Secret Empire #2: Nick Spencer sells the joy of joylessness

Is it possible to do convincingly write up a review for Marvel’s Secret Empire that requires references to C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy, Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and Elie Wiesel’s Night? Excellent question! Your friendly neighborhood blogger gives it a try in the YouTube review below.

Be sure to check out my analysis of writer Nick Spencer’s monument to post-modernism, and then let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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Marvel’s ‘America’: 50 Shades of Ororo, more race politics in 3rd issue

It was only a few months ago that Marvel Comics released America, by writer Gabby Rivera. Fans who thought Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso had reached a saturation point with politicized comics were proven wrong, as America turned out to be the perfect storm of social justice activism meeting Alonso-vision. I analyzed the first two issues on my YouTube channel and thought I would be done with it, but the sheer interest in this train wreck all but guaranteed another review.

Behold, brave readers! America #3 is what happens when Marvel superheroes mix with racial politics, the “fly girls” from the 1990s show “In Living Color,” bizarre sexual fetishes best left to 50 Shades of Grey, and elderly luchadores.

DC’s ‘The Button’ offers lesson for Marvel, Axel Alonso

I used to have an irrational disdain for DC superheroes as a child. I was a “Marvel kid.” Sure, I loved Batman, but outside of his adventures I turned up my nose at DC fare. The echoes of my own irrationality reverberated into the future as I stuck to reading The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, and then occasional X-Men book as an adult. But somewhere along the line, Marvel decided to adopt a business model that needlessly alienates long-term readers. That, my friends, is where our discussion on DC’s The Button comes in.

Marvel Editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and everyone who takes their marching orders from him would be wise to look at what DC is doing under the watchful eyes of Geoff Johns. DC Rebirth was a creative home run, and now it seems as if the same can be said of The Button.

Check out my latest YouTube review on parts 1-3 of The Button, which is a great blueprint for Marvel to follow if it wants to win back fans. And, as always, I’m interested in hearing your feedback in the comments section below.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Jokes galore, the feels, and Baby Groot in a Marvel film that won’t age well

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer

Star-Lord and the gang are back for another adventure in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This installment even gives Michael Rooker as Yondu a chance to shine, but the question remains: Is it any good?

Answer: It’s complicated.

One of the pleasant surprises of 2014 was seeing how Marvel Studios director James Gunn took a little known property (outside comic fandom) and turned it into a worldwide success with the right mix of irreverent humor, legitimate “feels,” and action. One of the slightly unpleasant surprises in 2017 is the way Mr. Gunn seemingly decided to just take everything that worked in the original and dial it up about five notches at the expense of the story.

Before we move on, here is the plot in a nutshell:

  • Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father, Ego (Kurt Russell), saves the Guardians as they flee a race known as the Sovereign.
  • Star-Lord, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) must figure out who Ego is and what he represents.
  • Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot are left behind with their ship and captive Nebula (Karen Gillan). They struggle to survive after being captured by Yondu and the “Ravagers.”

The good thing about Vol. 2 is that it explores all sorts of family dynamics and does so with a ton of heart. The bad thing about Vol. 2 is that every serious moment seems to be punctuated with a joke — and not all of them are that funny. Many of the jokes hinge on the audience caring about 80s pop-culture, and at some point it all threatens to derail the film.

Or maybe not. Maybe I’m out of touch. The audience I saw Vol. 2 with seemed to eat up every moment and laugh at every joke, even the Pacman moment better left in Adam Sander’s 2015 Pixels script.

There’s much more to say, but I would rather not include spoilers in the body of this review (feel free to spoil away in the comments section). The most succinct way of putting it is this: I enjoyed much of Vol. 2, but it isn’t a Marvel Studios film I plan to watch again and doubt that it will age well.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below. Have at it, hard-core Guardians fans…

Check out my review over at Conservative Book Club.

Spider-Man #27: Ends justify the means in Dan Slott’s ‘Private War’

Question: What do you get when you take 3/4 of a cup of “ends justify the means” and 1/4 of a cup of “moral relativism” and mix it in a bowl with one serving of Peter Parker and a bag of goblins?

Answer: The Amazing Spider-Man #27.

My new YouTube review details how “A Private War” is a sterling example of what happens when every character in a comic adopts a “might makes right” mentality. It’s hard to root for any character — including the protagonist — when a properly functioning moral compass is nowhere to be found. The heroes in ASM are whomever Dan Slott says are heroes, even if their idea of justice is defined as, “Whatever I want to do at any given moment.”

Check out the video below and be sure to ask yourself the following question: Would Spider-Man really make a moral equivalency between his personal vendetta against Norman Osborn and  Captain America fighting with the Allied Powers during World War II?

I say “no.”

