film where our protagonists are on the run. It’s a movie about a lot of things and it actually has something to say about these things yet I think you could make this movie with ordinary humans and it would still work. It’s a film about how difficult it is living with someone who has a degenerative illness and about how the relationships of those who care for them change. It’s a movie about the hardship of life and of living with the consequences of your actions. And it also talks about  the brutality of both corporate culture and our obsession with war and finding more and more brutal ways to kill each other. Finally, it is about how hard it is getting old and sick and eventually dying.

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Several aspects of the film really stood out to me as excellent choices by the director, cast and writers. Allowing the characters to swear made more of a difference than I would’ve thought. It makes them feel like real people who deal with the shit life throws at you in the same way we do; with profanity. Keeping in the blood that was cut out of The Wolverine, but then returned for the Directors Cut, was also a smart move. Logan is someone who, as with Laura, stabs and maims a great many people so of course there should be blood. And the makers of this movie have clearly learned from the success of Deadpool in making both an adult and a very entertaining movie and choosing not to shy away from mature content. Without these elements I think Logan would fall very flat indeed as just another superhero movie and I am so glad that it is not that.

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The performances are also all excellent, with special mention for the newcomer Daphne Keen, who plays Logan’s daughter with an impressive ferocity, and on maintaining her silence until the last third. But Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Stephen Merchant were also superb and each brought something to the production. If I have a criticism it is that the villains, in the form of Boyd Holbrook and Richard E Grant, aren’t really given enough to do but stand there and look menacing. And they do their best, but it seems a failing of almost all of the recent superhero and comic book movies that the villains aren’t developed enough for us to care about them. And of course both Charles Xavier and Logan have to die during the course of the movie because it is both necessary and this is exactly the movie in which that occurs. I found myself welling up at both of these moments and I did not expect a film about a mutant who mostly stabs people to do that, so all credit to it.

 

Logan is an excellent movie, truly it is, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it. My wife commented after the viewing that she hadn’t even felt the time passing and that she wouldn’t have minded if it ran another hour. I wouldn’t go quite that far but it did certainly zip along. Usually we prefer films to be as short and concise as they can be, but when it is done as well as this one then we really don’t mind. If you have any interest in Logan I thoroughly recommend that you see it in the cinema, and drag along your friends and family, to both support its creation but also to just enjoy something that is different and just so damned good! Go, go see it now!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of ‘Captain America: Civil War’!

So, I’ve been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man first arrived on the big screen. With the exception of the Hulk movies, which aren’t really a part of this Universe, I’ve seen every release and I think that Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America 2 are superb movies. Except for Iron Man 2, which is terrible, every other Marvel movie has been at least good and often much better than that. So I am very sad to say that I found Captain America: Civil War to be a huge disappointment. Now, before I go any further, I am going to talk about the events in this movie so SPOILER WARNING! If you do not wish to know what happens then please do not read any further. If you’ve either seen it or don’t care about spoilers then please continue…

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Before we get to why I disliked this movie I should run through the events that occur. After a brief prelude involving the Winter Soldier eliminating a target and retrieving a highly suspicious package, Captain America: Civil War opens with a rather spectacular sequence where the Avengers try to prevent a miscreant from stealing a biological agent. This fight ends with an unfortunate number of civilian casualties, opening the way for the registration arguments to be made. From there, the bombing of UN headquarters and the death of the King of Wakanda leads to the introduction of the Black Panther and the Winter Soldier being flushed out into the open. Following Bucky’s capture, the principle villain of the piece, Baron Zemo, frees him, leading to Cap and Bucky attempting to pursue Zemo, while the Avengers try to stop them. People take sides, there’s an impressive battle where no one actually gets hurt, and then Cap and Bucky leave to continue their pursuit. There’s a lovely reveal that really should’ve lead to the actual battle between the opposing sides and then the movie ends. I don’t know if there were post credit sequences as I didn’t stay to find out.

