Opinion: Spider-Man Homecoming Trailer

Opinion: Spider-Man Homecoming Trailer

I am not a big fan of adaptations of comic books into movies, so it should come as no surprise that I am not thrilled by the idea of Sony Pictures rebooting the Spider-Man franchise. While everyone was excited to see the trailer release, I will admit that Tom Holland’s introduction into the Marvel Universe as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, had made me curious. In case you haven’t had a chance to see the trailer yet, you can find it below.

There is no doubt at all that casting Holland to play Peter Parker and agreeing to cooperate with Marvel Studios were both smart moves on the part of Sony Pictures. After the poor showing of Sam Raimi’s campy Spider-Man 3, it was pretty clear that Sony had lost control of the franchise and needed new ideas. Integrating Spider-Man into Civil War led to a charming cameo and a great marketing device for the upcoming reboot.

While I am glad that the series is going to be rebooted and see new life, I am not as optimistic as others that the movie will be the Spider-Man movie that we have been hoping for. To begin with, the trailer is riddled with clichés. A huge part of Spider-Man’s appeal is Peter Parker’s struggles to balance the troubles of high school with his super powers; but this trailer highlights things like petty criminals with high-tech gadgets, the villainous Vulture, and a remarkably familiar scene in which Spider-Man is holding a ship together with his webbing (remember the subway scene in Spider-Man 2?)

 

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Excerpt from a panel from Marvel Comic’s 2014 Amazing Spider-Man

 

Overall, while the movie is well cast, and Sony’s new found partnership with Marvel is bound to bring many charming cameos of Avengers and other characters, it still looks to be falling victim to the tired superhero tropes that make so many comic book adaptations lacklustre.  To really create the movie that fans want to see, Sony needs to focus on Peter Parker, and not his alter ego; they need to focus on telling a human story without the superpower elements. That is what Spider-Man is all about.

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Review: Motor Crush Issue 1

Review: Motor Crush Issue 1

Let me begin by saying that I am enamoured with the art of Babs Tarr. She draws with such character and each image exudes such an incredible confidence that it’s very difficult to approach any title she illustrates unobjectively. That said, I tried to remain neutral when I picked up Motor Crush’s premier issue, I didn’t want to give it preferential treatment just because of its dream creative team. But I was naive, of course, Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr would create the kind of comic that I could stare at forever. Here are my thoughts on the first issue:

The story centres around Domino Swift, a young woman following in her father’s footsteps and looking to become a champion racer. It takes place in an undetermined future where motorcycle racing is the single most popular sport and has a huge culture based around it. Add to that, an illegal substance called “Crush” and equally illegal clandestine night races, where competitors sabotage each other for a chance to win some, and you have a story that is fast-paced and thrilling.

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Panel from Image Comic’s Motor Crush Issue 1.

Motor Crush is an aesthetic book. While there is a story, it is not a comic that is driven by its narrative. Instead, the visuals take over in all of their stylised glory. The story lends itself well to the aforementioned art style of Tarr since the artist gets to experiment with fashion and style. It’s these visual cues that give Motor Crush its atmosphere and help create the picture of a three-dimensional, living and breathing world. The writing is adequate but does not make the same impact as the art in this book. While reading, I found myself drawn to specific pages and panels therein.

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Panel from Image Comic’s Motor Crush Issue 1.

Overall, Motor Crush’s first issue was a lot of fun. I felt drawn into the thrilling world that Fletcher, Stewart and Tarr have created. The style of the book was hugely impactful and compelling. I would recommend checking this issue out, and I will certainly be picking up issue two, even though I wasn’t compelled by the story. The visuals alone make Motor Crush a lot of fun and a worthwhile read.

Opinion: The REAL Guardians Of The Galaxy

Opinion: The REAL Guardians Of The Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy was a massively successful comic book movie, more successful then Marvel could have imagined it would be, so naturally the House Of Ideas got director James Gunn to start working on a sequel right away. Here we are, two years later and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is seeing its first trailers. The reels are a tease of colour and action showing flashes of strange space monsters, and gravity-defying acts of athleticism, all mixed with the wry humour that helped make the first movie such a huge hit. But I want to warn movie goers, I want to educate you.; these Guardians are importers. In case you haven’t seen the trailer yet, check it out below so that you know what I’m talking about:

Back in 2008, writer Dan Abnett and artist Andy Lanning did the impossible, they took an obscure title from Marvel’s archives that had poor sales, and they made it great again. The Guardians were originally created in 1969 by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, and they were a product of their time. Burly characters with bizarre costumes and even stranger powers. But when 2008 came around, Arnett and Lanning changed everything. They introduced a new team; characters who had sordid pasts and struggled to find meaning in their lives, that is until Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, decides to form a team tasked with preventing galactic incidents. Peter blames himself for an invasion of a race called the Phalanx and decides that going forward he will not allow the galaxy to come to that kind of danger again.

