Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why You should Read Miles Morales...

Despite the flak I throw at Age of Ultron, I am still a huge fan of Brian Michael Bendis. While I am behind on the Ultimate Spider Man (USM) series by a few issues and I am loving Dan Slott's run on Superior Spider Man (SSM), I find that USM is the best Spider Man story out there. I said it.

I am biased. Sara Pichelli's Miles Morales looks like my middle son (her pencils are amazing by the way). Morales attends a charter school like my younger two children. Morales' Uncle Aaron, who he believes he kills, reminds me of a particular uncle I have and my children have. We are Afro Latino like Miles Morales. So this Spider Man speaks to me. So not only is Bendis my favorite writer, it feels like he is writing to me.

However, if you want to discuss intersectionality, USM is where you need to be. In issue 2, the Morales family attends a lottery for the charter school Miles hopes to attend. This sounds familiar for many parents throughout economically deprived communities throughout the United States. Here we see Morales' moral compass as he is emotionally torn when he wins a slot for the coveted charter school and he watches other children cry when their name is not called as a lottery winner.

While Bendis kept the moral compass debate central to the story, Morales is definitely different. His parents are alive as well as his Uncle Aaron/The Prowler. The relationship between Morales, his father, and Uncle Aaron is fragile. While Uncle Aaron maintains his criminal career, Morales' father gave it up years ago and keeps it under wraps. Even Morales does not know what his father used to do or what made him give up that lifestyle. He is told to stay away from his Uncle Aaron which he disobeys. It's clear that Morales loves his Uncle Aaron dearly. His uncle also keeps his criminal career and history secret from Morales.

The twist is the entire story is that Morales becomes Spider Man due to Aaron's criminal acts. He steals a bioengineered spider that bites Morales. Aaron realizes Morales' powers earlier and decides to convince his nephew to help him take over the criminal underground. When Morales initially refuses, Aaron threatens to tell his father who is vocally anti mutant. While I don't think Morale's father would get a heart attack, Morales is only 12 and assumes that his father would disown him like any 12 year old child. Morales however refuses Aaron's offer and chooses to avoid his uncle. Eventually there is a showdown that ends in Aaron's death. While it was completely accidental, Morales accepts full blame. On top of the that, the media has also laid blame on Spider Man. This is the turning point in Morale's young life where he realizes that being Spider man is not a game.

I think when Bendis throws Steve Rogers into the mix, we see Morales really step up his game. During the Divided We Fall Ultimate Universe crossover, Morales joins the Ultimates and even saves Rogers' life again. This is seen on national television and throws folks behind Morales. He begins to see that doing the right thing does pay off.

While I think Bendis is going too fast with Morales and his powers (even though the Spider sting is something Morales is working on), he has done a good job of developing the characters around Morales' life. As usual Bendis really sets things up with his build up. Currently, they are going throgh the Venom storyline and the fight scenes are exquisite. While Dan Slott is doing a great job on Superior Spider Man, USM remains the best Spidey title out there.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Iron Man 3

directed by Shane Black

Marvel and yes, Disney, has maintained a great run on movies for the last 3 years. The stories are written well. The visuals are awesome. Don't get me wrong. Movie adaptations of comic books are the thing to do now. You can't go wrong. Being "geek" is chic (for now). Eventually, there was going to be a hiccup. One of these movies were going to be lackluster. One of these movies would not cut the mustard.

The first issue I have with the movie is with the "main" villain. I love Ben Kingsley. I think if they wrote the Mandarin better, he would have probably out shined Heath Ledger as The Joker. Unfortunately, the screen writers scrapped The Mandarin story. Rumors alleged that it would have hurt relations between the US and China. While Marvel did some questionable stuff during the 60s when it came to villains such as the Mandarin, I think that Marvel has fixed all of the ethnocentric stuff they did with Mandarin over the years. He wasn't like Ming the Merciless was portrayed back in the day.
So they made Kingsley lean on his British side and he played a drugged out actor who was used as a pawn by the founder of A.I.M., Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce).

The second issue is that there was too much Tony Starks and not enough Iron Man. Shane Black was the director of Iron Man 3. Black is known for directing and writing shoot 'em up blockbusters but nothing close to adaptations of comic books. This was probably a bad idea. I felt like I was watching a watered down version of Die Hard. The only good part is that we got to see Don Cheadle get more action.

Another problem is that Tony Starks, Don Cheadle, and pretty much the entire Department of Defense could not figure out who the Mandarin was and what he wanted. He was part Osama Bin Laden and part Timothy Leary. One would think that Starks or anyone else in the movie would just say "Hey, let's see what Fury and SHIELD can do." No one even mentions it. Even my children pointed out that although the Avengers were referenced, they were never named. Why did this happen? Why didn't anyone from SHIELD give Starks or anyone a shred of info on the Mandarin. While A.I.M. and Killian were the culprits, no one figured it out until the end. This is never explained.

Finally, Starks has this hang up. It's obvious that he was still high after saving the world. He became part of the globe stomping Avengers. Now with down time, Starks is restless (as usual). And he can't figure out what it is. It takes a child stranger from a hick town to convince Starks of who he is. This sub plot was unnecessary. It wasn't even funny.

There are some great parts to the movie. The nod to Iron Patriot was hilarious. And yes, Killian was one step ahead of anyone. The Extremis story line was incorporated well into the story. Starks actually uses this for his armor in the comic book and I appreciate Marvel/Disney for putting this into the movie. I enjoyed how they suggested that Starks was the founder of the Extremis equation. I also dug how they kept Happy Hogan in the story. This added so much humor to the movie.

All in all, you can wait for Iron Man 3 to show up on Redbox. It's not worth the money. The action was not even substandard. While it was close to breaking records at the box office, I don't see why it deserved this. I find that the screen writers (both Black and Drew Pearce) really missed the mark. If anything, Iron Man 3 demonstrates that superb screen writing will make or break how a movie translates the story from a comic book.