So, my biggest issue with this film is that it seems to be composed of several separate stories that should’ve been movies in their own right but instead have been forced together so that Marvel can move onto the next phase of its plans more quickly than they otherwise could. I think this was a mistake and that the two stories should’ve remained separate. You have the Captain America and Bucky thread where they pursue Zemo and try to prevent the activation of more Winter Soldiers, which is a solid Brubakeresque story that deserved to be the central plot of the film and given time to breathe. And then you have the Civil War silliness which also should also have been its own film, probably Avengers 3, but then I guess Marvel didn’t want to wait that long and so decided to combine the two together.

On the Civil War side, videos are played for the benefit of both audience and Avengers that highlight the battles of recent years and the civilian casualties that clearly must have been incurred, something that I wish the previous movies had been more overt about showing. Marvel clearly want a younger audience and so have avoided actually showing any carnage. I also have significant issues with the handling of the Civil War argument as, when we hear the case for registration, no one enunciates that, without our heroes to save New York in Avengers and Sokovia in Age of Ulton, the world would have been conquered or destroyed many times over. This point of contention is glossed over as if were incidental and not central to the arguments being discussed. This is also a problem.

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The biggest issue that I have with this movie is that it is not a Captain America movie; it’s an Avengers movie. There are far too many characters, all of whom need screen time, and others who need an introduction so that we care about them because they have upcoming movies that Marvel want us to go see. Two separate movies would’ve allowed space to explore Cap and Bucky’s rekindled friendship but instead the film sidelines these two for the sake of spending time with everyone else. Cap 2 didn’t get to the heart of Bucky and Cap’s relationship nearly enough and in Cap 3 the problem is even worse. Were this an Avengers movie, I would have no issue. But as it is, the film avoids everything that I wanted it to focus on. Oh, and the introduction of Spider-Man, entertaining as it was, should never have happened here. The scene between Stark and Parker eats time that would’ve been better spent pursuing Cap and Bucky’s relationship. Put it in Avengers 3: Civil War and it would’ve been fine but in this film it is simply wasting time.

Finally, Rhodey should have also died, not only because his fall would’ve clearly killed him but because this movie really needed a character death at the end. Mark Millar understood this when he penned the comic and Marvel should’ve known that all of this silly fighting over nothing should’ve had consequences. Otherwise what was the point. Sure, Rhode’s won’t be War Machine again but it’s not enough for a movie like this. There will likely be more fallout in subsequent movies but, given that Avengers 3 and 4 won’t be out for many years to come, I have no idea when we’ll get the chance to see what Cap and Bucky’s actions in breaking out their comrades, none of whom can return to their lives anytime soon, will incur. Hawkeye should’ve stayed retired, eh?

To me, Cap 3 feels like a massive misstep, I am thoroughly disappointed and this is possibly the first serious mistake that Marvel have made since launching their cinematic Universe. Well, besides the god awful Iron Man 2. Perhaps they are feeling the pressure from DC and feel that they must compete but given that they are at least a decade ahead this is something that really shouldn’t be worrying about. I have seen every Marvel release since Iron Man and bought most of these movies on either DVD or Blu-Ray but I won’t be buying Captain America: Civil War and I’m not even sure that I will go and see any other Marvel movies in the cinema unless the reviews are particularly good. Dr Strange looks interesting and, as a stand-alone story, maybe it will avoid the problems of Civil War. But I am far less interested in the upcoming Avengers movies and that’s a problem for someone who’s been a fan of these movies for so long. What a damn shame!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Ramblings: My Current Favourite Marvel Comic Series!

So, for the past few months I have had a subscription to Marvel Unlimited and this has proven a very wise investment indeed. As a result I have enjoyed a significant number of series that I would not have otherwise read, as well as all of those that I would likely have hunted out anyway. What can I say, I’m a big fan of comics! And seeing as I’ve written a few Ramblings about which series are my favourites I thought I would continue in that vein. This post is about the best comics currently being published by Marvel. I doubt I will be able to write a similar post for either DC, Dark Horse or IDW as I do not read enough of their output to compile such a list. I love Hellboy and the associated series at Dark Horse but I can’t think of any others that I read from them and DC has published almost unrelenting bleakness since the New 52 began. I enjoy Scott Synder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, and I want to read both Stewart Cameron’s Batgirl and Tim Seeley’s Greyson, but I can’t think of any others that I currently love from that company. I also read Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye and Zombies Vs. Robots from IDW but that’s about it. And I’ll likely compile a list of my favourite Image comics series as they publish a lot of excellent material but for now onto my favourite series from Marvel.