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Excerpt from panel of 2008’s Guardians Of The Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. 

 

This 2008 story arc is the basis for the blockbuster movie, and anyone who has read the comics knows that as much fun as the film was, it did not do the source material justice. Abnett’s work is filled with subtlety and dry wit and the huge cast of characters are all thoroughly developed. By telling the story through a series of “debriefing” interviews with the characters interspersed with their adventures, the reader is granted a very candid look at each of their personalities and their innermost thoughts. The storytelling has a very honest approach to some very fantastical material, which makes it compelling and gives it heart that by comparison felt absent from the movie. The real beauty of Abnett’s Guardians is that as they learn to work and fight together in extraordinary circumstances, they are also on their own personal journeys. Each character experiences a compelling personal story arc by the end of the 25 issue run.

Fans of the movies who are curious about comics, do yourself a favour and seek out this amazing series. Do not be intimidated by the intensity of the first few pages, all will be explained and the payoff is worth a little bit of extra effort on the part of the reader. Have you read/ do you love the 2008 Guardians run? Or do you have another favourite story arc? Let me know in the comments below!

The Problem with Lobo

The Problem with Lobo

Lobo. The name frustrates me. He was created in 1983 to act as a villain in DC Comics already rich roster. An alien, and the last of his kind, Lobo is a hardened mercenary with a surprisingly high intellect. He is the answer to a question that no one asked. The foil to Marvel’s gritty and arguably more successful characters that emerged around the same time; Wolverine, Cable, and the Punisher to name a few. As a fan of Wolverine, I should find something redeemable in DC’S interpretation, but Lobo is in my eyes, a prime example of marketing run amok.

This month’s Previews magazine, the source for all comics news and catalogue for distributors, features DC Comics newest team prominently on the cover. It seems that DC is launching a title called Justice League America and the team’s roster will include: Batman, Black Canary, and yes, Lobo. This bothers me for a couple of reasons. To begin with, Lobo is inherently uninteresting as a character. While the argument can be made that as a violent bounty hunter he is exciting and entertaining, I would counter that the fact that he is basically indestructible due to his healing factor means that he rarely faces any real threat to his well-being. Not to mention that this healing factor behaves very similarly to that of his Marvel Comics counterpart, Wolverine. The distinguishing characteristic of Lobo that sets him apart is that he is mercilessly blood-thirsty. He lacks any empathy and thus there is very little room for him to grow as a character.

 

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The cover of Previews Magazine for December 2016 showing Lobo’s return to the spotlight.

 

More infuriating than that is the fact that the Lobo that will join the new Justice League team is a return of an old character design. In 2011 as part of their “New 52” rebranding, DC re-introduced Lobo, but this version of the character was not the burly, hairy, weapon wielding alien of the past; instead he was made over to look sleeker, more like a Lobo – Dick Greyson cross.  Presumably, this was done to recruit new readers; the sleeker character design was explained by the old version being an imposter. This streamlined version of the character was also written as being more sophisticated, a clear attempt to cash in on the success of other, similar characters.

The greatest part of my frustration lies in the fact that this regression back to the old character design is deliberately launching in February of 2017, just before Logan, the last of the Wolverine films hits theatres. Once again, this feels like an attempt to follow the success of another character. Lobo is not developing as a character on his own but is being used as a tool of convenience to follow trends. There is room for Lobo to develop in his own right, and he certainly could in this new Justice League series, but DC’s insistence on shoehorning into boost readership and remaking him to suit the popular climate in comics is frustrating, to say the least. I will certainly check this new title out, although I remain very sceptical that Justice League America will make its way onto my weekly pull list. What do you think about this new launch? Is the addition of the mercenary interesting, or just another gimmick?