Secret Empire #1: Hydra-Verse and Marvel PR damage control in full swing

Marvel’s comics division has been taking it on the chin in terms of bad press for well over a year now, and the official kickoff to its latest event is no exception. This week saw the release of Secret Empire #1 and a tie-in issue for Free Comic Book Day, which theoretically should bring elicit smiles across the country. Wrong. In fact, the project is so controversial that Marvel had to put out a statement earlier this week asking fans to be patient (even though the story has been building for well over a year).

My latest Youtube review covers the good, the bad and the ugly of writer Nick Spencer’s reality-warping Hydra-Cap tale. And yes, on some level it is good — but the whole situation is a bit complicated.

Anyway, check out the review and let me know what you think in the comments section below. Also: If anyone knows YouTube’s exact rules for using music clips without getting copyright infringement strikes, then let me know — I don’t want to make a habit of joke-singing songs like “Patience” by Guns N’ Roses…

Scarlet Spider #1: Peter David gives Ben Reilly his own Tyler Durden

Imagine you were a Marvel editor not too long ago and someone said, “We should totally bring back Ben Reilly from the infamous Clone Saga days. That would be cool. People liked him and his fans will flock to a book if we give him his own series.”

Got it? Now ask yourself this question: If you wanted the base of your book to consist of long-time Ben Reilly fans, would you a.) Turn the character into a crazed man out of something from Fight Club, or would you b.) Try to woo loyal readers with something resembling the character in their mind’s eye for almost 20 years?

Marvel went with the first option for Scarlet Spider, which is rather odd. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Peter David seems to be doing his best with the marching orders he’s been given in the first issue.

There’s much more to say, but for that I invite you to check out my latest YouTube video. As always, feel free to sound off in the comments section below.

Joss Whedon Watch: Batgirl director uses teen cancer survivors as political weapons

At what point does a man look in the mirror and say to himself, “I’m politically unhinged and I need help before I sink into an ideological abyss and drown.” If your name is Joss Whedon, now would be a good time to ask that question.

For those who haven’t been paying attention to social media today, you missed the moment when Warner Bros.’ Batgirl director decided it would be a good idea to use teenage cancer survivors as a cudgel with which to beat President Donald Trump. Seriously. We have reached the point in Mr. Whedon’s life when children who somehow survived countless rounds of chemotherapy are fair game as weapons in a rhetorical war against political enemies.

Warner Bros. executives, if you’re listening, I have a question for you: Do you really want a man who is this unhinged — a man who brings this much baggage with him — at the helm of a big-budget superhero film? If so, then you too might want to consider getting your heads examined.

Check out my latest YouTube video to see Joss Whedon publicly demonstrate how easy it is for a man to die inside from ideological hemlock poisoning. Then, when you’re done, take a moment and vow never to emulate his behavior. You’ll be glad you did upon your own deathbed.

Iron Man #6: Brian Michael Bendis’ Riri sadly no Jessica Cruz

Comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis recently gave an interview with Marvel on his approach to writing, and during the exchange he took time to discuss Invincible Iron Man’s Riri Williams. He said that at this stage in the game the character “doesn’t know who she is yet,” which is interesting since it appears as though he is equally lost.

It is perfectly okay for a character to lack self-awareness, but readers should generally be able to peg the character and empathize with him/her within the first or second issue.

The problem with Mr. Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man after six issues is that he seems to think readers should just love his character because the entire Marvel universe loves her. Unlike DC’s Jessica Cruz, who became a hero after overcoming crippling anxiety and fear, Mr. Bendis’ creation stresses out because too many individuals and groups want to experience her awesomeness first-hand.

For those who have been wondering why Marvel’s sales have faltered over the past year while DC’s Rebirth continues to impress, look no further than IIM #6. It should serve as a case study in what not to do if you want to build momentum for a new character.

Anyway, check out my latest YouTube review for a full rundown of why IIM fails while books like Green Lanterns: Rage Planet have guys like me saying, “Who is this Jessica Cruz character? She seems kind of cool.”

Secret Empire #0: Nick Spencer pens love letter to postmodernism

Marvel’s next big event, Secret Empire, has arrived with issue #0. For those who wondered over the last year if writer Nick Spencer could craft an interesting Hydra-Cap tale, the answer appears to be “yes.”

The problem, however, is that once again a hero’s legacy is offered for sacrifice at the alter of postmodernism.

Just because a man could do something, it doesn’t mean that he should. While I must admit that Mr. Spencer is an intelligent and organized writer, at the same time he is rightly being criticized by fans who are disgusted with the idea of turning a cultural icon into a tool of Nazi Germany. No matter how much Marvel protests the Nazi-angle, there really is no denying it.

There’s much more to say on the topic, but for a full run-down I invite you to check out my latest YouTube video. As always, feel free to sound off with your thoughts in the comments section below.