Right, so here is the list: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Loki: Agent of Asgard, Thor: God of Thunder, and Secret Avengers. Now, I am aware that two of these series have the word Marvel in their name and that several have either completed their runs as single issues or will shortly do so. But I don’t buy or read them as singles and there is delay on issues arriving on Unlimited. And most still have trades to be released or have just released their final book and so I will ignore that discrepancy.

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OK, so first up is Captain Marvel, written by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Christopher Sebela with art by several artists including Dexter Soy, Scott Hepburn, David Lopez and quite a few others. I have loved this series since the very first issue, through the continual relaunches, and finally to its conclusion at the start of Secret Wars. The thing that defines this series above all else is its grounding in character and the way in which the story is told with warmth and heart. I love it! I believe Captain Marvel will be relaunching sometime in the near future with a new writer and I am looking forward to reading the new take on the series. But I do not expect it to be the same and I have to say that as I read the last page of the final issue, before the series was folded into Secret Wars, I was very moved by its conclusion. I would also recommend that you check out DeConnick’s other series like Bitch Planet and Pretty Deadly. They are both highly enjoyable!

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Moving on, Ms. Marvel, from the pen of G. Willow Wilson with art principally by Adrian Alphona was a surprise hit. A series about a young, Muslim girl who becomes an inhuman and then takes on the mantle of Ms. Marvel does not sound like the easiest sell to comic book fans but this series quickly found its feet and audience soon after launch and that is a good thing indeed. For it is wonderfully told with a remarkably authentic voice that combines the kick-ass approach of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with humour and wit and cultural authenticity. Kamala Khan is a fantastic superhero and the series will soon be relaunching with a new number 1. So you have no excuse for not giving it a go!

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Next up we have Loki: Agent of Asgard. Now, I have been a fan of Loki from his depiction in Journey Into Mystery, written by Keiron Gillen, through Young Avengers, also written by Mr. Gillen, and now in this series written by Al Ewing with art principally by Lee Garbett. In my opinion, Ewing has done a phenomenal job of sculpting a brilliant, literary comic that builds on all that has come before whilst keeping Loki as the mischievous scamp we know that he is (well, sort of!). This series has recently come to a conclusion with the start of Secret Wars and I have actually finished the run, but I don’t mind cheating and including it on this list. It’s well worth a read, as are Journey Into Mystery and Young Avengers, so go find them and I hope that we will see Loki return in his own series again soon!

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Fourth on my list is Thor: God of Thunder. In my opinion the main Thor series has had its ups and downs since J Michael Straczynski’s seminal run and, though I enjoyed Keiron Gillen’s run (he’s on this list quite a few times, eh!), I was less impressed by Matt Fractions’ handling of the series, which was surprising given the quality of his Invincible Iron Man run. But Jason Aaron’s series since the relaunch has been nothing less than stellar. With stellar art from Esad Ribic, Ron Garney, Agustin Alessio and more recently Russell Dauterman , Aaron has built an impressive, epic story that culminated in the son of Odin losing his hammer.  And now that the son of Odin is no longer Thor, with an at-first unnamed lady wielding the hammer, the series has continued to impress.. I can’t wait to see what Aaron does next!

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Finally we have Secret Avengers in its most recent incarnation. Following on from the series’ helmed by Ed Brubaker, Warren Ellis, Nick Spencer and most recently, Rick Remender, Secret Avengers by Ales Kot is unlike any of these. Kot’s SA is brilliant and bonkers and quite hilarious, with a distinctive art style, as we follow the misadventures of Maria Hill, Hawkeye, and Phil Coulson among others. With art by Michael Walsh, Secret Avengers is laugh-out-loud funny (no, seriously!) with heart and pathos and the tragically short run, is quite fantastic. I hope Marvel collects it in a shiny hardcover, I’ll buy it!