Logan Trailer

Logan Trailer

Let me talk about something that is very personal to me; Wolverine. He is the character that is responsible for my insatiable love of the comic medium and the mainstay on my pull list. Wolverine has been a staple of the Marvel universe since his introduction in the final panel of The Incredible Hulk #180 in 1974 where his story line as the only man who could face the giant, green monster quickly made him a fan-favorite. He was so popular in fact, that he joined the X-Men in 1975 and after years of comics and a well-received cartoon show, he was portrayed by Hugh Jackman in Bryan Singer’s 2000 film, X-Men.

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Wolverine’s first full story line, The Incredible Hulk issue 181, photo from Marvel Comics.

Fast forward 16 years, and Jackman has made a name for himself playing the clawed mutant. His portrayal has been successful enough to earn him cameos in almost every other instalment of the X-Men franchise as well as two stand-alone spin-offs. I won’t lie, when X-Men Origins: Wolverine was announced for a 2009 release, I almost wept with joy. Months later when the film released, I cried real tears of heartbreak when I saw how poorly my favourite character had been misunderstood. Although 2013’s The Wolverine was an improvement, I still didn’t feel that Wolverine had been properly represented.

Let’s fast forward again to the present day where the final instalment of Hugh Jackman’s journey as Wolverine has just received its first trailer. Due out in March of 2017, Logan (for anyone unfamiliar, Logan is one of Wolverine’s many aliases) will tell the story of Wolverine as an old man. Throughout his history Wolverine has been a character of immense inner conflict; he is constantly trying to balance his deadly animal nature with his humanity. He also struggles with his near immortality and its consequences, he laments the mutant powers that have defined him and he is pained by his long life. These elements of Wolverine’s character are frequently explored by various writers and by all appearances, Logan will do the same. Take a look at the trailer courtesy of 20th Century Fox’s YouTube channel:

Logan seems to be loosely following the story of Mark Millar’s 2008 Old Man Logan mini-series which takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where all the heroes are dead and Wolverine is an old man living in a world controlled by the Hulk and his family. This comic is considered by many, myself included, to be an essential part of Wolverine’s cannon, and the fact that Logan is obviously incorporating elements from it is thrilling, to say the least. The comic forced Wolverine to address the very real consequences of his actions and abilities, seeing that potential in the movie may be enough to redeem all the faux pas of the past. Beyond that, Logan is introducing a character that has been instrumental in shaping Wolverine since her introduction. The young girl in the trailer is none other than Laura, more commonly known as X-23. She is Wolverine’s clone and daughter who is frequently used as a narrative device to force Wolverine to face his own demons. As a clone, Laura was bred to be a weapon, Wolverine recognises the potential for her to follow his path and works to help her develop human empathy. He acts as her father figure and role model, a luxury that he was never afforded.

 

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Laura from the cover of X-23: Target X by Mike Choi, photo from Marvel Comics.

 

Every attempt to portray Wolverine on screen has relied on an attempt to humanise him; that was their mistake. Wolverine is an animal with a human side, he is a warrior who has lived too long and seen too much. While we still don’t know very much about the latest instalment of Wolverine’s cinematic journey, it certainly seems that this movie will follow the comics path with respect to character development. If so, movie audiences might just get a taste of what comic readers have already enjoyed for years and this final chapter in Hugh Jackman’s tale as Wolverine just may be the definitive one.

My Thoughts on Marvel’s Resurrexion

My Thoughts on Marvel’s Resurrexion

Looking at Marvel’s solicitations, The House of Ideas is launching event after event, and they have just announced their next one. On the heels of the current Death of X storyline, Marvel is planning Resurrexion in 2017. While no official release date has been set for this series, the publisher has taken to Twitter to tease the covers for the first issues of Iceman and Weapon X. Neither of the recently revealed images gives any information about what the story might hold for the questionable future of the X-Men, but instead pay homage to the history Bobby Drake and the Weapon X program respectively.

By showing snapshots of Bobby’s 50-year history (he was first introduced to readers in 1963 as part of the original team in Uncanny X-Men #1) as well as showing various characters associated with Weapon X, such as Wolverine, X-23, and Sabertooth; Marvel is building on the idea of rebirth. Readers can assume the stories will return to the character’s roots, it even seems likely that Wolverine will return from the dead in some form and exist as he is best known, as opposed to his current Old Man Logan form or his stand-in of X-23 acting as the All-New Wolverine.

 

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Previews of the covers for Iceman #1 and Weapon X #1, part of Marvel’s Resurrexion story arc. All photo credits from Marvel Comics.

 

The X-Men have been a pivotal property for Marvel since their introduction. The story of teenagers born with wild powers was addressed themes of diversity, bigotry, identity, and belonging. As a team, they were relatable and well-loved. The announcement of the Death Of X event has left fans fearing the worst with many convinced that Marvel is doing away with mutants once and for all and replacing them in the cannon with the Inhumans. Why would Marvel do that, you might ask? Because Marvel Studios doesn’t own the cinematic rights to the X-Men or their mutant brethren, in fact, they don’t even use the term “mutant” in a Marvel Studios film. This announcement brings new hope; instead of destroying the X-Men it seems that Marvel is changing their marketing and shuffling the teams to help generate new interest in their stories.

This reactionary move just might benefit Marvel’s comics division benefit from Fox Studios who hold the rights to the X-Men on film. But the publisher has danced this dance before, and fans are tired of the reboots. The problem is that Marvel’s actions are transparent. They are working to keep continuity between the cinematic universe and comic universe without respecting the differences between the two mediums. If this move is, in fact, a play to tie the comics back to their big screen counterparts, it certainly won’t be the first time Marvel has taken such a step. The recent shelving of Marvel’s first family, The Fantastic Four, is the most notable example. While the entertainment giant denies that they canceled their Fantastic Four title because they didn’t have the movie rights, the reality is that the last Fantastic Four movie was a huge flop which certainly didn’t help the already dwindling sales numbers for their comics. The difference here is that the X-Men have proven profitable, but only time will tell if another reboot will also translate to comic sales.

Cover photo of Marvel comics courtesy of Sam Howzit.

Review: The Black Monday Murders

Review: The Black Monday Murders

For anyone who knows me, or is familiar with my incurable love of comics, this post will not come as a surprise in the slightest. This is the place where I sing the praises of a new ongoing series published by Image Publishing and penned by the incomparable Jonathan Hickman, The Black Monday Murders.

After his tenure working on Marvel’s massive 2015 Secret Wars event, Hickman has returned to his element and this new story has all the hallmarks of a Hickman classic. Filled with conspiracy, intrigue, violence, corruption, the supernatural and the macabre, The Black Monday Murders are a vehicle for the themes that Hickman loves to explore.

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Excerpt from issue 1, page 7 of The Black Monday Murders. Art by Tomm Coker, from Image Comics.

As with anything Jonathan Hickman writes, the first few pages leave the reader struggling to understand. Strange events are layered with expositional dialogue about a universe and canon that the reader has not yet been introduced to. The mystery is compelling and teases the reader with what is to come. Somewhere around the halfway point of the first issue, the reader should start to get a sense of where the story is going. Don’t worry if you don’t understand right away, Hickman doesn’t mean for you to understand. You are privy to clandestine machinations that will make so much sense to you later on.

Readers who are familiar with Hickman’s previous works such as his 2013 run of The Avengers, may recognize some of the tables, charts, and codes integrated into the body of the comic. The added information answers questions for readers ambitious enough to break the code, but for those who are just in for a good story needn’t worry, all will be explained as the story goes on.

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Excerpt from a panel in issue 1, page 8 of The Black Monday Murders. Art by Tomm Coker, from Image Comics

I would be amiss to ignore the beautiful art of Tomm Coker who creates an intense film noir aesthetic with heavy inks and deep shadows. The panels artfully add to the narrative and visually establish an atmospheric backdrop for the story to unfold. A script with so much exposition could easily fall flat as it does not lend itself to dynamic images or action, but Coker keeps the camera close to the subjects creating tension in the panels. Light sources cast deep shadows and alternatively illuminate bringing great depth to the images. This keeps the book visually appealing despite its heavy reliance on narrative.

I thoroughly enjoyed the premier issue of The Black Monday Murders and do not have a lot of constructive criticisms. I will say that for anyone familiar with Hickman, the story can feel a bit familiar. While I don’t feel that it is a repetition of his previous offerings, it is evocative of them. The integration of information such as documents, charts, and code are fascinating but unnecessarily complex. Readers who are new to comics may struggle with this. Reading comics is not entirely intuitive and setting out on your journey into a new medium with a story this elaborate is a mistake. The experience would be akin to watching Being John Malkovich as a 5-year-old, you would be in over your head. This book is excellent, but the reader needs to be ready to face something that takes full advantage of it’s medium and as such will benefit from having some previous experience with comics. That said for experienced readers, and anyone looking for a comic with a fresh approach, The Black Monday Murders is highly recommended.

Cover image from The Black Monday Murders issue 1, from Image Comics.