Now, I know that I have cheated a little by having a few series that have actually finished their runs as singles, and even on Unlimited, and I think I will write another of these in a while once I’ve had a chance to read some of the series that are coming out following Secret Wars. I will also eventually compile a list of my all-time favourite series published by Marvel though it might be quite tricky to pick only five series. For now though I recommend that you read the series listed above as they are excellent and easily found by either purchasing a Marvel Unlimited subscription, which is an incredible bargain in my opinion, or by picking up the trades from either your local comics store or by borrowing them from the library. You won’t be disappointed (I hope!).

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Ramblings part 3: comics, more specifically digital comics and Marvel Unlimited…

So, having now written a couple of these pieces, it seems likely that future posts will be on one of a few topics: writing and self-publishing, digital media, politics or another of my passions, comics. This week I’m discussing digital comics. Right, first things first, I love comics. I think they are a wonderful medium in which to tell stories that could not be told as well any other way, and I read and own a large number of graphic novels, my preferred way to purchase them. I adore big, beautiful hardcover’s that I can collect and store in a bookcase, alongside my other books but that is not the point of this week’s blog post. As with previous posts exploring books published via digital means, I want to talk about digital comics.

Now, until recently I didn’t read comics electronically, I only ever read physical copies. I went through a period, many years ago now, where I bought single issues, or floppies as they are known, and I thoroughly enjoyed my weekly sojourn to my local comic store. Over time I gradually built a small collection of these and I also bought the collected trades so I was actually double-dipping on the series that I loved. When my wife and I moved to Canada, money being tight, I stopped buying singles and only selectively bought trades and only the stuff that I really loved: Locke and Key, Astro City, Mind Mgmt, Saga, that sort of thing. Mostly I borrowed what I wanted to read from my excellent local library.

So I would buy or (mostly) borrow trade paper backs, or graphic novels as they are also known, and then tear through them at an astonishing rate. Seriously. My library allowed me to request up to ten items a month and every month I would request the ten graphic novels that I most wanted to read, everything from Batman to Fables, and Hellboy to Criminal and all that falls in between. In this way I read an astonishing number of trades, my guess being that the number was in the region of 500 a year. But I think that is likely a conservative estimate and that, between rereads and the ones I actually bought myself, I probably read much more than that. As I said, I love comics!

Then my wife and I moved and I lost access to that wonderful library and became reliant on a much smaller and less well-stocked local library and on my own, also relatively small, collection of trades. Then we bought a well-known brand of tablet and I decided to give Marvel Unlimited a try and, in their efforts to encourage me to purchase a subscription, I ended up getting three months worth of access for the price of one. This was a bargain too good to pass up and over time I realised that this is a phenomenal way to read comics. I was already something of a fan of Marvel’s output so this was not a difficult thing for me to enjoy but it’s even better than I hoped. In the past few years DC has lost my interest with the relentless negativity of almost everything in the New 52 stable and I think Image is doing a stellar job of supporting creator-owned projects, many of which I purchase in trade form. You can also purchase these issues through services like Comixology but none of these publishers offer a service like Marvel Unlimited.

And I’m so glad I gave it a try for I have to say that I love it! In order to get the value from the service that I wanted I imposed a rule on myself that I should try to read at least 2 issues every day. And what I found is that this works for me. I keep up to date with current series and I have time to explore some things that are new to me. I have access to an incredible back catalogue of issues and runs and every Monday they update their services with new releases. So, in a way, I have gone back to reading singles, which I find interesting. I still read trades that I own or borrow but for me one of the really great parts of the subscription, besides allowing me to read comics that I probably would not have bothered with before, was that I could read story arcs that were either out of print or would require a substantial hunt to find: series like Peter David’s entire X-Factor run, or Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain.

I have to say that if you are interested in comics or Marvel Unlimited, then you should give it a go. In my opinion it’s worth the cost and Marvel frequently offer cheap trial period so you can almost try it for free. The other major comic book companies; DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW; should follow Marvel’s lead and, were they to do so, they would have a customer in me. But then I would have quite a severe time-management problem so maybe it’s not a great idea. Actually, I hope they do but as ever, we shall see.

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world which is out now at all electronic retailers’! Also, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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